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DARPA moving forward with DRACO nuclear thermal engine

Early last month, DARPA issued an RFP for the next phase of their Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) nuclear thermal engine program. This follows on their selection, one year ago, of an early engine design by General Atomics and two spacecraft concepts from Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin. Now they’re moving on to the development and assembly of the engine through a new open RFP (not limited to the aforementioned companies). They hope to have a test flight in 2026, with NASA participating out of interest for use with future crewed deep space missions, as nuclear thermal propulsion can achieve both the required high thrust-to-weight ratio and 2-5 times the efficiency of a chemical engine. One key challenge with nuclear reactors in space is the risk of contaminating Earth. While systems are designed to be safe even in the case of a launch failure, once they’ve been activated, an accidental re-entry could be a radiological disaster. We’ve written about this DARPA program a number of times, as well as NASA’s related efforts and NIAC awards. We also took a dive into the history of nuclear reactors in space in Issue 85 (which we feel is worth a re-read). Relatedly, the DIU just funded two in-space nuclear power research projects as well.

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What’s new in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 9

Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 9 is now generally available (GA). This release is designed to meet the needs of the hybrid cloud environment, and is ready for you to develop and deploy from the edge to the cloud. It can run your code efficiently whether deployed on physical infrastructure, in a virtual machine, or in containers built from Red Hat Universal Base Images (UBIs).

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How sleep helps to process emotions

Researchers at the Department of Neurology of the University of Bern and University Hospital Bern identified how the brain triages emotions during dream sleep to consolidate the storage of positive emotions while dampening the consolidation of negative ones. The work expands the importance of sleep in mental health and opens new ways of therapeutic strategies.

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GDL: GNU Data Language

GDL is a free/libre/open source incremental compiler compatible with IDL (Interactive Data Language) and to some extent with PV-WAVE. Together with its library routines it serves as a tool for data analysis and visualization in such disciplines as astronomy, geosciences and medical imaging. GDL development had been started by Marc Schellens back in early noughties and has since continued with help of a team of maintainers, developers, packagers and thanks to feedback from users.

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Liberating out-of-copyright photos from SmartFrame’s DRM

During the middle of the 20th Century, the UK’s Royal Air Force took thousands of photographs of the country from above. Think of it like a primitive Google Earth.

Those photographs are “Crown Copyright”. For photographs created before 1st June 1957, the copyright expires after 50 years.

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U.S.S. Akron (ZRS-4) and U.S.S. Macon (ZRS-5)

The United States Navy airships U.S.S. Akron (ZRS-4) and U.S.S. Macon (ZRS-5) were designed for long-range scouting in support of fleet operations. Often referred to as flying aircraft carriers, each of the helium-inflated airships carried F9C-2 Curtiss Sparrowhawk biplanes which could be launched and recovered in flight, greatly extending the range over which the Akron and Macon could scout the open ocean for enemy vessels.

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Panic Playdate Review

Little, yellow, different. This indie handheld game system breaks lots of rules.

Panic’s bizarre gaming handheld was announced years ago, something that seemed whimsical and almost like a joke. It has the look of a product you’d see on an episode of Portlandia: a small, twee device in Pikachu yellow, with a Game & Watch-esque black-and-white screen, that plays games and sometimes uses its side crank for inexplicable reasons. Delightful and lovely and unexplained.

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