Sunday, September 30, 2007

Space Age Developments

Only 4 days until the 50th anniversary of the space age, and here I am, barely blogging. Business trips are strange - I sometimes have more time for blogging during a trip than I do at home (assuming I have regular internet access, which I didn't on the recent UK trip). Then I have the problem of catching up, damage control, post-trip reporting, etc. when I return to home and office. Not to mention family events and occasional bouts of sleep. But enough excuses!

I have just finished Rocketeers (subtitled "How a Visionary Band of Business Leaders, Engineers, and Pilots Is Boldly Privatizing Space," 2007) by Michael Belfiore, and it provides fascinating closeup views of several of the key organizations and individuals in private space, especially Scaled Composites (Burt Rutan), SpaceX (Elon Musk), and Bigelow Aerospace (Robert Bigelow). A lot of the visits and interviews took place in 2005 and 2006, and while Belfiore has brought things as up to date as possible, this is a fast changing business for a book. I was especially wondering about SpaceX, and I found that this past week, Elon Musk gave a brief interview at that provides a pretty good update. Things seem to be going well though not quite as fast as I thought. The next Falcon 1 launch should be in January/February 2008, first Falcon 9 launch "late 2008 at the earliest," though test stand engine tests of the 9-engine first stage are starting soon (starting with one engine and building up to 9 by spring of 2008). The Dragon spacecraft could start to fly people in 2011.

Speaking of rocketeers, the latest issue of Air & Space Magazine has a great cover story ("The Real X-Men") on the amazing X-15 rocketplane which was flying suborbital flights to the edge of space from the late 1950's until 1968. Those guys really had the right stuff.

And for the future of space exploration from NASA's point of view, the current Scientific American has a good article on the Orion spacecraft ("To the Moon and Beyond"), as well as an article on five essential things to do in space as we enter the second half of our first century of space exploration. Let's remember to take the long view even if some of us may not be around for all of the second half.

No comments: