Junk in Spaaace 2--removal method one: Foam balls!

Looks like the UARS satellite pretty much ditched into the ocean, despite the Twitter rumor that the satellite crashed in the Canadian town of Okotoks.

So sorry to my friend, who lost the 1 in who-knows-how-many chance that the satellite would take out her roof, causing NASA to expends some chump change to fix her a new house ("Would $300,000 do ma'am?  Pull that out of the discretionary funds, Lewis, and make sure she signs the "It wasn't Obama's fault/I support government space" disclosure.)
But never fear!  Your chance may come again!  According to the European Space Agency, there are thousands of defunct satellites just puttering around waiting for their turn at firey demise:
Between 1957 and 2008, approximately 4600 launches have placed some 6000 satellites into orbit. Among these, about 400 were launched beyond Earth into interplanetary trajectories, but of the remaining ones only about 800 are operational. This means that roughly 85% of space objects belong to the uncontrolled satellite class, namely dead spacecrafts.
The ESA has proposed giving these guys a helping this case a "helping" satellite to coat the derelict one in spray foam.

 The idea is that the foam increases its area, causing atmospheric drag which slows it down and eventually causes it to plunge to the earth.  They would launch a satellite filled with this foam, and it would spray defunct satellites.  The resulting ball-shaped objects would then get pulled slowly and naturally back to earth. 10 to 25 years.

So, it's an easy method, but not an especially fast one.  Of course, it's faster than what's going on now.  (Many of these satellites will take centuries to deorbit.)  The method itself calls for a relatively simple spacecraft, and there's no need to control the descent of the satellite itself.  You're not adding any more equipment to the satellite, like a sail to slow it down, so there's less threat of collision between the defunct craft and the deorbiter and less stuff to become space junk should the deorbit fail.

Of course, people are concerned that the deorbiter craft might cause space junk itself; it might break the craft while trying to grapple to it for the foaming process, or the foam itself might be a problem.  And, of course, there's the natural suspicion that this might not just get used on defunct satellites.

You can read more abut this on an ESA PDF available online.  Next time, I have a treat for you:  A very cool anime exploring the idea of humans collecting space trash.

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Junk in Spaaaaace!

Somehow, I don't think those free crack repair places are up to this job.
Last week, we talked about space junk, how much there is and why it's a problem.  I think the photo above kind of sums that up.  This is the seventh shuttle mission's windshield after getting hit by pea-sized debris at about 15,000 miles per hour.  And you thought hitting a bird with your car was bad!

LDEF.  Kind of looks like a trailer in space, doesn't it?
Fortunately, space junk does not act like the common animal who just has to cross the road in front of that big shiny thing. However, satellites do get hit by miniscule stuff all the time.  NASA sent up a satellite to study this problem--the LDEF.  It was hit millions of times in eight years in orbit, but stayed operational.  (Some of the impacts could only been seen through an electron microscope, to give some perspective.)

So we can agree this is not an optimal situation.  In truth, for the most part, active satellites and space missions are relatively safe.  But the problem is increasing.  In fact in less than three years, the amount of space debris increased by 50 percent, mainly because of two incidents:  the Chinese testing of an anti-satellite weapon, and the crash of an Iridium satellite with a defunct Russian Satellite that together added nearly 5000 pieces of trackable space junk.  (from High Frontier article in Feb 2010)  So what do we do now--and what will we do later--about this problem?

1. Shields.  We need these anyway because of all the naturally occurring space debris--micrometeoroids and dust.  The most common shielding, as I'd mentioned before, are thin strips of aluminum or other material.  The reason these work is because of the speed it's hitting.  When the debris hits, there's so much energy in the force that it  flares into plasma and spreads across the shield.  Thus, you can use a lighter material, and have more layers, and it protects as well as the heavy material.
Here's a shield being tested at NASA.  It uses Kevlar

