rockets make rainbows

I’ve been working at Stennis for a little over a a year now, and have worked at various NASA facilities off and on for the last 6 years, and whenever a friend asks me about “rocket fuel” they do it in hushed tones with the occasional glance over their shoulder. As if it were some national secret, and that if it were, I would somehow have the 411 and give them the insider scoop so long as they keep it on the DL… Well you are all in luck! I am going to let you in on a little secret, ssshhh! Ok, come a little closer to your computer monitor, we don’t want your coworkers overhearing what you’re reading. Ready?… Most rocket fuel is almost entirely liquid oxygen and/or liquid hydrogen. Surprise! 

So while LOX and LH2 are amazing and beautiful, what many people think about is that rockets are powered by water. Yup. Water. Granted you have to separate it, and bring it down to liquid temperatures, but nonetheless these aren’t exotic materials; they are completely sustainable and clean burning.

So the cloud you see forming as the exhaust of a rocket engine is literally a could. Not to mention that when we are testing rocket engines we quench the flame with nearly 1 million gallons of water per minute. So after any test on site it rains immediately after, usually right on top of all of the people standing around watching it; and when the conditions are right, the exhaust creates rainbows. So there you are, probably the coolest way to make a rainbow.

ROCKETS MAKE RAINBOWS

here is a video I took of the RS-68 test yesterday that led to the above image.

And here are a few more photos in case you want more 😉

and for those that are curious, this is what it sounds like inside the building where I work during the test.

Everything you need to know about 3D printing rockets

As you may have heard, about a week ago Marshall Space Flight successfully tested a rocket injector that was 3D Printed. Well actually the first tests were earlier than that, but everyone took notice when the video posted below (and others taken at the same time) were posted.

What you might not know is why this is just now a “breakthrough” when 3D printing in metal isn’t new. Shapeways has been printing metal pieces since 2009, and the technology was first patented in the 80s. The biggest difference is that traditionally 3D printing in metal has been done using Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) whereas this injector was printed in Inconel using Selective Laser Melting (SLM). If the difference isn’t clear… in SLS the laser fuses the metal powder together through a localized reaction, whereas SLM essentially melts (or welds) all of the metal in the part. There is a little bit of research going into the difference in properties etc. between the two. The two processes are being improved daily, but everything I have read or seen shows SLM to be stronger (though only marginally in most materials). If your curious, Marshall uses the M2 Cusing by Concept Laser. So the technology specific to printing this part is very new. Marshall just started testing out the technology a year ago.

Enter SpaceX. Yesterday SpaceX posted the video below showing off there cool Iron Man inspired 3D model viewing technology. At the end of the video they print a part to scale in inconel using SLS (specifically using this printer).  So SpaceX posts a video where they 3D print an inconel engine part and everyone is too distracted by the shiny sci-fi-esque toy  to really grasp that, while the call the part a “prototype”, it is a functional prototype and they could (& probably will) make the end product the exact same way. The only thing left to be seen (from my perspective) is if the SLS printed parts will hold up just as well as the SLM parts.

Oh, and did I mention that one of the SLM printed rocket injectors is currently at Stennis and I have been given the opportunity to handle it and give feedback? If you know me, you know how much I love both 3D printing and rockets, so of course I jumped at the opportunity. I wanted to tweet/post pictures at the time but I was told no :/   I guess I’ll settle for writing this post, even though I have to leave out some of my coolest thoughts/opinions on the matter 😉

NASA Asks Universities For Early Stage Innovation Tech Proposals

April 02, 2013

David E. Steitz

Headquarters, Washington

202-358-1730

david.steitz@nasa.gov

RELEASE: 13-095

NASA ASKS UNIVERSITIES FOR EARLY STAGE INNOVATION TECH PROPOSALS

WASHINGTON — NASA is seeking innovative, early-stage space technology proposals from accredited U.S. universities that will enable NASA’s future missions and America’s leadership in space.

Proposals are sought for science instruments, cryogenic propellant storage for long-duration space exploration, optical coatings for astrophysical pursuits, oxygen recovery for life support systems, and to improve our understanding of and protection from near-Earth asteroids.

