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Saturday, November 03, 2012

Tom Smith RIP - The Man Who Could Have Given Us Commercial Space 40 Years Ago

Tom Smith, who has died aged 85, led a team of aeronautical engineers at the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) which, in the 1960s, produced full plans for a British Space Shuttle, long before Enterprise, Columbia or Challenger were even a gleam in an American designer’s eye.

The idea of the Multi-Unit Space Transport And Recovery Device, or MUSTARD as it was known, arose out of an Air Ministry contract for BAC to study “hypersonic” speed (five times the speed of sound and above). A team was formed under Smith’s leadership at BAC’s Warton airbase, near Preston, Lancashire.

“We started by looking at things which were Concorde-ish in nature,” Smith recalled, “and went on from there to high speed aircraft which would travel at Mach 12 [12 times the speed of sound]... We gradually realised that we could go from air-breathers, which would stay in the earth’s atmosphere, into space.”

The design work for MUSTARD was completed in 1964 and 1965, and the following year, in a lecture to the Royal Aeronautical Society, Lord Caldecote, BAC’s deputy managing director and chairman of its guided weapons branch, described a fully recoverable multi-stage aerospace vehicle which could put Western Europe into the space age within 10 to 15 years.

The design was a three-stage reusable aircraft, consisting of three similar modules in the form of crewed, delta-winged vehicles which could be stacked together and launched as a single unit. Two of the units would act as boosters to launch the third into orbit, feeding any excess fuel to the unit which was to become the spacecraft, before separating and returning to earth as normal aircraft. After placing a payload weighing as much as 5,000lb into orbit, the third unit would return to earth in a similar fashion.

MUSTARD was regarded as a suitable project for joint development by European aerospace companies, with a cost estimated to be around “20 to 30 times cheaper” than that of the expendable rocket launch systems of the time. Unfortunately, as with so many other British inventions, the government of the day decided not to proceed. About three years after MUSTARD was cancelled, the Americans became interested in a reusable aircraft.
In a later interview Smith said that he felt MUSTARD’s problem was that it was “so far ahead of its time” and there had been no political will to push it forward. “There is nothing worse than being right at the wrong time,” he reflected.

Thomas William Smith was born at Grimsby on March 27 1927, the son of a sheet-metal worker who worked for a trawler repair company. As a boy he enjoyed fishing and making model aeroplanes. From Wintringham Grammar School in Grimsby, he won a scholarship to read Aeronautical Engineering at Queen Mary College, London University.

After graduation in 1948 he joined Gloster Aviation in Gloucestershire and the following year moved to English Electric (later subsumed into BAC and subsequently British Aerospace), a former tram manufacturer based near Preston which had turned to making aircraft during the war.

There he was one of a team of four, under Freddy Page, working on the early development of the Canberra bomber. He was subsequently heavily involved in the development of the Lightning fighter aircraft and he took a flight in one of the two-seater trainers to become one of the few people who, at that time, had flown faster than the speed of sound. He was also among the leaders of the team which developed the TSR-2, the Cold War strike and reconnaissance aircraft project which was cancelled by the Labour government in 1965.

After the MUSTARD project, Smith was involved with the development of the Jaguar and Tornado, and in his last years – with what by then was British Aerospace – he led a team of some 40 engineers researching various technologies in the defence and aircraft field. Much of his work remains classified.

Outside his work, Smith developed his hobby of aero-modelling, winning the national championships in the class of free-flight powered models on three occasions. On one occasion, having just failed to qualify to represent Britain in the world championships, he was asked to stand in for the Japanese team, who could not afford to make the journey. This gave rise to his only injury arising from his hobby, when he nearly lost a finger while starting the Japanese engine by flicking the propeller. He also played table tennis competitively until the age of 50.

After retiring in 1990, Smith moved to Tetford in Lincolnshire. In 1948 he had married Winifred McCormick, the daughter of a Grimsby trawler skipper, with whom he had a daughter and four sons. In 1995 Winifred suffered a severe stroke which left her in a near vegetative state in a nursing home. Over the five years before she died in 2000, he lived in an annexe at the house of his son, Anthony, near Brigg, during which time he met and befriended Jean McIntyre Cox. They married in 2000, some months after Winifred’s death, and moved to East Keal, a village near Spilsby on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds .

Jean died in 2009 and he is survived by his five children.

  Telegraph obituary reprinted in full. "20 to 30 times cheaper than that of the expendable rocket launch systems of the time" makes it comparable to SpaceX's Dragon today.

  Britain, even now, has per capita, the world's best scientists and engineers. What an obscene waste of human resources by the useless thieving parasite ministers and civil servants we have had over, at least, the last 50 years.

