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* Posts by Kharkov

290 posts • joined 16 Sep 2011

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Trips to Mars may be OFF: The SUN has changed in a way we've NEVER SEEN

Kharkov
Boffin

Well if we've got to go faster...

As others have commented I agree that nuclear thermal rockets are the solution here. They'll get you to Mars faster than the six-month journey offered by chemical rockets. Sadly, I doubt we'll see a NERVA-type rocket in operation anytime within the next 20 years or so.

The public will hear, "...blah blah technobabble something complicated NUCLEAR STUFF IN SPACE blah blah..." and are highly likely to freak out leading politicians to block the use of nuclear thermal rockets despite the fact that THEY OFFER TWICE THE PERFORMANCE OF CHEMICAL ROCKETS.

On the other hand, has anyone considered a solar thermal rocket? Much greater performance than chemical rockets, no scary bugaboos, and in the Inner system at least, quite a practical method of getting around.

Of course it'd take 10 to 20 years of research to get the kinks out but hey, we're not going to Mars in that much less than that.

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America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft

Kharkov
Devil

Re: X-37's mess things up...

I agree entirely. As I said in my earlier post, there's nothing (bar one thing which I'll get to in a moment) that the X-37 can do that can't be done more efficiently & cheaply by other means. A rescue mission isn't impossible but it presupposes the idea of a fully-fueled Atlas V sitting on the launch pad with an X-37 ready to go. Possible but not practical.

The wings and cargo bay, plus plentiful delta-v, suggest one mission profile to me. I'm not an aerospace engineer and the profile is a bit James Bondish but it would work.

Imagine a launch from the American west coast that matched orbit with a target satellite. The X-37 pulls it into its cargo bay and then deorbits at the end of its first orbit. A snatch, grabbit & run (sounds like a law firm) mission which would be done and finished so fast that the satellites owners/operators wouldn't have time to react. 90 minutes after launch, the American west coast will have moved about fifteen degrees to the east so the X-37's wings, and the cross-range capability offered by them, would come into play, allowing it to enter the atmosphere, slow down some, turn towards the coast and glide at high speed and from a high altitude back its point of origin.

As I said, it's a terribly James Bondish mission profile and, from a political point of view, just not tenable. The world would be watching so there'd be no secrecy or deniability at all.

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Kharkov
Mushroom

Re: x-37's mess things up...

Do feel free to explain what an X-37 is used for then. Is it for a purpose I didn't cover in my post? Is my reasoning incorrect? Please, enlighten us with your wisdom.

And why not put your own name on it too?

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Kharkov
Stop

x-37's mess things up...

Right, first things first. Kudos to the USAF for a successful mission & getting their bird back. Space flight is hard & isn't something anyone should take for granted.

Second, why? What is the purpose of the X-37? Research into spaceplanes, SSTO, materials development, new-and-improved avionics or sensors? If the U.S. military is doing this then ALL results get classified out the wazoo, never to see the light of day & American companies are strongly discouraged from making or researching civilian space-access or usage technology for fear of finding out, or being told, once they're a few hundred million dollars in, that they're impinging on classified technology.

My opinion if the above is true? STOP the X-37, it's blocking cheap safe civilian access to space, or one route to it anyway.

Third, is the X-37 testing weapons? Weaponizing space is a really bad idea. Once the U.S. starts doing it, Russia & China won't be that far behind. More & more guns, more & more automated because the speeds, distances & human reaction times lead that way. Battle of Camlan, anyone?

My opinion if the above is true? STOP the X-37. It's really taking us down a bad road.

Fourth, is the X-37 spying on or observing... stuff? If it is then surely it'd be simpler & cheaper to just launch the optics/sensor package, or a few dozen of them (no way will a couple of dozen of those things break the bank for the NRO. Remember, those guys built a near-Hubble just because they MIGHT have needed it) into orbit, possibly with an enlarged fuel tank if they really need a lot of delta-V, and send up a dozen more each year.

My opinion if the above is true? STOP the X-37, it's a horrible waste of money.

Fifth, is the X-37 intended to (or be the precursor/prototype to something that can) dock with, or disable, or download from, other people's satellites? It seems a bit unlikely to me, but if it is then no politician will EVER authorize the mission. It's not the 50's anymore, the world, the whole world, is watching. You can't steal/pinch/purloin/nick a satellite & bring it home & not have the world yelling about it before it's even touched the runway.

