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Monthly archive June, 2010

Ultralight Spaceflight: the gang’s all here

This week @ULSF, Alex has GStreamer performing, Tobias received some new gear, and Joshua’s Moon 2.0 project is reaching critical mass.

Alex: “Picture in picture compositing in gstreamer with examples ranging from simple concepts to the more complex “Live from Pluto” video wall: http://www.oz9aec.net/index.php/gstreamer/347-more-gstreamer-tips-picture-in-picture-compositing  Simple time-lapse videos with gstreamer and ffmpeg: http://www.oz9aec.net/index.php/gstreamer/346-simple-time-lapse-video-with-gtreamer-and-ffmpeg Note the image quality – it was recorded using a $100 QuickCam Vision Pro 9000 UVC webcam from Logitech. I can’t wait to try the new HD Webcam Series from Logitech coming out in a few months.”

Tobias: ” I got last week all the stuff I’ve ordered, my arduino, some servos, a
500mW green laser diode, …., ….  Arduino programming seems simple, and since some little test programms worked
right away (on both, my mac and my dell),  I’m in a quite positive
Headed yesterday to San Diego, CA, where I’ll be for the next two weeks.
I’m here for training with Broadcast Microwave Systems, since we
(the company I’m working for) have some 18″, 34″ and a 72″ inch auto-tracker systems for our UAV’s.  Anyone close to SanDiego?”

The Moon 2.0 team now has twenty three members and two dedicated blogs.  The team is primarily focused on building femto satellites and launchers for LEO.

If you can see it from orbit – it’s not a “spill”!

If you can see it from orbit – it’s not a “spill”!

First things first, we need to frame this topic a little better.  Framing the debate is a tactic that, if
done well can give a decided advantage to one side or the other.[1] 
In this case the word “spill” has been used to describe this
environmental catastrophe.  I believe this term has been used to
trivialize the extent of the problem, to minimize public perception, and
used as a delaying tactic.  I think that BP thinks that a “spill” can be ignored or covered up
like it was in Nigeria.[2]

Let’s look at that a moment, before we move on.  A “spill” is “to flow from a

By its very definition, a spill has a finite
limit.  There is a known volume that, when exhausted, will complete the
spill.  The spill will be finished, because there is no more liquid
within the container.  Seems pretty basic, right?  An oil tanker
can spill.  A glass of milk can spill…

Framed differently – framed correctly – what
we are dealing with is a “gusher”.  By definition again: “an oil well
from which oil flows freely and in
large amounts, without having to be pumped”.
[4]  This is a gusher
from Oklahoma
[5]  What is happening in the Gulf of Mexico[6] is not a spill
It is a “gusher”.

So now that we have cleared up that
particular miscommunication, let’s focus on the actual problem,
mitigation tools and potential long-term solutions.

So the logical first and second questions are – where is the oil? 
And how much is there?  Well, here is a day by day gusher map[8],
courtesy of the NY Times with an estimated 34-100Million gallons poured
into our world’s oceans during the almost 2 months since it happened. 
It seems odd to me, that BP did not know (or did not want to
know, or did not want the world to know) how much was gushing
out of their oil well.   But I will leave that question up to the
investigative reporters, the Congressional hearings and finally by the
litigation lawyers that will be seeking damages, because: “The company’s liability will ultimately be
determined in part by how many barrels of oil are spilled.”[9]

So the next question is – what is being done, now to deal with it? 
I’m not on the ground, so I can’t say with certainty what the actual
steps are.  We’ve read about the booms, corrals, caps, top-kill,
burnings (complete with endangered sea turtles
cooked alive
and other tactics…  But one thing I am sure of, is that this problem
will not be solved without space communications.  Just six months ago,
the US Coast Guard deployed a new
communications tool set
  – “to expand its communications capacity
and take advantage of affordable, emerging commercial satellite
NOAA and the DoD have been supplying remote sensing imagery to the
command centers.  Between the robotics, remote sensing, chemical
dispersants, radio and satellite communications between ships, ground
crew and the command center, and the various tracking systems employed;
my hunch is that space and space-age technology is the unsung hero of
this fiasco. 

So what do we do next?  We have to have energy, sure.  But does
it have to come from ‘oil’? 

Hold that thought, we will come back to it. 

Maybe we are looking at this gusher from the wrong angle.  Yes,
it is an ecological disaster.  Yes, people are out of work.  Yes, as if
Louisiana wasn’t already in rough shape, this adds further problems to
the regional economy.  Yes, in an unrelated problem (created during the
Bush presidency), Texas, Alabama and Florida will lose 50,000 space, advanced technology and
support jobs
Yes, Florida anticipates a $1B loss in tourism if the tar balls hit
their shoreline.  All of these are true. 

Yet, what if we are looking at this gusher from the wrong
perspective?  What if we can carve something positive out of this

What if we look at this gusher and say: “We can do better.  We
can learn and we can grow.   We can make a lasting difference.  And this
difference can be big enough to change things. Forever.”

What if this gusher were a short-term problem, but was framed as
long-term opportunity?

