Category Archives: DIY space

Loretta Jackson Delong, co-founder of XCOR, passes away

The NewSpace community suffers a big loss:

From Rand’s posting:

Aleta, as she was known to all, passed away this morning [Dec. 4, 2016] in the Midland hospital ER. Aleta knew from the time she was twelve that she would build and fly spaceships. Her first professional work was as an engineering co op from Indiana Tech working on the Gemini program for McDonnell. Her engineering degree was cut short when she went home to nurse her mother back to health. After that, she joined the USAF as airman Jackson.

Aleta worked for Xerox for ten years as a repair technician and wrote both science fiction and non-fiction stories. She worked for the L-5 Society, both in Tucson and later in Washington DC. During her stay in DC, Aleta became an aide to General Daniel Graham and helped create the DC-X launch vehicle, later renamed the Clipper Graham. She also edited the Journal of Practical Applications of Space while with Graham’s Strategic Defense Initiative Organization.

As an indefatigable supporter of launch vehicle development, Aleta then became one of Rotary Rocket Company’s first employees, where she was general office manager. When the propulsion group was laid off from Rotary, Aleta was the person who told Jeff Greason, Dan DeLong, and Doug Jones that they had to stick with it, and founded XCOR Aerospace.

In the beginning, because the XCOR founders received no pay, Aleta took an additional job as a reporter/editor of the Mojave Desert News. Meanwhile, she was XCOR’s purchasing, personnel, bookkeeping, editorial, receiving, community outreach, and travel departments. As the company grew, she shed most of these tasks. In late 2015 she helped Jeff Greason start Agile Aero. Aleta was a personal as well as professional partner of Dan DeLong since the early days of Rotary, and they were officially married in 2016. The very next day, however, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and succumbed to complications of the chemotherapy regimen.

See the many tributes in the comments there as well.


Aleta’s husband Dan Delong added this:

Thanks all for the kind words. In order to allow time for those traveling, and to get around the holidays, the memorial service will be Sunday, Jan 15 at the Christian Church of Midland at 2608 Neely Ave. Thanks again, Dan.

JP Aerospace – Photos from the latest flights to Near Space

JP Aerospace flew two high altitude airship missions on Nov. 22nd to over 30 km. Below are some reports and images from the flights posted on the JP Aerospace blog:

Launch of the Away 118 balloon:




The two missions carried

three university payloads, 700 PongSat  student experiments, our own balloon valve experiments, a new servo driven camera system and a ceremonial basket from the Sobono Indian Tribe.


The movable servo camera flew on Away 119 and took pictures like this one:


The flights are sponsored by a number of organizations:


The payload packages were recovered intact:


SpaceIL books trip to the Moon + Video: Seminar on lunar elevators

The SpaceIL team in the Google Lunar X PRIZE is a volunteer, not-for-profit Israel-based organization that just became the first participant in the GLXP to get a verified booking on a rocket: Israeli Google Lunar XPRIZE Team Is First to Sign Launch Agreement For Private Mission to the Moon On SpaceX Falcon 9 – Google Lunar XPRIZE.

The team’s lunar explorer will get into space via a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in the second half of 2017.

Check out their latest newsletter: We Have Been Waiting for this Moment for Five Years!

This video describes how they came up with the new design for the lander, which will use its propulsion system to hop to other spots on the surface:


Someday spacecraft and cargo may go from an in-space transport node down to and back up from the Moon’s surface via a lunar space elevator. Here is a talk about how such an elevator could be built: Lunar Elevator – Seminar at NASA Ames.

For more details, see Lunar Elevator – LiftPort Group.

Tracksoar – Open source APRS tracker for weather balloons and other projects

If you are planning a weather balloon or other amateur high altitude project and need a low cost system for tracking and telemetry communications,  check out the Tracksoar  Open source APRS tracker:


Tracksoar is the smallest lightest open source APRS [Automatic Packet Reporting System] tracker available. It makes tracking weather balloons, model rockets, RC aircraft, and anything else that flies as easy as possible. It is able to report location, altitude, temperature pressure and humidity to the internet once a minute for twelve hours with 2xAA batteries.

Because Tracksoar is open source you can also add your own modules to accommodate custom sensors to meet your specific requirements. By flying Tracksoar on a weather balloon you can reduce the required helium and balloon costs per launch and it can pay for itself with just 2 launches. No other APRS solution offers this level of integration, compact size, and customization.

Additionally all profits from Tracksoar sales go to supporting the Santa Barbara Hackerspace and improving the resources we offer to the community.

The system was designed by the Santa barbara Hackerspace, founded by Mike Bales. They currently have a crowd-funding campaign underway  to raise $22,000 to pay for the first production run of the Tracksoar : Tracksoar APRS by mike bales — Kickstarter.


Note that the system requires an amateur radio license to operate.

Moonspike crowd-funding a mission to put a tiny payload into the Moon

The Moonspike project made its debut last week. The project aims to build a low cost two-stage rocket and a spacecraft to send a “tiny” payload to the Moon. The group is led by Chris Larmour, who has run several technology companies, and Kristian von Bengtson, who is well-known as a co-founder of Copenhagen Suborbitals, an organization developing a rocket for carrying a single person on a suborbital space trip. While Copenhagen Suborbitals is a volunteer, non-profit, the Moonspike project is organized as the private company Moonspike, Ltd.

The goal is to impact this 1 gram “Lunar Penetrator” into the Moon’s surface:

LunarPenetrator The spike is titanium and the disk will hold a flash memory chip with digital photos and messages from backers of the project.

Moonspike has opened a crowd-funding campaign to raise over $909k and as of today has gotten nearly $80k pledged with 26 days left: Moonspike: the World’s First Crowdfunded Moon Rocket by Moonspike Limited — Kickstarter.

You can download their feasibility report (pdf).

Here is a video laying out their plan: