Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Koreasat 5 launch

Congratulations to Sea Launch on their successful launch of Mugunghwa 5 (the Korean name for the satellite - Mugunghwa is the name of S. Korea's national flower). I was fortunate enough to see the launch live on TV at lunchtime yesterday.

Also, I have just fixed the settings to allow comments from non-members.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Space Solar Power

Some time back this month Sam Dinkin made a comment on the Transterrestrial website about how space solar power (SSP) is less cost effective than beaming power to the Moon.

The most depressing figure given is the current $202.5 per watt setup costs (which assumes $10,000 per lb launch costs-reasonable for GTO), however the piece suggests that this estimate could be reduced by up to two orders of magnitude by reduced launch costs and payload weight. In that case I don't think we should need to compare SSP with coal. In a perfect free market energy providers would be free to continue building coal fired power plants until the retail cost of electricity becomes only marginally more than the cost of producing it using coal. In reality NIMBYism and environmental considerations allow less cost effective solutions such as wind powered turbines to exist on the margins as long as the demand exists.
Wind power costs vary but may be estimated at up to about $0.10 per KWh ($0.88 per watt-year) compared with the figure of $0.07 per watt-year for coal, and about $1000 per KW for the turbine compared with $0.75 per watt for a 750MW coal fired plant. (wind power costs based on this source from the UK Oxford Institute for Energy Studies - Disclaimer: quotes^3 ie quotes of quotes of quotes). It still depends on government subsidies and favorable legislation for survival. Perhaps wind power costs would be a better basis for comparison in a real-world scenario.
Having said all that, I'm not at this stage an advocate of SSP and I think it's a real stretch to estimate that the costs could be brought down by a factor of 100, but because of its obvious benefits I believe it deserves a second, third, and perhaps a fourth and fifth look to see if it can be made to work. More on this in a later post.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Congratulations to Rocketplane Kistler and SpaceX for obtaining the COTS funding. Speculating on what made them stand out made me tentatively conclude that the reason is because they are better financed or have more developed products than their competitors. I had almost expected that Spacedev would be one of the funding recipients given that they are the only company offering basically a spaceplane. Nasa's approach makes sense however. It's a survival of the fittest principle borrowed from nature, where the mother favors the stronger young over the weak at feeding time!
Continuing with this analogy, in the future if either SpaceX or R.K. appear to be not delivering the goods, funding should be diverted to another contender to ensure the best solution is given the best chance of survival.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Korean food in space

Recently there was a news item in the Cosmic Log which discussed how astronauts tend to find food in zero gravity bland and prefer it 'kicked up' a notch or two.
Koreans are like this even on earth, and if you have ever tried kimchi or meuntang (spicy soup) you would know what I mean. So I could see Korean food being very popular in zero-g. On the other hand, the first Korean in orbit is likely to be disappointed because there is probably nothing on Earth that would be spicy enough for a Korean with suppressed tastebuds!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Bigelow's space habitat program

I had been thinking about making a brief comment that Robert Bigelow's research program has a fun loving aspect which is somewhat (and perhaps understandably) missing in government sponsored space research - although I think a six foot high version of the 'magnetic sculpture' in Genesis One has a good change of appearing in the foyer of his first space hotel.
Now it seems he is accelerating the program, and the Fly your Stuff offer is going to be cut to just one mission - Genesis II, and we don't yet know what will happen to his other ideas. I hope whatever plans he has doesn't cause the program to lose it's initial spark of creativity.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster

Elon Musk apparently doesn't think much of the prospects of space solar power. Well, it's possible he's right but one has to wonder- where are we going to get all the watts for his Tesla Roadster, if a few years later the rest of us all want one too?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

About this blog

This blog is going to be mainly about space and space travel, of course. I used the term continuum in the title to suggest that Earth and Space are connected and that the process of getting from here on Earth to space is not a sudden quantum leap, but a gradual progression of capability. In fact travel in space itself is arguably separated into more sharply defined borders than the border to space itself.
Nevertheless I'll probably be covering a few other areas as well. I have an interest in the technical and economic aspects of energy production here on Earth, eg oil availability, alternative energy, and of course the possibility of getting electrical energy from orbiting solar panel stations.
I also may share a few tidbits about life here in Korea, and events in my company, CSI. (although probably not much because we generally prefer to lie low)
Since I'm extremely busy these days with helping the team here at CSI develop the first commercially available methane rocket engine while at the same time trying to learn Korean, I'm not quite sure how frequent my posts will be. On the other hand, I started this blog because whenever I read online news and commentary I start to think of all kinds of new ideas and perspectives and I've been itching to write them all down. Hopefully the latter will win out. :-)