Technology

Experience the next generation of Space Tech in the “Kerbal Space Program”


You lose the most games Its importance after a few years, but the independent rocket building game kirbal satellite program is slightly different. It’s a 10-year-old cheat game with a cult following of programmers, engineers, astronaut candidates, and casual blast fans, and it has a unique and active community of mods who have fixed bugs, added new features, and generally kept the game fresh for nearly a decade.

In the game, you are the director of a space program consisting of literally young green men (and lovable little green woman Valentina Kerman – see you Pioneer) sending them up into the sky in a spacecraft of your own design. It often feels like you’re watching old, blurry videos of rockets going off only to fall right back into an explosion of fiery schadenfreude: you get a little scared, a little sadistic, and you really want to try it again.

Art imitates life

One of the most abundant Kirbal The mod is Chris Adderley, the Nertea in the game, who is an engineer at CAS الفضاء MDA Day in and day out designing terrestrial systems that retrieve data from spacecraft. But in his spare time, Adderley himself sits in the pilot’s seat. start playing kirbal satellite program Soon after its release, and in 2013 he began building his first modification of the game – a set of spare parts, including a xenon fuel tank and a magnetic gun (try saying that three times fast).

Since then, he has designed dozens of additional modifications, including the Mark IV space plane and space station add-ons such as centrifuges and inflatable habitats.

“I build things that I would like to see as beings built in the future,” Adderley says.

Recently, Addlerley decided to take some of the most plausible theoretical rocket engine concepts in the distant future and build them into the game – offering a way for players to experience this sci-fi. Concepts In a simulated environment that can teach us how they might actually work, on a more practical level, in the future.

Adderley has combed through dozens of scientific papers outlining theoretical blueprints for these ultra-sophisticated propulsion systems, in search of the most realistic ones.

“Everyone is trying to sell their business as the payment system for the future,” Adderley says. “You need to kind of think a little critically about what people have painted.”

He crunched the numbers, thinking about how much power a particular engine would need, how to deal with the heat generated, and how you could harness the energy to propel the hypothetical rocket even further. “That was very interesting, which might be a very strange statement, but you know.”

In the end, he built 13 different engine concepts, including fusion engines – like ExtensionEpstein’s engine is assumed to be the engines of fission and antimatter rockets.

Although we don’t yet have the technology to execute these specific impulse demons, there is some real world value in being able to simulate advanced engines in a low-risk environment. In fact, it’s a great sandbox where engineers at SpaceX and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have used Kerbal’s graphics in their presentations. in 2018, NASA released Open MCT M, a telemetry data visualization program designed to operate spacecraft, is publicly available on Github. Testing these systems on a real spacecraft is expensive and time-consuming, so some participants have run their software through Kerbal instead.

For Sumontro Sinha, an aerospace engineer and fusion researcher at the University of Alabama’s Propulsion Research Laboratory in Huntsville, Kerbal is the starting point for testing new ideas and training new engineers.

“Instead of Powerpoint slides and equation pages, just build the ship and see how it works,” he says. “If she succeeds at Kerbal, she has a good chance of working in real life.”

donut power

The tokamak ball fusion motor Based on a fantasy spaceship in 2001: space flight, Sans Dave Killer Ai. Adderley found the real science behind it NASA studyThe paper’s lead author, Craig Williams, says that NASA has funded a number of projects focused on developing advanced propulsion systems. Williams’ team designed an engine that uses the energy from a fusion reaction to generate thrust. Fusion occurs naturally in the interiors of stars like our sun, where lightweight atoms are heated to the point where their electrons and neutrons separate and neutrons, which are usually repulsive to each other, fuse together and produce huge amounts of energy. One of the biggest challenges in producing this energy on Earth is that you need a way to confine the resulting plasma and harness its power.

One way to do this is to use a tokamak, a device that generates a doughnut-shaped magnetic field that keeps the superheated plasma in place. In a prototype Williams engine, this tokamak would be almost spherical — more like a donut hole. The resulting exhaust would propel the car to over 166,000 miles per hour, and transport passengers to Jupiter in less than 4 months. To put that in perspective, the Voyager deep space probe is traveling away from our solar system at 35,000 miles per hour.



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