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30 September 2008

SpaceX's Falcon 1 finally makes orbit

On the fourth attempt, Elon Musk and SpaceX finally get it right.

"Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announces that Flight 4 of the Falcon 1 launch 
vehicle has successfully launched and achieved Earth orbit. With this key milestone, Falcon 1 
becomes the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to orbit the Earth. Source: Space 
Exploration Technologies Corp."


China Sets Sights on the Moon

With the completion of China's third manned orbital flight and first spacewalk, the Middle Kingdom is not content to sit on its laurels.  China has announced plans to build a manned space station and send people to the Moon.  They plan to have the station by 2020 but were vague on the dates for the lunar visit.  NASA administrator Michael Griffin is rumored to be "convinced" that China has the technical capability to land men on the Moon by 2017, a full two years before the planned US landings.  If that doesn't motivate you, what will?


28 September 2008

Asteroid Protection Program

As I noted before, the NEO (Near Earth Object) 99942 Apophis is going to be passing through cis-lunar space twice within the next 30 years.  Now the Association of Space Explorers's Committee on Near-Earth Objects (!!) has spent two years to complete a proposal to encourage the world to establish guidelines for dealing with future asteroid impacts.  Their proposal, The Executive Summary of Asteroid Threats: A Call for Global Response, was released on 25 September 2008.

In short, the study recommends that the UN should

  • Create an information, analysis and warning network.
  • Create a mission planning and operations group.
  • Create a UN controlled oversight organization.



27 September 2008

On Orbit III

I was hoping for a bit more news before I posted another one of these, but it seems to be a slow news day.  Anyway, here we go and welcome to any new readers from the Carnival of Space.

Links to live streaming audio between astronauts on the ISS and mission controllers can be found here:

Congrats to China on the sucessuful return of her taikonauts: Spacewalkers Return


Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

The guys over at have a pretty good article on NASAs upcoming Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).


26 September 2008

Carnival of Space!

Twisted Physics has the newest Carnival up.  


Ares PDR not as peachy as reported

From Space

In the interest of disclosure, according to comments on the original posting, the author of this piece, Keith Cowing, was recently fired from NASA.

That said:

Despite glowing comments about the success of the review and the smoothness with which it operated, many of the participants seem to have a different point of view: 

"Too many people involved in the planning phase, meetings were too large"; "The integrated vechicle review did not present the element design issues (RIDs) so it was difficult to know if the parts added up to a rocket that will fly"; "The review occurred to close to the element PDRs, This did not allow for some of the element level rids to addressed or predeclared in documents"; "Much of the documentation presented for PDR was not mature enough for PDR. This limited an effective of these documents and left the impression that the PDR was rushed."; "The RID screening rules and procedures seemed to change from day to day, like we were making it up as we went along."; "Insufficient time was allotted to review the documents."; "Not allowing RIDs to be written against the SRD and declaring it a finished document prior to the PDR was just arrogant and wrong. This was further evidenced and confused by the introduction of two version of the SRD, showing that it was in fact being changed behind the scenes." etc. 

Below are verbatim commments provided to an online review website by the actual PDR recipients. The deadline for adding comments was today (23 September 2008). 

Ideas: What did we intend to do, and did we do it? 

1. Execute an effective PDR for all phases 

2. We intended to deliver a well planned and execution of the PDR Kick Off and DDP, with all technical issues worked behind the scenes, invisible to the customer. 

3. To train the participants so that they would be able to function effectively. I thihnk we earned a 7 out of 10 on did we do it 

4. The intent was to make sure all DDP participants knew what was expected from them with respect to presetation content, time allowed and presentation format. I would term this partially successful 

5. The PDR followed the NASA PDR criteria but the presentation of the design documentation made it difficult to evalaute the Preliminary Design. 

6. I thought it went very well. 

7. The best was to address this is how effective we are in addressing and resoving the issues raised during the PDR by CDR. 

8. 1. Training was a joke. we had 40 people in a conference room that held 20 + about 13 in the hall way. 

9. 2.Who was the customer? NASA HQ, ARES PO, the elements. Invisiable from who???? 

10. The PDR team did not execute the plan that they somewhat trained the participants in. Their failure to adequately inform the participants of the changes in the plan damaged the adequacy and credibility of the review. 

11. We intended to judge the preliminary design against the requirements. We ended up doing a reqts review for the most part. 

12. The focus on most of the above comments seems to be on process rather than purpose. This also seemed to be the mindset of the PDR planning goup: Rid Training, RID processing, Kick off logistics, design presentations, team processes, etc. etc. The real purpose, evaluating the preliminary design against requirements, seems to have been lost in the minutiae of RID processing without a comprehensive evaluation of design against requirements. 

13. What should have been doing is correcting design and concept defects; instead we worked very hard to kill RIDs. I guess it's not a defect if the RID is rejected for missing or incomplete "from/to" language. 

14. Because of the short review time for RID review and dispostion, RIDs were rejected based on technicalities and the underlying issue described in the RID was not addressed. 

15. The process was well thought-out, however, this design review as in others is made up of participants that are not familiar with the process at all. I recommend two things to preceed any training: 1. Clear definition of roles (a list of all the roles, what does each role entail), and 2. A list of the steps from pre-RID to RID to closure. My document was effectively reviewed; just not efficiently. 

16. From a Board perspective, the review went well. The Exec overview during the kickoff served is purpose. The board meeting was reasonably crisp and offered ample airing of the issues that surfaced. However, as was presented, and as shows in the comments, there were several disruptions and missteps along the way. These took extra-ordinary effort to deal with. So, from my perspective, it would be very important to review these lessons learned and incorporate corrective action in future similar reviews. 

17. We intended to confirm that the design process had matured sufficiently in addressing the requirements commensurate with the Preliminary Design Review criteria. We only confirmed where we are in the design process and captured the shortcomings through stoplight metrics and actions. 

Ideas: What worked well, and why? 

1. Kickoff worked well, because the Project Office had staff that was experienced in conducting the kickoffs 

2. The DDP worked well, because the Project Office had staff that was experienced in conducting kickoffs, and this was very similar to the kickoff. 

3. Things went well because the Project office AND Engineering worked together as a team!! 

4. Many of the team tabletop activities went well. The most successful ones were the ones who had a plan of how to conduct their team meetings and a schedule for getting through their activity, and also had the better facilities in building 4205. 

5. The wiki site was a great source of information 

6. The wiki sit helped me find the information quickly. 

7. In my opinion, that is the only way the PDR could be successful. 

8. The invidividual reviews were performed in a very efficient and organized manner. 

9. The teams performed well, especially given the timetable and changes of course during the review. 

10. Free coffee. Many thanks to the occupants of 4205 for their generosity 

11. The Ares1 Project Coordinators saved the day despite the verbal abuse, neglect (the RID coordinator generally could not be found), constant change and near 100% lack of direction from the two people tasked to lead the work. If not for the professionalism of these Project Coordinators, the PDR review would have been a disaster. It would be a welcome change if they could be rewarded/acknowledged for the herculean efforts to make this review a success despite the actions of the two people tasked with organizing and running it. 

12. The Kickoff was great. A large auditorium with actual space between seats and a well organized presentation. The agenda was followed. Gray Research is nice for smaller events, but could not handle the PDR 

13. The commuications with the board went very well. The Wiki, the exec overview, and the board meeting communications through e-mail all met their purpose and made serving easy 

14. Opportunities for stakeholders to have insight and input in the process is important and we did a good job of making those opportunities available to all. 

Ideas: Based on what went well, identify what we should keep doing. Please prioritize your list. (Be sure to include which Phase and Area of that Phase you are referring to when you enter your responses) 

1. Wiki 

2. Face to Face Tabletops 

3. Sequestering teams away from their normal work sites 

4. RID Tool "Reporting" 

5. 1. Face - to Face meetings 

6. 1. Face-toface meetings2. WIki Page 

7. sequestering, face to face meetings 

8. Continue the open face to face forums, and pursue better meeting space on site. 

Ideas: What didn't work well and why? 

1. Need more than one person that understands the ENTIRE process and can help with answering questions, emails, phone calls, etc. 

2. Too many people involved in the planning phase, meetings were too large 

3. Internal communication was not integrated 

4. Internal communication was not integrated 

5. The RID tool access was too limited to allow everyone who needed access to the system. Many cases only a few people were able to enter rids for an entire branch. 

