Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Russians threatening to cut off US access to ISS

Russia's deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin has voiced the threat that's been a glaringly obvous Russian move for a long time;
"After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest to the USA to bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline."

So, it looks as if Russia is seriously thinking of cutting off US access to ISS, an opportunity Russia has due to the US being dependent upon rides on Soyuz to get astronauts to and from ISS.

If we were smart, we'd be working quietly with SpaceX and others to do several things. One is to prep a contingency cargo Dragon for crew transport (this could be done in a matter of weeks, easily.). I think it's a certainty that of all existing US space vehicles, cargo Dragon is the probably the closest thing we have to a crew-capable vehicle, so it's the obvious choice(1)*.   

Another thing we should be doing is to examine and make contingency plans regarding options should the Russians decide to withdraw from the station (including their modules). This might not be as hard as it sounds; the Russian segment's critical functions are life support, control systems, and reboost, currently provided by the Zevezya module. But, it looks to me like most of those functions (at least to an adequate level) could be provided by a combination of the Interim Control Module that NASA has in storage, plus the Zarya module that originally provided control module functions prior to Zevestya.  Zarya is on the Russian segment, and was built by Russia, BUT, it's owned by NASA.

Getting the Interim Control Module to ISS won't be easy. It was designed for a shuttle cargo bay. I can't find mass figures for it, so I'm going to have to assume it's fairly massive as well as bulky. I can't find mass or dimensions, but as it was planned to use shuttle, we know the max it could be. The shuttle cargo bay was 15 feet by 59 feet. The F9 payload fairing is a bit wider (17ft), but it's shorter, at 43 feet. The biggest issue IMHO would be mass; the F9 1.1 can only do 29,000 pounds to LEO, so even less to the 51.6 ISS orbit, whereas the Shuttle could do 35,380 lb to ISS. So, if ICM is too heavy or bulky for F9, Delta Iv Heavy could handle it, both for mass and payload fairing dimensions.

I don't think Russia wants to commit on outright act of war (such as an armed takeover of ISS - something they have the capability to do now, due to their cosmonauts being armed) , but they very well might want to create a spectacular humiliation for the US.

Given the above, it might be enough to thwart a Russian attempt to doom the station (thus creating an enormous and expensive humiliation for the USA)  via withdrawing their own modules. They might be quite willing to lose their own modules to accomplish this, so replacing their functions enough to allow ISS to avoid destruction (with either a skeleton crew or unmanned) might be possible. I'm not saying it is possible, just that it could be (and would behoove us to look, if we haven't already).      

No matter whether or not ISS was worth building, it cost the US around 150 billion, and that's an investment we'd be insane not to take a few risks to preserve. There's also the aspect of allowing the Russians to humiliate us if they so choose, which they might.

The only question remaining is, is our leadership (in congress and the white house) insane/stupid enough not to understand this? Given their "safety first" mantra even under these circumstances, it pains me to say the answer is most likely yes.   

*(1) there may be one other near-term option in addition to cargo Dragon. It's Dragon 2, also called Dragonrider, the manned version of Dragon. Per a tweet by Elon Musk, it's going to be unveiled in May (flight hardware, not a mockup or boilerplate model).   

Monday, April 21, 2014

First Stage of CRS-3's F9 recovered! (Updated, as it laregly wasn't)

EDIT to update: 
Per Elon Musk's presser, the first stage of the F9 achieved a soft landing, but was largely destroyed by heavy seas soon after. They recovered a few parts, that's all.

My conclusion below, based upon the maritime hazard report I found, was wrong. I said they got it, but they largely did not. The last sentence of the original post, plus the title, are wrong.

What I should have done is stuck to the maritime hazard warning. No other space site or news site had that, I found it myself. That was actual breaking news. My extrapolation of what it meant wasn't, it was just a hopeful guess.
I'm very knew to this whole blogging thing (My sincere thanks to Ken for allowing me to post here) so I'm learning. 

I'm leaving the original post below for posterity. 


They've found the first stage of CRX-3's F9;

This is from the National Geospacial Inteligence Agency's April 21st maritime hazards warnings;

NAVAREA IV 274/14 [1 of 1][[WWNWSFOLDER]]

2. CANCEL THIS MSG 220720Z APR 14.//

Authority: RCC MIAMI 190256Z APR 14.

Cancel: 22072000 Apr 14

Note the cancel; the second iteration is a typo by the National Geospacial Intelligence Agency (not me for once!). The first iteration is correct; 220720Z

What it means is April 22nd, 07:20 GMT (Zulu). That's just under two hours from now.

I can think of only one reason why they'd put that specific a cancel time in the NOTM;  the stage is about to not be at that location anymore.

THEY GOT IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The time when colonization of Mars becomes practical

That time has arrived. Several things have to happen in concert but they all can and are being worked on right now. The weak leg is funding which will be addressed herein. That funding can be accumulated now. We can do so by using a trust which addresses the issue of fraud and also mitigates other potential pitfalls.

