South Korean unmanned lunar landing, Russian reflector satellite and American quiet supersonic jet

sk-moonSouth Korea plans unmanned lunar landing for 2020

The planned mission will consist of a robotic lander and an orbiting lunar satellite. The satellite will maintain communication with the lunar rover, which will make its way across the surface to search for rare minerals that might be of use for future moon missions. The South Korean Ministry of Science will spend the next year developing the satellite and rover, which will likely be launched in the same mission.

South Korea intends to use mostly homegrown technology in its lunar mission, but it has also entered into an agreement with NASA for technological cooperation. This could provide access to invaluable experience and equipment that makes the Korean moonshot more feasible.

Russian crowdfunded reflector satellite aims to be “brightest star in the sky”

A group of engineers and space enthusiasts from Moscow University of Mechanical Engineering have hit the goal for a crowdfunding project that may change the night sky for a while. The team’s “Mayak” (Beacon) satellite project has raised enough money to launch what amounts to an orbital night-light into orbit—a solar-synchronized satellite that will deploy a 16-square-meter tetrahedron-shaped reflector. The reflector will bounce back the sun’s rays at the Earth as it orbits, making it brighter than any star in the night sky.

The team behind Mayak (which translates as “Beacon”) has raised 1.72 million rubles ($23,000) on the Russian crowdfunding site Boomstarter (which looks suspiciously like Kickstarter). According to the group’s page, the Russian space launch company Roscosmos has “Confirmed the possibility of (Mayak) being added to a launch on a Soyuz-2 rocket in the middle of 2016.” The scheduled launch is also carrying the Canopus-B-IR satellite, an earth observation satellite for monitoring forest fires.

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NASA wants a supersonic X-Plane without the boom

nasaquietfastSound killed the supersonic airplane. While increasingly confined to memory, the British Aircraft Corporation’s Concorde was the first commercial jetliner to offer supersonic travel to time-crunched transatlantic travelers starting in 1976. It continued for decades before it was retired in 2003. Supersonic is not hard to do, strictly, but it’s very loud, so the Concorde found itself flying mostly over oceans, without people to disturb below. NASA recently restarted its x-plane program, and the first concept they’ve previewed is supersonic and quiet.

The concept is dubbed the “Low Boom Flight Demonstration Quiet Supersonic Transport” or “QueSST” (somehow). Today NASA announced that they’d awarded defense giant Lockheed Martin a $20 million contract for 17 months of preliminary development on the concept. The end goal of the project, according to NASA, is “A piloted test aircraft that can fly at supersonic speeds, creating a supersonic ‘heartbeat’–a soft thump rather than the disruptive boom currently associated with supersonic flight.”

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