Tag Archives: freedom

Block 5 Falcon 9 first stage returns to port

SpaceX’s first Block 5 first stage for its Falcon 9 rocket, designed to fly a minimum of ten times, has returned to port after its first flight last week.

This is the most interesting detail revealed:

While not visible, the most significant improvements are likely to be found at the base of the first stage’s octaweb – now assembled with bolts instead of welds – in the form of a dramatically improved heat shield around its nine Merlin 1D engines (also upgraded, of course). One of the Falcon recovery technicians showed some exceptional interest in the shield and Merlins, likely documenting their condition in extreme detail to inform engineering reviews of the pathfinder rocket after its first flight test.

The pictures show those bolts quite clearly.

Share

Dozens killed, including armed terrorists, in Gaza border violence

They also call this cutting off your nose to spite your face: Dozens have been killed today in riots along the Gaza-Israreli border as thousands of Gazan protesters attempted to invade Israel.

More than 35,000 protesters amassed at a dozen locations along the security fence, with many engaging in skirmishes that pushed the death toll Monday to the highest in Gaza since a 2014 cross-border standoff between the militant group Hamas and the Jewish state, according to the Associated Press.

Gaza health officials told the news agency that 41 people so far have been killed in Monday’s violence, and at least 772 have been wounded.

The relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv, a key campaign promise of President Trump, has infuriated the Palestinians, who seek east Jerusalem as a future capital.

“Moments ago, an IDF patrol foiled a bomb-laying attack by a cell of three armed terrorists near Rafah, close to the border,” the Israeli military said Monday. “This is a particularly violent protest point. The troops responded with fire at the terrorists. The terrorists were killed.”

You want to live in peace? You show others that you mean it. You want others to see you as violent and a killer? You do things that prove it.

These demonstrations prove the latter. In the seventy years since Israel’s founding, that nation has shown, time after time, that it is more than willing to work with the Arabs, the Palestinians, the international community, anyone, in order to establish peaceful relations with its neighbors. Israel even unilaterally walked out of Gaza in order to show the world and the Palestinians that they are willing to allow an independent Palestinian state to exist side-by-side with Israel.

The Gazans here once again prove that they are unready to do so. They only hate, and want to kill, emotions that are hardly a good foundation for a reliable peace treaty.

Share

SpaceX successfully launches in Block 5 Falcon 9

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully placed in orbit Bangladesh’s first communications satellite, successfully using its upgraded Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 rocket, its first stage designed to be reused a minimum of ten times.

They successfully recovered the first stage, and will now take it apart to confirm this new version worked as planned. If so, it will be put back together and returned to service.

The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

14 China
9 SpaceX
5 Russia
5 ULA

The U.S. and China are once again tied at 14 for the nation lead. SpaceX’s launch rate is presently double what it achieved last year, when it launched the most rockets of any private company ever.

Share

Air Force forces delay in next Falcon Heavy launch

Because the Air Force wishes to do more testing and review of both its payload and the rocket, the second launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy has been delayed several months.

The Falcon Heavy mission for the Air Force will be its first for a paying customer. STP-2 has a number of objectives, including demonstrating the new rocket’s capabilities and launching several satellites.

The launch had been set for June.

That the Air Force is on board Falcon Heavy now indicates that it wants to get this rocket certified for military launches as quickly as possible, thus giving it another heavy lift launch option besides the much more expensive Delta Heavy of ULA. This strategy is good for the Air Force, good for the taxpayer, and good for the launch industry. It will lower launch costs while encouraging competition.

Share

A new net for Mr. Steven

Photos of the ship, Mr. Steven, that SpaceX wants to use to recover its rocket fairings show that the company has installed a new net for catching those fairings.

The article theorizes that this heftier net has actually been installed for eventually catching the Falcon 9’s upper stage.

[T]he newly-installed net is by all appearances magnitudes larger, heavier, and stronger than the minimal mesh specimen it is clearly replacing. Given the fact that SpaceX thus far has self-admittedly failed to catch a gliding fairing half in the net, it seems unlikely that such a drastic upgrade would be necessitated by any field-testing that occurred since Mr. Steven’s debut late last year. Rather, a significantly more capable net seems to more readily fit alongside CEO Elon Musk’s tweet reveal three weeks prior that SpaceX would attempt to close the final major loop of Falcon reusability by recovering the orbital upper stage (S2). Estimated to weigh approximately 4000 kilograms empty, the upper stage is a minimum of four times heavier than Falcon 9’s payload fairing halves, Mr Steven’s current meal of choice.

Judging from the new net’s beefy rigging, broader bars, and general appearance, one could safely argue that it looks at least several times stronger than the mesh net before it. One could also argue that the absolutely massive metal arms installed on Mr. Steven are far larger than what might be required to catch the extremely low mass-to-area ratio payload fairings, with structural heft and bulky netting more reminiscent of safety nets present on naval vessels that are designed to catch aircraft and helicopters weighing five metric tons or more.

This is an interesting theory, but I have my doubts. At the same time, I would not dismiss Musk’s willingness to try daring engineering approaches.

