News from Earth 3-19-2020

Well, here’s the weekly news roundup from Earth.

This article about the design of cubesats. Elon Musk, again I love ya, but this video of a close call of one of your cubesats almost destroying your own spacecraft is a real example of what I’ve written about cluttering up space with junk. Is the destruction of one of your own rockets be what it takes to realize the orbital pollution your putting up there? What if humans were on that rocket? And have you considered the ramifications of just one accident alone leaving shards up there, colliding with other cubesats and leaving a ton of orbital shrapnel? Sure, it will de-orbit, but how long, How does that effect other nations missions? I love what your doing for humanity, but please for the love of all of us, stop! Spend your money on burying fiber optic cable and making telephone poles disappear. Cable, telephone, all of it. Roads should be lined with trees, not dead ones posing as telephone poles.

This got me to thinking about others of a similar mindset. I wanted to learn more about these cubesats, So I did some armchair research. This great HackADay article, entitled “Thousands Of Internet-Connected Satellites Above Us, What Could Possibly Go Wrong!” is spot on the topic. Not only are you creating space junk, but yes – you may inspire others to be a bit more..motivated. Your team neglected safety, security – endangered other spacecraft. This article I think best explains the idea, Imagine some angry fool with a tool to force those thousands of cubesats to swarm and be used for nefarious purposes. If your reading this, please – really READ it and understand the dire consequences of what your creating. Now, Not to say StarLink isn’t trying. Off the shelf is cheap, but what about the software? This article about the design of the StarLink stats shows a lot about how they are cheaply made and can deorbit, but one thing concerns me.

“SpaceX‚Äôs Starlink fleet is reportedly set to cost around $10 billion, with nearly 12,000 Ku-band, Ka-band and V-band satellites positioned in at different altitudes in multiple orbital planes. The first 1,584 Starlink satellites are slated to operate in orbits 341 miles (550 kilometers) above Earth, spread in 24 orbital planes inclined 53 degrees to the equator.”

So say, 5 years orbit in the short term times how many thousands of these? You keep adding them weekly, increasing the chances of a catastrophic accident, exponentially. Elon, I do have to mock you a little about worrying about reaching Mars before you die. Pfft, I bet you wont make it out of orbit without getting hit with your own junk.

However, Elon, I must say, I understand insanity. And good deeds, so I can not be all critical of your works. Your battery farm is what the earth needs now. Sure, they call you insane, but why not – YOLO and all that. Keep doing what you do, just pace yourself a bit. Come visit me, I’d be happy to go slumming with you and let ya sleep on my couch. However, for all the poking I do at you, Yea, a few beers and lets launch.

Next up is NASA.

Be sure to check for great updates. In depth reporting and such. I’ll start out with something really neato to me, NASA building a version of the Concord from junkyard parts. Now stop and consider how cool this is! The video alone show the dedication and speed of these ‘space mechanics’. This is how you Get Things Done. Everything about this story is correct, in my book. (Excellent embedded video.)

HOWEVER, there is a sad side to report. Like any agency or business, most failures are because of bad management. Now THIS, and I mean THIS! Really?! NASA spent a decade and nearly $1 billion for a single launch tower.

I know a team of boilermakers and welders would have got that done for regular wages and pizza at 1/16 the cost.. That’s full on failure of management, NASA. People need to be fired! How many palms got greased? Shame on you. You can’t even erect the tower cheaper then the rocket? I go after Elon Musk, but hell yea, he’s getting it done, and on budget.

I can’t be sensitive here, You see it gets worse the more you read. You have wasted BILLIONS of dollars and still cant get off the ground. The team in the next building is working from a junkyard and Getting It Done. What Is Wrong? People need to be fired or investigated. Honestly NASA, you so excel in some areas yet so completely fail in others.

Who wins this week? its Rocket Lab. Wiki HERE. Rocket Lab recently got approved for cubesat launches. That means a load of more clutter and NO MANAGEMENT SYSTEM.

All you space agencies, have you considered how to tame this wild west of space travel? The considerations? Will we have to shoot our way into space to ensure safe transport from this planet without risking a collision from your junk? There is no discussion about swarm control, it has become just launch and hope for the best at this point. This needs to be a larger public discussion.

