SpaceX Super Heavy / Starship Environmental Assessment Report

We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming.
— Wernher von Braun

SpaceX is in the process of developing a completely reusable two-stage super-heavy class orbital launch vehicle called Super Heavy / Starship.  This is the latest iteration in an evolving design which has previously been called the Mars Colonial Transporter, Interplanetary Transport System, and Big Falcon Rocket (BFR).  The present design (which continues to evolve) specifies a payload to low Earth orbit (LEO) between 100 and 150 tonnes.  This compares to the 140 tonnes to LEO of the Saturn V which was, of course, completely expendable.  The Super Heavy/Starship will be, if built to the current design, the largest and most powerful rocket ever, with a lift-off thrust of 62 meganewtons (MN), compared to 35.1 MN for the Saturn V.... [Read More]

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The “Trump Heat Wave” of 2019 Falls Ten Degrees Short of the “FDR Heat Wave” of 1936

Think Progress beats the drums of climate change by warning of a “Trump Heat Wave:”

Most of the country is entering into the first few hours of a blistering heat wave that will extend well into the weekend.

Dangerous combinations of high temperatures and humidity will push the “heat index” (what the temperature “feels like”) past 100 degrees Fahrenheit from the Dakotas down to Texas and across to Maine and Florida, an area encompassing well over half of the country’s population.

But as countless studies have made clear, the kind of extreme heat waves this country, Europe, and elsewhere have been experiencing this summer and last have been made more intense and more likely thanks to human caused global warming.

Even worse, if we fail to significantly curb emissions of carbon pollution — which is the current plan put forth by President Donald Trump’s climate policies — then these severe and deadly heatwaves will become the normal summer weather over the next few decades.

What Think Progress conveniently forgets is that the “FDR Heat Waves” of the 1930s were far worse.

Continue reading “The “Trump Heat Wave” of 2019 Falls Ten Degrees Short of the “FDR Heat Wave” of 1936″

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Book Review: Michoud Assembly Facility

“Michoud Assembly Facility” by Cindy Donze MantoIn March, 1763, King Louis XV of France made a land grant of 140 square kilometres to Gilbert Antoine St Maxent, the richest man in Louisiana Territory and commander of the militia. The grant required St Maxent to build a road across the swampy property, develop a plantation, and reserve all the trees in forested areas for the use of the French navy. When the Spanish took over the territory five years later, St Maxent changed his first names to “Gilberto Antonio” and retained title to the sprawling estate. In the decades that followed, the property changed hands and nations several times, eventually, now part of the United States, being purchased by another French immigrant, Antoine Michoud, who had left France after the fall of Napoleon, who his father had served as an official.

Michoud rapidly established himself as a prosperous businessman in bustling New Orleans, and after purchasing the large tract of land set about buying pieces which had been sold off by previous owners, re-assembling most of the original French land grant into one of the largest private land holdings in the United States. The property was mostly used as a sugar plantation, although territory and rights were ceded over the years for construction of a lighthouse, railroads, and telegraph and telephone lines. Much of the land remained undeveloped, and like other parts of southern Louisiana was a swamp or, as they now say, “wetlands”.... [Read More]

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Saturday Night Science: The Case for Space

“The Case for Space” by Robert ZubrinFifty years ago, with the successful landing of Apollo 11 on the Moon, it appeared that the road to the expansion of human activity from its cradle on Earth into the immensely larger arena of the solar system was open. The infrastructure built for Project Apollo, including that in the original 1963 development plan for the Merritt Island area could support Saturn V launches every two weeks. Equipped with nuclear-powered upper stages (under active development by Project NERVA, and accommodated in plans for a Nuclear Assembly Building near the Vehicle Assembly Building), the launchers and support facilities were more than adequate to support construction of a large space station in Earth orbit, a permanently-occupied base on the Moon, exploration of near-Earth asteroids, and manned landings on Mars in the 1980s.

But this was not to be. Those envisioning this optimistic future fundamentally misunderstood the motivation for Project Apollo. It was not about, and never was about, opening the space frontier. Instead, it was a battle for prestige in the Cold War and, once won (indeed, well before the Moon landing), the budget necessary to support such an extravagant program (which threw away skyscraper-sized rockets with every launch), began to evaporate. NASA was ready to do the Buck Rogers stuff, but Washington wasn’t about to come up with the bucks to pay for it. In 1965 and 1966, the NASA budget peaked at over 4% of all federal government spending. By calendar year 1969, when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon, it had already fallen to 2.31% of the federal budget, and with relatively small year to year variations, has settled at around one half of one percent of the federal budget in recent years. Apart from a small band of space enthusiasts, there is no public clamour for increasing NASA’s budget (which is consistently over-estimated by the public as a much larger fraction of federal spending than it actually receives), and there is no prospect for a political consensus emerging to fund an increase.... [Read More]

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This Week’s Book Review – Houston: Space City, USA

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.... [Read More]

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