Sunday, February 27, 2011

And now for something completely different...

Well, I'm completely floored. No, that's not just exhaustion from AIAA talking, the plane flew and the paper is now submitted, so I'll have more to say here now that my time isn't being puled six ways, I'm down to about four. What's got me picking my jaw off the floor is that over the last three days, I've seen more than 320 hits, all thanks to a link to It's Only a Model from the NASAspaceflight forums. Not only is this more traffic than I normally see in a month, but it lead to something very, very cool.

On Friday, I got an email from a guy at Bigelow who'd followed the link. He said he appreciated my kind words about the company, and that he'd pass along my post to the model guys at Bigelow on Monday. It's still incredible to think about. Hopefully, I'll have a follow-up in a few days as to whether or not my calculations and guesses were correct. Even if I was wrong, better understanding what Bigelow's display models really are claiming would be good data to help me revise my Transhab Module Calculator, which was the point of the analysis that lead me to write that post in the first place.

Internships are the next major hurdle on the road for me. I've been applying to scholarships and internships for a while, and the deadlines are starting to get close. Hopefully, this summer won't be a repeat of last summer, where not only was I unable to find internships due to a late start, but I spent all summer unsuccessfully trying to even find a job in Cincinnati (with the move from Indy, working at my old pizza-prep job in Indy would have been....a heck of a commute). I can't say it didn't pay of, it was because of the spare time that I was able to do much of the fundraising I did for the Aero Team for this season and that I stumbled across NSF, but...I'm hoping this summer I'll be able to find something that's a little better at showing off my talents and abilities. It's got a me feeling a little under stress, anyway, in addition to continued flight testing of the plane, and classes and everything else.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Wings 'n Things

So, if you've been wondering where I vanished to the last couple days, here's the answer: AIAA DBF. I've got a post about the Liberty rocket percolating, and the second ATV is on the pad for a a launch tomorrow at 4 PM (ish) EST, and STS 133 is enjoying a smooth flow, and that's all out there in my mind, but what's been in the front of my mind the last few days has been more atmospheric.
Insufficient Lift for Current Payload--Please Try Again
We've been busily working towards getting our prototype airworthy before the paper deadline, with a flight date set for this weekend so we can get the data into the paper. It's been a bit of a rough ride, characterized by late nights, delays from shipping issues, but I think that the effort shows--even if we miss our goal of getting the plane flight data in the paper, which I think is not an unreasonable goal at this point, we'll still be way ahead of last year, and I think with a much more solid design.

Still, this is a time of the year I both love and hate. I love seeing the plane come together after all the work, and I don't mind the time investment and dedication required to do so. However, this is the time of the year that really tries my time-management abilities, and where I have to remind myself that while I love Aerodesign Team and the feeling of working on real problems, I'm not a full engineer. I'm still a student, an engineer in progress, and I even if the plane needs my time, I still have to be able to get my homework done and wake up in the mornings.

My link tonight is last year's first flight video. Note the date, and compare that we may fly this weekend if all goes well--seven weeks earlier even with the loss of time from the month-long holiday break. We'll be checking the landing gear bolts more carefully this time, too. With any luck, I'll be able to point a link towards some images of the wings from above putting a new plane in the air in a week or so--I guess I make a poor power source, so we'll stick to batteries and electric motors.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Flying the Future

These days, it seems like I can't wait to wake up in the mornings and read all the latest commercial space news. The last week has seen announcements about Bigelow's plant expansion, SpaceX has released a couple of interesting tidbits I'd like to talk about,  and one of my least favorite rocket designs (Ares I) may be coming back from the dead in a new guise but up to the same old tricks.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Inflatable Company for Inflatable Modules

Since the top traffic items on this blog (as I see in the stats) are images of the BA 2100 I posted a while back, I think that talking about further Bigelow news wouldn't go unwarranted. Last night, the local Las Vegas news ran a story about Bigelow's production facility expansion. The building should be operating next year, and it's a 185,000 square foot production plant for inflatable modules. It's not for R&D, it's not for testing, it's to build space hardware on three lines. Today, NASA Deputy Administrator toured the current facility, and out of her tour came some images of the inside of mock ups of some of Bigelow's habitats. I'm not sure which, because BA330 and Sundancer differ mainly in length, but it's an interesting view--very apparent how much larger these modules are. While there, she apparently discussed some elements of a rumored deal to add a Bigelow module of some sort to the ISS, which is supposed to have a contract ready in about 3 months and hardware on orbit 24 months after that.
NASA Deputy Admin Lori Garver inside Bigelow mockup
In addition to the facility expansion, the company also plans to add 1500 new jobs (increasing in size by a factor of ten) over the next 3 years, with about 1,100 just in the next year as the new plant comes on line. Considering the potential of what they're doing there, I'm certainly wondering if they'd have room for an intern or junior engineer. Even if they don't, the possibility of commercial spaceflight is becoming more real with every success like this, from SpaceX's Falcon and Dragon to Bigelow's previous and ongoing successes in station modules, to the work of companies like Armadillo and Virgin Galactic in various areas of suborbital research. Even old space hands like Boeing are getting into the act. With NASA's future still more than a little murky, it's reassuring and perhaps even exciting to see that the state-of-the-art isn't waiting for NASA this time.

In other space news (what was my top space news until I heard this), NASA's looking at undocking a Progress vehicle during the STS-133 flight (which is at the pad and on-schedule for Feb 24th) to get some images of all the ISS access vehicle docked at once in sort of a "family portrait" of ISS, Shuttle, ATV, HTV, Soyuz, and Progress. They did something similar during Mir for the famous image below, and I know that I'm not the only one that would love to see something similar for ISS.

In things a little closer to Earth, the AIAA DBF plane is coming along on schedule. We put together a prototype of the wing connections, and the real wings are only a few days away from being cut, so that's coming along. The fuselage is being troublesome, but I feel confident we'll get it nailed down on time. Even if we don't we're still well ahead of where we were last year at this time, and I feel confident both that the plane will come together and that when we take it to competition, we'll do well.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Linking Together

All the thinking about connections for Aerodesign Team (which is going well, thank you very much) has put a spin in my mind on some things going on in spaceflight right now. Last Thursday (Jan. 27, 2011), the second Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (Kounotori-2) was captured and berthed to the International Space Station. 
Japanese HTV Spacecraft Approaches ISS for Berthing
Only two days later (Jan. 29, 2011), a Russian Progress supply ship docked to the Russian side of the station. In only another few weeks, the second European Automated Transfer Vehicle (Johannes Kepler) will dock to the ISS, also to the Russian side. This extraordinary pace of international vehicles has a lot to do with getting the ISS to the point where the retirement of the Shuttle won't have a catastrophic impact on the station's supply situation. However, something occurred to me about all this looking at some documentation about these various missions, and in talking to some people about it, I thought I might as well toss it up here on Engineer in Progress.
Russian Progress Vehicle Post-Docking