February 27, 2021

Robots on Mars



A very detailed and informative press conference doing an almost frame-by-frame analysis of the landing of the Perseverance Rover on Mars. For those that just want to watch the landing, the raw footage of the landing begins at 1:47:44. 

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February 18, 2021

Perseverance Lands


NASA's newest rover Perseverance has successfully landed in Jezero Crater ( which was once a lake) on Mars. There were no splodies, just pictures. 



"No 'splodies no crunchies! Yay!" 

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January 29, 2021

Space X

Well, there are a lot of conflicting stories as to what happened with the FAA and the SN-9 test flight scheduled for yesterday. 


However, as I type this they are rolling out SN-10 to the launch pad. 

Reportedly, SN-9 is scheduled for a Monday launch, but SN-10 is scheduled for "soon". 

We'll see. 

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January 13, 2021

Oh Wow. They're Going to Test This Thing Next Month

They've been best known until now for cool CGI animations of stuff they say they'll do eventually, but now The Gateway Foundation is announcing plans to do a 40% scale test of their fabrication robot 'D-Star'.  



If this thing works, even the 40% version will have massive potential to assemble things in orbit and beyond. If Space-X gets their rockets working and produced in the quantities that Mr. Musk is promising, then we could have the solar system from Mercury to Pallas opened up in less than a decade.  

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December 08, 2020

Splodies Imminent !

Will they be controlled splodies or chaotic 'splodies? It's Space-X...so it'll be fun either way. 


UPDATE: Well.....It was scrubbed. 

UPDATE2 12/9: Well THAT was spectacular.

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November 25, 2020

Meanwhile, in Texas

Space-X just conducted what is believed to be its last static fire test on the main engines of its SN-8 Starship prototype. As is expected of anything Space-X, the result was a series of explosions.


Our crack team of Science Babes have thoughts on the implications of these explosions on the rocket.


"Yeah. That's actually how rockets work. In this test the explosions were all in the right places and pointed in the right direction! That's a, uh, success."


Oh.

Well, that explains why this rocket, the prototype for a fleet expected to number in the hundreds and intended to travel to the moon, asteroids, as well as bring settlers to Mars, is still scheduled to conduct a test flight to an altitude of 9 miles next week


Note: 'Science Babes' are actually Yukari, Matsuri, and Akane...the Rocket Girls

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November 15, 2020

Wo0t!




Space-X has launched a NASA mission with an international crew consisting of NASA and JAXA astronauts to the International Space Station. The mission commander, Colonel Michael Hopkins USAF, will be transferred and sworn in to the U.S. Spaceforce during this mission, and so this mission marks the first spaceflight of a Spaceforce servicemember. Hopkins has two spaceflights under his belt. Mission specialist Shannon Walker has done a previous tour to the ISS, Victor Glover is on his first spaceflight, but is an experienced test pilot and The Japanese astronaut, Soichi Noguchi, is one of 7 current (11 total) Japanese astronauts, has been an astronaut since JAXA was still NASDA, and has ridden fire twice. 

I dunno what the odd pulsing of the second stage engine pumps was, but it's now been 15 minutes, the capsule is in orbit, the first stage was recovered, and all 'splodies have been confined to the interiors of the engine nozzles.

Happy day! 

UPDATE: Final crew note; the zero gravity indicator on this mission appears to be Baby Yoda.

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October 22, 2020

We came in Peace...AND WE PUNCHED IT!



NASA has successfully slammed the Osiris-REX space probe into the Earth Crossing asteroid Bennu, knocking debris into space that will hopefully be collected and returned.  Our Crack Team of Science Babes have some thoughts on the matter.


"We hit it!"
The probe will collect sample of the debris that it kicked up. If it has room and weight reserves for more it will punch the asteroid and blow on it again with the aim of collecting more. Assuming it survives its various assaults on the asteroid, it will return its samples to Earth in 2023. 


"The probe will no doubt land in Piedmont Arizona and..."

Hush. 

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Oh My. Yes!

U.S. Space Force recruiting commercials.



Watch this one on Bitchute

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October 15, 2020

Meanwhile in Space

It's 2020 on the ISS too.


The oxygen system on the Zvezda module of the International Space Station has failed. The Zvezda is actually the core of the life support system and for extra drama has also sprung a leak.

According to both NASA and Roscosmos, the astronauts and cosmonauts are in no danger, there being sufficient backup systems to allow contingency plans to be enacted. 


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May 30, 2020

And the Weather Cooperated



This is the first time in 11 years that the U.S. has launched astronauts into space on a U.S. rocket, from U.S. soil. Even more impressive, it's a private company providing a launch service which opens up vast possibilities for future space endeavors. 

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March 01, 2020

Oh

Musk's second test rig for his giant rocket met the same fate as the first, bursting during a pressure test. 


