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A Space Junkyard 94

Today's Los Angeles Times has an article about a North Hollywood junkyard that stocks a huge quantity of used aerospace parts, from valves to rocket engines. Norton Sales Inc. got started in the early 1960s. The junkyard had fallen on hard times, with the collapse of the Los Angeles-area aerospace economy in the 1980s, but it's making something of a comeback now with NASA's new plans for moon and Mars missions. The customers used to be rich Hollywood types; nowadays they are as likely to be private space entrepreneurs. "It's dangerous coming to a place like this," said Dave Masten of Masten Space. "It's like shopping on an empty stomach."
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A Space Junkyard

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  • Yeah right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 25, 2007 @03:07PM (#18480463)
    The guy buys the crap for a penny on the dollar and then asks for insane prices. The rocket engines are only worth scrap or as a museum piece as they have not been stored correctly to ensure they have not deteriorated or corroded.

    fallen on hard times means he has to start charging sane prices instead of his government prices.

    The apollo 1 command module engine he is trying to scam $1.5 mill out of is only worth 15 grand in scrap metal and is actually only worth that as it is not safe to use in it's current condition let alone relied upon for the safety of a crew or 22 million dollar sattelite.

    Junkyard owners always think their turds are gold plated rare. in fact there is a good reason why he was able to buy that crap for the few dollars here and there. It's not worth anything.
  • Re:Danger (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @03:30PM (#18480597)
    On the other hand, a lot of those parts were probably built to specs that no commercial entity could afford. You might be better off with used mil-spec and NASA parts.
  • Re:film industry (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Fred_A ( 10934 ) <fred@fredsh o m> on Sunday March 25, 2007 @03:45PM (#18480703) Homepage

    the film industry got nailed with runaway production so most of that went out of country.
    Not to mention that 3D rendering cycle prices went wayyy down. Much cheaper than building lifesize realistic looking stuff in lots of cases.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @04:21PM (#18480931) Homepage

    Here in Silicon Valley, surplus is not what it used to be. The military stuff is gone. No more satellite parts. No beautiful little electromechanical units. It's mostly failed computer brands. Lots of older Sun and SGI gear. Older rackmount networking gear too bulky to use any more. Endless piles of old PC motherboards. Unsuccessful consumer products.

    Several of the surplus stores have gone out of business. Anything good goes on eBay now. What remains is scrap.

  • Re:terrorists? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 25, 2007 @05:02PM (#18481215)
    No kidding. Recent civilian attacks here and abroad have demonstrated that the truck is the preferred delivery mechanism for chaos. Not rusted out rockets. You should be more worried about your local U-haul dealer.
  • Re:Yeah right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Breeze ( 140484 ) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @05:25PM (#18481391) Homepage
    All junkyards are like this. They charge prices higher than what they buy it for because it costs money to store that stuff, costs money to dismantle it, costs money to keep the lights on, costs money to insure it. They have a facility where stuff is stored for years gathering dust, bringing in no revenue. They most likely sell 1% of what they have. That 1% has to cover the cost of staying in business and putting food on the table.

    And, an Apollo engine is not worth $15 grand in scrap metal. It is worth whatever you would save on R & D if you were working on a similar project and needed to reverse engineer the thing. Even on a smaller scale, if you have an old rocket engine, and you're building another one, and spending $10000 on an old piece of junk to study leads you to ask, "hey, why is that like that, I should research it some more" and you discover something that prevents your shiny new engine from blowing itself up you're ahead of the game.

    Without junkyards and their "outrageous" markups, new parts would be much, much more.
  • Re:Wow.... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 25, 2007 @10:27PM (#18483371)
    Perhaps because there is NOBODY really trying to do the scary things your big brother is telling stories about. Its in your imagination only. Nobody is sneaking chemicals onto planes using coke bottles, it has simply never happened. Its just that since there really is nobody trying to hijack and blow up planes anymore, that the TSA needs to keep you thinking it is protecting you, so they come up with ridiculous new fears for our short attention spans.

    You know who "they" are? Your paranoid delusional fantasies inspired by tv shows.
  • by Medievalist ( 16032 ) on Monday March 26, 2007 @01:15PM (#18489765)

    Unlike taking away the country's right to freedom from unwarranted search and seizure, keeping North Korea and Iran and Iraq from learning how to build a missile is simply a no brainer: they don't know how to build missiles capable of hauling a nuke halfway across the world,
    OK, that's probably not correct. "Knowing how" and "being able" are two different things, and the knowledge is already easily available.

    but they sure might if they got a hold of these rocket parts.
    Nope. I was pretty deeply involved in the MX (Peacekeeper) program back when I was in the biz. You can't learn jack from one of those motors that isn't already available in any decent library or mail-order encyclopedia set.

    Even normal jet engines and gas turbines at GE can't be exported (source: friend who works at GE that I just asked online) for national security reasons: both the direct "don't let them learn how to make one" because they could blow us up, but also in the economical sense-- if we let other nations get the tech, they could find a way to undercut us.
    Turbine blade geometry is an art form, and a whole 'nother thing than conventional rocketry. You could definitely learn a lot from studying turbines, much more than you could from even the most sophisticated rocket motor. And while it's at least theoretically possible to stop a ballistic-path rocket-driven missile, there aren't any good defenses against terrain-hugging turbofan-driven cruise missiles, so you can see why both the fedguv and GE might be concerned.

    But really, restricting knowledge (either at home or abroad) won't stop armageddon. The only way to stop people willing to become suicide bombers is to make their lives worth living... social justice is required for any peace that won't closely resemble genocide.

"Say yur prayers, yuh flea-pickin' varmint!" -- Yosemite Sam