6. Too many people involved in the planning phase, meetings were too large 

7. Need more than one person that understands the ENTIRE process and can help with answering questions, emails, phone calls, etc. 

8. RID tool was cumbersome and still is as we try to address the RIDs. 

9. The presenation of the design was not well laid out. A Product Breakdown Structure (PBS) may help. 

10. The integrated vechicle review did not present the element design issues (RIDs) so it was difficult to know if the parts added up to a rocket that will fly 

11. The review occurred to close to the element PDRs, This did not allow for some of the element level rids to addressed or predeclared in documents. 

12. The table tops seemed to have no agenda and were always full of people who seemed to just be observing the meeting, making it impossible for people with technical issues to attend. 

13. Time was limited for the book-mangers to work RIDs with the initiators 

14. Comments made by the "screening" team, when returned to the review team, were more often than not confusing to a point that the question was often raised as to the background of the screening team and did they understand the issue being discussed on the RID. This may have been a problem with the way the RID tool was being used/implemented. 

15. People assigned to perform document reviews were also assigned to the screening team, leaving no time to actually review the documentation. 

16. The text fields in the MSFC RIDS tool only allow 2 or three lines of text in a narrow window to be shown. This made it difficult to review RIDs in the screening team with a projector. The RIDS tool should be modifed to allow showing all the text in any field, not just a small slice of text. 

17. Building 4205 was a very inconvienent place to hold the RID screening tabletop meetings. The Gallery room in 4205 is an echo chamber and it is impossible to conduct an effective meeting there. Parking around 4205 is limited, and the Marshall cops were giving parking tickets to people for parking on the grass or on the roadways. Most people had to park at the 4200 complex and walk over to 4205. The people normally resident in 4205 were resentful of the PDR visitors and got upset when we used the copiers, coffee machines, vending machines, etc. The building has limited restroom facilities. For a major review such as the Ares I PDR, the project needs to find a better venue in Huntsville that provides adequate parking, excellent wireless access, multiple meeting rooms, well-stocked vending machines, and access to restaraunts. The Von Braun Center downtown or the Jacobs Conference Center are possibilities. 

18. Building 4205 was a very inconvienent place to hold the RID screening tabletop meetings. The Gallery room in 4205 is an echo chamber and it is impossible to conduct an effective meeting there. Parking around 4205 is limited, and the Marshall cops were giving parking tickets to people for parking on the grass or on the roadways. Most people had to park at the 4200 complex and walk over to 4205. The people normally resident in 4205 were resentful of the PDR visitors and got upset when we used the copiers, coffee machines, vending machines, etc. The building has limited restroom facilities. For a major review such as the Ares I PDR, the project needs to find a better venue in Huntsville that provides adequate parking, excellent wireless access, multiple meeting rooms, well-stocked vending machines, and access to restaraunts. The Von Braun Center downtown or the Jacobs Conference Center are possibilities. 

19. Much of the documentation presented for PDR was not mature enough for PDR. This limited an effective of these documents and left the impression that the PDR was rushed. 

20. The RID screening rules and procedures seemed to change from day to day, like we were making it up as we went along. 

21. The CSRT detailed design presentations were missing major content such as graphs and tables, probably because they were generated on a Macintosh computer and the PowerPoint files were incompatible with the Windows versions. All presenters should have used Windows versions of Powerpoint to produce their slides. 

22. The RID tool does NOT have a capability to retrive RIDs lost for nay reason. 

23. RID training was conducted in an incompetent fashion. We had 40+ people in a room designed to hold 15-20. We had 10-15 people sitting in the hallway outside listening in. 

24. The RID tool can not recover issues lost for any reason. A daily backup would be of great benefit. One full day of work entering RIDs (by multiple people) was lost and had to be repeated. 

25. Insufficient time was allotted to review the documents. 

26. Bldg 4205 was a very bad choice. That building was not designed to handle such an event/meetings. The selection and use of 4205 reduced the effectiveness of the review. People who made this selection did not understand what was expected or needed by the review teams. 

27. Single point failures in communication and planning impacted the effectiveness of the PDR. 

28. Several presenters did not know what was in there charts or had not seen them prior to presenting 

29. Definition of "Editorial Issues" not consistent between teams. 

30. Developer of wiki page was not given credit for his work (see source code of actual developers name). Credit was given to someone else. Not ethical. 

31. Meeting room facility needs and request ignored. 

32. Request to have room cleaned ignored. 

33. Planning and notices of "overbooking" of kick-off and detailed design review had effect of discouraging people to participate in PDR. 

34. Informal notice that people who might be admitted to kick off could be asked to leave to make room for VIPs discouraged attendance. 

35. RID tool passwords and usernames shared with others (beyond RID tool account holder) by RID coordinator. RID tool usernames/passwords not secure. 

36. RID tool passwords and usernames shared with others (beyond RID tool account holder) by RID coordinator. RID tool usernames/passwords not secure. 





41. Restrictive invitations to PDR presentation and RID participation greatly reduced the capability of potential participants to provide a review of the vehicle design. 

42. Not allowing RIDs to be written against the SRD and declaring it a finished document prior to the PDR was just arrogant and wrong. This was further evidenced and confused by the introduction of two version of the SRD, showing that it was in fact being changed behind the scenes. 

43. This one goes to both this team and those above them. It is impossible to have adequate review of parts or the integrated vehicle if the schedules for other Elements does not allow for participation. 

44. Allow adequate time for issues raised in Element or sub-system reviews to be addressed and brought forward. If we are actually building an integrated vehicle, then we need to pay attention to all the parts. We were directly told in training that the results of the US and Avionics reviews didn't matter to this review. 

45. Not enough actual design documentation was available for review, many of the products were in poor shape for a pdr. Not enough actual design documentation was available for review, many of the products were in poor shape for a pdr. 

46. Facility was inadequate/noisy. No place to sit quietly and review documents. 

47. Documents were printed out for reviewers use but were not clearly marked-took a long time to find what you wanted and this could have been alleviated easily by labeling the notebooks with doc names. 

48. I don't care who at NASA the RID coordinator is/was sleeping with personal abuse of team members is wrong! 

49. My overriding concern with the PDR is the lack of ethics displayed by the contractor RID coordinator and two NASA managers. The contractor RID coordinator was given tasks by NASA and did not do them, when timing was critical she passed the work onto others, then had the finished work sent back to her. She then uploaded the products as her own taking full credit work she did not do. This was known by the NASA PDR lead. Nothing was done due to the sexual relationship between the RID coordinator and a Sr. NASA manager. The lack of ethics and standards, the dishonesty and overt favoritism is damaging this project and will if left unchecked endanger the Ares 1 program (as it will spread) and one day Astronauts. We need to get back to building rockets, not hiring girlfriends. 1. 

50. Need to define exactly what should be done/completed prior to tabletop meetings during PDR. Book managers needed to already have worked issues/comments/editorials with reviewers prior to attending PDR tabletop with the sequestered team. They needed to already have worked whether they accepted/rejected their comments before entering. They needed to check the RID tool themselves for their documents to see if any RIDs had been entered against their document. The tabletop meetings were not meant to work issues, unless a sequestered participant had a question/comment about a RID. 

51. I do not believe the sequestering of the review teams worked well for non-local people supporting other projects. Complaints were voiced about lack of Orion support of the Ares PDR, imagine the outcry if Orion would have requested 3 contiguous weeks of sequestered Ares support a month or two before the Ares PDR. It was just not realistic. 

52. The option to print a full RID report in the RID tool should only be available to certain users and not everyone registered to use the tool. 

Ideas: Based on what did not go well, identify what we should do differently. Please prioritize your list. (Be sure to include which Phase and Area of the Phase you are referring to when you enter your responses.) 

1. Individual review period was not long enough for those review team members who had to prepare charts then rework them ad naseum for the DDP 

2. Not enough time was provided for a complete review of the technical design 

3. Logistics and requirements should be well defined for the Review's needs 

4. There are many good leaders in this group, but one person needs to be empowered with assigning/delegating the tasks needed for successful execution...this person should be assigned my NASA management, and given the authority to act as a supervisor during this process 

5. Need to define exactly what should be done/completed prior to tabletop meetings during PDR. Book managers needed to already have worked issues/comments/editorials with reviewers prior to attending PDR tabletop with the sequestered team. They needed to already have worked whether they accepted/rejected their comments before entering. They needed to check the RID tool themselves for their documents to see if any RIDs had been entered against their document. The tabletop meetings were not meant to work issues, unless a sequestered participant had a question/comment about a RID. 

