Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fourth Time The Charm for SpaceX

Fourth Time The Charm for SpaceX!

Elon Musk's Falcon 1 rocket with the Merlin engine finally succeeded in getting to orbit. September 28, 2008, is a important day in space history because a private venture company has gone where only government agencies have gone before. A live webcast of the launch was available for internet surfers could view.

The Falcon 1 is a two-stage rocket. First stage uses the Merlin 1c engine and the second stage uses the Kestral engine. SpaceX plans on a heavier, two stage model known as the Falcon 9 that can loft heavier playloads including the planned Dragon capsule. First flight of Falcon 9 is expected in 2009.

Politics and Current Space News

(Picture of Chinese spacesuit from China National Space Administration).

U.S. Senate Approves NASA Legislation:
(based on an article by Brian Berger posted on on September 28, 2008)

As reported by Brian Berger in his Sept. 28, 2008 article for, the U.S. Senate approved a NASA authorization bill on September 25 that gives Congress permission to spend up to $20.2 billion on the space agency in fiscal year 2009 and included in that bill is new conditions on the planned retirement of the space shuttle. If it becomes law, then NASA would be directed to take NO steps prior to April 30, 2009 that would PRECLUDE to option of flying the space shuttle past the 2010 retirement date. The authorization also has $1 billion to accelerate the development of the Orion CEV (Crew Exploration Vehicle) along with its launch vehicle – the Ares 1 rocket. There is also $100 million set aside for the development and demonstration of a commercial crew vehicle. The later is welcome news to this blogger.

Both presidential candidates (Barack Obama and John McCain) have paid lip service to the fact that NASA needs to keep its options open as far as when the shuttle actually retires. Mr. Berger points out in his article that this is about $2.6 billion more than what the White House requested – and also that it provides no actual money.

NASA Administrator Mike Griffin had already order a assessment on putting off the shuttle retirement and will make that report available to Congress. Unless order to do so by Congress, he will not release that information out to the general public. Which is wrong, this information does need to be out in the light of public scrutiny.

The language in the bill also sets things up for the next administration that enters office that NASA will be on track for a return to the Moon in 2020 using the Orion/Ares series of rockets.

China takes its next Bold Step in Space Flight-
(based on an article by Clara Moskowitz posted on Sept. 26 2008)

The Chinese were expected to make their own first walk in outer space on September 27, 2008 with 42-year old Taikonaut (astronaut) Zhai Zhigang. His fellow crew mates Liu Boming and Jing Haipeng will remain in the Shenzhou 7 spacecraft. He will be testing China new spacesuit design called “Feitian” which when translated means “fly the sky”. Liu Boming will stay in the orbital module wearing a Russian-built Orlan spacesuit. This will be China's first EVA (extravehicular activity).

The Shenzhou 7 reentry module is expected to land somewhere in Inner Mongolia on Sunday.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Japan Gets on the Space Elevator Band Wagon

In another article that I found on the TimesOnLine from England, Japan is pouring lots of money into the research program for a elevator to space ( Please check it out.

First envisioned by famed science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke in his 1979 work The Fountains of Paradise, the idea of a cable 22,000 miles high along which platforms can cheaply transport people and supplies up out of the gravity well of planet earth and on out to the rest of the solar system. One end of the cable is anchored on the earth, the other end is anchored on a asteroid. Carbon Nanotube Fibre is the leading candidate for fulfilling the role of bringing the space elevator to reality from the pages of science fiction.

Chavez's Venezuela To Buy Chinese K-8 Trainers

Dictator Hugo Chavez is on a tour of China recently where it was announced that Venezuela will purchase 24 of the Chinese K-8 trainers for the Venezuelan Air Force. The new trainers could start to appear in Venezuelan skies in the next year. The Chinese will also help build a new shipyard to build new oil tankers for trading Chavez's oil with the Chinese. Current exports as of April 2008 was in the 250,000 barrels per day and by next year, that figure should be closer to 500,000 barrels per day in 2010. In addition to that, three oil refineries, to be located in the Orinoco region which is in the eastern part of that South American country.

