Saturday, January 30, 2010

Project Daedalus

Just a sample of some of the cool images of this hypothetical interstellar spacecraft.

"Project Daedalus was a study conducted between 1973 and 1978 by the British Interplanetary Society to design a plausible interstellar unmanned spacecraft.[1] A dozen scientists and engineers led by Alan Bond worked on the project, and settled on proposing a fusion rocket as its drive.
The design criteria had specified that the spacecraft had to use current or near-future technology and had to be able to reach its destination within a human lifetime (a flight time of 50 years was allocated). However, as noted above, it was not to be manned, being intended mainly as a scientific probe.
The target chosen was Barnard's Star, 5.9 light years away, which at the time was believed to possess at least one giant planet (the evidence on which this belief was based has since been discredited). However, the design was required to be flexible enough that it could be sent to any of a number of other target stars.
Project Daedalus is not considered feasible within the 21st century due to economic reasons."

Daedalus specifications

Overall length: 190 meters
Propellant mass first stage: 46,000 metric tons (!)
Propellant mass second stage: 4,000 metric tons
First stage empty mass: 1,690 metric tons
Second stage empty mass: 980 metric tons
Engine burn time first stage: 2.05 years
Engine burn time second stage: 1.76 years
Thrust first stage: 7,540,000 newtons
Thrust second stage: 663,000 newtons
Engine exhaust velocity: 10,000,000 m/s (!)
Payload mass: 450 metric tons

- Wiki Article Article
Centauri Dreams

This is a great project, but is likely to remain just a mental exercise. It is almost always better to put the money and effort into making larger and larger telescopes. Interstellar travel may offer large baseline parallax measurements, but other than that it is basically a matter of attempting something hard for the sake of doing something hard. That has certain intrinsic value to humans, but at this scale it is hard to justify the trillions of dollars and century or more of mission time. KM scale optical telescopes could probably get similar amounts of info about neighbor stars and solar systems for less money. And it only takes a few decades at most to build one of these, Daedalus would probably consume much of a century before even launching.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Spirit to be left in place

It seems all future attempts to free the MER Spirit have been called off. The robot will be placed in a favorable angle to the Sun, and may go into low power mode (hibernation) for the local winter season. Even if the rovers "drop dead" right now, with no further contributions to science, they will still enter the record books as exceptionally long lived spacecraft. Obviously SOME of the money NASA spends goes into making some really robust, kick-ass one might say, robots. And these little guys just keep on going! (Or working, that is.)

BBC article
Planetary Society

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Computer Virus

For the record, I got this virus while researching rockets without nozzles. One search result from Google appeared to be an early patent for this technology. "How great!" I exclaimed, only to quickly change my mind and say : "How craptastic."

I recently got hit by the worst virus I have seen to date (well it is actually malware or spyware or something like that.) I cant shake it, system restore is GONE (which may be a result of the virus) and the internet wont work. So the only choice is a redo of XP. For that reason, posts will be few and far between for a while, at least 24 hours from now. Sorry to all of the many dedicated readers (1) but we will recover from this and move on to create a better tomorrow full of quake III and evony.

Ironically the only thing still working, and working fine, is Quake 3. So I can still play it. The little Netbook is working but really how can one be expected to use that in a room with a 24 inch monitor?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Paper on rocket motors without nozzles

This article was posted at The Rocketry Planet. It is fascinating to see that rocket engines can work so well without a nozzle. Before learning about this about 2 years back, I had assumed that most of the ISP from a rocket motor came out of the converging, diverging nature of the nozzle. How can exhaust even be supersonic without a nozzle? It still blows my mind!

VTOL one man aircraft

"Conceptual design focusing on the ability of a redundant electric propulsion system to provide new capabilities for Vertical Takeoff and Landing aircraft. Specifically utilizing electric motor variable rpm to accomplish a low tipspeed prop-rotor (400 ft/sec tip speed at hover and 200 ft/sec at cruise) to accomplish an order of magnitude reduction in community noise for close proximity operations (30-40 db reduction). The variable rpm capability also achieves a 25% improvement in prop-rotor efficiency through operation at optimal advance ratios."

This will be the most thrilling, and by far the most dangerous way to travel in 2050.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Inert training missile

"A collectors dream, these are brand new European training missiles from the Cold War era that have been sitting in storage for over twenty years and are in pristine Grade I condition. They have not been used and the original markings are still the same as when they rolled out of the arsenal. Each unit stands 34.5" tall and weighs 8.9 pounds. This item is a relic that is made of metal and has been rendered permanently inert with the ingestion of non-removable inert epoxy filler. It contains no harmful parts or substances and can not be modified to be any sort of harmful device. It is sold for historical preservation and study purposes only."


