Friday, April 29, 2011

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (STS-134)

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is on board the Shuttle Endeavour awaiting liftoff and assembly on the International Space Station.

Space Shuttle Endeavour's Final Flight

Credit: NASA video

After nearly two decades of achievements in space, Endeavour makes one last reach for the stars on its final mission, STS-134. This web cast examines the mission to come and explores the storied flying career for the youngest of NASA's shuttle orbiters.

Space Shuttle Endeavour (Orbiter Vehicle Designation OV-105) is the fifth and final shuttle and was constructed as a replacement for Challenger. Structural spares from the construction of Discovery and Atlantis, two of the three remaining operating shuttles in use at that time, were used in its assembly. The decision to build Endeavour was favored over refitting Enterprise on cost grounds. The orbiter is named after the British HMS Endeavour, the ship which took Captain James Cook on his first voyage of discovery (1776-1771). Endeavour first flew in 1992 on STS-49 and during that mission it captured and deployed the stranded INTELISAT IV communications satellite. In 1993, it made the first service mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Among other notable achievements: in 1998, on STS-89 Endeavour rendezvoused with the MIR space station for an astronaut exchange. That same year on STS-88 Endeavour flew the first assembly mission (Unity Module-Node 1) of the International Space Station. This flight will mark the 25th and final flight of Endeavour.  Upon decommissioning  Endeavour will be displayed at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. This means detailed photographs to follow sometime in the future.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

NASA CCDev 2 Briefing 28 April 2011

Today there was a briefing at the Kennedy Space Center detailing NASA's recent awards of more than $269 million for the continued development of a commercial transportation systems to carry astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit. Four U.S. companies received the awards in the second round of NASA's Commercial Crew Development, or CCDev 2, effort. It is expected that commercial crew transport will free NASA to concentrate on developing and building new technologies for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit. This is a step in the right direction for human spaceflight. This is what we all want. We want NASA to refocus on going back to the Moon, to Near Earth Asteroids and eventually to Mars.

SpaceX CCDev 2 video shows Dragon Landing on Mars

No one ever said that Elon Musk doesn't dream big. GO SpaceX!

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Dennis Tito's Flight and the Birth of Space Tourism

Dennis Tito

Dennis Tito launched into space and into history aboard Soyuz TM-32 on April 28, 2001, and spent 7 days, 22 hours, 4 minutes in space orbiting the Earth 128 times. He returned on Soyuz TM-31. Tito became the first to fund his own trip to space and paid a reported $20 million for his trip. The spaceflight was brokered by the space tourism company Space Adventures Ltd

Dennis Tito has a BS in Astronautics from New York University and a MS in Engineering Science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is a former scientist of NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In 1972, he founded Wilshire Associates, a leading provider of investment management, consulting and technology services in Santa Monica, California. Wilshire relies on the field of quantitative analytics, which uses mathematical tools to analyze market risks - a methodology Tito is credited with helping to develop by applying the same techniques he used to determine a spacecrafts path at JPL.

Dennis Tito's Mission Patch

A report from Miles O'Brien.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mission Management: Endeavour ready to fly on Friday

With two days to go to launch, the six-member crew of STS-134 continued its last-minute preparations for its scheduled flight to the International Space Station on Friday. That assessment came following a meeting of the shuttle's Mission Management Team.

STS-134: "Go" for Launch on Friday April 29 at 15:47 EDT

STS-134 Mission Patch

STS-134 (ISS assembly flight ULF6) will be the final flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour with a scheduled liftoff at 15:47 EDT for a 14 day mission to the International Space Station (the launch window is 10 minutes long and opens at 15:42 EDT and closes at 15:52 EDT) . Touchdown is scheduled for 13 May 2011 at 9:28 EDT. This flight will be delivering the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and an ExPRESS Logistic Carrier. This mission will be the 165th NASA manned spaceflight, the 134th shuttle mission and the 25th and final flight for Endeavour.

STS-134 will be crewed by : Mark Kelly (Commander), Gregory Johnson (Pilot), Michael Fincke (MS1), Roberto Vittori (MS2), Andrew Feustel (MS3) and Gregory Chamitoff (MS4). All veterans of previous spaceflights.

STS-134 Mission Poster

Endeavour and her crew will be delivering the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 2 which is a particle physics detector that is designed to search for antimatter and the origin and structure of dark matter. The ExPRESS Logistics Carrier 3 will carry several Orbital Replacement Units which include a High Pressure Gas Tank, an Ammonia tank Assembly, a S band Antenna Subsystem Assembly, a Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator Arm and a spare pallet controller avionics box. Endeavour will also carry the Sensor Test of Orion Rel-nav Risk Mitigation Detailed Test Objective (STORRMDO) kit.