Chavez calls China a "Strategic Ally." Especially since the PRC will contribute 4 billion dollars of a 6 billion bilateral investment fund. Chavez's Venezuela provides the remaining balance to that fund.

Russia sent some Tu-160 bombers to Venezuela as well as some naval ships including the big missile cruiser Peter the Great, to begin "training runs" in the Caribbean. This is to counter the "threats" that the USA has been making by "supporting" Georgia. Also tensions have risen over the US being able to get countries like Poland to go along with the missile defense shield prgram. The Tu-160 kinda looks like the American B-1B bomber. The Times On Line from the UK had a good article by Tony Halpin ( that gives more detail on the ships involved. Peter the Great carries 20 nuclear tipped cruise missiles and hundreds of surface to air missiles for defense. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin has courted Venezuela and Cuba as tensions developed between Russia and the USA.

Russia gets to use the useful puppet Chavez and let the puppet make more anti-American noise than ever before. This also lets ole Hugo's ego get bigger and bigger. Does it take a rocket scientist to determine what is going to be facing the United States of America in the next decade as long as ole Hugo remains in power?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fifth Dwarf Planet Named & Cuba Gets a Space Center

International Astronomical Union (IAU) News published via AP and by was that the International Astronomical Union in Paris has named the fifth Dwarf Planet in our solar system. Once known as 2003 EL61, it is now named after the Hawaiian goddess Haumea, it joins former planet Pluto, Ceres, Eris, and Makemake as the newly classified category of dwarf planets. The elongated egg shaped world was first discovered back in 2005. It is thought that Haumea is composed almost entirely of rock with a pure ice crust. It has 32 percent of the mass, but is the same diameter of Pluto . The dwarf planet has a rotation of four hours which experts think help to create its odd football shape. Haumea, also has two small moons orbiting it, named Hi'iaka and Namaka. According to Hawaiian mythos, the two children (Hi'iaka and Namaka) were born to the goddess Haumea.

In other space news, Russia will help Cuba build it's own space center. This is seen as a counter to the perceived encroachment of the United States and the western allies of NATO, into the Ukraine and Georgia region of the former Soviet Union.

(News Articles from and AP (Sept 19, 2008).)
(Edited on 09/23/2008)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

RAF Radar Chief Reports Seeing UFO Fleet in 1971

I have noticed of late that I have not had very many UFO type stories published to my blog and with this story, I intend to correct that problem. Read it via the link provided by Coast to Coast AM website. Original article comes from the Monday, Sept 15, 2008 edition of the British newspaper, The Sun. It was written by Virgina Wheeler.

Alan Turner, age 64 and who was a Wing Commander in the British Royal Air Force reported to The Sun that “he was stunned when 35 super-fast vessels appeared on their radar screens.”
Wing Commander Alan Turner who has been a chief radar operator for 29 years, stated that the craft were equally spaced and shot from an altitude of 3,000 feet to 60,000 feet at a rate of speed of 300 mph. Operators at Heathrow also spotted the UFO fleet east of the Salisbury Plain. This incident took place back in 1971 at RAF Sopley base in Dorset. Alan Turner drew a map of the key sites that spotted the UFOs (and readers and click on the link to see the original article plus the map and photographs).

The Ministry of Defense visited those radar sites and instructed the staff to never speak about that night again. Turner who is now retired from the RAF in 1995 told Ms. Wheeler “UFOs are a fact-I tracked them on military radar units.”

“What I saw defied all logic and was quite frankly, extraordinary. It wasn't just me. More than 30 pairs of eyes of RAF staff and radar operators at Heathrow Airport witnessed the same thing."

“It's arrogant to believe that we're the only ones in this universe.”

Wing Commander Turner added that the only aircraft back then that would have that rate of climb were the supersonic Lightnings, but that they wouldn't have been able to hold such a perfect formation. They also make a lot of noise.”

