Chinese aerospace firm Space Transportation said it’s developing a combination aircraft and winged rocket that will eventually be used for space tourism. The aircraft will also be used as a supersonic business jet that can link any two points on Earth, reports Space.com. The company said that a flight from Beijing to New York would only take an hour.
A CGI presentation on Space Transportation’s website shows passengers boarding a plane that is attached to a glider wing with two rocket boosters. The airplane then detaches from the wing after takeoff and flies through suborbital space. The wing and boosters then land back on the launch pad, while the aircraft proceeds to its destination, landing vertically.
A spokesperson told Chinese media that the winged rocket will have lower operational costs than “rockets carrying satellites and be faster than a traditional aircraft.” SpaceX introduced a similar concept in 2017 called “Earth to Earth,” which had been repurposed from its “BFR,” originally conceived to transport passengers to Mars. Earth to Earth was designed as city-to-city passenger transport using Starship rockets. The company hasn’t released any details about the concept since then.
The aircraft (center) is connected to a paraglider with two boosters. After launch, the pieces separate and the boosters return to the launchpad while the aircraft continues in suborbital space. Courtesy Space Transportation
Virgin Galactic last summer launched CEO Sir Richard Branson on an 11-minute suborbital flight, officially introducing the space-tourism industry to the general public. A Virgin Galactic executive told Robb Report that space tourism would be the company’s initial focus, but he also foresaw a time when the fixed-wing aircraft would serve as a supersonic commuter.
Space Transportation said last August it had raised $46.3 million for its supersonic space plane, which it claims will travel at about 2,600 mph. The company also said it had recently conducted successful test flights on rockets, called Tianxing 1 and Tianxing 2, but it did not provide information about the tests.
Space Transportation plans to conduct ground tests by 2023 before carrying out its first test flight in 2024. If development proceeds on track, it would have a crewed test flight in 2025.
These structures, which are also called radio filaments, pop out of the galactic center in long, thin tendrils that expand up to 150 light-years long or nearly 40 times the distance between Earth and the closest next-door star system, Proxima Centauri.
According to two upcoming studies endorsed to the Astrophysical Journal and the Astrophysical Journal Letters, some of the filaments come in pairs or clusters while others appear like the strings of a harp in equally-spaced sets. All of them flare with energy which is likely produced by billions of electrons bouncing through a magnetic field at near-lightspeed.
Although scientists have noted that such filaments exist around the galactic center for many decades, this new set of high-definition observations from the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa shows that there are 10 times more of the elongated structures than earlier thought. Studying the strange structures in bulk could assist researchers to completely unravel what these filaments are and how they were created.
“Just examining a few filaments makes it difficult to draw any real conclusion about what they are and where they came from,” said study lead author Farhad Yusef-Zadeh, who is also a professor of physics and astronomy at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
Center of the Milky Way is crowded with baffling objects
“Now, we finally see the big picture – a panoramic view filled with an abundance of filaments. This is a watershed in furthering our understanding of these structures.”
The center of the Milky Way is crowded with baffling objects that are too covered by gas and dust to properly study with visible light wavelengths. But by focusing on the energetic radio waves radiating from the galactic center, astronomers can catch a glimpse of some of the forceful structures and interactions happening there. (Related news: Milky Way galaxy likely teeming with Earth-like planets, study suggests.)
Using the MeerKAT radio telescope, which is an array of 64 antennas in the Northern Cape province of South Africa, the researchers of the new studies examined the galactic center’s radio activity for 200 hours, stretched over three years. From these investigations, the researchers put together a mosaic of 20 separate observations, each focusing on a distinct section of the radio sky.
It is also the most sensitive telescope of its kind and is a forerunner to the Square Kilometer Array radio telescope, which will be constructed in South Africa and Australia within the next decade.
The resulting panorama captures numerous known sources of radio waves such as bright supernova remnants and the gassy regions of space where new stars are sparkling to life, including the mysterious fingerprints of nearly 1,000 radio filaments.
Filaments produced by cosmic rays
According to Yusef-Zadeh, who was the first to find the highly organized, magnetic filaments in the early 1980s, the finger-like filaments are produced by cosmic rays – a form of high-energy radiation that originate from outside the solar system. Previous studies have shown that something hiding at the center of the Milky Way works as a giant particle accelerator, continually firing cosmic rays outward into space even though the source of these rays is still a mystery.
One evidence might be the gigantic pair of radio bubbles blowing out from the galactic center, one rising above the galactic plane and the other descending below it. Found in a prior MeerKAT survey, each bubble of radio energy exceeds roughly 25,000 light-years high and was likely made by an ancient explosion from the central black hole of the galaxy.
Many of the newly detected radio filaments, according to the researchers of the new studies, descend within the cavities of these massive bubbles and it is possible that the strand-like filaments were made by the same ancient burst of black hole activity that bloated the radio bubbles millions of years ago.
