Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship Two exploded over the desert, killing one pilot injuring the other.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashes, at least one pilot killed

At this stage, it *seems* that there was an explosion right after the spaceplane ignited its hybrid rocket and that the vehicle tore apart, with one pilot coming down under a chute.

Coming so soon after OSC’s Antares blew itself to bits right off the pad, it’s expected that some eyebrows will be raised about whether something fishy might be going on. While that’s always possible, a simpler explanation is that both suffered from the deficiencies of their propulsion systems. NOTE: I have no special insight here, this is all speculation on my part.

Antares:

The first stage of the Antares uses two Aerojet AJ26 rocket engines… which are refurbished Russian NK-33′s. More accurately: these are *Soviet* NK-33′s, built about 40 years ago, transferred to Aerojet, stripped and rebuilt. *Any* mechanism that old will need some careful looking-over. And while having them refurbished is good, they were refurbished by a different company that built them, with little to no tribal knowledge. All kinds of problems can be introduced here.

SpaceShipTwo:

The SS2 uses a hybrid rocket motor that has been troublesome for *years.* Virgin Galactic has recently switched from the original nitrous oxide/rubber (hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene, commonly used as a binder in large rocket motors, and perhaps better known as tire rubber) propellant combo to one using “plastic” (polyamide, like nylon). This was due to the engine not providing the performance it was supposed to. Rumors I’ve heard held that the original engine fell *way* short, and shook really, really badly, to the point of worries about injuries or structural damage due to the harsh vibrations. This, sadly, is a not-uncommon problem with hybrids. And this new engine has not flown much (if at all) prior to this flight. It would not surprise me if there was a hard start (basically a small detonation on startup) and the plastic-based fuel cracked or shattered. This would eb all kinds of bad, especially if a chunk got caught in the motor throat. This would cause the chamber pressure to spike until it burst. Additionally, nitrous oxide is occasionally rather twitchy. While often considered fairly sedate by liquid oxidizer standards, there’s a problem: the triple point is just under 100 degrees F. This means a tank of compressed liquid N2O is happy forever with a pressure of 800 psi or so, but if the temperature rises to about 100 degrees, the liquid N2O will flash to gaseous N2O and the pressure will climb to 10,000 psi or so. This *probably* wasn’t what happened here, as the vehicle had been dragged to 50,000 feet or so by the White Knight carrier plane. But the air temp at 50,000 is really, *really* cold, so it may be that the plastic fuel was also very cold… and thus, perhaps, very brittle.

If Virgin Galactic pulls through this, they will have to do some serious redesign. Hundreds of rich folk have given them large sums of money for seats; I can see a whole lot of legal hijinks as various celebs or their legal counsels try to back out or start making demands. It seems to me that VG would be well advised to simply bail on the hybrid rocket. The system has been troublesome for a decade… and its not the first time it has killed people.

VG might do well to consider changing to a liquid bipropellant rocket system. Ironically, perhaps their best choice for such a system would be to contract for such a system from XCOR Aerospace. XCORs engines appear to be the most reliable around… perhaps not the most bleeding edge in terms of weight and performance, but if you don’t need the absolute maximum in performance (and a suborbital vehicle is far more tolerant of performance shortfalls than an orbital vehicle… how many passengers would even notice if the craft only attained 98% of predicted apogee?) and you *do* need the absolute maximum in terms of not-blowing-up, then XCOR seems the way to go.

The irony, of course, is that XCOR was just about the only competition VG had in the suborbital tourism market in the form of their Lynx rocketplane, which is under construction now.

———-

Today is a bad day, have no doubt. A pilot was lost (and another seriously injured). A vehicle was lost. A whole program might well be lost. And perhaps worst of all, long term, is that something horrible has been gained: an excuse by regulators and bureaucrats to add yet more layers of laws on top of this, perhaps heading towards simply banning civilian manned rocket flight in the US. And with the wonders of ITAR regulations, it may well be that American rocket companies, banned from flying in the US, will be banned from transferring launches outside the US. And thus space tourism will belong to other nations, less risk averse.

