Saturday, December 31, 2022

Happy New Year 2023!

New Year's Eve is upon us, and I just want to wish all of you a happy New Year.  By this time of the year, pretty much every year, I'm sick of the "year in review" shows on TV, so I'll just post a little about my year in review. 

In some aspects, it was like that quote from Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities" talking about the French revolution.  It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.  Unfortunately, the things under "the worst of times" outnumbered the other side.  

In the big picture sense, a welcome spot is that I just hit my seventh year of retirement.  Although not planned to be this way, we get by pretty comfortably on my pension and our social security checks.  I only worked at one company that had a pension plan, my last job, and the pension went down from what it was set to be a few years before I retired when the company went through a major reorg.  

The brightest "best of times" incident was that I won a major award from a ham radio contest.  Not a leg lamp, but a new, top-of-the-line transceiver shipped to my door.  The ironic part was that it was the same exact model I bought with the insurance payout from our lightning strike, an Icom IC-7610, so I replaced that two year old radio with a brand new version of the same model.  Of course, since it's my "lucky radio" nothing I do with will ever fail, nothing will ever be wrong or go bad.  

The "worst of times" category was almost all health related.  Both my health and both of our two cats.  Unfortunately, we lost our girl cat Aurora to cancer 10 days before Christmas.  The previous month was consumed with trying to help her with multiple trips to the doctors and multiple things tried.

From February until October, our attention was on our alpha cat, Mojo.  His yearly physical in January had shown odd blood cell counts; they could do some tests for feline leukemia and another cancer that I can't recall, both of which showed no cancer.  Thankfully, in the long run he's fine and while a bit thinner than a few years ago, he also acts like he feels much better than he did earlier in the year.  Cats get thinner with age naturally - with no effort on our parts - and I can assure you they don't read diet books or count calories in obsessive-compulsive fits.

On my count, I'll probably talk more about that this later.  Long story short: I've known I had an umbilical (belly button) hernia for five years, and after a bunch of testing this summer, determined I have a second hernia, a hiatal hernia (top of the stomach where the esophagus goes through the diaphragm).  Thankfully, living with two hernias doesn't spoil the meter of my favorite song.  This second hernia is going to require surgery to fix, though, and that's going to be later in January.

Let's hope the S doesn't HTF until later in the year.  

EDIT 12/31/22 1046PM EST:  Mistake in post title.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Make That 61 For SpaceX in '22

SpaceX wrapped up their year as expected with their 61st launch of the year and 160th successful recovery of a the Falcon 9 booster.  That includes the Falcon Heavy side boosters for all of those launches.  It was the 11th mission of booster 1061.  The launch was from Vandenberg Space Force Base this morning at 0738 UTC, not the 0658 I reported two days ago.  My apologies.  

This launch ties a record the Russians have held since 1980 - 42 years - for launches of their R-7 rocket.  Perhaps the most significant stat here is that the Russians launched the R-7 64 times, but only 61 were successful.  As a side note, I saw a Starbase Pink video this morning reporting the Chinese launched 64 times this year, but that's everything.  More than just one type of rocket. 

That means one, private, American company launched almost as many payloads into space as the entire country of China.  Let that sink in.  Which also means more than any other launch provider or government on Earth.

The payload was ImageSat International EROS-C3 Earth observing satellite.  It was a light payload, requiring little enough of a Falcon 9s fuel to not require sending recovery drone Of Course I Still Love You downrange, instead allowing a return to launch site recovery.  What stunned me the first time I saw it was this image from SpaceX's launch coverage.  The path of the payload is retrograde to Earth's rotation - toward the west.  I don't believe I've seen that before. 

Screen capture from the Teslarati post of the video, taken a short time after the second stage engine cut off (SECO). If you prefer YouTube, the video is here

The gray curve is the launch trajectory, with the milestones so far labelled.  The video does show the satellite deployment around six minutes after this screen capture so this isn't "classified" in any way. 

The first launch of next year is currently set for Tuesday morning, January 3rd at 9:56 AM EST from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS); Transporter 6, a rideshare mission for a group of paying satellite owners with the booster returning to the Cape.  

Over the course of the last three months, SLC-40 has managed nine launches; the same cadence extended to the year from the 4th quarter would be 36.  The more versatile pad, LC-39A, completed 18 launches over the year.  The versatility comes at the cost of needing down time to reconfigure for manned or cargo Dragon launches and Falcon Heavies.  At this point, there's a few FH launches penciled in for next year.  Vandenberg's SLC-4E contributed 13 launches this year.  On the face of it, 100 launches in '23 doesn't seem likely.  If we combine that 36 for SLC-40, 18 for LC-39A, and Vandy's SLC-4E can double its operating cadence to 26 launches per year (still asking less than SLC-40 on CCSFS) that could get SpaceX to 80 Falcon launches in 2023.  As I said last Wednesday, it seems a fourth pad might be required to meet the 100 launch requirement.  I can't say anything about the chances of that happening.  Of course a Big Bad Thing happening could change all that at any time. 



Thursday, December 29, 2022

No, The Climate Change Allegations Have No Basis in Fact

If there's one thing I see over and over looking at published "science" stories in the news is confounding causation with correlations.  Pardon if I sound like a broken record, but correlation is not proof of causation.  Yes it's true (and obviously so) that if two things aren't correlated there can be no link to causation, but the leap from correlation to causation is an extremely large jump to make.  I've written about spurious correlations many times, like this post, with a great table of spurious correlations from Five Thirty Eight.  

Look at the table above; I don't think anyone thinks eating egg rolls causes people to buy a dog, or that eating a fried, breaded fish causes someone to become a Democrat, but the correlation is there to a "Wee P" value as William Briggs likes to say.  The last one is the most absurd; could anyone honestly believe that eating cabbage could turn an outie bellybutton to an innie?  It clearly meets the Wee P value test, which ordinarily set to say if p < 0.05 it's a good correlation, not a random event.

Where I'm going with this is the never ending series of articles we see that link "climate change" (or whatever they're calling it this week) to bad things.  Weather has stopped happening; there's no such thing as a "colder than usual" cold snap like we just had, or a drier season that we might want to have to water our gardens for us; it's all a harbinger of what climate change is going to bring.  

Let's assume that there really is global warming for a moment (and I think the hard evidence of that is pretty sparse and low quality).  Further, let's say it has been going on since the beginning of the industrial age as some warmunistas argue.  That means that every trend in the world since the beginning of the industrial age correlates with climate change.  Every.  Single.  Thing.   Places that have gotten colder, places that have gotten hotter, people getting taller, or heavier; every single trend whether good or bad that doesn't look like random noise correlates with climate change.  

The inspiration for harping on this comes from a paper (pdf, but short at 4 pages) published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), the Heartland Institute, Energy & Environment Legal Institute, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), and the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC), in response to an observation that the climate alarmist organizations are donating money to news organizations to emphasize their viewpoint.  

