Is the US Navy Preparing to Conquer Space?

By Chuck Lesher


Lunar base with a long electromagnetic track for a mass driver.

Colonizing space will require a lot of stuff, iron to build space stations, titanium to build spaceships, oxygen for us to breathe, and many other resources. Lifting all this up from the surface of the earth on rockets is simply not feasible. Thus, we will need to find these resources somewhere else. You need look no further than the moon. It has all the natural resources we need to colonize space but the question remains, how do we get them into orbit? Even on the moon, rockets are not feasible, but something else might be.

An idea emerged over a century ago called a mass driver. The first mass driver described in print was in the 1897 science fiction novel A Trip to Venus by John Munro. He called it an electric gun. It was his imaginative method of launching vehicles into outer space from the Earth’s surface. Munro describes the electric gun as a series of coils energized in a timed sequence to provide the force necessary to get the spaceship into orbit.

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Your Very Own Personal Space Program

Michael Mackowski, a member of the Phoenix chapter of the National Space Society, has given us another interesting essay:

Your Very Own Personal Space Program

There are many ways folks express their interest in the space program. Some space enthusiasts read everything they can find and often have a large book collection. Some people accumulate souvenirs and autographs. Photos, patches, and pins are popular collectibles. Scale models can be another way to bring the space program to life in your home or office.

I have been inspired by space exploration since I was a youngster. Prior to finishing school and entering a career in aerospace engineering, my participation in the space program was limited to building scale models of the vehicles that were leaving the planet. Actually, I have never stopped building models of spacecraft, even while I build them for a living as an engineer. Like engineering, I find that modeling is just another expression of one’s creativity.

Over the years I have been participating in a network of other hobbyists with similar interests. What I have found is that many of these people, while being hobbyists and craftsmen in terms of their model building, are also passionate about space. My situation is a bit unique in that space is both my hobby and career. Most people who are passionate about space have other, usually non-technical careers. So one way they can feel closer to space exploration is by building small replicas of the hardware that makes it possible.

Certainly this sort of passion is the root of many hobbies. Military history buffs build models of tanks and fighter jets. Auto racing enthusiasts build race car models. Would be sailors rig up miniature ships and sailboats. People collect or paint miniature horses because they cannot afford to own a real horse. Airplane fans who cannot afford lessons or a plane can have a shelf full of models. Frustrated astronaut candidates build Apollo lunar modules and space shuttles. It’s not the same, but for many people it may be as close as you will get. It’s your own personal space program.

Enthusiasts want a piece of the space program they can see up close, hold in their hand, and relate to three dimensionally. Books and videos and internet sites are flat and virtual. A model is real and fills space. And you built it yourself. That’s why model building is more fulfilling than just collecting or buying pre-built souvenir models. You are now a rocket scientist, only scaled down, and with simpler technology. You have combined art with technology. You feel more a part of the movement, a part of the collective that is moving out to space. Through model building, you are more than an observer. You have made a statement, that by building this miniature monument to space exploration, you are supporting it, and proclaiming it to whomever enters your hobby room or office or wherever you chose to display your work.

If you can’t be an astronaut or be an engineer in the space industry, you can have your own little private miniature space program, and thus pay homage to whatever past or future off-planet venture that inspires you.

In that way, maybe it will inspire someone else, and the movement grows by one more.

The Vegetable Garden on the International Space Station

The latest crop harvested from the Garden on the International Space Station is Mizuna lettuce. The lettuce was returned to Earth for scientific research, aboard the Discovery shuttle in April 2010.

The greenhouse, first sent up in 2002, has been used for 20 plant growth experiments so far. Now, a second unit has been added, and the lettuce crop was the first experiment to test different conditions side by side.

For many years, the experiments have sought to confirm Earth side results which show that minimizing water usage and salt accumulation would lead to healthier crops. During this experiment, two different root growth mediums were used. One was the traditional root pack used on all the previous tests. The second was the new and improved root pack, with slow release fertilizer. The hypothesis was that the slow release would help reduce salt intake.

