Showing posts with label NASA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NASA. Show all posts

Friday, June 5, 2015

Adjusting data to fit the narrative.

NOAA and NASA have been doing this for years.  They have "adjusted" the data to eliminate the last 19 year plateau in measured global temperature.  The Daily Caller and Anthony Watt of the Watts up With That website describe this year's attempt to create global warming where there has been none. 
  NASA has been at this for a long long time.  They have a data base of every temperature measurement made, going back to the invention of the thermometer.  I downloaded the data a few years ago and plotted it.  The number of reporting stations from beginning of the records in the early 1700's starts out small, only dozen of stations reporting.  The number of reporting stations swells over the years, reaching a peak of better than 100,000 stations by the early 1980s.  Then in a great purge, the number of reporting stations was trimmed back from 100,000 to 30,000 in 1983 and 1984.  I wonder which stations got purged?  The ones reporting colder than average temperature, or the ones reporting warmer than average temperatures?  Who knows?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

$150 million for pure papework?

According to Aviation Week, NASA is considering paying $150 million to "man rate" an interim upper stage on the "Senate Launch System" heavy lift booster.  "Man Rating" is a pure paperwork exercise, checking and recording where every bit, piece, nut, and bolt came from, and what testing it passed.  Paperwork costs a lot, weighs a lot, and does not contribute to the mission. 
  But NASA is in love with it. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Mars is hot

Radioactive that is.  Actually it's not uranium or thorium in the red sands of Mars, its cosmic radiation from deep space.  On Earth the magnetic field and the atmosphere shields us from it.  Out in interplanetary space it's more intense.  Mars has no magnetic field, so cosmic radiation on the surface of Mars is as bad as it is in space. 
  NASA using data from the Curiosity rover, found that astronauts on a 500 day round trip to Mars, would absorb a dose of one whole Sievert of radiation.  That's a lot.  A Sievert is a Euro unit invented in the 1980's and it's big.  One Sievert is 100 REM, the more usual US unit of radiation.  
   US safety standards call for not more than 5 REM per year for civilian workers.  NASA is more daring and permits the Shuttle astronauts to absorb 25 REM  in one shuttle trip.
   If memory serves, 300-400 REM is the 50% lethal dose, half the people exposed to that level of radiation die within weeks.  100 REM for a trip to Mars is scarily close.  NASA estimates that such a dose would increase the risk of cancer over a lifetime by 5%.  That sounds optimistic to me.
   However, I expect no shortage of volunteers to fly to Mars regardless of risk.  
   Shielding a space craft with lead probably does not work, the required shielding would weigh so much the space craft couldn't get off the ground.  An ingenious design might put the crew compartment in the middle, surrounded by the fuel tanks.  This might work on the way out, but on the way back with empty tanks, not so good.   Or the space craft might shield itself with a powerful magnetic field, created by neodymium super magnets, or a super conducting coil of wire.  The Earth's magnetic field isn't all that strong at the surface, but it is very deep.  My electromagnetic field theory is no longer strong enough to calculate  just how strong a magnet would be needed to give the same shielding effect as the Earth's field, but the number is computable.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Aerospace Plane

The idea has been around for ever.  I have a beautifully illustrated children's book from 1951 with a drawing of such a machine.  Basically a high performance aircraft that would use wings and jet engines to lift an orbiter space craft high and fast.  It would be reusable (you fly it back and land it after launching the orbiter) and hence lower cost than  a throwaway booster like Atlas.    
  Attractive as the idea is, so far nobody has ever built one.  There are five NASA design studies, the earliest going back to 1986.  Since none of them ever flew, it's fair to say that the concept becomes less attractive when you actually have to build and fly one. 
  Anyhow, hope springs eternal and NASA is going to try again.  This time with a rocket powered craft dubbed XS-1.  Design goal is to loft a 3000-5000 pound satellite into low earth orbit for $5 million or less.  NASA is talking about $3-4 million study contracts early next year, with a $140 million "build-a-flying prototype"  contract  in 2015.  XS-1 is supposed to reach Mach 10 (roughly half orbital velocity).  Gross takeoff weight might be 224,000 pounds.  That's airliner weight.   Presumably  XS-1 burns all its rocket fuel on the way up and then glides back to a dead stick landing, the way the shuttle used to do.   

Friday, September 6, 2013

The first A stands for Aeronautics

NASA stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration.  This week Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for aeronautics, laid out six goals for the aeronautics side of the house.
1. Safe, efficient growth of operations. 
2. Low Boom Supersonics
3. Ultra efficient subsonic commercial aircraft.
4. Low Carbon propulsion
5. Real time system wide safety assurance
6.  Assured autonomy

Growth of operations probably means advanced navigation aids to permit more aircraft to fit into the air.  Sounds good, but the current bottleneck to more flights, is the lack of runways to handle them.  Building new runways is not an NASA mission (it's FAA) and the major difficulty is the armies of NIMBYs who raise political hell every time airport expansion is proposed.

Low Boom Supersonics is more work on cleverly shaped aircraft that make a less noisy sonic boom.  It's interesting,  and a fine science project, but we tried supersonic transports 40 years ago.  They cost too much, both to buy and to operate.

Ultra efficient sub sonic commercial air craft.   At least they limited the project to subsonic.  Boeing and Airbus all ready put a lot of work into this, both companies have higher efficiency versions of their bread and butter airliners under development.  What can NASA bring to the party?

Low Carbon propulsion.  We looked into nuclear powered aircraft back in the fifties.  It got as far as test firing a prototype nuclear engine.  The program was dropped because of radiation safety concerns and the excessive weight and marginal thrust of the Kiwi A engine.  The other  avenue is solar electric propulsion.  There isn't enough energy in sunlight to achieve much more than a pedal power level of performance. 

Real time system wide safety assurance.  Not quite sure what that means, unless they are talking about a computerized system for accident reports, safety advisories, Notices to Airman, and so forth.

Assured autonomy.  We think this means figuring out how to allow unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) to fly in US airspace.   Anti collision policy right now is "See and be seen".  Pilots are expected to look out for and avoid other aircraft.  UAV's are not so good at this, the microprocessors don't scan the sky. UAV's were invented to fly missions too dangerous to send real air crew on.  I was not aware of any places in US air space where the flak is that bad.  Are the druggies using shoulder fired anti aircraft missiles against the Border Patrol? 

Jaiwon Shin is hoping to get $560 million to spend on this stuff.  Down from $1.7 billion in 1998.  Aviation Week feels funding should be increased.  No surprise there. 

In real life, the improvements from the 707 of 1957 to the 787 of 2013 lie in better materials to make the plane from.  Better turbine blade material that lets the turbines run hotter, and better structural materials (carbon fiber) that reduce weight.  I note an absence of any material science research in this NASA program.