Tag Archives: competition

More rumors about a year-long mission on ISS

The possibility that NASA might finally agree with Russia’s repeated request to fly a year-long mission to ISS grew stronger this morning with two stories:

The first, by James Oberg, digs into the underworld of NASA politics to find that plans might very well be more advanced than NASA is letting on:
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Bigelow Aerospace has expanded its workforce as well doubled its factory space in response to the commercial contracts NASA recently awarded.

The competition heats up: Bigelow Aerospace has expanded its workforce as well doubled its factory space in response to the commercial contracts NASA recently awarded.

The company just opened a 185,000-square-foot addition, bringing its North Las Vegas plant up to about 350,000 square feet. It slashed its work force from 150 before the recession to 50 during the downturn; now, it’s looking to jump back up to 90 workers by Christmas. It’s hiring structural, mechanical and electrical engineers, as well as chemists, molecular biologists and workers who craft composite spacecraft parts.

Hat tip to Clark Lindsey at NewSpace Watch.

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Scaled Composites has posted the results of its latest test firing of the rocket motor for SpaceShipTwo.

The competition heats up: Scaled Composites has posted the results of its latest test firing of the rocket motor for SpaceShipTwo.

Though the test is dated August 9, more than a week ago, I expect the number of engine tests to go up in the coming months as the company works toward the first powered flights of SpaceShipTwo.

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Engineers at Sandia National Laboratories have developed a robot hand that costs less than $10,000.

Engineers at Sandia National Laboratories have developed a robot hand that costs less than $10,000 and is capable of replacing a flashlight battery.

The researchers were able to scrimp in a number of clever ways. “One was scouring the globe for the least expensive, highest-performing components like motors, gears, etcetera,” says Curt Salisbury, the project’s principal investigator. “Another was to build the entire electronics system from commodity parts, especially those found in cell phones. We also moved from metal structural elements to plastic, being careful to design the structures so plastic would provide adequate strength.”

The article focuses on the potential of using such a robot hand to defuse bombs. I see it as a first step in providing amputees a replacement hand that is fully functional. And that their goal is to bring the cost down to $1,000 is even more exciting.

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A federal court has thrown out a lawsuit by an automobile industry consortium that wanted to prevent the EPA from approving the use of 15% ethanol in gasoline.

Not good: A federal court has thrown out a lawsuit by an automobile industry consortium that wanted to prevent the EPA from approving the use of 15% ethanol in gasoline.

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The Russian Prime Minister has given the Russian launch industry until September to figure out how to improve its quality control.

The Russian Prime Minister has given the Russian launch industry until September to figure out how to improve its quality control.

It also appears from the above article that there is some confusion about whether the head of the company that built the failed upper stage to the Proton rocket has resigned, as reported here and here.

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The test of Coperhagen Suborbital’s capsule launch abort system failed spectacularly on Sunday.

The test of Coperhagen Suborbital’s capsule launch abort system failed spectacularly on Sunday. With pictures.

“We had perfect launch, but quickly the entire configuration began to tumble,” said Kristian von Bengtson, co-founder of Copenhagen Suborbitals. “The main chutes clearly did not have complete deployment and the capsule hit water in high speed, buckling the bottom shield.”

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With its most recent glide test on Saturday it appears SpaceShipTwo has successfully fulfilled its glide engineering goals.

The competition heats up: With its most recent glide test on Saturday it appears SpaceShipTwo has successfully fulfilled its glide engineering goals. Hat tip Clark Lindsay at NewSpace Watch. To quote their flight summary:

With this latest round of six flights we have cleared the full glide-flight envelope for airspeed, angle-of-attack, CG, and structural loads!

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Watch the first test flight live this weekend of Copenhagen Suborbitals manned capsule.

Watch the first test flight live this weekend of Copenhagen Suborbitals’ manned capsule launch abort system.

If all goes as planned, the Launch Escape System will rocket [the capsule dubbed Beautiful] Betty and Randy [the crash dummy] from a seafaring launch platform, loft them to a height between 2,620 and 3,280 feet and then splash down in the Baltic Sea. At that point self-inflating bags will emerge from Betty and right the floating spacecraft.

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“Ignore the political prophets of doom – this is a golden age for the world.”

“Ignore the prophets of doom – this is a golden age for the world.”

Take global poverty, a subject we have heard plenty about from ministers justifying the £9 billion overseas aid budget. Britain has signed up to the so-called Millennium Development Goals, set in 2000 and accompanied by sermons from Gordon Brown about the “arc of the moral universe” bending towards justice. It was the beginning of boom times for the overseas aid industry, despite its woeful track record. The first goal was to halve the proportion of the world’s population living on a dollar a day by 2015 – an undeniably noble aim.

Earlier this year, the World Bank made an astonishing discovery: the target had actually been met in 2008, seven years ahead of schedule. This staggering achievement received no fanfare, perhaps because the miracle had not been created by Western governments but by the economic progress of China and India. Their embrace of capitalism had invited a flow of trade and investment, which was not halted by the crash. Capitalism meant that houses replaced mud huts and vast swathes of the Third World rose from their agrarian knees. British consumers buying cheap shirts in Asda were, in a very real sense, helping to make poverty history. [emphasis mine]

In other words, poor countries became wealthy by embracing freedom, not centralized government rule.

