Tag Archives: bankruptcy

Homeland Security to track bloggers and journalists

You gotta have your KGB: Homeland Security has revealed that it is putting together a program to track bloggers, journalists, and what it calls “Social Media Influencers.”

[T]he Department of Homeland Security has just announced that it intends to compile a comprehensive list of hundreds of thousands of “journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc.”, and collect any “information that could be relevant” about them.

So if you have a website, an important blog or you are just very active on social media, the Department of Homeland Security is going to put you on a list and will start collecting information about you. The DHS has already announced that it will hire a contractor to aid in monitoring media coverage, and they will definitely need plenty of help because it is going to be a very big job…

The article above then quotes from another news story describing this Orwellian plan:

As part of its “media monitoring,” the DHS seeks to track more than 290,000 global news sources as well as social media in over 100 languages, including Arabic, Chinese and Russian, for instant translation into English. The successful contracting company will have “24/7 access to a password protected, media influencer database, including journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc.” in order to “identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event.”

This is quite vile, but no surprise. From its very inception after 9/11 Homeland Security was designed to violate numerous rights listed in the Bill of Rights. We are now seeing those violations play out. Worse should certainly be expected as well.

I hope they track Behind the Black. If they try to squelch me the publicity might do the site good.

Meanwhile, where is Trump in this? That this program is going forward under his watch illustrates once again that Trump really is not that much different than the swamp in Washington he claims a desire to drain. He has undeniably forced a lot of positive change in DC, but his lack of understanding of the philosophical battle allows him to permit this kind of abuse. This program centers power in the executive branch, something that Trump doesn’t really mind.

Share

NASA reconfiguring future SLS planning

Link here. This is a long (4 parts) and detailed overview of the changing state of the SLS system and its future missions. As it notes right at the start,

NASA has started updating plans and schedules for additional SLS Block 1 launches in the early 2020s after Washington added federal budget money for a second Mobile Launcher (ML) platform and umbilical tower in late March.

Construction of a new Mobile Launcher frees the first ML from a three-year long downtime for teardown and reassembly after the first SLS launch of Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), currently projected for mid-2020. Instead of being retired after one launch, the Block 1 configuration could fly multiple times.

With two mobile launches (costing almost a billion to build), NASA has more flexibility (assuming it gets full funding). It can now fly both the smaller Block 1 configuration of SLS multiple times without delaying the first launch of the planned more powerful Block 2 version expected to come later.

The article discusses in great detail the possible variations in design and scheduling for the first unmanned mission, the Europa mission, the first manned mission, and possible missions beyond, all of which are based on Congress’s continued blank check support for this very expensive and very questionable program.

Sadly, it increasingly appears that Congress is going to throw a lot of money at this program. SLS looks like it is going to fly several times, and maybe more. It will likely send Europa Clipper to Jupiter, and later astronauts on a stunt mission around the Moon. Later, the Washington cartel of big aerospace companies, NASA, Congress, and our international partners in Europe and Russia are gearing up to get LOP-G funded as well, with SLS the vehicle to launch and supply it.

All of this will cost a lot, take forever, and not make the future exploration of the solar system possible in the slightest. None of that matters however. Congress wants it, and Congress being corrupt and irresponsible is going to get it.

Share

Rogozin takes over Roscosmos

Former Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has now officially been named the head of Roscosmos.

It appears Rogozin will continue the Putin government’s policy of consolidating the entire aerospace industry into Roscosmos.

Along with the new appointment, the Russian press reported on Rogozin’s plans to initiate yet another reorganization of Roskosmos to absorb Tactical Rocket Armaments company, specialized in battlefield missiles, and, possibly, the Almaz-Antei enterprise, developing anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems.

This policy also suggests that Russia’s continuing fade as a major player in the international launch market will continue. They will focus on internal needs, but will no longer be able or willing to compete for business outside of Russia. Without any internal competition, and with corruption rife within these industries, Roscosmos under Rogozin will stumble along issuing press releases about future great projects, few of which will really happen, while it acts instead as a pork barrel jobs program for friends of Putin.

Share

New NOAA weather satellite has serious problem

Can’t anybody here play this game? The cooling unit required to take infrared images in the new NOAA weather satellite GOES-17, launched in March, is not functioning properly.

“This is a serious problem,” Volz said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. “This is the premier Earth-pointing instrument on the GOES platform, and 16 channels, of which 13 are infrared or near-infrared, are important elements of our observing requirements, and if they are not functioning fully, it is a loss. It is a performance issue we have to address.”

Detectors for the infrared channels must be cooled to around 60 Kelvin (minus 351 degrees Fahrenheit) to make them fully sensitive to infrared light coming from Earth’s atmosphere. For about 12 hours each day, the cooler inside the Advanced Baseline Imager, or ABI, is unable to chill the detectors to such cold temperatures, officials said.

Infrared images from weather satellites are used to monitor storms at night, when darkness renders visible imagery unavailable. The three visible channels from the ABI are not affected by the cooling problem.

“The other wavelengths, the near-infrared and infrared wavelengths — the other 13 — need to be cooled to some extent beyond the capability of the system at present,” said Tim Walsh, NOAA’s program manager for the GOES-R weather satellite series. “There’s a portion of the day centered around satellite local midnight where the data is not usable, and that’s what we’re addressing.”

GOES-17 is the second of a four satellite constellation being built by NOAA costing $11 billion.

It appears that an identical cooling system was installed on the first of this satellite constellation, GOES-16, and has been working perfectly in orbit since November 2016. Why the new unit isn’t working remains a puzzle.

The real issue here is the cost and complexity of these satellites. Because they are so complex and take so long to build, replacing them is difficult if not impossible. Wouldn’t it be better to launch many cheaper satellites to provide redundancy at a lower cost?

This is a pattern we see throughout the government aerospace industry. NASA’s Webb and WFIRST telescopes are big and take decades to build. God forbid they fail at launch. SLS and Orion are big and take decades to build. God forbid they fail at launch. The Air Force’s numerous military satellites are big and take decades to build. God forbid an enemy takes one out.

In all these cases, failure means we get nothing after spending a lot of time and money. And replacing the loss will take years and billions of dollars.

Common sense says it is time to rethink this entire operation. Unfortunately, this is the federal government. The concept of rethinking anything, or even thinking at all, is too often a completely alien concept. I do not expect anything to change, unless we elect new people in Congress and the Presidency who are willing to take a hammer to this whole insane system and smash it bluntly. Trump is kind of this type of new person, but even he isn’t willing to change that much, only some things, such as the EPA, that irk him in particular. Otherwise, he has left much of the federal bureaucracy alone — as can be seen by his administration and NASA both gearing up to fund both LOP-G and WFIRST— thus continuing this pattern of big and expensive projects that take forever to build.

Share

29 Republicans and all Democrats vote to kill Senate balanced budget proposal

Apropos of my post earlier today: In the Senate yesterday twenty-nine Republicans and every Democrat voted to kill a balanced budget proposal offered by Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky).

Paul’s plan would have reduced spending by $404.8 billion in the fiscal year that starts October 1. After the budget balanced in five years, spending would be held to 1 percent increases per year, resulting in a budget that was 14.6 percent bigger in 10 years that it is now.

This very mild proposal to trim the equivalent of a penny from every dollar spent was too much for these spend-thrifts. The article at the link lists all 29 Republicans who voted against it, all of whom were liars when they said during their campaigns that they support a balanced budget, fiscal responsibility, and smaller government.

Let me repeat it so no one has any doubts about what I mean: These Senators are liars. They didn’t misconstrue the facts. Their statements weren’t misguided. They simply lied during their campaigns, and they have so done repeatedly.

The only saving grace about this story is that the trend has been to replace these crooks. Since 2010 the voters have been favoring candidates who mean what they say, on both sides of the aisle. And the result has been an increase in the numbers of real conservatives in Congress. Their influence is growing.

We also might be getting outright socialists and communists elected on the Democratic side, but at least they are being honest about who they are, unlike the lying Democrats who in the past were also outright socialists or communists, but tried to hide their beliefs behind equally offensive lies.

This honesty will maybe finally allow us to deal with the issue of the out-of-control federal budget. Or it will bankrupt us with more legislators willing to spend money like it is water. In the latter case, however, the result will be because this is what the American people choose to do, rather than being deceived by their leaders. And if that is what we choose, then at least we will deserve the hell we bring down upon ourselves.

Share

The federal government’s blank check

Three articles this morning about actions taken by Congress in connection with the budgets for NASA and NOAA illustrate the bankrupt nature of our federal government.

The first story describes how several legislators from the House Appropriations Committee have inserted amendments into their budget bill that will restore a $10 million NASA climate monitoring program that the Trump administration had shut down.

The second story describes how that same budget bill generously funds both NASA and NOAA at levels far above their own requests.
» Read more

Share

Contamination found in shuttle engines to be used by SLS

Now we know why the first launch is likely delayed: It appears that contamination has been found in the used and refurbished shuttle engines that the Space Launch System is using.

A “routine quality assurance inspection” of the core stage, he said, discovered contamination in tubing in the engine section of the core stage, which hosts the vehicle’s four RS-25 main engines and associated systems. That contamination turned out to be paraffin wax, which is used to keep the tubes from crimping while being manufactured but is supposed to be cleaned out before shipment.

“The prime contractor determined the vendor was not fully cleaning the tubes and it was leaving residue in the tubes,” McErlean said. “This was retained as a requirement in the prime contractor’s spec, but it was not properly carried out.” Boeing is the prime contractor for the SLS core stage, but he did not disclose the vendor who provided the contaminated tubing.