6. 1. Present the Integrated (all the Element) RID Story so that it is easy to follow and so that it can be referenced while reviewing VI products 

7. Rework the RID tool so that it supports the RID process used (instead of driving the process). Also improve the reports. 

8. Have a drawing Layout Room for CDR. There will be more drawiongs and we will need to see them. 

9. Obviously the location for the RID review was undersized for the number of reviewers. Network capacity was a problem and should have been anticipated. Room location for some put review teams into areas that were not supportive of the review. Consider a larger location next time with the appropriate network capacity. 

10. Since a lot of the PDR documentation was not mature enough to be considered for PDR, limiting the value of a review of these documents, the PDR entry critieria should be reconsidered. Possibly restricting documentation addressed in the PDR to 60% maturity with no TBDs or TBRs. 

11. Consider using the large auditorium at the Davidson Center not just for the kickoff presentations but also for the Detailed Design Presentations. Provide good wireless network access in the Davidson Center and breakout rooms for splinter meetings. 

12. The conduct of this review begs a question: was it designed to review technical content or just pass a program milestone? 


14. Plan and execute and open PDR of the design, not just the delivered documentation. Make every facet of the design RIDable and accept that you have invited the discipline experts to CRITICALLY review your design. 

15. Plan for days or hours of fully training participants or participant leaders in the review processes and tools. One 30 minutes session and a pointer to the locations was essentially a hand-wave at what was really needed. 

16. Product readiness needs to be addressed/assessed. In general, this program changes direction so much that we spend all of our time reacting instead of working on a quality product. this review was no different. Groundrules were changed during the review-i.e., how we were to handle editorials. in that case, book managers would contact a reviewer and tell them how they were going to handle their editorial comment and by mid week that was no longer true. changing the review plan during the review is just inexcusable and shows poor planning-and my example was one of the least destructive changes. 

17. (Type here to submit an idea.) 

18. Organizing the review teams by WBS prevented any team from obtaining a system level overview of what was going on. The result was a completely stovepiped review. The prime purpose of the review was to demonstrate that the preliminary design met requirements. In order to properly demonstate this, a review team should be given the requirements for some subset of the total design and the preliminary design soulution against these requirements. The team should be tasked to examine the adequacy of the design subset through manufacturing, assembly, test, ground operations, launch and flight. This is the only way to completely validate the preliminary design against requirments. 

19. The PDR was essentially a bean counting activity driven by RIDs, the RID tool, and RID tool problems. Instead of being the focus of the review, RIDs should only be used as input problem flags to an SE&I/Operations Research activity that determines root causes and identifies and documents the larger real issues. Focus on finding the problems rather than closing RIDS. 

20. The answer is obvious -- Pass a MIlestone with minimum damage 

21. 19. is the answer to 11. 

22. Regularly scheduled Data Drops and Basic Metric by the RID Coordination Team available for all who where participating in the review might have cut down on the number of times people where performing the system stalling Data Extracts from the RID Tool 

23. A clearly defined, user friendly and consistently implemented Reclama Process to insure that Issues brought up by Initiators where addressed through out the review process. Initiaors informed when their RIDs were dispositioned at all phases of the review process and given the opportunity to Reclama. 

24. To accomodate participants that are not familiar with the process at all, I recommend two things to preceed any training: 1. Clear definition of roles (a list of ALL the roles, what does EACH role entail), and 2. A list of the STEPS from pre-RID to RID to closure.


25 September 2008

NASA clears hurdle on Soyuz

From The Write Stuff:

WASHINGTON - NASA Administrator Michael Griffin on Tuesday won the approval of a key Senate committee in his battle to buy Russian spacecraft as a four-year replacement for the space shuttle.

But the fight is far from over. And Griffin has less than two weeks to persuade the rest of Congress to allow the use of Soyuz spacecraft to take U.S. astronauts to the international space station after the space shuttle's planned retirement in 2010.

"This is just the first step in the process," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the Florida Democrat who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which approved the NASA request. "I think we can get it moving, but any one person in the Senate can hold it up."

NASA is seeking a waiver from an arms-control law that forbids the Soyuz purchase because Russia sells nuclear material to Iran.

NASA's current waiver expires in 2011, but an American replacement for the shuttle won't be ready until at least 2015. In the interim, Soyuz capsules are the only proven way to both get astronauts to the station and serve as onboard lifeboats.

The measure's one announced opponent -- U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Indiana -- is urging that Congress provide money to extend the shuttle program, an option that has won tentative endorsements from both presidential candidates, Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama.

Both have also expressed concern about Russia's recent invasion of neighboring Georgia. But neither has said he will oppose purchasing the Soyuz capsules.

As yet, Weldon hasn't found a senator willing to object -- which would kill the waiver by holding it up past Congress' scheduled adjournment, either this week or next. But he has also promised to fight the waiver in the House.

"It's totally up in the air," said Weldon spokesman Derek Baker. He said the retiring Space Coast congressman is pushing a compromise that would couple a short-term extension of the waiver with more shuttle flights after 2010.

Griffin has told Congress that the shuttle is too expensive -- and dangerous -- to keep flying past 2010 and that he needs the waiver now because it takes the Russians three years to build new spacecraft. NASA officials already are negotiating with the Russians over terms of the deal.

Follow up:

WASHINGTON -- It could be the most important sentence for NASA this year, one line in a U.S. House spending bill that would allow NASA to circumvent an arms-control law and purchase Russian spacecraft after the space shuttle is retired in 2010. 

But for NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, it might be enough. Today, the US House voted 370-58 to fund federal agencies at current levels through next March. The $630-billion plus measure also includes a provision that allows NASA to purchase Russian Soyuz spacecraft until July 2016, a four-year extension. 

Now it's up to the Senate, where a key panel approved the same waiver request on Tuesday. 

Without that waiver, NASA would be unable to purchase Russian Soyuz spacecraft after 2011. Griffin has told lawmakers that the Soyuz is the only reliable way that American astronauts can access the International Space Station once the space shuttle is retired, now set for 2010. 

An American replacement wouldn't be ready until 2015 at the earliest. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


On Orbit II

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Readies World's First Hypersonic Hydrocarbon-Fueled and -Cooled Scramjet for Flight

It Takes A Nation To Build A Rocket


Chinese Claim Em Drive Works


The EM Drive is a reactionless drive originally developed by a man named Roger Shawyer.  He to use a magnetron to create and bounce microwaves around a chamber.  The thrust comes from an imbalance in the resultant forces coming from the reflections due to relativistic effects.  The EmDrive has been panned by the scientific community and there has been no independent peer review.

With that said, after the original British and then American interest fell through, the Chinese picked it up.  They now claim to have developed an experimental simulation that confirms the validity of Shawyer's drive.  The thrust produced is comparable to ion drives but the main differences are that there is no reaction mass and weight.  The Em Drive weighs 7 kilos and produces 85 mN (milli-Newtons) of thrust.  NASA's NSTAR ion thruster weighs upwards of 30 kilos, uses four times more power, consumes 10 grams of fuels per hour and produces 92 mN of thrust.  I have not been able to confirm the weight of the NSTAR but according to, NSTAR uses just over 4 grams of fuel per hour.  A bit of an overstatement.

The EmDrive is something that I would need to see to believe until then, its a perpetual motion machine.


24 September 2008

Why Go to Space Pt V

Continued From Part IV

I have often had to justify why going into space is a good idea and use of resources when we have so many other problems. Here are some reasons.

But first, a matter of scale. The estimated federal budget for FY 2007 was 2.7 trillion dollars. Trillion, as in 1000 billion. The estimated NASA budget adjusted for inflation $17.2 billion. For that year, NASA consumed 0.6% of the Federal budget. Not even a whole percentage point for the national agency directed to lead us into the next stage of human technological development.

In exchange for 0.6% of the federal budget, you get a space program, national pride, economic stimulation, and a slew of inventions that you get to use and no royalties are charged!

Coming up next, NASA at the mall (sort of).


