Thursday, August 31, 2023

Psst - Wanna See the Luna-25 Crash Site?

(While waiting to see if SpaceX gets off their 9th launch in August...) 

The details aren't great.  OK, the details are nonexistent but we have before and after photos of an area on the moon that Russia's Roscosmos agency said to look at for changes.  

This animated GIF is two photos from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) taken on June 27, 2022, and Aug. 24, 2023 – before and after the appearance of a new impact crater likely from Russia’s Luna-25 mission. (Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University)

There's obviously a new impact crater there that showed up between the first and second photos, and it's reasonable to wonder if it's really from Russia's Luna-25 instead of a random piece of rock.  NASA apparently concludes that this sort of change is rare enough that when they find it where Roscosmos told them to look, they believe they found the impact site of Luna-25 and not from a rock.

LRO's handlers went looking for Luna-25's grave, using an estimated impact site provided by Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. 

The LRO team imaged the area with the probe's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) on Aug. 24, then compared the new photos with pictures of the same region captured previously by LROC, most recently in June 2022. This work revealed a bright, fresh crater on the moon that was gouged out in the past 14 months.

"Since this new crater is close to the Luna-25 estimated impact point, the LRO team concludes it is likely to be from that mission, rather than a natural impactor," NASA officials said in a statement today (Aug. 31) announcing the find.

The new crater is about 33 feet wide and lies at about 58 degrees south latitude. The impact site is roughly 250 miles (400 kilometers) from Luna-25's planned landing site, which lies at 69.5 degrees south latitude.  

Luna-25 launched on Aug. 10, kicking off the first Russian moon mission since 1976, when the nation was still part of the Soviet Union. The new mission's name was an attempt to recall those proud bygone days; the 1976 effort, a successful sample-return mission, was called Luna-24.

It was said in that linked article that "Luna-25 will kick off a new and ambitious Russian moon program, if all goes according to plan."  Since it didn't all go according to plan, I have to wonder how that ambitious thinking gets affected.



Wednesday, August 30, 2023

A Blustery Day

The storm stayed well offshore of the West Coast and I doubt we had even a tenth of an inch of rain.  About a week ago, I stumbled across a new radio station (or one that changed its programming) playing "soft rock" (not what I ordinarily listen to).  By a freak of timing, they were playing an ear worm that stuck with me.  Out of respect for all y'all, I won't tell you what it was but it reminded me of a cartoon I saw long, long ago: Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.  That alone will be enough to remind some of you of the song.  Sorry.

That's what it was today, a blustery day.  Breezy with spritzes of rain.  While I sang verses of the song to myself, I tried to keep it out of earshot for Mrs. Graybeard.  I doubt we had a tenth inch of rain, and the winds pretty much obeyed the forecast I'd seen on the local NOAA weather site.  Steady winds stayed at 25 or below every time I looked, and the highest gusts I saw were around 40; both of those were exactly what they predicted.  Power never flickered, nor did internet.  I don't see a thing to clean up.  

The various space-news places I look at only had one interesting piece; Ars Technica has this story on how SpaceX went about recycling fairings for their Falcon 9s. 

When we talk about recovering boosters, hundreds of images come to mind, and everyone understands the advantages of that.  It literally saves SpaceX millions of dollars every time they recover one of those boosters.  Right now, the fleet leaders are at 16 successful flights; originally they said they wanted 10 flights.  Now they've stated they're looking at 20 as the next milestone.  Maybe 30?  With regular maintenance, like a commercial aircraft, is there a limit?  

But there's more rocket left that could conceivably be saved.  They had an engineering team evaluate what they'd have to do to recover the second stages and decided they're throw away too much capability; that is, they'd give up too many pounds to orbit.  

But what about the payload fairing? These are built in two pieces through a laborious process of laying down composite materials, not dissimilar to papier-mâché. The manufacture of fairings is time-consuming, and it costs about $6 million to produce both halves.

Musk famously told the engineering department, "You have six million bucks falling from the sky," figure out a way to go get that money.  And they did.  The problem was they didn't do it smartly and didn't get all the fairings.  You probably remember their first attempts involving ships with big nets and parachutes with built in gliders.  A system that looked like this:

Photo credit: Kiko Dontchev/SpaceX/YouTube

The problem was, to quote Kiko Dontchev, vice president of launch at SpaceX:

"The reality is, most of the time, it's a choppy hot mess with 7- to 9-foot waves, a super short period, and a ton of wind," Dontchev said. "So even though we caught it once, our actual success rate for bringing fairings home was quite low. It was under 50 percent, 40 percent. Our ability to get fairings ready to fly was choking our launch rate."

Eventually, they noticed that the fairings were pretty much fiberglass boats.  They floated.  With some redesign, they helped ensure that the parts that might be damaged by saltwater intrusion were less likely to have that happen, and they started letting the fairings splash down into the ocean and pick them out.  

As a result, SpaceX now has the opposite problem.  They're running out of room. 

"We have more fairings than we have space," Dontchev said. "Fairings are a thing we don't even come close to talking about when it's time for launch. They're always ready, no problem."

This is what success looks like.  

But that's not really the emphasis of the article.  The emphasis is on the process they use for design. 

"When you're fundamentally innovating a new technology, you're wrong," he said. "It's just a question of how wrong. Because your ability to learn is changing constantly. So where you start is certainly not where you're going to end up."

The algorithm begins with two steps: "make the requirements less dumb" and "delete the part or process step." This basically means engineers should think outside of the box and challenge existing requirements. They should then ask whether they're solving the right problem.

Photo credit: Kiko Dontchev/SpaceX/YouTube

If you're a longtime regular reader, this may sound vaguely familiar.  Two years ago, we heard basically the same exact thing from Elon Musk through his interviews with Everyday Astronaut Tim Dodd.



Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Yes, the KSC/CCSFS Complex is Shutdown

Although with each successive update the track of Idalia has slipped a little to the west, with the kind of time and money invested in hardware and people to get ready to launch, it's reasonable to slip your launches until the weather is more optimal.  As recently as yesterday morning (August 28), United Launch Alliance tweeted that this morning would be the launch of an NROL payload, NROL107 also called SILENTBARKER. 

ULA decided by yesterday evening to roll the vehicle back to their Vertical Integration Facility for safety.  Since tomorrow is expected to be the peak of negative conditions on the Space Coast, I can't imagine them being ready to go earlier than Friday, although no launch date or time has been given.  