My opinion if the above is true? STOP the X-37. It's a horrible waste of money & will only encourage other countries to build self-destruct devices into their satellites. We really don't need to add to the space debris problem.

So really? STOP THE X-37!

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Scientists skeptical of Lockheed Martin's truck-sized FUSION reactor breakthrough boast

Kharkov
Facepalm

Re: I Want To Believe

I too want to believe but...

As the man said, "An extraordinary claim without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence"

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Tesla's Elon Musk shows the world his D ... and it's a MONSTER

Kharkov
Angel

What? No KITT?

Listen, if I can't paint it black and have it drive me to the shops, then I for one won't be buying it!

More seriously, while autonomous driving is cool, the legislatosaurus will probably spend ten or more years wibbling about making it legal. As usual, the science is way, way, way ahead of the politics.

Could we set a donations group to get politicians moving faster? Money always seems to get politicians moving faster... for some completely unknown reason of course.

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Inflatables in SPAAACE! ISS 'nauts to enjoy bouncy castle spaceship

Kharkov
Go

Re: Well this is fun but...

Well actually, Skylon doesn't liquefy the air in microseconds, it just cools it by several hundred degrees in microseconds. It's still gaseous, albeit cold and gaseous, when it mixes with the hydrogen fuel.

It is pretty nifty how they manage to cool, but not liquefy, the air by so much without frosting up the pipes and in such a short space of time but that's the special secret sauce that makes the idea feasible.

And yes, it'd be wonderful to get a Skylon article, maybe with some recent quotes from the REL team, outlining the next few years for Skylon...

Hint, hint, El Reg.

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Kharkov
Happy

Well this is fun but...

A high volume module costing under 18 million dollars? Great.

An indicator showing how things could be in the future? True.

Something you can build LEO hotels out of? Or research labs? Or entirely private space stations? Right with you.

Even something you can make a habitat module out of for astronauts going BEO? Yep.

But all of this STILL requires... low-cost access to space. 7 astronauts/passengers on a 60 million-dollar Dragon v2 equals... 8.5-and-a-bit million dollars PER PERSON.

By all means, lets have high-volume modules, they're the first step to cheaper space stations and interplanetary craft but, most importantly, gotta get the seat price down.

Skylon, taking 20 passengers for only 10 million dollars works out at 500,000 dollars.

Just saying...

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I'll show you the D next week – billionaire space baron Elon Musk

Kharkov
Thumb Up

The D will be great but we want three OTHER letters...

By all means, Elon, tell us about the D but when, oh when will we get to hear about three other letters.

Come on, Elon, tell us more about MCT!

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SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...

Kharkov
Trollface

Re: In a more interesting universe...

In a more interesting universe, the station would host ambassadors from Mimbar, Centauri Prime, Narn and we'd see a big wurlitzer floating around and a guy called Morden who would...

Hang on, wrong station.

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Look out, SpaceX! Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin boffins tapped for US rocket launches

Kharkov
Facepalm

Probably too little, too late from ULA...

A new engine for a (probably) updated, (probably) cheaper-to-build Atlas derivative - the Atlas V Mk II or Atlas 6 (and will there be an Atlas 6 Plus)?

Cool but...

Five years before the engines are ready, probably a bit longer than that for the Atlas V successor to arrive, but unless it'll have things like deep throttling, long lifespan & reusability, then it'll (probably) be competing against an established 1st-stage-reusable Falcon 9 v1.1 with, lest we forget, 2nd stage reusability (probably) coming down the pipe.

So new rocket with no previous track record competing against an established rocket that's already in a dominant position...

ULA will be the new SpaceX...

Without reusability and at a higher selling price...

Good luck with that.

NOTE: Nobody would be happier than me if ULA could actually compete on things like price, payload & other stuff against SpaceX. I just don't think they'll do it. In my opinion, the new rocket will be another expensive, one-time-usage beast and the market will have moved on by the time it arrives.

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SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis

Kharkov
Facepalm

Re: What a total rip-off!

