Monday, March 31, 2008

How much time do you spend homeschooling your children?

I have enjoyed playing around with the poll widgets. I've created another poll. Note, this is asking how much time you spend homeschooling your children, not how much time your children spend working on educational activities.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Space Access 2008 - Frank White (via web), on The Overview Effect/Overview Institute

Frank White wrote The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution about how people feel about looking at the Earth from Space.

Frank interviewed 16 astronauts. They each seemed to be moved by the view of the Earth from space. It helps to put little, petty problems in perspective.

Up till now only a couple hundreds have experienced the Overview Effect. As more people go into space, and still others experience via virtual reality, it will lead to a wider diffusion of the Overview Effect. Frank feels this should be studied.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Robin Snelson, on Frontier Spaceport in Second Life - should it live or die?

Robin has had three islands created in Second Life. These are areas for people who are interested in getting into space.

There are some engineers who create pieces in Second Life.

Robin sees this as a way to out reach to the general public. Most of the people she meets in Second Life seem to be fairly mature, very few children.

She has noticed that people use Second Life for meeting and collaborative efforts. Robin feels there is still a lot to figure out. She's not sure if it is worth doing.

One of the things they have thought about is having an asteroid destroy the sim and then put it back together.

They would like to showcase all the the cool rockets. They have hangers for Armadillo and Matsen Space.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Berin Szoka (via web) on ITAR: Recent Progress, followed by panel discussion

This talk had a different format. Up until this talk all the speakers were in the conference room with us. Berin Szoko gave his talk on ITAR over Skype with the video being displayed up on a screen. ITAR stands for International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

He started off warning us that this is not legal advice. ITAR is a complex legal piece of law.

There are two separate issues: what is controlled and how is the technology controlled.

Launch vehicles and satellites were controlled by different laws.

He gave some history of ITAR. Recently some people in the government have said that the law was too aggressive and needs to be relaxed a bit. Bigelow has formally asked the government to back off on control of all satellites. If Bigelow's request is granted then others may ask for additional changes in ITAR and the ITAR process.

The connection cut out here. Here is last year's talk on ITAR.

They brought him back via the phone. He had the blue screen of death.

He answered a few questions from the audience.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Andrew

He has built a test stand, so he can do testing.

He has been building instruments for the government, has one in orbit, one in Antarctica.

He is based in Tuscon.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Jim Muncy from PoliSpace on Space Politics & Policies

Jim Muncy, founder and president of PoliSpace, encouraged everyone to reach out to Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.

Jim is a political consultant from Washington DC. Jim says there are four seasons in Washington DC: Silly, Stupid, Insane, and winter.

Jim says Hillary is probably the most pro space spending of the presidential cannidates. She has also said some positive things about partnerships with private companies.

John McCain knows something about space. He pro military. He did try to get NASA to better management their budget.

Jim doesn't know where Barack Obama stands. Jim guesses that Obama doesn't support the current status of NASA.

It is important to remember that NASA is not a monolith. The Air Force is not monolith. For example there are the space guys, the airplane guys, and others.

There is a crisis coming. Most people recognize that the shuttle is coming to an end.

The senior senator from Florida has realized that the only way to get to ISS sooner is by commercial space.

Twenty five years ago the House held its first meeting on commercial space. At that time the space shuttle was deploying satellites.

Jim says things are changing. Jim don't know how it will turn out. In the change there are opportunities for all of us. Don't think that everyone at NASA, the Air Force or Congress are going to support small space companies. Don't think they will cut you a check.

In many, many ways we are the Personal Computer of the space industry. One of the big changes was getting people who used mainframes to realize they could solve some of their problem with these small computers.

If you want to sell something to the government, figure out how you can meet a need. Just like you have to do marketing and sales with other companies, look to see how you can help with some of the NASA or Air Force's goals.

Jim sees good times ahead, and hard times ahead.


Q: What will large space companies do when they take small space seriously?
A: Some large companies are figuring out they can get a competitive advantage by using small businesses. The small companies still need to prove themselves, for example get stuff into space.

Q: Randall made the point we need to check our ego at the door

Q: Some question about NASA
A: Elon has not yet launched. It is hard to get a government agency to buy services and goods from private industry.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Ben Brockert for SEDS

Ben reported on what is Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. This is a student organization with chapters at many universities in the United States and around the world. They love to line up interns at rocket companies and help with other space activities.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Steve Harrington from Flometrics

Steve Harrington reported on some of the work done by Flometrics. They focus on fluid flows. They have done some medical work, working on issues of different bodily fluids.

He showed some pumps they have developed.

They also work with students at the San Diego University and help them become rocket scientists. Each student puts together a rocket, makes estimates on how high it will go and then measures what it actually does. They launched six rockets and got four back. This quarter they have eleven students and Steve isn't sure how they'll launch eleven rockets in one day.

Steve talked about pumps in general and some of the history of pumps.

Steve would like to sell pumps.

Steve talked about how rocket companies often are too ambitious. He talked about the engineering development process. He says few companies start with a list of requirements. Part of a proper engineering process should include budget for testing. It is better to focus on what you can do with the money you have, rather than attempt to do more that is reasonable.

