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UC-San Diego requires new faculty to stand for “diversity”

Fascist California: UC-San Diego now requires anyone applying for a teaching job to submit a statement demonstrating their commitment to “diversity,” including proving that their research, in whatever field, “highlights inequalities.”

“All candidates applying for faculty appointments at UC San Diego are required to submit a personal statement on their contributions to diversity. The purpose of the statement is to identify candidates who have the professional skills, experience, and/or willingness to engage in activities that will advance our campus diversity and equity goals.

“In accordance with APM 210-1-d, ‘these contributions to diversity and equal opportunity can take a variety of forms including efforts to advance equitable access to education, public service that addresses the needs of California’s diverse population, or research in a scholar’s area of expertise that highlights inequalities.’”

In other words, the university will police the research of all faculty, and require them to only do research that serves the university’s leftist political ends. And I say that confidently, because I have no doubt that these rules have nothing to do with equal justice before the law or with preventing racial prejudice or discrimination. No, these requirements are there to guarantee that the only people UC-San Diego hires are leftist ideologues.

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House passes law reforming commercial space licensing rules

The House yesterday passed a new law to reform the commercial space licensing rules.

Essentially, the bill shifts a majority of commercial space regulation to the Department of Commerce, and matches somewhat closely the recommendations being put forth by the Trump administration.

The bill appears to be almost identical to the version I analyzed in great detail in an op-ed for The Federalist last year. It has the same positives and negatives. While it definitely aims at simplifying the licensing process for space (abolishing such agencies as NOAA’s Office of Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs that recently tried to claim it had the right to license all photograph of Earth from space.), it does not appear to completely make Commerce that “one-stop shop” for all licensing, allowing the FAA and FCC to retain their space licensing responsibilities. Moreover, it appears, as I noted in my op-ed, to avoid the more essential legal problems, such as the Outer Space Treaty, that hamper private space today and will hamper private space even more in the future.

Regardless, it does appear that the turf war over licensing between Commerce and the FAA is over. Though the law still must get through the Senate, it does appear that Commerce has mostly won. It will get the majority of this bureaucratic bauble. What that bureaucracy will do with it, however, is the real question.

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Source of yellow water in Russian section of ISS identified

The yellow water found in Russian section of ISS earlier this week was caused by the ordinary crust deposits that formed on the inside of a water-heating unit, what the Russians have labeled a “samovar” and we would probably call a teapot.

Limescale crust inside a ‘samovar’ whose service life had expired was the cause for the appearance of yellow water admixtures in the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS), First Deputy CEO for Space Systems’ Flight Operation and Tests at Energia Rocket and Space Corporation Vladimir Solovyov told TASS on Tuesday. “A household cause is behind the emergence of the yellow admixtures in the water. Routine limescale crust had formed in the water-heating unit, which had reached the end of its service life. There is nothing terrible in that as we are regularly confronted with such things on Earth. The problem is solved quite easily, we will just promptly replace this unit, which cosmonauts normally call ‘samovar’ with a reserve one,” Solovyov explained.

Anyone who has used a teapot to boil water for years will eventually have to replace it because of the development of a crust on its inside surface. This is what has happened here. It appears the Russian article today was in response to panicked news reports earlier in the week about the appearance of the yellow water and the need for the Russians to use water from the American segment while they pinned down the cause, a procedure that is quite routine.

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Trump administration considering reinstating fees to purchase Landsat images

The Trump administration is considering reinstating the fee system to purchase Landsat images that existed prior to 2008.

Not surprisingly, the Nature article is completely hostile to this idea. The quote below gives a flavor.

Since the USGS made the data freely available, the rate at which users download it has jumped 100-fold. The images have enabled groundbreaking studies of changes in forests, surface water, and cities, among other topics. Searching Google Scholar for “Landsat” turns up nearly 100,000 papers published since 2008.

A USGS survey of Landsat users released in 2013 found that the free distribution of Landsat imagery generates more than US$2 billion of economic benefit annually — dwarfing the programme’s current annual budget of roughly $80 million. More than half of the nearly 13,500 survey respondents were academics, and the majority lived outside the United States. [emphasis mine]

Why should scientists, a majority of which are not even Americans, have a free ride?

