This week on Txchnologist, we got a glimpse of the future of flight. First, we saw the next competitor for a personal consumer aircraft; an 18-propeller multirotor vehicle created by a German startup, which took it for a series of brief test flights last month. Then, is Elon Musk to Henry Ford as a spacecraft is to the personal car? It looks like the comparison might hold based on an article that examined what Musk’s private space travel company, SpaceX, has been doing in the realm of advanced manufacturing.
Now, we’re bringing you the science, technology and innovation news we’ve been following this week.
A singer brings the wine glass to his lips. Unleashing a sustained note directly into the side of the glass, the goblet’s walls begin shaking. If the tone is just right, it can trigger vibrations in the brittle material that eventually causes the glass to shatter.
The phenomenon is called resonance, when a transmitted sound wave’s frequency matches the natural frequency of a receiving material and causes it to oscillate.
Now picture a rocket lighting up. It turns out that the same acoustic phenomenon can happen inside the liquid-fueled engine as combustion occurs. The results, as one might imagine, are not good.
“The flame is the singer that can excite a tone, and combustion can couple with the acoustics of the rocket chamber,” says John Bennewitz, a University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) graduate student and Von Braun Propulsion Fellow. “The tone can eventually rip the whole engine apart.”
In a former Boeing 747 assembly plant within shouting distance of the Los Angeles International Airport, Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, is building a revolution.
Since the dawn of space flight, the industry has been dominated by large firms essentially writing their own paychecks. Only the biggest communications companies and national governments could afford launches costing hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s changing now, in large part because of SpaceX.
Among the fields in which moving even a small distance in the wrong direction can lead to disaster: surgery and robotic operations. With recent innovations like the da Vinci Surgical System, the latter is being deployed more and more to improve accuracy in the operating room.
And now, surgeons are starting to get a bit of robotic help from above—way above. The Canadian Space Agency’s robotic Canadarm boom and manipulator has been used for decades to snatch satellites and move astronauts around during spacewalks. Some of that same technology is now being applied for surgeries on Earth.