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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

60 Minutes Story on the New Space Race

60 Minutes has a Story Sunday January 1, 2006 (tomorrow night) at 7pm EST/6pm CST called THE NEW SPACE RACE. Here is their teaser:

The private sector’s race to space is being led by maverick aeronautical engineer Burt Rutan, who foresees thousands of people enjoying the view from space in the very near future. Ed Bradley reports. Harry Radliffe is the producer.

Not sure if it is anything new, or just a rehash of stuff. I will be watching it regardless. I will post comments here, if any of you have any thoughts on it, feel free to comment.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


As I have been pondering the fate of a lunar colony this Christmas, I came across an idea. What is sovereignty? The diction says:

Freedom from outside interference and the right to self-government

Well that answers that. More to the point how does a group gain sovereignty?

Over the past few months, I have read more than a few novels on Moon colonies. Most notably, Ben Bova’s Moonwar and Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. In these, and most other novels, the lunar citizens are forced to declare independence and fight a war for their freedom.

Since I am on vacation this week, I have given myself the freedom to dwell on philosophical what-ifs for a little while. And having done that, I have found myself asking, what makes a country sovereign?

Is it simply the will to declare as a collective the will to determine your own destiny? Or is it the point at which other countries recognize your sovereignty? At worst it is when the primary opponent of your independence gives in.

To answer this question in my most Socratic fashion, let us examine some historical examples of groups of people declaring sovereignty.

Let me premise this by saying, I am in no way a historian. But let us consider for a moment, when did the United States of America become a self-governing nation? Was it at the signing on the Declaration of Independence? Perhaps it was when the war was over. I may have even been when we, as a collective, decided to separate ourselves from England and stopped obeying their laws.

Think you have the answer. Well how about this one? When the southern states withdrew from the union, were they sovereign? Did they, in fact, create a new nation? Or, because they did not when the war, were they never an independent nation.

In a more modern example, when did Iraq become a sovereign nation? When the US troops rolled into Baghdad or at the last elections? When Sadam was found and put on trial? Maybe they still aren’t a sovereign nation.

Okay, great political philosophy discussion, but what does this have to do with space exploration? What does sovereignty mean for colonist on another “celestial body?” If all the nations of the Earth said “You can not be sovereign,” does that make them not sovereign?

To say it more generally, does a group’s right to self-govern depend on other countries’ willingness to accept their sovereignty? When a group of lunar colonist decide to quote the immortal words of Whitney Houston and tell the Earth to “kiss my ass,” are they subject to a treaty other countries signed.

Can a group of countries 225,000 miles away take away a person’s right of self determination? Do people even have a God given right to self determination? If people, in fact, have a right to determine how they are going to be ruled, what treaty could take that away?

I am curious about your thoughts on this.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Return to the Moon Arrived

The book is here. I will post the review next week. I am off to Christmas vacation, so sparse posting until the New Year.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Modular Space is Catching On

Jim Benson said in his interview with The Space Show

(about SpaceX's Falcon program) I like the modular design...

Modular is a movement people. Get on board!

Ad Astra per Ardua

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Update from SpaceX

Here is the latest update from Elon:

All systems have passed their prelaunch checkout and we are go for launch tomorrow at 11 a.m. California time (7 p.m. GMT).

Over the past month, we have also improved and upgraded the countdown sequence in several ways:

  • More computer controlled operations vs manual
  • Improved ground support equipment to load propellant/pressurant faster
  • Worked with range safety to speed up checkout of the thrust termination system
  • Changed to simultaneous load of LOX and fuel on both stages

The Vandenberg hold down firing countdown was 5 hours, the first Kwaj countdown was 4 hours and now we are at 3 hours. Having a responsive launch capability is important to DARPA and the Air Force (and us for cost reasons), so we've put a lot of effort into streamlining the countdown.

A C-17 buzzes Falcon for good luck


Saturday, December 17, 2005

I am a Computer Geek God

Somehow this didn't supprise me.

My computer geek score is greater than 97% of all people in the world! How do you compare? Click here to find out!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

SpaceX Launch Date/Time Set

SpaceX announced tonight that their Falcon I rocket is going to launch on December 19, at 1:00pm CST (2:00pm EST & 11:00am PST). The launch will take place from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands carrying a payload for DARPA.

As a reminder, Out of the Cradle and Michael Belfiore should have live blogging of the event.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Reading List

I have decided to place a reading list to Space Pragmatism. The last six books I have read are listed to the left with links to Amazon. Check them out, they are all good (I leave off the ones I don't like.)

Virgin Galactic Has a new Website

Today Virgin released a little more information on their lease of New Mexico's coming spaceport. Check out Leonard David's report at Virgin Galactic Sets Deal With New Mexico Spaceport.

But what I am really jazzed about is virgin Galactic has finally added news to their website, after a year and a half. Clark Lindsey doesn't see what Sir Richard's iris has to do with going to space, but I think it looks very futuristic. And like Clark said, " he is the one who made billions via great marketing." Check it out at

Monday, December 12, 2005

New COTS Watch Blog

Michael has started a new blog specially about:, articles, whitepapers and opinions about NASA's Commercial Orbital
Transportation Services (COTS) initiative.

Check it out.

Friday, December 09, 2005

SpaceX Launch Update

Just got this from Elon:

Launch Date
The new launch date is approximately December 20, depending on when the Missile Defense Agency testing is complete. As soon as we have a firm time, it will be posted on the SpaceX website.

Liquid Oxygen
Regarding liquid oxygen (LOX) supplies, we expect to have enough on hand this time to fill the rocket four or five times over. This should account for almost any issue with a particular storage tank as well as an extended hold on the pad. There is an engineering term known as a s*load. I have asked that we have at least two s*loads on hand in case one s*load is not enough.

We chartered a C-17 to fly two of our empty high quality LOX containers to Hawaii, sourced another high quality LOX container on Hawaii and put all three on the barge to Kwajalein. In addition, our LOX plant on Kwajalein has been repaired and is producing LOX on island again.

Some might be wondering why we were so dumb as to run out of LOX on a remote tropical island on the last launch attempt. Believe me, we tried hard to avoid it, but several issues conspired to create the problem:

  • The additional month of Merlin testing resulted in additional LOX boil-off on island. Even though it is stored in vacuum jacketed containers, LOX at -300F degrees does not like being on a tropical island at 85F.
  • The SpaceX LOX plant on island broke down a few weeks prior to launch, which meant we could not top up.
  • We ordered replacement LOX from Hawaii, but the container quality was poor, so only 20% of what we ordered actually arrived.
  • Ground winds were unusually high on launch day, which amplifies the boil-off rate significantly, since the Falcon's first stage LOX tank is uninsulated.
  • All of the above would not have mattered if our final storage tank did not have a small, manual vent valve incorrectly in the open position. Somewhat agonizingly, we were only a few percent away from being full. We just needed a little sip from the last tank.
  • After a while, we were able to close the vent and fill the vehicle's LOX tanks. However, we use LOX to chill our onboard helium and the absence of ground LOX to do so resulted in the helium heating up and venting back to storage. In the end, we did not have enough LOX to stay filled on the rocket and chill & pressurize the helium.

Engine Computer
The engine computer reboot anomaly was definitively traced to a ground power problem. Importantly, this would have had no effect on flight, since we switch to vehicle power before the autosequence begins. The reason it cropped up at Kwajalein was that the higher load on the longer umbilical (three times longer than in prior tests) coupled with high temperatures in Kwajalein resulted in increased resistance in the ground umbilical. This was just enough to lower the voltage below minimums and cause an engine computer reset when drawing maximum power. The same max power test was repeated on internal vehicle batteries with no problem at all.

