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Main article: Space

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Watch BepiColombo’s twin spacecraft launch tonight on a mission to Mercury

01:28 | 20 October

Humanity is about to return to the hottest planet in the solar system. BepiColombo is a mission to Mercury conducted jointly by the European and Japanese space agencies, due to launch from French Guiana at 6:45 PM Pacific time tonight aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. But while there’s just the one launch, there are two spacecraft.

The broadcast starts at 6:15; you can watch the launch at this link or the bottom of this post.

The last time we visited Mercury wasn’t actually that long ago. NASA’s Messenger mission arrived there in 2011 and spent four years orbiting the planet and collecting data before impacting the surface at nearly 9,000 MPH (don’t worry, they planned that).

BepiColombo is a follow-up to Messenger in a way, but it’s very much it’s own thing. To start with, there’s the fact that it’s two spacecraft, not one. They’ll launch together and travel to the planet attached to each other and the Mercury Transfer Module, after which point they’ll separate into ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (called MIO).

Having two spacecraft opens up a lot of possibilities. One can emit a signal that bounces off the planet as is picked up by the other, for instance. Or one can watch the shady side of the planet while the other monitors the sunny (and extremely hot) side.

Speaking of heat, Mercury is of course the closest planet to the sun, so these spacecraft are going to be exposed to some serious radiation. The MPO will use a sun shield to keep the worst of the heat off, using a big radiator for the rest, and the MIO will spin as it travels along, doing a complete revolution every 4 seconds so that no one side is exposed to the sun for too long. Both craft also have highly heat-resistant materials and electronics, many of which are flying for the first time.

MIO and MPO are equipped with a host of scientific instruments, and will be able to look more closely at features of phenomena identified by Messenger. The latter checked out the magnetosphere in the northern hemisphere of the planet, for instance, and BepiColombo will fill that in with readings from the southern one. Messenger also identified some interesting features around the poles, and MPO will have an orbit that takes it right over them — not to mention a better camera.

In order to achieve a stable orbit around Mercury the craft will have to perform a few loops and gravity assists, including two of Venus. The team is taking the opportunity to point their instruments at our neighboring planet; we haven’t visited there in a long time.

The mission isn’t expected to be a very long one — BepiColombo’s spacecraft will not only be exposed to serious radiation and temperature swings, but the proximity to the sun means they’ll constantly be fighting against its gravity, meaning fuel will run out fast.

Still, MIO and MPO are expected to stay in orbit for about one Earth year, which would be four Mercurial years. If they’re still in good shape and there’s still budget for it, the mission could be extended for another year — but by that point it seems likely that fuel reserves will be running low.

BepiColombo has been a long time in the making — it was approved 18 years ago! But it’s launching at last and when it arrives (in seven more years) we should expect to learn a lot more about this weird, boiling hot planet. You can watch the launch live here; broadcast should start at 6:15 Pacific time.



Vector speeds toward orbital launch capability with $70M in new funding

16:01 | 19 October

The market for small satellites in low Earth orbit is expanding faster than the gas in a thruster nozzle, and Vector aims to be the go-to launch platform for companies looking to put a bird in the air on short notice. The company just raised a $70 million B round and aims to take its first payload into space early next year.

Smaller launch systems are already helping bring down the cost of going to orbit, but there’s still a huge amount of room to improve. Satellites and experiments are still waiting for years, or at least more than a few months, for their chance to get to LEO. Vector is hoping to be the company they come to when they want to launch on the scale of weeks.

Of course, that kind of quick turnaround isn’t easy. You have to build hundreds of rockets to be prepared for demand, but that’s exactly Vector’s plan. Naturally this requires a considerable amount of capital.

After doing a lot of groundwork with Defense Dept. and NASA grants, the company raised a $1M seed round back in 2016, and expanded with a $21M round the next year led by Sequoia. The numbers keep on growing with today’s $70M round, led this time by Kodem Growth Partners.

“Vector is entering an extremely important phase of our journey, transitioning from a focus on research and development to flight operations and profitability. This Series B financing is a critical element in Vector’s mission to improve access to space and become a dominant launch provider to the small satellite industry,” said CEO and co-founder Jim Cantrell in a press release.

