Author Archives: Robert Zimmerman

Testing underwater interplanetary robots on the cheap

This article describing a test of an underwater robot by JPL scientists in the interior of a glacier warmed the cockles of my heart when I read this paragraph:

Klesh and Leicty’s recent expedition relied on a commercial grade submersible and a “homemade” glacial probe. The latter was built using off-the-shelf and 3-D printed parts. They did all their own wiring and programming.

NASA test projects like this are often gold-plated. I like how these scientists took a more practical approach, getting their data without spending a fortune in time and money. Moreover, they gained some engineering knowledge that can be applied practically in future probes, both here on Earth and on other planets.

Hat tip Jim Mallamace.


World View completes first Stratollite balloon launch from Tucson spaceport

Capitalism in space: World View today successfully completed the first launch from its Tucson spaceport of one of its Stratollite high altitude balloons.

None of the stories I have found have provided any real detail about the flight, so it is unclear what they accomplished, other than to demonstrate they can launch from the spaceport.


Sierra Nevada and German space center increase ties

Capitalism in space: Sierra Nevada and the German Aerospace Center have signed a new agreement increasing their partnership for using Dream Chaser in space.

The current MOU follows a 2013 Technical Understanding between the parties that initiated cooperation on space activities. This new agreement allows the two entities to establish goals and baseline objectives on future missions, scientific contributions and future space architecture for LEO, Cislunar and lunar operations, and deep space exploration.

It is clear once again that Sierra Nevada is trying to find partners who can pay to keep Dream Chaser flying as much as possible, between its cargo missions to ISS.


China successfully launches three satellites

China today ended a long pause in launches since the failure of its Long March 5 rocket in July and placed in orbit three military satellites using a smaller rocket not used since 2004.

The use of such a rocket is most intriguing. Meanwhile, no word yet on when launches will resume on their other more up-to-date rockets, including their new and most powerful Long March 5.


Solar storm activates global aurora on Mars

The strong solar flare that occurred earlier this month was strong enough to activate a global aurora on Mars.

The solar event on Sept. 11, 2017 sparked a global aurora at Mars more than 25 times brighter than any previously seen by the MAVEN orbiter, which has been studying the Martian atmosphere’s interaction with the solar wind since 2014. It produced radiation levels on the surface more than double any previously measured by the Curiosity rover’s Radiation Assessment Detector, or RAD, since that mission’s landing in 2012. The high readings lasted more than two days.

Strangely, it occurred in conjunction with a spate of solar activity during what is usually a quiet period in the Sun’s 11-year sunspot and storm-activity cycle. This event was big enough to be detected at Earth too, even though Earth was on the opposite side of the Sun from Mars.


Leftists brownshirts stalk and plan violence against conservatives

This post is actually about two stories. The first describes the actions of Berkeley brownshirts as they stalk members of the college Republican club. The second describes the planning of violence against conservatives attending a lecture by conservative Ben Shapiro (whom they call a Nazi despite being an orthodox Jew).

Someone is going to get killed by these masked thugs, merely because those murdered happen to be conservative and believe in freedom.

I have posted below the fold the video of Steven Crowder’s report from the second link. While his evidence shows the violent intent of these leftist thugs, the most damning part of his report is the part where he tries to show this evidence to major news reporters and gets dismissed out of hand. As Crowder notes on the video,

Even being shown the footage in the presence of police officers to confirm its authenticity, they walked away… We were delivering a story to local and national news on a silver platter which included infiltration, violence, and exposing the roots of a national domestic terrorist organization and no one wanted to give it a glimpse, not one person. It didn’t even get mentioned [in later mainstream media reports].

Remember, if you depend on mainstream news sources for your news, you are not simply being uninformed, you are being willfully misinformed.

» Read more


Boeing delays first manned Starliner flight

Capitalism in space: It appears that Boeing has pushed back the first manned flight of its Starliner capsule from August 2018 to early 2019.

In an interview at the conference, Ferguson said that the company’s current schedule calls for a pad abort test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in the second quarter of 2018. That would be followed by an uncrewed orbital test flight of the vehicle, launched on an Atlas V, in the third quarter of 2018. “If the results of that are very favorable,” he said of the uncrewed flight test, “our crewed flight test is fourth quarter — perhaps, depending on the outcome, maybe the first quarter of the following year.”

This schedule appears to be an overall three to five month delay in their program.


