Logo Image for Space.Org: Space.Org in text over stylized Earthrise horizon

Adventures In Deep Space

A blog about turning our "crazy" big idea to transform deep space exploration into a real company (click on header above to view this blog's home page)

Introduction and Welcome (aka "pinned post")

January 18, 2022 — Thomas Leavitt

I've chosen this "open" approach to pursuing the ideas discussed here in the form of a startup, because the "moat" (startup speak) this company will erect lies not in some secret insight, but in the actual execution of the idea: Apply modular design and production line techniques to dramatically reduce the cost to manufacture satellites and satellite components, thus empowering public sector, commercial and academic researchers worldwide to cost-effectively explore the solar system. In combination with anticipated radical decreases in the “cost to launch” beyond Earth orbit, the Ultra Low Cost Satellite Bus (ULCSB) will make deep space research a routine and ongoing process, instead of being a once in a generation / once in a lifetime event.

Neptune and Uranus were visited, for the first and last time, in 1979 by Voyager 2. That means, for a lot of you reading this, that this doesn't even qualify as a "once in a lifetime" event! Our "moat", if anything, exists in the form of skepticism that this is technically doable, financially feasible, or even worth doing: "Who would ever want data about Neptune?" as one commenter put it.

If this vision excites you, read on, and if you're really motivated to make this real, join me! I'm looking for a technical co-founder (or two) to help make this real. This blog, more than anything else, is meant for the engineer looking to do something "great", and seeking a partner who can help on the non-engineering side of things. I've multiple startups under my belt (successful, and otherwise) and a lifetime of professional and personal contacts I intend to leverage on behalf of this project. I can be reached at tvleavitt@space.org and my business (consulting) phone is: 831-469-3382. For more about me, professionally, see my LinkedIn profile.

Thomas Leavitt

Highlighted entries ← click here for my "elevator pitch", among other things.

Sample Satellite Design

Tags: welcome, vision, recruiting

National Geographic Picture Atlas of Our Universe

January 18, 2022 — Thomas Leavitt

Blurb: Planet by planet, star after star, "Our Universe" takes you on an adventure that begins before people even knew the Earth was round and ends aboard shuttles and starships. Internationally known artists lift you to space scapes as awesome as they are accurate. You'll see planetary vistas photographed by NASA's most recent flybys. This completely updated atlas brings you 343 paintings, drawings, photgraphs, and maps. You'll find an illustrated time chart of important 20th-century space events, a glossary and index, and a guide to planetariums and space museums in the United States and Canada.

Goodreads describes it thusly: "A lavishly illustrated guide to the universe combines the efforts of an award-winning author and NASA experts, offering a timeline of important space events, an easy-to-use glossary, and a planetarium, observatory, and museums listing. 10,000 first printing."

My parents were one of those first 10,000 in 1980... the image on the cover (which I'd forgotten wraps around over the spine and to the back) instantly captured my imagination, and is likely one of the reasons I've been obsessed with the idea of space travel since I can first remember. I spent hours and hours, from the age of 8 to 18, flipping through and reading this gorgeous book (as many of the reviews attest, I was not alone in this). Even though the science will be more out of date, you want the 1980 edition if at all possible, since apparently, later editions omit the (lavishly illustrated) speculation over life on other planets. I may buy a copy of this for my grandchildren once they're a little older.

The artist, John Berkey, has a distinct and instantly recognizable style. You can see more of his work in this Imagur gallery.

Tags: inspiration, literature, memories

ISS Over the Nile in Egypt

January 15, 2022 — Thomas Leavitt

There's a lacunae in my postings due to the holidays and some distracting health issues.

Thought I'd re-initiate with this spectacular photo of the ISS floating over the Nile delta in Egypt, taken by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet in November. This startup is a passion project, inspired by a lifelong love of space.

Tags: iss, photography, inspiration

An Evening's Work

November 03, 2021 — Thomas Leavitt

I rejiggered Space.Org this evening, something I've been meaning to do for a while. I broke it up into multiple sub-domains, and set up the corresponding entries in the Apache configuration, DNS, and AWS (this site runs on an EC2 instance, just because). Made Space.Org a landing page for the various projects and pages associated with it. Most of the time was spent unproductively fighting Apache, which was just not working how all the documenation and web forum postings say it should work. Technology just wrecks my day on a regular basis, and I work with it professionally. I don't know how normal people deal with the world they're embedded in! This blog now resides on a subdomain (as well as the original domain sub-directory), my personal site (the original main site's content) has been moved to a sub-domain, and an additional sub-domain for another side project has been added; I also created a "Coming Soon" web site using a w3 template, integrated a JavaScript countdown timer, and created a logo for that product using a SaaS design tool.