The company has already done sub-orbital proving flights of its launch system, and the first orbital launch is scheduled for December. They’ll be taking off from the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska — date TBD. Once orbital launch capability is established, Vector will be getting a lot of calls, so some of the money will go towards sales and marketing personnel, which should roughly double its presence in Silicon Valley,

But the bulk of the new funds will be dedicated to the establishment of a new rocket manufacturing facility in Tucson. You don’t build hundreds of launch vehicles with some second-hand factory.

The company’s original roadmap had orbital launch late last year, but in this business it’s better to be a little late and get things right. That said the vision for the rocket itself hasn’t been adjusted substantially.

“The original design of the Vector-R launch vehicle has largely remained the same since the founding of Vector and the acquisition of Garvey Spacecraft Corporation in 2016 (where the initial design was developed over a 15yr process),” explained co-founder and chief sales and marketing officer Shaun Coleman.

Demand has been sustained for the 50-60kg payload capacities the company is looking to offer, Coleman noted; a heavy configuration that can lift up to 290kg is also underway. (For comparison, a SpaceX Falcon 9 can lift around 25,000kg of payload. These are very small rockets and that’s by design.)

We’ll know more about Vector’s first orbital launch as we approach it. In addition to Kodem, Morgan Stanley Alternative Investment Partners, Sequoia, Lightspeed, and Shasta Ventures all contributed to the round.



The space pen became the space pen 50 years ago

02:52 | 19 October

Everyone knows about the space pen. NASA spent millions on R&D to create the ultimate pen that would work in zero gravity and the result was this incredible machine. Well, no. In fact it was made by a pen manufacturer in 1966 — but it wasn’t until October of 1968 that it went into orbit and fulfilled its space pen destiny.

The pen was created by pen maker (naturally) Paul Fisher, who used $1 million of his own money to create the AG-7 anti-gravity pen. As you may or may not know, the innovation was a pressurized ink cartridge and gel ink that would deploy reliably regardless of orientation, temperature, or indeed the presence of gravity.

He sent it to NASA, which was of course the only organization reliably worried about making things work in microgravity, and they loved it. In fact, the Russians started using it shortly afterwards as well.

Walt Cunningham, Wally Schirra and Donn Eisele took the pens aboard with them for the Apollo 7 mission, which launched on October 11, 1968, and it served them well over the next 11 days in orbit.

A 50th anniversary edition of the pen is now available to people who have a lot of money and love gold stuff. It’s $500, a limited edition of 500, and made of “gold titanium nitride plated brass,” and it comes with a case and commemorative plaque with a quote from Cunningham:

“Fifty years ago, I flew with the first flown Space Pen on Apollo 7. I relied on it then, and it’s still the only pen I rely on here on Earth.”

Okay, that’s pretty cool. Presumably astronauts get a lifetime supply of these things, though.

Here’s to the Fisher space pen, an example of American ingenuity and simple, reliable good design that’s persisted in use and pop culture for half a century.



Astronauts land safely after Soyuz launch fails at 20 miles up

00:29 | 12 October

A fault in a Soyuz rocket booster has resulted in an aborted crew mission to the International Space Station, but fortunately no loss of life. The astronauts in the capsule, Nick Hague (US) and Alexey Ovchinin (Russia) successfully detached upon recognizing the fault and made a safe, if bumpy, landing nearly 250 miles east of the launch site in Kazakhstan. This high-profile failure could bolster demand for U.S.-built crewed spacecraft.

The launch proceeded normally for the first minute and a half, but at that point, when the first and second stages were meant to detach, there was an unspecified fault, possibly a failure of the first stage and its fuel tanks to detach. The astronauts recognized this issue and immediately initiated the emergency escape system.

Hague and Ovchinin in the capsule before the fault occurred.

The Soyuz capsule detached from the rocket and began a “ballistic descent” (read: falling), arrested by a parachute before landing approximately 34 minutes after the fault. Right now that’s about as much detail on the actual event as has been released by Roscosmos and NASA. Press conferences have been mainly about being thankful that the crew is okay, assuring people that they’ll get to the bottom of this, and kicking the can down the road on everything else.

Although it will likely take weeks before we know exactly what happened, the repercussions for this failure are immediate. The crew on the ISS will not be reinforced, and as there are only 3 up there right now with a single Soyuz capsule with which to return to Earth, there’s a chance they’ll have to leave the ISS empty for a short time.

The current crew was scheduled to return in December but NASA has said that the Soyuz is safe to take until January 4, so there’s a bit of leeway. That’s not to say they can necessarily put together another launch before then, but if the residents there need to stay a bit longer to safely park the station, as it were, they have a bit of extra time to do so.

