Tuesday, August 31, 2010

NASA and ATK conducted a full-scale test of five-segment solid rocket motor at 11:27 a.m. EDT, Tuesday, Aug. 31st

A decent overview, one of the first videos posted of the test.

A civilian video, possibly the most impressive footage simply because things like this look better from a distance. The talking dude is annoying, but the birds flying off in fear are pretty cool.

A long video showing the test process from T- 5 to well after burnout. Note the probe that is inserted into the motor soon after burnout; this is a "quench tool." Why is it important to do this?

"NASA and Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK) conducted a full-scale test of a five-segment, first-stage solid rocket motor at 11:27 a.m. EDT, Tuesday, Aug. 31. The test at the ATK Aerospace Systems test facility in Promontory, Utah assessed motor performance at low temperatures.

The static firing of the solid motor, designated Development Motor-2, lasted two minutes. This is the most heavily instrumented solid rocket motor in NASA history, with 53 test objectives that will be measured using more than 760 instruments. The motor was built as an element of NASA's Constellation Program. It is the largest and most powerful solid rocket motor designed for flight and is highly transferable to future heavy-lift vehicle designs.

The motor design is almost identical to another development motor tested last year. However, DM-2 will be cooled to 40 degrees Fahrenheit for this full-duration firing to verify the performance of new materials. After more testing, the first-stage solid rocket motor will be certified to fly at temperature ranges between 40-90 degrees Fahrenheit."

It is pleasing (but not that much of a shock) to see this motor work properly. I have always been a strong advocate for the use of solid boosters for the first stage of any large rocket. The fuel may cost more (much more), and the ISP is certainly lower (much lower), but the simplicity as a whole allows for cost reductions. The expense of rocket motors is mostly in RnD, and liquids are far more complex during this part of the process. It appears easy to scale solid motor technology up, either by using a cluster configuration, or simply creating massive motors. 10 meters is not out of the question, particularly if produced in the monolithic method, and on site. In any event, this is most exciting simply because it shows progress towards the Ares 1 and Ares V rockets. If they are eventually produced (and that is a HUGE if at this point, with Obama and his dead end plans for manned space exploration) it would be a step forward in launch capability. It is my hope that we can move past the shuttle era and return to capable, expendable launch systems. These rockets will be safe for the crew, less expensive than the shuttle system overall, and carry more payload. Missions to Mars, 16 meter space telescopes... these things need a rocket. And if we want any of them to happen, we need to build the rocket first. No one builds a payload waiting for a rocket anymore. That is so 1960s.

Rocketing to the Moon

Modern Mechanix

This was initially posted at TORD.

Monday, August 30, 2010

NAIC (now closed) web page

The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts is now closed, but for about a decade, it was a think-tank that worked on (obviously) highly advanced and even speculative areas such as advanced propulsion (light sails, antimatter, etc.) or giant telescopes (liquid mirrors, Fresnel lenses.) The web page is still working, and one can access over 100 articles. One that caught my eye: "Exploration of Jovian Atmosphere Using Nuclear Ramjet Flyer" Some of these articles are speculative, and there may even be some errors mixed in.


This link is the sitemap, click on "Funded Studies" for these major papers.

Take a left at Titan...

"Provided Voyager 1 does not collide with any stellar objects, the New Horizons space probe will never pass it, despite being launched from Earth at a faster speed than either Voyager spacecraft."

That blew my mind for a few minutes there.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Type 1a and 2 Supernova Simulations

"This animation shows a thermonuclear flame burning its way through a white dwarf star. The flame produces hot ash, which buoyantly rises as the flame burns. The ash breaks out of but remains gravitationally bound to the surface of the star and collides at a point on the opposite side of the star from the breakout location. The blue shows the approximate surface of the star and the orange shows the interface between the star and the hot ash produced by the flame."

Credit: DOE NNSA ASC/Alliance Flash Center at the University of Chicago.

This is certainly one of the most violent of all events in the Universe. But here, it seems very pretty.

Here is a type 2 simulation:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Titan Occulting Binary Stars (NV0435215+200905)

Google lost the image above last time, but that actually drove me to locate and upload a different video of the same event. This one is faster.

"What might look like Pac Man swallowing a dot is actually Saturn's moon Titan occulting (passing in front of) a binary star system (named NV0435215+200905). The two stars are separated in the sky by just 1.5 arc seconds (One arc second is 1/3600 of a degree).

Because fantastic resolving power of the Hale using adaptive optics you can see that the light of the star nearest to Titan is being refracted by Titan's dense atmosphere. Such events are rare, but valuable. The starlight as it is seen passing through Titan's atmosphere is essentially a probe providing clues as to the density, temperature and wind patterns of this distant world. The team of astronomers (Antonin Bouchez, Michael E. Brown, Mitchell Troy, Rick S. Burruss, Richard G. Dekany and Robert A. West) that observed this event December 20, 2001 was fortunate that both of the stars were seen to pass behind Titan. This provided two passes through Titan's atmosphere - effectively doubling what could be learned from the event.

Be sure to check out the movie of the event. As you watch it will look like Titan is still and the stars are moving behind it. As they pass behind Titan be sure to look for the refracted light of each star on either side of Titan's atmosphere. It is an impressive sight!

