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The Space Log
Space for Everyone      -    April 2003

April.30.03 Space News

Memorabilia space rides... Sending coins, medallions, stamps and other items into space and bringing them back as souveniers has been going on since the earliest days of manned spaceflight. Flown artifacts are a popular segment of the space collectibles hobby.

Now some are trying to make flying items in space as a business all on its own. Space and sci-fi related items will get an added cachet if they are certified to have been in space.

The company TOSPACE specializes in sending packages of items into high altitude suborbital and also orbital space. They already have a number of customers. TOSPACE chief Laurie Wiggins gave a presentation at last week's Space Access'03 conference and said that the company would pay up to $2000 per kilogram to launch providers who could send payloads to 100km and bring them back safely.

The Russian space agency is also trying to make some money in a similar way : Russia to offer space mail - BBC - Apr.25.03

Solar sail support... Team Encounter will use a solar sail to take personal mementos into deep space. The company is also offering the sail for scientific applications and NOAA has given them funding to examine the feasibility of using sails to provide a so-called polesitter orbit” in which a spacecraft hovers over one of the Earth’s polar regions.

A satellites placed in a geostationary orbit over the equator revolve around the earth at the same speed as the earth turns so they appear to remain stationary over a particular point on earth. Such a technique obviously won't work over the poles. However, by using the continuous propulsive force provided by solar light, a sail could be put into a high stable orbit above the poles. From such a position the weather, magnetospheric conditions, and other uniquely polar phenomena could be continuously monitored.

Team Encounter and NASA Langley to Develop and Design a New Form of Propulsion for Space Travel - Team Encounter/SpaceRef - Apr.25.03

Parabolic fun... Peter Diamandis gave an interesting update on the ZERO-G Corporation at the Space Access'03 conference last week. The company will begin offering rides this summer on planes flying parabolic trajectories that provide 25-30 seconds of micro-gravity at the top of each parabola. At $4000 per flight this could become a popular adventure tourist experience.

See also the Zero-G section in Space Tourism and this interesting article about some students riding on NASA's parabolic flyer : Gravity, zero; thrills, countless: Weightlessness: Students experience zero gravity and are exhilarated despite also experiencing motion sickness. - Baltimore Sun - Apr.29.03

News briefs ... Internet at the top of the world via satellite : Satellite Cafe Reaches New Heights - SkyREPORT - Apr.29.03 ...

... Students compete to design the best space settlement : NASA Contest Explores Designs for Future Colonies in Space - SpaceRef - Apr.29.03


April.24.03 Space News

Off to Space Access ... No updates till next the 29th. Going to the Space Access Society'03 Conference in Arizona. Hope to see you there.


April.22.03 Space News

Time to contact Congress to save rocketry ... The threat to amateur rocketry from misclassification of the most commonly used fuels as explosives has been discussed here several times - see the links in Rocketry. The bill S724 sponsored by Senator Mike Enzi (R - Wyoming) to protect rocketry from the Homeland Security restrictions has now been introduced and has a good chance of passing. However, it needs a big push from constituents who should contact their senators and representatives and ask them to support the bill.

For more details see Letter Writing Campaign To Senate Judiciary Committee : Send Your Letter Now! - ARSA - Apr.21.03 and the section Letter Discussion Points for recommendations on how to write your letter.

Amateurs make a difference ... The Columbia investigation has obtained tremendously important information from the photos and videos taken by amateur observers - 3,000 Amateurs Offer NASA Photos of Columbia's Demise - NY Times - Apr.22.03


April.21.03 Space News

Private space getting off the ground... The realization of the profound implications of Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne project will take time to sink in. The project still must take several steps before reaching its goal of routine launches to 100km but clearly it has proven a lot already.

Major hardware components have been built and the White Knight carrier stage is building up flight time. Most of the SpaceShipOne rocket stage is ready and test flights probably will begin in a few months. Two companies are competing to provide the flight version of the fuel core and some other propulsion components but the essential design of the hybrid motor is finalized and has been ground tested.