Egypt announces creation of space agency

The new colonial movement: The Egyptian government today voted to create an Egyptian space agency with the goal of encouraging the development of a home-based satellite industry.

The ruling by the Council of Ministers will now pass on to the Egyptian parliament for final agreement and made into law. Minister Abdel Ghaffar also said that Egypt intends create a satellite manufacturing centre in 2019, and then launch Egypt’s first indigenously made satellite in 2020.

This satellite is now dubbed Misr Sat 2, previously known as EgyptSat-2, and will be designed and manufactured at Space City, located in New Cairo. Space City is a one hundred acre plot of land where satellite manufacturing and other space facilities are being built. Misr Sat-2 is to be partly funded by China to the tune of U.S.$45 million after a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and China’s President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit held in Xiamen, China, earlier in September 2017.

This project is linked to larger aid from China, and appears to be prompted by this Chinese aid.


Hawaii’s land board votes 5-2 in favor of TMT

After lengthy hearings, Hawaii’s land board has voted 5 to 2 to approve the construction permit for building the Thirty Meter Telescope on top of Mauna Kea.

The board placed 43 conditions on the permit, including a previously negotiated plan requiring the University of Hawaii to decommission three existing telescopes atop Mauna Kea, where the TMT is to be built, and barring any future telescopes on the mountain. In a statement, Suzanne Case, chair of the board, said: “This was one of the most difficult decisions this Board has ever made. The members greatly respected and considered the concerns raised by those opposed to the construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope at the Mauna Kea Science Reserve.”

TMT opponents tell ScienceInsider that they will appeal the decision. Kealoha Pisciotta, a Hawaiian cultural practitioner and a plaintiff in the case against the TMT permit, said she believed the board had rubber-stamped the permit, and the decision seemed like a foregone conclusion. “They did not deliberate. They did not properly consider or take into account the evidence,” she said. [emphasis mine]

They did not deliberate? The decision was announced with a 345 page document [pdf] outlining the long history of this permit process, including a detailed description of the previous process that had given its approval before protests required a second hearing followed by the numerous and endless testimony since.

This “Hawaiian cultural practitioner” (or what I call a typical race hustler) is either lying or willfully ignorant, and actually could be a poster-boy for modern intellectualism, which always puts race and ethnicity above facts and reasoned debate. And if you don’t believe me, read the pdf at the link above. Search for Pisciotta’s name and read her testimony. It reeks of ignorance and dishonesty, all colored by a racist love of her native race and a hatred of all others.

I still do not expect TMT to be built in Hawaii. The race hustlers rule the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party rules Hawaii. They will allow the stalling to continue until the consortium building TMT will be forced to go elsewhere.


Elon Musk’s economic version of SLS

Last night Elon Musk gave a speech providing an update on his vision for building an interplanetary spaceship, and in the process described at length how he intends to make such a rocket/spacecraft affordable, efficient, and profitable. His update included outlining how he hopes this rocket could even be used as a transportation vehicle on Earth. However, this was what I consider the most significant:

But most importantly came a timeline that, while aspirational – something even Mr. Musk noted – is encouraging.

Currently, SpaceX will begin full-scale construction of the first BFRs in the second quarter of 2018, with the aim to launch the first two BFR missions in the 2022 interplanetary alignment and launch window to Mars. Those first two BFR missions will be scouting missions of sorts to “confirm water resources and identify hazards and place power, mining, and life support infrastructure for future flights” on the surface. Those two missions will then be followed by four BFR missions in 2024 to the red planet.

Excitingly, two of those missions will be crew missions taking the first people to Mars, while the other two will be cargo ships bringing more equipment and supplies.

Will Musk achieve this schedule? I have doubts, but I also think he has a reasonable chance, based on his track record. More important, if he even comes close he, along with Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin with their New Glenn rocket, will demonstrate the utter absurdity of our federal government spending a further dime on SLS, Orion, or NASA’s new boondoggle, a lunar space station.


Webb Space Telescope delayed again

NASA announced today that they are further delaying the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope from October 2018 to late spring 2019.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope now is planning to launch between March and June 2019 from French Guiana, following a schedule assessment of the remaining integration and test activities. Previously Webb was targeted to launch in October 2018. “The change in launch timing is not indicative of hardware or technical performance concerns,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters in Washington. “Rather, the integration of the various spacecraft elements is taking longer than expected.”