Steve listed a bunch of projects that got started, but then ran off the money.

Much of what he said about rocket development projects sounds very similar to software development.

The full agenda

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Pretty amazing

A friend of mine noticed this at the Coyote Blog:

"Guys, you may think you know what you want in a wife -- Is she hot? Is she smart? Is she funny?

I can tell you from 18 years of marriage, this is what you really want in a wife."


Technorati tags: Ready,

Space Access 2008 - Timothy Bendel from Frontier Astronautics

Timothy Bendel says Frontier Astronautics provides services and sub components. They have done work for Matsen Space Systems and SpeedUp. He showed a test they did for SpeedUp. They are based in a missile silo.

Another customer is building a robot to go down through ice. Timothy asked if he could help when the robot is taken down to the Antarctica.

Timothy went through a dozen or so businesses they have worked for over the last year.

He showed pictures of their facility. They have a four hundred ton blast door! They are in the process of getting a license for test flights. They will be a private spaceport. Timothy talked about the benefits of being in Wyoming. Currently the state of Wyoming has a surplus and using the money to diversify their economic base.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Chuck Lauer of Rocketplane Global

Chuck Lauer of Rocketplane Global said the market analysis still shows great potential for space tourism. Rocketplane Global is planning to only do 4 G's in contrast to Virgin's 6 G's. Chuck said this is a big difference for many people.

Chuck says you need to have help from the government. By and large the federal government is out of the picture. It is the states that are working with space companies. For example Virgin Galactic is working with the state of New Mexico and Rocketplane Global is working with Oklahoma.

There appears interest from reality TV shows to put celebrities into space. Also several brands are looking at by two tickets and having a contest. For example Nestle is having a contest for French speaking people; they'll have contests for other language groups down the road. Nestle is spending $400,000 for two tickets, and then another six million dollars to promote the contest.

Rocketplane Global's new design has six seats, three rows of two seats. They have designed the cabin so all seats see out the window. Each person has a side window and a monitor. Each person can select which of the seven cameras on the rocket they are looking at on the monitor.

The rocketplane flies as a plane to about 40,000 feet and then the rocket kicks in. They are flying out of Oklahoma.

The rocketplane is built in pieces by various sub contractors and integrated in Oklahoma.

In addition to the tourist market there appears to be a market for same day deliver across the world. Fed Ex charges on a per pound basis a premium to fly documents to Tokyo. Chuck had a fun line about you could fly a document to yesterday, going from Tokyo to the US. To have this service means the rocketplanes will have to be integrated with airports. Chuck showed a slide of flying from China to France in 90 minutes.

There are several spaceports around the world. There is nothing in the regulations that say you have to land in the spaceport you took off from.


Q: When start flying?
A: Looking around 2010 or 2011

Q: How many?
A: Looking at a fleet size of 8, would spread them out, currently planning on the first two in Oklahoma. You can see about six hundred miles away during a flight. People want to see their home, people from Europe would rather fly out of the Europe.

The full agenda

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Space Access 2008 - John Gedmark of Personal Spaceflight Federation

John Gedmark from Personal Spaceflight Federation commented that some representatives of the traditional aerospace industry appeared to be actively lobbying against some of NASA's commercial space programs and saying that the commercial spaceflight ventures were not credibly due to their unrealisticly low cost estimates. He felt these lobbying efforts were bordering on outright attacks on small rocket developers and wanted to make sure the audience was aware of this, for when they next voice their opinions to their representatives on capitol hill.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Bob Steinke from SpeedUp

Bob Steinke, CEO of SpeedUp, showed a video of a prototype hovering.

Bob said there are a number of companies building a sub orbital rockets and there is a window of opportunity for a rocket to get to orbit. He plans to make it inter-operable so it can work with a variety of launch vehicles.

He sees three markets:

1) To increase performance of sub orbital
2) Launching small satellites
3) Move existing satellites

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Space Propellant Depots Panel with Jon Goff, Dallas Bienhoff, Frank Zegler, and Rand Simberg

Jon Goff

Jon kicked off the panel discussion with a short presentation. A hundred years ago sea going nations had coal stations around the world. Jon asserts that we'll need similar propellant depots as we become a space faring civilization.

Building a propellant depots have a number of technical and economic issues. Jon explored some of the technical issues. One of them is how to control the fuel so it goes where you want and doesn't go where it doesn't belong. Also helpful to make it simple so the gas station attendant can service the next rocket ship.

How do you build the business case? Can't depend on NASA. Only after there are fuel depots will NASA start to use them, NASA won't fund them.

Rand Simberg

Rand talked about the problems of the government building build fuel depots. The government would use way too much money. Can send the fuel with low cost thrusters. Because lives will depend on the fuel being there the depot systems have to be fail safe, there can't be a single point of failure. To have a robust, reasonable cost depot system there has to be a large demand, a good size market.

Where do you put the fuel depots? One good place is the equator. Unfortunately NASA would want the fuel depot above 28 degrees, since NASA launches from Florida. Other good places are the Lagraunge points.

