Friday, February 26, 2010

Blue Origins secrets (partially) unveiled

I'd hardly say the secret of the Blue Origin spaceship company has been fully revealed, but this story at at least has a few more morsels of information than we had been privvy to before.

It would be nice to know a little more about their Goddard rocket and the New Shepard spacecraft, but alas, it seems that will not happen until they are fully functioning.

Top on the list is how many test flights have already been performed by the Goddard vehicle. The November 2006 test — the only one publically announced — was unveiled in January 2007.

"I can't talk about our flight test program, other than what's already on the web. And I can't talk about schedule," Lai said. "But we have performed multiple flights with Goddard."

Jeff Bezos, the founder/owner of, has a strictly enforced code of silence at his new rocket design company. And for good reason, it seems.

Burt Rutan, of Scaled Composites (the company which built SpaceShip One and SpaceShip Two) has himself often lamented those in his industry who promise the Moon and fail to deliver. Rutan is famous for being "tight-lipped."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

New drones join Israeli air fleet

Israel has a new fleet of drones capable of flying at 40,000 feet for 20 hours with a range that could take them well into Iranian territory.

Israel has employed drones since 1982, but had the most effective use of the pilotless Heron TP drone aircraft within the last couple years.
These new craft can be laden with cargo (i.e., weapons) or used for surveillance.

These latest versions of the Heron TP are the size of a Boeing 737, dwarfing a typical F-15 fighter aircraft.
Drones, unmanned aerial aircraft, are considered by some to be the most versatile tools in the arsenal of modern warfare.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What is the SDO and why should we care?

The Solar Dynamics Observatory is NASA's latest attempt to understand the inner workings of the star at the center of our solar system. Better known as the Sun.

This the first mission of NASA's Living With a Star (LWS) Program. The idea of these missions to better understand the causes and effects of solar weather; how to predict changes in space weather and perhaps protect against severe storms.

The SDO spacecraft lifted off from Kennedy Space Center this morning aboard an Atlas 5 rocket.

Twitter was abuzz with news of the fantastic launch:

Picture perfect view of SDO's launch, courtesy @NASAKennedy

SDO data coming from Antigua tracking station. So far the flight is going very well, exactly as expected.

Picture of SDO launch (better ones to come soon) #SDOisGo

NASA launches rocket carrying solar observatory

Clouds cleared enough to see a beautiful launch. #SDOisGO

WOW!!!THAT WAS AMAZING! Loud, we can still see the vehicle now, just apoint, contails .. THIS is so cool!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Endeavor delivers Cupola to ISS

Shuttle Endeavor will unload the final NASA piece of the International Space Station puzzle this week, the Tranquility module. The new room comes with a much better view than astronauts ever had before. The Cupola provides a 360-degree view of the outside of the station.

Here is an excellent AP video on the entire process:

(Video Credit)

This marks the first time, with Endeavor docked at ISS, that the combined mass of both spacecraft exceeded 1 million pounds. That's a lot of spacecraft up there, folks.
There are five crew members onboard ISS at this time, and six crew members on Endeavor. The eleven astronauts said "hello" today and will spend the next few days installing the new module, checking out systems and loading/unloading cargo.

Shuttle Endeavor night launch

Check out this home video of the view of the night launch of Shuttle Endeavor. Listen to the "oooohs" and "aahhhs" of the folks in the background, and the calls from the children, "Can we do it again?" (Video Credit)

Reuters news service has great close-up video of the recent night launch of Shuttle Endeavor. This is likely the last shuttle night launch, at least for now.

If you remember the first shuttle launch, April 12, 1981, I'd love to hear your memories. Myself, I recall my trip down to Kennedy to watch Shuttle Columbia head to orbit for STS-1, the first seven day orbital mission. It seems it was delayed a million times, but actually, just once.
It was hot, very hot, despite the fact it was only April. But no matter. The excitement I felt, knowing this was an actual "spaceship" far outweighed any discomfort from the two-hour drive, or the heat, or the wait, or the disappointment when the countdown clock stopped just a minute from lift-off.
And when it finally did lift off the next day I saw that too.

(Photo Credit)