Monday, December 28, 2009

Introducing……The Astroliner*

*The following is a theoretical/extrapolative concept/construction only; at this point, it only exists via several rather crude line drawings created by this blogger. Once more: This craft does not yet exist!

Of rockets and trips to outer space

Ever since first satellites and then living beings have been traveling to space, rockets have been used. Other then perhaps more boosting power and different fuels, the technology hasn’t changed much since that time. Even the hallowed Space Shuttle is in essence a rocket. And guess what its replacement will be….you got it! Yet another rocket!

Rockets are rather simple to use as well as largely being simple in design. What payloads need is enough of a boost to escape the gravity well that is part of Earth. Despite their frequent use, there are at least three noted drawbacks for using such a method to boost people and cargo up into even LEO (Low Earth Orbit):

- Rockets are assuredly up to the task as a multitude of successful launches can show, but they are the poster child for inefficience for doing so. Even a LEO shot takes a staggering amount of fuel. Rather then keep on using throwaway modules and such, the time has come for a powered and reusable module able to take off and land unassisted.

- Due in part to the massive amounts of fuel required, rockets are inherently dangerous. As the 1986 Space Shuttle accident showed us, one errant spark into the massive amounts of fuel needed for boosting people and payloads in orbit can result in a catastrophe. If what fuel that is needed is contained internally, that would drastically increase the safety factor.

- Third most, the carriage capacity of the rockets we use is severly limited. (The most that a Space Shuttle can carry at one time is seven people.) Though we have proven that we can land a person on the moon with the technology we have, more capacity is needed on a per flight basis in order to lower the number of flights and the associated risks that come with it.

You would think that a means to address the above issues would be at least on the drawing board, but to date, I have seen nothing of the sort. It is time to take several well tested technologies and figure out a way to merge them into the next generation of space faring craft. This craft would combine the vast cargo capacity of a C-5M equivalent with the V/STOL technology perfected during the time of the Harrier Jump Jet….

Introducing….The Astroliner!!!!

I can bet that many who are reading this blog post are saying something to the effect of “What in HELL is that?” I am one of the many that is AutoCAD challenged, so I had to resort to three imported vector drawings. The following are notes related to the above picture:

1 - Primary pilot control of the craft. Area is designed as a breakout box and could be detached from the primary vehicle in case of an emergency. The module would have limited internal power if separated from the craft, but would provide a potential extra layer of safety.

2 – Secondary pilot control of the craft. This module would be attached to the Passenger Compartment (4)

3 – These appear in a pattern that goes almost all the way around the craft. They could be one or more of several features including, but not limited to:

- Shielded high resolution cameras

- An electric grid active across the entire craft (Could be useful for destroying space debris before it possible damaged the craft itself or maybe as an added barrier against the cold of space or the heat of re-entry)

- Even though this concept is far reaching and altruistic in its goals, we are after all human beings. Denoted places could possibly also be used to mount a weapon system for protecting the craft.

4 – The passenger module for the craft. Ideally it would be able to transport 100 people along with their space gear. It is attached to the secondary pilot control module as a single breakout box which could also be ejected from the craft if the need arose. Like the primary module, it would have limited power if detached from the main craft.

5 – An airlock access for linking up with other craft or even other emplacements in space.

It gets even better in the following picture:

The above picture is a theoretical side view of the craft; the numeric values are described as follows:

1 – A side view of the primary pilot module. As stated before, they would have control of all of the craft form that area. If an emergency happened or the equivalent, control could be passed to the secondary pilot module

2,3,4,5 – From left to right, they are the side view of the secondary pilot module, an empty gap useful for preventing a terrorist takeover, the passenger module, and the airlock for exit from the aforementioned area.

12 – Airlock egress for connecting to other craft, other structures, or possibly for EVA purposes.

6, 8 – Cargo transport and storage areas. While the nose cone and rear areas would not open as they would using a C-5M, load/unload ramps would be a part of the cargo bay construction; the efficiency of this method was not lost on the author of this at all, but you want a combination of minimal exposure to the harsh environment of deep space along with a quick and efficient way to offload what cargo that has been brought. To keep the cargo where it is supposed to be, magnetic locking would be useful. (As a means of amusement at one time, I brought up a concept of “Electro-Magnetic Velcro” or EMV.)

