Category Archives: Space

A Space elevator is Being Launched in Orbit Today​?

Space – Yes, a space elevator is being launched into orbit today, but don’t get your hopes up for a ride to space.

This is only a scale model for testing purposes. The model will consist of two cube sats (roughly 4″ on a side) connected together by a 10-meter steel cable. A container with an internal motor will move along the cable between the satellites. This experiment is being conducted by Shizuoka University in Japan.

While we are many years away from a true space elevator, once in place they will bring significantly lower costs to putting materials into orbit. While they were thought to be impossible when first proposed, today’s modern materials, such as carbon nanotubes, may make them a reality one of these days. If you are interested, read the article “A Japanese Company is About to Test a Tiny Space Elevator… in Space“.

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macOS New App Release – International Space Station 2

Product Announcements – Tension Software of Milano, Italy has released International Space Station 2 for macOS, which allows users to see the position of the the International Space Station over an interactive map of the world or an interactive tridimensional representation of the globe.

With a simple view users will be able to see if the International Space station will be visible (naked eye) from their local position in the next hours. Using the application (release 1) I did it many time and success is granted and also the ‘Wow effect’ from the one you show it in the sky. Many people has no idea the space station can be seen naked eye (if you know when to look and where)

With a simple click anyone can also see the live webcam stream coming from the International Space Station. Users will watch the astronauts activities with video and audio, all live.

Calculation of the position of the station is very accurate, the app uses the latest NASA code optimized for Mac to calculate it. Users don’t get an approximated position, they get the exact position, speed and altitude of the Station updated every second.

The route path is visualized over the map to evaluate if the station is coming near your position in the next hours (when meteorological and light condition are adequate you can see it without any instruments, just observing the sky naked-eye).

Time of day matters, you can’t see it during the day but only when you have dark sky and the station still get the sun light, so usually after sunset for around 3 hours and before dawn (for a period of 3 hours).

Every year during the summer I had the possibility to see it many times in a month and many nights you have 2 valid passages (distanced by the time it spend for a world circle with is around 90 minutes at 27 000 Km/h – 17 000 MPH)

You can zoom, move and resize the map as you like at any time and on the map you see exactly from where it’s coming and where to look to catch it After some time you will become expert to spot it in the sky as soon as it is on the horizon.

The application downloads at regular time, once per day when you startup it, from our server, the latest orbital parameters to calculate the orbit, so the calculation obtained for the position is always accurate and perfect because the app uses the most updated orbital parameters.

No user action required, the app does it all alone. Our own server provides always updated NASA data to your app when it requires it.

International Space Station is easy and fun to use, anyone can use it even if it uses sophisticated satellite orbit calculation with the same alghoritm used by pro orbital calculation software.

  • Perfect results as using pro orbital software but in an easy to use app
  • Offers 6 different types of map/3D globe on macOS 10.13 (5 on previous release, plain map not available till 10.12, and only 3 types on macOS 10.10)
  • Customizable latitude/longitude format
  • Measure units in Km and Km/h or NM and MPH
  • Zoomable interactive Map and 3DGlobe showing also night/day areas
  • ‘Keep Centered’ function
  • Circle area of visibility moving with the station* Autodetect of your position and circle area of visibility around your position
  • Includes a PDF User Guide

Plus it offers fast access via your web browser to various dedicated area:

  • Page Station at NASA
  • Nasa station blog
  • Web Cam stream on board of the station
  • Audio stream from the station
  • Facebook page of the station
  • Twitter NASA astronauts
  • Twitter ESA astronauts
  • YouTube presence
  • Flickr presence

Requires an internet connection for Apple Map visualization, data update once a day, web cam stream and web pages access. Position is calculated locally using the latest algorithm for orbit computation coded for macOS. We have also a version for the iPhone and the iPad with similar features. Search on the iOS App Store for ‘ISS Track 2’

What’s new in release 2.0:

  • Now uses native Apple MapKit
  • 6 different type of maps
  • Till 12 hours of station trajectory
  • User position visualization
  • Visibility circle also around the user
  • Improved algorithm
  • Various optimizations
  • Various Bug fixes

Device Requirements:

  • macOS
  • 13.4 MB

Pricing and Availability:
International Space Station 2 is just $6.99 USD (or an equivalent amount in other currencies) and is available worldwide through the Mac App Store in the Education category.

