Jan 18 2016

Count me in…

From Spaceweather.com. They don’t provide links, so I’ll quote the article in its entirety:

SOLAR ECLIPSE BALLOON NETWORK: Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have developed a balloon payload that can photograph solar eclipses from the stratosphere. This sets the stage for a one-of-a-kind photography experiment: On August 21, 2017, the Moon will pass in front of the sun over the USA, producing a total eclipse visible from coast to coast. We will launch balloons to record the event from a dozen points along the path of totality:

Floating more than 100,000 feet above the clouds, the balloons will have an unobstructed view of the eclipse. From each of a dozen payloads, one camera will point up to record the sun’s ghostly corona while another camera points down to record the passage of the Moon’s dark shadow across the landscape and cloudtops below. When the eclipse is finished, we will combine the footage to create a unique video portrait of an eclipse sweeping across the American continent. The finished product will be a one-of-a-kind synthesis of art, technology and science.

The payload has already photographed a partial solar eclipse in Oct. 2014: images. To test the payload under conditions of totality, a team of students and parents from Earth to Sky Calculus will travel to Indonesia six weeks from now to observe the March 9, 2016, total eclipse: animated map. Stay tuned for news from their expedition!

Readers, would you like to join the Solar Eclipse Balloon Network? Starting now we are recruiting teams of citizen scientists who we will train in the art of high-altitude ballooning to become members of the solar eclipse launch crews. Schools, scout troops, home school families and others are welcome to apply. This is a great way for novices to learn ballooning and to participate in authentic science. We will also be seeking sponsors for the 12 payloads. Contact Dr. Tony Phillips to register your interest.

I’d love to play in this. I think I’ll apply.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2016/01/18/10355/

Jan 18 2016

More spacesuit issues

NASA Investigating Another Water Intrusion into Spacesuit During EVA. A little bit behind the curve here, since it happened during the spacewalk on Friday, but whattayagonnado?

Cassidy said the size of the bubble (a half-inch wide and 2-3 inches long) and the fact that the HAP was “squishy” were troubling, but “for me the big hook” was the temperature of the water: “as soon as you can tell it is cold water …. that’s coming from a source in your backpack and that’s a significant concern for us.”

The two astronauts directly made their way back to the airlock. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who was inside the ISS during the EVA, helped Kopra get out of his spacesuit and tried to capture any loose water bubbles and put the HAP into a bag for later analysis to help engineers determine the leak rate. Cassidy said there should be no water in the HAP at all unless an astronaut is perspiring profusely.

This recurring issue has obviously got to stop. This couldn’t happen at a worse time, as there are many spacewalks ahead as crew reconfigure the ISS for commercial crew capsules, as well as Bigelow’s BEAM. My recommendation would be for NASA to start from scratch with a complete re-compete for spacesuit manufacturing now. It may not help for the near term, but the sooner we get a better, more reliant suit up there is of paramount importance.

Maybe have an Xprize or Challenge prize offering…just sayin’…

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2016/01/18/more-spacesuit-issues/

Jan 18 2016

SpaceX didn’t ask me, but…

Well, the no-news from “Just Read the Instructions” was that the booster stuck the landing, but a bit too hard for at least one of the landing struts:

Is it me, or does the booster look like it buckled a bit in the middle? The booster may have landed harder than they planned.

I don’t think it’s possible to overstate how difficult this landing is. You can stabilize a platform at sea, but it’ll never be as stationary as the ground.

I wonder if they can get the booster to hover a few feet above the deck, just for a couple of seconds. Every time they try to land on a drone, there seems to be a lot of last-minute lateral movement right before the booster lands. Maybe if they can hover for a couple of seconds, get the drone ship to make its last second adjustment, and then set the booster down the last few feet.

I mean, Grasshopper could hover and move laterally, and it was a prototype for Falcon.

Plus, Falcon v1.2 is supposed to have more thrust, and therefore (presumably?) more fuel after reaching orbit to use for last second hovering. Though the Jason-3 launch was the last of the v1.1. launches, so hovering was probably not an option even if they wanted to do so.

