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Lawmaker: China and Russia Ahead of U.S. Military’s Space Capabilities

September 12, 2017 Leave a comment

WASHINGTON – Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said China and Russia have moved past the United States in the development of national security space capabilities.

He called on the Department of Defense to invest more dollars in the U.S. military’s space capabilities.

“I can’t overstate this. What Russia and China are doing is startling and I describe it this way to people back home. Keep in mind, I’m from Alabama, as George Wallace used to say, you’ve got to get the hay down where the goats can get at it. So I tell folks it’s like this – if you are a little fella and you want to whoop a big fella, but you know there’s no way you can whoop him, he’s just too big, but if you can poke his eyes out and take his ears away from him, all of a sudden he’s blind and deaf,” Rogers said Wednesday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) during a discussion on “How to Organize Military Space.”

“You might actually whoop that fella – that’s exactly what this is about. Russia and China want to take our eyes and ears out – our military’s eyes and ears, because that’s what’s up there and that’s why they are spending an inordinate amount of money in their defense budget on space capabilities and they have both already reorganized,” he added. “China set up a Space Corps last year. We are behind the curve on this, and that’s the message I want the Air Force to acknowledge is that change is not a bad thing, necessarily.”

Rogers, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, has proposed establishing a Space Corps within the Department of the Air Force by 2019.

“They’ve got six months to produce a report that reviews the ‘organizational and management structure of the Space Corps.’ Then Congress would have the next six months to decide if it’s good enough or if they missed the mark. That gives them plenty of time to come to grips with the reality of the situation and help to actively shape what the solution will be,” he said of his proposed legislation. “In the meantime, Congress will be able to provide input when we receive an interim report on the Space Corps design, and we’ll be able to authorize and appropriate any funds necessitated by this new service.”

Rogers said the military’s national security space operations have become “critical” to winning wars.

“I would like to see the Space Corps remain in the department of the Air Force and I hope it fixes it but all these people I talk with are a lot smarter than I am and they all think that eventually it will have to be a completely separate department and service, and maybe they are right but I think that is truly a 15- to 20-year process,” he said.

Rogers responded to concerns about the cost of creating a Space Corps.

“Some people have said setting up the Space Corps will cost too much, but as I mentioned earlier the Space Corps hasn’t been designed yet. Nobody knows if it will cost too much. Again, the DoD gets to design the Space Corps and then Congress will take that information and authorize and appropriate needed funds in the FY19 budget process,” he said.

“I’ve heard some Air Force leaders say that they are working to integrate space and separating the Space Corps out hurts the space enterprise. Let’s be honest, space is special,” he added. “You fight and win differently in space. You also need to organize, train, and equip differently for space. The Space Corps embraces this philosophy.”

15 bursts of radio emission detected from dwarf galaxy 3 billion light years away

September 4, 2017 Leave a comment

Last Saturday, a telescope in a remote area of West Virginia picked up those 15 bright radio burst signals from a distant corner of the universe, and yesterday, a group of astronomers and astrophysicists shared preliminary results on their observations.

They detected 15 bursts above our detection threshold of 10 sigma in the first two 30-minute scans. They include the detection signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of each burst, along with a very rough estimate of pulse energy density assuming a 12 Jy system equivalent flux density, 300 us pulse width, and uniform 3800 MHz bandwidth.

Breakthrough Listen is a global astronomical initiative launched in 2015 by Internet investor and philanthropist Yuri Milner and cosmologist Stephen Hawking. As part of their program to observe nearby stars and galaxies for signatures of extraterrestrial technology, the Listen science team at UC Berkeley added FRB 121102 to their list of targets. In the early hours of Saturday, August 26, UC Berkeley Postdoctoral Researcher Dr. Vishal Gajjar observed the location of FRB 121102 using the Breakthrough Listen backend instrument at the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. The instrument accumulated 400 TB of data on the object over a five hour observation, observing the entire 4 to 8 GHz frequency band. This large dataset was searched for signatures of short pulses from the source over a broad range of frequencies, with a characteristic dispersion, or delay as a function of frequency, caused by the presence of gas in space between us and the source. The distinctive shape that the dispersion imposes on the initial pulse is an indicator of the amount of material between us and the source, and hence an indicator of the distance to the host galaxy.

