USAF F-22 Raptor

“Unmanned space” guys take note: Unmanned air vehicles are now being escorted by manned fighters.

The Aviationist reports:

Earlier this year… an IRIAF (Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force) F-4 Phantom combat plane attempted to intercept a U.S. MQ-1 drone flying in international airspace off Iran…. After this attempted interception the Pentagon decided to escort the drones involved in ISR (intelligence surveillance reconnaissance) missions with fighter jets (either F-18 Hornets with the CVW 9 embarked on the USS John C. Stennis… or F-22 Raptors like those deployed to Al Dhafra in the UAE.

This is significant to space because UAVs are often cited as proof that human flight crews are becoming obsolete. The military, however, is now realizing that UAVs cannot do every job.

The fact is, many jobs can be more easily accomplished by humans and machines, working together, than by machines alone. This is true in space as well as aviation.

As an interesting side note, the US military once considered having manned spacecraft fly escort for high-value satellites (anti-ASAT missions) during times of crisis.

The DARPA Space Cruiser (also called the High-Performance Spaceplane) was a 1980’s concept for a one-man spacecraft that could be launched by the Space Shuttle or an expendable rocket. Using its own propulsion system or a Centaur upper stage, the Space Cruiser could accomplish a variety of missions in cis-lunar space. Proposed missions included satellite inspection and repair, reconnaissance, space control, and the aforementioned anti-antisatellite missions.

DARPA Space Cruiser

Written by Astro1 on October 27th, 2013 , Military Space, Space Exploration (General), Space History Tags:

Renowned oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle gives this defense of ocean exploration. The space community should also pay attention.

Dr. Earle is the former chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and currently explorer in residence at the National Geographic Society. She has led more than 60 research expeditions and spent over 7,000 hours underwater. Dr. Earle has set women’s depth records in a hard-shell diving suit (1,250 feet) and a submersible (3,300 feet), as well as leading a team of female researchers during an extended underwater stay in the Tektite II habitat in 1970.

No one denies that Sylvia Earle is an explorer.

Yet, there are people in the space community who insist that astronauts (especially citizen astronauts) are not explorers. Ben McGee discussed this in his recent treatise. “Particularly amongst the old guard of space science,” McGee says, “‘exploration’ is reserved for those pushing the frontier in higher orbits, cislunar space, trips to near-Earth asteroids, Mars, and beyond.” In other words, almost no one.

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Written by Astro1 on August 20th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration Tags:

[Note: Somehow, this article was accidentally posted under June, even though it’s really from August. Because several people have already linked to it, we’ve left a copy at this location, as well as the correct location here.]

Renowned oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle gives this defense of ocean exploration. The space community should also pay attention.

Dr. Earle is the former chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and currently explorer in residence at the National Geographic Society. She has led more than 60 research expeditions and spent over 7,000 hours underwater. Dr. Earle has set women’s depth records in a hard-shell diving suit (1,250 feet) and a submersible (3,300 feet), as well as leading a team of female researchers during an extended underwater stay in the Tektite II habitat in 1970.

No one denies that Sylvia Earle is an explorer.

Yet, there are people in the space community who insist that astronauts (especially citizen astronauts) are not explorers. Ben McGee discussed this in his recent treatise. “Particularly amongst the old guard of space science,” McGee says, “‘exploration’ is reserved for those pushing the frontier in higher orbits, cislunar space, trips to near-Earth asteroids, Mars, and beyond.” In other words, almost no one.

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Written by Astro1 on June 22nd, 2013 , Citizen Exploration, Uncategorized Tags:

The failure of multiple experiments on the Russian Bion M biosatellite mission shows the limitations of automation.

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Written by Astro1 on May 21st, 2013 , Astrobiology, Space Policy and Management Tags:

US Air Force Academy FalconSAT-7 space telescope CubeSat tested aboard microgravity aircraft "G Force One"

Here’s another example showing the utility of human-tended experiments on parabolic flights for technology development. This time, it’s low-cost CubeSat hardware.

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Written by Astro1 on January 16th, 2013 , Innovation, Nanosatellites Tags:

NASA Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) asteroid sample return mission

The OSIRS-REx mission, developed by the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and Lockheed Martin Space Systems, is scheduled for launch in 2016.

This asteroid sample-return mission is interesting for a number of reasons. OSIRIS-REx stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Regolith Explorer. This marks the first time that resource prospecting and planetary defense have been prominently highlighted, along with science, as part of a NASA unmanned space mission. This should become the standsard model for all future missions.

Also interesting is the way OSIRIS-REx team members have tested their experiments in a low-gravity environment.

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Written by Astro1 on January 15th, 2013 , Planetary Defense, Space Policy and Management Tags:

NASA Mars Science Rover Curiosity bright object

Imagine, a field geologist finds a scrap of foil – part of a candy wrapper, perhaps – that has slipped out of his pocket.

He then becomes distracted and spends an entire day examining the foil, instead of actual geology.

He’d probably be fired in short order.

That’s just what NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity did earlier this week, and no one has commented on it. For a $2.6 billion robot, it’s not a firing offense. It’s standard operating procedure.

Just something to keep in mind the next time someone says robots are more efficient than humans.

Written by Astro1 on October 11th, 2012 , Space Policy and Management Tags:

Planetary Resources has shown a roadmap for its future missions. Not surprisingly, the near-term missions are much better defined. Details on the final phase (asteroid mining) are hard to come by. That’s not surprising at this point. As Planetary Resources says, “Recovery and processing of materials… will occur through significant research and development.”

Yet, they’ve apparently determined one detail already. At yesterday’s press conference, it was stated that all of their projects (presumably including the mining phase) would be robotic. That’s not unexpected given the technical team. Chris Lewicki and Cris Voorhees come from the robots uber ulles branch of space science. If they’re successful, capturing and moving an asteroid would be the largest single project ever undertaken entirely by robotics. It remains to be seen whether that’s possible or whether Planetary Resources will ultimately change its plans and accept the need to have humans onsite for supervision and troubleshooting. There’s still plenty of time for mid-course corrections, of course, since any asteroid capture is years away.

Planetary Resources robot captures water-rich asteroid

 

Written by Astro1 on April 25th, 2012 , Planetary Resources Tags: ,

Dr. Ian Crawford, Reader in Planetary Science and Astrobiology at Birkbeck College London, has published a paper that seeks to dispel the myth that robots are more efficient than humans for conducting space science.  The paper, published in Astronomy and Geophysics, is available for PDF download here.

Dr. Crawford says, “There is a widely held view in the astronomical community that unmanned robotic space vehicles are, and will always be, more efficient explorers of planetary surfaces than astronauts. Partly this is due to a common assumption that robotic exploration is cheaper than human exploration (although, as we shall see, this isn’t necessarily true if like is compared with like).”

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Written by Astro1 on April 9th, 2012 , Space Exploration (General) Tags:

“Unmanned” space supporters would have us believe that humans are obsolete and space should be the exclusive domain of robots, but an incident that occurred a few years ago shows why humans (especially pilots) are not yet obsolete. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Astro1 on March 26th, 2012 , Space Medicine and Safety Tags:
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