Chinese banks cease all business with North Korea

China’s central bank has ordered all Chinese banks to stop all business with North Korea.

Chinese banks have come under scrutiny for their role as a conduit for funds flowing to and from China’s increasingly isolated neighbor. The sources said banks were told to stop providing financial services to new North Korean customers and to wind down loans with existing customers, following tighter sanctions against Pyongyang by the United Nations. The sources said lenders were asked to fully implement United Nations sanctions against North Korea and were warned of the economic losses and reputational risks if they did not do so.

Chinese banks received the document on Monday, the sources said.

It appears that this order only effects new business with North Koreans, which means it can be gotten around, and is somewhat meaningless. At the same time, it appears that China’s is slowly stepping up its pressure on North Korea, which is a good thing.

Share

Three women called police, accusing Imran Awan of abuse

Working for the Democratic Party: Three different women at three different times called the police because of abuse from Imran Awan, the IT expert hired by Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) and numerous other Democratic congressmen and presently under indictment for fraud.

Multiple women in relationships with Imran Awan, the indicted former IT aide for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, have recently called Virginia law enforcement and alleged being abused by him, police reports obtained under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act show.

Officers found one of the women bloodied and she told them she “just wanted to leave,” while the second said she felt like a “slave,” according to Fairfax County Police reports obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group. A third woman claimed she was being kept “in captivity.” The third woman is Awan’s stepmother, Samina Gilani, who said in court documents that Awan invoked his authority as a congressional employee to intimidate immigrant women, in part by telling them he had the power to have people kidnapped.

So, it appears that this guy was quite capable of violence against women, which might explain the non-stop efforts of Debbie Wasserman Schultz to defend him, including refusing to fire him for months, even after he was under investigation, as well as threatening police officials if they did not return a laptop to her that they were holding as evidence in this investigation. It could very well be that he was blackmailing her.

Share

The final commercial 747 flights

Link here.

United announced Monday that its final Boeing 747 flight will take place Nov. 7 with a celebratory recreation of its first United flight from San Francisco to Honolulu.

Twenty-eight minutes later, at 3:47 p.m. Monday, Delta announced that it recently operated its final Boeing 747 Tokyo Narita-Honolulu flight (on Sept. 5), and that it had operated what were thought to be the final domestic 747 flights from Honolulu to Los Angeles to Detroit. Delta subsequently used two 747s on Orlando evacuation flights as Hurricane Irma approached, bringing a widely-applauded end to its domestic 747 flying.

United plans to recreate the 1970 San Francisco-Honolulu flight, its first commercial Boeing 747 flight, on the Nov. 7 flight. “From a 1970s-inspired menu to retro uniforms for flight attendants to inflight entertainment befitting of that first flight, passengers will help send the Queen of the Skies off in true style,” United said in a press release.

Though the plane has been bypassed by newer technology, I suspect that we will see 747s flying for many years to come, but only in specialized situations. It was a grand achievement, and proved that giant planes could be built.

Share

Air Force admits SpaceX forced it to streamline operations

Capitalism in space: Air Force officials today admitted that SpaceX’s focus on frequent low-cost launches forced it to streamline its range operations.

“SpaceX does not launch on schedule,” Monteith said Sept. 20 during a space warfighting panel at the annual Air Force Association Air Space Cyber Conference. “They launch on readiness.”

This launch-when-we’re-ready-to-go attitude has had an impact on SpaceX operational needs and costs, said [Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, commander, 45th Space Wing], who also is director of the Air Force Eastern Range, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. “They have forced us — and I mean forced us — to get better, infinitely better, at what we do,” he said. “We are adopting commercial business practices and becom[ing] more efficient and more affordable. Working with them, we have been able to reduce our main launch footprint by 60 percent and reduce the cost of a single launch by over 50 percent,” he said. “Based on the autonomous flight safety system they developed with us they will help us get to 48 launches a year.”

The autonomous flight safety system replaces the ground-based mission flight control personnel and equipment with on-board positioning, navigation and timing sources and decision logic, the Air Force notes. The system is meant to reduce range spacelift cost, increase schedule predictability and availability, operational flexibility, and launch-slot flexibility.