The result? Jet stream winds were discovered in Titan's atmosphere.

For those so inclined you can read a PDF of one of the scientific publication that came out of these observations."


This reminds me of something that I have been wondering for a time; why are we unable to use planets and other large spherical bodies as gravitational lenses? The Sun is clearly the best source of gravitational lensing, and at 700 - 1400 AU away a large space telescope on a probe could directly image the surface of distant planets. But getting anything past 700 AU is very hard right now. All the same, I feel this type of mission should be a top priority. But until it is, why not use something like the moon? Or a planet like Mars? There may be some optical problem with this, but I am not yet aware of it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Asteroid Discovery From 1980 - 2010

"View of the solar system showing the locations of all the asteroids starting in 1980, as asteroids are discovered they are added to the map and highlighted white so you can pick out the new ones.
The final colour of an asteroids indicates how closely it comes to the inner solar system.
Earth Crossers are Red
Earth Approachers (Perihelion less than 1.3AU) are Yellow
All Others are Green

Notice now the pattern of discovery follows the Earth around its orbit, most discoveries are made in the region directly opposite the Sun. You'll also notice some clusters of discoveries on the line between Earth and Jupiter, these are the result of surveys looking for Jovian moons. Similar clusters of discoveries can be tied to the other outer planets, but those are not visible in this video.

As the video moves into the mid 1990's we see much higher discovery rates as automated sky scanning systems come online. Most of the surveys are imaging the sky directly opposite the sun and you'll see a region of high discovery rates aligned in this manner.

At the beginning of 2010 a new discovery pattern becomes evident, with discovery zones in a line perpendicular to the Sun-Earth vector. These new observations are the result of the WISE (Widefield Infrared Survey Explorer) which is a space mission that's tasked with imaging the entire sky in infrared wavelengths.

Currently we have observed over half a million minor planets, and the discovery rates snow no sign that we're running out of undiscovered objects.

Orbital elements were taken from the 'astorb.dat' data created by Ted Bowell and associates at http://www.naic.edu/~nolan/astorb.html"

Making Daedalus Practical

This web page covers ongoing work on a modern version of Daedalus, by TZF and BIS. One recent post discussed the use of propellant tanks as communication relays that would be dropped off along the way. Each tank would split in half, with one half facing Earth and the other facing the spacecraft. Other recent posts discuss .1c hazards in deep space, and also stellar lensing - possibly the single most important technology available to humans in space.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

9 out of 10 cats prefer carbon

"Like my bike and car body, it looks best unpainted…

I was very excited when the boxes arrived today. I was on the rebound after losing my big V-2 and decided to go for the other extreme, performance over spectacle… a minimum diameter, minimum weight 98mm rocket.

She should go supersonic, breaking 2,000 MPH on the way to 37K ft. and pulling 29 G’s. That is, if I can attach the fins to .1° accuracy and the 500° epoxy survives the engine heat. If not, the fins will shred right off, a safe distance overhead…

And can I build it in time for BALLS?…"


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Boeing B-47B rocket-assisted take off on April 15, 1954

This just in: Rocketry is great.


Here is something not so great, from the interesting world of Christianity. I did not yet take the time to read this whole thing, but at first glance it falls somewhere between crazy and utterly bat-shit insane. But since in appears to involve rocketry and aerospace (in addition to Scientology, the only religion as crazy as this web page.)

"We are now coming to an intersection that will show the link between Scientology, Satanism, the American Space Program and Freemasonry."

Yes according to this flow chart, Jews actually created the Nazis as part of a scheme (with Scientology and goth music) to bring sodomy and other sins to the world, via the space program. Still wondering why I am an atheist?

If we take the Bible at face value and that it is the Word of God, this is the only conclusion we can reach. As we have learned from the Bible, Satan and his fallen angels were banished from the heavens (space) and confined to the earth. This followed a devastating space war. God's holy angels are using the planet earth as a giant "prisoner of war" camp and detaining Satan and his fallen angels from once again getting back out into space."

Yes I know that most Christians are not crazy at all.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lies again from a space attempt

Not a big shock, particularly when so much advertising is rinding on a launch. But when the Sony rocket project page says:

And then, a few weeks later, it comes out that the rocket failed to recover the first stage and had a motor failure on the upper stage, it feels a bit confusing. It is particularly shameful that the Sony launch video was edited to cut out the motor failure later in the flight.

Under the video, a comment explains why this was such a short edit.

"Over the coming days and weeks we will be sifting through the hundreds of hours of footage from this journey. We wanted to give you guys, the fans who have stuck with us through the past few months, a quick update. Stay tuned as there will be more to come and more stories from the launch!"

Is that really why it was cut right before the multiple failures?

Flicker images showing multiple launch failures.

There is nothing easy about a rocket like this, and it may take 5 tries to get it right, and I certainly hope this team keeps on trying. There is nothing wrong with failure. We learn as much from failure as we do from a good flight, sometimes more. But lying about a flight, no matter how much your Sony sponsors demand it, is not right. Do us all a favor and be open and honest. Model yourself after NASA rather than the Soviet Space program.

On the plus side, I finally got confirmation that this was a 3xP to P configuration, which is pretty huge! Try again soon guys, and maybe next time get a better sponsor.