Wed, 20 Mar 2019 21:32:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 101577469 Nerd Nite SF was a HUGE Success! Fri, 17 Oct 2014 15:52:57 +0000 Thanks everyone, for coming out to Nerd Nite. We had a packed house at the Rickshaw Stop in SF. 300+ people sat in to have a beer and listen to nerds get nerdy with it. Eric and I were psyched to have a great crowd with rapt attention while we promoted our upcoming partnership with the Walt Disney Family Museum and the impact Disney had on the space race.

Nerd Nite Poster

75th Anniversary History of NASA Ames Research Center, Part 2 Architectual History of Moffett Field and the Age of the Aircraft Carrying Airships Fri, 19 Sep 2014 02:35:12 +0000 Architectural History of Moffett Field


The Department of the Navy’s Bureau of Yards and Docks designed NAS Sunnyvale and construction began in October, 1931. The base supports two conventional runways running in a north by northwesterly direction, with three functional architectural areas to the west, each clustered together with a uniform style. The first structure commissioned and built was the enormous Hanger One, home to the airships and centerpiece of the base. The footprint of Hanger One is equivalent to ten football fields placed side to side. Beside Hanger One is a collection of generally utilitarian support structures, such as the water tower, control tower, and fire station. Beyond these is the more formal architecture surrounding Shenandoah Plaza, home to officers and administrative functions. These structures were designed in the Spanish Colonial Revivial style, popular for Navy buildings on both East and West Coasts. Generally, the style derives from 17th century Spanish architect Jose Churriguere, then revived in 1915 by Bertram Goodhue for the San Diego Panama Pacific Expo. The Navy adopted this style for its Chollas Heights Radio Transmission Station in 1916, and brought on Goodhue to design the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in 1920, Naval Air Station North Island in 1921, and the Naval Training Center in San Diego in 1922. As we see, Moffett Field adopted this style relatively late in its popularity, and the 1920’s influence of Modern and Art Deco impacted the design, particularly Modern’s philosophy of removing ornamentation.




The Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style implemented in the original 1933 structures around Shenandoah Plaza may be characterized as rising to a height of two stories, with flat, off-white stucco walls. The buildings are topped with low-pitched roofs of Spanish tiles, broken occasionally by chimneys and ducts. The facades of the rectangular buildings are stark, with ornamentation occurring only at doorways and windows, with a recurring pattern of urn motifs, cartouches, and quarter-foil windows across all the buildings. The Bachelor Officers’ Quarters and the Administrative Building feature arching arcade entrances on the portico, and the central Administrative Building anchors the plaza with an ornate bell tower, rising above the rest of the base with its classic columnated dome. As one enters NAS Sunnyvale from the west the Administrative Building lies at the far end of the greensward, framed by the massive Hanger One beyond, with the other buildings symmetrically arranged alongside. To some extent the layout of Shenandoah Plaza may be considered Beaxart, with its centrally planned arrangement and the fact that is was purposefully constructed all at once.

At the entrance to the Plaza there is a road branching off to the right, southward. This leads to the detached Officers Housing, a cluster of 9 two-story Spanish Colonial Revival homes settled amongst curved roads and unbroken lawns. Although these residences match the architectural style of the base alongside, their naturalistic arrangement in the landscape contrasts with the “planned city” organization of Shenandoah Plaza. Predating the post-war arrival of the true suburb which would often follow in this style, the Officers Housing follows in the lineage of the Garden Cities movement, expressed in the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1892 and illustrated in 1902’s Garden Cities of Tomorrow.




