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U.S.’ First Hyperloop Service Might Begin in 2022

The first Hyperloop trains (or is it, pods?) in the United States should become operational by 2022, if the optimistic expectations of California-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) is to be believed.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Cadiz, Spain (4E) – The first Hyperloop trains (or is it, pods?) in the United States should become operational by 2022, if the optimistic expectations of California-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) is to be believed.

This optimism seems to have sprung from HTT the other day unveiling its first full-size passenger capsule in Cadiz, Spain. HTT CEO Dirk Ahlborn said his company to have a full hyperloop system up and running in three years. “In three years, you and me, we can take a hyperloop,” he said.

The German-born Ahlborn estimates that worldwide adoption of hyperloop transport in places such as Bavaria, Germany and Guizhou, China might come in “maybe five to 10” years once a legal framework is in place.

“It’s definitely much sooner than anybody would expect,” said Ahlborn.

He revealed that HTT’s passenger capsule measures 105 feet long and weighs five tons. The interio’s still being designed. The capsule will fit between 28 and 40 passengers.

From Cadiz, the capsule will be transported to HTT’s research and development center in Toulouse, France to finish assembly. It will then be tested at the facility’s full-size track.

“The importance of what we achieved is that it’s a real full-scale capsule,” said HTT chairman and co-founder Bibop Gresta. “This is the first time that we’ve shown what a hyperloop would look like.”

Hyperloop transport was first envisioned by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2013. The revolutionary technology uses magnets to levitate and propel pods through large vacuum tubes at speeds of more 1,000 km/h, almost ten times the average train speed. This means shortening travel time from Los Angeles to San Francisco (a distance of 615 km via I-5N) to just 30 minutes.

HTT is one of several companies hoping to realize Musk’s vision. Ahlborn founded HTT in 2014 to take-up Musk’s challenge to build a Hyperloop.

In a 78-page report he released in 2014, Ahlborn went over all of the needs for the Hyperloop to become a reality. At the time, Ahlborn claims his Hyperloop will cost anywhere between $7 and $19 billion to develop.

Ahlborn doesn’t plan for Hyperloop to be for the high-class only. Economy tickets should be available for $20 to $30.

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U.S. Has Two More Astronauts Courtesy of Virgin Galactic

The United States has two new astronauts and they come from space tourism company, Virgin Galactic.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Mojave, CA, United States (4E) – The United States has two new astronauts and they come from space tourism company, Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic pilots Mark Stucky and “Rick” C.J Sturckow earned their U.S. astronaut wings by flying the rocket-powered spacecraft named Unity to an altitude of 83 kilometers or 51.4 miles. The flight on Dec. 13 was Virgin Galactic longest rocket-powered flight ever.

Stucky and Sturckow are also Virgin Galactic’s first astronauts.

The U.S. military and NASA consider pilots that have flown above 80 kilometers to be astronauts. The Federal Aviation Administration said both pilots will receive their commercial astronaut wings at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. early 2019.

“Many of you will know how important the dream of space travel is to me personally,” said Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson. “Ever since I watched the moon landings as a child I have looked up to the skies with wonder. This is a momentous day and I could not be more proud of our teams who together have opened a new chapter of space exploration.

Slung underneath the jet-powered mothership named Eve, Unity took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in the California desert. Eve released Unity upon reaching an altitude above 40,000 feet.

Stucky and Sturckow then piloted Unity in a thunderous boost that lasted 60 seconds. The flight pushed Unity to a speed of Mach 2.9 (3,580 km/h) as it roared into a climb toward the edge of space, but far short of the Karman Line, which is the boundary where space begins.

After doing a slow backflip in microgravity, Unity turned and glided back to land at Mojave. This was the company’s fourth rocket-powered flight of its test program.

Unity also carried four NASA-funded payloads on this mission. NASA said the four technology experiments will collect valuable data needed to mature the technologies for use on future missions.

“Inexpensive access to suborbital space greatly benefits the technology research and broader spaceflight communities,” said Ryan Dibley, NASA’s flight opportunities campaign manager, in a statement.

