Saudi Arabia has launched a military strike against Yemen

Saudi Arabia has launched a military strike against Yemen’s defense ministry.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the attacks were air or missile strikes, but they came following reports that Iran had manufactured the ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Shiite rebels toward the Saudi capital a week ago.

Remnants of the missile bore “Iranian markings,” the top US Air Force official in the Mideast said Friday, backing the kingdom’s earlier allegations.

This isn’t that much of a surprise, considering the recent purge in Saudi Arabia as well as the recent reports of both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait warning their citizens to leave Lebanon. The military strike today in Yemen appears to therefore merely be a precursor of a more significant escalation.

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A storm on Jupiter

A storm of Jupiter

Cool image time! The image above, reduced in resolution to post here, was taken during Juno’s ninth close fly-by of Jupiter in late October, and shows one particular storm swirl in the gas giant’s southern hemisphere.

The Juno team today highlighted an image taken during this fly-by of Jupiter’s entire southern hemisphere, but I find this close-up more interesting. Be sure to check out the full resolution version. It appears to me that the white swirls have risen up above the gold and blue regions, casting shadows down upon them.

Unfortunately, I cannot tell you the scale of this storm, as the release does not give any details, including where in the full hemisphere image it is located. I suspect, however, that it is large enough to likely cover the Earth.

Both the full hemisphere image and the image above were processed by citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran.

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Physicists shrink their next big accelerator

Because of high costs and a refocus in research goals, physicists have reduced the size of their proposed next big particle accelerator, which they hope will be built in Japan.

On 7 November, the International Committee for Future Accelerators (ICFA), which oversees work on the ILC, endorsed halving the machine’s planned energy from 500 to 250 gigaelectronvolts (GeV), and shortening its proposed 33.5-kilometre-long tunnel by as much as 13 kilometres. The scaled-down version would have to forego some of its planned research such as studies of the ‘top’ flavour of quark, which is produced only at higher energies.

Instead, the collider would focus on studying the particle that endows all others with mass — the Higgs boson, which was detected in 2012 by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, Europe’s particle-physics lab near Geneva, Switzerland.

Part of the reason for these changes is that the Large Hadron Collider has not discovered any new particles, other than the Higgs Boson. The cost to discover any remaining theorized particles was judged as simply too high. Better to focus on studying the Higgs Boson itself.

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United Arab Emirates signs space agreement with Germany

The new colonial movement: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the German Aerospace Center.

The press release doesn’t say much, other than the agreement will facilitate the exchange of information. Since the UAE can contribute little here but money, and none appears to be offered, I am curious as to exactly what is involved. It could be that Germany is looking at this as a form of inexpensive foreign aid, providing help to the UAE’s nascent space effort in order to establish good will and good relations.

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Update on the development of Blue Origin’s orbital rocket New Glenn

Link here. The article provides a lot of interesting details about Blue Origin’s plans and status, including this tidbit about the New Glenn assembly facility, now expected to be finished by February 2018 at the latest:

The facility will largely be used to build the second and third stages for New Glenn, with Blue Origin actually planning to construct very few first stage boosters.

With each first stage booster planned to be reused up to 100 times, the factory will mainly concentrate on – and for large periods of time is only planned to – produce 2nd and 3rd stages. Mr. Henderson noted that once the first stage boosters are retrieved after flight, their storage will be managed across the refurbishment facility at LC-36 (capable of holding three or four boosters), the integration facility at LC-36 (also capable of holding “at least” three or four boosters), and the Merritt Island production facility (which can hold four boosters).

This would seemingly reveal that Blue Origin plans to rely on roughly only 12 first stage boosters at a time (once New Glenn is fully operational and recovery is “routine”), relying almost exclusively on booster recovery and refurbishment to maintain its first stage boosters manifest.

The article also notes the Blue Origin intends to always land its stages on a barge, and is about to finalize the purchase of that barge.

What I am puzzled about is the almost complete disappearance from the news of the company’s suborbital project, New Shepard. The last news story I’ve seen, from mid-September, said they hoped to resume test flights before the end of the year, with manned flights in 2018. Since then, however, there has been no updates, which makes me wonder if Blue Origin has decided to put that suborbital tourism project aside.

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Crowdfunding campaign to honor only cat to fly in space

A crowdfunding campaign has been started to build a 5-foot-tall bronze statue in honor of Félicette, the only cat to fly in space.