7 – The central power plant for the craft. This needs to be covered in more detail later in the post.

9, 10, 11 – From left to right, they consist of the forward thrust vents (2), the area for maintaining and monitoring the V/STOL modules, and the rearward thrust vents (4)

The theory behind this design is that the central power plant (7) would generate the power to run the front and back vents as well as the V/STOL array described in the next picture.

Needless to say, this design might well be in violation of most all things flight related, but probably the most major component is why I opted to design at a ratio of 2:1 rather then a ratio of 3:2 which I saw on many other craft including the Space Shuttle: V/STOL ports/nacelles on the wing areas

1 – The bottom of the Astroliner would be fitted with a total of twenty Nine (29) limited rotation /fixed V/STOL nacelles. There would be a large one at the nose of the craft, 24 others in groups of six each, and two each on the wing area. The lift from the V/STOL nacelles on the wings should compensate for its smaller size in relation to the craft

2 – Landing flat on the ground would probably not be good for the craft, so not only would wheels be needed (for a runway takeoff/landing scenario), but also a series of landing struts ( for use in V/STOL mode)

3 – Once more, the peripheral areas could be used for observation, an electric grid that may help protect the craft regarding some collisions and a place to mount defensive weaponry if such became necessary.

4 – Frontal jet intake/nacelle. Not only could it be used to assist during a runway takeoff, it could also be used to damp forward motion so that the pilot could then use the V/STOL nacelles to land.

5 – Rear jet vent/nacelle. The only major use of this would be to give the craft sufficient thrust to move it out of the gravity well created by the Earth or thrust to move it quickly along to whatever future destinations that may be attempted...

Implied Needs regarding this craft

Before I hear the cries of “You forgot….” there are many other aspects of this craft that need to be included in its construction such as:

- Not only will heat shielding need to facilitate reentry, but also a durable outer skin would need to be constructed. Deep space is a harsh environment.

- Perhaps even newer, stronger composites will have to be invented. (Several have already been incorporated into the large planes that travel the skies.)

- The landing struts as the wheels will have to not only be strong enough to support the weight of the craft, but they will need to be strong and durable enough to withstand repeated use in both the rigorous conditions of deep space as well as on Earth.

- Without the benefit of an atmosphere for shielding, radiation levels would be an issue as well. The craft would need adequate shielding from the effects of the aforementioned.

- Despite its plane configuration, this craft will be first and foremost a space traveling transport. Not only would pressurization be a requirement, but hermetically sealing compartments would also be needed as well as other precautions unique to traveling in outer space.

- Repair materials to cover most any contingency would need to be stored on the craft in case an EVA is needed for repairs. Space is a hostile environment after all despite its beauty.

- If the craft design becomes space worthy, over time, different configurations could be built, such as one where the forward cargo bay is converted into a lab or where one is converted into a passenger liner.

- Because the craft would be a cutting edge design, it would need to be built with (constant) future upgrades in mind, both physical as well as electronic based.

- Autopilot technology is almost one hundred years old. A craft such as this would definitely need such a system in place, but obviously one far more computerized then what was around in 1914. Needless to say, the crew needed to operate a craft like this would have to be highly skilled and educated in a number of fields beyond basic flight knowledge.

- Perhaps there are other aspects that should be included in this list; if so, they have not been deliberately omitted at all. If (or when) a craft such as this is built, it will be the culmination of a lot of technology, most readily available now while some would have to be adapted or even invented for such an ambitious undertaking such as this.

Holy Star Trek, Batman!

If you have read this far, you may be either shaking your head or laughing uncontrollably, but if that is the case, reread this post. The craft described in the included pictures is buildable using our present technological level. The C5A cargo transport has been around since the late 1960’s; V/STOL capacity even longer. It is the matter of merging the technologies and breaking (not so) new ground to make this craft a reality. There is nothing ‘Star Trek’ about its design at all.