In contrast to the largely pre-Modern architecture of these buildings, and their placement within 19th century landscapes, the enormous Hanger One that rises imposingly beyond the Administrative Buildings was constructed in a hybrid of Streamline Moderne and Deco styles. As elucidated by Corbusier, Modern derives from the need for an architecture worthy of the sheer mechanical efficiency of 20th century locomotives, ships, and particularly airplanes. Corbusier advocated an adoption of the steel practicality of these vehicles, with function leading the design before form. As these vehicles transformed the speed of life, so too did our architecture adopt an increasingly windswept, curved look. Hanger One is a structure inspired by both of these new styles. In many ways the adoption of a utilitarian, steel Modern architecture was a necessary practical choice, dictated by the structure’s triple hinged arches that peel open on either end of Hanger One, to allow for the entrance and exit of enormous, floating airships. This challenging requirement called for the utilization of the 3-hinge arch, first practiced by Eiffel in his Tower of 1889 and his Palace of the Machines.

All the proportions of Hanger One are tailored to house a single airship. As befitting the fact that all American airships were built by the firm, Goodyear’s civil engineer Ernest L. Wolf was the Principal Designer of Hanger One at NAS Sunnyvale, as he had been for similar hangers in Akron, Ohio, and Lakehurst, New Jersey. The Navy’s Bureau of Yards and Docks, Twelfth Naval District Public Works Office in San Bruno adopted the design, and Rear Admiral A.L. Parsons approved the drawings and oversaw construction of Hanger One. The concrete footprint of the hanger was laid by Raymond Concrete Company, and Wallace Bridge and Structural Steel Company constructed the enormous steel frame. The resulting trapezoidal silhouette, with its rounded top corners, angled and corrugated steel walls known as “Robertson Protected Metal”, and the embedded horizontal windows, form a strikingly futuristic example of Streamline Moderne. Hanger One is still visible from miles around, and at the time of its opening in 1933 it was even more of a stark Modern monument in the landscape, rising dramatically above the sleepy, agricultural flatlands of South Bay.



The Age of Aircraft-Carrying Airships



At the same time as the establishment of NAS Sunnyvale, the Navy commissioned two new LTA airships, one to be based in Hanger One. The LTAs were a product of the Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation, built in Akron, Ohio. These two gargantuan airships were equipped with eight powerful, 4,500 horsepower propeller engines, allowing for a top speed of 85 mph and an 11,000 mile range. ZRS-4 and ZRS-5, known as the U.S.S. Akron and the U.S.S. Macon, were the world’s first aircraft carrying LTAs. Macon and Akron utilized helium cells like their predecessors, but five F9C Sparrowhawk bi-planes were stored internally, nestled below the gas bags. While the airships were in flight, the Sparrowhawks would be lowered from the belly of the LTA and then released by means of a stiff “trapeze” into the air moving by. At the summation of their mission, hooking back onto these trapezes proved to be quite difficult. Nevertheless, the fighters aboard Macon and Akron gave each airship an effective reconnaissance diameter of 120 miles, with each Sparrowhawk positioned 60 miles away on each boom. Along with their already impressive speed and range, the addition of HTA fighters made Macon and Akron very capable scouts, able to cycle between NAS Sunnyvale and the Aleutian Islands to the north, Hawaii to the west, and the Panama Canal to the south, all correctly perceived as targets of the impending Japanese war effort.



In late October 1931 the Navy accepted the U.S.S. Akron into the inventory as ZRS-4, and transferred the airship from its construction yard at Akron to NAS Lakehurst, in New Jersey. For several years Akron performed technical exercises over the East Coast and inland, then moved to the Pacific to participate in “Fleet Problem XIII”. This exercise simulated the retaking of Hawaii after it had been captured by the Japanese, developing joint strike techniques that both informed the US Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy, who studied “Fleet Problem XIII” in advance of their real attack years later. U.S.S. Akron returned to NAS Lakehurst, but on April 4, 1933, the airship was traveling to Rhode Island when it encountered an electrical storm off Atlantic City and crashed into the sea. 74 of the 77 enlisted souls aboard were killed, including Rear Admiral Moffett.

