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NASA Announces New Partnerships for Commercial Lunar Payload Delivery

Nine U.S. companies now are eligible to bid on NASA delivery services to the lunar surface through Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts, as one of the first steps toward long-term scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and eventually Mars.

*Original Publication: NASA.GOV

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Nine U.S. companies now are eligible to bid on NASA delivery services to the lunar surface through Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts, as one of the first steps toward long-term scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and eventually Mars.

These companies will be able to bid on delivering science and technology payloads for NASA, including payload integration and operations, launching from Earth and landing on the surface of the Moon. NASA expects to be one of many customers that will use these commercial landing services.

“Today’s announcement marks tangible progress in America’s return to the Moon’s surface to stay,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “The innovation of America’s aerospace companies, wedded with our big goals in science and human exploration, are going to help us achieve amazing things on the Moon and feed forward to Mars.”

The selected companies are:

Astrobotic Technology, Inc.: Pittsburgh

Deep Space Systems: Littleton, Colorado

Draper: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Firefly Aerospace, Inc.: Cedar Park, Texas

Intuitive Machines, LLC: Houston

Lockheed Martin Space: Littleton, Colorado

Masten Space Systems, Inc.: Mojave, California

Moon Express: Cape Canaveral, Florida

Orbit Beyond: Edison, New Jersey

Image Gallery: Draft lander concepts from companies selected for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program.

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) initiated the request for proposals leading to these selections as the first step in achieving a variety of science and technology objectives that could be addressed by regularly sending instruments, experiments and other small payloads to the Moon. SMD serves as the NASA interface between the agency’s mission directorates, the scientific community, and other external stakeholders in developing a strategy to enable an integrated approach for robotic and human exploration within NASA’s Moon to Mars Exploration Campaign.

The Commercial Lunar Payload Services contracts are indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts with a combined maximum contract value of $2.6 billion during the next 10 years. The agency will look at a number of factors when comparing the bids, such as technical feasibility, price and schedule.

Lunar payloads could fly on these contracted missions as early as 2019. In October, NASA issued a call for potential lunar instruments and technologies to study the Moon, with proposals due in January. These early missions will enable important technology demonstrations that will inform the development of future landers and other exploration systems needed for humans to return to the lunar surface, and help prepare the agency to send astronauts to explore Mars.

NASA will re-examine the private market periodically for new and emerging lunar delivery capabilities, and may offer additional companies an opportunity to join Commercial Lunar Payload Services through a contract process called on-ramping.

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From Plasma to LCD, and LED to touchscreen, the display screen technology has come a long way in the past two decades. Undoubtedly, mainstream companies such as Nokia, Samsung and Apple have contributed a lot towards innovative technologies to enhance the user experience. Not to forget, the invention of active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) displays in 2008 that is acting as the basis for next-gen devices. Building upon this technology, Samsung and LG rolled out their curved-screen smartphones in 2014. This launch has fuelled Samsung’s ambitions to release infold, outfold, rollable and stretchable AMOLED displays. Notably, Apple has patented designs of rollable smartphone which folds like an ancient scroll.

Let’s dive a little deeper into the flexible screen technology, which seems to conquer the future soon.

Flexible Display Technology...

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Literally, a flexible display screen is an electronic visual display which is movable in nature. This is a type of OLED that has a flexible plastic substrate on which the electroluminescent organic semiconductor is deposited. Or, in layman’s language, a flexible screen is a display made up of flexible materials like plastic instead of traditional rigid glass. Unlike the prevalent traditional flat-screen displays that are used in the majority of electronic devices, the flexible screens will be bendable.

Advantages...

Better longevity: As these displays will be made out of plastic, they might offer more longevity as compared to the traditional glass.

Lightweight: As it is a known fact that plastic is lighter than glass, flexible display screens will be definitely lighter than the traditional glass displays.

Leaner dimensions: The flexible display screens have the capability to be manufactured in thinner dimensions and different shapes unlike the traditional rectangular screen.

Unbreakable: There might be a possibility to incorporate unbreakable plastic into the flexible display screens.

Disadvantages...

Inflexibility of circuit board: There are a lot of things going on with a flexible display. There are many different materials – conductors, semiconductors, insulators, substrates – that can be combined into a very thin film.

Less reliable: As there is a flexible plastic substrate on which the electroluminescent organic semiconductor is deposited, there might be incidents of accumulation of screen diodes on the foldable portion of the screen after a long span of wear and tear.

More...