This will be the final Atlas V launch for the NROL as both ULA and their customer plan to move to the Vulcan Centaur.  The Atlas V has performed 17 previous launches for the National Reconnaissance Office.  It will also be the most powerful version of the Atlas V, the 551 where the numbers describe 5 strap-on GEM-63 solid rocket boosters built by Northrop Grumman and a 5-meter long fairing (which is considered the "short" fairing in the Atlas V world).  The vehicle is approximately 196 feet tall with the short fairing.

As of Tuesday evening, the next launch from the Cape Canaveral facilities is set to be a SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying the next load of Starlink satellites, called Starlink Group 6-13.  Launch will be Thursday evening at 7:50 PM EDT from SLC-40. 

A side note to this last item is that we had clear skies to watch Saturday night's launch of another batch of Starlink satellites from SLC-40, and it was the first launch we had been able to see clearly in weeks.  The fun fact is that this put the total number of launched Starlink satellites over five thousand; to be precise, 5,005.  



Monday, August 28, 2023

India's Chandrayaan-3 Sends First Measured Temperatures

India's Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander Vikram and its rover Pragyan have sent back the first ever directly measured temperatures at the far southern latitude where it has landed, thanks to its instrument called ChaSTE (Chandra's Surface Thermophysical Experiment).  Not just at the surface but as far down as 80mm, or just over 3".

I see this as one of the most important reasons for the emphasis on landing near the south pole.  While the surface wouldn't be comfortable at (rough reading) 60C or 140F, the temperatures at the mid-latitudes where the Apollo missions landed were far beyond uncomfortable.  The midday temperatures at the lunar equator can reach 250F and plummet to nearly -210F at night.  

More importantly, the lunar soil or regolith must be a very effective insulator.  Just below the surface around 50mm, a mere two inches, the temperature dropped to 25C - the widely cited "room temperature" in thousands of applications - or 77F.   Another inch and a skosh deeper, 80mm down, and the temperature is -10C or 14F.  Unheard of in my part of Florida, but could be a pleasant winter day in much of the world.  Not bikini weather nor car washing weather but who's counting?

The race to the lunar south pole is on.  I've seen a number of published references to Chandrayaan-3 having landed AT the south pole.  No, it's around 70 degrees south latitude, the pole would be at -90.  Here in our southern hemisphere, 70 degrees south touches the northernmost land in Antarctica but the vast majority of Antarctica is south of 70 degrees (good, but small graphic at that Wikipedia link).  The reason for the emphasis on going to the south pole is primarily the water ice that has been been verified to be near both poles. 

Based upon SOFIA data, scientists estimated there could be as much as 12 ounces of water for every one cubic meter (just over 35 cubic feet) of lunar soil at the southern pole of the moon.

According to the Planetary Society, when considering Chandrayaan-1 and LRO data, the two lunar poles harbor over 600 million tons of water ice. That's enough to fill around 240,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. 

And this, experts say, is a low-end estimate. 

In addition to being a survival necessity, water can be hydrolyzed to hydrogen and oxygen.  Oxygen is valuable itself; the two can be rocket fuel.  A secondary reason that seems to be a good thing is that insulating a habitat for living at the poles will be far easier than doing that at mid-latitudes.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

We Interrupt Your Week

My coming week has been derailed and interrupted by the typical major disruption this time of year, a hurricane should pass by Tuesday evening.  Which means I need to prepare for some work that will probably need to be done. 

The storm, if you haven't been watching weather for outside your local area, is currently Tropical Storm Idalia (someone said that's pronounced ee-DAL-ya) which has been developing slowly around the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.  The "big picture" of high and low pressure systems that steer these things has finally changed, as the long range models have been saying it would, and after days in one small area, moving around at 2 or 3 mph, it looks like it's going to scoot north and northeast.  

The most recent update to the National Hurricane Center prediction shows the currently predicted path is this:

The center of the storm looks to be coming ashore early Wednesday morning in an area of Florida usually called The Big Bend.  Notice (in the middle column at the bottom of the map, marked "Current Information") that it's currently moving 3 mph.  Compare the distances between the first and second locator dots, labeled 7 PM Sun and 1 PM Mon, and the two dots marked 1 PM Tue and 1 AM Wed.  The first interval, much shorter distance, is 18 hours.  The second two are 12 hours apart.  It is going to speed up quite a bit.

There are a couple of small towns or cities around where that track crosses the shore, and the closest seems to be Steinhatchee. 

I live south of Cape Canaveral, the bump on the east coast about halfway up.  That track is nowhere near me.  So what's the big deal?  

The first thing is that in my reading about this storm, I ran into a meteorologist saying yesterday that the forecast is low confidence because a regular pass of a satellite that can measure wind speed had not happened on Saturday and the hurricane hunter planes that fly through the storms taking data were out east flying through hurricane Franklin.  The satellite pass and a dedicated hurricane hunter mission were supposed to happen today, but the major computer models are run only a few times per day and it might look different on Monday.  

Then there's this forecast, the probability of tropical-storm-force winds for a given area.  It shows about a 25% chance (the light green color is 20-30%) of us getting TS winds.  Another chart on the data site says the arrival time is predicted to be Tuesday in the late afternoon to evening.  The other, much bigger contour map of tropical storm winds to the east of Florida is hurricane Franklin.

Last September, hurricane Ian blasted the southwest coast of Florida and knowing we weren't going to get the full hurricane, just tropical storm winds, I underplayed the serious potential of the tropical storm.  I was stupid and as a result spent from the end of September until late May fixing my ham radio tower installation.  There were some interruptions, like not being to work on it for six weeks due to my stomach surgery, so it's not like I was working on it every day, whatever, I just have no desire to go through that again.

At this point, it looks like I'll get a closer look at things tomorrow.  If the big picture doesn't get any better, I expect to take down the tower and antennas on Tuesday.  If the situation improves, perhaps I don't do that; if the situation degrades, that work may move to Monday. 

Saturday, August 26, 2023

To Err is Human...

I went through that phase of growing up where we start being called adults with a saying that started like that, but instead of ending with "to forgive, divine" it went:

To err is human but to really foul things up requires a computer.

Yes, it was the early days of computers, when the first microprocessor chips were coming out and as part of my daily job, I might have to enter a boot loader program in octal with toggle switches on the front panel, and once that was loaded, it would read its real program in with a paper tape machine.  It was even before the days of the sausage failure I wrote about in November of '20 (and is now, strangely enough, the #2 most read post in this blog's 13-1/2 years).  