Yeah, just re-read the NASA twitter feed. You're right, it was the figure bid, not the figure NASA arbitrarily awarded. I just read the numbers and the red mist descended...

Still, it looks really bad (for Boeing) that SpaceX can do a launch for, at best figure for an Atlas V, 3 times less and will provide a passenger-carrying capsule that can land propulsively on land (there's got to be a better way of saying it instead of 'land on land') for half the price of the CST-100 which, I think, will only do parachute landings on water - I'm sure about the parachute bit but I'm assuming the land on water bit.

Anyway, if all goes well, then I firmly expect Boeing to end up with one launch a year (gotta have competition, don'tcha know? Even if that competition is much less capable and much more expensive) while SpaceX, as speculated in the article, takes 99% of the astronauts up to ISS.

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Kharkov
Flame

What a total rip-off!

Ok, Boeing gets... 4.2 BILLION dollars for CST-100 and SpaceX gets...

Wait for it, wait for it...

2.6 billion dollars.

The company that's doing the most to make space travel cheaper gets... less than the company that's making REALLY expensive stuff and has NO plans to make stuff cheaper.

/ragequit

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Chelyabinsk-sized SURPRISE asteroid to skim Earth, satnav birds

Kharkov
Alien

Can anyone spot the hidden message?

Earth-passing asteroids are nature's way of asking...

'How's that space program coming along?'

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Nevada to host Tesla gigafactory: reports

Kharkov
Angel

The Future is... finally... here.

Electric cars (and batteries of course), solar energy, reusable rockets and reusable BIG rockets. What we've been waiting for since the early days of Dan Dare, Captain Scarlet and yes, even Judge Dredd.

Finally, bit by bit, the future's getting here. High-capacity batteries with a (hopefully) quick recharge time and a long lifespan sold at low, low prices.

Last person using gasoline and an internal combustion engine's a rotten egg!

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Russia: SEXY LIZARDS which landed FROM SPACE are all DEAD

Kharkov
Joke

It shows how powerful the PornStars Union is...

Let this be a warning! Non-union members participating in filmed nookie...

The PSU is waiting to get you. You'll never see it coming...

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Hollywood star Robin Williams dies of 'suspected suicide' at 63

Kharkov
Unhappy

A Great Man Has Left The Stage...

RIP Robin, you'll be sadly missed...

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Warm, perhaps ALIEN LIFE-bearing water gushers FOUND ON MOON of Saturn

Kharkov
Angel

Spot the Outer Planets Fuel Station of the Future...

Plentiful water, significant temperature difference & a key location on the edge of the Outer System?

Future colony & fuel depot... Called it!

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Beancounters tell NASA it's too poor to fly planned mega-rocket

Kharkov
Facepalm

Is anyone surprised?

So NASA is building a massively expensive rocket and has been told that, due to the massive costs, they are highly likely to fall behind schedule?

I'm shocked, shocked! I tell you.

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Cave pits, ideal for human bases, FOUND ON MOON

Kharkov

One Giant Leap... Downward?

Well that's a step toward The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress except...

Growing enough food on the Moon to support a large population is still going to be the factor that limits the number of people that can live on the Moon.

That said, the Moon is a great place to do science, research & engineering studies and one day some manufacturing but I doubt we'll ever see a large autonomous population living there permanently.

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Sit back down, Julian Assange™, you're not going anywhere just yet

Kharkov
Megaphone

This Makes Me Want To Shout (In 72 Point!)

So, the US aren't the secret powers behind the scenes?

Well why don't the Swedes do their initial interview in London? It doesn't smell of CIA involvement, oh deary me, no.

And Assange would get a fair trial in the US too.

Wow, I got through all that without vomiting! Yay Me

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SpaceX FINALLY lobs six sats into orbit (don't mention the landing)

Kharkov
Thumb Up

Kudos SpaceX! Well done on getting your bird away and it looks like a successful deployment of the satellites.

As for the landing of the first stage, as long as they had control of the 1st stage all the way down, and the stress on the 1st stage wasn't excessive, who cares if it popped a gasket after it landed and then fell over?

If they had full control on the way down (without undue stress on the stage) then I think SpaceX should declare victory and move on to a land landing (Wow, that sounds weird!) with their next launch. August, isn't it?