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The flexible smartphones by Samsung, including Galaxy X or Galaxy F, will feature two inside panels with the foldable technology and one outside panel. On being unfolded, it will have a 7.3-inch screen. Also, the technology giant plans to roll it out at a cost ranging from $1850 to $2000. Apart from Samsung, Huawei is also rumoured to be launching smartphones with flexible screens in early 2019. Moreover, the company is said to launch these smartphones with flexible screens at a competitive price, thus giving an edge to Samsung.

While a lot of talking has been done about flexible display screens, those with a soft corner for technology can’t wait for long to bend and stretch their smartphones or have a laptop-like experience on their mobile devices!

Imagine travelling inside an ultra-fast, direct and emission-free capsule at the speed of sound and reaching your desired destination in just a matter of few minutes. Well, this can be a reality in the near future. With the current scenario where one gets stuck up in traffic delays on a daily basis, there is a need for a mode of transportation which helps you reach all the far away destinations in a short time. 

What is Hyperloop?

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Here is the concept of the Hyperloop, which may be the swiftiest way to travel on the surface of the earth. Moreover, Hyperloop can be the biggest leap in transportation infrastructure. In this concept mode of transportation, passengers will be sitting in small pods which will travel at airline speeds through pressurised tubes using electric propulsion and magnetic levitation. This extraordinary concept is on the verge of becoming a reality.

Origin

Hyperloop was first conceived in 2012 by Tesla and SpaceX founder, Elon Musk, who in the same year openly released a document which set out his vision of futuristic high speed transporting mechanism that would help in transporting passenger pods swiftly pass through a half vacuum in steel tunnels, depicting the two major things that reduce the speed of current vehicles, friction and air resistance.

Progress

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From beginning, Musk had always retained his statement that the prototype of hyperloop would be “open source” and he openly motivated others to get united and develop the necessary technology, independently from his involvement. This has resulted to the creation of many startups and learners have created teams for the purpose of developing different prospective of hyperloop technology with different degrees of success. Now, many big companies are making huge leaps to get hyperloop systems to fruition.

The Virgin Hyperloop One company has made huge developments as compared to other companies

This Company is on a track to achieve their bold ambition of bringing a hyperloop mechanism into operation by 2021. However, their project is slightly from Musk’s original plan.

Virgin Hyperloop One’s technology brings together two basic ideas:

• Magnetic Levitation: Magnetic levitation uses two sets of magnets; one to repel the train from the rail track and levitate it upwards and the other to shift the floating train along the rail track at great speed with decreased friction.

• Vacuum: The tubes will be having a closed atmosphere for the passenger pods to shift through. With removal of most of the air from the tunnels and making zero contact with the surface, the pods face no opposite force as they shift. Hence, the air pressures inside the tube are equivalent to flying in the sky. Being in a tunnel, the whole system is protected from all external calamities.

Success

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Virgin Hyperloop One have carried out several tests focusing on singular aspects of the system and a complete full-scale system test in May 2017. The propulsion, braking, levitation and vacuum systems are all performing well and the team have achieved a top speed of over 240 mph to date.

Where are hyper loops being built?

The 10 hyperloop projects across five countries are listed below:

• Canada - Toronto-Montreal

• US - Chicago-Columbus-Pittsburgh

• US - Cheyenne-Denver-Pueblo

• US - Miami-Orlando

• US - Dallas-Laredo-Houston

• Mexico - Mexico City-Guadalajara

• UK - Glasgow-Liverpool

• UK - Edinburgh-London

• India - Mumbai-Chennai

• India - Bengaluru-Chennai

How is Hyperloop better than other current modes of transportation?

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Accessibility: Like train stations, hyperloop stations, called portals, are planned to be located within inner-city areas with easy links to existing transport infrastructure. This will be beneficial for hyperloop systems as compared to air travel, as airports are located far away from city centers. Moreover, the system is being designed with “turn up and go” principle.

Speed: If hyperloop can decrease the travel duration between cities, this will allow people to live in other parts of the city or even country.

Clean energy: A hyperloop system requires minimal power to propel pods through its tubes as the vacuum environment poses little obstruction. The systems could be powered by renewable energies such as solar and wind, offering a much effective and cleaner alternative to air travel.

Safe: The tubes will be made using thick steel and will be designed to bear changes in pressure and air leaks while keeping their structural integrity in place and stopping it from external calamities or earthquake. Moreover, hyperloop systems will be constructed on designed pylons which are elevated seismically and are able to move and move independently of one another reducing damage in the event of a major ground shift. Sensors fixed along the route would swiftly report issues to the system control centre.

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