How an Electric Motor Works

What Devices Use Electric Motors?

When you use an electric razor, toothbrush, fan, or vacuum cleaner, you are using an electric motor. That’s probably no surprise, but how about this: washing machines, refrigerators, microwaves, your computer, and even your smartphone!

Confused? Don’t be. Something is needed to operate the refrigerator’s compressor. If there is a mechanical hard drive in your computer, then there is a small motor that turns the disk. And microwaves? Well, something must be spinning that glass plate around, right?

Even your electric cars (if you have one) have motors. They are used to spin the tires as you drive.

Bottom line is you probably go about your day using some device that uses an electric motor, so now that we know how our lifestyles are affected by these devices, let’s delve into how these motors work.

Overview

When an electric current runs through a wire, a magnetic field is produced and when there is a magnetic field, then metallic elements become attracted to it. And if we can maintain these elements to move towards the magnetic field and away from it at an ongoing, continuous rate, we can have a device that is constantly spinning. If we attach something to the part of the device that is constantly spinning, such as the glass plate in the microwave, we have harnessed the power of converting electrical energy into mechanical energy, or more specifically, we have created a motor.

How Does an Electric Motor Work?

First let us focus on the fact that there is a magnetic field that causes the components within the motor to constantly spin.

How is the magnetic field created? Our article on magnetic fields explains this, but in a nutshell, if we connect a wire to a battery, the electrons of each of the atoms will be move towards the positive pole of the battery. If we wrap the wire around a metal rod, the magnetic field intensifies.

Inside of an electric motor.
Inside of an electric motor. Photo: iStock

The Initial Stage

The motor is designed so that the the magnetic poles of a rod, called a rotor is always facing the same polarity of stationary magnet, called a stator, causing the rotor to spin around.

For example, when electricity is turned on, the polarity of one side of the rotor, let’s say the north side is initially facing the north side of stator, so there will be that repelling affect, causing the rotor to spin in the other direction.

The Next Stage

Well, that initial stage works just as it should because like poles repel each other, but that’s it. Then it stops, so in order for the rotor to keep spinning, there has to be a mechanism that will cause the poles to reverse continuously.

That is the job of the commutator. This entity keeps reversing the path of the electrons so that the poles are always repelling one another and consequently, keeps the rotor spinning.

Key Parts of an Electric Motor

Let’s review the parts of the motor:

    • Stator – The stationary part of the motor that creates the magnetic field that causes the rotor to spin. The stator is found in between two pieces of copper that conduct electricity.
    • Rotor – The rotating part of the motor that is placed within the magnetic field.
    • Shaft – The shaft of the motor connects the rotor to the stator and is used to power the equipment or machinery.
    • Commutator – The device that reverses the polarity each time the rotor spins. Like reversing a battery at every spin so that the electrons change course.
    • Fan – The fan is used to create air flow and increase the efficiency of a motor.

Final Words

Electric motors are a safe, efficient, and reliable way to power machinery and equipment. They are available in a range of sizes, voltages, and designs and can be powered by a wide range of energy sources, including fossil fuels and renewable energy sources like solar or wind. When you need to power equipment that needs to work independently from a source of manual power, an electric motor is a great choice.

 

Electromagnetism: From the Basics to Everyday Applications

Depiction of a wire wrapped around a nail with the wire connected to a battery creating a circuit and consequently creating an electromagnetic.
Depiction of a wire wrapped around a nail and connected to a battery, creating a complete circuit, resulting in the creation of an electromagnetic. When electrons start to run through the wire (from one end of the battery to the other), a magnetic field is produced and the nail is magnetized, consequently, the paper clips are attracted to the nail. If power shuts off, the paper clips will no longer have that attraction. Photo: iStock.

Let’s Start with a Piece of Metal

Let’s use iron for example. Touch it with another piece of iron and what happens? Nothing! Now take a bare wire, copper preferred. Wrap the copper wire around one of the pieces of iron and what happens? Still nothing!

Now grab both ends of the copper wire and connect it to a battery. What happens? Yep, still nothing – at least nothing noticeable that the naked eye can see! What is happening that we don’t see is that there is an electric current that is traveling through the wire.  As electrons are moving through the wire, a magnetic field is produced. 

When There is Electric Current, There is a Magnetic Field

Illustration of wires wrapped around metal and connected and disconnected to a battery
Left: Iron bar with wire wrapped around it (coil) and iron filings nearby laying stationary because the wires are not a complete circuit (connected to the battery).  Right: Same configuration but with circuit complete and iron fillings are then attracted to it. Photo: iStock

But Just What is This Magnetic Field?

If we pick up the other piece of iron (which does not have the copper wire around it) and place it near the iron piece that has the wire wrapped (and thus the electric current), that isolated piece of iron suddenly moves toward the electrified one.

The reason why the iron pieces attract each other is due to fact that the iron piece with the copper wire wrapped around it (called a coil) becomes magnetic. And so, we have just created an electromagnet

For the video below, you might want to put your thinking caps on as it explains pretty well how electromagnetic forces are derived (hint: when electrons move through a wire). We suggest those that are in school and/or have an absorption for learning continue on to this video.

For those that would like to bypass such items as Maxwell’s equations and just want a cheat sheet of what is the criteria for an electromagnetic field, see our summary below.

How Electromagnets are Made

An electromagnet can be made out of any type of metal, but iron and nickel are the ones most often used. Nickel magnets are stronger than iron magnets, but iron is cheaper. 

Iron is found in most scrap yards, or you can buy it from a hardware store. The first step in making an electromagnet is to create a wire that is wrapped with a coil of metal several times. This is known as an electromagnet coil. The coil has to be wrapped around a core, which is made out of a non-magnetic material. 

The Magnetic Field

A picture of a magnet
A permanent magnet which has the same properties as an electromagnet but without the current. Image by Francesco Bovolin from Pixabay

The electromagnetic field is the region of energy surrounding a magnet. The magnetic field is perpendicular to the path that the electrons flow.

Why are Electromagnets Important?

Electromagnets are important because they can be used to power items and devices that are used by us every day. Motors and generators are just two examples. They are also used in toys, as a way of moving things around in a car, or even to move things in a factory. 

They are also useful because they’re easily controllable. If you want to turn the electromagnet off, you simply turn off the electric current running through it. If you want to turn it back on, you can simply turn it back on again.

Types of Magnets

There are two types: temporary and permanent. Temporary magnets are only magnetic while electricity is running through them. Permanent magnets remain magnetic no matter what happens. This is because these magnets are not electrified. An example are the ones stuck to your fridge or another metal surface.

