Navy developers are moving into a second phase of testing for an electromagnetic rail gun that Navy leaders hope to mount to surface ships in the future, service officials said Wednesday at the Navy Surface Warfare Association Annual Symposium.
The rail gun is a long-range, high-energy, multi-mission weapon able to fire high-velocity projectiles three times as far as most existing Navy guns….
[T]he rail gun successfully went 8-for-8 in a recent test firing at White Sands Missile Range, N.M…. The rail gun, which can hit ranges of 100 miles or more, uses electricity stored on the ship to generate a high-speed electromagnetic pulse sufficient to propel a kinetic energy warhead. The result is an inexpensive, high-impact and long-range offensive weapon, service officials said.
The Navy, which has been testing the rail gun at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va., plans to integrate it aboard a ship by 2016, service officials said.
The 23-pound hyper-velocity projectile can be fired from a rail gun as well as from Navy 5-inch guns and even 155mm artillery weapons, Klunder added. The round currently has what’s called command guidance but may be engineered for self-guidance in the future.
Out of all the clean energy options in development, it is algae-based biofuel that most closely resembles the composition of the crude oil that gets pumped out from beneath the sea bed. Much of what we know as petroleum was, after all, formed from these very microorganisms, through a natural heat-facilitated conversion that played out over the course of millions of years.
Now, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, have discovered a way to not only replicate, but speed up this “cooking” process to the point where a small mixture of algae and water can be turned into a kind of crude oil in less than an hour. Besides being readily able to be refined into burnable gases like jet fuel, gasoline or diesel, the proprietary technology also generates, as a byproduct, chemical elements and minerals that can be used to produce electricity, natural gas and even fertilizer to, perhaps, grow even more algae. It could also help usher in algae as a viable alternative; an analysis has shown that implementing this technique on a wider scale may allow companies to sell biofuel commercially for as low as two dollars a gallon.
Solar Dynamics Observatory Shows Sun’s Rainbow of Wavelengths
This still image was taken from a new NASA movie of the sun based on data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, showing the wide range of wavelengths – invisible to the naked eye – that the telescope can view. SDO converts the wavelengths into an image humans can see, and the light is colorized into a rainbow of colors. (via NASA)
A laser beam the size of a quarter fired from the back of a truck successfully shot down football-size mortar rounds and took small drones out of the sky.
In the world of directed-energy weapons, this was a milestone achievement, government and industry officials said. It happened between Nov. 18 and Dec. 10 during tests of the Army “high energy laser mobile demonstrator” at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
Laser beams that can replace bullets and missiles have been a tantalizing prospect for decades, but the Pentagon has been less than enthusiastic. Directed-energy is what experts consider a “disruptive” technology that upsets the status quo. The notion that military forces would ditch proven kinetic weapons and take chances with light beams has made lasers a tough sell so far.
The Army tested a 10-kilowatt laser and beam director mounted on an eight-wheel 20-ton truck. It engaged more than 90 60mm mortar rounds and several unmanned aerial vehicles from less than two miles away. A surrogate radar was used to queue the laser.
The Boeing Co. is the prime contractor for the demonstration program. The Army has spent about $13 million to $20 million a year on the project since 2006. The 10-kilowatt commercial laser — packaged in a 5x4-foot box — is made by IPG Photonics in Massachusetts.
The recent tests mark a “big step in the proof of high-energy lasers,” said Terry Bauer, program manager at the Army Space and Missile Defense Command in Huntsville, Ala.
The program office has ambitious plans to build 50-kilowatt and 100-kilowatt lasers in the coming years, which, if successful, would offer the military the option of using lasers to defeat larger and faster weapons such as artillery shells and cruise missiles.
[In 1963] the United States launched half a billion whisker-thin copper wires into orbit in an attempt to install a ring around the Earth. It was called Project West Ford, and it’s a perfect, if odd, example of the Cold War paranoia and military mentality at work in America’s early space program.
The Air Force and Department of Defense envisioned the West Ford ring as the largest radio antenna in human history. Its goal was to protect the nation’s long-range communications in the event of an attack from the increasingly belligerent Soviet Union.
During the late 1950’s, long-range communications relied on undersea cables or over-the-horizon radio. These were robust, but not invulnerable. Should the Soviets have attacked an undersea telephone or telegraph cable, America would only have been able to rely on radio broadcasts to communicate overseas. But the fidelity of the ionosphere, the layer of the atmosphere that makes most long-range radio broadcasts possible, is at the mercy of the sun: It is routinely disrupted by solar storms. The U.S. military had identified a problem.
A potential solution was born in 1958 at MIT’s Lincoln Labs, a research station on Hanscom Air Force Base northwest of Boston. Project Needles, as it was originally known, was Walter E. Morrow’s idea. He suggested that if Earth possessed a permanent radio reflector in the form of an orbiting ring of copper threads, America’s long-range communications would be immune from solar disturbances and out of reach of nefarious Soviet plots.