The Soyuz booster and capsule have been an extremely reliable system for shuttling crew to and from the ISS, and no Soyuz fault has ever led to loss of life, although there have been a few issues recently with DOA satellites and of course the recent hole found in one just in August.

This was perhaps the closest a Soyuz has come to a life-threatening failure, and as such any Soyuz-based launches will be grounded until further notice. SpaceX and Boeing have been competing to create and certify their own crew capsules, which were scheduled for testing some time next year — but while the Soyuz issues may nominally increase the demand for these U.S.-built alternatives, the testing process can’t be rushed.

That said, grounding the Soyuz and conducting a full-scale fault investigation is no small matter, and if we’re not flying astronauts up to the ISS in one of them, we’re not doing it at all. So there is at least an incentive to perform testing of the new crew capsules in a timely manner and keep to as short a timeframe as is reasonable.

You can watch the launch as it played out here:



The Wing, a co-working space for women, opens its doors in San Francisco

18:00 | 9 October

Women-focused co-working space The Wing has made its way to California, opening its first of two planned locations in the state this morning.

On Sansome Street in San Francisco’s Financial District, The Wing hopes to attract professional women able to shell out $215 per month for access to its 8,000-square-foot workspace, which is complete with conference rooms, a cafe, a library stocked with books on feminist theory, a lactation room and more.

In addition to its chic decor and feminist messaging, The Wing is also known for its programming. Headquartered in New York City, where the company operates three of its four existing spaces, The Wing has hosted events with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, actress Jennifer Lawrence and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, to name a few. The San Francisco location will be no different.

A spokesperson for The Wing tells me they have a fully booked calendar of politics, tech, entertainment and lifestyle-focused events prepped for members. In the first month, San Francisco Mayor London Breed will stop by, as will Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

[gallery ids="1729017,1729018,1729019,1729020,1729021"]

As a brand founded by women — Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan — and inspired by the women’s club movement of the 19th century, The Wing and its majority female staff very carefully and skillfully practice what they preach. In building their spaces, for example, they hire female architects to design and perfect the location. Their conference rooms are named for notable women. One, in particular, named for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, stands out.

The dozens of art pieces scattered throughout The Wing are by female artists. The menu at The Wing’s cafe, which has a sign above it that reads “I’ll have what she’s having,” showcases women of the Bay Area’s food and beverage industries. Even the wines served at The Wing are made by female wine makers in California.

If there’s on thing about The Wing that stands out, it’s the startup’s attention to detail.

Founded in 2016, The Wing plans to open its next location, in West Hollywood, in early 2019.

The Wing is backed by venture capital firms NEA, Kleiner Perkins, Forerunner Ventures and BBG Ventures, as well as co-working unicorn WeWork. It has raised just over $40 million to date to expand its co-working spaces throughout the U.S. and beyond.



Watch SpaceX attempt its first West Coast ground landing

04:10 | 8 October

In a little over an hour, SpaceX will be launching a used Falcon 9 rocket and subsequently pulling off an upright landing on the California coast.

This time, will interestingly be the first West Coast landing that’s taking place on solid California ground as opposed to the drone barges that SpaceX has used in the past. This hasn’t been a matter of preference for SpaceX which has been trying to build its own land launch pad in the West Coast, but hasn’t gotten clearance yet, The Verge notes.

The purpose of the flight is the launch of the SAOCOM 1A, a satellite operated by Argentina’s Space Agency which in conjunction with another identical satellite will help gather soil and moisture information, according to SpaceX.

The launch is scheduled to happen at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The launch window will take place at 7:21 p.m. PDT with the satellite being released about 12 minutes after launch.

SpaceX’s West Coast landing zone pic.twitter.com/OykcwiOg18

— SpaceX (@SpaceX)



Weed in space is going to be a thing now

01:07 | 4 October

Scientists interested in cannabis as a subject for pharmaceutical studies may find an unlikely new home for their research into the plant, its byproducts, and biochemistry aboard the International Space Station.

Yes, weed is going to space thanks to the work of a small Lexington, Ky.-based startup called Space Tango.

The company makes a “clean room” laboratory in a microwave-sized box. Since space is tight on the International Space Station, companies that want to conduct experiments in microgravity have to do more with less. And Space Tango gives them a small environment in which to perform tests and monitor the results.

