Some Blog Post Topics for 2013 (Updated 1/2/13)

Last month, while in the middle of a technical writing project for work, I tweeted a list of a few blog posts I wanted to write sometime in the near future, and asked some friends to nag me occasionally until I actually write some of them. Since none of them have been nagging me recently, and since finding tweets from a long time ago isn’t super easy, I decided to duplicate the list here, and add a few more. My goal is to find the time to post at least one post a month this year, on something substantive (i.e. not just commenting on current events or kvetching about Congress). Here’s my current list of topics. Let me know in the comments section which ones sound most interesting to you.


  1. Boomerang Microsat Launch Vehicle Concept: an idea I had intended to propose for the DARPA ALASA solicitation a year ago, but had to triage to focus on our successful DARPA Phoenix proposals.
  2. Venus In-Situ Resource Utilization: or some thoughts on how to prove out Venus Cloud Colony bootstrapability.
  3. The Synodic Suckiness of NEOs: and some thoughts on how to partially solve the problem.
  4. Personal Space Stations: the blue-skies end-goal for what I’m trying to achieve with Altius. This may end up needing to be a post on the ASM blog, but might be here instead.
  5. LEO Depot Departure Methodologies: some work that an astrogator friend and I have come up with to solve some of the issues raised by Dan Adamo a year or so ago–we may do this as a conference paper or FISO telecon first though.
  6. Lunar COTS Debate: I was approached by someone who wanted to guest blog on his Lunar COTS idea. Personally I think the idea of a Lunar COTS is premature. I suggested that maybe we could structure a debate. I’d want to find at least one other person to argue for the concept and at least one or two people that would like to argue against the concept. Any volunteers?
  7. The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Lunar Transportation Systems: I had started but not finished a blog post 2 years ago about some of the more creative, non-rocket transportation methods for getting materials off the Moon (and maybe down to the lunar surface) propellantlessly. This would make lunar ISRU a lot more interesting and competitive with NEOs. Unfortunately I’ve dropped the thread on this, and would likely need to do a lot of research to catch back up to speed on the concepts.
  8. Magnetoshell Aerocapture: I saw a NIAC concept that was very similar to some of the MHD aerobraking articles I wrote a year or two or three ago, that looked very intriguing. I contacted the PI for the project, and he got me references to read and offered to find time to help me understand what they were doing. If I’m able to wrap my brain around what they’re doing, I wanted to do a blog post trying to do a layman’s explanation of what they’re doing, and why it’s so darned cool.
  9. “Direct to Station” Technical Update: We’ve got some ongoing research at Altius going into the proximity operations logistics of enabling simple upper stages (including nanosat or microsat launcher upper stages) to deliver payloads to a space facility. We’ll probably do a conference paper on this one first, but then can discuss it and do a Q&A on the blog. This may need to be an ASM blog post, but might be here instead.
  10. Why Small is Beautiful: I think I started trying to make the case a few years ago why I think the first airline-like operations RLVs will likely be very small (i.e. sub 1000lb capacity). I’d like to flesh-out that idea with some more recent thoughts on why this is the case, even though I’m a huge fan of SpaceX’s Grasshopper project.
  11. How to Get an Earliest Preliminary Verdict on Human Reduced Gravity Tolerance: When Gary Hudson took over as the head of the Space Studies Institute this year, he announced the goal of answering one of the still unanswered key questions regarding space settlement feasibility–what level of gravity do humans need to be able to successfully live and reproduce in a way that does result in permanent an debilitating health issues. I’m really glad that Gary chose to draw attention to this issues. But like some of the other variable gravity ideas I’ve seen, Gary seems to be swinging for a grand-slam home-run solution. I hope he can raise the money to do so–this is a question that has to be answered before we can seriously begin to plan for space settlement, but I’ve got some ideas for much cheaper first steps that might at least get us preliminary answers.
  12. Integral PLF Modules as an Alternative to Inflatable Structures: I’m a big fan of inflatable structures like what Bigelow, ILC Dover, NASA LaRC, and Thin Red Line Aerospace are developing, but there are some alternatives that my depot friends at ULA pointed out to me a few years ago that are worth consideration. I’d like to discuss these ideas and give some pro vs. con comparisons.
  13. [Update: Added 1/2/2013] Compactly Stowable Manipulator Update: Back in August, Altius signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA LaRC to collaborate on the development of both super long-reach manipulators (100m+ reach) for D2S-type applications, and also to develop compactly stowable/restowable RMS arms for use on vehicles such as Dragon, Orion, Cygnus, Dreamchaser, and CST-100. We’re still fairly early-phase on this development, but at some point later this year, I’d like to give an update either here or on the ASM blog.
  14. [Update: Added 1/2/2013] Manipulator for Internal Navigation and ISS lOgistics assistaNce (MINION): While writing a proposal for funding to help develop some elements of the Compactly-Stowable Manipulator that Altius is developing in collaboration with NASA LaRC, I realized that one application would be for an extendable/retractable hyperdexterous arm that could operate inside a space facility to help with logistics, maintenance, inspections, inventory management, etc. while astronauts are either asleep or not present (i.e. for a man-tended space facility). I’d like to write the idea up in more detail either here or on the ASM blog.

