Sunday, January 29, 2012

What went wrong?

It may be too early to do this post, as the primary has not been held yet.  Conventional wisdom has it that Romney will win in Florida.  Doing a post mortem on a campaign that isn't dead yet has some risks, not only for the "patient", but the "coroner".

It may not be too early to mention what has gone wrong so far.

Gingrich gave an excellent and reasonable speech on space policy last week.  But it is being caricatured as a bit of "zaniness" that is supposed to be typical of Newt.  The cover of National Review had Newt caricatured as "Marvin the Martian", which did nothing to endear me towards that publication.  To top it all off, Romney has added injury to insult with a dishonest debate answer about excessive costs.  For this, he is considered to have won- by somebody or something.  Yet, if true, it was a hollow victory by an undeserving victor over a worthy opponent.

For one may rightly ask, if a presidential candidate can't make a serious speech about a serious subject, during a time of angst about the future, when can he?  If there was a time for a speech like this, this was it.  If there was a place for a speech like this, it was Florida.  It decidedly wasn't the wrong time, nor the wrong place, nor flawed subject matter.  It all fit perfectly, as far as I can tell, into what everyone needed to hear.  But it wasn't totally and irrefutably perfect in all ways to all people.

Thus it is said to have been rejected, if the polls are any indication.

As for the specific proposals, they are not perfect perhaps.  But what is?  Isn't the process supposed to iron out deficiencies?  Should perfection be the enemy of the good?  Evidently the polls and the gods say so.  It may be hard, politically to put a base on the moon, we are told, and for that reason the speech isn't perfect.  If the speech isn't perfect, why, it must be worthless.  If the speech is worthless, the speaker is a horrible candidate.  World without end.

One can believe that the "fix is in", but that doesn't mean everybody has to fall into line.  That doesn't mean everybody has to give up their own judgment.  But if you believe the polls, it is imperative that you fall into line.  You must.  If you don't, the evil Obama will win.  Why?  Why the gods say so.  You must not question the gods.

Technically it is said to be feasible.  Economically it is said to be feasible, but hard.  But politically it is too hard.  Whatever happened to "yes we can"?  It has morphed into "you'd better not".  If you ask, "why not?", you are told that it can't be done.  If you challenge the assumptions behind the denial, you are ignored.  You are crazy.  You are deluded.  But why?  Because somebody or something says so?

It is true that space is hard, but it is not true that space is impossible.  It is true that politics of space may be hard, but it has also been shown not to be impossible.  Economics does not have to be a problem- flexibility isn't impossible either.  It is only impossible if you believe it to be so.  A shift in priorities and the use of best practices can bring in the project under budget and on time.  It only takes the will to do it, and maybe that is the explanation for everything.

If there's no will, there can be no way.

If Gingrich made a mistake, maybe it is because he thought too highly of us.  Or do we think too highly of polls?  If we let polls do our thinking for us, Gingrich may have been mistaken after all.

What are the near and long term advantages of a Permanent Moon Base?

It is a new beachhead for the initiation of space industrialization.


Judging from the comments to the post, there's a lot of doubt out there as to the value of the proposition.  However, this is often true with respect to anything new and innovative.  Clearly, there is a need for something to inspire us all, but the naysayers and doomsters will never be the ones to do that.  If people throughout history had been listening to them all along, we would all still be living in trees and caves.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

E-Cat Weekly -- January 26, 2012

  • Defkalion offers testing of cold fusion reactors
  • Rossi told Ny Teknik that "the work of the University of Bologna has already started with meetings together with National Instruments to prepare the whole system analysis."
  • University of Bologna Terminates Relationship With Rossi  by Steven Krivit.   Krivit and Rossi do not see eye to eye, as the saying goes.  The death of the E-cat has been greatly exaggerated.  The work at Bologna continues.
The argument against Rossi is an ad hominem type attack.  It reminds me of a political campaign, which is probably not too much different in principle.   The "incumbents" have something to lose, so they attack a newcomer as a fraud.  The attacks work all too often.  If one wants to prevail, one has to be able to demonstrate the falsity of the attacks.

    Why Constellation failed and why Romney is not the answer

    Why Constellation failed and why Romney is not the answer

    Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    Everybody has won and all must have prizes

    The Once and Future Moon

    No American human spaceflight flight systems exist and their development is dependent on the advent of a demand that has not yet materialized. Meanwhile, we comfort ourselves with fantasies about human missions to Mars. I appreciate and applaud Gingrich’s enthusiasm for space, a visionary attitude sorely lacking in most politicians. He needs to think carefully about how to incentivize the development of space and about the critical national needs served by our civil space program. Prizes seem attractive because of their historical role in stimulating a nascent aviation industry. But significant differences between aviation and spaceflight and our primitive level of development of the latter suggest that what worked before may not work now.


