News From Space: Canada’s Plans for 2014

canadarm2_chrishadfieldEarlier this month, Industry Minister James Moore announced that Canada’s new space plan will be made public in early in the new year. The announcement came on Monday Dec. 2nd at an aerospace forum in Montreal which also brought together leaders of Canada’s space industry. Emphasizing the achievements of Canada’s space industry, he also went on to claim that next year’s goals would reach beyond these traditional areas:

Our companies are leaders in optics, in robotics, radar imagery and satellite communications, but we will not stop at this success… The industry has spoken up, has worked collaboratively, has given the government advice on how to proceed (and) we’ve taken the advice and we’re putting it into action.

A background paper provided by Moore outlined the government’s strategic goals for its space activities, which include jobs and growth, sovereignty, security and the advancement of knowledge. Moore also told the space industry executives assembled that the government will examine all opportunities to work with the private sector and Canada’s international partners to encourage innovation in the country’s space activities.

Canadarm2_Steve_RobinsonFollowing up on the Emerson report’s recommendations, Moore announced various actions, including the establishment of a space advisory board composed of industry leaders and chaired by Walt Natynczyk, head of the Canadian Space Agency.

This framework will provide the foundation for the next phase of our government’s space program. It will be based on the principles of partnership with other countries and the private sector, catering to our strengths and inspiring Canadians.

The industry minister also said the government will double current support for its space technologies development program to $20 million annually by 2015-2016:

This will bring the kind of predictability and stability of funding that you asked for. And (it) will help develop more groundbreaking space technologies that Canadian space companies are so recognized for.

spacex-dragon-capsule-grabbed-by-iss-canadarm-640x424Beyond these stated objectives, its not quite clear what in store’s for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). After Hadfield’s high-profile tour as the mission commander aboard the ISS, it is safe to say that interest in this field is growing. And with our nation’s ongoing commitment to providing new robotic arms (aka. Canadarm’s) for the ISS, parts and technical workers and astronauts for manned missions, any increase in public interest is likely to have positive results.

What’s more, with the Obama government dedicated to pursuing some extremely ambitious objectives – towing an asteroid to Near-Earth Orbit, a manned mission to Mars, establishing an outpost on the Moon – it would seem obvious that one of their greatest colleagues in space exploration and research would want to get on board.

Source: cbc.ca

The Future is Here: The Electric Highway!

electric_carCharging electronic vehicles while they on the move is not a new idea. In fact, in Vancouver, BC, the entire public transit system runs on a series of electronic lines that power the buses. And in French cities, the entire tram system runs on a wireless system, one which is six million kilometers in length. In the former case, the buses are kept in contact with power lines overhead, while the latter uses metal bars running underneath.

Applying the same concept, Volvo has designed a new highway system in Sweden that will keep electric cars running on long-distance trips. Led by Mats Alaküla, researchers are looking at these types of “conductive charging,” both where vehicles would stay in continuous contact with the power supply. Both methods are being tested on the new system, which consists of a 400-meter track near Gothenburg.

volvo_highwayBehind the research is the assumption that an electric car’s batteries will not provide the required range for long-distance driving, especially where long-haul trucks are concerned. City driving is one thing, but in order for electric vehicles to expand beyond urban centers, bigger and better methods need to be devised.

Alaküla says the important part of the second system is “the pick-up” – i.e. the connector between the vehicle and the ground. Unlike trams that stay in a fixed position, this line needs to be able to compensate for cars and trucks changing lanes. He describes the set-up as an “industrial robot sitting upside down”, though it more akin to a robotic arm.

volvo_highway1The arm moves a meter each way to compensate for movement within the lane, and retracts when the driver changes lanes, redeploying once they’ve back on the track. As Alaküla describes it:

If you imagine two lanes, the power system would be in the right lane. The pick-up keeps in contact with the supply, until you keep moving sideways. Then, the truck will go to the battery. When you go back, it automatically identifies the track, and reconnects.

And for those who worry that electric tracks are going to make highways unsafe for pedestrians, Alaküla insisted that the system only electrifies sections of the track when vehicles pass at a certain speed. To electrocute yourself, a pedestrian would need to step out in front of a fast-moving vehicle, which would kind of render the whole thing moot!

electric-highwaySo far, trucks have been able to get up to speeds of 80 km/h (50 mph) on the Volvo stretch, and Alaküla expects the work to continue for another year before his team takes the concept to a full road. Eventually, he thinks the concept could be used for anything bigger than a motor-bike – from cars and buses to different types of trucks.

And they not alone in their research efforts. Volvo’s rival Scania are themselves testing technology based on inductive charging where the charge is transferred via an electromagnetic field and does not require physical contact. Between these three methods and other emerging technologies that seek to make highway driving “smart”, the future of long-distant driving is likely to become a much cleaner, more efficient affair.

Source: fastcoexist.com