To me, adding a hover maneuver to the landing profile is the easiest potential solution I can think of.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2016/01/18/spacex-didnt-ask-me-but/

Jan 17 2016

Live blogging the Jason-3 launch and booster recovery

Time (Pacific local) Event
1055 Well, I have to head out the door to take my daughter to a cheer competition (she was the one videoing from our back patio). I’ll follow up on the booster landing when I get back. BOOO to SpaceX for cutting off their Web cast without news from “Just Read the Instructions”.
1054 Webcast has signed off????????? WTF????? What about the drone landing???
1053 Lost satellite signal from done.
1052 Jason-3 in parking orbit — orbit nominal.
1051 Stage 1 landing lights on. Successful cut-off of 2nd burn.
1050 Foggy around the drone ship.
1049 Sprinkler’s on drone have come on. Boost-back burn complete.
1046 Still waiting for comms downlink from booster. Brake thrusting is complete. Looks like we’ve captured the contrail going up on video — we’ll attach that later.
1045 Booster detatched. Second stage engine ignited. Central fairing deployed.
1043 Looking good. Cleared Vandenberg. 6.5 KM high. Supersonic, and then Max-Q. First stage propusltion is nominal.
1042 LAUNCH!!!!!! Starting video from my house.
1042 Rang Green
1041 Gas supplies isolated. T-1 minute. Vehicle’s in start-up.
1040 LOx loading is complete. Strongback fully retracted.
1039 Strongback is being drawn back.
1034 “Just Read the Instructions” is about 200 nm off the Pacific Coast. Less fuel is required to return to a platform at sea.
1032 Looks like weather is perfect. We’ve got very light high-level clouds here, so hopefully we’ll see the launch from here (about 130 miles from Vendanberg as the crow flies). They’re showing a live shot of the launch pad — lots of fog. Clear as a bell here, though.
1030 Prop’s go. All stations report “Go”. Waiting for Prop issue to be closed, but Prop reported “go”, so I’m assuming they’ve got the issue resolved.
1027 Not flying with densified propellants. Fueling is just about done. Propellant team is working on a minor issue, but no description was given. Should get an input in a couple of minutes. This will be the last time there will be an announced “Go/No-Go” poll for a SpaceX launch. Not sure of the signifance of that.
1024 OK — got the webcast up. Looks like they’re making the Go/No-Go roll call. Terminal count starts at T-13. Drone ship is “Just reading the instructions”. I’m hoping that I can get video from my house of the launch — if conditions are right, I’ll get at least some contrails.
1021 Up and running. Launch will be in about 22 minutes. Still trying to get everything configured here.

Post-launch related articles:

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2016/01/17/live-blogging-the-jason-3-launch-and-booster-recovery/

Jan 14 2016

Sierra Nevada gets a piece of the CRS-2 pie

NASA awards ISS cargo transport contracts. SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, and Orbital ATK all were winners, with 6 cargo flights to the ISS guaranteed for each.

The agency applied knowledge gained from the first commercial resupply contracts with Orbital ATK and SpaceX and required a number of key enhancements for these contracts.

This includes starting with a requirement for a minimum of six missions as opposed to delivery of metric tons; a variety of delivery, return and disposal capabilities for both pressurized and unpressurized cargo, as well as an optional accelerated return; and the addition of an insurance requirement to cover damage to government property during launch services, reentry services or transportation to, from, in proximity of, or docking with the space station.

This is excellent news for the American Space industry. Looks like Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser may actually get to fly (and land).

CONGRATS TO ALL, including NASA. Well done!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2016/01/14/sierra-nevada-gets-a-piece-of-the-crs-2-pie/

Jan 13 2016

Hey, that’s the MUOS testing I did in Fort Bragg!!

US Navy Evaluation Of General Dynamics Mission Systems AN/PRC-155 Manpack Connects With MUOS.

Instead of using this picture in the article:

or this one:

I think they should have used this one:

But maybe they wanted to downplay the male supermodel approach.

Hmmmm….probably a good call on their part…

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2016/01/13/hey-thats-the-muos-testing-i-did-in-fort-bragg/

Jan 13 2016

Wait…an Airstream can do what?

Embry-Riddle Mobile Space Habitat Enables Students to Conduct Research and Experiments in Extreme Environments.

