Private companies take the space industry by attack

Hi,
today I want to talk about how private companies like SpaceX ,which I already talked about few times and Blue Origin for example, influence the space industry.


For many years there was NASA and only NASA. Now these days you could have noticed that SpaceX appeared, self-funded company with priority of making space cheap. Same interest has also Blue Origin, space company founded by Jeff Bezos, the owner and CEO of Amazon. (billionare as well as Elon Musk of SpaceX)

These two guys and others are aiming for cheap space which is something that NASA was never able to do. After Apollo 11 they wanted to start to use reusable rockets but it never went to perfection. The primary goal of 25 dollars per pound on the orbit of Earth, changed more into something like 25,000 dollars per one pound.

Now NASA wants to make Space Launch System and Orion capsule to get us to Mars. Noble goal it is. There is one “minor” problem. Look at NASA budget over years:

The peak is when we were trying to get to Moon

Right now NASA has about 0.5% of federal budget compared to 4.5 that got us to Moon. Estimates are that the whole Space Launch System (SLS), which is basically huge rocket, will cost in the matters of tens of billions of dollars (this is just development, see later for launch price)! (0.5% is something like 19 billions of dollars).

The thing is that there are other players, like SpaceX who can do this much easily. SLS will be using boosters RS-25 that are from 70s and throw them away after every launch while we have New Shepard of the company Blue Origin that has already been used 5 times over!

From what I have read from Phil Plait and others, SLS will probably be one huge fail. Already now it is behind schedule for its first unmanned launch, not talking about the approximation of mission to Mars (something like 2030-40) where as SpaceX is investing huge amount of money to Falcon Heavy that should be able to carry over time enough stuff to build a base on Mars. Falcon H. payload capacity is over one third of SLS though it should be able to fly several times for the same price as SLS. (I found that it would be able to make more than 5 flights for the same price on the Low Earth Orbit, thats some difference!)

The thing is that NASA is underfunded and right now it even spends money on something that may not ever be working while there are smaller players but with clear and cheaper mission.

Mind you that SpaceX is planning to design Interplanetary Transport System and Blue Origin’s New Armstrong (they are working on New Glenn right now which is one of these huge rockets anyway).

From what I have understood, the key in the future of space exploration is reusability.

Dragallur

Check out these pages for more info: 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6)

Btw. NASA does not plan to use SLS more than 3 time per year because otherwise they would have to build up huge facilities. Also the first version of SLS will have payload capacity of almost half the one that I counted in this post. They will have to change it a bit and add some things over time to get to the final capacity.

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Green trail, golden leaf!

Hi,
this is very abstract title I guess but it summarizes why I did not post last Saturday when I planned, yes I am sorry. Anyway I was on this contest called Green trail, golden leaf which is contest of mostly biology though there is also astronomy, meteorology (not this year) and geology. I was not contestant for the first time, but organizator and I helped with astronomy site.


There are two categories which are basicly for older (10-15) and younger (0-10) kids (numbers are rough). The contest happens in groups of 6 people. They are then walking the trail three at a time, getting points on various sites on various topics and finally their points add up.

In Friday I had actually presentation first. I was pretty happy how I did it except that it was a little bit too long. The problem was that even that the presentation was for roughly 50-60 minutes the kids were discussing and asking questions a lot (which made me happy of course) but finally the presentation was roughly 100 minutes.

I was talking about the view on Earth, geocentrism, heliocentrism, no centrism at all and why the Universe is so big and why people usually think it is not. I followed up with aliens and Fermi paradox, of course wow signal and KIC xx… were also mentioned. In the end I mentioned SpaceX, terraformation of Mars, New Horizons and Voyager.

As I said the presentation was going pretty good as well as the contest itself. For younger kids we had questions like:

  1. Name 3 astronauts
  2. What is astronomical unit and what is light year
  3. Name 3 missions (Apollo and other count as 1)
  4. Name 4 constellations that are visible in Czech Republic
  5. Highest mountain in Solar System and where it is
  6. Where do comets come from?
  7. Difference between meteorite, meteor, meteoroid and asteroid.
  8. … (and other)

 

For older it was bit more difficult:

  1. What is afelium and perihelium
  2. Name all Galilean moons and give a small info for one of them
  3. What is HR diagram
  4. (Lot of pictures about life time of star)
  5. Draw the orbit of typicall comet and draw both tails and name one place where they come from.
  6. … (and other)

From 12 sites astronomy was the 2nd toughest 😀

Lets see how would you do, I will return to it some other post.

