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Here's the latest on space, and my opinions on it...
This is the legacy site, with blog entries from November, 2004 through June, 2011.
Updates after June 9, 2011 can be found at

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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

No Champagne/Soyuz to the Moon
Some have questioned the lack of celebration post NASA budget victory. I have a couple thoughts.

1. It's the first of approximately 30 such victories required. A big deal to be sure, but the 1st lap of a very long race.

2. Gloating over a victory is a sure way to make you a bigger target next year. Of course, gloating in general can make one more of a target by anyone.

3. (This one I read rather than came up with on my own) People are tired, with upcoming holidays.

Looks like Soyuz to the Moon is getting some traction. Jim Oberg has an overview of the proposal here. It ends with a discussion of what would happen if someone else just takes their idea and starts running with it. Their response? They're applying for a patent. While I'm all for protection of invetor's rights, I'd rather see things happen than protect any rights I'd have related to them. (I'm not claiming I'm the originator of the idea, but I think I put some new twists on the plan)
3:35 pm est

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Busy Week
NASA's budget was passed, at nearly the levels requested by The President.

Also, the space tourism bill may still fly. The House has approved it, but the Senate didn't have time. Luckily, they're meeting again in early December and may take it on then.

Part of me really wants to know what factors come into play that make some congressional measures keep going, long after news reports come forward saying that they're likely dead. Of course, it's probably like any other organization where a couple people (or just one) who's really determined can make it happen. Anyway, that's why space tourism still has a shot. Of course, it's also why the current budget, as passed (and is soon to be changed) allows Congresspeople to view tax forms.

Jeff Foust has a good article about some fallout post NASA budget passage.
9:07 pm est

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Private Spaceflight Legislation Dies, Old School Lives on
Apparently, the good news yesterday on HR 3752 was premature.

However, NASA did award 70 contracts with a value of up to $1B by 2009 supporting the Vision for Space Exploration. Note the lack of project names and areas they support in the pdf file.
9:48 pm est

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Congress Brief, Really Fast Airplane, SMART-1
Jeff Foust has some intel on HR 3752 that he picked up at Peter Diamandis' (X-Prize, Zero-G Corp) talk in DC today. HR 3752 has the potential to clear the way for passenger spaceflight, although there's been talk of some last-minute wordsmithing causing problems. No word whether the version possibly coming to vote has said problems.

Looks like the Mach 10 barrier's been broken by a Scramjet engine off the coast of CA. I'm sure it will be toted as having potential of decreasing costs of flights to orbit, which it does, but only if flight rates increase. Of course, increased flight rates would make any method into orbit less expensive.

Of course, let's not forget the Ion engine that could. Good on the Europeans for getting to lunar orbit. Ion propulsion has some limited usefullness in small payloads, but I differ in opinion if anyone says that they're some sort of cure-all for spaceflight issues.
9:00 pm est

Sunday, November 14, 2004

CEV Contractor Talk
(Recommended pre-read of NASA's Exploration Contracts or a summary at The Space Review)

There's a UPI article here describing the impact of the Boeing/Northrop statement that they'll co-develop the CEV.

I suppose one possibility is t/Space as a lead integrator with a Lock-Mart or Boeing as a subcontractor. The lead integrator concept is a major recommendation of The Aldridge Commission (page down to "President's Commission.") The big guys would chafe under the insult, but at least they'd be part of the action. Unfortunately, I don't think such an arrangement would work, because of all the NASA-industrial momentum there.

For instance, I don't think Lockheed Martin or Boeing (even combined with Northrop-Grumman) could have built SpaceShipOne for the advertised cost of ~$25M.

Although, the DC-X was built by McDonnel-Douglas, now a subsidiary of Boeing. It was built on a relative shoestring ($60M), and flew a few times (11) before disaster befell it. Note, however, that it didn't travel at supersonic speeds, and wasn't even crewed, which in government space circles brings about a whole round of cost increases.

1:31 pm est

Friday, November 12, 2004

According to Spacepolitics, this bill, HR 5336, was introduced in the House just before the election. The bill creates the National Endowment for Space and Aeronautics (NESA). As Jeff says, the bill has a slim chance of going anywhere in this congress (due to end in the next weeks), but it may come back next year.