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Wireless-controlled contraception implant is coming, says MIT

Kharkov
Trollface

Quote: '...quickie sex in national monuments, art museums and VIP motorcades...' Unquote

Forgive me for this but the first thought to go through my mind was...

All these places usually offer Wi-Fi so... to discourage illicit nookie on their (very public) premises, might they have their Wi-Fi set up to... switch off the contraceptive implant?

That'll dampen their amour...

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European Space Agency demos MARS LANDINGS BY DRONE

Kharkov
Happy

Progress!

Well it's nice to see ESA developing the control systems for an eventual Mars landing system... but I'm curious.

Is the software/control system used in the Curiousity landing proprietry information? Why are different agencies (apparently) rediscovering the wheel? Why not share the software/hardware? Yes, you run the risk of the Russians/Chinese/Evildoers Inc getting their hands on it but why worry? Without a fairly big rocket to get your package to Mars, it's not exactly critical information is it?

Now we need to do the same thing again, this time with rockets...

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Boeing to start work on most powerful rocket ... EVER!

Kharkov
Facepalm

Heavy sigh...

Right, let's do this. The various Senators & Congressmen on the space-related committees want...

to keep highly-trained people in their districts employed, happy, and voting for them.

money to keep flowing to their States/Congressional Districts.

And that's it. Forget a 'grand vision for the future of the American Space Program', forget actually doing anything useful or building anything useful so the US gets this boondoggle.

A very, very expensive rocket, paid for out of NASA's budget and so severely cutting the actual science that NASA could do, which will fly infrequently - once per year is the current plan - with no program that it can serve, no purpose that it can efficiently fulfill.

While the private sector (yes, SpaceX, who didn't see that coming?) is due to introduce a rocket that will carry roughly 75% of SLS's initial payload for less than 150 million dollars, just over 10 times cheaper than the 1.6 BILLION dollars a pop SLS.

And the new President in 2016 (or more likely his/her staff) will look at the costs (high), the flight rate (infrequent) and the benefits (few) and will probably cancel the whole thing. But those jobs building something not-very-useful-and-horribly-expensive have to be saved so...

Design something else, start to build something else, cancel it later. All money down the toilet but hey, the politicians will still have their jobs so that's a good thing, right?

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NASA pulls FLYING SAUCER out of Pacific ocean

Kharkov
Headmaster

Er, El Reg?

http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2014/06/ldsd-rocket-powered-saucer-landing-technology/

The test was succesful, yes, demonstrating the desired deceleration, but after the test, the LDSD was supposed to deploy a parachute so that the LDSD could be recovered but the chute got tangled and the LDSD landed a bit faster than intended.

All that said, it's a very good sign. If we're going to put big stuff down on Mars, we'll need LDSD technology.

Anyone want to start a bet (or poll)? Will we see an LDSD used on Mars, launched by a FH, an Atlas V, or SLS?

My money's on FH...

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US Supreme Court: Duh, obviously cops need a warrant to search mobes

Kharkov
Big Brother

Technology needs to catch up to the law...

If the State is going to treat its citizens as criminals (or potential criminals) then people will eventually get around to protecting themselves by...

Installing a 'panic button' on their electronic devices (I'm thinking mostly smartphones). The moment you get nabbed, or have to pass through a checkpoint where your device can be taken, copied & read, you press the button & your phone deletes (after backing up to a secure cloud location) leaving the State with... nothing.

Will this be used by criminals? Yes. Will it be used by vastly larger numbers of citizens who do not want the State to have access to their private data? Yes.

Yes, the State will adapt to this, and the citizens, through technology, will adapt to that and so on...

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Higgs boson even MORE likely to actually be Higgs boson - boffins

Kharkov
Thumb Up

Me sad now...

So... they've (come close to) nailed down a standard Higgs Boson and will devote more study to it. Great, good for them, Science advances, England endures etc.

Can anyone weigh in on the chances that manipulation of the Higgs Boson in some fashion will allow us to alter or change an objects mass?

After all, if there are no flying cars, as seen on the Mass Effect series of games, in the future then I for one won't go.

I won't, I won't, I won't [Begin Tantrum]

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Elon Musk: Just watch me – I'll put HUMAN BOOTS on Mars by 2026

Kharkov
Go

If you build it, they will come...