Billions of dollars in technology is being designed, built, and tested by government and private industry for the purpose of getting humans to mars right now. We know how to get to orbit. We know how to build ships to go beyond orbit. We need better ways of landing on mars, but we have successfully landed on mars already.

SpaceX has been leading the way because of Elon Musk's vision and drive, but he is not alone. Elon now has a record of making things happen (congrats on the soft sea landing) so I'm betting the MCT becomes a reality but not even it is required. What they first called a Red Dragon has become a wider Mars One lander that Mars One feels confident enough in to put on their critical path. NASA is working on concepts to land 10 to 100 times the mass they've already successfully put on the surface of mars. Having the vehicles to land humans safely on the surface of mars are only a few years of funding away. The MCT itself is just scaling up of what SpaceX has been doing for it's entire eleven years existence. Funding is the key. SpaceX would love to sell you tickets. They claim they will eventually do it for $500k per person. I believe we need $250m per person ($4b for a dozen at a time) to do it with technology that will be available in the Mars One time frame. To meet that schedule, accumulating funding should start ASAP although we really do not have to meet that schedule as long as we make reasonable progress.

Zubrin and the Mars Society have researched living on mars. We know we could put people in a can with life support but living on mars will required ISRU industry. Freedom is also a requirement that is oddly missing in most settlement plans. Top down design only works for a small base. Settling a world requires individuals with assets and freedom to pursue each of their own individual dreams.

The foundational requirement for living on mars is simple chemistry and power. Jerry Pournelle in the 70s pointed out how fundamental energy is to living in style in space. We should be cautious that we provide them enough power for industry beyond just that required for living. Zubrin's Mars Society has shown how they can develop more on their own. Ultimately t\he colonists themselves will be responsible for what they bring which will be their own property (also solving the issue of how mars gets the things they can't produce themselves while incentivizing them to learn how.)

During the time that the technology matures we need to accumulate funding to buy the tickets for those willing to go. Mars One has identified 200,000+ of them.

I believe a trust is one of two keys required to accumulate and disburse the funding required. A trust holds money and property for the benefit of others. It is a contract managed by trustees. It's not a new concept having been used since at least the 1600s.

I believe we could transport a person with one ton or several of supplies to the martian surface with soon to be existing technology for $150m per person from already published prices. But that might be too optimistic. So the plan is to be able to accumulate more than $250m per person so a dozen at a time could go to mars by offering $4b to the company that would do it. This is the same ballpark using similar technology as Mars One has written about although not exactly. We can send more at a time than they propose which by itself reduces cost. The trustees would determine if any proposal meets the requirements to do that. With multiple acceptable proposals a reverse auction could determine the vendor to choose. Competition brings costs down.

The trust agreement has to cover many contingencies and will have to be worked out with lawyers that specialize in such things. The asset that provides the reason for adding money to the trust is the 144,000,000,000,000 sq. meters of martian surface area. It currently has no value although worthless $20 deeds have been sold online for years. But even a small value of just some of that produces a large enough sum to pay for realistic proposals.

Nothing has intrinsic value. The only value a thing has is what somebody is willing to pay for it. Most people will only spend money on things they can legally own. Can the martian surface legally be sold as real estate? Does it require the state to give it's blessings?

Historically right up to today real estate ownership is determined by chain of title. All chain of title begins with a claim. Without a claim, nothing is owned. Ownership itself is a moral imperative. Civilization outside utopian marxist fantasy is based on it. If only it was just fantasy because millions have died because of this false reasoning and millions more probably will. It's time to face up to the reality that if civilization is to exist on mars it will require private real estate ownership.

Recently I came across an expression of that utopian fantasy...
One can only hope that by the time colonization of Mars becomes practical that we will be beyond ownership of material things...
I am so thankful this thought was so well expressed because it has really fired me up. We might thank Star Trek for giving people this delusional fantasy but they are not alone. The U.N. is fully behind this idea and a broad range of lawyers are currently working to prevent others from owning space real estate. They'd rather it be owned by everyone meaning owned by no one and controlled by them. We can't let that happen. This will prevent us from becoming a spacefaring civilization. It will almost completely stunt any progress. It already has.

So how does ownership get worked out? It doesn't require the blessings of government. That is a trap. Governments have often recognized ownership after the fact and that is required here. The difficulty with getting to mars and the communications delay are actually a major advantage. A major reason for using a trust is to avoid the pitfalls required to claim ownership. The historical method of claiming property is by possession. Anyone can do this. The trick is defending that claim. Colonists privately funding transport to the martian surface will be able to use the strongest legal claim of ownership which is by possession. The trust makes it possible to do this with the right timing to prevent others from throwing a wrench into the works because the property is held in trust for the benefit of others but no claim is made before actual possession. But even before possession the trust provides contractual ownership of the land which others can not sue for because it has not yet been conveyed. Should land ownership for a particular plot be contested the most expedient thing to do would exchange it for another uncontested plot. Mars has a lot of potential real estate.