It probably would be worth building a tanker. It could even process the fuel as it transports the fuel.

Rand says there are three business models:

1) Over specify what you want.
2) Use a ComSat model

(I missed the rest of Rand's talk, Janine called me.)

Dallas Bienhoff

Dallas talked about some of the technical issues of transferring the fuel.

It would be nice to have a couple fuel depots in Low Earth Orbit. A regular mission to the moon would start with 300 tons of fuel and land on the moon with only 17 tons, much of that would be fuel. A fuel depot allows a rocket to land on the moon with about 50 tons, much of that would be payload.

Dallas showed a picture of a fuel depot might look like.

Frank Zegler

One of the problems with handling fuel is we can't predict the boil off rate. Two ships flying the exact same mission can have a difference of boil off rate of a factor two. The fuel depot will need a solar shield. He explained a solar shield that did a good job of protecting the fuel.

Frank said that a rocket pack on the moon could take you into lunar orbit!

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Charles Miller - Space Frontier Foundation

Charles stated a couple times that this talk was on behalf of the Space Frontier Foundation. For years NASA got flat funding, but more recently NASA's budget has gone down and up. Looking over the next fifty years NASA would like to have flat funding. Charles says the retiring baby boomers may want money spent on social issues.

Charles had two pie charts contrasting that years ago the Federal government had more discretionary options, but because of of interest payments and rising social security the percentage of money that is discretionary, things like NASA and the military.

Charles says that NASA's budget will be tightened up, that there will be major cuts. There are a couple ways we could get into space:
1) Cheap transportation into space
2) High economic benefit drivers into space
3) High military needs to be in space

With cheap access to space there will be lots of science experiments.

Charles challenged the group to rally and encourage the government to push for a cheap, reusable space transportation system.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Jordin Kare, on LaserMotive, a Laser-Launch Startup Company

Jordin followed up his overview of the laser-launch industry with a report on LaserMotive, his laser-launch startup company.

LaserMotive is a Seattle based private company organized to compete with a NASA-sponsored Power Beaming competition. There is a two million dollar prize. Jordin talked about last year's competition. Jordin listed the people that are part of the LaserMotive team.

The contest had a four hundred foot crane. The device was suppose to be ten kilograms and climb the ribbon at least two meters a second. The ribbon would sway in the wind and twist, so tracking was an important issue for them.

Jordin went over many of the technical details they had to work out and some of problems they encountered at the contest.

They learned that it is important to test early and test often. Jordin said they tested features that never got used.

Next year the ribbon will be a kilometer long, held up by a balloon. The ribbon will be held off the side, so the lasers don't hurt the balloon.

The full agenda

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Beware of Jiffy Lube

This is a bit off topic, but I really hate it when businesses get away with this kind of thing.

A recent undercover news story found that 5 out of 9 Jiffy Lube repair shops charged customers for services that they never performed.

Tags : JIffy Lube , repair scam

Space Access 2008 - Dave Masten of Masten Space

Dave Masten is going to report on what they have done over the last year and their goals for the next couple years.

Their long term goal is to development a full time transportation system. They are starting small, they want to first launch a hundred kilograms.

Masten Space got started in Silicon Valley and then moved to Mohave Dessert. They have done a ton of flights. He showed a video of XA-0.1. He said their safety systems worked, the engine shut off and the system was depressurized.

They have started developing a XA-0.2. It is a lunar lander contestant. They had trouble getting a tank. Their first supplier said they didn't know how to build the tank as designed. They have redesigned and simplified their design.

Dave had a new hire, Ben, show off their igniter. Ben showed a video. They have done a lot of tests and it seems to always work. Paul Breed warned about getting the copper too hot.

Dave says they have two computers on board, one computer controls one part of the rocket, and the second computer controls another part.

Someone asked how much the igniter cost, Ben said to talk with Michael, their marketing guy.

You can follow their progress at the Masten Space Blog.

The full agenda

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Our blog hit a milestone - 2000 posts

Blogger reports that this is our 2000th post.

Technorati tags: blog, status

Interesting - the power of the internet

From Instapundit:


OUCH: "According to new data released by the Newspaper Association of America, total print advertising revenue in 2007 plunged 9.4% to $42 billion compared to 2006 -- the most severe percent decline since the association started measuring advertising expenditures in 1950. "

UPDATE: Reader Johann Erickson emails: "Last time I put a 'help wanted' ad in my local paper, it cost me about $500. I got 6 faxes, 5 were unqualified for the job. I put an ad on Craigslist for free and got about 40 resumes. About 10 qualified for the job. Why would I ever use a newspaper again? Classified ads were the biggest drop, 16.5% or so. Just another dinosaur dying." As I said, ouch.


A decrease of 9.4% in one year is a big hit. The article says said there was also a 9% decrease from 2000 to 2001.

Clearly blogs and other internet activities are taking away advertising dollars.

An amazing world.

Technorati tags: online, advertising

Space Access 2008 - Ken Davidian of NASA ESMD Commercial Development

Ken Davidian of NASA’s Exploration System talked about how NASA wants to help the commercial space industry.

