Apr 302012

If you are going to use someone to advertise your product, it’s generally a good idea to get their permission first.

SEALs slam Obama for using them as ‘ammunition’ in bid to take credit for bin Laden killing during election campaign

Short form: current and former Navy SEALs are upset that their bravery, sacrifice and effort is being used to prop up Obamas re-election campaign. Some of the quotes are that perfect combination of snark and obviousness.

 Posted by at 7:08 pm
Apr 302012

Alien Life? Study Suggests Vast Number Of Planets Could Harbor It

Short form: recent studies indicate that the habitable zones around red dwarf stars could be wider than previously thought, with the possibility of perhaps tens of billions of planets in the galaxy where the surface temperature could support liquid water.

That’s the good news.

The more disappointing bit is that even a wider habitable zone around a red dwarf is still pretty close, meaning that the tidal forces on a planet that close in would be pretty severe. Thus if a planet has a spin rate so that it has a “day’ anything like 24 hours, the tides in any oceans could be monstrous. It is unlikely that a planet could hold onto any sort of moon for geological timespans given the orbital perturbations from that close star. Thus over a few billion years, perhaps just a few million, tidal drag would slow the rotation of a livable planet down so that it would be tidally locked with the star… one face perpetually lit by the star; one in perpetual darkness. Exactly how such a planet would be a really livable place is a bit of a stumper.

Still… on a *billion* such worlds, it’s a safe bet that life would arise many, many times, and at least some of the time, make a go of it.

 Posted by at 2:27 pm
Apr 302012

Back when Cameron’s “Titanic” first came out, I remember seeing at least two plans to build the “Titanic II” (one was a cover image on Popular Mechanics or Popular Science or some such), but obviously they came to naught. Well, now that “Titanic” has been re-released, right on cue we’ve got yet another plan to rebuild the Titanic:

Titanic II to Be Built by Billionaire Palmer in Chinese Yard

Now, on the one hand I’d love to see a Titanic replica, built to resemble the original as much as possible. The thing was just a beautiful piece of work, far classier than modern cruise ships. Of course, built from better materials, with better technology and more lifeboats… modern engines would probably be a good idea as well.

On the other hand: the superstitious are probably going to avoid this ship like the plague. Whether that is going to deter enough people from spending money, I can’t say, especially if it gets a few successful cruises under its belt.

On the gripping hand: it’s to be built in China. Not exactly the mark of manufacturing quality. Its maiden voyage from England to New York is, according to the article, to be “accompanied by the Chinese navy” in 2016. Beyond the disturbing thought of the Chinese navy sailing into New York harbor… the Titanic II will first have to sail from China to Britain. That’s a bit of a schlep.

Will this $500 million ship get built? Can’t say as I think it’s amazingly likely.

 Posted by at 8:06 am
Apr 302012

A 1962 study by North American Aviation produced designs for the Apollo Service Module designed to mate directly to the 260-inch-diameter Saturn S-IVb and other stages. At the request of the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center (later known as the Johnson Space Center), NAA studied whether it would be advantageous to increase the 154-inch base diameter of the Service Module.

In short, the wider vehicle was found to be aerodynamically superior than the baseline configuration when used on the Saturn C-5 (later known as the Saturn V), but aerodynamically inferior when used on the Little Joe II test vehicle and the early Saturn C-1. Additionally, the engine would be easier to install, inspect and maintain; the conical surface was better for the radiators, and the larger moment arm improved performance of the reaction control system. Unfortunately, the wider service module would be about 1000 pounds heavier at burnout than the 154-inch baseline, and the lunar module adapter would have to be notably heavier as well. Given the primary importance of mass in the Apollo program, this result was probably the most important.

Two 260-inch diameter configurations.

 Posted by at 7:45 am
Apr 292012

This was Northrops plan for an operational follow-on to the YF-23, with some notable geometry changes.

A whole lot of information on this and other F-23 derivatives was included in issue V3N2 of Aerospace Projects Review.

You can download a 2.5 megabyte GIF file of the diagram. The link to the JPG file is HERE. To access it, you will need to enter a username and password. These are available on the first page of the Aerospace Projects Review V3N2 Addendum (available HERE). Note that both are case sensitive.

 Posted by at 9:29 pm
Apr 292012

Helium prices ballooning

Short form: people are finally starting to figure out that we’re running out of helium. While that would be an irritant for the “party balloon” aficionados, people who like things that are welded together might be in for a bit of a shock. Blimps can replace their helium with hydrogen, but that would be an unwise choice for welders. Helium is also handy for pressurization systems, such as pressure-fed rockets; it’s light, chemically neutral and doesn’t go into solution in some propellants the way others can (having had entertaining times trying to pressurize nitrous oxide with nitrogen and had it turn into seltzer water…). Additionally: helium is useful as an “ullage medium” in rocketry… when the propellant is expelled from the tank, such as by being drawn out through a turbopump, injecting helium into the tank replaces the propellant and keeps the tank properly pressurized.

Also: helium is great as a coolant for superconducting applications. Without helium, kiss MRI’s goodbye.

 Posted by at 5:44 pm