This problem has been solved by slightly increasing voltage on the ground umbilical.


"Return to the Moon"

I have been asked by Rick Tumlinson, the cofounder of the Space Frontier Foundation, to review a new book Return to the Moon. In Rick's words it is an:

anthology of essays by more than 20 authors covering a broad spectrum of ideas and concepts revolving around a permanent human return to the Moon.

I should have it in the next week and I will post a review here if I can. I haven't really done this sort of thing before, so I'll have to play it by ear.

If you want to take a look:

Return to the Moon at Amazon

The T/Space Take on COTS

Michael believer has a post on NASA's new Commercial Orbital Transportation Service (COTS) RFP. He also has some quotes from Gary Hudson, t/Space's co-founder. T/Space seems happy with it:

...he's impressed with the RFP and that he's confident that private industry can rise to the challenge

Money will be tight, as NASA only has $500 million to work with, but isn't that we all wanted? A thrifty NASA goes a long way to a commercial space infrastructure.

If you look at the vendors interested in this, a few names stick out. We all expected T/Space and SpaceDev, but IBM? ATK is a little ironic, I think. I am sure everyone interested isn't a rocket builder. I mean they will need communications, sensors, launch ops, etc... But it is still odd to see IBM and Cisco on the list.

Looking at the COTS Q&A, this gives me a warm and fuzzy:

Q: If a contractor's full service approach includes multiple mission capabilities, will bundling of mission capability demonstrations be allowed?
A: Yes.

It means that NASA is looking past it's own requirements crap to allow efficiency. Five or Ten years ago the answer to that would have been no (IMHO).

The schedule is here. Looks like the official annoucement will be out January 9, 2006 and proposals are due Feb 10, 2006. The contracts will be done in May 2006 (here's keeping our fingers crossed).

Come on Mike, don't screw this up.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

By the Way, I joined NSS

Both the local HAL5 chapter and NSS today. If you don't belong, look up your local chapter at and give one of the officers a ring/email/fax/whatever. You will be glad you did.

SpaceX Falcon I Set for December 19-21, 2005

SpaceX announced a launch window of December 19-21 (assuming DOD doesn't take away one or more days). Apparently they order 2 sh**loads of LOX this time (SpaceX terms) so they should have plenty.

Quotes from the press conference are at where "intrepid OotC reporter Mark Trulson" will live blog the launch again.

SpaceX spokesperson Dianne Molina said “This time I plan on the teleconference to be bigger, better and run more smoothly.” Hopefully, this time, we will get status as soon as it is available.

Ad Astra per Ardua

Arguing with your Father

In the latest Ad Astra (via, Robert Zubrin lists what he sees as the positive and negatives of NASA implementation of the Vision for Space exploration put forth by President Bush January, 2004.

I have to say, I agree with some of what he says. I am all for dropping the shuttle and moving on with our lives. I am all for shifting our fuel to methane/oxygen to make insitu production on Mars easier. That may be about it, though.

I have to admit, criticizing Bob is a lot like arguing with my Dad, or at least a good uncle. Bob almost single-handedly brought my love of space back. By 1997, I had given up on any reasonable space exploration in my lifetime and moved on to astronomy, grad school, and finding my wife. Case for Mars made me excited again. He is a big reason why I am here now.

The problem, as I see it, is he is doing just what he argued against in his book. He is arguing that it is too hard to do with what we have now. We must go out a build a big huge HLV or we should just give up. What really bothers me is he doesn't even give any reasons, just assumes it is gospel.

The importance of this cannot be overemphasized. An HLV is absolutely necessary to enable human exploration of the Moon or Mars, and it was a measure of former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe's unfitness for his position that he was willing to promote a clearly unworkable quadruple launch/quadruple rendezvous lunar architecture for the purpose of justifying the abandonment of that capability. Dr. Griffin has reversed that position and backed his policy with action, and that is excellent.

So we have to have one (of course) and O'Keefe was an idiot for not seeing that. Okay, fine I continue reading waiting on the reason. It never comes. Just more name calling.

...or the nonsensical O'Keefe quadruple-launch/quadruple rendezvous lunar mission plan of 2004, in order to breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Theprevious NASA plans were pure nonsense. This one is real engineering. Finally, we have a plan that could actually work.

Don't get me wrong, I believe we can get to the Moon with an HLV. I think we could get there on a SpaceX Falcon IV, EELVs, or even a hopped up SpaceShipsThree. What bugs me is his (apparent) belief that if we weren't building a HLV we might as well shut it all down and go back to thinking the moon is a giant cheese-ball. Again he says

An HLV is absolutely necessary to enable human exploration of the Moon or Mars.

I disappointed in Mr. Zubrin. There is one line in this piece that makes me happy, however:

NOTE: The views of this article are the author’s and do not reflect the policies of the National Space Society.

(Notice they say "do not reflect" and not "may not reflect" ... )

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Draft Released

NASA has at least released a draft of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS). Nothing shocking in it, but it is good to have it in writing.

Basically it is in two phases:

Phase 1 – A period of development and demonstration by private industry in coordination with NASA of various space transportation capabilities to and from low-Earth orbit (LEO) determined to be most desirable for the Government and other customers.

Phase 2 – A potential competitive procurement of orbital transportation services to resupply the ISS with cargo and crew, if a capability is successfully demonstrated and the Government determines it is in its best interest.

Phase 1 is broken into three different capabilities:

Capability A delivers cargo (payloads) that operate directly in the space environment to a LEO test bed and provides for its safe disposal.

Capability B delivers cargo (payloads) that operate within a volume maintained at normal atmospheric pressure to a LEO test bed and provides for its safe disposal.

Capability C delivers cargo (payloads) that operate within a volume maintained at normal atmospheric pressure to a LEO test bed and provides for its safe return to Earth.

Phase 2 is (currently) only one capability:

Capability D delivers crew to a LEO test bed and provides for safe return to Earth.

I am glad they are going to work with multiple sources:

NASA intends to use its Space Act authority to enter into multiple funded
agreements resulting from this announcement.

But you can’t do Cap D until you prove you can do Cap C (which stands to reason, I suppose).

Proposals are also solicited for crew transportation Capability D, but only as an option to period 1 proposals for Capability C. The period 2 demonstrations will consist of multiple missions to LEO and the ISS. The number of missions proposed to satisfy human rating requirements for commercial passengers will be evaluated and ultimately determined by NASA. The option will be considered for execution only after the successful demonstration of Capability C.

And it is fixed priced milestone based payment approached

Payments will be made upon the successful completion of performance milestones as proposed by the participants and negotiated with NASA. NASA’s contribution will be a fixed amount and will not be increased or decreased based on the participant’s ability to obtain private funding. 2.2 Project Schedule Period 1 will commence upon the execution of the SAA targeted for May 2006 and will end after the successful flight demonstration of the selected capability expected to occur in the 2008-2010 timeframe.

You can get more schedule info as time passes at the following COTS website:

All right, all you space entrepreneurs, let get this party started!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Apparently, NSS and Me are on the Same Page

Here is the National Space Society's principles:

NSS Principles -- What Does NSS Stand For?
These are the guiding principles of the National Space Society by which we will conduct our Mission in pursuit of our Vision. (In priority order).

Human Rights
NSS shall promote the principle of fundamental rights of every human being.

NSS shall observe, practice, and promote ethical conduct.