2. Avoidance.  Air Force Space Command tracks the orbital debris that's bigger than two inches.  (Rob did this for awhile.)  They put out reports and warn NASA and others when a piece of debris looks to be in danger of hitting a functioning satellite.  A more accurate space radar, called the "Space Fence" is in development to better track even smaller pieces of debris.  Of course, other nations do this as well...but we do it best.  (Here's a link to Space Command's website, but it's a 2006 page, so the data is OLD.)
3. Get out of the way!  Satellites, manned vehicles and even the ISS have maneuvering power and fuel planned for collision avoidance maneuvers.  NASA, for example, uses a 1 mile by 30 mile by 30 mile "pizza box" zone around the shuttle.  If something is going to enter that zone, they plan for a maneuver.  Problem is, while it only takes a couple of hours to plan a move on the shuttle, it takes 30 hours to plan and execute one by the ISS if they need the Russian rockets.  (Remember in July, Atlantis nudged it out of the way while docking.)  If they can't plan in time, they prep for collision and hang out in the Soyuz escape pods until the all clear.
4.  Clean up!  This is the one we're working on now.  There are several ideas for cleanup of space junk., and we'll hit on those in another blog.

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Space Industry Profile: SpaceX, part 1

So, I'm a little bit of a commercial space fangirl.

One of my first posts was about the possible abandoning of the International Space Station because the Russian resupply rocket failed.  In it, I suggested that they move SpaceX's schedule up and get the Dragon to send up the relief crew.  Good news is that the Russians have fixed the problem and will send a relief crew up Nov 12, so it'll be "business as usual" for the ISS.  "Bad news" is I might have been a little over-optimistic in my assessment of SpaceX's abilities.

So I thought I'd do a little research on SpaceX.

SpaceX was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, who created PayPal and sold it to eBay for 1.5 billion dollars in stock.  He's using his wealth to develop launch vehicles and capsules to send humans as well as supplies into space.  (As opposed to just launching satellites, for example, although their rockets can do that, too.)  In addition to commercial funds, they have some NASA funding through the COTS program--which is Commercial Orbital Transportation Services.  Essentially NASA awarded some commercial companies money to develop technology.  SpaceX got $278 million dollars.  That seems a lot, but consider that the Space Shuttle cost $450/mission.  The Russians charge $47 million per seat on Soyuz (according to a SpaceX press release) and that's going up to $66.3 million per seat in 2014, according to NASA.  SpaceX intends to get this price to $20 million per seat.

Yeah, that's pretty ambitious, but if they even get close, wow!

So how do they plan on doing this?  First, they claim to cut costs by doing the entire manufacturing in-house.  In other words, they don't subcontract to other companies for their parts.  They say this not only keeps cost down but also allows gives them better quality control.  (Of course, one of the arguments against this is that they aren't benefiting from established companies that have decades of experience building rocket parts, and some people, such as Loren Thompson, a commentator for Forbes, believes they increase their risks for failure this way. They're also banking on being able to reuse most of their rockets, and (a big contributor!) cutting down on bureaucracy.  Since they aren't a government contractor, they are already way ahead on this!

So far, SpaceX has three rockets:

Falcon 1:  This is a liquid fueled rocket (using rocket-grade kerosene) and can carry 1000kg of payload into low earth orbit.  The price on their website for the service is $10 million. That's actually a small payload, BTW.    Get details here:

Falcon 9:  This is their medium-lift spacecraft, with nine engines.  It can take payloads to LEO (Low Earth Orbit) or GTO (Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit).  This is the one that will service the International Space Station.  It can take 10,450 kg into LEO and 4,450 kg into GTO when launched from Cape Canaveral, with an estimated price per launch of $54 to $60 million.

The Falcon Heavy is the biggest rocket in the world, as far as payload ability, and is able to carry 53,000 kg into LEO.  The estimated price is $80 to $125 million per launch.

The Dragon:  This is SpaceX's capsule which will carry supplies and people to the International Space Station (or if anybody else builds a station, orbiting hotel, or (I surmise) for tourists wanting to go up, orbit and come down).  They are also designing it for carrying experiments. One thing I thought was smart in the design is that the unmanned and manned capsules are similar, so that they are easy to interchange and so that they could test manned capabilities while doing unmanned missions.  (From their website:  "To ensure a rapid transition from cargo to crew capability, the cargo and crew configurations of Dragon are almost identical, with the exception of the crew escape system, the life support system and onboard controls that allow the crew to take over control from the flight computer when needed.")

