Tag Archives: spaceflight

Stupidity on display

In hearings Wednesday, several members of Congress suggested that NASA force the new competing commercial space companies to combine their efforts in order to save money.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) asked NASA Administrator Charles Bolden during a March 21 hearing on the agency’s 2013 budget the same question he asked of the White House’s chief science adviser last month: would NASA’s partnership with commercial companies to develop astronaut transports be cheaper if the companies competing for NASA funds combined their efforts into a single “all for one and one for all” project?

Similarly, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) made the same stupid argument in her continuing effort to keep the funding of the Space Launch System, the rocket-formerly-called-Constellation, as high as possible, at the cost of cutting everything else in NASA if necessary.

If you needed any evidence that members of Congress are ignorant idiots, you only need read the comments of these elected officials at these hearings to get your proof. Wolf or Hutchison as well as several others from both parties very clearly haven’t the slightest idea what these various space companies are building. Nor do they have the faintest notion of the difficulties entailed in building these manned space vessels.
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Russia’s deputy prime minister today blasted the Russian space agency and one space contractor for the scandals and public backbiting involving both.

Soap opera: Russia’s deputy prime minister today blasted Vladimir Popovkin, the head the Russian space agency, and one space contractor for the scandals and public backbiting involving both.

The [contractor’s] accusations apparently come as a response to Popovkin’s comments on Monday. The official accused “space industry contractors” of disseminating false rumors about him because they were dissatisfied with his attempt to reform the industry. Popovkin was hospitalized earlier this month because of exhaustion caused by a hectic schedule and frequent jet lags, according to official statements. Some media reported it was due to injuries sustained in a brawl.

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NASA is considering doing a simulated 500 day Mars mission on ISS.

Hallelujah! NASA is considering doing a simulated 500 day Mars mission on ISS.

The Russians want to do this badly, and have been pressing NASA to go along, with no luck, for more than a decade. That it took that long for NASA to finally realize the need tells us much about the American space agency.

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Private space station builder Bigelow is hiring again.

This bodes well: Private space station builder Bigelow is hiring again.

One interesting tidbit from this article is the description of the company’s negotiations with NASA to attach a Bigelow module to ISS.

The company has been negotiating with NASA for about two years on the potential deal, and that Bigelow has completed various planning and development milestones for NASA. “We’ve been in a series of discussions with NASA over the past two years, with regard to the BEAM project,” Gold told Space News. “They were initiated as part of a proposal in 2010, and we’re hopeful an announcement will be made in the not-too-distant future.”

NASA gave no sign that a deal with Bigelow was imminent. “We do have a no-cost contract with Bigelow to cover early requirements development [for BEAM] but it is not for the flight article,” NASA spokesman Josh Buck said in a March 20 email. “The Agency has not made a decision to go to a flight system yet.” [emphasis mine]

Two years to discuss “planning and development,” and still no decision. My guess is that NASA management doesn’t want to buy a Bigelow module, as it would be relatively cheap and therefore wouldn’t spread much money to NASA centers. They just can’t say no for political reasons.

And if they do want to do it, the slow pace of their decision-making process demonstrates clearly why they shouldn’t be entrusted to build anything in the future.

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The FAA has issued a draft environmental impact statement required before the agency will allow SpaceShipTwo to be launched from the Mohave Air and Space Port.

Isn’t it nice to live in a free country? The FAA has issued a draft environmental impact statement, required before the agency will allow SpaceShipTwo to be launched from the Mohave Air and Space Port.

If the Wright Brothers had had to jump through the modern bureaucratic hoops required by today’s federal government, they probably wouldn’t have gotten their airplane off the ground until after World War I.

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Aviation Week looks at the launch challenges facing SpaceX over the next two years.

Aviation Week looks at the launch challenges facing SpaceX over the next two years.

Though it is very clear SpaceX has a tough schedule of launches coming up, with much of the future of American aerospace riding on their success, this article is strangely hostile to the company. There is no doubt the company has fallen behind schedule, but the list of customers who have been willing to commit to the company is quite impressive, especially considering that SpaceX literally didn’t exist six years ago.

I’ll make several predictions:

  • SpaceX will experience further launch delays.
  • SpaceX will even have one launch failure in the next two years.
  • SpaceX will nonetheless succeed, because its successes will far exceed the failures, and they are clearly offering a better product for less money.
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Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner, aiming to complete a record-setting 120,000 foot dive from edge of space, successfully completed a 71,581 foot practice dive today.

Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner, aiming to complete a record-setting 120,000 foot dive from edge of space, successfully completed a 71,581 foot practice dive today.

From launch to touchdown, the entire test flight lasted just over eight minutes, officials said. According to Baumgartner, the toughest part of the leap was the extreme cold he experienced high up in Earth’s atmosphere. “I could hardly move my hands,” the skydiver said in a statement. “We’re going to have to do some work on that aspect.”

Baumgartner is gearing up for an even bigger leap — his so-called “space jump” — from 120,000 feet (36,576 m) this summer. The current record for highest-altitude skydive is 102,800 feet (31,333 m), set in 1960 by U.S. Air Force Captain Joe Kittinger.

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A prototype of the new space junk radar system has successfully demonstrated it can track objects smaller than an inch across.

A prototype of a new space junk radar system has successfully demonstrated it can track objects smaller than an inch across.

This resolution is considered ten times better than previous designs. The cost to build the fully operational system is estimated to be $3.5 billion.

I wonder where we will get the money.

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Research on ISS has found that prolonged spaceflight causes vision problems and might even damage the human eye.

Research on ISS has found that prolonged spaceflight causes vision problems and might even damage the human eye.

There had been hints of this discovery in an earlier report, but today’s paper is the first published science on the subject.

The results are not only important for finding out the medical challenges of weightlessness. They illustrate once again the need to do long extended flights on ISS. Without that research we are never going to be able to fly humans to other planets.

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On March 6, film director and deep water diver James Cameron grabbed the record for the deepest solo dive ever, 26791 feet or more than five miles.

On March 6, film director and deep water diver James Cameron grabbed the record for the deepest solo dive ever, 26791 feet or more than five miles.

Moreover, this dive was only practice for an even deeper dive to come.

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The spaceship companies in Mohave are hiring

Want a job building spaceships? The spaceship companies in Mohave are hiring.

There are several hundred open positions in Mojave as companies such as the Spaceship Company, XCOR and Scaled Composites begin to ramp up operations. “It’s ironic that we’re having a recruitment problem in Mojave,” said Stu Witt, CEO and general manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port. He added that this is a good problem to have.

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Robotic refueling demo begins today on ISS

A robotic refueling demo. designed and built by the same people who ran the Hubble Space Telescope repair missions, begins today on ISS, using Dextre.

This demo is designed to prove that a robot, operated from the ground, can refuel a satellite not designed for refueling. The demo satellite on ISS was built to match the design of several climate satellites already in orbit that will end up defunct in a few years if they can’t be refueled.

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The March 9 launch of Europe’s cargo freighter to ISS has been delayed two weeks so that engineers can climb inside and tighted two straps holding two cargo containers in place.

The March 9 launch of Europe’s next cargo freighter to ISS has been delayed two weeks so that engineers can climb inside and tighten two straps holding two cargo containers in place.

I suspect the reasons behind this problem are quite embarrassing, which is probably why the press releases are so vague about why the straps were loose and how the Europeans discovered the problem.

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