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Comment Partitioning (Score 2) 31

Hopefully they know the lesson we've learned in aerospace (e.g. ARINC-653), to partition critical and non-critical assets into separate computing units (hardware and/or software). That way some yahoo can't hack your in-car Facebook app to disable your brakes. Don't these guys watch Battlestar Galactica?

Comment Majorana was his own antiparticle (Score 1) 99

As good a time as any to recommend my nominee for the most lively biography of one physicist written by another physicist, to wit "A Brilliant Darkness: The Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Disappearance of Ettore Majorana..." by Joao Magueijo. A bit of physics, a bit of scandal, a bit of gossip, just enough foul language, plus some honest, original biographical research.

Submission + - Safer cycling via traffic camera data (

FullBandwidth writes: Urban planners in Virginia are trying to make bicycling safer, but they're hampered by a lack of statistics about who's riding where. Alec Gosse rides his bike to work at a Charlottesville company that analyzes data, and he recently completed a PhD in civil engineering. He and other graduate students created software that could review video from those ubiquitous traffic cameras, identify and count bikes. Gosse suspects this software could be refined to make cycling safer by recording close calls and fixing problems with road design and signage to reduce the risk of accidents.

Submission + - ATK to Merge with Orbital Sciences Corp (

FullBandwidth writes: Two Virginia aerospace players, Arlington-based Alliant Techsystems and Dulles-based Orbital Sciences, are merging to create a $5 Billion (US) venture. The companies announced the merger in a joint announcement Tuesday. ATK is also spinning off its lucrative hunting gear segment into a separate company.

Comment Re:Docking with the International Space Station? (Score 2) 44

Yes, but for a geosynchronous vehicle to be in its station-kept orbit might be precision of something like 0.05 degrees ( Cygnus had to hold at 30m and again at 10m distance (see, slide #11) for go/no-go decisions prior to moving to the docking position. Totally different orders of magnitude.

Comment Re:Historic? (Score 4, Informative) 44

Think you might want to check (and cite) those numbers again. I think you've confused launch mass with cargo mass. - Dragon delivers 2300 lbs (1045 kg) cargo to ISS. - Cygnus delivers 2000 kg (standard) or 2700 kg (enhanced) to ISS. The vehicles serve two very different purposes upon reentry. Dragon brings back garbage and recoverable cargo, Cygnus just takes out the trash. That's one of the reasons that Cyngus carries a much greater payload to the ISS. So if you are going to do any kind of back-of-the-envelope calculation about which one is a better value for NASA, then you have to include the value of bringing the wanted & unwanted cargo back versus disposal. Your argument reminds me of the old "which is better, Mac or PC" arguments we used to have in the 20th Century. The answer is "two players are always better than one." Now, how can we extend that analogy to SLS ... "which is better, Mac, PC, or IBM/370 running MVS?" Hmm, IBM/370 may still be considered a lightweight compared to SLS... And what exactly do you mean by "stuck in orbit?" A functioning space vehicle that maneuvers and allows another visiting vehicle (Soyuz) to rendezvous, before making its own approach, hardly sounds "stuck."

Comment Re:Antares: an outsourced rocket (Score 2) 85

Not to denigrate the fine contribution of lobbying and paperwork to any successful endeavor, but you might find that turning a collection of components into an integrated system - even for something as trivial as a space launch - is a little more complicated than clicking Legos together. Besides, only the first and second stages were delivered as components. That still leaves the fairing, separation systems, launch vehicle interface to the ground systems, the ground systems themselves (1st stage is liquid), etc. etc. etc.

Comment Re:Why mock cargo? (Score 1) 85

Slight correction to your "anything like the confidence" comment - that is actually irrelevant, all that sort of thing is specified in the contracts that Orbital and Space-X have with NASA. The next Antares launch will in fact carry a completed Cygnus vehicle, including cargo, with the intent to dock with the station. That's what they keep referring to as the "COTS demonstration mission." Space-X did the same thing under their COTS contract - the only difference is that after the Falcon's successful maiden voyage, Space-X talked NASA into dropping one of the two demo missions their contract originally called for (Orbital always had just one). So after Space-X's COTS demonstration flight - when Dragon docked with the station successfully - they immediately went into the CRS phase of the program and have flown one mission so far under that agreement. Orbital will enter the CRS phase once the COTS demonstration mission is successful, presumably this summer.

Comment Re:Yikes! (Score 1) 97

True - but where in the article does it say anything about making any code tweaks? All I saw was they want to do more hardware-in-the-loop testing and review the data. If all that passes muster, no code will change and presumably they will be go for launch. If it doesn't pass, THEN they may consider standing down to make code changes. Or, change operational procedures or ground software or ask for a waiver or any of a number of corrective actions. Maybe MSNBC updated the article after you read it ... or maybe my browser hid page 2 or something? The only mention of "code tweaks" is in the incorrect /. headline. Cheers

Comment Re:Not what I want from Amazon (Score 1) 140

I dug my venerable Kindle out and dusted it off, after working with a variety of tablets over the last few months. I'd forgotten how much smaller & lighter it is, with battery life in months, not days. It's hard to see how to preserve those good traits of a e-reader while also loading it down with features to make it a desktop/laptop/netbook replacement, which seems to be where the tablet market has to go (or has already gone?).

"Summit meetings tend to be like panda matings. The expectations are always high, and the results usually disappointing." -- Robert Orben