    Too negative!  The use of prizes has worked before the advent of aviation.  Prizes incentivized technological advancement as long ago as the period shortly after the Age of Discovery.  The Marine Chronometer was invented as a result of a prize set up by the Longitude Act.  Thus, it has a longer history than Spudis suggests.

    The use of the Alice in Wonderland metaphor was a bit too much.

    Not every prize will be successful, but you may need only one, or a few.

    Perhaps Spudis is cautioning the over reliance upon the private sector in order to advance the progress of human space flight.  I think there's room enough for both.  The trouble with NASA is that it is too risk averse and it is a government program.  Governments don't have enough of an incentive to economize.

    That's how you get mammoth rockets and mammoth budget deficits.

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

    No Space Settlement Goal

    In the early sixties, President Kennedy made a definite goal with a deadline. That goal, in retrospect, was quite modest. At the time, it may have seemed rather bold, but it is actually pretty modest to only go for a visit and then come right back.

    A more ambitious goal would have been settlement. Not having been to the moon before, at that time, and not knowing what could be found when we got there, prudence dictated a more modest goal than settlement. There was an opportunity for more, however.

    With a nuclear powered upper stage to the Saturn V rocket, more ambitious missions could have been supported, but the window of opportunity closed when the Apollo program ended. Instead of building upon the success of Apollo, the Shuttle program was adopted instead. Subsequently, the government decided not to develop the Shuttle to its full potential, which left the human space program stuck in a low Earth orbit limbo.

    Now the Shuttle program has ended after 30 years and the question is asked: what's next? Constellation was canceled, so there will be no return to Mars any time soon. A visit to an asteroid is proposed, but that could change if a new president is elected this coming fall.

    Speaker Gingrich has mentioned a speech about space, so at least somebody in this race is thinking about the subject. Given the most recent developments, would the president be motivated towards a more ambitious approach when it comes to space? Not so much as a Sputnik this time: more like a vision of opportunity beckoning and the boldness to go for it. How much more would it take to get something definite on the agenda, such as a relatively bold JFK type goal with a definite timetable?

    There needs to be definite goals and definite timetables. If those don't exist, it is all too easy to drift along. Constellation was a step in the right direction, but the timetable was too long, as it spanned several administrations. One decade seems makeable, if the Apollo experience is any indication. Why not divide the goal into makeable parts and then work towards that goal in a gradual way, one administration at a time? The Augustine commission suggested that goals should not be destinations, but capabilities. If capabilities are parceled out one administration at a time, the ultimate goal of settling space could easily fall within reach of one administration.  At that time, the actual goal could be set with a reasonable chance of achieving it.

    If there's no capability to get to a destination, such as Mars, it must be developed. But development takes time. By the time the next president's tenure is over, that capability may still not exist. Clearly, a road map needs to be developed which would set milestones for each step along the way towards the ultimate goal, with political achievable sub goals.

    Jeff Greason gave a talk on the subject in the past year or so. He compared our situation to World War II. That is, the goal, to win that war, was obvious, so the strategy to achieve that goal has to be decided upon.  One strategy at that time was called island hopping.  It wasn't a direct assault upon Japan all at one time with one giant armada to take on the Japanese in one decisive battle.  No, it was broken down into smaller parts- one island at a time.  Fast forward to the present- we don't seem to know what we want from space. Currently, not only do we not have an explicit goal with respect to space, but there's isn't exactly a strategy either. Either it is only exploration, or it should be more ambitious, such as space settlement. Obviously, I think the latter.

    We should first decide upon what we want from space, then strategize it by breaking the task up into smaller parts.  This approach allows for setbacks along the way, but it gives the flexibility of a long term reasonable chance of success.

    Clearly, the means to achieve settlement of Mars does not yet exist. To develop those means will take several new technologies. What kind of technologies?  One idea is fuel depots, which can save mass that has to lifted off the ground.  It is this additional mass which is so expensive and what makes space travel inaccessible at this time. Refueling can enable resuability with respect to space vehicles, which was partially achieved with the shuttle program.  It would seem that the next administration could focus upon fuel depots as the next enabling technology.

    Hopefully, fuel depots won't take as long as the shuttle did.  Thirty years from now, fuel depots should be only one of many enabling technologies that have been developed along the way towards the goal of space settlement.  But to reach that goal, you have to get started.  We seemed to be stuck in a mode where that decision keeps getting deferred. If the ultimate goal is to be settlement, then next sub goal should be fuel depots.

    It was once asked, if it isn't settlement, what the hell are we doing up there?  It needs to be decided upon one way or another.

