New observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have helped astronomers solve a longstanding mystery about galaxy evolution. It turns out that ancient galaxies stopped forming stars at a smaller size than their younger cousins did.
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity is pressing forward with an epic Red Planet road trip, a long-distance drive aimed at the central mountain of its landing site. Curiosity began its long drive July 4 and completed three separate trips in so far.
Mars is not a nice place to live. New data collected by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity and studies of ancient Martian meteorites show that Mars' atmosphere probably hasn't changed very much in about 4 billion years.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - Reports last summer than NASA's long-lived Voyager 1 space probe had finally left the solar system turned out to be a bit premature, scientists said on Thursday.Rather,...
Le Bourget, 17 June 2013 – Today, at the International Aeronautics and Space Show in Le Bourget (Paris), Thales Alenia Space announces the signing of the agreement with Swiss Space System (S3) for the development of the pressurized compartment intended to house scientific experiments and astronauts of the SOAR (Sub-Orbital Aircraft Reusable) suborbital vehicle.
Swiss Space Systems is a young Swiss aerospace company whose goal, from now until 2018, is the development, construction, certification and operation of suborbital spacecraft for launching small satellites up to a weight of 250 kg.
This agreement will allow S3 to further develop the project, also proposing research applications in the areas of microgravity and suborbital passenger transportation. The S3 project also takes advantage of the prestigious collaboration of ESA’s Astronaut Center and of other important aerospace industries
The first 3D printer bound for space passed a series of critical microgravity tests at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Made in Space, the space manufacturing company, conducted examinations of their proprietary 3D printer technology during four microgravity flights lasting two hours each, simulating conditions found on the ISS.
The printer, as part of the 3D Print Experiment in coordination with NASA, is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station (ISS) in 2014.
"Humanity's future ultimately depends on our ability to explore and occupy space. The 3D printing technologies developed and tested during our Zero-G flights are a cornerstone to building that future. We reached a milestone in our goal to lay that cornerstone with the success of these prototype tests," said Mike Snyder, P.I. on the 3D Print Experiment and Lead Design Engineer.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - A neighbor star has at least six planets in orbit, including three circling at the right distance for water to exist, a condition believed to be necessary for life,...
LONDON (VIRGIN GALACTIC PR) – Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group and Virgin Galactic, announced Monday, June 17, that the company’s 600th Future Astronaut is Marsha Waters, the owner of an accounting services company based in Blackpool, United Kingdom. Waters, 42, embodies the next generation of women in space: private individuals who are passionate about experiencing space travel for themselves.
Waters first took an interest in Virgin Galactic in 2010 and has been following its progress ever since.
For thousands of years, people have been mixing the oxygen-rich air of Earth with an almost endless variety of fuels to produce hot luminous flame. There's an arc of learning about combustion that stretches from the earliest campfires of primitive humans to the most advanced automobiles racing down the superhighways of the 21st century. Engineers study burning to produce better internal combustion engines; chemists peer into flames looking for exotic reactions; chefs experiment with fire to cook better food.
You would think there's not much more to learn. Dr. Forman A. Williams, a professor of physics at UC San Diego, would disagree. "When it comes to fire," he says, "we're just getting started."
Flames are hard to understand because they are complicated. In an ordinary candle flame, thousands of chemical reactions take place. Hydrocarbon molecules from the wick are vaporized and cracked apart by heat. They combine with oxygen to produce light, heat, CO2 and water. Some of the hydrocarbon fragments form ring-shaped molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and, eventually, soot. Soot particles can themselves burn or simply drift away as smoke. The familiar teardrop shape of the flame is an effect caused by gravity. Hot air rises and draws fresh cool air behind it. This is called buoyancy and is what makes the flame shoot up and flicker.
But what happens when you light a candle, say, on the International Space Station (ISS)? "In microgravity, flames burn differently—they form little spheres," says Williams. Flaming spheres on the ISS turn out to be wonderful mini-labs for combustion research. Unlike flames on Earth, which expand greedily when they need more fuel, flame balls let the oxygen come to them. Oxygen and fuel combine in a narrow zone at the surface of the sphere, not hither and yon throughout the flame. It’s a much simpler system.
Recently, Williams and colleagues were doing an ISS experiment called "FLEX" to learn how to put out fires in microgravity when they came across something odd. Small droplets of heptane were burning inside the FLEX combustion chamber. As planned, the flames went out, but unexpectedly the droplets of fuel continued burning. "That's right—they seemed to be burning without flames," says Williams. "At first we didn't believe it ourselves." In fact, Williams believes the flames are there, just too faint to see. "These are cool flames," he explains.
Ordinary, visible fire burns at a high temperature between 1500K and 2000K. Heptane flame balls on the ISS started out in this "hot fire" regime. But as the flame balls cooled and began to go out, a different kind of burning took over.
"Cool flames burn at the relatively low temperature of 500K to 800K," says Williams. "And their chemistry is completely different. Normal flames produce soot, CO2 and water. Cool flames produce carbon monoxide and formaldehyde." Similar cool flames have been produced on Earth, but they flicker out almost immediately. On the ISS, however, cool flames can burn for long minutes. "There are practical implications of these results," notes Williams. "For instance, they could lead to cleaner auto ignitions."
One of the ideas that auto companies have worked on for years is HCCI--short for "homogeneous charge compression ignition." In the automobile cylinder instead of a spark there would be a gentler, less polluting combustion process throughout the chamber.
"The chemistry of HCCI involves cool flame chemistry," says Williams. "The extra control we get from steady-state burning on the ISS will give us more accurate chemistry values for this type of research."
The joke about home renovation projects is it takes at least three trips to the hardware store to finish the work. In space, of course, spare parts are a lot harder to come by, meaning astronauts might have to wait for a spacecraft shipment, if, say, the toilet breaks.
Some spare parts could be manufactured in space as early as next year, though, providing a 3-D printer passes all the preliminary steps. It recently got a big boost in that direction after passing its microgravity tests successfully, but there are still environmental tests to come, said the company that was behind the work.
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