An aside: I’ve got CNN running right now. Like a silly, naive person, I was hoping that they might have some useful information. But… no. Just the usual blather you get from talking heads who have to fill air time but who have minimal data to impart. Sadly – and inevitably -  they’re subtly smack-talking private industry, questioning whether there was insufficient regulation and government oversight

No, not the star. Not that I’ve heard, anyway…

Antares Rocket Explodes on Takeoff

The OSC Antares rocket failed seconds after liftoff. It looks like something catastrophic happened to one of the vintage Russian NK-33 rocket engines, causing the vehicle to lose thrust and fall back down from several hundred feet quite near the launch pad. From the looks of it… this’ll be a heck of a chore for the cleanup crew to get the pad back up and running. It wouldn’t surprising me if the launch area is totaled.

This is really quite a disaster. Fortunately the payload was minimally important… resupplies for the ISS and student payloads, but it’s a blow not only to the folks who worked on the vehicle, but also to the students.

 

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YouTube Direkt

Here’s a fun way to lift your spirits:

http://outbreaks.globalincidentmap.com/home.html

Provides a constantly updating world map showing locations of reported disease outbreaks. Each little symbol corresponds to a certain type (the “!” symbols littering the US, for instance, are mainly Enterovirus), and if you hover over a symbols  a little window will pop up with the headline; you can click for the full story.

outbreakmap

Interesting how regions have their own illnesses. The US seems dominated by Enterovirus. Eastern Europe has African Swine Fever. The Caribbean has Chikunguya. India has Dengue Fever. Keep in mind, these symbols relate to *reports* of diseases. Here in the US, we have an active press that just *loves* to report every case of anomalous sniffles, so it looks like we’re undergoing a zombie apocalypse. While western Africa is getting stomped by Ebola, but apparently there’s not much of a news industry there.

There is also http://www.globalincidentmap.com/ if you want the same sort of maps for terrorism, but sadly it requires signing up to get the incident details.

I suggested previously that one of the early symptoms of Ebola seems to be stupid behavior that would risk spreadign the virus. Well, we got another case in the US today… and the evidence suggests that my little theory continues to be valid. Attend:

Dr. Craig Spenser recently (Oct. 17) returned from West Africa, where he treated people with Ebola.

Tuesday he started feeling unwell.

So Wednesday he hopped a New York City taxi and went bowling (you know, exercising in public, sweating, flinging said sweat around, wearing communal shoes…)

And today he came down with a serious fever and was diagnosed with Ebola.

Now, keep in mind that there is probably no cause for alarm. My issue here is with health care professionals who should really be particularly cautious going and behaving like fricken’ MORONS.

If you have worked with live Ebola, how hard is it, really, to stay out of high-population-density areas for three weeks? Sure, sure, the virus isn’t easily transmittable via normal means before the serious symptoms kick in. But prior to that time, you still have the virus floating through your blood. And is it possible that your fluids could get splattered around via non-plaguey means? Like, say, a traffic accident? A mugging? Simply tripping and falling and scraping yourself on concrete?

 

If you’ve worked with Ebola… take yourself a three-week staycation. How hard is that to accept?

So while plugging through the Word-to-Kindle process, I absentmindedly turned on the radio just to have some background noise. And by the time I realized that it was “Coast to Coast AM” with Alex Jones as the guest, I was busy working, and it was too much bother to get back up and turn it off. And so I wound up hearing stupid, stupid things. Things that gave me a sad. Thing like claims that the WTC were brought down with directed energy weapons. And that Ebola is a Bilderberger Group plot to take over the world. And that WTC Bldg 7 was intentionally imploded. And other drivel that makes me sad for the species to know that not only are there people so messed up as to dream this nonsense up, but that there’s a vast market of people ready willing and able to believe them.

Gah.

