Thursday, January 22, 2009

Despite Financial/Political Difficulties NASA Constellation Engineers Move Forward

Never mind all of the controversy and confusion surrounding NASA's budget, their new leader and the possible delays for the shuttle retirement; I have some good news for you!  NASA's engineers working on the Constellation program are actually making some serious progress.

Ares I-X, the code name for the first Ares rocket to be tested, will lift off from Kennedy Space Center early this summer. It should climb to around 25 miles (40.2 km) in a two-minute powered test of the first stage and its recovery system. The test is meant to find out if there are any basic design flaws that need to be fixed before the more complex components are added to the rocket.  This just goes to show that no matter how powerful the computers and simulations are these things just have to be tested the old fashion way.

There are countless teams and individuals working on this project and if this test is a successful it will help immeasurably in boosting moral and renewing faith in the whole Constellation program.  Not to mention it will help keep it on track for the Design Review scheduled for 2010.

Here is the base of the Ares rocket being put together in Virginia's Langley Research Center.

This picture gives a good perspective of the size of the rocket and what it should look like as it gets closer to completion.

And here are a quick video of NASA in the Inaugural Parade with Barack smiling (which hopefully is a good sign for NASA!)


Thanks for reading!
The Fool

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Methane on Mars: Biological or Geological?

I have been absent from New Frontiers for quite some time.  This was mainly due to lack of time, but because there have been many developments in the area of space exploration and astronomy I have decided to make time for this site and I hope you enjoy!

A great deal of buzz is being generated over NASA's recent findings on the release of methane on Mars.  The methane has been released during specific seasons and has been measured multiple times over the past decade.  Methane (CH4) can be a product of either geological or biological processes.  Though 90% of Earth's CH4 has biological origins.  One of NASA's Goddard research scientists had the following comments:

"Methane is quickly destroyed in the Martian atmosphere in a variety of ways, so our discovery of substantial plumes of methane in the northern hemisphere of Mars in 2003 indicates some ongoing process is releasing the gas," said Dr. Michael Mumma of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "At northern mid-summer, methane is released at a rate comparable to that of the massive hydrocarbon seep at Coal Oil Point in Santa Barbara, Calif."

The next step is sending a mission up to Mars to determine the origin of the releases.  If it was microbes creating the gas then they would be several meters under the surface of the Red Planet and we would need the ability to drill this deep.  Scientists are taking this into account and could possibly outfit the Mars Science Laboratory Rover with a drill to take some samples.  

Either way something has to be going on to produce the methane and it will be very interesting to discover its source, whether biological, which could make this one of the greatest discoveries of our time, or just geological which would still change everything we thought we knew about our dusty neighbor.

Exciting stuff isn't it?  I will keep you updated with anything that comes up, and what is being planned to dig up the answer to this mystery.

Here is an interesting video from NASA on the methane discovery

Source:  NASA

I hope you enjoyed it!
The Fool 

Quote of the day:  
If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them. 
~Issac Assimov

Monday, April 14, 2008

Rocket Racing League Exhibition Race Date Set

Well I would like to apologize for my absence from New Frontiers, but I am now back from a much longer than expected reprieve from blogging. And now that I'm here I have some news to report.

Today the Rocket Racing League (RRL) announced the date for its first exhibition race. The date is August 1-2 this year and will feature two racers flying planes powered by rocket engines on a 2-lap circuit around an airborne raceway. The RRL is pretty much NASCAR in the air and with rockets. Sounds pretty awesome don't you think; so make sure that you are there or at least see the video reports which I will have up for you. I think that it will be a lot more interesting than NASCAR, but we will see.

It is expected that around 700,000 people will attend this exhibition to watch the action on multiple 50-foot (15-meter) projection screens on site. The Rocket Racing League was founded in 2005 by Ansari X Prize founder Peter Diamandis and Whitelaw, an Indianapolis 500 veteran. The competitors will be piloted Mark 1 X-Racer rockets developed by the firm XCOR Aerospace in Mojave, California.

The league currently has six teams that will compete in four series of races throughout the year. After the first EAA AirVenture exhibition, later races will be staged at the Reno National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nev., between Sept.10-14; at Aviation Nation at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nev., on Nov. 8-9, and at the X Prize Cup in Las Cruces, N.M., in late October.

The rockets will be built by various aerospace companies and are quite advanced. The RRL has to give safety a great deal of focus considering that they are really piloting rockets and racing them in close proximity. I would imagine that the RRL will inspire a good number of advances in rocket technology so I have to say that this really is a good idea. But as you know, only time will tell.

