0

We’ve all thought of building a world from scratch. University of Chicago’s ExoTerra Imagination Lab is doing it

Posted on

CHICAGO — Picture this scenario: Lifespans are now approximately 115 years. And you have slept for 70 years on a starship with 1,999 travelers to get to a new world — a terraformed planet that will become humanity’s new home.

Welcome to the role-playing game that is ExoTerra Imagination Lab. The idea of Ada Palmer, a University of Chicago associate professor of history, ExoTerra is a way for students, faculty, alumni, gamers and sci-fi/fantasy fans around the globe to connect in pandemic times, Palmer said.

The year is 2412 and you’ve reached a new star system called Abaia, 64 1/2 light years from Earth, and you and other colony colleagues must design the new world from top to bottom — cities, laws and which animals to release into the new ecosystem. As the first wave of explorers, you and your fellow travelers must design a civilization that will welcome the 80,000 future colony members who left Earth 30 years ago and are in suspended animation.

The Earth you left behind in 2301 was still thriving, but its people were hard-pressed to fix the global flaws from humanity’s past. The ExoTerra mission’s goal is to build a better world for colonists.

“UChicago is creating this for the pandemic — to give students something that is exciting and community building,” Palmer said.

Another goal of the project: to be a space for exploring the important problems of our world and propose solutions to them in a way that’s not connected to current politics — from schools to incarceration. The project is in the tradition of “speculative resistance,” Palmer said, a kind of science fiction that focuses on other ways the world could be by using imagined places.

According to Ben Indeglia, Palmer’s lead lab assistant, 500 students and 100 volunteers signed up

0

ExoTerra to develop upper stage for Virgin Orbit LauncherOne

Posted on

SAN FRANCISCO – Colorado startup ExoTerra Resources announced a NASA Small Business Innovative Research contract Oct. 5 to develop a solar electric upper stage to boost small satellites traveling on Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne beyond low Earth orbit.

With ExoTerra’s Solar Electric Propulsion Upper Stage, LauncherOne customers could reach destinations including geostationary orbit, trans-lunar injection orbit, Earth-Moon Lagrange points and low lunar orbit, according to the ExoTerra news release.

“This win allows ExoTerra to begin development of an upper stage that will deliver up to 150 kilograms of payload to the moon,” according to the news release. The upper stage also could transport 180-kilogram payloads to geostationary orbit, the release added.

Virgin Orbit announced plans in 2019 to send small satellites to Mars in 2022 for Polish satellite manufacturer SatRevolution.

“That announcement definitely has attracted the interest of many others in the growing aerospace community,” a Virgin Orbit spokesman said by email.

Virgin Orbit sees “robust demand from customers” eager to travel on LauncherOne to destinations including highly elliptical orbit, geostationary orbit “and even to the moon, Mars, Venus and the asteroid belt,” the Virgin Orbit spokesman said. “Thanks to the ingenuity of the small satellite community, many groups have found ways to do really meaningful missions at each of those destinations using the amount of mass that we can confidently deliver using a stock LauncherOne complemented by a third stage.”

The new upper stage will be propelled by Halo XL, an ExoTerra Hall-effect thruster. The thruster draws on technology ExoTerra licensed from a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory program called Ascendant Sub-kW Transcelestial Electric Propulsion System or ASTRAEUS.

“This contract win is an important milestone for ExoTerra and aligns with our goal of developing high efficiency propulsion systems to support lunar and interplanetary missions,” Michael VanWoerkom, ExoTerra president and CEO, said