In October, Branson said Virgin Galactic was “more than tantalizingly close” to its first trip to space.

“We will be in space with people not too long after that so we have got a very, very exciting couple of months ahead,” he said.

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China’s Lunar Probe Will Take a Month to Land on the Moon

A launch vehicle carrying a Chinese lunar probe that will attempt mankind’s first-soft landing on the Dark Side of the Moon blasted-off Dec. 8. Its payload spacecraft will reach the Moon by Jan. 1, 2019 at the earliest.

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Beijing, China (4E) – A launch vehicle carrying a Chinese lunar probe that will attempt mankind’s first-soft landing on the Dark Side of the Moon blasted-off Dec. 8. Its payload spacecraft will reach the Moon by Jan. 1, 2019 at the earliest.

The puzzling question is why will it take a month for this probe named Chang’e-4 to land on the Moon when it only took U.S. astronauts of the Apollo Program only three days to make the same journey?

China hasn’t given an official explanation, but Western scientists have their theories. The Smithsonian Institution said the Chang’e-4 space craft will make a few course corrections along the way to prepare for a landing at the Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

Chang’e-4 will consist of a lander and a rover. The lander will deploy a ramp to allow the rover to access the lunar surface. The rover has dimensions of 1.5 × 1.0 × 1.0 meters and has a mass of 140 kg.

The Chang’e-4 lander will carry scientific payloads to study the geophysics of the landing site. Among the more intriguing payloads on the lander is a 3 kg container with potato and Arabidopsis thaliana seeds (among others), and silkworm larvae (or eggs) to test if plants and insects can hatch and grow together.

Chinese scientists hope that if the eggs hatch, the larvae will produce carbon dioxide. On the other hand, the germinated plants will emit oxygen through photosynthesis. The plants and silkworms will together establish a simple synergy inside the container. A camera will take pictures of this experiment.

This will be the first time humans have tried to grow plants and raise insects on the Moon.

The lander will also deploy the Lunar Lander Neutrons and Dosimetry (LND), a neutron dosimeter developed by Kiel University in Germany.

If China can pull it off, it will become the first country to land a probe on the Dark Side of the Moon. The South Pole-Aitken Basin is a vast basin in the southern hemisphere of the far side. It extends from the South Pole to Aitken crater.

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Massive SpaceX Ride Share Mission Finally Blasts-Off

Finally, after a delay of three weeks to avoid a spectacular failure, SpaceX has successfully placed 64 small satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Cape Canaveral, FL, United States (4E) – Finally, after a delay of three weeks to avoid a spectacular failure, SpaceX has successfully placed 64 small satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The mission dubbed SS0-A: Smallsat Express was originally set to launch on Nov. 19.

The company called the mission largest-ever “rideshare” mission by a U.S.-based launch service provider. Interestingly, SS0-A is the third voyage to space for the same Falcon 9 first-stage re-usable rocket booster. This achievement is another milestone for SpaceX’s re-usable rocket technology that has significantly slashed the cost of space travel.

The Falcon 9 blasted-off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 18:34 GMT on Dec. 5 carrying satellites from 34 different companies, government agencies and universities. It carried cube satellites (CubeSats) and microsatellites (microsats).

This spacecraft range in size from a refrigerator to those as small as a smartphone. The missions of this odd assemblage of spacecraft are even more diverse. There are cutting-edge technology demonstrators for communications and Earth observation.

Also on the manifest are advanced propulsion systems; formation flying spacecraft; university experiments; high school projects; art and even tomatoes. There’s also a capsule containing the cremains (cremated remains) of a 100 persons that will be buried in LEO.

This space burial mission called “Star II Mission” from San Francisco-based Elysium Space will involve lifting into LEO a representative sample of cremains for 100 people from around the world. Star II is called a “memorial spacecraft.” Elysium said Star II will be the first dedicated satellite ever launched for space burials.

After the launch, the Falcon 9’s first-stage booster returned to Earth, landing on a ship off the coast of southern California. The Falcon 9’s payload fairing missed a landing net on the barge and splashed into the ocean.

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