Ms. Wheeler contacted Philip Mantle of UFO Data magazine who told her (about Wing Commander Alan Turner's story), said: “His testimony is remarkable.”

(Ref. Coast to Coast Am News with a link to The Sun, Monday, Sept 15, 2008 (

My Other Blog

Just a quick update, more for myself than anything else. I have created a new blog to deal with my hobbies such as model airplanes and collecting G.I. Joe action figures (the 1/6th scale versions that is). This is the link ( ). It has already been added to my blogs of interest.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Years Ago Today

Seven years ago today the United States of America was attacked by 19 terrorists who supported their extreme reglious views of bringing down not only the western world, but of establishing a distored view of the 10th century of Muslim domanice for the entire planet.

I think back to what I was doing that day. I ad just got up and was going throught he usual morning routine of shaving, etc. The tv was on in the bedroom and I lisiten to the Today show go on about how a airliner had hit the World Trade Center tower. I came back into the bedroom in time to witness the second jet hit the other tower.

What this country went though for the next week was amazing. For me, not seeing ANY contrails in the sky at all was unnerving. Now and then, I would see a military jet or a Aero-Care medical helicopter flying. But no civilian or general aviation aircraft in the air at all really distrubed me to no end. Now, my radio control model airplane club would still go out to the flying site and we would fly our models, but; it wasn't the same. I was born into a century where manned flight was taken for normal. All of a sudden, the only things flying was birds and models.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

DC-X What the Future SHOULD Have Been

Recently, I was checking out and found a article by Leonard David entitled, “DC-X Honored for Its Contributions, Potential.” Dated September 1, 2008. I want to quote the opening of that article here. “Creating routine, aircraft-like, low-cost access to space is not only technologically challenging, it will require enormous tenacity to overcome the inevitable bureaucratic, political and funding hiccups. These are just a few of the lessons learned by veterans of the Delta Clipper-Experimental (DC-X) rocket ship program.” The program ran from 1991 to 1997. A unlikely (in today's climate) of government, industry, and that special group of humans called entrepreneurs. The DC-X was a technology demonstrator designed to test out concepts for a single-stage-to-orbit spacecraft that took off and landed vertically. A vehicle that had potential in both civilian and military space travel.

I personally was in my 30s, taking a airframe and power-plant mechanic course to get my license in 1990-1991. And back then, I had a subscription to Aviation Week & Space Technology which I have maintained more or less since I was in college. There were a few years where I had to do without that subscription. But getting back to the DC-X story – I just ate it up whenever something new came out about that vehicle. My personal view on the subject matter as to why DC-X failed and Lockheed/Martin's Venture Star won the Clinton's administration's decision was due to politics and campaign funding. And we all know what happened to Venture Star now don't we....

But, getting back to Leonard David's article that is paraphrased below:

Before Boeing bought out McDonnell Douglas, they were in partnership with what was known as the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization. The DC-X first flew on August 18, 1993 two years after receiving the funding go-ahead. Tests were conducted at White Sands Missile Range. The DC-X flew 8 times between August 1993 and July 1995. Then there was an advanced DC-X that flew four times in 1996 until on its last flight, the vehicle tipped over and was destroyed. The accident was due to human error dealing with one of the craft's four landing legs.

Mr. Leonard David covered their 15th anniversary reunion held on August 17-19, 2008 that was hosted by the New Mexico Museum of Space History that was the start for fund raising in order to develop a permanent DC-X/XA exhibit at that museum. David interviewed Bill Gaubatz, the former director for the Delta Clipper programs at McDonnell Douglas. He (Gaubatz) stated: “The DC-X and XA showed that a small dedicated government and industry team with focused objectives could make significant advances with the boundaries of a limited schedule and budget.” Gaubatz also added that the total amount of money spent of the DC-X/XA program was less than $100 million, including range and lab costs. We were in effect, a little entrepreneurial team working within a big company, that was working for a this-can-be-done philosophy and a vision to drive launch costs below $100.00 a pound.