Conclusion

Magnetism is created when electrons are in movement. In a practical sense, this means that if you connect a wire to a battery (power source), electrons will move from the negative pole to the positive pole of the battery.

When this happens, a force is created in addition to the electrical force, which is the magnetic force. This magnetic force ‘pushes’ perpendicular to electrical force (current), so any metal that has magnetic properties will be attracted to this force and move towards it accordingly.

The magnetic force can be strengthened by any of the following criteria.

    • Taking the straight wire and curling it around the medium, usually an iron bar. The result is called a coil.
    • Wiring the coil more will cause the magnetic field to strengthen.
    • Increasing the current; that is, increasing the speed at which the electrons travel through the coiled wire will also strengthen the magnetic field.

The practical applications of electromagnets are the ability to cause an entity to move because of this force, such as what happens inside a motor.

 

 

 

The Carbon Atom

Illustration of the carbon atom
Bohr Illustration of the Carbon Atom. Photo: Photo by dacurrier on Pixabay

Carbon Element Overview

If you watched Star Trek, in one episode, the Nomad, the robot that referred to the humans as carbon based lifeforms, and for good reason. Because that’s what we are! 

Virtually every organic compound on Earth contains carbon. In fact, life as we know it would not exist without carbon. That’s because it has a unique ability to bond with itself and other elements fairly easily, due to it’s need to find more electrons to bond with.

Carbon is the sixth element in the periodic table with the chemical symbol C and atomic number of six. It has two electrons in its inner shell and four electrons in its outer shell (valence shell) as shown in the Bohr illustration above.

Because the carbon atom has a natural desire to fulfil its outer shell to eight electrons, or saying it another way, it needs to to fill up its outer energy level, it will constantly look to bond with other atoms in order to obtain the four more electrons. Once bonded, the atom’s outer shell is fully stable. Carbon atoms can form bonds with other carbon atoms, but they can also form bonds with almost all other elements. 

Carbon can exist in multiple different forms known as allotropes: graphite, diamond and others. It’s also a non-metal, but one of the most important elements on earth. Carbon atoms have many uses, from making steel to fueling cars.

This article explores most everything you wanted to know about carbon atoms and their various forms.

Types (Allotropes) of Carbon Molecules

Graphite

Graphite showing a pencil
Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay

Graphite is an allotrope of carbon. It’s a black and soft mineral that is commonly found in nature in the form of pencils. Although graphite is often treated as a mineral, it’s more commonly considered a form of carbon. Graphite is very soft and can be easily compressed into a very thin sheet.

Graphite is made of layered sheets of carbon atoms that form stacks known as graphene. Each layer is made of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal pattern with strong covalent bonds. These layers are held together by weak intermolecular forces that are easily broken by heat. That’s why pencils can be erased by rubbing graphite and paper together!

The Diamond

The diamond is another allotrope of carbon. The only difference between the two is that diamonds are made of carbon atoms arranged in a cubic pattern. This makes diamonds a hard and most rigid substance. 

Diamonds are also made of graphene sheets that are held together by strong covalent bonds. These properties make this mineral extremely valuable, but they’re also highly limited in supply. That’s why they’re one of the most expensive materials on earth. 

It’s estimated that only 0.1% of carbon that enters the earth’s surface is converted into a diamond. This is largely because diamonds are formed at very high pressures beneath the earth. 

When carbon deposits are subjected to a combination of very high temperatures and pressure, they can change to diamonds. It may take a long time before the carbon is changed into a diamond, but it will change. It all depends upon the temperature and amount of pressure that is put on it. We can’t find a better demonstration than when Superman crushed coal (a product of carbon) simulating the creation of a diamond. 

Carbon Bonds

The covalent bonds that can from carbon can result in many different types of molecules. It’s possible for carbon to form thousands of bonds with other elements. This is why carbon has so many uses in the world.

Fullerenes

Fullerenes are carbon molecules that are composed of many rings of carbon. They were accidentally discovered in 1985 by two scientists who were studying carbon soot. The discovery was so exciting that the scientists won a Nobel Prize for their discovery!

C 60 – the most common carbon molecule – has 60 carbon atoms arranged in a spherical pattern. This sphere can be thought of as a football because the name “fullerene” comes from two English words: football and carbon.

C 60 is known as a buckyball and can be used as a tool for scientists. Yes, that’s what it’s called. Buckyballs are carbon atoms that are bonded to three other carbon atoms. Scientists can use buckyballs to study the structure of other molecules.

Why is There So Much Carbon in the World?

Carbon is the fourth most abundant element in the universe. Carbon is created in the interiors of stars and then released into the universe when those stars expire. It is present in the earth’s crust in the form of minerals and organic compounds. C 60 , the largest buckyball, is only possible at a pressure of 100 gigapascals – the type of pressure that’s found inside giant planets. (A pascal is a unit of pressure. Gigapasclal is that unit of pressure x 1 billion).

Diatomic Carbon

Diatomic carbon is the simplest form of carbon. It contains two carbon atoms with one double bond between the atoms. A double bond is where on atom shares its valence electrons with two other atoms, in contrast to a covalent bond created by lighting and oxygen in the air, but it is usually destroyed by other compounds in the atmosphere.

This is important because diatomic carbon is a greenhouse gas. Carbon atoms are released into the atmosphere when plants are burned. These atoms are then oxidized by the other compounds in the air to create more diatomic carbon. Diatomic carbon is one of the most important greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This is precisely why it’s released in the first place!

Conclusion

Carbon is the element that forms the molecules for all known forms of life on earth. It’s the only element that can form molecules with a ratio of electrons to protons that’s necessary for biology.

Carbon is not a metal. Metals are largely defined by their electrical conductivity. Carbon is a non-metal and does not conduct electrical current.

Illustration of an extraterrestrial
iStock

Carbon is also very common in the universe and can form multiple different types of bonds with other elements, so when Noman called humans carbon based life forms, because of its abundance in the universe, maybe he met other carbon life forms in the galaxy we just don’t know about yet!

 

What is Star Link?

Star Link Rocket Lifting Off
Elon Musk’s Star Link Rocket Lifting Off. Photo by SpaceX-Imagery on Pixabay

Elon Musk has always been known for his eccentric ideas and they are often so far-reaching and innovative that people don’t believe he’ll actually follow through on them—at least not in the way he does. 