Over the years, that has gotten used less and less - I suppose because we've gotten used to programmer's mistakes.  Nowadays, I say that quote as

To err is human but to really foul things up requires government.

Look no farther than Maui and how government at every level from Lahaina city to Maui island, to the state of Hawaii, to the has a record unblemished by never doing anything; anything down to the smallest decision, right.  "No farther?"  I suppose that depends on where you live, but from where I live Maui is quite a bit farther away than the southern border, where, again, the feds have a record of not doing anything, down to the smallest decision, right.  Or just look at how the feds and most states handled Covid with lockdowns, masks and mandatory experimental vaccines.

Let me to be full of grace and append "that I know of" to those two statements.  Unnecessary, but I hate to be like them by making obvious mistakes. 

That said, what I want to make sure people know about what the coming "Covid crisis" means - and possibly transfer some thinking about it that I think is important.  Let me start with an example of the kind of things we know now that we didn't know "the first time".  This sort of data has been flowing as more and more countries are looking at how they managed the emergency and how badly they did.  

1 in 482 means 0.2% of the people in England that received a vaccine died within one month.  1 in 246 means 0.4% died within two months (60 days).  The last one I hesitate to include with this because it's open-ended.  It means 1.4% were dead by May 2022 with no separation by how long it had been since they were vaccinated.  Some of those were probably in the one month 0.2% and some were similarly in the 0.4%.  The whole thing depends on those deaths being from the vaccine and not from something else, but with a summary like this, we have no information.

It's important to know that every drug, and every other thing we put in our bodies has some fatality rate.  The question is always risk vs. benefit.  How many of those people would have died without the vaccine?  We don't know and those records are so contaminated (at least here in the US) that I think we can't know.  I've seen several estimates for the fatality rate of the virus and don't know if any are trustworthy.  The numbers I've seen have been in the same range as these percentages. 

Would you take a vaccine with a 1.4% chance of killing you to avoid a virus with a 0.2% chance of killing you?  That seems like a bad choice.  Note that it's a totally different decision in the case of something like an Ebola virus or something with an over 90% chance of killing you.  It certainly seems like overreach to tell people they will be cut off from everything and everyone if they don't take the 1.4% chance of being killed by the Covid vaccine and that's ignoring other things we've learned the vaccines have caused.  Not just Bell's palsy - Bell's was getting off easy, I'm talking the "died suddenly" epidemic, along with stillbirths, pregnant mothers dying, cancers now showing up and far more.

Masks?  In a summary of 14 mask studies, the CDC concluded that any benefit from masks is indistinguishable from random differences between groups of people.  At the same time, the leadership was mandating everyone wear masks to protect each other.  I did a post on this back in the earlier days of Covid, November of '20 (Original article at CDC).  I've done a few posts on masks and the studies they're based on really seem to say there might be a small positive effect but they're not what most people think.  The 2020 CDC study said as much in it's first page conclusions.  In bright red. 

Screen capture of the top of the first page of study, but I've lost track of where this came from.  It's clearly a YouTube video.

Friday, August 25, 2023

SpaceX Static Fires Booster 9 Today

On Monday, as Tropical Storm Harold passed a bit to the north of Boca Chica, SpaceX continued work on Starbase upgrades, moving Booster 9 to the launch pad on Tuesday  (video should start almost 10 minutes into a 16 minute video - 9:53 in, but it's not critical) and then lifting it off the SPMT (Self-Propelled Motorized Transport) (I think) and onto the OLM (Orbital Launch Mount).  

It didn't take long for them to set up for a spin prime test on Wednesday, which apparently went flawlessly.

They apparently took Thursday to go over the results and verify they were ready to do a second static firing of B9, presumably to make sure it doesn't have the same errors as the static firing earlier in the month that had four engines shut down early and the entire vehicle shut down at 2.74 seconds instead of burning the entire planned five seconds. 

This morning, I was emailed a notice by NASASpaceflight saying SpaceX was planning a static firing today, and started their feed in a browser tab a little after 11:00 AM ET.  The static firing was at 1:35 PM ET.  

Screen capture from SpaceX coverage of the test.

Full video of the test is here, starting at 7:53 in the video and T-30 seconds.  A shorter video with more views is from NASASpaceflight here.  Within the first few minutes after the test, Elon Musk tweeted that it was a successful test and the NASA Spaceflight coverage said it appeared that the test was full duration. Late in the day, SpaceX confirmed that, tweeting:

Super Heavy Booster 9 static fire successfully lit all 33 Raptor engines, with all but two running for the full duration. Congratulations to the SpaceX team on this exciting milestone!

When you watch the coverage, you'll see a small water jet start to run at about T-20 seconds and the big deluge system starts up at about T-5 seconds.  The engines start to light at T-2 seconds and then it's hard to see.

Before the live coverage on NASASpaceflight ended, the chopsticks moved from above B9 over to the side and down to the position that another SPMT might come to - presumably to lift S25 and stack it on top of the booster.  

So what's next?  Elon has said that he wants to launch "soon", perhaps in a couple of weeks.  There's a Notice to Mariners [pdf] for "approximately September 8" citing "rocket launching activities," but we can't jump to the conclusion it's the launch date.  The FAA has to complete its review of the Mishap Investigation Report that SpaceX submitted last week.  Considering the pace at which agencies work, as opposed to the pace SpaceX operates, the FAA might have read the table of contents.  Then add in that the DOJ has sued SpaceX over not hiring enough undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers; we just don't know if that will slow things or not.



Thursday, August 24, 2023

Another Story on the Space Junk Problem

Ahead of a UN meeting on reducing the threats of space junk, member states of the European Union, but not the EU itself, have pledged not to conduct destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite tests.  The EU itself says they don't have the competencies to sign such a statement.

A "direct-ascent" anti-satellite weapon (DA-ASAT) is one designed to be launched from the ground directly to space in order to destroy a satellite.  

In a document [pdf alert] recently published by the U.N. Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on Reducing Space Threats, a “joint contribution” by the E.U. included a commitment by its 27 member states not to perform such ASAT tests, which can generate significant amounts of debris. Breaking Defense first reported on the document.

Both China and Russia have tested such systems.  In November of 2021, Russia destroyed a defunct satellite with a DA-ASAT, leading the US to end testing of those weapons.  The Russian test created 1600 to 1800 pieces of debris.  China did a DA-ASAT test in 2007, although the source articles don't have a number for the amount of pieces it created. 