Ken started off telling the story of Old McNASA. For decades Old McNASA had run his business the same way. Then Old McNASA realized that there were other farmers. Old McNASA saw that other farmers were doing things differently. He wasn't sure if they were raising crops. There were new crops. Old McNASA decided to try to work with the other farmers.

Ken tells the story within NASA to help remind people within NASA that they want to help new farmers get betters. The new farmers are the space entrepreneurs. They are taking high risks and making great technological break-throughs.

NASA wants to help fund space development, remove road blocks and limit the amount of intellectual property claims. Ken acknowledged that there are goals, and there is the reality of what NASA does.

Ken listed several programs NASA has to identify the new farmers and help them grow.

Ken did a good job of speaking to an audience of many who are distrustful of NASA.

You can get a copy of his slides from here.


Q: Please don't keep changing the requirements on us
A: Good message, Ken will try to keep NASA from changing the environment

Q: How will you get others in NASA to follow this policy?
A: Part of Ken's job is to get the program managers to pay attention to this policy, Ken acknowledges there are some in NASA he can't affect

Q: What can the new space industry do to help prompt NASA to pay attention to the private industry
A: Do something, scientists are so hungry to access to space that they will work to take advantage of companies like Armadillo

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - John Carmack on Armadillo Aerospace

John Carmack reported on the last year of progress for Armadillo. In the last year Armadillo has done seven permitted flights. John Carmack showed videos of their flights. They have made progress.

The videos were pretty cool!

They have bolted two modules together. They plan to eventually put more modules together.

For testing they strapped one of their rockets to a 50,000 pound crane and use the rocket to push the crane down a drag strip. There has been some problems with started and stopping, so they ran dozens of stops and starts to make sure the system issues have been fixed.

It was frustrating last year to come out of the X Prize contest last year. They thought they had tested everything enough. They had seen some problems and thought they had fixed all the problems. They had done over thirty flights. They went to the X Prize with three vehicles and left with three wrecked engines. They still don't understand all the problems.

They have some contracts to bring in revenue, one is NASA, another is a business which has asked them to not talk about the work Armadillo is doing.

John believes they are just a couple million dollars away from having a workable system for taking people 100,000 feet up. He sees the space tourism market as having a great potential. John has recently put in a little more money to keep the business going.

They have learned a lot in building several vehicles in the last year.


Q: How much money has been spent?
A: Between three and four million over the last eight years.

Q: Plans for going to 100,000 feet?
A: Expect to lift relatively slowly, so the bulky modular approach should be OK.

Q: The half a million a year burn rate, does that include labor?
A: One person is being paid full time, others are getting a token payment.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Jordin Kare on Recent Laser-Launch Technology Readiness Progress

Jordin Kare believes lasers burning fuel on the end of a rocket is a good way to launch rockets. The idea is to put the fuel on the rocket and the laser on the ground. The laser targets the rocket and burns the fuel to provide the propulsion. This makes the rocket lighter because it doesn't have to carry an engine.

Jordin says building big lasers have serious problems. The answer is to build lots of small lasers and have them work together. He talked about some of the technical issues for building a collection of lasers.

A recent development in the laser world is fiber lasers. It has improved efficiencies. Jordin says we have the technology to build laser launch rockets.

Jordin answers the important question: "Why build laser launch rockets?" He reminds us that traditional chemical rockets have a number of problems and are very expensive.

Jordin says you could build a 100 Megawatt launch system for around two billion dollars. The big cost is diode lasers. Telecomm is building lots of diode lasers, which helps drop the costs. Jordin says you could launch for less than $1000 a pound, maybe even down to $250 a pound. It would take about three years to build something to launch to the top of the atmosphere.


Q: Does weather affect a laser system?
A: Lasers don't burn though clouds.

The full agenda

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Would you like to join a debate on homeschooling?

I've not checked out MonkeyBrain before. It appears to be a place to hold debates. JustMyOpinion has invited people to contribute to why Homeschooling is a Right.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education

Space Access 2008 - Dan DeLong of XCOR Aerospace

XCOR recently announced a suborbital called the Lynx.

Dan DeLong, co-founder of XCOR and Chief Engineer, did a little song and dance while two other people from XCOR struggled to get the laptop up and running. While they worked on getting computer working Dan said that rockets were easy, computers were hard. He then had a tongue in cheek comment that he wasn't sure he wanted to ride on a rocket with software that was a direct descendent of something named Doom. John Carmack of Armadillo was a good sport.

XCOR currently has 25 people, five of them are named Mike.

Finally they got another laptop working!

Dan had a complex looking chart about how to eat meat. The chart started with looking for a mastodon. The point was once they feel like they have done enough analysis they move on. It is possible to over analysis a problem.

Dan talked about the history of XCOR. They have been involved in some government projects.

XCOR is building the rockets for the rocket races. Dan said that one of the requirements was that there was a bright colorful visible rocket plume.

Then Dan launched into information about the Lynx. Here is the press release. They have invested about seven million dollars. Here is a video of the Lynx:

The rocket will pull about two g's. Landing speed is about 90 knots, takeoff is about twice that.