Gee, the Air Force has only been running the Kennedy launch range now for about a half century. I wonder why they couldn’t figure this out sooner. Could it be because, before SpaceX’s arrival, no one was interested in saving money or launching frequently? Could it be they were all happy with their plush, safe, government jobs and contracts, and didn’t feel a need to do things better?

Damn straight it could be. Before SpaceX the American launch industry was a sick puppy, unwilling to innovate or compete. Thank god that has all now changed, and the reason it changed is because of freedom and competition, hallmarks of American greatness.

Share

More hearings stalling TMT

Stall, stall: After spending 44 days of hearings before a retired judge, Hawaii is now forcing the consortium that wants to build the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea to undergo further hearings before the local land board.

Wednesday’s hearing in a Hilo hotel comes after the retired judge overseeing contested-case hearings for the Thirty Meter Telescope recommended granting the project a construction permit. Riki May Amano issued her recommendation in July after hearing testimony that spanned 44 days. Opponents and supporters are echoing much of the arguments made during those oftentimes emotional days of testimony.

This short article, which really says little, ends by noting that “it’s not clear when the board will make a decision.”

Well, it is clear to me that the authorities in Hawaii, run exclusively by today’s racially-focused Democratic Party, is stalling as much as they can in order to force TMT to go elsewhere. They know it will not be a popular decision to block the telescope, but they also don’t want it because the hustlers of race on the island are against it. And to the Democratic Party today, the only thing that matters is to appease these race hustlers. So, they stall, figuring they can get rid of the telescope that way without ever having to block it outright.

Share

Why Obama spied on Trump

Link here. The article sums up the evidence that now exists that shows that not only was a Trump campaign manager wiretapped, officials in the Obama administration use national security laws to instigate other spying against their political opponent, and then lied about it repeatedly when caught.

Last week, CNN revealed (and excused) one phase of the Obama spying operation on Trump. After lying about it on MSNBC, Susan Rice admitted unmasking the identities of Trump officials to Congress.

Rice was unmasking the names of Trump officials a month before leaving office. The targets may have included her own successor, General Flynn, who was forced out of office using leaked surveillance. While Rice’s targets weren’t named, the CNN story listed a meeting with Flynn, Bannon and Kushner. Bannon was Trump’s former campaign chief executive and a senior adviser. Kushner is a senior adviser. Those are exactly the people you spy on to get an insight into what your political opponents plan to do.

Now the latest CNN spin piece informs us that secret FISA orders were used to spy on the conversations of Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. The surveillance was discontinued for lack of evidence and then renewed under a new warrant. This is part of a pattern of FISA abuses by Obama Inc. which never allowed minor matters like lack of evidence to dissuade them from new FISA requests.

There’s more. Read it all. In my youth, people would have quickly gone to prison for this abuse of power, because in my youth, members of both political parties were wise enough to know that to let this kind of abuse go unpunished would expose them to worse evils. And they knew they would be first targets should those evils arrive. Today, the political class is generally corrupt, and doesn’t understand the hell it is building for itself.

Share

Global warming scientists admit their models predict too much warming

The uncertainty of science: This week the global warming community was shaken by a new paper, written by global warming scientists, that admitted that their models for global warming have been predicting too much warming.

Computer modelling used a decade ago to predict how quickly global average temperatures would rise may have forecast too much warming, a study has found.

This look at that story catches some interesting quotes by these same scientists, who only a few years ago were so certain that the climate was overheating that they wanted to dump freedom and democracy.

According to The Times, another of the paper’s authors, Michael Grubb, a professor of international energy and climate change at University College London, admitted his earlier forecasting models had overplayed how temperatures would rise.

At the Paris climate summit in 2015, Professor Grubb said: “All the evidence from the past 15 years leads me to conclude that actually delivering 1.5C is simply incompatible with democracy.” [Emphasis mine]

These same global warming scientists were also so certain of the rightness of their earlier models that they had the nerve to call anyone who questioned them “science deniers” in an effort to smear them as no different then Holocaust deniers. Instead, the skeptics have once again proven to be the correct ones.