Just one short month later ZRS-5, U.S.S. Macon, was completed at Akron and traveled across the country to Sunnyvale. On October 15th a crowd of 20,000 greeted Macon as it touched down at the newly renamed NAS Moffett Field. The buildings around Shenandoah Plaza were still under construction but Hanger One had been hastily completed, and for a brief time the shiny building housed the airship as intended. Macon participated in Pacific training exercises, and in July 1934 U.S.S. Macon unexpectedly intercepted the heavy cruiser U.S.S. Houston, which was transporting President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on a patriotic tour that brought him from Annapolis, Maryland through the Panama Canal to Hawaii, and then to Portland, Oregon. The airship Macon intercepted Houston in the Eastern Pacific, delivering letters and the newspaper to a surprised and delighted President Roosevelt. Despite earlier failures, the late Admiral Moffett’s airships were still in favor.



U.S.S. Macon was cleared to participate in 1935’s “Fleet Problem XVI”, but the airship encountered an insurmountable storm. On February 12th, as it was returning to Sunnyvale from a routine Pacific fleet exercise, Macon encountered thundering weather off Big Sur, south of Monterey, and crashed into the sea. 2 of the 83 enlisted souls aboard lost their lives, and the loss of both Macon and Akron left the Navy without an operational airship. Rear-Admiral A.B. Cook, the relatively new Chief of Aeronautics, thought the airships were too costly relative to their capabilities, and pointed out that they monopolized the nation’s supply of precious helium. In light of their quick and consistent losses, and without the late Admiral Moffett’s support, Rear-Admiral A.B. Cook’s opposition won the day. The Navy ordered no replacement airships.

75th Anniversary History of NASA Ames Research Center, Part 1 Fri, 12 Sep 2014 01:23:43 +0000 Introduction

Naval Air Station Sunnyvale, also know as Moffett Field, now NASA Ames Research Center, was established as a base for Lighter-Than-Air (LTA) rigid airships in 1931, with Hanger One erected specifically to house one enormous airship, truly the size of a battleship. The story of Moffett Field’s creation is inextricably linked to airships, yet those machines only operated for a short while before the Navy abandoned the entire concept of rigid airships. However, the property has lived on with a variety of purposes – at different times the base has housed the Navy, Army Air Corps, National Advisory Council for Aeronautics, NASA, and the Air National Guard. Its geographical advantages stem from its protected inland position, with the incessant San Francisco Bay fog breaking upon the Coast Range Mountains that separate the base from the sea. Nevertheless, the Pacific Ocean is just a short flight away and Moffett Field’s operational aircraft have nearly always been primarily used for maritime reconnaissance.


Part 1

After many centuries of Native American inhabitation, the New Spanish government established the Mission Santa Clara de Asis in 1777, near Mountain View. The Spanish colonization of the San Francisco Bay Area continued through the creation of the Alta California territory in 1804, and then during the protracted Mexican War of Independence that began shortly after. In 1844 the Mexican government of Alta California granted the Ohlone rancher Lupe Ynigo the 1700 acres of land that became Naval Air Station Sunnyvale. This was one of a few instances where the Mexican government offered a Native American a land grant, and Ynigo’s estate controlled his ranch until 1930, when the Navy purchased the land. The Navy unearthed remnants from Rancho de Ynigo and from the Ohlone people that predated him while the base was under construction, and donated the artifacts to the Stanford Collection.


The Navy’s purchase of Rancho de Ynigo came after more than a decade of American interest in LTA airships, and represents the peak moment of investment in that technology. During the First World War German Zeppelins bombed the city of London from a high altitude, where anti-aircraft artillery could not reach. Although eventually the combination of English searchlights, anti-aircraft guns, and high altitude interceptor airplanes proved capable of warding off the enormous airships, the capabilities of the German LTAs inspired the United Kingdom and the United States to incorporate them into their post-war inventories. In the UK, construction of maritime reconnaissance LTAs to patrol the English Channel began during the final year of the war, resulting in the world’s largest airship at the time, R38. The United States negotiated the purchase of this airship, which would have entered the US Navy as ZR-2. However, R38 crashed into the sea near Hull on August 23rd, 1921, killing 44 of the 49 souls aboard, both British and American crewmen. The Treaty of Versailles forbade Germany from continuing to operate LTAs, and the Americans hoped to receive several surviving examples at war’s end, but they were scuttled by German crews.