While the first dog in space, Laika, has a statue, and the first chimp, Ham, has a memorial, Félicette has close to nothing. There are some commemorative stamps honoring a mythical space cat “Felix.” But Felix’s portrait doesn’t look like Félicette and it has a male name, so this is not enough for Guy. If anything, he says, the stamps simply help erase the existence of female astronauts.

The French space program gathered 14 cats, implanted electrodes into their brains, and put them through training similar to the way that they train human astronauts. They ultimately chose Félicette to make the trip, either because of her docile personality, or because she had not put on too much weight, according to differing accounts.

She was launched into space from Algeria [in 1963], and made it nearly 100 miles above Earth. For five minutes, she was weightless. Félicette came back to Earth unharmed, parachuting down and being retrieved only 13 minutes after having left her home planet. She stayed at the program’s lab for two to three months, according to Guy, but scientists later killed her to study the effects of space travel on her body.

Seems to me to be the right thing to do.

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XCOR files for bankruptcy

Capitalism in space: Unable to find new investors, XCOR Aerospace filed for bankruptcy earlier this week, beginning the process that will liquidate the company.

Freedom and competition produce wealth and success better than any other approach, but they also allow for risk and failure. Sadly, XCOR has now demonstrated this downside.

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Washington swamp creature hints that SLS could be in trouble

Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today expressed strong disappointment with the repeated delays in the the launch of SLS and Orion, noting that the problems could lead to Congress considering “other options.”

“After all these years, after billions of dollars spent, we are facing more delays and cost overruns,” Smith said. While he noted that some delays were caused by factors out of NASA’s control, like a tornado that damaged the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans in February, “many of the problems are self-inflicted.”

“It is very disappointing to hear about delays caused by poor execution, when the U.S. taxpayer has invested so much in these programs,” he added.

Smith, who announced Nov. 2 he would not run for reelection next year after more than three decades in the House, including serving as chairman of the science committee since 2013, warned about eroding support for the programs should there be additional delays. “NASA and the contractors should not assume future delays and cost overruns will have no consequences,” he said. “If delays continue, if costs rise, and if foreseeable technical challenges arise, no one should assume the U.S. taxpayers or their representatives will tolerate this forever.”

“The more setbacks SLS and Orion face, the more support builds for other options,” he said, not elaborating on what those options would be.

Smith is part of the establishment in Congress that has been supporting SLS and Orion blindly for years. Unfortunately, he is retiring this year, and the other members of his committee did not seem as bothered by SLS’s endless delays.

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This week in fascist academia

This week’s collection of stories illustrating the fascist culture that permeates today’s academic community actually includes some good news. (My last fascist academia post can be seen here.)

First the bad:

The first story illustrates that this intolerance is not limited to the left. In this case a conservative university kicked out a speaker with more moderate views.

Nonetheless, the majority of these attacks on freedom of speech continue to come from the left or from left-leaning organizations. The last story indicates the trends, which include a significant shift towards violence and a disrespect for property rights.

Now for the good news.

In the first story we see a rare example of someone experiencing bad consequences for their bad fascist behavior. If only this would happen more often. In the second story the theatrical community, including the normally very leftwing partisan Dramatists Guild of America (!), has actually come out against censorship, even if that censorship involves opinions that attack modern liberal sacred cows, such as the racist Black Lives Matter movement. This action is so out of the norm that I am somewhat speechless.

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Tuesday’s election results

The election results from Tuesday, where Democrats won most of the significant races, has produced a lot of commentary, from both conservatives and liberals, about its significance.

To me, however, these results merely confirmed the increasingly regional nature of today’s partisan politics. This story, about a victory by a Democrat state senator candidate that puts the Democrats in complete control of Washington’s legislature, illustrates this best.

Dhingra’s victory in Washington state over Republican Jinyoung Englund means the West Coast is now the solid center of the resistance, with Democrats controlling legislatures and governorships from Seattle down to San Diego.

The Democratic victories on Tuesday all took place in areas where they strongly dominate (the coasts and urban centers), thus merely solidifying their control over those localized regions. I expect that future elections will show Republicans solidifying their control over their own regions (which is the rest of the country). In other words, people are beginning to choose sides, and we are heading to a regional and political divide that can only be solved in one of two ways: The U.S. splits, or a civil war (in the literal sense) breaks out.

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A simple and inexpensive skin cancer detector wins award

A simple and inexpensive skin cancer detector has won the $40,000 2017 James Dyson award.

