Tag Archives: freedom

The American city-rural political divide

Though the article at the link focuses on how in this year’s election the Democratic Party has lost its traditional support from white blue collar Democrats, I think it illustrates quite forcefully the increasing political polarization between the cities and the rural parts of the country.

“There are 490 counties in Appalachia technically, which is defined by federal law. Hillary Clinton won 21 counties in that region,” he said. And that is it. She did not win a single county in Appalachia that is mostly white, non-college-educated and has a population of under 100,000 people.

Not one county.

Looking at the map, the 21 counties she won were either college campuses like Virginia Tech, Cornell, Penn State and Mississippi State or counties in major metropolitan areas like Atlanta, Birmingham, Ala., Winston-Salem, N.C., Youngstown, Ohio, and Pittsburgh. And she also won five counties in Mississippi that are nearly majority black. “I went back and looked at the home precinct in Tennessee where I grew up and Bill Clinton wins it, Al Gore gets forty percent, Obama gets 28 percent and she got 18 percent. In short, Donald Trump got 80 percent of that vote,” he said, astounded at the cultural shift among Appalachians.

What does all of this data tell you about America? Todd says it is simple, “There are absolutely no more blue-collar whites in the Democratic Party. They just don’t exist, even the ones who want there to be have recognized there is no room for them,” he said. These voters had stayed with the Democrats forever and now 80 percent of them in Appalachia have voted Republican. “That means they don’t know anyone who voted for her,” he said.

This polarization also explains why it is becoming more common for the choice of the electoral college to not match the popular vote. Democratic voters are increasingly packed into big cities that cover very small amounts of area. The electoral college as well as Congress were specifically designed to prevent such concentrations from dominating elections.

These results also show that the Democrats are not doing a very good job convincing anyone to vote for them outside of their reliable core constituencies. In fact, if anything the policies of the Democratic Party has been repelling everyone away from it, except in those big cities where a large percentage of the voters are their direct welfare clients, dependent on government aid.

Nebraska bans civil forfeiture without a criminal conviction

Good news: A Nebraska law passed and signed in April has banned the police from confiscating any private property prior to a criminal conviction.

Now that the Nebraska bill has been signed into law, innocent property owners will have some rather significant new protections, the most significant of which is the requirement for a criminal conviction. Believe it or not, under civil forfeiture laws, no convictions need to be obtained—nor even any charge filed—to permanently forfeit property. Nebraska’s decision to require a conviction essentially eliminates civil forfeiture in the state.

The state may still forfeit property, but only after obtaining a conviction on drug, child pornography, or illegal gambling charges, and then only after demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence that the property in question was used or intended to be used in the commission of the crime, or that it represented the illicit “fruits” of the criminal activity.

The law was passed back in April but I missed the story. Hat tip to reader Tim Vogel for letting me know.

Three things Trump can do to strengthen the 2nd amendment

Link here. The three things are, first appoint Supreme Court judges who support the individual’s right to bear arms; second pass a law forcing states to recognize the gun permits issued by other states, as they do with driver’s licenses; three eliminate the absurd gun-free regulations imposed on the military at military bases.

It is very likely that all three of these things will happen, which at a minimum will make a Trump administration a success, at least in terms of the second amendment.

DARPA tests anti-terrorist radiation detection network

In an experiment testing a technology designed to detect the radiation from a terrorist-deployed small nuclear bomb, DARPA in October deployed more than a thousand volunteers in Washington DC to test a detector that can be carried in a backpack.

Recently, a geneticist was mysteriously abducted in Washington DC, leading to the US government deploying a small army of detectives to foil a dirty bomb plot. At least, that was the fictional scenario of a DARPA field test that saw a thousand volunteers equipped with smartphone-sized radiation detectors fan out over the National Mall in a radioactive scavenger hunt to test the progress of the agency’s SIGMA project, which is tasked with developing technology to combat nuclear terrorism.

Nuclear terrorism is one of the top nightmares of security services. Not only is the prospect of a dirty bomb involving radioactive materials dispersed by conventional explosives alarming, but tracking down illegal nuclear materials in an urban setting requires covering far too large an area for fixed sensors. Since 2014, DARPA has been working on how to produce a portable sensor array based on low-cost, high-efficiency, radiation sensors networked by smartphone networks to detect gamma and neutron radiation and evaluate the information in real time

According to DARPA, the SIGMA array was first tested in New York and New Jersey using 100 sensors. For the Washington test, 1,000 sensors were carried in backpacks by hundreds of ROTC cadets from the universities in the National Capital Region, midshipmen from the US Naval Academy, and DARPA personnel coordinated by the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START).

