Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Very quiet around here

The post rate is way down for several reasons, largely because I have been working weekends this summer and have not gone to a single launch. Hopefully I will get in one or two more launches before the end of the year. But not any time soon, check out our launch location after the storm:

Pine Island, NY.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The DEW line (Distant Early Warning.)

"The Distant Early Warning Line, also known as the DEW Line or Early Warning Line, was a system of radar stations in the far northern Arctic region of Canada, with additional stations along the North Coast and Aleutian Islands of Alaska, in addition to the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland. It was set up to detect incoming Soviet bombers during the Cold War, and provide early warning of a land based invasion."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Full Disk Image of Earth Captured August 24, 2011

NASA / NOAA GOES-13 satellite image showing earth on August 24, 2011 at 11:45 UTC (7:45 a.m. EDT)

Hurricane Irene is visible over the Bahamas in this image. Irene is headed northwest at 12 mph towards the East Coast.

Credit: NOAA/NASA GOES Project

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Update to Earthquake in New York


5.9 in Virginia.

We noticed the building move at around 1:55 EST. Propagation of S wave is 2+ KM/sec so the times seem to mesh.

This is the first time a significant quake has hit NYC in my lifetime. It was pretty cool feeling, very mild at this distance.

Earthquake in New York?

Or was it just local construction? I work in a VERY large building (approx six square city blocks) and it just shook. Yikes.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

SONY Project Shiphunt

Well SONY is back with a new, ill conceived student-exploitation campaign that selects a few students, and pretends that they and well placed Sony computers did something cool. Last time it was to launch a really impressive two-stage rocket: SONY Rocket Project. During the rocket project, the students learned quite a bit (what an experience) but didn't really design or build anything. Despite the hype, it was really about relying on a team of well known rocketry enthusiasts who already had the design on hand.

Getting kids involved in such a project and funding it would have been fine. But Sony did not stop there. After tons of delays, one of the rockets did launch. Sony posted "success!" and released a teaser youtube video that did show the rocket launching. Oddly enough, that video ended abruptly, mid-flight. Later on we find out that the rocket shredded during the flight. Rather than admit this (and who wouldn't understand that prototype rockets often fail?) Sony just outright lied. On the heels of the Sony rocket project, you will have to excuse me for being a bit concerned about their next (almost identical) scheme to hype up a laptop.

Notice that (in the link below) you actually read about this project in the Sony store. I understand that a corporation is out to make money. Indeed the officers of a company must do what is in the best interests of their shareholders, or possibly face criminal action. This is why I never blame them for seeming greedy. Their job isn't to be nice or charitable. But most corporations know how to donate money with some semblance of class. Intel will have it's name on a project. They may have a logo here or there, and a link from their website, for example. Alcoa also does a good job at funding science and students.

Why do I care? Do I just watch what Sony does all day and complain? Not at all. I like their products, and honestly hope they will find better ways to work with students. It just happens to be that I do rocketry, scuba, and "THing" or use metal detectors to "treasure hunt." Obviously I also use computers all the time, and I also work with science students and interns who are trying to get into the industry. By coincidence, these two Sony projects happened to fall at the nexus of so many of my personal and professional interests.

The fact is, any computer could have done what the Sony laptops did here. The majority of the work was done by people, already experts who spent years or decades learning a trade. That isn't a very profitable story to tell, however. I won't, and lack the desire to investigate this project as much as the rocket project. But the fact is, I suspect there is at least one skilled boat captain, sonar operator, and lots of research in a library behind this project. Would divers accept that a good laptop could be behind the discovery of U-869? That is how it feels to hear that a computer is behind a successful rocket launch. Let alone the implication that somehow, because these laptops are faster than the Saturn V IU or LM AGC, that is something to boast about.

SONY Shiphunt

Promotional coupons to save money on SONY and other electronics.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

ARCA IAR - 111 simulation

Cool idea, very similar to Notsnik.

"The problems and delays faced by ARCA while attempting to to launch rockets using balloon carriers prompted the development of an alternative launching device. The IAR-111 Excelsior rocket plane had been secretly in development since early 2010.
The IAR-111 program aims to create a supersonic high altitude airplane intended to extend ARCA’s HAAS II rocket launch capabilities in the Google Lunar X Prize competition, and for developing space tourism related technologies. The typical flight sequence of this aircraft includes takeoff from the sea surface, followed by a horizontal acceleration at low subsonic speeds, followed by rapid ascension, in approximately two minutes, to the altitude of 48,000 feet. At this altitude the airplane will release the Haas II rocket, that will follow its own flight sequence. IAR - 111 without its attached payload will return in glided flight to the sea surface. IAR - 111 will have supersonic flight capability of Mach 1.5 at 48,000 feet, having Haas II rocket as payload, and as space tourism technology development platform, it will reach the speed of Mach 2.6 at 90,000 feet.
The aircraft will have a crew of two persons, the pilot and the navigator, aiming to become the first Romanian supersonic airplane. The aircraft cabin is detachable and is equipped with two rocket propelled parachutes. As such the cabin can be separated form the aircraft at speeds between Mach 0-1.2 and heights above 300 feet and can return the crew safely on the sea surface.
The geometric and weight data of the aircraft have not been disclosed, but it shares an obvious resemblance to the YF-23.
Completion is scheduled for the middle of 2012, followed by the first takeoff at the end of 2012. First supersonic flight is estimated for the first half of the year 2013. Starting February 1st 2011, the public will be able to track the construction of the IAR-111 Excelsior daily.
The new moon rocket, named HAAS II is of a conventional design, unlike its predecessor HAAS, in order to fit underneath IAR-111. It's also powered by an 85% hydrogen peroxide mixture."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Solar System Family Portrait

High altitude balloon tourism

"José Mariano López-Urdiales, the founder of zero2infinity, is offering what he calls the “near-space” experience of viewing the planet and the space beyond it from 36 km [22 miles] above the earth. He hopes to have the first passengers aloft in the near-space vehicle called a “bloon” — the company doesn’t appear to be big on capital letters — by the middle of this decade.

That altitude is a long ways from the height of more than 100 km promised by Virgin Galactic and others developing suborbital space tourism vehicles. But López-Urdiales argues the 100-km definition of space is somewhat arbitrary and the view from 36 km offers essentially the same viewing experience as higher altitudes. The bright sun is surrounded by a black sky. The curvature of the earth is clearly visible, highlighted by the electric blue of the atmosphere just above the horizon. López-Urdiales says people were enjoying this view long before there were rockets.

“The first people who described the earth as a blue ball were not in rockets,” he says. “They were flying in balloons.”"

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

42 inch Dobsonian telescope

This may be the largest portable amateur telescope in the world. It would be incredible to look at some deep sky objects through this. Dr. Erhard Hänssgen - 42 inch (107 cm) f/4.5 Dobsonian telescope in 2002.

42 inch telescope

Monday, August 1, 2011

Vesta looks great!

NASA's Dawn spacecraft obtained this image of the giant asteroid Vesta with its framing camera on July 24, 2011. It was taken from a distance of about 3,200 miles (5,200 kilometers). Dawn entered orbit around Vesta on July 15, and will spend a year orbiting the body. The Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. The framing cameras were built by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany, and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Almost ready for a visit from humans perhaps?