Twelve countries followed the U.S., including five E.U. members: Austria, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. A U.N. General Assembly resolution encouraging countries to adopt similar bans won backing from 155 nations last December.

Overall, it's hard to think countries voluntarily restricting their testing is a Bad Thing.  The effects of the debris from an ASAT weapon, though, don't seem to be limited to Direct Ascent.  If some form of ASAT weapon is placed on orbit, and satellites are turned into debris fields, the cascade of debris hitting other things in space forming even more debris is going to happen.  It doesn't have to come from a DA-ASAT weapon.  Wars have a tendency to expand to everything that could help win, and a thick cloud of debris started when lots of surveillance - or other - satellites were targeted could end access to space.

This is where we really need MegaMaid as depicted in Spaceballs.  MegaMaid's "vacuum of space" would be just the thing to get all those fast moving pieces of debris. 

Movie photo of MegaMaid from IMDB.



Wednesday, August 23, 2023

When You Know the Big News Story

Everyone knows the big news for the day because everyone seems to be covering that India's Chandrayaan-3 successfully landed on the moon this morning (Eastern US time).  India becomes the fourth nation in world history to soft land a probe on the moon and the first to land as close to the south pole as they did, essentially 70 degrees south latitude.  Congratulations to the ISRO on the success!  

Since everyone knows that, it's relevant to pass along other stories.

Following a successful flight readiness review, NASA and SpaceX have approved the Crew 7 mission for flight, with launch set for 3:49 AM ET on Friday, the morning of 8/25.  

The international crew for this mission is NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli (Mission Commander), European Spacey Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen (Pilot),  Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Satoshi Furukawa (Mission Specialist), and Russian cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov (Mission Specialist).

The normal protocol for these missions is that when Crew 7 docks with the ISS the four astronauts will team up with their counterparts on Crew 6 for briefing on things they need to know.  This lasts for "a couple" of days, then Crew 6 will board their Dragon and return to Earth.  The length of a crew rotation on the ISS is typically around six months.  They launched on March 2, so add six months ...  The official date for splashdown is September 1st. 

As I write this, SpaceX has just completed a spin prime test of Booster 9 at Boca Chica.  NASA Spaceflight is covering the event live with narration, as usual, but the video URL will be different tomorrow.  

This evening (again, Eastern Time) Rocket Lab launched a mission from New Zealand; the mission, called We Love the Nightlife, carried a satellite called Acadia for the company Capella Space.  Capella specializes in Synthetic Aperture Radar, and SAR's ability to image things "where (or when) the sun don't shine" is the root of mission's name.  

The headline (although they'd never say that) was that one of the nine Rutherford booster engines was the first reused Rutherford to fly.  The engine first flew over a year ago, May of '22, and has been extensively tested on the ground.  The booster from tonight's mission was recovered at sea, as was the case in their previous flight.  They're moving toward reusing everything but that takes time.  It took SpaceX a lot of flights to land and reuse Falcon 9 boosters.  

An image capture from Rocket Lab's webcast.  Image credit: Rocket Lab.



Tuesday, August 22, 2023

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Clearspace-1

Clearspace-1 is a mission being planned by the European Space Agency aimed at testing and refining ways to clear orbital debris.  The spacecraft itself is being developed by a Swiss startup called ClearSpace and the mission has been tentatively targeted for 2026, with its target being an adapter used on an ESA mission in 2013.  

The adapter is a conical-shaped leftover, roughly 250 pounds (113 kg) in mass, from a 2013 Vega launch that sent a small fleet of satellites into orbit.

While the 250 pound leftover has been in orbit since 2013, the mission is a recent idea as the proliferation of satellites in orbit has focused attention on clearing debris out of low earth orbit.  The target orbits at an altitude as low as 410 miles (660 km).

Mission planners have produced this animation of the spider-like Clearspace craft capturing the adapter.

So what's the "funny thing" that happened to the mission?  Apparently, the target has been struck by something in orbit.  Collisions are exactly why they want to get it out of orbit.

Space tracking systems found new objects nearby the adapter, which ESA learned about on Aug. 10. The objects are likely space debris from a "hypervelocity impact of a small, untracked object" that smacked into the payload adapter, the agency said. We may never know if the crashing object was natural or artificial, given it didn't appear in tracking systems.

"This fragmentation event underlines the relevance of the ClearSpace-1 mission," ESA officials wrote in a statement Tuesday (Aug. 22). "The most significant threat posed by larger objects of space debris is that they fragment into clouds of smaller objects, that can each cause significant damage to active satellites."

While it appears only a small piece of the rocket hardware was lost after the collision, the mission plan assumed fully intact hardware. Now evaluations are ongoing to figure out what's next, and the analysis will persist for weeks at the least.

With the mission penciled in for '26, they have time to analyze what's really up there and change their plans appropriately.

Luckily, however, follow-up tracking from the U.S. Space Force and other stations in Germany and Poland found "the main object remains intact and has experienced no significant alteration to its orbit," ESA said. And happily, the risk of these new objects hitting something else is "negligible."

The approach Clearspace-1 uses is apparently to latch onto the target and slow it enough to get it to re-enter the atmosphere.  That seems to only be realistic for larger objects like this adapter.  There's more than that in orbit and this approach looks expensive; after all, it will latch onto the target and then burn itself up along with the target.  There's a staggering number of pieces to deal with, since it has been getting put up there for nearly 70 years with no real efforts to get rid of it. 

ESA estimates that Earth orbit has at least 36,500 debris objects that are more than 4 inches (10 centimeters) wide. Including the smallest trackable objects, that number balloons to an incredible 330 million objects bigger than 0.04 inches (1 millimeter).

Remember also that a lot of meteors are swept up by Earth every day; NASA estimates 48.5 tons of meteoritic material falls on Earth each day.  Before a meteor gets to the surface, it goes through all that junk in orbit and can affect it.  ESA pretty much said they don't know if it was hit by another piece of junk or something like a chunk of meteor.

Monday, August 21, 2023

With Russia's Luna-25 Gone, Next Up is Chandrayaan-3

The supposed race between Russia's Luna-25 and India's Chandrayaan-3 ended over the weekend when (apparently) one or more incorrect commands were sent to Luna-25 to lower its intended orbit in preparation for its landing attempt and resulted in loss of the spacecraft.  This happened Saturday morning the 19th US East Coast time.

