Category Archives: Points of Information

New smallsat rocket company plans first launch in 2018

The competition heats up: Vector Space Systems now plans its first test flights of its Vector 1 will begin in 2017 with the first orbital flights in 2018.

[Chief executive Jim Cantrell] said he expects to do three or four orbital launches in 2018, increasing to 12 in 2019. “We’re going to call them test launches,” he said of the planned 2018 launches, “but we have a number of people who want to buy those launches already.”

Cantrell said Vector Space Systems has signed up one customer, and is in negotiations with a second customer, both of whom he declined to name. Both customers, he said, are planning satellite constellations. “Between those two, we will have sold close to 30 launches,” he said, with those launches spread out over several years.

Vector 1 is being designed to launch very small satellites weighing generally less than 100 pounds.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Trump considers funding super-PACs to defeat Cruz and Kasich in later elections

Update on the November Democratic primary: Donald Trump is considering creating two super-pacs expressly focused at destroying the political careers of Ohio Governor John Kasich and Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

During an event in Cleveland on Friday, Trump hinted at the prospect of funding an outside group against Cruz in the future.“Maybe I’ll set up a super-PAC if he decides to run,” Trump said of Cruz. Turning to his running mate Mike Pence he asked rhetorically, “Are you allowed to set up a super-PAC…if you are the president, to fight someone?”

The source close to Trump’s thinking indicated that Trump would consider forming the super-PAC whether or not he wins the presidential election in November.

This sure doesn’t sound like the actions of a Republican and conservative looking for allies within his party. Instead, it sounds like a Democrat who, having gotten the Republican nomination for President, can now stop pretending and begin the process of using his position to destroy the conservative movement in the United States in order to make it easier to impose liberal policies.

Trump’s supporters keep screaming that Cruz should have endorsed Trump for party unity. Well, the same applies to Trump — to bring the party together — only more so, since he has the nomination for president and as such is the de facto leader of the party. Moreover, while Cruz’s speech could have been more carefully worded, it nonetheless laid out the arguments for voting against Hillary Clinton and supporting all Republicans nationwide, even Trump (though unstated). Trump however is clearly doing the exact opposite, considering the investment of millions of his own money to actively work to defeat two of the party’s more conservative Republicans.

But hey, Trump can win! Who cares what he stands for!

Black Lives Matter rejects good will gesture by police

Hateful bigots: The Oakland Black Lives Matter group bluntly rejected an offer from the city police department for a joint barbecue to foster communications.

[T]he police were met with flat-out rejection by a spokesperson who referred to law enforcement as “pigs.”

“A BBQ is definitely not going to stop this blockade,” Karissa Lewis, a self-described “radical black farmer from East Oakland,” told local Fox affiliate KTVU. “And as a radical-black farmer from East Oakland, I eat pigs, I don’t eat with them,” she said.

But hey, this is the new standard for today’s politics: slander your opponent and foster ill will between people. It’s what we want!

Humana abandoning Obamacare

Finding out what’s in it. Humana, one of the nation’s largest heathcare companies, has decided to leave almost half of its Obamacare markets next year.

Humana, one of the nation’s top health insurers, is pulling out of ObamaCare plans in all but a handful of states after a year of nearly $1 billion in losses. The company plans to exit nearly half of its Obamacare markets next year, the company announced during an earnings report Thursday. It will take part in “no more” than 11 state marketplaces, down from 19 states this year, the company said. [emphasis mine]

Remember, it was the insurance companies that lobbied the hardest for Obamacare, figuring they would clean up once the government forced everyone to buy their product. In looking at the numbers above, $1 billion in loses in one year alone, it sure seems that strategy has backfired big time on the insurance companies.

Then again, how could they have possibly known this would happen? No one anticipated this at all, except for those evil tea partiers and those racist conservatives. And who listens to them?