NSS shall actively pursue and promote human settlement beyond Earth. Scientific
inquiry and exploration are important precursors to settlement.

Within the bounds of these Principles, NSS shall promote and support any and all methods and practices that support achievement of our Vision.

Gotta love that..

How to find New Members for the NSS

Arthur Smith in my comments section in the post on "Why
I am not a member of he NSS"

I think you're right about the "simple letter" being a great start -
however, blasting letters to every member of the public isn't
financially feasible... We do spend a lot of money on paper mailings
but it doesn't seem to be very productive (I think even with targeted
mailings we spend more on the mailings than we receive back in
first-year dues, but donations and renewals help make it positive); I
wonder if you have any specific ideas for improving the collection of
addresses to send to? Any idea how Planetary Society got your address?

This is a question I have been thinking about all weekend. I am no
sure how they got my name and I am not sure how the NSS targets people
for mailing. I can offer some possibilities about when I received the
first mailer:

  • I subscribed to Astronomy Magazine
  • I was a sophomore engineering student
  • I bought a lot of books on space (Case for Mars, Hyperspace, etc...)
  • Saw & bought a lot of space movies (Star Trek, Star Wars, etc...)

Here are some things I have done since that I guess don't show up on
the NSS's targeting:

  • Continued subscribing to Astronomy for 10 years
  • Season pass the Space & Rocket Center
  • Buying model rocket stuff
  • Buying space games (simulators and shoot-um ups)

I am really not sure what kind of stuff works. I am beginning to
think one-on-one stuff works really well. Nothing could have
gotten me to join faster than emails from most of the HAL5 executive
committee and your comments.

Maybe we should follow the Christian evangelism model of "converting"
people you know. Neighbors, coworkers, family could all be a
possibility. It did turn a couple of dozen people into about 2
billion in 2000 years. That's an increase of ~1,000,000/year.

Just my first thoughts. I will continue thinking about it.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Why I should be a local Huntsville member of NSS

This is an email I received from Ronnie Lajoie about the Huntsville Chapter of the National Space Society. Ronnie is a member of the NSS Web Site Development Team, the NSS Membership Committee, and NSS Chapters Committee. For those thinking of joining the NSS, at least the chapter in Huntsville sounds pretty good. Check out there web site at:

Mr. Schrimpsher,

It was with great dismay that I just read your Web posting "Why I am not a member of he NSS" to Space Pragmatism that was just forwarded to me by a co-worker. But first let me assure you that there IS indeed a chapter of the National Space Society in Huntsville. In fact, we are one of the largest and most active chapters. (I am CC'ing the other

HAL5 chapter officers in this reply.) I invite you now to join our local chapter as well as our parent organization National Space Society. Our local membership form is available at
You can join the NSS via

I wish I had seen your posting YESTERDAY (I would have phoned you),
because you just missed a great public lecture we hosted last night at the
Public Library. Over 70 people attended the free program, including HAL5
members, other local NSS members, members of AIAA, VBAS, NASFA and others, and other local citizens who saw the flyers and announcements. You can download
the flyer at

I say "dismay" for a number of reasons. I should tell you that I had a
similar situation to your own while living in Seattle, Washington in
1990. Somehow, "space cadet" me totally missed the fact that NSS was holding
an "International Space Development Conference" in Seattle in 1990; at the
same time as I was lamenting the lack of local space interest groups. I learned too late (I moved to Huntsville in 1991) that Seattle had TWO chapters of the NSS. I later vowed not to let it happen to other space enthusiasts. Looks like we may have more work to do.

As the leader of the NSS Web Site Development Team, and a member of the
both the NSS Membership Committee and Chapters Committee, I had started
to believe that NSS was doing a much better job of getting the word out
both nationally and locally. For example:

1. Just search on the word "space" in Google and a link to the NSS Web
site shows up in the very FIRST "sponsored link" spot. One cannot
do much better than that in a search engine! I agree that our Web
site could be much better, and I and other NSS leaders are actively
seeking support for a major overhaul/redesign of our Web site.

2. NSS advertises its conferences and major events in "Space News" and
other space-related publications. Our leaders are frequented quoted
in the press and our leaders' editorials frequently show up

3. We just hosted a fantastic national conference in Washington, D.C.
and we preparing to host our biggest conference ever, in Los Angeles,
in partnership with The Planetary Society. For more information, see

4. HAL5 worked VERY hard last November to locally publicize a regional
space conference called "Exploring and Privateering Space". We had
Huntsville and surrounding cities plastered with colorful posters,
including 3x4-foot displays at the Space and Rocket Center, NASA,
the Huntsville Public Library, and the University of Alabama (HSV).
We had ads and articles in the Huntsville Times, plus radio spots.
More info on this event at

So please join our local chapter and the NSS, and you will never want
again for space enthusiast companionship and activities. In addition
to our monthly programs (FIRST Thursday), the HAL5 chapter leadership
meets once per week for a lunch meeting near Madison Square Mall. If
you interested, please join us at one of our meetings. Details at:

-- Ronnie

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Why I am not a member of he NSS

The National Space Society. As far as I can tell a great little organization. Not really sure, since I have yet to meet anyone (physically) in it and I have never received any information on it. Why am I telling you this? Ken Murphydyne wrote a post the other day on Selenian Boondocks lamenting the 2005 NSS Membership Survey. Basically he is a very active VP of a very active chapter of NSS in North Texas. I am here to answer some of Ken's concerns and perhaps create new ones.

The first thing that bothers Ken is that only 7% of NSS members are affiliated with a local chapter. You want to be bothered even more, Ken? I would consider myself a space activist, or at the very least a space fanatic. I only just found out the NSS exists earlier this year (thanks to Clark over at Hobby Space). And until your post, I didn't even know they had local chapters. Bet that makes you smile.

But maybe you live in a cave, you may say. I work across the street from the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. I can see a full size Saturn-V out my window standing tall all day long. I live where Werner Van Broun lived and worked for many years. We are even nick-named the Rocket City. And I didn't know we have a NSS chapter. Mind boggling, isn't it?

Now as to the %73 of the 93% that didn't even want to join a chapter, you guys are not exactly making a rousing case for yourselves around here. I mean I'm sure you do a lot of neat stuff and talk about space and all that, but where is the PR? Why am I not a member? Why do I still get crap from the Planetary Society which I quit on purpose (we have our differences off opinion which I will not relate her) and I have never received anything from NSS?

And to go one better, earlier this year when Clark told me about them, I went to their web site, clicked on the contact us and asked them what sort of space activities they do, what membership entails, etc... I am still waiting on the reply. Not a good first impression.

So my advice to Ken and everyone at NSS, get serious about membership. Let people know who you are with advertising, sponsorships, go places where space people go.

Just my opinion, take it for what it is worth.

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Space Divided can not Call

Amen. That is all I can say to Sam Dinkin's article in Space Review on The high road. Listen to this:

As Monte Davis recently said on The Space Show, we have to set aside our petty differences. Shut up about Moon vs. Mars, hybrid vs. liquid, SSTO vs. TSTO, alt vs. biz, tourism vs. military, private vs. public, orbital vs. suborbital, robots vs. people, and asteroids vs. space invaders. Start subordinating our unimportant grousing about other's companies and products to common goals. Start smoothing over our differences, agree to disagree, and push forward a positive message about our own and all competing products. Start teaching each other how to promote in a positive way and teach the media how to cover us in a positive way.

That is something Space Pragmatism can get behind (even if I am guilty of it occasionion).

