Friday, March 24, 2006

Falcon 1 is lost.......

The countdown was very exciting. When the vehicle lifted off, I jumped around the house like a maniac. The initial on-baord video was great.

And then the on-board cam started skipping frames.
And then the frame froze at what looked like a few hundred feet, looking down on Omelek. I could just about make out the shore outline, a warehouse structure, and a road surrounding the launchpad.

And then it came back again. But now you could see the vehicle was rolling and pitching.

I quickly lost ground reference.

And then the signal was lost.

SpaceflightNow is reporting that according to Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX vice president of business development, the vehicle was lost. No detailes as of yet.

I'm so sorry.

Whatever happened, I hope the SpaceX Team can fix it and fly again as soon as possible.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

SpaceX test firing today

Rand has an item on Transterrestrial about SpaceX successfully testfiring engine.

While I very much hope that he's 100% right, it looks like he's pointing to Kimbal's blog from 2/10/06 as a source. The date on the entry makes me suspicious that there is some confusion going on. Add to that that in the past SpaceX have done their events mostly starting around 2-3 pm EST, and Rand's entry was posted just before 1 pm (EST, I presume).

I sure hope he's right, though....

Friday, March 10, 2006

MRO Success!

CNN is reporting that MRO was able to successfully enter Martian circular orbit. Congrats, NASA!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

NASA's Enceladus News (updated)

Keith Cowing at NASA Watch has the running coomentary on the news NASA is slated to announce at 2 Pm EST. But Matt Drudge seems to have scooped everyone!

OK, presume for a second that he has the content of the announcement right. What are the consequences? Here are soem thoughts:

- Astrobilogy funding efforts get an immidiate shot in the arm. If they succeed, where does the money come from?

- Can Cassini help in getting mroe data?

- Can other missions be re-drected to help out in the short term?

- Is there an approach for a "fast response" mission that would be of value?

Inquiring minds want to know :-)

Update @ 1:30pm: Now has a story with more details.

It also answers the second question above: "... Cassini’s instruments could help pin down Enceladus’ liquid water sources in future passes, researchers added..."

But also "... But the spacecraft, Kargel wrote, will not be able to determine whether subsurface water pockets could offer a habitat suitable for living organisms..."

Monday, March 06, 2006

And now for something completely different

Without further comment, for I am left speechless, please join me in spreading the word

Sunday, March 05, 2006


Here's a bomb-shell:

RLV and Space Transport News » Blackstar - secret 2-stage spaceplane system
RLV and Space Transport News » More Blackstar info...
RLV and Space Transport News » Blackstar discussion...

OK. I have enough respect for AvLeak, having read them religiously through the 80' and 90's, that I'm going to take them at their word, pending strong refutation from an equally reliable source (note to self: what does Jane's have to say about it?)

So assuming the the story is true overall, here are some bits & pieces that appear to support it:
- As mentioned by AvLeak, SR-71 cancellation makes a great deal more sense now
- Given the timeline, it also makes sense that the SR-71 was brought back into service for Gulf War 1 (Blackstar is already on the horizon, but not yet in service)
- Aurora is probably related too (unless it's the red herring referred to by one of Clark's commenters) - AvLeak has done some major stories on it in the past, I'm surprised it's not mentioned in the article - did I miss it in my rush to read?

What are the consequences?

1. The A-12 is dead - USN is without a carrier based, stealthy, mid-size penetration bomber - the F/A-18 is not even in the same league as far as payload/range and survivability goes - this could cost us very seriously if we ever had to go after Iran or DPRK. Arguably, it would have died anyway, but at this point, we no longer know for sure.