When the price drops a bit I'll be tempted to buy a ticket. They plan to fly the Lynx twice a day. Dan reiterated the point that the only want to flew cheap is to fly frequently. The Mark I will be suborbital, the Mark II will go into space.

Dan switched to Q&A:

Q: Do you plan to sell rockets or run the a tourist business?
A: Initially expect to run the rides, but want to just sell rockets.

Q: How soon will the Mark II be available?
A: Twelve to eighteen months after the Mark I.

Q: Will you make more than one Mark I?
A: If there are customers, would love to make many of them.

Q: How big of a support team will be needed for a Mark II?
A: Trying real hard to keep the turn around time down, expecting about two hours. Think the ground team will be less than ten, maybe even half of that.

Q: Mark II goals?
A: Talking about 200,000 feet up for the Mark I, but expecting to do even better with the Mark II.

Q: Costs going forward?
A: Expecting another nine million dollars for the Mark I, and probably another twelve million for Mark II.

Q: What does a Mark I sell for?
A: Not clear Mark I if will be selling or owning the first Mark I. Not sure what it will sell for. Dan says that if sell to the government the rules and regulations make force the price up.

Q: Insurance?
A: Have insurance on a per year basis, not per flight. Will have insurance for the Lynx.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Paul Breed of Unreasonable Rocket

Paul and his son are building rockets. They want to be in the Lunar Landing contest. They built one rocket, it worked. They figured they were good for the contest. They went to build four more, and had lots of problems. Paul showed some videos of some of the problems they've had. There were some spectacular explosions.

Paul blogs about their experience at his blog Unreasonable Rockets. There are lots of pictures, explanations and some videos.

This was most technical talks so far at this conference. Paul showed pictures and talked about specific problems with values, fuels and other issues. He showed many picture and explained the issues they had and some of the solutions.

This is one of the great things about Space Access. People come here to share what they learn. There is great camaraderie.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Impressions after the first day

I have been at Space Access 2008 for a day now. Earlier this week I mentioned to several friends that I was going to a conference for entrepreneurs trying to get into space. The universal reaction from my friends was this was close to Science Fiction. Private industry in space is a fun idea, and maybe it will happen in a couple decades.

After twenty four hours of immersion among fellow believers there is a greater reality. Like my one of my brother said:

"There are lots of people thinking about getting into space. There are lots of people who talk about getting into space. Space Access is run by people who are doing the work."

Most people here are talking about nuts and bolts. There is little pie in the sky wishful thinking. There is a lot of discussion of what problems are people facing and how do you solve them.

You can find my review of the talks by going to the agenda. Rand is blogging about the conference at Transterrestrial Musings. Clark is blogging at HobbySpace, you can start here. Jeff is blogging at Personal Spaceflight.

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Thought about depending on God

This came in this morning from Dan Galvin's Thought For The Day mailing list:

Ask God's blessing on your work,
but don't ask him to do it for you.
-Dame Flora Robson

This reminds me of the joke about the man who prayed and prayed and prayed to God asking God to help him win the lottery. Finally after years God responded with "Well at least buy a ticket."

Technorati tags: thought, Dan Galvin

Reminder - send in a post for the next Carnival of Homeschooling

You have about 80 hours to send in an entry for the next Carnival of Homeschooling, which will be hosted at our blog, Why Homeschool.

As always, entries are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.

Here are the instructions for sending in a submission.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,

Space Access 2008- Michelle Murray and Sherman Council of FAA

Michelle Murray works with the FAA, Office of Commercial Space Transportation. They regulate launches. They have about 65 people working in the office.

The number one mission is public safety. They also worry about national security and try to help promote the space industry.

Michelle summarized some of the events in the commercial space arena over the last year.

She covered some of the same information that she presented last year.

There has been an increased in permits for experimental launches. If you are going to do a launch, you have to fill out an application.

Sherman Council talked in detail about safety approval. Safety approvals are voluntary, you don't have to get them. I was surprised, because the attitude seems to be that you have to get them.

Safety approvals are renewable and can be transferred. Sherman also made the point that their concern is the general public. They recognize that rockets are inherently dangerous and that accidents will happen.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Charles Miller on the Air Forces relationships for getting into space

Charles Miller says the United States Air Force wants to work with private industry. The military is reluctant to work with the "garage people." They want bigger companies. If you want to work with the Air Force make sure you have a reasonable, convincing story explaining what you can do and show that it is doable.

The Air Force wants to put stuff into space.

Charles says that there will be some changes over the next couple years. There will be a new President. They expect some changes in direction, maybe lots of changes.

If you have an interest in getting business from the Air Force Charles can provide contacts.

RASTE is a "marriage broker" as they try to put together private businesses who can provide services with organizations in the Air Force which have needs. Charles encouraged people to attend RASTE, a three day conferences.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Lee Valentine of the Space Studies Institute

Lee talked about the programs and goals of the Space Studies Institute (SSI).

Lee said 30 years ago most people thought the government was going to take us into space. Now many realize that private individuals and business will be taking us into space.

