Friday, March 8, 2019

Weekly Roundup

A couple of short observations, none of which is enough to gather a longer post

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule successfully undocked from the International Space Station in the early morning (2:32 AM East Coast time), fired its reentry burn and splashed down off NE Florida at 8:45AM, bringing the Demo-1 test flight to a successful conclusion.

There are undoubtedly reams of data being gone over, but this was a test flight testing many systems.  We don't get to look at the books and see how they get graded, but it appears to be a successful test flight.  Were 90% of the major goals achieved?  100%?  80%?  We don't get to know for now.  The Crew Dragon docked autonomously at the ISS Sunday morning (March 3) and then stayed docked for five days while tests and measurements were made - videos from last Sunday show astronauts from the ISS checking the atmosphere of the Crew Dragon for contamination while wearing protective hoods and respirators.  The capsule undocked at 2:32 a.m. this morning, survived the fiery descent through Earth's atmosphere, deployed its parachutes and splashed down gently into the Atlantic's rolling waves, about 230 miles (370 kilometers) off the Florida coast.

From here, it seems this puts us one step closer to Americans lifting off from American soil to the ISS.  I think they also set a performance bar for Boeing's tests flights; their equivalent of this mission could come in April. 

Speaking of the docking, the best video I've seen is in this one from SciNews.  They put the video onto a soundtrack of Strauss' Blue Danube Waltz, and the overall reminiscence of Kubrick's 2001 struck me so deeply, I found myself tearing up, something I've never done before.

Over the years of this blog, I've had two nicknames for Michael Bloomberg.  Either "the most dependable asshole in American politics" or "that nasty, fascist prick".   Bloomy has been in sole possession of those titles since I opened shop in 2010.

Today, we find there is intense competition.  Maybe not for both, but there is a spirited competition to wrest the title of "Most Dependable Asshole".  It's a three way between representatives Ilhan Omar, (D - Minnesotastan) for her virulent antisemitism, Rashida Tlaib (D- Detroitistan) for her, "I'm gonna impeach that motherf***er", and everybody's favorite nitwit, AOC (D - NYFC - Do you have a problem?) for, well, basically every sentence that leaves her mouth.  They all wear that "I'm a victim of everything!" intersectionality cloak, they're all under investigation for campaign finance violations, they're all insufferably full of themselves.  Which is a long-winded way of saying, they're all assholes.

Trying to out-asshole Bloomberg is tough challenge.  If nothing else, he gets extra points by funding all the gun grabbing, outlawing 32 oz drinks, warning about salt consumption while personally putting salt on everything, and creating laws to ensure people never get enough pain medication and suffer as much as he can make them.

Think of the old "Real American Hero" jingle commercials Budweiser used to do, just substitute "Real American Asshole". 

Florida had an extremely rare event, a minor earthquake the night before last (Wednesday night/Thursday morning).  The quake registered 2.6 on the Richter scale, which I understand is barely enough to feel.  The epicenter was near the city of Century in extreme northwest Florida.  Century is virtually on the Florida/Alabama state line, due north of Pensacola.  Bing Maps tells me it's 515 miles from here, and at least an 8 hour drive (+ some).  That's just a few miles closer than as far as one can drive and still be in Florida.  You'll change time zone to central time during the drive across the panhandle.

The biggest quake in Florida over the last few years was a 3.7 in Daytona Beach; which is much closer (about 90 minutes from me).  That one was " triggered by U.S. Navy testing that involved a man-made explosion" so hardly qualifies.  There was one in the Gulf of Mexico back in 2006 that was pretty strong, 5.9, but well offshore.


  1. It looks as if the Dragon will put us back in the game in space. BUT we still need a follow-on to the Shuttle that (if at all possible) doesn't repeat some of the design flaws that cost lives and treasure.

    As to setting the bar low, the Dems work so diligently to do so. It's actually fun to watch them dig a deep hole and bury the bar deeper each day. The Congressional Muslims are doing what Muslims do worldwide, and putting it up on the big screen for all Americans to witness. AOC shows you what a mediocre student at a mediocre university - who became a bartender - is worth.

    1. The replacement for Shuttle:

      First unmanned launch is scheduled for June of next year:

      if Congress decides to fund the program instead of providing reparations. I would note that the Astronaut corps, under JSC Director George Abbey, insisted that future manned vehicles be capsules - no wings. And the current configuration of the vehicle is a result of "cost savings". The original plan was for this to be a cargo-only vehicle, with the crew launching on a single-stick five segment solid booster with an upper stage using a restartable engine. The 2008 election insured that was not going to happen. Neither Barry Sotero nor Songbird McShame had any use for manned space exploration, so that idea died and we were left with this. Please do note that, in spite of Challenger, the single-stick solid was FAR safer than what we ended up with. The failure mode on Challenger was an o-ring burn through aggravated by side loading on the booster because it was strapped to the side of the ET. That burn through was aimed directly at the aft attach strut area and impinged on the ET sufficiently to cause that attachment to fail, at which point the aft end of the booster pivoted outward due to thrust vectoring, and its front end impacted the ET in the forward oxygen tank area, resulting in the oxygen tank collapse followed by the hydrogen tank collapse and the resulting fireball. BOTH boosters successfully continued to fly for a while IN SPITE OF the massive aerodynamic loads they experienced in the disaster. If that launch had been a single-stick solid with the crew vehicle on the front - as planned in the Ares program - that failure mode of the solid would not have been loss of crew, and probably would not even have been loss of mission, since there would be no significant side loading on that booster joint to cause it to open anywhere near as much as it did with Challenger, and the resulting thrust loss would probably be so small that propellant reserves on the second stage could easily make up for it.