2. The NASP is dead - again, it might have died anyway, but the opportunity cost of both the budget and the management focus is stunning. I don't even know how to begin taking stock of it:
- The money is gone - probably 10's of $B, w/o any tangible results
- Think of what Rutan, Truax, Henson could have done with that money. Yeah, I know, they wouldn't have seen that money anyway, but still....
- The RLV concept was sullied for a decade
- STS is still flying, and will continue for the foreseeable future. God help us if the we have a falling out with the Russians
- The STS replacement is still a half dozen years away, realistically more, quite possibly for ever
- Damage to NASA's credibility is enormous

3. After all that sacrifice and damage, to even think of canceling the program beggars the imagination. Therefore, I have to think that we're not seeing all there is to see. What's underneath this? The operational requirements haven't gone away. None of the other systems, either airborne or orbital, even come close to fulfilling them. So the argument for this being the result of budget cuts is not credible. I'm left with no alternative but to conclude that there's something better either in production or close enough as not to matter.

4. The last time a similar thing happened (when SR-71 was being terminated), a number of analysts postulated that it's being retired because there's something better. They were right. All those who disparaged this idea at the time turned out to be wrong. Even if I'm wrong, this is a good working assumption.

5. So what could it be?
- Well, it could be something evolutionary. Instead of XB-70 based carrier, a purpose designed and built first stage of some as yet unknown configuration (DH-1? :-). The second stage would be highly dependent on the first stage design. This would be good in the long term. Short term, will have to pitch in (NASA won't). As with all black programs, eventually, this one will come out too. I may not live long enough, but my kids might.
- Or, it could be something revolutionary – let you imagination run wild: anti-grav, star gate, teleport, what have you. That could be A LOT of fun. No, I don't really think this is what's going on. Just reading a lot of SF lately :-)

Bottom line:
The costs, real and consequential, of fielding it in the first place are huge
Offered reasons for cancellation are not credible
This is either incredibly, astoundingly stupid, or the silver lining is so good we will laugh at the costs in a few years.

Jeez, I hope so.

Greg Olsen, Citizen Astronaut

The New jersey Technology Council, NJTC, of which I am a proud member of many years standing, is an organization of about 1,000 technology companies in New Jersey. One of the cool things about this organization is that makes a point of recognizing special contributions of NJ citizens in the technology industry.

On January 17, 2006, t NJTC held a very special event. Greg Olsen, a scientist, an engineer, a very successful technology entrepreneur and our very own citizen astronaut, was the guest of honor at the Edison Innovators dinner.

With Greg's permission, I recorded his presentation at the event. Greg is a pretty cool speaker. He has a great sense of humor and is very down-to-earth. In this talk he shared his experiences both before and during his flight, and answered a bunch of questions from the audience.

So without further ado, here is the raw un-edited recording:

MP3 – 56Kbps – Mono – 24.7 Mb
Ogg – 56Kbps – Mono – 16 Mb
Wav – 14.2Mb

Enjoy the show!

PS. Greg is also scheduled to speak at this year's ISDC in LA. See you all there.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Space Adventures makes news

This news item via Space Today: MosNews is reporting from Russia that Space Adventures is partnering with Pradea (Ansari family's - yes, that Ansari - Texas-based VC firm) and Roskosmos (the Russian Federal Space Agency) to design a build a sub-orbital passenger system. Myasishchev Design Bureau will design and build the vehicles. Here's SA's own press relesase

Frankly, I don't get it. So here are some wild speculations:

1. Was this the plan all along? Start with operating tours until you have enough credibility to fund vehicle development, and then switch from a service to a product strategy?

2. The Russian technology vendors aren't as cheap as they were just a few years ago anymore. They're likely to be more expensive then the Armadillo, Masten, and Rocktplane vehicles (just a guess, I don't have real data). So SA probably thinks that they've built enough of a brand name that they can charge a premium over these latter companies and get away with it, or that those others will never fly at all.....

3. Is this an end-run around ITAR? If so, the shipbuilders in this country should be screaming bloody murder to their elective representatives - that a US VC fund and a US operator should be investing in Russian companies instead of supporting the homegrown builders that are struggling for funding is a disgrace and a strategic blunder by the US Government.

4. By explicitly stating that none of the "consortium members" will actually operte the ships but sell them to other operators, is SA tacitly admitting the difficulty of the former business model? Or are they not "consortium members" in that sense?

Additional reporting by MSNBC, via and Clark Lindsey @ Space Transportation News, which lists even more reporting by CBS and CNet