Daily Roundup: Astrium Spacecraft Mass Production, Saturn’s Rings and Quantum Communications

Astriums new concept for space tourism. Image credit: Astrium/Marc Newson. Source: BBC

It looks like things are really beginning to develop for the space tourism era. European rocket manufacturer Astrium has announced plans to develop the next generation of small space planes capable of sending 5 people into space. This design is different from the rest as it will take-off and land conventionally and will use jets for atmospheric flight but blast into space with a powerful oxygen-methane rocket. The promo video is also pretty exciting, documenting the two hour flight by means of a simulation…

In other news, Saturn’s tilt will obscure the planets rings from Earth’s view in 2009, allowing us to see the rings side-on. Apparently Galileo first saw this phenomenon in 1612 and stopped observing the planet. This is however a mistake as the lack of bright rings gives observers a superb chance to see the icy moons otherwise obscured from sight.

Finally, quantum communications took a bold step forward as Italian scientists fired pulses of laser light at an orbiting satellite. Very few photons are reflected, in fact, so few that on average, less than one encoded photon is received. This is the criteria for quantum communications… not quite quantum entanglement, but a big step in the right direction…

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