Readers!

At the end of June seven years ago I began this website. While the first post was short and not very notable, in the next few weeks I put up the first evening pause and a number of longer posts, including this essay noting my fundamental focus on exploration and pushing the unknown.

 

It is now time for my annual anniversary fund-raising drive. If you like what I write and wish to support me, your financial help would be greatly appreciated. You can donate or subscribe, as per the instructions in the tip jar to the right. You can also consider purchasing my classic book, Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, available as an ebook.

 

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Schedule for commercial manned flights solidifies

Capitlism in space: It appears that the schedule for the first unmanned and manned test flights of the commercial capsules being built by SpaceX and Boeing is getting more certain.

The latest SpaceX schedule calls for an uncrewed test flight in February 2018, followed by a crewed test flight in June 2018. Boeing’s schedule anticipates an uncrewed test flight in June 2018 and a crewed test flight in August 2018.

While this sounds encouraging, the story contradicts a Boeing report last week that suggested their first manned flight would be delayed into the fourth quarter of 2018. Both stories however pin the first unmanned demo flight for June 2018, which now seems to be a firm date.

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California community colleges consider eliminating algebra requirement

The coming dark age: Because algebra is hard for many minority students, the California community college system is considering eliminating their algebra requirement.

“The second thing I’d say is yes, this is a civil rights issue, but this is also something that plagues all Americans — particularly low-income Americans,” [said Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the California community college system.] If you think about all the underemployed or unemployed Americans in this country who cannot connect to a job in this economy — which is unforgiving of those students who don’t have a credential — the biggest barrier for them is this algebra requirement. It’s what has kept them from achieving a credential.”

Hey, Chancellor Oakley, you know that you are implying that blacks and minorities are not capable of understanding algebra.

Meanwhile I, as a conservative, instead think that if we demand them to do better, they will do better.

So who’s the racist?

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NYC law bans pet sitting without license

You get the government you deserve: The New York City health department has been fining pet sitters and trying to block online services that link pets to sitters because the city law bans pet sitting without a kennel license as well as bans issuing that license to private homes.

Health Department rules ban anyone from taking money to care for an animal outside a licensed kennel — and the department has warned a popular pet-sitting app that its users are breaking the law.

“The laws are antiquated,” said Chad Bacon, 29, a dog sitter in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with the app Rover. “If you’re qualified and able to provide a service, I don’t think you should be penalized.”

I must admit that I have very little sympathy for these pet sitters. New Yorkers have been voting for a big intrusive city government for more than a century. This is what they wished for. This is what they get. Nonetheless, while it might make sense for the local government to place limits on the number of pets allowed in a private home in a crowded place like New York, for it to ban anyone from earning any money for taking care of someone else’s pets is a clear abuse of power.

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Is the Arctic icecap now larger than in 1971?

This story compares a 1971 National Geographic map of the Arctic Ocean and its icecap with modern satellite data, and finds that the icecap is actually significantly larger now.

Take a look. Then come back to read my analysis.

Back? Okay. First, we are presently in the midst of summer in the Arctic, so the icecap shown on the modern map should shrink somewhat this year. Second, it is not clear what time of year the National Geographic map portrays. Is it maximum ice during the winter? Or they average for the year?

These questions however avoid the bigger point here, which is that there doesn’t really appear to be any significant change overall to the Arctic icecap in the past half century. The icecap had seen some major shrinkage during the first decade of the 21st century, but in recent years it has begun recovering. So much for the many past predictions by global warming activists that the Arctic will be ice free in summer because of global warming, by 2008, 2014, or 2018.

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Lecture by atheist/scientist Richard Dawkins canceled in Berkeley because he criticized Islam

Fascist Berkeley: A lecture at a Berkeley church for a local leftwing radio station by atheist and scientist Richard Dawkins was canceled when the station learned he had posted some tweets criticizing Islam.

Essentially, the left can’t tolerate any dissent of any kind, and will destroy itself and everyone else if we continue to allow it to grow and gain power.

