Jan 31, 2009

Migrating from @LunarX_EU to @whitelabelspace

First we would like to thank all the people that have followed us on @LunarX_EU & for all your great comments so far. In the lead up to joining the Google Lunar X-PRIZE we are now migrating over to use our @whitelabelspace account instead as @LunarX_EU as this was only meant as a place holder until we found an official name for our project.

Please join us at @whitelabelspace & feel free to comment/ask questions/make suggestions on how we can improve our chances of winning GLXP, what you would like to know about us, how we can improve our ongoing dialogue with you or how you can join or contribute to our project.

We would like to thank the 600 plus people that have followed us on twitter in the last 4 days. It seems at least that the word has managed to reach many of our blog readers. If you would like to follow our web 2.0 progress on other services, please use the "Contact" link in the navbar above or link here.

Content is sparse at this moment in time but you expect it to start to fill up soon as the details around our team & project become more public. Thanks for all the kind words of support we have received from many of you up to now. We look forward to hearing from you!

Tohoku University's SPRITE-SAT Successfully Launched

The SPRITE-SAT spacecraft designed and built by Tohoku Univeristy, a partner of White Label Space, was successfully launched into space last week on a Japanese H-IIA rocket. The satellite was inserted in the prescribed orbit and radio signals from the satellite have been received at the ground station in Tohoku University, and have confirmed that the satellite is in good health.

SPRITE-SAT has now started its mission to observe Sprites and Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes (TGF). The spacecraft was developed by the faculty and students of Tohoku Univeristy, with technical support from external mentors experienced in satellite development. Students played a leading role in the assembly and testing of the spacecraft, giving a unique opportunity for hands-on education in space science and space engineering.

Onboard the satellite was a minature gallery of art, etched onto a silicon wafer by photolithography, making this mission also one of the first art exhibitions in outer space.

Spritesat Japanese satellite team

Tohoku University, led by Professor Kazuya Yoshida, will use the experience gained from SPRITE-SAT to develop the rover for our Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) mission, which will be a small rover capable of travelling at least 500m across the lunar surface and capturing hi-definition videos and photographs for transmission back to Earth.

NASA's Ares-1 "Stick" Broken in Two

This video shows the (intentional) separation of the first and second stages of NASA's planned Ares 1 launcher, which is currently under development as a man-rated replacement for the Space Shuttle.

The separation simulated by this test will take place after the first stage solid motor completes its burn and will be effected by a ring shaped explosive charge that cuts through the aluminium structure that joins the two stages together. Remember, this structure must be thick enough to transmit the high bending loads anticipated during the flight of this long slender rocket, called the "Stick" by some.

The test shown in this slow motion video was to check that the separation charge makes a clean break between the two stages. The shocks generated by the explosive charge were also measured during the test, and this will give important information enabling the engineers to design and layout the nearby equipment mounted in the launcher that must withstand the shock environment.

Earlier Post: When the Change the Ares-1 "Stick" into a Normal Rocket

Jan 30, 2009

#spacemashup contest. Winner of the day #1 "marsheimers"

During a twitter conversation today a new word popped up "Marsheimers".
Here at White Label Space HQ we started to discuss what other space related word we could mash together & then thought "why not crowd source it". So we're starting a competition to find the latest & greatest space related mash up words.

If you have a new #spacemashup word please add the tag #spacemashup & tweet it us @whitelabelspace.
We will give a mystery prize to the person that creates the best example.
If you get stuck for ideas then you can always use Naque's Word Mixer but just don't tell us or we will say you cheated :)

Todays winner is @_OM_ & here's the conversation.
@whitelabelspace: NASA Mars rover Spirit has a 'senior moment': Hum, looks like the long-lived Mars rovers are showing their age. .. http://tinyurl.com/dmol4g
@_OM_ @whitelabelspace "Marsheimers"

@_OM_ we owe you one for that great word, drop us a line & we'll send you something.

Jan 29, 2009

Hubble - Point and Click

As part of the International Year of Astronomy (http://www.astronomy2009.org/ ) the Hubble Site is letting the public decide where to point their big expensive camera.