At around the same time, Chandrayaan-3 was testing its Lander Hazard Detection and Avoidance Camera (LHDAC) by photographing the far side of the moon.  The LHDAC was designed to help guide the mission's Vikram lander to a safe landing site during its descent onto the lunar surface. 

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) released the images via X, the social media service formerly named Twitter, on Monday (Aug. 21).

The series of four Chandrayaan-3 images were taken on Saturday (Aug. 19) and show a range of geological features, including vast impact craters that cast varying degrees of shadows and lunar mare, or "seas" of cooled moon lava.


Assuming that the stories about Luna-25 are correct, it's not a sure thing that it could have landed successfully - just as it's not a sure thing that Chandrayaan-3 can land either.  The terrain is rough; those who remember Apollo 11 will recall that while approaching touchdown on the moon, Neil Armstrong took manual control of the LEM to avoid some larger things in the field they were approaching.  The large lunar plain Apollo 11 was landing on, the Sea of Tranquility, was chosen to improve the chances of not encountering obstacles like those for the first landing.  

India's previous attempt to land on the moon, Chandrayaan-2, Israel's attempt with SpaceIL's Beresheet lander and Japan's Hakuto-R all failed due to the problems of landing without an intelligent pilot looking at the terrain and adapting the flight to it.  The ISRO's approach is this LHDAC vision system. 

"This camera that assists in locating a safe landing area — without boulders or deep trenches — during the descent is developed by ISRO at SAC," ISRO stated.

If Chandrayaan-3 and its mission "partner," the Vikram rover, survive their landing, they will spend an entire lunar day, approximately 14 Earth days, doing science in the landing area.  If it is successful, India will be the first nation since China to join the roster of countries that have successfully landed on the moon.  For now.  Next up to try is going to be Japan.  Their Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) is scheduled to lift off on a H-2A rocket on Aug. 26 from Tanegashima Space Center.  There's suddenly a lot of interest in the moon again.



Sunday, August 20, 2023

Atlantic Hurricane Season Beginning to Warm Back Up

After the early beginning to the Atlantic hurricane season that was briefly talked about here in June it quieted down.  Some of that was Saharan dust over the Atlantic (a frequent occurrence, if not so regular we can set our watches by it) and some of that due to other unfavorable conditions.  I recall watching two or three disturbances that were given very large chances of development but that never did coalesce into storms.  

That has changed in the last week and the big picture has begun to look more like late August in terms of activity.  This map from the 2PM update (EDT) shows a couple of things worth noting.  First, note "SIX" in the middle; that's Tropical Depression six - they don't get named until they achieve tropical storm level.  There are two named storms on the map, Emily and Franklin.  Franklin was named today while Emily was named last night.  Before that, they were large areas like the two with an X in them (and varying colors, denoting chance of development as seen in the drawing key).  A storm named Emily, then is the fifth storm of the year that made it to Tropical Storm level (since E is the fifth letter of the alphabet).

Compare that to Tropical Storm Hilary in the eastern Pacific currently bringing rain to southern California.  H is the eighth letter of the alphabet, so the Pacific basin has had more tropical storms than the Atlantic. 

You can't watch anything related to the tropics without someone mentioning sea surface temperatures are "above normal" this year - probably due to last year's Hunga Tonga volcanic explosion as many have said.  Sea surface temperatures are certainly a requirement for tropical storm formation; in fact, they may be a "sine qua non" ("without this, nothing" - to borrow the Latin) but to talk about temperatures without saying other things are necessary is like elementary school science.  It's leaving important things out.  The air rising from the hot sea surface must also rise relatively undisturbed.  Wind shear will destroy a tropical storm as surely as cool temperatures will prevent one from even starting.  The exact strength and development of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a critical part of this.   

Which brings us to another chart of these two tropical storms, their predicted paths and strengths.

First, long time hurricane watchers will note that they're turning into the north Atlantic hundreds of miles east of where storms tend to do that.  The early turn to the N or NE is not uncommon in El Nino years as we're in now.  Note the prediction is for Emily to not make hurricane strength, but to weaken to Depression level by 2AM Tuesday and then become post-tropical.  Franklin is predicted to achieve hurricane strength by Thursday afternoon.  I'll have to watch the updates to these predictions because it's not over until the storm dissipates but the trend seems to sending both storms to the northern and eastern Atlantic.  We call those fish storms. 

An entire year of fish storms would be welcome.  

The orange area over the Gulf of Mexico has been predicted to possibly make it to tropical storm status before going into Texas for almost a week (ISTM).  I don't like the colored area covering SpaceX Boca Chica but I don't like it when the predictions are here over the Space Coast, either.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Small Space News Story Roundup 18

Russia's Luna-25 Mission Is In Trouble 

This morning (7:10 AM US Eastern time) while attempting to execute an orbit change into the desired orbit to land from, Russia's Luna 25 probe encountered a problem around the required engine burn.  Information is almost nonexistent; the Russian space agency Roscosmos was very sparse in it's statement. 

However, during the planned maneuver “an emergency situation occurred on board the automatic station, which did not allow the maneuver to be performed with the specified parameters,” according to a translation of the statement. “The management team is currently analyzing the situation.”

That's it.  While the Space News (.com) take is that we don't know with certainty that this will interfere with the attempt to land, it seems likely at the very least to affect the scheduled orbit it would attempt to land from unless the problems are either very minor or very quickly resolved.  

Artist's rendering of Luna-25 on the moon.  Image credit: Roscosmos 

Falcon 9 Leads the World in Mass to Orbit

Hardly a surprising headline given the frequency at which they launch.  The only aspect that's even a little surprising is by just how much they lead the world.  

According to this week's Rocket Report it's not even remotely close.  

According to data from BryceTech, SpaceX lofted 214 metric tons of payload into orbit in the second quarter of 2023. Its next closest competitor was the main contractor for China's space program, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, with 23 metric tons. All told, SpaceX lifted more than three-quarters of mass—primarily Starlink satellites—into orbit during the quarter.

This is for the second quarter of the year alone, and SpaceX lifted over 9 times the mass to orbit as China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).  The numbers for the first quarter weren't exactly the same (at the same BryceTech link), but SpaceX was closer to 10 times the mass to orbit as CASC.

A sobering statistic is how the US launch industry other than SpaceX fared.  The total mass put into orbit by all other US companies was 5 metric tons in the second quarter, about 21% of the mass CASC launched and 2% of SpaceX.  

