Sunday, December 11, 2005

Rockets are trouble

Hayabusa is in trouble.
Article from jaxa. Apparently thrusters, and they also don't know if it actually sampled much on the visit of 25. of november.

Falcon 1 will try to launch again on the 20. of december. Open updates from spacex home page. There's a blog about the launch run by Elon Musk's brother at Kwajalein Atoll and Rockets.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

More on Falcons

First of all, my heartfelt congratulations to the Hayabusa team for landing the probe onto asteroid Itokawa, gathering samples and succesfully taking off again. Let us hope these samples can be safely brought to earth. More on that in near future posts.

Secondly, slight disappointment is felt in my mind because of the scrubbing of Falcon 1.
I stayed up whole saturday night watching the live-blogs of out of the cradle and spaceflightnow. They were on the phone line to SpaceX.
First the launch crew waited for clearer weather, then there was lox/helium boiloff problems and now they have to ship lox from Hawaii. Because of army launch activity, the next earliest possible date is 17. of december 2005.
I really hope this goes well eventually. (one or a few failures might not be catastrophic!) It will access space at a more reasonable cost level, 6 million dollars per launch.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Falcon friday

  1. The Spacex Falcon 1 rocket will launch . Out of the cradle shall live-blog the event.
  2. (The rocket above launches the DARPA Falconsat)
  3. The Japanese Hayabusa (Japanese for falcon) probe will attempt landing on the asteroid Itokawa. If successful, it will take samples, and eventually bring them back to Earth! Check the live-blog.

All this will happe on friday, the 25. of march. Coindicence? It seems so.

I wish these expeditions well!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Ambivalent Engineer: Why Merlin?

Ambivalent engineer has lots of interesting space / rocket items up now, ranging from why not gun launch, two posts about orbital refueling and now about the spacex upper stage engine options.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Funny link of the day

Upon browsing spacedaily, I ran onto this story about interorbital sending people to orbit in 2008 - they've even sold tickets!?

I don't think this is going to happen.

The biggest problems I see are making a high-thrust reliable rocket engine, a high-mass-ratio rocket to put anything in orbit, and making a reliable re-entry system too. Remember, one has to have attitude control and a retro-fire rocket, a heatshield, parachutes. Climate control, communication...

Interorbital's hardware so far? They do have rocket engines of 5000 pounds of thrust, which is nice. That makes about or 25 kN. If one assumes the capsule size of 1000 kg, rocket dry weight of 1000 kg as well, and mass ratio of 10, the total weight will be around 20 000 kg. To get even half a g of acceleration, they'd need 300 kN of thrust. If they double their engine power, they need only six of them. I don't know if they're pressure-fed (heavy tanks) or have turbopumps (expensive to develop and manufacture).

No way, orbital missions by 2008. Comment!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Energy, alternative and future

A lot of people talk about alternative energy (especially to oil nowadays). Some examples are alteng and ergosphere. I appreciate the care about middle-level engineering things. One can leave the details to the experts and enterpreneurs.

But a few important, highest level questions are not being asked:
  1. what would the cost / effort of these alternative energy methods be?
  2. is really so much energy needed?
These questions are interconnected.

A lot of alt energy schemes handle the subject around the current energy needs of whichever country the author is from, and how they could / could not be fulfilled with alternative energy methods.

I claim they never will be because:
  1. alternative energy will be more expensive
  2. current (western) energy levels are not needed
The first one is quite clear. Over millions of years, plants have grown, died, decayed and been compressed in deep earth, accumulating oil. At this moment over 80 million barrels (over 8 billion kg) of that oil is pumped out from underground pools every day. It's practically free energy! It can't get any cheaper than that. (And it's not gonna last millions of years with this kind of use either.) Maybe someone can make a magic invention for an even cheaper technology, but I would not count on such dreams. There is no magic bullet.

The second one can be valued partly by looking at history - energy consumption per capita has been rising steadily in almost all western countries for very long. It could theoretically also go down, and people would just return to previous "state of existence" or "standard of living". (That were possible if done with style, and requires more lengthy handling in another post.)

So, what if energy consumption was halved in western countries?

If done right, I bet there would still be food for everyone.

Sure, the GDP would drop to around half, economists would cry madly and a lot of people would have to shift jobs from drawing fancy lines in an office to weeding on a cabbage farm, but who cares? We would still be alive and would have ways to express ourselves, have family and friend relations and all that important stuff. I don't know if we would be so unhappy. At least in the end, our kids could adapt to the situation.

If things go to the worse, energy production would drop a lot more, more quickly and the infrastructure couldnt adapt and a lot of people would starve to death. I don't know if this is likely. It should be studied more.

Feel free to comment!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

NASA's moon plan

Spaceref reports about Michael Griffin's new shiny plan of future for NASA. In quick generalizations, the main components are:
  • CEV - it would be a somewhat Apollo-like capsule that would fly first at around 2013. Landing on land.
  • "stick" - a 25 t launcher created from the current space shuttle's solid rocket booster and a mostly new second stage.
  • SLV - a heavy (>100t) launcher created from the shuttle's main tank and two solid rocket boosters plus a new upper stage.
  • A lunar module that takes 4 guys to the surface of the moon for a week.
  • Then you need a stage to push the stack out of earth orbit to moon.
Moon missions would have a big SLV launch with the translunar stage and lunar module, and the crew would arrive with a stick-CEV later and dock with the stack in earth orbit. Then it's off to lunar orbit, from where four astronauts would land with the lunar module (use descent stage here), spend a week down there, come back up (ascent stage), dock with the stack and head back to earth. Some forward compatibility for Mars missions will be designed into the hardware. I'll post my personal thoughts on this whole thing later, but it seems surprisingly sober on first hand. Oh, the pricetag? 100 billion dollars.