So a few days ago I released US Bomber Projects #11, US Transport Projects #01 and the 11X17 collection for USBP 07-09. Sales were… well, even more dismal than what I’ve grown accustomed to. So I wandered on over to Amazon to finally start trying to sell these through their system. I guess they don’t sell PDFs, but only Kindle format pubs… but the Amazon conversion process did *horrible* things to USBP #01. When I fed it the native Word document, the text got formatted all over the place, and the images were all replaced with red X’s. When i fed it the PDF version, the images were installed, but chopped up, and the text was still a mess. So I guess I’ll have to utterly repave every issue. Feh.

Anyone have any successful history with this? Specifically, half-image, half-text Amazon publications?

UPDATE 1

OK, I hammered away at USBP #01 and finally got it into a form that I think works (looks ok on the “Calibre” epub creator/viewer) and I seem to have walked it through the publication process on Amazon. However, it’s “in review,” and that could take 12 hours. So… there it is, I suppose. Assuming it all goes through, the selling price is set at $2.99. That’s a heck of a hit compared to the $4 price for standard PDF versions available directly from me (especially after Amazon takes their chunk), but I guess it’s ok for older issues. So if this works at all, new issues will be released on my website, and wind up on Amazon sometime down the line.

I will of course post a link to this when/if it becomes available. I have high hopes that there’s at least one somebody out there who just can’t wait to be first in line to get on board with this… and who will point out any formatting flaws or other problems that may appear on this first issue.

UPDATE 2

OK, it has gone through the approval process, and is now available over at Amazon. If anyone wants to be the first to take the plunge, I’d sure like to hear how it works & looks on your e-reader. On looking at the listing I realized that I left a lot out of the description, so I went back and edited that stuff in… but it appears that changes have to go right back into review, so for a number of hours the description is pretty sparse.

 

 

Winning an election, Illinois style:

‘Calibration error’ changes GOP votes to Dem in Illinois county

I’ve said it before: never trust an Illinois politician. No politician who has gone through the Illinois machine should be allowed to hold national office. No good will come of that.

Canadian Soldier Dies After Being Run Down By Suspected Militant

It seems that one “Martin Couture-Rouleau,” who became “radicalized” and changed his name to Ahmad, ran down two Canadian soldiers who were walking along a road near a shopping area in Quebec, killing one. The Surt worshipper then led the police on a chase and was shot dead, which is the only good part of the story.

More details and photos here:

Public Safety Minister: Car strike against soldiers a terror attack

And here:

Martin Couture-Rouleau: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

And the hits keep coming:

Maine school board puts teacher on leave after she traveled to Dallas

A teacher visited Dallas, attended a conference *ten* *miles* from Dallas Presbyterian Hospital, and has been put on 21 days suspension because some parents freaked out. The cool thing for the teach? It’s a *paid* suspension. A three week staycation, away from the horrible little brats with the nightmarish helicopter parents.

Additionally:

A Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist for the Washington Post, who photographed Ebola victims in Liberia in September, was disinvited from a photojournalism workshop at Syracuse University even though he showed no signs of the disease for 21 days after his return to the United States. On Thursday, a woman flying on an American Airlines flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Chicago vomited in the airplane, and was subsequently locked in a bathroom by flight staff. In Hazelhurst, Mississippi, a crowd of parents pulled their middle school students from class Friday after learning that the school’s principal recently had traveled to attend a family funeral in Zambia, which is in southern Africa and about 3,000 miles from the outbreak in West Africa.

Collating the data would be a chore, but I’d be interested in seeing what the Venn diagrams look like of “people who are freaking out about Ebola” and “people who think that vaccinations cause autism” and “people who think that alternative medicine isn’t nonsense” and “people who think evolution is a myth.”

There’s being cautious, and then there’s freaking out. A bit too much of the latter going on these days.

Goliath Encounter: Puppy-Sized Spider Surprises Scientist in Rainforest

Photo at the link. Knock yourself out.

But wait! There’s more!

The sound of little hooves in the night

The “hooves” in this instance are the claws of the puppy-spider in question clicking on rocks and stuff as it goes stomping around.

NOPE.

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