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Falling Satellites and orbiting Space Junk

Look out below!

This is a great video.  Despite the enthusiastic introduction, where it describes the pieces shrieking to the earth, it does give some perspective: about one satellite a year falls to the Earth, and even with the UARS satellite not having fuel to control its descent, you have about a one in 3600 chance of getting hit. They expect about 26 pieces, the largest being around 300 pounds, to make it through the atmosphere--but it's all guesswork at this point. (My friend is actually hoping her house gets hit--she's mightily sick of her dilapidated house.  Can you imagine trying to convince your insurance that "satellite impact" is covered under your homeowners?)
Hyuk hyuk.  I just sold her the satellite impact policy.  What a maroon!
Because the satellite has no fuel left, it can't control its descent, and no one's quite sure where it will come down, so take an umbrella with you on the 23rd just in case.  (And have your cell phone camera charged!)

Anyway, this is a good time to address the issue of Space Junk.  Spcce junk is a pretty simple concept:  we lunch stuff into orbit, and not all of it comes back to earth or goes out into space.  Not only is the useful stuff up there, but the defunct stuff (satellites like the UARS that run out of fuel or malfunction); broken bits from collissions, even little flecks of stuff.

It's all potentially bad news.  Size is not as much an issue when you're traveling 17,000 mph. Back in the 80s, pea sized paint chip once impacted the windshield of the space shuttle.  It put a gouge in it.  During the last flight of the shuttle Atlantis, the ISS was in danger of being hit by a piece of a broken Soviet satellite--the docking of the Atlantis nudged the station just enough for a miss.  Even when lives are not threatened, satellites still have to maneuver at times to avoid junk.  Spacecraft ofteh have multiple layers of thin aluminum shielding.  It actually works better than a thick piece of metal.

So how much is out there?  According to NASA scientist Nicholas Johnson, there are roughly 22,000 objects bigger than 4 inches (some as big as car-sized rocket boosters weighing 9 tons), and perhaps 500,000 smaller ones, down to 0.4 inches across, in orbit.  (taken from USA TODAY--definitely go check this article out.)

Here's what it looks like in space.  Keep in mind that the dots are not to scale and space, as the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy says, "is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space..."  However, as we add more stuff and stuff bumps into stuff and stuff breaks into smaller stuff and well, stuff happens, this will become an even more serious problem.

So what are we doing about it?  That's another blog.

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Events in Spaaaace!

In the news...

Blue Origin's spacecraft failed during a test launch on September 2.  It didn't get a lot of news, in part because Blue Origin isn't being especially public about its endeavors yet.  The spacecraft was to go suborbital on this flight, and at 45,000 feet started going unstable and they had to destroy it.  Blue Origin is one of the commercial space industries vying to supply the ISS and to promote manned spaceflight.  It was founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.  (Glad to see those millions are going to something.)
Sometimes a a rocket?
NASA Astronauts to return today:  (Note, this was written on 9/14).  So there will be three astronauts on the ISS until the Russians send up a crew on November 12.  I'm not sure when the next three are going up, but the remaining crew is supposed to come down in the end of November.
(From right) Commander Andrey Borisenko and Flight Engineers Alexander Samokutyaev and Ron Garan
Star Ripping Its Planet Apart.  'K, the "Death Star" reference is a stretch, IMHO, but it's very cool that we can see so far so well that we can tell that this star's magnetic field is tearing the planet apart.  Check out the video:

Oh, Look.  NASA isn't getting out of the rocket business after all:  The Obama Administration has unveiled its plans to build a huge liquid fueled rocket.  Now NASA says they want this to get to Mars and the asteroid belt, but I'm going to have to get some explanation on this because...

