Satellite engineers know what every photographer knows: get close to your subject to get better pictures. Not just visible light pictures, but all across the spectrum. The lower altitude also improves things like radar, lidar, communications, and gps.
But when your subject is Earth, and Earth is surrounded by an atmosphere, getting closer is a delicate dance with physics. The closer a satellite gets to Earth, the more atmospheric drag it encounters. And that can mean an unscheduled plummet to destruction for Earth-Observing (EO) satellites.
Continue reading “Earth Observation Satellites Could be Flown Much Lower than Current Altitudes and Do Better Science”
The United States and Russia/USSR have been adversaries for a long time. Their heated rivarly stretches back to the waning days of WW2, when the enormous Red Army was occupying large swathes of eastern Europe, and the allies recognized the inherent threat.
The Cold War followed, when the two nations aimed an absurd number of nuclear warheads at each other. Then came the Space Race, when both nations vied for the prestige of making it to the Moon.
The US won that race, but the rivalry didn’t cool down.
Continue reading “Russia Just Tested an Anti-Satellite Weapon”
Like all other technologies, satellite technology has grown in leaps and bounds in the past couple decades. Satellites can monitor Earth in increasingly high resolutions, aiding everything from storm forecasting, to climate change monitoring, to predicting crop harvests. But there’s one thing still holding satellites back: altitude.
Continue reading “This is What an Air-Breathing Electric Thruster’s Intake Would Look Like”
Landsat 8 strikes again.
Landsat 8 is the United States Geological Survey’s most recently launched satellite, and it holds the powerful Operational Land Imager (OLI.) The OLI is a powerful multi-spectral imager with a wide dynamic range.
The OLI does a great job of keeping an eye on Earth, and now its captured images of winds in Namibia picking dust up and carrying it out over the Atlantic Ocean.
Continue reading “Dust Seen Streaming Out of Namibia Into the Atlantic Ocean”
Dust plumes are a natural phenomena, part of Earth’s nutrient cycle. They occur when high-velocity winds pick up tiny dry particles from the Earth’s surface and carry them long distances. Every summer, dust plumes from Africa’s Sahara desert travel across the Atlantic Ocean.
They’re usually not this big, and they often sink into the ocean. But this one’s coming right to America.
Continue reading “Watch the Incredible Plume of Dust from Africa Cross the Entire Atlantic Ocean”
Solar power has become a focal point of the battle to mitigate climate change. The potential of solar power is massive – Earth receives as much solar energy in an hour as all of humanity uses in a year. Even with that much energy hitting the Earth, it is only a tiny fraction of the sun’s overall output. Some of that other solar energy hits other planets, but most is just lost to the void of deep space.
There are a number of groups that are leveraging various technologies to capture some of that lost energy. One of the most common technologies being pursued is the idea of the power satellite. Recently, one of those groups at America’s Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) hit a milestone in the development of power satellite technology by launching their Photovoltaic RF Antenna Module (PRAM) test satellite.
Continue reading “The Navy is Testing Beaming Solar Power in Space”
One of the most fascinating things about planet Earth is the way that life shapes the Earth and the Earth shapes life. We only have to look back to the Great Oxygenation Event (GOE) of 2.4 billion years ago to see how lifeforms have shaped the Earth. In that event, phytoplanktons called cyanobacteria pumped the atmosphere with oxygen, extinguishing most life on Earth, and paving the way for the development of multicellular life.
Early Earth satisfied the initial conditions for life to appear, and now, lifeforms shape the atmosphere, the landscape, and the oceans in many different ways.
At the base of many of these changes is phytoplankton.
Continue reading “New Data Show How Phytoplankton Pumps Carbon Out of the Atmosphere at an Enormous Scale”
Ten months in space!
The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 spacecraft just reached that milestone. And the fine folks at the Society have released a bunch of new pictures from the spacecraft. Ten of them, in fact. One for each successful month.
Continue reading “New Photos From LightSail 2”
Last week, the Satellite 2020 Conference & Exhibition wrapped up after four days of presentations and addresses from some of the leading experts in the telecommunications industry. As advertised, SpaceX founder Elon Musk was on hand to deliver a keynote speech in which he announced that (contrary to earlier statements) Starlink will not be spun off and become its own business enterprise.
Continue reading “Elon Musk says that SpaceX Has no Plans to Spin Off Starlink”
Rejoice! If you’ve missed your daily fix of seeing views of our rotating Earth from space, NOAA announced that its Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) is now back in action. The deep space satellite, which produces incredible full-disk images of our Blue Marble, has been offline since June 27, 2019 because of a problem with the spacecraft’s attitude control system. But NOAA and NASA engineers developed and uploaded a software patch to restore DSCOVR’s operations.
Continue reading “Phew, Earth-Watching DSCOVR is Operational Again”