Ex-MirCorp president Jeff Manber talks Ares 1-x with Russia Today and the so-called 'gap' in American human spaceflight and what President Obama may do with the future of civil space launch capability and development.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
The FastForward study group is an ad-hoc study group consisting of major aerospace contractors, emerging new space companies, spaceports, key federal government agencies, and academic representatives. It is an all-volunteer effort formed in August 2008 currently consisting of more than 20 invited organizations and hosted by SpaceWorks Commercial (Atlanta, GA). Derek Webber is among the participants. He conducted a recent GoogleTalks about the progress and referencing a now-defunct but ahead-of-the-curve effort in Virginia.
The focus of the group is on pre-competitive analysis and assessment of future global high speed point-to-point (PTP) passenger and cargo services. The study group produces technical papers and white papers on topics of PTP transportation for use by our members and the community at-large Members meet regularly by telecon, support a range of conference and panels, and use virtual collaboration tools to conduct business and exchange ideas.
BOOK REVIEW: The very recently published book INNOVATION: The key to prosperity by Aris Melissaratos and N.L. Slabbert is quite the interesting and nugget packed book. Taken aback, this Blogger was, by the advocacy of MagLev train technology as a means to spark a transport revolution in America at the start of the book.
Maybe it was from the experience riding the Shanghi MagLev the past July; or, perhaps, it is my SiFi-thing of utilization of MagLev trains on the Moon to boost payload to orbit, I don't know. But this Blogger was impressed by the notion that MagLev technology should be pushed by the nation as a new alternative for rapid transport.
At one point the book caused me to have some anxiety from the realization that we are mindfully neglecting innovation in this nation and living largely upon the innovations of the World War II generation. Nothing is new only modern forms of prior inventions. It made me uncomfortable while reading those passages.
Aris Melissaratos is an interesting fellow within the Mid-Atlantic Region and appears to have been a major contributor to innovation-thought. But American East-West and North-South MagLev trains, such as those in Japan is advocated. This blogger accepted the premise proposed by the authors that now is the time for America to take the lead in this technology - among others. A MagLev train could go from New York City to Atlanta in 4 hrs. FOUR HOURS!
The author impressed me right from the start with his historic discussion of Abe Lincoln. In Lincoln's day "the transcontinental railroad, which in those days was as new-fangled an idea as you could get." But "Lincoln was a railroad lawyer, representing and supporting the leaders of technological change. Putting a railroad advocate in the mid-19th Century White House was like electing an ardent magnetic levitation, artificial intelliegnce, nanotechnology, or Mars colonization proponent today." WOW! Changed my view and historic outlook of Old Abe indeed.
This book is much more than advocacy of MagLev, it attempts to reach the essence of why America needs to be an innovation nation again.
Friday, October 30, 2009
The Masten Space Systems team took the controversial lead in the million-dollar prize from NASA for the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge's Level 2 contest. Here is more from Alan Boyles. More details from the Los Angeles Times.
Meanwhile, a team called Unreasonable Rocket is trying to fly a rocket in a lower level of the competition; and, on its first attempt the rocket skittered across the pad and tipped over. On the second try it simply depressurized, blasting gas skyward like a teakettle.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
"Only one parachute deployed properly. One parachute failed and wrapped around the third partially deployed parachute," according to an e-mail status report obtained by Florida Today. William Harwood writes for CBS News about the parachute system failure. NASA Watch looks at a stagging issue as well.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
NASA prize monies are being won in 2009 with the Regolith Excavation Challenge yielding $750,000 and the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge on the cusp of handing out over one million more in prize dollars leaving NASA seeking new prize challenges in technology to explore in 2010. The Economist has an article discussing the NASA lunar prize entitled "Space hopper" looking at the prize incentives from a government agency. The video above is of the first qualifying flight of the Masten Space Systems vehicle 'Xombie' in the 2009 Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority panel will begin to review applications for the deputy director position next month in northern Virginia from among the several applicants. The selection, expected before year end, will mark growth in the utlilization of the FAA-licensed commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia with numerous launches now building in the manifest.
Among the planned orbital launches from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island include several commercial cargo resupply flights to the International Space Station and a NASA civil lunar orbiter mission. New launches will begin March 31, 2011 on Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Science Corporation-made boosters.
While there was discussion of the NASA Commercial Crew and Cargo Program among the authority members and the commercial and civil space policy decisions to be made in Washington, the authority did not take a formal position. NASA is expected to sign initial agreements next month for start-up of commercial crew launch development.
