Archive for May, 2006

Google Earth Mashup of Kennedy Space Center

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

Via Google Maps Mania comes this very cool mashup:

South Florida newspaper Florida Today has built a Google Maps mashup of space launch sites at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral. It includes a database of every launch since the dawn of the space age, shuttle and rocket launch video and images, and video tours inside facilities people usually don’t get a chance to see guided by its space reporters. It also has an enhanced 3D Google Earth version you can download as well 

The standard 2-D tour is interesting, but if you want an amazing tour experience you’ll want a (warning: highly addictive) copy of Google Earth (available here) to view the mashup.

In either version, you can click on various launch pads and browse photos, videos, and a database of launches, and generally while away a good part of a Tuesday at work.




Really Rocket Science Ringtone Blasts Off

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

We’ve launched a new gizmo here at the Really Rocket Science blog– free countdown ringtones for your mobile phone.

The idea for the ringtone came from Andrew Tytla,  Marketing Communications Manager at SES AMERICOM and Jim Lewis of CCI Florida, who suggested it to International Launch Services. (CCI Florida produces all launch video broadcast for Cape Canaveral.)

While in the studio for the ASTRA 1KR launch in April, Don Spencer (PDF) sat down and recorded a clean “countdown” for the ringtone, which was later combined with a dramatic Atlas rocket liftoff.

If you have witnessed the broadcast of an Atlas launch, you have heard Don Spencer’s voice. He’s known as the “Voice of Atlas.”

Now you can download the ringtone for free and have the “Voice of Atlas” tell you when you’ve got an incoming call.

Will Disintegrating Comet Ruin Your Weekend Plans?

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

Some of you may be familiar with a rumor that’s been circulating various apocalyptic astronomy blogs: that fragments of the comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann will impact the Atlantic Ocean this Thursday, thus ruining the Memorial Day weekend plans for millions of people (but perhaps leading to a bounceback for Posiedon’s flagging box office receipts).

Phil Plait over at the Bad Astronomy Blog has been busy debunking the myth, pointing out that, among other things, the closest the disintegrating comet is coming to earth is, oh, about 5.5 million miles.

Hardly the makings of a disaster film, much less a reason to cancel a trip to the Jersey Shore.

In any case — if you want to have a clever astronomical answer to the watercooler question of "what are you doing for Memorial Day weekend?", Phil has a collection of blog posts he’s written on the topic. And the photos he’s collected of the comet are worth checking out.

Tell your friends!

Sunday, May 21st, 2006

Waiting for the Bus

Friday, May 19th, 2006

Where’s the bus? Satellite technology (combined with your handheld or PDA) may soon provide the answer to that question, at least in Manhattan. NY1 News reports:

A plan using a satellite tracking system for buses is moving forward.

New York City Transit says a pilot program proposed last year could be in place by November.

Technology will allow for website displays with real-time bus locations and arrival times.

Updates would also be available on electronic message boards.

Riders will even be able to access times on your cell phone or blackberry.


And if you had a ringtone to this classic Replacements song — well, then riding the bus would almost be cool.

Robo Euro

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

Remember those flying robots we mentioned earlier? Well, Europe has some. Or at least one, a remote-controlled flying reconnaisance robot pictured below. 

This and others like it are on exhibit as I write this, at ELROB — the European Land-Robotic Fair, in Hammelbert Germany. I guess Europe is not to be outdone by DARPA.

Where There’s No Smoke, There’s Rockets?

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

Quick. What’s the best part about a rocket launch, any rocket launch? If you ask me, it’s seeing something like this.

Right? So, would someone please explain to me what’s the point of a smokeless rocket launch?

James Woodward, a history professor at California State University in Fullerton, presented his research into Mach-Lorentz thrusters Wednesday at the Future in Review conference here. Mach-Lorentz thrusters (MLTs), assuming they can be scaled up from lab tests, could provide a new source of propulsion that "puts out thrust without blowing stuff out the tailpipe," Woodward said.

MLTs are based on Mach’s principle, which suggests that all particles in the universe have an effect on each other, and the work of Hendrik Lorentz, who conducted research into the movement of charged particles in a magnetic field. Woodward has constructed an engine that takes advantage of the fact that objects produce energy when their mass changes slightly, he said.

