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Comment Re: Still higher than a Soyuz launch (Score 1) 84

That should say perigee at 151 km. Oops. The point is that to the extent that the lifter can deliver the satellite to GTO, the on-board fuel of the satellite is saved for other activities. So, for this the payload is not the maximum the rocket can lift to LEO, and the remaining second-stage fuel is used for a second, in-orbit burn for going from LEO to the geostationary transfer orbit. The Falcon 9 first stage had enough remaining fuel to land successfully after this. They could have given it a bit higher kick if they'd operated the first stage as expendable.

Comment Re: Still higher than a Soyuz launch (Score 1) 84

The last Falcon launch brought JCSAT-16 to a supersynchronous orbit, very definitely not LEO, with the apogee at 36183 km and the apogee 151 km, and about 20 degrees inclination off of equatorial. The apogee was a bit higher than geostationary. The remaining load for on-board propulsion is to change the inclination (which is most economical to do with a burn at apogee) and to circularize the orbit (raise the perigee).

By giving the satellite a kick to high orbit, the Falcon 9 saves fuel on the satellite that will be used to maintain the orbit longer than would otherwise be possible.

Comment Re:Still higher than a Soyuz launch (Score 1) 84

I have always been highly skeptical of are their launch costs. I simply don't believe them.

If you are concerned about the "shear violence", I suggest you go to 1 Rocket Rd, Hawthorne, CA, cross-street is Crenshaw. Stand in front of the building. SpaceX has left a rocket right on the front lawn for you to look at, a first stage that returned from lifting the Dragon capsule to ISS. It got to 1/5 orbital velocity (the second stage does the rest), burned its rockets for about 2.5 minutes, was in the air for less than 10 minutes overall.

Regarding the economics, I think the main point is that there was not an incentive to lower cost until now. The USA had a single-source contract and the two former competitors formed a joint venture so that there would be no competition. Also, there was more subcontracting: for example most companies didn't make their own avionics and these came with tremendous markups, space-qualified fasteners were quoted at $10/screw in the '90's and are probably more now.

So, a vendor who actually tries to reduce prices can probably reduce them a great deal, simply because nobody else has tried very hard before. There would be a lot of low-hanging fruit.

Comment Re:Seat? Same cost, Falcon 2.5X capacity (Score 1) 84

I agree that Elon is way too self-indulgent. Forget about the simulation remark, hyperloop is either cynical in nature (meant to divert funds from real trains) or wildly underestimating the costs and safety issues.

However, I think you're wrong about the space junk issue. One of the problems right now is the lack of any way to economically de-orbit legacy space hardware in high orbits. You don't get that without economical access to space.

Comment Re:The engineering is the expensive bit (Score 1) 84

The reason that you spent that much money building the cargo has comparatively little to do with the cost of the launch and everything to do with the fact that you really don't get multiple chances to get it right

I think you need to go back to your initial assumption, which might not be true any longer. With lower $/kg to your selected orbit, replacing a satellite is economically possible and building a satellite with a much shorter projected lifetime is probably optimal because the alternative is for the operator to be stuck with 20-year-old technology in orbit (given 15-year design lifetimes and a 5-year design-to-launch cycle, which might be optimistic).

If you really run that sort of company, you need to be looking about what could happen if your assumptions are wrong. And not advertising the fact that you aren't doing that.

Comment Re:Still higher than a Soyuz launch (Score 1) 84

Remember when Rogozin said the U.S. should get its astronauts to ISS with a trampoline? He's singing a different tune now. SpaceX is currently operating at a very significantly lower cost than Russian rockets in terms of $/kg to the specified orbit. And that's in the expendable configuration. Given successful reuse by SpaceX, Russia probably won't have a place in the market.

Comment Re:Prepare to be (Score 4, Informative) 201

Well within experimental noise - and certainly nothing you're going to propel anything anywhere with.

I agree I'm still far from sold on the EM drive. I want to see it working in a vacuum, away from earth's magnetic field, and I want an explanation for the physics behind it. But if there's new physics, then who can say what the eventual application will be? Our first experiments with radioactive materials made things a little warm and glowy (and poisonous) but then fast forward a few decades and we've got mushroom clouds and nuclear reactors.

Comment Re:Could you gush a little more? (Score 1) 298

The documentation for C# (and to be honest all of Microsoft's recent offerings) is phenomenal. Easy to read, easy to search, well referenced, lots of examples. The language itself is modern, sleek, well thought out, and has incredibly useful features like LINQ that simply no one else has.

As a linux nerd I spent two decades laughing at M$'s incompetence. But I have to give credit where credit is due. I hate the fact that C# is my current favorite high-level general purpose language.

Comment Re:No news! (Score 3, Interesting) 87

Every time one of my friends on facebook shares something from some crap aggregator site like "SuperInterestingCoolFunFacts", I go to the little drop-down menu on that post and select "hide all from SuperInterestingCoolFunFacts".

Turns out that most of my friends only get their daily dose of drivel from a few sites, so after a couple of rounds of that the signal to noise ratio improves considerably.

Encryption

FBI Director Says Prolific Default Encryption Hurting Government Spying Efforts (go.com) 315

SonicSpike quotes a report from ABC News: FBI Director James Comey warned again Tuesday about the bureau's inability to access digital devices because of encryption and said investigators were collecting information about the challenge in preparation for an "adult conversation" next year. Widespread encryption built into smartphones is "making more and more of the room that we are charged to investigate dark," Comey said in a cybersecurity symposium. The remarks reiterated points that Comey has made repeatedly in the last two years, before Congress and in other settings, about the growing collision between electronic privacy and national security. "The conversation we've been trying to have about this has dipped below public consciousness now, and that's fine," Comey said at a symposium organized by Symantec, a technology company. "Because what we want to do is collect information this year so that next year we can have an adult conversation in this country." The American people, he said, have a reasonable expectation of privacy in private spaces -- including houses, cars and electronic devices. But that right is not absolute when law enforcement has probable cause to believe that there's evidence of a crime in one of those places, including a laptop or smartphone. "With good reason, the people of the United States -- through judges and law enforcement -- can invade our private spaces," Comey said, adding that that "bargain" has been at the center of the country since its inception. He said it's not the role of the FBI or tech companies to tell the American people how to live and govern themselves. "We need to understand in the FBI how is this exactly affecting our work, and then share that with folks," Comey said, conceding the American people might ultimately decide that its privacy was more important than "that portion of the room being dark." Comey made his remarks to the 2016 Symantec Government Symposium. The Daily Dot has another take on Comey's remarks, which you can read here.

Comment Re: Weirdly specific statement (Score 1) 55

What is the limiting factor? Buildup of CO2?

People need a certain amount of oxygen for their metabolism, you need to carry that much. CO2 effects the blood pH: too little and the body is too alkaline, too much and it's too acidic. So, you need to maintain a precise amount of CO2 and remove the rest. The scrubbers in the space shuttle were able to regenerate the CO2-absorbent material after use, so there was use of power but material wasn't consumed.

Beyond this, you need to control temperature and humidity. The other requirements than atmosphere for crew survival are that you water, feed and shelter the crew, maintain orientation, and maintain a G-force envelope that doesn't injure the crew.

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