The full agenda

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Space Access 2008 - Joe Carroll, on Challenges of Commercial Manned Orbital Space

Joe Carroll, who wrote a guidebook on tethers, reviewed some of the challenges of commercial manned space travel. Joe reminded us that manned space travel is like the taxi business. People are going to pay for the ride, and then for a hotel in space. Much of the hotel costs will feed back into the taxi business. The hotel will need to hire the taxi to bring up supplies and to bring up the hotel staff.

Joe asks what are the limits to space tourism? The big factor is time. It takes time to earn the money. It takes the time to train, for example six months in Russia. If the requirements for training and money drop then more people will be willing to accept a little risk.

For the taxi business to be successful companies need to reduce the risk.

Probably people will want to spend a week in space. Most people take a couple days to get use to weightlessness. A successful space hotel will have frequent flights. One group of people are getting use to free fall while the earlier group is able to be more active.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Timothy Bendel: The Angel Company (a proposed Frontier Astronautics spinoff)

Timothy Bendel, president of Frontier Astronautics, says one of the problems in the rocket industry. Many people are struggling to bootstrap themselves out of their garage. There are a few companies which are well funded. It is hard to go from the starving garage level company to a large, well funded company.

Timothy is proposing creating a holding company which funds small rocket companies. The holding company would buy shares of the small garage level businesses. The money would come from lots of small investors. They would invest money in this angel funding company. It could both be a way to help the rocket industry and may be financially rewarding.

There is a bunch of paperwork to create this type of company.

Last year Tim Bendel talked about what Frontier Astronautics is working on.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Leik Myrabo, on Beamed Energy Propulsion Prospects And Projects

Leik Myrabo does research into beamed energy propulsion. Leik gave a similar talk last year. The idea is basic power production in a power plant is fairly cheap. Leik showed some videos. One video showed a flying helicopter powered by beamed microwave. This video was from 1964 and a helicopter flew for 10 hours. He showed several cool videos .

Many of the points he made today he made last year.

The Air Force is looking at putting small satellites into order. It takes about a Megawatt to put a kilogram into space.

Leik's vision is a collection of solar collections in orbit which beam power down to rocket ships. Once the infrastructure is in place the cost for a flight would be very low.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Pannel on Rocket Piloting

(Order in the picture: Ian, Randall, John, Mark, Erik)

Randall Claque of XCOR opened by reviewing the FAA rules of being a rocket pilot. Basically you have to know how to fly the rocket, be physically healthy and know the rules.

John Carmack of Armadillo said that he doesn't have a pilot's license, and the FAA is willing to wave the rules at times. At Armadillo they fly the rocket via remote control, and if there is a problem, then they may choose to abort. John made the provocative statement that being a rocket pilot will be like being an elevator operator, ancient history.

In response to a question from the audience John said getting a pilot's license is helpful. It is also worth getting an understanding of risk management and understand how rockets work. John says they expect to program most of the work so it is just push button.

Randall said there were 7 AST licensed flights and 9 ASL permitted flights. I'm not sure what the distinction is between the two.

Ian Kluft was the instigator for the panel discussion. Ian wants to be a rocket pilot and a flight instructor. Ian has had a private pilots license for twenty years and recently got his instrumental license. Ian made the point that one problem currently is an airport is closed when a rocket flies. He suggested that we look for ways to avoid having the airspace closed down.

Mark Street said that while rockets are few now one way to get some experience is to work with a variety of planes. He pointed out that while rockets are taking off it is pulling serious g's, so it would be good to build up tolerance. Rockets will be fast and one option to develop a feel for the speed is to practice in a Czechoslovakian L39. But that is expensive, it can cost $2,000 for one hour. He said it would also be helpful to get a private gilder's license.

Erik Anderson took his turn. Erik is a pilot for the Air Force. He felt lots of experience was worth having.

The audience started asking questions.

Erik said that yes simulators could be worth while, especially since right now we don't have rocket planes to practice with.

A member of the audience said the Oklahoma space port doesn't shut down when a rocket takes off.

Erik said it was worth develop g tolerance. Mark said it is only for fifteen or so seconds. Erik said that because it is fairly gradual 4 or 5 g's isn't too bad. A few people in the audience pointed out that high end roller coasters are pulling 3 to 4 g's.

Randall said that legally there are no passengers now. Passengers buy tickets to an activity which is assumed to be safe. Currently rockets take flight participants.

The full agenda

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A politician says does as I say, not as I do

Paul Jacobs has a classic case of a politician wanting one set of rules for most citizens, but another set of rules for himself in The Private Schools of Politicians?

"Years ago, Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley voted against Oregon’s charter school legislation. He lost.
Later, he and his wife applied to send two of their kids to a newly forming charter school. The school was late in starting up, so he lost again as the application wasn’t acted on.
But now that Willamette Weekly leaked the application, it’s getting lots of attention.
Merkley first denied the report. Then, when the actual applications were produced, well, he stopped denying."

Read the rest of the column for Paul Jacobs' thoughts about this hypocritical incident.