Analysis by Dr. Gajjar and the Listen team revealed 15 new pulses from FRB 121102. As well as confirming that the source is in a newly active state, the high resolution of the data obtained by the Listen instrument will allow measurement of the properties of these mysterious bursts at a higher precision than ever possible before.

The observations also show for the first time that FRBs emit at higher frequencies (with the brightest emission occurring at around 7 GHz) than previously observed. The extraordinary capabilities of the Listen backend, which is able to record several gigahertz of bandwidth at a time, split into billions of individual channels, enable a new view of the frequency spectrum of FRBs, and should shed additional light on the processes giving rise to FRB emission.

When the recently-detected pulses left their host galaxy our entire Solar System was just 2 billion years old. Life on Earth consisted of only single-celled organisms, and it would be another billion years before even the simplest multi-cellular life began to evolve. Whether or not FRBs eventually turn out to be signatures of extraterrestrial technology, Breakthrough Listen is helping to push the frontiers of a new and rapidly growing area of our understanding of the Universe around us.

Breakthrough Listen is a scientific program in search for evidence of technological life in the Universe. It aims to survey one million nearby stars, the entire galactic plane and 100 nearby galaxies at a wide range of radio and optical bands.

Pentagon Ramps Up Space Warfare Effort

April 27, 2017 Leave a comment

Breaking with a decadeslong policy, Defense Department leaders call for faster development of weapons to protect U.S. spy satellites

Gen. John Hyten told the Senate Armed Services Committee that ‘we must prepare for a conflict that extends into space’ through defensive measures, but also by building ‘an offensive capability to challenge’ adversaries.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—The Pentagon is getting serious about gearing up for potential space combat.

Breaking with a decadeslong policy that stopped short of publicly advocating putting arms in orbit, U.S. Defense Department leaders are calling for faster development of offensive weapons and combat tactics for space, initially to protect the biggest, most expensive U.S. spy satellites from potential attacks.

The extent of the shift was evident at a recent space symposium here, with one senior general after another calling for more-advanced weaponry and updated rules of engagement that—for the first time—specifically would be designed to counter moves by hostile spacecraft beyond the atmosphere.

“We will be threatened in space, and we need to be prepared for that,” said Brig. Gen.  John Shaw, deputy director of global operations at Strategic Command, the Defense Department unit in charge of nuclear and other long-range weapons. “There isn’t something special as a space war,” he told the conference, that ought to be considered separately from naval or land combat.

The Air Force is working closely with the National Reconnaissance Office to devise offensive strategies against weapons or satellites of other nations that could blind, jam or destroy in-orbit spy satellites, according to several of the symposium’s speakers.

Issues related to space weaponry, especially technology that can disrupt hostile spacecraft, are among the Pentagon’s most closely guarded secrets. Though research has been under way quietly for decades and military leaders in the past few years targeted billions of extra dollars to ensure space superiority, details are highly classified and companies involved in the effort aren’t public.

Recent comments by Pentagon leaders underscore the growing importance of the topic. Throughout the speeches and panels earlier this month, space was described as requiring major investments to ensure that the U.S. military will be ready to execute the full range of defensive and offensive operations. Traditionally, civilian leaders as well as uniformed commanders have tended to avoid explicit calls for speedy deployment of offensive systems.

In a classified briefing at the same conference, Robert Work, the Defense Department’s No. 2 civilian official, highlighted that all of the Pentagon’s efforts are aimed at deterring attacks, rather than instigating hostilities.

“We’re not interested in getting into [a] fight” in space, Gen. John Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command, told the conference on a different day. “Nobody wins that fight, but we are interested in being prepared for it.”

Earlier this month, Gen. John Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “we must prepare for a conflict that extends into space” through defensive measures, but also by building “an offensive capability to challenge” adversaries. He promised to provide details to lawmakers at a coming classified session.

This week, during a telephone hookup earlier with astronauts orbiting the earth, reporters heard President Donald Trump allude to U.S. capabilities with “tremendous military applications in space,” without elaborating.

Early snippets of such tough talk emerged years before Mr. Trump took office, as uniformed commanders grew increasingly concerned about vulnerabilities of their space systems.

With China and Russia particularly focused on testing antisatellite technologies, the U.S. military started thinking about “hardening” existing satellites, fielding smaller models that would be easier to replace and enhancing in-orbit surveillance and tracking capabilities to provide more effective warnings of dangers.

