Speaking of competition in space, Blue Origin books 6 launches for 2 customers

Illustration of reusable New Glenn lift vehicle from Blue Origin with 3.85M pounds thrust. Credit Blue Origin.

In Behind the Black’s favorite phrase, the competition heats up. Check out the news just this week for Blue Origin becoming a very serious player.

3/7 – Florida Today  Blue Origin books first New Glenn launch contract – Eutelsat Communications has booked the first launch on the New Glenn rocket from Blue Origin. First launch is expected in 2021 or 2022, which is only four or five years away.

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Even more competition in the wide open frontier of private space exploration

Most of the current competitors, with a Saturn V for comparison. Illustration courtesy of Blue Origin.

I am astounded at the number of companies taking on the challenge to explore space. It’s staggering to see the innovation emerging.

Check out the number of competitors that are in the game. That is fantastic. The more companies pushing to figure out how to get in space and provide commercially attractive service at a profit, the harder everyone else will push for progress. Good.

Check out that awesome graphic at the top of the page. Lots of thanks and all the credit to Blue Origin. I’ve been looking for something like that visual for a long time. Yeah, you will be seeing it again and again on my blog.

Check out what some of the competitors are doing. This is what I’ve noticed in just the last few weeks:

2/27 – Space.com – SpaceX to Fly Passengers on Private Trip Around the Moon in 2018 – How does this sound for a great schedule?

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Brainstretchers from the open frontier of space

Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule launch. Add two more boosters, an upgraded Dragon 2 capsule, and imagine what could be done. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.
Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule launch. Add two more boosters, an upgraded Dragon 2 capsule, and imagine what could be done. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

Here’s two articles that stretch the brain:

  • United Arab Emirates has a goal to establish an inhabited settlement on Mars by 2117 – Such an idea is no longer ridiculous. Ten years ago it would have been foolish; today, it is quite plausible.
  • A concept of how the moon could be occupied within four years – this is also not a silly idea anymore.

2/20 – Leonard David’s Inside Outer Space – UAE’s March to Mars – The United Arab Emirates plans to have an inhabited settlement on Mars by 2117.

In all seriousness, I say go for it!

They are recruiting a cadre of research scientists for an international team. They plan to  launch an orbiter to study the planet more closely. They want to develop a faster transport system. They are already designing a city, which will be robot-built, presumably to be near-inhabitable by the time humans arrive.

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More on the frontier of military technology

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock
Image courtesy of Adobe Stock

Several intriguing articles on military forces using technology:

  • ISIS using larger drones with larger payloads
  • Marine Corps wants to experiment with giving an entire battalion suppressors for all their weapons
  • Pakistan developing second strike capability by putting nuke loaded cruise missiles on diesel subs
  • Lots of jobs in the US military will be replaced by robots

2/21 – Washington Post – Use of weaponized drones by ISIS spurs terrorism fears – In Iraq, Islamic State is working with drones above the quadcopter size. With wingspans of about 6 feet, the drone can carry a mortar round at about three pounds instead of a hand grenade.

IS has posted videos of multiple uses of the drones to drop explosives. The frequency of offensive use of the drones is high enough that Iraqi troops must scan the scan sky for drones and take cover when one is spotted.

Captured documents indicate IS is doing research to develop new drones and modify off-the-shelf versions.

This is a significant step up from my previous discussion of ISIS’ drone usage. On January 30, I mentioned:

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Amazing news from the open frontier of space

Liftoff of CRS-10 mssion. NIce view of Falcon 9, Dragon capsule, and location of solar arrays on third stage. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.
Liftoff of CRS-10 mission. Nice view of Falcon 9, Dragon capsule, and location of solar arrays on third stage. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

The wide open frontier of space exploration fascinates me:

  • An asteroid 124 miles in diameter is richer in minerals that what we have here on earth – picture the value of those resources for building space ships in space
  • Five teams from the private sector are in the race to get a team on the moon
  • ULA trimming work force – trying to gain price competitiveness?
  • India launches 104 satellites from one booster

1/17 – Daily Star – NASA to explore space rock worth so much money it would DESTROY world economy – Ignore the hyperventilating headline.

The  underlying substance is of interest. NASA has a 2023 launch scheduled for a probe that will check out asteroid Psyche, which is sitting in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It is about 200 kilometers across, or about 124 miles in diameter.