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Friday, November 02, 2012

Climate Debate - As You Would expect When We Have Uncensored Debate

  SCEF Has put up this:   The debate is over - we won!

At the Glasgow debate on Catastrophic Global warming, despite the presence of Jim Sillars, Lord Monckton and Andrew Montford, not one MSP had the guts to attend. Given the quality of the speakers we can understand why. But even so, for not one of dozens of politicians, NGOs & quangos who have profited from this nonsense in the past, to be willing to stand up for it now, speaks more volume than their silence at the debate.

The sole representative of the doomsday cult was a one brave individual from the wind industry -- it would be entirely inappropriate to criticise someone who did a valiant job making the case which all those others now aren't prepared to do.

For me the most pertinent comment of the whole debate was made by Jim Sillars when he highlighted the way that the old style politicians tended to come into politics through the trade unions or through industry in general and so they had a much more pragmatic view of life. I've commented that sceptics seem to be either engineers, or from engineering type jobs, or at least commercial in some way. In contrast, those who support global warming are predominantly from the public sector: academics, single-career politicians and NGOs. Likewise he made a very good point that "for science to claim absolute certainty, particularly in forecasting (for models) is particularly unscientific".

  Andrew Montford was very cheerful in the debate. Possibly that was because he had finished his book "Hiding the Decline", or maybe he was sure of support from the audience. However it might just be that being amongst the greatest minds in Scotland if not world. There was no pressure on him. Anyone of these guys could have run rings around most warmists, let alone the sole representative who was there.

It was obvious why Lord Monckton is such compelling viewing. He dominates the discussion when he gets going. There is no excuse for the BBC failing to show this superstar debating. Whether you agree with him or not, he's great entertainment. Unfortunately, the serious lack of opposition meant it was rather like watching a panzer tank against a pop-gun. Indeed, if anything the kinder nature of Monckton shone through. Even though Lord Monckton totally out classed the opposition, he genuinely seemed more interested in balancing the debate and letting the other guy add to the debate than simply going in guns blazing against a much inferior and out-gunned opponent.

The opposition.

It turned out I knew the opposition speaker from my time in the wind industry (Demian Natakhan). A very credible speaker who clearly had done his research and made a very good presentation of the typical arguments made for being concerned with man-made global warming. He was also intelligent and passionate, which is more than I can say for Neil Stuart of Scottish Renewables at the Spectator debate. He did however mention the 97%, which didn't do much for his credibilty.

The other opposition was from the floor in the form of a member of Glasgow Sceptics and the green party. He made the point about going for Nuclear. That's a serious point which was well worth debating and very important to the future of Scotland. But it just highlighted the almost criminal way the present MSPs have abrogated their duty as MSPs. They have a duty (if they want to remain MSPs) to engage in this kind of debate about our future. It is almost as if they don't care.

By Mike Haseler


This press release has gone out to even more and sundry than normal. Let us see if the the mainstream media are, in any small part, sufficiently open to news from any not government funded PR source to report it or mention the concept of free debate:
At a public debate, involving people from across Scotland, in West George Street, Glasgow, coinciding with RenewablesUK's conference for "networking" for billions of £s of windmill business, this, very strongly worded motion was debated and passed by 80%.

"This meeting believe there is no evidence of catastrophic warming remotely as catastrophic as the regulations, taxes and other costs imposed to ameliorate it."

Though every single Scottish MSP was invited, as members of the Parliament which has produced the world's most expensive climate change legislation not one of them felt able to speak in support of their beliefs. Nor did anybody from the various state funded organisations, from Scottish Renewables, through Friends of the Earth, to the BBC. However renewable energy consultant Demian Natakhan did & was almost certainly far more knowledgeable than any of the MSPs.

On the other side was former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars. From the other side of politics, Lord Monckton of UKIP. Also Andrew Montford author of Hiding the Decline and runner of the world renowned sceptic Bishop Hill blog. Audience comments were also generally well informed.

Jim Sillars spoke of the importance of scepticism whenever those in power claimed certainty and vehemently denounced the way windmill subsidies have driven a million Scots households into fuel poverty and are causing pensioner deaths. Lord Monckton dissected the alarmist case piece by piece including, in response to a claim that all glaciers are melting, asking how many glaciers the speaker thought there were in the world and then correcting his answer of "hundreds" with "hundreds of thousands".

While those alarmists who have claimed that 97% of the world's scientists support alarmism, on the basis that 75 out of out of a self selected 77 agreed to a far less decisive statement, will doubtless accept that this means 80% of Scots do not believe in catastrophic warming, the meeting's chair, Neil Craig of UKIP was more restrained.

"This is only a snapshot of the opinion of informed Scots. However with another recent debate in Edinburgh, chaired by Andrew Neil coming to a similar conclusion and a previous one run by Saint Andrew's University deciding the same, we now have a statistical trend.