Cruz’s speech at the convention

My first reaction to Ted Cruz’s exhortation that Republican’s vote their conscience in his speech at the Republican Convention last night was distress, as I expected the response to be mostly hostile (which it was) and unnecessary, as to my mind he could have gone there and simply said that “When Donald Trump becomes the next president I will be ready and waiting in the Senate to work with him to make sure the Constitution is defended and the federal government is brought under control.” Worded in this way, Cruz would not have been endorsing Trump, but he also would have not made himself an enemy of a significant percentage of the Republican voting bloc.

However, these two articles have changed my mind:

Cruz did the right thing. As noted at the first link,

If you’re voting for Donald Trump because you think he’s the lesser of two evils; because you think Hillary is clearly worse; because you reject leftism and know Hillary will foist leftism on us and only suspect Trump might . . . then you and I are cool. I respect that position. It’s not my position — but if it’s yours, I respect it, and I respect you.

But if you’re going to knock Ted Cruz for standing up against a man who bullied his family, I don’t respect you. I don’t want you here. Feel free to leave. It may make this place smaller, but it will make it better.

The second link also noted the unhealthy nature of today’s politics, where somehow one is not allowed to take a stand on conscience because of politics. Well to hell with that. There are things worth dying for, and one’s family is surely one of them.

Trump considers fracking businessman for Energy Secretary

Good news if true: Reuters today reported that presidential candidate Donald Trump is considering nominating Oklahoma businessman Harold Hamm as energy secretary if he wins the election.

In addition to considering Hamm, who has also functioned as Trump’s informal energy adviser in recent months, the article also noted this:

Trump, who has yet to make any announcements about his prospective cabinet, has already surrounded himself with strong advocates of traditional energy sources like oil, gas, and coal and has promised to gut environmental regulations to boost drilling and mining if elected. He tapped U.S. Congressman Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, a climate skeptic and drilling advocate, to help draw up his campaign energy platform, and picked Indiana Governor Mike Pence, also a climate skeptic, as his running mate.

Both moves cheered the energy industry but alarmed environmental activists who say a Trump presidency would set back years of progress on issues like pollution and climate change. “Given that Hamm’s as close as we’ve got to a fracker-in-chief in this country, it would be an apropos pick for a president who thinks global warming is a hoax manufactured by the Chinese,” said leading environmental activist Bill McKibben.

I keep saying it: Should Trump win, the best way we can guarantee that he favors conservative values is if he is surrounded by conservatives. These moves suggest that that Trump is agreeable to this, though there is also possibly a bit of some crony capitalism going on here as well. While these guys will likely advocate for less environmental regulations, I also doubt that they will work to eliminate the gobs of corporate welfare the federal government presently hands out.

ULA chief says Congress deal clears path to Vulcan

The competition heats up: The CEO of ULA, Tory Bruno, said in an industry publication interview today that the Congressional deal that allows the company to buy 22 more Russian engines for its Atlas 5 clears the way for their eventual transition to the Vulcan rocket and an end to dependence on those Russian engines.

The article is worth a careful read, as it also provides a very detailed look at ULA’s future plans for its Atlas 5, Delta 4 Heavy, and Vulcan rockets. This paragraph was especially interesting:

The next major milestone is determining what engine will replace the [Russian] RD-180. Washington-based Blue Origin is developing the BE-4, a privately funded Liquid Oxygen (Lox) and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) engine capable of 550,000 pounds of thrust (lbf); and California-based Aerojet Rocketdyne is creating the AR1, a government-supported Lox/Kerosene (RP-1) engine capable of 500,000lbf. Either replacement will require two engines to match the power of the RD-180. Blue Origin claims its engine, already four years into development, will be flight qualified by 2017, while Aerojet Rocketdyne, having started its development later, says the AR1 will be flight qualified by 2019. Bruno said ULA would make its decision soon.

“Sometime close to the end of the year we are going to down-select, and then move into our Critical Design Review (CDR) and start manufacturing the rocket,” he said.

I strongly suspect they want to go with Blue Origin’s engine, because it is more powerful, farther along in development, and almost certainly less expensive. The question will be whether pressure from Congress, which favors Aerojet Rocketdyne’s engine for pork barrel reasons (Congress is funding it), will force ULA to go with it instead.

