Archives for category: Space

You gotta love the amazing things SpaceX is doing with their Grasshopper VTVL (Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing) vehicle!

Grasshopper is a 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle designed to test the technologies needed to return a rocket back to Earth intact. While most rockets are designed to burn up on atmosphere reentry, SpaceX rockets are being designed not only to withstand reentry, but also to return to the launch pad for a vertical landing. The Grasshopper VTVL vehicle represents a critical step towards this goal.

On June 14th, they flew the Grasshopper higher than the Manhattan Chrysler building.  SpaceRef

Previous Grasshopper tests relied on the other rocket sensors but for this test, an additional, higher accuracy sensor was in the control loop. In other words, SpaceX was directly controlling the vehicle based on new sensor readings, adding a new level of accuracy in sensing the distance between Grasshopper and the ground, enabling a more precise landing.

SRB Floating

Back in the Shuttle days, and possibly in future NASA programs, we of course let the Solid Rocket Boosters fall back to earth and splash in the ocean.  They would then be towed back to land and completely refurbished.  This sure is a whole new twist to the “reusable” rocket paradigm.

As I watch this clip, I can’t help but get chills as I remember the Space Shuttle Program.  I see my co-workers, my dreams, the landscape, and even some of my work.  During the last couple of years, during the winding down of the program, I’ve paid a lot of attention and have had lots to say but I’ve been mostly quiet.

I spent my childhood dreaming of space in the 80s, and I worked for Morton-Thiokol (which became ATK) starting in late 90s.  Being part of the Space Shuttle workforce was more than just a job, it was a bit of a dream come true.  Now that Orbiters are getting shuffled around to museums in various cities, I’m excited for the next phase of America’s space program; but, I will never forget the privilege it was to work for the Space Shuttle Program.

I was also able to see Space Shuttle Discovery fly from a perch at the Vehicle Assembly Building on STS-102. The day before, Columbia had just arrived in the VAB after a ride back from an overhaul in Palmdale, and I got to walk right up to her – just like I did with Enterprise at the World’s Fair in 1984 – but this was much more intimate.  She looked like a true workhorse.  What an experience!

A couple of years ago, the renowned PBS series Nova presented an episode entitled Astrospies.  In the 1960s, the US and Russia were in a race to get spies into space, while disguising their super-secret activities:

These men, 17 in all, were set to make history in space as the first military astronauts, performing covert reconnaissance from orbit. Yet while NASA’s astronauts were gracing magazine covers and signing autographs, the MOL teams were sworn to secrecy; most of the program’s details remain classified even today.

The public knew almost nothing about these programs, and the details have only come to light within recent years.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to watch this episode, it is definitely worth your time!

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