“We still don’t know why they come in clusters or understand how [the filaments] separate, and we don’t know how these regular spacings happen,” Yusef-Zadeh said. “Every time we answer one question, multiple other questions arise.”
The researchers added that future radio surveys of the region will concentrate on whether the filaments are moving or changing position over time.
As secretive unit operating within the U.S. Department of Defense that is charged with investigating unidentified flying objects (UFOs) will make some of its findings public after it was revealed that the Pentagon has been recently briefed about “off-world vehicles not made on this earth.”
The once-covert UFO unit, which operates within the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence, will soon begin giving regular biannual updates on its research to the U.S. Senate’s Intelligence Committee, reports The New York Times.
The Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force was formed in 2019 for the purpose of studying strange and inexplicable encounters between U.S. military pilots and unidentified aerial vehicles or UFOs in a bid “to standardize collection and reporting” of the various sightings.
The program is the successor to the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which also investigated UFOs but was dissolved in 2017 due to a lapse of funding. However, the team working on that program continued its work alongside the intelligence community even after it was officially disbanded.
Luis Elizondo, a former military intelligence official who headed the Pentagon program, resigned in October 2017 after a decade with the program. Elizondo, along with a group of former government scientists and officials, remain convinced that objects of unkown origin have crashed on Earth and that these apparently extraterrestrial materials have been the focus of research.
“It no longer has to hide in the shadows,” Elizondo told the Times. “It will have a new transparency.”
Former Senate majority leader and retired Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), who led the push to fund the earlier UFO program, also believes that the studies should see the light of day.
“After looking into this, I came to the conclusion that there were reports — some were substantive, some not so substantive — that there were actual materials that the government and the private sector had in their possession,” Reid said.
So far, none of the alleged crash artifacts have been subject to public scrutiny or verification by independent researchers. However, some of the retrieved objects such as strange metallic debris were identified as being manmade – raising the possibility that they could be related to the military of U.S. rivals such as China or Russia.
However, astrophysicist Eric Davis – who served as an advisor for the Pentagon program since 2007 – said that he had briefed the Pentagon in March about material retrieved from “off-world vehicles not made on this earth.”
The Department of Defense subcontractor also said that he had concluded that the objects found were of the type “we couldn’t make … ourselves.”
In an interview last month, President Donald Trump told his son Donald Trump Jr. that he had heard some “interesting” things about supposed aliens as well as the secretive Area 51 base near Roswell, New Mexico, that some theorists claim is a UFO crash site.
The U.S. government has been increasingly open in its discussions of UFOs since last September, when U.S. Navy admitted that widely-circulated video footage captured by Navy pilots that purportedly showed UFOs flying through the skies did depict actual “unknown” objects that flew into U.S. airspace.
While officials admitted that they have been baffled by the unknown flying objects, they also admit that past encounters with them have been frequent. They also said that rather than calling them “UFOs,” they prefer the term unidentified aerial phenomena or UAPs.
While it remains yet to be seen what information the once-secret UFO unit plans to lay out for lawmakers, acting intelligence committee chairman Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is intent on finding out who or what precisely is behind the apparent UFO activity over U.S. military bases.
“We have things flying over our military bases and places where we are conducting military exercises and we don’t know what it is — and it isn’t ours,” Rubio told CBS Miami in an interview last Friday.
“Frankly, that if it’s something from outside this planet — that might actually be better than the fact that we’ve seen some technological leap on behalf of the Chinese or the Russians or some other adversary that allows them to conduct this sort of activity,” the hawkish senator added.
For Reid, further transparency is needed.
“It is extremely important that information about the discovery of physical materials or retrieved craft come out,” he said.
The US military’s mystery space plane rocketed into orbit again Sunday, this time with an extra load of science experiments, the AP reports. It’s the sixth flight of an X-37B, a solar-powered plane that’s flown by remote control without a crew. Officials aren’t saying how long the spacecraft will remain in orbit this time or the purpose of the mission. The previous mission lasted a record two years, with a touchdown shrouded in darkness at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center last year. The winged spacecraft resembles NASA’s old shuttles, but is considerably smaller at 29 feet long. The one just launched features an extra compartment for experiments, including several for NASA. The Air Force has two of these reusable space planes.
Since the first flight in 2010, the space planes had logged a combined 2,865 days in orbit as of Sunday. Delayed a day by bad weather, this marks just the second rocket launch for the newly established Space Force. In March, it hoisted a national security satellite. United Launch Alliance, which provided the Atlas V rocket, dedicated Sunday’s launch to the health care workers and others who are working on the front lines of the pandemic. The company said it followed health advice for the launch. Many of the flight controllers wore masks and were spread out. Before dawn Monday, SpaceX will attempt to launch another batch of its Starlink satellites for global internet service. It will be SpaceX’s last flight before its first astronaut launch, scheduled for May 27 from next-door Kennedy Space Center.
Opposition also continues to increase – from a growing list of respected sources – regarding satellites and similar vehicles being launched into the sky and space (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,7. 8, 9, 10). Regardless, it continues.
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