@ Unlicensed Dremal

Nice point. Elon/SpaceX can't do it all, true... but...

He can do a few FH launches taking a stockpile of food & water, a store of liquid hydrogen, a powerplant (probably nuclear or nuclear-type), a methane production box (turning small amounts of hydrogen, adding large amounts of Carbon Dioxide to get a lot of methane & oxygen) & a methane-fueled rover & probably a habitat module and, of course, an Earth-Return vehicle, all of this ala Mars Direct.

Then he can follow this with a crew (4 people?) in a zero-g habitat/lander. They can live in the already-arrived habitat and stay on Mars for 2 years or so.

Will that be a colony? No.

It will get an awful lot of attention and will start a lot of people working on getting to Mars, dreaming about Mars, hoping to one day go to Mars. The money is likely to follow thereafter.

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Kharkov
Boffin

Re: M'arse

Quote: The reasons NASA aren't concentrating on this are quite logical. They want to run zero-G experiments, and gauge the effects of zero-G on station inhabitants. Unquote

Bob Zubrin tells a story about way back when high-performance piston-engine (propellers) aircraft were reaching high altitude and the pilots were blacking out due to oxygen deprivation and bad things happened after that. Naturally the brass wanted this to stop - planes are expensive after all and it takes a while to train new pilots - so they turned to medical scientists who wanted to study they effects of oxygen deprivation so while they did get data, planes continued to be lost until the brass lost patience and turned to aviation engineers who just added a bottle of compressed oxygen, masks and a tube to connect the two.

Voila! No more lost planes.

Zubrin goes on to compare this to NASA's current approach to zero-g issues. Some G is better than zero-G so why not make some? Because NASA scientists are busy getting data on zero-G issues. In effect, reducing expensively trained human beings to lab rats so the medical scientists can study bone demineralisation, muscle atrophy etc.

Far better, says Zubrin, to give them some G (Tethers seem to be Zubrin's favourite method) and so significantly reduce the harmful effects. Personally, I'd rather take the engineering approach than the medical approach, especially if I was going to spend a year in space - six months going, six months coming back - plus almost two years (or more) in Mars' .32g environment.

Large rotating space stations? Nice but they'll be a bugger to build, and really, really, ree-ally expensive until we get some kind of mining, refining, smelting & shaping going on in space so stuff doesn't have to be lifted from Earth.

Building a station in Mars orbit and then going down? Check the energy figures, it's cheaper to go to Mars and land and build your industrial infrastructure there and then go up than it is to build in orbit and then go down.

Finally, Bigelow ISN'T making space stations. He has some tech that might, one day, be used to make cheap stations but, as far as I know, he isn't scheduled to put a Bigelow station up any time within the next six years - yes, I've heard about the Bigelow module for ISS, I said Bigelow station.

Oh, and Branson doesn't have a spaceship, he has a sub-orbital plaything that will, if he ever gets it going, give people a few minutes of zero-G.

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Kharkov
Boffin

Re: That about wraps it up for SpaceX

Read Bob Zubrin's The Case For Mars. He talks about making methane from a small amount of hydrogen feedstock, brought from Earth initially until a supply (water) is found on Mars, and Carbon Dioxide, from Mars' atmosphere, plus oxygen to fuel any Mars rovers.

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Kharkov
Holmes

Re: Float? More like Sink!

Oh, R&D will never be 'done', I agree, but once they have the big, difficult-to-do stuff (like getting off this planet at a low cost while taking as much mass as possible with you) out of the way, everything else that they're likely to do (like a Mars-orbit-to-surface-&-then-back-to-orbit craft) is much, much simpler.

Given that there'll likely be people living on Mars in the (probably) late 2020's, they, or their backers/supporters back on Earth will likely pay SpaceX to do Mars-related stuff like that.

A publically-owned (read: mostly owned by corporations who WANT a dividend each year) SpaceX is bound to be a more conservative, charge-as-much-as-we-can-for-as-many-launches-as-we-can-do-per-year beast, true but they're not likely to charge so much that they won't fill their roster so they'll STILL be putting a lot of stuff into orbit.

And a new company trying to outdo SpaceX? I wouldn't mind an even-cheaper company arising, and to be honest, I don't think Elon Musk would either. Just look at what he's done with Tesla.

