Category Archives: Space

Gravity on Von Braun Station

I have been reading about Wernher von Braun's work with Disney on popularizing the idea of spaceflight with the public. He was a genius at marketing and a tireless champion for space flight. In addition to his television work, he also gave numerous speeches to any group that would listen. I smile as I think about my high‑school physics teacher beaming with pride when he spoke of von Braun arriving in a helicopter to speak to local physics teachers about space and flying to the moon. My physics teacher could not remember the details of what von Braun spoke about, but his entrance and exit in a helicopter made a huge impression on a town of 1800 people! Continue reading

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Number of Space Travelers

I was watching physicist Michio Kaku on CSPAN last Sunday night talking about his new book The Future of Humanity. I like watching authors speak on CSPAN because they provide an extended interview format for authors. In this interview, the interviewer Brian Lamb mentioned a factoid as part of a question that I thought was worth investigating. Continue reading

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Smallest Rocket to Put Payload Into Earth Orbit

I just read a news article about Japan launching a 3 kg satellite into orbit using a 9.7-meter-long, two-stage rocket called the SS-520 (Figure 1). The 9.7 meter length was interesting to me because I recalled an Air & Space magazine article from 1999 that stated that the smallest rocket capable of achieving Earth orbit would be "about 30 feet long." Since 9.7 meters is 31.8 feet long, it appears that Japan's SS-520 is very near the lower size limit for rocket that can put an object into Earth orbit. Continue reading

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Torpedo Engine Technology for a Venus Space Probe?

I just finished reading an interesting article on a NASA proposal for a Venus space probe that uses power generation technology developed for a US Navy torpedo program back in the 1980s. Like many spacecraft, torpedoes need power generation systems that are small, generate massive power for a short period, and must be storable for years with the ability to turn on almost instantly with high reliability. Continue reading

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Equatorial Rocket Launch Advantage

Putting a satellite into orbit requires that you impart a velocity of ~17,000 mph to the satellite. Because the Earth is rotating, its surface velocity gives you a head start on achieving orbital velocity when you launch toward the east – the direction of the Earth's rotation. The closer you move your launch site to the equator, the more velocity you get from the Earth's rotation. Continue reading

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