23 September 2008

Get It from the Source

Now according to some research, to get to LEO, you'd need a delta v of about 10.  From there to the Moon is another 6 km/s delta v.  From LEO to the know NEOs (Near Earth Objects), the closest are just under 4 km/s delta v.  Departing delta v from the NEO is miniscule b/c of its low gravity.  This brings up an interesting option.  If you're intending to go the Moon, and you need things from the asteroids (volatiles), wouldn't it be wise to set up a concurrent base on an NEO?  They are easier to reach from Earth, have things we need on both Earth and the Moon and are very easy to ship from.  No need to launch lunar iron to construction sites in orbit if you can get it from the asteroids.  No need to haul water from earth to the Moon if you can extract it from a carbonaceous chondrite nearby.  Initial capital costs would be higher but how long would it take for that initial investment to pay off?

NASA NEO database

Cosmic link to precious metals: study

Rare, precious metals may owe their presence in Earth's upper crust to a bombardment of the infant planet by asteroids billions of years ago, according to a study unveiled on Monday.

Gerhard Schmidt from the University of Mainz, western Germany, carried out a 12-year investigation into impact sites left by meteorites, analysing the soil for traces of these precious metals, which are called highly siderophile elements (HSE).

Metals in the HSE group include gold, platinum, palladium, iridium and ruthenium.

Schmidt compared these with samples from Earth's mantle and crust; from Martian meteorites that have been found on Earth; and from analysis of HSE-rich rocks, brought back by the Apollo missions, found at impact sites on the Moon.

The startling similarities point to a "cosmochemical source" for terrestrial HSE, he said in a press release.

He calculates that around 160 large, metal-rich asteroids in the order of 20 kilometers (12 miles) in diameter would have been enough to provide the concentrations of HSE we see today.

Schmidt was scheduled to present his work at the European Planetary Science Congress, taking place this week in the German town of Muenster.

From Space Daily


22 September 2008

On Orbit I

On Orbit, our news dump.

Shenzhou 7 set to fly China third manned spaceflight.  Unlike Shanzhou 6, -7 will carry three taikonauts (definitely the best sounding astronaut title) into orbit, with the first taking place in 2003.  Sent aloft on the Long March II-F, it will be the 109th launch of a Long March rocket.  Additionally, Chinese authorities report that the Long March series has a 100% success rate.  Once in orbit, one of the taikonauts will perform a spacewalk.

From Space Daily

Update: Russia Looks to Take Lead in Commercial Launch Services

Now with pictures.  Can anyone tell me how they plan to recover the RD-191?

Update: India's Moon Mission May Lift Off October 19

If India misses it October launch window for Chandrayaan-I, cyclone season would prevent a launch until December.


21 September 2008

NASA Eyes Nuclear Power for Moon Base

NASA is considering the use of a nuclear plant to power their lunar outpost.  The main benefit that nuclear has over solar is the ability to generate power during the long lunar night (~14 days).  Unless based in orbit, solar power would require the outpost to be designed with both:

  • enough extra generating capacity to provide power during the two week long night
  • massive, bulky batteries to store energy during the night

The length of day can addressed by siting the outpost near the poles but there is are trade offs to doing that.  The terrain is much, much rougher in the terrae (highlands) that covers the poles.  Placing an outpost near the poles limits the terrain easily available for exploration.  The poles are covered almost exclusively by lunar terrae.  The maria are located on the near side in the lower latitudes.  The maria has the mineral that most easily provides oxygen: ilmenite.  It also contains the highest concentration of KREEP, a source of potassium and phosphorus.  But building an outpost near a polar mountain that has access to nearly continuous light also has benefits.  High mountains give larger larger line of sight communication range, which is important because there is no lunar ionosphere to bounce radio waves.  There are craters that are likely to be permanently shaded, from which we can postulate the very rare and necessary volatile might be found because they wouldn't have evaporated.

If there is manufacturing base established on the Moon, the solar option might be the easiest to implement.  Thorium based nuclear power can be done using lunar materials, but it is orders of magnitude more complicated.

The most likely possibility is the there is no manufacturing capability on site, so everything has to be lifted directly from Earth, which is a Very Bad Thing in terms of cost.  Silicon solar panels have none of the political stigma that a uranium nuclear power plant has in the case of a catastrophic explosion.  Solar panels are also much lighter.  Add in the fact that NASA's outpost is likely going to placed near the poles and solar seems to be the best short term option for the lunar base.  NASA may be showing some long term strategic planning in its desire to explore the nuclear option.  Good news all around.


20 September 2008

Carnival of Space is Live

Go Here

Of particular interest is this post about gas driven lunar drilling on Colony Worlds.


Russia May Help Cuba Build Space Centre

From a purely objective standpoint point, this is a good move for Roskosmos.  Their main launch center at Baikonur is in another country (Kazakhstan) and their military launch center Plestek Cosmodrome is too far north to be truly useful except for orbits with high inclinations.  A center in Cuba gives them access to equatorial orbits and the added momentum boost that comes from being launched closer to the equator.

I can't imagine Washington being happy about a Russian facility in Cuba presumably capable of launching ICBMs into the heart of the US.

Russia may help Cuba build space centre 

16:50 17 September 2008 news service 
New Scientist Space and Reuters

Moscow is ready to help Cuba develop its own space centre, Russia's space agency chief said on Wednesday after talks in Caracas with Venezuelan and Cuban officials, Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reported.

Russia has stepped up efforts to develop closer links with both countries, which are ideological enemies of Washington, including sending Russian strategic bombers on a mission to Venezuela this month.

"We have held preliminary discussions about the possibility of creating a space centre in Cuba with our help," Anatoly Perminov, the chief of Russia's Federal Space Agency, was quoted as saying in Caracas by Itar-Tass.

"With our Cuban colleagues, we discussed the possibilities of joint use of space equipment . . . and the joint use of space communications systems," Perminov said.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin visited Cuba this week and, together with representatives from several Russian ministries and large Russian companies, looked at ways to help Cuba recover from hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Recently, tensions have grown between the US and Russia over the conflict in Georgia.

This has led to worries over how the US will send astronauts into space after the space shuttles are set to retire in 2010, since the White House had planned to purchase space flights from Russia until the shuttles' replacements begin flying in 2015.

Renewed Russian links to the Caribbean island will stir memories in Washington of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when the US and Soviet Union almost went to war over Soviet missile bases on Cuba, which is 145 km (90 miles) from US shores.

Russian officials have said they want to renew Cuban ties that were neglected after the Soviet Union's collapse.


19 September 2008

India's Moon Mission May Lift Off October 19

Follow up from a previous article on the ISRO's upcoming lunar probe Chandrayaan-1.

Tentatively scheduled for 19 October 2008, Chandrayaan-1 is set for liftoff from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.  Chandrayaan-1 weighs 590 kg (1298 lbs) and will be carrying 11 science packages to lunar orbit.

Chandrayaan-1 will beam back digital elevation maps of the moon and its mineral concentration, as also carry out environmental studies and measure radioactivity on the lunar surface.

It will try to find the traces of atomic elements such as Radon, Uranium and Thorium.


Solar Power Satellite Proof of Concept

Discovery Communications, parent company to the Discovery Channel, sponsored the first demonstration of wireless power transmission.

Wireless power transmission is the cornerstone of Space Based Power Satellites, an objective used by proponents of heavy industry in space.  The thought is that by building giant solar power farms in orbit and then beaming the resulting power down to antenna farms on Earth, we'd have the ultimate in "green" power.  You'd minimize the emissions from coal, natural gas and oil plants here on earth and trade that for costs of launching enough material and people into orbit to manufacture the satellites.

The project leader is former NASA executive John C. Mankins and his contact email is

The experiment used solid state phased array transmitter on Maui.  Two different sets of receivers were set up.  One was airborne and the other on the big island of Hawai'i.  The amount transmitted to the receivers was 20 watts, a miniscule amount.  My biggest question was what was the transmission efficiency and according to Mankins, extremely low, though this was by budgetary design.  Mankins claims that he should be able to achieve 64% efficiency.  With a larger budget, we could get an experiment that would test the actual power transmission capabilities of the system.  There are also rumors of mounting a similar setup on the ISS.



For more information, head over the NSS website devoted to Space Based Power :


Michael Griffin Speech

Los Angeles Air Force Base, El Segundo, California 

14 September 2008 

I want to thank Congresswoman Jane Harman for giving me the excuse I deeply desired to escape Washington for southern California, "God's country", and one of my former homes, with sunny weather and beautiful beaches. It is a great place for aerospace engineers to ponder the fluid dynamics of the waves as well, as well as those to be found in the Manhattan Beach Brewery. And I want to thank the Air Force for hosting us here tonight in a place commonly referred to as the Hollywood Air Force Base. 