    Monday, January 23, 2012

    Motherboard TV: The Thorium Dream

    The Thorium Dream (Trailer)

    Uploaded by MotherboardTV on Jul 13, 2011

    Robert Hargraves - Aim High! @ TEAC3

    Uploaded by gordonmcdowell on Jul 24, 2011


    This is a great sales job for thorium cycle nuclear reactors. Particularly at the end of the presentation. interviews Andrea Rossi in Bologna  h/t

    excerpts and comments
    • not more than a couple years until electricity can be produced from e-cats, he says.  [comment: Electricity would be a significant milestone]
    • Rossi says it will work as easily as installing software on your computer-- [comment: user friendly]
    • not an alternative ( energy system) but an integrative system-- save fossil fuels for other purposes [comment: It appears that Rossi is not claiming a solution for carbon emissions.]  
    If you can get electricity out of an E-cat, and provided that it was a significant amount, this can open up some very interesting possibilities for space applications, in my opinion.  Such as the LOXLEO concept that I've been writing about.  The amount of power would have to be significant, though.

    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    LOXLEO, Part VII

    To be strictly accurate, there are 3 different systems ( I know of) that propose to harvest atmospheric gases at the edge of space, to wit:
    1. PROFAC (Propulsion Fluid Accumulator) by Demetriades
    2. LOXLEO ( Liquid Oxygen Low Earth Orbit) by Klinkmann et al
    3. PHARO  ( Propellant Harvesting of Atmospheric Resources in Orbit) by Jones, et. al
    They all appeared to me to do the same thing, so I referred to them all as LOXLEO.  Thus the correction.

    Demetriades' concept was first proposed during the Apollo Era.  LOXLEO and PHARO have been recent attempts to revive the idea.

    The PROFAC concept relies on nuclear power, which wasn't in disfavor at the time.  The most recent versions attempt to work around the nuclear issue.  What distinguishes LOXLEO from PHARO is that PHARO proposes to use beamed energy.  LOXLEO is uncertain about its proposed energy source, as it could be beamed energy or a dynamic tether setup.

    The PHARO concept is a comprehensive analysis of proposed system to implement gas harvesting.  The study claims that there are no other ways to provide energy besides beamed energy.  The energy requirements are such that all others ( besides nuclear ) aren't power dense enough to do the job.  This would rule out the idea of using hydrogen fuel cells combined with a VASIMR, however fuel cells were not explicitly mentioned.  VASIMR wasn't ruled out either, but MHD propulsion system appears to be preferred instead.

    The conclusion is as follows:
    Implementation of propellant harvesting
    has the potential to dramatically reduce the
    launch mass for a multi-mission Mars
    architecture. Additionally, introducing such
    a technology can reduce the life cycle cost
    of the campaign. Although such an
    architecture does lead to a reliability penalty
    relative to a DRA 5 Derived, non-harvesting
    concept, this penalty could be mitigated by
    further improvements in technology. This
    study shows the potential of atmospheric
    propellant harvesting as an enabling technology
    for future humans-to-Mars missions.

    The term DRA 5 Derived is most likely referring to the now canceled Constellation program.

    I like the proposition.  It is better than using the same old technology that has been in place for over 50 years.  Any experimental technology will have additional risks as it is being perfected, but the risk would be worth the gain.

    Saturday, January 21, 2012

    E-Cat Weekly January 19

    This story caught my eye:
    Oz skeptic offers prize if Rossi’s E-cat works

    •  Australian entrepreneur, philanthropist, skeptic, aviator and eccentric Dick Smith has offered $AU200,000 for proof that the Andrea Rossi “energy catalyzer” actually works.
    • As a general rule, physicists would say that the production of an atom as heavy as copper is the kind of reaction that’s best done if you happen to have a supernova handy. The low-energy claims made for the E-Cat are the main source of skepticism about Rossi’s claims.
    • Smith has a record of being careful with his prizemoney: as patron of the Australian Skeptics, he is also joint backer of an unclaimed prize for anyone who can demonstrate paranormal abilities
    • Since the Herald won't say it, The Register will: do not invest any money in E-cat until someone can reproduce the experiment and explain the mechanism by which the fusion takes place, to the satisfaction of the scientific journals. Or until Smith signs a cheque for his $AU200k.

    I wonder if the author ever really thought about this very deeply.  It isn't about letting someone else do your thinking for you.  This could be easy money if Rossi's device works.  But who gets the money?

    Smith isn't being as careful his money as this article suggests.  It looks to me like he's decided that Rossi's E-cat is some kook device being pushed by kook.  I suppose that is possible, but it is also possible that Rossi is on to something.

    Conventional wisdom is easy because you don't have to think.