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched on board Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990, and since then there have been 4 servicing missions by Space Shuttles. The final servicing mission is planned for May this year (read more here). 

The HST stands as a shining example of the need for Human Spaceflight. Without astronauts, the telescope would never have been able to be serviced and upgraded to continue operating till today. 

At White Label Space, the only thing we could think of as being better than a giant telescope in low earth orbit would be a giant telescope on the Moon. With no atmosphere and large open spaces, astronauts could build giant telescopes with unparalleled views of the cosmos.

But at the moment, we've still got Hubble, and you get to pick between six different targets:
  • A star forming region
  • Two planetary nebulae
  • A spiral galaxy
  • An edge-on galaxy
  • And interacting galaxies
Head on over to http://youdecide.hubblesite.org to cast your vote

Jan 28, 2009

In memory of the Challenger crew

On the 28th of January 1986, I remember watching the news on TV some hours after the liftoff the Challenger and the feeling of disbelief that struck me as the rockets malfunctioned causing Challenger to disintegrate in thin air. The most horrific part of the TV reports that day was not the explosion itself but the look on the spectators faces as it slowly dawned on them that something had gone dreadfully wrong. A sad day in space history but one that proves that even the best laid plans can go wrong & space travel is never an easy task. "Failure is not an option" may have been NASA's motto but sometimes the chips are stacked against us & we must live with the cards that we are dealt.

Jan 27, 2009

Top 10 Greatest Space Advertisements

Outer space is a big place with lots of advertising opportunities. We compiled this list of top 10 space-linked advertisements for earthly products to explore some of the brand-linkages that are available for space missions that are seeking sponsorship from private companies.

How to Show YouTube Subtitles

A number of people asked how to display the subtitles for our International Version of the Moon 2.0 video. In fact, it's quite simple if you just know where to click..

The picture below shows the menu bar on which you select the language. This menu is activated by clicking on the small arrow pointing upwards, and then the small one that appears pointing to the left.
WARNING! The arrow that gives the subtitles menu is not visible when the YouTube video is embedded in another webpage. I'm not sure why, perhaps this is because it's still a beta feature?

Moon - The Movie

This certainly looks like a must see for competitors in the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP).
"Moon" is a black comedy about a lone worker living on the Moon and tasked with mining Helium-3.

Jan 20, 2009

Greatest Space Ads Part X - Johnnie Walker and Spacewalking

Played multiple times during the CNN coverage of Barak Obama's Presidential Inauguration, this Johnnie Walker advertisement used the imagery of early spacewalking in the 1960's to link its brand to profound steps in humanity's developments.

Previously in our Greatest Space Ads series:

Jan 19, 2009

Crowd-Sourced Microblogging Space Mission

Yes, it looks like those amazingly inventive Japanese are up to it again...

For those who find that Twitter is just not quite cool enough, now a Japanese non-profit organisation called the Kansai Space Initiative (KSI) has set up space project that will allow microblogging via a space-based server in the form of its 50kg satellite called KaSpl-1, which is due for launch as a secondary payload in 2013. There will be an on-board camera pointing at a digital screen that can display emailed user messages while in orbit... useful hey?

The project will also feature a crowd-sourcing element in that anyone who is interested can pay 3,000 yen (US$33) to get their say in how the project is run. Presumably the launch costs will be paid by those contributions, meaning that about 3000 people will be needed to pay (calculation based on launch cost of $2000/kg times 50kg = $100,000).

How many twitter-holics will be interested financing this project?

(Sources: TechRadar.com article, and Dick's Rocket Dungeon)

Jan 11, 2009

Australian Mars Mission - Students in Preparation

Check out this video from the Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC) in Australia, a space-themed school education centre encouraging secondary school students to be excited about space exploration and using hands-on learning to show how they could enjoy careers in science or engineering.

The highlight of the experience is the simulated Mars mission where the students cooperate to execute a typical Mars surface mission involving role-playing activities dressed as astronauts and work in a simulated mission control center. Interacive software provides problem solving skills amongst the students, including a Martian dust storm that risks the safety of the astronauts.