Sophisticated simulations have been carried out and the funding is in place to support the project through till completion.

All of this has been done for something in the range of $20 million - far less than it would take NASA to develop even a new sounding rocket.

Some implications of this project :

  • We will see a deep crack in the firm belief throughout the society that even suborbital space cannot be reached by anyone but NASA and huge corporations.

  • The public will start to think about trips to space as a genuine reality rather than a distant futuristic fantasy.

  • Even if Rutan grabs the X PRIZE purse, his success will inspire similar projects. Competitors in the America's Cup sailing competition each spend up to $100 million on their quest for the trophy (there is no monetary prize). When it is proven that one can build a system capable of reaching space for tens of millions of dollars, many others will be inspired to develop their own spaceship.

Within a year we should see the startup company SpaceX delivering 300kg to low earth orbit for a $5-6 million, about a quarter of the current cost. With a suborbital manned system flying and an orbital unmanned system in operation both built by small companies, it will clearly imply that we are just a few years away from a privately developed system capable of sending passengers to orbit. See the Commercial Stairway to Space Timeline for a discussion of possible scenarios for such a possibility.

ISS on the Moon... Check out the cool photo of the ISS passing in front of the Moon :ISS Lunar Transit - Tom Laskowski.


April.17.03 Space News

Your daily space views... I recently mentioned the debut of the Space Station Science Picture of the Day, which has been great and I hope continues when Don Petit leaves the station.

Now the Mars explorers want to show off their latest snapshots as well: NASA Orbiter Camera Team Begins Daily Mars Picture Postings - JPL - Apr.15.03 . See the
Mars Picture of the Day at the
Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) home page.

Bookmark these sites and don't forget the original Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Satellites get noticed... Satellites provided key services in the Iraqi campaign. Their central role has open the eyes of many who had come to ignore or take for granted space technology. For example, the article On the Ground in Iraq, the Best Compass Is in the Sky - NY Times - Apr.17.03 reports on the importance of GPS location finding to everyone from generals to infantrymen.

The article With War, Satellite Industry Is Born Again - Washington Post - Apr.17.03 discusses the extensive use of satellite telephones and other telecommunication services in Iraq. This demonstration of the capability of satellite phones to work regardless of the state of local infrastructure is finally getting noticed by those in charge of responding to disaster situations when cell phone systems may not work.

Starman's Memories ... The late Robert Forward was a respected scientist, engineer, and renowned visionary who developed numerous leading edge concepts ranging from space tethers to starships. He had been working on his autobiography but did not finish it before he passed away. So unfortunately there will not be a book but his family has now posted the partially finished materials at www.robertforward.com.


April.14.03 Space News

Student explorers...The Global Space League is "a new organization which arranges for student science experiments to be taken to remote places normally accessible only to professional scientists: up into the atmosphere twenty miles high, out to the bottom of the sea off the coast of California, flying on innovative aircraft when they attempt to break records, and so on."

The League has announce that schools in Oklahoma and in Santa Clara, California have signed up to participate in the organizations programs. One such exploration program involves paper airplanes made by the students and then taken and released from a high altitude balloon or sounding rocket:

"In one event planned for July 4 of this year, students from Global Space League member schools will be given an opportunity to make a paper airplane that is decorated to best express why they want to become a scientific explorer, in honor of the memory of the scientist-explorers onboard the last flight of the Shuttle Columbia. Planes will be judged based on originality, clarity of message, overall design, and conformance to other requirements we will make available to participants.

"Then we plan, subject to regulatory approval, to place these planes in special carrier boxes, each of which will be carried by a lighter than air vehicle from a release site near Frederick, OK up to approximately 100,000 feet. At peak altitude, the paper airplanes would be released. Each plane will have a registration sticker on it that will state that it is an Oklahoma spaceplane and that the finder should register it on a website. Makers of planes can then see how far their particular message went."