    LOXLEO, Part VI

    Need I say a speculative post?

    I reviewed the source document for all of this speculation on this subject.  Please do not judge it by what I say, although I may be an ignoramus in many technical details, I think the proposition is sound.  If Wehner von Braun liked it, it must not have been too bad.

    So, why didn't it get adopted?  In order to answer that, one only has to look at a pattern of events that has taken hold of this country in the last 40 or so years.   Let's list promising technologies that have been, for want of a better term, suppressed

    1. The Saturn V rocket was a proven technology that was scrapped after it achieved the goal of landing a man on the moon and returning safely to earth.  The technology was proven, but it was deemed a waste of money by a government that proceeded to spend even more in order to accomplish less.
    2. Along with the Apollo program, a nuclear upper stage was developed for the Saturn, which was also scrapped.  The big fear was that a successful demonstration of the technology, which was already deemed spaceworthy, would lock the government into a Mars expedition.  But with the money already spent in these last 40 years, we could have gone to Mars already without having to spend anything extra than what has already been spent.
    3. Most likely, the nuclear Saturn upper stage would have gotten into trouble anyway because of fears of nuclear energy.  Yet, a cleaner and safer brand of nuclear energy- based upon the thorium fuel cycle- was ignored.  The technology was sound, but the leadership, in all of its wisdom, decided upon another course.  The thorium fuel cycle proponents were asked to abandon the project.  With nobody to champion the technology, it was soon forgotten about until recently.
    4. Cold fusion has been suppressed and is still being suppressed.  There are those who think that this is pathological science, but with the track record just mentioned above, how can anyone be so sure that the government- and those who are supporting the suppression of this technology- are right?
    5. But cold fusion is only another method of fusion aside from hot fusion.  By the way, there are more ways than just one to achieve hot fusion, but the government only interested in pursuing one way, which is known as "ITER".   ITER is Latin for "the way".  If ITER is the only way, it is definitely the most expensive way.  The other ways to hot fusion are a lot cheaper and are being done on a much smaller scale.  Nobody has been successful yet, but the odds for the smaller scaled projects to succeed appear to be just as good, or better than ITER.
    6.  The Alaska pipeline was stalled for many years until it was built.  New attempts to further develop the North Slope oil fields have been suppressed supposedly because of environmental concerns, but the horror stories predicted for the Alaska pipeline were been greatly exaggerated.   History is being repeated by the current administration, which has now blocked the XL pipeline.
    7. Although oil may pollute, the world seems to adjust to it.  If it were only oil.  Energy supplies exist which could last for centuries, but these are being blocked as well.  The excuse is global warming, which may or may not be related to fossil fuel use, and may or may not be happening.  But if it is happening, it isn't going to happen for decades.  Yet the fossil fuel suppression and its effects are happening now.
    8. Energy projects, such as solar and wind are being pursued, but at best, they can only supply a small fraction of the energy that is going to be needed.  This is an optimistic scenario.  The more pessimisstic scenario will see very little contribution to the energy mix from these technologies.  They are too diffuse and require too much land and resources to exploit.  They are pipe dreams that are supposed to substitute for real solutions, which keep getting suppressed.
    9. Environmentalists want to tear down dams, even though there are no replacements at hand for the water nor the energy that the dams supply.
    So, when one asks the question- If it was so good, why isn't it being done?-  just supply this bit of Keystone Cop history as the answer.  The problem isn't the technology, the problem is the government suppresses any technology that might work.  I wanted to vent on the subject of the stupidity and incompetence of the government so as to disabuse anyone of the notion that the government knows best about these things.  If we are lucky, they'll just stay out of the way.

    Now that I've managed to get off the subject a bit, let's get back on track.  The latest post is about some adjustments in my speculations.

    Instead of using the nitrogen for other tasks, perhaps it can be used in the VASIMR itself.  It can be used as a coolant and as a propellant.

    The oxygen can still be used in the fuel cells for the collection of water while producing electricity for the VASIMR, which is supplying the thrust needed to stay in orbit.  This means that a hydrogen supply needs to be taken along in order to make the water.  Since there's no need for any other propellant but the nitrogen for thrust, there's no need any other storage tanks.

    After reading the document again, I  am not sure why so much energy is needed.  The thrust needed does not take that much energy.  Perhaps the collection of the gases take up a lot of energy, but if you are not compressing and liquifying it for storage, you don't need so much energy.

    Part of the requirement appears to be for human needs, but this could be made into a robotic mission.


    A pic from the source document-- not really, but it is a pdf that closely follows it

    Also, here's a link to the inventor who created the idea in the beginning, Sterge Demetriades.  As for my next post on this subject, I'm going to read a pdf file on the PHARO concept, which is similar to this.