VSSEC is a fantastic way to teach the Australian youth about the dream of space exploration and science and hopefully they will be inspired them to pursure careers in the space sector and support future government efforts to fund space activites.

Australia is the only nation in the top 25 GDP nations that doesn't have a government-funded space agency (see Senate Report). In fact, despite its well-educated population of over 21 million, Australia doesn't even have a central point of contact for foriegn nations interested in cooperating in space activities!

Not surprinsingly, there is a strong interest in Australia for the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP). Team FredNET already attracted some Australian involvement, and we at White Label Space are also in discussions with many individuals and organizations in Australia who are interested to join our GLXP effort.

See also:

Jan 7, 2009

Space Agencies are Brands Too

At first glance some people may find the idea absurd, but space agencies can in fact be viewed as brands with their own intrinsic commercial value. That is the finding by this recent Practicum Study by the Kogod School of Business.

How can a government-funded entity have useful brand value? Well, one only has to think back to the Space Race Version 1.0 (i.e. the race to land humans on the Moon) to see the resulting brand value for NASA, which is now a household name all around the world.

In fact, the Kogod study recommended that the "NASA" brand provides a unique "unexploited value to the American taxpayer". But how could that value be realized?

Some direct ways for NASA to capitalize on its brand value would be to sell the rights to show the famous "NASA" logo on products or to link the NASA brand to commerical brands in advertising campaigns. The revenues earned from the sale of such rights would then be available to NASA for use on new space projects (which might in turn lead to even higher brand value!).

But in the context of the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) there is an even more interesting idea.
Many other space agencies around the world currently have rather weak brands. To improve public awareness, those agencies could use technologies developed under private funding by GLXP teams to fast-track the development and execution of their government-funded missions. Don't forget, the ultimate customers of the space agencies are the tax-payers of the respective nation/s, and which tax-payer will vote for a government that wants to spend billions on a a space agency that they've never even heard of?

How much do you think a space agency like ESA or ISRO would like to have its logo (next to the national flag/s of course) on a rover driving across the surface of the Moon or Mars? Food for thought for those entrepreneurial types trying to put together a business plan for the GLXP.

Jan 2, 2009

NASA Moon Rover Tire Recreated from Spare

Now 80 years old, Farence Pavlicks (apologies if the spelling is wrong), invented the Lunar Roving Vehicle tires used in the Apollo Program while working for General Motors' Defense Research Labs back in the 1950's. The tires were manufactured by Goodyear and consisted of zinc-coated woven steel wires in place of the rubber compounds normally used for tires on Earth.

After NASA lost all traces of information on the design and manufacturing of the lunar rover tires, they used his advice to recreate the original design in a project redeveloping new tires to support the NASA return to the Moon.

Follow this link to hear the complete story by NPR News.

Let's hope NASA is able to recover all the other knowledge gained during the Apollo program needed to for their return to the Moon. The need to re-capture that knowledge is surely a big driver for NASA to stick with its plans to return the Moon in the coming decade.

Jan 1, 2009

Build Your Own Apollo Guidance Computer

Ever wondered what makes a spacecraft's main computer tick? Now, thanks to John Pultorak, you can make yourself a complete replica of the original guidance computer used in the NASA Apollo missions. All the documents you need to repeat his effort are given here.

The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) was developed in the early 1960s by the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, and could automatically controll all of the navigational systems onboard the Apollo spacecraft.

John took 4 years to hunt down all the technical reports and find the necessary components. Also, to be sure that his replica AGC would work, he also created simulations of the complete computer's logic using modern development tools.

And if you ever wanted proof that there were some useful technology spin-offs from the space industry into other sectors, note that it was the first computer to use integrated circuits, a technology that has now become an integral part of our everyday life. In fact, the AGC used over 4000 of them!

Spaceflight and competitions have always spawned new designs and approaches so imagine what technology spin-offs will come out of the Google Lunar X PRIZE...