Developing technology that can find and catch a terrorist who is trying to deploy a nuclear bomb in an urban area is certainly a good thing. I can’t help worry, however, about some larger philosophical concerns. Putting aside the specific technology being tested, the infrastructure being developed here that will make it easy for the government to deploy thousands of volunteers to hunt down an individual makes me a bit uncomfortable.

Luxembourg establishes its own legal framework for asteroid mining

The competition heats up: Luxembourg on November 11 announced that it is establishing its own legal framework to protect the profits of any private asteroid mining effort.

Because the UN Outer Space Treaty forbids them from claiming any territory in space, this new law essentially says that Luxembourg law will instead be applied specifically to the resources mined. Or to put it in more colloquial terms, “Finders, Keepers,” though it comes with a lot of complex further regulation required to satisfy that treaty.

The draft law also lays down the regulations for the authorization and the supervision of space resources utilization missions, including both the exploration and use of such resources. Whoever intends to undertake a space resources utilization mission will be required to obtain an authorization to do so, for each specific and determined mission. The text sets forth the necessity for a book of obligations for any mission, such as activities to be carried in or out of Luxembourg, to allow government supervision of the activities of operators and regulating their rights and obligations. The legislation is expected to enter into effect in early 2017.

This complexity will cost money unnecessarily, and also require an unnecessary bureaucracy with a great deal of power over the actions of space companies. It illustrates again how really bad the Outer Space Treaty is, and how it will oppress future spacefarers. The sooner the treaty is dumped the better. If we don’t do it here on Earth, I guarantee that the people of space will do it, as soon as they become self-sufficient enough to thumb their noses at the ground-pounders on the mother planet.

Oregon official who destroyed Christian bakery loses election

Good news: The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries commissioner who put a Christian bakery out of business because the owners did not wish to participate in a homosexual wedding by providing the cake has lost his election attempt to become the state’s secretary of state.

In 2013, Oregon Democrat Brad Avakian, as commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, put a Christian bakery out of business because its owners stood up for their religious convictions. Fast forward to 2016 and Avakian, not unlike many of his fellow Democrats, got served a big slice of sweet justice. Sweetcakes by Melissa, owned by Melissa and Aaron Klein, was forced out of business by Avakian and the BOLI in 2013. Klein told Independent Journal Review that they were fined $135,000 and the state garnished their bank accounts to cover it. When all was said and done, Klein said that the state took $144,000 from them.

Avakian put these Christian bakers out of business, but in 2016, the people of Oregon ended his run for Oregon secretary of state in favor of Republican Dennis Richardson, which is the first time in 14 years the solidly blue state elected a Republican for state office.

What is interesting here is that he lost in the same state that right now is seeing some of the most violent protests against Trump’s election victory. This suggests to me that the state’s voting populace does not necessarily agree with those protesters, and in fact the protests might actually be doing the left harm politically.

“Kill the police!”

Fascists: Anti-Trump protesters chant death threats to cops in Indianapolis while protests in Portland go violent.

I seem to remember the press and the Democrats (but I repeat myself) making a big deal prior to the election about how Donald Trump and the Republicans had to accept the election results if they lost to show that they respected the Constitution and our democracy. We now see that such demands only applied to the right. The left however is under no requirement, and in fact only considers an election valid if it wins.

And before anyone whines to me about how mean I am for calling these protesters fascists, I think they first must explain to me how this violent behavior differs from that of the Nazi brownshirts who made it party policy to riot when they lost and to violently attack anyone who opposed them. As far as I can tell, there is no difference. And here are a few more stories to illustrate the point:

Chicago Cubs are being forced to give up their World Series title

Heh. From Reddit.

Cleveland Indians fans have rioted across the country in protest of the 2016 World Series. Despite knowing the rules of the game prior to playing, they were unhappy they lost and demanded the outcome to be changed.

They could be heard chanting #NotOurWorldSeriesChampion all across America. Even though the Cubs won 4 games and the Indians only won 3, since both teams scored 27 total runs throughout all 7 games, they are being declared co-world champions.