Who gets an account in this trust? Those that have proven their willingness to go one way to mars such as the 200,000+. They will risk their lives for the benefit of mankind. They need a plan that rewards their risks. They do not have to pay a cent and will arrive on mars with all the assets needed for a lifetime of freedom to pursue their dreams. Mars One will take 100,000 years to send everyone at a rate of 2 per year. We can do better. They selected over a thousand from the 200k in the current round of selections. So we start by randomly selecting four dozen from those. Once the first dozen have reached a certain level of funding we randomly select another thousand at a time (based on further criteria) until 10s to 100s of thousands have had a chance to participate. Each person will be assigned 1000 sq. km. (one billion sq. m.) in an account that accumulates 25 cents per sq. meter. This money comes from those that believe enough in the plan to contribute for the potential of owning mars real estate. Would you want a $50 government bond or 200m2 of mars real estate? Tell me again after hyperinflation. At 25 cents per m2 I would and so would many others if marketed correctly by people that know how. A 2000m2 homestead would cost $500. Putting it into a trust is how you prevent fraud and give the money time to accumulate. I'll let you know what the trust lawyers say but basically it's just a contract.

Letting it accumulate in trust means whatever the cost of the first landing it will be covered. The second landing will cost half as much since supplies will not need to be prepositioned for them. Elon see's 80k going but in a very hard sell. My plan will send 100s of thousands all arriving with a lifetime of assets so they can individually pursue their own dreams. Some will die. They will be doing it for humanity to produce a true spacefaring civilization because make no mistake, this will not be the only world we settle, just the easiest.

I can't really go into all the details here but please feel free to add your own thoughts in comments. An earlier post.

I am looking for lawyers specializing in trusts. Send them my way if you know any.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Have you become jaded?

A while ago I presented a new plan for financing the colonization of mars.

People that know me might have dismissed it because it is very much like some of my old plans but that would ignore the significant difference this new plan contains. First let's get rid of some ridiculous arguments against it...
"the implication of your argument is that mars real estate will never be owned." One can only hope that by the time colonization of Mars becomes practical that we will be beyond ownership of material things...
Obviously, JamesG watched too much StarTrek or is the result of a good American education thanks to the progressive lefties that have taken over our school system for the last century. I refute this in my original post but don't feel the need here. Anybody that accepts this drivel doesn't have the brain cells to understand a rational argument.

The plan is simple and basic. We buy tickets with money held in trust. That's it. The rest is detail.

The people putting money into this trust are taking an adult risk that is mitigated by a number of factors. First is that the money is going into a trust. They call it a trust for a reason. Practically speaking, a trust is a company that hold money and property for others based on a written agreement. It's very common although our use of the trust might be considered new (or not.)

The trust then is the pivot of the plan. Money goes in. Money goes out.

Going in:

People are taking a risk that their deed is more than a novelty deed. That is certainly true. It is more than a novelty simply because of how the money going in will go out. It will pay for ventures that will enforce those property claims by the most solid historical basis, possession.

Going out:

This is the least controversial aspect. We're simply going to buy tickets. Those tickets contain all the profit motivation required to make it happen. The tickets for the first colonists will cost about twice that of all those that follow because additional supplies will be required to ensure the survival of the first group. All groups following will be supported by those that went before.

Who's going to sell those tickets? Anybody that wants the profit. That includes Elon Musk who has already announced a ticket price goal of $500k. My plan doesn't wait for Elon because we assume the ticket price to be over $250m per person at first. We expect it will soon be practical to put a dozen on mars for $4b with enough profit to provide incentive. When ticket prices come down that just means more people will have enough in their trust account to pay for these new lower prices.

In other words, anyone that thinks we are going to be able to go to mars someday has just been shown how it's paid for. You should be getting excited and on board rather than all the lack of enthusiasm you visionaries of the future are generating now.

If it makes you feel better tell everybody it's your plan.

All groups following will be supported by those that went before.

Why am I repeating myself? Because this is a very important aspect of the plan. Some object because they think those colonist will never be independent and will always require support from earth. Let's not argue. Let's say you're right (ok, I'm not going to argue. I'm not.) The new colonists will bring that earth support of things the colonists can not produce themselves (which does not include the fundamental requirement for life that they certainly can produce ISRU. We already know how they can do that.) It's the new colonists property which they can trade with the old for the support they need to get started on a new life. Win/win for everybody.

So who's going to establish this trust and get the ball rolling? I would think this would fit well with Mars Ones plans but there are others like space adventures that might take up the challenge. Mars One seems a good choice because media will be an important factor and they have a media agenda.

Update: There is a simple mitigation of the 'Chinese land grab' scenario. Part of the trust agreement can include an option for changing property from contested to uncontested should that scenario become a reality.