But then, skepticism is what built science in the first place, not certainty. Certainty is what leads to bad science, and things far more evil.

Share

Hubble finds binary asteroid that also acts like a comet

Worlds without end: Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have identified a strange new object in the asteroid belt, two asteroids closely orbiting each other while also acting like a comet.

The images of 288P, which is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, revealed that it was actually not a single object, but two asteroids of almost the same mass and size, orbiting each other at a distance of about 100 kilometres. That discovery was in itself an important find; because they orbit each other, the masses of the objects in such systems can be measured.

But the observations also revealed ongoing activity in the binary system. “We detected strong indications of the sublimation of water ice due to the increased solar heating — similar to how the tail of a comet is created,” explains Jessica Agarwal (Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Germany), the team leader and main author of the research paper. This makes 288P the first known binary asteroid that is also classified as a main-belt comet.

The data also suggests that this binary has only existed as such for a few thousand years, and probably broke into two pieces because of its rotation. When this happened, it exposed water ice buried below the surface, which having been exposed to sunlight is sublimating away and producing the binary’s cometlike of a tail and coma.

Share

UC-Berkeley comes out for free speech

Progress in Berkeley: The University of California-Berkeley has created a website that unapologetically defends the traditional view of the first amendment and freedom of speech.

A statement by the university’s new Chancellor Carol Christ also says this:

We all desire safe space, where we can be ourselves and find support for our identities. You have the right at Berkeley to expect the university to keep you physically safe. But we would be providing students with a less valuable education, preparing them less well for the world after graduation, if we tried to shelter them from ideas that many find wrong, even dangerous. We must show that we can choose what to listen to, that we can cultivate our own arguments and that we can develop inner resilience, which is the surest form of safe space. These are not easy tasks, and we will offer support services for those who desire them.

This September, Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos have both been invited by student groups to speak at Berkeley. The university has the responsibility to provide safety and security for its community and guests, and we will invest the necessary resources to achieve that goal. If you choose to protest, do so peacefully. That is your right, and we will defend it with vigor. We will not tolerate violence, and we will hold anyone accountable who engages in it.

This sounds good. Let us hope she stands by her words. If you want to explore the full site, go here.

Share

“I am just in shock how no one actually cares about the policy any more.”

The quote above, from this article. is from a Republican lobbyist, and is in reference to the new so-called Obamacare replacement bill being pushed right now in the Senate, not because it will repeal Obamacare but because it will provide Senators a fake vote where they can make believe they repealed Obamacare..

The bottom line: The repeal-and-replace bill sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy is gaining steam because it has the appearance of gaining steam — not because of the changes it would make. “If there was an oral exam on the contents of the proposal, graded on a generous curve, only two Republicans could pass it. And one of them isn’t Lindsey Graham,” a senior GOP aide told Caitlin.

I could condemn the Republican leadership here, but the fault actually lies with the press, which is allows them to do this. The number of fake insane bills with “feel good” names in the past two decades that the press has accepted with little analysis is legion. This is only another in that long list.

If you want to find out some real details about this new fake bill, read the whole article. It provides enough information to sicken your stomach about any bill our bankrupt Congress writes.

Share

Egyptian leader demands Palestinians accept Israel in UN speech

While the main buzz in the American press has been President Trump’s UN speech this week, no one has noticed that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in his own UN speech called for the Palestinians to accept the existence of Israel and to co-exist with it.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Tuesday urged Palestinian Arabs to overcome their differences and be ready to co-exist with each other and with Israelis in safety and security. “I tell the Palestinian people it’s extremely important … to overcome the differences and not to lose opportunities and to be ready to accept co-existence with the other, with Israelis in safety and security,” Sisi said in a speech before the UN General Assembly, as quoted by Reuters.

Sisi also had his first pubic meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu this week. Furthermore, earlier in the week the king of Bahrain endorsed an event at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles by sending his prince as a representative, while simultaneously calling for an end to the Arab boycott of Israel.

[Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center,] told The Times of Israel in a phone interview Monday that he was in Dubai on a mission for his organization when the king personally invited him to visit his palace. While the meeting took place in February, Hier said that he was ready now to discuss its contents after receiving “a clear signal” from the king that the royal meant business. In this case, the signal was that Bahraini Prince Nasser bin Hamad al Khalifa attended a large event for the Weisenthal Center on Thursday, and also visited the unabashedly pro-Israeli Museum of Tolerance, also located in Los Angeles.

There have been other indications recently that the covert cooperation that has existed in recent years between Israel and some Arab nations against Iran and Islamic terrorism is about to become more public. If so, we might be on the cusp of some real positive change in the Middle East. (I realize I am being absurdly optimistic with this statement, but one can always hope.)

Share

Lockheed Martin unveils standardized satellite lineup

Capitalism in space: In its new effort to upgrade its satellite business to compete in the new satellite business, Lockheed Martin today unveiled a new line-up of standardized satellite buses which customers could then build their specific satellites around.

The core elements of each bus will retain commonality with other buses for a wide range of components, including propulsion, reaction wheels, gimbals, power regulation, solar arrays, battery technology, thermal control and software and avionics. Such component commonality, Sears said, will enable the company to leverage its supply chain more effectively. Lockheed software systems will also make each bus rapidly reconfigurable, depending on the particular mission need or type of satellite.

The smallest member of the new lineup is the LM 50 series of flexible nanosat buses. Weighing 10 to 100 kilograms, the spacecraft are being develop with Terran Orbital, which, Sears said, offers advanced nanosat technology and operational experience that Lockheed lacks. Lockheed Martin Ventures announced in June an unspecified “strategic investment” in Terran Orbital, a nanosatellite manufacturer.

It is very clear that the company is anticipating a boom in smallsats, and is trying to market itself as the go-to place for having those satellites built.

Share

Stratolaunch tests engines on giant plane

Capitalism in space: Stratolaunch announced today that it has successfully tested the six engines that will fly on the giant plane that it will use as a first stage.

This isn’t that big a deal, since the engines were built for the 747s that were scavenged by Stratolaunch to assemble their giant plane. If those engines didn’t work I would have been very surprised.

The most interesting part of this story is this:

Despite the plane’s giant size, Stratolaunch plans to initially use the aircraft as a platform for Orbital ATK’s Pegasus XL rocket, which is currently launched from a much smaller L-1011 airplane. The Stratolaunch plane will ultimately have the ability to carry three Pegasus rockets that could be launched one at a time on a single flight. An initial launch, the company said in May, could take place as early as 2019.

A recent deal could combine two of Stratolaunch’s partners. Scaled Composites, who developed the aircraft for Stratolaunch, is owned by Northrop Grumman, which announced Sept. 18 a deal to acquire Orbital ATK for $9.2 billion.

This might make Pegasus more affordable for smallsat launches, and provide those smallsat companies much greater launch flexibility. Moreover, the purchase of Orbital ATK by Northrop Grumman appears to work to the advantage of Stratolaunch.

Share

Mitsubishi wins launch contract from Inmarsat

Capitalism in space: Mitsubishi has been awarded a commercial launch contract from Inmarsat.

Recent Inmarsat satellites have launched on Proton, Falcon 9, and Ariane 5 rockets operated by International Launch Services, SpaceX and Arianespace. MHI [Mitsubishi Heavy Industries] has positioned the H-2A as a secondary player in the global launch market, and the Inmarsat 6 F1 contract gives the Japanese company its second commercial telecom launch deal after the Canadian-owned Telstar 12 Vantage satellite lifted off from Tanegashima in November 2015.

Japan has made noises about shifting control of its launch industry from its space agency JAXA to the private sector. This new contract between Mitsubishi and Inmarsat suggests that they are following through with that shift. However, though no specific price was mentioned in the article, the quote below indicates that Mitsubishi will have a big hill to climb to become competitive.

