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Vector plans three ‘microsatellite’ launches in Virginia

Virginia’s governor announced that microsatellite delivery company Vector has arranged a trio of launches from the state’s spaceport on Wallops Island. While the notice gave no information on the payloads or customers, they will be very small compared to typical commercial satellites: The company’s launch vehicle, the 39-foot Vector-R, can only carry 145 pounds into orbit.

That’s entirely the point. Most microsatellites that weigh a couple to just over a hundred pounds often must ride alongside and work around the schedules of big-budget customers putting several-ton payloads into orbit. Unlike Space X’s 230-foot Falcon 9, which carries up to 50,000 pounds into orbit, Vector’s smaller rocket is likely far more affordable and flexible — like paying for a charter plane that will go to any small airfield instead of buying a seat on a jumbo jet that can only go to major airports.

When last we saw Vector, they’d launched out of Camden, Georgia for a successful delivery to sub-orbital heights. The company, made of industry vets from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing and Sea Launch, seems aimed to supply the need for much smaller payloads that those bigger companies don’t service well. As for Virginia, this is a win for its Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) facility on Wallops Island; Vector has agreed to three launches there over the next 24 months with an option for five more.

Source: Virginia Governor’s office

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Existing EV batteries could be recharged five times faster

Lithium-ion batteries have massively improved in the last half-decade, but there are still issues. The biggest, especially for EVs, is that charging takes too long to make them as useful as regular cars for highway driving. Researchers from the University of Warwick (WMG) have discovered that we may not need to be so patient, though. They developed a new type of sensor that measures internal battery temperatures and discovered that we can probably recharge them up to five times quicker without overheating problems.

Overcharging a lithium-ion battery anode can lead to lithium buildup, which can break through a battery's separator, create a short-circuit and cause catastrophic failure. That can cause the electrolyte to emit gases and literally blow up the battery, so manufacturers impose strict charging power limits to prevent it.

Those limits are based on hard-to-measure internal temperatures, however, which is where the WMG probe comes in. It's a fiber optic sensor, protected by a chemical layer that can be directly inserted into a lithium-ion cell to give highly precise thermal measurements without affecting its performance.

The team tested the sensor on standard 18650 li-ion cells, used in Tesla's Model S and X, among other EVs. They discovered that they can be charged five times faster than previously thought without damage. Such speeds would reduce battery life, but if used judiciously, the impact would be minimized, said lead researcher Dr. Tazdin Amietszajew.

Faster charging as always comes at the expense of overall battery life but many consumers would welcome the ability to charge a vehicle battery quickly when short journey times are required and then to switch to standard charge periods at other times.

There's still some work to do. While the research showed the li-ion cells can support higher temperatures, EVs and charging systems would have to have "precisely tuned profiles/limits" to prevent problems. It's also not clear how battery makers would install the sensors in the cells.

Nevertheless, it shows a lot of promise for much faster charging speeds in the near future. Even if battery capacities stayed the same, charging in 5 minutes instead of 25 could flip a lot of drivers over to the green side.

Via: Clean Technica

Source: University of Warwick

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