Friday, March 31, 2023

Weekly Small Space News Story Roundup 5

As always, a handful of stories that caught my eye but I don't have a page worth to say about them. 

Rocket Lab resumes booster recovery work

On Friday the 24th, Rocket Lab launched two BlackSky optical Earth-imaging satellites from their facility on the north island of New Zealand.  Instead of attempting helicopter recovery of the returning booster by grappling it with a helicopter, they allowed the booster to fall into the Pacific.  It's part of a longer term study comparing results of helicopter recovery vs. allowing it to be immersed in saltwater and then cleaned out. 

The booster was expected to reach a top speed of 5,150 mph (8,300 kilometers per hour). Aerodynamic drag slowed the rocket’s velocity as external temperatures built up to 4,350 degrees Fahrenheit (2,400 degrees Celsius). Then a drogue chute and main chute deployed to slow the booster’s descent for splashdown. Rocket Lab confirmed the booster reached the Pacific Ocean as intended.

Rocket Lab has recovered six Electron boosters since the first try in November 2020. Four were intentionally recovered from the ocean, and two involved a helicopter catch attempt. The company originally aimed to catch boosters with the helicopter to prevent corrosion on the rocket’s engines and avionics from sea water.

Murielle Baker, a Rocket Lab spokesperson, said “It turns out Electron survives a swim in the ocean well enough that many of its components actually pass re-qualification for flight, so for this mission we are putting the theory to the test of whether we need a helicopter at all.”  Part of the experiment will have the recovery ship flush critical parts of the booster, such as its Rutherford engines, with fresh water to get the salt out of areas most susceptible to the damage.  

Once the booster is back at Rocket Lab’s Auckland factory, the company will disassemble and inspect the nine main engines and remove avionics for examination and re-testing. Rocket Lab has already hot-fired a Rutherford engine recovered from an Electron flight and found it passed all tests to fly again.

In the longer term, they're studying what can or should be redesigned to make it more tolerant of the saltwater environment.

ULA's Centaur Upper Stage has an anomaly during mechanical testing

In Tweet dated Wednesday, ULA CEO Tory Bruno relayed that the Vulcan's upper stage suffered "an anomaly" without specifically saying what happened.

When asked for more details, such as what sort of test it was undergoing, he simply said, “Extreme structural load testing of various worst possible conditions” and added in another tweet that this was "very unlikely" to have implications for the Centaur to be used for Vulcan's debut flight.  Considering the flight is penciled in for No Earlier Than May 4, less than five weeks from today, most anything would affect that unless it was clearly some error in the testing or setup that didn't damage the Centaur V.

Remember the infinite improbability drive?  

Meet GigaGalactic Rockets, a company that states, "our mission is to make the galaxy accessible to all. We envision a future where space travel is as commonplace as air travel, and where people can explore the cosmos freely and without limitations." 

To do that, they are working on creating the GigaGalactic Improbability Drive (GGID), a concept first popularized by space travel theorist Douglas Adams.  Essentially, if you examine the probabilities of being anywhere in the universe, there are only two places you can assign the probability of being.  The probability of being where you are is 1.0.  Conversely, the least likely place you could be is the place you want to go because if you were there, you wouldn't want to go there.  While practically you may not want to go anywhere else, there's a very large number of places with very low probability you'd want to be.  The probability of being where you want to go is 0.0.  If it could be done this simply, you could feed the probabilities of every location in the universe into an inverter making the highest probability being where you want to go.  By using quantum observation principles and manipulating probabilities you're virtually certain to get where you want to go, although you might be a different species when you get there.  

Briefly, their GGID works this way:

  • The drive calculates the improbability of a spacecraft reaching a desired destination and then inverts it, making the highly improbable event highly probable.
  • The heart of the GGID is the Improbability Field Generator (IFG), a device that creates a localized field of improbability around the spacecraft. The IFG utilizes a mixture of quantum entanglement, zero-point energy, and finely tuned Heisenberg Compensators to manipulate the probability of specific outcomes.
  • Central to the GGID is the Infinite Improbability Matrix (IIM), a complex computational system designed to calculate the exact improbability of a given event. The IIM factors in variables such as spatial coordinates, velocity, mass, and even the current emotional state of any sentient beings on board. The IIM integrates high-level quantum computing and probabilistic algorithms to determine the improbability factors required for instantaneous travel.
  • Once the IIM has calculated the precise improbability factors, the Probability Inversion Mechanism (PIM) comes into play. Utilizing advanced probability manipulation techniques, the PIM inverts the improbability factors, effectively transforming the highly improbable event (arriving at the destination instantaneously) into a highly probable one.


  1. SiG, you broke the rules. It is March 31st, not April 1st. Really, Infinite Improbability Drive?

    1. I was thinking of making it a 3-day weekend, like the Big holidays.

    2. LOL, three days of foolery? I might get it confused with reality which often seems like an April's Fool.

  2. Every significantly advanced technology is indistinguishable from an April Fool's joke.

  3. RIP, Douglas Adams.
    Zayphod Beebelbrox is proud o' ya!