Category Archives: Outbound News

Outbound Operational Plan for Space Migration: Human Analogs

The next step of an initial operational plan for Outbound would be the development of Human Analogs. (OPS.3)

That’s a stuffy term I suppose, “Human Analogs”. What does it mean? Essentially, it means developing systems that mimic some or all of the human interaction with its environment, in order to predict human responses to that environment when humans actually interact with that environment later. It’s a risk-avoidance strategy.

Human analog activities are pretty mature now, and we started such activities quite early in the history of space exploration, from 1947 onward. Ranging from all sorts of animal testing, such as insects, mice and reptiles, even cats and dogs, such as the Soviet mission with Laika in 1957. Unfortunately for the Russian pup, she never made it home. In the scheme of things, and purely as a pragmatic matter, I suppose losing a dog rather than a human being to such test flights is much preferable. It still is disappointing, though, from an emotional perspective. Aerospace engineers do like their dogs like anyone else, make no mistake. And as years have gone by, and with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the demise of Laika has taken on a softer, more regretful tone. At the time, it seemed like a good idea, but now everyone is not quite so sure.

The next step in the history of human space analogs were the primate flights in the U.S. space program, most typified by Ham the chimpanzee. His one flight in 1961 was a media sensation in America to be sure, despite the relatively short 16-minute flight. He did come home and lived a relatively long life, having accomplished his mission. Through his participation, and that of his primate predecessors (not all of whom were so lucky), we learned a great deal about how primate physiology reacted to the space environment, and we even learned some significant things about how they perform in a frankly alien environment. Honestly, we knew very little about all of that, but after Ham and the all the research before him, we knew a lot more.

Of course, it seems that I’m focusing on animal testing, and I suppose that I am. Not to bash the “old guard” as it were, because they were working with the tools they had, with knowledge me now benefit from today. And we did mature enough to realize that to really know how humans react to space is to, well, fly humans. The risk had to be transferred to the real operators, astronauts and cosmonauts, and it was. Having those biological, animal analogs removed a lot of the uncertainty for human spaceflight, and who knows what would have happened without it.

Today, we have the benefit of both the animal trials and the missions of human space explorers. We owe them so much, it is difficult to quantify. From that we know a great deal what success looks like, and failure, too. Now we have many options to simulate digitally how human systems in space will work, and another stable of techniques to simulate physically how the human-in-space system operates, and we pursue that a lot now. There is no experience like being there however, and getting bogged down in simulation and testing is also a danger. Analysis Paralysis, that would be the term. Risk is a part of life in this big cosmos of ours, and Outbound is a concept not fixated on excessive introspection.

Outbound Operational Plan for Space Migration: Satellites

Continuing the generation of an initial operational plan for Outbound, the next milestone would be the development of Satellites. (OPS.2)

Such efforts are mature these days, and have been for many decades, which mean they’re pretty much complete in terms of operational TRL, though advancement continues. The next big challenge in the technological lifecycle of satellites beyond is what to do at the end of their useful operational lives. For many years, the main obsolescence strategy was to abandon a system in place, under the assumption of either “space is a big place” and collisions were unlikely, or the satellite would degrade and reenter on its own. Of course, with all the launches that we’ve lobbed up there, space is seeming less and less big.

There have been some recent efforts to improve the situation, especially for Geosynchronous satellites. In 2002, the U.S. Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has made it a legal requirement that such systems commit to placing themselves into a “graveyard” orbit at end of life, or they won’t be given permission to launch. So that is something. A lot of satellite providers are now also including deorbiting in their overall mission plan of their own volition, as well, under the recognition that if Earthly space becomes too cluttered, it only makes further space-based business activities harder to do.

Regardless of these changes in disposal planning, there are a lot of satellites orbiting our planet, and an emerging technological market is beginning to open in response to the problem. A British effort being run out of the University of Surrey, called RemoveDEBRIS, has thus far flown three missions to evaluate techniques for capturing this space junk. Their most recent mission was just this past week, using a harpoon-like appendage to skewer a simulated target, and met all their test objectives.

The debris removal market could be the next big advancement in satellite technology, and probably not a moment too soon.

So, About Plans, Mice, Men

Sigh. I had started this year strong, with every intention of averaging a post a day (or better) here. Obviously, I’ve gone off the path for that.