Saturday, November 26, 2005

JAXA Gets their Piece of the Sky

Well an asteroid, really. This just in from UPI on the JAXA probe Hayabusa:

Scientists believe it collected the debris, but will only be sure when the craft returns to Earth, the BBC reported. Hayabusa was launched in May 2003 and has until early December before it must begin its journey home. It is expected to return to Earth and land in the Australian outback in June 2007.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Falcon I Now Scrubbed 'till Mid-December

According to Mark Trulson, who is live blogging the SpaceX Falcon I launch scheduled for today, the launch has been delayed due to both weather and LOX issues. The launch window has been extended until 7:00pm (PST) or 10:00pm (EST).

More as it happens.

Update 8:08pm CST: Bummer. This just in from the live blog:

5:21 pm (pst)

Strong winds and some troubles with the LOX refueling
tanks have forced the scrubbing of today’s launch. The attempt has been
rescheduled for sometime in the am Sunday.

As they get the time pinned
down closer an announcement will be posted on

I will try to
resume my live blogging as we get more info.

Update Nov 27 8:04 pm CST: They have to wait on LOX from Hawaii. Big Bummer.

Falcon I on the launch-pad

Thursday, November 24, 2005

SpaceX Falcon I Launch Delayed 24 hours

This from Elon:

Falcon 1 Launch Delayed by Army Range

In order to facilitate preparations for a missile defense launch, the Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) has bumped the SpaceX Falcon 1 maiden flight from its officially scheduled launch date of 1 p.m. California time (9 p.m. GMT) on November 25. The new launch time is 1 p.m. California time (9 p.m. GMT) on November 26.


Oh well, guess we'll have to wait until Saturday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Griffin can Talk the Talk...

I love his speeches, he always says what I would say if I were him. I think he is a true believer.

In a recent speech to the AAS, Griffin said:

If we are to make the expansion and development of the space frontier an integral part of what it is that human societies do, then these activities must, as quickly as possible, assume an economic dimension as well. Government-directed space activity must become a lesser rather than a greater part of what humans do in space.

He goes on to talk about ISS re-supply, crew rotation, and (gasp, be still my beating heart) orbiting commercial fuel depots. This is great stuff, the kind of stuff that could put Boeing and LockMart out of the space business for good (but not military). I think he means it and most of it may come to pass.

How do we keep anything in Washington D.C. that takes longer than four years to happen. Movement of "routine" orbital services to commercial enterprise has to happen quickly & become ingrained in American society before some less visionary President and another false prophet take control of NASA.

Michael Mealling also has some questions about what is going to happen after Bush and Griffin are gone. Good questions and now is the time to ask them.

Where to find Live Blogging of the SpaceX Launch

Mark Trulson over at Out of the Cradle is going to live blog the SpaceX Falcon I launch on Friday for us mortals who can't get out to El Segundo, CA for the web cast. Click on and enjoy.

Does Anyone have a Clue About China's Moon Program?

I would guess not. Voice of America is saying 2020:

Like the United States, China is planning a manned lunar mission by 2020 to
collect mineral samples and the isotope Helium 3, a potential energy source for
future missions to the moon.

Previous articles have said 2017, and 2035. Are we just guessing know? Even I can guess, so let's say 2006. That should make a stir (just kidding).

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Spacex Falcon I Udpate Out

Here is the update, just emailed from Elon:


This Friday at 1 p.m. PST (9 p.m. GMT), the Falcon 1 countdown to launch is expected to reach T-Zero. At that point, the hold-down clamps will release and it will begin its journey to orbit, accelerating to 17,000 mph or twenty-five times the speed of sound in less than ten minutes.

The launch will take place from Omelek island, which is in the Kwajalein Atoll of the Marshall Islands. This mission's customer is DARPA and the Air Force and the payload will be FalconSat-2, part of the Air Force Academy’s satellite program that will measure space plasma phenomena, which can adversely affect space-based communications, including GPS and other civil and military communications. The target orbit is 400 km X 500 km, just above the International Space Station, at an inclination of 39 degrees.

On launch day, SpaceX will make history for several reasons:

  • Falcon 1 will be the first privately developed, liquid fueled rocket to reach orbit and the world's first all new orbital rocket in over a decade.
  • The main engine of Falcon 1 (Merlin) will be the first all new American hydrocarbon booster engine to be flown in forty years and only the second new American booster engine of any kind in twenty-five years.
  • The Falcon 1 is the only rocket flying 21st century avionics, which require a small fraction of the power and mass of other systems.
  • It will be the world's only semi-reusable orbital rocket apart from the Shuttle (all other launch vehicles are completely expendable).
  • The Falcon 1 first stage has the highest propellant mass of any launch vehicle currently flying.
  • SpaceX will have developed and activated two new launch sites, including the only American ground launch site near equator.
  • Most importantly, Falcon 1, priced at $6.7 million, will provide the lowest cost per flight to orbit of any launch vehicle in the world, despite receiving a design reliability rating equivalent to that of the best launch vehicles currently flying in the US.

We have done everything we can think of at SpaceX to ensure reliability, which is our primary goal, superceding cost. There were no shortcuts and when we needed to take extra time to test something, we did so even if it caused a significant delay. However, even multi-billion dollar programs executed conscientiously, such as the Ariane V, the Space Shuttle and the Delta IV Heavy, have had failures and it is certainly possible that will happen with the Falcon 1 too.

To prepare for this possibility, the first flight is highly instrumented with one megabit of realtime telemetry and a live video feed streaming back to the launch control center. If something goes wrong, we will discover and fix the problem, returning to the launch pad for flight two as soon as the solution is thoroughly tested.

--- Elon ---

Click here for more Falcon 1 maiden launch information

Which Science Fiction Writer are You?

I am:
Robert A. Heinlein
Beginning with technological action stories and progressing to epics with religious overtones, this take-no-prisoners writer racked up some huge sales numbers.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Couldn't have picked a better guy.
Go take the quiz yourself. (Got this from Mark over at Curmudgeons Corner)

Also From Robot Guy, this is also not a big suprise...
You scored as Serenity (from Firefly). You like to live your own way and do not enjoy when anyone but a friend tries to tell you that you should do different. Now if only the Reavers would quit trying to skin you.

Coming on December 1, 2005:

Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? The Sequel

SG-1 (from Stargate)


Nebuchadnezzar (from The Matrix)


Serenity (from Firefly)


Moya (from Farscape)


Millennium Falcon (from Star Wars)


Enterprise D (from Star Trek)


Bebop (from Cowboy Bebop)


Galactica (from Battlestar: Galactica)


Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with QuizFarm.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Lunar Dreams

Apparently SpaceDev says they can do Lunar Missions for about ~$10 billion. They break it up into segments

  • launch to low Earth orbit (LEO)

  • Geo Transfer Orbit (GTO)

  • LEO and GTO to Lunar orbit

  • Lunar orbit to landing,

  • takeoff to Lunar orbit

  • Lunar orbit to LEO

  • return to Earth from LEO

Not really surprised by the cost savings. Governments are nothing if not expensive. Of course were is the $10 billion coming from? The way Griffin has been talking, he might be willing to buy seats from SpaceDev if they can get up there. Keep your fingers crossed true believers. (from a reader Jouth).

At the same time, I read an article this morning about Peter Diamandis (founder of the X-Prize) starting up a new company.

A company that Diamandis co-founded, which set up an office at Kennedy Space Center over the summer, plans to launch private suborbital flights by 2008. It plans to send private spacecraft to land on the moon by 2015, he said.