As part of an international agreement with the ESA (European Space Agency) to provide a desired launch window one year prior to launch, NASA recently performed a routine schedule assessment to ensure launch preparedness and determined a launch schedule change was necessary. The careful analysis took into account the remaining tasks that needed to be completed, the lessons learned from unique environmental testing of the telescope and science instruments at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the current performance rates of integrating the spacecraft element.

Webb’s original launch date was supposed to be 2011, making its launch now verging on a decade late. The original budget for the telescope was supposed to be $1 billion. It is now expected to cost more than $9 billion. Like SLS/Orion, this project more resembles feather-bedding, providing NASA employees and the contractors involved a steady paycheck, regardless of whether they ever get anything done. In fact, both Webb and SLS/Orion seemed designed to encourage failure. The project never gets cancelled no matter what goes wrong. Instead, more money gets poured in.


The unspoken contract

Link here. Beautifully written, and encompasses very clearly why there is a growing revolt across America. The so-called elites are treating like scum the ordinary people that make their elite status possible, and the ordinary people are getting fed up with it.

People are tired. They’re just tired of constantly being told they’re racists when they have no idea what they’ve done wrong. They’re trying to keep the mortgage paid and get the kids through school and have enough money for Christmas presents and keep the cars out of the shop and lose that extra fifteen pounds and afford health insurance and maybe even take the family to a beach somewhere once a year. They love America, they love the flag, they support the troops and they are racking their brains to figure out what they can do to remedy the problem these rich, physical specimens seem to have with the country. If someone would just tell them what to do, most of them would gladly do it. But a blatant disrespect of something their grandpas and uncles and fathers and brothers fought and died for …is a breach of the unspoken contract.


Lockheed Martin unveils concepts for Mars ship and lander

The boondoggle lobbying continues! Lockheed Martin today unveiled its concepts for a Mars interplanetary ship, built around its Orion capsule, as well as a fully reusable Mars lander.

The timing of this announcement fits perfectly with last week’s NASA announcement of its concepts for building a lunar space station, along with this week’s announcement to study doing it with the Russians. It also times perfectly with the announcement that the first public meeting of the National Space Council will take place on October 5. And tonight Elon Musk will give an update on his own proposals for getting to Mars.

All these public relations announcements suggest to me that the Trump administration is getting close to unveiling its own future space policy, and they all suggest that this policy will be to build a space station around the Moon. My guess is that Lockheed Martin and SpaceX are vying for a piece of that pie in their announcements today.

Let me also note that Lockheed Martin’s concept above illustrates nicely what a lie Orion is and has always been. They have been touting it for years as the vehicle that will get Americans to Mars, but now admit that it can only really be a small part of a much larger interplanetary ship, and will be there mostly to be the descent capsule when astronauts want to come home. They also admit in the video at the first link that their proposal for getting to Mars is only a concept. To build it would require many billions of dollars. I wonder will it cost as much as Orion and SLS ($43 billion plus) and take as long (18 years plus) to build? If so, it is a bad purchase. We can do this faster, and for less.


Sputnik full scale test model sells for $850K

A full scale engineering test model of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik satellite sold at auction yesterday for $850K.

Bonhams auctioned the “beeping” replica of the now-iconic satellite, with its polished metal sphere and four protruding antennas, for $847,500 (including the premium charged to the buyer) at its New York gallery. The winning bid, placed by an unidentified buyer on the telephone, far surpassed the pre-auction estimate and the amount paid for a similar Sputnik replica sold by Bonhams for $269,000 in 2016.


Hubble spots most distance active comet yet

Comet C/2017 K2

Using the Hubble Space Telescope astronomers have imaged a comet that is sublimating material at a distance from the Sun farther than any previously known comet, out beyond Saturn.

“K2 is so far from the Sun and so cold, we know for sure that the activity — all the fuzzy stuff making it look like a comet — is not produced, as in other comets, by the evaporation of water ice,” said lead researcher David Jewitt of the University of California, Los Angeles. “Instead, we think the activity is due to the sublimation [a solid changing directly into a gas] of super-volatiles as K2 makes its maiden entry into the solar system’s planetary zone. That’s why it’s special. This comet is so far away and so incredibly cold that water ice there is frozen like a rock.”

Based on the Hubble observations of K2’s coma, Jewitt suggests that sunlight is heating frozen volatile gases – such as oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide – that coat the comet’s frigid surface. These icy volatiles lift off from the comet and release dust, forming the coma. Past studies of the composition of comets near the Sun have revealed the same mixture of volatile ices.