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer

Four spacewalks (EVAs) are scheduled for this flight and are currently scheduled to be the final EVAs conducted by a shuttle crew. EVA1 will be on flight day 5, EVA2 will be on flight day 7, EVA3 on flight day 9 and the final EVA will be on flight day 11.

President Obama and the first family are expected to attend Thursday's launch. This will be the first time since 1998 a sitting president has visited the Kennedy Space Center to view a manned space launch. Another special guest will be Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., the wife of Endeavour commander Mark Kelly. Giffords was shot in the head in an assassination attempt Jan. 10 at a meeting with constituents in Tucson. The latest reports indicate that Giffords has made steady progress since the assassination attempt, and that she has secured the approval of her medical team to travel to the launch.

The best place to watch the launch on-line is at The link to the Mission Status Center can be found here where Miles O'Brien, David Walters and former astronaut Leroy Chiao will be providing a live web cast starting at 11:00 EDT. Launch coverage is also available on NASA TV web cast and the link can be found here.

Good luck and GOD bless the crew of Endeavour. Will see you back home on the good Earth on the 13th of May.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Yuri's Night Recap: Met Astronaut Buzz Aldrin

Mai, Laksen and Buzz Aldrin

We had never attended a Yuri's Night party before, but since this was the 50th anniversary celebrations of Yuri Gagarin's flight we just absolutely had to attend. Especially when the party here in Los Angeles was being hosted by none other than Yuri's Night co-founders Loretta Hidalgo-Whitesides and George Whitesides. The event was held at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles with a party to follow at the Wood and Vine Bar in Hollywood. We barely made the 7:30pm start so we were not able to get in to the main auditorium as it was full. Instead we watched the video feed of the various talks from the Depths of Space Gallery. That in it self was pretty spectacular. The first talk was by Griffith Observatory's Astronomical Observer, Anthony Cook, who gave a detailed account of Yuri Gagarin's life and his historic 108 minute orbit around the planet. Next with video and audio feeds from all over the world, everyone stood up and sang happy birthday to Loretta. Pretty cool! She is an amazing person having degrees from both Cal Tech and Standford. She is a Flight Director at ZERO Gravity Corporation and a team member of Richard Branson's new venture Virgin Oceanic. Next her husband George Whitesides, who by the way is the CEO of Virgin Galactic gave a very interesting talk on how space travel might change in the coming 50 years. He showed some great pictures and video of the test flights of Spaceship 2.

We then drove down to Hollywood to the Wood and Vine Bar. I did not realize that on the corner of Wood and Vine there is a Hollywood star dedicated to the Apollo 11 astronauts. Inside we met a bunch of really fascinating people. Rick Tumlinson was there, Robin from the Mojave Air and Spaceport and I even had a chance to talk with a couple of engineers from SpaceX. But the highlight of the evening was when we met Buzz Aldrin. I was thrilled beyond belief to meet him and talk to him. Buzz is a pretty special guy. He is a West Point graduate who went on to get a PhD from MIT. As a USAF fighter pilot (F-86 and F100) Buzz flew 66 combat missions and he shot down two MIG 15's during the Korean War. Buzz was selected by NASA in 1963 as part of the third group of astronauts. His first mission was with Jim Lovell aboard Gemini 12 which was a 4 day mission with a 5.5hr EVA. But what we all remember about him is his Apollo 11 mission where he served as Lunar Module Pilot on the first lunar landing on July 20th 1969. I have not been able to stop talking about him. After all, how many people do you meet that have walked on the Moon.

It was getting pretty late so we had to get back to Irvine. There was a long line of people waiting to talk to Loretta but standing there all by himself was George Whitesides. I am wearing my jacket with the two Mars Desert Research Station patches and he looks at me and wants to know what the mission patches are about. How cool is that? For a guy who is CEO of company that is building a spaceship... I must say that he is one of the most down to Earth people I have ever met. Just before I left I told him that I definitely will be doing a sub-orbital flight on Spaceship 2. My wife was nodding her approval which was a very good sign. The Sky is definitely NOT the limit!

Yuri's Night was celebrated in 75 countries and 566 registered events took place. Some were pretty far away. There was a party held at Camp Phoenix in Kabul, Afghanistan and even in McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Even the ISS astronauts participated in the celebrations (see below).

