Building Blocks

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Emerging sci/tech can widen the scope and reduce the cost of space missions, and transform impossible dreams into feasible, realistic projects.

Summary

New developments in science and technology have a potential to significantly widen the scope and reduce the cost of space missions, and often to transform impossible dreams into feasible, realistic projects. Distributed manufacturing promises low-cost crowdsourced space hardware, personal robotics and LEGO Mindstorms-like building blocks allow citizens to cooperatively prototype advanced robotic systems, and next-generation garage-tech initiatives are lowering space access costs. Blockchain technology is developing new ways to fund and collaborate on ambitious space projects.

Further ahead, research projects on innovative next-generation space propulsion systems, from light-powered sails to new propulsion methods based on exotic physics, promise game-changing breakthroughs. We intend to play a role in the development of all emerging technologies for the space frontier.


Discussion

For those who don’t know, the plasma magnet sail is a type of magnetic sail invented by John Slough, which should be able to produce orders of magnitude more thrust than ion drives of similar power consumption. It has been tested in laboratory vacuum chambers, but not in space, which is important, since it relies on large-scale space plasma phenomena to work. The device itself is just a set of magnet coils and an RF power supply, which drive large ring currents in the surrounding plasma that generate a magnetic field which defects the solar wind. In principle, it could accelerate a spacecraft up to solar wind velocity of roughly 450km/s, and could create drag in the ionospheres or magnetospheres of planets to enter in capture orbits around them. This seems to be the most recent paper on the subject (http://erps.spacegrant.org/uploads/images/images/iepc_articledownload_1988-2007/2007index/IEPC-2007-015.pdf) If this technology can be miniaturized down to a cubesat level, (I think it can but it would take a PIC plasma simulation to be sure) a cubesat could accelerate to tens of kilometers per second in a few weeks, making it the fastest object ever launched by humans. Desired skill set: Electrical engineering, Cubesat design and construction, Space plasma modeling
Engineering Plants For Vertical Farms Feasibility Study Vertical farming with hydroponics offers a precise way to deliver scarce nutrients and water to plants in a way that uses more of the available space in an enclosed area. These features seem to make vertical hydroponic farming a perfect fit for space exploration. However, the technique is not suitable for every variety of plant. Staples like wheat and corn grow too tall to make efficient use of vertical space. I propose that we initiate a study on the feasibility of adapting plants, perhaps first focusing on wheat and corn, to the common parameters for vertical hydroponic farming. Imagine corn and wheat with full sized grains but short stocks and root systems. In practice this may involve selective breading or direct genetic modifications. If successful, this research could benefit future space explorers and provide immediate benefits to farmers here at home. Roles: Lead scientist, Lab Assistant


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