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Are you looking for help with improving your blogging?

Resource For Bloggers Carnival - 10th Edition has tips on how to be a better blogger.

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Space Access 2008 - Michael Carden of XL Space on Hydrogen Peroxide Benefits to the Commercial Space

Michael Carden of X-L Space Systems listed several benefits of hydrogen peroxide as a rocket fuel. It lasts long when stored, it is safe and fairly cheap. He was making a good sales pitch. I expect several people will talk with him during dinner this evening.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Jess Sponable, on The History And Future Of Spaceplanes

Jess Sponable talked about the history of spaceplanes, the present state of spaceplanes and the hope for the future of spaceplanes. He uses the term spaceplane to talk about frequent flights to space.

The Germans pioneered some of the early work. Jess reviewed some of the history of NASA's research into spaceplanes.

Jess said one of the lessons learned is it is important to build something, don't just spend time designing. Jess had a chart showing that it was cheaper to build something now and learn from that experience.

Jess says there is some good news, several people investing serious money. He listed several companies.

Before making any predictions about the future, Jess listed some pronouncements people said in history about the development of technology.

Based on the cost of the energy of putting people into orbit it "should" cost about $76. Well, there is all the packaging of putting people into space. The cost drops as the frequency of flight climbs. The more often a spaceplane flies, the cheaper, because the development cost and overhead can be spread across several flights.

Jess says things are changing fast, and the rate of change is increasing. Around the 1800s knowledge was doubling every 150 years. By 2020 the amount of knowledge will double about every 73 days, yes days.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Stratofox Aerospace Tracking Team/Ian Kluf

Ian Kluft is part of the Stratofox Aerospace Tracking and Recovery Team. They are an amateur group which helps in recovering lost rockets or lost balloons. Ian said balloons often go farther. Rockets which go up into space might drift 25 miles. Balloons have gone as far as 65 miles. Balloons can conduct experiments high up for a cheaper amount.

Stratofox stands for Stratospheric Fox Hunt. They want to be invited to all the cool rocket launches. They have found several lost rockets.

By recovering lost rockets they are helping to make the fledgling rocket industry more successful.

As Stratofox their first job was in 2003. They weren't given the radio frequency, but because they knew the terrain, they were able to track down the rocket.

In 2004 Stratofox recovered a rocket, and they also rescued two other people who were looking for the rocket.

Ian covered several other successful recoveries.

They are looking for people who can contribute and have needed skills. They like ham radio operators, off road drivers, people with planes and so on.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Gerry Nordley, Brief Updates on Tethers Unlimited and the CONTACT Conference

Gerry Nordley leads a double life. When working on technical issues he goes by Gerry D. Nordley. He also writes Science Fiction as G. David Nordley.

Gerry helped Tethers Unlimited. Cash was tight for awhile and Gerry has become a part owner.

Gerry explained some of the advantages of tethers. A tether can add velocity to a rocket without using fuel. Or at least the rocket doesn't need fuel. Throwing a rocket ship takes energy out of the tether system. One way to push the tether higher is to run an electrical wire down towards the earth, use energy from solar collectors and push against the Earth's magnetic field.

Gerry had a video showing how a tether might be deployed. He also had a simulation of a pick up and toss by a tether.

Gerry admitted there were a few failures with tethers, but reminded us that rockets also had a number of failures in the early years.

Gerry also gave a report on the Contact Conference. This organization looks at what it might be like for humans as we expand into space, and what a contact with an alien race might be like.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Vincent Cate and Henry Cate Jr., on Fully Reusable Lunar Transport

My father and brother believe that space tethers provide a way to save on the energy equations for getting into space. Vince gave the presentation.

The basic idea of a rotating tether is a large mass that has a rope moving around and around. A large rope reaching down towards to the Earth is moving slower than the orbital speed and much faster when it reaches the high point.

The Moon's orbit is in a different orbital plane than the equatorial orbits around the Earth. Changing orbital planes takes energy. Vince and my father are proposing a two stage tether transportation system. One rotating tether is in orbit around the earth and throws space craft to the moon. The second tether is in orbit around the moon. It receives the objects.

Throwing an object affects the orbit of the tether. A key part of the plan is to also catching an another object as it comes back. This balances out going with in coming.

The basic approach is to have a base on the equator which launches a rocket. The rocket flies up, catches the end of the tether. The tether continues rotating and pulls the rocket up to above the anchor then releases the rocket. The rocket coasts out past the moon, makes a change in the orbital plane and comes to the moon. Near the moon the second tether catches the rocket and slows it down. A reverse process sends payloads back to the Earth.

A key feature of this proposal is a huge savings in energy. It could be ten times cheaper in the amount of fuel needed.

This system could also be used to toss objects to Mars or the asteroids. When tossing objects out the orbit of a tether, the tether loses kinetic energy, which has to be replaced.

One hard issue: no one has caught an object on a tether in space.

The full agenda

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Space Access 2008 - Opening and Henry Spencer

Henry Vanderbilt
opened the conference by explaining why he started up Space Access. Getting mankind into space will help us avoid problems with limited resources. He wants a good future for his extended family.