But current thinking among senior Pentagon planners, according to people familiar with the details, goes further than in previous administrations by categorizing offensive space capabilities as essential components of America’s military arsenal.

Joel Sercel, a veteran aerospace engineer, consultant and entrepreneur, said “the U.S. has the most costly space assets of any nation, and is more dependent on them than any other.” Yet “it’s simply not that hard for an adversary to disrupt or destroy” at least some parts of most constellations, he said in a recent interview.

International treaties prohibit launching nuclear warheads or weapons of mass destruction into space, though they don’t ban antisatellite weapons.

Throughout the Cold War and the global realignment that followed, beefing up satellite defenses was considered the primary means of preventing warfare in space.

But in 2007, China used an antisatellite weapon to blast one of its own aging weather satellites into thousands of pieces. The maneuver, followed by other Chinese and Russian tests over the years, rocked the space world and became a watershed moment for Pentagon brass worried about proliferation of space debris and potential attacks on U.S. satellites.

Some of these concepts were initially proposed by the Trump transition team before the inauguration, according to people familiar with the process, and later were endorsed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis during his confirmation proceedings. Since then, they have been refined further by commanders.

The Senate Armed Services Committee on April 5 has approved the nomination of Heather Wilson to head the Air Force. Ms. Wilson, a former House member from New Mexico is another strong proponent of offensive space strategy.

Space May Be Next Frontier for Earth’s Crude Oil Giants: Analyst

April 25, 2017 Leave a comment

Bloomberg

The Middle East has an outsize impact on energy here on Earth. One analyst thinks some regional powerhouses may leverage that role into the development of natural resources in space.

Countries like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are developing space programs and investing in nascent private space commodity initiatives, said Tom James, a partner at energy consultant Navitas Resources. Doing so could give them a foothold in building extraterrestrial reserves of water — a substance likely to fuel travel within space — and other resources that could be used for in-space manufacturing.

“Water is the new oil of space,” James said in Singapore. “Middle East investment in space is growing as it works to shift from an oil-based to a knowledge-based economy.”

Prospecting satellites can be built for tens of millions of U.S. dollars each and an asteroid-harvesting spacecraft could cost $2.6 billion, in line with mining operations on Earth, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts including Noah Poponak said in an April 4 research note. Most resources would be processed and used in space although it may be economic to ship some commodities, such as platinum, back to Earth, according to James and Goldman.

“Space mining is still a long way from commercial viability, but it has the potential to further ease access to space,” Poponak wrote. “Water and platinum group metals that are abundant on asteroids are highly disruptive from a technological and economic standpoint.”

Water as Fuel

Navitas expects companies to launch satellites searching for rare gases and metals in asteroids within five years, with actual mining happening within eight. A single asteroid might contain 175 times more platinum than the Earth mines in a year, Goldman said, citing a project associated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That much platinum could be worth $25 billion to $50 billion, although it would likely crater the market for the metal.

The Middle East has an outsize impact on energy on Earth. Now the region’s attention is turning to space.

Source: Bloomberg

“You could go massively short on platinum and then show up at settlement with an asteroid, but you probably could only do that once,” James said in an interview after a presentation at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute. “I don’t think the counter-party would take that trade a second time.”

Platinum futures for July delivery fell 0.6 percent to $972.10 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Monday.

In the long term, most of the commodities mined in space will stay in space to power a low-orbit space economy built around satellites and space stations, James said. In that scenario, water accumulated in space would become valuable as it could be used for rocket fuel for interstellar voyages. The substance is too heavy and costly to transport from Earth.

Low-Orbit Economy

Water can be used as a propellant in space or split into hydrogen and oxygen, and then recombined and combusted. Deep Space Industries Inc., an asteroid mining company, has developed a thruster that heats water into a steam propellant, according to Goldman.

The U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia already have space programs, with the Saudis signing a pact with Russia in 2015 for cooperation on space exploration, according to a report from Arab News.  Abu Dhabi is an investor in Richard Branson’s space tourism venture, Virgin Galactic. In addition to money, the Middle East also has geography on its side.

See also: At $27 billion, mining in space could lost less than a gas plant

The closer a country is to the equator, the more surface velocity there is from spinning around the Earth’s axis, meaning space ships need to burn less fuel to exit the atmosphere. That benefits some Middle Eastern countries as launch sites, James said.