Dragallur

What is going up on Mars?

Hi,
while thinking about today’s topic I find some random stuff and decided to share it with you. So here you go, new exoplanets, tsunami on Mars, good view on Mars and SpaceX announcement.

Artist’s impression of exoplanet.


Thanks to new statistical method there were 1,284 exoplanets confirmed[1].
This is biggest number ever in one shot. There is of course lot of data form Kepler which observes stars for those exoplanets. You can not be sure always if what you saw was really exoplanet so you need more data. When uncertainity is below 1%, it is officially agreed that the planet is there. With this new method, lot of those uncertainities went below 1% so yes they were “discovered”. Other data was “thrown away” because the percentage went lower and generally this was nice breakthrough.[2]

For long time it was thought that Mars’s terrain was shaped by its ocean that later on evaporated. But the shoreline would be graduall which is not what we observe, rather exact opposite with many geological features along it. These features could rather be explained by huge tsunamis that were formed by asteroid impacts.

Also Mars is going to be these weeks in oposition to Sun and basically really close to Earth, on about 1/2 of AU. The closest it could be would be about 1/3 of AU because its orbit is kind of excentric. If you want to see it well, just take a telescope and with good one you should be able to see even some of its geological features. If you get to see (if it is possible for normal people) Olympus Mons, say hello from me 😉

After SpaceX landed second time on the barge, Elon Musk stated that they want to land on Mars in the year of 2018, which is in two years! They have really lot of work to do so lets see where they will be in that time! (Read more here on the blog of Phil Plait)

Dragallur

[1]Exoplanets are planets that orbit around other stars.
[2]From the data we also know that 550 are probably rocky and 21 are in habitable zone.

Can you see a coin from 400 kilometers?

Hi,
no, probably not with naked eye, I think, though if it would be some special coin, maybe? The point is that you can use some cool things to see such a coin, for example Hubble Space Telescope!


Ok, I found some page with physics problems and one of the first was to calculate what is the smallest angle that Hubble Telescope can distinquish. I calculated that it is roughly:

0.0127”

This means 0.0127 arcsecond!!!

How far away football has to be to have the angular diameter of one arcsecond

What about a human eye how good is it? Well eye can distinquish only things that are 1′ away from each other [1], which means one arcminutes, one degree has 60 of those so it is pretty good but not so much as Hubble. But anyway, back to the title, how small is a coin?

I measured the second largest Czech crown to have 2.55 centimeters.

Now how far away do you need to be to not be able to see it with naked eye? We will use this formula to get the diameter:

θ=D/r

Where the diameter (D) is 0.0255 meters. The distance (r) is what we are trying to find and the angle eye can distinquish is θ (in radians). [2]

r=D/θ

If all the calculations went right it should be:

r=87.6625 meters

But beware this is not counting air, humidness and so on so you will most certainly not be able to see coin on this distance.

What about the Hubble telescope? We can use the same equation but for θ we will insert much smaller value!

And yes, you can see the coin from 414,153.744827 meters! Which means that you can see one freaking coin from London 50 kilometers behind Paris! One coin![3]

This is so cool.

Dragallur

[1]You can try this by drawing two dots on paper and then moving away from it, at one point when you are far enough you should be able to see only one.

[2]This equation is simplified but it should work for small angles.

[3]Again, this works only in space because there is nothing that would block your sight.

 

Space NEWS #9 (SpaceX landing!)

Hi,
in one post I already talked about the company SpaceX which is founded by Elon Musk who is a billionair and fan to Mars colonization. Right now SpaceX often delivers food and other goods on ISS helping NASA. Musk wants to make flying to space a lot cheaper and the first step for this is reusable rocket, right now to deliver one kilogram on Earth’s orbit costs about 20,000$.


I already mentioned how the company was able to land on one particular spot which was a great breakthrough. Since this would be in long term quite dangerous (to land over on continent where it could hit someone), it was needed to try this on the ocean. In the mission with Jason-3 there was some damage and the rocket exploded.

booster on the barge

SpaceX learned from their mistakes and yesterday they actually landed on a barge. The barge was named “Of Course I Still Love You” and trust me it was a real challenge, not only the last steps but also the whole process before, the barge is small compared to the vastness of ocean and yet, they were able to land just few meters next to the right spot.

Here is the link for the landing, this should left you wondering, how far can we get?

Dragallur

 

There is lot of garbage out there, right above your head

Hi,
no no, I do not speak about the stuff in your house, though who knows how it looks like. I mean a junk on the orbit of Earth.