Well that was demoralizing. 

It went "bloop".

Let's see if one of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes is ready to throw in the towel on Starship. 

"This is why we have tests to destruction. Run to destruction, fix, run to destruction, fix, For context see below."

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February 08, 2020

Extrordanary Claims, Thoughts on The Mechanism of Epstein's Suicide, and Less Extraordinary Analogues

One of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes points out some science links that don't involve pestilence.

"Because in space, no one can hear you sneeze."

Some time ago an interstellar object, subsequently named Omuamua passed through the solar system. On it's way out of The Solar System, it performed what appeared to be a course correction and accelerated out of the solar system. This caused considerable consternation at the time, but subsequent analysis seems to indicate that it was sufficiently flat and non-dense that light pressure combined with the likely sublimation of volatiles on its sun-facing side is sufficient to explain its apparently aberrantly expressed celerity.

That being said, the object is weird and John Michael Godier interviews  Dr. Sergey Mashchenko who goes over all the weirdness about this object, known, and unknown as well as some of the speculation that has been put forward to explain the weirdness...the most speculative speculation is that the thing might have been made out of dark matter.



Of course such extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and the proof has been accelerating out of the solar system 2 years. It's only a little more likely than the notion that Epstein killed himself.

 Which circuitously brings us to another bit of unfounded speculation, regarding The Epstein Drive from THE EXPANSE That plot device is what is called a "torch drive" which is a staple of science fiction without FTL. While considered by the authors to be handwavium, Matter Beam over at the Tough Sci-Fi blog has run the numbers and applied the latest theories of fusion rocket designs to the performance figures noted in the series of books and come to the conclusion that the Epstein Drive, is in fact much harder sci-fi than is generally supposed. It's a very long post, go read the whole thing.





While performance of a Torch drive seems to be within the realm of possibility, it is not a near term prospect. By contrast NASA has been sponsoring research by Princeton Satellite Systems which has produced a design for a direct fusion drive that has astounding performance by current standards.


A dual mode engine, it normally has minuscule thrust but incredible efficiency, however, it has an afterburner mode for high thrust. This is nothing like a torch ship, however according to Winchell Chung over at Atomic Rocket...
; text-decoration-style: initial; text-decoration-color: initial; display: inline !important; float: none;">Regardless of the low thrust, it can deliver a metric ton of payload to Pluto in 3.75 years flat, instead of chemical rocket New Horizon's pathetic 30 kilograms taking freaking nine years.


Its main development hurdles are the magnetic nozzle, which is still a work in progress with regards to the performance needed for fusing of He3 and its reliance upon that very helium 3 which is quite expensive here on Earth. It can be generated, however by making tritium which decays into He3 and there are, of course the questionable proposals to mine it on the moon.

It may seem to be putting the cart before the horse since we can't get fusion power plants to break even on power, however the power plant has to contain the fusion reaction, whereas a rocket is just has to have it blow out the rear end, and we've had fusion explosions since we evaporated a coral atoll in 1952. In fact the rocket design evolved from the constant containment failures in fusion power plant experiments. It basically involves having the inevitable failure happen in one direction....calling that direction aft and building the ship around that premise. Besides the good overview at Atomic Rocket, numerous peer reviewed papers have been done on this engine and its applications over the last few years including a NASA sponsored design for a Pluto probe and a BIS proposal to use the design for missions to the Oort cloud, the gravitational lensing point and the nearest stars.

Its certainly not off the shelf, but if pursued, it promises remarkable improvements in performance in the fairly near term.

 
Anyway. the future is looking bright.
So don't eat bats.

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February 07, 2020

The Backup Plan is Proceeding Apace

With all the challenging things in the news lately, One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes has brought us news on one of the more appealing contingency plans...

"ESCAPE ROCKETS!!"


She notes that Elon Musk currently has crews working 24/7 on his Starship prototype with the aim of beginning sub-orbital flights in March.

The FCC permit has already been applied for.


Art via Teslarati

While Musk's main focus is Mars, he has also been looking towards the moon, initially with a planned 2023 circumlunar flight, and Luna has always figured in Musk's Mars plan.. The moon is much closer and has attracted his attention with regards to ice and as a secondary destination. it's a week away as opposed to six months to a year, and a good place to test stuff for Mars. There is also a lot of science potential there obviously.

While there's very little on the moon worth mining and bringing to earth it's dirt is practically MADE of Iron, Oxygen, and Aluminum and there are extensive deposits of Chromium. Musk has gone to great lengths to remove exotic materials from his toolkit to facilitate field repairs and his structural components tend to be made of stainless steel and aluminum. The moon has everything but nickle and carbon for stainless steel which can be as little as 0.8% carbon by weight. In the highly unlikely event no carbonaceous chondrites have impacted on the moon, or has been baked out carbon can be provided by the carbonaceous not-quite-moons like Cruithne, and Yorp, which could also provide nitrogen and phosphorus. Nickle almost certainly exists in viable ammounts in the larger craters, which were, of course, created by meteors. While, it's unknown if there are spectacular glaciers on the moon like there are on Mercury, there is known to be a good deal of water at the poles.