Clearly the United States needed to built the airships themselves. They learned a great deal about the technology from a disabled Zeppelin, L-49, that the Americans carefully coaxed to the ground in France during the final year of the war. Goodyear of Akron, Ohio, studied these techniques and eventually collaborated with the German Zeppelin company to construct the first American LTA, U.S.S. Shenandoah, commissioned by the US Navy in 1923 as ZR-1. Shenandoah was constructed with the same design principles as the German Zeppelins, with its rigid metal structure containing individual gas cells, but the contents of these bladders began a trend unique to the Americans. Shenandoah’s tanks were filled with helium, a very rare element, deemed safer than the standard, but highly flammable, hydrogen. The United States held by far the world’s largest reserve of helium, and the element was so rare that filling the hull of the Shenandoah airship used the majority of the world’s supply! The Navy quickly integrated Shenandoah into the fleet, and the massive LTA participated in the major annual war game, known as “Fleet Problem II, III, and IV”, in the Caribbean. ZR-1 performed its duties admirably in the “Scouting Fleet”, providing reconnaissance to the ships below. After returning to its base in Akron, Ohio, Shenandoah undertook an extensive cross-country journey, providing most Americans their first opportunity to view this new class of vast, floating airship. After a short but significant life, on September 3rd, 1925, U.S.S. Shenandoah crashed into the country near Caldwell, Ohio, killing 14 of the 43 souls aboard.


The crash of ZR-1 led to several changes in LTA design, most notably a shortening of the extremely elongated, “cigar” shape. Helium remained the favored lifting element – the alternative of hydrogen, used by nearly all other LTAs around the world, was deemed too flammable. The Navy continued its LTA program due in large part to the advocacy of Admiral William A. Moffett, appointed by President Harding as the first Chief of the Naval Bureau of Aeronautics in 1921. The other mid-decade LTA, U.S.S. Los Angeles, was entirely built in Germany by Zeppelin and traversed across the Atlantic to the United States in 1924, again under Treaty of Versailles provisions, although this time the airship avoided any attempts at sabotage. The success of the two transatlantic collaborations led to the creation of the joint Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation. Although the Navy commissioned Los Angeles as ZR-3 in 1924, the loss of Shenandoah the following year led to the grounding of the new LTA, its principle uses becoming experimental research and training. Los Angeles continued in this function until it was disassembled in 1939, having gained the distinction of the nation’s longest-serving rigid airship. Every other airship met an unfortunate end.

Advances in Heavier Than Air (HTA) airplanes during the inter-war years essentially replaced LTAs in the role of high altitude bomber. However, Admiral Moffett and the Navy were impressed by Shenandoah’s performance as a maritime reconnaissance unit in the Scouting Fleet. The experience of joint operations with the fleet highlighted the airship’s particular advantages: firstly, LTAs were capable of long duration voyages and could effectively move at pace with the fleet below. From their altitude of 20,000 feet the airships possessed an expansive view in all directions, and could essentially hover in place to provide continuous surveillance of an area.