“The Middle East builds the tallest buildings, the biggest shopping complexes,” said James. “Certainly they’re having a big impact on the space and satellite industries as well.”

NASA Baffled By Mysterious X-Ray Flash In Deep Space

April 2, 2017 Leave a comment

Astronomers capture weird x-ray flash in deep space

Astronomers have been left baffled by a mysterious flash of X-rays captured by Nasa’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in deep space. 

The source of the flash is in a region of the sky known as the Chandra Deep Field-South (CDF-S), which scientists say erupted just in October 2014, becoming 1,000 times brighter within a matter of hours.

An image of the Chandra Deep Field-South, where a mysterious flash was recorded by Nasa.
An image of the Chandra Deep Field-South, where a mysterious flash was recorded by Nasa.

Stuff.co.nz reports:

After about a day, the source had faded to the point that it couldn’t be detected by Chandra.

“Ever since discovering this source, we’ve been struggling to understand its origin,” said Franz Bauer of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in Santiago, Chile.

“It’s like we have a jigsaw puzzle but we don’t have all of the pieces.”

Two of the three main possibilities to explain the X-ray source invoke gamma-ray burst (GRB) events. GRBs are jetted explosions triggered either by the collapse of a massive star or by the merger of a neutron star with another neutron star or a black hole.

If the jet is pointing towards the Earth, a burst of gamma rays is detected. As the jet expands, it loses energy and produces weaker, more isotropic radiation at X-ray and other wavelengths.

Possible explanations for the CDF-S X-ray source, according to the researchers, are a GRB that is not pointed toward Earth, or a GRB that lies beyond the small galaxy.

A third possibility is that a medium-sized black hole shredded a white dwarf star.

“None of these ideas fits the data perfectly,” said Ezequiel Treister, also of the Pontifical Catholic University, “but then again, we’ve rarely if ever seen any of the proposed possibilities in actual data, so we don’t understand them well at all.”

No similar events have been found by Chandra in other parts of the sky.

NASA Detects Strange Big Rock En Route to Earth, Conspiracy Theorist Says it Will Cause Mega-Tsunami

February 1, 2017 Leave a comment

According to NASA, object 2016 WF9’s body resembles a comet in its reflectivity and orbit, but appears to lack the characteristic dust and gas cloud that defines a comet. NASA said over the course of 4.9 Earth-years, 2016 WF9 has travelled inward, passing under the main asteroid belt and the orbit of Mars until it will swing just inside Earth’s own orbit.

Mega-Tsunami

Many conspiracy theorists have predicted that 2017 will be a difficult year. In fact, some even suspect it will be the year signifying the End of the Age.

At the beginning of the year, British prominent author David Meade revealed a massive unknown death planet — planet X — is about to hit Earth, killing us all. Meade gave a detailed description on how the unknown planet would collide with ours. He said on September 23, 2017, the moon will appear under the feet of the Constellation Virgo. At the same time, the Sun will also appear to precisely clothe Virgo. Only this event that occurs in 2017 constitutes a ‘birthing.’ This is when planets traverse within the legs of Virgo. The next event following this process is Planet X (the unknown planet) fully eclipsing the Sun and covering the whole Earth. A full moon in shadow would occur on the next full moon date – Thursday, October 5, 2017, signifying the End of the Age. Planet Earth would be destroyed along with humanity.

Meade claimed that the global elite (the 1%) are very aware of this impending doom, and are preparing themselves for the disaster, already having built bunkers, hoping to use them to survive the collision.

Mega-Tsunami

In 2016, the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) detected a strange stone-like object heading towards Earth. NASA said it is unsure, but the object could be a comet or an asteroid. NASA has codenamed the strange object ‘2016 WF9’. The object is believed to be 0.3 to 0.6 miles (0.5 to 1 kilometre) across. Object 2016 WF9 was discovered by NASA’s NEOWISE mission.

According to NASA, object 2016 WF9’s body resembles a comet in its reflectivity and orbit, but appears to lack the characteristic dust and gas cloud that defines a comet. NASA said over the course of 4.9 Earth-years, 2016 WF9 has travelled inward, passing under the main asteroid belt and the orbit of Mars until it will swing just inside Earth’s own orbit.

Mega-Tsunami

“2016 WF9 could have cometary origins,” said Deputy Principal Investigator James ‘Gerbs’ Bauer at NASA’S Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, California.