However, there is one exception to this statement, though with some research and testing, still not out of bounds using what we already know…

Powering the Astroliner

In the side view of the drawing presented earlier, the lower section of the craft was denoted as (9, 10, 11). The areas the numeric values describe are as follows:

9 – Forward jet port (or however they are denoted) consisting of two side by side apertures. It serves two purposes: First off, it will assist in lifting the craft from the earth out into space. Secondly, it would be used to damp forward motion so that the V/STOL technology could then be used as well as making adjustments using V/STOL data input. If the craft wound up being landed as a large plane, these forward vents could also be used to slow the craft down upon landing, similar to what a passenger jet does.

10 - This area comprises the 29 V/STOL apertures denoted in the drawing. They would also be able to exert thrust, but in a more or less downward fashion. Though they would not have the 90 degree rotational ability of their jet counterparts, they would have limited circular mobility within their confines. They would be controlled by a computer for the most part, subject to human input for the desired action.

11 – Rearward jet port consisting of four side by side apertures. This array would be responsible for most of the initial lifting of the craft; it could also be used for such on a longer trip through space (Such as to Mars.)

The lower portion of the craft was so delineated due to essentially the whole marked off area being used for the thrust nacelles so listed earlier. With such a complicated set of engines, a highly skilled crew would need to be on board for monitoring, maintenance and service of the array. As stated before, we have decades of experience in building such propulsion devices; the Astroliner design is for the most part doable.

As both ships and submarines have proven, a nuclear reactor doesn’t need to be of a massive size to do its job. The Astroliner design would involve a large amount of fuel, but if said fuel needed to be carried on the craft that would defeat its purpose. The only way to minimize the weight of the craft in regards to its power requirements would be using a nuclear reactor prototype of some sort. The number reference of “7” is denoted on the side view cutaway as being the power plant for the craft, but therein lays yet another design challenge.

A Steam turbine setup or the equivalent is not viable for a deep space craft, so a means will need to be found to convert the energy from the nuclear reactor directly into the needed thrust to propel the craft with out irradiating the general area in the process. V/STOL engines and research have been around for over fifty years. The reactor that would need to be installed would have to be even more compact then what is used on naval vessels, but also able to generate the massive propulsion power that would be needed. The weight of the solid fuel that would be needed otherwise would make the Astroliner an unworkable proposition.

The control of the power thus generated would once more largely be in the hands of a computer (or several for purposes of redundancy), but would have a human interface as well. Once this craft was landed, a standby mode could be initiated. This would provide only a trickle of power to the thrust array, but would prevent freeze ups or a potentially long restart period. The reactor on board would also provide other primary power as needed for the craft to function. Regarding the propulsion systems needed for the Pilot and passenger modules (In case the craft had to be vacated), that would have to be figured out as well.


If (or when) this craft is constructed, it would represent cutting edge technology; not only would this craft be able to fly to the moon, but it could possibly be equipped to take us to Mars or maybe even beyond there.

I personally do not think NASA is up to the task for a project this massive in scope; once something like this becomes politicized, it then becomes a political football put to use for either gathering votes or as a chess piece of sorts in the morass that represents our Congress these days. Private enterprise not only has the potential funds needed for this enterprise, they would approach the matter with an overall better eye regarding efficiency and safety. The potential long term profits would be enormous, but it would take private enterprise to stay focused to the task with their eye on the prize.

As always, I welcome all comments on this post whether good or bad.

A Jaded Bard

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Moon by 2020? No…The Moon by 2013

It was on May 25, 1961 that John F. Kennedy addressed Congress and stated that the USA would have a man on the Moon by the end of the decade:

“... I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important in the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. He never lived to see his vision become reality, but on July 20, 1969, the US did put a man on the moon; it was a shame that he did not live to see his dream become reality.”

John F. Kennedy before Congress - May 25, 1961

This space race was fueled by the Cold War that raged at the time; the USSR was the first nation to put a man in orbit. The US did not intend to be upstaged again. After a few other visits to the moon, the last visit was in 1972. Numerous scientific advances resulted form this ambitious program, but since the last moon landing, no human or craft has ventured out from Low Earth Orbit.

Since that rather heady time, there has been Skylab and Mir and since 1982 or so, the Space Shuttle program. The Hubble Telescope was lifted to orbit in 1990; the pictures it takes are awe inspiring to say the least. Shortly though, the year 2010 will be upon us; it is time that we go back to taking large steps at a much faster pace then the speed of government.