We have a lot of people that are angry over this mess.  I am.  You
probably are too.  We also have an amazing resource in the space
community in this region – many of whom are going to be unemployed soon
as a result of the Space Shuttle program closure.  Can we take these
remarkable people and retask them, through various governmental agencies
(NASA, NOAA, DoD and DOE) and commercials teams (USA, LockMart, Boeing
and their myriad of support companies)?

It’s been proposed in a number of forums that the US convene an
official conference to study Space Based
Solar Energy
It is continually voted up as a primary idea, and it continues to be
officially ignored.  I am not saying that SBSP is the be-all-end-all
solution to this energy problem.  Because of my efforts developing the Space Elevator[15]
over the past 9 years, I can tell you first hand that SBSP is a really
really really difficult challenge.  Not quite, but almost on the scale
and complexity of building an Elevator to Space.  Now, I’m not asking
that the US commit to building this system, at least not yet.  What I am
asking for is a new, large, revised and unbiased, study on this

You’ve got a gusher that has become a national problem; one that is
compounded by international media exposure and dead animals[16]
You’ve got a brilliant – and possibly irreplaceable – workforce that
will soon be unemployed.  And you’ve got a national security issue[17]
if you don’t solve once-and-for-all the question of energy security. 

I believe that this is a near-perfect congruence and a tremendous
opportunity.  Assemble the conference.  Do the study.  If those actions
agree, then move forward on design and development of a system.  And if
you do this, then you also unshackle the US from both foreign
governments that do not have our interests at heart, AND from the
environmental catastrophe of almost 4000[18]
floating oil rigs in the Gulf of

This gusher is a mess.  Also, we have a mess brewing with our civil
space communities that are in the same region.  Surely there is a way to
team these problems and come up with a victory.

Michael J. Laine[19]

President / Chief Strategic Officer – LiftPort

Partner – Apollo Partners[21]

P.S. Tweet this! I’m @mlaine in

http://bit.ly/99U2Ts  (East Carolina

http://bit.ly/aedvCt  (UK Guardian)

http://bit.ly/d1tQQ6  (Encarta)

http://bit.ly/a8jjRy (Encarta)

http://bit.ly/cVSQmh (Oklahoma
Historical Society)

http://bit.ly/aRGhqz (PBS

http://bit.ly/bgZVbK (Bing Search
Results for Video)

http://bit.ly/cIdmsM (New York

http://nyti.ms/98JTrQ (New York

http://bit.ly/dwDEs8 (YouTube
Personal Interview)

http://bit.ly/aIq8Eq (US Coast

http://bit.ly/c6eida (NASA)

http://bit.ly/a8aQdS (Brevard

http://bit.ly/9XQ26i (National Space

http://bit.ly/I4QJ6 (LiftPort)


http://bit.ly/cyzWj1 (National
Security Space Office)

http://bit.ly/b7fqzo (NOAA 2006,

http://bit.ly/dCsIt (LinkedIn

http://bit.ly/I4QJ6 (LiftPort Group)

http://bit.ly/bgwBNX (Apollo

http://bit.ly/a7SRtt (@mlaine on

Ultralight Spaceflight: math & movies

Seems like our theme this week @ULSF is movies and math.  That is, Alex @Csete has been “learning gstreamer with the purpose of encoding one or more video streams and muxing them together into a single MPEG-TS transport stream”.  Alex is collecting useful shortcuts into http://wiki.oz9aec.net/index.php/Gstreamer_Cheatsheet

On the math front, I found a great little book “Understanding Thermodynamics” by H.C. Van Ness.  Van Ness develops an experiential introduction to the subject and contrasts it momentarily to the usual abstract approach.  Made me think.  Subjects in the abstract can be a real headache, and it’s always important to feed the brain with the practical elements either through more practical studies or direct experimentation or modeling.  It’s too easy to plow through math like a school boy and miss the greatest value the time spent in study has to offer.  Making good cognitive structures feeds the brain what it needs when it needs it.  So following good tangents is building better networks.

I think that such an idea is more useful than nothing, like eat your broccoli.

Warning.  Might not be good for your GPA, however.  That’s not a concern of mine, so accommodating that kind of objective is left as an exercise….  Maybe, do your homework first and then manage a stack of books next to your bed in all the tangential areas of interest.

If you’re reading this, then you might enjoy H.C. Van Ness’ little book.  Even if you know the subject, it’s fun.  I’d be interested in hearing other opinions.

On another front, yet another interesting tweet by @AronSora linked to Protecting the Lunar Farside.  In a nutshell, Protecting the Lunar Farside in the electromagnetic spectrum in favor of
future radio telescope or phased array detectors.  Leave E-M L2 Alone!  The
Protected Antipode Circle (PAC) is defined as a circular piece of the
Lunar Surface 1820
kilometers in diameter, centered around the antipode on the farside and
spanning an angle of 30 degrees in longitude and latitude from the antipode.

Protecting the Lunar Farside

Always interested in learning and sharing Lunar conservation and management concepts.

E.T. are You out there?

