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Moon Microscope, Solar Arrays Launch on NASA’s SpaceX Cargo Ship

SpaceX’s 26th commercial resupply mission for NASA is on its way to the International Space Station.

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida with a Cargo Dragon spacecraft carrying more than 7,700 pounds of research, hardware, and supplies as part of the company’s 36th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station on November 26, 2022.
Credits: NASA TV

SpaceX’s 26th commercial resupply mission for NASA is on its way to the International Space Station.

Carrying more than 7,700 pounds of science experiments, crew supplies, and other cargo, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched on the Falcon 9 rocket at 2:20 p.m. EST Saturday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The cargo spacecraft is scheduled to autonomously dock at the space station around 7:30 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 27, and remain at the station for about 45 days. Coverage of arrival will begin at 6 a.m. on NASA Television, the agency’s website, and the NASA app.

Among the science experiments Dragon is delivering to the space station are:

Picture of Health

Moon Microscope tests a kit for in-flight medical diagnosis that includes a portable hand-held microscope and a small self-contained blood sample staining device. An astronaut collects and stains a blood sample, obtains images with the microscope, and transmits images to the ground, where flight surgeons use them to diagnose illness and prescribe treatment.

The kit could provide diagnostic capabilities for crew members in space or on the surface of the Moon or Mars, as well as the ability to test water, food, and surfaces for contamination. The hardware also may enable improved medical monitoring on upcoming Artemis missions.

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Adding Solar Power

Two International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Arrays, or iROSAs, launched aboard SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply mission for the agency and were installed in 2021. These solar panels, which roll out using stored kinetic energy, expand the energy-production capabilities of the space station. The second set launching in the Dragon’s trunk, once installed, will be a part of the plan to provide a 20% to 30% increase in power for space station research and operations.

These arrays, the second of three packages, will complete the upgrade of half the station’s power channels. iROSA technology was first tested on the space station in 2017. Roll-out solar array technology was used on NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission and is planned for use on Gateway, a future lunar space station and vital component of NASA’s Artemis program. The iROSA upgrades use the space station as a proving ground for the technology and research needed to explore farther into space.

Big Hopes for Small Tomatoes

A continuous source of nutritious food is essential for long-duration exploration missions, and the typical pre-packaged astronaut diet may need to be supplemented by fresh foods produced in space. Researchers have been testing a plant growth unit on station known as Veggie and have successfully grown a variety of leafy greens. Veg-05, the next step in that work, focuses on growing dwarf tomatoes.

Building Bigger Structures

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On Earth, gravity deforms large objects such as the beams used in large-scale construction. Microgravity enables fabrication of longer and thinner structures without this deformation. Extrusion demonstrates a technology using liquid resin to create shapes and forms that cannot be created on Earth. Photocurable resin, which uses light to harden the material into its final form, is injected into pre-made flexible forms and a camera captures footage of the process. The capability for using these forms could enable in-space construction of structures such as space stations, solar arrays, and equipment.

The Space Exploration Initiative supports a range of microgravity and lunar research across science, engineering, art, and design. The experiment is packed inside a Nanoracks Black Box with several other experiments from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab and is sponsored by the ISS National Lab.

On-Demand Nutrients

Supplying adequate nutrition is a major challenge to maintaining crew health on future long-duration space missions. Many vitamins, nutrients, and pharmaceuticals have limited shelf-life, and the ability to make such compounds on-demand could help maintain crew health and well-being. BioNutrients-2 tests a system for producing key nutrients from yogurt, a fermented milk product known as kefir, and a yeast-based beverage.

The investigation kicks off phase two of the five-year BioNutrients program, headed by NASA’s Ames Research Center and managed by Game Changing Development in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. The program began with the launch of BioNutrients-1 in 2019. BioNutrients-2 employs a smaller system with a heated incubator that promotes growth of beneficial organisms.

The researchers also are working to find efficient ways to use local resources to make bulk products such as plastics, construction binders, and feedstock chemicals. Such technologies are designed to reduce launch costs and increase self-sufficiency, extending the horizons of human exploration.

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Easing Gravity Transitions

Travelers to space all face the transition from one gravity field to another. On future exploration missions, astronauts may encounter three different gravity fields: weightlessness while traveling in space, the gravity of another planet, and Earth’s gravity when they return. These transitions can affect spatial orientation, head-eye and hand-eye coordination, balance, and locomotion, and cause some crew members to experience space motion sickness.

The Falcon Goggles hardware captures high-speed video of a subject’s eyes, providing precise data on ocular alignment and balance.

These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations currently conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory in the areas of biology and biotechnology, physical sciences, and Earth and space science. Advances in these areas will help keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars.

