Seeing the light: NASA’s solar powered mission to Jupiter

This month NASA’s JUNO spacecraft became the farthest solar powered spacecraft from the Sun.

Launched in August of 2011, JUNO used a gravity assist from Earth in October 2013 to develop sufficient momentum to glide to Jupiter.

JUNO’s on board power comes from three solar panels:

Quoting NASA:

“Engineers designed Juno with three massive solar panels, each nearly 30 feet long. Combined, they provide Juno with 49.7 m2 of active solar cells. Once it reaches Jupiter, Juno will generate more than 400 watts of power, which may not sound like a lot, but it’s an impressive feat at so great a distance. For comparison, Juno’s solar panels can generate about 14 kilowatts near Earth, enough to power the average American home for a year.”
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VASIMR: Replacing chemicals with plasma: easy, affordable, fast and economically rewarding

The single biggest thing preventing us from exploring further and for longer in space is the ability of our rocket engines to take us where we want to go in an efficient manner,” says Dr. Michael Griffin, former head of NASA.

Dr. Griffin was speaking on an amazing video created by Ad Astra, a company founded by former astronaut Dr. Franklin Chang Diaz.

The principal presenter is Dr. Chang Diaz a soft spoken man, a man who lets the power of the truth carry the weight of convincing the listener.

The video makes the case for Ad Astra’s Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) by first citing the benefits of an inexpensive rocket engine.
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3D Printing: “Houston, we have a problem. Email us the solution”

On November 11, 2015 Dr. Tommaso Ghidini, Head of the Materials Technology Section at the European Space Agency spoke about the transformative role of 3D printing in space exploration to the European Space Agency’s first TEDx conference.

Dr. Ghidini is engaging. His presentation is excellent, with clear lay-level explanations of both the process and the advantages of 3D printing. He uses both actual events and practical future applications to make several important points.

Dr. Ghidini talks about how a failed water valve on the ISS ten years ago prompted a discussion of 3D printing among his colleagues. 3D printing was in its infancy then but it was possible to 3D print a replacement for the water valve.

Compared to the traditionally manufactured valve, the 3D printed version was about half the weight, had taken hours as opposed to days to make, and was much less expensive. It worked. His team had 3D printed a water valve.

But the ESA team raised another question.
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