Henry Spencer - on The Road Not Traveled, or, How To Return To The Moon (And How Not To)

Henry listed some considerations on why we should be focused on going back to the moon. He pointed out that we have hardly touched the surface of the moon. There is much more we can explore. We will need to plan for the long haul. We should fly frequently. It is better to have many small loads than a couple large loads. Henry warned that we need to plan for change. Our goals will change over time, and we won't be able to do everything we want at the start.

Henry explained some of the reasons for lifting off from the equator. He talked about how we need to worry about the Van Allen belt. He reviewed some of the issues in switching from one orbital plane around the earth to another orbital plane around the moon.

A minimum energy transfer from the Earth to the Moon is error sensitive. Apollo used a higher energy, partly to have a greater margin of safety. Interestingly, one of the reasons Apollo chose when to go to the moon was they wanted long shadows. This way as they landed they could see their shadow and visually gauge accurately how close they were while landing on the Moon.

Once you have a base on the Moon you can clear off the landing pad and provide landing beacons. This would allow you to land on the Moon at any time.

Henry explained that Warner von Braun helped the Apollo program by being super cautious. The original expectations was that the Saturn rocket would be about 75,000 pounds. Warner told his people that the launch would have to support at least 90,000 pounds. The rocket ended up being close to 100,000 pounds.

Henry worries that NASA doesn't have anyone now who is as cautious or has authority as von Braun did.

Having an assembly base in orbit gives you support facilities. NASA is reluctant to build in space. Henry had s sketch of an assembly shed. One important consideration is worrying about heat and cold. A shed can provide some protection.

The full agenda


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Space Access 2008 - The Agenda

Here is the agenda for Space Access 2008:

overall schedule:
- Thursday March 27th, sessions 2 pm - ~10 pm
- Friday March 28th, sessions 9 am - ~10 pm
- Saturday March 29th, sessions 9 am - 6 pm (Hospitality - till late)

Thursday March 27th

1 pm - Registration and Hospitality open (we may have them open as
early as noon, depending on how setup goes, but no guarantees.)

1:50 Henry Vanderbilt says Welcome, and shares a thought or two

2 pm Henry Spencer, on The Road Not Traveled, or, How To Return To
The Moon (And How Not To)

3 pm Vincent Cate and Henry Cate Jr., on Fully Reusable Lunar Transport

3:30 break

4 pm Gerry Nordley, Brief Updates on Tethers Unlimited and the CONTACT Conference

4:40 Stratofox Aerospace Tracking Team/Ian Kluft

4:50 Jess Sponable, on The History And Future Of Spaceplanes

5:40 XLSpace/Michael Carden, on Hydrogen Peroxide Benefits to the Commercial Space Industry

6 pm break for dinner

8 pm Panel: Paths to Rocket Piloting, with Erik Anderson, Ian Kluft, Mark Street

8:40 Leik Myrabo, on Beamed Energy Propulsion Prospects And Projects

9:30 Timothy Bendel: The Angel Company (a proposed Frontier Astronautics spinoff)

9:50 Joe Carroll, on Challenges of Commercial Manned Orbital Space

late - Hospitality closes

Friday March 28th

8 am - Registration and Hospitality open

9 am Space Studies Institute/Lee Valentine

9:10 Charles Miller/SPC Inc for Air Force Research Lab, on the FAST and RASTE Projects and AFRL Commercial Partnerships

9:50 FAA AST/Michelle Murray and Sherman Council

10:30 break

11 am Unreasonable Rocket/Paul Breed

11:30 XCOR Aerospace/Dan DeLong

12:30 break for lunch

2:00 Jordin Kare, on Recent Laser-Launch Technology Readiness Progress

2:30 Armadillo Aerospace/John Carmack

3:30 break

4:00 Ken Davidian/NASA ESMD Commercial Development

4:50 Masten Space/Dave Masten

5:30 Jordin Kare, on Recent Laser-Launch Technology Readiness Progress

6:00 Charles Miller - Space Frontier Foundation

6 pm break for dinner

8 pm Space Propellant Depots Panel with Jon Goff, Dallas Bienhoff, Frank Zegler, and Rand Simberg

9:30 Jordin Kare, on LaserMotive, a Laser-Launch Startup Company

10 pm Robin Snelson, on Frontier Spaceport in Second Life - should it live or die?

late - Hospitality closes

Saturday March 29th
9 am Rocketplane Global/Chuck Lauer

10:10 break

10:40 Flometrics/Steve Harrington

11:20 Ken Davidian/NASA ESMD Commercial Development

12:10 break for lunch

2 pm Berin Szoka (via web) on ITAR: Recent Progress, followed by panel discussion

2:50 Frank White (via web), on The Overview Effect/Overview Institute

3:30 break

4 pm Panel Discussion on Non-US Perspectives & Prospects, with Jeff Foust, Clark Lindsay, Dave Salt, Henry Spencer

4:50 Misuzu Onuki, Japan Update

5:10 Wrapup Panel, with Various Luminaries telling us What It All Means

6 pm that's all for this year

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