China Plans to Build a Solar Power Station in Space


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China plans to build a huge solar power station 36,000 kilometres above the ground in an attempt to battle smog, cut greenhouse gases and solve energy crisis, much on the lines of an idea first floated in 1941 by fiction writer Isaac Asimov, state media reported today.

If realised, it will surpass the scale of the Apollo project and the International Space Station, and be the largest-ever space project.

The power station would be a super spacecraft on a geosynchronous orbit equipped with huge solar panels. The electricity generated would be converted to microwaves or lasers and transmitted to a collector on Earth, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

In 1941, American science fiction writer Isaac Asimov had published a short story “Reason”, in which a space station transmits energy collected from the sun using microwave beams.

Wang Xiji, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and an International Academy of Astronautics member, says Asimov’s fiction has a scientific basis.

After devoting over 50 years to space technology research, Wang, 93, is an advocate for the station: “An economically viable space power station would be really huge, with the total area of the solar panels reaching 5 to 6 sq km.”

That would be equivalent to 12 of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, the largest public square in the world, or nearly two New York Central Parks. “Maybe people on Earth could see it in the sky at night, like a star,” says Wang.

Wang says the electricity generated from the ground-based solar plants fluctuates with night and day and the weather, but a space generator collects energy 99 per cent of the time.

Space-based solar panels can generate ten times as much electricity as ground-based panels per unit area, says Duan Baoyan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

“If we have space solar power technology, hopefully we could solve the energy crisis on Earth,” Duan said.

Wang says whoever obtains the technology first “could occupy the future energy market. So it’s of great strategic significance.”

Countries such as the US and Japan have studied space solar power station. Japan leads the development of wireless power transmission technology. However, many hurdles lie ahead: A commercially viable space power station would weigh 10,000 tons. But few rockets can carry a payload of over 100 tons to low Earth orbit.

Continue reading China Plans to Build a Solar Power Station in Space

Black Hole 12 Billion Times Bigger Than the Sun Discovered


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Scientists say they have discovered a black hole so big that it challenges the theory about how they grow.

The scientists were initially reluctant to classify it as a black hole because it was too bright, its luminosity equal to the brightness of 420 trillion suns. Most of the people do not believe black holes to be bright, though they can be. This is particularly so because black holes suck everything inside them but just before that there is tremendous friction which produces a lot of light.

Scientists said this black hole was formed about 900 million years after the Big Bang.

But with measurements indicating it is 12 billion times the size of the Sun, the black hole challenges a widely accepted hypothesis of growth rates.

“Based on previous research, this is the largest black hole found for that period of time,” Dr Fuyan Bian, Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Australian National University (ANU).

“Current theory is for a limit to how fast a black hole can grow, but this black hole is too large for that theory.”

The creation of supermassive black holes remains an open topic of research. However, many scientists have long believed the growth rate of black holes was limited.

Black holes grow, scientific theory suggests, as they absorb mass. However, as mass is absorbed, it will be heated creating radiation pressure, which pushes the mass away from the black hole.

“Basically, you have two forces balanced together which sets up a limit for growth, which is much smaller than what we found,” said Bian.

The black hole was discovered a team of global scientists led by Xue-Bing Wu at Peking University, China, as part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which provided imagery data of 35 percent of the northern hemisphere sky.

The ANU is leading a comparable project, known as SkyMapper, to carry out observations of the Southern Hemisphere sky.

Bian expects more black holes to be observed as the project advances.

Source : Reuters , ScienceTimes

Russia to create joint orbital station with India, China


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Russia is exploring the possibility of a joint manned orbital station with India and China as part of a common strategy to create technological alliances and may take up the matter with the two Asian space giants in July.

“Moscow could propose to China and India to create a joint manned orbital station at the summit of the BRICS emerging economies in Russia’s Ufa in July,” a document drafted by the expert council at Russia’s military and industrial commission said.

The experts recommend “working out the possibilities of an international manned project with BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) countries as part of a common strategy of creating technological alliances”, Itar Tass reported.