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Russian lawmakers introduce legislation to ban rocket engine sales to U.S.

Link here. The article provides practically no information about the legislation or its chances of passing. Instead, it focuses on the past history behind ULA’s use of the Russian RD-180 rocket engine in its Atlas 5 rocket as well as the recent efforts to replace it.

Thus, I have no idea if this legislation signals a real threat to future ULA launches or not. Moreover, the article tries to make it sound that the U.S. is entirely reliant on this rocket engine, something that is simply not true.

Nonetheless, this story underscores again the need for ULA to find a different engine to power its rockets. They shouldn’t be dependent on a rocket engiine built by a foreign power that has political motives that sometimes conflict with those of the United States.

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India recalls communications satellite, postponing launch indefinitely

India’s space agency ISRO yesterday recalled its largest ever communications satellite, GSAT-11, from French Guiana, where it was being prepared for a May Ariane 5 launch, citing a need to check the satellite’s systems.

Though no specific reason was given for the recall, which will postpone the satellite’s launch indefinitely, it likely is related to the March failure in orbit of India’s GSAT-6A satellite.

ISRO lost communication contact with its GSAT-6A communication satellite soon after it was put into orbit on March 29.

ISRO suspects the failure of the power systems in the satellite for the loss of communication link. “The satellites are powered by solar panels that charge the onboard batteries. The batteries are fully charged when the satellite is loaded on to the rocket. Even if there is a problem with the solar panel, then the battery power should have kicked in. Here the entire power system of the satellite seems to have failed,” one space expert told IANS earlier.

According to experts, the power system could have failed due to some short circuiting or arcing resulting in what is known in the space terminology ‘loss of lock’ or loss of contact with the ground station.

The head of ISRO is a well-trained engineer who has worked in the trenches. I suspect he decided the problems with GSAT-6A demanded a more detailed systems check on GSAT-11 prior to launch. And even if it wasn’t his specific decision, the willingness to make such a decision I think indicates a great deal of maturity in the present culture at ISRO. It might be embarrassing to make such a recall, but it is far better to do so beforehand than after an unrecoverable failure in space. That they are willing to face this embarrassment to avoid a future failure is something laudable.

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Gaia releases 3D map of galaxy

The science team for the space telescope Gaia, designed to map the positions of billions of stars, have released the probe’s second catalog, producing a 3D map of 1.7 billion stars in the Milky Way

The new data release, which covers the period between 25 July 2014 and 23 May 2016, pins down the positions of nearly 1.7 billion stars, and with a much greater precision. For some of the brightest stars in the survey, the level of precision equates to Earth-bound observers being able to spot a Euro coin lying on the surface of the Moon.

With these accurate measurements it is possible to separate the parallax of stars – an apparent shift on the sky caused by Earth’s yearly orbit around the Sun – from their true movements through the Galaxy. The new catalogue lists the parallax and velocity across the sky, or proper motion, for more than 1.3 billion stars. From the most accurate parallax measurements, about ten per cent of the total, astronomers can directly estimate distances to individual stars.

The catalog provides much more information than this. For example:

As well as positions, the data include brightness information of all surveyed stars and colour measurements of nearly all, plus information on how the brightness and colour of half a million variable stars change over time. It also contains the velocities along the line of sight of a subset of seven million stars, the surface temperatures of about a hundred million and the effect of interstellar dust on 87 million.

Gaia also observes objects in our Solar System: the second data release comprises the positions of more than 14 000 known asteroids, which allows precise determination of their orbits. A much larger asteroid sample will be compiled in Gaia’s future releases.

Further afield, Gaia closed in on the positions of half a million distant quasars, bright galaxies powered by the activity of the supermassive black holes at their cores. These sources are used to define a reference frame for the celestial coordinates of all objects in the Gaia catalogue, something that is routinely done in radio waves but now for the first time is also available at optical wavelengths.