Hell that even beats China's rumored date of 2017. Todays news is good for my dreams. Hope the money starts flowing...

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Falcon I Payload Blog

Jim White is blogging his experience in Omelek with the FalconSat-2. This is spaceX's first payload that will be launch November 25, 2005 about 1:00pm PST. Pretty interesting stuff.

One of the last things SpaceX will do is bolt the first stage engine nozzle and chamber to the business end of the rocket. They are going to do that while it's out on the pad, about 4 days from now. Then she is ready to shoot.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Falcon Launch Date - Netscape Moment

Nov 25 (next Friday after Thanksgiving) at 1:00pm PST (4:ooPM EST). They have a 4 hour launch window. Good luck and Godspeed.

-Update 9:03pm CST from Michael Belfiore's transcript of the press conference.

Q: What's next in the entreprenurial space field?
A: Lots of people doing
things--Paul Allen [who funded SpaceShipOne], Jeff Bezos with Blue Origin, John
Carmack with Armadillo Aerospace...Musk thinks we're heading toward a Netscape
moment, when someone turns a profit, and hopefully it'll be SpaceX, and then
investment capital will start to flow in.

Hmmm, investment never hurts.
I am ready to put some money were my blog is...

Iron Bowl (Not Space Related)

The Iron Bowl is tomorrow. Just had to put it out. War Eagle!!!! Go Auburn .

SpaceX First launch Date Today

Elon Musk, at a 2:00pm PST (4:00PM CST, 5:00PM EST) press conference, will give the launch date for the first launch of the Falcon I out of Kwajalein Atoll. I believe this to be not only important for SpaceX's credibility in the industry, but could very well be a historical moment in the space movement.

The Falcon V and IX will be more important to watch in the long run, but this is a huge reduction in cost. The Falcon I cost $6.7 million dollars vs $25 million for the next cheapest competitor. That is like being able to buy a new truck for ~$8,000 vs $30,000. Can't wait to see where this takes us (hopefully up fore it is finished).

I will let you know when it is...


Thursday, November 17, 2005

China Spends How Much?

I know everyone got in a hissy last week about whether China's space program is a threat or not, but I saw this and did a double take. According to,

...China does spend about one-half of 1 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on its space program, and since the nation's GDP has risen 30 percent since 2002 due to a booming economy, more funding is expected
.5% of GDP? Is that right? Tariq Malik may mean the Budget, but if not, wow. The US GDP in real dollars for 2004 was 11.743 trillion dollars (yes I said trillion). If the US spent .5% of GDP on NASA, their budget would be 58.67 billion dollars a year. Not to mention, if it was tied to GDP, it would grow at an average of ~3% a year. I guess China is serious...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

NASA Needs a Public Relations Overhaul

While going through my after lunch review of all the space news on the web, I ran across this statement Mark Whittington made as a comment to Rand Simberg's post of Iraq and Space.

Not enough is being articulated about the economic benefits of doing so. Of
course, NASA public relations has been dysfunctional since the birth of the
space agency.

Now I have been an advocate of NASA having better PR for a while now. I had kind of given up hope, but I have been thinking about some stuff lately and this prompted me to put fingers to keys, as it were.

How many of you watch NASA TV? If you are like me, you wish you did, but
its like watching public access TV with cable rates. What are they
thinking? Let's go through the problems one by one.

#1) No schedule - I can even pull PBS up and see what shows are coming on a week in advance. With NASA TV I can't even tell what is on right now. It is either Video File (which means whatever crap they have laying around) or ISS Coverage (which is usually shots of mission control). Even if you are putting on random crap, at least tells us what it is. We might be interested in some of it. Get an intern to do it. You are already broadcasting a digital signal, how hard could it be.

#2) No Plan - it is obvious to me after about 3 hours of watching NASA TV that there is no plan on how to use this forum. Does NASA want a PR vehicle, a information channel on space science (much like the science channel), or a CSPAN like just shoot everything we do. (Note: CSPAN, at least, usually has some kind of schedule). I would vote for a PR vehicle, but I would take anything organized.

#3) No interest - Now this is a bit subjective, I admit, but I am a science/space guy. I watch the discovery channel, science channel, Nova, and congressional hearings on space (on CSPAN usually). I am the ideal NASA TV viewer. And yet I almost never watch it (except for the occasional press conference on the Mars Rovers). What does this say to us? Why not, at the very least, use this medium to promote the ESAS and space in general to your base. Show your plans. Show simulations of Mars missions. Show debates on exploration architectures. It doesn't have to be Hollywood, but at least make an effort.

Now, before you go calling me a complainer, I have some ideas that NASA is welcome to take and run with.

#1) Reuse existing programming - Make with deal with Discovery or PBS. Get some documentaries about space, rockets. Play them every day at some specified time.

#2) Have some general information shows. VSE or whatever. But play to adults. So much of the stuff is video of an astronaut talking with a 3rd grade class. Adults like this stuff. We pay taxes. Get us excited about your plans. Don't let the newspapers tell us what you are doing with all the bias they bring to the table. Tell us directly.

#3) Space Movies. Some stuff that paints space exploration in a good light. Old stuff is fine. I am sure Tom Hanks would help.

Anybody else have any thoughts.

As I write this, ISS Mission Coverage (replay no less) is running on NASA TV.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

NASA is Cutting Science, the Bastards

According to Keith over at Nasawatch, Yet Another Mission Sacrificed for VSE? Oh wait, is that all there is to this story?

"They basically said that we should slow down or almost stop the development
while they decide to take a look at it and make an investigation," Russell said.
"They got concerned by the number of problems that they saw that we were

I guess it could be the problems they are having actually building the system. No that couldn't be it.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

I have a confession to make

As much as it pains me to tell you all this, I feel I must. The truth is I feel there are more of you out there like me. You may be afraid to show your feelings, or afraid of being laughed at by your other space geek friends. But today I say to you, fear no more.

I don't like rockets. I don't mean I am against them for any reason, or that I am waiting on a space elevator, as I don't really like them either. I mean I am not enamored with them. I don't lay awake at night comparing the various ISPs of LOX or hybrid engines. I don't think about VTVL various air launch. I just don't care.

I am a space nut. I love space and more than anything I want to go to space, live on the Moon or Mars, and see the mighty king Jupiter up close. But like a man about to take a car trip across Europe, I only care that whatever transportation I use gets me to my goal. He doesn't care if it is a bus, a Ranger Rover, or an F15 so long as he reaches his hotel each night. I feel the same way about space transportation.

Now, you may wonder why I bring this up. I have no problem with people liking rockets. Actually, I need you to, so one day one of them will carry me and my family up to the heavens. But, you may not realize the peer pressure one feels when posting about space.

I feel an expectation from others to understand and even enjoy a rousing discussion about the various pros and cons of different rocket architectures. Truth is I neither understand it nor enjoy it very much. I have never really gotten that delta-v thing and the difference between various engine types bores me to tears.

So, to sum it all up, do not expect aerospace information from Space Pragmatism. I refuse to even fake it. We are all about the destination here.

Okay with that said, carry on...

Friday, November 04, 2005

China: I can take that moon in 12 years, Bob...

According to Reuters, a paper in Guangzhou, the Southern Metropolis News, is reporting China now plans to put a man on the Moon in 2017. Curious number don't you think? I wonder if President Bush and Mike Griffin are going to shoot for 2016 now. Might be fun little race.

Course you have to take what a Chinese paper says with a grain of salt, so who really knows...