Associated Press reporter Seth Borenstein, for example in his recent article “New abnormal: Climate disaster damage ‘down’ to $268 billion,” reported this about the estimated costs of damage due to climate change during 2022:

“This past year has seen a horrific flood that submerged one-third of Pakistan, one of the three costliest U.S. hurricanes on record, devastating droughts in Europe and China, a drought-triggered famine in Africa and deadly heat waves all over.... Weather disasters, many but not all of them turbocharged by human-caused climate change, are happening so frequently that this year’s onslaught, which 20 years ago would have smashed records by far, now in some financial measures seems a bit of a break from recent years.”

The paper then goes on to cover nine headlines, starting out with the floods in Pakistan, Hurricane Ian, and the rest.  All of them are in the realm of normal weather.  We talked about Hurricane Ian here, and how it was an outlier in a relatively inactive season.  The Accumulated Cyclone Energy, a product of strength of the storms and the amount of time they existed, was about 75% of a typical season.  The Atlantic basin produced zero named storms between July 3 and August 31. That was the first time since 1941 that the Atlantic had no named storm activity during this period. The researchers at NOAA and other agencies have looked into the connection between climate change and hurricane frequency or intensity and have steadfastly said there is none.

Last words to the quoted paper:

Regardless of one’s view of what passes as “climate science,” the good news is that even researchers who believe that “climate change” is a problem acknowledge that the number of weather-related deaths and the cost of weather-related damage are actually on the decline – despite ever-increasing emissions and whatever slight warming may be occurring.



Wednesday, December 28, 2022

SpaceX Aces 60th Launch of the Year

December 28th at 4:40 AM EST SpaceX launched their 60th Falcon 9 of the year achieving a goal set for the company nine months ago on March 28th. 

Telsarati has a good piece by their SpaceX correspondent Eric Ralph, and he has a good summary paragraph.  

By every possible measure, 2022 has been a groundbreaking year for SpaceX even when considering the vast list of achievements it’s racked up over the last half-decade. It owns and operates the largest satellite constellation in history by an order of magnitude. Its Starlink satellite internet service has secured more than a million subscribers less than two years after entering beta. It operates the only routinely reusable orbital-class rockets and orbital spacecraft currently in service. Its Falcon 9 workhorse has launched more in one year than any other single rocket in history. It’s regularly launching at a pace that hasn’t been sustained by any one country – let alone a single company – in 40 years. It’s managing that near-historic cadence while simultaneously recovering and reusing boosters and fairings that represent some 70% of the value of almost every rocket it launches.

Booster B1062 flew on its 11th mission, landing successfully on drone ship ASOG (A Shortfall Of Gravitas) in nasty looking weather around 400 miles downrange a bit under nine minutes after liftoff.  Seconds before the landing, Falcon 9’s expendable upper stage reached orbit, shut down its Merlin Vacuum engine, released the 52 satellite payload, and began slowly spinning itself end over end to start the process of burning up on re-entry.  

Elon Musk has put out the goal of 100 launches for next year, essentially two per week. 

With three pads and what appear to always be inevitable weather-related delays, it seems a fourth pad might be required to meet the 100 launch requirement.  On the other hand, if any company could do it, it sure seems like the world leader would be the one to bet on.  

Oh, and #61 is still on schedule for Dec. 30 at 0658UTC from Vandenberg. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Odds And Ends # (I never kept track)

Supposedly, it snowed around here on Christmas day, but you couldn't prove it by me; I found out through a story on Zero Hedge.  At the time it snowed, I was getting our turkey ready for the smoker as well as the smoker ready for the turkey and the weather here wasn't like they describe.  Animated version of this radar loop at Twitter.

Our local newspaper reports it was the fourth coldest Christmas day in history for Melbourne.  The surprise to me is that I've lived here for #1 through #4.  

Interestingly, the snow got as far south as Miami, rivaling the 1977 event that I've written about before.  There's a 10 second video with the snow actually visible before Sunday's game between the Miami Dolphins and the Green Bay Packers.  In my mind, I see a scene like Crocodile Dundee's, "that's not a knoife..." except it's a Green Bay fan saying, "that's not snow..."

No one was more surprised than I was that I didn't put up a post yesterday. There are couple of big things going on in the ham radio world that distracted me, and when I realized there was no post in process it was too late to do anything.

I spent the first few hours of the evening on the one that tends to be repeatable.  The southern hemisphere just went through their summer solstice, and just like our summer solstice in June, the VHF band I hang out on the most (six meters or 50-54 MHz) is having sporadic E propagation as an almost daily event.  The side effect of that is if someone here wants to have a radio contact (two way communication) with someone in New Zealand (ham prefix ZL) or Australia (VK), this is the time of year to try for it; from early December until around mid-January.

I've been researching this sort of contact and find that my station is rather meager in comparison to most of the guys who have had those contacts.  Still, last night there were guys relatively close to me, one near Orlando and two over on the west coast of Florida, that I could hear having short contacts with ZL and VK.  These guys were the closest people I've come across who had those contacts and while I couldn't hear the other side, they did.  To be honest, to work them is likely to require a healthy dose of luck as well as a good station.

The other big thing is a rare activation of a sub-antarctic island in the southern Indian Ocean, a French possession called the Crozet archipelago or Isles de Crozet.  They're using the call FT8WW.  I'm not sure, much of the documentation is in French, but it appears the last time there was operation from there might have been 1987, so for a large percentage of the ham population it's a new country.  The way propagation has worked out to here, they tend to be audible around the time the windows to ZL/VK are closing.  Between them, I can spend literally four or five hours not contacting anyone.

This group is not the typical activation of an uninhabited island, where a group of well-financed guys basically storm the island and operate for a couple of weeks; they seem to expect to be there until March.  These guys say they're there until January 22nd.  I think that it's a one man operation, so far, but there might be one or more on the way.  How well they're outfitted for coping with failing equipment and how long they expect to be operating, I can't answer.  

Finally, the last launch for '22 from the Cape, appears on schedule for 4:40 AM EST tomorrow (Wednesday) morning from SLC-40. This is the SpaceX Starlink Group 5-1 mission, and will be the 10th flight for this booster.  SpaceX's last mission of the year is still scheduled for Friday morning at 1:58 AM eastern time, 10:58 PM Thursday night local time, from Vandenberg SFB SLC-4E. 

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Time For the Annual Holiday Celebrated By White Liberals

It's Kwanzaa, the made up holiday from the 1960s, not mostly celebrated and noted by blacks but by White Liberals, especially women.  

I've searched the blog history and find only one post out of the 4400+ posts I've put up that mentions the word Kwanzaa.  So why a second?  A couple of weeks ago, Divemedic put up a post that mentioned it and got me thinking of it.  Eight days after that, BizPac Review had an epic, long post on it.  Sounds to me like some sort of harmonic convergence.  Or harmonica virgins, I always get those mixed up.  Either way, it was crying for me to talk about this, too. 