I guarantee that many theories about specific strange stars, such as the plethora of different types of variable stars, are going to change drastically with this new and precise information. At the article they describe just one example relating to white dwarf stars.

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Russia agrees to replace Angola’s first satellite, lost shortly after launch

Russia has agreed to replace Angola’s first satellite, lost shortly after launch, and have the replacement paid for by both insurance and Russia.

The minister confirmed that payment for the production of the second satellite would come from the insurance reimbursement for the lost AngoSat-1 satellite worth 121 million US dollars. The rest of the cost will be paid by the Russian side. The overall sum of the project amounts to 320 million US dollars.

The AngoSat-1 telecommunications satellite was launched by a Zenit-2SB carried rocket with a Fregat booster on December 26, 2017 from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. Contact with the satellite was lost on the following day after the separation from the upper stage.

Essentially, this is another example of a Russian launch failure, as it appears the Russians have accepted blame for the failure.

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Penn State cuts support for outdoor clubs because they are not perfectly safe

The coming dark age: Penn State has pulled all support for three outdoor clubs, two that have existed for 70 and 100 years respectively, because a risk analysis suggested they were simply too risky.

These organizations have a long history attached to Penn State.

Nittany Grotto has been a resource that introduced students to caving with regularly scheduled Wednesday trips for 70 years, while the Outing Club is nearing the century mark in bringing students together hiking, backpacking, kayaking and enjoying the outdoors in whatever capacity possible.

“Losing affiliation with the university as a recognized student organization or club sport at Penn State means losing all privileges granted to a student organization,” Outing Club president Christina Platt said via email. “These privileges include the ability to reserve rooms to meet on campus, to be protected with $1,000,000 liability insurance, to use ASA to manage club funds, to fundraise through special university funding opportunities (such as stadium cleanup), to recruit at the Involvement Fair, and to use the university name on merchandise.”

More here, which notes the following:

Two other outdoor recreation clubs — the spelunking Nittany Grotto Caving Club and the Nittany Divers SCUBA Club — also have been directed to end trip offerings.

“Safety is a legitimate concern, but it wasn’t an open dialogue,” Waltz said. Christina Platt, the Outing Club’s incoming president, said, “I can hardly blame Penn State for protecting itself against further litigation after a number of high-profile scandals in the past decade.” Student safety is the school’s primary focus, university spokeswoman Lisa Powers said in a statement.

Penn State conducted a “proactive risk assessment” not based on any previous participant injuries, according to Powers. She said Outing Club activities were rated high risk because they take place in remote environments with poor cell service and distance from emergency services.

I guess students must only be allowed in a safe space where nothing bad can ever happen to them, and they can therefore avoid the horror of experiencing life to its fullest.

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The Amazing Paul Frees

An evening pause: You have heard his voice, many times. This highlight reel, suggested by Jim Mallamace, includes just a few, all amazingly different:

Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion
Boris Badenov
Pillsbury Doughboy
Lion and Mouse
Voyages Through Inner Space
Burgermeister Meisterburger
The Beatles Cartoon
Morocco Mole
Ludwig von Drake

He was a contemporary of Mel Blanc (most famous for providing the voices for Warner Brothers’ cartoons), was as good, but is far less well known.

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North Korea suspends nuclear and rocket programs

Can we believe it? In anticipation of the upcoming summits with both South Korea and President Trump, North Korea today announced that it has suspended both its nuclear and missile programs.

The new policy, which sets the table for further negotiations when the summits begin, was announced by leader Kim Jong Un at a meeting of the North Korean ruling party’s Central Committee on Friday and reported by the North’s state-run media early Saturday.

Kim justified the suspension to his party by saying that the situation around North Korea has been rapidly changing “in favor of the Korean revolution” since he announced last year his country had completed its nuclear forces. He said North Korea has reached the level where it no longer needs to conduct underground testing or test-launching of ICBMs.

I think the real reason he announced this is that he knows that if he continues the program, he shall be increasingly isolated. Trump’s pressure on China forced that nation to put the screws on Kim, and as a result he really has no choice but announce the suspension of these programs.

