January 13, 2017 Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast

Week Three: Ninth Anniversary Fund-Raising Drive for Behind the Black

It is now the third week in my annual anniversary fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black.

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Embedded below the fold. Unlike most of my Batchelor podcasts, this one was not a review of all the most recent and important space stories. Instead, the first eleven minutes or so John allowed me to review and discuss the launch trends that I uncovered in compiling the worldwide launches since 1998.



  • LocalFluff

    The theory behind why sunspots are correlated with Earth’s climate goes like the following:
    – Clouds are bright and reflect sunlight and thus clouds cool the surface of the Earth.
    – Clouds are formed by cosmic radiation that ionize molecules in the air around which water droplets can start to condensate.
    – The Sun’s magnetic field blocks cosmic rays from reaching Earth.
    – Sunspots are more common when the Sun’s magnetic field is stronger.

    So fewer sunspots means less protection against ionizing cosmic radiation and thus more clouds and colder climate.

    It has more speculatively been suggested that one of the drivers of Earth’s climate, as in the ice ages, could be that the Sun, in its 250,000,000 year orbit around the Milky Way, sometimes passes through star forming regions. There, short lived giant stars are formed and quickly burn out and turn into supernovas. Their cosmic radiation would increase cloud formation on Earth and cause ice ages.

    Imagine putting also the Sun’s path through the history of the galactic arms into the computer climate models. Besides the uncertainties of how cosmic radiation initiate cloud formation in the atmosphere. Climate science is a mess of complications beyond what CAN be modeled.

  • LocalFluff

    We will likely break 100 successful launches this year! We’ve had a few bad years with F9, Antares and Russian failures. Simply by not being unlucky it will be 100. Private and Asian governments are not only increasing the amount of launches, but they diversify it, reducing the effects of single launchers being grounded.

    Atlas V and Ariane 5 are the workhorses of heavy space flight today. I’m a bit worried that their planned replacements (with Vulcan and Ariane 6) could mean less frequent launches a few years from now. Because of the risks that comes with introducing new launchers.

    To perfect the launch statistics, one should multiply the launches with the mass they put into orbit. That still wouldn’t be fair since there’s a big difference, of about a factor of two but much depending on the specific launcher, between putting a ton in LEO and GEO.

  • LocalFluff: With the advent of smallsats, actual payload mass is no longer as important a factor in determining the dominance of a launch company. A smallsat launch company like Rocket Lab can’t possibly launch the same payload totals as Russia, even if they launch twice as many rockets. Yet, the capability of launching that many rockets and payloads in a single year signifies an economic power that I think outweighs the actual payload mass. At a minimum it demonstrates an engineering capability that can be harnessed for even more ambitious future efforts.

  • LocalFluff

    That is very true. Mass is no longer correlated with value. Unless to some degree for human space flight since we cannot miniaturize ourselves and our needs so much. The number of launches in itself is also of value, since each launch typically means a dedicated orbit. More mass in the wrong place wouldn’t help. One might imagine one giant yearly launch to geosynchronous orbit, but each low Earth orbit and Sun synchronous orbit and GPS-orbit generally needs a dedicated launcher.

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