Update: To increase the odds of this being viable we can first select a few dozen colonists and limit sales to their land holdings. Once we reach a certain threshold we open up sales to all other holdings. Opening up other sales allows those to throw their support to others increasing their holdings to greater than $250m (or simply increasing it enough for current ticket prices whatever they may be.)

The trust contract would ensure all money is distributed based on reality on the date of disbursement or refunds based on other contingencies.

Check out Rand. Check out Uwingu.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Linux upgrade

Just downloading linuxmint-13-cinnamon-dvd-32bit.iso now. Thinking of upgrading from 12. I'm going to think about it. This is their long term support version. 16 is actually the latest.

Win-XP still has 27% market share when support is about to expire. This means something.

Update: Running 15rc, not 12... Duh. Well now to d/l 16.

The reemergence of the self reliant

An individual with little means can be self reliant but with more it becomes easier. Never the less, self reliance is a state of mind rather than anything else. We live in a world that is trying to beat that out of us. Cliven Bundy vs the govt. being a recent example.

Space exploration and settlement gives us a unique opportunity for the reemergence of the self reliant. A person that can live their lives with others not dependant on a government telling them what they can or can not do.

Why? Well, they say space is hard and that's true, but eventually we'll get past those hard parts and they will just become part of the noise. The thing is, space is big and our one world is tiny. It will take a while for people to understand the implications of that. The implication is that government and it's desire for central control just isn't up to the job. People will be able to get far enough away to ignore government for the most part and government will be happy to ignore them since they will be focussing more closer to home. The limitation of lightspeed is a wonderful thing.

The reason we have many governments on our world is because of the historical limits to travel and communication. As those limits become less restrictive we are going to see first two opposing governments as the little ones take sides, then one. We can call that one big brother or nanny or what ever, but the key thing is it will not allow self reliance to really exist. I haven't seen it yet, but the movie Divergent probably explores this theme.

So with limits to travel and communications reasserted in space we will see multiple diverse governments the outcome even if they are loosely tied to one another. We will also see some getting the elbow room to become self reliant. Space is big.

Are there limits to what a single person can do that requires government? We've been brainwashed to think so, but that just isn't the case. Poor people have become millionaires. Millionaires have become Billionaires. Billionaires with vision can take on projects that governments have almost zero chance of accomplishing. They did build that.

Government gives us the SLS. A single billionaire is going to give us the MCT.

It is hard to argue with the naysayers but you only need one of any example to prove them wrong.

Dr. Robert Zubrin wrote, “...NASA will spend $100 billion on human spaceflight over the next 10 years in order to accomplish nothing.” That just could not happen if a self reliant person were spending the money. Accomplishment is what self reliant people do.

...the Democrat Party is just the Customer Service Division of Worldwide Socialism, Inc.

That just about sums it up.

Cooking the books used to be considered an illegal activity. Well, not by criminals or democrats, but I repeat myself.

Sending "It was worth it" Biden to Poland is like sending the village idiot to... Poland I guess.

Update: Please accept my apology. I didn't mean to insult village idiots.

Economic issues of reusable SpaceX launch vehicles

What could happen if SpaceX achieves reusability? They say the F9R could cost $7m compared to today's $56m for an F9 launch. Would anyone pay $56m when they could pay $7? Where would the supply of used vehicles come from? It is much more likely that F9R would be priced somewhat higher so that the choice between the two were closer to a 50/50 decision. Customers like NASA would probably continue to choose only new launch vehicles.

They did announce $7m and others would complain, but all they have to do is not offer it at that price. New vehicle launches will not dry up by simply choosing an appropriate used vehicle price. What this means is the competition is going to have to work a lot harder or dry up completely.

What competition? None of the established claim to be working on reusability. Blue Origin seems to be the only one on the horizon.

SpaceX expects that launches are elastic and demand will go up. But to compete others may have to license their technology. Could SpaceX become another Intel? Before cell phones it looked like Intel might have driven every competitor out of business. Now others seem to have a fighting chance. So what are the other markets SpaceX envisions?

The MCT will be produced for one: Space settlement beginning with mars. If you can settle mars, you can pretty well settle anyplace else. Although no other place has the integral resources of mars. I do mean integral: necessary to make a whole complete; essential or fundamental.

Other markets they've probably discovered during their dragonlab seminars. Those that haven't pursued reusability may never have heard from such customers other than the general lament you hear that things can't happen until costs come down which is a myth in itself. Who would argue that price reduction is a bad thing?

Those that think the 30% performance cost of reusability keeps them in the game have not considered Raptor which will be the next game changer.

In an arrangement unusual for launch vehicles... reminds me of that old Johnny Carson joke about Reagan vs. Jimmy Carter... Reagan talked congress into his programs and Carson said that Jimmy asked, "You can do that?"