    Friday, January 20, 2012

    Burt Rutan interview

    Popular Mechanics H/T Transterrestrial Musings

    To allow public access to orbit, we would need breakthroughs that would lower the cost by a lot more than an order of magnitude and increase safety by a factor of 100 as compared to every launch system used since the first manned space flight. I think airborne launch will be a significant part of the safety solution. Breakthroughs to do the rest of the job are unknown.


    Just my opinion, and two cents here, but the problem may be that too much is expected from a single launch system.  If the Stratolaunch, or Birdzilla as some call it, can solve the safety problem, then some other technology can solve the other problems.

    Spacex will most likely attempt to make Birdzilla launch platform fully reusable, which will help with the cost problem.

    As for the rest of a comprehensive solution,  you can look at other systems to help with costs from LEO on outward.  For example, Quicklaunch can get materials into space cheaply.  If feasible, a LOXLEO system can skim atmospheric gases from LEO and use it to power spacecraft after achieving orbit, while reducing costs still further.  By combining these two systems, you could leverage a small payload of hydrogen from Quicklaunch into much more by using a LOXLEO system.  Once you have the water in orbit, you can then split it into hydrogen and oxygen.  This could support missions to cis Lunar space where the moon can be further exploited into a base for interplanetary exploration and development.  Thus, not all of the requirements needed will come from one system, but a series of systems.

    LOXLEO, Part V

    As usual, this will be a speculative post.

    The last post explored the possibility of using the nitrogen to make nitric acid.  But what if this is not practical?

    If such be the case, what could be done with the nitrogen besides just dumping it?

    It so happens that there are themalization issues with the VASIMR design, which is to be used as propulsion in this design.  Lets say that the nitrogen could be used to cool down the engine and then expelled under pressure for additional thrust.  This would be the simplest solution, and it may not be impractical to boot.

    Assuming that is successful, what next?

    Perhaps this is getting ahead of the game too much.  Let's go back to how we get the nitrogen separated from the oxygen in the first place.  

    The truth is, the use of the atmospheric gases at sea level, which include nearly 20% oxygen, would be sufficient to run the hydrogen fuel cells.  This will make the electricity for the VASIMR while giving water as a product.

    The resultant gases remaining should be significantly higher in nitrogen.  It is already nearly 80% nitrogen to begin with.  After using the oxygen for the fuel cells, it should be even higher than that in concentration.

    Couldn't you just burn some hydrogen directly in this atmosphere and thereby remove the rest of the oxygen?  If so, the remainder should be close to zero percent oxygen, which then could be routed toward VASIMR and used to cool it down, and then expelled as exhaust.

    As stated before, the basic idea here is to avoid using so much energy in order to collect oxygen.  The edge of space will still have some oxygen that can be collected as well as the other atmospheric gases.  The thought occurs though, is this: was the original design for collecting the oxygen energy intensive by necessity?  Or was the assumption that nuclear power would be available and that would be able to supply the energy required for the collection of atmospheric oxygen?

    If nuclear power isn't available, there has to be a different approach.  Is there an approach to collect the gases which doesn't require a great deal of energy expenditure?  To answer that question could take you all of the way back to the drawing board.

    Here's a brief thought on that.  In order to initially collect the gases, could it not be funneled into a smaller space, which will have the effect of creating higher pressures?  After all, this should be our goal- to build up from a near vacuum to a usable atmospheric pressure.  This proposition would entail a funnel type device that narrows down to the size that is, let say 1 millionth the size of the opening.  The ratio as such could be enough to pressurize the gas so that we can use it for our purposes.

    The downside of this approach could be amount of drag induced upon the spacecraft.  If the drag is not too much, and could be handled by the VASIMR, we are in business.  Another possibility is heat.  At orbital speeds, the velocity of the gas will be considerable.  As it compresses, it will have to slow down.  As it does that, it is likely to get hot.  Cooling systems will have to be devised to handle that outcome.

    That may not be an insurmountable problem.  Just route the liquid hydrogen around the funnel and it will cool it down, as is done in modern rocket engines.  This will have to be done anyway, as hydrogen needs to be brought out of cryogenic storage for use in fuel cells.

    Type III Dyson Sphere of Highly Advanced Civilizations Around a Super Massive Black Hole

    Type III Dyson Sphere of Highly Advanced Civilizations Around a Super Massive Black Hole

    Thursday, January 19, 2012

    LOXLEO, Part IV

    Speculation alert, as usual on this topic.

    Part of the concept involves the collection of nitrogen, which is a vital element for life support in space. The atmosphere is nearly 80% nitrogen, and it is there, so you may as well use it. The trick is to get around the energy problem. In order to collect the gas, you need to compress it and cool it down considerably. This takes a lot of energy.

