Friday, January 28, 2011

25 Years Ago Today.......

The American space program lost it's innocence.
I was working for Hughes Aircraft at the time, and one of my friends answered a phone call, said "WHAT?!?", and turned ash-white. His mother had been watching the launch on TV, and immediately called him with the news that Challenger, STS-51-L, had been lost. A few minutes later there was an announcement over the P.A. system saying that Challenger had blown up in flight, and we were asked for a moment of silence.
I watched the news coverage that night and couldn't believe my eyes. How had this happened? What caused the failure leading to the loss of vehicle and crew? Since I was working on Really Neat Stuff at the time, I knew there were mountains of paperwork for all the hardware involved that had to be checked, double-checked, cross-checked, and signed off by several people, and then checked again by the people in Quality Control before the equipment could be moved to the next step in processing. If all the steps were done properly, a "defective" unit had very little chance of moving beyond where it was, let alone getting out the door. We used to joke that the equipment we shipped was half worn out from the testing we did to it!
So what really went wrong with all this highly inspected and tested hardware? How did "bad" equipment get out the door? Simply put the equipment was fine, but it was being asked to operate well outside its design parameters. Even with evidence from previous flights that this was a Bad Thing to do, the Engineers who sounded the warnings were overruled, and the launch was allowed to proceed.
The "what" that caused the launch failure was determined quite quickly (too cold, O-rings lost flexibility, hot gases escaped, etc), but the "why" took longer. I think the most telling thing was when some high-level manager had told his Engineering team to "Take off you Engineer's hat, and put on your Manager's hat". I was floored when I heard this, as a good manager will listen to their staff, and back them up when required. This was obviously a case of management deciding what was "best" and ignoring the pleas of their staff to hold the launch until the weather warmed up. Previous flights where it was 10 degrees WARMER than current conditions had shown that the O-ring seals in the Solid Rocket Boosters had a *known* problem with low temperatures causing them not to seal properly. Thiokol's engineers, and Roger Boisjoly in particular, had documented this problem, and were repeatedly ignored, leading to a disasterous result.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Construction Sequence of the International Space Station

This is an amazing Flash animation sent to me by one of my satellite buddies. It shows the growth of the ISS from 1998 to present.

I can't post the animation here, so I'll direct you to the USA Today site that hosts it.

International Space Station Comes Together

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Lyrics for Old Rock Stars

A friend sent me this, and it really cracked me up, besides making me feel OLD....


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Oleg Smacks Another One Out Of The Park

I really enjoy the photography of Oleg Volk. He not only uses his talents for "pretty stuff", but also for a LOT of really good pro-2A work.
I'm not sure when he made this one, but his latest over at LiveJournal gives some very interesting facts.

Friday, January 21, 2011

OUCH! Boeing To Lay Off Another 900 In Long Beach

Well, it seems like the end of Aerospace in Long Beach is near at hand. What with budget cuts here in the U.S., and the weakening world economy, the market for the C-17 is drying up. Boeing has been building up to 13 aircraft a year, and that's going to dwindle down to 9 or 10 for the next couple of years, and they expect to close the production line in 2013.
As recently as the 1990's, there were 20,000 good-paying Aerospace jobs in Long Beach, and now that's down to around 7000, and falling.
The Press telegram has an article about it here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Delta-IV Heavy Launch Video

Well...all I got for a picture was a short, disappointing contrail, not even worth posting.
Enjoy the video!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Delta-IV Heavy Launch Thursday at 2108UTC / 1308 PST

Don't know if we'll be able to see a daylight launch from here in the SouthBay, but I'm sure gonna try!

Mission Status

Launch was successful!

All I was able to see from here was a rather short, disappointing contrail. The last launch was a night launch, and was pretty cool to see. I tried to get some pix of that one, but didn't set my camera up on the tripod, so.....nothing but blurred pics.
Oh, well....

Monday, January 17, 2011

New Phone!

