Saturday, January 18, 2020

An estimated 6,000 tons of “space junk” orbits Earth each day

At the United Nations Geneva Meeting in 2019, the President and Co-Founder of BlockchainArmy, Erol User, urged all institutions, governments, as well as private sector corporations to join in the initiative called S.O.S, short for Save Our Space. The initiative is an effort to organize a space waste management system.

In his speech at the meeting in Switzerland, Dec. 14, Erol User said that now is the time for everyone to begin cooperating "to guarantee economically vital spaceflight" to facilitate innovative service offerings for the citizens along with future space developments. Continuing further, he stated that we need to keep up the dream of future exploration while also combining continual technological development and environmental awareness.

Not much needs to be said when it comes to how attracted humans have been towards space since the beginning of time. It has always been a very exciting element and has attracted several explorations through spacecraft, rockets, satellites, etc. The intentional or accidental explosion of space objects, flecks of paint from space objects, residual elements from space missions, etc., all end up floating at very high speed (some 18,000 miles per hour) in an orbit that surrounds our earth called "Low Earth Orbit" or LEO. For instance, the deliberate destruction of the Chinese Fengyun-1C spacecraft in 2007 and the accidental collision of an American and a Russian spacecraft in 2009 are two of the main reasons why LEO is turning into a space garbage orbit. These two incidents have dominated LEO's space debris levels by approximately 70 percent.

Over the years, these leftover space objects have contributed to space junk or space debris. Space debris is a growing issue for humankind today, which can have its claws dug deep into the future generations.

Space debris is environmentally bad as we are leaving unnatural objects in space. Eventually, the satellites will need to come down into the earth's atmosphere, which poses a high possibility of them burning into flames. A much worse scenario is dealing with the leftover fuel in those satellites leading them to explode in earth's atmosphere.

For simple purposes such as communication and weather reports, manmade satellites are orbiting earth in geostationary orbit, which is 35,000 kilometers above the planet. These satellites are usually blasted into a "graveyard orbit” when they reach the end of their service life, which is around 36,000 km above earth. In the past, the blasting episodes were less and manageable, but with growing technology, space pollution is only becoming a burdening issue. Researchers from Australia are currently monitoring approximately 29,000 pieces of space junk.

One company looking into the space debris problem is Electro Optic Systems of Australia. The company's Chief Executive and Technical Director Professor Craig Smith is trying to come up with a "high-powered, high-precision laser," according to reports. This laser is under developed at the Space Environment Research Centre. The ambition is to push space junk out of the way and prevent collisions with other satellites. Another use of the laser is to destroy space junk eventually. The laser is expected to be fully functional in three years.

It is a serious issue. We have oceans and rivers, and we pollute them until they become almost unusable. We have done exactly the same with space. We have left junk everywhere,” Smith said. An approximation from NASA says there is 6,000 tons of space debris orbiting in the LEO.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Joby Aviation raises $590 million to launch air taxi service

Joby Aviation, a pioneer in the development of an electric air taxi, has raised $590 million in Series C funding led by Toyota Motor Corp. Prior investors, including SPARX Group, Intel Capital, Capricorn Investment Group, JetBlue Technology Ventures, Toyota AI Ventures, and AME Cloud Ventures, also contributed to the round, and were joined by new investors Baillie Gifford and Global Oryx. Shigeki Tomoyama, the Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor Corp., will join Joby Aviation's board of directors. This new investment brings the company's total funding, including previous rounds, to $720 million.

Over the past 10 years, the company's team of engineers and physicists has developed a quiet, all-electric VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft, which will be instrumental in the commercial launch of the emerging on-demand urban air taxi market. Toyota will share its expertise in manufacturing, quality, and cost controls to support the development and production of Joby Aviation's aircraft.

Joby Aviation's aircraft is a piloted, five-seat vehicle capable of both vertical takeoff and landing and highly efficient, wingborne forward flight. It is capable of speeds of 200 miles per hour and can fly over 150 miles on a single charge. The aircraft is 100 times quieter than conventional aircraft during takeoff and landing, and near-silent when flying overhead.

United Airlines starts DC/NYC shuttle service with Bombardier CRJ-550 jets

United Airlines has started a new hourly shuttle service between Washington's Reagan National Airport and New York/Newark Liberty International Airport. The airline announced the new service on Friday in a company press release. United will use Bombardier CRJ-550 regional jets on most flights with 50 seats available.

With this new shuttle service, United will now offer more travel opportunities between these two cities than any other airline in the world. Tickets for the 13 daily flights between New York/Newark and Washington, D.C. will be available for purchase beginning Jan. 18 and service starts on March 29.

Honeywell awarded contract to support production of NASA's Orion spacecraft

Honeywell has been awarded a contract by Lockheed Martin to support production of NASA's Orion spacecraft fleet for the upcoming Artemis missions, which will send humans back to the moon for the first time since 1972. The contract to supply key components of the Orion crew module and service module will be managed and performed out of Honeywell's facility in Clearwater, Fla. Some work will also be conducted at the company's facilities in Glendale, Ariz. and Puerto Rico.

Honeywell will provide 14 products for Artemis missions III through V, including both hardware and software, to support NASA's lunar missions. NASA awarded Lockheed Martin a long-term multi-billion-dollar production contract for the Orion spacecraft, aimed to meet the space agency's anticipated needs into the 2030s.

Working in collaboration with the Orion team over the next decade, Honeywell will support Lockheed Martin and its partners through the development and production of essential guidance and navigation systems, command data handling, and display and control products.

WestJet seasonal flight service between Charlottetown and Calgary

WestJet is bridging new domestic connections between the east and the west with the introduction of new non-stop seasonal service between Charlottetown, P.E.I., and Calgary beginning June 25.

WestJet's seasonal service between Charlottetown Airport (YYG) and Calgary International Airport (YYC) will operate four-times weekly on WestJet's 737 aircraft. Flights are timed for convenient connectivity from WestJet's largest hub in Calgary to destinations across Western Canada including Vancouver, Edmonton, Kelowna and Victoria. The seasonal flights conclude Sept. 7.

WestJet has served Prince Edward Island and the city of Charlottetown since 2005 and flights have more than doubled since introducing service. This summer, the airline will offer more than 67,000 seats to YYG, an increase of more than 20,000 from last year and in peak season will operate up to 20 flights per week from Charlottetown to Toronto and Calgary.

By June, from Calgary, WestJet's hub and home, the airline will operate more than 1,000 flights per week in peak season to 57 destinations out of Calgary International Airport.

"With record levels of tourism to the island, and a recent investment of $8.1 million into the Charlottetown Airport by the federal government, we understand the importance of increasing capacity for travel,” said Minister Lawrence MacAulay, member of Parliament for Cardigan, in a WestJet press release.