January 10, 2008

Secret Clues to Classified Space Missions

Zoe Brain points out this interesting article about mission patches for rockets carrying classified payloads, and what can be deduced from them.

Posted by: Ted at 06:44 PM | category: Space Program
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November 03, 2007

Now A Commonplace Event, Barely Mentioned in the News

The astronauts have fixed the solar wing on the space station, and that's big news. What is only mentioned in passing is that both the space station commander and the shuttle commander are women.

I think it's wonderful, getting past this "he vs. she" crap and letting qualified *people* get the job done.

Posted by: Ted at 11:44 AM | category: Space Program
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September 13, 2007

Overachievers

On Mars, the rovers Spirit and Opportunity were in danger of failing because of a massive months-long dust storm that engulfed them both. The amount of dust in the air severely restricted their ability to generate electricity from their solar panels, so NASA controllers put both into hibernation mode. Even so, there was a real danger of one or both of the rovers shutting down for good.

But these little guys are tough!

NASA's Mars rovers Opportunity and Spirit have resumed their three-year-old mission after surviving giant dust storms that nearly destroyed the twin robots, the US space agency said.

The rovers, which arrived on the Red Planet in January 2004 on a mission that was originally supposed to last three months, had been placed in hibernation mode in July to protect them from the Martian dust storms.


Three plus years into a scheduled three month mission. Amazing.

Posted by: Ted at 11:31 AM | category: Space Program
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July 22, 2007

De-Romanticizing Moonlight

When the first rock and dust samples from the moon were returned, many folks were surprised because they were dark gray, almost black. We think of the moon as light colored because it's the brightest thing we see in a dark sky, but in actuality it's not very reflective. In fact, on average, the surface of the moon only bounces about 7% of the sunlight back. That's about as reflective as asphalt.

Posted by: Ted at 07:36 PM | category: Space Program
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July 19, 2007

Apollo 8

I'm re-reading A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts*, and thought I'd pass along a few things that fired my imagination as I read.

Nothing like a little history to refresh your memories, or to educate you youngsters who don't remember back that far.**

Apollo 8 was crewed by Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders. They were the first men to fly to the moon and go into orbit there. It was quite a jump for the day because the farthest away man had been from the Earth before them was 850 miles. Their destination was 240,000 miles away.

If the Saturn V (pronounced "saturn five") was standing next to the Statue of Liberty, the crew could look down and see the top of the torch about six stories below them.

The crew had lunch with Charles Lindberg the day before liftoff. During the conversation, they figured out that in the first second of their flight they would burn twenty times as much fuel as Lindberg used on his trans-Atlantic trip.

Forty seconds after liftoff, they went supersonic.

As the crew was preparing for liftoff, Bill Anders noticed a hornet building a nest on the outside of the window of the Command Capsule.

I'm sure there will be more of this trivia as I continue the books. Wonderful stuff.

* The Amazon link is to a paperback version released with a Foreward by Tom Hanks. I have the original 3-volume hardcover set.

** I'm one of those youngsters. I was too young to pay attention to Mercury and Gemini, and barely recall the later flights of Apollo and the moon landings.

Posted by: Ted at 07:32 PM | category: Space Program
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June 29, 2007

Inflatables in Space

Sounds dirty, eh?

Bigelow Aerospace has launched it's second test module into orbit atop a Russian Dnper rocket. Once in orbit, the module deployed and all indications are that it inflated normally. That makes Bigelow two for two.

Their plan is to have a commercial space station functioning in orbit by 2015, made from inflatable modules. If you click that link, you'll find all kinds of information on their prototypes and future plans, including a "fly your stuff" program where you can send stuff into orbit and see it float around on camera.

Posted by: Ted at 06:12 AM | category: Space Program
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April 28, 2007

First Trip, Return Trip

Today, from Spaceport America in New Mexico, a commercial rocket blasted into space carrying the remains of two people who are forever linked to mankind's reach for the stars. James Doohan, beloved as Star Trek's Scotty, made the trip for real that most people from his generation only dreamed of. Also aboard was Gordon Cooper, one of the original seven US astronauts, making his third and final flight.

Posted by: Ted at 06:39 PM | category: Space Program
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March 09, 2007

Treading Water

An interesting look at rocket programs and the economies of scale, titled A Rocket a Day Keeps the High Costs Away. Originally written in 1993, it's sad to see how little we've progressed since then.

Posted by: Ted at 05:04 AM | category: Space Program
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February 01, 2007

What Goes Up, Must Come Down

That's true of rockets too. Of course, the trick is to control exactly where it comes down.

Dick Stafford links to some wicked cool video of a Delta 2 rocket that suffered an... uh, anamoly (their word) just seconds after liftoff. I'd seen the second of the three clips that he links to, and wondered what kind of damage was done to the facilities. Now I know. A chunk of burning debris landed in the parking lot where the folks in the blockhouse were working, incinerating a couple dozen cars and leaving a big crater in the asphalt where it hit. By incinerate, I mean windshields and tire rims were *melted*.

Dick also covers this more recent oopsie (unofficial term) that happened a couple of days ago on the SeaLaunch platform (including more video).

In both of these accidents, nobody was injured. It ain't called "rocket science" for nothing, people!

Posted by: Ted at 07:20 PM | category: Space Program
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I've Been Looking For This

I even mentioned it last May.