What we really don’t know is if this announcement can be taken seriously. Its public framing, justified under the lie that the programs were completed, makes me very suspicious that he is lying about everything. We shall see how Trump takes it in the coming months..

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California bans free speech, forces gay sex ed on little kids

Fascist California: Two stories today illustrate forcefully the fascist political atmosphere in the state of California. And both are in support of the totalitarian homosexual agenda.

In the first story, the California Assembly has passed a bill that would ban any book, publication, or activity that is aimed at helping someone who wishes to stop their attraction to the same sex. As noted in the article,

“The State of California has no right to deny its residents the resources to help them find happiness or to shut down counselors, schools, and religious organizations that provide those services,” California Family Council president Jonathan Keller said of the vote. “Every person experiencing unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria must be allowed to pursue help in achieving their desired goals and outcomes.”

The bill is unprecedented for another reason, too: by classifying the subject under prohibited “goods,” which critics say means it would go so far as to ban the sale of books endorsing the practice, as well as other forms of constitutionally-protected speech. “At its core, AB 2943 outlaws speech,” Alliance Defending Freedom’s (ADF) legal analysis of the bill reads. It says that licensed counseling, religious conferences, book sales, and paid speaking engagements could all potentially face legal penalties for promoting ways to reverse unwanted attractions or for expressing traditional Christian teachings on sexuality.

In the second story, the Orange County school district is telling parents that they have no right to opt their children out of its pro-gay sex education classes, even though the law that established these homosexual-friendly classes expressly states that “parents [have] the ability to opt-out of this education and … that the “pupil” shall not be punished academically in any way if they don’t participate.”

To those in power in California, the concept of freedom is essentially dead. They are going to make you do as they demand, no matter what. And you will have no right to dissent.

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Asian rivers produce almost all the world’s ocean pollution

A new study has found that 95% of all ocean pollution comes from only 10 rivers worldwide, and of those 8 are in Asia.

Dr Schmidt pooled data from dozens of research articles and calculated the amount in rivers was linked to the ‘mismanagement of plastic waste in their watersheds.’ He said: ‘The 10 top-ranked rivers transport 88-95 per cent of the global load into the sea.’

The study follows a recent report that pointed the finger at China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam for spewing out most of the plastic waste that enters the seas. The Yangtze has been estimated in previous research to dump some 727 million pounds of plastic into the sea each year. The Ganges River in India is responsible for even more – about 1.2 billion pounds. A combination of the Xi, Dong and Zhujiang Rivers (233 million lbs per year) in China as well as four Indonesian rivers: the Brantas (85 million lbs annually), Solo (71 million pounds per year), Serayu (37 million lbs per year) and Progo (28 million lbs per year), are all large contributors.

The article also notes this:

More than half of the plastic waste that flows into the oceans comes from just five countries: China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. The only industrialized western country on the list of top 20 plastic polluters is the United States at No. 20.

The U.S. and Europe are not mismanaging their collected waste, so the plastic trash coming from those countries is due to litter, researchers said.

While China is responsible for 2.4 million tons of plastic that makes its way into the ocean, nearly 28 percent of the world total, the United States contributes just 77,000 tons, which is less than one percent, according to the study published in the journal Science.

So, the next time you see a wild-eyed leftwing environmentalist trying to blame western civilization, capitalism, and the U.S. for the world’s pollution, please remember this study. It is the free nations of the world that have nimbly reacted well to the problems of pollution, not communist dictatorships like China or Vietnam.

I should add that the record of democracies here is not perfect by far. The rivers of India are a big contributor to this pollution. That country needs to deal with this problem also.

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Blue Origin’s CEO gives an update on the company’s rockets

Link here. According to the CEO, Bob Smith, they are making good progress on developing their BE-4 rocket engine, and also expect to test fly New Shepard again in a few weeks.

In both cases, he admits that development has taken longer than expected. For example, in discussing New Shepard, he said the following:

Smith said Blue Origin is still planning to start flying people on its New Shepard suborbital spaceship by the end of the year, after further uncrewed tests. “We would have loved to have flown more, earlier, but the design incorporation didn’t go as quickly as we’d like it to,” Smith said.