I was in the Verizon store earlier today to swap out a standard-definition set-top box for a high-definition one. My stepson and his girlfriend bought a new 42" TV yesterday, so I told them I'd go get an HD box so they can enjoy HD now that they have a TV capable of displaying it.
While I was waiting to be called, I started looking at the phones they had. The Droid X really caught my eye, so when I was swapping out the STB, I asked the young guy behind the counter if he handled the phone stuff, too. He told me the counter people handled everything, and was I interested in a phone, too? We started talking prices, and since my wife has the Verizon "Family Plan" for her phone and the kid's phones, he said it would be $9.95 a month to add a line. I asked him if the Droid required a data plan (DUH! I already knew it did), and he said yep, and the data plan was $30 a month for UNLIMITED data, like I had with my iPhone.
I about fell over!
I've been paying AT&T $68 a month for my iPhone, and now I find out I can get a newer phone, with more features, for $28 a month less! Then he tells me if I buy the Droid X, they'll WAIVE the $9.95 a month extra-line fee for two years!
I talked to my wife when I got back with the new HD STB, and we both agreed that saving $38 a month was worth coughing up the $200 to replace my iPhone, as the savings would pay for the phone in a little over 5 months.
I originally had Verizon, but I got tired of carrying around a cellphone AND a PDA. Besides, I really wanted a Smartphone, and at the time I bought my iPhone, the data plans Verizon had were more expensive than AT&T was charging, so I wound up with the "original" iPhone.
So far, with the little I've played with it, I think it's going to be quite a nifty gadget. One of the things I like is that it has a replaceable battery, something sadly lacking on the iPhone.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Intelsat Galaxy-15 a.k.a. "ZombieSat" Returns!

Great day for Intelsat! The Galaxy-15 bird, which stopped responding to ground commands last April 5th and was drifting across the "Orbital Parking Slots" of other satellites, is now responding to ground commands.
This was first thought to have been caused by a solar-flare event, but subsequent ground testing (and a LOT of head scratching!) has determined it was caused by an ESD event. "ESD" stands for "Electro Static Discharge", the same thing that happens when you shuffle across the carpet, grab a door knob or other grounded item, and get zapped. Actually, the other object doesn't have to be grounded, just at a lower electrical potential than you are, and current will flow.
The breakthrough was caused when the satellite's inertial wheels (a method of stabilizing the space craft....think big gyroscope) had absorbed all the momentum they could absorb, and could no longer keep the spacecraft properly oriented with respect to the Earth and the Sun. With the solar panels now pointing away from the sun and not generated any power, the batteries became depleted to the point that the onboard computer caused a reset of all the systems on the satellite, which cleared the fault, and allowed the satellite to begin functioning normally, and respond to ground commands again.
They were very lucky that the ESD event apparently didn't do any permanent damage, like blowing out a bunch of stuff, but instead caused a certain part of the onboard computer to lock-up and ignore ground commands. Once it reset itself and cleared the fault it started operating again.

More here:

Intelsat Galaxy-15 Returns To Service
Build-Up Of Static Electricity Turned Satellite Into Zombie
Intelsat Galaxy-15 Drifts From Zombie To Phoenix-like Recovery

Been Pretty Busy Lately......

So I haven't posted much. The company I was assigned to at my last job has come out of Chapter 11, and is looking to get cranked up again. So, I've been working with another company that's going to bid on providing the services they need. It's an interesting combination of Radio (RF) work, along with a ton of networking support and PC maintenance, and regular maintenance on all the other equipment located on both of the vessels they operate. Since this job requires some very unique skills, the place I'm consulting to is ecstatic that they found me, as I've been able to explain all the arcane things that go on there. Plus, I'm still in contact with most of the old gang, so as Elwood would say, "We're getting the band back together".
I just bought a neat little gun vice from Cabela's, so I'll get some pix of it this weekend, and give a brief review of it. It's easy enough to clean to clean a handgun just sitting at the table, but my rifles were just too cumbersome to do without some kind of holding device.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Things My Father Taught Me.....