Designed by a team from McMaster University in Canada, the sKan can make more accurate diagnoses quickly and reasonably cheaply. It’s based around the fact that cancer cells have a faster metabolic rate than healthy cells, meaning they release more heat. To check if a patch of skin has the beginnings of a melanoma, the suspected area is first cooled with an ice pack before the sKan device is placed against the skin.

Using an array of temperature sensors called thermistors, the sKan will then monitor the area as the skin warms back up. If there’s a melanoma present, it will warm up faster than the surrounding skin, revealing itself on a heat map and temperature difference time plot created through a connected computer program.

Once this device is in the hands of dermatologists, they will be able to very quickly diagnose whether a skin mole or freckle is dangerous or not.

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India’s space agency ISRO hopes to double launch rate

Capitalism in space: ISRO officials said yesterday that the agency plans to double its launch rate next year, while also shifting as much of its space manufacturing effort to the private sector.

Currently, the space agency launches 9 to 10 spacecraft built by it every year. Dr K Sivan, director of Thiruvananthapuram-based Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, said, “Isro is targeting to double the number of launches from 9-10 to 18-19 launches per year.”

On outsourcing of jobs to the private industry, Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar said the space agency does as much activity as possible with the industry. “Wherever it’s possible to get things done through the industry, we are doing and it will only increase in the coming days because we need to do more frequent activities,” he told a news agency. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted language is patently false. India has never launched 9 spacecraft in a year. Last year it set a record with 7 launches. This false overstatement casts some doubt to me of the sincerity of the second claim, that the agency wishes to shift as much responsibility to the private sector as possible. Government agencies rarely give up power. In the U.S. the decision by NASA to shift from NASA-built rockets to commercially-built rockets took decades (occurring reluctantly in 2008 after years of lobbying), and even a decade after that decision the transition is hardly guaranteed.

Nonetheless, that ISRO officials are setting a goal of 18-19 launches a year indicates that they truly do want to compete with the big launch players.

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ESA to lead international effort to track falling Chinese space station

The European Space Agency has taken the lead position in an international effort to track China’s falling Tiangong-1 test space station module.

The goal of the effort is to improve the accuracy of predicting the fall of such objects. Tiangong-1, at 8.5 tons, is big enough for some pieces to survive re-entry and crash to the ground. Improving the predictions of where it will fall will reduce the chances of the debris causing harm.

I first read of this effort from this news story, which contained in its last sentence one piece of interesting news having nothing to do with Tiangong-1:

The next such launch [of a Chinese space station module] will be of the Tianhe core module around 2019 on a new Long March 5B rocket, the country’s largest and most powerful so far. [emphasis mine]

It appears China has quietly renamed its big Long March 5 rocket, adding a “B” to the name. This name change strongly indicates what I have suspected for months, that the July launch failure has required China to significantly redesign the rocket. Apparently, the poor performance of the rocket’s first stage engines was caused by fundamental design problems.

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Senate kills military “Space Corps”

As part of this year’s military budget bill, the Senate has eliminated a House proposal that the military create a new military branch called the “Space Corps.”

The bill also completely overhauls the management of the military’s space effort, as described in detail here.

The NDAA conference report blasts the Air Force for a “broken national security space enterprise,” strips key authorities from the service and shifts much of the management of military space to the deputy secretary of defense.

The second link focuses on the management changes, while the first reviews in great detail the Senate’s budget proposals, which (surprise, surprise!) give the military more money.

In addition to changes in space-related policy, the bill would also fully authorize a pay increase for service members, increase missile defense, and add additional ships and aircraft. “The bill fully funds the 2.4% pay raise our troops are entitled to under law while blocking the President’s ability to reduce troop pay,” according to the summary.

It authorizes funding for a wide variety of additional military hardware including 90 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters across the service branches — 20 more than requested by President Donald Trump’s initial budget — and three additional Littoral Combat Ships.

The bill also “adds $4.4 billion above the President’s initial budget request to meet critical missile defense needs” — authorizing up to 28 additional ground-based Interceptors and “requiring the Missile Defense Agency to develop a space-based sensor layer for ballistic missile defense,” according to the summary.

However, the bill would also set defense spending well above the $549 billion cap under the Budget Control Act [sequestration] and Senate Democrats have vowed to block major increases to defense spending without equal increases for domestic programs.

I am not sure what to make of the management changes, though I like the elimination of the Space Corps, which was an absurd waste of money. The proposed budget increases are disturbing, however. I am especially appalled (but not surprised) at the push to eliminate sequestration, which has been the only bill passed by Republicans that has done anything to control the federal governments wasteful spending.