NASA later announced that the mysterious object will safely pass Earth at a distance of nearly 32 million miles (51 million kilometres) on February 25, 2017. “The trajectory of 2016 WF9 is well understood, and the object is not a threat to Earth for the foreseeable future,” NASA wrote on its website.

This NASA announcement calmed many nerves. The most recent object from space to have hit Earth happened in Russia on February 15, 2013, known as the Chelyabinsk Event. The object, which was later identified as an asteroid, is said to have an initial mass of about 12,000–13,000 metric tonnes, and measures around 20 metres in diameter. To contextualize it, the object was heavier than the Eiffel Tower. All though no death was reported, it caused many injuries to people in the area. Almost 1,500 people sustained various degrees of injuries and over 7, 200 properties, including domestic and commercial buildings were also destroyed.

But despite NASA’s announcement that object 2016 WF9 will not hit Earth, a Russian astronomer, Dr Dyomin Damir Zakharovich, has come up with an alternative theory, suggesting object 2016 WF9 will surely crash into Earth on February 16, triggering a mega-tsunami.

Dr Zakharovich said the data that he gathered on object 2016 WF9 indicates it originated from the fictional planet known as Nibiru, also sometimes referred to as Planet X. Nibiru is a hypothesized planet on the edge of our solar system, which conspiracy theorists such as Meade, believe will crash into Earth in September 2017.

Although NASA has consistently denied the existence of such a planet, conspiracy theorists, including Dr Zakharovich, have insisted it exists, and that NASA is deliberately hiding it from the public to avoid widespread fear and panic. According to NASA, if Nibiru or Planet X were real and headed for an encounter with the Earth, astronomers would have been tracking it for at least the past decade, making it visible, by now, to the naked eye.

Mega-Tsunami

However, Zakharovich said 2016 WF9 is on its way to Earth, and that if we are fortunate for the object to fall into the ocean, it would cause a mega-tsunami; if it falls in a human populated area, it would destroy many lives.

“The object they call WF9 left the Nibiru system in October when Nibiru began spinning counter clockwise around the sun.  Since then, NASA has known it will hit Earth. But they are only telling people now. We are all in peril,” he said.

Mega-Tsunami

Zecharia Sitchin, a Soviet-born American writer, first wrote about Nibiru in his widely publicized book ‘The 12th Planet,’ in 1976. Sitchin claimed in the book that Nibiru was inhabited by a race of ‘ancient aliens’ – the Annunaki – who had created the human race.

The book was purchased by thousands, and is still relevant to many people throughout the United States and other parts of the world, today.

Sneaky asteroid spotted whizzing between Earth and moon

January 11, 2017 Leave a comment

A space rock large enough to do damage gives us a near miss just two days after being discovered.

An asteroid roughly the size of a 10-story building gave Earth a particularly close pass Monday morning.

Source: C/Net

Asteroid 2017 AG13 came within half the distance from Earth to the moon as it buzzed by early Monday morning at 4:47 a.m. PT. The fly-by happened shortly after scientists at the Catalina Sky Survey first discovered the space rock on Saturday.

As you can see in the GIF below, the asteroid looks to just barely miss us as it passes. In the cosmic sense, it really was a close shave. In real terms, Earth had well over a 100,000-mile (161,000 kilometer) buffer of distance.

2017 AG13 isn’t so big it would have meant an extinction-level event had it been a direct hit. But if a good size chunk of it made it through Earth’s upper atmosphere near a populated area, there might have been damage like we saw in 2013 when a bolide collided with the atmosphere over the Russian city Chelyabinsk. In that event, a fireball streaked over the city, releasing 500 kilotons of energy as it ran up against some serious resistance from Earth’s atmosphere and exploded, blowing out windows all over town in the process.

The asteroid is about 36 to 111 feet (11 to 34 meters) across, according to the Slooh Observatory, and moving very fast relative to Earth at 10 miles (16 kilometers) per second. That speed, coupled with 2017 AG13’s dim brightness level, made it difficult to spot with telescopes.

Various telescopes and sky surveys constantly scan Earth’s neighborhood and track nearby asteroids. Most pass by at a distance several times farther away than the moon is to us, so this was a particularly close buzz by a previously unknown object.

In the video below, Slooh Astronomer Eric Edelman breaks down some of the basics of the asteroid.

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