Credit: NASA - astronauts wearing their Yuri's Night T-shirts

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ric Elias: 3 things I learned while my plane crashed

Ric Elias had a front-row seat on Flight 1549, the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River in New York in January 2009. What went through his mind as the doomed plane went down? At TED, he tells his story publicly for the first time. Ric Elias is the CEO of Red Ventures, a marketing services company that grew out of Elias' long experience in business

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tour of the International Space Station by NASA Astronaut Cady Coleman

If you are really busy this weekend or you don't have $56 million to go visit the International Space Station this is probably the next best thing. This video from ReelNASA shows Expedition 27 Flight Engineer Cady Coleman flying through the International Space Station with a high-definition video camera.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

SpaceX Update: "First Astronaut Mission in Three Years"

Credit: SpaceX

Another huge win for SpaceX as NASA awards them $75M as part of the Commercial Crew Development initiative. This email update from SpaceX was sent out yesterday.

WASHINGTON D.C. - NASA has awarded Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) $75 million to develop a revolutionary launch escape system that will enable the company’s Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts. The Congressionally mandated award is part of the agency's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) initiative that started in 2009 to help private companies mature concepts and technologies for human spaceflight. "This award will accelerate our efforts to develop the next-generation rockets and spacecraft for human transportation," said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer. "With NASA’s support, SpaceX will be ready to fly its first manned mission in 2014." Musk said the flight-proven Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft represent the safest and fastest path to American crew transportation capability. With their historic successful flight on December 8th, 2010, many Falcon 9 and Dragon components that are needed to transport humans to low-Earth orbit have already been demonstrated in flight. Both vehicles were designed from the outset to fly people.

The announcement comes at a time when the United States has a critical need for American commercial human spaceflight. After the Space Shuttle retires in a few months, NASA will be totally dependent on the Russian Soyuz to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) at a cost of more than $753 million a year -- about $63 million per seat. Musk said Dragon – designed to carry seven astronauts at a time to the space station at a cost of $20 million a seat – offers a far better deal for the U.S. taxpayer. While considerable flight testing remains, the critical-path technology Dragon needs for carrying humans to orbit is the launch escape system.

New Launch Abort System: SpaceX's integrated escape system will be superior to traditional solid rocket tractor escape towers used by other vehicles in the past. Due to their extreme weight, tractor systems must be jettisoned within minutes of liftoff, but the SpaceX innovative design builds the escape engines into the side walls of Dragon, eliminating the danger of releasing a heavy solid rocket escape tower after launch. The SpaceX design also provides crew with emergency escape capability throughout the entire flight, whereas the Space Shuttle has no escape system and even the Apollo moon program allowed escape only during the first few minutes of flight. The result is that astronauts flying on Dragon will be considerably safer. Furthermore, the integrated escape system returns with the spacecraft, allowing for easy reuse and radical reductions in the cost of space transport. Over time, the same escape thrusters will also provide the capability for Dragon to land almost anywhere on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy, overcoming the limitation of a winged architecture that works only in Earth's atmosphere.

Under the award, SpaceX will modify Dragon to accommodate crew, with specific hardware milestones that will provide NASA with regular, demonstrated progress including:
  • Static fire testing of the launch escape system engines
  • Initial design of abort engine and crew accommodations
  • Prototype evaluations by NASA crew for seats, control panels and cabin
The December 8th, 2010, demonstration flight of Falcon 9 and Dragon was the first flight under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, which was initiated to develop commercial cargo services to the International Space Station. After the Space Shuttle retires, SpaceX will fly at least 12 missions to carry cargo to and from the International Space Station as part of the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract for NASA.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Atlas-5 Launch Tonight from Vandenberg Airforce Base, California

Credit: Gene Blevins/LA Daily News

If you in the Los Angeles area, tonight might be a good chance to see an Atlas-5 rocket launch. Liftoff is scheduled for 9:25pm PST from Space Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The weather is supposed to be a little iffy due to high winds with a 30% chance of liftoff tonight. The mission is designated NROL-34 - a "classified" launch for the National Reconnaissance Office. Check in at at for additional mission details.

National Space Society Awards Pioneer Award to SpaceX

Credit: SpaceX

NSS PR – In recognition of SpaceX’s groundbreaking year in 2010, with the successful launch of two Falcon 9 rockets, and the safe return of its Dragon capsule, the National Space Society (NSS) is today announcing that Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will be the recipient of the NSS’s 2011 Pioneer Award for Business Entrepreneur. This award will be presented at the NSS’s annual International Space Development Conference (ISDC), which will be held from May 18-May 22, 2011 in Huntsville, Alabama. Adam Harris, SpaceX’s Vice President for Government Affairs, will accept the award on behalf of SpaceX.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Movie: "First Orbit": The First 108min of Manned Spaceflight

This video created by is a real time recreation of Yuri Gagarin's pioneering first orbit, shot entirely in space from on board the International Space Station. By matching the orbital path of the Space Station, as closely as possible, to that of Gagarin's Vostok 1 spaceship and filming the same vistas of the Earth through the new giant cupola window, astronaut Paolo Nespoli, and documentary film maker Christopher Riley, have captured a new digital high definition view of the Earth below, half a century after Gagarin first witnessed it. The film combines this new footage with Gagarin's original mission audio and a new musical score by composer Philip Sheppard.