Earth from space, surrounded by small white dots

Stuff above your head in low Earth orbit and geosynchronous orbit.


This stuff which is hundreds of kilometers above may not really concern you, if it falls down it should burn up in the atmosphere.

Actually it should concern you since your life almost completely depends on satellites above that are still working.

Those that are still working are at the same time endangered because of those that are not working. How bad is it?

Well on one side not so bad. No huge catastrophy happened, yet.

On the other side this is just a matter of time, the thing that should concern us most is ISS of course since there are some people there. When some things fly on those heights, they tend to do it very fast, even 17,500 miles per hours. Take for example a cat, not that there are any cats 400 kilometers above Earth, she usually weights about 4,5 kilograms. What is the momentum of the cat?

The momentum is about 126,708.75 kg*km/h. This is a lot, how much?

Yes, this is your cat which is just going to destroy something

The same momentum has a car (1,590 kilograms is regular midsize) driving at the speed of 80 kilometers per hour.

Now just imagine a car crashing into something at 80 km/h, it will do a great deal of damage and same damage can create a cat flying on orbit (or 353 cats at the speed of 80 km/h).

Luckily objects of the size of cat can be detected, but it is kind of expensive.

Just for you to know, there are 20,000 pieces of junk that is larger than softball.

Now the greatest risk is by the junk we cannot detect because it could destroy windows or so. Also the more stuff we put on the orbit, the more likely it is to collide with something.

By the way in 2007 China tried to get rid of one satellite using missile, what happened? They destroyed it adding 3,000 more pieces of debris on the orbit. WORTH A SHOT.

Right now there are only guidelines to dodge this debris but no real solution yet.

Dragallur

Check out this cool page that simulates what is flying above.

 

One year in space

Hi,
today I will write about the one year mission on International Space Station.

Journey to Mars

What needs to be done for mission on Mars. (Source)


Usually when there are astronauts on ISS they are there for half a year, conducting experiments and so on. The problem is that we do not have much data about what happens when the astronaut is away for longer time. This is a problem for long term missions on Mars and so on.

We know that bones weaken over longer periods of time because body adjust their strength to how much they are used which is not much when you are in microgravity.

Of course muscles weaken too, both of those problems are almost balanced by 2 hour workout everyday, it is not enough and the astronauts need to do some rehabilitation afterwards.


Now there is this mission called One Year in Space. There were actually people from Russia who were longer time in space their condition was not studied much. In 1st March astronauts Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko will return after one year in Space. Both of them were observed already one year before the mission and they will be observed one year after it. Scott Kelly even has a twin who is too astronaut so they will get even more information from that because they can compare their condition.

It may take a long time to get all the results since scientists have a lot of data and their saliva will still remain frozen on the board of ISS before we are able to bring it back.

Dragallur

I already mentioned one year mission in this post.

 

 

The riddle of DARK ENERGY!

Hi,
today I will write about dark energy since last time I briefly covered the dark matter. The dark energy is even more unknown than the dark matter, let’s see why.


As I said before, there is about 70% of dark energy in the Universe of all the energy that there is, rest belongs to dark matter and tiny bit to normal matter.

Dark energy has to do a lot with expansion of Universe which was find out last century by Edwin Hubble. He found out that the Universe is expanding and right now we even know that the rate of expanding even increases (The Big Rip scenario).

Why? Because there is something called dark energy and we know that it works kind of like “anti-gravity” this could be misleading since the gravity is still there so it is also said that it has “negative” pressure.

Dark energy is everywhere at the same amount and as the space is expanding there is more of it created. This does not violate conservation of energy since the force of gravity decreases at the same time with the distance increasing. I guess that this is why the expansion increases.

There are four theories which I found about the dark energy, the first one is that dark energy is not a thing but rather property of empty space and empty space is expanding and as the expansion increases so does the rate.

Second idea is the idea of cosmological constant which was made by Einstein. At the start it was constant which would be zero so that space would be static but as Hubble found out Universe is expanding so the cosmological constant, which is kind of property of space must be higher than zero. Now lot of cosmologists are trying to measure this constant, this is a big problem since when we try to calculate it, it goes with orders of magnitude away from what we can observe and it is simply wrong.

Or also virtual particles popping in and out of existence in space could give energy to this dark energy.

Simply we do not know much about it but we know that it must exist in some kind of form.

Dragallur

 

The Universe is enormous

Hi,
I was thinking what topic should I mention today and remembered that the Universe is huge, and it is so huge that we completely underestimate it (at least I think that I still do).