I wonder if NASA thinks, “That’s a real beauty…”

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2016/01/13/wait-an-airstream-can-do-what/

Jan 13 2016

To live-blog, or to try to get a picture?

That is the question…

SpaceX Going For Offshore Barge Landings For Their Next Several Falcon-9 Launches. If it is a clear day, I can sometimes see the contrails from launches at Vandenburg from my house. The Jason-3 launch might make for an interesting picture from my house if the conditions are right. Then again, I wouldn’t want to miss SpaceX sticking the landing on a barge, plus this would be the first West Coast barge landing attempt.

Complicating matters is that we need to leave the house around 11:15am because my youngest daughter has a High School Cheer competition down in San Diego.

Now that I’m typing this all out, I think I’ll have the daughter standby outside in case some good pictures can be taken and I’ll live blog the launch and recovery attempt.

Yes…I think that will work.

As for the linked article saying that SpaceX will use the next several launches to attempt at-sea recoveries, I am not surprised. Their long-term planning has always assumed an at-sea recovery as a booster recovery method for most of their missions. Their landing at Canaveral last month was to just prove to the world (and Blue Origin) that they could do it.

Weather’s supposed to be clear on Sunday with light winds. SpaceX came oh-so-close the last time they attempted a barge landing…I’d give them pretty good odds of sticking the landing this time around.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2016/01/13/to-live-blog-or-to-try-to-get-a-picture/

Jan 12 2016

Latest from Pluto

When one has spent the last week and a half gallivanting about eating bon-bons and such, it always pays to swing by NASA’s New Horizons page because there is usually something cool there. I was not disappointed:

‘X’ Marks a Curious Corner on Pluto’s Icy Plains. They postulate that big chunks of liquid nitrogen slowly rise to the surface of the planet, where they cool and then slowly sink again. The “X” could be where solid nitrogen sunk below the surface to be reheated again.

Like a slow-motion lava lamp, which is cool in a beatnik sort of way.

I personally think it’s the location of a secret Gamalon base:

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2016/01/12/latest-from-pluto/

Jan 12 2016

Work-life balance is not

Holy crap, what a couple of weeks it has been. You can tell my work-life balance is completely out of whack when I go more than a couple of days withoutte. The past few weeks I’ve been the Capture Manager on a major proposal with a crazy, compressed schedule. Essentially, when I haven’t been sleeping, I’ve been working.

Fortunately, we’re submitting in a couple of days, and I can finally breathe. Expect a lot of posts from me throughout the day as I get caught up on Space stuff.

I appreciate your patience — this is NOT how I wanted to, or expected to, start off the new year.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2016/01/12/work-life-balance-is-not/

Dec 31 2015

What’s Russian for “Disarray”?

Russia Downscales Lunar Program as Roscosmos Morphs into State Corporation. Going from a government agency to a state corporation — is there a difference in Russia? The biggest immediate impact is that Roscosmos State’s budget is slashed from about $2.8 billion to $2 billion.

We’ll see if this improves Russian space performance. I think their problems run deeper than how their industry is organized.

Oh, and the answer is Растерянности, per FreeTranslation.com

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/12/31/whats-russian-for-disarray/

Dec 30 2015

It’s actual rocket science

US Air Force Awards More Rocket Research Contracts. The winners were:

  • Orbital ATK, $3.1 million
  • Aeroject Rocketdyne, $6 million
  • Northrop Grumman, $5.4 million

Congrats!! Given Congress’ capitulation to the Russians regarding the RD-181, American progress on this front can’t happen fast enough.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/12/30/its-actual-rocket-science/

Dec 30 2015

Gotcher Pluto…nium fix right here!

U.S. demonstrates production of fuel for missions to the solar system and beyond. 50 grams of plutonium-238 doesn’t sound like much, but it’s the first batch of plutonium we’ve produced in 30 years. They plan to ramp up to 3 pounds of plutonium per year (27 times 50 grams).

This is very good news for future deep space missions.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/12/30/gotcher-pluto-nium-fix-right-here/

Dec 30 2015

Landed booster being evaluated for future hot fire

Historic First Falcon-9 to Land from Space Transported to KSC 39A for Testing. I’d love to be a fly on the wall for their post-landing testing…Hey SpaceX, I’ve got plenty of test and evaluation experience!!

