More good stuff on the open space and technology frontiers – 5/12

Several fun articles on space and one on self-driving trucks

4/18 Commented previously that SpaceX’s third try to recover a Falcon booster rocket failed. It came down too fast, was unstable, and exploded. SpaceX already knows the problem. Elon Musk sent a tweet on 4/18 that said

Cause of hard rocket landing confirmed as due to slower than expected throttle valve response. Next attempt in 2 months.

Problem identified. I am sure the solution will be implemented 5 or 6 weeks before the next launch.

Very cool.

5/6 – Spaceflight Now – Video: Dragon test articles flies pad abort profileSpaceX is moving forward with turning their Dragon capsule into carrying a live crew. In the event of a catastrophic disaster on the pad, the capsule has thrusters and parachutes to lift off the rocket away from the pad and land in the water. That’s called a “pad abort.”

Escape system tested successfully on 5/6. Linked article has video of the test. Very cool

5/3 – NBC News – Neil deGrasse Tyson Says Space Ventures Will Spawn First Trillionaire the FAA thinks space tourism will develop into a $1B industry in the next few years. Mr Tyson suggests there is what will seem to us to be unlimited energy and unlimited resources in space. The starting point will be mining asteroids. Whoever can figure out how to get resources out of asteroids will be the world’s first trillionaire.

I am realizing the phenomenal payoff of mining asteroids is not to bring unheard of amounts of precious metals back to earth. Instead keep in mind it costs thousands of dollars per pound to lift material into space. What a cost to lift the spaceship into orbit that is big enough for interplanetary travel? I can’t even imagine the cost to lift enough food into orbit to last the year-long trip to Mars. Imagine if you can, how much it will be worth two space explorers if you could provide water, common minerals, and rare earth minerals at a small fraction of the current lift cost.

Very cool. ‘Spose I need to find another phrase?

5/5 – Wired – The world’s first self-driving semi-truck hits the road Daimler has an autonomous big rig hitting the road for testing. The rig will be able to drive itself on the open interstates. To read the lane lines it has a stereoscopic camera. It can scan the road out 800 feet ahead with short and long-range radar to keep an eye out for obstacles. If it senses condition to getting a little too rough it will alert the on-board human that it’s time to transfer control.

Catch this for the long-term payoff: try the rig through city traffic to a remote parking lot near a freeway. The rig could take over, get on the freeway, and drive a really long distance. It could get off the freeway at a designated spot, park in a peer arranged lot where a human could come around and drive the rig into town.

It will take a decade of testing according to the article before it will be ready for fully autonomous driving.

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