On June 3, 3.9 billion light-years away, two incredibly dense neutron stars— bodies that are each about 1.5 times the mass of the sun but just the size of mere cities—collided. Scientists studying the event say it solves an enduring mystery about the formation of elements in our universe….
[A]nalysis reveals that neutron star collisions are responsible for the formation of virtually all the heavy elements in the universe—a list that includes gold, mercury, lead, platinum and more.
“This question of where elements like gold come from has been around for a long time,” Berger says. Though many scientists had long argued that supernova explosions were the source, he says his team … have evidence that supernovas aren’t necessary. These neutron star collisions produce all elements heavier than iron, he says, “and they do it efficiently enough that they can account for all the gold that’s been produced in the universe.”
Such collisions occur when both the stars in a binary system separately explode as supernovas, and then collapse into themselves, leaving behind a pair of tightly bound neutron stars. As they circle each other, the stars are gradually pulled together by gravitational forces, until they collide.
“They’re extremely dense—essentially bullets flying at each other at about ten percent the speed of light,” Berger says. The resulting collision brings together so much mass in one location that it collapses on itself, triggering the formation of a black hole. A small amount of matter, though, gets thrown outward, and is eventually incorporated into the next generation of stars and planets elsewhere in the surrounding galaxy. Close observation of this latest neutron star collision has revealed the contents of this ejected matter….
“I’ve spent the last decade of my life trying to address the question of gamma-ray bursts, painstakingly collecting evidence and waiting for that one big event,” Berger says. “It’s so satisfying to finally get that evidence that can tell us what’s going on in a more definitive way.”
The Navy has awarded BAE Systems a contract to develop a next-generation launcher with higher rates of fire for its now-in-development Electromagnetic Railgun, service and industry officials explained.The Office of Navy Research is currently developing an EM Railgun which uses massive “pulses” of electricity to propel a projectile or an explosive at distances greater than 100 nautical miles.
The U.S. Navy’s Science and Technology community is deploying prototypes of electromagnetic rail guns, solid-state laser weapons and underwater unmanned vehicles in operational units with sailors and Marines….
A ship-mounted electromagnetic rail gun is one such prototype being tested on Navy vessels, Klunder said.
The rail gun, which can hit ranges of 100 miles or more, uses electricity stored on the ship to generate a high-speed electromagnetic pulse sufficient to propel a kinetic energy warhead. The result, is an inexpensive, high-impact and long-range offensive weapon, Klunder said.
“Electromagnetics have been around for a long time. How do you harness them and build the rails? We’re big fans of learning how to prototype these technologies for military applications,” he added. “We’ve fired this numerous times through testing. This is showing incredible results, so much so that we are very committed to this for the future.”
The United States has begun producing plutonium-238 again for the first time in a quarter century, marking a key step toward averting a feared shortage of this important spacecraft fuel, NASA officials say.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s plutonium reboot has not yet advanced beyond the test phase, but NASA is confident that production will eventually ramp up enough to power space probes for several decades to come.
"That’s going to revive our supply and allow us to be able to complete a number of potential plutonium-necessary missions over this decade, and position us well into the decade after that," Jim Green, head of NASA’s planetary science division, said Monday….
Plutonium-238 is not a bombmaking material, unlike its isotopic cousin plutonium-239. But Pu-238 is radioactive, emitting heat that can be converted to electricity using a device called a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG).
For decades, RTGs have been the power system of choice for NASA missions to destinations in deep space, where weak sunlight tends to make solar arrays impractical. For example, the agency’s twin Voyager spacecraft, which are knocking on the door of interstellar space, both use RTGs, as does the car-size Mars rover, Curiosity.
Japan said Tuesday that it had extracted gas from offshore deposits of methane hydrate — sometimes called “flammable ice” — a breakthrough that officials and experts said could be a step toward tapping a promising but still little-understood energy source.
The gas, whose extraction from the undersea hydrate reservoir was thought to be a world first, could provide an alternative source of energy to known oil and gas reserves. That could be crucial especially for Japan, which is the world’s biggest importer of liquefied natural gas and is engaged in a public debate about whether to resume the country’s heavy reliance on nuclear power.
Experts estimate that the carbon found in gas hydrates worldwide totals at least twice the amount of carbon in all of the earth’s other fossil fuels, making it a potential game-changer for energy-poor countries like Japan. Researchers had already successfully extracted gas from onshore methane hydrate reservoirs, but not from beneath the seabed, where much of the world’s deposits are thought to lie.
The exact properties of undersea hydrates and how they might affect the environment are still poorly understood, given that methane is a greenhouse gas. Japan has invested hundreds of millions of dollars since the early 2000s to explore offshore methane hydrate reserves in both the Pacific and the Sea of Japan.
Two giant swaths of radiation, known as the Van Allen Belts, surrounding Earth were discovered in 1958. In 2012, observations from the Van Allen Probes showed that a third belt can sometimes appear. The radiation is shown here in yellow, with green representing the spaces between the belts. (NASA/Van Allen Probes/Goddard Space Flight Center; via Universe Today)