The significance here is that by studying the comet’s activity scientists will be able to identify some of these volatile gases, which in turn will tell them something about the make-up of the outermost fringes of the solar system.


Arianespace issues contract to build 10 more Vega rockets

Capitalism in space: Arianespace has awarded the Italian manufacturer a new contract to build ten more Vega rockets.

Of these ten rockets, three already have launch contracts for ESA satellites. I suspect Arianespace already knows of at least seven more government payloads are mandated to use its rockets to get into space, which would explain this rocket order now.


Status of Arecibo radio observatory

It appears that, while Puerto Rico itself suffered devastating damage from Hurricane Maria, the Arecibo Observatory came through relatively unscathed.

The surface of the dish was largely unscathed, and the observatory’s most vulnerable component, the instrument platform suspended high above the dish by cables strung from three towers, each more than 80 meters tall, was still in place and seemed undamaged, says Schmelz. She is based at the Columbia, Maryland, headquarters of one of Arecibo’s operators, the Universities Space Research Association, and spoke with staff in Puerto Rico who first used a ham radio and then a single working satellite phone. But the roofs on some observatory buildings were blown off, the sinkhole under the dish was flooded, and other equipment was damaged by rain and fallen trees. Most significantly, a large portion of a 29-meter-long antenna—the 430-megahertz line feed used for studying the upper atmosphere—appears to have broken off and fallen from the platform into the dish. Mathews estimates a bill of several million dollars to replace the line feed alone.

Because of the significant infrastructure damage across the island, there will be significant delays in getting any of this fixed. Since the telescope is already being considered for shut down due to budget issues, these delays could lead to that shut down.


Chinese government orders shutdown of all North Korean businesses

The Chinese government has ordered that all businesses run by North Koreans, whether singly or in a joint partnership, must shut down within the next four months.

The order applies to all such businesses in China, as well as any Chinese/North Korean joint ventures abroad. It will exempt nonprofits and “noncommercial infrastructure projects,” whatever that is, and will also allow individual businesses to request a waiver.


One last image from Rosetta

Rosetta's last image

Engineers reviewing the last bits of telemetry that was transmitted back to Earth by Rosetta just before it crashed on Comet 67P/C-G have discovered one last image of the comet’s surface.

That image is on the right. It is slightly blurred because of the limitations of Rosetta’s camera at this short range, and the incompleteness of the data received.

The image covers an area about a meter across, with a resolution of about two millimeters per pixel.

I imagine this surface is relatively soft, since the gravity holding the comet together is so slight. If you wanted to dig down, you would find it easy digging.


NASA and Roscomos sign agreement to work together to build lunar orbiting station

Extending the pork: NASA and Roscosmos have signed an agreement agreeing to work together in the construction of what NASA calls a deep space gateway, a space station orbiting the Moon.

The goal here is to garner political support for getting funding to fly a third SLS/Orion mission, which would be its second manned flight. It is also to establish some long term justification for SLS/Orion, which presently has no mission and will disappear after its first manned test flight, presently scheduled for 2022. That single test flight will have taken 18 years and more than 40 billion dollars to build, an absurd timeframe and cost for a single mission that does not bode well for future SLS/Orion missions.

The Russian perspective can be found here. They claim that the station would be finished by 2024-2026, an absurd prediction based on the expected SLS launch rate of one launch every one to two years. For Russia, the hope is that they can use this project to get U.S. money, just like the big American space companies like Lockheed Martin (Orion) and Boeing (SLS).


Republican tax plan unveiled

As expected, the Republican leadership has unveiled a new tax proposal that would consolidate the number of tax brackets while increasing the rate of the lowest bracket and increasing the standard deduction.

I admit that I have grown very cynical about these proposals. They never end up simplifying anything. Instead, each time Congress has done this in the past three decades they have only made the tax code more complicated. I see no evidence so far that this Congress and this Republican leadership will do anything different.

Moreover, Congress and Trump continue to make little effort to rein in spending, so I expect the result here will also be a significant increase in the crushing federal debt.


Leftist protester who set fires sentenced to five years prison

Good news: A leftist protester who set fires during riots in Portland on May 1st, including throwing flares into stores and into a police car, has been sentenced to five years in prison.

Unfortunately, the video at the link shows a lot of other leftist protesters doing the same, and getting away with it.

1 2 3 4 564