Although briefly allies during the First World War, the War Department (the predecessor to the Department of Defense) generally believed that Japan would be the most likely adversary for 20th century conflict, and its War Plan Orange became the most-studied scheme for strategic planning. Hostilities between the two nations stemmed from America’s seizure of the Philippines in the Spanish-American War of 1898. The US presence there threatened the Japanese plans for expanding its sphere of influence over its East Asian neighbors to secure their resources, deemed necessary for Japan’s growing population and industrial sector. Following the First World War, Japan began to execute its imperial ambitions in Korea, Manchuria, and eventually China proper. As would ultimately occur, the United States anticipated that the Japanese might attempt to seize the Philippines, robbing the US of its forward base in the Western Pacific. If the Japanese succeeded in this conquest, the US Navy would be pushed back to the Eastern Pacific and American influence over East Asia would be extremely restricted. This concern informed the American decision to annex the Hawaiian Islands in 1898, providing a forward base of operations in the mid-Pacific and a buffer to the continental United States. This theoretical war with the Japanese would be largely a Naval conflict, and Admiral Moffett and his colleagues were keen to establish a force that could effectively command broad swaths of the vast Pacific Ocean.


In 1929 Admiral Moffett led a Site Selection Committee to determine a favorable location to base LTAs for operation with the Pacific Fleet. At the time there were only two large airship hangers in the United States, at the Goodyear factory in Akron, Ohio, and another at Lakehurst, New Jersey. Thus, a West Coast base was necessary if War Plan Orange was to include LTAs. Among 29 possible sites on the West Coast, the Site Selection Committee eventually settled on two final candidates. The first site was situated near the Pacific Fleet base in San Diego, at what is now Miramar Marine Corps Air Station just northeast of the city. This is an advantageous location primarily because of its proximity to Naval Base San Diego, allowing for effective fleet coordination. In addition, what is now Miramar is a good candidate for a naval aviation base because it’s very near the sea but set slightly inland behind a hill, especially necessary for the basing of fragile airships.

The other final candidate was Rancho de Ynigo on the southern San Francisco peninsula, straddling the border of Mountain View and Sunnyvale. Although the titular mountains afforded the protection necessary for LTA basing, the consortium representing the Bay Area bid referred to the site as Naval Air Station (NAS) “Sunnyvale”, because the name “Mountain View” evoked a dangerous environment for LTAs. The consortium raised $470,000 and bought Rancho de Ynigo’s in advance of their proposal, thus calling themselves the “Landholder’s Commission”. The Commission was formed by the counties of San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Francisco and Alameda, and the major proponents were San Francisco Mayor James “Sunny Jim” Rolph and real estate broker Lauren Whipple.
In 1930 Admiral Moffett and the Navy selected Ynigo’s Ranch as the base for LTAs for several reasons. Firstly, the Bay Area is more centrally located on the West Coast than San Diego. Secondly, the War Department believed that the surrounding Bay Area communities might benefit more from the establishment of a high-tech operation in the tough economic times of the early Depression. On December 12, 1930, House Representative Joseph Free of San Jose sponsored the bill that accepted the site. In February 1931 President Herbert Hoover signed that bill, and in the summer of 1931 Congress appropriated $5 million for the construction of Naval Air Station Sunnyvale, with $2.25 million allocated for Hanger One, to house an airship.

AIAA Dinner and Presentation by Michelle Evans Fri, 02 May 2014 14:41:43 +0000 Join us Wednesday May 21st at Michaels at Shoreline for cocktails, dinner, and a fascinating presentation by Michelle Evans, President of Mach 25 Media on “The X-15 Rocket Plane- Flying the First Wings into Space.” View the flyer or download the PDF below for more details and contact us with any questions! Please register here. We look forward to seeing you soon.

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 7.34.57 AM


AIAA Space Entrepreneurial Workshop Tuesday, April 22nd Tue, 22 Apr 2014 18:04:20 +0000 AIAA-SF is working with Silicon Valley Space Center to put on a 4-part series of workshops with the aim of helping you create your own space start-up. In a sense this is a further development of last year’s Space Hacker Workshop.

Part 1, the Introductory Meeting, is taking place this Tuesday April, 22nd from 6:00pm to 8:30pm in Santa Clara. Here is some additional info for it:

I hope you can make it!

