Monthly Archives: April 2014

Thaicom has chosen Orbital Sciences to build its next major communications satellite and SpaceX to launch it.

The competition heats up: Thaicom has chosen Orbital Sciences to build its next major communications satellite and SpaceX to launch it.

Thaicom used a Falcon 9 in January to launch its Thaicom 6 satellite, also built by Orbital Sciences. Apparently they were very satisfied with both companies.

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Orbital Sciences is considering using ATK’s solid rocket motors to replace the refurbished Russian engines in the first stage of its Antares rocket.

Orbital Sciences is considering using ATK’s solid rocket motors to replace the refurbished Russian engines in the first stage of its Antares rocket.

This helps explain the merger between the two companies, as it gives Orbital control over the equipment it needs to keep Antares viable. More important, it also could make it entirely American made, which will be attractive to both Congress and many U.S. commercial satellite companies.

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Senate Democrats plan a vote to amend the First Amendment to curtail criticism.

Fascists: Senate Democrats plan a vote to amend the First Amendment to curtail criticism.

Think of the big issues facing the American public. We now routinely borrow about 40 cents on the dollar for our federal budget, our entitlement programs are heading for a fiscal collapse in the hundreds of trillions of dollars, and our economy has stagnated through nearly five years of Democratic-run economic policy in the “recovery.” What do Senate Democrats plan to do about this? Make it harder for us to complain about it.

The text of the amendment specifically gives Congress the power to limit the right of citizens to support the candidates of their choice. Who thinks they won’t abuse that power, should they get it?

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“If the government says you can’t use your property for anything, they’ve essentially taken your property from you.”

“If the government says you can’t use your property for anything, they’ve essentially taken your property from you.”

It’s just another government land grab, but this time in California, not Nevada.

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This year saw the biggest increase in healthcare spending in thirty years.

Finding out what’s in it: This year saw the biggest increase in healthcare spending in thirty years.

The cause is undeniably Obamacare, but whether the increase is good or bad can be argued. Supporters of Obamacare (few as they are) would say that this is because of the increased demand for healthcare and larger customer base that Obamacare mandated. Opponents (like me) would agree, but add that the increases are impractical, unrealistic, and raise prices unnecessarily. Many of these new unwilling customers are being forced to buy a product they don’t need.

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More delays seen in the completion of a new and critical module to the Russian portion of ISS.

More delays seen in the completion of a new and critical module to the Russian portion of ISS.

The delays have nothing to do with the Ukraine and everything to do with poor quality control in the Russian company building the module.

This quote stood out however:

With its central position in the architecture of the Russian segment, the MLM’s troubles also stall the launch of all subsequent Russian components of the station, including the Node Module, UM, (already under construction) and the NEM laboratory and power supply module, whose full-scale development started in 2012.

Given such a prolonged delay, combined with worsening political relations between Russia and its partners in the ISS project, the questions were raised whether the MLM module and the successive components of the Russian segment could be grounded until the assembly of the new all-Russian station in the post-ISS era. Under such a scenario, the troubled spacecraft could play a role of an early hub for the future orbital outpost.

If the Russians get enough modules built to launch their own station, I expect them to do it and cut their ties with ISS.

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SpaceX has released video of its Falcon 9 first stage splashing down vertically in the ocean.

SpaceX has released video of its Falcon 9 first stage splashing down vertically in the ocean.

The video is not very good, but at one point you can clearly see for a flash that the first stage is vertical and appears to be hovering above the water.

For decades engineers and managers in the aerospace industry have said that returning a first stage vertically made no sense. Elon Musk insisted that SpaceX try. It appears he and his company are now going to prove that everyone else was wrong about this.

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A doctor’s declaration of independence.

A doctor’s declaration of independence.

I don’t know about other physicians but I am tired—tired of the mandates, tired of outside interference, tired of anything that unnecessarily interferes with the way I practice medicine. No other profession would put up with this kind of scrutiny and coercion from outside forces. The legal profession would not. The labor unions would not. We as physicians continue to plod along and take care of our patients while those on the outside continue to intrude and interfere with the practice of medicine.

We could change the paradigm. We could as a group elect not to take any insurance, not to accept Medicare—many doctors are already taking these steps—and not to roll over time and time again. We have let nearly everyone trespass on the practice of medicine. Are we better for it? Has it improved quality? Do we have more of a voice at the table or less? Are we as physicians happier or more disgruntled then two years ago? Five years ago? Ten years ago?

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Russia responds to new U.S. sanctions by threatening U.S. astronauts on ISS.

Uh-oh: Russia responds to new U.S. sanctions by threatening U.S. astronauts on ISS.

Moscow reacted with fury to the inclusion in the sanctions of high-tech exports to Russia and threatened reprisals. “If their aim is to deliver a blow to Russia’s rocket-building sector, then by default, they would be exposing their astronauts on the ISS,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said, according to the Interfax news agency.

“Sanctions are always a boomerang which come back and painfully hit those who launched them,” added Rogozin on a visit to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in March. [emphasis mine]

Was Rogozin actually hinting that Russia might strand U.S. astronauts on ISS?

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ATK is splitting off its aerospace division to merge that division with Orbital Sciences.

The competition cools? ATK is splitting off its aerospace division to merge that division with Orbital Sciences.