Additionally, Mr. Gaubatz said, “I'm convinced that if the DC-X program hadn't been terminated, we would have been in regular trips to orbit now. We may or may not have been a single-stage-to-orbit, but we would have been totally reusable, safe, rapid-turnaround transportation system. Cheap, unsafe access is not the way to go.”

The DC-X promised aircraft like access to space operations. Rapid prototyping as shown by the DC-X program would have goaded other “older” space companies to get involved in their own development of less-expensive space vehicles.

The first civilian director of the SDI was Ambassador Henry Cooper who helped provided the funding needed to get the program started back in 1990. Mr. Cooper said “That he thought the step-by-step DC-X rocket program would pay for itself during its development by launching suborbital targets for missile defense interceptors. (Note: President Bill Clinton's administration cut funding in 1993 in order “to take the stars out of star wars.” That decision that resulted in the cancellation of the DC-X program and turned off all innovative technological progress within the Strategic Defense Initiative). Ambassador Cooper added, “The regrettable part is that we knew how to do this job 15 years ago. It can be done better today. The technology has moved on in spite of the government not investing in it in some cases... or not investing as much as in it.” Bill Gaubatz provided some additional thoughts, “That DC-X termination brought about two great losses, dispersal of the team that worked on it and the loss of time.”

Jess Sponable, U.S. Air Force (retired) was the USAF program manager for the SSTO (Single-Stage-To-Orbit) technology program. He stated that the DC-X focus was demonstrating a reusable rocket that operates with aircraft-like operability. “We learned a lot about what to do... but we learned a lot about what not to do.” Sponable offered up the concept of the transportable elements of the DC-X, including the trailer-filled flight operations control center. “There's no reason we can't take a similar approach in the future for how we do launch systems.” This underscored that the cost per flight was generally in the $200,000 to $300,000 range. “We were the last program to actually combine and accomplish faster, cheaper, and better... all at the same time. The seeds have been planted. The future is coming and it won't be stopped by bureaucratic setbacks. Low cost space access is coming and it will happen.” Jess Sponable told Mr. David.

Several attendees pointed to Scaled Composites and its work on the White Knight Two – the flying launch pad to support, in part, suborbital, passenger-carrying space liner operations, as well as efforts now under way at XCOR Aerospace, Armadillo Aerospace, and Masten Space Systems among others.

Rick Bachtel, general manager of operations for Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Huntsville, Ala. Said, “What I see in the future is not government funding as much as it is going to be commercial.” Bachtel told reporter Mr. David, that his company has spun off a smaller group called Power Innovations to harness inventive and entrepreneurial ideas. The approach is to tap the firm's 3,000 to 4,000 engineers and bring ideas into the smaller group to spin off innovative technologies.

Leonard David goes on with his article by speaking with NASA administrator Mike Griffin, the former deputy for the SDI organization and a leader in the DC-X program. Taking the title from a popular book and HBO series about a group of soldiers, Mike Griffin referred to those who worked on the DC-X as a “Band of Brothers.” It is people that make the hard work of aerospace engineering indistinguishable from magic.” Griffin told attendees to this event. “Today a small private team can accomplish suborbital human spaceflight, a feat that once took the resources of a government to achieve. I'm personally convinced that manned orbital flight is within reach just barely of private enterprise today.” He went on referring that the United States has not followed up the DC-X with the kinds of technology that could revolutionize space transportation. “We need better propulsion, better materials, we need more investment into the technology of operations, which is at least half the cost. We need to create new paradigms in thinking of how we operate, just the way DC-X did. That doesn't come for free. And right now, policy makers don't seem to be willing to allocate that kind of money.”