Science is sometimes best when things go wrong.

Mizuna Lettuce
Mizuna Lettuce On ISS
Image Credit: NASA

For some reason, the sensor controlling the watering in the first (traditional) module failed. This resulted in “over-watering” the plants. The results were surprising, but microgravity has held many surprises for scientists. First, the seeds that got “too much” water sprouted quicker and developed leaves twice as fast as the second (improved) module. The second surprise was that the plants grown in the slow release fertilizer in the second module had more salt accumulation than the plants in the first module.

The results suggest that plants in space need a larger volume of water and a faster rate of fertilizer than they do under normal gravity. Shane Topham, an engineer with Space Dynamics Laboratory at Utah State University in Logan, said that “the conservative water level we have been using for all our previous experiments may be below optimal for plant growth in microgravity”.

Overall, the garden experiments have four objectives:

  • Can the crops grown in space be consumed safely
  • What microorganisms grow on the plants, and how do you prevent or minimize microorganisms in the modules prior to launch
  • How do you clean and sanitize the crops after they are harvested
  • What conditions optimize the production of crops in microgravity

One additional objective of the experiments is to measure the non-nutritional benefits (stress relief, etc.) that crew members experience working with plants in space. Growing and tending to the crops provides comfort and relaxation to the crew. On a long voyage, this activity may contribute to the success of the mission.

Lada Module
A view of the Russian BIO-5 Rasteniya-2/Lada-2 (Plants-2)
plant growth experiment located in the Zvezda Service Module
on the International Space Station (ISS).
Image Credit: NASA

A close up view of sprouts on the Russian Lada-2 experiment.
Image Credit: NASA

A view of peas growing in the Russian Lada-2 plant growth experiment.
Image Credit: NASA

A close up view of a bloom on the Russian Lada-2 plant growth experiment.
Image Credit: NASA

Image Credit: Astronauts4Hire
Astronauts4Hire wants to create the first pool of private astronauts to support the emerging suborbital research industry.

A commercial spaceflight revolution is underway. Within a few years, private companies will provide routine access to space. Besides wealthy tourists, scientists are among those poised to benefit since they can use the new spacecraft as platforms to perform research in microgravity. The demand for skilled commercial scientist-astronauts to aid in this new industry is growing rapidly. Astronauts4Hire wants to create the first pool of private astronauts to fill this need. In doing so, we hope to demonstrate that space is accessible by anyone and inspire the next generation to pursue careers in space.

From their website, we have the following related stories and sources:

Commercial Suborbital Science in the News:

More information:

GOES-P – Launch

GOES-P Decal
GOES-P Mission Decal
Credit: NASA


GOES-P at T-Minus 28
Credit: NASA-TV

The countdown for the GOES-P Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite aboard the Delta IV is at T-minus 30 minutes at 3:33 PM Phoenix time prior to a built in hold.

You can follow along with the launch on NASA-TV.

Patrick Air Force Base has published their Launch Hazard Area warning for the Delta IV launch. We note the $250,000 fine for violating the space.

Weather briefing at 3:40 PM indicates clear skies, winds from 10 to 15 knots at the launch site and no upper atmosphere conditions that would cancel the launch.

GOES-P at T-Minus 24
Credit: NASA-TV

GOES-P Mating with Delta
GOES-P Mating with Delta Rocket
Image Credit: NASA

GOES-P is the third in the current series of GOES satellites (GOES N-O-P) and will be commissioned as GOES-15 once in its geostationary orbit. Its designed lifetime is seven years, with fuel for as much as ten years if the lifetime is exceeded. The next generation will be the GOES-R series, scheduled for deployment beginning in 2014.

We are currently at T-minus 10 minutes at 3:53 PM Phoenix time prior to the built in 15 minute hold at T-minus 5 minutes.

At 3:58 PM, the launch director has announced the hold at T-minus 5 minutes. Systems are checking off items required for internal power. Weather has reported that upper levels winds are green for the first ten minutes of the launch window.