50 Years Ago Today: Yuri Gagarin Became The First Man In Space

Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin was a Soviet cosmonaut who on 12 April 1961 became the first human to journey into outer space, launching to orbit aboard the Vostok 3KA-3 (Vostok 1). His call sign for the flight was "Cedar" - meaning Siberian Pine. Ground Control referred to themselves as "Dawn".

Gagarin was born on the 9th March 1934 in the village of Klushino near Gzhatsk (now known as Smolensk Oblast, Russia). In his late teens he became interested in flight and joined a local flying club near Saratov. He started military flight training at the age of 21 and had his pilot's wings the year Sputnik was launched, rising to the rank of Senior Lieutenant in the Soviet Air Force by 1959. The next year he was selected for the Soviet Space Program and trained hard for the next 12 months before he was selected as the principal cosmonaut for the first manned flight into space.

The flight of Vostok 1 began at 06:07 Universal Time (UT), boosted into orbit by a Vostok-K series rocket. Ground controllers didn't know if Gagarin had achieved a stable orbit until 25 minutes after launch, just as he was heading into the night side of the Earth and down across the Pacific Ocean. Unsure of the effect of space flight on a human being, the spacecraft's controls were run by an automatic system, with Gagarin only permitted to take control in an emergency. Hurtling into dawn just south of Argentina and on through morning light across the vast South Atlantic Ocean, the spacecraft's automatic system aligned the capsule and fired the retro rockets just as he crossed the west coast of Angola to start the descent, still 8000km from home.

Problems with the separation of an equipment module at this point in the flight meant that Gagarin experienced an uncomfortable 10 minutes as the two modules gyrated wildly before they broke free of each other and Gagarin's re-entry capsule settled into a proper orientation. Crossing over the deep dark forests and mountains of central Africa and on over the distinct red North African deserts Gagarin would have glimpsed the dark winding Nile River carved through Southern Egypt as his descent back into the atmosphere continued. On across the Black Sea streaked the capsule and Gagarin prepared to eject, since the capsule's parachute landing system was deemed too rough for a cosmonaut to risk. Over the Russian province of Saratov, not far from Engels, Gagarin jettisoned his Vostok capsule, still seven kilometers above the ground. He made his final descent on his own parachute and was back on Earth 108 minutes after launch.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Yuri's Night Celebration on 12 April 2011 - Los Angeles Area

"Human Spaceflight became a reality 50 years ago with the launch of a bell-shaped capsule called “Vostok 1” on April 12th, 1961. The capsule was carrying Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who took his place in history as the first human to leave the bounds of Earth and enter outer space"

This Tuesday there will be a huge bash to celebrate this historic moment hosted by none other than founders of Yuri's Night Loretta Hidalgo-Whitesides and George Whitesides. There is expected to be over 300 Yuri's Night parties in some 69 countries globally (the full list can be found here) but the official blast is a two part event here in Los Angeles. First there is a special event at Griffith Path where Griffith Observatory's Astronomical Observer, Anthony Cook will describe Yuri Gagarin's 108 minute orbital flight and then Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides will describe how space travel might change in the next 50 years. Directions and other information can be found here.

Then there will be a follow up event at the Wood and Vine Bar in Hollywood. I managed to twist Mai's arm to go to this and I am hoping she wont back out. Will post pictures later in the week.

Infographic on Cosmonaut Selection Criteria

Not a whole heck of a lot of detail, but this was posted on

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

SpaceX: Falcon Heavy Press Conference

In case you missed it this morning, the BIG announcement from SpaceX was about the Falcon Heavy. The following email was sent out earlier today.

SPACEX PR — Today, Elon Musk, CEO and chief rocket designer of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) unveiled the dramatic final specifications and launch date for the Falcon Heavy, the world’s largest rocket.

“Falcon Heavy will carry more payload to orbit or escape velocity than any vehicle in history, apart from the Saturn V moon rocket, which was decommissioned after the Apollo program. This opens a new world of capability for both government and commercial space missions,” Musk told a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

“Falcon Heavy will arrive at our Vandenberg, California, launch complex by the end of next year, with liftoff to follow soon thereafter. First launch from our Cape Canaveral launch complex is planned for late 2013 or 2014.”