Former SDI and shuttle astronaut Gary Payton, now deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space programs compared DC-X to what is now know as Operationally Responsive Space. Payton was also NASA's deputy associate administrator for space transportation technology where he initiated, planned and lead the Reusable Launch Vehicle technology demonstration program which included the DC-XA flight test project. “The military needs short noticed, quick response, easy changes to the launch vehicle's ascent guidance in order to reconstitute lost space assets – sounds like it fits some of the things we were doing in DC-X.” Parts of the DC-X program are finding their way into the Operationally Responsive Space.

Well, that's Mr. David's article pretty much. Too much information to actually try to summarize although I probably could have if I really tried. I pretty much quoted the entire article because I really believed in the whole concept behind DC-X. In fact, when speaking with friends, I would refer to this vehicle as the “First Dropship.” For those of you who have ever played the game Battletech, you will know what that means. Those of you who have not – Battletech is a game set in the 31st century and the Inner Sphere is always at war with one another. Jumpships travel between start systems. They carry Dropships. A Dropship is a huge vessel capable of transporting several military vehicles known as BattleMechs, giant, robot like in appearance; they each have as much or more firepower than a 20th century tank platoon.

But, getting back to the DC-X. The U.S. Government is now stuck with Orion. They got their blinders on and cannot think of something else to do. Not that Congress would provide the funding anyway. It is going to take some future Virign Galactic/Scale Composites or some other company partnership to get Boeing off it's rear end and create the DC-X2 – the second generation.

Finally, I don't know if anybody else thought of this but, the DC-X could form the core element for a future Mars Lander. Maybe I can live long enough to witness the DC-X Phoenix class dropships traveling to Mars. I hope that it could be true.

(Ref. September 1, 2008 “DC-X Honored for Its Contributions, Potential.” by Leonard David, Special Correspondent for Dateline was Alamogordo, NM.).

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Project Orion – KISS It!

There are a lot of things that I find vis-vie the Orion/Ares I program (officially known as the “Constellation Program”), that I don't care for very much. Namely, about shutting down the space shuttle program and wait until Orion is declared operational. The next item is going back to the Apollo Program and slap a new coat of paint on the hull and inflate the size of the capsule a bit and call it the future. KISS = Keep It Simple Stupid! What has happened to that concept and why is it not in our space program anymore?

What brings on this latest rant is a letter to the editor by one Greg DeSantis of Florida who's letter to Aviation Week & Space Technology September 1, 2008 issue was published therein (page 8 under 'Correspondence'). He was responding to an article in AW&ST (Aug 18, 2008, p.42 “The Fix Is In”). That article dealt with the oscillation problem they are finding out about with the Ares I booster. You see, something similar happened with the Gemini/Titan booster system. The vibration in the first 30 seconds of flight was so severe that the astronauts could not view the instrument panel.

Mr. DeSantis wrote: “The solution didn't take months of meetings and vu-graphs, and it didn't require adding 6,500 lbs of extra weight to the Titan. NASA simply sent astronaut Ed White to Ames to find a solution. We bolted a Gemini seat into the five-degree-of-freedom centrifuge, programmed the analog computers to simulate the vibration, and set about designing a damper to attach to the seat. The whole task from Ed's arrival to finished design took less than three weeks. White flew our design on Gemini 4.”

After reading DeSantis letter, I thought about how ironic it would be if some engineer with some brass ones just went down to the local auto parts place and picked up some shock absorbers and fitted it the test article in a chamber somewhere and NASA recreated this vibration exercise in the centrifuge. Oh wait... everything is done digitally in computers now. No one has the brains to think up something like this! Maybe if they go on line to get the specs for auto shock absorbers and program them into the Orion capsule attached to the seats and then run the launch program to see the effects then. It would still require a boldness that NASA no longer has.

I want to quote the remaining paragraph of Mr. DeSantis letter to AW&ST. “We did have a number of advantages though: No contractors or 'bean counters' were involved; we used 20-in. Slide rules and K&E drafting equipment; a Mark's Handbook; the best machine shop and machinists in the government; and a couple of young engineers who believed that working for NASA was the best job in the world. Look to the simplest solution.”

Amen brother.