The testing program continues with each F9 launch which makes it possible the F9R will fly before the end of this year. It will be interesting to see how the competition responds?

Update: ok, Rand never comes here to comment but I know him well enough that he would take issue with "things can't happen until costs come down which is a myth in itself." Obviously some things certainly would be possible at lower costs that will not happen now. My brain wasn't meaning that. What I was meaning is that some risk can be taken even at today's costs. So to say those can't is the myth. I like mom and apple pie too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Legality does not equal justice

Legal is what political people create. Justice is an absolute that has always existed.

Justice is what the Bundy case is about. We are not servants to the government. VIA

MoreThere are private rights in federal lands – vested rights, not privileges.

Ranchers need to understand their vested water rights that the statist haven't yet taken away from them.

the BLM invaders left when it got ugly because it’s an election year and they’re all Democrats. They’ll be back.

The fight shouldn't be dem vs rep. The fight should be liberty vs statism.

Update: Richard Fernandez makes the same point I think...
Perhaps the choice is not between Democrat and Republican in the long run — but between individual liberty or subordination to rank hypocrisy.

Update: Now we have to say, "Crime shouldn't pay."
Update: Because this is how a criminal organization works, by deceit.

Slow playing WW3

Putin is playing poker while Obama is trying to figure out checkers.  Just heard on the news that Russian troops have crossed the border into the eastern Ukraine to support those that took the police stations which Ukrainian troops have begun to take back. Now Ukrainian troops are being blocked by citizens sympathetic to Putin.

A German utility has been supplying gas to Ukraine. While Russia is telling them what they can't do with tanks in the Ukraine's own country.

Hey Putin, it's not a civil war if you instigate it. Putin lies.
The UN human rights office, meanwhile, said ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine had falsely claimed to be under assault to justify Russian intervention, warning that such propaganda could affect Ukraine's presidential election next month.
This is the exact same playbook Putin used in Georgia. He borrowed that playbook from Hitler.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Low pressure greenhouses for Mars?

Growing plants on Mars

One of the issues for Martian agriculture is the perceived need to create pressurized greenhouses (Mars has a very tenuous atmosphere - pressures are close to vacuum equivalent). The problem is that as you increase pressure differential, you need more robust structures.

Current plans call for at atmospheric internal pressure of around the equivalent of 10,000 feet on Earth. (around 10PSI) This would require very strong structures as well as being suboptimal for plant growth. The easy answer to the latter is to increase the CO2 content of the greenhouse air to compensate. This should work, but it's never been tried on some crops.

But, why stop there? Plants (except those that can take nitrogen from the air) need just CO2, plus some water vapor, in their atmosphere. So, why not make the greenhouses far lower pressure but almost pure CO2 - just use compressed Martian atmosphere, which is 96% CO2.  

And if we do that, we don't need 10PSI greenhouses. Dalton's law related to partial pressure of gasses shows us that if we have 1/3 CO2 atmosphere at 10PSI, we;d have the same partial pressure of CO2 if we use 100%CO2 at 3.3 PSI.

Plants also need water vapor, so for this and other reasons we can't get too close to vacuum but 1PSI should be possible (and the evaporation of water would be greatly increased, resulting in a CO2/water vapor mix that should work).

1 PSI would make for vastly easier to build, lower-mass greenhouse structures, with far lower potential for explosive decompression - and zero risk of fire.

The problem is that this has never been tried, it's only theoretical. It would, however, be easy and cheap to test on Earth.

Cargo Dragon for crew?

Using a cargo Dragon for manned crew to ISS.

First, Launch Abort.

One issue is the super dracos won't fit in the current cargo version of Dragon. But... they probably will in soon to be built cargo dragons- they're required for landing on land.

So, a current cargo Dragon, such as the one on the pad now, won't have a launch abort system, and flying crew without a LAS would be utter madness that NASA would never go along with (except they did for Shuttle, which had no LAS).
Shuttle flew its first launch maned. Was there a LAS? Well yes, for the first four flights; SR-71 ejection seats. Columbia had them, as did the glide test orbiter Enterprise. But, for Columbia, there was a tiny drawback; the seats could indeed allow the crew to eject at any point between launch and 100,000 feet (so prior to SRB burnout. This made those seats a true LAS system. The slight drawback I mentioned is that using the seats at *any* time between liftoff and seat max altitude would be fatal for the crew (the IR from the SRBs would be well above what the suits could stand; the ejection profile would take the crew too close to the SRB plumes). The only time the seats would be survivable would be for a pad fire (The crew would have about a 50% chance of landing alive so they could be killed on the ground by the time the vehicle's explosion, due to having landed in their chutes just yards from the pad) or for a post-reentry low supersonic to subsonic ejection during controlled flight. (in this latter case, and ONLY in this latter case, could the seats be used with a reasonable chance for survival (of more than a few seconds).

