Oct 30, 2008

Armadillo Lander for GLXP?

Armadillo Aerospace won the $350,000 "Level 1"prize in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge at the Spaceport America, New Mexico, last Friday. The vehicle launched vertically and moved sideways, hovered for over 90 seconds then returned to the starting point.

Armadillo tried the next day for the harder "Level 2" challenge, worth $1.65 million in which the rocket needed to fly for 180 seconds then maneuver to a precise landing on a crater-pocked and rock-laden look-alike of a lunar landscape, but failed shortly after ignition, falling on its side.

Congratulations Armadillo! It looks like you are on track to being a premier supplier for Google Lunar X PRIZE teams!

Oct 28, 2008

More Problems with NASA's Ares 1

Space-Travel.com has reported that computer simulations now indicate that the long skinny shape of the Ares 1 rocket, currently under development to replace the Shuttle, could lead to problems with "liftoff drift" in which the forces due to its motor ignitition and wind loads could cause it to jump sideways at ignition far enough for its rocket plume to damage the launch tower.
Is the Ares 1 approaching a major redesign? See our previous related post and give your thoughts.

Oct 23, 2008

The Moon's in a Hurry

The moon in a hurry

"The moon in a hurry" by Nautilus 1, on Flickr

Oct 17, 2008

For Cheap Payloads to Orbit, Think BIG!

This blog post is about the Sea Dragon, probably the biggest rocket ever designed.

The Sea Dragon was designed by Robert Truax for Aerojet in 1962 with the intention of determining the cost savings that would be possible by building a launch vehicle on a scale of large ocean-fairing ships. The concept developed was a two-stage vehicle, roughly half the size of the TITANIC, built in a ship yard and then towed to the launch site in the open sea for launch from a partially submerged position direction out of the ocean.

(Sea DragonCredit - © Mark Wade, and Astronautix.com)

The first stage used Liquid OXygen (LOX) and Kerosene, and had a parachute system landing on the ocean 290 km downrange. An option for recovery and reuse of the stage was also investigated. The second was LOX and Liquid Hydrogen, and stayed in the destination low-Earth orbit.

The main design parameters were:
  • LEO payload capacity: 450,000 kg (to 185 km Orbit)
    Take-off weight: ~20,000 tons
  • Height: 168m
  • Diameter: 23m
  • Weight at Launch: 18,000 tonnes
  • Launch Price: $300 million (1962 dollars)

Costs to low earth orbit were estimated to be around $600/kg, about one quarter that of the Saturn V.

Will the future bring gigantic Space-Freighter rockets like this lifting out of the ocean to take large amounts of payload to orbit at low costs? We hope so, because it would make space more accessible

References and further reading:

Oct 14, 2008

Joost Launches Global Web 2.0 Video Service

We've been waiting for this one, and now finally it's arrived. Today Joost launched its new web-based video-on-demand service, with all the content legally provided by its owners and streamable for free!

Is this the future of television? One can imagine that the Google Lunar X PRIZE missions will be seen all over the world using this technology.

For more details on the service see Joost's press release.

Private Space Visionary Jim Benson Dies 63

White Label Space would like to send its sincerest condolences to the family, friends and colleague of James ("Jim") Benson who passed away peacefully in his home last week due to glioblastoma multiforme brain tumor, with which he was diagnosed in 2007.

Jim was a visionary leader in the private space industry and was an inspiration to many of us most notably with, but not limited to, the establishment of the SpaceDev company. Further information is available on the SpaceDev press release.

Moon 2.0 in Korean

We now have Korean subtitles for our International Version of the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) Moon 2.0 video on YouTube, thanks to one more of our motivated volunteers!

Remember to use the small arrow button on the bottom right of the view screen to select which subtitles you want to see (see How to Show YouTube Subtitles).

Oct 10, 2008

The Race is On!

Well it looks like 2 more teams have joined the GLXP race to the Moon.

They were unveiled at the AGI User Conference in Chicago.

The first team is Independence-X Aerospace, a Malaysian team, and the second is Omega Envoy, a team of students from the University of Central Florida. Interestingly enough Omega Envoy have decided to make their company not-for-profit with 'the common goal of advancing private and commercial space exploration.' An interesting move in a competition which aims to turn the Space industry in a fully competitve market. However, still quite a noble ambition, but one might wonoder if their motives might be more tax related and less "future of the human race" related.

