There’s a fairly in depth look at scramjets in the latest edition of The Industrial Physicist. It’s got enough meat on it to be worth reading, though I have a visceral dislike of scramjets. It’s nothing to do with the technical merits – it’s just that they are yet another technology that’s constantly being held out as the technical breakthrough needed to bring down launch costs. Someday I suspect scramjet powered vehicles (at least missiles) will be practical. In the meantime they are a kind of interesting technology that’s worth understanding just for curiousity’s sake.
Incidentally, I’m not singling out scramjets here – space elevators also trigger my “here we go again” reaction. Ditto electromagnetic accelerators.
I’m on a deadline crunch today, trying to wrap up some consulting work, and a long essay for The New Atlantis, but it’s Monday, which means Jeff Foust has lots of good stuff up over at The Space Review, including a book review of New Moon Rising, a slapdown of Professor Van Allen (something apparently required every few years, ever since the dawn of the space age, yet he never seems to learn), and a proposal to send a Soyuz to the moon.
Fast Company has an article on Jeff Bezos, famous as the founder of Blue Origin – apparently he’s also been involved in some wacky scheme to sell stuff on the Internet. Who Knew?
Anyway, the article has some of the usual business ‘zine puff piece aspect to it, but it’s fairly in depth, so worth a read if you’d like to get a sense of the man. He comes off fairly well, even allowing for the reporter’s need to be nice in order to maintain access. I’m encouraged that he’ll push Blue Origin towards a successful business model, and he seems willing to spend real money up front before seeing returns, which is probably a necessity in the suborbital launch services industry.
The two really deep pocketed players in the industry are Bezos and Allen. Of the two I suspect that Bezos has the better approach to business (based on little information, unfortunately). The article suggests that his business orientation places a premium on customer service, which I’d always thought was sort of the obvious thing to do until I started paying attention to the way many businesses actually work.
Here’s an interesting article on syntactic metal foams, with a brief mention of RLV applications. As materials continue to improve SSTO becomes more and more achievable. It’s still not trivial, but it certainly seems within reach for vehicles that aren’t loaded up with pet hobbyhorses like lifting reentry or linear aerospikes.
Here’s more on the Return To The Moon Conference a couple weekends ago, by Leonard David. In USA Today. It’s got some new stuff that wasn’t in his initial space.com piece.
[Via Thomas James, who seems to be posting more now that he’s settled into his new digs in Colorado. Though shouldn’t he change the name of his blog to the Colorado Mars Society?]
A just published study (actually still in preprint) suggests that Earth like planets may be quite uncommon. I’m a little skeptical about the reasoning (based on the discussion in the link: I haven’t read the paper). It’s quite possible that the reason we haven’t found system’s like Sol’s is just that we don’t yet have the capability. The existence of systems which evolved in an entirely different way doesn’t really bear on the number of solar systems like our own except very indirectly.
That’s the date that Burt Rutan as set for his first X-Prize attempt. And just to keep things interesting, he’s not alone:
Hot on Rutan
NASA is still trying to salvage the Centennial Challenges program, but Congress remains resistant.
…Democrats on the subcommittee, including Reps. Nick Lampson, Sheila Jackson Lee and Bernice Johnson (all from Texas), expressed reservations about relying on prize money to spur technological innovation.
Dwayne Day says we need another Carl Sagan.
Here’s my candidate for a replacement.
Jeff Foust has a writeup on Paul Spudis’ and Wendell Mendell’s talks at last weekend’s Return To The Moon Conference. Bottom line: as is often the case, NASA has met the enemy, and it is them.
Spudis thinks that NASA officials are deliberately misrepresenting the vision.