There’s more. Make sure you read the comments as well. For example: “The Indians won the popular hits in game 5 so they should win.”

Clinton supporters issue death threats and riot

The hate is real: In response to Donald Trump’s victory, Clinton supporters in California and Oregon rioted, with others issuing death threats on social media.

I could also list several dozen stories detailing the horror and disbelief of the intellectual community, in Washington, in the major cities, and across academia. They will not accept this election, and are right this second starting to plan their resistance to any policy Trump or the Republicans may put forth.

The moderate Democrat wins

It appears that Donald Trump has won what I have been calling the November Democratic primary, and will take the office of President of the United States this coming January.

Will this make much difference? I am very guardedly optimistic. Trump remains at heart a moderate Democrat with mixed leanings. His experience during this campaign however has also clearly pushed him rightward, as he suddenly found himself the target of liberal hate. Moreover, the people he has been listing as possible cabinet and administration appointees during his term in office suggest a slightly right-of-center rule.

At the same time, the entrenched and corrupt culture that rules Washington and intellectual society will not accept a Trump administration meekly. They will fight any effort by him or his supporters to change that culture, or to wrest any power from it. This will be the ultimate test of Trump’s beliefs. If he truly has shifted rightward, he will fight back, and “drain the swamp” as he promised during the campaign. If however he allows his past moderate Democrat roots to take over he will back off and do what the Republican leadership has been doing for the past two decades: retreat in the face of the slightest opposition.

What makes me most hopeful that Trump will actually “drain the swamp” is that he will enter office with a solid Republican congress, made up of more true conservatives then we have ever seen. This more than anything will help keep him from wavering from his promises.

One other thought for the moment: The closeness of this election is still disturbing. Trump was not a great candidate, but Clinton was a truly corrupt one. That so many Americans were willing to look the other way even after almost three decades of documented dishonesty and lying and still give her their votes does not speak well of them. Until that basic fact changes, the American system of government remains very fragile and exposed to destruction from within.

Musk predicts mid-December return to flight

In a cable news interview today, Elon Musk reiterated recent reports that SpaceX expects to resume launches by the middle of December.

That the head of Inmarsat, one of SpaceX’s satellite customers, has confirmed this plan and appears to have no problem with it, suggests to me that SpaceX is on solid ground and that they have pinpointed a solution to the launchpad explosion that will not require any major re-engineering.

Jury rules against Rolling Stone in gang rape story

A jury today declared Rolling Stone magazine guilty of defamation in its retracted and debunked University of Virginia gang rape story.

The 10 member jury concluded that the Rolling Stone reporter, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, was responsible for defamation, with actual malice, in the case brought by Nicole Eramo, a U-Va. administrator who oversaw sexual violence cases at the time of the article’s publication. The jury also found the magazine and its publisher responsible for defaming Eramo.

The $7.5 million lawsuit centered on Erdely’s 9,000-word article titled “A Rape on Campus.” The article appeared online in late Nov. 2014 and on newsstands in the magazine’s December 2014 issue. The story opened with a graphic depiction of a fraternity gang rape that went viral online and sent shock waves across the U-Va. campus community. But within days of the article’s publication, key elements of the account fell apart under scrutiny. The magazine eventually retracted the story in April 2015.

The magazine and the reporter had a leftwing feminist agenda, centered on confirming the false leftwing narrative that rapes were rampant on college campuses and that oppressive anti-female male-dominated administrations were doing nothing about it. This narrative is entirely false, a lie created to provide a platform for the left to gain power. The magazine though bought into it, publishing a vicious story that was a complete lie and that defamed a lot of innocent people. As a result it now faces the strong possibility that this decision will bring about its bankruptcy, a bankruptcy well deserved.

Vector teams up with private company for low-cost launch tracking capability

The competition heats up: The new smallsat rocket company Vector Space Systems has signed a deal with Atlas Space Operations, a private company focused on providing low-cost launch and satellite tracking capabilities.

