Need a spare part for your spaceship?

Look no further.
Norton Sales is the home of Space Age Junk and Modern Collectibles. Serious rocketeers, NASA engineers, and Hollywood set designers come here for inspiration and surplus rocket parts.

It is possibly one of the coolest places in Los Angeles!

My friend Robin took me on my first trip to Norton’s one hot day during the summer of 2004. Needless to say, I was hooked. It’s filled to the brim with spare aerospace surplus from the Apollo era and before. Carlos Guzman is the owner of Norton’s and an all around good guy. I liked it so much, I pitched the story to WIRED Science and we did a segment on it.  If you’re looking for parts to build your own space ship or if you’re looking for unique art supplies, Norton’s is the place for you.



Launching rockets from an old oil platform

Sea Launch is one of the coolest things I’ve ever encountered. The whole concept is something I would have thought only existed in movies, not twenty miles down the freeway from me.

“Think cool as in a James Bond kind of cool.”

Imagine a derelict oil platform from the North Sea rescued by a Norwegian company and retrofitted into a semi-submersible, self-propelled floating launchpad that can be positioned for launch in almost any water in the world. Add rockets built by Ukrainian and Russian companies that were once designed to carry nuclear weapons, but are now perfect carriers for communications satellites.

Last, but not least, add Boeing as the satellite payload integrator and launch operator.

Put them together in an international partnership and you get the multinational company, Sea Launch.

Sea Launch was formed in 1995 to provide low cost commercial launch services for heavy payload satellites bound for geosynchronous orbit.  Basically, they deliver super heavy satellites into a fixed position orbit that follows the earths’ rotation.  And they launch from the equator because it has the most direct path to orbit, so it doesn’t require as much fuel to get there, saving the customer money.

The rocket is built and the satellite is integrated into it at home port in Long Beach, California. Once that’s complete, they load the rocket onto the Launch Platform which sails out to the the equator along with a support ship which serves as mission control.  Once in position, they launch the rocket, delivering the satellite into its intended orbit, and then turn around and sail back to Long Beach.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  And now you get to listen to your favorite XM Radio station in Tuba City, Arizona or wherever.  You get the idea.

Sea Launch broadcasts each of it’s launches live – either on the web or on the web and satellite TV.  That’s where I fit into the grand scheme of things.  I work as the Truck Producer during the launches.  To date, I’ve worked on 24 launches.

It’s always a bit nerve racking leading up to a launch. The rocket business is a high risk business and it’s never a 100% sure thing that a mission going to be successful. Occasionally it isn’t and makes for a very bad day at work, an explosion that would make Michael Bay green with envy, and the most popular youtube video for several days running (thanks to some rocket fan that recorded the broadcast and posted it). Sea Launch has an amazing launch record. Out of their twenty nine missions to date, twenty seven of them have been a complete success.

“It truly looks like something you would see in a movie, but it’s real.”

It’s spectacular to watch a rocket blast off from a floating platform and into the sky. It truly looks like something you would see in some action movie as part of an elaborate set, but it’s real.

How cool is that?

Want to know more about Sea Launch?

Ansari X PRIZE

X PRIZE Flights, X1 and X2

Early morning at the Ansari X PRIZE

I‘ve been so lucky to have had some incredible adventures lately. However, nothing compares to the last 6 months working for X PRIZE Foundation.

It was a great honor to be a part of something that was a mile marker in the history of mankind.

I had the privilege to work with Bob Weiss, Vice Chairman for the Foundation and to produce the live simulcast (TV and Web) for the X PRIZE flights. It ended up being the biggest webcast in the history of webcasts. More people logged on to watch the launches than any other live webcast. Ever. It was also big day on Discovery Network’s Science Channel, who saw a spike in their viewership as well.

But all that pales in comparison to being in Mojave – meeting the all the amazing people making history – working with an incredible crew – to not sleeping for days because there’s so much work to be done – to watching the launches – to realizing that maybe, just maybe, the door has been opened just far enough that you and I can someday experience space ourselves.

A person does not participate in something like that and remain unchanged.

In the aftermath, it’s the kind of thing that you wonder if it really happened or if it was all an incredible dream. Then you realize it’s not. It’s real. It’s very real and I am one incredibly lucky person.