News from Earth 3-10-2020

I may have been a bit harsh on NASA in my last post, so lets remedy that with pointing out the Astronomy Picture of the Day website. The archive is here, and the faq here. Every day, a submission is selected from a notable scientist and, well, its beauties like this taken of the Pic du Midi de Bigorre observatory at night that reminds us of the immense infrastructure that goes into maintaining any real telescope of scale. Each selection comes with a short description and useful link pertaining to that particular image.

NASA is currently in the process of upgrading the Deep Space Network. (wiki) According to recent official DSN news, poor lonely Voyager 2 will be on its own for a while. I’m quite surprised that it still has enough propellant to keep its main dish pointed at earth, and its reaction wheels still spin. They don’t make ’em like they used to. Stay frosty Voyager, we’ll see you in a few months. Impressive and it shows NASA’s true genuine brilliance and dedication on the scientists part to keep Voyager still running. Its was amazing about their recent recovery of the spacecraft, and I have high hopes when we listen for it in a few months, she’ll be there, whispering from the edge of space. To those who saved it with new commands, programming a CH6-2 computer (best tech info I could find) after all these years is a gosh darn impressive feat any hacker would have to bow to. You have to admit, after reading that, they sent it with a pretty decent supercomputer for its time. Voyager is not a ghost yet.

This next part may be news to a lot of you know think we are all to tied up in our digital lives, and there is a lot to read in between the lines with this next article about the very quiet small town of Green Bank, WV. Home to the Green Bank Telescope, living quietly in the United States National Radio Quiet Zone. The telescope, run by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, demands quiet. Things very quiet. This article is an excellent in-depth read about what life is like in such a digitally removed world.

Not to leave out Russia, I came across these 2 articles about the Russian Yenisei rocket, and Energia series. They might not be joking about getting into the heavy lift business. Roscosmos, I’m sure would like to make its presence known in the space travel biz. We may see interesting things in the future from them. Although SpaceX might have something to say about that.

I found this blog when I came across a render of Earth without water. Looks a lot like mars, eh? I love his commentary, he has no desire to leave Earth.

Sometimes you have to be a bit crazy to Get Things Done. Boeing was ambitious with their Starliner spacecraft, However NASA administration decided to take them to task over the recent failure to reach the ISS. What NASA forgets, is that while it was not successful, it didn’t exactly fail either. Love ya NASA, but people in glass houses… I think praise for the effort and to focus on reminding the public just how hard this all is, would have been more in order.

Speaking of love and hate, I’m thinking of you Elon Musk. This article about building Starlink sats faster then you can launch them, should have you sitting back and rethinking about how you interfere with Earth observations of the night sky and cluttering up low Earth orbits. Is it worth the danger to other peoples missions and the loss of science due to your jump to dominate obit that should be open to everyone? What happens when one of those destroys someone else’s multi billion dollar launch? Will you shrug your shoulders and say, “Sorry, my bad”, or will you take responsibility for the destruction of someone else’s billion dollar project and pay for the damages?

I can understand your ambition to push to colonize Mars in your lifetime. Launching a Starship every week is quite admirable, but at what cost? What happens when one of your Starlink sats has a collision on the way up and *many* people die? I would like to see your cubesats under a lot more swarm control before I hitch a ride on your cheaply made, paper thin spacecraft. Please, we are all so very excited about all your works, but I beg you to consider safety and your responsibility to astronomy science also. Scale back your Starlink program before there is some major incident. Some things you won’t be able to fix with any amount of money. Did you consider the international implications when you have created such a problem that other nations begin to consider your cubesats as simple skeet? Nice way for various other militaries to demonstrate their shiny new lasers as they clear a path into orbit. I can see a real international incident in the future.

Elon, I hope I’m not the only one whispering this into your ear.

That’s it for this week.

Short news from Earth 3-2-2020.