As early as 2018, Vector Space Systems will be able to provide a space-to-ground communication network from the Galactic Sky division to its customers through ATLAS LINKS™ – the world’s first mobile, rapidly deployable, and electronically steered array RF ground system that is revolutionizing the space industry. Designed for communications with both low-earth orbit and deep space missions, and capable of rapid deployment anywhere on the globe – ATLAS LINKS™ arrays will enable Vector Space Systems to simultaneously track signals over multiple frequencies, effectively eliminating high civil engineering costs associated with the installation of other systems that require expensive antennae and pedestals. Satellite ground architecture and data services will support Vector Space Systems’ launch operations from the ground and in-orbit, transforming satellite telemetry tracking and command systems (TT&C) and ground operations for space startups.

In other words, Atlas is in direct competition with the antenna network of NASA’s Deep Space Network, and is designed to be cheaper and more flexible.

Midland spaceport approved as Dream Chaser landing site

The spaceport in Midland, Texas has been approved as a potential landing site for Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser reusable mini-shuttle.

Midland is pushing to have Sierra Nevada make it the company’s main landing site for the spacecraft. So far, that decision however has not been made.

The Origins of Slavery in Virginia in the Seventeenth Century

During the thread of comments on Behind the Black in response to the recent story about how modern college students ignorantly think that slavery was invented in America, the subject of the origins of slavery in America came up.

This subject happened to be the entire focus of the thesis for my master of arts degree at New York University in 1995. The research I did produced a 338 page thesis, far larger than what professors usually see, and containing a gigantic amount of original research about the specific individuals who ran the Virginia colony during its first seventy years. The abstract sums up my conclusions somewhat succinctly:

Throughout Virginia’s first hundred years, moral issues and the establishment of community always took a subordinate place to the acquisition of wealth and profit. Unlike the religious colonies in New England, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, Virginia had been founded for purely financial reasons. In the pursuit of that financial gain, the leadership of the colony, formed from British Royalist refugees from the English Civil War as well as an uneducated Virginia-bred elite, took advantage of their position of power to create a system of institutionalized racism.

British political ideas, specifically the Royalist positions from the English Civil War, directly influenced the institutionalization of this race-based slave system. These ideas included a strong belief in birthright and caste combined with deference to leaders and an expectation that all social customs, including religious belief, should be dictated by the aristocracy wielding power. According to Royalist doctrine, the common folk of society should have no say in how society should be ruled.

These ideas became corrupted into outright racism by the unnatural and incomplete nature of Virginian society. Family life was generally disrupted by disease, with at least one in nine immigrants dying within a year of arrival. This disruption was magnified by the colony’s unbalanced sex ratio due to immigrant patterns that had three men arriving for every woman. And because the colony’s economy was so completely centered on the growth of a single money crop (tobacco), settlement patterns were widely dispersed. Virginia’s settlers lived isolated on scattered large farms, lacking towns or villages of any kind.

Furthermore, Royalist ideas of rule from above and birthright became distorted because Virginia lacked religious institutions as well as schools for providing moral instruction to the colony’s children. The focus on profit meant that the establishment of functioning churches or schools never took priority within the colony. And when dissenting religious practitioners attempted to preach within the colony, Virginia’s leadership outlawed such dissent under the Royalist doctrine of church government and rule from above.

The colony’s leaders, more and more of whom had been raised in this unhealthy and incomplete society, increasingly perverted Royalist doctrines for their own personal benefit. By the 1660s, these leaders had no reluctance about passing laws to enslave the few blacks in the colony, especially if such laws directly increased their wealth, power, and status.

Essentially, Virginia’s isolated culture of broken homes and poor education, based initially on Royalist concepts of caste and rule-from-above, were slowly corrupted as the colony’s population evolved through several generations from its founding in 1608 to the 1670s. This, combined with the corruption of the practice of indentured servitude (which in England was generally used as a tool to educate the young but in Virginia became a tool by which wealthy landowners could get seven years of free labor from poor immigrants) resulted in an acceptance by the culture of the idea that some humans had the right to own other humans. From this, it was an easy step to enslaving blacks, so that by the Revolutionary War, half the population of Virginia were black slaves.

Meanwhile, the northern colonies, mostly founded by the Pilgrims, Puritans, and Quakers, followed a very different path, focused on family, education, religion, and a rule-from-below approach to government. This different path remained much more closely connected to its British roots, which abhorred slavery. Thus, though some tried to introduce slavery into the northern colonies, the practice never took hold, and by the 1700s had just about completely disappeared. In fact, slavery was not only rejected in the north, it was here, in the Quaker communities in Pennsylvania, that the abolitionist movement was first born, an idea that was entirely new to human history.