What this means is that you could put a teddy bear in a crewed cargo dragon, name it "LAS", and it'd be every bit as effective as the ejection seat LAS on Colombia's first four launches.

But, to fully test the Dragon's super Draco LAS system, NASA has decreed that you have to do it twice; a pad abort (that one is okay) and a fully up launch vehicle taking the Dragon through MaxQ for an abort test. But, NASA has always insisted on this, right? Let's look back at history...

Mercury? They did test the LAS, but with a suborbital Mercury-Redstone booster. The test was, well, interesting in how it worked out (not at all as planned). The rocket shut down just inches from the pad, and dropped back. Then, the LAS tower ejected (leaving the capsule behind) and reached 4000 feet. That left the capsule on the fueled, damaged, booster. The capsule then triggered its parachutes. It was a mess. They never flight-tested the Mercury LAS again.

Gemini? It had no actual LAS, it used ejection seats.

Apollo? They used a "Little Joe", a small booster, to test the system 2.9 seconds into the flight, NOT at Max-Q with a Saturn launch vehicle. This remains the only successful flight test, or use, of an American LAS.

But, NASA is requiring SpaceX to use a full-up F9 1.1 (including a real second stage that won't be used at all!) for the Max-Q (maximum dynamic pressure) LAS test (about 57 seconds into the flight).  

Could cargo Dragon, as is, carry a crew to ISS? Pretty much, yes. Must said, after the first Dragon mission to ISS, that a stow-away would have survived. Dragon already has thermal control abilities (as evidenced by it's carraige of freezers and refrigerators for experiments). You don't actually need a flight control system (just use it as is). What you do need is life support, but the hard parts are already there; thermal control and pressurization. All you really need is oxygen and CO2 scrubbing. An O2 tank , just strapped to a bulkhead and with an adjustable bleed valve would handle the former. Lithium hydroxide canisters with a computer CPU fan for air circulation would handle the latter.
Communications? Dragon already has them; you'd need microphones to attach to the control system jacks. That's it.

All that actually remains is the seats.

So, how do you put seats in a cargo Dragon? It already has the bulkhead attach points. You just need the seats (acceleration couches). Canvas slung between aluminum tubing frames has been used before (Such as on Apollo). But, the needed seats don't currently exist. So, they'd need to be built. SpaceX could surly do this, but if not, it could be done by a couple of high school students with access to a high school metal shop, plus a sewing machine.  It might take a couple of days. Or, have NASA do it, for a billion and a half dollars, and they might have it ready in a year and a half.

The actual tricky part in using Dragon as it exists isn't getting crew to orbit, but getting the crew into the Dragon on the pad. There's no easy way up, and no way of fast exit in case of a pad emergency. The latter could be remedies by long zip lines (commercially available). Getting the crew up there and in in the first place is much harder. The fastest solution (could be done today) is the Falcon9's normal launch prep; it's raised on the strongback a few hours before launch, so put the crew in prior to raising.

So, if we were serous, how long would it take to prep a cargo dragon to take a crew of two or three (thus replacing Soyuz - a crew of seven is harder) to ISS, as safely as a Shuttle? A few weeks at most. The biggest obstacle isn't technical, but bureaucratic.

A fatwa I can get behind

Limiting the chance a muslim would kill their fellow colonists. BTW, being Muslim should not be a reason for deselection. Wanting to kill should be.

Sell Mars!

200,000+ people want to go to mars and none of them could afford the ticket even if available today. Also, the best way to get cost per person down is to send more of them at a time. MCT is based on this.

The issue is how to finance it. Take the blinders off. Mars has a massless solution... Sell mars.

Now who owns mars? Nobody. So nobody can sell it. Government would tell you they do since government is always taking by force what isn't theirs.

Who would be putting their lives on the line for humanity? Those 200,000 people. Let them sell mars!

Give 144,000 of them a one thousand square kilometer claim by lottery (that's the entire surface area of mars.) That's one billion square meters to each. If it costs $150m per colonist (my estimate) to send them (in quantity) that's 15 cents per square meter. Hold the money in trust so it can only be spent on transport and supplies. The top contenders will see their property sold first.

This is like an X-prize that pays 100% of costs.

BTW, this does not mean colonists would live thousands of kilometers apart. They would live together simply by trading property with each other.

The only justification needed to go to mars is people want to go as long as they don't require that you pay for it. So let them pay for it themselves.

To speed up the process, allow those with money in their trust to give that money and unsold property to another contender in order to receive one percent of their money in the trust.

Set the price at 25 cents per square meter in case my estimate ($150m per) can't be met. Mars One wants a reality show? This will give them a reality show. Allowing some to give their trust to others means whatever the actual cost will be, will be met.

2000m2 for $500 would be a suggested plot size, but any number of square meters could be sold at a time. Grandparents could buy 200m2 for $50 to give to their grandkids.

Property rights should be absolute, no property taxes, no eminent domain, no regulations that take value from property. No government telling people that came from every country on earth what they must do.