(Hat tip to Curmudgeons Corner)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

What do I think about NASA?

Okay, after getting blindsided by Mark at Curmudgeons Corner, I thought it necessary to clear up some things. Apparently Mark thinks am an "alt.spacer blubbering about NASA's plan to return to the Moon continues."

I'll admit I have leanings towards private space flight, but I am certainly not a libertarian anarchist. I may be the most socially conservative space nut you have ever met.

So to clear all this up, I need to explain how I feel about NASA and about space in general. I am a big fan of NASA. I watch all the launches I can. I watch whenever Griffin speaks to Congress. I was very excited when President Bush gave out the Vision last year. I am happy to pay my taxes to support NASA exploring. Not only is it expanding out knowledge but it is certainly better than most of the useless crap our taxes go towards.

That having been said, the point of my post was not to bash NASA but to simply say why I am not more excited about ESAS. As Mark said himself:

The purpose of the space program is not to get me and mine a trip to Club Moon
but to spread human civilization beyond the Earth. If I get to go, fine. If not,
sad for me but it doesn't matter in the large scale scheme of things.

Exactly. NASA's goal is not to get me or my wife or you into space. As excited as I may be about NASA's 13 year out plans to put a group of men on the Moon (which I am), it doesn't immediately help my cause.

Well, I actually do care if you get into space, especially if you share my
values about Western Civilization. The purpose of the space program is not to
get me and mine a trip to Club Moon but to spread human civilization beyond the
Earth. If I get to go, fine. If not, sad for me but it doesn't matter in the
large scale scheme of things.

And while I congratulate you on your altruism, I simply don't share it. You don't care if I get into space, you care if Americans in mass get into space. I would love that (if I was one of them). But you know what, I want to go to space. I am passionate about it. It is my greatest dream. And quite frankly I think you cheapen dreams in general to say my dream should be for western civilization and not personal. Real dreams only happen at the personal level. I bet all our space nut forefathers wanted, personally, to go to space. That is why they worked so hard to make it happen and why we are where we are today.

Okay that was a little bit of venting, but I believe the core of America is personal dreams, not the greater good. The greater good piggy-backs off of personal dreams. So no one should feel bad or selfish for their personal visions of anything, especially space flight.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

I Guess I have to comment on the ESAS Eventually...

I suppose I have to comment on the plan to return to the Moon NASA put out a little while ago. I have to say, I am a little torn. I mean this is Space Pragmatism, where we are pragmatic, as it were.

Well for the executive summary, I am okay with it. Unlike many of my private space industry brothers, I don't think it is doomed to failure already. I think they could get to space, and with the right leadership (and I mean in the White House not in Griffin's seat) they could build colonies and launch Americans to Mars.

So why am I not jumping for joy and waving my arms. The problem is, it doesn't get me and my wife to space. That, of course, is my ultimate goal. Like Ron "Tater Salad" White said about being a dog lover:

I a dog lover. Actually I love my dog. I don't give a crap
about your dog.

Well, just the same for me. I want to go to space. I don't give a crap if you go to space. (I wouldn't mind the company, so come on up). But the best way to get me to space is to get everybody to space.

Mr Borman (who has been to space which hurts me to the core) is a dumbass (yes I said it). His recent statement (from Space Politics):

Well, I think Spacecraft One [sic] was a nice stunt. You spend twenty-five
million dollars to win ten. I'm not taking anything away from it because the
people who flew it were very brave and courageous, but I don't think it leads to
much, and I think it's inappropriately displayed up there next to Lindbergh's
and Yeager's airplanes.

Well, Mr Borman, screw you. You got to go to space, and unless I change my personality, my career path, and my vision pretty soon, NASA ain't send'n me up. Burt is the only person around who has done a lot to get me to space. So he falls right below God, my wife, and my kids on my list of people I love.

So were do I fall. It will be a fun show. I hope them the best. I also hope Virigin Galactic has a resort on the Moon before then. I be drinking 7n7's and toasting the landing, from the lunar side.

Update: 7:30 PM CST Nov 2, 2005
Jonathan Goff over at Selenian Boondocks seems to agree with me.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

So What Are You Going To Do About It?

The Speculist has a note about space property rights. Know as many of you know (if I still have any steady readers since I haven't posted in a while) I am very interested in space property. All of this talk about who owns what in space will only be settled when there are people truly living there and when commerce is established.

The article goes on to suggest that the UN is King George to the
would-be-settlers' American colonists. Let's hope it doesn't come down to that.
But if it does, I think I know which side I'm on.

To sum it up, this issue will be resolved when settlers and/or companies look back at the UN from space and say "So what are you going to do about it?" When that question is asked, history happens. Where it is a young, nerdy, overly picked on boy finally has enough, or when a group of humans finally has enough. English colonists look at England and said (through their actions) "Screw you, so what are you going to do about it?" England, of course, march one of the greatest armies in the world (at the time) across the sea (figuratively) and brought war to our land. From that war, came America.

Now, not to disparage the UN, my inclining is that they will shrug their shoulders and talk about how rough and barbaric space is. How space citizens need to be enlightened. Truth is they will do nothing of consequence. What could the do, really, as they are worse than useless.

That moment, whether through war or elitists inaction, is when we will become an extraterrestrial species.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Falcon IX from SpaceX

I am really busy planning a trip to a technical Interchange Meeting in San Diego real soon, but I couldn't let this go by. Here is the announcement:

SpaceX today announced its new launch vehicle, the Falcon 9, an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) class vehicle. With up to a 17 ft (5.2 m) diameter fairing, Falcon 9 is capable of launching approximately 21,000 lbs (9,500 kg) to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in its medium configuration and 55,000 lbs (25,000 kg) to LEO in its heavy configuration, a lift capacity greater than any other launch vehicle. In the medium configuration, Falcon 9 is priced at $27 million per flight with a 12 ft (3.6 m) fairing and $35 million with a 17 ft fairing. Prices include all launch range and third party insurance costs, making Falcon 9 the most cost efficient vehicle in its class worldwide.

Now you can look at RLV & Space Transport News or Selenian Boondocks for technical and political ramifications, but what I think is cool is the reuse Elon is getting. He is taking the same engine and material structures and making a little rocket, a medium rocket, and a heavy rocket. That is agile. (Bet you knew it would come around to that -djs)

Imagine if your car could be a tiny compact that gets 80mpg but when you need the power, you drop 8 more engines in and change out the cab and you have a 4x4 2 ton pickup. That is a handy engineering feat.

Update: 10:42pm CST - Daniel Schmelzer has some thoughts on the Falcon IX as well at Carried Away.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

What did he say?

Only near a NASA field center could this be thought of as a bad thing. (from

The ranks of the spaceport's 14,500 workers could be slashed one-third in the next decade as NASA makes the transition -- a transition geared to safer and more reliable rockets that are cheaper and need fewer people to fly.

Friday, August 26, 2005

SpaceDev gets Agile Development

More Agile Space Development sightings:

In his interview with MSNBC, SpaceDev CEO Jim Benson says:

So right now, SpaceDev is more on the hardware side of developing the enabling technology, in terms of extremely high-performance, low-cost satellites. We've got a project right now at the Air Force Research Laboratory, that we call SSBT, small satellite bus technology. The whole purpose of this $750,000 program is to turn us loose in defining modular, plug-and-play, hardware- and software-oriented microsatellite buses. We are not only doing that, we are actually implementing it in our three Missile Defense Agency satellites.