Tom Sheriden, the commander of the Space & Missile System Center, walks in the footsteps of giants in our business. One of my former mentors and personal heroes was General Bernard ("Benny") Schriever, who came to Los Angeles in 1954 with a small, elite group of officers who built the Thor, Atlas, Titan, and Minuteman missiles, the foundation for all future aerospace systems launched into orbit. General Schriever also helped NASA in the early days of the space program and Project Mercury, the subject of Tom Wolfe's elegant book The Right Stuff. For that, NASA's and our nation's success in space exploration is due in part to the men and women of the Air Force Space & Missile Systems Center. 

Since this evening's discussion is about seeking "The Right Stuff", I consulted Tom Wolfe's book to remind me of that unique author's definition of it: 

"As to just what this ineffable quality was. . .well, it obviously involved bravery. But it was not bravery in the simple sense of being willing to risk your life... any fool could do that... No, the idea... seemed to be that a man should have the ability to go up in a hurtling piece of machinery and put his hide on the line and then have the moxie, the reflexes, the experience, the coolness, to pull back in the last yawning moment - and then to go up again the next day, and the next day, and every next day... There was ... a seemingly infinite series of tests. ... a dizzy progression of steps and ledges, a ziggurat, a pyramid extraordinarily high and steep; and the idea was to prove at every foot of the way up that pyramid that you were one of the elected and anointed ones who had the right stuff and could move higher and higher and even - ultimately, God willing, one day - that you might be able to join that special few at the very top, that elite who had the capacity to bring tears to men's eyes, the very Brotherhood of the Right Stuff itself." 

This definition works well for our pilot astronauts; it doesn't do much for the scientists and engineers we hire, however. But that's not really the point. Tom Wolfe is a wonderful writer, who conveys to the reader a sense of intimacy with any subject about which he chooses to write. His prose speaks to us in ways that are poetic, timeless and inspirational. And, as I've said in several speeches, at a fundamental level, NASA is in the inspiration business. Space exploration inspires the questioning child in each of us to "explore strange new worlds, to seek new life and new civilizations, and to boldly go where no one has gone before." I believe that we will, one day, find a civilization on Mars. Ours. The stuff of science fiction slowly turns into reality. The communicators and tricorders from Star Trek become the cell phones and PDAs that each of us have today. The computing power of the one in my pocket dwarfs the computing power of anything available during the Apollo era - and it's not even the best you can buy. 

I recently read an essay written a few years ago by Michael Crichton, the author of many popular science fiction books, including Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain. In that article, Crichton highlighted the work of a privately- funded foundation called Space Camp, an intensive program for kids and adults to be exposed to the physics and engineering of space flight. Last year, after 25 years of operation, Space Camp graduated its 500,000th camper. In his essay, Crichton tells the story of a ten year-old boy who was interviewed on TV after graduating from Space Camp. "Asked about the future, he spoke of colonies on the Moon, and trips to Mars. The reporter said, 'How are you going to get the Congress to pay for it?'" To which the young boy replied, "Maybe your Congress won't, but mine will." With your help, Congresswoman Harman, we are slowly turning dreams into reality, and science fiction into fact. We are re-writing the text books as well as the history books. 

So I ask, why not dare to do the great things, the hard things, the meaningful things which makes our country great? It is a choice, a choice of strategic importance for how we as a small group of people in this room tonight and as a nation choose to spend our time, resources, and energy. Do we choose to spend our time on things which will have lasting meaning and improve the lives of current and future generations, or do we choose to waste our time with trivial pursuits? 

In 1962, when President Kennedy chose to go to the moon and do other things "not because they are easy, but because they are hard", NASA had less than ten hours of experience in human spaceflight under its belt in the Mercury program. But we had The Right Stuff. 

President Kennedy fully recognized that "that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win". It was a bold challenge to put service and sacrifice above self. It was what we could do for our country. However, at that time NASA had little experience and many, many naysayers in and around Washington. Not much different than today, actually. But NASA had The Right Stuff then, and still does, even though there seem to be even more pundits today who question the audacity of our mission or our credibility to carry it out. 

When President Ronald Reagan proposed to the Congress in 1984 that NASA build a space station, he said, "We can follow our dreams to distant stars, living and working in space for peaceful economic and scientific gain." In November, we will mark eight years of continuous human presence in space aboard the International Space Station. President Reagan's dream became a reality. 

Tonight, California native son and astronaut Greg Chamitoff is living and working onboard the International Space Station that President Reagan proposed. Greg grew up in Silicon Valley, and earned his bachelors degree in electrical engineering from Cal Poly the same year that Reagan first proposed that our nation build the Space Station. He taught lab courses in circuit design and had summer internships at Four Phase Systems, Atari Computers, Northern Telecom, and IBM. Greg then received his master's degree in aeronautical engineering at Cal Tech, and while there, he became good friends with Rick Gilbrech, who now heads NASA's Exploration Systems efforts, building the Ares rockets and Orion crew vehicles so that astronauts who will follow in Greg's footsteps will be able to take the next "giant leap for mankind" beyond the shores of low Earth orbit - to the Moon, near-Earth asteroids, and Mars. 

This will be the greatest challenge NASA has ever faced, but with current budget projections, I believe that it is eminently doable over the next fifty years. But we must not lose focus, defer future possibilities, or wander in the desert of indecision and lost opportunities, as happened in the 1970s following our success with the Apollo moon landings. Even in retrospect, it is hard to credit that only three-and-a-half years after the historic voyage of Apollo 11, Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt flew the last lunar landing mission on Apollo 17, because our nation and its elected leaders chose to curtail our nation's space program. The planned Apollo 20 mission was cancelled a few weeks after the Apollo 11 landing, and Apollo 18 and 19 were cancelled some months later. With those actions, the space program as we knew it in the 1960s was over, finished, and done. NASA is often blamed for its so-called lack of vision after the apotheosis of the Apollo years, but frankly, after those decisions, it didn't matter what NASA did, or didn't do. Our elected leaders had lost the vision and sense of purpose for our nation in space, and we retreated to low-Earth orbit. 

The abandonment of the capability our nation purchased at such great price during the Apollo years was a mistake of strategic proportions. NASA's spending declined from a high of 4.2 percent of our nation's federal budget to just under 0.6 percent today. The termination of the Apollo program, the failure to sustain America's journey beyond low-Earth orbit, the destruction of the industrial capability to produce the Saturn V rocket and Apollo spacecraft, and the loss of the future our nation could have had in space, was a policy decision perpetrated by the Nixon Administration and ratified by the Congress of that time, essentially without debate. Our nation was distracted by other pressing issues, and our future on the space frontier suffered as a result. 

And look where this has taken us. Last year, just prior to a Space Shuttle launch, I sat down for an interview with CNN just as one of their producers informed me that they had to cut away from their coverage of the Shuttle launch. There was breaking news of vital national importance from Los Angeles: Paris Hilton was going to jail. That was the moment when I realized how tough the NASA Administrator's job really is. NASA could not compete for the American people's attention against Paris Hilton. 

During the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics last month, I was struck by the athletes' creed: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well." And the camera turned to the faces of many, many American athletes who kept repeating that memorable phrase: "It's the not the triumph but the struggle. It's not the triumph but the struggle." That is The Right Stuff. Next month, we plan to launch Space Shuttle Atlantis on the final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, one of the greatest machines NASA has ever built. The story of this scientific and engineering marvel is one of bold vision, imagination, and audacious risk-taking, but also perseverance and ingenuity when, as sometimes happens, not all risks are successfully negotiated. It is a story that transcends science. 

One of the astronauts on that mission is taking a small part of the Olympics with him. About one year ago, Mike Massimino was talking to his 13-year old son Daniel who is a swimmer. When Mike asked his son what special personal items he would like him to carry with him on the Space Shuttle, Daniel glanced over at a poster of Michael Phelps on his bedroom wall and asked, "why don't you take one of Michael Phelps' swim caps?" So, the Massimino family contacted Deborah Phelps, Michael's mother who is also a principal at Windsor Middle School in Baltimore, Maryland. The two families became friends, and next month the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis will carry with them into space a small USA swim cap autographed by Michael Phelps. After the mission, the astronauts will return it and spend some time with the students of Deborah Phelps' school. In this way, NASA is in the inspiration business. One thing about astronauts, they can capture the attention of teenagers for at least 5 minutes... which is more than I know how to do. 