Tags: website, domain, projects, technology, sysadmin

Santa Cruz Accelerates Newsletter Feature

November 03, 2021 — Thomas Leavitt

Haven't been blogging as much, been very focused on consulting work and other activities. After a bit of a delay, we managed to get the company featured in the newsletter of the Santa Cruz Accelerator that we're working with, on October 21st: Santa Cruz Accelerates#20: Space.Org

In other news, we're talking with California Manufacturing Technology Consulting® (CMTC) about some of the programs and opportunities available thorugh them.

Tags: cmtc, resources, incubators, media

Applications: Interferometric Telescope Constellations

October 14, 2021 — Thomas Leavitt

As my partner and I have dug into the question of how the ability to build inexpensive satellites in volume could be of use (which indirectly relates to the fundamental question any startup must answer: "Who is the customer?") it has occured to us that a space-based interferometric telescope array is a very logical (and cool) application of our technology (see linked PDF for an intro to the concept from the European Southern Observatory / ESO).

Perhaps the most famous instance of this is the Very Large Array in Arizona, which dates back to the 1960s in concept. 28 separate radio telescopes (including a spare) mounted on rails and periodically rearranged for observational purposes. Another now famous example of this is the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), used to image black holes (for the first time) at the center of nearby galaxies, and featured in a Netflix documentary, Black Holes: The Edge of All We Know".

Imagine, instead of a Earth sized "virtual telescope" (such as the EHT), a solar system sized one--or at least, a 1 AU sized one. A "telescope" not obstructed and compromised by having to deal with the earth's atmosphere (i.e., no bright "guide stars" required to make observations, no critical radio frequencies blocked). One that can be expanded on an onging basis as more satellites are added, and that isn't subject to single points of failure or require maintenance and fixes if something goes wrong.

An interferometric telescope of this sort, while not exactly equivalent to the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) or Hubble (to cite perhaps the most obvious comparisons), could be deployed at a fraction of the cost, while being more robust, having built in functional redundancy, and unlike JWST, effectively serviceable by sending up new (and better) satellites to replace failed components. It would also be dynamically reconfigurable (far more easily than something like the VLA), so that, depending on the application, parts of it could be pointing at different targets at the same time, only on a much larget scale), if the full array wasn't necessary to do useful science (much like the European Southern Observatory's VLT).

From a business perspective, this provides an immediate and tangible application that simply extends what is already being done (science) both in space and on earth, as opposed to still theoretical applications (which we strongly believe are viable and will happen) such as space mining for water and or minerals.

See our Short List of Inteferometric Telescopes page for links to more information.

Tags: applications, interferometry, telescopes, astronomy

Short List of Inteferometric Telescopes

October 14, 2021 — Thomas Leavitt

A space-based interferometric telescope (see linked PDF for an intro to the concept from the ESO) array is a very logical (and cool) application of our technology, and offeres compelling advantages over ground based telescopes from a technical, operational, and political perspective (given the growing opposition of indigenous communities to further expansion of facilities located on sacred ground).

Tags: astronomy, telesopes, interferometry, science, applications

Santa Cruz Acclerates Launch Party, Preliminary Take on Product

October 08, 2021 — Thomas Leavitt

My partner and I attended the Santa Cruz Accelerates Launch Party on Wednesday evening. We got free fish tacos and a little bit of networking in. Their theme is "launching your new business into orbit", which kind of messhes well with what Space.Org is doing, LOL.

Here's a picture from the event (more at the URL above), you can find us sitting down in the upper left hand corner of the screen, my partner, John McEntee, is just to the right of me.

Here's a current picture of me to help find us.

Our lead engineer has been working furiously to come up with an initial iteration of the product. Here's a couple of images exported from Solidworks that show sample instantiations of the product design.

Tags: incubators, accelerators, product, events, images