The now controversial NASA Ares 1x demonstrator has passed flight readiness review and rests on the Kennedy Space Center launch pad 39-B awaiting a Tuesday, October 27, 2009 8 AM launch signal, if weather cooperates.
In other words, there are no technical reasons why the unmanned rocket can not fly Tuesday as planned.
Nonetheless, scattered thunderstorms are predicted for the Cape Canaveral, Fla., area on launch day. Because it's the first flight of the new Ares demonstrator rocket, NASA engineers are being extra cautious, not only because of the craft's tall, slender shape but also because of the need to have ideal conditions in which to collect data about its stability and flight characteristics. There is a 40% chance of acceptable conditions Tuesday but it only needs a 10-minute launch window in the four hour opportunity.
This will be NASA's first test flight for a new crew launch vehicle since the first space shuttle was launched in 1981. It will be a historic moment in the New Space Age.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Augustine will be accompanied by committee member Ed Crawley. Printed copies of the committee's final report will be available during the press conference and an electronic copy of the report will be posted to the committee's Web site at the start of the briefing.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
[2 hr video] Astronomy, one of the worlds oldest sciences, has benefited greatly since the advent of space science fifty years ago. Space science allows an ever expanding horizon for astronomy as evidenced by current and future telescopes based in space (Hubble, James Webb, etc.). This plenary, organised by the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), covered related topics including an overview of astronomy from space at the IAC2009 held in South Korea last week.
Krasnov explained that enabling a private Soyuz flight would take four or five years because the vehicle's operations have to change and the pilot's training regime has to be altered. This is because there would be one pilot and two tourists and not one other cosmonaut and one passenger in remarks to Coppinger.
Space Adventures has been touting the possibilities of working with the Russians for private tourist flights utilizing extra Soyuz boosters. India's space officials have also been in contact with the Russian space agency requesting assistance and to use the Soyuz for space tourist flights. Russians, however, are apt to adapt favorably to any changing condition that would open the market to extra seats for the private sector.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
The space agency heads from around the world provided a rapid overview on their current respective national and international programs and insight into future plans, giving views on actual developments and potential international opportunities among the spacefaring nations.
Among the participants in the approximately 90-minute session, in order of presentations, were: Joo-Jin Lee, President, Korea Aerospace Research Institute; Charles Bolden, Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General, European Space Agency (ESA); Anatoly Perminov, Head, Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos); G. Madhavan Nair, Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO); Keiji Tachikawa, President, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA); and Steve MacLean, President, Canadian Space Agency.
The presentations and subsequent discussion provides the observer insights as to the capabilities of two (Russia and America) of the three primary (China not included here) and many of the secondary second-level space technology players on the world scene. The clear signal was made that India will become the fourth human space flight team. China and India have repeatedly signaled the desire to become part of the international space station partnership.
The Russian Roscosmos seemed to stress plans to lower the cost of spaceflight and be competitve in the space launch markets with a focus on the heavy-lift capability during the questioning session. The Russians indicated the desire to continue a strong play in human space flight.
NASA Administrator Bolden noted that enhanced international cooperation is deemed vital and that the United States would focus on a heavy-lift capability pointing to the development of the Ares-V booster to dash out of low earth orbit. The agency chief also noted that the American commercial sector will be supported. Routine spaceflight costs must be driven down by changes in propulsion systems. Presidential science advisor John Holdren and Bolden will meet with the President Obama very soon to discuss future American space policy.
In summary, there appears to be a robust civil space program globaly especially evident when one views the clarity of intent of the Chinese and the probable intent of the United States to build the largest heavy-lift capacity in the world over the next decade with commercial firms playing a larger role in LEO access.
The 60th International Astronautical Congress held in Daejeon, South Korea, Thursday 15 October 2009 Late Breaking News session concerned the Chinese space program which included plans for the future including human space flights, space labs and the lunar exploration program. It was noted that the Chinese are studying a Mars orbiter in 2013. The Congress drew some 3,000 delegates from more than 70 countries for the five-day [Oct. 12-16] IAC held at the Daejeon Convention Center.