Most worryingly is the refusal of politicians and even PR flacks paid billions to promote alarm to enter a debate. Free debate is a necessary condition of a free society.

The BBC, who have "given up any pretence of impartiality" still have a legal duty of "balance"and in light ot this series of results owe the people of Scotland and indeed Britain a free debate of this issue. Formal broadcast debate, or debates, in whch both sides are allowed to be represented."

Thursday, November 01, 2012

All God's Chillun Got Enough Windmills

     Mike Haseler of SCEF has been making a big thing of this graph, I think rightly.

      It is the share price of the big windmill manufacturing firms and it shows that the money men think the windmill building sam (not us subsidisng the ones already in place, which continues) ends just about now with the end of Kyoto. The windmill producing companies have become essentially valueless - which means all the investors think nobody is going to be paying for any in future.

    Which provides quite a lot of context to the recent row between Tory John Hayes and LibDem Ed Davy over whether we need more subsidised windmills.

Coalition row erupts with Lib Dem Energy Secretary slapping down Tory minister who declared 'enough is enough' on onshore wind farms

Onshore wind farms give other renewable energy sources a bad name, Energy Minister John Hayes tells the Daily Mail
Existing and planned sites are enough to meet environmental goals

Research into effects on house prices, noise levels and military radars has been commissioned, said Mr Hayes
Comments spark a furious coalition row, with Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey insisting 'I'm in charge'

  One might almost think some Tories secretly actually know what is going on outside the Commons. It seems reality will let Hayes win this. Which in turn means that if there aren't going to be more windmills then the government have to allow something to take its place - shale gas and another defeat for Dany being the realistic option.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Scottish Public Projects Cost 8 Times What They Should - Scotsman Letter

  The Scotsman have published this letter, sent out to all and sundry, based on yesterday's blog. Google News shows no other publication.

We are told that the reason the price of the Aberdeen bypass has gone up to £653 million over 9 years from £347m is inflation. If so inflation has been 7% annually. I don't think so.

Worse is that this is a cost of £23.3 million a mile. According to a previous newspaper article, critical of high Russian roadbuilding costs caused by "post-Soviet bureaucracy and chaotic planning" their roads cost a whole £6.8 million per mile, far more than the EU average of £2.7 million or China's £840 thousand.

I hope our "chaotic bureaucracy" which makes Scottish and British public projects normally at least 8 times more expensive than they should be, comes under as critical an eye from the British media as foreigners do. However since there has been no media outcry over the new Forth crossing costing £2,300m when the inflation adjusted price of the old one was £320m this is more a hope than an expectation.

Neil Craig


  As usual the numbers and the most severe criticism of the reporting double standards of the British media, has been excised, however they did keep in the "more hope than expectation" line.

Online comments are supportive.

There is also a good letter from Dr John Cameron about the radiation scare at Dalgety Bay. He reuses a classic insult of Gordon Brown from a previous letter of his..


  The Herald have published this letter too, edited in a different way.

We are told that the reason the price of the Aberdeen bypass has gone up to £653 million over 9 years from £347 is inflation.

If so inflation has been 7% annually. I don't think so. Worse is that this is a cost of £23.3 million a mile. According to a previous newspaper article, critical of high Russian roadbuilding costs caused by "post-Soviet bureaucracy and chaotic planning" their roads cost a whole £6.8 million per mile, far more than the EU average of £2.7 million or China's £840 thousand.I hope our "chaotic bureaucracy" which makes Scottish and British public projects normally at least 8 times more expensive than they should be, comes under as critical an eye from the British media as foreigners do. However since there has been no media outcry over the new Forth crossing costing £2.300m when the inflation adjusted price of the old one was £320m this is more a hope than an expectation.
Neil Craig

  Normally I prefer the Scotsman's editing and I think their technical placement of paragraph stops is better. However the Herald has left in most of the international figures, excising only China's. By editing out that comparison and the "post Soviet chaotic planning" remark the Scotsman left my reference to Scotland's chaotic planning unsupported. On the other hand the Herald left out all mention of £2 billion of the Forth crossing going walkabout.      On previous occasions I have said where editing has improved my letters. In this case I think neither editing matches the original.      Neither paper gives the impression of being willing to hold this country's government to account, for incompetence or theft, which is said to be the mark of a free press.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Is Soviet Style Bureaucracy & Choatic Planning Responsible For The Aberdeen Bypass Costing More Than 8 Times What It Should?

The Aberdeen bypass was given the go-ahead in 2009 Continue reading the main story

The cost of the Aberdeen bypass has risen to an estimated £653m, it has been revealed.
The 28-mile road - previously predicted to cost £347m - was given the green light by Scottish ministers in 2009, but was delayed by legal action...