When Elon Musk announced Starlink, it was just more of the same. It sounded like another quirky idea, but this time with a twist. Some people even dismissed it as a PR stunt, and others thought there was no way it could possibly succeed given the current limitations of space technology.

 Now that we know more about Starlink and its development, it seems they were all wrong…again. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about Elon Musk’s Starlink project, how it became a reality, and what it means for space exploration moving forward.

What is Starlink?

Starlink refers to the development of thousands of satellites that are being put into low-Earth orbit as a way to provide internet and communications services across the globe. 

This system will be made up of small satellites that will be used to bypass internet issues and other problems that plague both developed and developing countries. The project was first announced in 2016 and, since then, SpaceX has been creating what it calls “the most sophisticated and largest new commercial satellite constellation in history.”

As of 2019, the company has created over 2,000 satellites, with plans to launch 16,000 more in the coming years. The network will be made up of 80 satellites in low Earth orbit, 12,000 satellites in mid-Earth orbit, and 1,800 satellites in geostationary orbit

The low-Earth orbit satellites will help to provide internet access to remote areas while the mid-Earth satellites will deliver high-speed broadband to urban areas. The geostationary satellites will help to bridge the two networks together.

How Does Starlink Work?

Planning and implementing the Starlink network started in 2016, with the first test satellites launched in 2017. However, a Falcon 9 rocket explosion at Cape Canaveral put that mission on hold, causing delays to the development of Starlink. 

A second launch was scheduled for February 2018, but once again, the mission was put on hold due to inclement weather. The third launch occurred in March 2019, and the rest of the satellites were sent out at regular intervals to complete the network. 

Once the network is fully operational, it will be capable of providing internet access to billions of people across the globe. 

Why is Starlink Important?

The internet has become a fundamental part of modern life. It is used for everything from staying in touch with friends and family to researching information, finding new hobbies, managing finances, and even procuring employment, not to mention the vast array of political aspects. 

If you don’t have internet access, you are essentially cut off from the world, but this is a reality, particularly in the developing world. In places like Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America, many don’t have Internet access. That’s about two-thirds of the world population. Unfortunately, this isn’t a problem that can be fixed by simply installing more internet cables. The issue is that there aren’t enough satellites in orbit to provide the coverage needed.

The Problems With the Current System

Communications satellites are designed to orbit at 22369.37 miles above the surface of the Earth, with the International Space Station orbiting at just 248.5 miles above the planet’s surface. 

This means that the satellites are out of reach for most people on the ground. Therefore, if someone wants to use a satellite for anything, they need to be connected to a nearby ground station. 

There are around 1,800 ground stations currently in operation around the world, but they can’t cover the entire planet. As a result, there are large parts of Africa and South America that don’t have any access to satellites. Even within these areas, coverage is patchy at best. 

If you look at a map of satellite coverage in South America, you’ll notice that many places are completely blacked out. This is because there needs to be a clear line of sight between the ground station and the satellite. If a mountain or a building gets in the way, it will completely block the signal. So even if you have a satellite available, it may not be able to provide you with a decent internet connection.

Will People Actually Use It?

It is estimated that SpaceX will have to deal with around 700,000 pieces of space debris when they finally launch all the satellites. But despite this, the company has already sold $1 billion in services to two unnamed customers, and is expected to launch thousands of satellites in the coming years. 

This is a good sign, particularly since the two customers have remained anonymous until now. While it is impossible to know for sure if people will use the network once it is launched, we can take a look at similar projects in the past to get an idea of the potential for success. For example, Inmarsat, a British satellite telecommunications company, launched a network of satellites in the late 80’s. At the time, the idea of being able to communicate with each other from the middle of the ocean seemed like science fiction. However, the system was so successful that it has been used ever since. The company has over 19 million subscribers and a market capitalization of $14 billion. It has become so successful that it is now “a world-leading provider of global mobile services.”

Conclusion

Starlink is a huge project that will see thousands of satellites put into low-Earth orbit as a way to provide internet and communications services across the globe. Elon Musk introduced the project in 2016 and since then his company has been developing what they call “the most sophisticated and largest new commercial satellite constellation in history.” There are still challenges that need to be overcome, particularly in terms of dealing with space debris. But if everything goes to plan, this will be the start of a new era in the way we access the internet.

 

How is Steel Manufactured? | The Process Explained

Steel Columns and beams of 1 World Trade Center
Steel Columns and beams of 1 World Trade Center Under Construction. Photo: SS

Walk down any city construction site and you’re bound to see a network of steel beams and columns rising from the ground. Why are they using steel? Because steel is strong, durable, and easy to work with, making it the iron alloy of choice for building construction. 

If you’re wondering how steel is manufactured, wonder no more! In this blog post, we’ll explain the process from start to finish. 

History of Steel

The emergence of steel as the foremost material for construction can be traced back to the Iron Age, when it is was used to make swords and other materials. 

With the advent of the railroad construction boom in the 19th century, and it’s subsequent requirement for this resource to make the tracks was proving to be an issue, due to the fact that there wasn’t any automatic production process to fill the need.

The  Initial Making of Steel

Steel does not grow out of thin air. It begins with the mining of iron ore, which then has to be combined with the element carbon via a blast furnace. Let’s get more involved understanding how this process works.

Mining the Iron Mineral

It all begins with the mining of iron ore. An ore represents a mineral where a valuable asset can be extracted.

Once it is taken out from the quarry, the ore is melted and purified  (removing impurities from the ore and leaving only the metal). This is done in a blast furnace.

Enter Carbon

Carbon is an element in the Periodic Table that has an atomic number of six, with four electrons in its outer shell and two electrons in its inner shell.

Atoms that have less than eight electrons in its outer shell, (called the valence shell) tend to look for other atoms to bond with, so that their valence shells can stabilize the atom by balancing the shell to eight electrons. This is based on the Octet Rule.

Iron has eight electrons in its valence shell, so if you bond the carbon atom that has six valence elections with the iron atom, you have a molecule of two different atoms which forms steel.

It is essential to ensure that the correct amount of carbon is used with iron, approximately 0.04%, so that the resultant product is that of steel. If the wrong amount of carbon is mixed with iron, a different product will be produced such as cast iron or wrought iron – both of these are not efficient products to render steel.

When is Carbon Added to Iron?

For steel, this combination of the two elements is done while the iron metal is liquid hot, which then alters the iron’s properties to change to that of steel.