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Gays ban Jewish banners in upcoming march

They are so inclusive! The organizers of Chicago’s upcoming “Slutwalk Chicago” demonstration (that’s their name for it, not mine) have decided to ban any “Zionist displays” at their event.

The ban was announced this week on social media by the organizers of SlutWalk Chicago — part of an international protest movement that “fights rape culture, victim blaming, and slut shaming.” The Chicago event is set to take place on August 12.

“We still stand behind Dyke March Chicago’s decision to remove the Zionist contingent from their event, & we won’t allow Zionist displays at ours,” the organizers tweeted last Sunday — beginning several days of exchanges with other users over the policy. These were distinguished by the organizers’ continued insistence that anti-Zionism is a legitimate progressive belief, and that any linkage with antisemitism should be dismissed as a discrediting tactic.

In one exchange defending the Dyke March decision to exclude the Jewish women, the SlutWalk organizers aggressively justified the action, declaring: “They were kicked out after a discussion where they made their Zionist beliefs known and refused to back down.” The Star of David flag was banned, they continued, “because its connections to the oppression enacted by Israel is too strong for it to be neutral & IN CONTEXT it was used as a Zionist symbol.”

The references to Dyke March Chicago above refer to the decision by that earlier gay parade to ban a pro-gay banner that also supported Israel.

I am old enough to remember the to-do in New York City when a homosexual group wanted to march and display their pro-homosexual banners in the Catholic St. Patrick’s Day parade. The parade was ordered by the courts to include the homosexuals, even though such behavior is considered a sin in Christianity. Will the courts order the organizers to include a pro-gay/pro-Israel banner in this march? I doubt it.

I also wouldn’t want the court to do it. These demonstrators should have the right to associate with whom they want. Unfortunately, the Catholics in New York should have had that right as well, but the fascists forced homosexuality down their throat, against their will.

At the same time, we must all gaze with interest at the hate and intolerance being shown by these fascist gays. It is most illuminating.

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Opportunity enters Perseverance Valley

Opportunity in Perseverance Valley

Just prior to the drop in communications this week because of the Sun’s position between the Earth and Mars, Opportunity was ordered down into Perseverance Valley, where it will sit until the return of full communications.

Opportunity entered Perseverance Valley on the west rim of Endeavour crater. The rover is positioned within the valley where she will spend the solar conjunction period.

Solar conjunction is when the Sun comes between Earth and Mars, which occurs about once every 26 months. During this time, there will be diminished communications to Opportunity. More on solar conjunction here: https://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/allaboutmars/nightsky/solar-conjunction/

Two weeks of commanding have been uploaded to the rover to keep her active during solar conjunction with short communications with the Mars orbiters during the period.

The image on the right, reduced to show here, was taken by the rover’s navigation camera looking back uphill at the crater’s crest and the rover’s tracks in the valley. For the scientists the tracks are important because they reveal what the surface of the valley is like, which will help them determine whether it was formed from flowing water, flowing ice, or wind.

Even more significant, this initial drive into the valley means the science team has decided that either the wheel issues in June were not serious enough to prevent them from making this downhill trip, or the science is important enough that they are willing to risk the rover to get that science.

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Growing cucumbers in space

New research growing cucumbers on ISS has found that the roots of these plants grew in the direction of water in weightlessness.

Plant roots grow to find water, according to a process known as hydrotropism. Roots are also influenced by gravity and tend to grow downwards, called gravitropism. To find out whether gravity or water had the greater influence on root growth, investigators grew cucumber plants in the microgravity environment on board the International Space Station. In their experiments, water (or hydrotropism) had more influence in controlling root growth.

“We will be able to utilize roots’ ability to sense moisture gradients for controlling root growth orientation and efficiently growing plants in future space farms,” said Dr. Hideyuki Takahashi, senior author of the New Phytologist study.

You can read the full science paper here.