The piece I ran, back in 2017, focused on some acerbic wit from Ann Coulter.  That's a link to a piece from 2013, but she wrote the original farther back than that and re-used most of it regularly.  After all, the facts don't change.

It is a fact that Kwanzaa was invented in 1966 by a black radical FBI stooge, Ron Karenga -- aka Dr. Maulana Karenga -- founder of United Slaves, a violent nationalist rival to the Black Panthers. He was also a dupe of the FBI.
Despite modern perceptions that blend all the black activists of the '60s, the Black Panthers did not hate whites. They did not seek armed revolution (although some of their most high-profile leaders were drug dealers and murderers). Those were the precepts of Karenga's United Slaves.
Kwanzaa praises collectivism in every possible area of life -- economics, work, personality, even litter removal. ("Kuumba: Everyone should strive to improve the community and make it more beautiful.") It takes a village to raise a police snitch.

Is there any other holiday that was created by FBI COINTELPRO?  In this case, the “African American” alternative to Christmas was invented by ’60s-radical and convicted felon Ronald McKinley Everett – who changed his name to the more “African” sounding Maulana Karenga back in the ‘60s.  The only thing “African” about it is the corruption of a Swahili phrase, “matunda y kwanza,” which translates as “first fruits of the harvest.”  Did you notice that Everett or Karenga or whichever you call him spelled kwanza wrong?   

As Ann Coulter notes, Kwanzaa is a pure move toward communism.  Perhaps you've seen the observation about communism, "ideas so bad they have to be mandated and enforced by death penalty" at some point?  Why would a black man inventing a "black holiday" want to incorporate ideas that have led to the torture and death of so many Africans? Just for a couple of examples, consider Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Sani Abacha of Nigeria and Idi Amin of Uganda.  All torturers and murderers. 

The easy answer is he was one of them.  A Robert Mugabe/Idi Amin wannabe.

In 1971, Everett-Karenga was convicted for doing just that to two women – Deborah Jones and Gail Davis – who had been part of his United Slaves group of Leftists radicals. According to a May, 1971 LA Times news story about the trial and subsequent conviction of Everett-Karenga, Jones “testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Miss Davis’ mouth and placed against Miss Davis’ face and that one of her own big toes was tightened in a vise. Karenga, head of US, also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths.”

The article goes on to state that “the victims said they were hit on the heads with toasters.”

A writer for FrontPage magazine who has studied Everett/Karenga, Paul Mulshine, notes, Kwanzaa has “nothing to do with Africa and everything to do with California in the ’60s.” That is, the radical leftist policies of '60s California. California.

The good news is that a survey by National Retail Foundation said that only 1.6% of the American population actually celebrates Kwanzaa. The math tells me that's probably the woke mob. A tiny percentage, but a bunch of annoyingly loud people. Hmm.  Makes me wonder how many people celebrate Festivus - that other made up holiday. At least that one was joke on TV. 

A sure sign you're dealing with an idiot is if you hear them talk about the "country of Africa", or about an "African culture," as if the continent has some sort of single homogeneous culture, instead of hundreds of cultures at war with each other for hundreds - or even thousands - of years.  That's the mindset that, aided by mid-60s tax dollars, created Kwanzaa.  

Lost to eternity is the creator of this image of what you'd get if you invented a White Kwanzaa.  Just take a bunch of different cultures that share nothing but skin color and mash it all together.  Just like the "real" Kwanzaa. 

Friday, December 23, 2022

Christmas Eve, Roswell, New Mexico, 1949

The true story.

Found linked on Pinterest, the Great Sargasso Sea of the Internet, where you can wander for hours amid images both sublime and stupid - or both.  No true source credited.  The original URL from when I ran across the picture (four years ago) is dead.  

Let me wish each and every one of you who stop by here a very Merry Christmas.  Hold close the ones you love.  Spend time with family or friends or both.  Remember the good service members deployed far from home.  If you're Military, LEO, or fire; EMT, Nurse or MD, and are one who must work while the rest of us celebrate, thank you. 

Thursday, December 22, 2022

The Last Few Days to Christmas

The notorious "Bomb Cyclone" and "Once in a Generation Cold" that many of you are getting is predicted to pass through through Crematoria here tomorrow, although in a rather mild form.  I keep hearing about the records being set in various places, but our temperatures will be nowhere near the records.  

Here's where it gets almost hard to describe. I've been following two forecasts: Weather Underground and the National Weather Service local office. WUnderground, which is (AFAICT) a fully automated computer model extraction with no actual human forecaster's knowledge involved, has consistently been saying colder than the local NWS site has said.  

It's a bit hard to read, but the bottom line is the WUnderground forecast, left, says Christmas Eve morning low will be 30 and Christmas morning will be 29.  The NWS (right) says 35 and 36. Not just lower but the colder day is reversed from WU to NWS.  

The NWS records book says the coldest recorded Christmas eve morning was in 1989 at 22 and the coldest Christmas morning was 1983 at 21.  The two forecasts are nowhere near record setting, and with the 15-20 mph winds expected both mornings, there's no frost warning in either forecast.   I know many of you won't consider the 30 or 29 forecasts as cold, but it's a change for us.  The last time I recall it being cold enough for frost was January of 2018, almost five years ago.

But enough of that, Christmas is Sunday!  That's the day after tomorrow for most of you reading this on Friday. 

I suspect a lot of you are as tired as I am of the wokeism lately and Christmas has been a target for years.  I'm sick of it.  Every year you hear about some overzealous morons somewhere deciding that the most innocuous secular symbols are too Christian.  I hate to break it to them, but candy canes are nowhere to be found in Christian scriptures; nor are wreaths, trees, or decorative lights on those trees.  They are not religious symbols.  And even if they were, the absence of religious symbols isn't a diversity of views; it's presenting one view, the atheistic one.  A few years ago, the ubiquitous charge of racism joined the party as we learned that the 1960s stop-motion animated "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" is a horrible show charged with bullying, racism and homophobia.  It joins arguments about "Baby It's Cold Outside" being about rape and not mutual flirtation, as was the intent, and "White Christmas" being banned.  Woke idiots (colleges) are at the heart of this fake diversity fest. 

A Glenn McCoy cartoon I've been running for years - and I still love it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

'tis The Season and Last Launch Until Christmas

My coffee mug these days, a gift from a Christmas party exchange at some time in the past. I refer to this as drinking out of the skulls of my enemies.  

Except that snowmen aren't my enemies.  I've never even seen one in real life.  No snowmen have ever plotted attacks on me or my family.  That I know of.  

The European Space Agency set out to conduct the last publicly scheduled launch in the world before Christmas last night. Unfortunately the second stage of theVega C rocket failed and the mission along with it. The booster was carrying two satellites for Airbus' Pléiades Neo Earth-imaging constellation.  The two, officially Pléiades Neo 5 and Neo 6, were headed to sun-synchronous orbit, where they would have completed Pléiades Neo Earth-imaging constellation.