Some Even Smaller Miscellaneous Stories

Preparation for the Crew 7 mission to the ISS is proceeding nominally.  The Crew Dragon capsule Endurance was transported to pad 39A on Thursday (August 17).   Meanwhile, the Crew 8 crew started training for their mission (most likely early '24) in California.  Crew 7 is scheduled for August 25th, at 3:49 a.m. ET (07:49 UTC).  This will be the 3rd flight for Endurance after having launched Crew 3 and Crew 5.

They're currently planning two missions on calendar Tuesday (east coast time); the mission from Vandenberg is at 2:04 AM EDT and is the one that was originally intended for Friday (yesterday) morning EDT but postponed due to weather.  With Hurricane Hilary expected to bring Tropical Storm conditions to the area, weather might remain a factor.  The second of the two is from Cape Canaveral SFS, SLC-40 at 8:47 PM EDT Tuesday.

Friday, August 18, 2023

SpaceX Shares Views of Booster 9's New Hardware

SpaceX shared some views of Booster 9 with what they refer to as the "vented interstage" to allow hot staging, with two workers on the new hardware that add perspective on the size. 

The hardware is both a heat shield that one worker is sitting on top of and the collar atop the already existing booster with lots of slots left open in it to allow the flames to exit the top and reduce heating of the methane tank, the top tank in Starship.  Another worker is seen with his head and arm sticking through one of those slots just above the front left grid fin.

The interstage adapter looked like this as it was being lifted into place.  

You can see that it's a lot of empty space.  Both images from SpaceX and edited a bit by me to resize and brighten them a bit. 

"Vented interstage and heat shield installed atop Booster 9. Starship and Super Heavy are being upgraded to use a separation method called hot-staging, where Starship's second stage engines will ignite to push the ship away from the booster," the company wrote today (Aug. 18) in a post on X (formerly Twitter) that shared two photos of the new hardware.

"The superhot plasma from the upper-stage engines has gotta go somewhere," Musk told journalist Ashlee Vance in a discussion on X on June 24, during which he revealed the design change. "So we're adding an extension to the booster that is almost all vents, essentially. So that allows the the upper-stage engine plume to go through the sort of vented extension of the booster and not just blow itself up."

This set of pictures makes me lean toward my belief that the road closures on Monday (early next week) are to move B9 back to the Orbital Launch Mount for more testing.  Launch is still "out there" waiting on the FAA and perhaps the lawsuit, but this makes it look like B9 may be considered ready to roll back out to the OLM for follow-on testing.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Is the Next Starship Orbital Test Flight Coming Soon?

I wouldn't think so, but some interesting developments have come up in the last few days that are pointing in that direction.  

The biggest argument against it is in the big news.  After the unsuccessful first Orbital Flight Test, the Federal Aviation Administration said SpaceX would have to submit a mishap investigation report to the agency for review before they would be cleared to launch again.  On Tuesday the 15th the agency said they had received the report and had begun their review.  

"When a final mishap report is approved, it will identify the corrective actions SpaceX must make," an FAA spokesperson told Ars. "Separately, SpaceX must modify its license to incorporate those actions before receiving authorization to launch again.

SpaceX's filing of the mishap investigation report was first reported by Payload, a space industry news publication. The report's content hasn't been released, and SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment.

The report at Payload implies that SpaceX had delayed submitting the report until they had the result of the big static firing back on August 6 to ensure the changes they had made to the Orbital Launch Mount, and especially the most important change, the water deluge system, were proven to have worked. 

  • The water deluge system aims to prevent the scattering of rock and sand particles over miles of surrounding areas—a problem that plagued Starship’s April test flight.
  • On Aug. 6, the company successfully tested the system during a Starship Booster static fire. The demonstration turned the fire from the Raptor engines into steam, which appeared to create a cleaner, quieter, and shorter plume. 

All of that bodes well, but the FAA might consider the failure of the Flight Termination System to split the booster in half for up to 40 seconds a higher priority and the FTS upgrade would need to be certified before they could be cleared to fly.  Musk said in May that step would probably take longer than anything else in readying for the next Starship test flight.  

Another potential delay is that lawsuit that environmental groups filed against the FAA.  Need I point out how heavily the inputs from "green" organizations are weighted in the current administration?  

There's also a lawsuit filed against the FAA in May by environmental groups seeking a full environmental impact statement and study of SpaceX's launch operations in Texas before allowing Starship test flights to resume. A federal court permitted SpaceX to join the suit as a co-defendant with the FAA in July, then the company asked the court to dismiss the suit.

Depending on the definition of "full environmental impact statement," that could take a couple of years. 

In light of those obvious roadblocks and obstacles, I find it rather interesting that SpaceX requested a maritime exclusion zone from the U.S. Coast Guard for “rocket launching activities” on August 31.  I find it hard to imagine they could actually be ready to launch, although another static firing doesn't seem out of the question.   A quick check of the Cameron County road closures website doesn't have August 31 listed.  Instead it shows an 8AM to 8PM closure on Monday, August 21 with the 22nd and 23rd as alternative days. 

Booster 7 and Ship 25, just a visual reminder of what we could be seeing soon.  Photo from SpaceX on Twitter.  Just because it's a cool pic.

All in all, while I don't think there's much of a chance that anything will launch by August 31, SpaceX is closer to launching again than not.  We may see another static fire or even something we've not seen before.  The story was that Booster 9 was getting the hot staging adapter added so perhaps it's possible they'll fire the Starship while attached to Booster 9 to ensure the booster can take the few seconds of that it will get in operation. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

On Maui, Directed Energy Weapons, and Clickbait

I'm assuming I'm like lots of people in seeing the fire damages in Hawaii and feeling really sick to my stomach.  The stories coming out of there are awful, and much of the awful comes from state police, local police and military groups supposedly there to help the locals, not to make their lives harder.  I wasn't aware of some of the aspects of this as a story about perhaps major land grabbing going on until I watched videos #1 and 2 in this group at 90 Miles From Tyranny - including (in #1) the idea that Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) were being used to destroy things on Maui to drive current property owners out.

I don't want to say it's all just nonsense because of the record conspiracy theorists have of being right almost 100% of the time through Covid and about the J6 protests.  I do want to point out something I've seen that I know is wrong embodied in this Tweet.  