This might sound obvious, but it isn’t. Past plant growth experiments on Mir and ISS had tended to show that plant roots did not know where to grow in weightlessness, suggesting that they needed gravity to guide the roots to water. Because of this, later experiments in space provided the roots complicated engineering to guide the roots to the water.

This experiment shows that maybe that complex engineering is not necessary, or at least could be simplified a bit. At a minimum it is crucial information engineers will need to design any future gardens for interplanetary spaceships with long term weightlessness.

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ISRO’s 104 satellite launched earned India about $7 million

Capitalism in space: India’s space agency ISRO on Wednesday revealed to that country’s parliament that its record-setting 104 satellite launch on June 23 earned about $7 million.

On June 23 this year, PSLV-C38 had launched 712-kg Cartosat-2 satellite along with 30 co-passenger satellites. Of the 30 nano satellites, while one belonged to Noorul Islam University from Tamil Nadu, the rest 29 were from 14 foreign countries. On Wednesday, the government informed the Lok Sabha that the launch of 29 foreign satellites helped Antrix Corporation Ltd (ACL), the commercial and marketing arm of Isro, earn Rs 45 crore (6.1 million euros).

Before the June 23 multiple launch, Isro made the world record when its PSLV C37 launched 104 satellites in one go on February 15 this year. However, the space agency did not reveal how much it earned from that record-breaking launch. Out of the 104 satellites, 96 were from the US, three from India and one each from Israel, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UAE.

From an American perspective it is encouraging that U.S. companies dominated the satellite county. From India’s perspective, the profits here are only going to encourage that nation to push for more rockets and cheaper costs.

The one problem I see with this is that it is the government that is obtaining the profits, not private Indian citizens or companies. Such an arrangement will not be good for India in the long run, as it encourages the government to use its coercive power to squelch private competitors.

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UC-Berkeley backs down will host and pay fees for conservative speaker

This might be a victory: UC-Berkeley has agreed to host the lecture of conservative author Ben Shapiro in September, even if it has to pay the cost of the security required to protect the speaker and his audience from a mob of violent leftwing thugs.

The University of California, Berkeley has confirmed to FIRE it will host an on-campus event sponsored by the Berkeley College Republicans featuring conservative commentator Ben Shapiro on September 14 at 7 p.m. — even if the university has to foot the bill. “It’s clear that we have a number of workable options,” said Dan Mogulof, Berkeley’s assistant vice chancellor for public affairs. “This event is going to happen. We just need to sit down with the College Republicans to talk through the details.”

He said it was unclear whether the Berkeley College Republicans had been informed of the news.

The story provides some information that suggests the university did not initially say no to the event, as initially reported. Instead, officials had said that they didn’t have a space of the size requested and available on the requested date. This might be true, but I don’t think it unreasonable for people to not believe them considering the recent history at this university.

And yes, the real problem here is the fact that there is a mob of leftwing thugs at the university and within the Berkeley community ready and willing to violently attack anyone who dares to disagree with them, and the authorities are basically unwilling to arrest them for this behavior.

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NASA and Boeing to replace damaged antenna on NASA satellite

Due to an accident during satellite launch preparations, NASA and Boeing are planning to replace a damaged antenna on NASA’s TDRS-M satellite, used by NASA mainly for communications between the ground and ISS.

The update at the link however says nothing whether the satellite will still launch on August 3, as presently scheduled. Nor have they released any information about the accident itself.

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Opportunity takes panorama at top of Perseverance Valley

On top of Perseverance Valley

During Opportunity’s two week pause in its travels in June as engineers tried to diagnose a problem with its left-front wheel, it took a wide panorama of the surrounding terrain, including the top of Perseverance Valley, released today.

The full panorama, shown above in reduced resolution, is a bit confusing. The head of Perseverance Valley to the northeast is on the right. The view straight ahead looks west, away from the crater. The hill and raising terrain on the left is the crater rim to the south of Perseverance Valley. The panorama is not a complete 360 degree view, as it does not include a direct view to the east and into Endeavour Crater itself.