The reality is that with me bootstrapping an aerospace hardware startup, my odds of being able to keep up the blog as well as I did in previous years is pretty low. But I figure that by preposting some of the blog topics, it’ll serve as a prod for me to actually do some real writing this year.

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
This entry was posted in Administrivia, Altius Space Machines, Bigelow Aerospace, Commercial Space, COTS, Excuses for Light Blogging, ISRU, Launch Vehicles, Lunar Exploration and Development, MHD Aerobraking and TPS, Space Settlement, Space Transportation, SpaceX, Technology, Venus. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Some Blog Post Topics for 2013 (Updated 1/2/13)

  1. David says:

    I’ll look forward to seeing this list again about mid-year, where you say that “now, for real, I’ll get write some of these posts!”. Good Luck!

  2. Dave Huntsman says:

    I agree that lunar COTS is premature; though a debate on ‘next steps in lunar commercial development’ or some such would be useful. (That could include, for example, what would an ILDD-2 look like; would it include data purchase agreements related to real lunar oxygen production et al, for example?) After that, I’d vote for Sucky NEOs and LEO Departures et al.

  3. Bennett In Vermont says:

    Lunar COTS Debate: Have Trent Lot be the “con” in the debate. His last blog post on a manned lunar mission for $150 million is pretty darned great.

    How to Get an Earliest Preliminary Verdict on Human Reduced Gravity Tolerance: I would love to hear the ideas you have for this!

    Sad to read that you are sick. My wife and I caught pertussis last year from our son who never caught it. Tok 2 months to stop coughing. This is the REALLY bad thing about optional vaccination…

    Have a great 2013 and please do blog more.


  4. Andrew Swallow says:

    Will someone please add a link to Pixel’s specifications to the Wikipedia page for Quad_(rocket). I have added the Project M ones.

  5. DougSpace says:

    Here are my ordered preferences: 
    1)  Lunar COTS Debate:
    2) LEO Depot Departure Methodologies:
    3) The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Lunar Transportation Systems:
    4) The Synodic Suckiness of NEOs:
    5) Integral PLF Modules as an Alternative to Inflatable Structures:
    6) Why Small is Beautiful:
    7) How to Get an Earliest Preliminary Verdict on Human Reduced Gravity Tolerance:

    I have been in dialogue with Bienhoff and Adamo re: the orbital dynamics of a cis-lunar transportation system.  I am interested to find out if there is a way to launch at any time from a lunar pole to an L1 depot and then to depart from that depot to any LEO orbital inclination for just-in-time propellant delivery thereby negating the need for LEO depots in the early years of such a system.

  6. Robert Clark says:

    They all look very interesting.

    Bob Clark

  7. Warren Platts says:

    What’s not to love about Lunar COTS?!? Why is that even debatable? Especially after the Golden Spike announcement.

  8. Randy Campbell says:


    Great list! Ok that works for the FIRST quarter of 2013…. What can we expect out of you by mid-year? :::::grin::::

    Can’t wait to read-em-all!


  9. Steven Rappolee says:

    Venus In-Situ Resource Utilization

    I have some ideas on this,
    working with UM on it
    needs a confidentiality agreement

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