Must see is this nifty CG video of one of NASA's Mars missions, with the opening soundtrack supplied by Lenny Kravitz. Kick ass.

Posted by: Ted at 07:11 PM | category: Space Program
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December 12, 2006

In Case You Were Wondering

Everything you need to know about being a customer of NASA's Sounding Rocket Program out at Wallops Island in Virginia (pdf file).

Posted by: Ted at 04:48 AM | category: Space Program
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December 05, 2006

I've Been Waiting For This For Decades

Yesterday:

NASA announced plans on Monday for a permanent base on the Moon, to be started soon after astronauts return there around 2020.

The agency's deputy administrator, Shana Dale, said the United States would develop rockets and spacecraft to get people to the Moon and establish a rudimentary base. There, other countries and commercial enterprises could expand the outpost to develop scientific and other interests, Dale said.


I like the mention of "commercial enterprises". Now lets see how committed they are to this over the long term.

Posted by: Ted at 11:17 AM | category: Space Program
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October 24, 2006

Shattered Delusions

You've all seen the "face" on Mars. You may have heard about the recent debunking, where higher resolution photographs showed that it was, indeed, a natural physical feature. You probably didn't hear about the barking mad conspiracy theorists who're convinced that NASA is satan and they want to hide the evidence of extraterrestrial life (ignoring the fact that finding ET would mean a huge expansion of space exploration funding).

So, here's a nifty 3D animation from ESA (European Space Agency) showing the "face" and what it really looks like from various angles.

Thanks to Transterrestrial Musings for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 05:28 PM | category: SciTech
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September 25, 2006

Low Key, but High Hopes

I haven't seen much buzz about this, but did you realize that Bigelow Aerospace is on the way to establishing a privately funded manned space station by 2010?

Two years after that, expansion will allow for nine space tourists at a time.

The idea is to create a destination, and then let the transportation sort itself out once they have some place to go.

So who are these guys with the big plans? I've talked about them before here and linked to another RocketForge story here. Bigelow Aerospace put up the entire $50,000,000 prize for the next commercial space contest, and one of the requirements is to win by January, 2010. A little added incentive (if you can call fifty million dollars little) to spur those private space companies along.

Again, it's not commonly known, but in July Bigelow launched Genesis I aboard a Russian rocket. Genesis I went into orbit, successfully inflated (remember, balloons in space), and is busy relaying data back to earth. These guys don't just talk the talk, they walk the walk.

Commercial space. It's coming. Soon.

Posted by: Ted at 04:44 AM | category: Space Program
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September 13, 2006

Danged Colonialist Expansion

Did you realize that there are now four satellites orbiting Mars, in addition to the two rovers that are still chugging along on the surface?

The most powerful spacecraft ever sent to Mars has settled into a nearly circular orbit, a move that allows scientists to begin studying the planet in unprecedented detail, NASA said Tuesday.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter fired its thrusters for 12 minutes Monday to adjust to its final position six months after it arrived at the planet. Its altitude ranges between 155 to 196 miles above the surface.

Kick. Ass.

Posted by: Ted at 11:49 AM | category: Space Program
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Ansari Blog

Anousheh Ansari is the first woman to purchase a commercial ticket to space with the Russians. If the name sounds familiar, it's because her family sponsored the Ansari X-Prize for commercial access to space which was won by Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne.

She's blogging her trip into space.

Thanks to Transterrestrial Musings for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 05:53 AM | category: Space Program
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August 14, 2006

I wanna go to Space Camp!

Space Camp isn't just for kids, you know.

Phil Reeder flew all the way across the pond to attend the Advanced Adult Space Academy Programme (heh, he spells funny).

His articles for the first six days are posted at Sven Knudsen's amazing website.

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6

Phil apologizes for not having nearly enough pictures to cover the massive number of activities and events that are scheduled for the week.

Posted by: Ted at 05:20 PM | category: Space Program
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July 23, 2006

Shuttle Video

This is a chance to see a space shuttle launch up close and from a perspective few get to experience. From the last shuttle mission, here's a video taken from one of the external cameras mounted on the shuttle SRBs. Continuous from launch to splashdown, the whole thing is about twelve minutes long, although after about the eight minute mark you just see parachute shroud lines floating on the water.

Posted by: Ted at 10:49 AM | category: Space Program
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July 07, 2006

Where the heck did I leave that thing?

Real-time tracking of the Space Shuttle and the ISS.

Posted by: Ted at 04:47 PM | category: Space Program
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May 30, 2006

Commercial Space Goes Small-Time!

And that's a very good thing.

Over at RocketForge, we see:

Masten Space Systems started taking payload orders today! $199 CanSats at an introductory price of $99! Full 1kilogram custom payloads for $250! Sign up now!

I've briefly mentioned CanSat before here and here. There are a couple of good follow-on links there, and I really recommend visiting Pratt Hobbies, where you can find plenty of useful kits to get your inner-rocket scientist jump started.

On a related note, this weekend I'll be supervising several teams of students as they assemble high power rockets to loft CanSat payloads. Altitudes will be less than 4,500 feet vs. the several tens of thousands of feet that Mastens is working towards, but the concepts are the same. Rocket science is rocket science.

Posted by: Ted at 08:58 PM | category: Space Program
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