These are truly plug and play. The subsystems will be interconnected with industry-standard interfaces Ethernet, USB and RS422, take your choice. Guess what operating system we're running under? Linux. It's free! We're writing object-oriented software modules like device drivers.

Also in talking about his Orbitial Dream Chaser craft:

So then we looked around for another existing designed vehicle with the right shape. We haven't announced which one or ones fit those criteria, but we did find something. We came up with what we think is a very simple and practical approach that requires no new technologies whatsoever. And that’s a big problem with most of these systems, is that they do require new technology. That becomes very expensive and very risky. Schedules tend to slip when you’re developing a new technology for a specific application. So we were very careful to design SpaceDev Dream Chaser around existing technology, and we simply scaled up our rocket motors to a larger size.

Now that is Agile. Go Jim!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

There's some good news and some bad news...

NASA has finally settled on the inline shuttle derived HLV. Damn.

But on a lighter note, Virgin Galactic announced the development of SpaceShip 3, a suborbital version.

Well you gotta take the good with the bad, right?

--Update Aug 23, 2005 9:41am--

According to,

It would seem that multiple offices in the executive branch simply do not agree on key elements of what Griffin wants to do - and have serious problems with certain aspects - finances being the most important point of disagreement. Stay tuned.

Let's keep our fingers crossed for a more modular solution...

Monday, August 22, 2005

Agile at work in Space

This is agile at work. Using existing UDP/IP or SMTP (store and download like email) for the communications protocols for space missions. Duh! Why create a whole new comm networks for each mission when you can by a TCP/IP stack on any cellphone.

This is my agile argument for me:

After reinventing this wheel at least four times by the early 1990s, Hogie came to understand the power of the Internet Protocol. IP is the lingua franca for data communications. It's not just the way bits are packaged for transmission on the Internet but also how they are routed from machine to machine. As happens all the time on the Internet, two computer systems using wildly different hardware a Hewlett-Packard PDA and an IBM mainframe, say can pass the data back and forth, so long as they both speak IP.

And this should tell you something. With littlforethoughtht and now extra programming:

To prove how powerful this concept of using IP in space could be, the Goddard team set up a log-in accounta user name and a password for some colleagues at the Marshall Space Flight Center, in Huntsville, Ala., so they, too, could access the ill-fated shuttle's computer. Without a standard TCP/IP connection, Marshall might have had to commission someone like Hogie to write the software that would make the connections to give access to its engineers. But with TCP/IP, accessing the shuttle was as easy as using an AOL account. Once logged on, technicians could upload or download files, check the logs to see how the onboard server was running, or do anything else the staff at Goddard could do.

This is what agile (and common sense) can do for you.

Remembereber, the best solution is sometimes the hardest, but it is never the stupidest. (you can quote me on that :)

Thanks to and Keith Cowling for pointing out this article...

Happy Birthday to Me!

To anyone who is interested, today is my 30th birthday. So I will have chocolate cake with lemon icing, get a Ben Bova novel from my wife, and keep working on my article on Agile space development.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Agile Space Mission Development Part 1 - Quality Infrastructure

After my last post on Agile Space, I got to thinking, 'This could be more closely related that I originally thought" So, if my readers would indulge me, I would like to explore the usefulness of Agile Development in space. Comments are encouraged and appreciated.

In part one we are going to explore some of the tenets of what being Agile means. In the OO coding world, quality code has a number of attributes.

  • Strong cohesion
  • Loose Coupling
  • Non-redundant
  • Readable
  • Correct

Great. So how does this affect space development. Well I think correct goes without saying. You mission has to be correct. Trajectories, thrust, weight, distance all has to be right. So move on to the less obvious mappings.

Cohesion is defined as how “closely the operations in a routine are related.”(1) Well, lets paraphrase that to “how closely the operations of a single module in a mission are related.” We will defer defining what is meant by a module until later. So clearly a module of a Lunar mission who's purpose was to send men into LEO would have strong cohesion. As oppose to one who's purpose was to transport people, cargo, and be a floating laboratory would have weak cohesion (djs: heard of a system like that :) . Based on my experience with software systems, Strong cohesion almost always makes software more flexible, as it is a more atomic unit. Just as a CXV type vehicle could be used in many types of missions, from ISS transport to docking with a deep space colony transport. So, I conclude that strong cohesion is useful to both software and space development.

Okay, what about loose coupling. coupling is defined as “the strength of a connection between two routines.” or put more simply, “Coupling describes how strongly a routine is related to other routines.” (1) So, to paraphrase, “the strength of a connection between two modules.” Hmm, so we want internal integrity with flexible relations between modules. Well that sounds good, but what does it mean for space.

If a module, such as an orbiting refuel tank, requires a module it interfaces with, such as a Lunar transport system, to have a certain way it stores the fuel it has tight coupling (bad). It means it would place detailed requirements of how any module who need to be refueled processed the fuel, thus limiting innovation. What we want is two modules who interface and don't “care” what the other module does with the “thing” that is transferred. That is loose coupling and it allows a module to be used with many different modules. Everyone just has to understand the interface. So again, I conclude that loose coupling is useful for both software and space development.

Non-redundancy may seem like a no brainier, but let's example it like good philosophers. Redundancy means more that one routine performing the same function. So in our Agile space world, more than one module performing the same function. That is a little harder, because we want some redundancy. We want more than one company offering launch services. We want more than one way to get to the moon. It's cheaper that way. But within a specific mission, what you don't want is a requirement for the modules to interface with different modules that do the same thing. If you have a refueling tank in LEO, why have a different one in Lunar orbit. If you can reuse a module, use it. This is the heart of Agile space development.

Let me know what you think so far. Part 2 coming later...

1. McConnell, S., Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction, Redmon: Microsoft Press, 1993.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

SpaceDev continues to make money...

In case you missed it, SpaceDev just posted there second consecutive quarter of profits.

According to there Form 10-QSB filed August 15, 2005, SpaceDev make a net income of $110,938 or 5.8% margin. That makes $212,962 for the year.

Just FYI stock is spdv.ob and is sitting at around $1.50

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Agile Space Mission Development

Sorry I haven't been blogging for a while. No, I am not dead or in jail or anything bad. I got promoted and we hired a lot of new guys I had to bring up to speed this month, so what are you going to do. On to the subject at hand....

Jonathan Goff on his blog Silenian Boondocks, has a new post out on how NASA could do a moon mission in an open architecture, commercially supported fashion. As a quasi-libertarian (at least economically) I agree with his ideas. After reading his post, though, I see another reason for the light-launch, re-fuel in orbit, option.

Let me discuss software development methodologies for a moment. (All non-software engineering geeks bear with me). In the last decade or two, object-oriented development has brought for many ideas on how to create good software systems. First with Design Patterns based on Christopher Alexdander's brilliant "A Timeless Way of Building" which first proposed patterns in architecture. The "Gang of Four" as they are so affectionately referred to took that idea and wrote the foundation of OOD in the last decade, "Design
Pattern, Elements of Reusable-Object Oriented Software.”

Now, I don't know about your field, but in software development there is one constant, change. Requirements change, tests change, platforms change, even customers change. The traditional “Waterfall” method of development does not allow for change without a lot of gnashing of teeth. So various methods over the years have tried to retrofit the waterfall model with flexibility. Some of the more famous are spiral development, rapid prototyping, and the Rational Unified Process (or RUP). None of these expected change to happen, they just tried to make it easier to handle.

Then came Agile development. Agile development was the created with the idea that change isn't bad. It isn't good, it just is. It will happen, so why no design your system from the begging to be fast, light, and flexible.