Source: NASA

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DOE National Laboratory Makes History by Achieving Fusion Ignition

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced the achievement of fusion ignition at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)—a major scientific breakthrough decades in the making that will pave the way for advancements in national defense and the future of clean power.

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For First Time, Researchers Produce More Energy from Fusion Than Was Used to Drive It, Promising Further Discovery in Clean Power and Nuclear Weapons Stewardship

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced the achievement of fusion ignition at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)—a major scientific breakthrough decades in the making that will pave the way for advancements in national defense and the future of clean power. On December 5, a team at LLNL’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) conducted the first controlled fusion experiment in history to reach this milestone, also known as scientific energy breakeven, meaning it produced more energy from fusion than the laser energy used to drive it. This historic, first-of-its kind achievement will provide unprecedented capability to support NNSA’s Stockpile Stewardship Program and will provide invaluable insights into the prospects of clean fusion energy, which would be a game-changer for efforts to achieve President Biden’s goal of a net-zero carbon economy.

“This is a landmark achievement for the researchers and staff at the National Ignition Facility who have dedicated their careers to seeing fusion ignition become a reality, and this milestone will undoubtedly spark even more discovery,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to supporting our world-class scientists—like the team at NIF—whose work will help us solve humanity’s most complex and pressing problems, like providing clean power to combat climate change and maintaining a nuclear deterrent without nuclear testing.”

“We have had a theoretical understanding of fusion for over a century, but the journey from knowing to doing can be long and arduous. Today’s milestone shows what we can do with perseverance,” said Dr. Arati Prabhakar, the President’s Chief Advisor for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“Monday, December 5, 2022, was a historic day in science thanks to the incredible people at Livermore Lab and the National Ignition Facility. In making this breakthrough, they have opened a new chapter in NNSA’s Stockpile Stewardship Program,” said NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby. “I would like to thank the members of Congress who have supported the National Ignition Facility because their belief in the promise of visionary science has been critical for our mission. Our team from around the DOE national laboratories and our international partners have shown us the power of collaboration.”

“The pursuit of fusion ignition in the laboratory is one of the most significant scientific challenges ever tackled by humanity, and achieving it is a triumph of science, engineering, and most of all, people,” LLNL Director Dr. Kim Budil said. “Crossing this threshold is the vision that has driven 60 years of dedicated pursuit—a continual process of learning, building, expanding knowledge and capability, and then finding ways to overcome the new challenges that emerged. These are the problems that the U.S. national laboratories were created to solve.”

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“This astonishing scientific advance puts us on the precipice of a future no longer reliant on fossil fuels but instead powered by new clean fusion energy,” U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said. I commend Lawrence Livermore National Labs and its partners in our nation’s Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) program, including the University of Rochester’s Lab for Laser Energetics in New York, for achieving this breakthrough. Making this future clean energy world a reality will require our physicists, innovative workers, and brightest minds at our DOE-funded institutions, including the Rochester Laser Lab, to double down on their cutting-edge work. That’s why I’m also proud to announce today that I’ve helped to secure the highest ever authorization of over $624 million this year in the National Defense Authorization Act for the ICF program to build on this amazing breakthrough.”

“After more than a decade of scientific and technical innovation, I congratulate the team at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the National Ignition Facility for their historic accomplishment,” said U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA). “This is an exciting step in fusion and everyone at Lawrence Livermore and NIF should be proud of this milestone achievement.”

“This is an historic, innovative achievement that builds on the contributions of generations of Livermore scientists. Today, our nation stands on their collective shoulders. We still have a long way to go, but this is a critical step and I commend the U.S. Department of Energy and all who contributed toward this promising breakthrough, which could help fuel a brighter clean energy future for the United States and humanity,” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed (RI), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“This monumental scientific breakthrough is a milestone for the future of clean energy,” said U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (CA). “While there is more work ahead to harness the potential of fusion energy, I am proud that California scientists continue to lead the way in developing clean energy technologies. I congratulate the scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for their dedication to a clean energy future, and I am committed to ensuring they have all of the tools and funding they need to continue this important work.”

“This is a very big deal. We can celebrate another performance record by the National Ignition Facility. This latest achievement is particularly remarkable because NIF used a less spherically symmetrical target than in the August 2021 experiment,” said U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren (CA-19). “This significant advancement showcases the future possibilities for the commercialization of fusion energy. Congress and the Administration need to fully fund and properly implement the fusion research provisions in the recent CHIPS and Science Act and likely more. During World War II, we crafted the Manhattan Project for a timely result. The challenges facing the world today are even greater than at that time. We must double down and accelerate the research to explore new pathways for the clean, limitless energy that fusion promises.”

