The site is up and running on the new server, now with the latest version of Drupal. I'll need to redesign the site graphics to fit the new Drupal (yes, I will get rid of the annoying frilly bits :p), but the site content appears to be ok. More soon...
Work pressures mean that time to do blog updates is limited right now. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possble. Yes, I will post about such things as the new ESA centre in the UK, as soon as I get the chance...
Huh. Proof, if proof were needed, that God exists, and She has a cruel sense of humour. I found out at the mission consortium meeting last week that XMM-Newton had briefy safemoded for the first time in seven years... and now this. We're right in the middle of drafting the PLS bid for the next four years, and it's kind of difficult to go cap in hand to STFC for an extension to ground support for a satellite mission when your satellite don' work no more...
It is really kind of appropriate that I find myself typing this from a friendly branch of MacDonalds (being the only place in this bloody city where I can find consistently working free wifi). I sense an upcoming involuntary change in career.
So, Gentle Reader, I have to ask: Would you, indeed, like fries with that?
UPDATE 22/10 6:11pm: From one of the senior project guys: "I just heard that XMM is now back in contact with telemetry received. Instruments all appear to be in good shape. More later ..."
Currently in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, near Madrid, for the XMM-Newton Consortium Meeting. I'll be going from there to Brussels for Framework 7 project evaluation meetings. Access to wifi will be intermittent, so blog updates may be few or nonexistent over the next couple of weeks.
So many jokes, so little time! I reckon they're missing a trick here, think of the joint marketing opportunities with the likes of Velcro(TM) ;-)
If there are any keen, enthusiastic young female researchers out there interested in a comprehensive programme of 'human factors engineering' research on suborbital flights, my contact link is on the left ;-)
I'm thinking about creating a social network for UK space advocates via Rocketeers, possibly using something like Elgg as a platform.... in other words, the kind of thing that BISshould be doing, but isn't. I'd be interested in any comments you might have.
"The text is amended to 1) explicitly include concept study proposals for investigations with or without a 'human in the loop,' 2) include autonomous payload concepts and/or concepts benefiting from or requiring multiple flights, 3) include concepts for payloads mounted externally to a suborbital vehicle."
Just as well, really. Dave Boyce and I were facing the hilarious situation of the NASA deadline being over before we'd actually received the USRA funding to write the proposals in the first place. The wheels of university bureaucracy, they grind exceeding slow... :-p
Just had to turn down a departmental expenses-paid trip to the IAC in Glasgow :-( I want to go, I feel that it would be important for me to go, but between NASA ROSES, XMM-Newton Consortium and Framework 7 I've just got too much to do at the moment. Bah.
I completely agree with your criticisms of cost-plus government megaprojects. My understanding is that, in the past, government institutions like the Farnborough Royal Aircraft Establishment and NACA (before it became NASA) used to work on an entirely different principle: they would develop systems which would then be of use to private industry or to the military (I need to read up on this more, but that's what I think the principle was). In other words, they supported commercially viable or militarily necessary projects with technology development and risk reduction -- they did not generally own projects of their own.
Nevertheless, within the current space agency culture as it stands, Alan and his investors do want large-scale support from ESA to carry Skylon forward after the new technology for Sabre has been demonstrated.
I also totally agree with you on the desirability of having a variety of different spacecraft. I'd like to see both Skylon and Spacebus flying, as well as competing spaceplanes from America, Russia, China and so on, just as we now have Boeings, Airbuses, Cessnas, Tupolevs and so on. (In a way, I like Spacebus even more than Skylon, because I want to use its orbiter stage as a lunar shuttle.)
Regarding orbital infrastructure, my understanding is that the bottle-neck is in the transport, not the destination. An orbiting station is relatively simple to construct (so long as we ask Bigelow or Mark Hempsell to build it, and not Michael Griffin & Co). And as Dave Ashford has pointed out, one of the reasons why space stations are currently so expensive is that the call-out charge for a plumber is about a billion dollars (the cost of a Shuttle flight) -- again, it comes back to the transport costs.
I also agree with you (this is getting boring!) that space-based solar power has not yet been proven to be economically viable. But engineering is not an armchair pursuit. In order to assess the potential for solar power from space, we need to get up and running a prototype satellite, a prototype rectenna on the ground, prototype mining equipment on the Moon and NEAs, and prototype manufacturing facilities in orbit. Given the extreme importance of energy supply, these should be the immediate focus of space agency activities, and not the current science/spinoff/prestige paradigm the space agencies are working from!
My interview with Alan is due to appear in the November (or, if we get lucky, the October) issue of Spaceflight.
Thanks for your excellent list of suggestions. Here are a few comments of my own off the top of my head:-
* Agree wholeheartedly with comments about design and branding. BIS needs a new logo and a whole new look. I'm pretty sure that logo dates from the Society's founding in 1933. Just... don't hire the same company that did the 2012 Olympics logo ;-)
* BIS should hold more meetings outside London. They should co-operate with e.g. the NSC on co-branding and advertising of meetings. The NSC has 300,000 visitors a year interested in space, a market the BIS could and should tap into. Meetings could be live-video-linked back to London for those old duffers who aren't willing to venture beyond the M25 into Here-Be-Dragons-Land.
* BIS should hold more meetings targeted at younger members/potential members, and improve links with UKSEDS..
* BIS should recognise that space is not just a scientific and industrial activity, but an entrepreneurial one as well, and be ready to provide support to UK space entrepreneurs, whether with advice or links to potential sources of funding. If BIS doesn't do this, Rocketeers will ;-)
* Agree with support for development of radical ideas. It would be even better if this 'ideas incubator' was supported by at least a small amount of funding for concept development -- basically a British version of NIAC (NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, which sadly closed down a couple of years ago).
* Facebook: BIS exec needs to take over the Facebook group that already exists and breathe some life into it. It only has 18 members and it's dying on its feet.
* Create an RSS newsfeed for BIS news and events
* Contribute to the Google Calendar of UK Space Events that already exists
* BIS website to include profiles of BIS members doing interesting space-related work.
Following up on the space infrastructure side, I think there is a lot to be said for Mark Hempsell's Excalibur capsule concept. The papers in JBIS on Excalibur give a good idea of its versatility and capability, which is why I have baselined it for my proposed space infrastructure (doesn't everyone have a proposed space infrastructure? ;-) ) as the main orbit to planetary surface, and Earth - Lunar transportation method.
Mark's OS-10 mini space station concept from several years ago also holds potential for a first step on the orbital base path.
Given Aerosekur is European, I'm guessing they would be the ideal company to put together a decent sized inflatable European space station.
Add in a larger Earth - Moon transport powered by a couple of Vinci engines, and you have the basis of a cis-lunar architecture forming.
For surface to LEO transportation, I would go with Skylon augmented with the proposed Ariane 5 heavy lift variant, where payload would be volumetrically too large for Skylon.
Personally, I'd use the transportation system to build way stations at EML1 and EML2, which could then be enlarged over time to accommodate fuel depots, hangers, a large base, and a very large radio telescope and optical / IR telescopes. Over time, one could increase the size to accommodate space hotels at the locations too, and through organic growth, bring about the formation of a small space colony at these locations.