This was the second launch of the Vega C.  The first was in July of this year, when the rocket successfully launched LARES-2, a 650-pound (295 kg) satellite developed by the Italian Space Agency, as well as six ride-along cubesats; a small payload for rocket rated for 5,070 pounds to a 435 mile-high sun-synchronous orbit.  Last night's payload was 4,359 pounds.  The rocket's first stage did its job, but the second stage, called the Zefiro 40, did not.

"Approximately 2 minutes and 27 seconds after liftoff an anomaly occurred on the Zefiro 40, thus ending the Vega C mission," representatives of Arianespace, the French company that operates the Vega C, said in an emailed statement on Tuesday night. "Data analyses are in progress to determine the reasons of this failure."


"The constellation is made of four identical satellites, built using the latest Airbus innovations and technological developments, and allows to image any point of the globe, several times per day, at 30-centimeter [12 inches] resolution," Arianespace wrote in a mission description of the Vega C.

The next launch scheduled is now SpaceX, Starlink group 5-1, on Wednesday Dec. 28, at 1000 UTC or 5:00 AM EST from SLC-40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. There is one more launch after that one, another Falcon 9 mission on Dec. 29 at 0658 UTC, this time from SLC-4E at Vandenberg SFB.  That's 1:58 AM on the 29th EST, and 10:58 PM on the 28th PST.  The Falcon 9 will be launching the EROS C3 high-resolution Earth-imaging satellite for Israeli company ImageSat International.

This has been a pretty rough year for us here at "Castle Graybeard" and the coming week of "slow news days" is sounding good. I'll be here but expect less serious.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Breaking - Mars InSight Goes Silent

The news broke as I was typing up yesterday's column on the Mars InSight probe's large marsquake discovery that the probe had gone silent had not responded to commands on the last attempt to communicate.  Unfortunately, that linked website (and everything at was down when I was working and that post wasn't there later as the site started responding again.  I didn't see this Tweet until just now.

The InSight blog simply says the following:

On Dec. 18, 2022, NASA’s InSight did not respond to communications from Earth. The lander’s power has been declining for months, as expected, and it’s assumed InSight may have reached its end of operations. It’s unknown what prompted the change in its energy; the last time the mission contacted the spacecraft was on Dec. 15, 2022.

The mission will continue to try and contact InSight.

This is very reminiscent of "Good Night Oppy" that I talked about back on December 4th (second half of that post).  Eric Berger at Ars Technica apparently found out this morning or late last night and dedicated a short post to InSight

InSight landed on Mars in 2018 with the aim of studying seismic activity. It has been a success—InSight has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes, including a relatively powerful magnitude 4.7 quake on May 4. This was the largest marsquake detected to date and at the upper limit of what scientists hoped to observe. This seismic activity has allowed scientists to tease out details about the inner structure of the red planet.

However, during its operations on Mars, dust has steadily accumulated on the stationary lander's solar panels. By May 2022, the panels were producing just 500 watt-hours of energy, a tenth of what they could generate upon landing on Mars. Since then, its power levels have steadily declined to the point where InSight does not have the juice necessary to radio back to Earth.


Look, I'm not sure why water is running down from your eyes. But speaking for myself, that's Martian dust causing tears to come out of my eyes. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

The photograph of InSight's Seismometer from the above tweet, with some minor brightness and contrast stretching to lighten it up, done by me.  NASA/JPL-Caltech original.

Monday, December 19, 2022

More "First Ever" Data From Mars InSight

Remember the InSight lander on Mars since November of 2018?  It isn't in the news much, but an item came out back in October telling the story of the probe detecting a quake the previous December ('21) which was traced to a meteorite impact.  It's "deja vu all over again time" with a story coming out in the last couple of days about Insight detecting the biggest marsquake ever found, five times larger than the previous largest quake.  

The quake occurred on May 4 and registered at a magnitude of 4.7 — five times more powerful than the InSight lander's previous largest quake on Mars back in August 2021, which was recorded at a magnitude around 4.2. Another indication of the scale of the event is that InSight continued detecting waves from the record-breaking quake for around 10 hours, while the after-effects of all previous marsquakes had subsided within an hour.

"The energy released by this single marsquake is equivalent to the cumulative energy from all other marsquakes we've seen so far," John Clinton, a seismologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich and co-author of the study, said in a statement from the American Geophysical Union, which published the research. " Although the event was over 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) distant, the waves recorded at InSight were so large they almost saturated our seismometer."

While what I know about seismometer design might fill a thimble, from the standpoint of measuring equipment for other things, I suspect that if that quake almost saturated their instrument, it was designed in expectation of weaker quakes; it's not uncommon in measurement instruments to have difficulty measuring a wide range of natural phenomena.  Fights to get the last little bit of what you're trying to measure happen often in the electrical world.  

In a case like this, everyone who had opinions on what levels of quakes the instrument would be exposed to probably guessed toward the lower strength end of the Richter scale. That's an inherent risk with putting the first measurement instrument of any kind in a place to measure things you have no idea about. 

The seismic event in May was also unusual because its epicenter wasn't near known nodes of activity. It also displayed characteristics of both types of marsquakes so far discerned: high-frequency waves with rapid but shorter vibrations and low-frequency waves with larger amplitude. 

The marsquake occurred on Sol 1222 of InSight's mission (a sol is one day on Mars and lasts about 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth).

Much like other probes from the JPL, InSight has significantly outlived its rated lifespan.  It was planned for a two year mission and has been operating for over twice that; just over four years and one month.  While not in the class of Opportunity the rover designed for 90 days and lasting 15 years (which actually beats the Voyagers at year 45 of a four year mission) it's still significant.  Much like the Ingenuity helicopter, NASA warns that InSight has too much dust on its solar panels and may not be able to survive much longer.  Considering that Ingenuity survived the winter and is still flying, perhaps they're being too alarmist. 

A MarsInsight selfie - unknown date.  NASA/JPL-Caltech Photo

Sunday, December 18, 2022

50 Years Ago Today the Apollo Era Ends

Fifty years ago tonight, at the time I'm writing, Apollo 17 was returning to Earth for landing in the Pacific Ocean on December 19th.  Apollo 17 was carrying 243 pounds of lunar rocks and other samples along with her crew.   

NASA maintains a set of webpages containing Apollo history, including images, videos and so on.  They include this video called On the Shoulders of Giants. 

It was the end of an era.  I was 18, 6 weeks from 19, in my first semester of "discount knowledge from the junior college" in the words of country song I heard once.  I grew up playing with models of the capsules they used, and reading NASA educational and public relations documents.  I launched model rockets in the school yard.  I followed everything I could find on TV, and we got our first color TV around the time of Apollo 11; just in time for black and white video from the moon.  