Be sure and click on the link and look at the full image. The top of the valley is really interesting to view. Was it formed by wind or water or water ice? They hope to find out.

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Mueller widens witch hunt investigation

Special counsel Robert Mueller today widened his investigation on President Trump’s contacts with Russia during the campaign to now include Trump’s entire business transactions.

I haven’t posted anything about the Russian collusion story until now, because on its face it is absurd. As noted repeatedly by even Trump’s critics, there is no evidence of any illegal acts by anyone. Moreover, the media focus on the Russians distracts from the heart of the DNC hack, that it revealed illegal pay-offs and corruption by Hillary Clinton, John Podesta, and others in the Democratic Party. I don’t really care that much how these emails were obtained since what they uncovered is far worse.

What prompts me to post now is to underline the corruption of Robert Mueller himself. It is already well known that the investigation team he has put together includes at least seven Democratic donors, including an attorney who donated $34,000 to Democratic candidates. What I want to highlight is his blatant partisan actions to help cover up the IRS scandal for the Obama administration. I only remembered this recently, but when Mueller was called to testify to the House about his newly begun FBI investigation into that scandal, he couldn’t name the head of that investigation, even though he was the man who would have appointed such a person only a month prior.

I once again have embedded below the fold Mueller’s testimony in 2013 before Congress. Not only does he not know who is running his so-called IRS scandal investigation, he admits that not one victim of the IRS scandal had yet been contacted. In fact, none of these people were ever contacted, and that investigation never took place. Mueller stone-walled it for Obama, so that administration and president could get away with their use of the IRS as a weapon against their opponents. And of course, the Democratic mainstream media assisted them in this stone-wall by never pursuing the story. They let it fall, as they do today with the content of those hacked Clinton emails, into the memory hole.

And even if there were improprieties by Trump and his campaign, does anyone with even the slightest objectivity believe that Mueller’s investigation is going to non-partisan? I don’t. This is a witch-hunt, and it always has been.

And if you disagree with me I dare you to watch the video below. Mueller comes off clearly as a tool of the Democrats, something he still is today.
» Read more

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Hubble shoots movie of Phobos

Phobos over Mars

Cool image time! By taking a quick series of thirteen images, the Hubble Space Telescope was able to shoot a short movie of the rotation of Phobos above the surface of Mars. The gif animation on the right is the smaller of the two animations released today. Be sure and view the full resolution version.

What is even cooler is that movie was apparently unplanned. From the link:

Over the course of 22 minutes, Hubble took 13 separate exposures, allowing astronomers to create a time-lapse video showing the diminutive moon’s orbital path. The Hubble observations were intended to photograph Mars, and the moon’s cameo appearance was a bonus.

In terms of science this movie has a somewhat limited value. In terms of space engineering it is triumph, and once again illustrates the unprecedented value of having an optical telescope in space. Woe to us all when Hubble finally dies, as we have no plans to replace it.

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“If you want to care for your grandson you will have to give up some of your constitutional rights.”

Fascist Michigan: The state’s Department of Health and Human Services has decided that for a Marine to take custody of his own grandson he needs to sacrifice his second amendment rights.

The Johnsons were going to take custody of their grandson to keep him from going into foster care. When they went to pick up their grandson, William, a retired, disabled Marine with a Concealed Pistol License (CPL), was searched for a firearm. He was not carrying a firearm at the time. At that point, agency officials told the Johnsons that they would be required to provide all firearms’ serial numbers to the agency as part of a registry. When Johnson questioned agency workers, he was given a surprising response.

“If you want to care for your grandson you will have to give up some of your constitutional rights,” a MDHHS worker retorted.

When the Johnsons appeared before a Gogebic County Court judge, the judge reiterated the agency worker’s statement. “We know we are violating numerous constitutional rights here, but if you do not comply, we will remove the boy from your home,” the judge said. [emphasis mine]

For a state judge to issue an order that he knows violates the Constitution is outrageous. He should be removed from office immediately. Unfortunately, nether the article nor the actual court papers appear to give his name.