In digging out my thesis to upload this post, I rediscovered it, and have decided that it needs to be published. Right now it is only gathering dust in the thesis archives of New York University, where no one can read it. I am going to put it together as an ebook, and have it out for purchase, hopefully by the end of the year.

SpaceX may lose a customer payload

Because of the launch delays at SpaceX, Inmarsat is considering finding another rocket company to launch its fourth Global Xpress satellite.

Inmarsat is worried that even after SpaceX resumes launches with the Falcon booster, it may not be able to make up lost time to assure its satellite is placed on orbit as scheduled. Alternatives the London-based company is considering include flying the spacecraft on the European Ariane 5 rocket, Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Atlas V, or the Russian Proton booster. Mr. Pearce said Inmarsat could stick with SpaceX if it can get an earlier launch slot.

This is all part of the competitive game. Inmarsat needs to get its satellite in orbit in order to better compete in the communications market, and the delays at SpaceX because of the September 1 launchpad explosion are not helping. This announcement puts pressure on SpaceX to move them to the front of the line or else lose the launch. It also increases their chances of finding an alternative should SpaceX not be able to do that.

Virgin Galactic to begin glide tests of Unity

Virgin Galactic will begin the first glide tests of its new SpaceShipTwo, Unity, this week.

Virgin Galactic test pilot CJ Sturckow, speaking at a “Space Stories” event at The Explorers Club here Oct. 29, said the company has scheduled the first glide flight of the vehicle, named VSS Unity, on Nov. 1. That flight would come after a single “captive carry” test flight of the vehicle in September, when the vehicle remained attached to its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft for its entire flight. “It’s ready to fly, and I’m really looking forward to seeing that,” he said of SpaceShipTwo’s upcoming glide flight.

That glide flight will be the first time VSS Unity has flown on its own, and will be the first in a series of glide flights before Virgin Galactic installs a hybrid rocket motor for powered flight tests.

According to the article, the new rocket motor has successfully completed several long duration test firings.

Virgin Galactic is running out of time. Their competition, Blue Origin, appears much closer to flying passengers.

Commercial space industry meets to set its own safety standards

Because of legal restrictions that prevent the FAA from imposing its own safety regulations on the commercial space industry, the industry itself is forming its own committee to work out its own standards.

At a meeting here Oct. 24, ASTM International, an organization founded in 1898 that develops voluntary consensus standards for a wide range of industries, agreed to move ahead with the creation of a committee that will work on creating such standards for commercial launch vehicles, spacecraft and spaceports. “It will allow industry to use a 110-year-old process to produce consensus standards,” said Oscar Garcia, chairman of the standards working group of the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC), during a meeting of that working group here Oct. 25. The new committee, he said, “will develop standards and related roadmaps to address activities such as human spaceflight occupant safety standards, spaceports and space traffic management.”

A total of 53 people representing 29 companies and organizations attended that kickoff meeting, said Christine DeJong, director of business development for ASTM International, at the COMSTAC working group meeting. The committee won’t be formally created until after the completion an internal ASTM review process.

This is excellent news. It is far better that the industry voluntarily puts together and imposes its own safety standards than if the federal government imposes those rules. The government can’t possibly know the situation as well as the industry. This will guarantee that those rules will be not only work, but they will be cost effective and will not act to squelch innovation and experimentation.

Want to see an Ariane 5 launch in French Guiana? You can!

Arianespace and Airbus Safran are holding a contest where the winning prize is an all-expenses paid trip to French Guiana to see an Ariane 5 launch in 2017.

This is part of Airbus Safran’s public relations effort to promote their new rocket, Ariane 6, that will replace Ariane 5.

SpaceX update on Sept 1Falcon 9 launchpad explosion

SpaceX today released an update on its investigation of the September 1 Falcon 9 launchpad explosion.

Previously, we announced the investigation was focusing on a breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank. The root cause of the breach has not yet been confirmed, but attention has continued to narrow to one of the three composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) inside the LOX tank. Through extensive testing in Texas, SpaceX has shown that it can re-create a COPV failure entirely through helium loading conditions. These conditions are mainly affected by the temperature and pressure of the helium being loaded.