1.  Didn't Obama cancel a rocket program already in development?
2.  Didn't Obama say they were going to leave the space lift side to commercial interests and let NASA concentrate on developing technologies and furthering space exploration?  (Note this rocket is going "back to the future" with current technology.)
3.  Given NASA's track record on cost overruns and, well, the history of CANCELING programs in motion, is it really a good idea to have the government start producing a rocket that is, by nature, even more complex than the one they just scrapped because of production trouble and cost overruns?  Especially when it's "scheduled" to begin TEST launches in 6 years--plenty of time for the next president to come in and slash it.
Chicks dig giant rockets...but not government programs!
I'll be doing some research on solid, liquid, and hybrid fueled rockets for the blog later.

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Pulling Gs and Mercury Shielding, readers ask

Once in a while, I plan on answering questions posed by my friends or followers--right now, you are one and the same.  Hi, guys!  And since Rob hasn't gotten me a list of things I should study about space to get spun up on the industry, I thought I'd tackle a few of those today from my friend Theresa:

Do astronauts feel the break from the atmosphere or from gravity?

No, they don't.  In order to break out of the atmosphere and the pull of gravity, they need to be speeding away from the earth at a great velocity.  That acceleration puts a lot of force on them, so much we measure it by how many times the earth's gravity the force is, or Gs.  The Apollo astronauts felt around 4Gs before they broke free of the Earth's gravity; the Space Shuttle pulls 3gs.  By the time the acceleration stops, they will go from that to weightlessness.  Note: the human body can stand about 10Gs before passing out, with training.  Fighter pilots have special suits to help them withstand the g-force. 
Pulling 6Gs, baby!  What a ride!

What do you know about Mercury as a shield against radiation?

Uh, nothing until tonight!  In fact, I was able to find very little about it on the internet, but I did discover one study by physicists in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, that being an interested amateur and not a scientist, I half understood and kind of skimmed over, but you gotta love the conclusion section!  They essentially experimented with liquid mercury as an addition to standard lead shielding.  They found that lead shielding did a significant amount all by itself--no surprise there--but that the mercury stopped another 10 to 15 percent of gamma radiation.  So from 2.3 cps to .00079cps.  CPS is counts per second as measured on a Geiger counter. 

Little perspective here:  1.6 cps is about 1 microservient/hour.  The average American gets 6,200 microservients of background radiation a year--or about .7cps.  Of course, in space, radiation is a LOT more dangerous, and spikes of radiation, like solar flares, can kill you.

So looking at this as an amateur space geek, this could be a good thing for spaceship shielding.  In theory.  The trouble is that mercury itself is very toxic, so it has its own dangers.  Also, it stays a liquid at room temperature, and freezes at -38 F/-39C.  Since I couldn't find anything that looked at its shielding powers as a solid, that would have to be looked into.  However, I think its toxicity is probably keeping it from being explored much as a shielding material.  Just imagine if the ship blew up on liftoff!

Danger, Will Robinson!  Don't spray that on Florida!

I did find this article about a nanofiber they're developing as a lightweight alternative to heavy shielding.  I'll report on it another day, and see if there's been any progress:  I'll do an article on shielding. (As a fun aside, I have magnetic shields in Discovery, which was fun to play with, from having to have counterharmonics when you crossed a shield to dock to how the viewscreens looked when you really saw what was out there and not the computer-sanitized version.)

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NASA Launches Mission to Gravity Map the Moon

This week's "current" event comes from NASA, which launched its GRAIL mission on September 10. Here's a video of the launch. It's awesome to watch, and I love the sound of the rocket engines. (Frankly, that's my favorite part of being in the Air Force, too; living on or near a base and hearing the jet engines. Air Power--rrroawr!)

GRAIL stands for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, and really what NASA hopes to do is make a gravity map of the moon. GRAIL consists of two satellites that will fly the exact same orbits, one following the other. As the composition of the moon changes, whether because they are overflying a mountain or something beneath the surface is more massive than the stuff around it, one satellite's orbit will be affected slightly. By recording the differences, they'll be able to better figure out the composition of the moon.