Yeah, they were talking about Skylab coming soon, and there was already talk about what might come after the first tentative steps to a space station.  Serious talk surrounded the waste of throwing rockets away after use, which fed into the Space Shuttle - which never made its more ambitious goals.

I didn't really take that seriously.  We'd been to the moon, and there was talk about spreading out into the solar system.  There would be a permanent colony on the moon by the 1990s along with tentative steps to Mars and beyond.  Instead, well, it was the end of an era.  


Saturday, December 17, 2022

A Few Short Stories

Not all space news for once.

First item: This is What Leadership Looks Like

Florida Governor Ron Desantis made it clear again that he wants to sign constitutional carry.  At a press conference on the 15th, Desantis was asked again if he wanted constitutional carry in '23, especially with the Rs taking a supermajority in the legislature.  Non-Floridians can be excused for not knowing that they've had a majority for over a decade and almost everything pro-gun has been sat on by the legislative leadership.  It has been Republicans that have blocked the passage of pro-gun legislation like Constitutional Carry, Open Carry, Campus Carry, Red Flag Repeal, and Second Amendment Sanctuary.  Yet if you listen to the campaign ads, everyone supports these things.

He laughs and says, “well, we’ve had a majority this whole time. I’ll let Paul answer that because I’m ready. [looking over to incoming House Speaker Paul Renner] Are you going to do it?”

Paul Renner responded with a “yes.”

Let’s break down the Governor’s statement quickly. He didn’t just say he supports Constitutional Carry, he politically called out the Republican-controlled legislature for its collective failure to pass during prior sessions.

Video short of the exchange here.  

The Governor made it clear it was in the legislature's lap saying, “we’ve had a majority this whole time.”  He said, “make it so” without saying those words.  What I've heard is that positive gun bills were trashed the last few times by Wilton Simpson, who term-limited out as the President of the Senate and is now the incoming Commissioner of Agriculture - who oversees the Concealed Carry permitting process. 

Second item:  This is What Destroying the World Order Looks Like

I start this by saying I haven't gone looking for other confirmations on this, but the American Wire website's feature called the “TIPP Insights” reports that Japan has apparently lost faith in their agreement with the US since the end of WWII to depend on us for big defense protection and not have a military capable of first-strike actions.  In other words, the Post WWII World Order has been tipped over.

President Xi’s ambition to “unify” Taiwan is well known. Lesser known fact: beyond Taiwan lie a group of islands that China claims as its own. These mostly uninhabited atolls and isles are a bone of contention between Tokyo and Beijing. The rich marine resources and oil deposits make these specks of land coveted real estate. Chinese naval vessels have made their presence felt more frequently in the region.

Many believe that China now feels emboldened to move on Taiwan. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is seen as a rupture of the “world order.” Nations are paying closer attention to their territorial defense. The failure to present a unified front against the invader (Moscow) has made people aware of the need for robust national militaries and enemy strike capabilities.

Tokyo, for its part, believes that, after Taiwan, the contested islands will be next on President Xi’s agenda. Unwilling to be caught off guard, Prime Minister Kishida is making moves to shore up Japan’s defenses. Moving past its pacifist constitution that forbade Japan from maintaining a full-fledged military, plans are underway to establish a world-class force with first-strike capabilities. The island country recently announced a $320 billion defense plan, doubling the current spending to 2% of the national GDP over the next five years.

Note the skyrocketing spending on the right side of this plot, shown as % of GDP.  You can see it stops short of the 2% of GDP mentioned above. Blue is a conversion of the Japanese spending in Yen to US dollars.

Of course China is accusing Japan of provocation and destabilizing the region.  As we all learned in the cold war, we can only see the purely defensive uses for anything we have, while we can see offensive uses for anything they have. That's what China's playing here.  

Third item: This is What Leading the World in Space Access Looks Like

Since the last report, SpaceX has launched missions 57 - 59 for the year, with NASA's SWOT mission from Vandenberg on Friday morning (Dec. 16), the SES O3B Empower mission yesterday evening from the KSC here, followed by the Starlink 4-37 mission Saturday afternoon (Dec. 17).  In addition to the milestone of being the most launches in a calendar year by far (so far) this is the 15th flight for this booster making it the fleet leader in reuse.  

Strangely, I don't see the booster number in any sources.  I'm pretty sure it's B1058, due to overlap between missions cited here and here.  

NextSpaceflight shows two more Falcon 9 launches for this year: Starlink Group 5-1 on Dec. 28 @ 3:19 AM EST, and finally Eros 3C on Thursday Dec. 29 at 1:58 AM EST from Vandenberg again.  If all goes according to plan, that'll be 61.

This evening's landing.  It wasn't anywhere as clear at that over here, and that sky isn't clear.

Friday, December 16, 2022

A New Spaceflight Revenue Source?

Had a family issue today and just couldn't get anything done.  

I was going to phone it in, but instead, I'll post a story lead from the Rocket Report and the link.  It made me go "what?" 

Falcon 9 flies a suborbital payload. A recent Falcon 9 launch carried two FIFA World Cup official match balls as part of a promotion for SpaceX's Starlink satellite network and the soccer event in Qatar. Packed inside the first stage of the rocket, the footballs reached an altitude of 123 km, Collect Space reports.

A new revenue stream? ... The match balls are the first known example of SpaceX using its Falcon 9's first stage to fly a commercial payload on a suborbital flight. No details were available on exactly where the balls were stowed during the flight, nor their condition—although it is likely they were deflated. It will be interesting to see if SpaceX attempts to fly any research payloads on future flights to monetize first-stage landings.

Photo from Collect Space

Qatar Airways partnered with SpaceX to give two FIFA World Cup official match balls the ultimate kick — all the way to outer space. The soccer balls (or footballs, as they are called everywhere else but in the U.S.) reached 76 miles (123 km) above Earth while packed inside the Falcon 9 first stage.

The white, blue, red and yellow balls then descended with the booster back to a SpaceX droneship, where they completed the first leg of their 800-mile (1,300-km) trip. The balls were then flown by Qatar Airways to Famad International Airport, where they were handed off to World Cup officials.

"A legendary journey for a legendary tournament, from space to kick off," Qatar Airways stated in a video revealing the feat.

123 km up?  Doesn't that mean they've gone higher than any New Glenn tourist flights?  Gives new meaning to the saying, "it takes balls."



Thursday, December 15, 2022

The Potential Problem Rarely Discussed

Space junk.  We talk about visual pollution from satellites and constellations of satellites that move across pictures - unlike the constellations of stars.  We talk about space junk like the Chinese Long March 6A rocket that failed a few weeks ago and broke up rather than re-entering whole and breaking up, or the ones that do come down intact.  Most people have seen or heard of the movie Gravity, which was based on the idea of space junk causing a chain reaction of collisions that take down the space station.  

But we don't talk about the general problem of space junk.  Did you know that in November 2021, Russia shot down its own Cosmos 1408 satellite, creating more than 1,000 fragments in orbit. NASA's International Space Station still has to dodge this debris to this day.