SpaceX’s efforts are now focused on two areas – finding the exact root cause, and developing improved helium loading conditions that allow SpaceX to reliably load Falcon 9. With the advanced state of the investigation, we also plan to resume stage testing in Texas in the coming days, while continuing to focus on completion of the investigation.

The report suggests that they are starting to pin down the very specific temperature and pressure conditions during loading of the helium tank that cause the problem, which also suggests they will soon also be able to adjust their procedures to avoid those conditions. This also suggests that they repeated assurances that they will be able to fly before the end of the year are not unreasonable.

SES financial report

In releasing its year-to-date and third quarter financial report (which showed significant growth), the satellite company SES also revealed that the launch of its SES-10 satellite will use a recovered Falcon 9 first stage, and that right now it is expected to occur in the first quarter of 2017.

Court awards $197K to Christians

Good news: A federal court has awarded $197K to a group of Christian evangelicals who police threatened to arrest for preaching at a Michigan Arab festival.

The Christian were threatened by a violent mob, which had started throwing rocks at them and were threatening even worse violence. Rather than protect them, however, the Dearborn police instead told the Christians they had to leave, or be arrested for disorderly conduct. In other words, at this Arab festival the police unilaterally decided to suspend their freedom of speech and allow the heckler’s veto to win. If you don’t believe me, you can see exactly what happened in the the video below the fold.

The court had previously ruled in favor of the Christians, but what makes this final decision significant is that it declares the policemen themselves personally liable.

In its decision, which was made final today by the entry of judgment in the district court, the Sixth Circuit ruled, among other things, that two Deputy Chief defendants from the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office were liable for violating the Christians’ First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion and for depriving the Christians of the equal protection of the law. The court ruled that these individual defendants did not enjoy qualified immunity.

In other words, if you are a cop and deny someone their first amendment rights — threatening them with arrest for exercising those rights — you can be found personal liable in court and end up paying that individual a lot of money for denying them their rights.

» Read more

Musk answers questions on reddit

In a reddit Q&A session yesterday, Elon Musk answered a host of questions about his Mars mission plans.

Key takeaway: They are far away from actually flying this rocket. The engine needs tests, its giant tanks need a great deal of development, and they are only beginning the concept work for the ship itself.

His comments on Falcon 9 re-usability, however, were somewhat more interesting, and far more grounded in present reality.

Musk did not answer any questions submitted about the status of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket, grounded since a Sept. 1 explosion during preparations for a static-fire test destroyed a Falcon 9 and its Amos-6 satellite payload. He did, though, briefly address an upcoming, and “final,” version of the rocket, which he called Block 5, that is designed for frequent reusability. “Falcon 9 Block 5 — the final version in the series — is the one that has the most performance and is designed for easy reuse, so it just makes sense to focus on that long term and retire the earlier versions,” he wrote. That version includes many “minor refinements” but also increased thrust and improved landing legs, he said.

The first of the Block 5 Falcon 9 vehicles will begin production in three months, with an initial flight in six to eight months. With its entry into service, he said he doesn’t expect recovered first stages from the older Block 3 and Block 4 versions of the rocket to be reused more than a few times.

In a speech earlier this month, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said she believed the updated version of the Falcon 9 could be reused up to 10 times. Musk, though, was more optimistic. “I think the F9 boosters could be used almost indefinitely, so long as there is scheduled maintenance and careful inspections,” he said.

Did fueling procedures cause Falcon 9 launchpad explosion?

This Wall Street Journal article today speculates that “problematic fueling procedures” might have caused the September 1 Falcon 9 launchpad explosion.

Company officials have said it is too early to arrive at definitive answers, though one person familiar with the investigation said initial concerns about potentially substandard welds have been relegated to a low priority. If testing bears out early findings focusing on problematic fueling practices instead of hardware flaws, SpaceX likely will avoid a major redesign effort or extensive quality-control checks that could drag on for months.

Caution must be exercised here. The article depends on unnamed sources, and does not provide any details describing how fueling procedures could have caused the explosion.

Two Trump advisers push for National Space Council

In a somewhat vague op-ed today, two Trump space policy advisers, former Congressman Robert Walker and University of California-Irvine professor Peter Navarro, recommend the re-establishment of the National Space Council to coordinate the U.S.’s civilian space effort.