“The returned first stage will be the test article here (39A), and it will go into the hangar where they (SpaceX) will do a little refurbishment,” said NASA. “They will actually put it on the transporter erector and roll it out to the pad to do fluid checks, electrical checks and propellant loading with that test article.”

At a press conference call shortly after the successful landing, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shed more light on upcoming plans for the booster.

“The plan is to do a static fire on the launch pad there to confirm that all systems are good and that we’re able to do a full-thrust hold-down firing of the rocket,” said Musk. “And then I think we’ll probably keep this one on the ground because it’s quite unique, it’s the first one we brought back. So I think we’ll probably keep this one on the ground and just confirm through tests that it could fly again and then put it somewhere to display, because it’s quite unique.”

That hot-fire will likely be an event worthy of live-blogging. I suspect it will go off without a hitch. Each launch mission now is a candidate for booster return (except the Jason-3 launch on 17 January out of Vandenberg), and they’re looking at flying a refurbished booster for a real mission sometime later this year.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/12/30/landed-booster-being-evaluated-for-future-hot-fire/

Dec 28 2015

Probably a good thing wrapped in a bad thing

NASA got a huge bump in the recent Omnibus bill that was passed on the 18th: FY2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill Clears Congress, Signed by President, which resulted in a gargantuan $1.3 billion increase over its 2015 budget. I was going to blog about days ago, but it was signed on the day after my boss quit, and I haven’t been able to go back and look at it in depth until now.

First off, the whole Omnibus bill is Congress’ cowardly way to avoid confrontation with the President, abdicating their one check to the Executive branch (the power of the purse). Basically, every liberal wet dream was in that budget (including the abomination Planned Parenthood), but the RINOs in Congress sprinkled that turd with some powdered sugar, like a big increase in NASA’s budget, to try to placate the masses.

But, if Congress insists on crony capitalism, they may as well increase NASA’s funding while they’re at it. At least the Commercial Crew Program got fully funded, which was a concern. Of course, the crony capitalism rocket known as the SLS got a $700 million bump from what the President asked for, which was $300 more than it got last year. And it gutted the RD-181 boycott. But that’s OK — the Democrats and the RINOs in Congress have more in common with the thug Putin than they do with the American people, so I’m not surprised.

Space Policy Online has an excellent, 10-page fact sheet if you’re interested in all the gory details. Two paragraphs stood out (i.e. disgusted me):

By comparison, NASA’s human exploration program – the Space Launch System (SLS), Orion,
and associated ground systems – and planetary science and astrophysics fare much better as
shown in Table 2. The President’s request would cut funding for SLS and Orion; this bill would
restore them to their FY2015 levels. Republicans and Democrats in Congress complain that the
Obama White House underfunds SLS and Orion knowing full well that they are congressional
priorities because the White House favors the commercial crew program. The House bill does
provide the full request for commercial crew in FY2016 ($1.244 billion) under the aspirational
scenario, but less ($1.136 billion) in the constrained scenario.

Of course Congress is against the Commercial Crew Program — less opportunity for graft compared to the CCP. And:

The President requested $1.361 billion for planetary science, a decrease of $76.6 million
compared to the FY2015 appropriations. Planetary science is very popular on both sides of
Capitol Hill and the decrease was certain to cause complaints.

I get that these budget conflicts are really just political games played by Calvin Ball rules, but sheesh! Who can possibly be against NASA’s planetary science role unless you’re just taking the contrarian position so that you can get concessions elsewhere? Sheesh, I say — SHEESH!!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/12/28/probably-a-good-thing-wrapped-in-a-bad-thing/

Dec 25 2015

Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh….oh, and Bill Whittle, too

I wish everyone a Happy and Safe Christmas!! Thank you so much for reading!

Since Christmas this year has the a full Moon (for the first time since 1977), and since Bill Whittle is one of the most interesting commentators out there, my present to you is his take on the importance of the Moon and why we may be alone…


Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/12/25/merry-christmas/

Dec 24 2015

You can’t spell Santa without NASA

An early Christmas present to space and astronomy geeks:

NASA offers sneak peak at Christmas Eve asteroid. This is asteroid 2003 SD220:

It’s about 3600 feet long and passed about 6.8 million miles (about 28 lunar distances) from Earth today this morning (about 5:08am this morning Pacific time).