My Dad was a Tool and Die Maker by training, and a manufacturer's representative by trade. From the time I was 'knee high', he'd take me into his office/shop in Chicago so I could see what he did for a living. I almost literally grew up in a machine shop, and by the times I was 8 or 9 years old, I could tell which customer he'd been at by the types of chips in his shoes! The company he worked for had the franchise to sell Bridgeport Milling Machines, Hisey-Wolf Grinders, Logan Lathes, ELOX EDM machines, and several other lines of high-end "All American" machine tools.
He started as a Machinist's Apprentice after high-school, working in the "Moore's Joliet Stove Works" in my hometown, learning about cast-iron products. On December 8, 1941, my Dad and his brothers trouped down to the recruiting center to enlist. They were going to enlist in each of the service branches, with my Dad's choice being the Navy. During his physical, he was told that he was color blind, and that he wouldn't be accepted by the "regular" military, but if he still wanted to serve, he could join up with a new unit that the Navy was starting, called the "Construction Battalion", which soon became the SeaBees.
He never talked much about the war, typical of a lot of our "Greatest Generation", as it was just something that needed doing, and he and his brothers were going to get it done.
One brother was a paratrooper, one was a Marine, and one was deferred as he had a job with the railroad, and was deemed too valuable in civilian service, and basically told to stay on the job.
They all came home safely to raise families and go back to normal lives.
Anyway.....I was out in the garage the other day, doing some work on an Amateur Radio project, and as I was laying out some aluminum stock to cut, drill, deburr and turn into a little widget, some of things he told me many years ago came back to gently remind me that I was doing things "right", and it brought a smile (and a little tear) to me.
So here's "Dad List" of basic shop practices.

Any job worth doing is worth doing well, or don't do it at all.

If you don't know, ASK!

If you think you know, but aren't sure, find an expert and ASK!

(My Dad really did believe the “No Such Thing As A Dumb Question” mantra).

LEARN the proper, correct names of your tools, whether a hand tool or a machine tool.

Make a drawing or sketch and materials list before you start.

Have all the required tools and materials on hand before starting.

Do your layout work on the side that won't be seen, and protect the finish side during cutting and machining.

Measure TWICE, cut ONCE!

Remove all jewelry and loose clothing before using machine tools. Roll your sleeves up, and tie back long hair.

Buy the best tools you can afford. The “pain” of paying for quality tools only lasts a little while, while the pain of using cheap tools lasts much longer, and costs much more in damaged projects and scrap.

Always clean your tools and work area when you're done for the day. Store your tools properly.

Promptly clean any liquid spilled on the floor, and keep the floor swept clean of any chips.

If using someone else's tools or work area, leave them/it cleaner than when you started.

Keep your cutting tools sharp. Don't let them bang around in your tool box. Dull tools can damage your work and cause accidents.

Keep your measuring tools clean and in a separate drawer. Precision tools should be treated as such, and not allowed to bang around in a drawer with other tools.

NEVER force a tool to do a job it wasn't designed for!

NEVER “store” the chuck key for your drill press in the chuck!

Always clamp the work to the table, or use a drilling vise to hold it. Thin metal will “bite” when the bit breaks through the other side, and a spinning workpiece can be extremely dangerous.

When possible, 'back up' your workpiece with a wood block or sheet so that you don't drill into the table.

NEVER use your hands to remove the swarf or chips! Besides being very sharp, they can also be very hot. Use a small brush to remove them.

Know the “Speeds and Feeds” for the material you're working with. Aluminum is very different than steel.

Use the proper coolant/lubricant when required.

NEVER grind plastic, aluminum, copper, or “soft” brass on a grinding wheel!

Keep your grinding wheels dressed and true, and stand off to the side when turning on the grinder.

(Always good advice. I've had grinding wheels fly apart a second or two after I turned the grinder on, and wire-wheels shed all their wire!)

Unless you have no choice, or no other tool, use a WRENCH on a bolt or nut, not a pair of pliers.

There are at least four types of 'cross-point' screw heads, and they're NOT all “Phillips heads”.

(In case you're interested, there's Phillips, Fearson, JIS B 1012, Pozidriv, Supadriv, Torq-set, and a couple of others that I forget. The driver tips or bits are NOT interchangeable among them, as they'll either chew up the screw, the bit, or both!)

There's no such thing as a “Flat Head Screwdriver”. There are flat BLADE screwdrivers, but a “Flat Head” is a type of head on a screw, not the tool to turn it.