L-minus 15 minutes. Launch weight is 733,000 pounds. Total LOX is 45,500 gallons and total LH2 is 120,000 gallons. The GOES-P satellite weighs 7,005 pounds.

Final poll of all systems, prior to resuming the count, will occur at L-minus 10 minutes (4:08 PM Phoenix time).

There are three items not ready, and one red alarm being evaluated, The poll has been suspended. The launch count will not resume until these have been cleared. There is currently no estimate on resumption of the countdown.

Weather now reports upper level winds are red, and the earliest resumption of the launch countdown would be 4:42 PM Phoenix time with launch at 4:47 PM.

GOES-P on hold
GOES-P On Hold
Image Credit: NASA
GOES-P on hold
GOES-P On Hold
Image Credit: NASA
GOES-P on hold
GOES-P On Hold
Image Credit: NASA


Launch crew is reloading software for upper level wind conditions and targeting a launch somewhere between 4:47 and 4:51 PM Phoenix time.

Latest report shows earliest T-0 at 4:57 PM Phoenix time

The alarms have now been researched. They are all single events with no re-occurrence. Recommendation to remove the flags and that has been confirmed.

L-18 minutes at 4:39. Resuming polling at L-10 minutes. Spacecraft remains on internal power and that is satisfactory.

Weather confirms the upper level winds are green. Go for 4:57 launch.

Polling of all systems prior to resuming the countdown has begun at L-10 minutes. So far all systems are green.

And all systems are green. We are now 7 minutes from launch.

The countdown has resumed.

The Delta IV has gone on internal power. Second stage on internal power. T-minus 4 minutes. Vehicle ordnance is armed (range safety can blow it up). T-minus 3 minutes. T-minus 2. Range Go for launch. T-minus 1.

Launch was successful. Boosters separated. First stage burn complete and second stage ignited at 5 minutes into the flight.

GOES-P T-60 Seconds
GOES-P T-60 Seconds
Image Credit: NASA
GOES-P Delta IV Liftoff
GOES-P and Delta IV Liftoff
Image Credit: NASA
GOES-P Ascent
GOES-P and Delta IV Ascent
Image Credit: NASA
GOES-P 43 Seconds
GOES-P at 43 Seconds
Image Credit: NASA
GOES-P Delta IV Booster Separation
GOES-P Delta IV and Booster Separation
Image Credit: NASA
GOES-P Second Stage Burn
GOES-P and Second Stage Burn
Image Credit: NASA


The flight has been nominal so far. Second stage shut down slightly before 14 minutes into the flight. The second burn is coming up at 22 minutes into the flight. Ignition, and operation is nominal. The second burn terminated at 27 minutes into the flight. Velocity is 31,000 feet per second. The coast phase will last 3 hours 43 minutes.

Final maneuvers will leave GOES-P in a geostationary orbit 22,236 miles above the Earth.

Endeavour – Docking with the International Space Station

Mission Control
Image Credit: NASA TV
Mission Control for Shuttle Docking
Docking Adapter
Image Credit: NASA TV
Space Shuttle Docking Adapter
Mission Control
Image Credit: NASA TV
View of Endeavour from ISS

At 6:00 PM Phoenix time (8:00 PM EST), the Space Shuttle is approximately 37 nautical miles from the International Space Station.

Endeavour is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station at 10:06 PM Phoenix time on Tuesday, 9 February (12:06 AM EST Wednesday) over the northern coast of Spain.

Endeavor continues to close on the ISS. At 6:30 PM, Endeavor will execute a one second burn of its Reaction Control System (RCS) to adjust its approach velocity by 1/4 of a foot per second.

Mission Control
Image Credit: NASA TV
Aft Deck of Shuttle

Kay Hire preparing for docking. Aft deck of the Space Shuttle.