“The reason why we got the launch order from Inmarsat, I think, was not, of course, the cost-competitiveness of the H-2A launch vehicle, but I think our launch record is very good — 35 consecutive successes, high reliability — and another is on-time launch,” [Ko Ogasawara, Mitsubishi vice president] said in remarks last week at Euroconsult’s World Satellite Business Week conference in Paris. “We keep our schedule, and I think they put a high value on that.”

Mitsubishi’s next generation rocket, the H3, is being targeted for a launch price of $50 million, half of what the H-2A charges and more competitive in today’s market.

Share

Trump White House wins Emmy for best reality show

News you can use! The Trump White House has won an Emmy for producing the best on-going reality show on television.

Trump accepted the award in an emotional speech at the Microsoft Theater, thanking the hundreds of staff members he has fired so far in his presidency, as well as his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “Oh man, I know I’m forgetting so many people,” he said as the background music began to prompt him to wrap up his acceptance speech. “Spicey, the Mooch, Bannon the Cannon, and all the others I can’t remember right now—you guys made this all possible. I know I’m the star here, but it’s the great cast of side characters, past and present, that really made this whole insane circus come together.”

“I’m the best!” he cried out as he was finally escorted off stage.

Read it all. You will realize that real reality is almost always more interesting than fake reality.

Share

Academic response to radical paper: fire him!

Fascist academia: A professor writes a paper suggesting that colonialism wasn’t all bad, and the academic world responds by calling for censorship, a boycott of the journal for publishing it, and demands that the professor be fired and blacklisted.

It appears from the academic responses to the paper, very carefully documented in the article, that none of the protesters bothered to read it. From their perspective, the professor dared say something that is simply not permitted, and therefore must be silenced and destroyed.

But then, how do you have an open marketplace of ideas if some ideas are “simply not permitted?” You don’t. This article illustrates the fascist culture that now permeates many academic fields, totally counter to the concepts of open debate, freedom, and individual liberty that western civilization is founded on.

Share

Federal bureaucracy prevents satellite launch

We’re here to help you! A suite of 8 private commercial cubesats that the Air Force had agreed to launch as secondary payloads on the August 26 launch of a Minotaur rocket were blocked from launch by FAA bureaucracy.

The “interagency partner” that appeared to raise objections was the Federal Aviation Administration, which issued the launch license for the mission. “The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did not approve Orbital ATK’s request for a license modification to include commercial cubesats on the upcoming ORS-5 launch mission,” Guthrie said. “As a result, Orbital ATK decided not to include commercial cubesats on the launch.”

Asked if the FAA placed any conditions or restrictions on the ORS-5 mission launched on the Minotaur 4, agency spokesman Hank Price said the FAA issued Orbital ATK a license Feb. 10 to launch government payloads on the Minotaur 4 from Cape Canaveral. The launch license contains any and all conditions on the license, Price said, and the FAA does not comment on the “existence or status of launch license applications or modifications until the FAA makes a final decision regarding those requests.”

Industry sources believe the FAA never formally rejected a proposed license modification for the cubesats because it did not go through the official process, but it was informally clear that the agency would have rejected such a modification had it been formally submitted.

Spire officials are trying to figure out why there was any issue at all about commercial cubesats on this launch. “If Spire chose this launch in the place of another commercial offering, I would understand the industry’s concern about fair competition,” Barna said. “But no existing U.S. launch company or new entrant was offering a similar launch. The fundamental intent of the policy is to keep competition fair, and competition just wasn’t a factor here.”

Spire’s problems here demonstrates the difficulties smallsat companies have getting their satellites in orbit, which explains the emergence of a new smallsat rocket industry. The company’s difficulties also illustrates why the launch industry should always be opposed to giving too much regulatory power to government. In this case it really appears that the launch license was denied merely because the bureaucrats involved with approving it at the FAA simply didn’t want to bother dealing with it.

Share

Middlebury College endorses heckler’s veto

Another college no one should attend: Middlebury College, which saw violent protests when author Charles Murray gave a speech there, has established a new policy that will have them cancel any speaker “in cases of imminent and credible threat to the community that cannot be mitigated by revisions to the event plan.”

In other words, threaten violence against a speaker you disagree with, and you will successfully silence that speaker.

