Space Update Episode 2: Hypersonic Voyager


While it’s progressing at a crawl, hypersonic flight research does continue. The X-51 WaveRider had a test flight on the 26th, flying at over 5,500 km/h (3500 mph) for about 200 seconds. (This was short of the planned 300.) This isn’t a practical demonstration by a long shot; it’s a one off and disposable (not even a parachute) missile that has to be launched while in flight (via a B-52), and it needs a booster to then get it to Mach 4.5 prior to the scramjet working. But it’s still great news, and a huge step towards a single stage to orbit craft.

Interestingly this project has DARPA funding as well…

Voyager 2

Surprising Voyager 2 made news recently with an interesting glitch; it seemed to be talking differently than expected. Trekkies around the world we probably fearing a V’ger like occurance, but it all turned out being a single bit that was fixed with a simple reset. Darn?

…and in old news

X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Still in orbit, believed to be on a test reconnaissance mission.

IKAROS In orbit preparing for sail deployment prior to a Venus transit.

COTS The Falcon 9 is still going nowhere. June 2?

LEGO Sinner Computing Banner

To cut a long story short, I’m re-activating (it used to just re-direct) the old domain name of my software company while still using the current name so I needed a new version of this…

Banner One
..banner. This was the original banner for my site, made in an afternoon using MSPaint over ten years ago. While I love the colour purple, it is a bit much at times, so I went for a more subtle embossed green look a few years later…

Banner 2Banner 2
…but I never liked that one very much so I couldn’t use that either. Besides, my current banner…

ACAPsoft Banner
…was a continuation of that colour theme and I wanted to make both look different. But no purple. At first I was going to do a vector drawing like the ACAPsoft one (made using Inkscape) but then I thought; Let’s mix business with pleasure and make a LEGO one!

My initial thought was a free standing design using a similar lettering concept to Grand Emporium, but the more I thought about it the more I had doubts. How would I stack the top level? Could I do a snake and make it stand up? Eventually it became clear that a mosaic style was smarter. Instantly I dived to my board collection to find my 2 16×16 Mosaic boards, but I could only find one. Thus I was forced to use a 48×48 board…. which as it turns out was what I needed anyway as I massively underestimated the size needed!

New Banner, take 1
Here’s what I ended up with. Letter wise I didn’t have too much trouble; only the “M” was a major issue… although I’m still a bit iffy on the “I”s and “T”s. I had trouble with a lower case “r” that I liked so I decided to go for a upper case “Sinner” in this version. (The letters are 100% my design… even though I bet I’m not the first to do ones like this.) Making the snake was one of the biggest problems; I started that several times, and each time it just got too big. So I ended up going for as small as possible and that worked out OK, even thought it took all of my green 1×4 plates. (The Walrus is there as I was considering making him a part of the banner, but it looked confusing when shrunk down so I skipped it in the end.) Taking the photo was another matter. Inside I was having trouble with light levels and angles…

New Banner, take 2
…but outside just caused sharp shadows.

New Banner, take 3
Eventually I angled the plate so it faced the sun and took the photo from the angle that didn’t block the light and didn’t cause too much shine. But I was still left with a lot of shine…

Test Banner
…and my first test banner highlights this. What you say? I thought you said “no purple”? Yeah, I changed my mind; I love purple… Anyway, at this stage I was out of time so I cheated; using GIMP I added a black filter to the shiny areas…

New Banner Big
…leaving me with this…

New banner
…which when reduced looks OK.

I’m still not 100% happy with it. Since I went for purple in the end white letters would have made more sense, and I’ll probably do a revised version in a few months. I needed this fast so all things considered it’s turned out OK and it looks OK on the site.

Tesla: Spark of Genius

I ran into this book summary of Nikola Tesla, and it’s so interesting I want to buy the book! Tesla has always intrigued me; for example I had little interest in the move The Prestige until I heard it had David Bowie playing Tesla! (It’s a good movie too.)

David Bowie as Nikola Tesla in The Prestige

Anyway, I could summarise the summary, but that would be silly, so go to and read it yourself. I’m off to look for the book by Margaret Cheney and Robert Uth.

NB: Amazon code in there is for; I’m not trying to steal anyones deserved money!

Stretched Elephant

Honest Nirmal Hello beauteous one!
Princess Tamina Er… hello?
Honest Nirmal I notice there that you are on a camel.
Princess Tamina Yes, thanks for that.
Honest Nirmal No, no, no, you misunderstand! Someone such as you deserves something much grander!
Princess Tamina ..and I suppose you have it?

Honest Nirmal Indeed I do! I present my stretched elephant!
Princess Tamina Oh my!
Honest Nirmal Yes, 2000 years of selective breeding you see before you!
Princess Tamina I’m sure… I’ll take it!
Honest Nirmal I knew you would! The handler comes with it and after trade in it’s only 200 gold pieces.

Princess Tamina It’s a bargain! I love how I can look down on every one!
Honest Nirmal I have no doubt… happy journeys!

Honest Nirmal Now I best be off before she comes back to complain when he dies in a few days… but what to do with the camel? Oh! Hello! Good sir; I notice you’re eating a heart; would you be interested in a camel for afters?

10213 Shuttle Adventure: Update

Full details are available now.

10213 Shuttle Adventure

Ages 16+
1,204 pieces
US $99.99 CA $129.99 UK £ 79.99 DE 89.99 €

Blast off on an outer space mission!

Standing 17.5″ (44cm) tall and 10″ (25.5cm) from wing tip to wing tip, this detailed and realistic space shuttle is ready to count down and blast off on its next exciting mission into space! You can take off from the launch pad, separate the detachable fuel tank and booster rockets, and deploy the satellite with unfolding antenna and solar cell panels. Shuttle model features realistic engines, retractable landing gear, an opening cockpit with seats for 2 astronauts, opening cargo compartment with a crane that can hold the satellite and a ground maintenance vehicle. Includes 3 minifigures: 1 male and 1 female astronaut, as well as 1 service crew member.

*Includes 3 minifigures: 1 male and 1 female astronaut as well as 1 service crew member!
*Features realistic engines, retractable landing gear, opening cockpit with seats for 2 astronauts and even a ground maintenance vehicle!
*Take off from the launch pad!
*Separate the detachable fuel tank and booster rockets!
*Deploy the satellite with unfolding antenna and solar cell panels!
*Open the cargo compartment to reveal the crane that can hold the satellite!
*Shuttle Adventure stands 17.5″ (44cm) tall and measures 10″ (25.5cm) from wing tip to wing tip!

If you want more there’s also a LEGO 10213 Shuttle Adventure video and loads of great discussion on Eurobricks.

New set; 10213 Space Shuttle!

It’s a dream come true! At last there’s a new LEGO Shuttle… and this one looks the best yet! I missed the others due to being in my “Dark Ages” and I’m not going to miss this one. A lot of the classic ones were too small, and the others were not designed for mini-figs. But supposedly this one is!

Sure some sizes are a bit wonky (the ET, External Tank, is too small for one) but it’s hard to do it perfectly at this scale. I love how they included the top level of the launcher platform; it’s the perfect way to display it. Any lacking in detail don’t really concern me; this has all the parts needed to build a shuttle at this scale (especially the ET) and anything extra would be fun to make yourself. I’d love to make satellites to scale! Those “fairings” at the rear wing root are wrong so I bet it has a working rear undercarriage there. I don’t like the red trans pieces on the rockets; the OMS (Orbital Maneuvering System) isn’t used at the same time as the SSMEs (Space Shuttle Main Engines) and…

…they burn almost clear. (The “waste” of the SSME is just water.) But that’s easily fixed too! This is the set of the year!