I have an out though: I said average.

This means that I have to post a lot more to get my average up, so I have my work cut out for me. And I certainly don’t want to just post junk, either. Then again, there is so much going on that good topics litter the ground these days.

To kick off my sprint to catch up with my plan, here’s the article that kicked me in the rear to get cranking again:

Get 1% Better Every Day: The Kaizen Way to Self-Improvement

Systems of Systems – Human Experience and Space

One of the tenets of the Outbound project is that Humanity already lives and works in space. We are surrounded by the environment that is keyed to our biology and allows us to live with at least a fighting chance for survival, but it is still only one environment, on one body in outer space. There are many more environments out there, and many more bodies in space. Through technology, we have already dipped our toes in, as Sagan said, and we know that adaptation is possible. If we survive ourselves, or terrestrial natural events, or even the vagaries of space threats that exist, we can get ourselves spread about the cosmos. Time, resources, and human industry are the only real design factors, and we have those.

Of course, the above is a philosophical argument. Not logically untrue at all, but vague. As an engineer, however, you can look at our species’ life in the universe as a systems engineering problem. Essentially, we are an imperfectly closed-loop system that is performance-limited by its nominally-closed nature. Said less-esoterically – Humans only live on Earth, and while it takes care of the bulk of our needs, staying home limits our potential. The definitions of our potential can be represented in many ways, of course. Many systems would have to come together to break out of our closed-loop construct, and those systems must be defined before our potentials can even be really hinted at.

With that in mind, I think it is high time to treat human Space Exploration and Exploitation (SE2) as a System of Systems puzzle. I am now looking at the high-level view of the system, and will progressively break it down into more and more subsystems, until there is a real framework to build upon to create a viable and understandable space-faring society. The work will not be easy, I have no illusions about that, and I will need to form a team of co-researchers and supporters to pull together what I expect will be a huge body of work. I think that’s all worth it, though. Let me elevate that: It is necessary.

Happy New Year – Rubber Meeting the Road and All That

I am loathe to adopt “New Year’s Resolutions”, but in this case, I have to make an exception. The Outbound project, as I see in in my mind’s eye, will only work if it gets out from behind that eye and makes itself real. With that, I am pledging that for the next year, starting with this post, I will average a post a day (minimum) on this Blog, and no less than seven posts a week.

There is too much going on in the space industry to have any excuses not to have anything to write about or to plan forward the human future.

Here’s something useful to check into, to go beyond just trying to motivate myself:

The How To Be A Rocket Scientist blog:

From the About page:

Brett Hoffstadt is an experienced aerospace professional with over 20 years of industry experience and a technical specialization in aerodynamics.  He is a certified Project Management Professional PMP(c) with a strength in projects for innovation and complex engineering systems.  He is also a passionate advocate and champion for greater representation in STEM subjects and careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).  More accurately, he advocates ESTEAM: Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math.  He has also been a trendsetter and creative force in efforts such as 3-d printing, music composing, and crowdfunding.  He has two patents pending for commercial aviation applications.  He also has a personal life with other people and pets that will be left at that.

I’ll chime in later about this recent entry into the discussion of Space Exploration and Exploitation.

Outbound: We Live and Work In Space.

This is Day One of the Outbound Story.

Or, at least, it is the first day for anyone outside of my own mind as to the existence of the concept I call Outbound.

Our species is a complex creature at the best of times, comprised of various parts enlightened self-interest, societal pressures, basic needs and fervent desires, and of course, mixtures of all of that into what we call the human condition. For the past several thousand years at least, most of that condition has been measured against the terrestrial background and the history that we have packaged with it. In recent years, however, we have begun to stretch beyond that ancient background, into the vacuum between us and other bodies in the cosmos. With great wonder, and with an ever-increasing sense of mystery, we have yearned for more information and perhaps more freedom in new frontiers beyond the confines of the Earth. There is an innate sense that we can indeed extend and amend the human condition into the universe, and that is only achieved by going Outbound.

I will soon have a forum set up to discuss the many, many questions that must be answered in order to follow the Outbound track, but until then, for those of you now aware of our web presence, think about one question, would you please?

What is outer space to you?