Plugging in amean diameter of 0.7 km, assuming a density of 2 g/cm^3 (2000 kg/m^3), and a velocity of 37.61908723 m/s (asteroid relative velocity plus Earth’s velocity) into the Earth Impact Effects Indicator (Which is my favorite asteroid-impact calculator), we get the following results:

In case you’re wondering what would have happened if 2003 SD220 actually hit Earth while you were in a in a boat 10 miles from the impact site in the ocean (assumed average depth 2.3 miles):here’s what the simulator says:

  • The average interval between impacts of this size somewhere on Earth during the last 4 billion years is 5,300,000 years
  • The projectile begins to breakup at an altitude of 78,300 meters = 257,000 ft. The projectile reaches the ground in a broken condition. The mass of projectile strikes the surface at velocity 36.9 km/s = 22.9 miles/s. The broken projectile fragments strike the ground in an ellipse of dimension 1.41 km by 0.997 km
  • The impact energy is 10,000 MegaTons. Hiroshima was 5.2 megatons.
  • It forms a crater on the ocean sea floor 4500 x 2000 feet wide and 962 feet deep.
  • The fireball appears 176 times larger than the Sun (and is 7.76 miles wide). Clothing, Newspaper, and Plywood, Trees and grass ignite, and much of the body suffers third degree burns.
  • If you somehow survived the fireball and didn’t sink, the air pressure wave would arrive 49 seconds after impact and would bring 4010 mph winds. The Sound Intensity would be 134 dB (Dangerously Loud).
  • A tsunami at least 1760 feet tall would hit you 90 seconds after the asteroid hit the water.

For a land impact, the crater would have been 8.28 miles in diameter and about 2120 feet deep. By comparison, Meteor Crater in Arizona is 0.737 miles in diameter and about 560 deep. It was caused by an impactor about 160 feet big.

So yeah…that would have been bad.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/12/24/you-cant-spell-santa-without-nasa/

Dec 24 2015

Dang — I missed this!!

A Russian Rocket Body Lit Up West Coast Skies. Though I’m not sure I could have seen it, since I’m south of Los Angeles. This was a Russian SL-4 Soyuz from the ISS.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/12/24/dang-i-missed-this/

Dec 24 2015

My return stage is bigger than yours

Regarding the pissing match between Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin) and Elon Musk (SpaceX), I think they’re both being ridiculous. Both the New Shepherd’s landing and the Falcon 9 first stage landing were impressive, and both advance their respective company’s business case, and neither business case is in direct competition with each other.

New Shepherd is a single-stage sub-orbital rocket focused on the sub-orbital tourist and science markets. Falcon 9 is a two-stage orbital and deep space launcher focused on the satellite and human/cargo to orbital stations markets.

Blue Origin was first to send its rocket to space and return it safely to Earth. That in and of itself is a historic occasion. Even though SpaceX’s landing was more technologically difficult (As I noted here), Blue Origin was and always will be first. This rivalry was started by Musk, and from a PR standpoint it has been a good thing because it has kept both SpaceX and Blue Origin in the news, but it is a contrived rivalry instead of a real one. The only real rivalry here is that two cutting-edge launch companies are racing toward historical milestones and both naturally want to get there first.

So…how much more difficult was SpaceX’s recovery profile? Popular Mechanics has a good graph that illustrates the difference well:

and then the size difference between the return stages (bigger = more difficult to control because of more surface area):

So yes, SpaceX’s return was more difficult (if second in time).

The real winner here, of course, is all of us. We are all much closer to taking a hop up to sub-orbital space or an extended stay in orbit because both Blue Origin and SpaceX have proven that rocket reuse is a potential option in both cases.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/12/24/my-return-stage-is-bigger-than-yours/

Dec 23 2015

A heck of a commute, but look at the view!!

First High-Resolution Images Released of Ceres From Dawn’s New Lowest Orbit. Dawn is now in its final orbit at 240 miles above the surface of Ceres.

Resolution is about at 120 feet / pixel.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/12/23/a-heck-of-a-commute-but-look-at-the-view/

Page 1 of 7712345...102030...Last »
Powered by "To Do List Member"