Contact: Cultures of the Imagination Fri, 21 Mar 2014 23:24:00 +0000 The 28th annual Contact conference convenes today at the SETI Institute, with a full roster of speakers discussing the science behind science fiction. The conference opened with SETI’s own Seth Shostak, host of the NPR radio program Big Picture Science. What makes the Cultures of the Imagination Conference unique among meetings of space professionals is the balance between the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ sciences, with experts in biology, physics, and engineering, along with those trained in anthropology, linguistics, sociology, and more, coming together to share information and ideas on technology, trends, and recent literature on the topics. As an educator and artist, I am most looking forward to a presentation by Dr. Kathleen D. Toerpe. As a research and applied ‘astosociologist,’ Toerpe investigates the ways that individuals and societies react and respond to space exploration and the implications of those responses here on Earth. Toerpe focuses on how studying these human responses may help mitigate social and cultural conflict.  Learn more at

UAS in the NAS – March 12 Wed, 05 Mar 2014 22:54:26 +0000 AIAA SF/SVSC TechTalk
Wednesday, March 12, 2014; 6:30pm-8:00pm
Sandbox Suites, Santa Clara, CA

Unmanned Aerial Systems in the National Airspace System

Eric Mueller
NASA Ames Research Center
Moffett Field, CA

It’s been widely reported that the FAA was mandated by Congress to integrate UAS with the national airspace system (NAS) by September 30, 2015. However, the goals the FAA has set for NAS access by that date are out of sync with the aspirations of many UAS operators and hobbyists. The set of safety standards for sense-and-avoid systems and command and control communications links will apply only to large UAS operated by major organizations (e.g. the Department of Defense, NASA, General Atomics and Northrop Grumman) capable of equipping their aircraft with cutting edge technologies. Integration of the smaller, inexpensive UAS that promise to revolutionize the NAS will take many more years according to the current plan. In this talk NASA lead researcher Eric Mueller will outline the major challenges related to integrating UAS with the NAS, focusing in particular on the sense-and-avoid system that is a critical contributor to ensuring safe separation between aircraft. He will also describe the approach NASA is taking to develop solutions to these challenges in partnership with industry and other government organizations. Eric will conclude with a discussion of the remaining challenges to “full UAS integration” that would enable entirely new airborne applications and industries, and will invite audience discussion on technologies that may contribute to solving these problems.

About the speaker

Eric Mueller has worked as an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Ames Research Center since 2000 in the Aviation Systems Division. He received his BSe from Princeton University and Masters from Stanford, both in aerospace engineering. His research has included air traffic management modeling and simulation, hybrid rocket propulsion, UAV access to the air traffic system, spacecraft handling qualities, and simulation analysis related to the use of datalink and trajectory automation to improve air traffic operations. He is currently the Project Engineer for the Separation Assurance – Sense-and-Avoid Interoperability element of NASA’s UAS-NAS Integration project, leading a team of a dozen engineers researching methods for ensuring UAS remain safely separated from other users of the National Airspace System.

Meeting Details

6:30 – Check-in, networking
6:50 – Welcome – SVSC and AIAA SF
7:00 – UAS in the NAS  – Eric Mueller, NASA Ames
8:00 – Networking, extended Q&A
8:30 – Wrap-up


Sandbox Suites
3295 Scott Blvd.
Santa Clara, CA 95054

Main door to building is in the parking lot, not Scott Blvd.  The door has a large Sandbox Suites logo on it.

Map: Sandbox Suites, Santa Clara (Google Maps)

Space is limited for this program.
To reserve your spot, register on EventBrite at:

The event is free, but we appreciate on-site donations to the TechTalk Food Fund to keep the neurons firing.

Welcome Council & Members! Thu, 20 Feb 2014 22:32:20 +0000 We are starting the layout for the new website. Please let me know what you think of the menu pages, sidebar, etc and if you think we should add anything. I still have to figure out the FTP thing with Rick to change the background and have the ability to add pictures.

For Committee leads, please email me stuff you want on your main page. After that, you will be free to blog and add things to your page whenever you want!