Using Space Tango’s “CubeLab” modules, which slot into the larger TangoLab containers, companies like Anheuser Busch can send barley up to the space station to observe how the crop could be cultivated in environments approaching zero gravity.

Now, Space Tango is taking its own steps to develop experiments on how the zero gravity environment could effect cannabis cultivation.

Alongside two Kentucky hemp and cannabis cultivation and retail companies, Atalo Holdings, which provides hemp genetics, and Anavii Market, an online retailer of hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) therapeutics, Space Tango has set up its own subsidiary to research how micro-gravity can be used to better cultivate particular strands of hemp for medical compounds.

“For all entrepreneurial companies in this new space area everyone is trying to hone in [sic] on what is the actual business,” said co-founder and chairman Kris Kimel of Space Tango, in an interview. “We’re trying to figure out here what’s the business now… For us, the model is looking at low earth orbit to actually develop and design applications for life on earth.”

Kimel said the company now has two micro-laboratories installed on the International Space Station and has payloads launching to the space station for corporate and university customers about six times a year.

In its early stages, the company is mainly operating off of existing income. “We’re able to meet our operating expenses off of revenue,” says Kimel. “Which is great for a company that is not just three years old.”

As it looks to create these kinds of joint ventures with other companies, Kimel said that additional revenue could come from a profit-sharing agreement rather than just straight contracts for services. The new subsidiaries enhance what the company sees as its broader mission, Kimel said.

“Each time a new type of physics platform has been successfully harnessed such as electromagnetism, it has led to the exponential growth of new knowledge, benefits to humankind and capital formation,” said  Kimel, in a statement. “Using microgravity, we envision a future where many of the next breakthroughs in healthcare, plant biology and technology may well occur off the planet Earth.”

Industrialized hemp production and research and development into the crop was enabled four years ago with the passage of the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill. It was the first time in seventy years that new rules were enacted to promote research into applications for the hemp plant as fiber, food or medicine.

By taking the plants to space, Space Tango hopes to study whether the growth of certain strains can be better controlled in the absence of gravitational stresses on the plant’s development.

“When plants are ‘stressed,’ they pull from a genetic reservoir to produce compounds that allow them to adapt and survive,” said Dr. Joe Chappell, a member of the Space Tango Science Advisory Team who specializes in drug development and design. “Understanding how plants react in an environment where the traditional stress of gravity is removed can provide new insights into how adaptations come about and how researchers might take advantage of such changes for the discovery of new characteristics, traits, biomedical applications and efficacy.”

Founded by former NASA engineer Twyman Clements and Kimel, who was serving as the President of the non-profit Kentucky Science and Technology Corp., Space Tango was spun up to be the for-profit arm that would commercialize experiments in space as a service for large businesses that wanted to take advantage of the unique properties of manufacturing in micro-gravity.

There have been few commercially viable products that have come from micro-gravity research or production, in part because it’s expensive to bring products from space to earth.

That’s why Space Tango has focused on drug discovery and pharmaceuticals and why the company is spinning up its independent subsidiary that will focus exclusively on cannabis. Pharmaceutical compounds are lightweight and can be profitable in production without enormous volumes.

“That’s why biomedicine is attractive,” Kimel said. “You’re dealing with products that are incredibly high value and incredibly low weight.”




NASA’s bold-ish plan for the next era takes us to the moon and Mars… eventually

01:17 | 27 September

NASA has issued a report summarizing its official plans for exploring our solar system, and it makes for exciting reading — if you don’t mind that it comes with a dose of realism. Crewed missions to the moon’s surface; a semi-permanent base orbiting it; a Mars sample return mission; all these and more are there, if not necessarily in the next decade.

The National Space Exploration Campaign is the name of NASA’s overarching plan to stop worrying about low Earth orbit (LEO), ditch the ISS, win the next moon race, and then head off to Mars. It was, in a way, commissioned by the President’s Space Policy Directive-1, which directed NASA to focus on expansion and exploration throughout the solar system. A good goal, and fortunately one that the administration has already been pursuing for a long time.

So the plan for the next decade or two looks a lot like it did a few years back, since by necessity these things have to be pursued on extremely long time frames.