Steel subsequently becomes an alloy (a metal made by combining two or more metallic elements) of iron and carbon.  This causes a distortion of the crystalline lattice structure of iron and subsequently enhances the metal’s strength; specifically, it increases the metal’s tension and compression properties. 

The Manufacturing Process

Steel Cantilever at Chase Bank Headquarters
Steel Cantilever at Chase Bank Headquarters Under Construction. Photo: SS

A breakthrough for manufacturing steel via an automated process materialized in 1856 when Henry Bessemer found a way to  manufacture steel quickly. Bessemer’s steel production process is what inspired the Industrial Revolution

It was the first cost-efficient industrial process for the large scale production of steel from molten pig iron, by taking out impurities from pig iron using an air blast. 

Adding Carbon Produces a Variety of Iron Alloys

As previously mentioned, when mixed with carbon, the iron’s characteristic will be changed, allowing a variety of different types of metal alloys to be created. It all depends upon the amount of carbon that is added to it. Let’s take a look.

Wrought Iron

Wrought iron is softer than cast iron and contains less than 0.1 percent carbon and 1 or 2 percent slag. It was an advancement over bronze and began to replace bronze in Asia Minor by the 2nd century BC. Because iron was far more plentiful as a natural resource, wrought iron was used for a wide variety of implements as well as weapons and armor. 

Cast Iron

Cast iron is an alloy of iron that contains 2 to 4 percent carbon, along with smaller amounts of other elements, such as silicon, manganese and minor traces of sulfur and phosphorus. These minerals are non metallic and are referenced in the industry as slag. Cast iron can be easily molded into a desired shape, known as casting. and has been used to make decorative fences and other aesthetic forms.

Cast iron facades were invented in America in the mid-1800s and were produced quickly, requiring much less time and resources than stone or brick. They were also very efficient for decorative purposes, as the same molds were used for many buildings and a broken piece could be quickly remolded. Because iron is powerful, large windows were utilized, allowing a lot of light into buildings and high ceilings that required only columns for support.

Steel



Steel is an alloy made from iron that usually contains several tenths of a percent of carbon, which increases its strength and durability over the other forms of iron, especially in tensile strength.

Strictly speaking, steel is just another kind of iron alloy, but has much lower carbon than cast iron, and about as much carbon (or sometimes slightly more) than working iron, with other metals frequently added to give it additional properties. 

Most of the steel produced today is called carbon steel, or simple carbon, although it can contain metals other than iron and carbon, like silicon and manganese. 

Summary

The advantages of steel are numerous, from great tensile and compression strength to speed of manufacturing to low cost, it is the metal of choice in construction when compared to iron.

 Although iron and steel appear to be similar, they are two distinct materials that have their own specific characteristics and qualities. Iron is a pure mineral and steel is an alloy material that contains a percentage of carbon.  Depending on the amount of carbon mixed with iron, different products emerge, and this includes the creation of steel. 

Steel is far stronger material and there is no better metal at this time that is used when strength and cost are major factors.

 

The SR-71 Blackbird: A Story of Remarkable Innovation

Artist's illustration of the SR-71 aircraft
Computer-generated 3D illustration of the Strategic Reconnaissance Aircraft SR-71 Blackbird. Photo: iStock

The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird is one of history’s most iconic spy planes. Also known as the “Black Widow” for its unique appearance, this aircraft still stands as an impressive feat of aeronautical engineering. In fact, it holds many speed and altitude records that have yet to be broken, and there is much more than meets the eye with this plane…

The Origins of the SR-71 

U2 Spy Plane in the air
U2 Spy Plane. Photo: Wikipedia/USAF Public Domain

Before this immortal aircraft was developed, the United States relied on the famous U2 spycraft for its Cold War reconnaissance. On May 1, 1960, a U2 was spotted deep inside Russian territory, but the US was not concerned as they believed that this aircraft was impenetrable to Soviet air defenses due to its high-altitude flight. They were wrong. 

A Soviet V-750 surface-to-air missile shot down the spy plane. The pilot, Francis Gary Powers, who took off from a secret US airbase in Pakistan, parachuted to the ground safely but was immediately captured by Soviet authorities and taken prisoner. 

He was later released after a mutual prisoner swap between the United States and Russia; however, it was quite clear that something else had to be done if the US wanted (and needed) to continue its reconnaissance over Russia and other foreign lands without the concern of the aircraft being shot down.

Corona Spy Satellite

Corona spy satellite illustration
Illustration of the Corona Spy Satellite. Photo: Wikipedia/National Reconnaissance Office, Public Domain

The United States began an ambitious project for U2’s successor. The Corona spy satellite program was one of the first. It proved amazingly successful in August of 1960 after it was able to photograph many parts of Soviet territory.

What’s even more amazing was that the pictures that the plane took was sent back to earth and successfully salvaged, resulting in an abundance of intelligence well needed as this cold war intensified. The Corona program ended in 1972.

A-12 Spy Plane

A-12 Prototype Spy Plane in the Air
A-12 Prototype. Photo: By U.S.Air Force – Defense Visual Information Center (DVIC)

The CIA contracted Lockheed to develop a new plane that would surpass the U2’s functionalities in every way. The Lockheed A-12  was born.

This prototype spawned some variants. The YF-12A Interceptor, which was designed to replace the F-106 Delta Dart Interceptor/ fighter, and the SR-71 Blackbird, designed not as a fighter jet, but as a high-speed reconnaissance aircraft.

The YF-12A was built and tested but the Air Force decided to go for the F-111 fighter/bomber; however, the SR-71 was commissioned and 32 Blackbirds were eventually built.

The SR-71 was outfitted with all the advanced concepts from its A-12 parent, as well as the necessary devices (cameras and supporting equipment) for its intelligence mission to fly over foreign territory (namely the Soviet Union). This plane was able to fly much higher than the U2 and it flew  four times faster. To this day, no aircraft has surpassed the speed of the SR-71 Blackbird.

Enter Skunk Works

Assembly line of the SR-71 Blackbird at Skunk Works
Assembly line of the SR-71 Blackbird at Skunk Works. Photo: Wikipedia Public Domain

This top secret R&D group within Lockheed Corporation began during WWII to research advanced fighter aircraft, but its true meaning did not materialize until after the U2 was shot down.

As mentioned, it was evident that a more sophisticated aircraft that would be able to avoid Soviet planes and missiles, as well as being less vulnerable to radar signatures was required, or to put it another way, this new prototype had to be faster, higher, and stealthier than any other aircraft currently in existence at the time. The Skunk Works design team was tasked with creating this advanced aircraft. 

