Tag: aerospace

“When someone as interesting and entertaining as James Lileks starts talking,” as Dave Carter said, “it’s really best to just hush up and listen.” Which is precisely what the host did this week, as he invited Star Tribune columnist, author, and Ricochet’s own James Lileks onto the program to talk about everything from Coronavirus, to writing, along with side trips to 1970s fashion trends and 1950s commercial air travel, and – as the Ricochet Podcast closes in on its 500th episode – what it is that keeps James coming back for more podcasts with Peter Robinson and Rob Long.

Then Dave talks with longtime Ricochet Member George Daelemans (a.k.a. GLDIII), about his work as an aerospace engineer, restorer of cars, and veteran of a great many Ricochet meet ups. There is also a rather interesting connection between Dave, George, and his wife, but you’ll have to listen in to learn that one.  There are lots of laughs and a veritable treasure of fascinating information to be had on this episode, so make yourself comfortable and enjoy the services.

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My company is in the aerospace industry.  Our industry has been declared Essential by all levels of government.  However, we are apparently not quite essential enough.  We had been working steadily through the Wuhan Virus crisis, building and shipping flight-deck switches and control panels to a wide variety of customers, from the Army and Navy, […]

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Plaudits for Congress and the President for enacting this week the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an important annual exercise that, for the first time since 1947, creates a new branch of our military, the Space Command. As with the Air Force’s creation in 1947 as our then 5th branch, it will take time to […]

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Just heard a rumor… SLS block 1B is on hold? Apparently NASA has told contractors to immediately HALT all work on the Exploration Upper Stage, due to cost over runs and further delays with the entire rocket – which is now not expected to fly (block 1A version) until maybe 2024. Preview Open

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Vanguard 1 60th anniversary

 

Last Wednesday, I attended the Vanguard 1 60th anniversary at the Naval Research Lab. Vanguard 1 was the fourth satellite, the first to carry solar cells, and is the oldest one in orbit. As some of you know, it was designed by my dad. Six Vanguardians attended the celebration. Four of them are here:

Credit: Kim Lammertin

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Is Up, Up … and Away!

 

He actually did it! SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launched successfully at 3:45 PM ET Tuesday, with Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster as its payload. The car has a dummy at the wheel, with “Don’t Panic!” written in large, friendly letters on the dashboard screen. And it’s playing David Bowie from the stereo.

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launched Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster towards Mars today.

Explorer 1: 60th Anniversary

 

January 31 was the 60th anniversary of Explorer 1. I haven’t had time to prepare a detailed report, but people may find a few details of interest. After the failure of Vanguard TV-3, Von Braun’s team prepared a Jupiter C for its successful launch of the first American satellite:

Penn State Researching New Methods to Feed Astronauts in Deep Space

 

That trip to Mars has suddenly become less appealing. I understand the need to recycle water — water is heavy and is essentially recycled here on earth — but there are limits to what can or should be recycled.

A research team at Penn State in the US believes it is possible to use microbial reactors to convert human waste into new food. Any spacecraft can only hold so much food for a trip and given the distance and time it takes to travel, the team believes recycling human waste would provide an adequate food source.

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The 60th anniversary of the launch of the first artificial satellite is next Wednesday. I’ve already discussed this, but think another thread is warranted to mark this historic occasion. For seasoned citizens, I’m curious how you heard about it and how you reacted to the launch.  PBS aired a good program for the 50th anniversary. […]

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Today is the anniversary of the first flight of Space Shuttle Columbia, in 1981. If I may share a few personal reminiscences: I had left my job as editor of a hobby industry magazine and was getting ready to go to work for an association in the Washington DC area, but I had timed it […]

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Share Your Expertise: Some Things You Should Know About Orbital Mechanics

 

The Ricochet staff solicited our expertise. Your friendly neighborhood aerospace engineer is here to deliver it from my desk on the corner of Karman Vortex Street and Tomcat Alley. (You may have seen my previous writing on the NAVSTAR GPS.) In this article we’ll cover a few common misconceptions about orbital mechanics and then ‘splain some fundamentals for the layman. There’s always some overlap between topics, and this article touches on reentry aerodynamics as well, but without further ado here is the orbital mechanics edition.

There is gravity in space

Print

With sufficient speed a free-fall trajectory never intersects the Earth.

The Global Positioning System Is Just a Bunch of Fancy Clocks

 
Artist's rendition of a GPS III-A satellite (US Air Force)

Artist’s rendition of a GPS III-A satellite (U.S. Air Force)

The Global Positioning System provides a simple and invaluable service to any Earthling who chooses to access it. It solves an ancient problem with ultramodern technology, answering a challenge that spelled doom for so many of our ancestors. With some irony it answers the profoundly local and timeless question — “Where am I?” — using atomically synchronized radio transmitters orbiting thousands of miles up in space.

112 Years of Heavier-than-Air Flight

 

shutterstock_92768497It’s not an anniversary ending in a five or a zero, but 112 years ago today, a couple bicycle mechanics took off in a powered box kite on some windy dunes in North Carolina, successfully landed it, and started the era of aviation.

On the centennial of the event 12 years ago, I had essays at TechCentralStation (which no longer exists) and National Review, in which I noted that their big achievement wasn’t in taking off, but in landing. Also, on Fox News, I compared and contrasted the government versus the private sector, and noted that the space program needed the Wright stuff:

In Greek mythology, it was said that Minerva sprung fully formed, in full armor, from the head of Zeus.

“The Martian” Is Thrilling, Surprisingly Funny, and Scientifically Accurate

 

The_Martian_film_posterThe Martian features Matt Damon as NASA astronaut Mark Watney, who with a six-member crew including commanding officer Jessica Chastain, is on a month-long science mission on the beautifully desolate surface of Mars. Of course, one month is only the planned duration of their stay on the surface; the deep space transit to and from Mars takes several hundred days each way, which becomes important later in the film.

We enter the story partway into the surface mission. The crew is collecting Martian soil samples when NASA sends them an urgent message about an impending storm. The storm is apparently so severe that the rocket which is supposed to lift the crew back into space at the end of their mission won’t survive the harsh winds on the ground. So the crew is forced to abort their surface mission and perform a hasty emergency launch. In the rush and confusion, Watney is left behind, presumed dead. All of this introductory material is completed in a very breezy few minutes, plunging us right into the survival story.

Damon is charming, self-deprecating, full of creativity, and despite the all the rational reasons to believe himself doomed, he remains confident in his training and problem-solving abilities. He shows well-earned pride of accomplishment and just the kind of cockiness you’d expect from a flyboy as he conquers the litany of challenges thrown at him by the deserted red planet, including lack of breathing air, food shortages, transportation, weather, and communication. However, the film seems to gloss over his coming-to-grips with his extremely perilous situation. Instead, it jumps ahead several weeks, thereby depriving us of the opportunity to watch Damon experience the full range of emotions you’d expect from a marooned spaceman, including grief, denial, anger, resentment, loneliness, despair, and hopelessness — especially in light of the events that stranded him there. We see a lot of footage of Damon entertaining himself by making smart remarks into a camera, and he is often hilarious. But there is little sense that he feels alone or lonely at all (in contrast with, say, Sam Rockwell’s performance in Moon), which reduces the euphoria we should feel when he finally re-establishes communication with NASA. Perhaps it is this unworldly optimism that helped keep him alive.