The proposal comes after months of speculation that the crisis in Ukraine would doom U.S.-Russia space cooperation. For two decades this effort has largely been focused on the International Space Station project (ISS), which is due to end in 2020. NASA has proposed extending it to 2024, but Russia has suggested it might duck out and instead build its own space station — possibly with the participation of China.

The BRICS project would be roughly analogous to the ISS, a $150 billion project involving 15 nations. Anchored by the United States and Russia, the world’s leading spacefaring powers, the ISS allows countries with less advanced spaceflight capabilities to either join onto the station’s Russian and American segments or contribute smaller segments.

A BRICS space station would likely emerge from a similar two-nation partnership, again with Russia in a driver’s seat. The Military-Industrial Commission recommended approaching either China or India — both countries that have well-developed and increasingly ambitious space programs. The proposal would then allow other BRICS members to join.

India has yet to put a man in space without hitching rides on other nations’ rockets. Last year, it demonstrated its rising capabilities after launching an unmanned satellite to Mars on a shoestring budget.

China is perhaps the best partner for such a project. China already launches its own astronauts into space, and is designing its own medium-sized space station. The placement of Russia’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East also makes close cooperation with China far easier.

Source : Times Of India , TheMoscowTimes

China unveils Mars rover after India’s successful Mangalyaan


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Visitors to the 16th China International Industry Fair looks at a prototype of what a Chinese Mars rover would look like in Shanghai. 

Seeking to catch up with India’s Mangalyaan mission, China has unveiled its Mars rover being developed to scurry the Red Planet’s surface for signs of water and life and plans to test it in the rugged terrain of Tibet. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) has displayed the machine and the technological hardware set-up at an air show.

Photos of the rover’s prototype, to be displayed at the annual air show at Zhuai being attended by defence attaches of all countries including India, were carried by the state-run Xinhua news agency. The robotic rover was to crawl over the rough Martian terrain with a powerful six-wheel drive.

At a glace it looks similar to Yutu or Jade Rabbit that China has sent to Moon to explore the lunar surface. But the Chinese scientists carried out some significant design changes to deal with different environment on Mars, the Hong Kong based South China Morning Post reported. To beef up communication at longer distance, the rover carries on its back a large dish antenna, which was smaller and mounted at the neck on Yutu.

The wheels were also more solidly constructed than those on Yutu in order to deal with a rockier landscape. The entire Mars exploration system will include an orbiter, lander and the rover, CASC said. Some intriguing issues regarding the rover, such as whether it would carry a nuclear power source and the types of scientific payload on board, have still not been answered, the Post said.

Yutu was crippled soon after landing on the moon, probably due to low temperatures and fine dust. The average temperature on Mars is lower than that of the Moon due to its distance from the sun, and the notorious dust storms would also be imposing enormous challenge to the rover. Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of China’s lunar project, told state media earlier this year that China’s second mission to Mars would be launched as early as 2020, and that by 2030 an unmanned spacecraft would return from the planet with samples. While Mangalyaan caught China by surprise, it fascinated them as it was sent with a modest budget of less than $100 million. With successful space missions to Moon as well as efforts to build a space station of its own, China also made a failed bid in 2011 to send its probe to Mars.

The satellite Yinghuo-1 was launched by a Russian rocket but failed to reach the orbit and was declared lost. The scientific community has high hopes from the Mars project as the planet, with its carbon-rich atmosphere and signs of water, was the most feasible one for eventual human settlement besides the Earth, the Post said. It added report that scientists were preparing for the project by looking for somewhat similar terrain on the Tibetan plateau to build a prototype of a Martian base with cutting-edge life-supporting equipment and technology. They also proposed growing worms with rich protein as a source of food supply for the first residents on the planet, the report said. The ambitious project, however, faces various hurdles as the government has not set an official time line due to political and technical concerns. China still lags behind Russia in some critical areas regarding space technology, such as large rockets and deep space communication, the Post report said.