The simple truth is that even if we went all-out right now, it would be extremely difficult, not to mention risky, to put boots on regolith within 10 years. It’s not that we couldn’t do it just to say we did, but that any future moon mission would have to be part of a long-term strategy to leverage lunar orbits and landers in the pursuit of interplanetary travel. In other words, we could spend billions for a showy short-term Apollo-style touchdown, or we could invest billions in long-term infrastructure that could lead to meaningful dominance in a number of fields.

To that end NASA has some short-term goals that are ambitious but achievable, and has locked future projects, like the Lunar Gateway and landers, behind the pending results of those efforts. After all, if the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System are delayed, or perhaps exceed expectations, that has a material knock-on effect when it comes to using those systems to build and staff a permanent installation in lunar orbit.

Its priorities lie essentially along three lines:

1. Empower commercial space

NASA has operated launches to LEO, for instance International Space Station resupply missions, for decades. It’s ready to be done with that, and commercial endeavors are ready to take over.

“It is vitally important that a broad customer base emerges in the next few years to supplant NASA’s historically central role in the LEO economy,” the report reads. Its goals here for the next few years are essentially directing funding and contracts while carrying out studies of effectiveness, competition, and so on.

Depending on how this goes, the U.S. could eliminate direct federal funding of the ISS by 2025, instead relying commercial providers. This doesn’t mean we’d leave the ISS altogether — NASA would just stop being the one bringing up supplies and astronauts.

$150 million is earmarked for funding a new Commercial LEO Development program aimed at potentially replacing the ISS altogether — or at least getting the pieces in place to do so. It wouldn’t have to be nearly the same scale, but an orbital platform or two to call our own would be nice.

More generally, getting out of the LEO business frees up a ton of money and resources at NASA, which they can direct towards more ambitious projects.

2. Trouble the moon

The moon is a fabulous staging area for our planned exploration of the solar system. It’s inhospitable as all hell, meaning we can test things like Mars habitats and space radiation exposure there. It might have a ton of useful minerals underneath its coating of moon dust, and perhaps even some usable water, which would greatly simplify putting a base there.

Unfortunately, the last time anyone stepped foot on the moon was decades ago, and there have been precious few return trips even with robotic landers. So we’re going to fix that.

We’ve got plans for commercial lunar landers and rovers starting as early as 2019 — that is to say, they’ll be in development, not touching down. Based on the cost and success of these, more missions will be commissioned or undertaken in order to improve our basic knowledge of the lunar surface, which is still full of unknowns when it comes to practical applications like drilling, mining, and so on.

Meanwhile the Orion spacecraft and SLS will be getting its first orbital tests in 2020, and if all goes well it could potentially deliver astronauts (and potentially small payloads) to lunar orbit within a few years. After that’s been proven, the cargo-carrying Orion variant could be taking 10 tons of payload to orbit at a time.

This is all preparatory to establishing the Lunar Gateway, a space station in orbit around the moon which would be staffed by NASA astronauts and used as a deep space test bed and lab. They’re going to try to nail down the basics — volume, mass, materials, technologies — by next year, and want to have the first component in lunar orbit by 2022.

3. Remind everyone that we’re already on Mars

NASA is full of scientists, and asking them about a Mars mission in the future will likely draw glares as they point furiously to the many Mars missions they’re already juggling. The administration’s roadmap, unsurprisingly, focuses more on the near future than the far future. The fact here is that Mars is already a priority and they have major missions planned already, but to say anything about a crewed mission or base would be irresponsible and premature.

Insight is already en route and will land in November; the Mars 2020 Rover is all set to take off next summer; both will produce all kinds of interesting results critical to planning future missions. Mars 2020 will be bagging up samples for possible return via another mission several years out. Can you imagine what we can do with a cargo hold full of Martian rock? You better believe we want to get that stuff into the lab before we send out an away team.

2024 is the earliest time NASA commits to making a decision about a crewed Mars mission perhaps in the 2030’s — and even then it would be an orbital one. Naturally, further missions will depend on the incredibly valuable observations and lessons learned from that mission — so perhaps we’re looking at the late 2030’s for boots on Mars.

Is that a bit disappointing? Well, with the rate things are progressing in commercial space, we may very well see a private Mars mission well before that. But NASA is under certain obligations, being a scientific organization and one funded by taxpayers, to justify its work and test it to a degree that private companies may choose not to.

The report is heavy on promises but light on actual policy and hard dates, which is to be expected when many of the goals are far enough out that they can’t be effectively outlined beyond “we’ll know in 2024.” It may be a bit frustrating in this period of rapidly advances in space to have such distant and vague goals, but that’s kind of the nature of the business.

