Sunday, April 17, 2011

Steampunk Vader

"The steam is strong with this one..."

Images courtesy of Sillof

  I absolutely love the reimagined Steam Wars versions of the beloved traditional Star Wars characters. A very artistic high school history and film teacher who goes by the name "Sillof" has scores of these little figurines that he sculpted and painted by hand.
  I am just learning more about the steampunk culture that is apparently gaining more and more, eh, steam. The idea behind steampunk envisions a world where steam, (instead of electricity), is used to power machinery. Clothing from the Victorian era is typically worn by both sexes, and aviation-type goggles are a must. Jules Verne characters are often mimicked. Think Captain Nemo, or Phileas Fogg, undertaking grand adventures in a submarine or hot air balloon!
  You may notice that Darth Vader's light saber has a hose that attaches to something under his coat. I'm not sure light sabers were ever imagined to be powered by electricity, but this is not important! Steampunk is about looking cool, and these figurines certainly do that. 
   Please visit Sillof's webpage to see more of his wonderful toys, including his Star Wars 1942 collection. Fantastic work! (Link will appear below when you scroll over it.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Heavy is Coming.....

The Falcon Heavy / Image courtesy of SpaceX
 A big rocket is making big news. Elon Musk, the single standout savior of America's space program made more headlines today when he announced technical details of the Falcon Heavy, the world's largest and most powerful rocket.
  The Falcon Heavy will be able to lift more than twice the weight of any other rocket currently flying, including the U.S. Space Shuttle. "This is a rocket of truly huge scale," said Musk during today's press conference in Washington.

There has only been one rocket in history that was capable of carrying more payload to orbit. That was, of course, Wernher von Braun's Saturn V which last flew in 1973. The Falcon Heavy will be able to haul 53,000 kg, or 116,600 lbs, into low Earth orbit. (That's more than four Hubble Space Telescopes, to give you an idea of this rocket's capabilities.)

  Here is a description from the SpaceX press release:

   The Falcon Heavy is designed for extreme     reliability and can tolerate the failure of several engines and still complete its mission. As on commercial airliners, protective shells surround each engine to contain a worst-case situation such as fire or a chamber rupture, and prevent it from affecting the other engines and stages. 

Falcon Heavy will be the first rocket in history to feature propellant cross-feed from the side boosters to the center core. Propellant cross-feeding leaves the center core still carrying the majority of its propellant after the side boosters separate. This gives Falcon Heavy performance comparable to that of a three-stage rocket, even though only the single Merlin engine on the upper stage requires ignition after lift-off, further improving both reliability and payload performance. Should cross-feed not be required for lower mass missions, it can be easily turned off.

    The Falcon Heavy has also been designed to meet NASA's standards for carrying astronauts. This is quite a timely announcement, given that the very last Space Shuttle launch is scheduled for June 28 of this year (which, quite coincidentally, is Elon Musk's birthday as well as my own! - JL)