Picture Source: The

The Fool

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Great Space Elevator

The space elevator, I think, is the best, cheapest, cleanest, etc... way for the human race to get into space on a very large scale. I haven't wanted to post about space elevators until I had the chance to really explain what they are, and I today I have done just that.
First off I thought that I would update you on our current method of getting into space with an interesting article about all of the current and upcoming spaceports around the world. This article gives all of the major spaceports that are built, in construction, or at least in planning, around the world. If you are interested you really should read this article.
Now on to the great SPACE ELEVATOR. And just as in introductory note I wanted to let everyone know that there are many different designs and plans for space elevators and what I have here is the basic design that is the most well known, and as far as I know the most feasible. Okay, well all that a space elevator really is is just a metal wire that reaches 62,000 miles into space. From the bottom up it has: a base station, a cable, climbers, and a counter weight. In some plans there is no counterweight the cable just keeps going on until it has the same effect as the counterweight, which is keeping the cable taut.

1. The purpose of the space elevator is to eventually replace rockets as the main method of getting stuff into space. If it was built it would be much cheaper that regular rockets. To get stuff up into space with the space elevator would cost around $100 to $400 per pound, while ordinary rockets cost over $10,000 per pound. To build, start up costs would be around $10 billion, which would be recovered in about ten years (some estimates are closer to $4 billion but I think that $10 is more likely.)

2. The cable would be made of carbon nanotubes which are lighter than fiberglass and are 30 times stronger than steel. The tubes would be light and strong enough to support the 62,000 mile high elevator. The tubes shouldn't be too expensive to make, but they have yet to be made in large amounts.

3. The climbers would be very unlike regular elevator cars. They would have treadmill like rollers on both sides of the cable climbing at around 200km/h. The climber would have two large panels on its sides to fuel its solar powered engine. The middle of the climber would depend on what kind of stuff it was carrying, such as space station supplies, scientific equipment or hopefully people.

4. If there was a counterweight, on the elevator, that counterweight would most likely be a space station where the cargo would be stored and then sent to its final destination. Though if there was no counterweight, the speed of the whole space elevator going around with the earth’s rotation would propel the climber to a couple miles per second which could blast it to other planets in a very short time. The center of mass for the elevator would be at geosynchronous orbit which is the location away from the earth where satellites look as if they are standing still.

5. The bottom of the cable would be attached to the base station and to get the elevator up in the first place a rocket that was holding the cable would take off and the cable would unfold as the rocket went higher until it reached the 62,000th mile. That’s a fourth of the way to the moon. At least that is what I would do, some say that wouldn't work and they have their own plans, but more on that in future posts.

6. NASA has space elevator games every year where people compete to find out who has the best ideas. Also many governments have donated millions of dollars to fund space elevator research projects.

7. One of the main problems for the space elevator is just finding funding for it. Also the carbon nanotubes may not be able to be produced in large enough amounts. Some dangers are that satellites around the earth are very likely to hit the cable or counterweight, meteoroids could hit it, the weather could harm it, also if it was built and worked well it would be a large target for terrorists. Some things being put into the planning of the elevator for these problems are putting it on a mobile base station that would be able to dodge objects that might hit it, also putting it in a remote location that had favorable weather so that any saboteurs would be seen coming from a while away. One last danger is that if the cable was cut, the cable and counterweight might come tumbling down onto the earth. Most people think that it would burn up it the atmosphere and this would cause no real damage. But you never really know.

So, overall the space elevator is still in the planning stages but it is a possible way of getting into space in the future and who ever builds it first would pretty much own outer space. And that is why I plan on building one, just give me let's say... 20 years.

Thanks for tuning in!
The Fool
P.S. RIP Arthur C. Clarke
~"The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Carnival of Space Review and Shuttle Launch STS-123

Well today I have an assortment of topics, I am reviewing my favorite stories from this week's Carnival of Space. Also I have a wrap-up for the latest shuttle launch.

Well this week's Carnival was hosted on Missy's Window and I have for you my top three stories from this Carnival:

-One story that I really liked was over on Centauri Dreams and discussed really many novel ways of colonizing the Cosmos. Though they focused on the idea of letting a von Neumann probe find a promising planet and using the matter it finds there to establish a colony and fill it with settlers. Not the normal kind of flesh and bone human settler, but an uploaded consciousness that would be able to take physical (robotic) form to explore the new environment. They also talk about the Singularity which is an interesting topic of debate, but anyway, go ahead and check it out, and make sure that you read some of the comments, they are interesting.

-FlyingSinger on Music of the Spheres has an article about how you can become a space tourist now, and for free. The way to do this is ORBITER, a free space flight simulation where you can launch the Space Shuttle from Kennedy Space Center to deploy a satellite, rendezvous with the International Space Station or take the futuristic Delta-glider for a tour through the solar system. It is a relatively realistic sim and a good bit of fun, give it a go!

-Ethan from Starts with a Bang puts in his say for the ever continuing debate about dark matter and the acceleration of the universe. An interesting article and pretty simple compared to some that explain in too scientific of terms for most people to understand.

