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Will we soon be able to travel from New York to Shanghai in just over 30 Minutes in a Rocket?

And guess what! The cost per seat should be about the same as full fare economy in an aircraft!

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ROCKET
Billionaire entrepreneur and founder of SpaceX Elon Musk speaks below a computer-generated illustration of his new rocket at the 68th International Astronautical Congress 2017 in Adelaide, Australia. (VOA)

Australia, October 3, 2017 : U.S. billionaire innovator Elon Musk has unveiled plans for a new rocket that would allow passengers to travel from one continent to another in about 30 minutes.

At a presentation Friday in Adelaide, Australia, Musk showed a video of images of a rocket taking off in New York and landing in various places around the world, including Tokyo and Shanghai.

He said the New York-Shanghai trip could be done in 39 minutes, while a trip from Bangkok to Dubai would take 27 minutes and Tokyo to Delhi would be 30 minutes.

He added that the cost per seat should be about the same as full fare economy in an aircraft.

Musk noted there is no weather outside the Earth’s atmosphere to interfere with travel times and said that once you are beyond the atmosphere, “it would be as smooth as silk, no turbulence, nothing.”

ALSO READ Elon Musk Unveils Plans to put Humans on Mars by 2024

“If we are building this thing to go to the moon and Mars, then why not go to other places on Earth as well?” Musk said.

Musk, who founded and runs the company SpaceX along with the electric luxury car company Tesla, has long been making plans for rockets to travel to Mars.

Musk said SpaceX plans its first trip to Mars in 2022, carrying only cargo with a key mission to find the best source of water on the Red Planet. That mission would be followed by the first manned mission in 2024. He said the company was aiming to start construction on the first spaceship in the next six to nine months.

Musk said space flights to enable people to travel from one continent to another could help to pay for future missions to Mars.

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If I Buy Electric Car, Where will I Charge it? European Countries Aim to be all-electric by 2040

Those lofty ambitions face numerous challenges, including one practical consideration for consumers: If they buy electric cars, where will they charge them?

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Charging problems with electric car
Tesla cars recharge at a Tesla station at a shopping center in Charlotte, N.C., June 24, 2017. Buyers of Tesla’s luxury models have access to a company-funded Supercharger network. VOA
  • The distribution of public charging stations is wildly uneven around the globe
  • European Countries Aim to be all-electric by 2040
  • Due to lack of charging stations, electric vehicles make up less than 1 percent of cars on the road

New Delhi, August 13, 2017: Around the world, support is growing for electric cars. Automakers are delivering more electric models with longer range and lower prices, such as the Chevrolet Bolt and the Tesla Model 3. China has set aggressive targets for electric vehicle sales to curb pollution; some European countries aim to be all-electric by 2040 or sooner.

Those lofty ambitions face numerous challenges, including one practical consideration for consumers: If they buy electric cars, where will they charge them?

The distribution of public charging stations is wildly uneven around the globe. Places with lots of support from governments or utilities, like China, the Netherlands and California, have thousands of public charging outlets. Buyers of Tesla’s luxury models have access to a company-funded Supercharger network.

Charging stations scarce

But in many places, public charging remains scarce. That’s a problem for people who need to drive further than the 200 miles or so that most electric cars can travel. It’s also a barrier for the millions of people who don’t have a garage to plug in their cars overnight.

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“Do we have what we need? The answer at the moment is, ‘No,’” said Graham Evans, an analyst with IHS Markit.

Take Norway, which has publicly funded charging and generous incentives for electric car buyers. Architect Nils Henningstad drives past 20 to 30 charging stations each day on his 22-mile (35-kilometer) commute to Oslo. He works for the city and can charge his Nissan Leaf at work; his fiancee charges her Tesla SUV at home or at one of the world’s largest Tesla Supercharger stations, 20 miles away.

Electric cars problem
Jeff Solie plugs in his electric car Tesla sedan at his home, in New Berlin, Wis., July 13, 2017. Electric cars are seeing growing support around the world. But there’s a problem: There aren’t enough places to plug those cars in. VOA

It’s a very different landscape in New Berlin, Wisconsin, where Jeff Solie relies on the charging system he rigged up in his garage to charge two Tesla sedans and a Volt. Solie and his wife don’t have chargers at their offices, and the nearest Tesla Superchargers are 45 miles (72 kilometers) away.

“If I can’t charge at home, there’s no way for me to have electric cars as my primary source of transportation,” said Solie, who works for the media company E.W. Scripps.

