NewSpace Chicago Promotes Commercial Space Ventures In Chicago

NewSpace Chicago announced its formation as an entrepreneurial community for the development of private companies commercializing outer space.  The organization seeks to promote Chicago as a center of excellence for new commercial space, space-related, and space-scalable ventures.  It welcomes participation by entrepreneurs, students, engineers, investors, and others who are interested in creating new commercial space ventures in and around Chicago. NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program is motivating competition and innovation in the private sector to provide improved and cost-affordable launch services for crew and cargo.  This shift is enabling private companies to address space-related issues beyond launch services and…

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Evening Launch Captures Earth Limb

Last Sunday we participated with Far Horizons in a high altitude balloon launch.  We set up at our usual airfield, Koerner Aviation.  Launch time was set for 7:15pm, about half an hour before local sunset.  Our goal was to get some good video of the Earth limb and the terminator shadow moving across the ground. Hopefully, the balloon would remain in sunlight while at altitude and would be visible from Chicago in the evening twilight as a -6 magnitude light moving about 10° above the southern horizon. Additional experiments included a remote drone camera and a two-way communication system.   Rather…

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Let Space Flight Be An Accelerator For Technology (Again)

Commercial Spaceflight Federation President Eric Stallmer reflected on President Obama’s Speech at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center five years ago today. “President Obama spoke of accelerating innovation in the private sector, and five years later, we see the results of that commitment to the commercial spaceflight industry. Our industry is more robust and competitive than ever before, and President Obama and Congress’s investment in private sector pioneers has paid off in the form of thousands of new, high tech jobs around the country and continued assurance of our nation’s status as the leader in space exploration.” I am reminded of a comment…

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Adler IR Satellite

The Adler Planetarium is collaborating with Orbital Transports to build, launch, and operate a 3U CubeSat to demonstrate the ability to obtain Earth observation imagery in mid-infrared spectrum from low Earth orbit.  The primary science mission will map the global temperature of the Earth’s surface at a sufficient resolution to provide valuable data.  We plan to demonstrate the use of a cryocooled, high-definition mid-wavelength IR imaging system in a CubeSat form factor.  The Adler IR Satellite (AIRSAT) will be the focus of a public exhibit at the Adler Planetarium presenting the process and results of the mission.  Mission results will…

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Mission Profile for a Buoyant Spacecraft

For the purposes of analyzing the characteristics of buoyant spacecraft, we will develop a conceptual mission profile for a lighter-than-air vehicle designed to launch 10,000 kg of payload to low Earth orbit.  It will dock with a space station or release satellites and then return to Earth. This payload mass was chosen as a representative value for a medium lift launch vehicle capable of transporting crew and cargo to the International Space Station. Consequently the target orbit is at an altitude between 410km and 420km, included to 51.65 degrees, and an average velocity of 7.66 km/s. We assume the buoyant…

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MarsDrop flies again!

After the difficulties we had with the MarsDrop parawing guided descent experiment earlier this spring, we conducted some low altitude testing to learn the best way to pack the parawing for deployment.  Following these drop tests, we managed to fly the parawing several times to successful recoveries. Most recently, we flew the MarsDrop payload in tandem with a second payload carrying a 2-way communication experiment on a high altitude balloon.  The plan was to cut down the MarsDrop payload around 60,000′ and let the second payload continue to the top altitude, around 100,000′.  Although it was partly overcast, the launch…

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Could Buoyant Spacecraft replace rockets for ascent to orbit?

The fundamental kinematic characteristic of orbiting spacecraft is high-velocity ballistic trajectory, which can only be achieved at very high altitude where drag forces drop to near zero. Thus, the problem of launch to orbit can be decomposed into two separate issues: altitude and velocity. Rockets solve this problem all at once, using reaction force to accelerate very rapidly to high-altitude ballistic flight. Rockets must accelerate at high levels compared to gravity. Such rapid acceleration requires the rapid release of enormous amounts of energy, which is inherently dangerous. In addition, rockets are highly complex vehicles, prone to failure, and expensive to…

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