The Mars project, believed to be more costly than China’s lunar missions, would also need to compete for money and sources with other equally ambitious projects being considered by the government. The country is reviewing proposals for landing a human on the moon and sending spacecrafts on three asteroids most likely to hit the earth, all scheduled to start around 2020.

Source : livemint

China probe flies around moon and back in first such mission since 1970s


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Chinese researchers examine the scorched Chang’e 5-T1 return capsule after it landed successfully in Inner Mongolia having travelled around the moon and back.

Photograph: Xinhua

China has completed its first return mission to the moon with the successful re-entry and landing on Earth of an unmanned probe, state media reported.

The probe, Chang’e 5-T1, landed safely in northern China’s Inner Mongolia region, state news agency Xinhua said, citing the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre.

Xinhua said the probe, dubbed “Xiaofei” (little flyer) on social media, took “some incredible pictures” of the Earth and the moon. It is the first trip around the moon and back since US and Russian flights of the 1970s, 40 years ago.

Prior to re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere the unnamed probe had been travelling at 11.2 kilometres per second (25,000 miles per hour), a speed that can generate temperatures of more than 1,500C (2,700F), the news agency reported.

To slow it down scientists let the craft “bounce” off Earth’s atmosphere before re-entering again and landing.

The probe’s mission was to travel to the moon, fly around it and head back to Earth, said the the state science and technology agency, Sastind. The module went 413,000km from Earth at its furthest point.

The mission was launched to test technology to be used in the Chang’e-5, China’s fourth lunar probe, which aims to gather and return samples from the surface in 2017.

The military-run space project has plans for a permanent orbiting station by 2020 and eventually to send a human to the moon.

China currently has a robotic rover, Yutu (Jade Rabbit), on the moon. It landed on 14 December 2013 and completed parts of its mission before grinding to a halt on 25 January 2014 due to equipment failure.

Source : The Guardian

China’s Lunar Test Spacecraft Takes Incredible Picture of Earth and Moon Together


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The Chinese lunar test mission Chang’e 5T1 has sent back some amazing and unique views of the Moon’s far side, with the Earth joining in for a cameo in the image above. According to the crew at UnmannedSpaceflight.com the images were taken with the spacecraft’s solar array monitoring camera.

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A closeup of Mare Marginis, a lunar sea that lies on the very edge of the lunar nearside. Credit: Xinhua News, via UnmannedSpacefight.com

The mission launched on October 23 and is taking an eight-day roundtrip flight around the Moon and is now journeying back to Earth. The mission is a test run for Chang’e-5, China’s fourth lunar probe that aims to gather samples from the Moon’s surface, currently set for 2017. Chang’e 5T1 will return to Earth on October 31.

The test flight orbit had a perigee of 209 kilometers and reached an apogee of about 380,000 kilometers, swinging halfway around the Moon, but did not enter lunar orbit.

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A view of Earth on October 24, 2014, from the Chinese Chang’e-5 T1 spacecraft.

Source : universe today

China’s Main Competitor in Space Exploration is India, Not Russia


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China’s principal competitor in space exploration is India, not Russia, researcher at the Russian Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Vasily Kashin told RIA Novosti on Friday.

“China and India are two new space powers. They have vast resources and consider their space programs from the national prestige perspective ,” the expert said.

He added that China and India are following Russian and US footsteps in space exploration.

“China’s more developed space-rocket industry and immense resources have let it take the lead in the two countries’ space race,” Kashin argued.

Despite being behind China in space exploration, India has a significant advantage, according to the researcher.

“China is still under rigid restrictions on any form of cooperation with the United States, including on the purchase of components…The Chinese are forced to do many things on their own and they sometimes cannot produce components of a required level. The Indians have less resources, but they are in good relations with everyone. India can cooperate with both Russia and the West, adopting their best technologies,” Kashin concluded.

Earlier on Friday, China launched an experimental spacecraft to the moon orbit, which is to return to Earth in eight days. The spacecraft is to test out re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere for the planned 2017 Chang’e-5 lunar mission.