Scientists believe this can also help us understand other planets as well; sadly, the video doesn't really say what or how. However, the key lies in the fact that the moon has no atmosphere, so it holds an accurate history of the past 4.5 million years of our universe. If we know what's inside the moon, we know what's been around, when and what it did. For example, did you know the moon isn't round? It actually has a bump on the far side. In fact, there's one theory that earth had two moons once upon a time and that one hit the other. A gravity map might shed some light on this and other questions.

My friend Virginia (and that's her actual name this time) asks, "Why are they taking months to get there? Are they driving?" Those who remember the Apollo missions know that we got to the moon in a matter of days, but the GRAIL probes will take three and a half months.

Are we there yet?

Not driving, but they are trying to save on fuel. Unlike when you drive on earth, the direct route from A to B isn't always the most fuel-efficient. That's partly because as the satellites are moving, so is their target, but mostly because you want to be able to slow down and get into orbit. Slowing down takes a lot of fuel, and the spacecraft don't have it. So they make use of a nifty astronomical feature called a LaGrange point.

The LaGrange point is a kind of null space, gravitationally. If you put something there, it will stay there. So NASA is using that to help slow the satellites down. I couldn't find a good explanation for how this works, but my guess is that it gives the ships time to coast, and they can make fewer course changes and don't have to use as much power to slow down to get into lunar orbit. Also, it takes a less powerful rocket to send something up to the LaGrange point than it does to get to the moon.

The other thing it does is give the satellites time to "out-gas." Gas gets caught in the spacecrafts, even on the molecular level, and will sublimate in vacuum. They need the satellites to do this first to make sure they get accurate readings when mapping the moon. You can find fuller details here:

For further reading:

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Abandon the ISS? Maybe not

When you talk to people about manned space, they usually think of two things:  the space shuttle and the International Space Station (ISS).  (Check out the newscast from 1981!  I was a Freshman in high school.  Wow.  Got to love the reporter comment at 1:30:  "It seems like NASA is just one giant acronym."  er...)

Now the shuttle has retired after 30 years of hauling, and without a viable American replacement ready, space-lovers are nervous.  (The commercial replacements are expected to be manned-ready around 2015.  SpaceX with its Dragon capsule and Boeing with the CST-100 are the closest, I believe, though Sierra Nevada, and Blue Origin are also working on their own versions.)  However, at least the ISS was still operating, right?

Then the Russians lost the Soyuz and the space world went into a spin.  The Russians were set to keep the ISS manned and resupplied with it's Soyuz capsules, which they launch from their Progress rockets.  However, the last mission--the first after the shuttle retirement--had problems.  The rocket's third stage failed, and the capsule ended up in crashing in Siberia.  Since then, the news has been proclaiming that we'd have to abandon the ISS.

Now, however, it looks like that's not as likely as we'd thought. The Russian space agency, Roscosmos says they found the problem--a clogged fuel line--and are checking their other rockets for the problem.  They're of course also calling for tighter quality control, which should be a big duh.  However, according to the commission's report (quoted in Universe Today), this defect was an accident.  So, it looks like they will be able to get a new team up in time.
Ouch! Our bad--we fix soon!

Here's the schedule as near as I've been able to piece it together:
 *There are 6 crewmen on the ISS right now.  Three are to come home September 16.  That's a week later than planned, and they are using one of the emergency Soyuz vehicles on the station.  I believe the reason they are coming down then and not just hanging around is that the Soyuz capsules have a "shelf life" and if they wait any longer, they risk the capsule malfunctioning on return.
* The other three crewmen--an American (Mike Fossum), a Russian (Sergie Volkov) and a Japanese (Satoshi Furukawa), are planning on staying until mid-November.
* There are two scheduled Soyuz flights for October 8 and Oct 26.  They might move these up to test fixes to the Progress Rocket.

So if the test flights go well, we might be able to get astronauts to the ISS in time to keep it manned.

What happens if we don't?  NASA ground control is looking to see what shut down procedures they need to do to keep the station safe and ready for astronauts once the Progress rockets are ready.  The crew on the ISS are making video tutorials for the systems in case they don't get to brief the next crew.  (Frankly, this sounds like it should have been SOP to me, anyway.)  So, it looks like we might lose some experiments that need watching, and if anything malfunctions and no one is there to fix it, we could have problems, but the station itself will be there, waiting and ready for brave men and women to call it home again.

