Posts Tagged Technology
How the Fermi Spacecraft Almost Got Taken Out by a Relic of the Cold War
by NANCY ATKINSON on MAY 1, 2013
Artist concept of the Fermi Space Telescope. Credit: NASA.
As a space telescope scientist or satellite operator, the last thing you want to hear is that your expensive and possibly one-of-a kind — maybe irreplaceable — spacecraft is in danger of colliding with a piece of space junk. On March 29, 2012, scientists from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope were notified that their spacecraft was at risk from a collision. And the object heading towards the Fermi spacecraft at a relative speed of 44,000 km/h (27,000 mph) wasn’t just a fleck of paint or tiny bolt.
Fermi was facing a possible direct hit by a 1,400 kg (3,100-pound) defunct Russian spy satellite dating back to the Cold War, named Cosmos 1805. If the two satellites met in orbit, the collision would release as much energy as two and a half tons of high explosives, destroying both spacecraft and creating more pieces of space junk in the process.
But this story has a happy ending, with the Fermi telescope still operating and continuing its mission to map the highest-energy light in the universe, all thanks to a little orbital traffic control.
You can watch the video here for the complete story, or read more at the Fermi website about how the Fermi Space Telescope dodged a speeding bullet.
Delphi researchers tested a new combustion strategy in this single-cylinder test engine.
Mark Sellnau, Delphi
Engine Could Boost Fuel Economy by Half
Delphi says its diesel-like engine runs cleanly on gasoline.
BY KEVIN BULLIS
Delphi, a major parts supplier to automakers, is developing an engine technology that could improve the fuel economy of gas-powered cars by 50 percent, potentially rivaling the performance of hybrid vehicles while costing less. A test engine based on the technology is similar in some ways to a highly efficient diesel engine, but runs on gasoline.
The company has demonstrated the technology in a single-piston test engine under a wide range of operating conditions. It is beginning tests on a multicylinder engine that will more closely approximate a production engine. Its fuel economy estimates suggest that engines based on the technology could be far more efficient than even diesel engines. Those estimates are based on simulations of how a midsized vehicle would perform with a multicylinder version of the new engine.
The Delphi technology is the latest attempt by researchers to combine the best qualities of diesel and gasoline engines. Diesel engines are 40 to 45 percent efficient in using the energy in fuel to propel a vehicle, compared to roughly 30 percent efficiency for gasoline engines. But diesel engines are dirty and require expensive exhaust-treatment technology to meet emissions regulations.
For decades, researchers have attempted to run diesel-like engines on gasoline to achieve high efficiency with low emissions. Such engines might be cheaper than hybrid technology, since they don’t require a large battery and electric motor.
In conventional gasoline-powered engines, a spark ignites a mixture of fuel and air. Diesel engines don’t use a spark. Instead, they compress air until it’s so hot that fuel injected into the combustion chamber soon ignites. Several researchers have attempted to use compression ignition with gasoline, but it’s proved challenging to control such engines, especially under the wide range of loads put on them as a car idles, accelerates, and cruises at various speeds.
Delphi’s approach, which is called gasoline-direct-injection compression ignition, aims to overcome the problem by combining a collection of engine-operating strategies that make use of advanced fuel injection and air intake and exhaust controls, many of which are available on advanced engines today.
For example, the researchers found that if they injected the gasoline in three precisely timed bursts, they could avoid the too-rapid combustion that’s made some previous experimental engines too noisy. At the same time, they could burn the fuel faster than in conventional gasoline engines, which is necessary for getting the most out of the fuel.
They used other strategies to help the engine perform well at extreme loads. For example, when the engine has just been started or is running at very low speeds, the temperatures in the combustion chamber can be too low to achieve combustion ignition. Under these conditions, the researchers directed exhaust gases into the combustion chamber to warm it up and facilitate combustion.