I have no idea what he means by “design incorporation.” The bottom line however is that they have had issues that slowed things down.

The article provides a lot more details. Overall, while he says nothing that contradicts earlier reports, he provides a good summary of the company’s status.

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How to blow up a star

Link here. The story details the new supercomputer simulation work attempting to model the internal processes inside a dying star that cause it to explode as a supernova.

For more than half a century, physicists have suspected that the heat produced by elusive particles called neutrinos, created in the core of a star, could generate a blast that radiates more energy in a single second than the Sun will in its lifetime. But they have had trouble proving that hypothesis. The detonation process is so complex — incorporating general relativity, fluid dynamics, nuclear and other physics — that computers have struggled to mimic the mechanism in silico. And that poses a problem. “If you can’t reproduce it,” Janka says, “that means you don’t understand it.”

Now, improvements in raw computing power, along with efforts to capture the stellar physics in acute detail, have enabled substantial progress. Janka’s simulation marked the first time that physicists had been able to get a realistic 3D model of the most common type of supernova to explode. Just months later, a competing group based at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee repeated the feat with a heavier, more complex star. The field is now buzzing, with more than half a dozen teams currently working on exploding stars in 3D.

They have apparently solved one problem, figuring out how the neutrino blast wave gets enough energy to blast free from the star’s core. A close read of the article indicates that, while progress has been made, they still have many gaps of their understanding.

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Arizona legislature about to pass law voiding 1st amendment at colleges

We’re here to help you! An effort at the Arizona state legislature to protect student free speech rights has produced a bill that expressly voids the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

The original bill language read:

“A university or community college shall not restrict a student’s right to speak, including verbal speech, holding a sign or distributing fliers or other materials, in a public forum.”

Combined with subsequent language in the bill describing the way universities can implement reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions, the original provision was perfectly appropriate. However, after emerging from conference committee, that language now reads:

“A university or community college may restrict a student’s right to speak, including verbal speech, holding a sign or distributing fliers or other materials, in a public forum.” [Emphasis in original]

You really can’t make this stuff up. The article at the link notes that, based on the Arizona legislature’s track record, the change is likely the result of a “drafting error.” Bah. Either this group of lawyers and politicians in Arizona are complete fools, don’t know how to read or write, or they really do intend to shut down free speech.

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Bridenstine confirmed as NASA administrator

After an eight month delay, caused partly by the refusal of any Democrats to vote for a Trump nominee, Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma) was today confirmed as NASA’s administrator.

The vote passed 50-49, and only finally occurred because Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) decided to stop opposing Bridenstine.

I don’t think this nomination will matter much. The people who are really in charge of the U.S. space effort don’t work for NASA, and in fact are not even in the government. They also have enough financial power that they probably can force NASA to do what they want, over the long run. Bridenstine will I think carry water for them.

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Justice Dept Inspector General makes criminal referral against McCabe

While Robert Mueller desperately searches (without success) for some crime he can pin on Donald Trump, an actual criminal referral has been issued by the inspector general of the Justice Department (an Obama appointee) against fired FBI official Andrew McCabe.

The Justice Department’s internal watchdog has sent a criminal referral for fired FBI official Andrew McCabe to the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington. The move follows a recent DOJ inspector general report that found McCabe leaked a self-serving story to the press and later lied about it to then-Director James Comey and federal investigators, prompting Attorney General Jeff Sessions to fire him on March 16.

A source confirmed to Fox News that the referral was sent.

This story follows yesterday’s where almost a dozen members of Congress called for criminal investigations by the Justice Department against Hillary Clinton, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, and a number of other FBI officials involved in abusing their positions of power to spy on the presidential campaign of their political opponents. It appears that the some people in Washington are finally getting up the nerve to actually consider prosecuting these violators of the Constitution and the rule of law.

