It's Here, It's Finally Here! Ender's Game First Trailer

I have been looking forward to an Ender's Game movie for a loooooong long time. Finally they have made one.. Terrified to see it, because it would be so easy to turn Ender's Game into something it's not. Also the story is rather disturbing and a literal translation to the big screen would most likely earn a thumbs down from me. I hope they are subtle. That's like saying I hope it will rain in the Mojave Desert. But I can hope.

P.S. I'm writing a book right now. More than that I will not say, because I hate to build expectations before I have a finished product.


The Coolest Picture Of SS2

Tail cam view of SS2 during burn.

(Credit Virgin Galactic)

First Powered Flight of SpaceShipTwo!

I got in to work early yesterday because Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic were planning the first powered flight of SpaceShipTwo and I wanted to be there to see it. The flight was a complete success! They did a 15 second burn on their hybrid engine and reached supersonic flight.

My coworkers had written down Scaled's frequencies and were listening in on their communications during the flight. It made for a wonderful narration for the video.

All those years of tracking model rocket flights paid off and I took a rather nice shot of the drop and ignition, all the way from nearly 50,000 feet:

I snapped this shot just as one of the chase planes was crossing the moon:

The entire video of the flight:

A big congratulations to Scaled Composites, Virgin Galactic, and everyone in the New Space Industry for this awesome achievement!


SpaceShipTwo First Powered Flight Imminent!

Scaled Composites appears to be gearing up for a powered flight of their SpaceShipTwo this Monday or Tuesday. This is a very exciting time to be in New Space! The results of this flight will have a significant impact on the industry as a whole.

I watched White Knight II flying around with SS2 in tow, but I didn't get to see SS2 glide in by itself. They tend to do their drop tests early in the morning before I get in to work.

I don't know who took the above picture, but it is a fantastic view of their cold flow runs!

Well, whatever happens tomorrow or Tuesday, I hope it goes well for them. We're all rooting for you, SpaceShipTwo!


P Motor Static Test at FAR

Earlier this April I went out the the F.A.R. site for some fun experimental rocketry. Before I got there apparently there had been a hypergolic rocket test of nitrogen tetroxide and hydrazine (for those of you that don't know, these are some VERY dangerous chemicals!) Another guy had put together a baby P-class motor (pictured above). As I watched it fire, I realized that I have been spoiled on XCOR's Lynx engine (each engine produces 3000 lbs of thrust with a maximum duration of 3 minutes!). Previously I would have done a backflip to see a P motor but now I feel rather indifferent. In a way it's kind of sad, but at the same time it also goes to show how awesome life is right now.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently got involved in another project, called the Sugar Shot to Space (SS2S) and am working on some electronics for a flight they are planning early this fall.


Dance Party Under Endeavor!

I had the interesting experience the other day of attending a wild Yuri's Night party under the Shuttle Endeavor, as a VIP from XCOR. VERY interesting experience being on the same VIP list as Buzz Aldrin and Bobak Ferdowski (The Mohawk Guy... surely you remember him from the Curiosity landing and memes all over the internet), plus we're partying under the Space Shuttle. Need I go on??


XCOR Lynx Propulsion Milestone!

I'm thrilled that XCOR has finally released a press release on this topic so I can finally open my blabbermouth (but even now I have to check what I say so that it doesn't give away more objective information than the press release itself does).

Awesome epicness. That's what this is. I was there in the bunker for that hotfire. Now I fully know what people mean when they talk about a "Peenemunde Minute." It felt like an hour. An hour of sitting on a stool in a bunker, forgetting how to breath, and wondering if that thunderous roar is going to vibrate me onto the floor.

That's about all I can tell you. And this video is about all I can show you. So enjoy!


An Eventful Saturday (2/2): Friends of Amateur Rocketry

After Plane Crazy, my goal was to find the Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) launch. All I knew was that they were at the "East end of Koehn Dry Lake." With a little Googling I was able to find the site in no time. 

I'm hoping to get involved with a project called "Sugar Shot to Space" (SS2S) while I'm out here in Cali. SS2S's goal is to build an amateur rocket that reaches space using good ol' rocket candy for propellant. I'll keep you posted on how involved I get, but for now I recommend checking out their website to learn more: http://sugarshot.org/

As expected, I arrived way late just as everyone was leaving, but it was a fun trip anyway. If I thought I was in the desert before, I was really in the desert now. There were dunes that were drifting up onto the road in places. It felt less like the Mojave and more like the Sahara. 

A view across Koehn Dry Lake.

If this sign was talking about flooding of sand I just might believe it. (Actually flash flooding in the desert is a thing, I guess).

One of FAR's rocket test stands.

They are well equipped with bunkers, buildings, shipping containers and launch towers.

Looking forward to a future event so I can be there for the whole day!


An Eventful Saturday (1/2): Plane Crazy

Last Saturday was just plain crazy! That is, Plane Crazy, a periodic event at the Mojave Spaceport where people will show off their airplanes that they've built or collected and just hang out. The main event was a presentation on rocket photography by Mike Massee, XCOR's photographer/videographer. It was fun going to the Spaceport on a Saturday, just chilling, setting up the Lynx model and showing people around. My co-intern Parag and I got to play around with the Lynx when there was nothing else to do. This thing is an epic full-scale mock-up of what the Lynx will actually be, and instills great inspiration for space travel in whoever climbs into the cockpit. Not having ever even flown in a rocket powered vehicle before, I already have the "Rocket Grin:"

(My friend Parag is on the right in this one).