“I am thrilled that NIF—the United States’ most cutting-edge nuclear research facility—has achieved fusion ignition, potentially providing for a new clean and sustainable energy source in the future. This breakthrough will ensure the safety and reliability of our nuclear stockpile, open new frontiers in science, and enable progress toward new ways to power our homes and offices in future decades,” said U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell (CA-15). “I commend the scientists and researchers for their hard work and dedication that led to this monumental scientific achievement, and I will continue to push for robust funding for NIF to support advancements in fusion research.”

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LLNL’s experiment surpassed the fusion threshold by delivering 2.05 megajoules (MJ) of energy to the target, resulting in 3.15 MJ of fusion energy output, demonstrating for the first time a most fundamental science basis for inertial fusion energy (IFE). Many advanced science and technology developments are still needed to achieve simple, affordable IFE to power homes and businesses, and DOE is currently restarting a broad-based, coordinated IFE program in the United States. Combined with private-sector investment, there is a lot of momentum to drive rapid progress toward fusion commercialization.

Fusion is the process by which two light nuclei combine to form a single heavier nucleus, releasing a large amount of energy. In the 1960s, a group of pioneering scientists at LLNL hypothesized that lasers could be used to induce fusion in a laboratory setting. Led by physicist John Nuckolls, who later served as LLNL director from 1988 to 1994, this revolutionary idea became inertial confinement fusion, kicking off more than 60 years of research and development in lasers, optics, diagnostics, target fabrication, computer modeling and simulation, and experimental design.

To pursue this concept, LLNL built a series of increasingly powerful laser systems, leading to the creation of NIF, the world’s largest and most energetic laser system. NIF—located at LLNL in Livermore, Calif.—is the size of a sports stadium and uses powerful laser beams to create temperatures and pressures like those in the cores of stars and giant planets, and inside exploding nuclear weapons.

Achieving ignition was made possible by dedication from LLNL employees as well as countless collaborators at DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and Nevada National Security Site; General Atomics; academic institutions, including the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California, Berkeley, and Princeton University; international partners, including the United Kingdom’s Atomic Weapons Establishment and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission; and stakeholders at DOE and NNSA and in Congress.

Source: Department of Energy

https://www.energy.gov/articles/doe-national-laboratory-makes-history-achieving-fusion-ignition

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Fusion Energy Breakthrough Could Be An ‘Inflection Point’ For Clean Fuel Technology (NBC News)

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The Department of Energy is expected to announce a major development regarding fusion energy on Tuesday. Alex Gilbert, fellow at the Payne Institute, discusses the significance of this potential discovery. (NBC News)

What is FUSION Power?

Fusion power is a proposed form of power generation that would generate electricity by using heat from nuclear fusion reactions. In a fusion process, two lighter atomic nuclei combine to form a heavier nucleus, while releasing energy. Devices designed to harness this energy are known as fusion reactors. Research into fusion reactors began in the 1940s, but as of 2022, only one design, at the US National Ignition Facility, has conclusively produced a positive fusion energy gain factor, i.e. more power output than input.[1]

Fusion processes require fuel and a confined environment with sufficient temperaturepressure, and confinement time to create a plasma in which fusion can occur. The combination of these figures that results in a power-producing system is known as the Lawson criterion. In stars, the most common fuel is hydrogen, and gravity provides extremely long confinement times that reach the conditions needed for fusion energy production. Proposed fusion reactors generally use heavy hydrogen isotopes such as deuterium and tritium (and especially a mixture of the two), which react more easily than protium (the most common hydrogen isotope), to allow them to reach the Lawson criterion requirements with less extreme conditions. Most designs aim to heat their fuel to around 100 million degrees, which presents a major challenge in producing a successful design.

As a source of power, nuclear fusion is expected to have many advantages over fission. These include reduced radioactivity in operation and little high-level nuclear waste, ample fuel supplies, and increased safety. However, the necessary combination of temperature, pressure, and duration has proven to be difficult to produce in a practical and economical manner. A second issue that affects common reactions is managing neutrons that are released during the reaction, which over time degrade many common materials used within the reaction chamber.

Fusion researchers have investigated various confinement concepts. The early emphasis was on three main systems: z-pinchstellarator, and magnetic mirror. The current leading designs are the tokamak and inertial confinement (ICF) by laser. Both designs are under research at very large scales, most notably the ITER tokamak in France, and the National Ignition Facility (NIF) laser in the United States. Researchers are also studying other designs that may offer cheaper approaches. Among these alternatives, there is increasing interest in magnetized target fusion and inertial electrostatic confinement, and new variations of the stellarator. (wikipedia)


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