Table Flux is GO!

a2mnewlogoSometimes, the ducks just line up.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first “space” product.  (If you count middle space, that is, not the mythic outer space.)  Acme Advanced Materials has produced high-grade wafers of silicon carbide, aboard flying laboratories.  Why do we care?

Simply put, silicon carbide makes lots of ducks line up: SiC power switches will make components in EVs, efficient lights, wind turbines/solar arrays, and the grid in general a lot smaller and tougher, which means more efficient and inexpensive.  All the way down to the wall adapters for our laptops, and possibly on into those computing devices as well.  To put things in perspective: Toyota and Honda didn’t build the first hybrids until compact, efficient power switching circuits became available.  Even better switches will continue our drive towards the future.0203

Most electronics are grown on silicon wafers; wafers are then cut into the chips that handle more and more of our lives.  Chips only got practical as silicon got purified enough to take current, without heating or noise.  But there’s a problem: even pure silicon only takes so much juice, without making heat and noise anyway.  Enter SiC. Continue reading

Flock-1 Not Done

So much news… Sunday, a cargo launch arrived at the International Space Station.  Except the vehicle was a commercial “freighter,” and its cargo included commercial satellites.  Onboard:

All are micro- or nanosatellites, depending on your definition.  The first 4 are basic CubeSats, 10x10x10 cm. ArduSat is a 2U, or 10x10x20, and Planet Labs’ birds are 3U. Continue reading

Followup: More Legwork (Still Not Enough)

Yep, everyone likes the exciting work, no one likes to grind out the boring but necessary stuff.  XBox One data is in, and its defect rate is uncomfortable.  Just like PlayStation 4 defects, and… the last XBox.  Didn’t do enough of their field testing, quality control, and supplier oversight.

Meanwhile our newest microsatellites are chiming inmostly.  Some universities, startups, etc. didn’t do enough part screening, flight-like testing, systems review, or any of a hundred other things, and their CubeSats are silent.  One case, the Kentucky Space consortium (University of Kentucky/Morehead State), requests help.  They’ve built a surprising satellite, but not a ground station network (or even staff) that can effectively support their needs:

…trying to determine the charging characteristics of the power system. The three team members all live above 40 degrees north and the satellite does not warm up enough during nighttime N-S passes to allow charging to begin. None of us are usually around during the daytime S-N passes and we would particularly appreciate telemetry reports when the satellite is in daylight…  Any form of report is welcome…

Everyone wants to be a satellite stud, no one wants to be an antenna dork.  NASA built the Deep Space Network (dishes looking up) and TDRS System (relay sats looking down) for this very reason; China, India, and even Russia need NASA and ESA dishes to go past Earth orbit.

Followup: Rah Rah Wren

906_513_744I briefly mentioned Wren- the German project (STaDoKo) that’s not a CubeSat (10x10x10 cm), but a PocketQube (5x5x5).  It was launched and deployed successfully, and amateur radio enthusiasts may have received its signal.

That blurb didn’t really do it justice- did I mention this satellite is 5X5X5 centimeters, despite flying a camera and an experimental attitude control/navigation system, including electric thrusters?  But wait, where does the astronaut fit? Continue reading

Followup: Dawn of Dead…Talking Points

Well well well well… Not only is the UN flying “drones” (in the African conflict), but Pakistan, ever crying the victim, has since “developed” its own UAVs.  Hypocrisy much?

Pakistan’s Shahpar and Burraq UAVs just entered Army and Air Force service; their Navy is in trials.  I’ve seen claims that Pakistan won’t arm them… but I don’t buy that for a second.  First, the Shahpar is clearly based on China’s CH-3, which is armed.  Second, sub- and full-scale displays went public, arms at their wings.  3rd, Pakistan’s predicament begs for hunter-killer patrols.  Says analyst Usman Shabbir, of Pakistan Military Consortium:

It is important in a sense that it greatly cuts the gap from detection to shoot… Earlier, once you detected something and wanted it taken out you had to pass on the imagery to higher ups, who had to approve and allocate resources like aircraft and by the time the aircraft got there the bad guys were long gone. Now detect, make decision, shoot and go home — all in same loop.

One kill, and they lose all sympathy.  This, after admitting US drone kills were exaggerated.

Followup: Rah Rah Reveille

Rah rah to the following people, pushing the boundaries of institutions and budgets:

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

CAPE-2: “…everything is working!

KySat-2: “All systems functioning nominally!

Phonesat 2.4: “heard and decoded from CA!

Vermont Lunar CubeSat: “successfully established radio communications

Dawn Of The Dead (Cockpits)

Looking around for a sale this Black Friday?  Or still looking for a parking space?  The ads are full of mini-helicopters, and some empty cars… just like the Afghani skies, and test courses in Silicon Valley respectively.  It’s not Black Drone-day, it’s now drone-era.

Lost in all the handwaving and whining about “drones” (or UAVs, UCAVs, or what have you*) is one simple fact: geeks know they’ve been here all along, ever since we called them “R/C planes” (or cars or helicopters or what have you).  How do I know?  Full disclosure: 45I’m not just a geek, I did some consulting on a “drone” project, though it was general work and would apply to a manned plane.

These are shelves in a hobby shop.  Like most such shops in the developed US, you can pick up an R/C plane for 200-400 bucks.  Some people have that in their pocket right now.  Some lucky kid in your town has such a plane, and maybe a bunch of kids. Continue reading