Thursday, June 28, 2007

Orbital Squatting in the Name of Science

Here's my "Wild Goof Chase" for today.

I read online that NASA has changed their policy on using the ISS for research. Basically, if you can pony up the $ 20 million plus to get there yourself, the use of the facilities is free.

It says nothing about having to pay to get back to Earth. Or even going back to Earth for that matter. Imagine being a permanent citizen squatter in orbit in the name of science.

So in order to do this, I'm thinking a tricky " Pierre LeGrande meets Buckaroo Banzai " routine is in order.

In a break of thought from every space venture of the last 20 plus years, launch a completely expendable WYSIWYG spacecraft. My guess is it would be easier on you if you launched by dropping it out the back of an Antonov @ 30K feet. Hit the first stage engine(s) a la X-15 to get it to around an altitude100 miles, Stabilize the orbit for a prelim systems check for the next act, which is a 2nd stage burn that kicks it up to 250 miles.

Figure the shuttle & Soyuz craft take approx. two days to catch up to ISS from launch. So in the name of margin say the total life cycle of the throw-away spacecraft can be three days.

When you match orbits & are in rendevous range, maneuver with the ACS to the main US airlock, go EVA with ( ultralight ) research gear in hand. Then literally kick the spacecraft away from the ISS to both avoid any collision mishaps & give you the impetus to propel towards the airlock.

After that just ring the doorbell. I think ettiqutte demands you bring gifts. Then once you're in, you get to work!

Friday, June 22, 2007

One small step for cannabis: HempSat-X™

Section (Associated Market Segments) of 1997's Commercial Space Transportation Study (CSTS) by the United Space Alliance, it is subsections d, e, and f that are relevant for use here.

The study's methodology links subsection e, space agriculture, with subsection d, space settlements. As the study concluded that the market for space settlements was defocused due to lack of an assessed market demand, the study did not report in any depth on space agriculture.

But it's in 3.7.6 of the CSTS, Multiuse LEO Business Park, that is the most relevant.

'Market Infrastructure' (, raises the political & financial questions: tax laws, registering deeds, operating expenses and so on.

And it is here you find a legal landmine:

" One of the standard clauses in all U.S. real estate contracts is a statement saying, ' this contract shall be governed by the laws of the state of _________.' This clause needs to be clarified for a space business park development."

Bottom line: it's potentially legal as well as financial suicide if designing any C. Sativa on-orbit research based on the use of any American commercial orbiting facilities. It will no doubt take years of litigation, and tens of millions of dollars away from any real research & technological development to legally secure access of any orbiting platforms.

And even if it was possible to gain access, would it even be economically viable to do so? It's been reported that in 2002, NASA charged over US $ 20 million for facility usage ( fixed time , consumables, station power , data transmission, communications, etc.) and US $15,000/hour for ISS personnel assistance.

Outsourcing this on-orbit research to another international platform is not even an option. The NASA forced ISS/Mir debacle is solid proof of that. So at least for the next ten years the ISS is the only game in town for human space research.

Hence the critical need for the development of HempSat-X™: an independent automated micro-satellite, launched from international territory, dedicated to place cosmoponically germinated industrial cannabis (low/no THC) plants in low earth orbit for remote microgravity research. It bypasses the entire issue of using a crewed facility.

Unfortunately, a big downside is the micro-sat cannot re-enter the atmosphere & deliver the plants themselves back to Earth for full post-orbit analysis by researchers. Not only would it be cost prohibitive, there's also legal issues to consider. One of course would be if it could return with the plants intact and land in US territory, would the DEA consider the entire project as prosecutable under RICO? Maybe.

And what about insurance? Bet the premiums would be, well, astronomical. Getting quotes from aerospace insurers for a project cost analysis should be interesting.

I am working under the assumption that I can, for the near future, work up the inital design phase as outlined in Sarafin. One of the ideas I have regarding the bus modelling/fabrication process is using a more environmentally-friendly hemp-based molding material. Perhaps even using a hemp-based material as part of the structure itself. If that's feasible, then the satellite really will earn it's name.

It's way too early to be concerned about securing any outside funding. Though my guess is that soliciting for funding could very well be another legal landmine. But that's another topic.

Granted, I have no prior professional experience in this field. This is going to take some time to come to fruition. But that's the whole point behind the 'New Space' ( n00b Space? ) concept? To be personally involved in advancing humans in space instead of waiting for some government to to do it. If they ever do, that is.

What I do know is that without pursuing this so very important "one small step", the Big Vision is just another utopian science fiction concept that comes to light and fades away all too soon.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

- The Big Vision -

NOTE: All figures are approximations and strictly for descriptive purposes at this time.

Generic name: Cosmoponicum (tm)
Trade Name: GrowHab (tm)

Basic description:

A small orbiting cylindrical test-bed capable of growing over eleven million cannabis plants, using cosmoponics (tm); aquaponic technology adapted for on-orbit variable gravity environment.

Length: four kilometers
Diameter: one kilometer
Maximum acreage: 35,281
Maximum yield: 11,841,234 cannabis plants

" Post in progress "

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Feds quietly stop NASA Mars money-again.

In a press release dated 11 June 2007 from the office of Congressman Alan B. Mollohan (D-WV), the House Commerce,Justice and Science and Related Agencies Appropriation Subcommittee passed FY08 bill which stops all federal funding for sending humans to Mars.

The press release states that in one of the two provisos known as a-76, that a moritorium will prohibit NASA "from funding any research, development or demonstration activity related exclusively to Human Exploration of Mars."

It also says that " the President is welcome to include adequate funding for the Human Mars Initiative in a budget amendment or subsequent year funding requests."

The other proviso prohibits the use of funds for public-private competitions for the employees of the Bureau of Prisons.