You Have $80,000? Reserve Your Spot for Aurora Station

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Space – Are you interested in space and have a little extra cash? If you have $80,000, you can reserve your spot. Then you only need an additional $9.5 million for your full trip. Where are you going? To Aurora Station.

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Aurora Station is a space station planned by Orion Span. Unlike the other current space stations Aurora Station is planned as a luxurious space hotel. The hotel will initially be able to accomodate four guests and two staff in the 43 foot long by 14 foot diameter module.

While it is certainly not open for business yet, the plan is to have it open by 2022. You will get on-line training, followed by three months of training at the Orion Span facility in Houston, Texas, then a 12-day excursion to Aurora Station. Once on Aurora Station guests will experience zero-g and help with research. The company eventually plans to expand the station and add possibly offer ‘space condos’ in the future.

Orion Span announced this venture back in 2007. They report that they have had nearly 40 people lay down the money to reserve a spot. If you are of a mind, you can reserve your spot now.

Whether or not this commercial venture actually opens their space hotel, I think that someone will in the near future. The price tag is hefty, but as commercial launch services  mature, the costs will drop.

SpaceX Successfully Tests the Falcon Heavy

SpaceSpaceX tested its new, heavy launch vehicle the Falcon Heavy today. Not only was the launch successful placing a test payload into orbit, but it was able to successfully recover both of the flanking boosters at the Florida facility. At the time I publish this there is no word yet as to whether the main stage recovery on a barge in the Pacific was successful.

This will give the US a heavy lift capacity that it has not had in some time. With the ability to lift over 140,000 lbs, this rocket will be able to lift nearly three times the Delta IV-Heavy, TitanIV-B or Atlas V. This may be a significant step forward for missions to the Moon or more importantly to Mars.

Short Science Fiction Film “Explorers”

Short Films – The short (5:27) science fiction film “Explorers” was published on YouTube in October of 2017 by DUST. The Synopsis:

A short film which shows an idealistic look at the future of space travel, seen from the perspective of those who dare to venture into the unknown.

The film was made by Rob McLellan as a tribute to the science fiction films of his youth and to those real life pioneers that inspire it. This was a solo project of his completed in six weeks (in his spare time) and produced entirely in Unreal Engine 4.

I thought that this was a very enjoyable and well done animated film. It is a film that might be of use in stimulating kids to have an interest in STEM, especially space science.

An Overview of the New space Race

Space – I came across the article “Private companies are launching a new space race – here’s what to expect” this morning. it gives a very good overview of the companies and governments that are currently pursuing space programs.

If you are interested in space exploration, as I am, you will find this article of interest. The next decade will see many significant events if todays forecasts can be believed.

Future of Interstellar Travel

Space – I came across the article “Here Is the Future of Interstellar Spacecraft” yesterday and thought it was a good overview of the propulsion technologies that are likely to take future spacecraft beyond the Solar System.

In short the alternatives that are covered are:

  1. Thermonuclear propulsion
  2. Lightsail
  3. Bussard ramjet
  4. Antimatter rockets
  5. NASA’s Eagleworks Lab “Warp bubble” drive

None of these are really going to be ready in the near future, with possibly the exception of the Lightsail. I am glad to see though that the ideas are being kept in front of people, particularly those budding STEM students who will lead the way over the next few decades.

Is a ‘Warp’ Drive Feasible?

We have all heard of Warp or other Faster Than Light (FTL) drives in science fiction, but are they really possible?