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New study confirms the cost effectiveness of commercial crew

Capitalism in space: A new study shows that the commercial private cargo capsules are far more efficient then the space shuttle was in delivering cargo to ISS.

According to the new research paper by Edgar Zapata, who works at Kennedy Space Center, the supply services offered by SpaceX and Orbital ATK have cost NASA two to three times less than if the space agency had continued to fly the space shuttle. For his analysis, Zapata attempted to make an “apples to apples” comparison between the commercial vehicles, through June 2017, and the space shuttle.

Specifically, the analysis of development and operational expenses, as well as vehicle failures, found that SpaceX had cost NASA about $89,000 per kg of cargo delivered to the space station. By the same methodology, he found Orbital ATK had cost $135,000 per kg. Had the shuttle continued to fly, and deliver cargo via its Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, it would have cost $272,000 per kg.

…The detailed study then attempts to calculate the costs of the commercial cargo and crew programs combined, comparing that total to continued shuttle flights, which could carry both supplies and astronauts at the same time. Zapata’s best estimate is that the commercial programs cost only about 37 to 39 percent of what it would have cost NASA to continue the space shuttle program.

The benefits of the private programs go beyond cost savings, however. With multiple providers, NASA now has redundancy in case of a failure of supply lines to the space station. And there are indirect benefits as well, especially from supporting the efforts of US companies to develop new spacefaring technologies.

None of this is really news. There was once a time in the U.S. where these facts were understood without much thought. Americans once knew that private enterprise, competition, and freedom always work better than government-imposed projects. Today however we live in a post-freedom America, where the idea of depending on Americans to use their innovative talents freely to get things done is considered oppressive and racist, and must be squelched by a much wiser government.

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Surprise! First unmanned launch of SLS might be delayed until 2020

Yawn. NASA admitted today that the first unmanned launch of SLS, set for December 2019, might be delayed until June 2020.

NASA’s review considered challenges related to building the SLS rocket’s core stage, issues with constructing Orion’s first European service module and tornado damage at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, NASA officials said in a statement.

“While the review of the possible manufacturing and production schedule risks indicate a launch date of June 2020, the agency is managing to December 2019,” Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement. “Since several of the key risks identified have not been actually realized, we are able to put in place mitigation strategies for those risks to protect the December 2019 date,” Lightfoot added.

Gee, only yesterday I thought I was going out on a limb to say that the first manned flight of SLS wouldn’t happen until 2024. It looks like I wasn’t going very far out on that limb. If the first unmanned mission doesn’t happen until June 2020, the next SLS launch (using its own second stage for the first time) cannot happen until around April 2023. That mission will likely be unmanned, launching Europa Clipper. The third SLS flight, as yet unbudgeted by Congress, would then fly humans, and will likely be scheduled for 2024, though I am certain that will be an unrealistic launch date.

More likely the first manned flight of SLS will not occur before 2025, twenty-one years after George Bush first proposed it and fourteen years after the last shuttle flight. By that time the cost for this boondoggle will have risen to more than $50 billion.

2025 is about seven years in the future. I will also bet in that time both SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy and Blue Origin’s New Glenn rockets will have become operational, with both flying manned capsules. In fact, I expect them both to send human capsules to the Moon several times before SLS even gets its first manned flight off the ground. And they will do it for about a tenth the cost.

So obviously, our Congress and President know what to do! They are going to double down on SLS, pouring more money into this black hole, while making another decade of false promises about it that will never be fulfilled. Based on everything I have read coming from NASA and the National Space Council, I would be fooling myself to think otherwise.

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Engine failure for SpaceX upgraded Merlin engine during static test

Capitalism in space: An upgraded Block 5 Merlin engine, undergoing static fire testing at SpaceX’s Texas test facility, experienced what the company is calling “an anomaly.”

The current generation of engines, known as Block IV, have not been impacted by the failure and will continue to fly payloads for SpaceX customers, meaning the incident will not affect this or next year’s launches. That includes next Wednesday’s planned launch of a secretive payload for Northrop Grumman from Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A.

“We are now conducting a thorough and fully transparent investigation of the root cause,” SpaceX told FLORIDA TODAY. “SpaceX is committed to our current manifest and we do not expect this to have any impact on our launch cadence.” A company spokesperson said the anomaly occurred when liquid oxygen was being loaded into the engine during an operation known as a “LOX drop.” The tests are designed to root out any cracks or leaks in the engines.