Update: 1058 hopefuls have been selected as candidates to begin human life on Mars in 2025.

So we give these the first lottery round. The rest go into a second lottery round.

Update 2: Is this legal? The martians who are on mars will make it legal. Laws are made by those that can enforce them.

Update: To address an excellent question. JamesG asks...
Who's to say that after making your investment, someone else (say... the Chinese) who conveniently don't accept extraterrestrial territorial claims, won't steal the tech and jump your claim? Or worse yet (from a litigative perspective), some person who bought an obscure novelty "property deed on Mars" won't sue you for everything you're worth on Earth for violating their claim?
First we need to understand the basics of property rights right here on earth.

The most fundamental way property is owned is by a willingness to defend it. But beyond that all property is owned by agreement to convention so that pieces of paper prevent the need to get out your shotgun. This is called chain of title. All chain of title begins with a claim. Then it's bought and sold with the last person to buy having ownership which is verified by a title search. Any property owned by anyone anywhere adheres to this convention.

What about those pesky chinese land grabbers? Is this supposed to be some unique gotcha scenario that invalidates the plan to colonize based on money for tickets held in trust? Sorry it's not unique and doesn't. In the adult world we recognize that all investments have risks. The chinese or anyone else could grab land on mars by sending some there to possess it. Nothing but a willingness to do so prevents it. Because it would be by physical possession it likely they will have the stronger claim.

Who in that case is at risk? The person that bought land where the chinese grabbed obviously. That would be a known risk that the person buying land would have to consider. It really doesn't affect the plan at all. That risk is very small because mars has 14.4 billion hectares and those most purchased are going to be where they are being possessed by those that would enforce those claims.

What about novelty deed law suits? Really? This seems like a real problem? The good news is they've already been tested in court, or rather, the court has already decided they aren't even worth considering. So let them sue. Anyone that imagines they will have any standing has a peculiar view of law. But again, the risk is on the purchaser. They can find out if anyone has a novelty deed and simply avoid purchasing land in conflict until after it's determined in court that those novelty deeds have no value.

Crewed Dragons

SpaceX’s Reisman argued that while Dragon was designed from the outset to carry people, it would not be that simple to quickly convert the cargo version to carry people.
Is there a hidden reason for saying this that obscures the truth?

What changes from the cargo Dragon are required?
  • The launch escape system has two tests scheduled as part of an existing contract. The main requirement, superdracos, have already been tested.
  • Life support: Oxygen, C02 scrubbing and temperature control are trivial considering how long we've been doing it and companies like Paragon specialize in it.
  • They've already tested seating for seven.
  • Displays and controls in the spacecraft for those crews are not a big deal to develop compared to what they've already done.
The truth is SpaceX doesn't want to jeopardize NASA paying for these things which they could do for themselves in no time at all. We could be flying crewed Dragons before the end of this year if they wanted to. None of these requirements, except for seating which they already have, are actually requirements. Launch escape is a safety feature and not actually required. Even when it exists the realistic hope is they would never use it. Displays and controls fall into the nice to have category, they are not a requirement since controlling the craft is already done now. That's just an incremental improvement to an existing system. Life support? The sixties are calling to tell ya how it's done.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Asteroid deflection

Interesting article below. (sorry to make this a post, but it was too large to be allowed as a comment.) However, the writer of that linked article needs to brush up on his basic math a bit. :).

He describes the asteroid as "three to five times larger" than the dino-killer, yet also lists the size ranges for both as: 6 miles wide vs. 23 to 36 miles wide. 

What's the actual difference in size for the small end estimate of 23 miles?
For Chixcalub, at 6 miles wide it has a volume of 113 cubic miles.

But for the big one, at 23 miles wide, it's 6370 cubic miles, so it's 56 times larger.

The good news is that the bigger they are, the easier they are to see. So, we'd probably have plenty of advance warning of a big asteroid that size.

The bad news; it's a minimum 6370 cubic miles of rock. That's a lot of mass.

Now, if we assume we see it a decade before it's going to hit, and it'll take us 5 to build something and get it out to it, that's 5 years from impact.
How much detla/v do we need to impart? Also fairly easy; worst case is it's heading for the center of earth's disk, so that means we need to move it by the radius of the earth plus a couple hundred miles for margin and to clear the atmosphere. so, say 4000 miles.    And we've got 5 years. The math is easy; 4000 (miles needed to move) divided by 1820 days (days in 5 years) is 2.1978 miles per day. that works out to 8 feet per minute: impart that much delta/V in almost any direction, and you'll move the trajectory at earth by enough to miss.

