Category Archives: Wagons Ho!

Outbound Operational Plan for Space Migration: Human Orbital Flight

Certainly, we just talked about suborbital flight in light of Yuri Gagarin’s achievement in the orbital realm, which I think was a mistake on Russia’s part at the time. Certainly, it was a huge geopolitical win for the USSR, and whether I think it was technical overreach at the time, it spurred the United States to loft their own orbital missions. I would term this next step in general lockstep with the initial operational plan for Outbound as Human Orbital Flight. (OPS.5)

There are many goals for getting humanity on an Outbound track, and to really do that, humans have to be a part of space travel. Orbital spaceflight is the real point where the human element is needed to claim a foothold. The OPS.4 Suborbital phase is meant to dip the metaphorical toe into the pond, but OPS.5 Orbital means taking a real swim. You have to let go of familiar Earthly physical and biological norms, and acknowledge the technical advancements needed to allow for that disengagement. Orbital spaceflight demands real adaptation just for survival, and beyond that hints at the things we need to know to be truly useful in space.

There are so many things to be considered in successfully crossing the threshold into a sustained spacefaring activity, of which the below is only a minor subset to consider:

 

Advanced Life Support

Space-based Navigation

Powerful Propulsion and Control Systems

Improved Reentry Systems and Materials

 

Of course, the above very short list only addresses some of the needs of orbital spacecraft to merely exist, but a smart approach to such development is to also begin to anticipate the greater function for those spacecraft in Earth orbit. In the historical space race the goal was to use Earth orbit as a transitional stage to a further mission to the Moon. We were not overly focused on hanging around the planet and keeping our permanence there. Again, as with the rush to beat each other in a political race, a logical technical progression of human spaceflight development was set aside, this time on the American side.

Outbound Operational Plan for Space Migration: Human Suborbital

As KönigKosmos, I would say the next step of an initial operational plan for Outbound would be the development of Human Suborbital Flight. (OPS.4)

Of course, this is another area where we have already explored in human history. This was a particular battle in the Cold War between the United States and the USSR, a battle the communists won. Yuri Gagarin, a lieutenant in the Soviet Air Force, was the first human being into orbit, bypassing suborbital flight entirely. It was a gutsy move, there is no doubt about it, and even though I am an American who grew up during the Cold War, I have nothing but respect for Gagarin. He was a brave man to have gone into space at all, let alone take such a bold mission.

This gallantry on Gagarin’s part is still a farther step than I would be willing to go if I were starting my own program from scratch. I don’t approach this from a sense of timidity, though, rather that the research progression is not served well by skipping this step. There are mission-related factors during flight that only occur during suborbital phases, namely abort scenarios. You have to plan for aborts, because, face it, not every launch is going to work right off the pad. So having a Human-In-The-Loop (HITL) test of abort scenarios tell planners and designers a lot about how the vehicle is going to perform if a real abort is needed.

Also, from an incremental design and systems engineering approach, a simplified mission helps determine the validity of assumptions made on how the spacecraft is configured and how the crew interacts with it. Via testing, such determinations are easier to make when fewer factors are present to filter out. In the long run, Suborbital Human Flight testing gives much deeper insight and speeds up development.

Outbound Operational Plan for Space Migration: Pre-Crew Rocketry – Ballistic Studies

I’ve often asked myself what I’d do if I were king of the cosmos and controlled how humanity migrated into space. You know what? In the tradition of Albert Einstein and “thought experiments”, I’m going to explore that. Let’s call it Outbound Operational Plan for Space Migration, or OPS, for now.

There are a list of developmental milestones that I think we ought to reach going forward, at least in very broad strokes. For each milestone, there would be associated Technology Readiness Levels, or TRLs, as the space industry calls them. These TRLs indicate the level of feasibility and confidence any particular technology holds for being used on a space program.

As my first act as KönigKosmos, I’d say the first milestone would be Pre-Crew Rocketry – Ballistic Studies. (OPS.1)

This is essentially complete in terms of its TRL, as the hurdles in that technology were cleared back in the 1940’s and 1950’s with things like the German V2 weapons programs, and the American and Russian follow-on work improving on on German rocketry after World War II. That phase was well validated as we went into the Mercury Redstone flights leading into the crewed Mercury flight missions. Certainly, things must have been going well for the Soviets, as well, since they beat us into manned spaceflight with Yuri Gagarin!

Of course, that doesn’t mean that new companies aren’t even today exploring that phase all over again, either in the quest to relearn the same lessons for themselves or to work on new ways of satisfying the milestone. The latter is being well-explored by companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin, and also by a whole slew of other, smaller companies hungry for the Outbound journey. And I suspect that more companies will keep showing up at that milestone gate.

Apollo 11 and Self-Awareness

I just figured out something about myself, courtesy of this post by Aesop at the Raconteur Report:

Happy Peak of Western Civilization Day

I’m not going to expound endlessly on this, as Aesop says it so well, but I realized that the reason I’ve hung on so tenaciously to my work in the space industry is tied in very closely with my personal views on society. Whether or not I am a member of this world, I am an American, and a Western construct. The height of Western accomplishment absolutely is the Moon landing.

I don’t mean “Murica is Number One” sort of jingoism (though I guess I don’t NOT mean it, either) but a deeper heritage of exploration that a lot of civilization have failed to embrace. Either they never had that urge, or they didn’t take it as far in the past, or they are only really moving on it now. There is one more possibility, of course, they followed the call, but abandoned it, indeed somehow shrunk from it for various reasons. That’s what concerns me, and drives me. The Western world has been in a holding pattern and seems to be losing ground the past few decades, navel gazing, or maybe trying to convince itself via globalization that following the herd is somehow safer and smarter. We’ve been moving on that abandonment track for too long.