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Driverless shuttle crashes on first day

Only hours after initiating service, a driverless shuttle in Las Vegas crashed.

No one was hurt, nor is the accident described in any detail at the link. However, I think this incident highlights a reality about driverless cars: Either every vehicle on the road must be one, or none of the vehicles on the road can be one. It will be almost impossible to program a driverless car to handle the unpredictability of human drivers. If we want to leave the driving to computers (which I don’t), we will have to ban humans from driving.

Such a ban will be a terrible loss of freedom. And not surprisingly, I think the whole a push for driverless vehicles is a push in that direction.

I found a second article that describes the incident as caused by a truck driver backing into the shuttle, thus blaming the human driver (who was given a ticket by the way) and using the incident to argue against human drivers.

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A review of the Saudi purge taking place this week

Link here. The analysis here is the best I’ve seen, and suggests once again that we might be seeing a significant shift taking place within the Arab Middle East.

It is in the context of Saudi Arabia’s reassessment of its interests and realignment of strategic posture in recent years that the dramatic events of the past few days in the kingdom must be seen.

Saturday’s sudden announcement that a new anti-corruption panel headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the near simultaneous announcement of the arrest of more than two dozen royal family members, cabinet ministers and prominent businessmen is predominantly being presented as a power seizure by the crown prince. Amid widespread rumors that King Salman will soon abdicate the throne to his son, it is reasonable for the 32-year-old crown prince to work to neutralize all power centers that could threaten his ascension to the throne.

But there is clearly also something strategically more significant going on. While many of the officials arrested over the weekend threaten Mohammed’s power, they aren’t the only ones that he has purged. In September Mohammed arrested some 30 senior Wahhabist clerics and intellectuals. And Saturday’s arrest of the princes, cabinet ministers and business leaders was followed up by further arrests of senior Wahhabist clerics.

At the same time, Mohammed has been promoting clerics who espouse tolerance for other religions, including Judaism and Christianity. He has removed the Saudi religious police’s power to conduct arrests and he has taken seemingly credible steps to finally lift the kingdom-wide prohibition on women driving.

There’s a lot more, including details about how the Obama administration was dishonestly aiding the wrong side. Read it all

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United flies its last 747

United yesterday completed its last scheduled 747 passenger flight, ending a period lasting almost a half century since the first 747 took off.

The flight had a 1970s theme, with the crew in vintage uniforms and the passengers dressing in costumes invoking that time period.

The article does a nice job of recounting the 747’s history, as well as why it is being replaced. It also noted this:

[T]he aircraft would go on to defy all expectations. Boeing anticipated it would become obsolete before the Nineties, believing that supersonic jets would overtake conventional aircraft.

In fact the 747 is still in production with current orders placed by a number of developing countries which will potentially see it serving into 2030. While the aircraft’s life is limited in the US – with Delta the only airline still flying the craft and due to retire it later this year – other major carriers will continue operating it well into the next decade. British Airways, which now operates 36 of the aircraft, more than any other airline, has confirmed it will be phasing it out – but will not part ways with it entirely until 2024.

Even once it has disappeared from passenger routes, it is expected the 747 will go on to serve many more years as a cargo plane.

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Physicists once again fail to detect dark matter

The uncertainty of science: The most sensitive detector yet created by physicists has once again failed to detect dark matter, casting strong doubt on all present theories for its existence.

The latest results from an experiment called XENON1T at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy, published on 30 October, continue a dry spell stretching back 30 years in the quest to nab dark-matter particles. An attempt by a Chinese team to detect the elusive stuff, the results of which were published on the same day, also came up empty-handed. Ongoing attempts by space-based telescopes, as well as at CERN, the European particle-physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, have also not spotted any hints of dark-matter particles.

The findings have left researchers struggling for answers. “We do not understand how the Universe works at a deeper and more profound level than most of us care to admit,” says Stacy McGaugh, an astrophysicist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

The process here has been a good demonstration of the scientific method. Observers detect a phenomenon that does not make sense, which in this case was that the outer regions of galaxies rotate so fast that they should fly apart. Theorists then come up with a hypothesis to explain the phenomenon, which here was dark matter, subatomic particles that have weight but do not generally interact with the rest of the universe except by their mass, which acts to hold the galaxies together. Observers than try to prove the hypothesis by finding these theorized particles.

When the particles are not found, the theorists begin to rethink their theories. Maybe dark matter does not exist. Maybe (as is mentioned near the end of the article) a rethinking of the nature of gravity itself might be necessary. Or possibly the unseen matter is not subatomic, but ordinary matter not yet detected.