Small percentage of electric vehicles

The uneven distribution of chargers worries many potential electric vehicle owners. It’s one reason electric vehicles make up less than 1 percent of cars on the road.

“Humans worst-case their purchases of automobiles. You have to prove to the consumer that they can drive across the country, even though they probably won’t,” said Pasquale Romano, the CEO of ChargePoint, one of the largest charging station providers in North America and Europe.

Romano says there’s no exact ratio of the number of chargers needed per car. But he says workplaces should have one charger for every 2.5 electric cars and retail stores need one for every 20 electric cars. Highways need one every 50 to 75 miles, he says. That suggests a lot of gaps still need to be filled.

Filling the charging gap

Automakers and governments are pushing to fill them. The number of publicly available, global charging spots grew 72 percent to more than 322,000 last year, the International Energy Agency said. Navigant Research expects that to grow to more than 2.2 million by 2026; more than one-third of those will be in China.

Tesla Inc., which figured out years ago that people wouldn’t buy its cars without roadside charging, is doubling its global network of Supercharger stations to 10,000 this year. BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and Ford are building 400 fast-charging stations in Europe. Volkswagen is building hundreds of stations across the U.S. as part of its settlement for selling polluting diesel engines. Even oil-rich Dubai, which just got its first Tesla showroom, has more than 50 locations to charge electric cars.

ALSO READ: Apple to join the fiercely competitive race to design Self-driving Cars

But there are pitfalls. There are different types of charging stations, and no one knows the exact mix drivers will eventually need. A grocery store might spend $5,000 for an AC charge point, which provides a car with 5 to 15 miles of range in 30 minutes. But once most cars get 200 or 300 miles per charge, slow chargers are less necessary. Electric cars with longer range need fast-charging DC chargers along highways, but DC chargers cost $35,000 or more.

That uncertainty makes it difficult to make money setting up chargers, says Lisa Jerram, an associate director with Navigant Research. For at least the next three to five years, she says, deep-pocketed automakers, governments and utilities will be primarily responsible for building charging infrastructure.

There’s also the question of who will meet the needs of apartment dwellers. San Francisco, Shanghai and Vancouver, Canada, are now requiring new homes and apartment buildings to be wired for EV charging.

But without government support, plans for charging stations can falter. In Michigan, a utility’s $15 million plan to install 800 public charging stations was scrapped in April after state officials and ChargePoint objected.

Solie, the electric car owner in Wisconsin, likes Europe’s approach: Governments should set bold targets for electric car sales and let the private sector meet the need.

“If the U.S. were to send up a flare that policy was going to change … investments would become very attractive,” he said. (VOA)

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India’s Heaviest Rocket GSLV-Mk III with GSAT-19 Satellite all set for Maiden Flight

The rocket, weighing 640 tonnes and standing 43.43 metres tall, will blast off from the second launch pad at India’s rocket port at Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh

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Sriharikota: Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)'s communication satellite GSAT-9 on-board GSLV-F09 lifts off from Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota on Friday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has termed the satellite as India's “space gift for South Asia”. PTI

Chennai, June 6, 2017: India’s heaviest rocket — Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV-Mk III) — is all set for its maiden flight into space along with a communications satellite GSAT-19 on Monday evening.

The countdown of 25 hours and 30 minutes began at 3.58 pm on Sunday, an official of the Indian space agency said.

The rocket, weighing 640 tonnes and standing 43.43 metres tall, will blast off from the second launch pad at India’s rocket port at Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, around 105 km from Chennai.

It will carry a 3,136-kg GSAT-19 communications satellite — the heaviest to be lifted by an Indian rocket till date — to an altitude of around 179 km above the Earth after just over 16 minutes into the flight.

On June 2, the Mission Readiness Review Committee and Launch Authorisation Board had cleared the countdown for GSLV Mk-III D1/GSAT-19 mission.

The rocket’s main and bigger cryogenic engine has been developed by space scientists here.

The mission’s success will enable India to launch four-tonne satellites on its own rocket instead of paying huge amounts of money to foreign space agencies to execute the operation.

According to Indian Space Research Organisation, GSAT-19 with a life span of 10 years is a multi-beam satellite that carries Ka and Ku band forward and return link transponders and geostationary radiation spectrometer.

“The rocket’s design carrying capacity is four tonnes. The payload will be gradually increased in future flights of the GSLV Mk-III,” K. Sivan, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, told IANS earlier.

The Indian space agency had flown a similar rocket without the cryogenic engine but with 3.7-tonne payload in 2014 mainly to test its structural stability while in flight and the aerodynamics.