The moon has a vast uninhabited area, and NO ECOSYSTEM, so one could, as an extreme example, use unshielded nuclear reactors on the surface for smelting stuff, so it's a perfect industrial park for expanding space projects.

Some people seem confident enough that they're already measuring the drapes.

Brian Wang over at NBF notes that Musk is looking to run out these rocket's life cycle on launches to the cis-lunar destinations and then gathere those near the end of their lives for the Martian Launch Window every two years. These large convoys would have the advantage of proximity to one another in the event of any mishap. Obviously one would not send that many people to Mars until the local infrastructure such as habitats (and, if necessary gravitrons) have been developed to accept several thousand people.

Given the numbers Musk is talking about, a typical convoy might have 50-100 ships, most on a one way trip so, 5-10,000 people every two years after about a decade of building habitats. This would immediately push Martian population into a biologically sustainable levels, especially if the population were of varied races and ethnicities. After a decade the population might be 50,000 without factoring births, which is way more than Liechtenstein, and almost as much as the Cayman Islands. 

We here at Brickmuppet Blog are more in the Dandridge Cole, Gerard O'Neal camp, favoring large space habitats over outposts on planets or moons, but the advantages of having a large (planet's worth) of resources handy is probably a good advantage at the start of this endeavor. There's a lot to do there as well and the first step is the moon.


Art by Sam Taylor. buy Full rez Posters and other art from him Here!

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January 19, 2020

Meanwhile, Off the Coast of Florida Land

Two of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes discusses today's developments.

"It's got everything ;">Even things that don't normally go togetherRockets! ;">EXPLODING ROCKETSTotal overwhelming victory!"
Art by 夜羊 (Night Sheep?)




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November 04, 2019

Contingencies

Winchell Chung, who has one of the awesomest websites on the internet over at Atomic Rockets has just added to his Realistic Designs Catalog a study from 1983 that applied considerable efforts to finding out the answer to what one should do if one finds oneself in need of a manned space battlecruiser armed with high yield energy weapons.


"Ya know...as one does."

I find absolutely glorious that DARPA actually did this study and even better that they came up with something that would work. In 1983 they weren't sure which weapon would be better, so the design has a laser, a particle beam and a railgun each powered by its own nuclear reactor which doubles as an engine. The main focus of the exercise seems to have been figuring how to provide short but massive bursts of electricity for energy weapons from nuclear reactors that could be operated around people. However ,there was attention given to the ship as a whole, including, heat dissipation, radiation protection for the crew and the vessel has artificial gravity for extended operations. There is an extensive analysis at the above link, go read it in full.


Note that the fact that this version has now been declassified meaning that this is presumably the obsolete U.S. design for a space battle cruiser.
 
A PDF of a very crappy mimeographed copy of the report is here.

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October 21, 2019

Questions on Starship and Falcon Heavy

 An hour long talk and Q&A by the SpaceX Principal Mars Development Engineer Paul Wooster discusses the companies plans to put people on Mars in 6 years.



There are a lot of interesting and impressive items in this presentation, some of which impress on a more visceral level than a technical one.


"Principal Mars Development Engineer!" Is there a cooler real world job title!?

Interestingly, while it has previously been sort of hinted at, Wooster here specifically states that the first manned rockets will be one way affairs. 

Wooster also said the first spaceships will likely serve as homes for astronauts. This may not be the most comfortable setup, but it could reduce mission complexity and development by skipping the need to immediately build Mars habitats.


While the later vehicles are slated to make round trips and return, this confirmation presents in a fairly stark fashion that Musk and company are serious about a permanent human presence.

While that's fraught to be sure, few truly great things are done without risk.

The 21st century seems to finally be arriving.

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October 06, 2019

"Cadet Corbet, Report to the Launch Pad."

This is just the most AWESOME looking thing.


Resizing animated .gifs without breaking them and embedding .MP4s is currently beyond our ability so click here for the full thing.

Musk is saying that once this thing makes it to twenty kilometers up and safely back down, then the following launch will be to orbit.

Crewed flights will follow in short order.

Space-X has massively updated their Starship page. See here.

Musk's decision to use simpler field serviceable materials, mainly stainless steel in the construction of his new rockets means that the main  production bottleneck is the big Raptor engines. The production capacity of those engines and their practical number of resuses for each will determine the pace of the construction program. Naturally, increasing raptor production is getting a lot of attention.