    2. Thanks, Mark. A good look at the problems with Shuttle's system design - the asymmetric loading seems to have been the root cause.

      FWIW, Ars Technica is saying if you're betting your own money, don't expect the SLS first launch until 2021. I'm far enough away from any of those companies now to thoroughly dismiss the idea I have any inside information, but "everybody knows" the chances of a schedule slip to the right are higher than a schedule being pulled to the left.

      However (you knew that was coming?) I'll be surprised if SLS ever flies. The currently available Falcon Heavy will fly almost every mission profile the SLS is being designed for and there's still time to redesign the components that can't go on one flight so that they can fly on two Heavy missions. Add to that, there are already discussions of a follow on to the Heavy that can lift more. (As I understand it, the BFR - seemingly named by a 14 year old boy - is now being called either Starship or Falcon Super Heavy)

      There are already voices in NASA talking this way.

      The costs of the delays in the SLS alone were $7.8 Billion as of a year ago, so maybe more by now. For that price, NASA could buy 86 launches of the reusable Falcon Heavy or 52 of the expendable version. Reference at Ars Technica.

      86 Falcon Heavy launches is 3,000 tons of lift — that's eight International Space Stations in low Earth orbit or one heck of a Moon base.

      More to the point, instead of designing a booster for one or two mission profiles the Heavy can't do, they could design more planetary probes, outer planet sample return missions, asteroid return missions and other science missions that can refine the way these deep space probes are done.

    3. Starship is the second stage and Super Heavy is the first stage of the current iteration of BFR. And if you hadn't noticed, everything Musk names is a bit childish. It seems to be the nature of his generatin.

    4. Thanks for the clarification on Super Heavy vs. Starship.

      With the exception of the "Big Fawlkin Rocket", which was probably made up on the spur of the moment some day so they could keep calling it BFR when reporters pressed, I thought most of the names were based on a common theme of medieval legends. Merlin engines, dragon capsules, falcons for the rockets. I was waiting for an Arthur, perhaps a Pendragon. Here I run out of my knowledge of the King Arthur legends.

  2. We'll see what Falcon costs once Mr. Musk is no longer able to suck at Uncle Sugar's teat. Furthermore, let's talk in a few years when SpaceEx's reliability is better known. I seem to recall they were claiming "sabotage" a few years ago when they blew that vehicle up on the pad. I took part in enough Range Safety Reviews during my time at the rocket ranch to recognize that standard processes do not seem to have been followed in more than one SpaceEx approval.

    1. SpaceX never claimed sabotage. That conspiracy theory got started on the internet.

    2. Similarly to the conspiracy theory, while I can't claim to be a "real investigative reporter" (although the extent to which I try surprises me), I read tons of griping about Musk taking government money. I read those comments several orders of magnitude more often than I read about Jeff Bezos taking government money for Blue Origin, or Orbital Sciences, United Space Alliance, Boeing or any other company in the private launch industry taking it for their programs.

      Musk is a showman and that attracts attention. I suspect he has about as much to do with day to day operations of any of his companies as the average CEO: just about nothing. What's the old saying? "The best managers hire the best people to do the job and then leave them the hell alone to do the job" That's a CEO's job.

    3. SpaceX came right out and said they screwed up and didn't test enough when they went to even-colder fuels. They analyzed the issue, made changes, tested and got flying in 6 months. NASA would still be arguing about the shape of the table and the style layout of the reports...

      As to 'taking gubmint money,' well, duh. Just look who has the money to pay for space launches. And better we pay a US company than the Russians, French or Chinese.

      Not to mention, NASA itself initiated the COTS space program. That would be Commercial Off The Shelf. In other words, let Private Industry provide the launchers because they can respond quicker than Government Industry.

      I'd rather my tax dollars go to Bezos and Musk than to United Launch Alliance and their monopoly. Seriously, when was the last real innovation to come out of the Delta or Atlas systems. Seriously, we paid for Atlas to sit around to blow the Soviets to smithereens and then we paid again for ULA to use them?

      The cancellation of the ARES systems by Obama screwed any chance of NASA to be current in space launch systems.

  3. I've been reading "Safe Is Not An Option: ...) by Rand Simberg, detailing NASA's obsession with appearing safe. Interesting perspective. Explains why NASA doesn't get much done.

    1. If you're so scared of the world you don't ever leave the house, then nothing gets done.

      Same with NASA. But, of course, they'll gloss over what is politically incorrect and will cause a problem down the line, like the change in the tank insulation from a better and stronger product to one that took more for the same performance level and was weaker, and kept using the new worthless stuff long after it was proven to be dangerous and causing damage to the shuttle.