Just a short roundup of passing links. Apparently, Boeing’s Starliner failed because they didn’t test it correctly. Like a lot of their recent work, the article holds back no punches regarding their other recent failures. Its honest, and I consider it a well written read. Just like the 737 Max, they skipped quite a few final tests in a rush to deliver. Yea, get in line for a ticket on that rocket. Beoing, I have to ask, what ever happened to you being the best in the world at this? At one time you were legendary. But, to investors – buy now while the stock is low. Boeing will recover from recent setbacks and redeem themselves.

However, SpaceX is not to be ruled out. They recently won the contract for the Psyche mission. (Wiki here, and props for the cool mission name). They want to visit an iron rich asteroid that might be considered a planetary core. You will find the slashdot discussion here.

One more thing to consider is their recent failed pressure test. Another (cnet) link here. Lots of video and information. Now, This is why I would fly on SpaceX. They report their failures, tweet, show videos. I would rather see it boom on the launchpad before I get into it. SpaceX, you guys are committed and its great to see publicly the love you all put into your work.

NASA, you could take a lesson from them – You can not buy that kind of public love or public relations, and when it comes to funding – a huge fan base does not hurt. If anyone in NASA is listening to me – If you want $$$ from congress, you need to show the public more often just whats being worked on, progress being made, how and how hard it is. Don’t be afraid to publicize failures, even bad news generates interest. Now, I’m sure thousands of scientists have blogs and feeds, but NASA needs a more public face, and more of a public profile I mean, where do I click to see what NASA projects achieved this week? Show your homework, and not at 5 year intervals.. SpaceX has the public’s eyes now (and investors). NASA, get current with publicity, or be relegated to the back of the class.

Its common knowledge a lot of NASA’s problems, in my opinion, comes down to bad management on many levels. Yes, that might stir up feelings in some of you, but all I can say is that SpaceX has done more in the science of space travel and rocketry in the last 5 years then you have shown the public in the last 40 years. SpaceX is getting somewhere and while supporting the private sector is the way to go, its quite embarrassing to see our tax dollars vanishing. Yes, you have lots to show for it, but how often does NASA make the front digital page? Pfft, We don’t even have our own shuttle in any form anymore, and I think that is outright pathetic. We have to outsource our own space missions and the means to launch them.

Now, before everyone gets upset about that, I do try to draw attention to every link NASA posts that actually makes a visible public view. The Rovers, the Mars work and ALL the missions to ALL of the planets represents a HUGE body of work. And, as an agency, the private sector would not exist without NASA forging the way first all those many years ago. However, depending on other nations and the private sector getting the publicity for launching our cargo to the ISS, I consider somewhat nationally emasculating.

However, NASA does know its roots when the sky was all stars. Kudos to NASA for speaking out about light pollution and the StarLink constellation. SpaceX, you may have been a bit overly ambitious in respects to that space project. While you may have had all good intentions, I think painting them dark is an even worse solution. If we are to all have access to space, your space junk is cluttering up low earth orbit and putting lives and missions in danger. You need to perfect swarm technology to relocate those and create windows at will, so that all countries can have a window to orbit without worrying about some cubesat killing all the passengers. As far as I’m concerned, this rapid deployment of thousands of cubesats without full and proven swarm control is HIGHLY irresponsible.

There is a military consideration here that all nations should take notice of. SpaceX is creating a virtual sphere around our planet that can be used as kinetic bullets to anyone they want to limit access to. This is some serious discussion to the future of humanity in space. Access to orbit should be controlled by a planetary council. If we don’t speak up now about access to space, well – that’s the kind of stuff that historically starts wars. Should a foreign nation need to pay SpaceX for clearance for them to open a hole in the swarm so your mission can safely and successfully leave the planet? And yes, It does lead some credence to the idea that should a nation need to shoot it’s way into orbit, so be it. SpaceX, you should not have blocked the road. Shame on you SpaceX. Shame.

SpaceX, your StarLink program is irresponsible and contributes to orbital pollution. When your cubestats get lasered into de-orbit en masse, well you deserve that for dumping into our orbital ‘oceans’. Do not come to congress asking for help, you will be known as the ones who crapped on our planetary doorstep. If I had any power to deny you, I would, in this respect.

And also in the news is Ad Astra. They are working on a simple launch program, based on basic rocketry. Link via hackaday. I think we will see some very cool things from this company in the future.