As I said yesterday, in a sane world the entire journalist world would go nuts covering the recommendation that a former Secretary of State and presidential candidate as well as the fired head of the FBI both be investigated for criminal activity. In the past this story would garner giant screaming headlines and wall-to-wall coverage. We no longer live in a sane world however.

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Zooming in on a Martian surprise

Global map of Mars

Let’s take a journey. Above is a global map of Mars, showing its largest and well known geological features. While far smaller than Earth, its lack of oceans means that Mars’ actual dry surface has about the same square footage as the continents of Earth. It is a vast place. Getting a close look at every spot is going to take many decades of work, and probably won’t be finished until humans are actually walking its surface.

Let’s pick a spot, zoom in and find out what’s there.
» Read more

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Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross puts his foot down

In a speech at a space conference this week, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross outlined the Trump administration’s plans to streamline the commercial space regulatory bureaucracy, noting that the absurd interference with normal operations by bureaucrats must stop.

He made specific reference to NOAA’s demand that it have the right to license all photography in space.

“This is silly and it will stop,” Ross told an audience of space industry executives, policymakers and military officers at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, backing the view of SpaceX and other rocket companies that the cameras on its rockets aren’t the equivalent of satellites dedicated to Earth views.

He then noted that the regulatory framework is going to be consolidated into an “Office of Space Commerce” under his direct supervision, though the FCC (licensing radio spectrum) and the FAA (licensing rocket launches) will retain their responsibilities.

Will this streamline anything or save the taxpayer any money? Doesn’t look that way to me, as it seems to be adding a new layer of bureaucrats to the process without eliminating any existing departments. And then there is this additional quote from the article:

The question for space executives, who have clamored for more responsive government when it comes to licenses for launches and satellite operation, is whether increased funding will accompany the shifting responsibilities.

Speeding up bureaucracy means hiring more people, and projects like space traffic management demand investment in the technology to detect and track objects in orbit. While the Trump administration had adopted lofty rhetoric around its support for space business, it’s not yet clear that the White House has the needed clout to win congressional support—and federal dollars—for its proposals.

While it is a good thing that the Trump administration has apparently told the NOAA bureaucrats to take a flying leap, it appears they have also decided that building a new layer of bureaucracy to regulate space is a good thing. This is most unfortunate.

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China’s mysterious SJ-17 satellite

The extensive maneuvers in space of China’s SJ-17 satellite, launched in December 2016 on the maiden flight of China’s Long March 5 rocket, have satellite trackers and defense officials intrigued and concerned.

Now China, as far as we know, hasn’t done anything nefarious with this satellite. But it has approached to within “a couple of hundred meters” to an apparently dead Chinese communications satellite recently parked in the so-called graveyard orbit. That is incredibly close by space standards. (Also, that comsat may or may not actually be a dead satellite.) And, as space geeks can tell from the above chart, it has executed “proximity operations” with at least four Chinese satellites.

What does all this mean? Are the Chinese testing space war maneuvers to allow them to get close an enemy satellite to move it or disable it? Since the maneuvers to service a satellite — giving it new fuel or trying tor repair it, for example — are virtually indistinguishable from an offensive maneuver, we don’t know. We do know that Strategic Command’s Gen. John Hyten has made it clear China and Russia are building weapons that include satellites, lasers and other ground-to-space weapons. Russia has deployed three Kosmos satellites that appear designed to approach other nations satellites and destroy them. China has launched Shiyan satellites, reportedly able to use a grappling arm to move satellites.

SJ-17 could be testing anti-satellite capabilities, where either it approaches close enough to a target so that when it explodes it takes the target with it, or it grabs that satellite to take it over. Or it could be testing robot orbital maneuvering for the purpose of future satellite servicing missions.

In either case, China is demonstrating that its future satellites will have very sophisticated maneuvering systems, capable of doing any number of things in orbit.

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DARPA announces $10 million launch challenge for smallsat rocket companies

Capitalism in space: DARPA yesterday announced a new launch challenge competition for smallsat rocket companies, with prizes of $10, $9, and $8 million for first, second, and third prizes, respectively.