It is anticipated that construction will get under way in 2014, with completion by spring 2018.

In answer to a parliamentary question lodged by Aberdeen Central SNP MSP Kevin Stewart, Mr Brown said the scheme had been costed at £347m in 2008 - an estimate based on 2003 prices.

He said that the figure had now risen to £653m as a result of "scope changes, the inclusion of standard risk costs and rebasing to 2012 prices".

    £653m from £347m over 9 years is an inflation rate of  7% which fits very closely with the real inflation rate plus the 4% a year that, according to my FoI has been going on for over 50 years and caused our public prohects to normally cost 8 times what they do in the rest of the world. The only reason the bureaucracy could suggest for this gouging was that "significantly higher oil prices" in the early 2000s. Other possibilities would be government parasitism and open corruption, in whatever ratio.

   By coincidence open government parasitism and corruption is part of what the Telegraph implies is the reason roadbuilding prices are much higher in Russia.

International road costs (per mile) - bar chart
    given in costs per mile

 £653m over 28 miles is £23.3m per mile or $36.1m per mile , 3 1/2 times more than in Russia as a whole, 20% more even than in Moscow with its astronomical land prices. Admittedly this was 2 years ago and inflation has been all of about 6% since then.

An imposing post-Soviet bureaucracy and chaotic infrastructure planning 
 has led to astronomical 
road-building costs in Russia
How much does it cost to build a road in Russia? Six times as much as it does in the United States, according to a recent study by Russian news agency Ria Novosti on comparitive rates in Moscow, the EU, the US and China.

The report noted that China has the cheapest cost, at about $1.3m per mile, with the US and the EU coming in at between $3.6m and $4.2m. In Russia it costs around $10.5m a mile. And in Moscow it can cost a massive $31m, according to an official at the Russian Transport Ministry....
“The contract value includes costs of land, buildings, courts, utilities, infrastructure,” Bakshinsky noted. “All this involves huge costs, especially in the centre of Moscow where the land value is so high".....

The contractor’s job is to wade through this morass; the faster gets the work done the more the company earns. Road building costs are not that high, added Bakshinsky, but the process of preparing the place for the road to be built is “worthy of Kafka”.

   Sound like a description of Scotland, apart from the high land prices?

   This reminds me of an old cold war joke.

    American & Russian talking "In my country we are free to criticise our government"
    "Is same in Russia - we are free to criticise your government"

     Don't expect our media to voice any criticism of this, in any way comparable to the Telegraph's,  probably justified, criticism of Russia.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

28th November - Anniversary of Britain Launching a Satellite - Unpublished Letter

  Went out to about 45 newspapers around the country. Apparently (Google news) unpublished so far.


The 28th of November is the 41st anniversary of the first British space launch becoming the sixth nation to do so. I doubt if many readers know this. Since it was done in spite of government it is almost unreported.

The Black Arrow space rocket was operational at Woomera when its cancellation was announced to Parliament on 29th July 1971. .

With America having promised it would launch British satellites for free (they reneged) and the British government keen to be seen as co-operative Europeans the idea of us actually doing something alone was anathema.

Though he Ministry of Defence cancelled the Black Arrow programme, the development team decided rather than dismantle it they would launch it.. Prospero was launched at 04:09 GMT on 28 Oct 1971 making Britain the sixth nation to place a satellite into orbit It iis still in orbit.

Since then, under all 3 parties, we have continued to be "good Europeans" putting, currently, £275 million a year into the European Space Agency which, on a budget half NASA's but a bureaucracy which ensures every country gets contracts irrespective of ability, has no prospect of launching even one person into space.

Meanwhile the commercial space industry, with government regulation but no help, is worth £10 billion a tear and is our fastest growing industry at 10% a year. By comparison the American commercial space industry is growing at 17%, with a limited amount of government support and quite a lot from private prizes.

Awarding prizes for technological achievements has been the most succesful wat of stimulating technological achievement. In Britain the Longitude prize, won by John Harrison, may be the best investment any English speaking government ever made since it made practical the voyages that discovered Australia and new Zealand.

Experts say that a prize of $500million (£320 million or 14 months worth of what we waste on ESA)) would be enough to produce a commercial space shuttle.

All the traditional parties are opposed to funding a British X-Prize Foundation even though, if it works we would become at worst, the 2nd country in the world's fastest growing industry. If it doesn't no prize is paid which makes it a win/win gamble.

However UKIP has recently endorsed X-Prizes as policy and said that it is "inconceivable" that they could support any government which continued wasting this money. There may yet be a chance for Britain to play a part in the greatest expansion of human development since humanity left Africa (Columbus' exploration was, by comparison, minor).

Neil Craig

ref - Black Arrow

UKIP endorses this

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