Flyboard Air company purchased

The company that designed the Flyboard Air jet hoverboard, featured here only two days ago in the Evening Pause, has been purchased by Implant Sciences, a company whose primary focus until now was explosive detection technology for the Homeland Security.

Implant Sciences is currently looking into the possibility of selling its explosives detection business, and the purchase of Zapata is subject to shareholder approval. Overall though, it seems pretty confident that the move could lead to big things. “We are beyond excited to have visionaries like Franky Zapata and his team on board and we are thrilled to allow for shareholders to benefit from the many breakthrough products he has already invented and the new innovations he will be unveiling in coming months and years.” said Implant Sciences president Robert Liscouski.

Rosetta’s landing site chosen

Rosetta's end

The Rosetta science team has chosen the spacecraft’s landing site on Comet 67P/C-G. The picture on the right shows this region, dubbed Ma’at, located on the comet’s smaller lobe. I also note that this decision makes no mention of Philae, and that there has been no word from the scientists on whether their recent close-up imagery of the comet has located the lander.

I had hoped that they would find it and then aim the final descent toward it, but this apparently is not happening.

European commission approves Airbus-Safran buy of Arianespace

The competition heats up: The bureaucrats in the European Union have given their approval to the purchase by Airbus-Safran Launchers of Arianespace, thereby clearing the way for the privatization of that ESA entity and the construction, under Airbus-Safran control, of Ariane 6.

Following an in-depth review, the European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of Arianespace by Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL), a joint venture between Airbus and Safran. This approval is subject to conditions. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “A well-functioning satellite and launcher industry is important to guarantee that European companies and institutions can gain access to space at competitive terms. The commitments offered by ASL ensure that after its takeover of Arianespace, all players in the industry will continue to have incentives to innovate.”

The Commission had concerns that the transaction would give rise to flows of sensitive information between Airbus and Arianespace to the detriment of competing satellite manufacturers and launch service providers. The Commission’s approval is conditional on the implementation of the commitments offered by the companies to address these concerns.

I must say that, in reading this story, I understood far better why the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Though this particular deal is certainly different and involves many important government issues, if every private business deal is subject to the numbing concerns of this commission, I myself would run screaming from them as fast as I could.

Astronaut touts space at Republican convention

American astronaut Eileen Collins spoke last night at the Republican convention, calling for a renewal of the American space effort.

Her remarks were very short, essentially calling for an end to the American reliance on the Russians to get our astronauts into space. Her speech also differed from her prepared remarks in that she left out the part where she specifically endorsed Donald Trump.

According to a transcript of her prepared remarks provided by the GOP Convention to Syracuse University (her alma mater) and posted on the university’s website, however, the ending was supposed to be “We need leadership that will make America first again. That leader is Donald Trump. Thank you and God bless the United States of America.” Thus, although she did not read the line endorsing Trump, she did use his slogan “make America great again” instead of “make America first again” as in the prepared remarks.

The press will make a big deal about this, but I suspect that when it came time to say the words, Collins’ decades of training at NASA, where astronauts as government workers are specifically forbidden by the Hatch Act from lobbying for specific political candidates, took over. She clearly was supporting Trump. Habits just made it hard for her to become political, even though she is now retired from NASA.

What is important is that both she and Ted Cruz in their convention remarks both invoked the need for a vibrant American space effort, but both were vague about how to do it. Combining that with Trump’s already noted position, that we need a space effort but we also have to find ways to do this efficiently because the government has bigger priorities, suggests to me once again that, should Trump win, SLS and Orion will die quickly while commercial space will get a boost.

On a personal note, I am hoping that my policy paper, Exploring Space in the 21st Century, due out in about a month and focused very much on this precise issue, will land on these politicians’ desks at exactly the right moment, and help convince them to make what I think are the right decisions.