While I don't know offhand what the picture on the left is, the one on the right is a longer-than-typical exposure of a Falcon 9 launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in May of 2018, taken so that the rocket's trail left a light streak across the sky.  The illustration comes from Eric Berger at Ars Technica, and while I'm not very fond of how he's written this piece, he published the picture on the right and knows it better than any of us.  To me, the picture on the left looks like an explosion, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was a bombing photo from any recent war.

Even I recognized the Falcon 9 picture the moment I saw it. I'll wager that those of you who talk about having worked at Vandy or spent time around there might well recognize the scenery faster than I did. If you look at the very top of the clip, you can see the bottom of the phrase, "Vandenberg, most likely Falcon 9."  Whomever @taramspatriot is, she apparently had in front of her what the picture was and chose to use it to imply the rocket launch was a directed energy weapon.  Posting for clicks.

Everyone who has used a laser pointer or even seen one in use knows they don't leave visible trails in the air like both images imply, so why should I expect a DEW to leave one?  The few pictures I've seen of DEWs have been radio frequency sources that are used for crowd dispersal - those are completely invisible.  Of course, anyone who has actually worked on DEWs is welcome to drop observations in the comments.  My bottom line is that with the almost ideally bad weather conditions they had, they don't need DEWs to explain things - at least things I know about.  A powerline blown down or some other ignition source that would have been trivial in better weather, coupled with the strong winds across the region due to a high pressure system to the north and a low system to the south, and any fire is going to spread, pardon the expression, like wildfire.

A larger look at the SpaceX photo from May of '18.  If you know what to look for, this has long exposure written all over it.  The line of clouds the rocket goes through as well as the clouds its liftoff created are blurred from motion as are all the swells or waves in ocean.  Pictures like this "light streak" are far more common from here in Florida than out at Vandenberg.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Intuitive Machines Sets Date for Launch of Their Lunar Lander

The first private lunar landing mission to come from NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services may have just switched from the Astrobotic Peregrine to the Nova-C from Intuitive Machines.  From

The company announced Aug. 14 as part of its second quarter financial results that its IM-1 lunar lander mission is slated for launch on a Falcon 9 during a six-day window that opens Nov. 15 at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. A backup launch window is available in December.

I assume the mission designation IM-1 means Intuitive Machines One.  

The reason the Nova-C is going before Peregrine isn't some leader somewhere deciding one deserves to fly more than the other, it's that the Peregrine has been scheduled to ride on the first flight of the Vulcan Centaur and Vulcan is grounded while Falcon 9s are flying routinely - a few times per week.  Granted, LC 39A is a busy place because it gets reconfigured from Falcon 9s for Falcon Heavies or for Falcons carrying Dragon capsules, whether for cargo or crewed flights.  If ULA completes the fixes for Vulcan faster than expected and LC-39A is more backed up than expected, it could return to the original order.

As of this writing, there has not been a successful lunar landing by private company, or any entity besides the USA, the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China.  That could change by the end of this month with both India and Russia having landers enroute to the lunar south pole region.

During the quarterly earnings call, CEO Steve Altemus said the testing on the Nova-C lander for IM-1 was wrapping up and they expected to ship the lander to Cape Canaveral "in September." 

IM-1 is not only the first lunar lander mission by Intuitive Machines but also potentially the first lander as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program.

Computer rendering showing the Intuitive Machines' Nova-C lander on the surface of the moon with Earth in the background. (Image credit: Intuitive Machines)  (and yes, that is the logo of Columbia Sportswear.  Sponsorship ?) 



Monday, August 14, 2023

The C-Band Transition Approaches the Next Big Milestone

Back in 2020, the Federal Communications Commission began the process of carving some C-Band spectrum away from Satellite service providers and turning it into spectrum for ground-based 5G network services.  The plan was to clear 280 MHz of C-band spectrum (plus a 20-MHz guard band) for 5G mobile services in the contiguous United States (CONUS) as early as December 2023, with a portion of that spectrum becoming available as early as December 2021.  The frequencies chosen were in the range of  3.7 to 3.98GHz; and I assume the 20 MHz guard band are 10 MHz farther away on either end or 3.69 to 3.99 GHz.  

Since this spectrum was allocated to satellite downlinks, with the majority of it originally things like satellite TV downlinks, they devised a plan to award bonuses to the satellite companies that could comply soonest to specific dates to accomplish their "C-Band Clearing".  On this chart, those dates are the Phase I and Phase II Accelerated Relocation Deadlines of December 5, 2021 and the same calendar date in 2023.  The process is supposed to be finished two years after that, December 5, 2025.

We learned today that industry giant Intelsat has met the conditions for a $3.7 billion award this coming December for meeting the Phase II deadline.  The bonuses come from the $81 billion that the FCC collected auctioning off that spectrum; in essence, the mobile service (mobile phone) companies paid that money to the satellite companies through the FCC middleman.  Intelsat also received a smaller award, $1.2 billion, at the Phase 1 deadline in 2021. 

Weeks after launching its seventh and final C-band clearing satellite, the company said it had achieved certification for work to move broadcast customers into a narrower swath of the spectrum.

The FCC is also reimbursing Satellite providers that had to replace geostationary satellites to clear the spectrum. While Intelsat was able to move C-band services between their existing satellites, they were all approaching the end of their operational lives during the transition plan.  SpaceNews reports Intelsat’s recently launched Galaxy-37 C-band replacement satellite is slated to come online later this year to replace Galaxy-13.

Tom McNamara, senior vice president of commercial programs at Intelsat, who led its C-band clearing project, said the company finished clearing the frequencies and protecting ground earth stations from interfering with telcos in June.

The company officially certified its clearing work July 12, which the FCC automatically validated Aug. 11 after 30 days without a challenge.

Intelsat ordered six C-band replacement satellites in 2020: Two from Northrop Grumman and four — including Galaxy 31 and Galaxy 32 shown here — from Maxar. Photo credit: Maxar

I've written about 5G a few times, mostly a few years ago when it was "the new hotness," and I worked in the satellite TV business, from the early '80s when it was largely C-band through the dawn of the Ku band, small-dish, satellite TV world.  I was amazed at how out of touch I was with this development.  I still get trade magazines (which are harder to drop than you might think) but this was all news to me.  

The trade magazines tend to be talking about 6G now and not much about 5G.  I'm not aware of any 5G provider that went to highest frequencies talked about back in the 2019 time frame (24 GHz) nor any chip makers advertising 24 GHz systems.  That said, I don't think my not knowing means much.