Come to think of it, what are the odds that SpaceX's proprietary technology gets 'outed' in some manner prior to the IPO...

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Kharkov
Angel

Re: What Mister Musk needs...

An upvote, sir, for the delightful image of...

Chocolate-cookie-fueled cars!

Yes, one day I'll be telling my wife, "No, no, these are for the car, I promise!"

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Kharkov
Pirate

Re: That about wraps it up for SpaceX

Ok, first: Getting to orbit & you're (Yes, I'm a grammar nazi) halfway to anywhere? I agree.

Now, SpaceX is currently charging way, way less than anyone else in the launch business. Gwynne Shotwell, of SpaceX, has stated that, starting next year (I think that's what she said), they plan to ramp up production and start getting 10 to 20 (or more) birds away EACH YEAR - that's 2 per month, almost.

Why are you assuming that SpaceX prices will go up? They're already lower than anyone else and they're likely to come down even more as the flight rate goes up and reusability kicks in. SpaceX will likely dominate the market up to the early 2020's.

SIDENOTE: I think Skylon will be serious competition but that's a rant for another time.

SpaceX will send, probably, a small amount of stuff to Mars on a Falcon-Heavy-launched mission and later, an MCT-launched mission but that's just to demonstrate that it can be done.

Post-Mars-Mission-1, Elon will probably have a press conference saying, "We put X kilograms on the surface of Mars for Y dollars per kilogram and we can do Z missions to Mars a year. Now who wants to go to Mars or send stuff there?"

And, having built it, they will come... paying money. And SpaceX will likely get even richer...

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Kharkov
Happy

Re: Float? More like Sink!

Actually, (and remember that Elon's talking about going public AFTER the R&D is done) once the R&D is done - something investors hate spending money on unless there's a guaranteed return (something rare with R & D) - then SpaceX will have...

A light-to-medium-payload rocket (Falcon 9) which already undercuts the market by a significant degree, not to mention the probably significant cost reduction of getting your first stage back along with possibly getting your 2nd stage back.

A medium-to-heavy-payload rocket (Falcon Heavy) which will lift a lot more payload than any other rocket currently operating for a lower $ per Kg. Note: Since the 1st stages will return and FH has 3 of them, then that 128 million dollar price tag will probably come down to less than the current price of a F9.

A heavy-to-super-heavy-payload rocket (MCT) which will, if it works (not guaranteed, but IMHO, I think it will work) be taking humanity to Mars, and probably for a LOT less than the only alternative, SLS.

So, a dominant tech position, much, much lower prices, and an almost-certain dominant market position (does anyone think ULA will still be operating 10 years from now?).

So SpaceX will suffer as a public company... Yeah, I see how you got there.

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Car titans WON'T STEAL our tech, says Musk: DAMNIT, I'll GIVE IT to 'em

Kharkov
Angel

Wow!

Ok, first, way to go, Elon! That is an act of dedication to getting more electric cars out there. Tesla could keep making electric cars, more and more each year and gradually fill the market with electric cars, keeping a majority holding of the market but it would take years.

So he's doing this to get more car companies to make electric cars - ballsy!

Second, he's going to annoy some of his financial backers who only think short-term - risky!

But remember, Elon is about to build a gigafactory for batteries. With that kind of lead then demand for his batteries will shoot up.

All in all, he's avoiding the conservative, well-traveled path that most businesses follow and may well do what Elon has always tried to do - change the way things are done to a better, faster, cheaper way.

Kudos!

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US MARTIAN FLYING SAUCER tests above Hawaii: postponed

Kharkov
Coffee/keyboard

Re: Could be worse

Too mean, sir, too mean. (We need a finger-wagging icon)

Funny though...

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New development in 'stadium-sized' FLYING SAUCER orb invasion

Kharkov
Childcatcher

Re: flight cancelled

Now, now, let's not be cruel. His brother ISN'T dead, no, not at all.

He's just living on the playmonaut farm, where he can run and play and ride rockets to his heart's content. Shame that Colin can't visit of course, but maybe he can join him there, one day. One day...

Always be kind to your playmonauts, folks.