Contest rules call for teams to be given the full details about where and when they’ll launch, what kind of payload they’ll launch, plus what kind of orbit the payload should be launched into, only a couple of weeks in advance. And that’s just half the job. Teams will be required to execute another launch, from a different site, no more than a couple of weeks later.

The precise time frames for giving advance notice are still under discussion, but “I would measure the time scale in days,” Todd Master, program manager for the challenge at DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, told reporters today.

Considering that we right now already have at least two smallsat rocket companies, Rocket Lab and Vector, on the verge of doing exactly this, without the need of government money, with a slew of other companies to soon follow, I wonder why DARPA is proposing this competition. It seems somewhat irrelevant at this point, making me wonder if its real purpose is not to encourage rocket development but to find a clever way to hand some government cash to these specific companies.

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Sierra Nevada opens all rockets to launching Dream Chaser

In a status update for its Dream Chaser reusable mini-shuttle cargo ship to ISS, Sierra Nevada officials also revealed that they are considering a wide range of launch companies for future launches.

SNC announced a contract with ULA in July 2017 that covered two Dream Chaser launches, in 2020 and 2021. Both would use the Atlas 5 552, the largest version of the Atlas 5 with a five-meter payload fairing, five solid rocket boosters and a dual-engine Centaur upper stage.

However, Sirangelo said the company was looking at other options for launching the second and later Dream Chaser ISS cargo missions. “It’s a quite interesting time in the launch business, where we see all the major launch companies coming out with a new launch system,” he said. “We are looking at all of the launch systems.” Sirangelo said later that the company issued a request for proposals for multiple Dream Chaser launches. “We’ll probably be making a decision by the end of this year,” he said. “We’re gotten tremendous response for it.” He declined to discuss specific vehicles under consideration but said SNC received “really great response from all the major providers.”

Their willingness to open up the launch bidding is merely a recognition that they can save money by encouraging competition for their business. The vehicle itself has not yet completed its design review, though they hope to begin its assembly within a month, with a planned launch date in late 2020.

The company was awarded its cargo contract in January 2016, more than two years ago. It seems to me that it has taken far too long to get to this point. I wonder if NASA has thrown up roadblocks, as it has with SpaceX.

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Wernher von Braun material up for auction

Original material by Wernher von Braun that formed the basis for three classic 1950s coffee table books about the future of space is up for auction.

A collection of some of the most important seminal documents of the Space Age are open for bids as rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun’s “Man Will Conquer Space Soon” archive goes on the block. A collection of signed technical drawings, schematics, memos, orbital diagrams, and mathematical calculations related to von Braun’s efforts to sell an ambitious space program to both the American public and the US government, it’s the centerpiece of the Space and Aviation Auction at Boston-based RR Auction through April 19.

On March 22, 1952, the American weekly feature magazine Collier’s hit the newsstands. Among its usual mixture of advertisements and articles was the first of a series of features that would run for the next two years. These seemed like the wildest science fiction at the time, but would become established fact within a surprisingly few years. The series was called “Man Will Conquer Space Soon” and included painstakingly detailed color illustrations by magazine artists Chesley Bonestell, Fred Freeman, and Rolf Klep. It outlined a complete program for building an unmanned satellite, a manned space shuttle, a space station, an expedition to set up an outpost on the Moon, and topped it off with the conquest of Mars.

Later compiled into and expanded by three coffee table books – Across the Space Frontier (1952), Conquest of the Moon (1953), and The Exploration of Mars (1956) – the series was the brainchild of Wernher von Braun, one of the great rocket pioneers of the 20th century. He was the man behind Germany’s V2 rocket, and architect of the Saturn V booster that would send the first men to the Moon on the Apollo missions.

Those coffee table books are three of my most prized books in my somewhat large library. Anyone who was involved in the 1960s space race read them. When I was old enough to read I found them in my local library. They formed the basis of Disney movies, television shows, and rides at Disneyland. Other Hollywood productions were influenced by them. And most important of all, young men like Jim Lovell were influenced by them, making them want to be astronauts.

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