This is not the moon of yore

On November 13, 2009, a probe deliberately collided with the moon. Though it didn’t detect a very large amount, water was still detected on the moon in the form of frozen particulate. This discovery has broad reaching implications. If there is water on the moon, it could be converted into drinking water as well as its energy potential regarding hydrogen extraction.

Upon being presented with the information from the mission, the best that our President could do was to make a sort of vague promise that we would go back to the moon ca. 2020 or so. Considering the state of our federal government at this time, that simply isn’t good enough.

Going back to the moon in 2020 is not a dynamic and forward thinking pledge at all; we need to be back there in force much sooner then that. This time it isn’t a Cold War space race; it is a needed goal for the future of the human race!!

Getting There – Private Enterprise or NASA?

Back in the time when we first went to the moon, such an endeavor was only really possible by governments with not a small boost from their military personnel. With the awarding of the Ansari X-Prize though, that may no longer be the case. Though a sub-orbital launch is not even Low Earth Orbit let alone a moon shot, private enterprise has shown that it is not only up to the task, it can do so with not only efficient cost but overall efficiency as well.

Despite the fact that NASA has outside help in its missions and projects (The Space Shuttle components were made by three large aerospace companies), it is still a governmental entity subject to the whims of funding as well as the attitudes of Congress. As with most any governmental agency, efficiency is not its highest priority; if there is a funding shortfall, it is the tax payers that produce the needed revenue.

Private enterprise does not have that capacity, though; this almost ensures that there will be a minimum of waste as well as an eye-on-the-prize mentality which would have a minimum of obfuscation.

There is a report due shortly upon the president’s desk which doesn’t paint a very rosy picture as far as NASA being able to even afford to go back to the moon, let alone Mars. There is a brutally simple way to get around this potential choke point. Cut NASA out of the loop!

The Cost of Getting to the Moon

It would be foolish to say that something of this scope would be cheap and inexpensive, at least in the initial start up stages; to quote a cost of billions of dollars wouldn’t be that far off of the mark. This is not to say that something like this could be implemented at NASA, but once this matter is politicized, the cost overruns and earmark slop will soon follow. If NASA can’t lead the way, they need to step aside for those who are capable of doing so.

This matter would best be addressed by placing it into the hands of private enterprise. The billions needed are there and in return, allow private enterprise to profit from the industries that come to be created as a result, from cargo/passenger transport to souvenir sales and tourist venues. To motivate the aforementioned, limited tax credits should be offered on what monies are invested. For those who would be ready to scream ‘unfair’, there is nothing ‘unfair’ about that incentive at all. Private enterprise would be investing a lot of money up front with returns on that investment most all long term in nature. They would also be taking all of the risks in that regard; cost overruns and mistakes and failures would come out of their own pockets; it would also be foolish to imagine this undertaking to be an error or a casualty free enterprise.

Flying to the Moon

Since the first launches into low Earth Orbit about fifty years ago, the standard way of doing things is to boost a payload into orbit using a rocket device. Even though they do work, they are a monument to sheer inefficiency as well as being inherently dangerous. They are limited in cargo capacity as well as their ability to transport passengers. A Theoretical/Extrapolative replacement will be discussed in my next post. Its tentative name is the Astroliner.

What would be the benefits of going back to the moon and why is it that the future of the human race is at stake?

The benefits of undertaking such a task would be near endless, but there is also the matter of the future of the human race to consider. Rather then use two separate sections to answer what is in essence a dual question, it is possible to be more concise in this format. Despite the fact that the human race has come a long way since we first came to dominance on the earth, we still have a long ways to go. The following is at best only a partial list of benefits as well as problems that could be alleviated once we are on the moon to stay:

- The world population stands at over six billion as of now; even though it is possible that the growth rate may slow down, it will not cease to be. As countries gain more population and become even more crowded, where will the human race go once the earth has too many people living on it to support them. Our only option is to move out into space. The moon would be only the first step to that goal: The Second Mass Diaspora. ( Future of our Race)