At 6:50 PM, the Shuttle is 40 minutes away from its terminal initiation approach burn, at which time it will be about 50,000 feet away from the ISS. This burn will slow the approach by about 5 miles per hour.

The shuttle is currently passing over the Mediterranean.

Image Credit: NASA TV
Over the Mediterranean
Image Credit: NASA TV
Shuttle Closing on ISS
Shuttle from ISS
Image Credit: NASA TV
Shuttle From ISS
Closer ISS
Image Credit: NASA TV
ISS from the Shuttle: Closer
ISS Docking Port
Image Credit: NASA TV
ISS Docking Port: 100 Feet
Flying Shuttle
Image Credit: NASA TV
Flying Shuttle to the ISS Docking Port

At 10:00 AM Phoenix time, Endeavour is 35 feet from the ISS, and closing at 0.08 feet per second. Six minutes form docking.

The Shuttle has initiated final approach.

Closing at 0.1 feet per second.

Three minutes. Distance is 17 feet away from the ISS.

“14 feet at point one”.

Shuttle has docked at 10:06 PM Phoenix time.

I3 Feet
Image Credit: NASA TV
Three Feet From Docking Port
Soft Dock Confirmed
Image Credit: NASA TV
Soft Dock Confirmed
Shuttle from ISS View Port
Image Credit: NASA TV
Shuttle from ISS View Port

Right now, mission control is waiting for the final vibrations between Endeavour and the International Space Station to completely die down. When this happens, the docking ring will be drawn back in and the final latches will be closed.

Subsequently, a series of leak checks will be performed between the two spacecraft.

The hatch between Endeavour and the ISS will be opened in about two hours.

At 10:25 PM Phoenix time (12:25 AM EST), we wish you all a good night, and best wishes to the crews for a successful mission.

Endeavour – STS-130 – Launch Attempt 8 February 2010

Endeavour on the Pad
Image Credit: NASA TV

Now that the Saints have won the Super Bowl, we can get back to the important events that affect the real world.

At the moment we are in a built in hold at T-minus 3 Hours. Weather is looking very good. The Air Force 45th Weather Office is optimistic.

At 9:57 PM Phoenix time (11:57 PM EST) we have about 25 minutes left in this built in hold.

The current satellite weather map looks very favorable. There is only a thin band of clouds approaching Florida and the Cape that may affect the launch.

Weather is currently at 60% for a launch.

At 10:00 PM Phoenix time, there are no technical issues being worked prior to launch at 2:14 AM Phoenix time. Weather is expected to be favorable for launch on time. There are about 20 minutes remaining in this hold.

We will resume live blog about 30 minutes prior to launch.

Image Credit: NASA TV
Suiting up
Image Credit: NASA TV

Suiting up astronauts for STS-130.

At 1:55 AM Phoenix time we are at T-minus 9 minutes and holding. This is the standard hold, and are a few minutes from resuming the count. There are no issues at the present time and the range is clear. Launch in 15 minutes.

At 2:00 AM (4:00 EST) launch director is checking all systems prior to resuming the count. All systems are reporting GO. Weather is go. Endeavour is clear for launch.

L-11 minutes. Two minutes from resuming the count.

The count has resumed at t-9 minutes. There are no issues. Weather is good.

60 seconds and counting.


Main Engine Ignition
Image Credit: NASA TV
Main Engine Ignition
Lift Off
Image Credit: NASA TV
Lift Off
15 Seconds
Image Credit: NASA TV
15 Seconds into Flight
SRB Burnout
Image Credit: NASA TV
SRB Burnout
Booster Separation
Image Credit: NASA TV
Booster Separation
Main Engine Cut Off
Image Credit: NASA TV
Main Engine Cut Off
Chasing ISS
Image Credit: NASA TV
Endeavour Chasing ISS

One Hour after launch, Endeavor is in a stable orbit and chasing the International Space Station.

Endeavour is the last night launch. For 2010, that is one successful launch, with four to go until the Space Shuttle is retired.

