Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Golden Gate

May 29, 2012 is 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge opening. Until the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in 1964, Golden Gate was the world's longest span at 1280 meters. From anchorage to anchorage the Bridge is 1970 meters, nearly two kilometers long. On Saturday another wonder, the Battleship USS Iowa sailed beneath the Golden Gate on her last voyage. Iowa will be on permanent exhibit in San Pedro, California. Seeing this bridge and battleship together, we can believe that humans can built giant starships.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Dark Future

Happy Memorial Day! Last Tuesday's New York Times lamented on the sad state of Physics funding. Despite Physicists' being awarded the title of astronomer along with a Nobel Prize, there is zero interest in funding for "dark" energy. American Physics Dreams Deferred "Dark energy is, according to Dr. [Frank] Wilczek, the most mysterious fact in all of physical science, the fact with the greatest potential to rock the foundations." The 8 billion dollar James Webb Space Telescope will be consuming NASA's astrophysics budget until its launch, hopefully in 2018. A proposed Space mission to find more DE, once called SNAP or JDEM, has been postponed at least until 2025. The unfunded mission, now called WFIRST, would cost at least 1.6 billion. JWST was also once projected to cost less than 1 billion. Hypothesis of "dark" energy has led Physics nowhere. Even if a WFIRST mission were flown, it would not return a single particle of DE, only an "equation of state" that would be subject to systematic error. If DE existed it would have no conceivable use, it would be too diffuse in Space to power a flashlight. The answer is not in darkness but in light. Observations of an "acclerating" Universe are signs that the speed of light has been slowing down. GM=tc^3, a child could figure it out.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


3 minute, 48 second video from ATK of the Liberty booster, currently under development. Liberty is outwardly similar to the cancelled Ares 1, based on the 5-segment solid rocket booster developed for the Constellation program. An existing Ariane V upper stage eliminates the need for developing a new engine and upper stage. The crew capsule is based upon a lightweight composite version of Orion that was developed for NASA. (The heavy metal Orion design that was accepted had serious weight issues.) By using these components, ATK has been able to develop this system without any extra government investment, using an unfunded Space Act agreement with NASA. Liberty is true Private Space!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dragon and Liberty

This morning, after many delays, SpaceX's Falcon 9 lifted off for a rendezvous with the International Space Station. As this blog reported back in February '009, SpaceX Aims High, this docking was originally planned for May-November 2010. The 18-24 month delay is partially due to NASA and Russia's stringent requirements for docking with ISS. SpaceX claims that they can turn Falcon 9/Dragon into a human-rated system in 3 years. We wish them Godspeed and a successful flight, but rocket science is full of delays. Meanwhile, with less of a media spotlight, ATK is forging ahead with their Liberty booster. Outwardly similar to the cancelled Ares I, Liberty has for a first stage the 5-segment solid rocket booster developed for Ares I and the more recent Space Launch System. The crew capsule will be built from modern composite materials, based on an all-composite design built and rejected for Orion. Unlike SpaceX, ATK is building a complete system without any more government funding. They are using an unfunded Space Act agreement, and funds already spent by NASA for Ares I. ATK claims that this system could be flying crew into orbit by 2015, potentially beating SpaceX. We also wish them and the other competitors every success.
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