But, how much force would it take to get a mass like that moving at 8 feet per minute? It's weight dependent. So, how much does a rock 23 miles across weigh, anyway? That's not hard to figure out. If in density is close to a mid-range rock, like crushed river rock (asteroids are thought to be aggregate, so river rock works well for a density substitute) then we're looking at about, roughly, two tons per cubic yard. That makes this super easy; 
5,451,776,000 cubic yards in a cubic mil3, so each cubic mile weights. rounding a bit, 11 billion tons. And we're dealing with 6370 cubic miles, so, 70,070 billion tons, round it to 70,000 billion, and that means 70 trillion tons. 

So, to get 1 ton moving 8 feet per minute, what kind of force do we need? One foot pound for one second would impart a delta/v on one pound of (rounded) 32 feet per second. Divide that by 2000 (pounds in a ton)and multiply by 60 to get feet per minute, and we get .96 so, rounding again, we can say one foot pound for one second  imparts a delta/v of one foot per minute to a ton. So, we need a foot pound for eight seconds to impart the needed 8 feet per minute. But, as we're dealing with 70 trillion tons, we need 70 trillion foot pounds for eight seconds. Or, to break it into minutes, 9.33 trillion foot-pounds for a minute.

To put that in perspective, the Saturn 5 first stage fired for about 2 minutes, and produced about 7.6 million foot-pounds of force. So, how many Saturn 5 first stages mounted on the asteroid would we need?
613,815 Saturn5 first stages.

Kind of hard to do, eh?
The good news is there's an easier way: use the asteroid as its own reaction mass.

50 megatons has a potential of 1,527,159,999,997,874 foot pounds. 1527 trillion. We need to impart 70 trillion, which is about 4.6% How do we do it? Standoff detonation. You won't get a shockwave as you would in atmosphere, so the majority of the energy is imparted as radiation, all across the spectrum. A large chunk is heat (photons).

When this full spectrum radiative pulse hits the asteroid, it would vaporize (up to a few inches in depth) the surface of the hemisphere facing the blast, flashing it to plasma. This plasma would violently expand away from the asteroid. What you'd have would be, in effect, rocket thrust across almost half of the asteroid's surface, which the greatest force in the area directly facing the nuclear blast. It's a lossy process, so you might need to do it twice.

One enormous benefit; you don't need your bomb carrier to match course and speed with the asteroid. A high relative velocity would be fine, so that saves a huge amount of spacecraft delta/v. Secondly, the rather primitive, over-engineered tsar-bomba weighed 30 tons (and we can't test it in time, so we'd need to use a design we know works, and in bomb engineering, that means heavy, so let's assume 30 tons). You'd need less than a TLI equivalent delta/v to send it on an asteroid intercept course, but it's certainly feasible to send a 35 ton spacecraft through 4kps from LEO (about what you'd need)

It's a hell of a lot more feasible to think of doing that twice than to think of sending over half a million Saturn5 first stages through at least twice that Delta/v to get them to the asteroid and install them there.

And that's why, for asteroid (Anything more than a few hundred yards in diameter) deflection, I think all the non-nuclear options are bogus; they require a course and velocity match with the asteroid (far more Delta/v) and require a lot of upmass. They simply aren't practical unless you have many decades of lead time, and even then, against a large one, they're rather useless.

Asteroids are indeed a threat, but due to their nature, we'd likely see a big one coming in time to do something about it. What really worries me are comets, which unless previously seen tend to be discovered about a year out from Earth's orbit. Some of them are as large, or larger, than the asteroid mentioned above. Hale-Bopp, for example, had a nucleus about 60 miles across. While it's basically a dirty snowball, at that size, it'd easily mass as much as the large asteroid we're talking about, and make as big an impact. And we wouldn't have enough lead time to do anything about it.

The dinosaurs would still be alive if they had a space program. Shouldn't we have one?

You thought the dinosaur killer was big?

New kid on the block...

The next one is not if, but when.

CJ has more thoughts.

Meanwhile, back in the Ukraine

the accent and words used by the invaders were not of the Ukrainian-Russian dialect. These vermin almost certainly came from the Russian Federation.
News we can use. See the video of storming Ukrainian police station.


BLM mayhem

I would like to add my thanks to Mr. Bundy. Via Gregg.

Our federal government is a disgrace.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How about Eric?

If they can throw Lois in jail, why not Eric Holder?

Thinking like a martian

These people are.

It's not radical. It's just chemistry. It's why martians should not be starved for energy. They shouldn't just survive they should thrive as Pournelle says, "in style."

With abundant cheap energy you can get abundant cheap fuel. Necessity is a good thing. It makes people inventive. Martians are going to teach us things it would take centuries if ever to realize on earth alone.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

1978 Ford Leprechaun for sale

Mine looks just like this guys. E350 class with 460 engine. Need cash to get an apartment.

Don't make any offers. It's sitting at safeway with a sign on it. Drives nice.

I'm looking for half of what this guy is and mine looks better.

Update: Sold my Leprechaun. Actually they gave me $100 for a two week option.Basically it worked out to a 12.5% loan which I will be paying off in the next ten months.