If only the climate field would apply this basic scientific method to its work. There, scientists found that carbon dioxide is increasing in the atmosphere. Some theorists posited an hypothesis that said that this increase might cause the climate to warm, and created numerous (almost a hundred) models to predict this warming. After more than thirty years, however, none of those models has successfully worked. The climate has not warmed as predicted, which suggests the hypothesis is flawed, and needs rethinking. Sadly, the leaders in the climate field refuse to do this rethinking. Instead, they appear willing to adjust and change their data to make it fit, sometimes in ways that are downright fraudulent.

This is not how science is done, and it is doing a terrible disservice to both science and society in general.

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Arianespace successfully launches Morocco’s first reconnaissance satellite

Capitalism in space: Morocco’s first reconnaissance satellite, built in France, was successfully launched into orbit last night by Arianespace’s Vega rocket.

This was Arianespace’s tenth launch in 2017, one more than its total for 2016 With one more launch scheduled, it appears the company will achieve close to its desired launch rate of one launch per month, despite labor problems in the spring that shut it down for almost two months.

Increasingly, Arianespace’s business (or ArianeGroup, depending on the rocket) seems restricted to European satellites. Its market share of American satellites is more and more being taken by American companies. This doesn’t appear to be reducing the company’s overall launch rate, however, proving once again that competition is not a zero sum game. Introduce it, and instead of the players fighting over a never changing pie of business, the pie grows so that everyone is doing more.

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More SLS delays

Here we go again! At a three-day meeting this week aimed at resolving some of NASA’s scheduling issues for its Space Launch System (SLS), it appears that managers are faced with further launch delays because of the need to insert an extra SLS launch prior to the first manned flight.

The problem is that the first unmanned flight, presently set for December 2019 (but which I am positive will be delayed) will be not be using the second stage planned for later missions. In order to fly humans on that stage NASA needs to fly at least one more more unmanned mission beforehand. Since Congress has mandated that NASA use the SLS rocket to fly a mission to Europa, managers are now planning to insert that mission into the manifest prior to the manned mission.

At a major three day Technical Interchange Meeting (TIM) at the Kennedy Space Center recently, NASA noted that the Europa Clipper mission has a formal, target launch date of 4 June 2022, the opening of a 21 day launch window that closes on 25 June.

A backup launch option exists in 2023.

The problem with the June 2022 launch window is that the mobile launcher that moves the rocket from the assembly building to the launchpad will likely not be ready by then. If it is not, then the next time Europa Clipper can fly, in 2023, will certainly force more delays on the first manned SLS/Orion flight. And even if it is ready, I am willing to bet that NASA will not be able to fly that manned mission in 2023 regardless. For years the agency has made it clear that they will need at least two years turn-around time between SLS launches.

So, my prediction that the first manned mission of SLS/Orion will occur in 2023 was wrong. I now predict it will not occur prior to 2024, more than 20 years after George Bush first proposed it.

Overall, the entire NASA project to replace the space shuttle with a manned rocket and capsule is the perfect poster boy for government incompetence, waste, and corruption. Twenty years, and all we will get, at most, is a single manned mission and one flight capsule. Worse, by 2024 the cost for this entire effort will likely have exceeded $50 billion. What a squandering of taxpayer money.

What makes this more infuriating is that this is not an exception, it is now the standard operating procedure for the entire federal government. From incompetence in the Navy to the failure of the Air Force to do something as simple as properly registering a person in the FBI’s gun national background check system, our federal government is a disaster. And I see only a token effort by Congress and even Trump to fix it.

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Astronaut Richard Gordon, 88, has died

R.I.P. Astronaut Richard Gordon, who piloted both a Gemini and an Apollo mission in the 1960s, has passed away at 88.

I described one of Gordon’s spacewalks during his Gemini 11 mission in 1966 as follows:

When he opened the hatch, both he and everything unfastened in the capsule was sucked toward space. Pete Conrad had to grab a leg strap on Gordon’s spacesuit to prevent him from drifting away. Later, Conrad had to pull him back using his umbilical cord. The arduous nature of the work caused both Gordon and his spacesuit to overheat, leading him to terminate the firs spacewalk after only 33 minutes.

On Gordon’s second and last flight on Apollo 12 he remained in orbit while Pete Conrad and Alan Bean went down to the surface, the third and fourth humans to walk on another world.

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