Supersonic Airbus, Hyabusa2 & Death Star

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Airbus’s new spaceplane patent shows company is ‘deadly serious’ about supersonic flight

Details have emerged of an application filed in the US by the pan-European aerospace company for a design of a spaceplane capable of taking off and landing like a normal aircraft but able to fly at supersonic speeds at altitudes “of at least 100 kilometres”.

The most recent patent envisions a spaceplane with traditional jet engines that will be switched off as a vehicle approaches space, with rockets then taking over. To reduce drag, Airbus has applied for a patent for retractable flaps that move in front of the jet engines when they are not in use to make the aircraft more streamlined.

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Hyabusa2 slingshots to asteroid encounter

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirmed that its Hayabusa2 probe has successfully used the Earth’s gravity to slingshot itself towards a rendezvous with an asteroid. The flyby maneuver saw the unmanned spacecraft swing by the Earth on December 3, with the closest approach of 3,090 km (1,920 mi) at 7:08 pm JST as it passed over the Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian Islands.

Hayabusa2 was launched on December 3, 2014 from the Tanegashima Space Center on a mission to not only land on an asteroid, but to bomb it. Equipped with ion thrusters, it has spent the past year in an Earth-chasing solar orbit, so that when it caught up again with Earth, the planet’s gravity shifted its trajectory by 80º and accelerated it from 1.6 km/s (3,579 mph) to 31.9 km/s (71,358 mph) relative to the Sun. This will allow the probe to rendezvous with C-type asteroid 1999 JU3 (aka Ryugu) in July 2018.

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How to build a Death Star according to a NASA engineer

Turns out that Empire’s blueprints were crap. To make Death Stars they always built them—literally—out of thin air. What they should’ve done was use something that was already up there.

The best way to build a Death Star is to construct one out of an already-existing asteroid, says Brian Muirhead, chief engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “It could provide the metals,” he says. “You have organic compounds, you have water—all the building blocks you would need to build your family Death Star.”

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A job opening for a Structures Engineer – Spaceline Operations, Virgin Galactic (USA). Virgin Galactic is seeking a Structures systems test engineer with experience in the execution and operations of ground and/or flight test in aerospace system and vehicle levels. The purpose of this role will be to support test, operations and analysis of the Spaceship 2 (SS2)/WhiteKnight 2 (WK2) vehicles structures and to support entry into commercial service, then sustained commercial operations. More information


Build up your space resume by participating in the project Astro Pi: devise computer science experiments to be run on board the ISS. There will be opportunities to examine the results of the winning competition experiments, and there will also be a data analysis activity where you can obtain a CSV file full of time-stamped sensor readings directly from Tim Peake. More information

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