- One of the worst ills the human race suffers still is nationstatism. Nationstatism is not only a waste of resources, but contributes a lot to the various states of human misery on the planet. Perhaps once we make it to the moon, the nationstatism can be left on Earth. (Future of our Race)

- Once on the moon, a jumpstart could be applied to most all of the emerging fields of xenoscience. Humans would have another planetary mass to study along with the puzzles and new discoveries that would go with it. (Benefit)

- The largest percentage of fuel is used on a launch to escape the gravity well of Earth. Once on the moon, a shipyard could be constructed; craft launched form there would have no gravity well from which they would need to escape. (Mars or the Asteroid Belt anyone? (Benefit/Future of our Race)

- Perhaps as technology progresses, the moon could be terraformed to be made inhabitable over its entire surface. (Benefit/Future of our Race)

- As touched upon earlier, if private enterprise led the way back to the moon, then they would profit from moving passengers and cargo as well as the selling of memorabilia and other such tourist items. Imagine a Moon theme park with a zero gravity area or a xenogarden composed of what was found on the moon and revitalized. (Benefit)

As stated, the above is probably only a partial list and even then only the readily noticeable ones. The only question remains is this:

It isn’t as if we don’t have the needed technology and expertise to make this a reality. But will private enterprise be ready to step up to the plate if or when NASA/The Federal Government falters?

That remains to be seen

A Jaded Bard

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

An Open Letter to the GOP

It is now about 13 months since the 2008 elections. Not only did you lose the presidential election, the Democrats now have majorities in both the House and the Senate. Except for Sarah Palin resigning her Governor post and selling one million copies of her new book and some rather piecemeal objections to the Universal Health Care plan, there doesn’t seem to be that much activity at all from the GOP. Perhaps some of you are wondering where you went wrong while others are adding up the chits they own and the favors they are owed to see if they have any viability for 2012, but that is almost three years away. Your biggest concern right now should be 2010.

First off, you might ask ‘Who am I’? I am nothing more then average American citizen who once thought that the GOP represented change. I tore up my GOP registration card in 1988 when you allowed your party to be co-opted by the religious right and decided that the status quo was good enough. By doing so without producing any other ideas or either a viable candidate or platform, you lost the election in 1992 and in 1996. Since 1988, I have considered myself an Independent as far as party affiliation goes. There are quite a few of us out there with more being created in every election cycle (not just the presidential ones); we have decided that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans represent any sort of change at all, only statism in its most deadly ossified and stratified form. Many refer to the GOP as the Republican’t party while the Democrats are called the Demorats for good reason.. Know this and learn from it:

We will not blindly follow a candidate because someone decided to stick a ‘GOP’ tag upon them. The GOP decided not to define their party platform properly, echoing solely what the Democrat candidate promised us. (Look what we have now!) The GOP also did not present a viable candidate in 2008.

We will not support any such candidate as stated above. Perhaps if the American people had a real choice, they would vote with pride rather then acting as if they only took a lesser dose of poison.

Until you actually define yourselves as being Republican, not Democrat light, you can expect to lose more seats in the Congress.

The 2008 election was a joke. The economy was in a slump, but what did you do? Against a Democrat candidate that appeared youthful, vibrant and full of energy, you ran someone that looked old and tired and on his last legs. What in hell else did you expect? Didn’t you learn from 1996 at all? What is even more ludicrous was that John McCain wants to ‘fix Washington’. How exactly was he going to do that? The McCain/Kennedy Immigration bill not only would have provided the government with an endless income stream, it would have given the green light for even MORE illegals to cross into the USA. The fact is that Senator McCain has been a senator for over 20 years; to me, he seems to be part of the problem that needs fixing, not any sort of solution.

The way I see it, if you once more wish to hold power in Washington D.C. , you will need to first define your candidate as someone who actually believes in what they are saying and then define your party as an actual different choice then the Democrats. We, the people, are tired of hearing the same old garbage from BOTH parties as states’ rights are usurped by the federal government and our very basic enumerated freedoms are under a full scale attack. If you want the votes from the people like me, you will have to stand for something in which we can believe.