Some other planes that were there:

Long EZ, the type of airplane that XCOR converted to a rocket plane back in the early 2000's. I didn't quite realize how tight the cockpit was!

Below is an F86 Sabre.

Every day at Mojave is new and exciting. Most days you can look up and see the Air Force flying something cool like an F18, even on rare occasions an F22.

(I'm told the above is an F18. You can't expect a rocket scientist to know all the airplane names).

It was a packed day! After Plane Crazy I decided to try another Miniadventure and find some Amateur Rocketeers... (Stay tuned for the next post)


Happy Berth Day SpaceX!

SpaceX has successfully completed its third mission to the International Space Station. They actually had some issues with the thrusters after launch, three of the four thrusters were not operational. The spacecraft could still function with two thrusters offline, but NASA wanted at least three up and running before attempting to dock. It apparently was a software issue and they got it worked out in the end. Congrats SpaceX! Looking forward to the day when you can bring people up, too!


Welp, It's About Time. Manned Mars Mission by 2018!

Inspiration Mars Foundation is planning a manned flyby mission to Mars for a target launch date of January 5, 2018. The announcement was made today.

A fast, free-return mission is similar in function to the Apollo 8 mission. The idea is to send two private U.S. citizens (probably a married couple, actually) on a 501-day mission to flyby the Martian surface by 100 miles and then return safely to Earth.

I like the patriotic nature of this mission, billed as "A Mission for America." I know it isn't very "politically correct" considering the fact that idealistically access to space is something that all nations should aspire towards and the collaboration between nations is a virtue extolled by Star Trek and other popular ideals, but I don't care. I still like America best.

I completely agree that now is as good a time as any to visit the red planet. It's been technologically possible to achieve this mission ever since the technology of Apollo. But we've just been waiting for someone to take initiative. That initiative came from Inspiration Mars.

Check out this factoid sheet on the preliminary mission specs: http://www.inspirationmars.org/Inspiration%20Mars%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf


Help Name Pluto's Newly Discovered Moons!

You all have the chance to go over to www.plutorocks.com/ and vote for your favorite names for the two new plutonian satellites. Heretofore they have been referred to as "P4" and "P5" and I think scientists are getting tired of such boring nomenclature.

I voted for "Cerberus" because I am in the middle of playing Mass Effect 3 and enjoy links between science and popular culture. Of course, the science people were probably thinking of the three-headed dog that guards the gates of the Underworld, not the pro-human terrorist group, but that fits, too.

Another option I almost went with was "Vulcan," but I feel obligated to save that name for a distant planet filled with green-blooded logical pacifist pointy-eared hobgoblins.


Friendly Reminder to DO HARD THINGS

While my life in general seems to exude the notion that it isn't going to waste, and while picking a tough major and moving halfway across the country for a tough internship can be considered "doing hard things," a close look at how I've spent my free time lately would reveal a distinct lack of productivity. I looked at my list of project ideas this morning. It is extremely long. I have not completed a single one all year. What have I been doing in my free time? Absolutely nothing.

I'm borrowing this rallying cry from my friends at theRebelution.com, whose banner has graced the bottom of this webpage since the history of this blog: a call to rebel against low expectations for young people and to Do Hard Things. While I am no longer a teen, the temptation to slack off and retreat into my own little world hasn't desisted. I want to do something other than for myself. I'm going to start small. I've noticed I have the ability to post educational videos on YouTube. That is my Start Here.

I hope God will use me to help bring light into this world.

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
~Matthew 5:14-16


XCOR And AXE Teaming Up to Send 22 People to Space

Fun news.

Commercial spaceflight is entering the main stream and looking (and smelling) quite good! United Kingdom-based Unilever Group (NYSE: UL, Unilever N.V. and NYSE: UN, Unilever PLC), and Space Expedition Corporation (SXC) announced a 22 flight purchase on XCOR Aerospace's Lynx® Mark II suborbital spacecraft for Unilever's space-themed AXEApollo™ campaign for the AXE ® brand of men's cologne, body spray, shower gels and other personal care products.

Unilever will award the first flight to a lucky winner selected from a drawing just after the Super Bowl on February 3rd, and the 21 other winners will come from a year long, 60 country promotional campaign. That larger campaign includes a 100+ person December 2013 space camp for early stage winners in Orlando called the AXE Apollo™ Space Academy (A.A.S.A.). The campaign also includes legendary Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin and a 30 second Super Bowl advertisement. For a chance to win, register at www.AXEApollo.com.
"When a global brand leader like Unilever makes a significant commitment to a product like our Lynx®, it is a clear sign that commercial spaceflight has entered the main stream of worldwide commerce and truly is the Next Big Thing," stated Andrew Nelson, Chief Operating Officer of XCOR Aerospace, "Expect to keep seeing more good news from SXC as they ramp up in 2013!"

XCOR Press Release


On The Next Six Months...

I arrived in California a couple of days ago and today will be starting the first day of a 6-month internship at XCOR Aerospace. While I would love to tell you about all of my experiences the next six months, I will have to speak in very general surfacy terms when talking about XCOR for obvious reasons. But you will hear all about my adventures in Mojave and Lancaster and of course my own personal projects (thinking very seriously about level 3, and I'm going to try and find a high-power rocketry club out here!)

Me and the two other interns are sharing an apartment in Lancaster. It is very nice, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a wide-open living room. We bought some cheap furniture at Goodwill to fill up the empty void. As far as the other two interns go, I think we're going to get along great! Time will tell.

Very excited, and I'll hopefully post some pictures soon.