    Rather than use a lot of energy to cool down gases, perhaps it would be better to minimize that. By using a hydrogen fuel cell, you can still collect oxygen from the atmosphere, and then use it to make electricity and water. That means you have to crack it later, but you still have the oxygen in a form that is easily stored while making energy- as opposed to consuming it.

    Can you not apply that principle to using the nitrogen, which is also present in the atmosphere? If you can't use it, you have to dump it, which is a waste. Why not find a way to make this useful as a propellant as well while not having to put it into a form which consumes so much energy?

    The nuclear powered version of this concept uses the nitrogen, but nuclear power in space is a problem.

    Making energy from the oxygen in the atmosphere is definitely not a new concept. Airplanes do it. The only question here is if there's enough oxygen that can be collected -so as to generate enough thrust for overcoming drag- which is the same principle that applies to airplanes.

    Is nitrogen worthwhile as a propellant? Yes it is. But how to make nitrogen based propellants in LEO? Let look at the proposition, shall we? Let see if there's a way to use nitrogen- by collecting the nitrogen and the oxygen in LEO, and then combining them somehow for power, or for thrust.

    If a nitrogen fuel cell were possible, you could make the electricity as a hydrogen fuel cell does, and keep the oxidized nitrogen on board for processing later. If it could be converted to something more easily stored to liquid form than pure nitrogen, that would be helpful with the energy problem. (It would be easier to store it as a liquid than as a gas.) Nitrogen fuel cells may not be possible, so far as I know.

    But there are a couple processes that could lead you to a form of nitrogen that could work, at least theoretically. The hard part may be in making these processes fit on-board a spacecraft. Provided that you could do that, then store the nitrogen via nitric acid solution in water. The Ostwald and Haber processes are what I had in mind.

    The biggest trick of all is to do all of this in real time as the spacecraft is skimming the gases at the edge of the atmosphere. You have to be able to get more gases into storage than what you are using them for in making energy, while at the same time not having to dump much matter overboard. That means the conversion to nitrates are sufficiently exothermic to help support the conversion.

    The hydrogen fuel cell accomplishes this by producing electricity as well as water. The two processes mentioned in the previous paragraph will utilize the nitrogen from the atmosphere in order to make the water into an nitric acid solution. Those processes are exothermic, but are they sufficiently so? Another problem is the hardware- is it too complex and is it too massive?

    Assuming those questions can be answered, you're in business. Once the tank is full, the acid can be offloaded in higher orbit, where it can be processed further into rocket fuels.

    The entire system could do this over and over again so as to create a steady stream of product. It would need to have two components launched from the ground-- the machines that do the processing and the hydrogen. The machines could be launched once. The hydrogen will have to be launched at a rate sufficient to support the entire operation. Given that hydrogen is the lightest element, it will be advantageous in offsetting the mass penalty in spaceflight.

    The mass penalty is a major stumbling block in making space more accessible. Given the mass savings, the cost of getting fuel into orbit could be reduced by perhaps as much as 1 order of magnitude from the oxygen alone.


    Earlier versions of the LOXLEO thread included the use of a VASIMR as the propulsion engine.  If additional energy is needed for the above mentioned chemical reactions, perhaps the thermal management issue of the VASIMR can be turned into a resource.  A heat exchanger can move the heat from the VASIMR- where it may be a problem- to the reaction chambers, where it may come in handy.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    20120114 Live interview with Andrea Rossi

    h/t Next Big Future

    • The Smart Scarecrow Show  hosts the interview
    • Sterling Allan of does the honors
    • Introduction of Andrea Rossi
    • History of the E-cat
    • Short intro to the E-cat 
    • Mentions gamma rays-- is turned into heat.  First time I heard of this, but not that I was looking for it.
    • Safe operation-- automatic shutoff feature
    • Track record of long term operation
    • Just heating with E-cat, not electricity yet
    • Insignificant amount of material necessary for "fuel" due to it being a nuclear process
    • Make tests every day, he says.  Certification process with UL.  Production will be in Florida USA
    • Wants to push prices down to $500 ( for small E-cat?)
    • Concerns about reverse engineering-- low prices will defend against this
    • Size of device, 10 kw unit, 5% of price for comparable system
    • Catalysts-- essential to operation  Comment: this may be why the ash is inconsistent with expectations
    • Frequency used?  Rossi declines to comment on this.  Oriental martial arts comparison? maybe jiu jitsu principle use the energy of the opponent to your advantage
    • operating temperature, higher temperatures can cause problems
    • don't give fish, but teach how to fish
    • UL stamp is final stamp before distributing to customer
    • No time to lose, he says
    • 1 million home ecat plans--- details, looks like a pc in dimensions, compatible with any heater in world
    • refuel every 6 months, turning on and off and being controlled by thermostat.  Will heat water, but not like a central heating system--- language problem not clear
    • E-cat used to preheat the water for electricity production-- Ecat not hot enough, but can do this much
    • Refueling paradigm.  180 operational days as opposed, fuel charge is proportional to actual use, turn ecat off and no fuel is consumed
    • indicator shows when it needs to be recharged, fuel cartridges exchanged, and used ones recycled
    • cartridge only $10, plus installation charges if necessary
    • logistical issues are being worked on
    • says big surprise that need no hydrogen canisters-- picograms of hydrogen, 10 gms last 6 months
    I will interrupt after 1 hour.  The rest may be of little interest to me.  The key point is the production of gamma rays and the claim that gamma rays are the cause of the production of heat.  Is this plausible?