Sadly, the United States still faces economic disaster, and that is because, in the past half century, our culture abandoned its principles of freedom and capitalism and instead put our faith in big government. The result: we now face bankruptcy and economic collapse.

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The leading team in the Google Lunar X-Price contest last week successfully tested by remote control the astronomical telescope they intend to include with their lunar lander.

The leading team in the Google Lunar X-Price contest last week successfully tested by remote control the astronomical telescope they intend to include with their lunar lander.

[The Google Lunar X Prize] requires the participants to successfully land a lunar rover on the surface, drive it a minimum of 500 meters (about a third of a mile), and send back high definition video and imagery. Moon Express intends to land this first lunar lander near the Moon’s equator.

Moon Express is planning to send its first robotic lander to the Moon in late 2014. It will be launched atop either SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket or another commercial launch vehicle. It intends to fly ILOA’s shoebox-sized test telescope, called ILO-X, as part of its [X prize] entry. There are additional prizes available which might be won by an educational lunar telescope, such US$1 million prize for the entry which adds the most to diversity within space studies.

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A failed fuel line in the upper stage has been pinpointed as the probably cause of the Russian Proton rocket failure on Tuesday.

A failed fuel line in the upper stage has been pinpointed as the probably cause of the Russian Proton rocket failure on Tuesday.

In related news, the Russian prime minister said today that he intends to name and shame the officials responsible for the rocket failure.

“I would like to hold a meeting on this next week. It will be prepared by the appropriate deputy prime minister and structures. They are tasked with reporting who should be punished and what to do next,” Medvedev told a government meeting in Moscow. He also said Russia’s space failures “could not be tolerated anymore.”

Do tell. With SpaceX’s cheaper prices looming over them, Russia’s government-owned commercial rocket business can’t afford rocket failures as well. If they don’t fix this soon, their business will evaporate, and Medvedev knows it.

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A Virginia county zoning board has fined a farmer five thousand dollars for hosting child’s birthday party on her property.

We’re here to help you: A Virginia county zoning board has fined a farmer five thousand dollars for hosting child’s birthday party on her property.

What an evil thing to do! Thank you Farquier County for protecting our nation from these dangerous felons.

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The scramble in Congress to head the House committee on Space, Science, and Technology after November’s election has begun.

The scramble in Congress to head the House committee on space after November’s election has begun.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) have begun to quietly campaign to replace Rep. Ralph Hall as chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology next year, according to Stu Witt, General Manager and CEO of the Mojave Air and Space Port.

If Rohrabacher gets the chairmanship it will be very be good news for commercial space, and bad news for the NASA-built and very expensive Space Launch System (SLS). He has been a strong supporter of private space, and will likely want to funnel money to it from SLS.

I’m not sure giving private space more cash is necessarily a good thing, as that will encourage these new companies to be less efficient, more expensive, and more dependent on the government. However, getting SLS shut down will certainly help the federal budget deficit.

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A Russian Proton rocket has failed to put two satellites into their proper orbit.

A Russian Proton rocket has failed to put two satellites into their proper orbit.

This failure of one of Russia’s more reliable rockets comes at a very bad time, as the competition with SpaceX and other competitors for commercial launches is right now heating up. As the article notes,

Moscow, which carries out 40 percent of global space launches, is struggling to restore confidence in its industry after a string of mishaps last year, including the failure of a mission to return samples from the Martian moon Phobos and the loss of a $265-million communications satellite. …

“The last failures to a certain extent undermine Russia’s position as a country that provides space launch services,” said industry expert Yuri Karash, a member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics.

Such mistakes strengthen Russia’s competitors, such as Europe’s Arian rockets, Karash said, describing Russia’s space industry, struggling to recover after a generation of brain drain and crimped budgets, as “not in the best condition by a long shot.”

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Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada the winners of NASA’s commercial crew contracts.

It’s official: Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada are the winners of NASA’s commercial crew contracts.

Boeing will receive $460 million, SpaceX $440 million, and Sierra Nevada $212.5. All are planning to launch by 2015.

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Alan Boyle at NBC tonight reports that Boeing, SpaceX, and Sierra Nevada are the winning companies in the competition to provide human ferrying services to ISS.

Alan Boyle at NBC tonight reports that Boeing, SpaceX, and Sierra Nevada are the winning companies in the competition to provide human ferrying services to ISS, to be announced officially by NASA tomorrow.

The report does not provide dollar numbers. This Wall Street Journal story says that Boeing and SpaceX will be the prime contractors, which suggests that Sierra Nevada will be getting a smaller award.

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A new report predicts that the demand for suborbital spaceflight, both manned and unmanned, will rise by one third in the next ten years.

A new report predicts that the demand for suborbital spaceflight, both manned and unmanned, will likely rise by one third in the next ten years.

You can download the report here [pdf].

The report admits there are many unknowns, and that this prediction could be way off, in either direction.

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Happy birthday Milton Friedman

Happy 100th birthday to Milton Friedman!

Go to the link to watch some wonderful video clips of Friedman clearly and with good humor explaining the benefits of freedom and capitalism. However, for me my favorite Milton Friedman quote is without question this one, on the real way to change Congress:

I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing.

Actual video below the fold.
» Read more

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