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UC-Berkeley blocks another conservative from speaking

Fascist Berkeley: UC-Berkeley this week told a conservative student group that another conservative speaker, author Ben Shapiro, could not speak on campus.

In a statement sent to the Washington Examiner on Wednesday evening, Young America’s Foundation announced that administrators informed the Berkeley College Republicans in an email this week they were “unable to identify an available campus venue” to host the lecture, which was slated for Sept. 14. The administrators, identified by YAF as Dean of Students Joseph Greenwell and Student Organization Coordinator Millicent Morris Chaney, claimed the lecture was spiked “despite extensive efforts.”

“Ben Shapiro is welcome on our campus, and we are committed to supporting his, and your, rights to free speech,” the administrators contended in their message to students, which was sent Tuesday.

I’m not sure which is more insulting, that university administrator are taking actions to prevent conservative and dissent views from appearing on their campus, or that they have the nerve to insult our intelligence by claiming “Shapiro is welcome on our campus.”

Once again I ask: Would you want to attend this university? Would you want your kids to go there? And why on Earth would anyone support it with donations?

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Hundreds of NASA videos uploaded to Youtube

Want to look at some old but cool NASA engineering videos? You can! The Armstrong Flight Research Center (formerly Dryden) has uploaded a large number to Youtube.

Below the fold is one example, a tow test of one of the early lifting body spacecraft, the M2-F1, a prototype of the kind of spacecraft Dream Chaser is trying to be. What makes the video most interesting is the vehicle used to do the towing, a Pontiac Catalina convertible, and that it actually pulls it fast enough for the spacecraft to lift off the ground.

The archive can be found here.
» Read more

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News from SpaceX

Capitalism in space: At the annual convention of the National Space Society, Elon Musk revealed some significant new details about his company’s future engineering and launch plans.

The first two stories are related, as it had been powered landings that SpaceX hoped to use for its Red Dragon Mars landings. Dropping powered landings, at this time, means that the first Dragon mission to Mars will likely not happen in 2020. While Musk outlined a number of good engineering reasons for this decision, to me this quote from the first article was significant:

SpaceX planned to transition from splashdowns, which is how the current cargo version of the Dragon returns to Earth, to “propulsive” landings at a pad at some point after the vehicle’s introduction. Certification issues, he said, for propulsive landings led him to cancel those plans. “It would have taken a tremendous amount of effort to qualify that for safety, particularly for crew transport,” he said.

In other words, NASA was balking at this innovation, and was putting up so many obstacles that it just wasn’t worth the company’s effort at this time. NASA is their main customer for manned launches, and NASA doesn’t like daring or creativity or innovation. The powered version of Dragon will probably have to wait for other private customers looking for a way to get into space.

The third story outlines the engineering challenges that SpaceX has been dealing with in its effort to build the Falcon Heavy, and includes this tidbit from Musk:

With all of these elements in consideration, Mr. Musk is urging caution regarding public expectation for Falcon Heavy’s first flight, saying that there is a “real good chance that the first vehicle [won’t] make it to orbit. So I want to make sure to set expectations accordingly.”

Even more telling was how Musk continued on this point, stating that he hoped Falcon Heavy makes it far enough away from LC-39A before failing so the pad will escape significant damage. “I hope it makes it far enough away from the pad that it’s not going to cause damage. I would consider that a win, honestly,” said Mr. Musk.

Thank God NASA is not involved in the development of the Falcon Heavy. SpaceX would have probably had to abandon this as well.

Meanwhile, this detailed article by Eric Berger gives us Elon Musk’s position on NASA’s contracting system. Not surprisingly, much of what Musk says mirrors what I wrote in Capitalism in Space:

During his remarks Saturday, Musk said NASA could avoid unnecessary delays and costs by transitioning to a system of competitive awards for fixed-price contracts, in which companies are only paid when they meet “milestones” such as completing a flight test or satisfying NASA about the safety performance of a vehicle. Additionally, he said, at least two entities should compete during the development process.

