Tag Archives: spaceflight

First tests of beer in zero gravity

Who says space exploration is dead? Sometime in November researchers will conduct the first zero gravity tests of the world’s first beer to be certified for drinking in space. The tests will take place during suborbital flights of what is commonly known as the Vomit Comet. Key quote:

Sampling the beer during weightless parabolas, the flight researcher will record both qualitative data on beverage taste and drinkability and biometric data on body temperature, heart rate, and blood alcohol content.

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China continues satellite maneuvers

China is continuing the mysterious maneuvers of the two satellites that might have actually touched earlier this month. Key quote:

The maneuvers, which appear to involve rendezvous operations between the SJ-06F satellite and the more recently launched SJ-12 craft, could amount to practice for space station dockings or coordinated satellite observations from orbit. Few folks would have a problem with that. But they also could be aimed at developing the expertise for lurking near someone else’s satellte and eavesdropping, or even knocking that satellite out of commission in the event of a crisis. That’s the worrisome part.

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The Space War, in a nutshell

Bumped, with update below

This Christian Science Monitor article gives a nice summary of the present state of war between the President, the House, and the Senate over NASA’s future.

All in all, things do not look good. With so much disagreement, whatever Congress and the President eventually agree to is going to be a mess, accomplishing little while spending gobs of money that the federal government simply no longer has. The result will almost certainly be a failed NASA program, an inability of the United States government to get astronauts into orbit, and an enormous waste of resources.

The one shining light in all this is that we still have a unrelenting need to get into space, not merely to supply the International Space Station but to also compete with other nations. It is my belief that this need — and the potential profits to be made from it — is going to compel private companies to build their own rockets and capsules for getting humans and cargo into space. And I think they will do it whether or not the federal government can get its act together.

Thus, though the U.S. might find itself a bystander in the space race for the next decade or so, in the end we will have a vibrant, competing aerospace industry, capable of dominating the exploration of the solar system for generations to come.

So buck up, space cadets. The near term future might be grim, but the long term possibilities remain endless.

Update: This announcement today from Boeing and Space Adventures illustrates my above point perfectly. For decades Boeing has been a lazy company, living off the government dole while doing little to capture market share in the competitive market. Now that the dole of government is possibly going away, however, the company at last appears to be coming alive. Instead of waiting for a deal with NASA, Boeing has been going ahead with its CST-100 manned capsule, figuring it can make money anyway by selling this product to both private and government customers.

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Space Makes Polymers Hard

The harsh environment of space, normally hostile to most materials, acts beneficially to cure certain epoxy resins. Key quote:

“You don’t have to take it up there in the shape that you eventually want,” said University of Sydney physicist Marcela Bilek, a co-author of the new study. “You can take something in a packaged form, all folded up, and then inflate it in space and have it cure into a mechanically solid structure.”

Read the research paper here.

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The pain of spacesuit gloves

The number one injury reported by astronauts appears to be fingernail and hand injuries resulting from the use of spacesuit gloves. Key quote:

A previous study of astronaut injuries sustained during spacewalks had found that about 47 percent of 352 reported symptoms between 2002 and 2004 were hand related. More than half of these hand injuries were due to fingertips and nails making contact with the hard “thimbles” inside the glove fingertips. In several cases, sustained pressure on the fingertips during EVAs caused intense pain and led to the astronauts’ nails detaching from their nailbeds, a condition called fingernail delamination.

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Ares I first stage test firing

An evening pause: One week ago today the rocket company ATK test fired the first stage solid rocket motor of the Ares I rocket. At the moment, no one knows if this rocket will even be built, as the Obama administration opposes it while Congress argues a variety of options. Regardless, watch this video of the test and you will understand why it is fun ito build rockets.

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Paper extolling the benefits from interstellar spaceflight

This guy is thinking ahead: a paper extolling the scientific benefits of interstellar space travel (published in a 2009 issue of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society) was made available today on the Los Alamos astro-ph website. Fun quote from the abstract:

Significant benefits are identified in the fields of interstellar medium studies, stellar astrophysics, planetary science and astrobiology. In the latter three areas the benefits would be considerably enhanced if the interstellar vehicle is able to decelerate from its interstellar cruise velocity to rest relative to the target system. Although this will greatly complicate the mission architecture, and extend the overall travel time, the scientific benefits are such that this option should be considered seriously in future studies.

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