While there are very complex pieces of kit going into these ships (like life support systems in the manned ones) they are, on balance not terribly complex compared than contemporary aircraft or ships.

This has some interesting implications for mass production given that Musk is doing this as a crash program.  because constructing a 300-400 ton  stainless steel spacecraft stack, is probably not much more of an investment in relative terms than a 1200 ton destroyer was in WW1, (273 ships in ~2 years). While those numbers are far beyond the ken of a single midsized company with two production facilities, they do indicate that if production methods are nailed down, in a few years a score or more of these things might be produced.


"But wait, there's more!"

The stainless steel construction is even more interesting in the context of in-situ repairs on Mars. Steel is easily workable and while stainless steel is less so its far more so than titanium or composites and can be repaired in the field.

Morever, while Space-X's plans to produce fuel on mars are well known it should be noted that Martian soil is mostly iron oxide and the martian atmosphere is 1/3 carbon, so steel is readily available given some modest infrastructure. While stainless steel and steel are hard to weld together, it is not impossible to do so, and it's conceivable that a damaged ship on Mars might be repaired sufficiently to get into Earth orbit.

In the much longer term with enhanced infrastructure, it gets better. You see, the materials for making stainless steels are varying proportions of iron ore, chromium, silicon, nickel, carbon, nitrogen, and manganese. If one takes a deep dive into the biologically obnoxious Martian Regolith, one finds the following proportions:


Note the presence, albeit sometimes in minute concentrations of everything except nitrogen which is mainly used as a substitute for nickel, which is found in minute quantities only at the pathfinder landing site. Fortunately, floating above the dirt is the martian atmosphere which is 2.7% Nitrogen. These are minute quantities to be sure and probably not practical for extraction at an early base, but this is only the surface dirt and their presence there indicates that there is more to be found.

If Space-X doesn't faceplant, which is not beyond the realm of posibility, then there is the very real potential for the next decade to see scores, if not hundreds of these ships built to carry people, quite possibly settlers, to Mars, the Moon and the asteroids.

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August 27, 2019

Starhopper Hopping




"Sandblasting a road to the future!"

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August 21, 2019

A Follow-Up on Positron Dynamics

Back in March we had a brief post on a company called Positron Dynamics and their claims to have solved the production and containment issues with antimatter regarding space propulsion.

Specifically, they are using positrons (anti-electrons) to catalyze a small fusion reaction. Positrons can be generated on the spot using a radioactive isotope of krypton, thus solving the antimatter storage problem, and being positively charged can be directed with a fair bit of ease solving the handling antimatter problem.

Now one of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes points us to a follow up to this story she found by months of diligent research...


"Actually, it was posted this morning over at Atomic Rocket"


Positron Dynamics submitted their report to  N.A.S.A. for peer review this past January. It has now passed muster and is published in the N.A.S.A Rechnical Reports Server. There is a PDF of the report here for your perusal.

Basically the conclusion is that it works, though the version that is looked at in the N.A.S.A report has much lower thrust than one would expect from something with the words "Fusion" and "Anti-Matter". Indeed, its thrust compares unfavorably to most ion drives.

However, it has the astonishing exhaust velocity of  2,943,000 meters per second and a Delta V (the change in velocity over the time an engine burns) of 60,000 meters per second. Now it burns a looong time and accelerates imperceptibly, but its DeltaV is actually better than some of the smaller Orion drive designs which involved using exploding atom bombs as propellant.


Note the diagram and the little object marked "D2 tank".

That's all the the Deuterium propellant needed for a 60,000 meter change of velocity. Yes the thrust is minuscule but over time it adds up. This is for a notional asteroid mission using the design as it is now.


The speed of New Horizons and the Voyager probes, the fastest things ever sent out by mankind is less than 17,000 meters per second.

Winchell Chung puts it thusly:
With many other propulsion systems, rocket designers are happy if the spacecraft is only 75% propellant and 25% everything else. A spacecraft with Radioisotope Positron Propulsion is pretty much 100% rocket and payload, the propellant is only a few micrograms.  Granted that a one metric ton space probe with such an engine will have an measly acceleration of 0.0001 meters per second (0.0125 snail-power), but you can't have everything.

 Be that as it may, the report compares their positron engine with an electric propulsion engine for a hypothetical capture/redirect of asteroid 2009BD and the positron engine kicks the electric engine to the curb. 

Theoretically you can use multiple engine arrays if you must have a higher thrust.


Or perhaps you could use a different engine (say a regular chemical engine) for emergencies. As an aside, the engineers seem to anticipate higher thrusts in the future but that is not mentioned in the peer-reviewed paper and must be considered to be speculation at this point.



There's a good deal of work still to do as noted at the end of the report, but it does now appear that this proposal to field an anti-matter propulsion system in the next few years is indeed practical.

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