Thursday, December 30, 2010
Galaxy 15 can now Contact the Office
9:46 pm est
More importantly, the office can contact it. Galaxy 15 took a hit from a solar event early this year, and started drifting
within the geosynchronous belt. The issue came as it approached other satellites and had the chance of 'hijacking' their
signals. The satellite held Earth-lock for much longer than anyone expected, but recently got down to 'zero' power
which reset its communications system.
Note to Space.com: Between my browser occasionally telling me that your site contains malware, and the new 'automatic' movie
ads, I may have to reconsider linking people to your articles.
How Many NASA Engineers...?
5:57 pm est
Lots of good discussion here
continuing the previous discussion.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
What Would Elon Do?
5:14 pm est
touches on a lot of good points, and while commenters bring up a couple (for example, Elon using the TDRSS system, which
he didn't have to develop), but quite simply, I may hug the first NASA person I see wearing the T-shirts described in the
My consistent problem is that I can see valid points in both sides of most arguments. For example:
New Space Arguer: SpaceX built an entire launch system and capsule for a little more than it took NASA to build a launch tower
Counter: NASA's tower had to be flexible, ready to handle the Ares I rocket as well as the not-yet-designed Ares V. It also
had to be ready for crews when launching an Ares I.
Counter-Counter: A beefed-up strongback (the structure used to place Falcon 9s on the pad) that can hold people will not
Maybe I'll have more to say later.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
7:49 pm est
7:44 pm est
The WISE Spacecraft
has gained approval for mission operations
through January. This will allow continuation of its all-sky survey for NEOs. No mention about continuation past January,
other than saying that the instruments are still warming up, it costs $400k/month to operate, and no one has requested a further
If the instrument stabilizes and still produces good data, I think a 'lean' operations concept that cuts costs would be a
Life Aboard Station
11:30 am est
Popular Mechanics gets the details
. I hadn't heard about disorientation that the astronaut refers to, keeping him from 'feeling fully competent' operating
a car for 2-3 weeks after returning. I wish the interviewer had pressed for more details on that. I also thought that the
flashes he referred to only happened outside of Earth's magnetic field. It's the first mention of the effect I've seen by
an astronaut other than an a moon traveler.
I have no doubt that there are things we need to learn before we travel long distances in space. Where I differ with many
scientists is that I'm sure we could get most of the answers during engineering testing of spacecraft designed for the job.
For example, we could do a 'deep soak' mission at Earth/Moon L1 testing systems for a six months mission further out. The
crew would only be three days away from Earth in case of a problem, and we'd learn many things at once.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
The Eclipse/Solstice Coupling
6:31 am est
I hadn't been paying attention to the fact that the lunar eclipse
takes place on the Northern Hemisphere Winter Solstice
. I'm sure there was lots of significance attached to such a happening in ancient times, and now there's some (don't search
for it, don't search for it) today. Turns out, these things happen every 456 years
Saturday, December 18, 2010
But What of LRO?
3:31 pm est
There's a total lunar eclipse
on December 21st. It will be a spectacular show for most of the world, who gets to see the moon turn to blood (actually
a coppery color as light from the sun bends through the atmosphere), but for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
, it will be a challenge. See, LRO spends part of most orbits in darkness, and it has batteries on board that charge when
the sun shines on the spacecraft's solar arrays. The problem comes that totality
lasts about an hour and a half, during which there's no sun to speak of. That whole time, LRO is using its batteries. How
low can they go?
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Channel your Inner Astronomer
9:12 pm est
is really catching on in the astronomy community. What tens of grad students used to do is now done by tens of thousands
of volunteers. Only the volunteers don't have to pay to work! The folks at zooniverse
have a new project out using the data from the Kepler
spacecraft. In it, you look for planetary transits. I've done a couple (hopefully right) and it's kinda cool. Try it out
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Better Sooner Than Later
11:38 am est
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
New Era in Space Flight
9:49 pm est
! Second flight of Falcon 9 was successful, and the first flight of Dragon was as well, completing nearly two orbits and
recovering a privately-built spacecraft from orbit for the first time. Some interesting insights from Elon here
. Through an odd coincidence, I actually got to monitor the flight as part of my job today. Quite cool.
I'm inspired, and may build a model to commemorate this...
Monday, December 6, 2010
Another Couple Days to Wait...
10:26 pm est
SpaceX will take a couple days to swap out a 2nd stage engine nozzle before making their launch attempt. As Rand says
, a two-day swap out is pretty impressive, and that such a repair would take weeks for NASA to do. That's true, and I think
there are a couple things working in Space-X's favor due to their operations approach of integrating the rocket horizontally.
Also, since the 2nd stage nozzle is radiatively cooled, it's a relatively simple matter to swap it out. So, they've learned
lessons from others' mistakes.
Update: Looks like Wednesday is the day.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Alien Life on Earth
3:28 pm est
While this news
isn't as big as some have made it out to be, the idea that creatures can live in a high arsenic, low potassium environment
that we hadn't considered before is quite interesting.
Interesting Thought Experiment
3:19 pm est