Friday, August 29, 2008

Mojave Air and Space Port Promotional Video

Mojave Air and Space Port promotional video; it gives a nice overview of some of what's going on at the world's first commercial space port:

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Not Everything is Made in China

Sometimes the U.S. builds things and sells them to the Chinese:

GE Transportation has announced that the first China Mainline Locomotive (CML) will be delivered around Aug. 30, 2008, to the Tianjin Port in Tianjin, China. After being transferred to the Tanggu Depot for inspection, the locomotive will make its way to China's capital Beijing.

Locomotive "CML 50001" is the first of three hundred 6,000-horsepower Evolution Series China Mainline Locomotives being delivered to the Ministry of Railways P.R. China (MOR). The contract was signed in October 2005 and valued at $450 million.

The full locomotives and locomotive kits are being built in Erie, Pennsylvania. The kits will then be assembled in China.

Full article: First Of 300 GE China Mainline Locomotives To Arrive In China

Monday, August 11, 2008

Warp Drive? has a paper in PDF on the potential for creating a working warp drive (how to get from point A to point B faster than light). It was submitted July 12, 2008 (and revised July 15) by Richard K. Obousy and Gerald Cleaver, both at Baylor University. The researchers said their theory is based on the Alcubierre drive (proposed in a paper in 1994). The physic paper's summary states:

Over the last decade, there has been a respectable level of scientific interest regarding the concept of a warp drive. This is a hypothetical propulsion device that could theoretically circumvent the traditional limitations of special relativity which restricts spacecraft to sub-light velocities. Any breakthrough in this field would revolutionize space exploration and open the doorway to interstellar travel. This article discusses a novel approach to generating the warp bubble necessary for such propulsion; the mathematical details of this theory are discussed in an article published in the Journal of the British Interpanetary Society. The theory is based on some of the exciting predictions coming out of string theory and it is the aim of this article to introduce the warp drive idea from a non-mathematical perspective that should be accessible to a wide range of readers.

The full paper may be accessed from the link below:

Putting the "Warp" into Warp Drive

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Space X Update

Another press release from Space X:
Timing is Everything

On August 2nd, Falcon 1 executed a picture perfect first stage flight, ultimately reaching an altitude of 217 km, but encountered a problem just after stage separation that prevented the second stage from reaching orbit. At this point, we are certain as to the origin of the problem. Four methods of analysis – vehicle inertial measurement, chamber pressure, onboard video and a simple physics free body calculation – all give the same answer.

The problem arose due to the longer thrust decay transient of our new Merlin 1C regeneratively cooled engine, as compared to the prior flight that used our old Merlin 1A ablatively cooled engine. Unlike the ablative engine, the regen engine had unburned fuel in the cooling channels and manifold that combined with a small amount of residual oxygen to produce a small thrust that was just enough to overcome the stage separation pusher impulse.

We were aware of and had allowed for a thrust transient, but did not expect it to last that long. As it turned out, a very small increase in the time between commanding main engine shutdown and stage separation would have been enough to save the mission.

The question then is why didn't we catch this issue? Unfortunately, the engine chamber pressure is so low for this transient thrust -- only about 10 psi -- that it barely registered on our ground test stand in Texas where ambient pressure is 14.5 psi. However, in vacuum that 10 psi chamber pressure produced enough thrust to cause the first stage to recontact the second stage.

It looks like we may have flight four on the launch pad as soon as next month. The long gap between flight two and three was mainly due to the Merlin 1C regen engine development, but there are no technology upgrades between flight three and four.

Good Things About This Flight

Merlin 1C and overall first stage performance was excellent
The stage separation system worked properly, in that all bolts fired and the pneumatic pushers delivered the correct impulse
Second stage ignited and achieved nominal chamber pressure
Fairing separated correctly
We discovered this transient problem on Falcon 1 rather than Falcon 9
Rocket stages were integrated, rolled out and launched in seven days
Neither the near miss potential failures of flight two nor any new ones were present
The only untested portion of flight is whether or not we have solved the main problem of flight two, where the control system coupled with the slosh modes of the liquid oxygen tank. Given the addition of slosh baffles and significant improvements to the control logic, I feel confident that this will not be an issue for the upcoming flight four.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Third Launch of Falcon 1 Fails to Reach Orbit

From the press release from Space X:
Plan Going Forward

It was obviously a big disappointment not to reach orbit on this flight [Falcon 1, Flight 3]. On the plus side, the flight of our first stage, with the new Merlin 1C engine that will be used in Falcon 9, was picture perfect. Unfortunately, a problem occurred with stage separation, causing the stages to be held together. This is under investigation and I will send out a note as soon as we understand exactly what happened.

The most important message I’d like to send right now is that SpaceX will not skip a beat in execution going forward. We have flight four of Falcon 1 almost ready for flight and flight five right behind that. I have also given the go ahead to begin fabrication of flight six. Falcon 9 development will also continue unabated, taking into account the lessons learned with Falcon 1. We have made great progress this past week with the successful nine engine firing.

As a precautionary measure to guard against the possibility of flight 3 not reaching orbit, SpaceX recently accepted a significant investment. Combined with our existing cash reserves, that ensures we will have more than sufficient funding on hand to continue launching Falcon 1 and develop Falcon 9 and Dragon. There should be absolutely zero question that SpaceX will prevail in reaching orbit and demonstrating reliable space transport. For my part, I will never give up and I mean never.

Thanks for your hard work and now on to flight four.


(In a message to Employees, August 2, 2008)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Space X Plans a Launch of their Falcon 1 Today

Space X has announced a 4:00 PM PDT launch attempt of their Falcon 1 rocket. This will be their third attempt to launch a Falcon 1. The first attempt exploded shortly after takeoff. The second attempt had problems with its second stage and just failed to make orbit.

They are broadcasting the lauch attempt live on the web, beginning at 3:30 PM PDT:

Live Webcast of Falcon 1 Launch

Friday, August 01, 2008

Space X conducts Falcon 9 Engine Test

On July 30 Space X test fired, for the first time, the full 9 Merlin engine complement of their Falcon 9 first stage. The nine engines firing together generated about 850,000 pounds of thrust.

For more information and a video of the test firing, go to