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Flying saucer with 'stadium-sized' orb to INVADE Earth's skies

Kharkov
Trollface

Re: 'a "balloon-like" pressure vessel...

Wow, so Hollywood's going to sue NASA for copyright infringement. Nice.

"Your honour, the defendants plainly made a real aerobraking device which clearly infringed on the entirely fictional aerobraking device we used in our film, 2010. We call out for justice... and a hundred million, squillion bazillion dollars. Thank you, m'lud."

Don't laugh, there's a Hollywood lawyer writing up his brief as we speak...

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Google to plonk tentacles on 'unwired' world with $1bn launch of 180-satellite fleet

Kharkov
Headmaster

Er, maths calling...

Ok, 1 billion dollars - cool.

180 satellites - nice.

The one divided by the other... hang on, hang on... a hair over 5.5 million dollars per satellite.

Hmm. unless you can launch at least 10 of these things on ONE launcher (and yes, I'm assuming a Falcon 9 'cos ULA prices? Don't bother.) then no-one's going to take your money. I'm not an expert but I doubt that 10 or more of these things could reach their intended orbits from only one launcher.

We need a pedantic math nazi icon...

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NASA agonizes over plan for Mars rock sample return mission

Kharkov
Holmes

Re: We need a broader survey of Mars

Or people walking around (in suits). That'd do it too. Of course, once you've got people there then you've got...

Well, pretty much everything really...

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Kharkov
WTF?

Re: Add this to the bill

First, the chances of a Martian lifeform being able to flourish on Earth, and even outcompete native Earth flora & fauna, to the point that humans won't be able to contain it, are somewhere...

...let's say laughable, hilarious, mathematically disharmonious. You're more likely to get hit (repeatedly) by lightning while crossing the street while winning several lotteries and being run down by a baby zebra in the middle of Times Square, New York City.

Sheesh!

On a more constructive note, further planning will reveal if NASA is ready to approach Mars in a 'live-off-the-land' approach, long-favoured by Zubrin himself, or if they'll go with the 'take-a-lot-to-get-a-little-back' approach. A small amount of liquid hydrogen, once taken to Mars, could be turned into much greater amounts of methane & oxygen which would be fuel to get your sample(s) home.

This is set for the mid-2020's, right? I wonder if a private-sector (SpaceX) Mars sample-return mission will have happened before then? Probably...

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SpaceX touts latest gear: new module, rocket demo

Kharkov
Holmes

Re: Bright future for SpaceX

'NASA & the Pentagon can start new endeavors'

Remember that, back in the early nineties, when Bush Snr made his call for a renewed push into space, NASA responded by coming up with plans for space stations, propellent depots, orbital assembly platforms, lunar bases & a somewhat-flawed Mars plan... All of which was costed at 450 billion dollars. Congress, needless to say, didn't fund any of it.

A powerful argument could be made that, if a similar call is made in 2016, NASA would come up with a similar plan, costing even more than last time, only to be blocked by Congress.

Personally, I think it more likely that the early 2020's will see a private space station with a Mars mission in the mid 2020's similarly privately funded.

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Kharkov
FAIL

Re: We ARE living in the future!

SpaceX is standing on the shoulders of giants? True, that. Is there a reason to keep skilled, trained, experienced workers on the payroll? Absolutely yes, I'm right with you on that.

My point is that these much-needed skills are being used to... build something horribly expensive, that's just like what's gone before, only bigger and is, to add insult to injury, highly likely to be cancelled by the new President in 2016. Maybe NASA will be allowed to get EM-1 off the ground but funding something so very, very expensive when the private sector will have something with about 75% of the performance for one-tenth the cost is just not on.

Those skilled workers should be doing something that the private sector ISN'T doing (A shuttle Mark II?) and if they can't, then at least stop paying them from NASA's extremely limited budget. Don't hold NASA responsible for them, just let it put that 3 billion dollars a year into more probes/landers/orbiters etc.

Also, it looks like ULA/Boeing/LM et al are planning to ride their current business model all the way down to the ground. Highly reliable (you can complain about cost but there's not much that can match their track record) one-time-usage rockets for very large sums of money, lather, rinse & repeat until the Government finally gets around to switching to a (much) cheaper supplier.