S. Somanath, Director, Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, told IANS that the inputs of the 2014 mission enabled the ISRO to reduce the rocket load by around 20 per cent.

Interestingly, GSLV-Mk III at around 43 metres is slightly shorter than Mk-II version that is around 49 metres tall.

“The new rocket may be slightly short but has more punch power,” an ISRO official told IANS.

India presently has two rockets — the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle and GSLV-Mk II — with a lift-off mass of 415 tonnes and a carrying capacity of 2.5 tonnes. (IANS)

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SpaceX Launches First Recycled Cargo Ship to the International Space Station

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The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Dragon spacecraft onboard, launches from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Saturday, June 3, 2017. Dragon is carrying almost 6,000 pounds of science research, crew supplies and hardware to the International Space Station in support of the Expedition 52 and 53 crew members. The unpressurized trunk of the spacecraft also will transport solar panels, tools for Earth-observation and equipment to study neutron stars. This will be the 100th launch, and sixth SpaceX launch, from this pad. Previous launches include 11 Apollo flights, the launch of the unmanned Skylab in 1973, 82 shuttle flights and five SpaceX launches. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls). VOA
  • This Dragon capsule, meanwhile, came back for take two following a few modifications and much testing
  • The plan is to launch the booster again, instead of junking it in the ocean as so many other rocket makers do
  • SpaceX said savings are minimal because of all the inspections and tests performed on the already flown parts

SpaceX launched its first recycled cargo ship to the International Space Station on Saturday, another milestone in its bid to drive down flight costs.

After a two-day delay caused by thunderstorms, the unmanned Falcon rocket blasted off carrying a Dragon capsule that made a station delivery nearly three years ago. When this refurbished Dragon reaches the orbiting lab on Monday, it will be the first returning craft since NASA’s now-retired shuttles.

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The first-stage booster flown Saturday afternoon was brand-new, and as is now the custom, returned to Cape Canaveral following liftoff for a successful vertical touchdown. “The Falcon has landed,” SpaceX Mission Control declared from company headquarters in Hawthorne, California, and a cheer went up.

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Reusable booster

The plan is to launch the booster again, instead of junking it in the ocean as so many other rocket makers do. Just two months ago, SpaceX launched its first recycled booster on a satellite mission. Another flight featuring a reused booster is coming up later this month.

This Dragon capsule, meanwhile, came back for take two following a few modifications and much testing. Shortly before liftoff, a SpaceX vice president, Hans Koenigsmann, called the Dragon reflight “a pretty big deal.”

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It’s all part of the company’s quest, Koenigsmann said, to lower the cost of access to space through reusability.

FILE - A SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule approaches the International Space Station prior to installation in this NASA picture taken April 10, 2016.
FILE – A SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule approaches the International Space Station prior to installation in this NASA picture taken April 10, 2016. VOA

The Dragon soaring Saturday has the same hull and most of the same parts from its 2014 flight. SpaceX installed a new heat shield and parachutes, among a few other things, for the trip back to Earth at flight’s end. The Dragon is the only supply ship capable of surviving re-entry; all the others burn up in the atmosphere. NASA’s other supplier, Orbital ATK, will see its cargo carrier depart the 250-mile-high complex on Sunday, six weeks after arriving.

Besides the usual supplies, the 6,000-pound shipment includes mice and flies for research, a new kind of roll-up solar panel and a neutron star detector.

Similar risk

For now, SpaceX said savings are minimal because of all the inspections and tests performed on the already flown parts. NASA’s space station program manager, Kirk Shireman, told reporters earlier in the week that SpaceX did a thorough job recertifying the Dragon and that the risk is not substantially more than if this were a capsule straight off the factory floor. He said the entire industry is interested in “this whole notion of reuse,” first realized with the space shuttles.

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It was the 100th launch from NASA’s hallowed Launch Complex 39A, the departure point for the Apollo moon shots as well as dozens of shuttle missions, including the last one in 2011. SpaceX now leases the pad from NASA; the company’s first launch from there was in February.

SpaceX has been hauling station supplies for NASA for five years, both up and down. This is the company’s 11th mission under a NASA contract. The company’s next step is to deliver astronauts using modified Dragons. That could occur as early as next year.

Until SpaceX and Boeing start transporting crews, astronauts will continue to ride Russian rockets. On Friday, a Russian and Frenchman returned from the space station in their Soyuz capsule, leaving two Americans and a Russian behind. The station was zooming over Oman in the Persian Gulf when the Falcon took flight. (VOA)