Sunday, May 27, 2012

SpaceX Dragon Has Done IT!

SpaceX Dragon, world's first private spacecraft, has been captured by the International Space Station's robotic arm, and has grappled the Dragon spacecraft to the Harmony module on the space station.

Quoting astronaut Don Pettit who operated the robotic arm:  “Looks like we’ve got a Dragon by the tail.”

Pettit's successful capture of the Dragon cause SpaceX Hawthorne headquarters and NASA's Houston Mission Control to errupt in cheers.

It was not a smooth approach according to the article in (see link below in Ref Section). Problem with Dragon's thermal camera kept the spacecraft holding at the 250 meter point away from the ISS.  Then there was the interaction between the thermal camera and the on-board LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors.

Several times, SpaceX approached the ISS only to issue a retreat due to the sensor information they were getting.  Basically getting stray LIDAR signals coming off of the Japanese Kibo laboratory module on the station.  Future correction for this problem would be to put on "blinders" to limit the Dragon's LIDAR so it could only see "straight ahead."

Eventually, Dragon was finally brought in to the 30 meter point and then the 10 meter point where it could be caputured by the station's robotic arm.

Now the ISS crew will be unloading the 1,014 pounds(460 kilogram) cargo from the capsule and the station in turn will load up nearly 1,367 pounds (620 kilograms) of return to earth cargo.

Dragon is expected to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on May 31st if all goes to plan.

1. Wired. "ISS Welcomes SpaceX Dragon — First Private Spacecraft at Station" by Jason Paur. May 25, 2012. ( ). images from same article.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A REAL starship USS ENTERPRISE in 20 Years?

Part spaceship, part space station, and a mobile spaceport; a engineer thinks that a version of the famous Star Trek TV and movie iconic starship can be built to fit the bill.  Going by the handle BTE Dan, he has a website that has caught the attention of thousands of fans (including this blogger).

The ship has to be functional and still looks like the famous spaceship.  And while it would not be equiped with a real Warp Drive, this mobile starbase would be powered by a 1.5 GW nuclear reactor that can supply power to the ion drive engines to give a constant acceleration to any point in our solar system.  Three additional nuclear reactors would supply all the electric needs of the ship.

The saucer section of the ship would be 536 meters (.3 mile) diameter.  Within this section would be a ratating, magnetically-suspend gravity wheel that could create 1G of gravity for a crew that could go as high as 1000 people.

The key to anything getting done in outer space is funding. And if Congress doesn't give out the bucks, then there is "No Buck Rogers!" (Sorry, could not resist that quote from the movie "The Right Stuff.")

BTE Dan has worked out a spending plan that uses tax increases and spreading out budget cuts to defense, health and human services, housing and urban development, education and energy.  These are cuts to areas of discretionary spending and are not large, and the tax increases could be small.  A personal note here. I don't see the current crop of congressmen and women having the gonads to do this.  Including the tax increase proposed here.  Even if the next administration and congress are successful in getting rid of the so-called "Obamacare" plan, this nation will still be trillons in debt for the near future.

Quoting BTE Dan, "These changes to spending and taxes will not sink the republic," says the website. "In fact, these will barely be noticed. It's amazing that a program as fantastic as the building a fleet of USS Enterprise spaceships can be done with so little impact." end quote.

BTE Dan also added this bit of news, quote:  "The only obstacles to us doing it are the limitations we place on our collective imagination," BTE Dan adds, and his proposal says that NASA will still receive funding for the science, astronomy and robotic missions it currently undertakes.

But he proposes not just one Enterprise-class ship, but multiple ships, one of which can be built every 33 years –- once per generation –- giving three new ships per century. "Each will be more advanced than the prior one. Older ships can be continually upgraded over several generations until they are eventually decommissioned." end quote.

As for who BTE Dan is, lists himself as a systems engineer and electrical engineer who has worked for a Fortune 500 company for the past 30 years.

1. "Engineer thinks we could build a real Starship Enterprise in 20 years" by Nancy Atkinson. May 12, 2012. ( ).  images from same article.
2. Build The website. ( ).