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September 2, 2021 Archives

Thursday, September 2, 2021

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Firefly Aerospace Alpha FLTA001 “DREAM” Launch

The launch of Firefly's first Alpha small satellite launcher is scheduled for a four hour launch window between 01:00 and 05:00 UTC on Friday, 2021-09-03. The launch will take place from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, Space Launch Complex 2 (SLC-2). Weather is forecast as 100% favourable for launch. This is the first flight for Firefly and its rocket, and will be only the second launch from Vandenberg of any rocket in 2021. If successful, Alpha will place several small satellites in a 300 km orbit with 138° inclination. Here is a preview of the mission. Read more details about the Firefly Alpha.

Everyday Astronaut (Tim Dodd) will be livestreaming the launch attempt at the following channel, with the stream starting one hour before the scheduled launch time (which may be any time within the launch window).

The following video shows a static test firing of this rocket which was conducted on 2021-08-18. The first stage Reaver 1 (heh!) engines use a combustion tap-off cycle, which makes them challenging to start: you'll see a very prominent green flash of the TEA-TEB hypergolic starter fluid used to start combustion and ramp up to sufficient chamber pressure to allow the tap-off to drive the turbopumps.

If you look closely at this video, you may spot an Autodesk logo on the first stage. Autodesk products were used by Firefly in the design of the vehicle, as described by this page and embedded video.

Posted at 18:56 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: Universal Equation for the Shape of Birds' Eggs

The paper, “Egg and math: introducing a universal formula for egg shape”, is behind a paywall, with the Wiley journal charging US$ 16 to look at it online for 48 hours up to US$ 49 to download a PDF. Nobody seems to have uploaded it so far to SciHub, so we'll have to wait until some public-spirited roadrunner with institutional access liberates it. There is, however “supplementary material” for the paper, in gnarly Microsoft Word format, which can be downloaded from the abstract page and opens in LibreOffice. This document provides sufficient information to figure out what they're doing and how to apply the model, although you'll have engage in a bit of reverse engineering.

Posted at 14:54 Permalink

CONTEXT: Litigation vs. Innovation: SpaceX Responds to Amazon Anti-Starlink Filing

With Blue Origin falling far behind SpaceX and failing to deliver the engines it contracted to furnish for United Launch Alliance's next generation Vulcan rocket, and Amazon's Kuiper satellite Internet service yet to launch its first satellite while SpaceX's Starlink is approaching full operational status, Jeff Bezos seems to be adopting a strategy of suing his way to the stars, with litigation underway against NASA to block their selection of SpaceX for the human lunar lander and regulatory filings against SpaceX's plans to expand their Starlink constellation.

SpaceX just responded to the Amazon anti-Starlink filing with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission with this response [PDF], which begins with:

This letter is in response to the latest familiar tactics by Kuiper Systems LLC (“Amazon”) to delay a competitor, this time by claiming that Space Exploration Holdings, LLC (“SpaceX”) provided the Commission too much information about its next-generation constellation. Amazon’s recent missive is unfortunately only the latest in its continuing efforts to slow down competition, while neglecting to resolve the Commission’s concerns about Amazon’s own non-geostationary orbit (“NGSO”) satellite system. The Commission should see through these efforts and quickly put SpaceX’s application out for public comment where any issues can be fully vetted.

and concludes:

SpaceX has submitted complete information on its proposed next-generation constellation, satisfying every information requirement in the Commission’s rules. Amazon would clearly prefer to use procedural maneuvers to delay consideration of that application rather than allow it to proceed to consideration on the merits. As Amazon’s former Chief Executive has said in the past, procedural maneuvers—like the ones Amazon now deploys—have “become the bigger bottleneck than the technology.” The Commission should recognize this gambit for the obstructionist tactic that it is, reject Amazon’s request, and quickly put the amendment out for public comment.

Posted at 14:31 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Intel's Xeon “Sapphire Rapids” Multi-Tile Processors

Posted at 13:55 Permalink

CONTEXT: Virgin Galactic's First Passenger Mission Flew off Course

“…a yellow light should 'scare the sh-- out of you, because when it turns red it's gonna be too late.”

Posted at 13:05 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Apollo Command Module: Excellent Spacecraft—Terrible Boat

Posted at 12:11 Permalink