Mark Sellnau, engineering manager of advanced powertrain technology at Delphi Powertrain, says the engine could be paired with a battery pack and electric motor, as in hybrid cars, to improve efficiency still more, although he notes that it’s not clear whether doing that would be worth the added cost.
- Engine Could Boost Fuel Economy by Half (nextbigfuture.com)
- Engine Could Boost Fuel Economy by Half (technologyreview.com)
- Is Porsche Going Diesel? (theredlinereport.com)
- Downspeeding and supercharging with transmission optimization can deliver fuel economy improvement over downspeeding and turbocharging (greencarcongress.com)
- STUD-Engines vs. Piston-Type Diesel Engines (studengines.wordpress.com)
- Bill Jacobs Mazda Announces that the 2012 Mazda3 gets 40-MPG (prweb.com)
- Audi A300 will be big hit, says Sun’s Motoring Editor Ken Gibson (thesun.co.uk)
- Higher Fuel Economy Standards Will Increase Clean Diesel Car & Truck Choices for Consumers (prweb.com)
- GM will use Italy unit to help build Cruze Diesel powertrains (green.autoblog.com)
- Transonic demonstrates supercritical gasoline operation under low load, medium load, and high speed low load conditions; simulated vehicle fuel economy of 48.8 mpg (greencarcongress.com)
by PAUL SCOTT ANDERSON on OCTOBER 27, 2011
Artist’s conception of solar sail in orbit. Credit: NASA
You’ve probably heard by now how NASA is going to focus more on deep space exploration, both manned and robotic, leaving the low-Earth orbit and suborbital realms to commercial companies, a major change. There is, however, an opportunity for public input for deep space exploration as well, thanks to a new initiative for competitive ideas from universities, students, companies and government agencies. This means that you may have a chance to forward your proposals to help solve the problems that will need to be resolved in the coming years.
NASA’s new technology offices are getting ready to spend millions of dollars, it was announced at a seminar held last Monday as part of the Von Braun Memorial Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama. NASA is hoping to get between $375 million and $560 million in the fiscal year 2012 budget, which would be enough for competition prizes of $1 million or more.
“We have a space technology program, and there’s some money behind it,” Marshall Chief Technologist Andrew Keys said at the seminar.
The new heavy-lift rocket being designed will initially cost $1 billion or more, and still use proven conventional technology for its first planned launch in 2017. But as those first rockets are then replaced by larger ones, technological challenges will have to be overcome for new, better boosters to be designed, for example, which will ne necessary to take human farther into deep space to places like Mars.
The solar sail is also a good example of new technology, which is much different from conventional rockets, using the pressure of photons emitted from the Sun for propulsion, a very novel idea which is now being proven to be both possible and useful.
As in other facets of business and technology, competition will be a good thing, helping to bring out the best ideas and concepts from a larger knowledge pool, allowing the space industry to move more quickly and efficiently into the solar system and beyond. We may not have Star Trek-style warp speed yet, but the future is looking bright for space exploration, a future that can be better shared by all of us.
- Got an idea for deep space travel? NASA may have a competition for you (al.com)
- Soon, ‘fuel stations’ in space to help rockets in long-distance space travel (news.bioscholar.com)
- NASA to demonstrate largest-ever solar sail in space (mbcalyn.wordpress.com)
- Why It’s a Mistake for NASA to Scrap the Space Shuttle Program – International Business Times (mbcalyn.wordpress.com)
- Surprise! NASA unveils manned ‘Deep Space Transportation System’ | DVICE (mbcalyn.wordpress.com)
- Space Medicine (egrejeen.wordpress.com)
- NASA’s deep sea asteroid training mission has been cut short by hurricane Rina [Space] (io9.com)
- NASA’s Launch of NPOESS Preparatory Project Payload (infosecurity.us)
- NASA offers Virtual space travel:’Eyes in the Solar System’ (techtimely.wordpress.com)
- Space 2.0: NASA’s Open Source Summit (shareable.net)