Defining a candidate shouldn’t be that hard, but the GOP made the same mistake in 2008 as they did in 1996. It is time to put the fossils out to pasture instead of digging up yet another one to run in 2012. You need a candidate that is dynamic, energetic and looks like they will get the job done. It is the time of the Baby Boomer regardless of what the old guard would like the people to believe.

Once you have defined your candidate in a proper manner, you will need to do something that will take a lot more work: You need to define your platform! This doesn’t mean that you recycle all of the vague promises that your opponent also supports; you come up with your own stances on issues that will set you apart. There is always some risk involved, but at times risks must be taken even if the rewards are not immediately forthcoming. The time for taking a stand is NOW!

There are a number of pressing issues that confront the USA with challenges and potential pitfalls, but now isn’t the time for half measures. How can The GOP define its platform? Here are some ideas.

Support HR25 (This would reap the most benefits)

When you think about it in the broad scope of things, taxing Capital and Labor is pretty stupid unless your desire is to mask actual spending. All that taxes on Capital and Labor will do is drive them out of the USA to Offshore Financial Corporations or to other countries where the tax is lower. Our current tax system is a morass of rules and regulations so obfuscatory that even tax preparation companies have difficulty navigating through the maze. The costs of compliance with the current tax code are ruinous. The current system not only is an incentive for people to cheat, in some ways, it encourages the practice. Why should a taxpayer pay 36% tax on capital gains in the USA when they can pay 5% tax with an OFC? A consumption tax in place of the mess we have now is business friendly and with the Capital Gains tax at 0%, the USA becomes the place where money is invested. With the money flowing back into the USA, the cash crisis will be solved in short order. When the voters see more money in their paychecks, they will be quick to remember who was responsible.

Take the SSI pay-in receipts out of the hands of Congress and Stop taxing SSI Benefits

When a politician goes on record saying that such and such an action will affect the Social Security lockbox/ trust fund, it makes them look very stupid. The SSI pay-ins that are supposed to fund Social Security are spent as soon as they are received; it has been that way since 1968. Since that time, those receipts have been used to mask actual spending at the government level. Furthermore, taxing Social Security is taxing a tax that was already levied; that is double taxation.

Support a REAL Illegal Immigration solution

From 1892 to 1954, Ellis Island processed ca. 200,000 immigrants a year and that was using analog technology. With the technology we now have, we could easily process far more then that number on an annual basis. This would be the basis of a new US Immigration policy called Open/Controlled Immigration. Quotas will be tossed into the garbage while native born Canadians will get an express immigration route into the USA (They already speak English.) The other aspect of this new policy would be to completely seal off the US-Mexico border to stop the criminal element. The Ellis Island styled Immigration Processing Centers would kill off almost all incentive to illegally enter the USA. They will enter this country anyways, so this is a means of not only letting them enter legally, we will KNOW who is entering. (We really have no idea at all at the moment who is entering the USA.) A solution to this issue will have to be politically neutral if it has any chance of becoming law. The full details are here:

Become and advocate for States’ Rights (Another Hot Button Topic)

There is a seemingly endless list of powers that should be in the realm of the states that have been usurped by the Federal Government. The U.S. Constitution specifically defines the powers that the Federal Government possesses. The Tenth Amendment then reads as follows: (Hopefully you DO remember there is a Constitution?)

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

It is rather simple in its wording, but there is much beyond that simplicity. If you take a look at the Federal Government these days, you can easily find examples of usurped powers that do not belong to the Federal Government at all. Some examples:

- Gay Marriage (Not listed as a Federal Power)

- Abortion (Not listed as a Federal Power)

- Education (That includes the Federal Dept. of Education; this is a STATE’S right!)

- The ownership of land beyond that which is needed to fulfill the Federal Government’s purpose.(That land belongs to the states in where the land exists.)

To attempt to use the U.S. Constitution for the purposes of banning Gay Marriage is obscene and represents a violation of the tenets upon which this country was founded. The massive waste of money resulting from these usurped powers should also give you notice that it sorely needs repair.

In conclusion, perhaps instead of generating even more disgust amongst the electorate, you should think of constructive ways to harness that disgusted electorate to once more become the Republicans versus the Republicant’s.

Any and all commentary is welcomed regarding this post.

A Jaded Bard

Before you reform my health care, reform my government first....

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