Each of these space technology areas requires dramatic improvements over existing capabilities. New early stage, or low technology readiness-level, technologies could mature into tools that solve the hard challenges facing NASA’s future scientific and human spaceflight missions. Researchers should propose unique, transformational space technologies that address specific topics found in this solicitation.

“Space technology is the underpinning of all of NASA’s future missions,” said Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. “NASA’s collaboration with the National Research Council and the agency’s recent Strategic Space Technology Investment Plan have helped us identify areas where new, cross-cutting space technologies are needed to enable our future missions. Now we’re reaching out to American universities to tap into the nation’s best and brightest minds to help solve these tough technology problems.”

This solicitation requests proposals on five topic areas. The first topic area seeks new instrument technologies for the exploration of planetary bodies within our solar system. Innovative technology advances are needed to support the instruments that scientists will need to better understand the history, climates, evidence of past life and future potential habitability of planets and moons within the solar system.

Spaceflight architectures for future human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit will require technologies and capabilities not available today, such as long duration storage of cryogenic propellants in a zero gravity environment. Under a second topic area for this solicitation, NASA is particularly interested in proposals regarding how to mature fundamental experimental and computational solutions to address the challenges of cryogenic storage of liquid hydrogen.

Through a third topic area for this solicitation, NASA is seeking advances in optics technologies to enable the challenging science measurements that may contribute to the understanding of the first moments of the universe, the characterization of galaxy evolution over time and the characterization of newly found exoplanets.

As future exploration missions extend beyond low-Earth orbit, vehicles and extraterrestrial surface habitats housing astronauts will need to be highly reliable and self-sufficient; the opportunity for resupply of consumables diminishes the farther from home you go. The fourth topic area of this solicitation seeks novel technologies that will help close the atmosphere revitalization loop aboard spaceships and surface habitats during long duration space missions. New technologies must have the potential to significantly increase the oxygen recovery rate beyond the current state of the art.

Under a final topic area, NASA is seeking proposals for new technologies to better understand and protect our planet from near-Earth asteroids. Early stage technologies that will help with characterizing, understanding, and planning how to mitigate the threat of near-Earth asteroids are of great interest. These efforts are important for the sustainability and future of our home planet.

NASA expects to make approximately 10 awards this fall, based on the merit of proposals received. Each award will be made for one year with an additional year of research possible. The typical annual award value is expected to be approximately $250,000. Second-year funding will be contingent on the availability of appropriated funds and technical progress. Only accredited U.S. universities may submit proposals to this solicitation. Notices of intent are due by April 29 with proposals due May 21.

To view the Early Stage Innovation NASA Research Announcement and information for submitting proposals, visit:

http://go.usa.gov/25De

The solicitation is a part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in NASA’s future missions. For more information about NASA’s investment in space technology, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/spacetech

Will Work For Tickets (am geek – will travel)

will work for tickets

Will work for maker faire, SXSW, or Comic-Con tickets

Will work of food tickets (& travel costs). If you get me there, I will do (just about) anything; ranging from dazzling people with my intelligence/geekyness, giving presentations/speeches, loading and unloading heavy equipment, &/or get you coffee. Note: I am far more experienced at the first two, than the last.

In previous positions I have had the luxury of going to several amazing events; like traveling to India with Geeks on a Plane.

I miss that. Don’t get me wrong, my day job is awesome, but I don’t get to go to as many awesome/geeky activities as I use to (and claim that they are work related).

There are so many great events going on every year where having a resident “handy-man” / “smart guy” / “geek-extraordinaire” might come in handy. In particular there are three events that I really want to go to:

Maker Faire Bay Area (I’d also do New York)

SXSW (It may be a little late this year to swing it…)

Comic-Con (Not quite sure who would pay to send me to Comic-Con, but I still really want to go)

I could afford to go to these events, but it would be hard for me to justify taking time off from work and school AND paying for them… to my wife 😉

So if anyone has need of my experience/expertise, or just another set of hands. I would love to help you out, meet/work with new people, and get to attend any of these events. I’ll take the time off work, if you take care of the rest.

