Thursday, June 9, 2016

A big day at the Cape...

Today will be awesome when United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy takes off from Cape Canaveral this afternoon. This is the largest payload rocket in current operation. The launch is scheduled for 1:59 PM EDT but there is a small possibility for delay due to Lightning.  Keeping fingers crossed.

Here is a link to the Launch on the ULA site:

Here is a link to the webcast:

Can't wait to see it!\

UPDATE:  Unfortunately the weather refused to cooperate and they had to postpone the launch.  They have a 48 hour recycle time so the next attempt will be on Saturday the 11th.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

ORBCOMM-2 Full Launch Webcast

Congratulations SpaceX on a successful launch and landing ushering in a new era of space exploration!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Stored Solar Energy: Elon Musk style

So, Elon Musk held a news conference last night and announced that he has a new division of his Tesla Motors company called Tesla Energy. This division will produce a new wall-mounted lithium-ion electric battery, powered by solar panels for the home and small business market. He is calling the system The Tesla Powerwall. He also talked about a larger version for utility scale use called the Tesla Powerpack. I certainly applaud his innovation and his efforts to try and reduce or eliminate the CO2 produced from power plants, but there is a part of the plan that concerns me.

 My concern is with the use of Lithium-Ion batteries. Lithium is already a hot commodity with the high demand for all of the rechargeable batteries in our electronic devices. Another issue is the production of Lithium produces toxic waste materials that must be dealt with. While it certainly looks good on paper, I wonder if having people unplug from the electric utilities will put our infrastructure in jeopardy. Less people requiring less energy from the electric companies means less money available to maintain the existing infrastructure.

 I have always been a proponent of utility scale solar chimney power plants. Sure, they aren't revolutionary, nor are they a product that can be sold to consumers individually, but producing electricity with almost no environmental impact surely seems the best option for utilizing the vast amount of solar radiation that reaches the earth on a daily basis. The operation of the plants produces no waste products as they operate on simple thermodynamics. They can be scaled and adapted to run 24 hours a day.

The biggest hurdles are the cost of the initial construction and the large footprint they require to be effective. I personally believe these are not true hurdles, but mere bumps in the road towards energy sustainability.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Being 'disruptive' is a good thing!

I remember in school that anyone who didn't sit down and follow the rules was labeled as a disruptive student. Anyone who caused us to question what we were told to do or why we had to do it was considered a disruptive force. We were led to believe that being disruptive was a bad thing. I've now come to believe that being disruptive is a good thing!

According to the Mirriam-Webster online dictionary Disrupt means
to cause (something) to be unable to continue in the normal way : to interrupt the normal progress or activity of (something)
True innovators are disruptive forces.  They question the status quo and look beyond what we can currently do to see and strive for more.  Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Franklin, the Founding Fathers, Thomas Edison. These were all disruptive people who challenged what was and pursued what could be.

Part of the reason for my change of heart is a blog post Peter Diamandis of XPrize and Singularity University sent out this past weekend as part of his newsletter. The part of the post that hit me the hardest was when he talked about how it takes courage to be disruptive. Dan Sullivan's 4 C's.  Let me quote this for you:

The first is to make a commitment.
This commitment gives you the willpower and energy you need for the second C: courage.
With commitment and courage, you have the power to create capability.
And finally, armed with commitment, courage and capability, you then have confidence to execute your vision.
 This makes perfect sense to me and I see it with regard to all great innovators.  They had committed themselves to make a change, had the courage to forge ahead. They created the capability to make the change and had the confidence to execute that change, no matter what it was.

In his newsletter Peter put forth the example of 3D printing which is currently in the disruptive phase. Truthfully the origins of 3D printing goes back 35 years and it is only through persistence and courage that it has reached the success it has and it is predicted to approach $5 Billion in sales in the next 2 years.

So, will you simply follow the status quo or will you be a disruptive force in the world?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Analysis of Solar Chimney Power plants

Previously I wrote a short post about how much I like the idea of Solar Chimney Power Plants here. Since then I have been scouring the interweb looking for news, articles and studies regarding these types of plants and I have to say I'm disheartened at the lack of material available.  There have been a couple of papers written (the newest I found was 2012) and there had been news of a plant that was being built in Arizona and another in Australia, but neither of these appear to be progressing.

A recent article on the National Geographic site talks about a possible alternative to a rigid concrete tower that record holding balloonist Per Lindstrand has proposed where the tower is built of fabric at a significant savings. This would be exceptional if it can be done.

According to published reports a Solar Updraft power plant in the 200 MW (megawatt) range would have a tower approximately 1 km tall (1000 M or 3280 feet) and a collector surface area approximately 7000M in diameter.  That is a huge area to place under a roof. (approximately 9500 acres)

The 2 biggest challenges are obtaining that amount of land and building the tower that tall.  Neither of these is insurmountable but both are expensive!  The idea of the plant is that it would be built ion land unsuitable for other purposes, which is in its favor.  Deserts are the best places for this type of plant.  The fact that it doesn't use any water in the production of electricity is also ideal for the desert environment.

There is currently a pilot plant operating in China.  It is privately owned and funded, but seems to be having its own challenges.  According to the article, it has issues with glass in the collector breaking from the heat and the tower is too short to be efficient.  Despite these issues, the plant is in operation and generating electricity.

I really do think these plants make a lot of sense as they are environmentally friendly, consuming no resources during operation nor producing and waste products including CO2.  There is also no need of many rare elements nor a sophisticated production facility needed to produce components.  There is also no need to deal with excessive heat nor cooling.

One other idea is the tower itself could become an attraction with the addition of an elevator and an observation deck on the top.  this would provide an additional revenue stream for the plant.

This is a technology and a method of producing electricity that must be utilized!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A successful Falcon 9 V1.1 Launch

Spacex successfully launched their Flacon 9 V1.1 at 22:41 UTC from Cape Canaveral on December 3.

It was a sight to see and well done getting their first commercial satellite, SES8 into it's proper orbit.  this was a major milestone and one that finally went off after previous issues had aborted the launch.

Well done Spacex!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Maybe today

Spacex Aborted the second launch attempt on Friday due to an issue with Oxygen in the igniter fluid that is used to ignite the Merlin Engines.  They are doing a scrub down of the components and have said that a new attempt will be Monday Evening at the earliest.  I hope they can get the launch off successfully as this is a major cusp for the Space Company.

If all goes well and they are able to overcome these technical issues, this will be a very big win for the corporation.  If they do not manage to successfully launch, then this may be the first tolling of their death bell.  It would only take one catastrophic failure to shut them down completely.

Personally I am hoping that this launch is a success and that they are able to learn from the issues they've had.  We need Spacex and other companies like them in order to truly open space to the public.One encouraging note is that China has successfully launched its own Moon Rover over the weekend, but what worries me is that if there aren't commercial, public companies making successful launches to space, then the Chinese government will take over and control access to space.

What I find interesting is thinking about the series Firefly and how that showed that space was actually opened up by a combination of English and Chinese endeavors and a new language was created which had elements of both languages.  I could easily see this as happening.

UPDATE:  The launch will be Tuesday 5:41 PM ET with Wednesday as a fall back.