In the meantime it’s not like there’s any shortage of exciting developments from NASA or the many commercial space companies reinventing the entire sector. If you don’t like NASA’s patient approach, you’re welcome to mount your own mission to space — no, really. You wouldn’t be the only one.



California is ‘launching our own damn satellite’ to track pollution, with help from Planet

00:44 | 15 September

California plans to launch a satellite to monitor pollution in the state and contribute to climate science, Governor Jerry Brown announced today. The state is partnering with satellite imagery purveyor Planet to create a custom craft to “pinpoint – and stop – destructive emissions with unprecedented precision, on a scale that’s never been done before.”

Governor Brown made the announcement in the closing remarks of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, echoing a pledge made two years ago to scientists at the American Geophysical Union’s 2016 meeting.

“With science still under attack and the climate threat growing, we’re launching our own damn satellite,” Brown said today.

Planet, which has launched hundreds of satellites in the last few years in order to provide near-real-time imagery of practically anywhere on Earth, will develop and operate the satellite. The plan is to equip it with sensors that can detect pollutants at their point sources, be they artificial or natural. That kind of direct observation enables direct action.

Technical details of the satellite are to be announced as the project solidifies. We can probably expect something like a 6U Cubesat loaded with instruments focused on detecting certain gases and particulates. An orbit with the satellite passing across the whole state along its north/south axis seems most likely; although Planet specializes in geosynchronous orbits, it seems unlikely that a single craft sitting in one place could offer adequate coverage. That said, multiple satellites are also a stated possibility.

“These satellite technologies are part of a new era of environmental innovation that is supercharging our ability to solve problems,” said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. “They won’t cut emissions by themselves, but they will make invisible pollution visible and generate the transparent, actionable, data we need to protect our health, our environment and our economies.”

The EDF is launching its own satellite to that end (MethaneSAT), but will also be collaborating with California in the creation of a shared Climate Data Partnership to make sure the data from these platforms is widely accessible.

More partners are expected to join up now that the endeavor is public, though none were named in the press release or in response to my questions on the topic to Planet. The funding, too, is something of an open question.

The effort is still a ways off from launch — these things take time — but Planet has certainly proven capable of designing and launching on a relatively short timeframe. In fact, it just opened up a brand new facility in San Francisco dedicated to pumping out new satellites.



UK warns of satellite and space program problems in case of Brexit ‘no deal’

21:52 | 14 September

The UK government says that access to satellites and space surveillance programs will suffer in the event of a “no deal” departure from the European Union .

Britain has less than six months to go before the country leaves the 28 member state bloc, after a little over half the country voted to withdraw membership from the European Union in a 2016 referendum. So far, the Brexit process has been a hot mess of political infighting and uncertainty, bureaucracy and backstabbing — amid threats of coups and leadership challenges. And the government isn’t even close to scoring a deal to keep trade ties open, immigration flowing, and airplanes taking off.

Now, the government has further said that services reliant on EU membership — like access to space programs — will be affected.

The reassuring news is that car and phone GPS maps won’t suddenly stop working.

But the government said that the UK will “no longer play any part” of the European’s GPS efforts, shutting out businesses, academics and researchers who will be shut out of future contracts, and “may face difficulty carrying out and completing existing contracts.”

“There should be no noticeable impact if the UK were to leave the EU with no agreement in place,” but the UK is investing £92 million ($120m) to fund its own UK-based GPS system. The notice also said that the UK’s military and intelligence agencies will no longer have access to the EU’s Public Regulated Service, a hardened GPS system that enhances protections against spoofing and jamming. But that system isn’t expected to go into place until 2020, so the government isn’t immediately concerned.

The UK will also no longer be part of the Copernicus program, a EU-based earth observation initiative that’s a critical asset to national security as it contributes to maritime surveillance, border control and understanding climate change. Although the program’s data is free and open, the UK government says that users will no longer have high-bandwidth access to data from the satellites and additional data, but admits that it’s “seeking to clarify” the terms.

Although this is the “worst case scenario” in case of no final agreement on the divorce settlement from Europe, with just months to go and a distance to reach, it’s looking like a “no deal” is increasingly likely.


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Peter Short
Noted Google maybe grooming Twitter as a partner in Social Media but with whistle blowing coming to…
Peter Short