Monday, February 20, 2012

Friendship 7's Flight 50 Years Ago

As a child, I remembered asking my parents to go outside into the backyard to see if I could look up in the sky to see the Mercury capsule that was supposely flying over Texas at the time.

I would have been 2-3 years old when that happened and this memory just came up while thinking about the true meaning of this post... 50 years ago, one John Glenn Jr. in his capsule, the Friendship 7; soared into history.

Glenn's flight also marked the first time that NASA used the Atlas rocket to launch a manned Mercury capsule.

Only three orbits were made.  A decision was made to end the flight sooner rather than later due to the heat shield issue.  Glenn survived the successful re-entry by keeping the thruster pack in place - thus hold the heat shield in place.  He became a hero at that point and there was no turning back.  Politics kept him on the ground after that flight.

Fifty years is a long time.  We still have the USAF B-52s and C-130s still flying (aircraft can always be upgraded).  As for space, the Atlas has grown into the Atlas V and it too (in a sense, is still flying).

United Launch Alliance is prepping the Atlas V to be able to take three different types of spacecraft up to the International Space Station. Boeing has the CST-100 spacecraft that they are building. Then there is Sierra Nevada Corp's Dream Chaser mini-shuttle that can be stuck on top of a Atlas V.

But, getting back to John Glenn now.  He denies it, but the movie and book title "The Right Stuff" is firmly attached to his name for the rest of eternity.

Quoting the NSS blog post:  “A true American hero, Glenn ushered in American orbital spaceflight 50 years ago and brought the U.S. into the space age in earnest,” said NSS Executive Director Paul E. Damphousse.  “His service to this nation reminds us of the bravery, determination, and excitement needed to achieve these ambitious goals – we hope his example will serve to further motivate our progress in space.” end quote.

Let's also not forget that SENATOR John Glenn also has the record for being the oldest person (so far) to have travel in space.  He flew on STS-95 (shuttle Discovery) at the ripe old age of 77 for a nine-day mission.

John Glenn Jr. is a member of the NSS Board of Governors and NSS Executive Director Paul E. Damphousse added this quote:  “We expect to build upon his legacy as we advance our goals in space over the next 50 years.”  end quote.

1."Friendship 7’s legacy is safe with Commercial Crew" by Space Fontier Foundation.  February 20, 2012. ( ).
2. NSS Blog. "NSS Salutes John Glenn on 50th Anniversary of Friendship 7 Space Flight" February 20, 2012. (
3. image from nasa files of Atlas/Frendship 7 launch. (

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Orion First Flight to Take Place in Late 2013

There was a short article and video posted to Florida Today announching plans for the first Orion spacecraft  test flight.

Current planning is to launch Orion in late 2013 from KSC (Kennedy Space Center).

Lockheed Martin also planning on increasing its work force from the current 150 to 400 by the end of 2013.

1. Florida Today. "Lockheed Martin targets 2013 for first Orion test flight" by Todd Halvorsan.  February 18, 2012. (|topnews|text|Home ).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Susan Katz Keating: Year of the Keel-Haul, Extended-V: Is the Cowpens ...

Susan Katz Keating: Year of the Keel-Haul, Extended-V: Is the Cowpens ...: Holly? I thought you were.... gone! What is going on with the USS Cowpens ? Is the ship jinxed, or what?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Turn ANY RC model Airplane into a Drone!

You want to have your own fully-autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for under $500 bucks?

Check out this blog posting on entitled "Arduplane" that was posted by Chris Anderson back in 2010.

You basically add the ArduPilot Mega autopilot module (looks like another receiver to me) and hook it up with your radio control model airplane (or car, helicopter, boat, tank, etc) and you now have a fully-programmable robot with ground station and Mission Planner.

You can have unlimited 3d GPS waypoints, built-in camera control.  One-click software load and point-and-click Mission Planner software.  You have to do NO programming on your own to operate this.

Record your "missions" for future playback back at headquaters.  Controlling the drone you have two options:  fly with your transmitter's joystick or gamepad through your PC for no RC control at all!

Best feature of all is a built-in failsafe that will bring your aircraft back home in case of radio loss.

ArduPilot Mega (APM) is all Open Source.

The one thing you do need to get started is a minium of a 5-channel RC transmitter and airplane.  A mini USB cable.  And be willing to do your own soldering with your soldering iron.

The blog posting that I got this information has the particulars and nuts-and-bolts information for the system. You can order and also download the manuals from that webpage.

Now, FPV (First Person View) is something real neet.  Its like your in the cockpit of full scale airplane.  It is technically a UAV.  But you must still be within range of the model to be able to uplink/downlink with the model.  The really BASIC version of FPV is just sticking a video camera on the airplane and flying it around.  Then watch the results when you get home that night.

But this thing, the ArduPilot Mega (APM) appears to be a game changer. Especially if some of my flying buddies can get their mitts on some for themselves.

The biggest concern is someone (i.e. a Terrorist) will use this for a small scale terror attacks. And with recent developments with mini-drones that can fly as 'one,' that threat will keep on growing.  Be it from Terrorists or a Oppressive government tyring to control its citizens on the cheap.

The Gee-Wizz factor on the other hand is nice.  When I got into this hobby (RC model airplanes), I overheard some of the older club members talk about flying their models "cross-country."  That sounded really neet to me.   Sitting in the back of a pickup truck as you go down the backroads flying your model and then coming in for a landing to refill your fuel tank to go on the next leg of your cross-country flight.

With this thing (ArduPilot Mega), you could program a cross-country flight and have the video downlink to your ground station as your model airplane flies over the "checkpoints."  I would love to see a scale model or warbird event done this way!

I don't think we'll see it however due to the badguys out there wanting to harm us.  Too bad.  I was wanting to do this with either my PC-9 from Seagull models or my original P-51D from Hangar 9 (Horizon Hobbies).

1. "Arduplane" by Chris Anderson. May 1, 2010. ( ).