E.T are you out there? is a campaign of “Faces from Earth
project to introduce the concept of possible extraterrestrial life and
interstellar messages to school students. The campaign introduced the
questions to students: “what if there is extraterrestrial life out
there?, what would we say to a hypothetical E.T.?”.

It was
participated by school student groups in five countries; Hungary,
Germany, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Ukraine during May 2010.

Here is the brief report on the Germany event which I organized. It took place on 19 May 2010 in Molfsee, close to Kiel.

We came together at 5:30 PM – school schedule and some unfortunate
circumstances prevented a couple of students to come, so we had a
familiar meeting with Arianna, Corvin, Louisa, Michel and Vincent (12 to

14 years old) in my home. However, being such a small group gave us the
opportunity to go into lots if details, check information in the
internet immediately – about the Viking experiments on Mars (searching
for life indicators), the Grand Tour of the Voyagers (the seldom
constellation of the outer planets in the Solar System), and, of course,

the chances to talk to E.T., to name but a few -, before the exciting
time of creating the pictorial messages and the preparation of the
balloon payloads. Luckily, we had two balloons for each message 🙂 We
went then to the “launch pad” – a couple of minutes walk to a gentle
hill – and the countdown (we’ve got it from the famous german sci-fi TV
series of the 1960es, Space Patrol Orion) started: … drei … zwei…
eins… zero: “Guten Flug” (good flight) – and the Molfsee messages
began their journey. Where do they end – we don’t know. But we all hope
that some terrestrial intelligence finds some of them, and decipher it!

Read more: http://bit.ly/ET_report

Watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQyuoDVaRus

Ultralight Spaceflight: Like Legos?

photos-photo16739We’ve discovered a great way to build new things: Shapeways.  Create new LEGO parts, or anything.  They have interesting Tutorials and Videos.  Takes a while to get the hang of their world, it’s a bit obscure but generally worthwhile.  Probably the easiest way to get started building would be using Google SketchUp, but there’s lots of free and commercial software for bending your head around CAD.


Alex Csete reports news from the embedded electronics world of pluggable bricks, the BeagleBoard XM now has a pin head connector for camera input.  “Past versions omitted the camera input connector to save space and were thus limited to USB cameras, which is why I went with the Gumstix Overo instead”. 

Joshua Tristancho is working on the legal framework for performing rocket launches in Spain, and heading out to conferences.  There’s a lot of cool stuff going on in Barcelona.

Pens at the Ready

I just watched this video from the Technology, Entertainment and Design Conference. I think if all of us follow this advice, we will have a huge impact.

[video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWhLSORCwW0]

What do you think? Should we start a hand written letter writing campaign?

Ultralight Spaceflight: world needs comms

This week @ULSF work proceeds around the world, while Alex Csete @csete is engaging Ultra Light Space Comms #ULSC.Embedded Video Processing and Radio Unit

Alex is a physicist by training, and lists his Google Profile Super Power as “ANSI C”.  ESA’s ATV and Gaia spacecraft systems seem to agree.  Like all @ULSF principals, Alex chases results with a careful liss between obsession and discipline.   A writer writes, a painter paints, and engineers build new systems.

The ULSC Embedded Video Processing and Radio Unit project takes aim at the telemetry and telecommand (TM/TC) part of our future space craft, incorporating HD video and tracking and ranging.

In this diagram, above, the high bandwidth video subsystem is emphasized in its proximity to the TM/TC coders and the RF transponder.

Space Tweep Society 1st Anniversary Twelebration

The party took place at a restaurant on Cocoa beach called Fishlips (isn’t that a good nick name for a 1930s mobster?). After an eventful day (traffic, Atlantis launch, hanging out at Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center and watching Magnificent Desolation – Walking on the Moon 3D with fellow A4Hs), I drove to Cocoa beach (location of Fishlips). It was already packed with people from the NASA Tweetup and others who came to party after watching the launch. There was beer and food and joy all around – after all, everyone there was a space enthusiast who 4-5 hours earlier got to see a perfect space-shuttle launch…

Read about it and reminisce – http://www.spacepirations.com/2010/06/space-tweep-society-1st-anniversary.html

A tweep to Mars: Diego Urbina tweets his Mars500 experience

Future Mars explorers will be grateful to the crew of Mars500, a pioneering simulation of a manned space mission to Mars began on June 3, 2010. Mars500 crew member Diego Urbina, of Italian-Colombian nationality, will tweet his experience as @diegou.

In this ambitious experiment, the longest ever attempted, a crew of 6 will spend 520 days confined in an isolation facility simulating a spaceship, with no contact with the outside world other than the radio communication and data links of a space mission to Mars. This experiment will help learn more about some of the most challenging and little known aspects of long duration trips to Mars, i.e. psychological and medical issues.

In an interview in Italian to space podcast AstronautiCAST a few days before Mars500 began, Diego also talked about his use of Twitter. He has been using Twitter for a long time. Now this microblogging service, besides being a project outreach tool, will let Diego keep in touch with the outside world and make him feel less isolated.

Let’s follow @diegou and interact with Diego in this pioneering experiment. For mission updates and information also follow @Mars_500.