Executive Director Joan Horvath said, "There are quite a few Global Space League events in the planning and fundraising stages. In particular, we are looking at summer oceangoing explorations onboard a miniature submersible off the California coast; ride-along experiments onboard various professional research vessels; and meteorology experiments over Frederick [Oklahoma] in the fall." She further noted that sponsors are currently being sought for these and other events.

See okspaceplanes.com and globalspaceleague.org for more about these programs and how to get your school involved.

Moon business ... The May issue of Wired magazine has a nice review of several commercial and scientific projects planning to go to the Moon - The Race Back to the Moon - Wired - May.03 issue.

Space will have to wait... director James Cameron (Titanic) has a couple of major space projects he would love to do : go to the ISS to film a documentary and an epic Mars mini-series. However, the ISS trip is indefinitely postponed due to the suspension by Russia of space tourist trips after the Columbia disaster. And he has to finish some other projects before he can work on the the Mars project. A moviemaker's space mission - Alan Boyle's Cosmic Log - Apr.11.03 - James Cameron

News briefs ... Rocketry fuel woes gets some more publicity - Rules rock model rocketry - OrlandoSentinel - Apr.13.03 ...

... Satellite radio increasingly looks like a winner - XM Tops One-half Million Subscriber Mark - XM Radio - Apr.14.03


April.11.03 Space News

Yuri's Night

Space party... Don't forget to boogie for space this Saturday at a Yuri's Night Party. Check the map for a party nearest you.

Space camps comeback... The Space Camp organization has suffered through some tough times. A failed promotional campaign a few years ago at the main Huntsville site left the organization with serious debt problems and near bankruptcy. A camp in California closed and the post-9/11 drop in attendence led to the closure of a camp near the Kennedy Space Center.

However, it looks like the Huntsville program has survived the financial storm and new programs are in the works - Space Camp aims for the stars - Huntsville Times - Dec.1.02.

A new camp may open this summer in California - New California Space Camp may open in summer: Center set to take off in former home of 'Spruce Goose' - Huntsville Times - Apr.10.03 - and a camp is in the works for Maryland - Maryland group wants to open Space Camp: Facility would be near NASA's Goddard site - Huntsville Times - Oct.24.02.

International programs now include camps opened or soon to open in Turkey, Canada, and South Korea.

For more about the official Space Camp programs and other similar space simulation experiences, see the Space Camping section.

Aerospace needs students... Despite the seeming dominance of aerospace by the US, at least in the military area, the American aerospace industry is having tremendous problems in attracting students: Help Wanted: Troubled Space Industry Seeks Best and Brightest - Space.com - Apr.10.03. Heavy layoffs in the past decade and a lack of exciting projects has driven away all but the most dedicated young aviation and space enthusiasts from entering the field.

As we start to see significant steps in the X PRIZE and other programs that bring space closer to the public, I hope we will see a resurgence in interest in space and aviation.

More views from space... Check out the latest images from the ISS including this one illustrating how to drink tea with chopsticks - High Tea - Space Station Science Picture of the Day - Apr.7.03 and one showing mysterious meteors.

Other space briefs... Nice article on space memoribilia collecting - 'Relics' from the Space Age: Auction: Scores of artifacts from the golden age of manned space flight will go on sale tomorrow, with some expected to fetch prices that are out of this world. - Baltimore Sun - Apr.11.03. ...

... Space hotels are on the DaVinci Institute's list of great things left to do : Immortalizer Technologies Project.


April.10.03 Space News

Space songs CD status... The status of the long promised CD of space inspired songs sponsored by the National Space Society should be appearing by the summer according to Eli Goldberg of Prometheus Music. The latest issue of the Newsletter of Prometheus Music (Vol. 6, Issue 2, Apr.03) included this update (reprinted with permission) :

NATIONAL SPACE SOCIETY CD - PROJECT UPDATE!
----------------------------------------------

The National Space Society/Mars Society projects is still in production. I do hope it'll ship before my...err... 30th birthday this summer, as we begun it at age 23. ;-]

The "Long Pole in the Tent" remains the task of remixing the CD, which
Kristoph is doing with meticulous attention to detail --- and it's going slowly. Five songs are mixed, with twelve more to go.

