2020-05-11 3 min read


Notes, 2020-05-11.

Hi all, Eric here, excited to be back with another guest edit. This time I leaned heavily into two of my favorite realms: Aerospace and Manufacturing.

The most clicked link from last week's issue (~12% of opens) was a Twitter account that takes talking head videos recorded from home offices and comments on all of the signaling in their bookcases.


  • NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are still on schedule to fly to the ISS on May 27th, the first time humans will launch from US soil since 2011-07-08.
  • Grimes had a baby and then had to explain the name, which includes a reference to the SR-71, her and Elon’s “favorite aircraft.” Say what you want about the baby name, but I’m with them on the SR-71 love. This aircraft was built in 1964, only 61 years after the first human flight, and flew at over 2,000 mph. The famous speed check story, in which a crew takes advantage of public air traffic radio to joyfully share their unmatched speed, is one of my favorites.
  • Declassified images taken by the U-2 spy plane are useful for landscape archeology. Images from the Corona satellite, also declassified, cover a huge area and have already been used to great effect to identify ancient sites in Eurasia. However, despite their lack of coverage in comparison, U-2 photos are of higher quality. I love the way the researchers use Google Earth and some clever tricks to identify the location of each shot.
  • NASA awarded Aerojet Rocketdyne a $1.79 billion contract to restart production of the historic RS-25 engine, famous for its reliability and reusability in the Space Shuttle era. The key point here is that NASA will pay $146 million each for four engines that won’t be reusable this time around. That brings the total cost of an SLS launch to $584 million for the engines alone, already 3-4x the cost of a Falcon Heavy launch. Aerojet has since commented on the pricing, noting that “there’s a lot of other activity included in there that is well beyond just assembling and testing engines.”
  • The autonomous X-37B spacecraft will launch for another months-long ride in Low Earth Orbit on 05-16, this time carrying a small satellite developed by Air Force Academy cadets and a few science experiments, including one that will measure the effects of space radiation on seeds.

Making & Manufacturing.

  • I love this approach of using a soldering iron and trolley to lay down custom conductive tape onto fabric.
  • JPL engineers designed a ventilator in a few weeks, and it was approved by the FDA. I don’t know what’s happening on the inside of their unit, but I appreciate the open source Rise ventilator’s simple mechanical design. It’s clear that they’ve only included custom parts where they really need to, and the use of sheet metal for the enclosure is a great choice for its low cost and short lead time. Like many other open source ventilators, it does utilize a bag valve, an approach that has been criticized by many.
  • Eric Schlaepfer created the ScopeTrex so you can play Vectrex games on your oscilloscope.
  • Based on this video about using an accelerometer to detect kickback in a circular saw, it doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult for tool companies to implement a feature like this. I really haven’t seen tools replicate a major limb-saving feature since SawStop has, and would love to see more. Is it also possible that power tools have been getting safer all along and I just haven’t noticed?
  • Creator, a robotic burger restaurant in San Francisco, created a chamber for safely dispensing takeout to customers and made their design open source.

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.


A handbag that’s made from a single piece of lasercut leather.

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