The contamination was initially found in a single tube, he said, but later checks found similar residue in other tubes. All the tubing in the core stage is now being inspected and cleaned, a process he said is not straightforward because of the “mass of tubing” in the engine section and also because cleaning is a “non-trivial process.”

Some obvious questions immediately arise:

1. These engines were previously flown on the space shuttles, numerous times. How did the paraffin wax, used “to keep the tubes from crimping while being manufactured,” remain in the tubes during all those shuttle flights?

2. Assuming the tubes were a new addition or replacement during the refurbishing process, it still seems astonishing that a subcontractor could be so lax. Did they really believe the wax did not need to be thoroughly cleaned?

3. While they have admitted that they will likely have to delay the launch because of issues with the core stage, why do they deny this contamination problem is the cause? More important, how much is it costing to fix? And how much time are they actually losing to fix it?

4. Finally, this is only one of many similar problems that we have seen with this entire project. Boeing and NASA have gotten so far about $40 billion to build this rocket, and have been working on it since 2006, more than a dozen years ago. Furthermore, they supposedly are building it using shuttle equipment in a Saturn rocket-type design in order to save money and time. Instead, they have wasted billions and taken more than three times longer than it took us to win World War II to get to a point where the program still has not flown.

Does anyone really believe this project is anything but a huge boondoggle? And if so, can they please tell me how it will be possible for the United States to really explore the heavens with a project run this incompetently?

Share

NASA inspector general weighs in on ISS’s future

The inspector general for NASA, Paul Martin, is testifying today before Congress on ISS. His prepared statement [pdf] includes several blunt assessements concerning the station’s future.

First and most important, he has doubts that transitioning the station to private ownership will work.
» Read more

Share

Socialists win four Democratic primaries in Pennsylvania

At least they’re honest about who they are: Four socialist candidates won the Democratic Party primaries in Pennsylvania yesterday.

Two were in Philadelphia, and two were in Pittsburgh. Three of the four face no Republican opposition in the general election, which means there will be in increased polarization in the Pennsylvania state government. This also likely means that the governments of both cities will shift leftward. We can therefore reliably predict, as has happened in every place where socialists take power, that the quality of life in both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh will go down, even as both experience ballooning budgets and deficits.

Share

ULA picks Aerojet Rocketdyne engine for Vulcan upper stage

Capitalism in space: ULA has chosen an Aerojet Rocketdyne engine to power the upper stage of its next generation rocket Vulcan.

The company has not yet made a decision on the engine for the first stage, where Blue Origin’s BE-4 still appears favored over Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR-1 engine. This decision on the upper stage could partly be a political move, giving Aerojet the upper stage in order to make it easier to give the lower stage to Blue Origin.

ULA is forced to play politics here because politicians are involved. A number of power members of Congress want Aerojet Rocketdyne to get the business, and ULA risks offending these legislators should it abandon that company entirely.

Share

House committee boosts NASA budget while micromanaging its projects

A NASA budget proposal released earlier this week by the House Appropriations Committee boosts NASA’s budget to $21.5 billion, while also micro-managing some of NASA’s planetary projects.

The bill, though, does specify funding for some programs. It calls for spending $545 million on the Europa Clipper mission and $195 million for a follow-on lander. NASA requested only $264.7 million for Europa Clipper and nothing for the lander.

NASA said in the budget proposal it was seeking to launch Europa Clipper in 2025 on a commercial vehicle, while the bill calls for the use of the Space Launch System and a launch by 2022. In its budget proposal, NASA estimated needing $565 million in 2019 to keep Europa Clipper on track for a 2022 launch but warned of “potential impacts to the rest of the Science portfolio” if funded at that level.

The bill also included $3.5 billion for SLS/Orion, continuing that boondoggle as it continues to fall behind schedule and go over budget. Also in the bill was a half billion dollars for LOP-G, confirming Congress’s desire to get this new boondoggle running, even though the rocket and capsule necessary to fly it, SLS/Orion, hasn’t even come close to completion after almost two decades of work and almost $40 billion so far in spending.

Overall, this NASA budget proposal illustrates once again why we have Trump. Congress is corrupt, is only interested in distributing money to its corporate buddies, and doesn’t care if that cash ever produces anything. In fact, it appears they prefer that nothing ever get built, as a real space effort would carry risk, and we can’t have that!

Share

GAO predicts more delays and cost increases in NASA’s big projects

The Government Accountability Office is predicting more delays and cost increases for most of NASA’s big projects in its tenth annual report.

The cost and schedule performance” of NASA’s major projects “has deteriorated, but the extent of cost deterioration is unknown” because NASA does not have a cost estimate for Orion. Orion is “one of the largest projects in the portfolio” and NASA “expects cost growth.”

As for schedule, “the average launch delay for the portfolio was 12 months, the highest delay GAO has reported in its 10 years” of making these assessments. GAO said the 12-month average delay is up from 7 months in last year’s assessment.

