Nuclear-powered engine, New Shepard tests ramp up and stellar parenting

1280px-preamplifier_at_the_national_ignition_facilityRussia is developing a nuclear-powered engine to explore space

The Russian space agency just announced that it’s working on a very unusual project: a nuclear reactor-powered rocket engine capable of propelling spacecraft out into the cosmos.

A nuclear reactor engine is designed to heat some kind of liquid (usually hydrogen) to extremely high temperatures inside a reactor where it turns into a gas. Then as it expands, it streams out of a nozzle to generate thrust. Rosatom has already successfully tested the design for a reactor casing and created a special fuel element that allows the engine to operate in a wide range of temperatures. It hopes to have an engine ready for a test flight in 2025.

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Blue Origin to ramp up New Shepard tests

After completing two successful flights of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle in two months, Blue Origin plans to increase the frequency of future test flights, with dozens more planned before the company is ready to start flying people.

In a Jan. 25 interview, Blue Origin President Rob Meyerson said that the company was continuing to review data from the most recent New Shepard flight on Jan. 22, but that initial indications were that the vehicle performed as expected.

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Stellar parenting: making new stars by adopting stray cosmic gases

ooheic1321aAstronomers had long thought globular clusters formed their millions of stars in bulk at around the same time, with each cluster’s stars having very similar ages, much like twin brothers and sisters. Yet recent discoveries of young stars in old globular clusters have scrambled this tidy picture.

Instead of having all their stellar progeny at once, globular clusters can somehow bear second or even third sets of thousands of sibling stars. Now a new study led by researchers at the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (KIAA) at Peking University, and including astronomers at Northwestern University, the Adler Planetarium and the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC), might explain these puzzling, successive stellar generations.

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