Depending on the news, “new space” is commercial, innovative, well-funded by billionaires and changing the world. The site of a Falcon 9 booster returning to land after being flown eight times tells a story of change, a revolution that as predicted is being televised, in high definition. Crews that are not NASA astronauts have now … Continue reading New space, a Rorschach test
Flight rate, NASA and space exploration US launches over time and by launcher, from the first Space Shuttle flight in 1981 through the LauncherOne launch June 30, 2021. Credit: Edgar Zapata, zapatatalksnasa.com We needed launches. Lots of launches. That much was clear, even if how to get there was not. It seemed it was always … Continue reading A picture worth a thousand words
Before “commercial space” there was “cost-plus space”. It was in this Byzantine world that whistle blower Ernie Fitzgerald said back in the 1960s “There are only two phases of a program. The first is ‘It’s too early to tell.’ The second ‘It’s too late to stop.’” While today’s trending topics in space exploration are about … Continue reading Revisiting commercial space and NASA
But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,In proving foresight may be vain:The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley,An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, For promis’d joy!Robert Burns, On Turning her up in her Nest, with the Plough, November 1785. This was not my first rodeo. Word had spread that I … Continue reading The best laid schemes of NASA
"I think it’s fair to say that our review group drew the short straw, and I drew the shortest by having to actually do this presentation." Sally Ride, 2009 Dr. Sally Ride at the 2009 Review of Human Space Flight Plans Committee. It was August 2009 and Sally Ride was about to present charts about … Continue reading Drawing the short straw
On my shelves sits a childhood book “Planets and Spaceflight” published in 1957 by General Mills. The front cover is “Planets” and the rear “Spaceflight”, full of vivid descriptions and beautiful artwork of so many places to go and how we will get there. The publisher being best known for Cheerios leaves me sure the … Continue reading What’s old is new again – more on refueling in space
Range anxiety was invented by NASA. Well, perhaps not (or Velcro), but space exploration gives new meaning to an obsessive awareness of how much further you can go when there is not a charger on every corner. Now imagine that feeling in outer space, or back on the ground watching your spacecraft, not just for … Continue reading The rise, fall and rise again of refueling – in space
Iconic orange Space Shuttle external tanks and shiny SpaceX Starships are uncannily close in scale. I was fortunate to be on the team in the 1990’s that checked out and prepared the external tanks and then on the team that filled and launched them. I could not have guessed that 23 years into my career … Continue reading Of external tanks and Starships
There is an oddity to the International Space Station, its name – a station. On Earth this would be fine, a station, as in stationary, not moving. In space though “station” is a bit of a misnomer for a facility going once around the Earth every 90 minutes and traveling 15,500 miles per hour. Pictures, … Continue reading It’s not what it looks like – the cost of ISS per year
The room filled with the usual suspects and small talk. This year it seemed an unwritten rule that before any presenter could talk about their good work there came this certain chart. It was the late 1990’s, exciting times when ever faster computers, internet connections and aerospace technology came together to spur dreams of things … Continue reading You can’t always get what you want, but…
The same human who helped create the AI had only one task at this moment, move the stone to its place on the board as the AI instructed. The move would seem to be a bad move, except later when it seemed the AI was playing in a way we humans could learn from. This … Continue reading I’m with the AI, and I’m here to help
I was walking under a beached whale, and inside it, and around, the dangling entrails smacking me in the face, an amateur mistake on my part. I should have known how to move carefully around flight hardware. It was early 1999 and the X-33 was taking shape. With its internal rib-like frame, and more platforms … Continue reading X-33 – the middle path?
The choice was made, so the outcome was determined, if not known. In engineering as in life. Not everyone accepts this notion quite the same way, or as gospel. Making a choice and then having to live with a determined if unknown future sounds fine in theory. In practice though determined leads to deterministic. As … Continue reading Reusability – legs and fins or wings and things?
It's about the benefit when the mass is there, versus not. The socket cost $5,000. But we got a good deal for three at $15,000. Now this might sound like just another story about a $300 toilet seat, but it turns out there may be some rhyme or reason behind $300 toilet seats. Or even … Continue reading The case of the $5,000 socket
A launch failure is a visual event, out there for all to see, a program’s failure to meet cost or flight rate or other fuzzy goals, not so much. With an odd hardware failure, a unit gone bad, engineers might do a hybrid of Monday morning quarterbacking and applicable anecdotes. Of course, there is methodical … Continue reading Commercial space and six questions for a good story – Pt. 3 of 3 (wonkish)