If you want to check out the whole Carnival go to Missy's Window.

Next up we have the latest shuttle launch STS-123. The Shuttle Endeavour went up on Tuesday the 11th in the wee hours of the morning just as planned. The purpose of the mission is to deliver the Japanese Kibo Logistics Module and the Canadian Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator robotics system to the International Space Station. Here is a countdown to the launch if you missed it with some pictures from people there during the launch, and here is NASA's launch blog. The current mission duration is set for sixteen days though with extension days built in, this mission has the ability to be the longest shuttle flight in history. The completion of the mission will leave nine flights remaining in the Space Shuttle program until its end in 2010, excluding two as-yet-unconfirmed Contingency Logistic Flights. STS-123 is the 25th shuttle mission to the International Space Station. Just go to if you want the day by day schedule or if you just want more info. Also if you want to track the International Space Station here's a Google Maps program that lets you do just that.

Source: NASA,

Well thanks for reading today, if you have anything to say go ahead and leave a comment or email me at

The Fool

Monday, March 10, 2008

NewSpace News: SpaceX, JP Aerospace, and more

Today I have mostly NewSpace news along with one or two other subjects. Enjoy!

First off I have press release from SpaceX announcing that it has signed a contract with the Department of Defense's Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office to carry their first Jumpstart mission payload onboard the upcoming Falcon 1 launch. The flight, scheduled for June 2008, is going up from SpaceX launch complex in the Central Pacific Marshall Islands' Kwajalein Atoll. The Jumpstart mission aims to establish a preliminary framework for responsive contracting, and to demonstrate the ability to rapidly integrate and execute a mission, from initial call-up to launch. By signing this contract the Dept. of Defense has given a huge endorsement to SpaceX that I would imagine will help them gain many more payloads.

I have been kind of following JP Aerospace lately and they have been working on a new airship that they call the Tandem. The Tandem is a low cost airship capable of flight to 140,000 feet. Tandem fills the gap between free balloons and complex high altitude airships. I have always been fascinated by airships and think that a line of luxury airships would do very well. But back to the story; Tandems consist of two balloons separated by a keel. Two propellers designed for flight at 100,000 feet drive Tandems. JP Aerospace developed the Tandem as a tool to construct the Dark Sky Station, a high altitude port and construction facility. It will also be used as a "mothership" for small experimental airships, (Mach Gliders and X-Airships). High Racks, foam and carbon fiber balloon instrument carriers, have been the workhorse for development at JP Aerospace so far. Tandem will now step into that role. JP Aerospace has just come out with some preliminary sketches for the Tandem, check 'em out. For some more info visit:

I read an interesting article on The Space Review that ponders the question of whether or not there is really a market for space commerce. I think that there certainly is, once the price comes down for the average person tourism will boom, and there are many scientific applications that can come out of space.

This isn't really NewSpace, it's about the European Space Agency, but anyway Arianespace launched ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) yesterday (March 9th). This was the first launch of an ATV. ATVs carriy propellant, oxygen, equipment, systems, food and water for the International Space Station and its crew. Once docked to the ISS, this resupply spacecraft also will be able to use its own propulsion system to increase the space station’s altitude to overcome the effects of drag as it orbits the Earth. Although the ATV was launched unmanned, its preparation at the Spaceport followed all of the procedures for a human-rated spacecraft, as it will become part of the International Space Station that is visited by crewmembers during its cargo unloading and other operations. This launch also rocketed Arianespace into the major leagues, giving it some more street cred (or "space cred") among other aerospace companies. Here's some more pictures of the Ariane 5 and the launch.

Thanks for reading,

The Fool

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Carnival of Space #44

Today Phil Plait from the Bad Astronomy blog cranked out the 44th Carnival of Space. So go ahead an check it out. I have here a few of my top picks from this week's Carnival:

Next Big Future put out a story about the future of carbon nanotubes. Nanocomp Technologies of Concord has been making sheets of these nanotubes that will first be used as electrical conductors but in the future they could also be used for creating a solar sail which could travel quite fast (think 4% of the speed of light) by simply flying by the sun. Carbon nanotubes are extremely strong and are the materials that could be used in the construction of a space elevator.

Another interesting article on Colony Worlds, where Darnell Clayton discusses radiation, its affects on humans, and planets that would be radiation safe for humans. And as Darnell explains, radiation doesn't lead to becoming the Hulk.

And last on my list of this week's favorites is Ian O'Neill on discussing a future system for warning Mars or other plant colonists of life threatening solar flares. His warning system could possibly warn the future people of Mars in time for them to get into bunkers or radiation safe-houses.

These are just some of the great stories in this week's Carnival; go and check it out, for more info on it visit Universe Today.

The Fool