Sunday, August 13, 2023

Small Space News Story Roundup 17

Several little stories going on; here's a couple that caught my eye.

Booster 9 Moved Back to Production Area

After last weekend's static fire test, SpaceX rolled Booster 9 back to the shipyard.  There's some debate over exactly why but one side seems to be saying it's because of the four engines that didn't fire or shut down prematurely, or that the whole test apparently went wrong by not running for the intended full five seconds.  The other side is saying that it's due to needing to install the hot staging extension for B9.  My opinion is they need to do both things and if it's better to do them in the high bay, it's not a question.  Just move the booster and get them done.  

The hot staging extension is at the Massey's test area to be put on the “Can Crusher,” which can apply vertical forces onto the ring as it would experience during flight.  Hot staging is the biggest change to the Starship system in a quite a while and that hardware needs to be proven to the level of everything else.  

More work is also being done on the water deluge system and other infrastructure at the launch site.  Overnight Wednesday to Thursday, the last of the water tanks for the new deluge system arrived at Boca Chica.

Boeing Confident They Will Complete the Six Starliner Flights NASA has Ordered

I read this more as Boeing being committed to getting Starliner certified for flight and not giving up on the program than just that they're going to make the flights.  NASA and Boeing shared the updated launch information in a press briefing on Monday, Aug. 7.

Opening the briefing, Mark Nappi, vice president and program manager of the CST-100 Starliner at Boeing, said the teams planned to have the spacecraft ready by early March. “That does not mean we have a launch date in early March, that means that we are ready with the spacecraft then, and we’re now working with the NASA Commercial Crew program, ISS, and ULA [United Launch Alliance] on potential launch dates based on our readiness,” Nappi added.

Starliner has been under development for over ten years.  Boeing announced in 2010 that they were going to be manufacturing the Boeing CST-100 under NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Space Act Agreement.  At the time, they expected the spacecraft to be operational by 2015.  In 2014, NASA selected Boeing and the relatively unknown startup called SpaceX to provide spacecraft to ferry crews and cargo to the ISS.  Boeing received $4.2 billion, and SpaceX received $2.6 billion.

Since inking the contract, NASA ordered six flights for Boeing to operate to the ISS. But the ongoing delays on top of the Station’s likely demise from 2030 have put the plan into question. However, in the press briefing, Nappi asserted there is “no reason to change our plans with the six flights, plus CST fits well into the window that we have, and there are additional flights that are available outside of those six with other customers, so I think we are still committed like we have been in the past.”

NASA added that their plan has been to have two different transportation systems to get crews to the space station.  Once Boeing is certified, they'll split crew rotation flights with SpaceX, each provider getting one launch per year. 

In this artists conceptual drawing, a Starliner, right, approaches an ISS docking port, while a Dragon capsule is docked at another docking port, top left of center.  Mack Crawford for

Saturday, August 12, 2023

A Little Me Me Me

You may have noticed I had no post Wednesday the 9th.  The peculiar part of this is that the previous Wednesday (the 2nd), I also missed a post which I explained about the next day.  It was due to a few recurring car troubles that sucked up far too much of the day and attention.  

As Roseanne Roseannadana used to say, "It just goes to show ya. It's always something. If it's not one thing, it's another."  I picked up the car the Monday before that, July 31st, and it continues to start properly.  I suppose I'm more comfortable with it not even two full weeks after picking it up than I expected to be, but it has started without even the slightest balk or hesitation.  

It wasn't the car thing that made me miss Wednesday, it was another.  On Tuesday night, as I was writing that post, we suddenly were interrupted by an alarm.  Not instantly recognizable, but vaguely familiar, we soon realized it was from our kitchen.  The second time we had to have our kitchen rebuilt because of a leaking dishwasher, we added an alarm with a sensor under the kitchen cabinets so leaks from the dishwasher wouldn't have time to ruin the cabinets like before.  It didn't take very long to discover that the cold water valve was dripping.  You can see a drip getting ready to fall in the red highlight box.

There was a puddle on the bottom of the cabinet under the kitchen sink, but not a lot of water.  Since the alarm sensor runs several feet along the lowest part of the floor there, we don't have a way to see the whole length of it. 

Since it looked like it was going to be a simple replacement; unscrew everything attached to the old valve, unscrew the valve from the wall and replace it with a new one, I opted not to call a plumber.  Probably needless to say, it didn't go quite that easily.  For me, plumbing jobs never go as easily as I'd like.  I think most readers know that pipe names have nothing to do with their actual sizes.  Someone once told me that "there's nothing 3/4" about a 3/4" pipe."  It's worse than that.  There are two T connectors visible in this picture, one sort of horizontal attached to a braided metal jacketed hose going off to the right, and another mostly vertical T going to two "poly-something-or-other" tubes running down.  The braided metal jacket (tube) is called a 3/8" and the others are 1/4".  

I didn't learn until this job that there are three families of connectors in both sizes, and a connector from one family won't mate with any of the other families.  In the RF world I come from, adapters between connector families are bread and butter products, available by the barrel-full, by the pound, or however many you want.  In the plumbing world, this doesn't seem to be the case.  

In the radio world, this is roughly a 1/4" to 3/8" adapter like I needed.  (These folks are expensive, you can find them cheaper.)

The reason for the long explanation is because I bought the wrong valve on Wednesday and couldn't get everything restored.  The valve I bought had two 3/8" fittings and I needed one of each.  I couldn't come up with an adapter from 1/4 to 3/8".  Since it was approaching evening, it was all I could do to put the leaking valve back in place and search for a valve that would work for me.

Thankfully, the company that made the valve also made one with both 1/4 and 3/8" fittings. The True Value guys were willing to take the return and credit me with the price difference (the one I needed was cheaper than the one I mistakenly bought).  Within an hour of leaving to do the exchange, I had this replaced and everything working. 

Ahhhh...  Everything was fine at the homestead.  Peace and working plumbing.  For about 24 hours.  This repair was finished Thursday by about 11AM.  Friday morning, I turned on the air conditioner in the shop about 10AM.  Within 15 minutes it didn't seem to be cooling off as well as it should.  As Friday went by it was more and more evident that the air conditioner had broken down and it needed someone with the equipment to fix it.  Being the peak of summer, it's their busy season.  No repair tech until next Wednesday.

"It just goes to show ya. It's always something. If it's not one thing, it's another."