Asteroid Psyche is rich in minerals. How rich? If it all could be brought back to earth and sold at current market prices, it might have something in the range of $10,000 quadrillion of minerals. This is compared to a world economy with $73.7 trillion of production.

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Another successful launch and recovery for SpaceX’s Falcon 9

Successful recovery of Falcon 9 booster during CRS-10 mission. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.
Successful recovery of Falcon 9 booster during CRS-10 mission. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

Just watched the recovery of a Falcon 9 booster. I missed the launch. Very cool video from the on-board camera as the booster descended through a cloud bank and landed dead center on the pad.

This mission, CRS-10, will deliver over 5,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station. Two really cool things. First, a private company providing supply runs to ISS is a thing. Second, it is almost routine to recover the first stage.

Liftoff of Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule on CRS-10 mission. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.
Liftoff of Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule on CRS-10 mission. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

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Uh oh. Trouble with clocks on European and Indian navigation satellites

Modern GPS satellite. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.
Modern GPS satellite. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Trouble brewing with the clocks on navigation satellites. I previously mentioned this on 1/24:

1/18 – BBC News – Galileo satellites experiencing multiple clock failures – The EU’s satellite navigation system, called Galileo, is having trouble.

Purpose of system is so European users won’t be vulnerable to accuracy degrades by the US, Russian, or Chinese GPS constellations, should any of those players wish to do so.

There will be 24 satellites in the system when fully deployed, plus a few extra for spares. Currently 18 are in orbit. One is close to complete failure for some other reason.

Now there is a problem with failing clocks.

Each satellite has four atomic clocks, two rubidium and two hydrogen maser. Those give accuracy to within one second per three million years. That level of accuracy is needed to get the most precise location data.

Nine of the hyper accurate clocks have failed in orbit. One sat has 2 failures. That means 8 sats have lost one or more clocks.

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Deep background on disruption in music and publishing. Up next? Hollywood.

Does the graph remind you of the newspaper and music industry? Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.
Does the graph remind you of the newspaper and music industry? Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Several articles provide an in-depth view of the disruption taking place in several industries due to the IT revolution.

  • Hollywood is ripe for the same creative destruction we’ve seen in music, newspapers, and publishing.
  • New York Times is shrinking their physical space and staff size
  • Prime time TV still having a rough time

The question to ponder in the back of your mind is what are you going to do when this wave of disruption overturns your industry?

January 2017 – Vanity Fair – Why Hollywood As We Know It is Already Over – Looking for a good article on how technology is going to do to Hollywood what IT has already done to music and publishing? If so, this is what you’ve been looking for.

Check out the article to help understand the massive change surrounding us.

Disruption of music industry

First, music and newspapers. The author saw his first indication the music industry would collapse when he started downloading music. Instead of driving to a store somewhere and spending $20 to get one song he wanted, he could spend a buck and get the song immediately.

Author says the music industry has shrunk by half in the last decade. Remember that is after the first round of disruption hit.

Disruption of newspapers

Next were the newspapers. For a long time, the web part of the New York Times was physically separate from the headquarters. “Banished” is the word the author used. At the same time, startups like Instapundit (yeah Professor Reynolds!) and DailyKos were figuring out how to blog. Then WordPress and Tumblr allowed anyone on the planet to start blogging, and doing so for free.

Author says a lot of people didn’t want to wander over to a newsstand and buy a whole newspaper or magazine when instead they could read the single article they wanted, online, for free.

To illustrate the concept, I’ve never bought a copy of Vanity Fair and doubt I ever will. I certainly didn’t drive over to Barnes & Noble to buy the current edition so I could read this article. A blogger I read (see above!) mentioned it and I clicked over.

The end result of the loss in audience?

Continue reading “Deep background on disruption in music and publishing. Up next? Hollywood.”

More uses for small drones, some good ideas, some unsettling

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com before they merged into Adobe Stock.
Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com before they merged into Adobe Stock.

Drone technology marches forward, regardless of whether you or I think it is a good idea. A few recent article:

  • Incorporating drones into a home security system.
  • LA Sheriff starts to use drones
  • US Navy experimenting with swarms of drone ships
  • ISIS using off-the-shelf quadcopters to drop small bombs.

1/3 – Engadget.com – Your next home security system could deploy patrol drones A company has developed a security system with a learning algorithm which ‘learns’ the normal routine at your home. When something happens outside the range of normal, the system can deploy drones to put several cameras on the situation.