There’s a lot more there, and it is worth a full reading.

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Has India cut its cubesat launch prices?

Capitalism in space: A complex analysis of India’s recent launch prices suggests that ISRO reduced its cubesat launch prices when it launched a record-setting 103 satellites on the most recent PSLV launch.

The key paragraph however is this:

Small-satellite owners have long complained that the PSLV, whose reliability has been established in the market, has been slow to increase its launch tempo at a time of surging cubesat production. For the moment, none of these satellite customers’ launch options provide predictable launch cadence at affordable prices.

That may be about to change as several dozen vehicles designed specifically to accommodate the growing cubesat market are preparing to enter operations. Not all are likely to succeed in establishing a foothold, but the sheer number of them is impressive:

That makes it all the more important for ISRO’s Antrix Corp., the agency’s commercial arm, to cement a reputation for launch regularity and low prices.

In other words, because a flock of new smallsat launch companies, such as Rocket Lab, Vector, and Virgin Orbit, are about to enter the market ISRO is suddenly feeling the pressure, which is why they have cut prices as well as started to up their launch rate.

Isn’t competition wonderful?

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Sierra Nevada picks ULA’s Atlas 5 for first two Dream Chaser cargo flights

Capitalism in space: Sierra Nevada has awarded ULA the contract for the first two cargo flights of Dream Chaser to ISS.

The announcement sets Dream Chaser’s first cargo flight to the International Space Station for launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in 2020. A second ISS cargo flight is contracted to lift off the next year. “ULA is an important player in the market and we appreciate their history and continued contributions to space flights and are pleased to support the aerospace community in Colorado and Alabama,” said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems.

Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed.

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LISA Pathfinder switched off

After a successful mission proving the technology for a full scale orbiting gravitational wave detector, LISA Pathfinder was shut off yesterday.

After 16 months of science measurements an international team deactivated the LISA Pathfinder satellite on the evening of the 18th of July 2017. The gravitational-wave laboratory in space powered down after receiving the last commands in the evening and circles the Sun on a safe parking orbit. LISA Pathfinder has tested key technologies for LISA, the future gravitational-wave observatory in space, and has demonstrated their operative readiness. LISA is scheduled to launch into space in 2034 as an ESA mission and will “listen” to the entire Universe by measuring low-frequency gravitational waves.

The idea is laudable, but for Europe to need another seventeen years to build and launch the full scale telescope is absurd. They now know what needs to be done. It should be relatively easy and quick to get it into orbit. And even if it isn’t easy, seventeen more years? Give me a break.

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SpaceX competitors team up to try to block its satellite constellation

SpaceX’s main competitors in creating a satellite broadband industry have all filed objections with the FCC to the company’s planned 4,425 satellite constellation that is aimed at providing worldwide internet access.

SpaceX’s plan to provide global broadband internet access using thousands of satellites in low-earth orbit has come under fire from competitors, including Boeing and OneWeb, according to Space Intel Report. The argument is playing out in a series of filings with the Federal Communications Commission, focusing on SpaceX’s request for a temporary waiver from the FCC’s time limits for putting the satellite system into full operation.

The FCC would typically require the system to provide full coverage of U.S. territory within six years of a license being issued, but SpaceX says that’s not enough time to deploy the full 4,425-satellite constellation. Instead, the company proposes launching the first 1,600 satellites in six years, which would leave the northernmost part of Alaska without coverage when the deadline hits. Full U.S. coverage would be provided after the six-year deadline, SpaceX says.

In their own filings, competitors including OneWeb, SES/O3b and Intelsat are urging the FCC not to waive the six-year requirement, Space Intel Report said.

This is garbage, and demonstrates again why it is dangerous to give government too much power. Rather than compete by launching their own satellite constellations first, these companies want the FCC to put its finger on the scale to favor them and stop SpaceX. And I bet the decision will be made based not on what is right but on who gave the most campaign contributions to the right political party.

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