The language allows gifts to be given to the endowment by the public, and requies the President to pick a chairperson of the endowment for a four-year term. It also mentions the $100M orbital prize described as "The Glenn Prize" at NASA's Centennial Challenge conference. It goes as far as describing orbital parameters and passenger requirements.

10:06 pm est

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Same Story, Different Headline
MSNBC and are apparently sharing articles, but not headlines. Compare "Mining the Moon, Gateway to Mars" to "Mining on Mars seen as key to exploration". Is this a difference in editorial opinion?

Update on 12 November: By the by, in my opinion, landing on the moon before (or as a "refueling pit stop" leading to) Mars would be much more a symbolic effort than a practical one.
8:15 pm est

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Rules Update updated their article on America's Space Prize rules. The item listed as seven in my previous post moved to ten, with the following added to 7:

The contestant must be domiciled in the United States of America.
9:38 pm est

Mars Needs Recipes
The Mars Homestead Project is putting together a recipe book, and they're looking for Mars-themed submissions. Submission deadline is the 1st of December. More info is supposed to be on the website, though I don't see any there right now. Mail entries to
9:35 pm est

Monday, November 8, 2004

America's Space Prize Rules
Robert Bigelow announced the rules for America's Space Prize today through, which has more details about follow-ons and the like. This is a quick summary of the basic rules, along with my thoughts. I may provide more detailed comments later. I removed typos from the list as posted by, and may have inserted some of my own. Prospective contestants are encouraged to contact Bigelow Aerospace for more details.

The rules as listed in the article:

1. The spacecraft must reach a minium altitude of 400km (about 250 miles)
- Based on later rules, this is likely an apogee, although a circular orbit would be the likely destination. One thing not mentioned is orbital inclination, which can have a much larger impact on payload capability, and can radically change the radiation environment a craft and crew are exposed to.

2. The spacecraft must reach a minimum velocity sufficient to complete two (2) full orbits at altitude before returning to Earth.
- This prevents an "up and down" mission from reaching the altitude without the necessary orbital speed.

3. The spacecraft must carry no less than a crew of five (5) people

4. The spacecraft must dock or demonstrate its ability to dock with a Bigelow Aerospace inflatable space habitat, and be capable of remaining on station at least six (6) months.
- This requires a quiescent mode where no volatiles are expended. The shuttle is limited in this capability because of its use of fuel cells for primary power. Batteries and solar cells are the primary alternatives today.

5. The spacecraft must perform two (2) consecutive, save and successful orbital missions within a period of sixty (60) calendar days, subject to Government regulations.
- The last four words, though necessary, scare me.

6. No more than twenty percent (20%) of the spacecraft may be composed of expendable hardware.
- No specification as to whether this is in term of number of parts or mass. If mass, I assume that the reference is to dry mass, and doesn't include expended fuel. Also, there is no differentiation between the spacecraft and the booster.

7. The spacecraft must complete its two (2) missions safely and successfully, with all five (5) crew members aboard for the second qualifying flight, before the competition's deadline of January 10, 2010.
- This has the potential of being a tough one. Although flights taking place before the competition flights are not ruled out, those test missions could cost a lot of money. Also, unless some reason could be developed that came up with a role for all 5 people flying on the craft, some subset would be considered "passengers" instead of "crew", a potentially important distinction.

8. The contestant must have its principal place of business in the United States of America.
- No ITAR problems here!

9. The competitor must not accept or utilize government developed funding related to this contest of any kind, nor shall there be any government ownership of the competitor. Using government test facilities shall be permitted.
- This one has some interesting implications. While competitors don't have to deal with difficult contracting situations, what if some reformed space agency offered a similar prize? What if said agency doesn't offer a prize, but is interested in putting people on board the winning craft?

10. (This rule, as listed in the article when I printed it out, was a repeat of rule 7)

I'll be curious to see the full package that Bigelow provides. One item not discussed is interfacing with the inflatable space habitats. Such a docking, especially one requiring a craft to "shut down" for six months, keeps engineers in traditional aerospace efforts busy for years.
6:46 pm est

Sunday, November 7, 2004

More Power, More Power
I'd read about this, but the space press is picking it up now. I've seen a similar effect when a satellite fires thrusters along it's solar arrays. The big question is whether there was one increase in power or a rise over a period of time.
11:04 am est

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Kicking things off in preparation for my upcoming The Space Review essay on von Braun this Monday. Take a look around, and let me know what you think.
9:15 pm est

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