Woodward used capacitors to change the mass of an object and then applied a current to that mass. That produces a small amount of thrust. Increasing the voltage and frequency of the current increases the strength of the thrust, to the point where the engine could be used to adjust the orbit of a satellite, or push a rocket into space.

Is there a downside to "blowing stuff out the tailpipe"? Is there an upside to not doing so?


Satellite Radio on the Download?

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

You might have thought, after the demise of Napter and the ensuing deluge of RIAA lawsuits, that satellite radio was a pretty safe bet. After all, you’re not so much downloading music as you are catching it as it falls from the sky. Kinda like collecting rainwater. As consumer, you’d be right. You’re relatively safe, for now. It’s the providers that could be in trouble, as XM radio learned upon getting sued by RIAA.

XM Radio

The recording industry on Tuesday sued XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq:XMSR – news), alleging its Inno device that can store music infringes on copyrights and transforms a passive radio experience into the equivalent of a digital download service like iTunes.

The suit accuses XM Satellite of “massive wholesale infringement,” and seeks $150,000 in damages for every song copied by XM customers using the devices, which went on sale earlier this month. XM, with more than 6.5 million subscribers, said it plays 160,000 different songs every month.

“…Because XM makes available vast catalogues of music in every genre, XM subscribers will have little need ever again to buy legitimate copies of plaintiffs’ sound recordings,” the lawsuit says referring to the hand held “Inno” device.

The suit says that XM has touted its service’s advantages over the iPod and cites XM’s advertising literature that says “It’s not a Pod. It’s the mothership.”

 At $150,000 a pop, you’d better be careful what you beam down from “the mothership.” But, as the guys over at Gizmodo suggest, you might want to get yourself an Inno before they disappear forever. (Though the folks at XM say the lawsuit is just a negotiating tactic.)

In slightly related news, if you’re a Sirius Radio subscriber you’ll can listen to Bad Astrology blogger Phil Plait on Discovery Channel Radio at 9:00pm EST. He’ll be talking about the likelihood of Earth having a run in with a comet sometime next week…

WiMo Come Home

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

Ever lose your mobile phone, never to see it again? Well, what if it could find it’s way back to you? Or what if it could at least come when you called it? (Assuming, of course, that you’ve given it a name.) Sounds a little crazy, but having lost a few phones myself, that’s the first thing that came to mind when I heard about WiMo; the Windows Mobile Robot. 

WiMo uses a Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone as the central "brain" of the robot. This Smartphone sits directly ontop of a Windows Mobile SDK cd (I did say i was using the SDK in a fun and unique way). The Smartphone communicates to a microcontroller via Bluetooth, using our Managed Bluetooth classes and also communicates with a Pocket PC (and soon to be desktop pc instead) via WiFi. The Pocket PC can be used to remotely control WiMo. The action pad of the Pocket PC is used for standard movement (up, down, left, right, stop).

… WiMo is learning to make conversation and respond to voice commands via some new prototype APIs in Voice Command. These APIs are not available yet, but we are looking to make them available in the future. WiMo can respond to his name, tell jokes if asked, and even dance!

OK. So your phone would have to be a Windows Mobile Smartphone and find its way into that contraption before it it could find its way home. But the idea’s gotta start somewhere, right?

Seeing as how GPS can be used to track just about everything and everyone, and how easy it it to find anyone who has a mobile phone, why not a phone that kind find it’s way home?  If my cat can do it, so should my phone someday.

Via Robot Gossip.  

Bridging the “Broadband Gap” with Satellite

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

This past March, the EU issued a report on the urgent need for broadband connectivity throughout Europe. A new project announced on May 15th is designed to bring high-quality broadband service in less developed areas to address this demand with the HYLAS satellite.


HYLAS satellite


For Giuseppe Viriglio, Director of European Union and Industry Programmes for the European Space Agency, “HYLAS will play an important role in demonstrating the advanced technological capabilities of European space companies which are truly competitive on a global scale. It also makes significant progress in solving the social problem of poor broadband coverage in many parts of Europe and serves as a template for future large scale projects ".


 Responding to the i2010 initiative, the satellite will use Ka-band for broadband data communications and Ku-band for HDTV broadcasting. Considering the report does not include new EU Member States added in 2004 (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia), space-based broadband connectivity will play a key role in less-developed and rural communities around the world.

How appropriate as Wednesday is the first World Information Society Day.