While I make light of this, the lesson here is that our media and nation are not focusing on what matters most. Thus, I believe it is necessary for us - all of us - to take the time to discuss openly the founding principles that led us our nation to embrace space exploration fifty years ago, when it mattered to the whole nation that we overcome our slow start and become the world's preeminent spacefaring nation. We need to reverse the alarming trends in our nation's science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce. While the vast majority of our nation's workforce is neither scientists nor engineers, the four percent who are create most of the goods and services, solve real-world problems, and produce new discoveries and insights about our planet and our universe. 

We have become inured to what should be recognized as alarming trends, the subject of a recent hearing before the House of Representatives Science & Technology Committee. There are half as many bachelor's degrees in physics awarded today in the United States than when Sputnik was launched in 1957. The number of engineers graduating with bachelor's degrees declined by over 20% in the last two decades prior to a recent up-tick - but that up-tick is primarily due to an increase in the number of foreign students, who are increasingly returning to their home countries. In 2004, China graduated approximately 500,000 engineers while India graduated 200,000 and the United States graduated 70,000. In 2005, the United States produced more undergraduates in sports exercise than in electrical engineering. In 2006, only 15% of college graduates in the United States received a diploma in engineering or the natural sciences, compared to 38% in South Korea, 47% in France, and 67% in Singapore. The number of PhDs in engineering awarded by U.S. universities to U.S. citizens declined 34% in a single decade. Two-thirds of U.S. engineering PhDs are awarded to foreign nationals. In some surveys, U.S. public schools consistently rank near the bottom in mathematics and science as compared to their global counterparts. We are surpassed by, among others, Azerbaijan, Latvia and Macao. 

If we do not reverse these trends, other countries will surpass the United States in scientific and technical acumen. This will affect our country in arenas well beyond space exploration. It will undermine our ability to compete in the global marketplace. 

These trends did not happen overnight, and they will not be fixed overnight. We face a critical shortage of people skilled in technical professions. NASA is not immune to the demographic trends of a retiring baby boom generation and a declining educational system. Many of the people who built the Space Shuttle, the Hubble Space Telescope, the International Space Station, and the Mars rovers are retiring. Who will replace them to build the space systems of tomorrow? 

Perhaps we as a nation can learn something from China's play book with their strategic, multi-faceted approach. At their fantastic opening ceremonies for the Olympic games, they celebrated their nation's space program and their future in space exploration, with images of the planets of our solar system projected on the rim of the bird's nest stadium, and taikonauts dancing around a yellow sun and new-age planet in a spectacular display of acrobatics. China's opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games, costing a reported $300 million, were compared in the media to America's Apollo 11 moon landing, as their statement to the world that they intend to be regarded as a superpower. According a recent report by the RAND Corporation, a few years ago China initiated a fifteen-year "Medium-to Long-Term Plan for the Development of Science and Technology" which clearly stated their nation's goals and means to achieve it. It stated that China aims to become an "innovation-oriented society" by 2020 and a world leader in science and technology by 2050, develop indigenous innovation capabilities, leap-frog into leading positions in new science-based industries, increase R&D expenditures to 2.5 percent of GDP by 2020 (from 1.34 percent in 2005), increase the contribution to economic growth from technological advances to 60%, limit dependence on imported technology to 30%, and become one of the top five countries in the world in the number of patents granted. 

China is investing heavily in building space capability because they understand the value of these activities, both as a driver for innovation and a source of national pride in being a member of the world's most exclusive club. They understand what it means for a society to be pushing the human frontier. China today not only flies its own taikonauts, but also has plans to launch about a hundred satellites over the next five to eight years. It should be no surprise, especially to those who have read Tom Friedman's book "The World is Flat" or John Kao's "Innovation Nation", that this environment in China is breeding thousands of high-tech start-ups. 

The Chinese adapted the design of the Russian Soyuz to create their Shenzhou spacecraft. However, the similarity between the two ends at the outer mould line; the Shenzhou spacecraft is both more spacious and more capable. They plan to conduct their first spacewalks and orbital rendezvous operations, and to build their own space station - admittedly simpler than ours - in the coming years. While they have not stated an intention to do so, the Chinese could send a mission around the Moon with the Shenzhou spacecraft, as the United States did with the inspiring Apollo 8 mission back in 1968. China could easily execute such a mission with their planned Long March V rocket, currently under development and reportedly rivaling the capabilities of any expendable rocket in the world today. After visiting their facilities and talking to their engineers two years ago, I have no doubt that they will have it in use, as they plan, by around 2013. I've also visited India, and seen their space infrastructure. I was equally impressed. 

I am not making these points to engender a new space race with China, or for that matter with India or anyone else. I am saying that I respect the way these countries are approaching the development of their nation's space capabilities, and I am concerned that our own nation is not nearly as focused as we should be on the strategic implications of what is happening. 

NASA is simply one element of our own nation's multi-faceted approach to technological innovation. There are many other government organizations and programs, and our nation properly leverages the private sector's investments in innovation. We ourselves are also leveraging the emerging commercial space sector, from commercial imagery satellites and launch vehicles like SpaceX's Falcon rockets, the Zero-G Corporation's Boeing 727 for parabolic flights which produce 30 seconds of weightlessness, reusable suborbital spacecraft like Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic Company's SpaceShipTwo, and the Commercial Orbital Transportation System to support the International Space Station. 

History shows that nations that shrink from the frontiers of their time, shrink also in their influence on the world stage. Yet we see that Americans today do not feel the urgency for preeminence on the space frontier that we felt in the 1950s and '60s. Sometimes I wonder if we are a bit tired, or distracted by other urgent crises, to recognize what it is that preeminence means for America. 

As we are seeing, other nations seem to realize the importance of space exploration. This is an enterprise in which we can afford to be a leader, and one in which we cannot afford to be a follower. Whether America takes part or not, human exploration of space will go forward in this century. It is only a question of who those explorers are, what languages they speak, and what values they hold. Make no mistake, those who explore space in the coming decades will have The Right Stuff. I only hope that Americans will be among them. 

Thank you.


18 September 2008

Russia Looks to Take Lead in Commercial Launch Services

Russia's new RD-191 developed by NPO Energomash for use in the future Angara rocket system is an acheivement that rocket scientists have been working on for years.  The RD-191 is a RE-USEABLE liquid rocket motor that is versatile enough to be used on the 1st or 2nd stage.  Fueled by kerosene and LOX, the engine features four combustion chambers fed by a single turbopump.  NPO Energomash reports that the RD-191 is ready for mass production.


17 September 2008

Take the Sarah Palin!!


The Vatican's Cultural Minister Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi reinforced on Tuesday (16 Sept 2008) the Catholic Church's position (starting with Pope Pius XII in 1950) that the theory of evolution was compatible with the Bible and the development of Man.  Furthermore, in keeping with the doctrine of Theistic Evolution, current Pope Benedict XVI affirms that the conflict between evolutionists and creationists is absurd.

“They are presented as alternatives that exclude each other,” the pope said. “This clash is an absurdity because on one hand there is much scientific proof in favor of evolution, which appears as a reality that we must see and which enriches our understanding of life and being as such.”

Creationists, Intelligent Designers, get out our my science classrooms.  You belong in religious ed.


NASA Conducts First Test On New Motor For The Ares I Rocket

Nasa completed the first successful test of the ullage settling motor this past week.  The ullage settling motor is a small solid rocket that does exactly what the name implies.  After 1st stage separation, the rest of the vehicle, including the fuel for the 2nd stage motors, is in free fall.  Before ignition of the 2nd stage motors, the ullage settling motor fires, giving a comparatively slight acceleration that forces the fuel in the tanks to settle at the bottom and creates a proper ullage space.  Pushing the fuel down before main ignition has a major benefit:  it prevents fuel vapor from being sucked into the rocket motor.  This can cause uneven combustion in the motor and cavitation damage to the turbopump impellers.  The first Ares I test flight, called Ares I-X, is scheduled for 2009.


11 September 2008

Carnival of Space

Carnival of Space #70 is a go.

Dock here.


He can't really be that dumb can he?

Doesn't remember/care about the lessons from Cuba does he?  Keep in mind this is coming from Al Jazeera.

