An unmanned Japanese cargo vessel headed for the International Space Station (ISS) this week is carrying some unusual cargo. In addition to regular supplies, the vehicle contains some tiny, cube shaped satellites that when deployed will write Morse code messages visible in the night sky.
We've been fairly sure that Virgin Galactic had always intended to get into the commercial satellite business with its fancy midair launch system, especially now that Stratolaunch is planning to do the same thing, just bigger. In a press release today, Virgin announced LauncherOne, its new low-cost LEO launch system.
Back in October, we posted about a program DARPA has been working on to rip apart dead satellites and harvest their organs to make new(er) satellites. It seemed more than a little crazy, but the program is now moving forward, with DARPA holding industry conferences and putting down millions of dollars on the idea.
Microsoft's Kinect sensor is one way to give all kinds of amazing capabilities to hardware platforms (like robots) easily and for cheap. Another industry that could benefit from a big injection of "easily" and "for cheap" is commercial spaceflight, and an upcoming test of Kinect-enabled satellites could help make it happen.
Sure, satellites have been used for many important projects that have pushed humankind forward, the least of them being satellite television. But now, they've finally fulfilled their true destinies: counting penguins.
Space-based solar power has long promised to be a cheap and eco-friendly source of energy for Earth, and for just as long, it hasn't happened. This new concept for a giant solar microwave space flower may look crazy, but NASA liked it enough to throw some money at making it real.
Space junk is getting to be more and more of a problem, but while there have been plenty of serious talks on the subject, the first country to actually go and do something about it may be the Swiss. By 2016, Switzerland plans to launch a "janitor satellite" to start fighting the the space junk problem directly while the rest of us keep twiddling our thumbs.
NASA has a knack for making stuff that lasts a lot longer than it thinks it will. This is a good thing, of course, except that missions are often only funded for a set period of time, and NASA occasionally ends up with perfectly good spacecraft and not enough money to keep them operating. There may be one way to save them, though: giving them away.
I can't help but look at this latest device as yet another thinly veiled attempt to hedge our bets against the inevitable zombie apocalypse. Believe or not, a company has reportedly started selling GPS satellite tracking devices for the dead.
You're looking at one single massive picture of the entire eastern chunk of North America plus a bunch of the Caribbean, courtesy NASA's newest climate monitoring satellite, NPP. Next time a hurricane heads directly towards your house, this orbital eyeball will probably be the first to know.