How about sticking an I800 in this little item? :)

From Cheaper than Dirt

Update on UFO over Norway

This article confirms a previous post here about this sky spiral.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Around the world on solar power - Solar Impulse

Stats on the prototype aircraft (for RnD of the full scale aircraft.)

* Wingspan 63m
* Weight 1,600 kg,
* Take-off speed 35 km/h
* Average flying speed: 70 km/h
* Motor power 4 x 10 HP electric engines
* Battery specific capacity: 220Wh/kg
* Solar cells: 11,628 (total area 200m²)
* Maximum altitude 8,500 m (27,900 ft)


40 HP total! This aircraft is substantially lighter than your average glider, or about the wingspan of a jumbo jet with the weight of small car!

An around the world flight would take just short of 1 month, with landings every few days to change pilots. I personally will be impressed with any effort here, just building the aircraft is among the greatest achievements (and that most likely to produce tangible spin off results in the industry), but I can't help but want it to fly around the world without stopping. That may only happen as a UAV, however.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Eureka - A space and rocketry blog in spanish

Even without being able to understand most of the posts, there is clearly a wealth of information. If you speak Spanish, give this page a visit.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The case for microlaunchers

How do we define a microlauncher? What are the possible benefits from going with such small systems? This is an interesting talk contrasting rocketry to date, mostly very large and expensive rockets launching only a few times a year, with a possible alternative. I have not seen the whole video yet, it is over an hour and my quantum of time is more like 15 minutes, however it starts discussing the "Mainframe era" of rocketry, and this is an interesting parallel to the evolution of computers. I am particularly interested in this while also thinking about the N-Prize.

"Microlaunchers: The Case for a New Generation of Very Small Spacecraft, presented by Charles Pooley.

Charles Pooley speaks about his work in creating *VERY* small rockets (~500kg) to launch a one pound payload to orbit or beyond."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

From the Archives

One of the best features from The Rocketry Planet is a large set of PDF documents from professional and hobby rocketry. The latest document is all about fins used on the Nike sounding rocket. (They are very strong.)

The Archives

Friday, January 15, 2010

SM-2 launch at sea

"PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 23, 2009) The guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) launches a Standard Missile-2 while conducting torpedo evasion maneuvers during Multi-Sail 2009. Multi-Sail 2009 is designed to improve warfare mission readiness. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Matthew R. White/Released)"

From DRD

Plesetsk Cosmodrome

"The spaceport itself is located much more faraway from any signs of civilizations than its counterpart, Baikonur cosmodrome, and nowadays is believed to be the northernmost spaceport in the world. Decision about construction of the spaceport was put forward in 1957. An aim of top secret project was not a complicated one, nuclear device was supposed to reach the territory of a would-be aggressor as soon as possible. From these very considerations, the location area nearby Arkhangelsk city was chosen just right. Only in 1963, on account of expansion of space activities the issue of launching space vehicles from the spaceport was brought about."

It is nice that this article shows people in addition to the hardware that we all love; there are lots of rocket scientists in Russia.

From the unstoppable English Russia web page.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Project Cannikin - a multi - megaton underground test in Alaska

"The largest underground nuclear test conducted by the United States, Project Cannikin was one of three underground nuclear tests performed at different places on this 43-mile long island in the Aleutian Chain. This $200 million 1971 test was performed to test an Anti-Ballistic Missile warhead, for a Spartan ABM missile. It consisted of a 5 megaton-yield thermonuclear bomb, detonated in a 50-foot diameter chamber, at the bottom of a 5,875-foot shaft. The island of Amchitka was a military outpost in WWII, and the air field and base camp from that facility were reused for the nuclear testing program."

"0800041 - Project Cannikin Review - 1971 - 13:00 - Color - This video reviews Project CANNIKIN, a nuclear test conducted on Amchitka Island, Alaska, at 11:00 a.m., Bering Standard Time, on November 6, 1971. CANNIKIN, a slightly less-than-five-megaton device, was the largest underground nuclear test conducted in the United States. CANNIKIN was conducted to proof test a warhead for the Spartan missile, a Safeguard Ballistic Missile Defense Program.

The video shows the nuclear device and instrumentation canister being lowered into the shaft, detonation sequences, and test effects. A long-range view of water turbulence after the detonation is shown, but no tsunami or large ocean wave was observed or recorded. Numerous ground shock waves are shown at normal speed and as seen by high-speed, slow-motion cameras located at various sites on the island. Surface effects at ground zero and other island locations were filmed one day after the test. Approximately 38 hours after the test, a subsidence crater, approximately 1.5 miles in diameter and 55 feet deep, began to form.

Many scenes in the video have no sound intentionally; no material was deleted.

