More Engine Trouble

SS2_firing

Just hours after I wrote of Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket explosion, Virgin Galactica has suffered a similar fate. But this one has claimed at least one human life so far — the pilot — and the co-pilot is in bad shape. SpaceShipTwo apparently suffered an engine explosion moments after ignition, and after it was dropped from the WhiteKnightTwo mothership. This was the first in-flight explosion for the system, but there is a history here. […]

Rocket Science

Antares_OS02

(In a conversation elsewhere, I responded to complaints about the “NASA rocket” exploding — and to suggestions that this stuff was not new technology and should be easy by now.) It was not, exactly, a NASA rocket. And it was indeed new technology. This was a launch contracted from NASA by Orbital Sciences, who have been having some trouble with their systems. Enough trouble to cause them to change the name of the rocket (from Taurus to Antares, kind of “anti-Taurus”) to avoid bad vibes/publicity/luck. SpaceX is doing rather better, so far. […]

High Voice

I was asked yesterday about the “surly bonds of Earth” reference in the post about Neil Armstrong’s death. There is indeed a story behind that and a very unusual young man.

John Gillespie McGee Jr. was born in Shanghai to a US ambassador, thus was American. His initial school was in Shanghai, “The American School” […]

Neil Armstrong once again slips the surly bonds of Earth

Neil Armstrong, first human to set foot on another world, passed away today.

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The Cats Trying to Kill Curiosity

I was delighted, as were millions, by the successful touchdown of the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars. It was a monumental achievement, of equipment working right (thanks to tremendous engineering and science) despite nearly a year’s exposure to extraordinary conditions and extremes in rapid succession. But as Sam Rayburn (48th, 50th, and 52nd Speaker of the House) notes, “Any jackass can kick down a barn. It takes a real carpenter to build one.” We’ve seen NASA in the role of “real carpenters” here. Who’s the “jackass”? […]

Mars the Record of Nuclear Power

Tonight — 10:31 Pacific Time Sunday, or 1:31 AM Eastern on Monday — the Curiosity rover will hopefully touch down safely on the surface of Mars. The events actually take place about 14 minutes in advance, but we cannot know the results until the radio communications get from Mars to Earth. The vehicle is big. While the two famous rovers Opportunity and Spirit were roughly grocery-cart sized, this one is more like an automobile. It has tremendously greater science capability — and it is too big, and needs too much power, to operate from solar panels. So it does not: Curiosity is nuclear-powered. […]

The Space Shuttle: It was time

President Obama decided to uphold the Bush plan to end the Space Shuttle’s operations. This was an Obama decision that I fully supported, though many conservatives were critical, and I wrote “In Praise of President Obama” as a result. […]

The Stratolauncher and the Soviets

The Stratolauncher was announced a few months ago. It is an innovative design funded by Paul Allen (Microsoft’s other founder) and is a joint project of Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, with other companies making significant contributions. The project, under way for more than eight years in secrecy, looks like this: […]

NASA’s New Mission

I think you’ll be intrigued by this: […]

Another satellite coming down

This one, the German Roentgen Satellite, or ROSAT, is anticipated to have more than one tone of material make it through re-entry, including a large, heat-resistant mirror system. […]