Despite its importance in our economic and security calculations, space policy is uncoordinated within the federal government. A Trump administration would end the lack of proper coordination by reinstituting a national space policy council headed by the vice president. The mission of this council would be to assure that each space sector is playing its proper role in advancing U.S. interests. Key goals would be to would create lower costs through greater efficiencies. As just one example, a Trump administration will insist that space products developed for one sector, but applicable to another, be fully shared.

Here, it makes little sense for numerous launch vehicles to be developed at taxpayer cost, all with essentially the same technology and payload capacity. Coordinated policy would end such duplication of effort and quickly determine where there are private sector solutions that do not necessarily require government investment. [emphasis mine]

This analysis of the op-ed at SpacePolicyOnline.com gives some history of the National Space Council, as well as range of opinions about its usefulness.

Opinions in the space policy community about the value of such a Council run the gamut. Opponents argue it is just one more White House entity that can say “no” to any idea, but without the clout to say “yes” and make something happen. Supporters insist that a top-level mechanism is needed not only to effectively coordinate government civil and national security space programs, but to bring in the commercial sector and develop a holistic approach to space.

Walker and Navarro clearly share the latter opinion. They say the Council would “end the lack of proper coordination” and “assure that each space sector is playing its proper role in advancing U.S. interests.”

I however want to focus on the highlighted text above from the op-ed. This language appears to suggest that these advisers do not think it efficient for NASA to buy rockets and spacecraft from competing private companies, as it is doing with its cargo and crew ferries to ISS. If so, their advice will mean that a Trump administration will eliminate the competition that has been so successful in the past decade in lowering NASA’S costs and getting so much more done.

Yet, in the very next paragraphs Walker and Navarro say this:
» Read more

Three GOP offices have now been attacked

The third Republican offices in the past two weeks was attacked today.

An Indiana Republican Party office was vandalized last week after someone tossed two bricks through the window, officials said Monday. That news comes just a day after a Republican headquarters in North Carolina was firebombed. The Sunday blaze injured none, however, a perpetrator also spray painted the message “Nazi Republicans get out of town or else” on a nearby building.

An office in San Antonio used by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign was burglarized on Wednesday, FOX29 reported. Police detained a suspect around 5:30 a.m. and authorities believe that person targeted other buildings in the area, too.

The third case was a burglary, so it might have nothing to do with politics. Nonetheless, it is fascinating how the press and the Democrats always scream that Republican supporters are dangerous and could become violent at any time, incited by the evil words of Donald Trump, but somehow almost all the acts of violence we see are committed against conservatives.

In related news, “We could have died”.

New comments by Musk on Sept 1 launchpad explosion

Unconfirmed and leaked statements made by Elon Musk at a National Reconnaissance Office presentation on October 13 suggest that the investigation is getting close to identifying the cause of the September 1 Falcon 9 launchpad explosion.

“It might have been formation of solid oxygen in the carbon over-wrap of one of the [helium] bottles in the upper stage tanks,” according to an excerpt of Musk’s remarks. “If it was liquid, it would have been squeezed out. But under pressure it could have ignited with the carbon. This is the leading theory right now, but it is subject to confirmation.”

Musk’s is also reported to have said that they found they could “…exactly replicate what happened on the launch pad if someone shoots the rocket.” He also dismissed this as a likely cause, though it has forced them to review their future launch security measures.

The article provides some very good additional analysis of the solid oxygen theory above. It suggests that though much of this technology has been used somewhat routinely in the launch industry for years, the specific environment used by SpaceX in its Falcon 9 rocket might have produced a new situation that caused the failure.

No more manned Soyuz purchased by NASA after 2019

The competition heats up: Both Boeing and SpaceX better get their manned capsules working by 2019, because NASA at this point has no plans to buy more seats on Russian Soyuz capsules after the present contract runs out.

Even as the commercial crew schedules move later into 2018, NASA officials say they are not considering extending the contract with Roscosmos — the Russian space agency — for more launches in 2019. The last Soyuz launch seats reserved for U.S. astronauts are at the end of 2018.

It takes more than two years to procure components and assemble new Soyuz capsules, so Russia needed to receive new Soyuz orders from NASA by some time this fall to ensure the spacecraft would be ready for liftoff in early 2019.

The second paragraph above notes that even if NASA decided it needed more Soyuz launches, it is probably too late to buy them and have them available by 2019.

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