Tranquility and the Cupola

Tranquility Node
Image Credit: NASA

The major mission for Endeavour (STS-130) is to deliver the Tranquility module (Node 3) to the International Space Station.

Tranquility will connect to the Unity module (Node 1). The connection point is on the Earth-facing side, and will provide an additional docking point for space shuttles and other crew vehicles visiting the station.

“It gives us a much needed addition to the house, so to speak,” said Bob Dempsey, lead space station flight director for the mission.

See this image for an exploded view of the ISS and the location of the various modules including Tranquility and the Cupola.

NASA notes that:

At 15 feet wide and 23 feet long, the Tranquility node will provide a centralized home for the station’s environmental control equipment – one of the systems that remove carbon dioxide from the station’s air, one of the station’s bathrooms and the equipment that converts urine into drinkable water, all of which is currently taking up space in the Destiny laboratory. And there’s enough room left over to house the station’s new treadmill and its microgravity equivalent of a weight machine, moving it out of the Unity node where it’s in the way whenever spacewalk preparations are going on inside the adjacent Quest airlock.

The Cupola is the real star of the show. It will be to provide a true view of robotics operations on the station’s exterior – especially when the next module, the Russian Rassvet, is added during STS-132.

The view of the Cupola at the left is from the clean room in the Alenia Spazio facility in Turin, Italy, where it was manufactured for the European Space Agency. Tranquility and the Cupola were shipped to the Kennedy Space Center aboard an Airbus “Beluga” aircraft in May 2009.

The view from the Cupola will include the Earth and the Japanese and Russian sections of the ISS.

The Cupola
Image Credit: NASA

Endeavour – STS-130 – Launch Attempt 7 February 2010

Image Credit: NASA

Launch coverage of Endeavour (STS-130) is on NASA TV

At 2:13 AM Phoenix time, we are at a built-in hold at T-minus 9 minutes, and we are within 30 minutes of launch, if the weather cooperates.

The weather is red for launch. The cloud ceiling is the culprit.

At 2:24 AM, about six minutes remain in the built in hold. The cloud thickness is in excess of 500 feet. The range is red due to weather.

At 2:27 AM, all systems have reported they are go for launch with the exception of weather.

Cloud base is 3,800 feet. The weather is too dynamic. And we now have scrubbed the launch for 24 hours.

We will see everybody tomorrow.

Endeavour STS-130 Launch Watch

Mission Patch
Image Credit: NASA

Countdown coverage of the launch of Endeavour (STS-130) on NASA TV and NASA’s Launch Blog begins at 9:30 PM Phoenix time (11:30 PM EST) tonight, 6 February. Launch is scheduled for Sunday at 2:39 AM Phoenix time Sunday morning (4:39 AM EST).

Weather is 80 percent Go for Launch, primary concern is high winds at Pad-A.

Comments by Flight Director Kwatsi Alibaruho can be found on

In the meantime, the International Space Station received the Progress M-04M resupply vessel and will unload some 2,600 kg of supplies.

Left is Endeavor on the launch pad. Weather is beginning to be an issue. A thick cloud level is at 6,000 feet and this will be a problem for launch.

Currently we are at t-minus 3 hours and holding.

All three trans Atlantic abort sites have good weather and are not a problem.

The Shuttle crew is preparing to suit up and begin boarding Endeavour.

Endeavour on the Pad
Image Credit: NASA TV
Tranquility and Cupola Loading
Image Credit: NASA TV

Earlier this week, Tranquility Node 3 and the Cupola were loaded into the Shuttle payload bay.

The problems with the ammonia cooling tubing have been resolved thanks to the two tiger teams that worked the problem

Weather has now pulled the chance of launch down to 60%. The main concern is no longer the high winds. The problem is the cloud cover.

The astronauts are suiting up in preparation for boarding the Shuttle.

We are 20 minutes from coming out of the built in hold at T-minus 3 hours.

Coverage will resume here 30 minutes before launch.

Suiting Up
Image Credit:NASA TV