First I will turn towards our planet, the Earth.
Here the biggest misconception is the size of Africa, you see the problem is that in most maps of Earth which you will see is Africa in the middle. If you know little about geography you know that there is no way to perfectly put our planet to scale on map. There are some ways which will be more accurate than other but most of the time Africa is going to be smaller than other continents. continent_infographic-01 copy

OK, now compare this map above with the scale on your home atlas, Africa is going to look tiny probably with Greenland, Siberia and Canada huge.

Now look at the picture of Earth and Moon distance, they are so little, Earth would be able to fit there so many times!

Now, seriously, look at this amazing page: THIS You start with Moon which is wide as one pixel. Next you will see Sun which seems to be pretty huge. Now if you click the speed of light button you will start to move slowly to right. Oh my god, the speed is so awfully low!

On top of page you have the bar with planets so you can click on them and ride from one another, remember, it is TO scale, and after you drive through whole map they say: You would have to travel 6,500 more maps like this to get to something.

This is huge, we are from Sun only 150,000,000 km.

OK´, Sun is small, lets see why:
1st picture shows that Sun is big:

2nd picture, well Sun gets little smaller:

3rd picture is actually a whole different story:
Now here is the last to compare it all, with little bonus of Canis Majori:
Ok but all of this stuff is so freaking small compared to whole Milky way! The radio signal from Earth which traveled for tens of years is not even visible on map of Milky way!
You can fit Sun 1420 times next to each other inside VY Canis Majoris.
And  you can fit Earth like this 109 times.
This means that you can fit Earth 157,780 times inside VY.
The diameter of Milky way is roughly 140,000 light years. Where one light year is 9,460,730,472,580,800 meters.

This is 741,669,055,548 Earths for diameter of Milky way. 2,540,000 light years is the distance to Andromeda galaxy, the closest galaxy.

Virgo Supercluster has 110,000,000 light years. Easy. On the next picture from @HighTechPanda , you can see the comparison of largest galaxy to Milky way, enjoy!And last, observable universe has 93,000,000,000 light years in diameter.

Still so underrated.

Dragallur

Africa picture

 

Are you going to explode in vacuum?

Hi,
when I first saw this question on SciShow, I was like, hmm OK, this is interesting.. maybe you will freeze or what?
Just ask anybody, anybody who does not study physics and they will say to you that person exposed to vacuum of space is going either to: explode, freeze or their blood is going to boil. Those people are right in only one thing and that is that you will die horribly. And that is why I like this question so much, it is full of misconceptions!


So last time I talked about vacuum and how it is not really empty but that is not important right now. We will talk about vacuum of interstellar space. This space is not absolute vacuum, there are still hydrogen and other atoms flying around but not much of them.

So lets get to first answer that somebody would maybe say. Person is going to explode because the the pressure in vacuum wants to equalize so you are going to be ripped apart in drastic death. I mean, imagine the person ripped to pieces and all the blood floating in very small balls all around, this simply too awesome.

So why wont it happen? Well the force of the vacuum is not strong enough. You would probably feel some pain as your tissue would be stretched a little bit, but humans are not so fragile so they wont explode.

At first I thought that person would freeze.. but watch out this is probably the greatest misconception about temperature.
What is that space between two parts of window? Well you have probably heard that it is very good vacuum. Why? Well you need to keep your house isolated so what happens is that the heat or cold air from outside will only not get inside because there is nothing that could transfer this heat!

Temperature is only the movement of particles and when there is none there is none temperature. This means that you would be perfectly isolated and that means to feel pretty warm!

Also people say that your blood would boil. Well first, why does not it boil when you are in space suit? Because the pressure inside space suit is separated from the pressure outside. This is also true for your blood circuit, it is separated from the vacuum of space. BUT what is not separated is your saliva in your mouth which would boil right away.
When we are talking about what is closed system and what is not, well your lungs are connected to the outside world, all of their oxygen would get out of you immediately. Whole circuit of blood would run “backwards” because that blood running through your lungs would lose all the rest of the oxygen instead of receiving it.

So the thing which would kill you would be the lack of oxygen. You would pass out in 15 seconds and in two minutes you would be dead.
Meanwhile you would get awesome amount of radiation and really cool sunburns which would cause probably even better cancer.

Once during some test for astronaut, the space suit was not working properly and the tester was exposed to artificial vacuum. He passed out, and his last thought was that his saliva was actually boiling, that must be very strange!

Dragallur

1st picture
2nd picture