This is where I work 

Retiring a giant

I have personally worked at 3 different NASA facilities and
visited at least half a dozen. I also worked for GE Healthcare for
a while, which endeared me to that brand in ways few outside
of GE could understand. So when I first started at Stennis Space
Center (where I currently work) a giant piece
of machinery being uninstalled caught my eye quickly.
This piece of equipment had been on site for probably longer than I
have been alive. At all NASA facilities, and manufacturers like the
one I worked at while I was with GE,
old machinery is surprisingly common. Calling
either GE or NASA “cutting edge” would be an understatement, but
you don’t need glass office desks, or brand
new everything to be cutting edge. Older equipment that
is still in use today is there because it was built to last. I
really loved seeing this article about
the NASA Crawler, which is essentially a
GIANT tank that carries the shuttles
out to launch. In the article it talks about upgrades to the
system, but how it couldn’t possibly be replaced. When I see
machines like GE Space Heater get retired it feels a little like
the changing of the guard to me, and I only hope the
equipment that our generation builds is not only better, but
performs as long as the equipment our grandparents built.

We need to think differently about Sandy Hook

As an Engineer and Scientist I greatly respect the work of Albert Einstein. I particularly enjoy his ability to see and think from a perspective that is rational but that many people overlook. One of my favorite quotes of his (and there are many) is:

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”Einstein Quote Gun Black and White

 

There have been many tragedies over the years, and they seem to be escalating. Sandy hook is a recent and horrific example. My heart and my prayers go out to the families effected by this tragedy. In reality I think that applies to almost everyone.

It seems as though the vast majority of people instinctively insist that the solution is either more or less guns. Guns are neither the problem nor the solution. We need to think differently about the problem.

My suggestion would be to focus not on firepower but education.

No, not education about firearms. If that was your first thought when I said education then you need to completely rethink the situation.

I mean reach out in your community, both to your own children, nieces and nephews, and to those who may not have someone to look up to, and read to them. Talk to them. Be there for them. It takes a village, and a child cannot have too many good mentors. When I was young it felt like adults were constantly asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I rarely hear adults ask children that question anymore. Maybe it’s just me, but those are the type of questions we should be asking kids so often that they roll their eyes at us.

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales” – Albert Einstein

Same Passion, Different Generations

My father in law came over last night w/ an Ardruino Uno and asked if I had ever heard of

Arduino uno

Ardruino, and if I would like to help him out with a project. I had to use a lot of self control to keep from jumping over the couch and hugging him right then and there. Before I had a chance to explain that I love Ardruino, and that at times the only reason I hadn’t quit my job and taken up hacking/inventing using Ardruino platforms is because I know my beautiful wife would be very sad (I actually don’t think she would leave me, she loves the mad scientist in me; but she also loves me not spending money we don’t because I quit my job on more stuff that takes up 99% of the garage). Before I could tell him about laundry list of arduino projects just waiting for an excuse good enough to justify doing. Before I could tell him about the Raspberry Pi, or the Beagle Board. Before I could gush about all of my excitement, he said “ya know, ardruino is going to change everything”. My response; “it already has”.

world maker faire poster

This might seem like a random rant but it sums up a social/generational situation that I have run into at least explicitly at least a dozen times this month, and indirectly almost every day. The “Maker movement” and baby boomers. Boomers honestly are the best people to have involved in a Makerspace, hackerspace, project, startup, whatever; because they have so much experience, and “making” is what most of them grew up doing. Only when they were younger it didn’t have a title per se, it was just tinkering or getting the job done. You don’t see enough boomers in the make/hack/startup community because of a variety of reasons; but the problem I face constantly is trying to communicate how big of a deal things, like 100kGarages and Make, are despite the fact that they feel so familiar and common place to a generation that has spent their evenings in garages making stuff.

festival for little makers

IMO the Maker Movement is about moving (some) production from factories in China back to your back yard/garage. It is a work ethic as old as time, an inventive nature innate in so many people, and technology younger than the Millennial  coupled with skills and trades older than the Boomers even.

Making stuff is timeless, but faces change with time.