The Indian government considers privatization

The competition heats up: The Indian space agency, ISRO, is discussing with private companies ways in which it might privatize its smaller and successful rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

In order to step up the launch capacity within the country, ISRO is in the process of exploring the possibility of involving Indian industry in a greater role to meet the increased national requirements and possible commercial demand for launch services. Discussions are being held with the Indian industry towards formulating a plan and strategy to enhance the capacity as well as capability of managing the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) programme on an end to end basis.

The sense I get from this ISRO announcement is that the government is taking the lead, trying to drag the private companies forward to take over. I also sense that both the private companies as well as ISRO are at the moment are somewhat uninterested in doing it. Neither impression is stated anywhere in this announcement and are merely my personal impressions, based literally on no inside information, which of course means I could be very wrong.

WIMP detector finds nothing

The uncertainty of science: A detector buried a mile underground so that it could only detect the predicted Weak Interacting Massive Particles (WIMP) thought to comprise dark matter has found nothing

Dark matter is thought to account for more than four-fifths of the mass in the universe. Scientists are confident of its existence because the effects of its gravity can be seen in the rotation of galaxies and in the way light bends as it travels through the universe, but experiments have yet to make direct contact with a dark matter particle. The LUX experiment was designed to look for weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs, the leading theoretical candidate for a dark matter particle. If the WIMP idea is correct, billions of these particles pass through your hand every second, and also through the Earth and everything on it. But because WIMPs interact so weakly with ordinary matter, this ghostly traverse goes entirely unnoticed.

…“We worked hard and stayed vigilant over more than a year and a half to keep the detector running in optimal conditions and maximize useful data time,” said Simon Fiorucci, a physicist at Berkeley Lab and Science Coordination Manager for the experiment. “The result is unambiguous data we can be proud of and a timely result in this very competitive field—even if it is not the positive detection we were all hoping for.”

This null result, which has its own uncertainties that require confirmation by another experimental test, places significant constraints on the possible nature of the dark matter particle, assuming it exists. And if confirmed, this result makes the hunt to explain the gravitational data of galaxy rotation, something that has been confirmed repeatedly, far more difficult.

New Shepard aced its landing test

The competition heats up: According to an email sent out by Jeff Bezos, the recent New Shepard capsule landing test, with one parachute disabled, was a complete success.

Besides the three parachutes, New Shepard is slowed in its descent by a retrorocket that fires just before the capsule hits the ground. Bezos’ email also provided pictures of the “crushable ring” on the bottom of the capsule, which can help decelerate the craft if it hits the ground too fast (acting sort of like the bumper on a car). “Even with one chute out, the crushable barely crushed,” wrote Bezos, who is also founder and CEO of Amazon.com.

“When new, the crushable is about 5.5 inches [14 centimeters] high and can crush down to less than 1 inch [0.4 cm] high, providing a constant deceleration force as it crushes. After the mission, the crushable was still over 5 inches [12.7 cm] high along nearly the entire circumference of the ring,” Bezos wrote.

No word on when the next test flight will take place.

France: Windows 10 collects “excessive personal data”

Why I use Linux, part 3,443,4021: The French government has accused Microsoft of gathering “excessive personal data” from Windows 10 users, while also not insuring good security.

They have ordered Microsoft to comply with French privacy laws within three months.

Half of TSA employees cited for misconduct

Does this make you feel safer? Almost half of all TSA employees have been cited for misconduct, and the citations have increased by almost 30 percent since 2013.

Of the total allegations filed, 90.8 percent were against TSA officers, while 4.8 percent were filed against managers or administrators. Of the areas of misconduct, “Attendance & Leave” sees the highest number of offenders, while “Failure to Follow Instructions,” “Screening & Security,” “Neglect of Duty,” and “Disruptive Behavior” round out the top five.

It also appears that the TSA has been reducing the sanctions it has been giving out for this bad behavior.

Satellite hit by space junk, still operational

A private Earth-observation satellite, WorldView-2, was either hit by space junk or had some internal failure that produced “8 debris pieces” in its vicinity.

The Joint Space Operations Center, which is the Defense Department’s nerve center for space operations and tracks space objects from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, tweeted July 19 that it had identified a debris-causing event related DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite.