Further, NASA faces the risk of more cost and schedule growth because of “new, large, complex projects that will enter the portfolio and expensive projects remaining the portfolio longer than expected.” Europa Clipper, the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, and Europa Lander are cited as examples of those future large, complex projects. GAO did give NASA credit for putting processes in place to control the costs of Europa Clipper and WFIRST.

GAO identified nine existing projects as the biggest contributors to the poor cost and schedule performance: SLS, Exploration Ground Systems (EGS), the Space Network Ground Segment Sustainment (SGSS) cited in the 2017 report, Mars 2020, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), ICESat-2, NISAR, ICON, and GRACE-FO (GRACE-Follow On).

Orion has cost already cost the taxpayer about $15 billion, all of which will only buy the taxpayer three capsules (two unmanned test flights and a single manned flight). And yet they don’t have enough money yet, and NASA can’t provide a total cost estimate? To me, this appears to be outright theft. Building three capsules simply shouldn’t cost that much. (Note: the report claims Orion has cost about $6.6 billion. My number above comes from actual appropriations by Congress specifically for Orion. I think my number is a far more accurate reflection of the project’s true cost.)

Though the report expresses concerns about schedule delays in the commercial crew program, it is with the NASA-run projects that the report finds the worst cost overruns and delays. All of the usual suspects above come in for criticism: Webb, WFIRST, SLS (and its associated ground facilities), Orion, LOP-G.

I will make a prediction: All these NASA projects will be cited for further cost overruns and further delays in next year’s GAO report. By that time, we shall have also seen the first test flights of the commercial crew capsules by Boeing and SpaceX.

Share

Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross puts his foot down

In a speech at a space conference this week, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross outlined the Trump administration’s plans to streamline the commercial space regulatory bureaucracy, noting that the absurd interference with normal operations by bureaucrats must stop.

He made specific reference to NOAA’s demand that it have the right to license all photography in space.

“This is silly and it will stop,” Ross told an audience of space industry executives, policymakers and military officers at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, backing the view of SpaceX and other rocket companies that the cameras on its rockets aren’t the equivalent of satellites dedicated to Earth views.

He then noted that the regulatory framework is going to be consolidated into an “Office of Space Commerce” under his direct supervision, though the FCC (licensing radio spectrum) and the FAA (licensing rocket launches) will retain their responsibilities.

Will this streamline anything or save the taxpayer any money? Doesn’t look that way to me, as it seems to be adding a new layer of bureaucrats to the process without eliminating any existing departments. And then there is this additional quote from the article:

The question for space executives, who have clamored for more responsive government when it comes to licenses for launches and satellite operation, is whether increased funding will accompany the shifting responsibilities.

Speeding up bureaucracy means hiring more people, and projects like space traffic management demand investment in the technology to detect and track objects in orbit. While the Trump administration had adopted lofty rhetoric around its support for space business, it’s not yet clear that the White House has the needed clout to win congressional support—and federal dollars—for its proposals.

While it is a good thing that the Trump administration has apparently told the NOAA bureaucrats to take a flying leap, it appears they have also decided that building a new layer of bureaucracy to regulate space is a good thing. This is most unfortunate.

Share

DARPA announces $10 million launch challenge for smallsat rocket companies

Capitalism in space: DARPA yesterday announced a new launch challenge competition for smallsat rocket companies, with prizes of $10, $9, and $8 million for first, second, and third prizes, respectively.

Contest rules call for teams to be given the full details about where and when they’ll launch, what kind of payload they’ll launch, plus what kind of orbit the payload should be launched into, only a couple of weeks in advance. And that’s just half the job. Teams will be required to execute another launch, from a different site, no more than a couple of weeks later.

The precise time frames for giving advance notice are still under discussion, but “I would measure the time scale in days,” Todd Master, program manager for the challenge at DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, told reporters today.

Considering that we right now already have at least two smallsat rocket companies, Rocket Lab and Vector, on the verge of doing exactly this, without the need of government money, with a slew of other companies to soon follow, I wonder why DARPA is proposing this competition. It seems somewhat irrelevant at this point, making me wonder if its real purpose is not to encourage rocket development but to find a clever way to hand some government cash to these specific companies.

Share

NASA might scale down the first manned SLS flight

In order to meet its present schedule and budget, NASA is considering scaling down its first manned SLS flight in 2023 by using the same smaller version of SLS that will fly the first unmanned test flight in 2020.

The SLS has been in development for the last decade, and when complete, it will be NASA’s main rocket for taking astronauts to the Moon and Mars. NASA has long planned to debut the SLS with two crucial test missions. The first flight, called EM-1, will be uncrewed, and it will send the smallest planned version of the rocket on a three-week long trip around the Moon. Three years later, NASA plans to launch a bigger, more powerful version of the rocket around the Moon with a two-person crew — a mission called EM-2.

