Sub-orbital launch budget: 50k Euros

Paul Raven @ 01-03-2010

Via Jason Stoddard (and originally found at the Something Awful forums – have that, top-down media channels!), here are some Danish dudes doing something that, on paper, seems somewhere between naively hubristic and charmingly Quixotic: they’re trying to build a sub-orbital rocket vehicle for under €50,000. A vehicle that can carry a human passenger, that is. YA RLY.

This is a non-profit suborbital space endeavor, based entirely on sponsors and volunteers. Our mission is to launch a human being into space.

We are working fulltime to develop a series of suborbital space vehicles – designed to pave the way for manned space flight on a micro size spacecraft.

Two rocket vehicles are under development. A small unmanned sounding rocket, named Hybrid Atmospheric Test Vehicle or HATV and a larger booster rocket named Hybrid Exo Atmospheric Transporter or HEAT, designed to carry a micro spacecraft into a suborbital trajectory in space.

These guys aren’t just pipedreaming it up in the undergrad lounge, either; they just yesterday tested their HEAT-1x booster rocket. Got propulsion pr0n?

Maybe the top of the gravity well really is entrepreneurial turf from here onwards.


Homebrew genetic engineering

Tom James @ 27-12-2008

We’re beginning to see the earliest signs of the “garage startup” genetic engineering company:

In her San Francisco dining room lab, for example, 31-year-old computer programmer Meredith L. Patterson is trying to develop genetically altered yogurt bacteria that will glow green to signal the presence of melamine, the chemical that turned Chinese-made baby formula and pet food deadly.

Regardless of what any particular hobbyist or entrepreneur is actually looking for, if you have enough people experimenting there is a good chance they will find something remarkable (what Nassim “black swan” Taleb calls “stochastic tinkering“). Unfortunately there is also a downside:

Jim Thomas of ETC Group, a biotechnology watchdog organization, warned that synthetic organisms in the hands of amateurs could escape and cause outbreaks of incurable diseases or unpredictable environmental damage.

Here’s hoping a balance can be struck between regulation and innovation.

[article from Physorg][image from frankenstoen on flickr]


Virgin Galactic declines to take Rule 34 to space – suborbital sex movies delayed

Paul Raven @ 03-10-2008

Virgin Galactic logoSay what you like about Richard Branson, but the man’s got standards and he sticks to ’em. One of those standards would appear to be not corrupting his brands with what some punters might consider to be unsavoury business… at least that’s my guess after hearing that Virgin Galactic have declined an up-front offer of US$1 million cash to film the first* zero-G pr0n movie on SpaceShipTwo.

Who says ethics and entrepreneurship are incompatible, eh? Looks like Rule 34 as applied to zero-G will have to rely on camera tricks and cartoons for a while longer. [via SlashDot]

[ * – Well, the first one featuring humans, at least. ]


Falcon flying free – SpaceX finally make it to orbit

Paul Raven @ 29-09-2008

For my fellow dreamers in the audience, here’s a little something to momentarily take your mind off financial instruments, presidential debates and environmental doom:

From the press release:

SpaceX announces that Flight 4 of the Falcon 1 launch vehicle has successfully launched and achieved Earth orbit. With this key milestone, Falcon 1 becomes the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to orbit the Earth.

“This is a great day for SpaceX and the culmination of an enormous amount of work by a great team,” said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. “The data shows we achieved a super precise orbit insertion—middle of the bull’s-eye — and then went on to coast and restart the second stage, which was icing on the cake.”

Watching that makes me feel that – as a species – we’re pretty awesome. It’s just a shame we can’t stop arguing over which subgroups of the species are more awesome than the others… what might we achieve then?

[Story via pretty much everywhere; video first seen at Warren Ellis’s gaff]


The writer as entrepreneur

Paul Raven @ 22-11-2007

Striking writers outside Disney studios The WGA writers’ strike rolls on, pitting the justifiable desire of creatives to be paid a fair deal for the fruits of their labour against the same sort of grasping tactics that are causing the music industry to eat itself like a cancer. [Image by NoHoDamon]

While I’m supportive of the writers’ position on this issue, I’m intrigued by the outsider opinions. Techdirt points us to an LA Times article discussing the rise of alternative financing models in the movie industry, and suggests that if the big studios stick to their guns they will actually hasten their own demise by creating an environment where smart and talented writers can bypass the traditional system and take their scripts straight to the market, funding their productions using a venture capital process similar to that used by technology startups.

Now, I’m not an economist or a script-writer (and nor do I play either of them on television), but I find the underlying logic of this idea appealing – it seems to be a business model that fits the internet age. But then TechDirt, as fascinating a read as it is, is very much biased toward the independent operator/startup philosophy (as demonstrated by its previous coverage of the WGA strike). Perhaps this idea places too much of a burden on the writer – whose job is, after all, to write. But then again, it’s an accepted truism that novelists must self-market if they hope to be successful, even with the support of a publisher.

I guess only time will tell. But from my personal point of view, a significant lessening of the corporate homogeneity of Hollywood could only be a good thing – it might result in a movie industry that produces more than one film every year that I can actually be bothered to go and see.

[tags]writers, Hollywood, strike, entrepreneurship, business[/tags]

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