One thing I'm not sure about and have not seen addressed is what impact this will have on the commercial space side.  SpaceX is supposed to send an unmanned Dragon capsule up on Nov 30 as it's next step toward becoming a viable supporter of the station, but if no one is there to get it, I don't think they can launch.  It's too bad they aren't a little closer to manned.  From the utter lack of silence about them jumping in to "rescue" the station, I'm guessing that even Elon Musk doesn't feel ready to fly humans just yet.  It's too bad.  What a story that would have been!
Dragon to the rescue!  Maybe in a couple of years...

For More Info:

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Shuttle Moves Out; Others Move In

Once a week, I plan on summarizing a current event article about space.  Since we were talking about the industry still being alive and well, I thought this article fit nicely:  "At Florida Spaceports, Commercial Operators Prepare To Move In," Space News, August 19, 2011.

Ground breaking ceremonies for SpaceX’s new Falcon 9 rocket launch facilities at Space Launch Complex 40, Cape Canaveral, Florida.
(from left) Thad Altman, Florida State Representative; Jeff Kottkamp, Florida State Lt. Governor; Elon Musk, Founder and CEO, Space Exploration Technologies; Brigadier General Susan Helms, Commander, 45th Space Wing, United States Air Force; Lynda Weatherman, Brevard County Economic Development Commission CEO/President; Steve Koehler, President of Space Florida; Janet Petro, Deputy Director NASA Kennedy Space Center; Patricia Grace Smith, FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation; Steve Cain, NASA Kennedy Space Center COTS project manager. Credit: Jim Campbell, Aero-News Network.
Photo and names taken from SpaceX website.  

Space X is setting up housekeeping at Cape Canaveral, upgrading an old Delta II processing hanger to launch thier Falcon Nines. They've renamed it Hangar X. (Got a theme going.) They'll also tune up a payload processing and integration facility for the Dragon capsule. They have a goal of launching 12 rockets a year by 2015. That's pretty ambitious, not just for the logistics but also finding the business. But how cool would that be?

There's also talk of Boeing taking up residence in some of the facilities to service their own Crew Space Transport capsule. (They need naming lessons from SpaceX.)

So while the Shuttle program has ended, new programs begin. The question is now: How soon, folks? How soon until Cape Canaveral is launching humans again?

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Yes, Virginia, There is a Space Industry

What could be more representative of the American space program? Yet  it is so much more!

When I told one of my friends that I was creating a blog about the space industry, she asked, "Is there a space industry after Obama killed NASA?"

First, let's assume for this article, we're talking about manned space and exploration, rather than the thriving industry of putting satellites into orbit so we can get better cell phone reception.

She's referring to Obama's 2010 budget proposal that cancelled the Constellation program, which was supposed to replace the space shuttle and eventually get us to the moon (2020.)  Here's an article in Discovery about it.  And another in Scientific American.  This might indeed seem a death knell for space, or at least for manned space, but there are several things to consider.

First, the Constellation program was already overbudget and experiencing a lot of technical problems.  (Universe  Today reported in Feb 1, 2010, "Also, its estimate costs through 2015 have risen from $28 billion in 2006 to $44 billion today.")  There was also doubts about it being able to meet its deadlines of manned flight by 2015 and the moon by 2020.

What about the shuttle?  It was simply at the end of its life.  The technology was so old, that to repair the shuttle, NASA was having to search the Internet for spare parts.  President Bush actually canceled the shuttle program because we couldn't physically support the craft any longer.  

However, at the same time that President Obama called for the cancellation of the program, he recommended increasing NASA's budget for it to concentrate on other things--increasing the life of the ISS, promoting innovation and technologies, and exploring further on.   As columnist Phil Plait said, "NASA can concentrate on what it should: innovation, pushing the limits, paving the road. Once the road is laid, let others use it."

