Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Welcome Home, Discovery

Space Shuttle Discovery landed today at Dulles safely.  You can track images and twitter feeds by looking for #spottheshuttle and #OV103.

Monday, April 9, 2012

An Astronaut's Opinion of Commercial Space

Firstly, let me apologize for not updating this blog sporatically.  Mike and I both work full time jobs, and those tend to get in the way of the rest of our lives.  

Aviation Week is today publishing an editorial by Astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria praising the approach that NASA is taking in the development of the new Commercial Crew Vehicle.  It's worth the read, and certainly worth your time.  Mr. Lopez-Alegria makes many interesting and valid points.

I am all for Commercial Crew Development as I do not like monopolies, or betting on a single horse.  For 50 years, NASA has been the only source of space access for human beings in the United States.  Although NASA operated the only spaceline for 30 of those years, the cost of renting space on the Shuttle was too staggering for most companies to seriously contemplate.  Spurring the development of a commercial, human option is essential for our own Economic and Technical Development.

Burt Rutan made a great speech at  TED a few years ago where he talked about the difference between government and industry fueled innovation:

The gist of the talk is that government requirements can develop amazing flying machines (SR-71 and LEM).  However, real innovation requires the market.  In this way, CCD is essentially providing seed capital to companies interested in flying people into orbit.  This seed capital can be turned over to flying people to commercial space stations, or beyond low earth orbit based on contracts from other companies.  As space markets open up, innovation will be spurred creating, better, faster, safer, cheaper access to space. 

Additionally, CCD gives a test case for certification of manned spacecraft.  Just as most aircraft need to be given a type-certification before they can be sold to customers, a commercial spacecraft will need to undergo a certain amount of certification before it can be type rated and available for people to fly.  Currently, there are no set standards by the FAA.   NASA has the ability to self-certify their aircraft and spacecraft, and are so far the only group that can certify a spacecraft.  These standards provide a good starting point, but eventually, the FAA will need to take a leading role in this, as the customer base will expand to include private companies and require a type certificate to fly.

In short - commercial space is good for this country as it will spur economic development in the United States, keeping us on the edge of aerospace achievement.  

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in the commentary are those of the author alone and do not represent the opinions of any other organization herein. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

747-8F's Million Pound Takeoff

Bravo Zulu Boeing!

Bertrand Piccard's Solar Powered Adventure

Here's a video from TED by Bertrand Piccard talking about his attempt to circumnavigate the globe, and also his new project in the form of Solar Impulse:

Mr Piccard's talk is interesting in the sense that he is talking about next-generation aviation.  Solar technologies, or electrical powered airplanes are a major area of interest for not only General Aviation, but also by the Military and government.  With rising fuel prices, the idea of a solar powered, or electrical aircraft is becoming more and more popular.  And, with green technologies the buzz work of the decade, they are also becoming more and more desired.  For both reasons, These aircraft technologies are of interest to the future of aviation. 

Although I don't believe the technology to carry people across the ocean in a solar powered aircraft exists today, it is certainly going to one day.  Mr. Piccard brilliantly illustrates this towards the end of his talk:  Charles Lindberg barely made his trans-atlantic flight; yet today it is done thousands of times a day, with thousands of people, on jets a thousand times bigger.  Technologies will get us there...its only a matter of time.  

April 2012 a big month for Aerospace

April 2012 is promising to be a big month in the future of aviation.  Like by blogger-in-arms Mike reported last week, the Space Shuttle Discovery is being transferred to the Smithsonian this month.  It will replace Enterprise at Dulles Airport Annex.  As one generation is being retired amist much-deserved celebration, the next generation is also taking flight for the second time.  SpaceX is expected to make a second launch of their Dragon Capsule, to complete a NASA requirement of docking and re-supply of the International Space Station.  This will be the first commercial re-supply mission to the orbiting outpost and is expected to pave the way for Orbital's Cygnus spacecraft later this year.  Also, this is the first step towards man-rating these commercial rockets so they may one day fly astronauts to and from the Space Station, or to other commercial locations. 

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Black Diamond Performance Team (L-39 and MIG-17)

Down in Sun n' Fun, there is a performance team that showed off their skills in their vintage aircraft, L-39 and the MIG-17. Their team consists of Air Force, Navy, and two civilian pilots! Check out the link below!!!
Black Diamond Link!! (Has video too!)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Space Shuttle Discovery Landing at Dulles

This was brought to my attention by a follower, Sean Caldwell. It appears as though that Space Shuttle Discovery will be making an appearance at the Dulles International Airport in April. I hope every takes the time to drive out there and check it out. If there are people interested, let me know maybe we can all meet somewhere and go check it out together. Click the link below and check it out!!!

Information about the Arrival!!!