Tag Archives: engineering

Elon Musk defends his vision and success

Elon Musk defends his vision and success. Key quote:

For the first time in more than three decades, America last year began taking back international market-share in commercial satellite launch. This remarkable turn-around was sparked by a small investment NASA made in SpaceX in 2006 as part of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. A unique public-private partnership, COTS has proven that under the right conditions, a properly incentivized contractor — even an all-American one — can develop extremely complex systems on rapid timelines and a fixed-price basis, significantly beating historical industry-standard costs.

China has the fastest growing economy in the world. But the American free enterprise system, which allows anyone with a better mouse-trap to compete, is what will ensure that the United States remains the world’s greatest superpower of innovation.

To put it simply, Musk is right, on all counts.

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SpaceShipTwo’s First “Feathered” Flight

SpaceShipTwo’s has successfully completed its first “feathered” flight.

After a 45 minute climb to the desired altitude of 51,500 feet, SpaceShip2 (SS2) was released cleanly from VMS Eve [WhiteKnightTwo] and established a stable glide profile before deploying, for the first time, its re-entry or “feathered” configuration by rotating the tail section of the vehicle upwards to a 65 degree angle to the fuselage. It remained in this configuration with the vehicle’s body at a level pitch for approximately 1 minute and 15 seconds whilst descending, almost vertically, at around 15,500 feet per minute, slowed by the powerful shuttlecock-like drag created by the raised tail section. At around 33,500 feet the pilots reconfigured the spaceship to its normal glide mode and executed a smooth runway touch down, approximately 11 minutes and 5 seconds after its release from VMS Eve.

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The story behind China’s planned space station begins to emerge

The story behind China’s planned space station begins to emerge.

China first said it would build a space station in 1992. But the need for a manned outpost “has been continually contested by Chinese space professionals who, like their counterparts in the United States, question the scientific utility and expense of human space flight”, says Gregory Kulacki, China project manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists, headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “That battle is effectively over now, however, and the funds for the space station seem to have been allocated, which is why more concrete details are finally beginning to emerge.”

Though I am always skeptical of comments from the Union of Concerned Scientists, in this case Kulacki makes sense. He also illustrates a further example of what I wrote in 2005, “After more than 40 years of debate, the argument is over and the supporters of manned spaceflight have won.”

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John Browning, part 4

An evening pause: The last part of “The Guns of John Browning” from Tales of the Gun.

The documentary correctly honors Browning for the quality of his designs and workmanship. To me, it is more important to honor him for making the weapons that allowed the United States to defend freedom in the twentieth century. Without these tools in the hands of our soldiers, the wars would have been longer and many more lives would have been lost. And worse, the fascists and Nazis and dictators might have won.

As George Bernard Shaw wrote in Major Barbara, “The people must have power.”

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