Stuff that's been happening on the CD includes:

* NSS Executive Director contributes afterword to liner notes

The National Space Society's energetic new Executive Director, Brian Chase, completed his afterword to the CD booklet, explaining, "I am confident that music and songs -- perhaps from this very album -- will make
an impact on a future explorer and inspire him or her to reach to the stars,
and evoke, in society at large, a desire to explore the wonders of our
universe."

Julia Ecklar is currently editing the entire 30 page stack'o'liner notes.

* Gunnar Madsen records new lead vocals to "Dance on the Ceiling"

Renowned vocalist Gunnar Madsen returned to record new lead vocals for
"Dance on the Ceiling". (He had previously contributed new lead vocals for
"Surprise!".)

As a special treat for Eagle Bytes subscribers, you may hear Gunnar's
kick-*** rendition of Leslie Fish's "Surprise" at:

www.prometheus-music.com/gunnar/surprise.mp3

* Michael Moricz produces a space CD track!

Michael Moricz (producer, _Divine Intervention_) surprised us by producing a track for the space CD project at the last minute.

The new "Dog on the Moon" track features New York City folksinger Garry
Novikoff, alongside a Pittsburgh-based cellist and guitarist.

Have Spacesuit, Will Travel to Movie...The movie rights to Robert Heinlein's novel for young people has been sold to the producer of the Harry Potter movies - Heinlein's 'Spacesuit' Optioned - Sci Fi Wire - Apr.9.03

ESA Space board game ... ESA offers a board game that you can download and printout - A fun way to learn about space - ESA - Apr.3.03.


April.8.03 Space & Tech News

Fusion in a pinch... Researchers at Sandia National Lab in New Mexico are using a pulsed power facility to send huge currents through a mesh of tungston wires to produce intense magnetic fields that compress the mesh. This in turn puts tremendous pressure on a foam cylinder inside the mesh. This fast compression leads to the production of X-rays that blasts a pellet of deuterium. The resulting shockwave in the pellet compresses the inner material to the point that the deuterium atoms come close enough to fuse and release energy:

See the Z -Pinch links for more information on this project.

Fission in a pinch for a spaceship... Andrews Space & Tech is using the same machine at Zandia to look at the feasibility of producing mini-nuclear explosions to propel a space ship. The Mini-Mag Orion project is funded by NASA. The project attempts to do at a smaller scale what the famous Project Orion back in the 1950's and early 60's sought to do with nuclear bombs: use the detonation waves of the explosions to push a ship to very high speeds at a much higher efficiency than chemical propulsion can provide. Access to Mars, for example, could be reduced to weeks rather than several months.

The Mini-Mag project proposes a system that

"compresses small pellets containing a few grams of simulated fissile material to beyond their supercritical point using a magnetic field. The explosion, equivalent to five tons of TNT (several orders of magnitude smaller than a traditional nuclear bomb), creates plasma that is directed by a magnetic nozzle to generate vehicle thrust. This highly efficient form of nuclear propulsion can produce enough thrust at high efficiency (specific impulse) to dramatically reduce the time required to travel between planets."

The announcement - Andrews Space & Technology Successfully Completes Compression Experiments in World's Largest Pulse Power Machine - AS&T PR/SpaceRef - Apr.7.03 - reports that recent tests with the Sandia machine "successfully verified the process of compressing solid matter to high densities in an electromagnetic field. A space propulsion system using the same processes would have the same thrust as the Space Shuttle Main Engine, but be fifty (50) times more efficient."

More about the Mini-Mag Project at

Getting a lift... The complete space elevator study for NASA done by HighLift Systems is now online at LiftPort, a spinoff from HighLift.