So, are there others to use the road?  Let's start with the fact that the ISS is International, and other nations have been servicing it, including the European Space Agency and the Russians, who are--or rather were--flying the astronauts to the station when the Shuttle wasn't.  (They recently had trouble with their Soyuz capsules, and now we're not sure we will keep astronauts on the station--weep!--but that's another story.)  So the space industry as a whole will continue, even if NASA died, which it isn't.

In addition, American commercial space is growing--and Obama has given it a nice void to fill.  There are already many companies striving to fulfill the dream of manned space:
  • Armadillo Aerospace (suborbital focused)
  • Bigelow 
  • Blue Origin (suborbital focused)
  • Boeing
  • Orbital
  • Sierra Nevada Corp
  • Space X
  • United Launch Alliance (serves the military; not sure they're looking at manned)
  • Virgin Galactic (suborbital focused)

(Rob gave me this list.  If we missed any, let me know.)  There are also a lot of budding industries to build the craft, make the fuel, create the engines, etc.

Later this week, I'll share an article about how some of these companies are already moving into Cape Canaveral (or negotiating to).  But for now, the answer to my friend's question is, "Yes, Virginia, there still is a space industry."

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft after its test mission.

* Since I have a follower named Virginia, I'd like to state for the record that she did not ask this, but I could not resist the play off the title.

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What am I doing and why?

(Just a note: I have no idea how to remove that box and "Undefined" interfering with the title.  I downloaded this awesome shell, so if any HTML guru knows how to fix it, I'll be your BFF!)

Welcome to Rocket Science for the Rest of Us.  (Thanks, Becca Butcher for the excellent title!)  This blog is going to be a mad, ADD-style mishmash of layman-level articles about the space industry--everything from weekly news to how a VASIMR rocket works to some sci-fi.  If I can, I'll get some interviews from folks in the industry, too.  I plan on posting at least once a week; more if something excites my interest.

My friends who know me probably wonder why in the 'verse I'd even consider making a new blog.  I'm always at least writing a book, editing another, teaching classes, working for the CWG, marketing my books--and then there are the four children who are the stars of my life and my incredibly brilliant, loving and patient husband, Rob.

I'm going to sound hopelessly old-fashioned here, but Rob is the main reason I'm doing this.  He's coming to the end of his military career, and rather than seeing it as an end, he's seeing the exciting new beginning.  He's worked military space and missiles; now he's ready to fulfill his dream of being part of the movement to get Man in space--and he sees that promise in the commercial space industry.  I share his interest and excitement, but I do not share his knowledge--my focus has been elsewhere.  I know enough to have light conversation and to ask intelligent questions, but I'm not satisfied with doing that anymore.  Also, while I feel absolutely no pressure to "talk shop" with other officers when we go to functions on base, I do want to be able to hold conversations with folks at SpaceX or Bigelow that go beyond, "This is so cool!" or "Hi!  I write about dragons."  I want to be the arm candy that talk space.

Arm Candy - Good thing he likes the big sizes!

But that's not the only reason.  I just finished my first sci-fi novel, Discovery.  I had a great time with it, but it was a learning curve, science-wise.  I'd like to write more sci-fi, so I need to get smarter.  And, as a writer, I love to share what I learn.  

Also, I've had a real love-hate relationship with blogging.  As many of you know, my primary blog is FabianSpace, and it's devoted to my writing.  I usually write about my novel's journey, or a book tour I'm holding or I interview another author...  The typical writer's blog.  It's fine enough for people who are interested in what I personally am writing, but I want to reach more than that.  However, I don't want to re-invent the wheel by writing on a topic that's already got scores of others writing about--how to write, how to market, book reviews, etc.  I was about to give up when a friend drew me in to a commentsation on SciFi Catholic about commercial space and I realized I could blog that, be interested and it's not overdone.  So you can also thank/blame Doug Davidson, Walt Staples and Sophie's Favorite.

Finally, I do my best work knowing I owe someone a product.  I've been saying for ages that I really need to study this stuff, but something gets in the way--dragons or psychotic psychics or zombies.  Now, I have to produce something once a week for this blog.

So!  Let's get started!  I'd really appreciate any comments or feedback.  What do you want to know? What great links do you have to share?  What are your feelings about humankind going into space?

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