But now, NASA may delay that rocket upgrade and fly the same small version of the SLS for the crewed flight instead. If that happens, NASA would need to come up with a different type of mission for the crew to do since they won’t be riding on the more powerful version of the vehicle. “If EM-2 flies that way, we would have to change the mission profile because we can’t do what we could do if we had the [larger SLS],” Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator, said during a Congressional hearing yesterday.

NASA clarified that astronauts would still fly around the Moon on the second flight. However, the rocket would not be able to carry extra science payloads as NASA had originally planned. “The primary objective for EM-2 is to demonstrate critical functions with crew aboard, including mission planning, system performance, crew interfaces, and navigation and guidance in deep space, which can be accomplished on a Block 1 SLS,” a NASA spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge.

The problem here really is that Congress keeps throwing money at this boondoggle. It will fly, but it will never be able to make the exploration and colonization of the solar system possible. It is simply too expensive and has a far too slow launch rate. Instead, it will allow for NASA to do stunts in space, while elected officials can preen and prance about, bragging about the jobs they brought to their districts.

And the nation’s debt will grow, and grow, and grow.

I hold to my prediction that private companies will bypass SLS in the 2020s, doing far more for far less. The differences between them will become downright embarrassing to SLS and Congress.

Share

More delays threaten the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii

The coming dark age: The delaying tactics of the opponents to building the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii has caused the consortium to announce that it now seriously considering moving the telescope to Spain’s Canary Islands.

These have been the most recent delaying tactics:

On Thursday, the Hawaii Senate approved a bill to ban new construction atop Mauna Kea, and included a series of audits and other requirements before the ban could be lifted. But House leaders said they don’t have plans to advance the bill. Democratic House Speaker Scott Saiki told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the “bill is dead on arrival in the House.”

There are also two appeals before the Hawaii Supreme Court. One challenges the sublease and land use permit issued by the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources. The other has been brought by a Native Hawaiian man who says use of the land interferes with his right to exercise cultural practices and is thus entitled to a case hearing.

When the telescope gets moved, expect these barbarians in Hawaii to celebrate loudly, claiming their victory as a victory for “native rights.” What they will really be telling us is two things. First, they are against gaining new knowledge and new technology in a manner that does no one any harm. And two, they put racial rights above all, making them the worst sort of bigots.

Share

NASA’s horrible management of SLS

In this article from NASASpaceflight.com describing a recent status update from NASA of its SLS/Orion program (which remains years behind schedule and might see further delays) was the following quote, revealing much about NASA’s incompetence and corruption in building this boondoggle:

In contrast to the more centralized organization structure for the cancelled Constellation program, [SLS’s] three major programs [ground systems, Orion, and SLS] are managed independently: Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) based at KSC, Orion based at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, and SLS based at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama.

Each of the programs has resources to integrate with its other two partners, but ESD [Exploration Systems Development at NASA headquarters in DC] provides the overall coordination between all three. During Constellation, the equivalent organizations were projects directly managed by that now-cancelled program. [emphasis mine]

In other words, when Obama unilaterally cancelled Constellation (something he really didn’t have the power to do) and Congress micromanaged its reinstatement (creating SLS/Orion), the Obama administration and NASA abandoned a sensible management structure and allowed SLS/Orion to be a three-headed monster, difficult to coordinate and certain to go over-budget and fall behind schedule.

With this operational structure, even if SLS eventually flies successfully, it will be impossible for it to operate efficiently. Expect every one of its future efforts to always go over budget and to fall behind schedule.

Share

44 Democrats waived background checks for Imran Awan

Every Democrat in the House who hired Pakistani Imran Awan to run their computers, 44 in total, also exempted him from the required background checks.

All of them appear to have waived background checks on Imran Awan and his family members, even though the family of server administrators could collectively read all the emails and files of 1 in 5 House Democrats, and despite background checks being recommended for such positions, according to an inspector general’s report. The House security policy requires offices to fill out a form attesting that they’ve initiated background checks, but it also includes a loophole allowing them to simply say that another member vouched for them.

Among the red flags in Abid’s background were a $1.1 million bankruptcy; six lawsuits against him or a company he owned; and at least three misdemeanor convictions including for DUI and driving on a suspended license, according to Virginia court records. Public court records show that Imran and Abid operated a car dealership referred to as CIA that took $100,000 from an Iraqi government official who is a fugitive from U.S. authorities. Numerous members of the family were tied to cryptic LLCs such as New Dawn 2001, operated out of Imran’s residence, Virginia corporation records show. Imran was the subject of repeated calls to police by multiple women and had multiple misdemeanor convictions for driving offenses, according to court records.

This story is particularly disturbing. Either all 44 Democrats were incredibly stupid, or they actually wanted Awan capable of passing classified information to his sources in Pakistan. Either way, everyone of these Democrats is culpable, and if the latter is true, they are also traitors.

Share

Further launch delays for Russia’s next ISS module & space telescope

The race to be last! Russia today announced that the launch of both its next ISS module as well as a new space telescope will be delayed until 2019.