The three underground nuclear tests conducted on Amchitka Island, Alaska, were as follows:

LONG SHOT, October 29, 1965, shaft, Vela Uniform Project, approximately 80 kilotons
MILROW October 2, 1969, shaft, weapons related, approximately 1 megaton (Mt)
CANNIKIN, November 6, 1971, shaft, weapons related, less than 5 Mt"

Some cool facts:

First major project under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, which required the preparation of an “Official Environmental Impact Statement.”
Largest mined shaft in the United States with a single elevator to 6,000 feet.
Deepest 90-inch hole—6,150 feet.
Longest diagnostic canister—264 feet.
Largest off-continent diagnostic system—250 scopes with 100 percent data retrieval.
Largest load lowered downhole—over 400 tons.
Largest emplacement drill rig—1,000 ton mast.
First operational field computer system.
First successful downhole alignment with a laser beam.
First use of over 100 miles of downhole cables.
Largest cavity (52 foot diameter) mined through a mile-long shaft.

More info here:

Global Security

It sounds like this was an enhanced radiation bomb, not unlike the tiny little one used for Sprint and HiBex. However, it may very well be that all modern nuclear devices are designed to not only dial a yield (that is pick the total explosive power) but also produce a chosen range of radiation amounts. Just as there are no fusion or fission bombs anymore, there may not be wholly enhanced radiation bombs anymore, just bombs along some point in a spectrum of nuclear effects. I do wonder if it would be possible to have removable layers of tamper that could not only alter yield, but also change the neutron flux or X - ray effects (particularly for space use in the latter.)

The flux coming out of a 5 megaton bomb, even a mile away, should do a great deal of damage to even a hardened warhead.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Q motors!

Thanks to a post over at The Rocket Dungeon, we have a great new picture of a Q motor. This appears to be part of Beagle II, simulated below, which is designed to fly to as high as 250,000 feet.


This is the upper stage of a two stage rocket, flown solo first for a test.


This is the last project, a Q to P motor two stage rocket flown at Blackrock. The video below shows it was not a total sucsess, but boy what a project! It is the largest two stage hobby rocket that I have ever come across. It was interesting that the goal was only 100,000 feet, this amount of motor power should be able to hit space in the right package.

This video shows the 2 stage attempt. The lack of a 2nd stage burn is the most serious problem - electronics need to work for a project like this, but the lack of stability during the Q burn is also a problem. The amount of stress placed on the airframe from that move it pulled in this video must have been profound, and was probably close to causing a failure right there. Just to speculate for a moment, it is looking like the first stage was a bit to heavy, and the fins were a bit too small. There is no need to be so conservative on first stage fins - first stage drag is not a huge concern, and the rocket has to work to get anywhere in the first place. This video is a great demonstration of the power contained within a Q motor. Somehow it is harder to appreciate in a giant rocket where it hardly moves.

Here is the source of the images and info: Flicker. I plan on checking back regularly to see the images of this new rocket.


The majority of large motors O and above, but short of R and S, seem all too often to be used in giant rockets. Different strokes is the rule in rocketry; there is a huge spectrum of motor sizes, rocket types, and financial stakes in the hobby. However, I simply can't see how one takes a Q motor, able to lift a camera to near space, and sticks it into a huge scale model that flies to 6,000 feet. Maybe it just isn't my style, and one can leave it at that. Some people seem to have the same altitude bug, however, and they keep bringing forward great attempts. The Thunderbolt project by Kosdon is a good example of putting serious motors to serious altitude work. There was a tentative plan to take 4 O-10,000 motors and make a 3 - 1 O rocket out of them, which would have broken 100,000 feet with ease. Perhaps this project, if it ever does fly (and it is sadly likely that it wont; most large projects are never completed), it will be a record breaker and a pretty impressive project. Best of luck to everyone involved!

Even short of this 3 to 1 Q rocket, there is no reason not to try another Q to P or Q to Q flight. Why not keep trying until it works?

Readers may remember this image from just a few posts back, a really cool 2 stage, 5 motor RRS project. It does not take much imagination to think of a similar rocket (hell just copy the design almost completely) using Q motors like those seen above. This would be a fairly inexpensive, if complex, rocket that should be able to carry 20 or 30 KG to space. The performance in such a rocket would be an S motor staged to a Q motor. Since an aerodynamic S motor using amateur mass fractions can hit at least 72 miles, a less than optimal cluster first stage (heavy, draggy compared to a monolithic S) should still get the Q upper stage to space, probably 100 miles.


This shows one possible design for a rocket, using 4 Q motors this time, to sample life at high altitudes. Now it is not clear why one would need to go so high to look for life, certainly not much past 100,000 feet. There is simply nothing much up there chemically. This kind of survey could be better done with many small (and cheap and long flying) balloons. But, since I love large fast amateur rockets, great idea guys! Go for it!