Musk added that with the ability to carry satellites or interplanetary spacecraft weighing over 53 metric tons or 117,000 pounds to orbit, Falcon Heavy will have more than twice the performance of the Space Shuttle or Delta IV Heavy, the next most powerful vehicle, which is operated by United Launch Alliance, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture. 53 metric tons is more than the maximum take-off weight of a fully-loaded Boeing 737-200 with 136 passengers. In other words, Falcon Heavy can deliver the equivalent of an entire commercial airplane full of passengers, crew, luggage and fuel all the way to orbit. Falcon Heavy’s first stage will be made up of three nine-engine cores, which are used as the first stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle. It will be powered by SpaceX’s upgraded Merlin engines currently being tested at the SpaceX rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas. Falcon Heavy will generate 3.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. This is the equivalent to the thrust of fifteen Boeing 747s taking off at the same time.

Above all, Falcon Heavy has been designed for extreme reliability. Unique safety features of the Falcon 9 are preserved, such as the ability to complete its mission even if multiple engines fail. Like a commercial airliner, each engine is surrounded by a protective shell that contains a worst case situation like fire or a chamber rupture, preventing it from affecting other engines or the vehicle itself. Anticipating potential astronaut transport needs, Falcon Heavy is also designed to meet NASA human rating standards, unlike other satellite launch vehicles. For example, this means designing to higher structural safety margins of 40% above flight loads, rather than the 25% level of other rockets, and triple redundant avionics.

Falcon Heavy will be the first rocket in history to do propellant cross-feed from the side boosters to the center core, thus leaving the center core with most of its propellant after the side boosters separate. The net effect is that Falcon Heavy achieves performance comparable to a three stage rocket, even though only the upper stage is airlit, further improving both payload performance and reliability. Crossfeed is not required for missions below 100,000 lbs, and can be turned off if desired. Despite being designed to higher structural margins than other rockets, the side booster stages will have a mass ratio (full of propellant vs empty) above 30, better than any vehicle of any kind in history. Falcon Heavy, with more than twice the payload, but less than one third the cost of a Delta IV Heavy, will provide much needed relief to government and commercial budgets. In fact, Falcon Heavy at approximately $1,000 per pound to orbit, sets a new world record in affordable spaceflight.

This year, even as the Department of Defense budget was cut, the EELV launch program, which includes the Delta IV, still saw a thirty percent increase. The 2012 budget for four Air Force launches is $1.74B, which is an average of $435M per launch. Falcon 9 is offered on the commercial market for $50-60M and Falcon Heavy is offered for $80-$125M. Unlike our competitors, this price includes all non-recurring development costs and on-orbit delivery of an agreed upon mission. For government missions, NASA has added mission assurance and additional services to the Falcon 9 for less than $20M.

Vehicle Overview:
Mass to Orbit (200 km, 28.5 deg): 53 metric tons (117,000 lbs)
Length: 69.2 meters (227 ft)
Max Stage Width: 5.2 m (17 ft)
Total Width: 11.6 meters (38 ft)
Weight at Liftoff: 1,400 metric tons or 3.1 million lbs
Thrust on Liftoff: 1,700 metric tons or 3.8 million lbs

Please note that Falcon Heavy should not be confused with the super heavy lift rocket program being debated by the U.S. Congress. That vehicle is authorized to carry between 70-130 metric tons to orbit. SpaceX agrees with the need to develop a vehicle of that class as the best way to conduct a large number of human missions to Mars.

Monday, April 4, 2011

SpaceX Webcast Tomorrow

Another Space X post on Facebook from a few minutes ago.
"Check out Elon tomorrow, Tuesday, April 5th at 11:20am EST at a press conference to discuss SpaceX's newest venture. You can watch live at --this link will also be accessible from the SpaceX homepage. Can't watch live? No worries, it will be archived at:  for future viewing :)" From SpaceX.

I have been crazy busy at work the last couple of months. I wish I can post on what I do for a living because the work my team and I are doing is changing the world of medicine and how cardiology is practiced. But because of my position in the company I cannot post what I am doing or where I am traveling. I wish I could, because I am so incredibly blessed and our work is saving thousands of lives and our work is considered the next biggest revolution in interventional cardiology and the biggest discovery since heart transplant.

I follow SpaceX because they are doing something very similar to us but in a different field. OK, because I secretly dream of flying the Dragon.

A Big SpaceX Announcement Tomorrow - Tuesday April 5th

A lot of speculation. Some think it is about a Falcon Heavy. Let's wait and see. It's only 24 hours away.