The ISS module, Nauka, is years behind schedule, and is presently being cleaned of contamination in its fuel system that was found several years ago.

“Repairs of the MLM Nauka are taking longer than expected, and the deadlines are yet unclear. This means it will not be brought to Baikonur any time soon, and the launch will be postponed until 2019,” the source said.

It was reported earlier that the mission would be delayed for six months. “The delivery of the MLM Nauka to the Baikonur cosmodrome has been moved from September to late 2018. Hence, the module’s launch to the ISS has been provisionally delayed for another six months,” the source said. The launch was scheduled for September 2018 with the possible alternative date in March 2019.

The article also notes delays for Spekr-RG high-energy space telescope until 2019. The article might also describe delays for another satellite, though the writing is unclear.

Nauka was first built in the 1990s as a backup for ISS’s first module. In the early 2000s Russia decided to reconfigure it and fly it to ISS, with its launch scheduled for 2007. This means its launch is now going to be twelve years behind schedule.

It sure does appear that Russia’s Roscosmos is competing with NASA to see which government agency can delay its missions the longest. In fact, for fun, let’s put together the standings!

  • Nauka: 12 years behind schedule (originally scheduled for 2007, now 2019)
  • James Webb Space Telescope: 9 years behind schedule (originally scheduled for 2011, now 2020)
  • SLS/Orion: 8 years behind schedule (originally scheduled for 2015, now 2023)

Stay tuned. This race to the bottom is far from over. NASA could still win, especially because it has more than one project in the running.

Share

Webb telescope delayed again to 2020

NASA has announced that it is once again delaying the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, from 2019 to 2020.

The observatory was supposed to fly this year. But last fall, NASA bumped the launch to 2019. NASA announced the latest delay on Tuesday. “We have one shot to get this right before going into space,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator of science. He said some mistakes were made while preparing the telescope, and NASA underestimated the scale of the job. [emphasis mine]

None of this is a surprise. Webb is more pork than science. It was originally budgeted at $1 billion, with a planned launch in 2011. It will now cost more than $9 billion, and be delayed almost a decade. Since the project began in the early 2000s, by the time it launches it will have been in development for almost two decades, which is almost a lifetime career for some people.

And note, the article includes the lie that Webb is “a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.” It is not. Hubble is an optical telescope. Webb will only look in the infrared. These are very different things.

Share

Congress pumps pork money to NASA in omnibus budget

The omnibus budget that Congress plans to pass this week for 2018 gives NASA $20.7 billion, significantly more than requested and funding almost every pork project Congress could conceive of, including a second mobile launcher for SLS.

The budget gives SLS and Orion more than $3 billion, funds all the Earth science and education projects the Trump administration wished to cut, as well as WFIRST, which the Trump administration wants to cancel because of cost overruns. In general, the NASA budget is a microcosm of the entire spending bill, which does nothing to cut any program anywhere, including Obamacare and a number of liberal programs that the Republicans have repeatedly promised to shut down, until they are in a position to do so. Then they act like leftist Democrats and fund everything.

This is posted between Tucson and Phoenix. I am heading up to the Grand Canyon for a four day cave expedition, which is why I can’t do a more thorough analysis. This really isn’t necessary however, as it is very clear that the Republican leadership in Congress are continuing their corrupt passion for spending money that does not exist. And they wonder why they may lose seats in 2018.

Share

Only five days after installation pedestrian bridge in Florida collapses

The coming dark age: Less than five days after it was installed at Florida International University a pedestrian bridge has collapsed, trapping and possibly killing an unknown number of people below it.

The story from the weekend describes the bridges construction and installation.

This is a horrible story. Does it, as does the Australian train story from yesterday, indicate a trend? Sadly, I worry that it does. For engineering to fail this badly, this quickly, indicates a level of incompetence or corruption at so many levels it is downright appalling.

Share

Trump mentions interest in creating military “Space Force”

Blather and pork: In comments to soldiers in San Diego President Trump yesterday expressed interest in creating a military “Space Force” similar to the Air Force

“My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a warfighting domain, just like the land, air and sea,” Trump said during a Tuesday speech at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. “We may even have a Space Force, develop another one, Space Force. We have the Air Force, we’ll have the Space Force. We have the Army, the Navy.”

The administration’s National Security Strategy, released in December, repeatedly identifies space as a contested domain, a somewhat more dire take than its Obama-era predecessors, which recognized “threats posed by those who may wish to deny the peaceful use of outer space.”

“You know, I was saying it the other day — because we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space — I said maybe we need a new force. We’ll call it the Space Force,” Trump said. “And I was not really serious, but I said, ‘What a great idea.’ Maybe we’ll have to do that. That could happen.”

Trump as usual is talking off the cuff, but might very well have a negotiating purpose. There are members of Congress who want it. Trump could possibly be considering a trade, I give you that, you let me cut this.