Development of the SR-71

Pratt & Whitney Engine for the SR-71
The Pratt & Whitney J58 engine powered the SR-71 Blackbird. Photo: iStock

The design that Skunk Works had come up with was a radical break from conventional aircraft design. This plane would have a long, curved nose that would house a long-range camera and a shorter curved section behind that would house the pilot.

The idea behind this design was that it would significantly reduce the plane’s radar cross-section. Most of the aircraft’s volume would be behind the center of gravity, making the aircraft “lighter” from the perspective of radar. This would reduce the aircraft’s weight and make it fly even faster.

The plane would also be designed to minimize airflow, reducing drag and increasing speed. And all of this would be done with a plane that could carry almost 10,000 pounds of fuel and up to 10,000 pounds of payload. 

Its futuristic profile made it difficult to detect on radar. Even the black paint used, full of radar-absorbing iron, helped hide it’s existence from the Russian’s radar defenses. Due to the plane’s unique design, some engineers viewed it more of a spaceship than an aircraft. 

The mineral titanium was one of the main reasons for the SR-71’s success. This metal is almost as strong as steel, but lightweight enough not to allow the plane to fly and maneuver very well. Titanium is also able to withstand the enormous temperatures when flying at 2,200 mph (3,540 kph). 

And all this was done before digital functionality became commonplace.

Titanium and the Soviet Union

Photo of titanium
Titanium in Alloy Form. Photo: iStock

Despite the fact that titanium is the ninth most common element in the earth’s crust, it’s resources are lacking in the United States. And ironically, of all the places where this mineral is abundant is in the Russian territories, so the United States created dummy companies to hide who was actually the purchasing of this needed mineral.

The result was that the US succeeded in importing titanium from right under the nose of the the Soviets, and used it build a an aircraft that would eventually fly over their land and spy on them. How ironic!

Specifications of the SR-71 Blackbird

Inside SR-71
Cockpit of the SR-71. The display is all analog. Photo: iStock

This aircraft was truly an extraordinary feat of engineering, and it had many specifications that would go on to set records and even become standards for future planes.

It had a crew of one and could fly at Mach 3.2 (2,455 MPH) at a height of 85,000 feet. That is almost halfway into the Earth’s stratosphere, and with a fuel capacity of 36,000 pounds, and it could fly for over 2,500 miles without having to refuel. 

Because it was designed to fly at very high altitudes, the SR-71 was pressurized, allowing the pilot to fly without a spacesuit. While flying at those altitudes, the plane would also be able to fly through weather that other aircraft could not fly in. 

How Fast is the SR-71?

Computer generated 3D illustration with the American Reconnaissance Aircraft SR-71
Computer generated illustration of the SR-71 Reconnaissance Aircraft SR-71. Photo: iStock

As mentioned this aircraft could fly at Mach 3.2. That’s faster than a bullet! Because the plane was streamlined, it was able to fly at those speeds without creating dangerously high pressures on the airframe. And this meant that the aircraft was able to maintain its altitude without using a lot of fuel to keep itself aloft.

This was a massive advantage for the SR-71, as it would let the aircraft fly for hours before needing to refuel. The speed record was set by retired Air Force colonel Bob Gilliland, who flew it from New York to London in 64 minutes, smashing the previous record. This equates to an average speed of 2,189 mph, which is still faster than any aircraft in service today.

Other Innovations by the Blackbird

As if breaking speed and altitude records weren’t impressive enough, the SR-71 also pioneered many other technologies that are still in use today. Here are some examples.

    • The SR-71 used a special fuel to cool itself, which is now used in many modern engines.
    • It had a special paint that didn’t reflect visible light or infrared light, making it incredibly stealthy.
    • The plane’s cockpit was also extremely advanced, with a heads-up display that projected critical information directly onto the windshield.
    • The navigation system was revolutionary, using Doppler beacons to accurately calculate the plane’s position.
    • The plane’s way of communicating with ground control stations was unlike anything used before. It had a special method of transmitting information as bursts of radio waves that could be received by a single ground station at a time. This was necessary because the aircraft had no way of knowing which ground station it was closest to.
    • The plane had a special method of using the airflow over the aircraft to cool its engines, which was necessary to prevent them from overheating at the plane’s high speeds.

Conclusion

The SR-71 Blackbird was one of the most advanced aircraft ever created. It pushed the boundaries of aeronautical engineering, and even in the modern digital age, it is still a very impressive machine.

This supersonic aeronautic advancement was extremely efficient and could travel long distances at supersonic speeds while carrying heavy payloads.  It was also extremely stealthy, making it a difficult target to see and track.

Despite having been decommissioned in the 1990s, the SR-71 still holds much impressive speed and altitude records. It truly is one of the most impressive aircraft ever created and deserves its place as a legend in aviation history.

 

Titanium – What is It and What is It Used For?

Photo of titanium
titanium metal alloy, used in industry, super resistant metal. Photo: iStock

Overview

In the last few years, there has been a lot of buzz about the metal known as titanium. The reason is that it has quite a few properties which make it useful in everyday life.

It is strong, lightweight, and corrosion-resistant among other things. It is most popular for being used to create aircraft parts and car engine components; however, there is so much more to this metal than meets the eye. 

People have used titanium for thousands of years. Only recently we have begun to understand exactly how useful this mineral can be. It was found to be extremely useful for military stealth functions, starting with the famous SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft, due to the metal’s strength and high-temperature resilience (as we will discuss below) and the fact that it is light weight (e.g. in this case, functioning as a material that is very strong but light), it was perfect for this spy plane. 

Let’s take a look at some interesting facts about titanium.

Properties Stronger than Steel

You might have heard that titanium is as strong as steel. While this is not entirely true, it is close enough to be significant. To begin with, strength is not a single chemical property of a material. But for simplicity, let’s treat it as one. 

The tensile strength (measurement of a material’s elastic stress when a load is placed on it – how much it can withstand before starting to stretch or pull out before breaking apart) of steel is around 100 gigapascals (GPa) – the unit of measurement of tensile strength. (One pascal is equal to 1 newton of force per square meter).

The tensile strength of titanium is about 60 GPa. Therefore, steel is stronger than titanium. However, the thing to note here is that titanium’s strength is applied only at a very specific point. Let’s say that you have a piece of metal that has a high tensile strength across its entire surface. This does not make it stronger than a piece of metal with a lower tensile strength applied at a specific point.