The Times of London reviews the Chinese space effort in a piece by Michael Sheridan.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
There are also plans to launch several international rockets from Alcântara. In addition to the launch of the Ukrainian Tsyklon-4, the Israeli Shavit rockets, the Russian Proton rocket and the Chinese Long March 4 are said to be in the works for Brazil's favorable equatorial launch pads. Exactly how much of the commercial orbital space launch business will be conducted from Brazil is yet to be seen since the launch history has been sounding rockets.
The University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo has provided a quantitative evaluation of habitability to identify the potential habitats in our solar system if humans were forced to leave the Earth. It is known as the "Quantitative Habitability Theory" (QH theory).
"Interestingly, Enceladus resulted as the object with the highest subsurface habitability in the solar system, but too deep for direct exploration. Mars and Europa resulted as the best compromise between habitability and accessibility, " says biophysicist Abel Mendez who produced the study of alien moon world human habitability as reported in Universe Today.
Soon in the 21st Century Space Age future, India, Russia, and China will be about the now better known and mapped lunar surface resources. Geological resources mapped and identified by European, Japanese, Chinese, Indian and American lunar orbital spacecraft over the past several months and continuing through this very day may prove to be a treasurer trove upon reflective analysis.
Nonetheless, the 1960's Soviet technology associated with the Lunokhod project is worthy of review by any nation or private sector group endevoring to operate on the surface of the Moon. Google Lunar X-Prize robot rovers built in the global commercial environment may well be roaming the Moon too (2.0).
Friday, October 16, 2009
Pulished in The Wall Street Journal, the following is by astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Ken Bowersox, Jake Garn, Robert Gibson, Hank Hartsfield, John Herrington, Byron Lichtenberg, John Lounge, Rick Searfoss, Norman Thagard, Kathryn Thornton, Jim Voss and Charles Walker:
As crew members who have flown aboard spacecraft such as America's Space Shuttle and the International Space Station, we know that exploring space is a worthwhile and challenging endeavor. Increased use of public-private partnerships—where commercial companies assume a larger role in developing the systems to be used for space transportation—is one promising path to strengthen our nation's space exploration programs. Public-private partnerships can leverage the agility and efficiency of the commercial sector while maintaining access to the skilled workers, technologies and facilities only available in the government.
The best place to exercise and grow these space-exploration partnerships is in low Earth orbit, where humans have the most experience and where economic incentives exist to make space travel routine. While it's completely appropriate for NASA to continue developing systems and the new technologies necessary to take crews farther out into our solar system, we believe that the commercial sector is fully capable of safely handling the critical task of low-Earth-orbit human transportation.
So we firmly support the findings of the Augustine Committee, a presidential blue ribbon panel that has endorsed commercial human spaceflight. Sally Ride, one of America's most well-known astronauts and a member of the committee, put it best when she said, "We would like to be able to get NASA out of the business of getting people to low Earth orbit."
We wholeheartedly agree. NASA should put its unique resources into pushing back the final frontier and not in repaving the earth-to-orbit road it cleared a half century ago. Commercial human spaceflight is not competitive with NASA. It is complementary. Indeed, a strong partnership between NASA and the commercial sector is nothing new. NASA already relies on commercial rockets to launch multibillion-dollar science payloads and NASA is well along in its plans to turn over space station cargo resupply duties to the private sector. The time has come for NASA to build on these successes and embrace commercial crew transportation as well.
As astronauts, we know that safety is important. We are fully confident that the commercial spaceflight sector can provide a level of safety equal to that offered by the venerable Russian Soyuz system, which has flown safely for the last 38 years, and exceeding that of the Space Shuttle. Commercial transportation systems using boosters such as the Atlas V, Taurus II, or Falcon 9 will have the advantage of multiple unmanned flights to build a track record of safe operations prior to carrying humans. These vehicles are already set to fly over 40 flights to orbit in the next four years.
Commercial human spaceflight will also benefit America's economic competitiveness. The aerospace industry has long been one of the few American industries with a positive trade surplus. Strengthening this industry through investment in commercial development will improve the ability of the American aerospace industry to compete with foreign companies. This will result in more dollars spent on aerospace here in America, and more in hi-tech aerospace jobs.
We enthusiastically endorse this robust vision for the future of human spaceflight—a vision in which NASA is free to concentrate on the challenges of exploration beyond low Earth orbit while private commerce enables increased activity in Earth orbit. We strongly agree with the Augustine Committee's endorsement of commercial human spaceflight, and we encourage the White House and Congress to embrace this positive vision for our nation's future in space.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
The documentation associated with the theories for CrossFire Fusor spaceship.