A Pipe Wrench is NOT a Monkey Wrench.

The teeth on a hacksaw blade point FORWARDS when it's properly installed.

Hacksaws and files cut on the FORWARD stroke ONLY. Lift them off the work on the back stroke.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Economy is on "Borrowed Time".

Go read this.
Read it NOW!
We're running out of time to STOP the coming economic collapse that the Obamanation has put into motion. The elected commies in D.C., dedicated to the destruction of the United States, MUST be stopped, and soon.
It reminds me of several things Khrushchev was fond of saying. That the USSR would "Destroy the United States from within", and that "They will sell us the rope we use to hang them".
If this economic madness isn't stopped by the incoming Congress NOW, it's going to get very ugly.
$10 or $15 gasoline?
$10 loaf of bread?
All your utility bills quadrupling?
Get ready,'s going to be VERY bad.

H/T to Western Rifle Shooters Association.

Senator Alan Simpson Calls Seniors "GREEDY".

Got this from a buddy, and it sure hits home!

Hey Alan,

Let’s get a few things straight…

1. As a career politician, you have been on the public dole for FIFTY YEARS…

2. I have been paying Social Security taxes for 48 YEARS (since I was 15 years old. I am now 63)…

3. My Social Security payments, and those of millions of other Americans, were safely tucked away in an interest bearing account for decades until you political pukes decided to raid the account and give OUR money to a bunch of zero ambition losers in return for votes, thus bankrupting the system and turning Social Security into a Ponzi scheme that would have made Bernie Madoff proud…

4. Recently, just like Lucy & Charlie Brown, you and your ilk pulled the proverbial football away from millions of American seniors nearing retirement and moved the goalposts for full retirement from age 65 to age 67. NOW, you and your shill commission is proposing to move the goalposts YET AGAIN…

5. I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying into Medicare from Day One, and now you morons propose to change the rules of the game. Why? Because you idiots mismanaged other parts of the economy to such an extent that you need to steal money from Medicare to pay the bills…

6. I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying income taxes our entire lives, and now you propose to increase our taxes yet again. Why? Because you incompetent bastards spent our money so profligately that you just kept on spending even after you ran out of money. Now, you come to the American taxpayers and say you need more to pay of YOUR debt…

To add insult to injury, you label us “greedy” for calling “bullshit” on your incompetence. Well, Captain Bullshit, I have a few questions for YOU…

1. How much money have you earned from the American taxpayers during your pathetic 50-year political career?

2. At what age did you retire from your pathetic political career, and how much are you receiving in annual retirement benefits from the American taxpayers?

3. How much do you pay for YOUR government provided health insurance?

4. What cuts in YOUR retirement and healthcare benefits are you proposing in your disgusting deficit reduction proposal, or, as usual, have you exempted yourself and your political cronies?

It is you, Captain Bullshit, and your political co-conspirators who are “greedy”. It is you and they who have bankrupted America and stolen the American dream from millions of loyal, patriotic taxpayers. And for what? Votes. That’s right, sir. You and yours have bankrupted America for the sole purpose of advancing your pathetic political careers. You know it, we know it, and you know that we know it.

And you can take that to the bank, you miserable son of a bitch

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Quotations from Robert Heinlein

Heinlein is one of my all-time favorite authors. I think I've read about 85% of his work, and it never ceases to amaze me how far ahead of his time he was. He was also quite a Libertarian, and had very strong feelings about personal responsibility and liberty.
I'm sure he'd be sickened if he came back today and saw the great numbers of sheeple wandering around, totally clueless.
Enjoy the quotes; they're some of my favorites.

“You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once.”

“An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.”

“I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”

“Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.”

“No statement should be believed because it is made by an authority.”

“Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do.”

“Being right too soon is socially unacceptable.”

“Progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things”

“Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.”

“Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done.”

“The universe never did make sense; I suspect it was built on government contract.”

“I never learned from a man who agreed with me.”

“They didn't want it good, they wanted it Wednesday.”

Supras and Stereos.....

 The repairs on the Fisher RS-2010 are proceeding, but a bit slower than I expected. The failed transistor is an obsolete part number, so I ...