If this college believed in free speech, it would instead announce that it will immediately expel any student that threatens violence against anyone, and that it will do whatever is necessary to defend all speakers from violence. But the administration here doesn’t believe in free speech, so instead it invites violence against any unpopular speaker.

Share

Carl Orff – O Fortuna from Carmina Burana

An evening pause: The first half of this video is a great performance of Orff’s piece, written as the opening for Carmina Burana. The second half shows what I think is the closing scene from a staged performance, but has no sound and is unclear. Regardless, the first half is breath-taking, and includes English subtitles, which clearly places the context of this music in 1930s Germany.

Hat tip Wayne DeVette.

Share

Brown University to offer segregated dinners to minorities

Bigoted academia: Brown University has received a $30K grant to offer segregated dinners for blacks and Muslim women.

The university received a $30,000 grant from the Association of American Colleges and Universities, which represents liberal arts schools, to create a campus center whose mission is to “break down racial hierarchies and create a positive narrative about race in the community,” according to The Brown Daily Herald.

These grants, provided with the assistance of the Newman’s Own Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation, will go towards hosting racially and religiously segregated “dinner discussion groups.” These discussions are being led by Brown University Chaplain Rev. Janet Cooper Nelson, who told The Daily that “one [group will be] for black students and the other [will be for] for Muslim women on campus.”

Democrats created and controlled the south when segregation ruled. They now control all of academia, so no one should be surprised if they are once again encouraging the idea there.

It all comes down to bigotry. Modern academia is obsessed with race, gender, and ethnicity. It is all they see when they look at a person. Thus, it shapes everything they do, including building segregated societies founded on racial and ethnic hate. And we can see the long term result of this in what is happening in St. Louis this week.

Share

Navy removes top management in response to recent ship collisions

The Navy has removed the two top commanders of its largest operational force in response to the four recent incidents in the Pacific, involving three collisions and the ship’s grounding.

A third man has also requested retirement in order to “to step aside to allow for new leadership.”

The important question is whether the Navy is really instituting real management changes, or is simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We shall see.

Share

Oh no! Climate panel might include skeptics!

According to this Washington Post article, the Trump administration is considering naming some skeptical climate scientists to the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, something that the newspaper, the global warming crowd, and some EPA employees apparently consider a horrible taboo.

[T]he inclusion of a handful of climate contrarians has caused early concern among environmental groups and some employees at the agency. “We should be able to trust that those who serve the EPA are the all-stars in their fields and committed to public service,” said Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He said the upcoming round of appointments will test whether EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is “remotely interested” in independent scientific advice. “He already has a parade of lobbyists and advisers providing him with the perspectives from oil, gas, and chemical companies. The Science Advisory Board is a check on political influence and can help the agency determine whether the special interests are telling it straight.”

What I find really hilarious in reading the article is its description of the various skeptics, almost all of which are qualified climate scientists. The article quotes their skeptical positions as if these positions are the insane ravings of an idiot, but everything these skeptics say is accurate and well documented by research over the past century. For example, there is this quote:

Another scientist, Craig Idso, is chairman of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, where he has written that “the modern rise in the air’s CO2 content is providing a tremendous economic benefit to global crop production.”

Yet another scientist, Richard Keen, is a meteorologist and author who traveled with the Heartland Institute to Rome in 2015 for a “prebuttal” to Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change. There, he argued that “in the past 18 years and how many months, four months, there has been no global warming.” Another candidate, Anthony Lupo, is an atmospheric sciences professor at the University of Missouri. In 2014, he told a local Missouri media outlet, KOMU 8, that “I think it is rash to put the climate change completely on the blame of humans.”

Idso is correct. Crops benefit from more carbon dioxide. This is common knowledge in the agricultural community, and has been amply proven by numerous studies.

Keen is also correct. In 2015 there had been no warming for almost two decades, and that pause only ceased last year because of El Nino, and appears now to have resumed.

Lupo is also correct. The theory that human behavior is the sole cause of global warming has not been proven, and if anything, the failure of every computer model based on this theory to predict the pause in rising temperatures suggests it is wrong.

