3D-printed hypersonic engine, nitrogen as a major sign of habitability and an Astrobee contest

Orbital-ATK-tests-3D-printed-hypersonic-engine-combustorOrbital ATK has announced a successful test of a 3D-printed hypersonic engine combustor

The combustor tested was produced through an additive manufacturing process known as powder bed fusion, which either a laser or electron beam to meld and fuse material powders together. Tests included exposure to a variety of high-temperature hypersonic flight conditions during a 20-day period, which included one of the longest recorded duration propulsion wind tunnel tests.

Researchers involved say the unit met or exceeded test requirements. The tests were performed to verify a powder bed fusion-produced part could meet mission objectives.

“Additive manufacturing opens up new possibilities for our designers and engineers,” Orbital ATK Missile Products general manager Pat Nolan said in a statement. “This combustor is a great example of a component that was impossible to build just a few years ago.”

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On alien planets, nitrogen may be a sign of habitability

We might commonly think of Earth as having an oxygen-dominated atmosphere, but in reality the molecule makes up only a fifth of our air. Most of what surrounds us is nitrogen, at 78 percent. Astrobiologists are beginning to see nitrogen — and not just oxygen — as a key indicator of a planet’s habitability. Nitrogen is essential for life on Earth and could signal an atmosphere thick enough to stabilize liquid water on a planet’s surface, fundamental to creating habitable conditions.

Nitrogen, in fact, was even more abundant in Earth’s early atmospherewhen volcanoes and other internal processes began replacing our planet’s original envelope of hydrogen and helium. The result of those geological processes, as well as the contributions added by early life, was the evolution of a “secondary” atmosphere made up of nitrogen, oxygen (mainly from photosynthetic life like plants), and trace constituents such as water and argon.

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NASA wants your help designing an arm for its flying space station robot

astrobee.0.0In yet another crowdsourcing effort, NASA is asking members of the public to help with the design of the Astrobee — a free-flying robot the space agency is making to live aboard the International Space Station. Specifically, NASA wants help creating a robotic arm for the Astrobee, which the robot will use to interact with the space station environment. Those interested in submitting designs for the arm can register through a newly opened Freelancer.com contest.

The Astrobee builds upon MIT’s SPHERES project — three free-flying robots that have lived on the station since 2006. Scheduled to launch in 2017, the Astrobee will autonomously roam throughout the ISS cabin, using sensors to conduct inspections or cameras to film the astronauts at work. The robot is also going to have a tiny arm that it can use to perch on surfaces or interact with small objects. NASA is working on its own design for the arm, but the space agency wants to see what other ideas people might have in mind.

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A job opening for a Research Physical Scientist, AST, Earth Sciences Remote Sensing, NASA (USA). The Sciences & Exploration Directorate, Earth Sciences Division, Goddard Institute for Space Studies (Code 611) seeks a Researcher to plan, develop, and coordinate Earth science studies through the analysis of data obtained from space-borne, airborne or ground-based instruments. More information


Build up your space industry resume by participating in the SatNOGS project. SatNOGS is a network of satellite ground stations focused on observing and receiving the signal of satellites, particularly low earth orbit (LEO) CubeSats. The project could benefit a lot from your participation in its Open Source software and hardware improvements. More information

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