A startup company called Privateer Space is trying to address this, work toward tools to ensure more complete information and keep low Earth orbit (I hate this word) sustainable.  You'll probably recognize one of the three founders, the guy in the middle:

That's right, Steve Wozniak, better known as Woz.  On the left is astrodynamicist Moriba Jah, from the University of Texas, Austin, and on the right is Alex Fielding, who appears to do the "routine CEO" stuff. 

Three years ago, Dr. Jah did a TED talk about the space junk problem that's a good introduction, and today had a long interview published on Ars Technica.  

The video is a short intro, and there's more content by far in the Ars interview.  Privateer, I assume using his numbers, says that ground-based observers (primarily radar, as far as I know) track a bit over 27,000 pieces of space junk, but to be detected by those radars means they need to be around the size of a softball.  Then they say the total number of "dangerous pieces of junk" is well into the millions - their website says 100 million.  Further, of the 27,000 pieces of junk they're tracking, only a few thousand are actually working satellites in use. 

Other estimates put the number of pieces of orbital debris about the size of a blueberry (which can't be tracked) in the hundreds of thousands of pieces.  Given their velocities, these small objects have the kinetic energy of a falling anvil. 

Like every other time you hear the word sustainable, there's mention of needing some sort of big governmental organization to coordinate things and set rules.  To some extent, this has already been done in the UN, and in an example from the Ars interview, Dr. Jah says that if Russia were to damage a Starlink satellite, for example, the Russian government would be responsible.  Likewise if SpaceX were to damage, say, China's space station, SpaceX wouldn't be responsible, the US Government would be.  Companies bear no liability; their governments do.  

Much of the frameworks that Dr. Jah is calling for already exists; he mostly talks of tweaks and refinements.  He also talks about what he sees as likely things in the rest of this decade.  I'll leave the last words to him. 

This is where I put my realist hat on. I think we are going to lose the ability to use certain orbits because the carrying capacity is going to get saturated by objects and junk. Orbital capacity being saturated means "when our decisions and actions can no longer prevent undesired outcomes from occurring." So if we're trying to minimize having to move out of the way or bumping into each other, and no matter what we do we can't avoid that, that means that for all intents and purposes, that orbit highway is no longer usable.

I predict that that's going to happen. And I also predict that we will see a loss of human life by (1) school-bus sized objects reentering and surviving reentry and hitting a populated area, or (2) people riding on this wave of civil and commercial astronauts basically having their vehicle getting scwhacked by an unpredicted piece of junk. I predict that both those things are going to happen in the next decade.

I guess he doesn't count China dropping boosters on their own small villages.  Those boosters were never space junk. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

SpaceX Finishing the Year With a Flourish?

That's what it's looking like at the moment.  Check out this screen capture from Next Spaceflight that shows potentially five more launches before the end of December, which would bring them to 61 for the year. 

Note that first launch is Thursday morning (Dec. 15) at 1146 UTC (6:46 EST) from Vandenberg, which is before many of you will read this.  It's the next two that are the real outliers. 

Look at the two on the top right, that I've highlighted.  Those are both penciled in for this Friday, the 16th at 2121 UTC (4:21 EST), from SLC-40, and 2154 UTC (4:54 EST) SLC-39A, both on the Kennedy Space Center. 33 minutes apart is not just a record for them, but might well exceed what the range is capable of supporting! 

The guy who posted those times to Next Spaceflight is @Alexphysics13 and he says (in a Twitter reply) that he doubts they'll actually do it.  

I'd be very surprised if they actually did and this is coming from the guy that updated those two entries in NextSpaceflight 😅

At least from what I understand, Starlink would delay 24h if O3b is good to go on the 16th. But if O3b isn't ready they keep the 16th for Starlink.

The first launch, Thursday morning at 6:46 AM EST, 3:46 AM Pacific is the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission mentioned in Monday's post, a roughly $1.2 billion joint mission between NASA and French space agency CNES.  SWOT is one of many missions impacted and delayed by the Covid-19 mess.  The mission's planning and design began in 2012 and it's currently reported as being 9% over budget and eight months behind schedule.  Compared to other programs reporting cost increases of 10-100%, that's good.  The satellite will scan the oceans and lakes of the world with two large synthetic aperture radar (SAR) antennas and a conventional radar altimeter.

The second launch, the O3b launch mentioned by @Alexphysics13, is the first two of eleven Boeing-built O3b mPOWER communication satellites for operator SES.  These appear to be the first of a (relatively small?) constellation of networking satellites for high-end, high-reliability users. 

Finally, the third launch in that graphic is the first batch of Starlink satellites to launch in a while - since October 28th. 

The wildcards in this scenario are the leftmost two on the bottom row: the first is the December 29th launch of the EROS-3C mission, which will carry a pair of Israeli Earth Observation satellites.  The middle mission is the undated launch of another batch of Starlink satellites.  Since it has a penciled-in date, the EROS-3C mission seems more likely, however Eric Ralph at Teslarati notes that in the 17 year history of Falcon operations, SpaceX has never launched a Falcon after December 23rd or before January 6th.  Doesn't seem like it could be a rigid policy, but we'd need an insider to tell us that. 

There's also mention of another mission not shown in this view flying before the end of the year, their next Transporter Ride Sharing mission, which will be Transporter 6. Considering how full their January calendar is, missions might be able to move forward.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Headline of the Day Caught My Eye

On an otherwise slow news day, space-wise.  The headline belongs to Eric Berger at Ars Technica:

Bill Nelson came to NASA to do two things, and he’s all out of bubblegum 

I mean, if you even know anything about that classic movie They Live, how do you not start reading that?  

Eric's main point in his summary of Bill Nelson's tenure as NASA Administrator is that he has exceeded the expectations that he and many of us had for Nelson.  To start with, it's rather common for a new administration, especially when it's from the other party, to tear apart any concrete actions from the previous administration.  When Nelson was nominated to be the administrator (March '21) he had been a critic of the commercial space industry that the agency was increasingly turning to for lower-cost services. And he had harshly criticized the previous administrator, Jim Bridenstine, saying a politician should not lead the space agency, despite having been a politician for 45 years himself.  

Instead, Nelson has stayed with the major changes from Bridenstine, brought on competent people from NASA to be his backup: Pam Melroy, the second woman to command a space shuttle, became his deputy administrator.  Nelson's friend and shuttle commander, Bob Cabana, was tapped to become associate administrator.  Nelson has them do the hard stuff; the technical stuff he's incapable of, leaving him to do what he does best—schmooze.  Play politics.