If anything, the article illustrates the ignorance of its author and the newspaper, both of whom appear completely unaware of the actual uncertainties that exist in the climate field.

Share

Cassini’s last image of Iapetus

Iapetus

The image on the right is a cropped and scaled up version of one of Cassini’s last images of Saturn’s moon, Iapetus.

The moon is unique in that its east and west hemispheres have completely opposite albedos, with one being very dark and the other very bright. It also has a very distinctive large crater, seen in this image. Scientists do not quite understand what causes the dichotomy, though they have models that partly explain it, partly from material being deposited on the moon’s leading hemisphere combined with the temperature differences at different latitudes.

The cause of the extreme brightness dichotomy on Iapetus is likely to be thermal segregation of water ice on a global scale. Thermal effects are usually expected to act latitudinally. That is, polar areas are colder than equatorial terrain in most cases due to the more oblique angle of the solar irradiation. Therefore, an additional process is required to explain the longitudinal difference as well. In one model, dark, reddish dust coming in from space and preferentially deposited on the leading side forms a small, but crucial difference between the leading and trailing hemispheres, which is sufficient to allow the thermal effect to evaporate the water ice on the leading side completely, but only marginally on the trailing side.

It was this moon’s strange dichotomy that had Arthur Clarke use it in 2001: A Space Odyssey. While Cassini’s images clearly prove that the brightness difference was not created by an alien civilization, as imagined by Clarke, those images have not really provided us a full explanation for its cause. The uncertainty of science marches on!

Share

NASA’s international outreach continues

Barack Obama’s demand that NASA focus on teaching international students, especially Muslims, on how to get into space is continuing in the Trump administration.

The list of countries participating, available here, is not confined only to Muslim countries, and seems reasonable: Australia, Brazil, Israel, Jordan, Lithuania, Mexico, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Trinidad & Tobago, the United Arab Emirates (UAE). At the same time, it is a reasonable question whether this should really one of NASA’s focuses.

Note one interesting detail. The European Space Agency is listed as one of these nations, but its program is presently on hold for reasons that are not explained.

Share

ArianeGroup’s transition to Ariane 6 rocket

Link here. It appears that this transition not only includes replacing Ariane 5 with Ariane 6, but also the phase out of Russian Soyuz rockets by 2022. This loss of business is going to hurt Russia, as the government there desperately needs cash with the drop in oil prices.

The article also noted that ArianeGroup will charge two prices for Ariane 6, depending on configuration and payload, $85 million and $130 million per launch. These prices seem high, but because they likely cover the launch of two satellites, customers will be charged half these amounts, $40 million and $65 million, which is competitive in today’s market.

Will these prices be competitive in 2020s? I have my doubts. I estimate, based on news reports, that SpaceX is charging about $40 million today for a launch with a reused first stage, and $62 million for a launch with an entirely new rocket. Give them another five years of development and I expect those prices to drop significantly, especially as they shift to entirely reused first stages for almost every launch and begin to demonstrate a routine launch cadence of more than one launch per month.

This quote below explains how ArianeGroup really intends to stay alive in the launch market:

The price targets assume that European governments — the European Space Agency, the European Commission, Eumetsat and individual EU nations — agree to guarantee the equivalent of five Ariane 62 missions per year, plus at least two missions for the light-lift Vega rocket.

In other words, ArianeGroup really doesn’t wish to compete for business. It wants to use government coercion to force European space agencies and businesses to buy its product. They might get that, but the long term result will be a weak European presence in space, as everyone else finds cheaper and more efficient ways to do things.

Share

Northrop Grumman to buy Orbital ATK

Capitalism in space: Aerospace giant Northrop Grumman has made a deal to acquire Orbital ATK for $9.2 billion.

This deal essentially allows Northrop Grumman to return as a player in the space industry. In recent years the company has not been visible in any major way in space. Orbital ATK gives it that.

At the same time, the flexibility and risk-taking seen at Orbital ATK that allowed them to build Antares and Cygnus for crew cargo will likely be more difficult as part of a giant corporation.

Share
1 2 3 4 562