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    Joe Bonometti - LFTR Development Lessons Learned @ TEAC3

    Dr. Joe Bonometti at TEAC3

    Joe also did one of the very first “Tech-Talks” at Google on the subject of LFTR technology.

    I put in both videos on this post, as well as screenshots to the first one, which is a video that lasts nearly an hour.

    Screenshots from the above video:

    Easy to find thorium on the moon and Mars.
    You could manufacture your fuel for a return to Earth using energy from Thorium.  A transportation system could run on something like this.

    The advantages of nuclear vs. solar and/or wind
    Even if you have only terrestrial applications in mind, keep in mind that thorium has advantages here as well.

    History of this research: it was originally intended for airplanes!
    When the airplane idea gave way to missiles, they kept researching it in a small reactor and came up with the LFTR.

    What is LFTR?  Just this:  It is better than uranium, and almost as good as fusion could ever be, but it is available NOW.
    What's not to like?
    Uranium Fuel Cycle versus Thorium Fuel Cycle

    The video below is only about 10 minutes in case you are pressed for time:

    Saturday, January 14, 2012

    Pesn: E-Cat Weekly January 12 : Edmund Storms

    TheSpaceShow (mp3 link): January 8, 2011


    As is usually the case, whenever there is a bit of controversy, there'll be some challenging calls.  Such was the case for this show as well.

    The one that stuck out for me was when Charles called and mentioned the gamma ray issue.  There is one thing that's very clear now.  There aren't any gamma rays being produced by Rossi's device.  The reason that you know this is because of the demonstrations shown on video.  If there were any gamma rays, there'd be a lot more caution about being in the room with this device.  The amount of gamma rays expected should be enough to make everyone sick, or worse.

     Dr. Storms mentioned that there would be a Nobel Prize waiting for anyone who could figure out how the energy gets out of the system.  How then energy gets out indeed!

    The question encourages me to think about E-cat again, which I haven't been doing recently.

    The idea that sticks with me is that the phenomenon could be about waves.  A gamma ray is just a wave.  All matter and energy in the universe is particles and waves.  And there is this phenomenon known as as  wave  particle duality:
    Wave–particle duality postulates that all particles exhibit both wave and particle properties.

    Particles can act as waves, waves can act as particles.

    So, as a bit of speculation, I wonder if the explanation could be related to that.  Both of the explanations necessary- one for overcoming the coulomb barrier and the other for the lack of gamma rays- could be explained by wave particle duality.  For the former, I favor the BECNF Theory of Y. Kim of Purdue.  But Kim doesn't provide any theory for the lack of gamma rays, only for overcoming the coulomb barrier. Bose-Einstein condensates overcome the coulomb barrier by the quantum effects of waves.  Could the wave particle duality explain the lack of gamma rays?

    Gamma rays are a problem because of the need for shielding.  Neutrons and alpha particles can be shielded more easily.  Gamma rays- not so easy.  In the case of Rossi's device, the main problem is the lack of gamma rays.  There should be some if fusion is taking place.  This is the crux of the problem, or controversy.

    It isn't just a matter of shielding in the case of the E-cat.  It is the most probable situation that there are no gamma rays being produced at all.  But how can there be any fusion if there are no gamma rays?

    Let me repeat here that BECNF explains the coulomb barrier and some other type of wave explains the lack of gamma rays.  The latter speculation may be preposterous, but who knows?  I haven't gotten any further ideas on the matter.  Perhaps someone else could.


    Not much to add because I don't know anything about the subject. I've been educating myself as much as is feasible by reading Wikipedia articles on the subject. Below is the list:

    1. Black-body radiation
    2. Photon
    3. Interference (wave_propagation)
    4. Diffraction grating  Comment:  I got this brainstorm that it may be possible to attenuate harmful radiation through this means.  But it now seems like a long shot.   Also, an idea occurred to me that waves may be interfering with each other and therefore maybe attenuating the gamma rays.  But that is also a long shot.