Or not. It is dangerous to over analyze many of Trump’s off-the-cuff statements. Many times he just does them to get some publicity and to annoy his opponents. Note also that top Air Force officials dodged this issue when asked at hearings to comment on Trump’s statement.

Bottom line however remains the same: Spending money on a Space Force dedicated to fighting in space would be, at this time, a complete waste of money. It would be pork, pure and simple.

Share

New trains costing $2 billion too wide to fit in tunnels

The Australian government in action! An order of new trains for New South Wales in Australia, costing $2 billion, have been built 20 centimeters too wide to fit in the existing tunnels.

Their solution? A very typical government one:

But Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW), the Government body that manages the state’s rail system, has come up with a cunning plan. It has proposed simply relaxing current safety standards. In addition, 10 tunnels built in the 1900s will be partially modified to allow the new trains to run. [emphasis mine]

Reading the whole article is like entering the world of Bizarro. Here is how the government explains their plan: “This option would allow the New Intercity Fleet to operate on both lines and pass each other, and therefore ensure better longer term operational outcomes, while also minimising heritage impacts through reduced tunnel lining modifications.”

They make no mention of the collisions that might occur.

Share

The ever-receding Space Launch System

Today a story at Space News reveals that NASA has decided to forgo construction of a second mobile launcher for its Space Launch System (SLS). Instead, they will modify the one they have.

The mobile launch platform, originally built for the Constellation Program and currently being modified to support the SLS, will be used for one launch of the initial Block 1 version of the SLS, designated Exploration Mission (EM) 1. That platform will then have to be modified to accommodate the taller Block 1B version that will be used on second and subsequent SLS missions.

Agency officials said late last year they were considering starting work on a second mobile launch platform designed from the beginning to accommodate the Block 1B version of the SLS. They argued that doing so could shorten the gap of at least 33 months between the first and second SLS missions caused in part by the modification work to the existing platform.

The first mobile launcher was built and modified for an estimated $300 to $500 million. NASA obviously has decided that the politics of building a second won’t fly. The cost is too great, as would be the political embarrassment of admitting they spent about a half a billion for a launcher they will only use once. (That this mobile launcher is leaning we will leave aside for the moment.)

What this does however is push back the first manned SLS/Orion launch. At present, the first unmanned mission is likely to go in June 2020 (though don’t be surprised if that date sees further delays). If it takes 33 months after that launch to reconfigure the launcher for the first manned mission, that manned mission cannot occur any sooner than April 2023. That second launch however is planned to be the first to use SLS’s new upper stage. To put humans on it untested seems foolish, doesn’t it? NASA is going to have to fly an extra mission to test that upper stage, which is going to add further delays to the schedule.

In November I predicted that the first manned SLS/Orion mission would not happen before 2025. At the time it was assumed that the second flight of SLS would have to launch the unmanned Europa Clipper mission, in order to test that upper stage. Now however it appears that the Trump administration wants to shift Europa Clipper to a commercial launch vehicle, probably Falcon Heavy.

This means that either astronauts will be flying on an untested SLS upper stage, or NASA will have to add a test launch in April 2023, followed some time thereafter by that manned mission. Since NASA does not at present have a budget for a third mission, I am not sure what is going to happen here.

What I do know is that SLS is certain to get delayed again. By 2025 we will have paid close to $50 billion for SLS and Orion, and the best we can hope for is a single manned mission. And that one mission will have taken 21 years to go from concept to launch.

This is not how you explore the solar system. With a schedule like this, all SLS and Orion are doing is distributing pork to congressional districts and to the big space companies (Boeing and Lockheed Martin) that are building both. Establishing the United States as a viable space-faring nation is the last thing these players have in mind.

Share

Parkland Underscores How Americans Pay For Garbage Government While Doing Its Job Ourselves

Link here. Essentially, the article outlines how, at every single level, government in the U.S. is failing, while demanding more money and more power as a reward. Parkland is only a recent single example.

Each day Americans wake up to hear new revelations of government incompetence that enabled the Parkland, Florida school shooting. First it was the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s failure to follow existing protocols to investigate a highly detailed tip that the shooter was planning and had the means to do exactly what he did. The FBI and local police received at least four separate tips warning of the shooters’ plans and means, and local police had received 45 calls summoning them to the family’s home since 2008.

Then we learned of the police officer — the only person initially onsite able to return the shooter’s deadly force and tasked by his salary-paying community with doing precisely that — hesitated for approximately four minutes to enter the high school as students lay dying. Then local sources told reporters three other Broward County police officers joined that onsite officer in hiding behind their vehicles until police from another jurisdiction showed up. Reports say the Broward County police didn’t even follow the others inside.

Then it was that police didn’t know they were watching the wrong security tape, putting them off the shooter’s whereabouts by 20 minutes, leaving a mass murderer to endanger more people longer. To add insult to literal injury, the hesitating onsite school police officer, Scot Peterson, was allowed to resign and will receive a lifetime public pension of approximately $60,000 a year plus benefits.

