DTNS 2707 – Astronaut Prime

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comA machine learning algorithm beat a Go Master and Blue Origin announces plans for manned flights including space tourism. Andrew Mayne and Tom Merritt discuss.


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Show Notes
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2 thoughts on “DTNS 2707 – Astronaut Prime

  1. Hi Tom,

    About spaceflight: the suggestion that the company Blue Origin is somehow a contender when it comes to reaching space is wrong.

    To reach orbit you have to go far, far faster than the Blue Origin rocket can go. (Andrew Mayne did mention that, but it seemed to fall by the wayside.)

    Let me make a comparison: let’s say the Blue Origin company had been started to enter gun manufacturing business. They announce they are going to develop a gun that fires reusable bullets. Reusable bullets! Several years later they present their technology: they have made the bullets reusable by making them travel so slow that they will bounce off anything.

    No, that’s not an exaggeration: the Blue Origin rocket is actually that ridiculously feeble.

    As Andrew Mayne described: the Blue Origin rocket only does a vertical hop. The _only_ reason that Blue Origin is the first to develop a hopper rocket is that a hopper rocket is totally useless. A rocket is useful if it can deliver payload to orbit. (You did acknowledge that the New Shepard rocket ‘reaches space only by the barest definition of it’. The point is: only reaching _orbit_ counts as reaching space; that is the proper definition.)

    Of course, any starting company has to have a strategy on how to build itself up. For space, the first machine to develop is a two-stage rocket with the second stage able to reach orbit. Payload capability minimal; hundred or two hundred kilo; just getting to orbit is already very, very hard. If the company can achieve that then chances are that the company has built up the experience and workforce and facilities to go for the next level: developing a rocket that can compete in the satellite launching market.
    For Blue Origin: yeah, some of the experience gained with the hopper will carry over to development of a rocket that can deliver payload to orbit. But still, developing that hopper rocket is an inferior way of ramping up.

    So why did Jeff Bezos choose that inferior path? Jeff Bezos wants to sell the message that Blue Origin is somehow at the cutting edge. I think he decided to go for that useless hopper because that way he could proclaim his company to have achieved a technological first. As I said, it’s a meaningless “first”, as that hopper is useless.

    I’m triggered to write this long, long comment because it’s frustrating to see people buying into Bezos’ dishonest self-promotion. No, there is no ‘race between SpaceX and Blue Origin’. Jeff Bezos took to Twitter to portray himself as a contender to SpaceX and he was just making a fool of himself. Annoyingly, lots of people are swallowing it hook, line and sinker.

    Blue Origin may eventually become a contender for commercial space transportation, it’s hard to say. In my opinion the way Jeff Bezos is making a fool of himself doesn’t bode well.
    As mentioned by Elon Musk the amount of kinetic energy required to bring payload to orbit is a hundred times larger than what the hopper needs. As alluded to by Andrew Mayne, getting to orbit is a whole different level of performance.

    About the show:
    Tom, during the after-show you again talked about a ‘race between SpaceX and Blue Origin’.

    Tom, your strength is your experience with software and how software is used and how software is a factor in shaping our daily lives. Tuesday’s show with Patrick Beja illustrates that. PC/tablet tech is the tech that we all actively use in our daily lives, hence DTNS is almost exclusively about PC/tablet software tech. With Patrick Beja you raised the question to what extend the biggest internet service companies are like nation states. Then you are talking about ramifications of PC/tablet tech for society, and you are good at that.

    But when the subject of the show is in the field of machine engineering (in this case space transportation) I have noticed a lack of understanding/knowledge on your part.

    I have to recommend you to stay away from subjects in machine engineering. (Or maybe at some point in the future you can invite two suitable guests, with them discussing the subject, and a less active role for yourself.)

    Colin Tennyson

    1. I think you’re being overly harsh on Blue Origin but I also think Andrew especially agrees with you more than you think.

      As for me, I admit I know absolutely nothing about machine engineering and I hope that I did not appear to pretend that I did. I was only trying to state Bezos’s aims not his chances of success or the viability of his current machines.

      I take my cue on these things from places like this: http://www.design-engineering.com/blue-origin-successfully-launches-and-lands-reusable-rocket-137384/

      Apologies for offending.

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