This short (11:54) video goes into the details of the Alcubierre Drive. While so far this drive is just theoretical, there is a strong technical basis for the drive. Certainly there are several barriers to building one of these today, but there are new achievements and discoveries every day that may break down some of these.

There has been some experimental results out of NASA that tends to support some of the aspects of the Alcubierre Drive, but at this point the Alcubierre Drive is mostly theory.

USA, New York, New York – Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

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We like visiting museums. We also like visiting and exploring older military vessels. We like NASA and the Space program. The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum (https://www.intrepidmuseum.org) combines these.

The Intrepid Museum Complex is located at located in New York City on the West side of Manhattan on Pier 86, 12th Ave. & 46th Street. As they say on their website:

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is a non-profit, educational institution featuring the legendary aircraft carrier Intrepid, the space shuttle Enterprise, the world’s fastest jets and a guided missile submarine. Through exhibitions, educational programming and the foremost collection of technologically groundbreaking aircraft and vessels, visitors of all ages and abilities are taken on an interactive journey through history to learn about American innovation and bravery.

The Intrepid Museum was founded in 1982 with the acquisition of the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, now a National Historic Landmark, which served tours of duty in World War II and the Vietnam War, and was a recovery vessel for the Gemini and Mercury space missions.

The three primary parts of the museum are the USS Intrepid, The USS Growler and the Space Shuttle Enterprise.

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The Intrepid was launched in 1943. The aircraft carrier USS Intrepid fought in World War II, surviving five kamikaze attacks and one torpedo strike. The ship later served in the Cold War and the Vietnam War. Intrepid also served as a NASA recovery vessel in the 1960s. It was decommissioned in 1974. You are able to walk through the bridge shown above as well as part of the crew quarters and mess.

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On the flight deck of the Intrepid is a display of several aircraft, mostly from the US, but a few from other countries including two MIGs. The ship is in good shape and to certainly have a good view of the massive hanger deck. We found the areas available to tour less satisfying that the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi, TX.

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The submarine USS Growler is also on display for tours. This is the only American guided missile submarine open to the public. You are able to enter in the bow through stairs installed in place of one of the missile storage bays, walk through the ship, then up stairs in the aft of the vessel.

This 318 foot long and 26 foot wide vessel would spend around 70 days at a time patrolling the Russian coast as part of the US nuclear deterrent force during the cold war. So for more than two months her and her crew of 80-100 would be submerged in the North Pacific.

As we walked through the ship it was hard to conceive of that many men be crammed in so little space for such a long period of time.

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The third major part of the museum is a display of the Space Shuttle Enterprise. The Space Shuttle Pavilion showcases the space shuttle Enterprise, the prototype NASA orbiter that paved the way for America’s successful space shuttle program.

If you like military displays, aircraft or space, you will enjoy visiting the Intrepid Museum Complex.


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Finding the ISS

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If you are interested in space, you may have tried to get away from the city lights and look up at the night sky. One of the bright objects in orbit is the International Space Station (ISS).

The ISS is in a fast orbit of the Earth, traveling at over 17,000 mile per hour. This means that the ISS completes an orbit about every 90 minutes. If you are in a spot that is relatively free of light pollution, seeing the ISS is easy.

To plan ahead for such an excursion you can use the “Spot the Station” site from NASA. You can enter where you will be into the site and it will then give you a list of the dates and times the ISS will be visible from that location. The site also gives you directions as to where to look for the ISS in the evening sky.

You can even sign up for alerts for when the ISS will be passing within view of your location. Taking advantage of this would be a great way to involve kids in STEM activities. For me the current closest location with a list of sighting opportunities is for Georgetown, TX, just a few miles north of where I live. The next viewing opportunities will be at:

Date Visible Max Height Appears Disappears
Tue May 2, 5:42 AM 4 min 26° 11° above S 21° above E
Wed May 3, 4:52 AM 2 min 12° 11° above SE 10° above ESE
Thu May 4, 5:35 AM 3 min 88° 30° above SW 28° above NE