Alliant Techsystems Inc. ATK on Tuesday said it plans to split into two independent companies, one focused on outdoor sports and hunting products, the other centered on aerospace and defense. The outdoor sports operations–which produce commercial ammunition, hunting products and other related items–will be spun off to Alliant shareholders in a tax-free transaction, the company said. The segment generated $2.2 billion in revenue during 2013, Alliant said.

After the separation, Alliant said it plans to merge the aerospace and defense business–which produces rocket propulsion systems and satellite systems, among other things–with rocket and space-system developer Orbital Sciences Inc. The company will be named Orbital ATK Inc.

More here. The company press releases call this “a merger of equals” and do not make it clear what instigated the deal. Did Orbital offer to buy ATK’s aerospace division with its ammo business spun off, or did ATK want to sell off its aerospace division to focus on ammo? I wonder. The ammo business right now is booming, while aerospace remains a much more risky venture. ATK might have wanted to focus on ammo, where the money is, and proposed the idea to Orbital.

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Arianespace today scrubbed the third launch of its new Vega rocket at T-minus 10 minutes due to a technical problem.

Arianespace today scrubbed the third launch of its new Vega rocket at T-minus 10 minutes due to a technical problem.

The reliability of Arianespace’s rockets has always been the company’s big selling point, so a launch scrub is very unusual for them. Then again, this is only the third launch of Vega, so we shouldn’t be surprised if they are still working out the kinks.

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A proposed House bill would forbid use of Russian rocket engines in launching any American military payloads.

A proposed House bill would forbid use of Russian rocket engines in launching any American military payloads.

This bill is being put forth partly because of the Ukrainian situation and partly to support SpaceX’s effort to break the ULA Atlas/Delta monopoly on military launches. Whether it makes any sense or not is of course beside the point.

Meanwhile, the State Department has expanded the sanctions on satellite exports to Russia, which might threaten some future commercial Proton launches.

Both actions suggest that Elon Musk’s political clout is growing. Obviously his company’s concerns are not the prime motivation behind these decisions, but we should note that both actions hurt his direct competitors, while doing little harm to SpaceX.

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ULA has accelerated delivery of its required Russian rocket engines in anticipation of worsening relations with Russia and with members of Congress.

The competition heats up: ULA has accelerated delivery of its required Russian rocket engines in anticipation of worsening relations with Russia and with members of Congress.

ULA presently is the only company the Air Force uses to launch its military satellites, and members of Congress are questioning this monopoly in the context of the situation in the Ukraine as well as SpaceX’s lawsuit challenging it.

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At the end of a press conference Elon Musk lets slip the news that SpaceX has chosen Brownsville, Texas as the location of its commercial spaceport.

At the end of a press conference Elon Musk lets slip the news that SpaceX has chosen Brownsville, Texas as the location of its commercial spaceport.

They still have to get some FAA and environmental approvals, but expect to be launching from Texas in “a couple of years.”

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“It would have to be an extraordinary circumstance to convince me killing the bears in order to protect them makes a whole lot of logical sense.”

“It would have to be an extraordinary circumstance to convince me killing the bears in order to protect them makes a whole lot of logical sense.”

Just read it. The whole story will infuriate you.

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A new study confirms that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide lengthens the plant growing season.

Chicken Little was wrong! A new study confirms that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide lengthens the plant growing season.

Previous studies have documented a lengthening of the growing season in many parts of the world. In the United States, the time between the last spring frost and the first autumn freeze has gone up by nearly two weeks since 19002; in Europe, a study of more than 540 plant species found that, on average, spring events such as flowering had shifted about a week earlier from 1971 to 2000, and the onset of autumn had been pushed back by about four days3.

Such shifts have long been attributed to warming temperatures. But CO2 also plays a part, says study co-author Heidi Steltzer, an ecosystem ecologist at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.

Putting aside the uncertainty about whether carbon dioxide can even cause global warming, the assumption that global warming itself will be a bad thing has never been demonstrated clearly, while there is evidence that it might actually be beneficial.

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Orbital Sciences intends to use an upgraded Antares rocket as its contribution to Stratolaunch.

The competition heats up: Orbital Sciences intends to use an upgraded Antares rocket as its contribution to Stratolaunch.

Part of the upgrades appear to be making sure Antares has an available replacement engine for the refurbished Soviet-era engines Antares is now using.

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Russia has noticed literally no change in cooperation with NASA since the U.S. government announced two weeks ago that all such cooperation, excluding ISS, was being cut off.

Surprise, surprise! Russia has noticed literally no change in cooperation with NASA since the U.S. government announced two weeks ago that all such cooperation, excluding ISS, was being cut off.

Russia’s Roscosmos space agency has yet received no official notifications from NASA on curtailing cooperation, and working contacts continue, Roscosmos chief Oleg Ostapenko said in an interview with Vedomosti newspaper Wednesday. “Roscosmos has received no official notifications on suspending cooperation, we continue working contacts with NASA and other space agencies,” Ostapenko told Vedomosti adding: “Recently I held talks with the NASA leadership and European colleagues.”

More info here.

I had said that so-called NASA cut-off was all show and aimed not at Russia but at Congressional budget negotiations over NASA’s commercial crew program. This story only proves it.

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