Titanium Symbol
Titanium (Ti) has 22 electrons and 22 protons. Photo: iStock

Chemical Properties of Titanium

Titanium has a lot of unique properties that make it special. It has a very high melting point (more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit). Because titanium resists oxidation at high temperatures, it is often used in high-temperature applications.

Oxidation is the loss of electrons, resulting in the titanium atoms becoming vulnerable to combining with other atoms; subsequently changing its properties and compromising the material.

A perfect example of using titanium for its resistance to oxidization   at high temperatures is that it makes an excellent material for the SR-71 since this plane had the ability to fly at Mach 2.5, which is close to 2,000 miles per hour. This metal is also corrosion-resistant. This means that titanium is very useful when exposed to water or air. 

Titanium has an atomic number of 22 and an atomic weight of 47.867, which means it has 22 protons and approximately 48 protons and neutrons, respectively.

Everyday Uses of Titanium

Titanium is being used in many different industries, and there are several everyday uses of titanium that you may not be aware of. This is because titanium is lightweight, strong, and corrosion-resistant, making it the perfect material for sports equipment.

    • Sports equipment – If you are a sports fan, you may have seen athletes wearing titanium-containing sports accessories. 
    • Medical equipment – If you ever get an MRI scan, you may be inside a machine that is made of titanium. This is because titanium is very safe to use around living tissue and can be sterilized easily. 
    • Marine parts – If you own a boat, you may be surprised to learn that the propellers and rudders are often made of titanium. This is because it is strong, lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and does not affect water flow. 
    • Water and air purification – You may have seen pictures of large towers in cities. These towers are used for water purification and are often made of titanium. 
    • Construction – Buildings, bridges, and other infrastructure are often constructed using titanium. This is because it is highly corrosion-resistant and very strong. 
    • Food packaging – If you have ever eaten food that was in a pouch, there is a good chance that the pouch was made of titanium.

How is Titanium Produced?

Titanium is made through a process known as the Kroll process. – First, titanium ore is mined and then sent to a smelter where it is heated to extremely high temperatures.

The resulting molten metal is then sent through a chemical reduction process which removes oxygen and other impurities. The molten metal is then cast into ingots and then rolled into long bars. These bars are then drawn through a press that elongates them and makes them thinner. Finally, the bars are shaped into their final forms and then sent to be coated or processed further.

Problems with Manufacturing and Existing Processes

As you have read, titanium is a very versatile material that can be used in a wide variety of industries. However, there are some issues with the current methods of manufacturing this mineral that needs to be addressed. 

    • High costs – Currently, the process of producing titanium is very energy-intensive and expensive. The cost of the metal itself is also quite high, making it costly to produce certain products. 
    • Contamination – The process of manufacturing titanium is quite complex, and there is a risk of contamination in certain areas of the process.  
    • High purity requirements – Another issue with titanium is that it has very high purity requirements. This means that the resulting metal can be very impure even after the purification process. 
    • Difficult to produce large quantities of titanium in the quantities needed for the industries that use it.

Concluding Words

Titanium is a very versatile metal that can be used in a wide variety of industries. However, due to its high costs and difficult manufacturing process, it is often difficult to produce large quantities of titanium. With that said, titanium is used for very specific functions. This article has explored the many uses of titanium and the process behind its manufacture.

 

6 Buildings that Use Cantilever Architecture

Citicorp Tower looking up
Citicorp Tower, NYC. Photo: Wikimedia CC
Citicorp Tower cantilevers
Citicorp Tower cantilevers. Photo: Wikimedia CC

In the 19th century, with the advent of structural steel, engineers began using cantilevers to construct taller buildings. This type of architecture is primarily used when there isn’t enough space on one side of a structure for its foundation. Engineers have to build the foundation out from one side and then use beams that extended from it to support the weight. 

This construction style is eye-catching and certainly more daring than other methods of building. It also requires serious engineering skills, as well as a detailed understanding of how much weight the beams can bear without giving way. Indeed, the correct structural engineering is imperative as just a small miscalculation in the production of steel and concrete can result in catastrophe.

‍If you live in a big city, you might have noticed that more buildings are being built with these overhangs. This is especially true for cities where space is at a premium, such as New York City.  In this article, we are going to take office building construction to a whole new level – the use of cantilevers!

The Rotterdam Tower

De_Rotterdam Tower showing cantilevered construction
Photo: WikiPedia-CC

This intriguing building is located in the Netherlands and is part of the Erasmus Bridge Complex. It is a mixed-use building that houses offices, a hotel, and apartments. The building has a cantilever design, which is why the residents can enjoy a gorgeous view of the river

The architects designed the building so that it extends out over the river and almost touches the bridge. They also designed it so that it is taller on one side. The weight of this building is distributed between its central core and its cantilever, which is why it can be so tall without the ground beneath it being affected.

Statoil Regional and International Offices

Statoil is an energy producer in Norway and the 57th largest company in the world. Norwegian architects A-Lab designed a 117,000-square-meter commercial building complex that fits into the picturesque shoreline of Fornebu in perfect harmony.

Additionally, this architectural expression injects new energy into the nearby park and commercial area and was a key challenge in their design. Of course, it is the overhangs that make the building stand out. They stretch up to 100 feet in many directions.

Marina Bay Sands Hotel

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel is considered one of the most impressive hotels in the world. It is a massive construction project that began in 2003 and was completed in 2011. The project was a collaboration between the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and the Singapore government, and was built on the site of a former shipyard. The hotel has three 55-story towers. but in addition these buildings, it has a sky park that is cantilevered over all three towers.

Designed by Israeli architect Moshe Safdie,  the hotel has 2,500 rooms and a lobby that crosses the entire three buildings just like the sky park above.

Marina Bay Sands Hotel Sinagpore

Marina Bay Sands Hotel by architect Moshe Safdie. Photo by Julien de Salaberry on Unsplash

Building the Hotel

One of the most interesting aspects of the construction of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel was that builders used an unusual design that allowed them to build upwards while keeping the foundations stable

This was necessary because Singapore is built on a floodplain, and it is impossible to build foundations below ground level. The builders designed the foundation so that the bottom of the hotel would be built on a metal mesh, which would be anchored to the ground. The metal mesh would keep the foundation stable, while allowing sand and water to flow freely through it. The metal foundation is built in modular sections, which can be raised and lowered as necessary. The builders also used a system of shuttles to transport construction materials to the upper floors of the hotel, as well as the rooftop.

