His companies collectively announced a Nevada state deal to build the largest battery factory in the world, announced a deal to build the largest solar factory in the western hemisphere, won a major billion dollar NASA contract for manned space flight, successfully launched the 4th dragon capsule resupply mission to the international space station and successfully launched asiasat 6 into geosynchronous transfer orbit, and broke ground on a new SpaceX space port in Texas.
4DSP (www.4DSP.com), a technology design company with offices in Austin and the Netherlands, recently announced today it is officially launching live industry demonstrations of licensed NASA fiber optic sensing and 3D shape rendering technology that it licensed from the giant space agency.
The company plans to introduce the new technology into several industries including aerospace, medical devices and oil and gas. The company is also betting that live Internet demonstations of the advanced fiber optic technology, which is perfect for 3D shape-rendering and strain measurments, will encourage product designers from all kinds of engineering backgrounds to figure out as-yet undiscovered product applications.
In short, faster is better, especially if it is also more accurate. Much like Moore’s Law, which predicted that chip performance, and the resulting processing speed of computers, would double every 18 months, many traditional technologies could be about to experience a quantum leap forward if 4DSP continues to promote the NASA 3-D rendering and sensing fiber optic technology.
The James Webb Space Telescope is NASA’s top science mission that will allow us to peer ever farther into the Cosmos, seeing things that even the mighty Hubble Space Telescope cannot see and explore when the first stars and galaxies were formed.
In spirit of the South By Southwest Interactive “space exploration” theme, Northrop Grumman will display its tennis-court-sized, four-story-high, full-scale model of the James Webb Space Telescope on the lawn outside the Long Center March 8-10, 2013. Learn about the vision behind the Webb Telescope and the challenges of its construction in this immersive experience that showcases the science, images and technologies changing our understanding of the universe. Free to the public, the exhibit will feature Microsoft Research’s interactive World Wide Telescope and activities with NASA that demonstrate how Webb will inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers to push the boundaries of science and technology.
Delve in for an in-depth look at the perplexing questions that this incredible telescope is designed to answer, such as:
How did the universe form?
Is our solar system unique?
Are we alone in the cosmos?
Friday, March 8, 2013 through Sunday, March 10 , 2013
from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily
Lawn outside the Long Center
701 W. Riverside Drive
Austin, TX 78704
NASA engineers are testing out a new version of an old idea: fitting rotary wings to a space capsule for a helicopter-like re-entry method. The result could be a spacecraft that would be more maneuverable than the current capsules that return to Earth under parachute, though not as maneuverable as the space shuttle orbiters.
With the retirement of the only fixed winged spacecraft last year, the current crop of capsules all rely on a ballistic re-entry – a nice way of describing the act of falling through the atmosphere at very high speeds and intense heat, but without a lot of control – followed by a parachute ride to the surface. The NASA team is testing the possibility of putting rotary wings on a capsule that could be deployed once the spacecraft has returned to the atmosphere.
The rotor blades would not be powered as they are in a helicopter, but instead would turn thanks to the air passing over them as the capsule drops. This method would be similar to an autorotation, which is how helicopter pilots control their descent if they lose an engine. And after tens of hours of practice, a helicopter pilot can make a very soft, pinpoint landing, sans power using this same technique. The hope is that the autorotation technique would provide much more capability to maneuver than the parachutes.
The team from NASA recently tested their idea inside the massive Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The tall building has housed everything from the Saturn V that pushed Apollo astronauts to the moon, to the shuttle launches that ended last year. Now empty, the engineers were able to set up a 480-foot drop in the VAB for their remote control model and let it fall.
“The purpose of the testing … is to study how to get the rotor starting to spin,” said NASA’s Jeff Hagen about the project.
The researchers hope that the controlled descent of an autorotation would give astronauts the ability to land just about anywhere in the world.
“You can land gently and you can land where you want; you don’t have to land out in the ocean,” Meehan said. “Compared to a parachute, you get a soft landing and you get a targeted landing.”
The new space race spurred on by the commercial opportunities for orbital delivery has brought about a handful of new ideas for how spacecraft would return to Earth. Several companies including Blue Origin, SpaceX and Masten Space Systems are working toward a spacecraft that could return to a specific landing spot using rocket thrust to control and direct the descent. SpaceX also wants to develop a reusable launch vehicle that could land at the original pad. The NASA team says the rotor blades could also be attached to the launch vehicles or boosters as well.
Using rotor blades on spacecraft isn’t entirely new. During the early years of NASA, the idea was tossed around for use on the Apollo capsules. But with time in short supply during the 1960s, the engineers opted for the simpler parachute re-entry in order to avoid delays in getting to the moon.
Rotary wings have even been proposed for landing spacecraft on other bodies of rock in the solar system, including Saturn’s moon Titan.
The idea of a rotary wing spacecraft also took flight, albeit briefly, back in the late 1990s. The Rotary Rocket company planned on building a spacecraft that would be carried to altitude using a set of rotor blades powered by small rockets in the tips. The Roton spacecraft would also use the blades for the descent back to Earth.
The company raised $33 million during the heydays of the late 1990s, but only three short, low-altitude flights were made before the company went belly up in 2001. Today the flying prototype of the Roton can be seen near the control tower at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California.
The NASA team working on their own rotary winged capsule is planning more demanding tests outside the controlled environment of the VAB in the future, including possible drops from a high-altitude balloon. The engineers hope to develop the idea to where it could eventually bring back cargo from the space station, and one day astronauts. First they will have to analyze the data from these first drop tests to demonstrate the idea has merit to pursue the ever tighter budgets at the space agency.
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