If you were wondering who AGI were, they are the makers of Satellite Tool Kit (STK), quite possibly the most useful tool available for Space Mission Design. And the news that they'll be offering their software for *free* for GLXP teams is music to our ears.

Check out who all the current teams are here, but remember, there's more to come...

Oct 8, 2008

When They Change The Ares-1 "Stick" to a Normal Rocket

Budget concerns, timelines, and technology limitations have got NASA in a real tight spot for its future manned launch vehicle, the Ares-1. We at White Label Space, like many others around the world, have a feeling that this rocket might never fly in its current configuration with the long skinny shuttle-derived booster supporting the fat upper stage. No rocket like this has ever been launched into space so we made this poll to sample the public opinion on this design.

There are some good reasons why launch vehicles tend to have tapered shapes (where the base is thicker than the top and not the other way around!). At supersonic and hypersonic speeds, tapering gives additional aerodynamic static stability. Also, having a wider lower stage helps to support the higher structural loads that it must transmit. Last we heard, NASA is trying to implement electromagnetic mass absorbers to overcome the structural dynamics problems with the current design, although an active vibration control system of this size has never flown to space, let alone on a man-rated launch vehicle.

Perhaps NASA will give up the stick Ares-1 and define a more realistic baseline with a wider first stage, perhaps something more like the Gemini launcher.

Oct 6, 2008

Virgin First Sex in Space

See some hardcore thrusting in this Virgin (Galactic) video, which offers something for everybody, mums, boys, girls, teenagers, white, black, latino, asian, old, young, your nextdoor neighbor, your wife, your husband, your teacher, nurse, animals, or any of your inter-racial friends.

White Label Space is a group of space professionals preparing to officially join the Google Lunar X PRIZE. Right now we are conducting anal ysis on the best possible design for a space mission to complete the objectives of the prize. We hope to officially join the competition before the end of this year.

White Label Space will have a bi-directional emphasis, combining its space engineering expertise with its dedicated efforts to provide the highest possible media exposure to your brand name.

We invite you to take off our label and put your one all over our spacecraft!

And now, after that preamble, the main point of this blog post.. This MSNBC article reports that Virgin Galactic has turned down a $1 million offer to film the first official sex video in space. We think the reason might be because the offer was too low :)

Oh, just in case you didn't figure it out yet, this blog post is an experiment to see how many search engine hits we can get by using the rather attractive words that it contains :)

Did you ever notice how certain brand names are more catchy than others? No doubt Sir Richard Branson had this in mind when he chose the Virgin name for his family of enterprises.

Oct 5, 2008

Greatest Space Ads Part VIII - Cosmofon's Signal Reaches Space

This funny space-linked advertisement by the Macedonian mobile provider Cosmofon combines their advertising message with a well-known hobby of Japanese people.

Previously in our Greatest Space Ads series:

Oct 4, 2008

Moon 2.0 in Traditional Chinese (繁體華語版)

Ni hao everybody!

As promised we have now uploaded the traditional Chinese subtitles for our International Version of the Google Lunar X PRIZE Moon 2.0 video.

Traditional chinese is the written form used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, and is also widely used in overseas Chinese communities.

Remember to activate the subtitles you need to click on the small arrow in the bottom right corner of the YouTube viewscreen (see How to Show YouTube Subtitles).

Oct 3, 2008

Send your "Astronaut" to Space for Just $2

We just came across the website IntoSpace.org that is selling flights of payloads into space for just $2 each!

Well, it's a nice idea paying such a small amount to have your logo or photo in space. But don't forget to read the small print...

IntoSpace's offer is to send your 1 square centimeter logo or photo print (they call it an "Astronaut") into space together with thousands of other customers. Is anybody reminded of the Million Dollar Homepage?

But if you do the math, assuming 75gsm paper, IntoSpace is charging $267,000 for each kilogram they send to space. Considering that the going rate for sending payloads to space is currently around $15,000 per kg, they are trying to charge 18 times what it actually costs for them to put a stack of paper on a spacecraft, sure there is some extra mass for the brackets and bolts holding the stack to the spacecraft structure but clearly they are still charging more than 10 times their costs.

Small print indeed!