At which point, it seems, the upper management/directors/executives will step back into positions at Boeing/Lockeed Martin and the workers on the factory floor will get their pink slips. And the reason I think this? SpaceX has consistently told the world about their very low prices, they have consistently demonstrated an intention to do things that will lower their costs even more. ULA's public comments say nothing about cheaper rockets in the future, nothing about new rockets in the future. In fact, just about everything they say boils down to, 'We're reliable so stick with us.'

Dinosaurs, watching the incoming asteroid, telling each other that there's still time to party...

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Kharkov
Gimp

We ARE living in the future!

Well, it's ANOTHER step forward for SpaceX. Kudos!

So let's see... designed a rocket starting with a clean sheet of paper... for 300 million dollars, wasn't it? designed a reusable capsule starting with a clean sheet of paper... for 300 million dollars again, wasn't it? built rockets that match the performance of most versions of the Atlas V & Delta IV Heavy for... four times less money, wasn't it? have a heavy lift rocket soon to enter service that will STILL cost less than ULA's Atlas V 552 and lift more besides? making their rockets (the first stage now and the second stage later) reusable thus lowering the cost of access to space even further? have a crew-carrying capsule coming on-line soon which will be capable of reuse and landing on, well, land. Is there anyone else in the world who have done that or are doing that now?

Some people are SpaceX fans but for the life of me, I can't understand why...

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Voters pick luminous tech spacesuit as NASA's off-world fashion statement

Kharkov

Laser focused on a path to Mars?

Sorry, what? NASA is a laser focused on getting to Mars? Bob Zubrin put forward the 'Mars Direct' plan nearly 20 years ago and NASA... did nothing. NASA is currently building a heavy-lifter (badly but don't get me ranting on that) and has no, absolutely no, plans to send stuff to Mars with it. The official NASA plan as part of the SEI back in the 90's had its voyagers spending most of their time (a year & a half) in Martian orbit with about a month on the ground.

No, NASA isn't 'laser focused' on getting to Mars

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Privateers race to capture forgotten NASA space probe using crowdsourced cash

Kharkov
Pirate

Calling Elon? He's busy fighting ULA

Elon Musk held a press conference on Friday 25th April where he accused (or pointed out, depending on how you look at it) ULA of ridiculously overcharging the DOD for their launches and how odd it was that the more-expensive service provider got the lions share of the next wave of launches. Expect fur to (gradually) fly over the next few months.

So now that Elon's starting a PR war with ULA, I don't think he'll have time to spare for this.

Shame really...

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Dragon capsule arrives at space station for Easter Sunday delivery

Kharkov
Pirate

Re: Which is the next milestone

So when does SpaceX get to dock with the ISS on its own, without help from the arm?

When the capsule has a human being onboard of course, that way they've got someone to blame if there's an 'oops' moment.

More seriously, it'll be when DragonRider (Dragon Mk II) flies... In about three to four years.

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Kharkov
Angel

Re: No trash

Yes, kudos to SpaceX for getting Dragon to ISS but major praise for controlling the descent of the 1st stage. Yes, the weather was poor and the recovery ships were out of position but that was history being made, right there. I just wish that there was video of the first stage coming down out of the sky - the clouds might have made it even more photogenic - and then hovering over the waves for a second or two before landing (!) on the waves.

The Jesus-impression would have lasted a fraction of a second and, if it weren't obscured by steam, would have made for a killer picture. I just wish that some website, somewhere, had details of the descent of the 1st stage. Elon hasn't said much on his Twitter feed about it.

And no on to a land recovery!

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Elon Musk plans GIGAFACTORY to feed his thirsty Tesla motors

Kharkov
Thumb Up

Re: Danger Will Robinson

One of the reasons that SpaceX is able to offer rockets much, much cheaper than say, ULA, is that Elon had SpaceX bring in-house all those processes that were large cost generators so that, once in-house, they could be controlled and costs lowered. They've had great success at that - $60 million to put approx 5 metric tonnes in LEO, as opposed to ULA's around $300 to $350 million dollars for the same service - and it makes great sense for Tesla to bring in-house such a critical element as batteries, which for electic cars are kind of important.

No-one seriously denies that electric-powered methods of transportation are the wave of the future so I'd bet on Elon making the new battery factory work.

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