Daily Archives: 07/11/2004

Shoestring Budget Space Launch

While Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipOne made history as the first privately financed spacecraft, a Canadian project designed to snare the $10 million X Prize is also nearing completion. And while SpaceShipOne cost $20 million, the da Vinci Project is trying to get into space on a shoestring budget.

Their entry in the competition is called Wild Fire, and it takes a different approach than Scaled’s space plane. Wild Fire is a rocket/capsule contraption, lofted to 70,000 feet by a gigantic helium balloon. Once at altitude, the rocket will fire, blasting the capsule to 60 miles above the Saskatchewan prairie. Instead of gliding to a runway landing like SpaceShipOne, Wild Fire will parachute back to earth.

The real kicker here is that the da Vinci Project is almost entirely a volunteer effort. They’ve built this contraption for a measly $1 million Canadian, plus about $3 million Canadian in donated services. That’s peanuts, chump change compared to Scaled Composites and the other teams.

Mars Express Radar Deployment Put On Hold

This is actually a few weeks old, but better late than never. Flight controllers for the Mars Express spacecraft decided to delay deployment of the subsurface radar antenna boom. They fear that the boom might swing too far and richochet back into the spacecraft, possibly damaging it and crippling the mission. A final decision on the radar’s deployment will be made later this year.

The radar is designed to search up to 5 kilometers beneath the Martian surface, looking for traces of water buried beneath the rocks.

Oddpost and Yahoo!

Here’s a bit of news: Oddpost and Yahoo! are joining forces. Or should I say Yahoo! has bought Oddpost and will be integrating the unique web based interface of Oddpost into Yahoo!’s mail program. Good news I guess, though I already have a Yahoo! mail account.