Nelson does not deserve credit for all of the space agency's achievements during the 18 months since he took over as administrator. Many of these projects were begun years or decades ago. But he has brought them over the finish line and led the agency into what is a golden era for many of its programs. Consider some of NASA's recent achievements:

  • Launch and deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope, a $10 billion project that could easily have failed
  • Launch and successful flight of the long-delayed Artemis I mission, kicking off the return of NASA astronauts to deep space
  • Preserving the fragile International Space Station partnership with Russia amid the tumult of the Russian war against Ukraine
  • DART impact mission a success, finally fulfilling NASA's mandate to demonstrate a capability of deflecting an asteroid
  • Securing full funding for the Artemis program, including for spacesuits and SpaceX's Starship lunar lander

Given the achievements above, it can be reasonably argued that 2022 was the best year for NASA since 1969, when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. Moreover, the future is bright for the space agency. For its science directorate, NASA officials can point to a string of ongoing science mission successes—the Ingenuity helicopter is yet flying on Mars after more than a year, for example—and a pipeline of forthcoming exploration missions that include returning Martian rocks to Earth while visiting the intriguing moons of Europa and Titan. And with humans, for the first time since Apollo, NASA has a credible path for human exploration of the Moon and perhaps, one day, Mars with the Artemis program.

Artemis.  I think I've been critical of the program, but I also think it has richly deserved that attitude.  Economists talk of the sunk cost fallacy; it's a common thing in a case like Artemis that has been late and over budget almost since its inception.  What was spent over budget is lost; it was a bad decision and the only real questions should center on the costs to complete it versus starting over again.  Eric Berger maintains that staying with Artemis and pushing to get it flying was the right thing to do.  

When Bridenstine created the Artemis program he infused it with a strong ethos of NASA being "one of many customers." This meant he wanted NASA to buy services at a fixed price from the commercial space industry, rather than give out large contracts to traditional space companies. Nelson, who as a politician received plenty of contributions from these traditional aerospace contractors, might have been expected to push back on Bridenstine's lean into commercial space. But he has not. Rather, Nelson supported the space agency's controversial sole-source award to SpaceX for a lunar lander contract when it was under fire from Congress. He also has kept on awarding major contracts, including for Artemis spacesuits, on a fixed-price basis.

Heck, in May, Nelson called out the agency for awarding cost-plus contracts in the past for its major exploration programs. "You get it done with that competitive spirit," he said of competitive, fixed-price contracts. "You get it done cheaper, and that allows us to move away from what has been a plague on us in the past, which is a cost-plus contract, and move to an existing contractual price." 

Did we say he was going do what he's best at - schmooze? 

Around this time—when he was chastising Congress for cost-plus contracts, which he helped write back in the day—Nelson made his strongest move as the space agency's administrator. While Bridenstine had done an excellent job creating the Artemis program and building support for it among the space community, he never succeeded in getting Congress to pay the full tab. In particular, he struggled to raise funds for the lunar lander.

But for the fiscal year 2022 budget, Nelson delivered. For the first time, NASA received all of the money it requested from Congress for the Artemis program. Every last penny. This was no sweat, Nelson said.

It turns out it's fairly easy to work with those Senators when they're personal friends.  Isn't that the essence of the swamp and the revolving doors between so many agencies and the regulatory agencies that supposedly control them?  Strictly speaking making a senator the head of NASA isn't the same as, say, a former Securities and Exchange Commission chief going to work for a Too Big To Fail bank, but it's pretty similar overall.  

I'm not as completely in Eric Berger's camp in thinking Nelson has been a great administrator but some of these things Berger points out surprised me, in a good way.  I had always assumed Nelson's pledges about supporting NASA were really about hometown politics because of our proximity to the KSC and many of the big contractors.  Maybe he's a bit more real.  

I guess it's saying something when a guy you expected nothing from does a few things right and the reaction is excessive praise.

Artemis I mission during one of its trips to the pad that didn't result in flying.   NASA Photo.

Monday, December 12, 2022

SpaceX Launches the Multinational Moon Mission

Early Sunday morning local time, a SpaceX Falcon 9 successfully launched a privately-developed Japanese Moon lander, Hakuto-R Mission 1, the Rashid lunar rover from the United Arab Emirates, and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory cubesat called Lunar Flashlight on their way to lunar orbit. 

This isn't the first lunar mission for SpaceX, and most certainly won't be the last; their first launch to the moon was the Israeli corporation SpaceIL’s Beresheet Moon lander in 2019.  Unfortunately, Beresheet failed just a minute or two before touchdown, but the attempt was still a historic step for commercial spaceflight. 

Much like the CAPSTONE mission that traveled to its distant Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit from late June until mid-November, it will take Hakuto-R and Flashlight about four months to reach their final orbital insertion points (the Rashid Rover is mounted to Hakuto-R).  Both Spacecraft have been in contact with ground controllers and are reported to be in excellent shape, with JPL tweeting that yesterday (12/11) and iSpace reporting the same today (12/12)

If they make it that far, HAKUTO-R will conduct several more burns to reach low lunar orbit (LLO), where ispace will verify the spacecraft’s health and eventually attempt a soft landing on the Moon. A privately-developed spacecraft has never landed on an extraterrestrial body, so the prestige at stake is about as high as it can get. If JPL’s Lunar Flashlight spacecraft [PDF] survives its journey, it will enter a near-rectilinear halo orbit around a point of gravitational equilibrium (Lagrange point) between the Earth and Moon. Once on station, it will spend most of its time 9000 kilometers (~5600 mi) away from the Moon but occasionally fly within 15 kilometers (~9 mi) of the surface. Under JPL’s nominal mission plan, Lunar Flashlight will complete at least ten week-long orbits and use an infrared laser instrument to search for water ice in permanently-shadowed Moon craters during each close approach.

Lunar Flashlight illustration from JPL

An interesting aside of this mission is that as well as the Hakuto-R and Lunar Flashlight missions go together, their combination is actually a recent, accidental change.  Lunar Flashlight was intended to launch on the SLS/Artemis I that just completed its flight yesterday.  The constant delays in the Artemis I mission actually led to Artemis being filled with cubesats long ago - which seems to have killed about half of them.  

As a result, even though SLS lifted off for the first time in November 2022, its cubesat payloads had to be ready for launch and installed on the rocket in October 2021. Out of 14 planned payloads, four – including Lunar Flashlight – weren’t ready in time, forcing them to find other ways to deep space. Ironically, that may have been an unexpected blessing, as the ten payloads that did make the deadline wound up sitting inside SLS for 13 months, much of which was spent at the launch pad. Half of those satellites appear to have partially or completely failed shortly after launch.

If all goes according to plan, the Hakuto-R and Lunar Flashlight will get to the moon in mid-April.  This was SpaceX’s 56th successful launch of 2022 and the company’s second direct Moon launch this year after sending South Korea’s KPLO orbiter to the Moon in August.  After this mission and the preceding OneWeb mission's delays, SpaceX is getting ready for a strong close out to the month.  

