Thursday 28 June 2012

Car Logs Added to

Started moving my car logs over to Again, I am making use of Blogger for ease of use and backup.

I have been keeping a running log of work, maintenance and anything of interest to do with my cars for the last few years. This is my own kind of service history. So if I try to sell a car I can show the buyer a log of all that's happened to it whilst I have owned it.

Also, I try to make some of the work I do into DIY guides which will hopefully be useful to others.

I have only got the Volvo (my current car) copied over so far, but will back-fill the older logs and guides soon.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

New Blog for New Domain -

Thought I would make use of Google's Blogger service instead. That way if my site goes a bit Pete Tong, I don't loose everything. Plus the integration with Google services (e.g. Google+) is a lot neater.

My new blog address is

I use j0nr for most of my online activity, so wanted it as a domain. I have had for ages, but its a bit long and cumbersome,  plus I want to move my personal stuff away from there eventually as I may want to keep it for more work related stuff.

This will be my personal blog about all things that interest me. I will probably move all my car related stuff over here but on a different blog.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Another Moon Shot with Registax

Another attempt at a shot of the Moon using 14 images from my HS10 and then stacking them with Registax.

Still unsure whether there is a marked improvement over just one of the originals. Not sure if I need to try and get more images to start with...will try more next time.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Reaction Engines Skylon and SABRE

Just been to a really interesting talk by Richard Varvill of Reaction Engines Ltd at the IMechE. It was really interesting and got me really excited.

Reaction Engines Ltd are a UK company who are developing a spaceplane called Skylon. Skylon is a Single Stage To Orbit (SSTO), unmanned, reusable and low-cost (comparable with today's expendable solutions) vehicle, with the intention of being a simple to use solution to putting hardware in low Earth orbit.

To achieve a SSTO vehicle (which has not been done to date) a special kind of engine is required, one that has not been made before or anything similar. Conventional vehicles achieving orbit today use rocket engines for the entire flight, as these work in both air and vacuum as they have their own supply of oxygen (oxidiser in the form of liquid oxygen carried in a tank with the vehicle). They also, importantly, provide thrust when the vehicle is not moving. The biggest problem trying to send a vehicle from stationary to orbit (0 - Mach 25) is the amount of fuel you need to start off with. Fuel for a rocket engine consists of a fuel, e.g. liquid Hydrogen and an oxidiser, e.g. liquid oxygen. These can burn together regardless of the atmosphere, or lack of, surrounding them. But, carrying enough fuel and oxidiser for the whole flight is both heavy and expensive.

So some way of making an engine that did not require carrying both the fuel and oxidiser with it for the entire powered flight was needed. Also, the propulsion would have to cope with the fact that it would be transitioning from ~1 bar atmospheric pressure (i.e. being in the air) to a vacuum when it left the atmosphere and approached orbit.

Founder of Reaction Engines, Alan Bond designed a Liquid Air Cycle Engine (LACE) engine which became the Rolls Royce RB545. This design has been taken by Reaction Engines and evolved to become the new SABRE engine for the Skylon.

I won't try and go into detail or replicate what can be said better on Reaction Engines' website, but basically, it is a combined air-breathing engine / rocket engine. From stationary to about mach 5.5 it is an air-breathing engine, using the oxygen in the atmosphere to burn with the hydrogen fuel. Then as altitude increases and the atmosphere starts getting too thin, it transitions into a conventional rocket engine, burning liquid oxygen and hydrogen from tanks on board.

The key stages are:
  1. Air is taken into the engine. At mach 5.5 the temperature of the air once it is taken in can be up to 1000°C
  2. The air is passed through a heat exchanger, called a pre-cooler, where it is cooled (using a closed loop helium system) down to -150°C
  3. Compressed to ~150 bar
  4. Fed into the rocket combustion chamber and mixed with the liquid hydrogen fuel to then burn and exit as hot gas out the nozzle.
  5. Air pressure drops as altitude increases and at about mach 5.5 the air-breathing part of the engine effectively deactivates and the on board liquid oxygen starts to be fed into th combustion chamber instead to complete the flight to orbit.
Benefits are that it is a single engine which can make use of the oxygen in the air whilst at low altitudes, therefore it does not need to carry the liquid oxygen that it would otherwise need for the first part of the flight. This reduces weight and cost. Cost would be more for extra liquid oxygen and the bigger tanks and therefore bigger vehicle to accommodate it.

I really love the fact that this is happening in the UK. I always dreamed of working in rocket science but would never get the chance to work for NASA. But here is something happening not far away from me, which is really exciting. I hope this project works and is successful and I will be following its progress and looking forward to seeing first flights (although I think these may be at least 15 years away unfortunately).

Here's a video of Richard Varvill talking about the SABRE engine.

Saturday 21 January 2012

Buzz Aldrin Nearly Stranded Apollo 11 On The Moon

Well I never knew Buzz Aldrin nearly stranded the crew of Apollo 11 on the surface of the Moon!! Reading the text (transcribed radio conversations) the implication of what is being said is so frightening, I don't know how they kept calm... if that switch was knackered, they were stranded on the Moon forever!
112:56:28 Aldrin: Houston, Tranquility. Do you have a way of showing the configuration of the engine arm circuit breaker? Over. (Pause) The reason I'm asking is because the end of it appears to be broken off. I think we can push it back in again. I'm not sure we could pull it out if we pushed it in, though. Over.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

The Earth Rotates 366.25 Times per Year

Statement: The Earth rotates on its axis 366.25 times per year

That is, when the Earth completes one whole revolution around the Sun (360 degrees), which is a year, it has rotated on its own axis 366.25 times.

This is going to be old news to some people, but I think it will still catch a lot of people out. The obvious thing I am hoping you are wondering here is that you thought there were only 365 days in a year. Some of you will know there are actually 365.25 days in a year, hence the reason for a leap year every 4 years. But where does that extra rotation come from to make it 366.25?

 Have a think before reading the solution below. Hopefully the wonders of jQuery will have hidden it from you until you click.

The Moon and Registax

As part of my goal this year to get more knowledgeable on astronomy, I finally got round to trying out Registax to stack some photos I took of the Moon ages with this very thing in mind.

I always wanted to try this out but to date did not have a computer powerful enough to really do it. But that has recently changed as I finally have a decent computer in the form of a Dell XPS 15, which I must say is rather nice! Its an i7 with 4Gb of ram so it will serve purposes such as using Registax perfectly. This is compared to my Samsung N130 netbook, which was my main computer before, with its little 1.6GHz Atom processor.

Anyway, I know with most astrophotography that is built up from stacked images, the source is usually a video feed, which I guess is like having lots of individual photos, but combined in a video. Registax pulls out the individual frames like photos anyway. I had 5 photos that I took on my Fujifilm HS10. I took them as a 'burst' so they were all within about 1 second, so little movement between shots (not that it really matters).