    Still reading about waves.  It is an education, as I mentioned above.  Here's what I'm reading now in Wikipedia:  (Starting from #4 above)
    1. Polarization_(waves)
    2. Oscillation
    3. Electric field
    4. Maxwell's equations
    By the way, none of this may tell anything about the E-cat, but it may be useful to know.


    A question has arisen. In the video below, two light bulbs are said not to have interference because they are out of phase. But what would happen if they were?

    In a BEC, could they be considered from the same source, and therefore in phase?

    not in phase if two separate sources

    but will interfere if it is in phase ( one source or two identical sources)

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Why make rockets reusable?

    Spacex is joining in on the Birdzilla project, which will attach a Falcon rocket to the underside of a very large plane. I think that could help get the first stage back to the launch site with the minimum amount of hardware and fuel. ( my 2 cents here)

    Saturday, January 7, 2012

    Articles: Red Flag on the Red Planet

    American Thinker: China's Great Leap Marsward?
     Meanwhile, President Obama has scuttled his predecessor's project to establish a manned scientific outpost on the Moon; as America's space program withers, China's thrives.

    In order to get my point of view on the topic of a moonbase, click on the category label below.

    Friday, January 6, 2012

    Rossi Get E-cat Patent Approval This Year?

    Rossi’s e-cat patent would be very helpful especially when the technology is already out in the marketplace. It would strengthen its marketing strategy to produce 1 millions devices at a very low price.

    I've written computer software for the market under my own brand.   Now, I may not be a legal expert, but my impression is that if you want protection for your intellectual property, it's better to have a patent.  If it isn't protected, somebody can reproduce it and claim it as their own.

    Furthermore, putting a million e-cats on the market could backfire if the product doesn't meet expectations.  The odds are that there are going to be a lot of people who won't be satisfied.  This will not be good PR, especially if you don't have a patent.  Bad in any case, but even worse if you have no patent.

    Monday, January 2, 2012


    Yesterday I had but one short post. I spent Sunday doing what I usually do on Sundays, which was to watch football games on TV. Besides that, I watched Terminator 3 on YouTube. Yes, it is there, the entire movie.

    I suppose I could critique the movie, but let's just say that it wasn't as good as the first two. By the way, I saw the movie not too long after its release, back in 2003. This was just a refresher. My opinion was just as I have given here, so the opinion of the movie didn't change. However, it did get me to thinking about the subject of machines, and how dependent we are on them.

    The Terminator series is supposed to be something of a cautionary tale about this. But there is no reserve about what this increasing reliance upon machines could mean for humanity. To the contrary, it would seem that a large portion of the sentient class want this development. I think it is called transhumanism.

    I haven't spent much time on the subject.  For those who have, this must be quite obvious.  I have mixed feelings about it.  Space colonization appears to be a part of transhumanism, but to me, it just seems to be a natural development.  I prefer natural developments as opposed to artificial ones.  That's the impression I have of transhumanism.  It is freakish and unnatural.

    For example, why would anybody want to go live on Mars?  Could it be because of the same impulse that led the pioneers to settle America?  The old pioneers came to look for God, but also to escape the tyranny of the Old World.  If it were possible to go somewhere which has not be settled already, and make a new world based upon new ideas and greater freedom.  That would seem quite natural, but it may not be the only reason why someone may want to go off world.

    However, I don't think going to Mars is necessary.  Humans can colonize the moon and then construct their own worlds in space with lunar materials.   You cold literally shape a new world from scratch.  But should this world be dominated by machines?  Or could it be a new world on a human scale?  An O'Neill colony would be about the size of a small town.  In space, it could have all the energy it could use.   The sun would power it and they could grow their own food.  There wouldn't be a need for much trade, but there could be something in which it could exchange with the Earth.  That would be energy.  There is so much of it in space, that it dwarfs whatever falls on the Earth's surface.  That was O'Neill's idea: to use the sun as an energy source and thus as an economic basis of his colony.

    Each world could develop according to its own preferences.  Some could be just agricultural in nature with a modest trading component.  Others could continue looking for the "fountain of youth".  For me, I think such a notion is rather unnatural, as that would not be my preference.  But for others, this could hold an attraction.  The freedom of association carried to that level could result in any number of combinations of future development.

    The unnaturalness of this continued desire for the unattainable is the thing that is most troublesome to me.  This quest for new and even more powerful machines to dominate, control, and run everything.  Is this really necessary?  Yet, it is also a part of the human condition for some of us to want to dominate and control the others.  But to what end and for what purpose?