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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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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Asteroid Water!
This is very exciting news. Water on asteroids will make them potential bases.
8:37 pm est

Monday, April 26, 2010

Rocket Racing League Takes Flight
No idea how this fits in the plans to commercialize the effort, but boy it looks cool.
7:44 pm est

I Want This
The tie to space is somewhat tenuous, but you'll get it if you watch the video. Someone installed TVs in their basement that make it look like you're looking out windows. The kicker is that the view changes as one person changes their position in the room. Excellent!

Update: The website for the folks making this is pretty impressive, and the software to handle it costs $12 ($10 for the Mac portion, $2 for the iPhone portion). The TVs they used are just under $1000 each at Amazon. Tempting...I wonder if my MacBook Pro could power it? They use a Mac Pro.
5:26 pm est

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hubble at 20
NASA's celebrating another anniversary in the form of yesterday's 20th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope. The celebration includes a new jawdropping image as well as a (now passed) opportunity to talk with retired astronauts who helped deploy the telescope. I'm wondering if they'll celebrate 20 years again in honor of Hubble getting its eyesight fixed in 1994.

One of my funniest memories related to Hubble was when the first servicing mission was launched. CNN planned to cover the servicing live for hours at a time, including dramatic graphics about 'Repair in Space' or something along those lines. No one at the news network realized that the repair would be mind-numbingly boring to watch. The coverage continued for a while, and eventually they started flailing around looking for someone to talk to. They ended up getting an executive from the company that made the space suits on the phone, and asked him what would happen if one of the space suits sprung a leak. I pictured the person sitting on the edge of their bed in their underwear while giving the interview. Eventually, full coverage was abandoned and they went back to covering Some BS Happening Somewhere (warning: video, not safe for work due to language).

All joking aside, Hubble is the public's favorite satellite and likely the only observatory of any kind that most people can name. It's an amazing achievement, and I look forward to seeing more pictures from the craft.
5:16 am est

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How to Build a Cheaper, yet Still Reliable, Spacecraft
Jim Oberg has some thoughts. I agree with the sentiment, but feel that if his advice is taken too literally with no options to grow in capabilities expansion beyond LEO will be delayed or halted.
8:09 pm est

Friday, April 16, 2010

Early Candidate Asteroid
Well, a lot needs to happen between now and 2025, the nominal date of our first asteroid trip, but I've looked and found what may be a good candidate for the mission. The asteroid 2008 ST will make a close approach at closest about 11 lunar distances (more likely about 14) with a relative velocity difference of 2.43 km/sec at infinity. The velocity difference is will be a big driver. You can look at your own list here (may take a while to process). Maybe someone will name the asteroid after our president...
8:33 pm est

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Where I'll be Next Saturday
I'll be giving a talk about space on Saturday the 24th at NOVAC's Star Party in Virginia. My talk is at 5:00, and called "Space: An Update." The primary focus is unmanned activities, but who knows what might come up in Q&A. If you're there, say "Hi!"
7:05 pm est

The Speech
Well, it's over. I didn't see it live, and haven't watched it recorded yet. There's a version of it here, and a transcript here. Plenty of chatter, with a highlight at Space Politics.
7:02 pm est

Friday, April 9, 2010

More Details Coming in on new Plan
Some new information is coming out about the new space plan. It's still unclear what relation any of this has to the upcoming summit at KSC.
5:52 pm est

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Compromise A'Brewin'(?)
Lots of talk here, here, and here about leaks of what may or may not be announced on April 15th (Tax Day!) at KSC.

The basics that seem consistent across the discussions are:
  1. Ares I and V stay dead
  2. Commercial space is still alive
  3. Orion comes back in the form of Orion "Lite"
  4. Shuttle continues to fly at a rate of 1-2 flights per year
  5. NASA develops a "Deep Space Habitat"
  6. NASA uses Shuttle components for a side-mounted "heavy lift" booster

The only things that I really like are items 1, 2, and 4. Orion "Lite" will compete with commercial launch providers, both for interest by NASA management and interest by astronauts (in that competition, who do you think will win?). Shuttle flights will take about $3B per year in budget, no matter how much they fly. The reason the program ended in 2010 was to provide that additional funding. A side-mounted "heavy lift" booster (no upper stage is listed) would eat away at potential commercial delivery contracts, making them more expensive, while not delivering large enough payloads in one flight to make a real difference.

Other than that, everything is fine.
7:26 pm est

Monday, April 5, 2010

Well, Duh
Retiring the Space Shuttle may affect astronaut careers.
7:13 pm est

Sunday, April 4, 2010

From Elon's Mouth
Well, some of the previous post is confirmed here:

2:02 pm est

Dragon Escape Rocket
Just glancing through the comments on the Selenian Boondocks page linked to previously, I found this comment describing the early design of SpaceX's escape rocket.
it will be a liquid engine using the same fuel tanks as are used by the Dracos on orbit (i.e. fuel isnít wasted just for abort) and will be capable of abort any time until orbit is reached, not just during the first stage burn. Itís supposed to be a pusher LAS.
No idea on the sources or validity of the claim, but this 'semi-stage' approach for the escape rocket is very cool. I've talked about similar approaches (even asked Elon about it at a conference, so it's possible I'm partially an inspiration...), but limited my discussion to solid propulsion. A simple liquid rocket could be very cool, and if it's fueled by propellants that will be used anyway, the parasitic mass of the system drops quite a bit. There's a bit more involved in the trade because the engine is carried all the way to orbit, but again, since it could be used on orbit, I think the trade is a winner.
5:29 am est

It's True that Falcon 9 Hasn't Flown yet...
But it's a lot closer to orbital flight than any part of the ESAS hardware. Both of them were announced around the same time.
5:13 am est

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Would I fly on an EELV?
There seems to be some discussion about how safe it would be to fly on an EELV or other commercially-built launch vehicle. So the question boils down to: would I fly on one?

I already applied to the astronaut program twice, once in 1999 and once in 2009, so my actions show I'm willing to fly on the space shuttle. Willing to do so despite its 2 failures in soon to be over 130 flights. Despite this record, many people view the space shuttle as safe, and "human rated." When the shuttle first flew the following were true:
  1. No one had flown on ANY portion of Columbia's hardware before, and no space shuttle had been in orbit
  2. The only escape option was an ejection seat covering the very beginning and the very ending of the mission
  3. Most components in the system were built by the lowest bidder on a government contract
  4. The spacecraft was supported by a workforce of thousands, providing a maximum launch rate of 9 flights in a year in 1985
How would this be different than an EELV flight today? Assuming that a built and tested capsule existed that fit on top of one of the EELV boosters, and some sort of monitoring system was installed on the booster to detect a failure in time to trigger an escape system:
  1. Delta IV has launched 12 times without a catastrophic failure. The one partial failure of the Delta IV Heavy booster still achieved orbit, but the orbit wasn't as high as expected.
  2. Atlas V has launched 20 times without a catastrophic failure. Once again, there is one partial failure where the payload achieved orbit, just not as high as planned.
  3. Either system would allow escape from a malfunctioning booster
  4. The 'stacked' method of integration keeps the capsule at the top, with its protective heat shield covered throughout most of the flight.
  5. My flight would be one of tens that year...not all of them launching people, others would launch satellites, propellants for depots, or other payloads no one has thought of yet.
Yep, I'd do it.
5:42 am est

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