The amazing thing about this is that the satellite is still functional, and to prove it the company has already released an image produced after the event.

Nearby exoplanets have Earthlike atmospheres

Worlds without end: New data from Hubble suggests that two rocky exoplanets only 40 light years away have atmospheres more similar to Earth’s than to that of gas giants.

Specifically, they discovered that the exoplanets TRAPPIST-1b and TRAPPIST-1c, approximately 40 light-years away, are unlikely to have puffy, hydrogen-dominated atmospheres usually found on gaseous worlds. “The lack of a smothering hydrogen-helium envelope increases the chances for habitability on these planets,” said team member Nikole Lewis of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. “If they had a significant hydrogen-helium envelope, there is no chance that either one of them could potentially support life because the dense atmosphere would act like a greenhouse.”

The actual make-up of these atmospheres remains unknown. Also, the central star, a red dwarf, is estimated to be about a half billion years old. Both the star’s make-up — red dwarfs are not as rich in elements as a G-type sun — and age do not provide much margin for the development of life.

Nonetheless, the new data increases again the likelihood that we will eventually find habitable worlds orbiting other stars, and we will find them in large numbers.

EPA’s gasoline efficiency tests are garbage

Our government in action: The tests the EPA uses to establish the fuel efficiency of cars are unreliable, and likely provide no valid information at all about the fuel efficiency of the cars tested.

The law requiring cars to meet these fuel efficiency tests was written in the 1970s, and specifically sets standards based on the technology then. Worse,

[T]he EPA doesn’t know exactly how its CAFE testing correlates with actual results, because it has never done a comprehensive study of real-world fuel economy. Nor does anyone else. The best available data comes from consumers who report it to the DOT—hardly a scientific sampling.

Other than that, everything is fine. Companies are forced to spend billions on this regulation, the costs of which they immediately pass on to consumers, all based on fantasy and a badly-written law. Gee, I’m sure glad we never tried this with healthcare!

Trump Treasury Secretary to be former Clinton donor and Goldman Sachs banker?

According to one Trump fund-raiser, should Donald Trump win the presidency he plans to nominate for his Treasury Secretary a former Clinton donor and Goldman Sachs banker.

[Steve] Mnuchin, who is a former donor to Hillary Clinton, spent 17 years with Goldman Sachs, where his father also had been a prominent executive. He later worked with investment groups affiliated with George Soros, including as chairman of controversial mortgage lender OneWest Bank Group (which would later be acquired by CIT Group). He also has spent time as both an art dealer and film producer.

Heh. I seem to remember how Ted Cruz was attacked because his wife worked for Goldman Sachs. Trump was going to save us from the big bankers!

I myself am not really bothered by this man’s connections with Goldman Sachs. What worries me is that Mnuchin previously supported Hillary Clinton and also has ties to the very leftwing money-man George Soros. Thus, this story once again underlines the need for voters to elect as many conservatives to Congress as possible, in order to limit the influence of Trump’s liberal friends.

International space efforts to double in next decade

The new colonial movement: According to a new industry analysis, the number of countries with active space efforts will double to almost fifty in the next decade.

By 2025, we estimate that the number of emerging space programs will increase to 47 countries around the world. This includes 23 newcomers who will have committed their first investment in space between 2016 and 2025. Over 130 satellites are forecast to be launched in the next 10 years, nearly double that of the last decade. The total value of these satellites should more than double at nearly $12 billion, versus more than $5 billion during 2006-2015.

The new efforts are not confined to the traditional space programs, but also include nations that will be purchasing services from others to build satellites for them.

A glacier on Mars

A glacier on Mars

Cool image time! The image on the right, cropped and reduced in resolution, is a Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter picture taken on March 28, 2016 of a glacial flow coming down off of mountains in Mars’ northern mid-latitudes. The mountains are to the south and beyond the bottom right. The flow is to the northwest. The full image can be found here. As noted on the image site,

These flow-like structures were previously called “lobate debris aprons,” but the Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument on [Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter] has shown that they are actually debris-covered flows of ice, or glaciers. There is no evidence for present-day flow of these glaciers, so they appear to be remnants of past climates.

