Friday, March 30, 2007

A Plea for Civility

So here's the deal. I'm a regular reader of the, the San Francisco Chronicle's web presence. Violet Blue wrote a piece on the Gate about Internet Trolls which caught my attention. And it struck to me that there is a certain complicity in silence from the bloggers who tolerate troll postings, either by failing to respond to the troll or by failing to remove the troll's posts.

Freeluna won't tolerate troll postings. As a token of this policy, the "troll free zone" picture, above, will be part of my blog's template (as soon as I can figure out how to stick it up there). Feel free to download your own troll free zone picture and apply it to your own blog as well..

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Falcon 1 Demo 2 Flight Highlights

By now you've probably heard that Falcon 1 flew yesterday, but did quite achieve orbit. The first stage burn looked beautiful, but it looks like some kind of instability built up during the second stage burn. The aRocket list was abuzz with the term 'coning' to describe a circular resonance around the roll axis of the rocket (nose to tail). I was wondering if this might be due to swirling in the propellant tanks, not unlike how one swirls wine around in a goblet, which would be an unusual case for the engine servo to correct.

At any rate, I caught a few screen caps from the video and have included them, above. Here's a few notes on them:

T +00:13 This is right after Falcon 1 storms off the pad. I just added it 'cause it was cool. Notice the drop of water on the left side of the shot, which I think might be from inside the camera housing. Later on there are some bits of fluff (insulation or LOX-related snow?) that are clearly between the camera and the glass.

T +01:46 Midway through the first stage burn and you can begin to see the exhaust plume beginning to expand as the atmosphere thins out. This gradually increases in size and becomes more and more transparent.

T +02:31 Towards the end of the first stage burn. The exhaust plume is pretty transparent at this point.

T +02:52 First stage separation. Notice that the second stage engine scrapes against the inner-stage just slightly. There was some speculation that this might've been the start of trouble for the second stage burn, but the contact didn't seem all that rough from the camera's perspective.

T +03:13 A few seconds into the second stage burn and a band or ring separates itself from the edge of the rocket bell. Was the purpose of this ring to act as a bumper during first stage sep, or was it more important than that? The Merlin engine is starting to glow red. It will continue to get hotter over the course of the burn.

T +03:17 Shortly after the fairing was jettisoned, it looks like another ring of material might've came off of the engine, or it could've been something related to the fairing. Hard to say.

For nearly two more minutes the burn continues. At first, everything seems quite normal, but in the last 30 to 40 seconds, the 'coning' oscillation builds up, which was a bit disconcerting, but never seemed terribly hideous. The problem was that it was an oscillation that was gradually increasing in amplitude, which was a clue that the control system was having a deuce of a time making it go away.

Additionally, during the second stage burn there were times when quick puffs of black smoke were coming from the engine. I'm wondering if this wasn't related to some kind of combustion instability going on. At around T +05:00, the video feed cut out, so it's hard to speculate happened after that.


This was an amazing flight of a privately funded rocket. The first stage performance was nigh unto flawless. The second stage obviously had some issues. The flight also included one of the most startling false-starts I have ever witnessed: the first stage was actually started twice in one day and over the course of about 30 minutes. I hope SpaceX can figure out what went amiss with the second stage and get back to flying rockets soon.

Monday, March 19, 2007

You May Resume Breathing

No Falcon launch today. sigh.

Waiting with Bated Breath

The Falcon 1 second demo launch is on hold at T - 1 minute, 2 seconds. If you haven't checked allready, then go to and check it out.

On an unrelated note. It's "bated breath" not "baited breath". One is instilled from fear or excitment, and one comes from eating raw fish.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Persistent Signs of Conspiracy

Here's a bit of news that has nothing to do with space and lunar colonization. It's an interesting dealing more with politics. Sometimes stories like this disappear off of the main news pretty quick. So the very least I can do is supply you with a link..

white house to cut geothermal energy research funds (updated)

It seems like the white house is looking to cut funding for a source of power which is readily available and (as far as I know) non-polluting. An unrelated Christian Science Monitor story deals with the administration's budget cuts for DOE energy conservation programs and technologies in lieu of funding Hydrogen, Ethanol, and Nuclear Energy programs.

Call me a goof, but at the very least this seems short-sited. I hope to cover some numbers in the next few blogs dealing with replacement energy technologies, such as ethanol and biodiesel production, to see how much tech will be needed to invest in such systems. Until then, I recommend people nose around in the policies coming out of Washington and ask how well are we being served.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Enumeration: The Last Straw

Poor, poor Pluto, I knew him well.
He once was a planet, now of that he's barely a shell.
With a quorum of a hundred or maybe a hundred times three
the IAU voted and with grins of glee,
sent my poor planet Pluto off to Minor Planet hell.

As of September 2006, Pluto has registered with the IAU's Minor Planet Center. Unlike the Major Planets, registration and enumeration are required for Minor Planets. "Yet another layer of humiliation and repression," lamented a depressed (1) Ceres, "We Minor Planets all know you Terrans just want to visit planets and moons, not us numbered rocks. Once we've been numbered and cataloged, it's pretty much all over."

As a registered minor planet, Pluto is now officially a number -- 134340. It's name now apparently superfluous. Very sad news. Pluto was unavailable for comment.

Friday, March 09, 2007


I found a website that had many of the affidavits and other documents (such as e-mails) released by the Orlando district attorney's office (or was it the police?) in relation to the Nowak/Oefelein/Shipman affair, and I'm sure the media will spend much time deciding who is to blame for what all happened, but how can we the public really judge, and when it comes down to it, who are we to have such free access to the private lives of these three? I doubt that there is a single individual reading this who wouldn't be mortified at having their conversations with their loved ones plastered all over the national headlines. It would be horrifying.

For now, I am done commenting on the whole topic. I will be removing the posts about Lisa Nowak and William Oefelein very soon. So if you felt like leaving comments about the posts, you can leave them here now.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

For a Fistful of Dollars

In a story on the site, indicates that NASA is asking for $1 billion budget (to be spent over the next 13 years) to identify killer asteroids headed for Earth. The Agency is apparently strapped at the moment (I think it's their NEAT program that's in trouble) and can no longer afford to point telescopes at the sky to identify these orbit-crossing rocks.

So far there is no budget to actually do anything once these killers have been properly identified. That would cost several billion dollars more, I would imagine. Two things come to mind:

1) Couldn't this possibly be done cheaper using arrays of amateur telescopes(a la Seti@Home)?

2) Without any plan for asteroid deflection, isn't this information kind of useless?