Now I am not a rocket scientist, but I have noticed a lot of the same problems in rocketry as in software. Missions are planned years in advance with very little flexibility for future discoveries or technologies. Missions are designed for a specific goal with specific technologies for that mission.

How does agile affect this? I am advocating an Agile Space Mission methodology. What Johnathan proposes goes a long way towards that. Whether it is libertarian or not, it s flexible. Re-fueling in space is not limited to the Moon. Mars missions, asteroid missions, Europa missions, could all use this technology. Orbit assembly with light rockets would work with many different mission goals. But the important thing is, it is flexible and scalable enough to work with situations we haven't even though of yet. That is the beauty of Agile, change is built into the entire process.

Don't get me wrong, we need to have goals. Going somewhere is important, but don't limit your mission architecture when you know you are going somewhere else later on. Plan for change...

Manifesto for Agile Software Development

We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

So it Begins (We hope)

Apparently, Mike Griffin's comments on buying ISS cargo service from a private enterprise has had some effect. According to the Press release, SpaceHAB is beginning development of a fully commercial roundtrip delivery service to LEO. This system will be called Apex. According to Michael E. Bain, COO of SpaceHAB,

"Not only is Apex a viable option for commercially re-supplying the International Space Station, . . . It is also a flexible system that can act as an in-space resource module providing power, data, and thermal support or serve as an unmanned orbiting laboratory that brings experiment results safely back to earth."
Well they may have had this in mind before Mr Griffin, but it couldn't have hurt.

SpaceHAB, for those of you who don't know, are known mainly for their pressurized modules that have flown on numerous NASA Shuttle flights. They don't currently have any information other than the press release on their website, but I will keep looking and let everyone know.

Just waiting to buy my ticket.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Self-Esteem of Scientist

The AAS Statement on the Vision for Space explorationn is a lovely paper on how science needs to be at the center of the Vision. However they make a statement that makes my eyes cross.

Exploration without science is tourism.
So let us look at a list of "tourists" in the past.
  • Lewis & Clark
  • Christopher Columbus
  • Neil Armstrong
  • Ferdinand Magellan
  • David Livingstone
  • Vasco da Gama
  • Marco Polo
  • Ernest Shackleton
I find it interesting that Astronomers are telling us all what exploration is. Don't get me wrong, I love astronomy. It is not exploration, however. It is study, research, even just plain fun, but it is not exploration.

Scientist in general kept saying how important science is to any space exploration we do (or don't do). I am starting to think they have low self-esteem. Are they worried we are going off to other planets without them?

Friday, June 24, 2005

"NASA" Mars base in Utah

Is it just me, or does that "NASA" base in Utah look a lot like the Mars Societie's base. I mean If you run the video, take a look at the name on the Hab Module. It says "Mars Society Mars Base."

Either VOA is losing it, or NASA is claiming something not their own. More likely VOA is losing it.

NASA Creates Simulated Mars Base In Utah Desert
Voice of America

Friday, June 17, 2005

Edurance Destiny

Space exploration isn't about science. (Let me repeat this for those of you who may be hyperventilating) Space Exploration/Colonization isn't about science.

Jonathan Goff has a new blog, Selenian Boondocks. He is giving Mike Griffin some tips with Your Focus Determines Your Path - SB - June.16.05

If you think that having a small McMurdo-on-the-Moon style lunar science base is space development, then your opinion on what is an ideal method to accomplish that will differ quite a bit from someone like me who doesn't see the moon as settled until there are dozens of settlements and hundreds of thousands of people living and working there.

Not bad. I have to go along with his position. I have heard it proposed to build an international science station on the Moon like Antarctica. Two words in that idea cause me heartburn, science and international.

Space Exploration/Colonization isn't about science. Exploring the new world wasn't about science. Opening the west wasn't about science. Marco Polo wasn't about science. Science is wonderful. Engineering is even better. Giving us room to roam is the best of all.

I know a lot people (particularly at the Planetary Society) are big on international cooperation. But I am here to tell you, international control of the Moon is a bad idea. Lets say the USA, Russia, and the EU jointly build a nice Moon base. John Q. Entrepreneur wants to move up and start a Helium-3 mining station. Well Russia & the EU don't want American industry to get defacto control over the Moon's Helium-3 mining so they block the proposal. Then the US retaliates when a Japanese company wants to do the same. Nothing would ever get done.

Now, with there three separate bases, when the US mining company sets up shop, Russia & Japan would simply send there own miners up there and compete. Now that sounds like a recipe for human (& capitalist) expansion.

How many people would give up the modern conveniences we are so proud of to work as a miner on the moon. I sure would. Most people I know would. Not everyone, but a lot of people. What does that tell you about priorities. How many people in the 18th and 19th century gave up the conveniences of the east coast to break new ground out west?

Manifest Destiny was a nineteenth century belief that the United States had a divinely-inspired mission to expand, particularly across the North American frontier towards the Pacific Ocean.

I propose we have a Manifest Destiny to live and adapt to every environment accessible to us. Whatever my old history professor said about Manifest Destiny, without it, would we have Silicon Valley? I don't know what effect solar system colonization will have on our society, but I have an unquenchable desire to find out, for better or worse.

Even more than that. This isn't just about nationalism, freedom, and capitalism expanding through the solar system, it is about survival. The most basic need of all humanity. This is Endurance Destiny. Humanity must endure. Why, you may ask. Because we will it to be so, and God wills it to be so, and we have the tools to make it happen.
"NASA is not about the 'Adventure of Human Space Exploration,' we are in the deadly serious business of saving the species. All Human Exploration's bottom line is about preserving our species over the long haul."
Astronaut John Young,"The Big Picture"

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Oh My! This is a whole new industry

Some people at Florida may be getting it, I hope. I think private space is going to have a bigger economic impact than NASA in a shorter amount of time than many people think. An article in the Florida Today says:

And a flurry of private firms are on the verge of fielding rocket ships to take tourists on expensive joy rides that could be economic boons for the communities chosen to be their home ports.
They go on to quote Pam Dana, the Director of Florida's Department of Economic Development:

The state "wants to get beyond just a heavy reliance upon launches, but to capture a lot of the new [Private Space] activity,"

I hope it isn't just talk, since the more competition for all aspects of personal space flight, the cheaper and better it becomes. One thing is for damn sure,

"If we're going to add the unnecessary regulation and red tape to commercial launches, we're not getting any of them," said Bill Posey, a state senator from Rockledge.

T/Space Drop Test

T/Space and Scaled composites had a drop test of a scale Crew Transfer Vehicle (CXV).

The great thing about this is that it came from a mere $3M study contract from NASA. The T/Space team went from nothing to a scaled dropped test (which worked perfectly as far as I can tell) for 3 million dollars. Hello? Sadly, NASA would have spent $3M figuring out the name of the ship. (Thanks to HobbySpace-RLV)

Some hope from NASA

NASA has decided to buy parabolic flights from Zero-G corporation rather than running their own "Vomit Comet." I think this is a good sign. I wonder if I can buy a ticket for one of the astronauts flights...

Monday, June 06, 2005

Associate Space Press

Clark Lindsey has proposed a space syndicated press. I like it. Count Space Pragmatism in. Since UPI is dropping Robert Zimmerman and Irene Mona Klotz's columns, we need a space focus press. It would also keep me from having to search through countless web sites every morning for new stories. The Space Wire.

As Rand
Simberg says, though, can we make money at it? Ain't that always the question...