Russian bombers arrive in Venezuela

Russia has flown two long-range bombers to Venezuela for military exercises, a move likely to cause concern in Washington.

Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, said on Wednesday that the Tu-160 strategic bombers had arrived to strengthen military ties and to counter US regional influence.

"They go around saying Chavez has brought the Cold War to Venezuela," he said.

"What's coming is a multipolar world in which Venezuela is a free country, that's what's coming," Chavez said in a televised speech.

The planes arrived days after the two nations announced plans to hold joint naval exercises in the Caribbean later this year involving a nuclear-powered Russian battleship.

Al Jazeera's Mariana Sanchez in Caracas said the move also sent a message to Venezuela's opposition, who have been critical of Chavez in recent days, over the power of the president.

Poor relations

The Russian defence ministry said the bombers flew to Venezuela on a training mission and would conduct training flights over neutral waters in the next few days before returning, according to Russian media reports.

Russia remains angry at the US for its support for Georgia during the recent conflict over the region of South Ossetia, when US military vessels delivered aid to Georgia.

Alexander Konovalov, head of the Institute for Strategic Assessment in Moscow, said the deployment would lead to a further deterioration in relations between the US and Russia.

"It's a demonstration of Russia's ability to do things nasty: you send warships to the Black Sea and we send bombers next to your door," Konovalov said.

"It will have a negative impact on global stability."

Planned operation

Chavez has strongly backed Russia's stance on the Georgian conflict and recently visited Moscow to seal a series of defence and economic agreements.

He denied that Russia's plans for naval exercises to be held later this year are related, saying the Russian navy's visit had been planned for more than a year.

Chavez, a former paratrooper, also said he would fly one of the aircraft himself.

"What's more, I'm going to take the controls of one of these monsters," he said.

The planes, huge supersonic combat aircraft that can fly long missions with a heavy payload, are capable of carrying nuclear or conventional bombs.


The End of OPEC!

In probably the best news of the month (year?), Saudi Arabia, home of the majority of the funding for terrorist schools across the world, is pushing back from the table.  The House of Saud will not honor OPEC's decision to cut production in response to dropping crude prices.  The Saudis are the world's largest exporter of oil.  In even better news, Brazil has announced the discovery of another substantial off-shore oil deposit to go with the1st oil deposit announced earlier this year.  Oil will be coming back down for at least little while before the winter.


10 September 2008

McCain & Obama's Positions on Space Exploration

A bit of a long read.  McCain goes first because his is much shorter.

As President, John McCain will – 

  • Ensure that space exploration is top priority and that the U.S. remains a leader;
  • Commit to funding the NASA Constellation program to ensure it has the resources it needs to begin a new era of human space exploration.
  • Review and explore all options to ensure U.S. access to space by minimizing the gap between the termination of the Space Shuttle and the availability of its replacement vehicle; 
  • Ensure the national space workforce is maintained and fully utilized; Complete construction of the ISS National Laboratory;
  • Seek to maximize the research capability and commercialization possibilities of the ISS National Laboratory;
  • Maintain infrastructure investments in Earth-monitoring satellites and support systems;
  • Seek to maintain the nation's space infrastructure;
  • Prevent wasteful earmarks from diverting precious resources from critical scientific research;
  • Ensure adequate investments in aeronautics research.

As President, Barack Obama will –

  • Re-establish the National Aeronautics and Space Council (NASC) to oversee and coordinate civilian, military, commercial and national security space activities.
  • Retaining Options for Additional Shuttle Flights: Barack Obama supports Congressional efforts to add at least one additional Space Shuttle flight to fly a valuable mission and to keep the workforce engaged. He will work to ensure there is adequate funding to support that additional flight so that it does not interfere with developing the Shuttle's successor. 
  • Speeding the Next-Generation Vehicle: Obama will expedite the development of the Shuttle's successor systems for carrying Americans to space so we can minimize the gap. This will be difficult; underfunding by the Bush administration has left NASA with limited flexibility to accelerate the development of the new systems.
  • Using the Private Sector: Obama will stimulate efforts within the private sector to develop and demonstrate spaceflight capabilities. NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services is a good model of government/industry collaboration.
  • Working with International Allies: Obama will enlist international partners to provide International Space Station (ISS) cargo re-supply and eventually alternate means for sending crews to the ISS.
  • Partnering to Enhance the Potential of the ISS: Barack Obama will enlist other Federal agencies, industry and academia to develop innovative scientific and technological research projects on the ISS.
  • Enabling Human Exploration: Obama will use the ISS for fundamental biological and physical research to understand the effects of long-term space travel on human health and to test emerging technologies to enable such travel.
  • Enhancing International Cooperation: The ISS has been a model for international cooperation to achieve peaceful objectives in space, helping develop positive relations with Russia during the 1990s. America must take the next step and use the ISS as a strategic tool in diplomatic relations with non traditional partners.
  • Retaining Options for Extended Operations: Barack Obama will consider options to extend ISS operations beyond 2016. After investing so much in developing the ISS, it would be a shame not to utilize it to the fullest possible extent.
  • Continuing Research and Development Investments to Support Future Missions: Barack Obama will support a robust research and technology development program that addresses the long-term needs for future human and robotic missions. He supports a funding goal that maintains at least 10 percent of the total exploration systems budget for research and development.
  • Drawing in International Partners: Obama will encourage a cooperative framework for the conduct of a long-term and sustainable international exploration initiative. This will enable the United States to leverage its resources and to use space exploration as a tool of global diplomacy. As this framework is developed, Obama will continue NASA's architecture studies and advanced planning to ensure the American space workforce remains engaged and that America can lead the world to long-term exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond, in a collaborative and cost-effective way.
  • Partner to Improve Basic Capabilities: Obama will evaluate whether the private sector can safely and effectively fulfill some of NASA's need for lower earth orbit cargo transport.
  • Leveraging Robotic Capabilities to Explore the Solar System: Obama supports increased investment in research, data analysis, and technology development across the full suite of exploration missions including the Mars Sample Return mission and future missions to the Moon, asteroids, Lagrange points, the outer Solar System, and other destinations.
  • Supporting Space-Based Observatories: Platforms like the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X- Ray Observatory, the Gamma Ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope have yielded some of the greatest scientific discoveries of the last century. Obama is committed to a bold new set of such platforms and programs to expand our knowledge of the cosmos.
  • Stopping Political Interference: Barack Obama will strengthen baseline climate observations and climate data records to ensure that there are long-term and accurate climate records. He will not use climate change research data for political objectives.
  • Supporting Global Food and Water Needs: The Global Precipitation Measurement mission is an international effort to improve climate, weather, and hydrological predictions through more accurate and more frequent precipitation measurements. Obama will work to launch this mission without further delay.
  • Enhancing Earth Mapping: Obama will continue support for the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, which allows study of the earth's land surfaces and provides valuable data for agricultural, educational, scientific, and government use.
  • Supporting Fundamental Research: Barack Obama will pursue more long-term fundamental research to reduce the risk associated with advancing the state of the art.
  • Advancing Future Transportation Needs: The Obama administration will support aeronautics research to address aviation safety, air traffic control, and noise reduction.
  • Promoting Fuel Efficiency: Rising oil prices not only impact motorists at the pump, they are also squeezing airlines and even the U.S. Air Force, which spent $5.8 billion on fuel in 2006, up from $2.8 billion in 2004. Advanced aeronautical research at NASA could dramatically improve the fuel efficiency of military and civilian aircraft, reducing costs for passengers and taxpayers alike. Barack Obama will support such research.
  • Collaborating on Exploration: The United States needs to fully involve international partners in future exploration plans to help reduce costs and to continue close ties with our ISS partners. NASA has been working with 13 other space agencies to develop a globally coordinated approach to space exploration; Barack Obama will not only continue but intensify this effort. Human exploration beyond low-earth orbit should be a long-term goal and investment for all space faring countries, with America in the lead. 
  • Collaborating on Climate Change Research: Barack Obama will expand and deepen American collaboration with international partners on climate research, both to increase understanding of climate challenges and to demonstrate American leadership in this arena.
  • Negotiating Agreements on "Rules of the Road": Barack Obama will work with other nations to develop "rules of the road" for space to ensure all nations have a common understanding of acceptable behavior. 
  • Opposing Weaponization of Space: Space assets are increasingly important to our national security and our economy, but they are also extremely vulnerable. China's successful test of an anti-satellite missile in January 2007 signaled the beginning of a potential new arms race in space. Barack Obama opposes the stationing of weapons in space and the development of anti-satellite weapons. He believes the United States must show leadership by engaging other nations in discussions of how best to stop the slow slide towards a new battlefield. 
  • Protecting America's Space Assets: Recognizing their vulnerability, Obama will work to protect our assets in space by pursuing new technologies and capabilities that allow us to avoid attacks and recover from them quickly. The Operationally Responsive Space program, which uses smaller, more nimble space assets to make US systems more robust and less vulnerable is a way to invest in this capability.
  • Enhancing the Role of NASA as a Premier Institution of Innovation: Engineers and scientists at NASA have developed state-of-the-art innovations across the technological spectrum in areas ranging from solar cells and imaging to communications and aeronautics. Barack Obama will renew NASA's commitment to innovation-driving basic research that the private sector can use to develop new products for American consumers. 
  • Increasing Commercialization Benefits: Obama will promote cost sharing initiatives between government and industry to increase the state of the art in various technical areas, such as micro- electromechanical systems, nanotechnology, and biotechnology. Obama will establish multi-agency programs that focus on rapid maturation of advanced concepts and transfer to industry for commercialization. 
  • Jumpstarting Consumer Technology: Obama will expand the use of prizes for revolutionary technical achievements that can benefit society, and funds for joint industry/government rapid-to-the- consumer technology advances. 
  • Supporting Commercial Access to Space: Obama will stimulate the commercial use of space and private sector utilization of the International Space Station. He will establish new processes and procurement goals to promote the use of government facilities. We must unleash the genius of private enterprise to secure the United States' leadership in space. 
  • Revising Regulations for Aerospace Export Control: Some sections of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) have unduly hampered the competitiveness of domestic aerospace industry. Outdated restrictions have cost billions of dollars to American satellite and space hardware manufacturers as customers have decided to purchase equipment from European suppliers. While protecting our national security interests, Barack Obama will direct a review of the ITAR to reevaluate restrictions imposed on American companies, with a special focus on space hardware that is currently restricted from commercial export. He will also direct revisions to the licensing process to ensure that American suppliers are competitive in the international aerospace markets, without jeopardizing American national security. 
  • Expanding the American Skill Base in Science and Engineering: Barack Obama fully supports efforts to advance new frontiers in technical areas, such as advanced structures, power generation, communication and navigation systems, and biomedical systems. These efforts address the requirements for exploration, but also have high potential for technological benefits in the private sector as well as in training the next generation of scientists and engineers.




