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Postcards To Space

Postcards To Space is developing the world's first space sculpture called STREET, a 325ft. diameter ring made of Kapton, a space-rated plastic film. In flight the craft will digitally display postcards printed on it during construction against the backdrop of Low Earth Orbit.

The design, building and flying of these inflatable space sculptures are funded by postcard sales.

According to their site "Postcards To Space exists to develop space-media opportunities for individuals, promote scientific knowledge and create public art in the new frontier."

Somebody had to be first. Purchase postcard kits here.


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"A nanospace race has raged to successfully grow a nanotube array suitable for many uses. And today a UC research team, in conjunction with First Nano, is ahead — by a thousandth of a hair.

Nanotechnology revolves around the creation of technology — films, materials, devices, applications and systems — on a scale of 1–100 nanometers. But what is a nanometer? A nanometer is one billionth of a meter or 40 billionths of an inch. A human hair is between 50 and 100 microns wide — and a micron is 1,000 nanometers. A DNA molecule is about 2½ nanometers wide. A typical human hair is between 50,000 and 100,000 nanometers wide. So, we could stack at least 1000 nano-devices across the end of a human hair.

It might sound like an oxymoron, but long nanotubes are critical to manufacturers and practitioners in such fields as transportation, defense, safety and medicine. Because of their increased surface area, large nanotube arrays offer improvements in sensors. Larger nanotubes can be “spun” — or suspended in an epoxy-like substrate — and used to strengthen materials used in airplanes, for example. Like your great-grandmother’s yarn, the longer a continuous thread, the better. In conjunction with First Nano (FN), a division of CVD Equipment Corporation, UC has grown an array on FN’s EasyTube Carbon Nanotube system that is longer than 7 mm."

Space Elevator ROI

This is an excerpt from an article I contributed to Liftport Opening Space to Everyone Copyright © 2006 Liftport Inc.

In economic terms, a Space Elevator (SE) is to rocketry what railways and public transit systems are to automobiles. The technologies to move massive amounts of people and cargo into space inexpensively are coming on stream but the possibility still exists for space to be rendered inaccessible by economics.

There’s no question SE’s will lower the cost of going to space by orders of magnitude. The question is will the cost threshold be low enough to make a profit for the existing terrestrial industries that will pioneer the space economy and bootstrap whole new industries we haven’t thought of yet.

Return On Investment (ROI) will determine when (and possibly whether)
humanity will be able to bolster Earth’s economy and environment with space

It’s clear to Jim Benson, CEO of California satellite manufacturer SpaceDev why the human race needs to get into space in a permanent, economically viable way. After selling off his software companies Benson was looking for new challenges. He read Mining the Sky by Dr. John Lewis of Arizona University and it resonated with his Bachelor of Science degree in geology. His life was changed.

“I was so excited about the book I bought 50 copies and for the next two or three years gave copies away to people I was trying to educate about the abundance of natural resources in space and how easy they are to get to,” says Benson. “That was one of my main reasons for founding SpaceDev.

“We don’t want to go the Moon or Mars. We want to be going to Near Earth Objects. That’s where the wealth and life support and water is. I’ve been saying for a long time that water is the white gold of space.”

The problem is getting to those resources in a cost-effective way. A new technology like a Space Elevator (SE) will lower the cost of going to space but Benson believes before it can get off the ground we also need a new way of doing things here on earth. ROI begins in the business model.

“My favorite slogan is ‘if we want to go to space to stay, space has to pay’,” says Benson. “Everybody knows it costs from US$5K to US$40K per pound [to bring something to space] today. That’s just a given.”

The reasons for the high cost of leaving Earth are as much systemic as they are practical. Benson is working to change the existing system from within by “bringing the microcomputer way of thinking into space.” SpaceDev turns out what it calls micro and nano-satellites designed to reduce the cost of manufacturing and launch.

“When SpaceDev designed ChipSat for NASA there was definitely requirements for the ability to withstand g-forces during launch. I believe it was 10g’s in all three axes. That’s pretty ridiculous,” he exclaims.

“No launch vehicle today generates those kinds of forces. That’s typical government fear of failure. There are some expenses to meeting unrealistic requirements like that but it doesn’t add that much to the cost. The big cost is simply the launch vehicles [and] the cost of launching itself. That’s the heart of the problem.”

An SE will shift existing economic paradigms and create whole new ones by making the ride to orbit mundane. Achieving that requires a perceptual shift in those that would build it of a similar or greater extent.

"If a project like this is going to be undertaken it needs to be undertaken by a new company. I really think this has got to be done by a private sector company that’s not one of the usual suspects," contends Benson.

“Boeing and Lockheed feel like they’re entitled to their share of the military and NASA space budgets.

"They don’t know and don’t care about doing things in innovative, lower-cost ways because almost everything they do is on a cost-plus, fixed fee contract basis.

“The higher the cost, the bigger the fee so they have no interest whatsoever in doing anything that’s innovative or cost-effective.”

Benson feels it’s time for an entrepreneurial revolution. “We have to look at everything [and ask] is it profitable? If it’s profitable then it’s sustainable. Until this point, almost everything in space, except communications satellites, has been government-financed,” he says. “There’s been no thought given to profitability therefore no thought given to sustainability.”

==== Space Elevator ROI Excerpt II ====

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We Have Lift-off!!

Watching a Space Elevator (SE) start it's climb may not be as dramatic as watching a rocket launch but it's exciting to those involved. Similarly this new blog won't fire up a lot of people but I'm happy about it.

In the weird coincidences department today is also the day I received my copy of the book LiftPort: Opening Space To Everyone that I earned by contributing a non-fiction article entitled Return on Investment: How the space elevator will pay for itself.

It's on page 182 and is the first time I've ever seen my name in a book as an author.

The cover art is excellent and I'm in some fine company with the likes of Sir Arthur C. Clarke and Kim Stanley Robinson. I'm excited and humbled.

Let me point out two features to this blog. One is the Space Elevator Search Engine above. It's a Google Co-op Custom Search Engine customised and refined to provide filtered search results about the SE.

The other is the Google™ news feed. It's just some tricked-up javascript crossed with Google News™ but it will deliver fresh headlines every time you come back or hit refresh.

So please, use the search engine, comment on the posts, read the news, suggest story ideas or even join the blog as a team member. My contact info is over in the sidebar.


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