Lessons Learned from MBS’s Construction

As we have seen, the construction of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel was a challenge. It is rare for the ground to shift so dramatically in an area where there is no flooding, and it is even more unusual for builders to build on top of a metal foundation. Although this construction project was unique, it still provides some important lessons for other builders.

The first is that challenges are an inevitable part of construction, and there are always a number of factors that have to be taken into account. The second is that challenges should not be seen as a reason to abandon the project. When building on the water, the builders of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel had to be flexible, and ready to make adjustments at any time. If they had been too rigid, they may not have been able to proceed with the project at all.

One Vanderbilt – New York City

Vanderbilt Office Building under construction
Vanderbilt Office Building under construction. Photo: SS

With space so much at a premium in this city, the only way to build is  up, and even then, it might not be enough to encompass the amount of office space that the developers envisioned for the Vanderbilt tower.

Located across from Grand Central Terminal, it is the fourth tallest building in NYC, rising 1,401 feet above the ground. On the south and west sides, it is cantilevered over Vanderbilt Ave. and 42nd Street respectively, and this overhang starts at only approximately 50 feet up and then supports the rest of the superstructure. There is an observatory at the top, which is the 5th observatory in Manhattan. 

Other skyscrapers with noticeable cantilevered construction in New York include Central Park Tower and the Citicorp Headquarters, displayed above. 

J. P. Morgan Chase Headquarters – New York City

Steel Cantilever at Chase Bank Headquarters
Steel Cantilever at Chase Bank Headquarters Under Construction. Photo: SS

Also known as 270 Park Ave., this 1,388-foot-tall, 70-story, 2.5 million-square-foot super tower is located between Park and Madison Avenues, and 47th and 48th Streets.

This massive building will be supported, in part by steel cantilever columns that protrudes diagonally out on the eastern and western sides of the building.

Interestingly, the building is replacing the former Union Carbide 52- story tower (later bought by Chase) that was previously there. The building was completely demolished, which made it the largest intentional demolished building in the world.

The new Chase headquarters will zero carbon emissions and will be  100% powered by New York hydropower in upstate NY which produces electricity completely from flowing water.

No doubt, this will be one of New York’s most advanced skyscrapers.

Frank Gehry’s Chiat/Day Building

Binoculars Building, Los Angeles
Binoculars Building, Los Angeles, CA. Photo: Wikimedia CC

This building is a former office building in Los Angeles, California that was converted into a mixed-use building. It is now home to a variety of businesses, as well as the famous advertising agency Chiat/Day.

Designed by notable architect Frank Gehry, this building with a cantilever on one side so that it could house all of the businesses. They designed the cantilever so that it wouldn’t cause damage to the building’s foundations.

The building’s cantilever also allowed designers to create an interesting façade. They were able to extend the second floor out so that it creates a terrace, which is accessible from the sidewalk.

Summing Up

The cantilever is an interesting architectural feature that many people likely do not think about as they walk under these overhangs, but it is a complex engineering solution that isn’t suitable for every project; however, in these examples, it works brilliantly.

While they may be pretty to look at, they also serve a critical  function, which makes them a necessity. While the specific structural design of each cantilever will vary depending on the building type, design, and geographic location, the overall concept is the same.

 

 

James Webb Telescope – What is it?

Carina Nebula
NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula Star-forming region from James Webb. Photo: NASA Public Domain

A Giant Feat for Mankind

By far, the most extraordinary images from outer space that have ever been received have come from the James Webb telescope. As the successor to the famous Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb is the most powerful space observatory ever built, with far more potential than anything that has come before it.

Launched on Christmas Day, 2021 on the Ariane 5 rocket, this giant observatory, the size of a tennis court, is currently in L2 Orbit, located 1.5 million miles from Earth, sending extraordinary images of objects from as back into time as when the big bang started -13.7 years ago. 

To understand why this matters so much to humanity, we first have to understand what the JWST is not. It is not a souped-up version of the Hubble; nor is it an alternative to Hubble — something different but still essentially the same.

Instead, the JWST represents a completely new paradigm in design and function for a space-based optical telescope. In other words: It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before.

How Does the JWST Differ from Hubble?

James Webb Telescope
JWST in space near Earth. James Webb telescope far galaxies and planets explore. Photo: iStock

The two telescopes, while both space-based observatories are very different in two significant categories.

    • Mirror size
    • Light spectrum

Size Does Matter!

There is a major difference between the JWST mirrors and the Hubble’s mirrors in size. As discussed further in the article, the bigger the mirror, the further back into space we can see.

James Webb Telescope mirrors compared to Hubble's mirrors
James Webb Telescope mirrors compared to Hubble’s mirrors. Photo: Nasa.gov

As a result, this amazing observatory is also about 10 times more powerful than Hubble, with a much wider field of view — and, therefore, able to observe more objects.

Electromatic (Light) Spectrum

The JWST is designed to observe light in infrared wavelengths. Being able to see objects not usually visible by humans, whereas Hubble primarily observes visible and ultraviolet light. 

This is significant because only a very small percentage of the universe’s atoms emit visible light, while almost all atoms emit infrared light. As such, the JWST — in conjunction with other telescopes that are observed in other wavelengths allows us to view a much bigger chunk of the universe than Hubble ever could.

In addition to infrared, the JWST also has a small segment that observes a type of ultraviolet light that is inaccessible to Hubble.

Why is the JWST Important?

The JWST is a completely different kind of telescope that exploits a different approach to astronomy and will, therefore, produce many different results.

With its ability to detect light from the first stars that ever formed in the universe and the first galaxies that ever formed after the Big Bang, it will, for the first time, give us a comprehensive picture of the evolution of the cosmos. 

The JWST will also allow us to look for the earliest signs of life beyond our planet and, as such, represents a major step on humanity’s path toward enlightenment, as well as a greater understanding of who, what, and where we are.

The Telescope Assembly

The observatory is primarily composed of three components:

    •  Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM)
    • The Spacecraft Element
    • The Optical Telescope Element (OTE)

Integrated Science Instrument Module

This is where the infrared components are. It contains the infrared camera and the spectrograph (device which separates incoming light by its wavelength (frequency).

 

James Webb Infrared Component
James Webb Infrared System. Photo: NASA

The Fine Guidance Sensor/ Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph is used to pinpoint the locations that the JWSP will look at.

The Optical Telescope Element (OTE)

This is where the mirrors are contained. The mirrors are the most significant part of the telescope. Simply put, the larger the mirror, the further back in space we can see and with greater detail,  More specifically, the size of the mirror is directly proportional to the sensitivity (detail) that the telescope can display. The larger it is, the more detail is will show.