NASA Teams With Lewis Center and Students Worldwide to Assist With Mission to Moon

Lewis Center for Educational Research

Students at the Lewis Center will become Mission Control from a facility on their campus for the upcoming NASA LCROSS lunar probe scheduled for 2009.  I've seen some post on USENET talking about how the USA is falling behind in the hard sciences.  Initiatives like this are how you re-ignite the spark.  This almost makes me with I was back in school.  Almost.


Bush Administration's jihad to Retire the Shuttle

This is a "leaked" email from NASA Grand Poobah Michael Griffin to Lynn Cline, Deputy Associate Administrator for Space Operations, provided by the Aero-News Network.  Sabotage the ISS?  

From: Griffin, Michael D. (HQ-AA000)
Sent: Monday, August 18 2008 6:26 PM
To: Cline, Lynn (HQ-CA000)
Cc: Dale, Shana (HQ-AB000); Scolese, Christopher J. (HQ-AI000); Morerell, Paul (HQ-AA000); Gerstenmaier, William H. (HQ-CA000); Gilbrech, RIchard J. (HQ-BA000); SHank, Christopher M. (HQ-AA000); O'Brien, Michael F. (HQ-TA000)
Subject: RE: NAC Agenda


Thanks very much for the heads up. I think Obie should have been on distribution, and have copied him accordingly.

I'm sorry. You're not going to like what I have to say here. There isn't much that I will say below that I Like either, but I'll give you the best analysis that my brain can produce. Any and all who wish to argue or disagree are welcome, even encouraged to do so. Tell me where I'm wrong. Please!

First, and to get it out of the way, I will remind Jack [Jack Schmitt, NASA Advisory Council chair] that the NAC cannot make recommendations in conflict with Executive Branch Policy, and the White House is firm on Shuttle retirement in 2010. (Actually, they can make any recommendation they want, but I have no option but to implement those which are counter to Administration policy.) Jack can, however, couch his recommendation differently so that I can use it. I'll discuss this below.

I actually agree with Jack - the game has changed. I don't agree that we're going to get any more money because of it.

Exactly as I predicted, events have unfolded in a way that makes it clear how unwise it was for he US to adopt a policy of deliberate dependance upon another power for access to ISS. In a rational world, we would have been allowed to pick a Shuttle retirement date to be consistent with Ares/Orion availability, we would have been asked to deploy Ares/Orion as early as possible (rather than "not later than 2014") and we would have been provided the necessary budget to make it so. I realize that no one on this distribution disagrees with me on this point, I'm just saying it again, that's all.

The rational approach didn't happen, primarily because for OSTP and OMB, retiring the Shuttle is a jihad rather than an engineering and program management decision. Further, they actively do not want the ISS to be sustained, and have done everything possible to ensure that it would not be. They were always "okay" with buying Soyuz/Progress, and if it didn't happen, well, that was okay too. You will recall they didn't want us to brink up the need for another INKSNA exemption during budget hearings this year. I disobeyed their wishes in doing so, because we knew that we needed to get this on the table in '08.

But we are where we are. The Russians are not going to back out of Georgia any time soon, certainly not prior to the election. If they don't, INKSNA is DoA, despite Sen. Mikulski's and Nelson's favorable comments in support of a "bipartisan solution". We might get relief somewhere well down the road, if and when tensions ease, but my guess is that there is going to be a lengthy period with no U.S. crew on ISS after 2011. No additional money of significance is going to be provided to accelerate Orion/Ares, and even if it were, at this point we can;t get there earlier than 2014, so it doesn't solve the basic problem. Commercial solutions will ultimately emerge, but not substantially before Orion/Ares are ready, if then. The alternatives are to continue flying Shuttle, or abandon U.S. presence on ISS.

This Administration will not yield with regard to continuing Shuttle operations past 2010, but the next Administration will have no investment in that decision. They will tell us to extend the Shuttle. There is no other politically tenable course. It will appear irrational - heck it will be irrational - to say that we've built a Space Station we cannot use, that we're throwing away a $100 billion investment, when the cost of saving it is merely to continue flying Shuttle. Extending Shuttle creates no damage that they will care about, other than to delay the lunar program. They will not count that as a cost. They will not see what that does for U.S. leadership in space in the long term. And even if they do, they have a problem in the short term that must be solved. Flying Shuttle is the only way to solve it.
Thus, the recommendation Jack should give, and the direction I am giving, is that SOMD and SMD need to begin working together to prepare a "Plan B" -- how we would continue to operate Shuttle, in case the new Administration directs us to do so, while doing the least damage possible to Ares/Orion, in the events that (a) extra money is made available and (b) no extra money is made available. Our focus should be on minimizing the collateral damage to NASA caused by the recent events and their likely consequences.

For the record, and without regard to the underlying truth of the proposition, I do not believe the Russians would ever admit -- nor do I think they believe -- that they need us to help them operate ISS. Yes, there are actions we could take to hold ISS hostage, or even to prevent them from using it -- power management stuff, for example. We will not take those actions. Practically speaking, the Russians can sustain ISS without US crew as long as we don't actively sabotage them, which I do not believe we would ever do, short of war. So I will not make the argument that "dependence" works both ways. We need them. They don't "need" us. We're a "nice to have". The argument that we need to get Shuttle out of the way so that conversion of VAB/MAF for Constellation can proceed is simply specious. If we are told to extend Shuttle without any new money, there is no immediate need to convert. If we're given extra money, then the VAB/MAF conflicts are solvable If we absolutely had to find a way for Shuttle and Ares/Orion to co-exist at VAB and MAF, we would. Its only a matter of money. So I'm not going to make this argument either.

Again, I am open to different views, in part because my own view is about as pessimistic as it is possible to be. And certainly I would welcome any correction of factual errors.
Otherwise, please begin preparing the briefings that Jack has requested.