Need I say it? This is water, on Mars, and in abundance. Think that this might be good real estate when those first settlers arrive?

Trump will ask Congress to ease the firing of government workers

Good if true: According to New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who is in charge of Donald Trump’s transition team, should he win the presidency he will ask Congress to pass laws making it easier from him to fire government workers.

Trump’s transition advisers fear that Obama may convert these appointees to civil servants, who have more job security than officials who have been politically appointed. This would allow officials to keep their jobs in a new, possibly Republican, administration, Christie said. “It’s called burrowing,” Christie said. “You take them from the political appointee side into the civil service side, in order to try to set up … roadblocks for your successor, kind of like when all the Clinton people took all the Ws off the keyboard when George Bush was coming into the White House.”

Originally these laws were passed to reduce the spoils system, whereby new presidents got to hand out lots of jobs to friends once elected. Now, these laws merely act to prevent elected officials from having any supervisory oversight over the employees they manage.

The article also noted that the Trump campaign is beginning to assemble a list of government workers they want to fire should they win. This is also encouraging, considering the overall incompetence we’ve seen in the federal government these past few years. (I would especially like to see the entire management of the National Park Service fired for the part they played in helping Obama during the government shutdown.) It is time for a purge. If Trump follows through with this, it will be a very positive thing.

Expect a lot of squealing however from the usual suspects in Washington. The key will be whether Trump will have the courage to follow through despite those squeals.

Health insurance rates in California to rise

Finding out what’s in it: Health insurance rates on the Obamacare exchange in California will rise 13% next year.

Large increases on Obamacare exchanges have been par for the course throughout the country this year, which is not really a surprise for anyone who was willing to read more than one sentence of a plethora of predictions made by conservatives in 2010 before Obamacare was passed. They predicted then, as this article notes is now happening, that

Fewer people are signing up through the exchanges than anticipated, and they’re using more health care services than anticipated. That’s left insurers with fewer customers to share the overall cost.

Obviously, according to Obama and Clinton and the entire Democratic Party, the solution to this failed government health program is an even bigger government health program! Won’t that just be peachy-keen!

Japanese military satellite damaged during shipping

Japan’s troubled space effort suffered a bad setback when a Japanese military communications satellite was damaged in shipment to its launch site in French Guiana.

The launch of Japan’s first dedicated military communications satellite will be delayed by two years after a mishap with a blue tarpaulin damaged sensitive antennas during transportation to Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, two government sources told Reuters. The mishap has set back plans by Japan’s military to unify its fractured and overburdened communications network, and could hinder efforts to reinforce defenses in the East China Sea as Chinese military activity in the region escalates.

North Korea fires three more missiles

Does this make you feel safer? North Korea fired three ballistic missiles early Tuesday,

North Korea fired three ballistic missiles early on Tuesday which flew between 500 and 600 kms (300 and 360 miles) into the sea off its east coast, South Korea’s military said, the latest in a series of provocative moves by the isolated country.

The U.S. military said it detected launches of what it believed were two Scud missiles and one Rodong, a home-grown missile based on Soviet-era Scud technology. North Korea has fired both types numerous times in recent years, an indication that unlike recent launches that were seen as efforts by the North to improve its missile capability, Tuesday’s were meant as a show of force.

I am sure the Obama administration is monitoring this closely!

BLM demands removal of police float from gay parade

Bigots: Black Lives Matter is demanding the removal of a police float during a homosexual pride march in Vancouver.

BLM are making this demand for one reason: They are bigots, and to their bigoted view of life, all cops must be racists, even those who, with good will, want to get together to build a float and want to march in a gay pride parade.

I should add that in general, I find gay pride parades bigoted in their own way, as they also celebrate group rights rather than individual rights. All you have to do to understand what I mean is to imagine this being a White Pride or a Heterosexual Pride march, and you will immediately see what I mean. Such marches would be considered quite offensive. Yet, they really are no different than a gay pride march.

1 2 3 4 405