This amazing high-tech instrument consists of hexagonal-shaped mirror segments that measure over 4.2 feet across and weighs approximately 88 pounds. It has 18 primary segments that work in symmetry together to produce one large 21.3-foot mirror.

The mirrors are made of ultra-lightweight beryllium, which was chosen due to their thermal and mechanical properties at cryogenic (low) temperatures, as well as beryllium’s weight which made it a lot easier to lift it into space.

James Webb mirror assembly
James Webb mirror assembly. Each segment has a thin gold coating chosen for its ability to reflect infrared light. The largest feature is the five-layer 80 feet long and 30 feet wide sun shield that dissipates heat from the sun more than a million times. Photo: NASA

“The James Webb Space Telescope will be the premier astronomical observatory of the next decade,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This first-mirror installation milestone symbolizes all the new and specialized technology that was developed to enable the observatory to study the first stars and galaxies, examine the formation of stellar systems and planetary formation, provide answers to the evolution of our own solar system, and make the next big steps in the search for life beyond Earth on exoplanets.

Amazingly, the mirrors will fold in order to fit into the spacecraft and then unfold when ejected into outer space.

After a tremendous amount of work by an incredibly dedicated team across the country, it is very exciting to start the primary mirror segment installation process,” said Lee Feinberg, James Webb Space Telescope optical telescope element manager at Goddard. “This starts the final assembly phase of the telescope.”

Bill Ochs, James Webb Space Telescope project manager said “There have many significant achievements for Webb over the past year, but the installation of the first flight mirror is special. This installation not only represents another step towards the magnificent discoveries to come from Webb but also the culmination of many years of effort by an outstanding dedicated team of engineers and scientists.”

The Spacecraft Element

Something must power this system and the spacecraft element is what does it. Is supplies the rocket thrusters, propulsion system, communications and all the electrical power needed to make this run as a well oiled machine.

Where are We Now?

SMACS 0723A galaxy cluster. Furthers image recorded from James Webb telescope
Deepest Infrared Image of the Universe Ever Taken. Photo: NASA Public Domain 

We will leave you with this. Galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, which contains thousands of galaxies is 4.6 billion light years away.

That means that we are looking at it the way it looked 4.6 billion years ago. Scientists have a lot of work ahead of them and who knows what they’ll find?

Space Shuttle Columbia History

Rocket Garden Kennedy Space Center
Cape Canaveral, Florida – March 2, 2010: The Rocket Garden at the Kennedy Space Center. Eight milestone launch vehicles from KSC’s history are displayed. Photo: iStock

With the advent of NASA’s new planned trips to the moon and Mars and Elon Musk jumping in with his successful Space-X program, we’d thought it would be a good time to look back at how we got to this point and what better way to begin but with the Space Shuttle program. (Yes, we can go back further to the Saturn V and the manned moon trips but we will in a separate article because such a major achievement deserves its own space (put intended 😃)

Space Shuttle Overview

Space Shuttle Columbia from its 16th flight landing at Kennedy Space Center
Space Shuttle Columbia from its 16th flight landing at Kennedy Space Center Photo: Wikimedia Public Domain

The space shuttle Columbia was the first of the shuttle crafts to be launched and ultimately became a feat of engineering excellence. It was the most complex machine ever built to bring humans to and from space, and which has successfully expanded the era of space exploration. It lead to two decades of an unsurpassed legacy of achievement.

The difference between the shuttle program and previous rockets that went into space was that these aircraft were designed to be used over and over again. Columbia completed 28 missions over a 22-year span.

In the Beginning

The Columbia Space Shuttle was named after a sailing vessel that operated out of Boston in 1792 and explored the mouth of the Columbia River. One 975 in Palmdale, California, was delivered to the Kennedy Space Center in 1979.

There were many problems with this orbiter initially and this ultimately resulted in a delay in its first launch, but finally, on April 12, 1981, the shuttle took off and completed its Orbital Flight Test Program missions, which was the 20th anniversary of the first spaceflight and first manned human spaceflight in history known as Vostok 1.

Columbia orbited the Earth 36 times, commanded by John Young, a Gemini and Apollo program veteran, before landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California. 

The Mission

Columbia was used for research with Spacelab and it was the only flight of Spacehab‘s Research Double Module. It was also used to deploy the Chandra observatory, a space telescope.

Columbia’s last successful mission was to service the Hubble Space Telescope launched in 2002 and was its 27th flight. Its next mission, STS-107, saw a loss of the orbiter when it disintegrated during reentry into the atmosphere and killed all seven of its crew.

February 1, 2003

NASA Columbia Crew
The STS-107 crew includes, from the left, Mission Specialist David Brown, Commander Rick Husband, Mission Specialists Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla, and Michael Anderson, Pilot William McCool, and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon. (NASA photo. via Wikipedia)

After a successful mission in space, the seven members of the Columbia began their return for reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, but something was about to go terribly wrong.

On this date, February 1, 2003, a small section of insulating foam broke off the shuttle. At first thought, one would think that this would not be a major problem, but when it comes to space flight and all the engineering complexities that come with it, one small defect can lead to disaster, and sadly, that is exactly what happened.

After months of investigation, it was determined that the reason for the foam breaking away from the Shuttle was due to a failure of a pressure seal located on the right side of the rocket booster.

This was the second disaster where we lost astronauts during space shuttle flights. The first was during a Challenger mission on January 28, 1986. This author distinctly remembers watching the take-off of the Challenger and then hearing a large expulsion. Everyone knew at that moment in time, that something was wrong.

The Result

The benefits that humankind has gained from these shuttle flights were enormous. There were missions directly involved in launching and servicing the Hubble Space Telescope, docking with the Russian space station Mir, as well as performing scientific experiments that have ultimately benefited all of us.

In 2011, President Bush retired the Shuttle orbiter fleet and the 30-year Space Shuttle program in favor of the new Constellation program, but there were many costs and delays with this program and subsequently, it was canceled by President Obama in favor of using private companies to service the International Space Station. From then on, U.S. crews accessed the ISS via the Russian Soyuz spacecraft until a U.S. crew vehicle was ready

Today, we are experiencing achievements never before considered a reality within our lifetime. From the amazing photos from the James Well telescope to our planned missions to the moon and Mars, we have to credit those who came before these missions who deserve all the credit, lest we forget the ones who ultimately gave it all for the benefit of humankind!

 

 

Howard Fensterman Minerals