The list of failures above for Parkland is actually not complete. However, they do provide a metaphor for our government, which functions about as badly in every other area as well. Readers of Behind the Black will of course be aware of SLS/Orion, NASA’s own failed boondoggle that will never get us into space.

What must happen is a major house-cleaning. Many thought Trump would do it. I continue to see Trump as a transitional figure, willing to slash and burn in a few areas (EPA) but not in most other areas (FBI, Justice Department, NOAA, NASA, to name a few). Essentially, almost everyone working in Washington needs to be fired. Many can reapply for the work, but no one should be guaranteed a job.

Unfortunately, I do not see this happening. Instead, I see this cabal in Washington teaming up with corrupt elected officials and a corrupt national press to defend their positions of power, even as they fail again and again to simply do their jobs. Witness for example how so-called conservative Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has teamed up with Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) to criticize the mere suggestion by the Trump administration that ISS will be transitioned to private hands by 2024, no longer getting federal funds.

This is just one example. The power in Washington is deep and profound, and the people who have it will not give it up lightly.

Share

Off to Israel

I am about to leave on a ten day trip to Israel, which is why I have not commented yet on the Trump budget [pdf] and how it effects NASA and science.

The links above will give you a chance to form your own opinions, and to comment here. I will absorb them myself and post on the subject at some time I think during the trip, though in truth it generally doesn’t matter that much what a president proposes in his budget. Congress makes the decision, and usually ignores the president’s suggestions, especially if such ideas threaten their pork.

Share

Trump signs two-year budget deal

Big spending wins! The new two-year budget deal, which provides increased spending and eliminates the sequestration budget caps, has been signed into law by President Trump.

I know people might think me insane when I say this, but Trump’s comments upon signing the bill remind me of Ronald Reagan when he signed compromise bills with the Democrats that were not what he really wanted. Trump calls it a victory, but also said this:

“Without more Republicans in Congress, we were forced to increase spending on things we do not like or want in order to finally, after many years of depletion, take care of our Military,” he wrote. “Sadly, we needed some Dem votes for passage. Must elect more Republicans in 2018 Election!”

Trump continued to praise the bill as a victory, because of the big spending boost to the military. He criticized Democrats for “waste” in the bill. “Costs on non-military lines will never come down if we do not elect more Republicans in the 2018 Election, and beyond,” he said. “This Bill is a BIG VICTORY for our Military, but much waste in order to get Dem votes.”

Though I strongly think we have plenty of waste in the military as well, and that the Defense Department didn’t need any increases and could have been cut considerably, in many ways Trump’s comments here reflect reality. For the American public to get its federal government under control, that public is going to have to vote out the people who presently run it in an uncontrollable manner. And while there are many establishment Republicans to which this description applies, the vast majority of the legislators who are pushing out-of-control spending are Democrats.

Share

New budget deal dumps budget caps

The swamp wins again! The new budget deal negotiated today between Senate leaders Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Chuck Schumer (D-New York) eliminates the sequestration budget caps that for the past half dozen or so years have put at least a few limits on government spending.

The deal removes sequestration budget caps for two years, increases defense spending and also boosts funding for domestic programs that were priorities for Democrats, such as opioid addiction programs. It also raises the debt ceiling until 2019.

It was unclear if the Senate deal will get enough support when it goes to the House.

According to this report, the deal will raise government spending by $300 billion over the next two years.

Even as the two parties make a lot of noise over the FBI scandal, their leaders move to keep the spigot of cash flowing to their buddies, and thus to themselves. And as they do so the federal debt grows, and grows, and grows. And we get closer and closer to outright bankruptcy and collapse.

Update: Trump has endorsed the deal.

“The Budget Agreement today is so important for our great Military,” he wrote on Twitter. “It ends the dangerous sequester and gives Secretary Mattis what he needs to keep America Great.”

“Dangerous sequester”? The sequestration rule has been the only thing that has kept any reins on budget spending for the past few years. In this matter Trump reveals his old liberal Democrat roots.

Share

Mayor of bankrupt Stockton wants to hand out $6000 to every resident

California madness: The 26-year-old mayor of Stockton, California, which went bankrupt in 2012, wants to give every resident $6000 no questions asked.

Stockton is experimenting with a welfare program called “universal basic income,” which gives low-income residents $500 a month, no questions asked. The money is coming from a private grant. The California city, which went bankrupt in 2012, has recently made strides to become more economically viable, but is still struggling.

Mayor Tubbs, who was endorsed by Barack Obama, took office in January 2017. He is Stockton’s first black mayor, and its youngest-ever at age 26. “I feel that as mayor it’s my responsibility to do all I could to begin figuring out what’s the best way to make sure that folks in our community have a real economic floor,” Tubbs said.

Now we have an idea why the city went bankrupt. The money is coming from a private grant, but I guarantee it will not have the results the mayor expects.

Share
1 2 3 21