More good stuff on the open frontiers – 9/23

Several fun articles on the open frontier of privately designed and funded space flight.

Lacking any convenient place to comment on worlds far away that I can only see with the telescope of a feature news article, I’m adding a new section to my More Good Stuff series of posts. Will call it Worlds far away, as in places I’ve never been and don’t want to approach nearer than a light-year away.

Previous articles along this line have discussed the alien world of allegedly selling huge volumes of illegal drugs on Silk Road and storing huge volumes of questionably legal stuff on-line. Check out:

Have another article today that describes another planet I’ve barely heard of.

Worlds far away I’ll never visit

9/16 – The Atlantic – How Gangs Took Over PrisonsAuthor Graeme Wood visited several California prisons to describe that awful world.  The article explains how gangs provide a level of discipline inside prisons and provides a parallel justice system outside and inside of prison. If you are dealing drugs on the outside or doing other bad stuff, don’t cross a gang member because eventually you or a family member will be in prison. Rough justice will be applied to you when those inside the prison system get ahold of you.

Writer David Skarbek describes the very rational and intricate organizations of the gangs. Their quite rational behavior makes sense in an otherwise stifling world. When studied, the behaviors in prison and amongst the gangs makes logical, rational, and economic sense.

A very weird world, but the article is a high-powered telescope that provides a fascinating view inside. You will need a strong stomach when you get to the discussion of soap. Very bizarre.

Not sure if this is really another world or an alternate universe.

Speaking of out-of-this-world….


9/16 – NBC News – NASA Give $6.8 Billion to Boeing and SpaceX for Apollo-Style Spaceships – NASA picked Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Dragon for ferrying astronauts to space. Award will be split $4.2B to Boeing and $2.6B to SpaceX. Very, very cool. This is one of the better reports that appeared right after the announcement.

9/16 – Wall Street Journal – Boeing and SpaceX Share $6.8 Billion in NASA Space Taxi Contract – NASA wanted two vendors with different rockets. As one commenter pointed out, the Boeing designed is a Saturn V rocket carrying an updated Apollo capsule. The SpaceX design is all new, from the engines to the rocket to the capsule.

Number of flights is apparently about the same. Cost split of $4.2B and $2.6B reflects the different cost structure. Seems to me that SpaceX has a major victory in the cost category.

If the number of flights is the same (a huge assumption I realize) then SpaceX has something in the order of a 35% price advantage. That will have a huge payoff down the road.

9/18 – – SpaceX Dragon to Launch Space Mice, 3D Printer and More for NASA – This will be the fourth resupply run to the ISS by a SpaceX Dragon capsule. This time carrying live critters – 20 mice and a batch of fruit flies. Maybe I’m a bit slow on the uptake (yeah, yeah, no news flash there), but seems to me that the same tech that can keep mice safe all the way to docking would also keep astronauts safe. This is another supply run that is simultaneously a major experiment for new technology. See previous article for the obvious link. Very cool.

9/20 – Daily Bulletin from AP – SpaceX launches 3-D printer, other station gear – Good launch; will reach ISS on Tuesday. Article says this is the fifth resupply mission by SpaceX. Not sure how to reconcile that difference from the previous article. 3-D printer is a demonstration project. It is a beefed up version of what you can buy today so it will survive launch stresses. Eventually an on-board 3-D printer will allow astronauts to print needed parts.

9/23 – Daily Bulletin via AP – SpaceX’s Dragon arrives at space station with 3-D printer – The Dragon capsule docked with the ISS. It has 5,000 pounds of supplies. Will remain for a month and then return to earth. Article says this is the fifth Dragon to arrive at the ISS. That is also the only supply capsule capable of returning to earth.

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