'Wild card' energy technology may prove to be humanity's 'game-changer' if nuclear scientists can accomplish small-scale fusion 'star in a jar' during the first half of the 21st Century enabling high energy fusion reactors to be deployed for robotic and human spacecraft [video] and Earth-based electric grids.
The late Dr. Robert W. Bussard (2007 audio interview w/Thomas A. Ligon Jr.) was among the strongest advocates of the Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Fusion Polywell with the ongoing research now being funded by the US Navy at the rate of $10-million this year. Bussard appeared on GoogleTalks prior to his death and stirred great interest [PDF].
Meanwhile, the US Navy hopes to use IEC Fusion initially on ships. The Navy tests should be complete in less than two years to validate initial results for energy applications most likely to be highly classified. Two noted physicists from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Rick Nebel and Jaeyoung Park are among the physics community that may seize the Polywell IEC fusion energy helm with promise.
University of Illinois Professor George H. Miley is yet another leading American pursuing IEC Fusion research. Miley and Dr. Bill Gough have discussed the Fusion Torch on YouTube videos one and two. In addition to Miley's ongoing research work into IEC fusion, the President of the Focus Fusion Society, Dr. Eric J. Lerner, has also been engaged in the research at Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Inc. and has discussed the work at GoogleTalks in late 2007.
The estimated timeline for IEC fusion energy development is between 10-to-20 years for commercial utilization based upon the experts. But there have been may hopes dashed in fusion research over the past two decades as noted in a BBC 4 Horizon documentary film [best viewed Full Screen].
Many now have faith that it is a matter of "when" rather than "if" fusion power becomes a commercial reality with a safe 'star in a jar' or 'sun in a bottle' that will be the ultimate breakthrough for mankind on Earth and the human adventure into the stars by 2050. The low-level federal investment in fusion energy as Alt. Energy may yield supreme results or just another Cold Fusion-like flop. Bottomline: humanity must learn atomic fusion to solve many problems.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Friday, October 09, 2009
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
If you have a 10-inch telescope and reside in the western United States, now may be the time to start setting-up for observation of the LCROSS impact. And, a touch of mood music.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
The flowing 173-page text would be made even more the worthy product with ten-to-20 pages of glossy photographs to assist the reader in visualizing the written word. Yet those with some international media awareness will get the mental picture from the excellent description of historic and cotemporary Chinese space and technology policy development.
"Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has applied for acquiring a spaceship for sending space tourists," Russian space agency spokesman Alexei Krasnov said adding that "It depends on the route and duration of the flight, which are yet to be finalised."
During President Dmitry Medvedev's maiden India visit last year Moscow and New Delhi inked a space accord, under which Russia will help ISRO in training Indian astronauts and provide know-how for building indigenous spaceship for the national programme of space flights.
It appears that India is going to use the same development model employed by the Chinese with the Russians a few years ago: reverse engineer and improve and wah-lah: a new and improved Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft.
What impact the India-Russia space contract may have on the efforts of Space Adventures, Ltd. commercial launch contracts with Roskosmos to fly future space tourists is not known - save that the demand for the Soyuz is going UP and UP. Seven space flight participants have flown to the International Space Station by means of a Soyuz brokered through Space Adventures in Virginia since mid-2001. More.
Monday, October 05, 2009
The White House event for middle-school students will "highlight the President's commitment to science, engineering and math education as the foundation of this nation's global technological and economic leadership, and to express his support for astronomy in particular – for its capacity to promote a greater awareness of our place in the universe, expand human knowledge, and inspire the next generation by showing them the beauty and mysteries of the night sky," according to a White House statement.
"The event will include 20 telescopes on the White House lawn focused on Jupiter, the Moon and select stars; interactive dome presentations; and hands-on activities including scale models of the Solar System," the White House said. More from Sky and Tel.
Sunday, October 04, 2009
This European Space Agency Webcast celebrates the successes past, present, and future of the Hubble Space Telescope to the Moby tune 'Lift me up' in response to a recent HubbleCast. Space astonomers and astronomy enthusiasts will celebrate Hubble Space Telescope for years yet to come! It is recommended to click on the video to open into HD full screen.
Following a 2014 launch campaign aboard an ESA Ariane 5 from the Centre Spatial Guyanais near Kourou in French Guiana, The James Webb Space Telescope will build on the HST science with 3x greater image clarity at new wave lengths following deployment.