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More amazing news from the open frontier of space

Falcon 9 landing. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.
Falcon 9 landing. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

News from space exploration continues to amaze. Consider:

  • Video of first time SpaceX recovered a booster
  • China sees first commercial launch on government rocket
  • Private sector, or what passes for it, in China gets into the launch business
  • EU’s GPS satellites having lots of unexplained clock failures

Video of the first vertical recovery of a rocket – Beyond the Black highlights What happened at SpaceX the first time they landed a first stage – SpaceX had a bunch of camera operators recording when it tried to recover a booster. Great video. National Geographic produced a documentary on the successful effort. Check it out:

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Amazing capabilities in computer tech

Is that robot telling other robots what parts to pull in an Amazon warehouse? Or is it searching databases to develop your profile before picking which call center operator to connect you to? Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.
Is that robot telling other robots what parts to pull in an Amazon warehouse? Or is it searching databases to develop your profile before picking which call center operator to connect you to? Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Here are a few recent reports of astounding things IT and AI can do:

  • Amazon warehouses are so heavily automated it only takes about sixty seconds of human labor to pull, pack, and ship your order.
  • Call centers can construct a profile of you while the phone is ringing.
  • In our society, where if there isn’t video to illustrate and prove a story, the story didn’t happen, it is getting easier to fabricate video.

10/6/16 – CNN – Amazon only needs a minute of human labor to ship your next package – Astounding video to go with the article. I am amazed at the level of automation in their warehouses.

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Tally of space launches in last two decades

Falcon 9 liftoff, carrying 10 Iridium satellites into orbit. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.
Falcon 9 liftoff, carrying 10 Iridium satellites into orbit. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

Behind the Black has tallied the number of space launches by country and by US company, by year from 1998 through 2016.

Mr. Zimmerman provides the tally at Launch industry trends, based on recent history on 1/11. He provides more observations on the trends in the January 13, 2017 Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast.

For a more overall view (and under fair use) I added up the launches from 1998 through 2006 and then from 2007 through 2016. I chose a break of 2007 because that is when Lockheed Martin and Boeing formed their joint venture, United Launch Alliance. Here are the long-term trends:

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Oil production in North Dakota drops 1% in November

daily-output-since-2008-1-17

Above graph shows the average daily production in North Dakota statewide and in the Bakken field. Output in November dropped to 1,033,693 bopd from October production of 1,043,318 (revised), a change of 9,625, or down 0.92%.

Mr. Lynn Helms has some observations, reported by Amy Dalrymple, ND Oil Production Stays Above 1 Million Barrels in November.

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SpaceX back in space with successful launch and recovery of Falcon 9 booster

Falcon 9 at Vandenber SLC 4E, ready to life 10 Iridium satellites into orbit. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.
Falcon 9 at Vandenberg SLC 4E, ready to lift 10 Iridium satellites into orbit. Credit Flickr. Courtesy of SpaceX who has placed their photos in the public domain.

I just watched SpaceX lift 10 satellites into low-earth orbit for Iridium. This will allow Iridium to replace their constellation of communication sats. Another 71 sats will go up, of which 60 more will be lifted by SpaceX.

Here are merely two of the super cool aspects of this launch.

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Update on environmental damage from wind power

WInd farms will soon get 30 year long permits to take out those birds. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub prior to their merger into Adobe Stock.
WInd farms will soon get 30 year long permits to take out those birds. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub prior to their merger into Adobe Stock.

Just a few of the recent articles providing updates on slice-and-dicers damage in general and status of North Dakota wind farms plants in particular.

  • Wyoming project may get specific permission to kill eagles
  • All wind farms plants get broad permission to kill eagles for 30 years
  • Massive subsidies for wind power, which is intermittent and unreliable, meaning it is often unavailable when needed
  • Updates on two N.D. turbine farms

12/8/16 – Denver Post – Wyoming wind project may get permit to kill eagles – The Chokecherry-Sierra Madre wind farm plant, which will start with 500 slice-and-dicers and may expand to 1,000 bird-choppers, could get two critical permits by next month (January).

The first permit will allow destroying eagle nests that are currently unoccupied. I’m guessing that will chase away eagles from the kill zone.

The second permit will allow the facility to kill 14 golden eagles a year for five years. They can also off 2 bald eagles a year for five years.

The slicer farm plant will have to do mitigation for the golden eagles they expect to kill, but not the bald eagles.

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