This manifests itself in how the Western human space exploration and exploitation has stalled. We’re risk-phobic, afraid of what failure “looks like” as a media matter and loss of funding. We use our space programs as a geopolitical tool instead of a leadership program. Between those two problems, we end up moving too slow and too timidly, trying to achieve perfection and also not piss anybody off. When the rest of the world looks to the West for leadership, they end up pissed off at us anyway because we are so concerned with avoiding failure by also avoiding accomplishment.

I work to bring back the idea that risk is not a dirty word, and risk to cement humanity off-planet is required, as it’s always been required to breach a frontier. As a Western man, I want to reclaim that heritage in space, because we need new peaks in the history of our civilization, and we are still capable of making the climb.

Space Nation Update

Well, I downloaded their app for their perception of astronaut training, as a beta tester. I appreciate their intent with trying to combine entertainment, education, and social interaction, but as with most beta releases, there’s some technical issues that they’ll need to overcome.

Right now, I was able to access the initial activities, but since the first week I’ve been getting daily messages that there are new daily missions and when I click on the weekly adventure, and it tells me that I’ve completed the daily mission. Of course, I haven’t done so… And this morning it now locks up when I try this.

I’ll be a dutiful beta tester and let them know my woes.

Marching Towards Warp Drive

There is interesting news afoot in particle physics. It seems that some researchers from the University of Rochester have created quasi-particles known as polaritons at room temperature, and these little beauties exhibit behavior of objects of negative mass.

The original Alcubierre Warp Drive theory involved the use of negative energy to achieve a transit method outside of normal spacetime. Of course, Professor Alcubierre’s original estimate of magnitude was unreasonably huge, but the theory has stood up well. What’s been encouraging over the years is work by a number of other physicists to bring that magnitude down to imaginable levels. What’s been even more difficult to grapple has been the negative energy aspect, but with this new work, we now have what looks like negative mass. Given Einstein’s famous equation:

E = mc²

Where E is energy, m is mass, and c is the speed of light, a mass of a negative magnitude should convert to negative energy. That’s a major puzzle piece.

For more, see:

Physicists Say They’ve Created a Device That Generates ‘Negative Mass’

 

Kindred Spirits – Space Nation

Kindred Spirits – Space Nation

I ran across a new organization out there, Space Nation, who has the noble goal of creating the largest space discovery community on the planet. Their belief statement reads thus:

We believe that Astronaut skills are life skills. Using a range of space experiences to connect everyday life to space, and space to everyday life, we’re motivating and enabling discovery of space skills for 21st Century Space Travelers.

We believe that expansion to space is a key moment in human evolution that brings new perspectives, unity and tangible benefits to humanity, the Earth and worlds we have yet to discover.”

To those of us on the Outbound journey, this sounds incredibly familiar.

Frankly, it’s exciting to peruse their website, and see the sorts of things they’re delving into. In particular, they are working on what they call the Space Nation Astronaut Program (SNAP). This program kicks off in February of 2018, including a new smartphone app that guides the program participants as they work their way forward, culminating in a possible free flight into space for the top performer! This is a bit if genius where they offer free training towards an astronaut skillset and way of thinking, under the concept that astronaut qualities are excellent qualities for life in general. As per the Outbound motto, “We Live and Work In Space”, Space Nation’s philosophy aligns so very well with our own.

I’ve signed up for their “Space Station Orbit” newsletter and also for the SNAP, and I have to say, I am excited to see what begins to develop two months from now.

The Weird, Ugly Side of Space Politics

Keith Cowing at NASAWatch seems offended by this image:

Lockheed Martin Orion Spacecraft in Martian Orbit

#JourneyToMars Facebook hype from @LockheedMartin As if Orion with only a service module will be in Mars orbit

Here’s a bit of SpaceX concept art that is essentially the same as the CowingSnark is concerned about:

Dragon entering the Martian Atmosphere - Elon Musk Instagram Concept Art

It’s rather GOOD concept art, and I can see why Elon Musk published it on Instagram. Can we NOT poke at concept art? That seems incredibly picky, perhaps even petty.

NINE SIGMA IN-SITU STUDY DISPATCH 2 – Table 1 First Analysis

I took a look at the data presented in Table 1 of NineSigma’s proposal information, and compared the Moon and Martian materials to Earth values. There are a few first thoughts:

1. As it might be expected, just a straight comparison like this shows that the lunar material composition holds the greatest parity with Earth. While not a part of this study, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that there is a sizeable number of lunar geologists that theorize that the Moon is a chunk of material that was once part of Earth.

2. Silicon Dioxide is by far the primary compound at all three locations.

3. Despite similarities with terrestrial soils, lunar samplings show a distinct lack of Sulfate and Chlorine.

The points above generate some paths to follow:

1. What terrestrial structural materials can be most easily replicated, and which correlate better with the Moon vs. Mars?

2. Is there a particular structural material and/or process that significantly involves Silicon Dioxide or related compounds?

3. What limitations does the poverty of lunar Sulfate and Chlorine enforce?

So, I’ll now look at those questions.

Nine Sigma In-Situ Study Dispatch 1

I find Table 1 of the Nine Sigma In-Situ Competition to be very interesting. It’s a simple summary chart of various soil/rock material distributions for Earth, Moon, and Mars, as defined by percentage mass.

I think that’ll be my first line of attack. Let’s see what is common enough between the terrestrial and the extraterrestrial and pick some building materials.

I’ll post the chart itself later,as I’m on my phone at the moment.

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