The Surface Water and Ocean Topography mission, SWOT, is a science mission jointly developed by NASA and CNES, the French space agency, to measure how much water is in Earth’s oceans, lakes, and rivers.  That's scheduled to liftoff from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Thursday, Dec. 15th, at 6:46:40 AM EST; 3:46:40 AM PST.  After that, Spaceflight Now lists three more Falcon 9 missions with December targeted but not a specified date and time.  Those three would get SpaceX to an even 60 missions for the year.  

Sunday morning's Hakuto-R/Lunar Flashlight launch (the arc) and booster return to Landing Zone 2, close to the pad it lifted off from.  The straight line is the booster's Entry burn and the short arc is its Landing Burn.  The little curved light just past the end of the bright booster launch trajectory is the booster beginning its maneuvers to turn around and return to the launch site.  Richard Angle photo - who has some other cool pictures at the linked Teslarati article.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

A Fitting Day for Artemis to Return

This afternoon at 12:40 PM Eastern, so 9:40 AM local (Pacific time), the uncrewed Orion capsule splashed down uneventfully off the west coast of Mexico's Baja Peninsula.  I wondered why they had chosen 25-1/2 days as the mission duration for Artemis I considering all the light green days on the program's calendar were marked as 26-28 days, but the way they announced the splashdown tells all.  The end of Artemis I comes 50 years to the day that Apollo 17 landed on the moon for the start of their operations there.  In fact, 50 years back from the time I'm writing this, the first Apollo 17 moon walk was starting. 

"Splashdown! From Tranquility Base to Taurus-Littrow to the tranquil waters of the Pacific, the latest chapter of NASA's journey to the moon comes to a close: Orion back on Earth," NASA spokesperson Rob Navias said during the agency's livestream of the event on Sunday.

Of course, Tranquility Base was the name Apollo 11 gave to their landing site and Taurus-Littrow was the area that Apollo 17 explored.  These two bookends marked the first and last Apollo moon landings.  Invoking a tie to the Apollo program shows up nearly everywhere in Artemis literature.

NASA's Orion Spacecraft descends toward the Pacific this morning, local time.  NASA Photo.

I don't think I need to talk about the difficulties the program had getting to liftoff; we followed those in real time from last summer until November 16th's launch.  While they have tons of data to go over that will undoubtedly take months to process, and it seems unlikely we'll see Artemis II until late '24 or early '25, everything I've been able to keep up with has shown that things went very well, and the problems that did arise were minor.  

There were novelties and records set during the mission, although those are secondary to the fact that they did what they needed to do to prove out their hardware and mission profiles.  The mission seems to have been a resounding success.  Something I don't quite grasp, probably because I've never heard of it and could use to see some pictures, was a difference in the way they re-entered the atmosphere. 

Shortly after entering Earth's atmosphere, Orion left again, bouncing off the upper layers of air like a rock skipping off the surface of a pond. This "skip maneuver," which no human-rated spacecraft had ever performed before, allows the capsule to cover greater distances and land more precisely during reentry, NASA officials have said.

My vague memories of reading about Apollo re-entries from over 50 years ago all seem to be that "bouncing off the upper layers of the atmosphere" was to be considered a Bad Thing, and if an Apollo capsule did skip off the atmosphere, it wasn't likely to come back into the atmosphere.  Since I really doubt the physics of reentry have changed, our understanding of that physics and how to use it to best advantage must have.  

Well, it's a good day for congratulating the various teams spread across the globe that made this happen.  Good summaries at and Ars Technica

Saturday, December 10, 2022

About That Messed Up Antenna - Conclusion

Back in mid-November, I told the story about one of my antennas being messed up and discovering it almost accidentally when I got the tower repaired and back up.  

The bottom line about that was that there was a Delrin (plastic) insulator that had gotten damaged by my overtightening a screw holding a few connections to one side of the antenna.  In there, I say I'm not sure exactly how to fix it and that's pretty much where we left the topic.  

In the next day or two, I contacted the manufacturer of the antenna kit, Directive Systems & Engineering (all commercial antennas are kits to some degree) and explained what happened.  The owner, Terry (W8ZN).  Terry told me in the year since I bought my antenna they had been starting to transition to using pressed-in, threaded inserts in the plastic specifically for this sort of problem because it had come up a few times.  He offered to send me some of the new standoffs, no charge, so that I could get the work done before Thanksgiving.  Those arrived on Saturday, November 19th, which was the day of my bike accident.  A minor problem was that Terry told me by email that day that he thought he had a brain fart and sent me the wrong size standoffs (from a different model antenna).  He told me to check the length of the replacements versus the originals and sure enough they were wrong. He then said to hang on for another few days for the correct ones.  He shipped USPS Priority Mail both times and ate the cost.

Unfortunately, that Tuesday was the day the effects of my concussion from the bike accident became evident and I spent it in the ER.  The standoffs ended up taking longer to get here, until this past Monday (12/5), but I wouldn't have been able to work on the antenna tower the previous week due to the dizziness from the concussion.   

That's a long story, but it sets up my being able to say it took until Thursday for me to be stable enough to stand up, use a ladder and do all the other steps to getting the antenna  working.  I'm happy to say that I was able to replace the standoffs, taking the feedpoint of the antenna apart and rebuilding it Thursday morning, and then after waiting until the heat of the day was past, getting the tower back up and in place later on Thursday.  This is the Before picture from the first post I linked to.  I don't have an after picture of this area.  It's hard to tell a difference looking at it, though.  The main visible difference is that I coated the area with the recommended Krylon clear coat after cleaning off some of the aluminum corrosion.

Instead of an after photograph, I have before and after network analyzer plots of the antenna's performance.  

I've yet to figure out how to combine before and after scans in the NanoVNA software I mentioned before, so I used my older AIM 4170.  Plots from that single port antenna analyzer have appeared here before.  

Because there's three traces per sweep and a half dozen sweeps, it's a bit cluttered.  The VSWR plot is in red, Z (impedance) magnitude is in green and Z phase angle in purple. Green and purple can be ignored.  All but the last one of these plots were taken with tower leaning over, supported by a wooden ladder and the back of the yagi (director) about 4' off the ground.  The antenna was pointing about 25 degrees south of vertical. At the very left edge of the plot, 50.0 to 50.250, you can see a bunch of traces with a slight orange-red looking line a little above the redder bunch.  That's after I put the tower back up and the antenna was about 25' above ground, parallel to the ground, and pointing south. 

The VSWR from 50 to over 52.0 is < 2:1, and around 1.15:1 where I spend the most time.  I don't even use the radio's builtin antenna tuner on this band.  Because the scale is a different, it's easier to read in this plot from the NanoVNA-App.  Bottom right hand plot shows VSWR.

The last couple of days have been the first time since hurricane Ian back on September 29th that the station has been fully usable, so being back to normal is a refreshing change.  I've been playing on various bands since Thursday afternoon.  

Oh, and you may have gathered that the dizziness from the (probably) BPPV after the concussion is around 90% gone.  Certain motions mess me up, but I haven't taken one of the pills in several days, and can go hours without noticing it.