Lots more Mars photos ... The NASA Mars Global Surveyor posts many more amazing images : Prolific NASA Orbiter Adds Thousands of Photos to Mars Album - JPL - Apr.4.03

Tech positives ... Author Matt Ridley looks at how tech fears are often based on false impressions - We've never had it so good - and it's all thanks to science : Acclaimed author Matt Ridley on why it's high time we cheered up about the new technologies - Guardian Unlimited - Apr.3.03


April.4.03 Advanced Rocketry News

The new section - Advanced Rocketry News - will report on the latest developments in the world of advanced amateur and student rocketry, experimental rocketry, and small entrepreneurial rocket companies. I often come across or receive information sent to me about advancements in these areas but they don't quite fit into this section or the RLV News. So I decided to open a section dedicated the latest developments.

Note that news in these areas seem to fall in between the interests of the general rocketry news sites and the major space news sites that focus on NASA and large commercial companies.

I'm certainly not an expert in advanced rocketry but I only intend to post items in this area and not provide commentary or original work. (I'm not an expert on RLV's either and that didn't stop me with that section!) Also, Andrew Case, who does participate seriously in this area, will provide me expert advice.

Links and information about Advanced Rocketry can be found in the Rocketry section.


April.3.03 Space News

Daily snapshot from the Station... NASA's science.nasa.gov site has begun a Space Station Science Picture of the Day patterned after the very popular Astronomy Picture of the Day.

I mentioned below the wonderful photo of an Iridium Flare. Check out the other beautiful images as they accumulate in the archives.

Rocketry on the Senate floor... Read Senator Enzi's fine speech in defense of sensible policies towards rocketry fuels : Senator Enzi Addresses Senate On Rocketry Exemption Bill - ARSA - Apr.2.03


April.1.03 SciTech News

Here are some miscellaneous Science & Technology articles and sites I've come across recently that I found interesting:


April.1.03 Space news

Advanced student rocketry in Switzerland... Students at the Swiss Propulsion Laboratory (SPL) continue to show progress in developing sophisticated rocket technology as in this recent milestone - First firing with the regeneratively cooled 2.5 kN LOX/Ethanol engine! - SPL - Jan.22.03. The group is working towards a 8kN engine that will power their X-BOW I sounding rocket.

New HobbySpace Traffic Record... March traffic at HobbySpace set new records - over 86,000 visits and 140,000 pageviews. About half of this came from the spike when someone posted on Slashdot an item about the Satellite Station section. Traffic dropped considerably from the peak but seems to have settled at a higher level that before. Currently the site is getting about 1750 average visits per day.

(A visit means one or more pageviews delivered to same IP address within 30 minutes.)

Space tourism paths... Jeff Foust examines the extremes of pessimism and optimism with regard to space tourism and sees a modest ramp up of suborbital tourism as the most likely scenario : Space tourism: managing expectations in uncertain times by Jeff Foust - The Space Review - Mar.31.03 .

The latest issue Space News also includes an article about the Russian space tourism program and discusses a bad news / good news situation. The bad news derives from the horrible news of the Columbia accident that caused the suspension of the space tourist flights. All the Soyuz capsule seats will be reserved for astronauts for at least a year and maybe two.

The good news is that Energia claims to have 10 candidates for space tourist flights. Also, the Russian TV program that gave them $2 million deposit for a flight for a contest winner has not yet demanded their money back, indicating a willingness to wait for the program to restart.

Yuri's Night - space party time... The third annual Yuri's Night celebration of space and the memory of Yuri Gagarin's first flight will happen this April 14th. This year's program includes 62 parties in 30 countries. Yuri's Night 2003 - SpaceDaily - Mar.28.03

The April 2, 2003 Space Show program will "feature both Loretta Hidalgo and George Whitesides, co- founders of Yuri's Night. Loretta and George are experts in non-traditional space outreach and education." Here the show live on www.live365.com, KKNW 1150 AM Seattle and the KKNW streaming site on April 2, 2003, 5-6:15PM PST.


Continue to March 2003 articles in archive

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