Share

Software issue caused self-driving car accident that killed pedestrian

Sources in the investigation of an accident where a self-driving car hit and killed a pedestrian in Arizona in March now say that the car’s programming was at fault.

According to two anonymous sources who talked to Efrati, Uber’s sensors did, in fact, detect Herzberg as she crossed the street with her bicycle. Unfortunately, the software classified her as a “false positive” and decided it didn’t need to stop for her.

Distinguishing between real objects and illusory ones is one of the most basic challenges of developing self-driving car software. Software needs to detect objects like cars, pedestrians, and large rocks in its path and stop or swerve to avoid them. However, there may be other objects—like a plastic bag in the road or a trash can on the sidewalk—that a car can safely ignore. Sensor anomalies may also cause software to detect apparent objects where no objects actually exist.

Software designers face a basic tradeoff here. If the software is programmed to be too cautious, the ride will be slow and jerky, as the car constantly slows down for objects that pose no threat to the car or aren’t there at all. Tuning the software in the opposite direction will produce a smooth ride most of the time—but at the risk that the software will occasionally ignore a real object. According to Efrati, that’s what happened in Tempe in March—and unfortunately the “real object” was a human being.

I honestly do not understand the need for self-driving cars. In the end, I simply cannot see the software ever being capable of handling all the variables created by the presence of the unpredictable life that will surround it. And should it get that good, I wonder if we will then regret it.

Share

Trump pulls U.S. from Iran nuclear deal

As he promised during the campaign as well as several times since he became President, Trump today announced that the U.S. is leaving the Iran nuclear treaty that had been negotiated by the Obama administration.

Laying out his case, Trump contended, “If we do nothing, we know exactly what will happen. In just a short period of time, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror will be on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons.”

The administration said it would re-impose sanctions on Iran immediately but allow grace periods for businesses to wind down activity. Companies and banks doing business with Iran will have to scramble to extricate themselves or run afoul of the U.S. government.

…Trump, who repeatedly criticized the accord during his presidential campaign, said Tuesday that documents recently released by Netanyahu showed Iran had attempted to develop a nuclear bomb in the previous decade, especially before 2003. Although Trump gave no explicit evidence that Iran violated the deal, he said Iran had clearly lied in the past and could not be trusted.

The AP article at the link is a decidedly anti-Trump partisan hit job, less interested in reporting this news story than telling us how terrible Trump’s actions are. Nor should we be surprised, as two of the AP writers who contributed to the story are based in Tehran.

Share

Craters, cones, pits, amid endless plains

Pits, cones, and craters

Cool image time! Buried in the catalog of recent high resolution images from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are places on Mars that are inexplicable and fascinating, while also indicative of its vastness. The image on the right, reduced in resolution and cropped to post here, shows us one such place. If you click on the image you can see the full image at high resolution.

The archive posting of this image is titled “Cones near Pits.” As you can see, to the north and east of the pits are some mesas (why they call them cones I do not know).

The pits are unusual, and appear to be some form of collapse. In the larger image several additional mesas can be seen at farther distances, but most of the overall terrain is remarkably flat and featureless, except for numerous small craters that appear either partly buried by dust or significantly eroded.

I am not going to guess at the geology that caused the pits and mesas. What I do want to focus on is the vastness of Mars. This location is on the southern edge of Utopia Basin, the second deepest basin on Mars. It is part of the planet’s endless northern plains, an immense region covering almost half the planet that tends to be at a lower elevation, is relatively smooth, and is thought by some scientists to be evidence of what was once an intermittent ocean. The global map of Mars below indicates the location of the above image with a black cross.
» Read more

Share

Another company enters the smallsat rocket competition

Capitalism in space: Another new smallsat company, Rocket Crafters, has entered the competition, focusing on the development of 3D-printed rocket engines using hybrid fuels.

The company’s Cidco Road facility is notable for what is not there, Gutierrez said. Unlike a more typical rocket engine site, there are no signs warning of explosive materials, no use of super-cold or toxic propellants, and no engines equipped with turbo pumps.

Instead, the rocket fuel consisted of plastic tubes made from the same base materials as Legos, measuring two feet long and weighing about five pounds, that were stacked on shelves and safe to touch. Combined with nitrous oxide — commonly known as “laughing gas” — the small-scale test engine on Monday generated about 200 pounds of thrust firing at half-power. It was one of more than 20 such firings over the past year at the facility Cocoa officials rezoned to allow the tests, which were deemed safe to the surrounding people and environment.

“We’re not the noisiest neighbor in the area,” joked Robert Fabian, senior vice president of the propulsion division.

Most rockets rely on super-cold or “cryogenic” propellants such as liquid oxygen or liquid hydrogen, or solid fuel like the space shuttle’s twin solid rocket boosters used.

Hybrid motors have suffered from uneven burns producing bumpy rides, Fabian said. But Rocket Crafters believes it has found a low-cost solution providing a smooth, consistent burn: 3-D printed cylinders of fuel formed in ridged and beaded layers.

We shall see. They hope to fly by 2020, at the earliest. They will be joining an increasingly crowded field. If their design works, however, they will certainly carve out a significant market share, as hybrid fuels are so much safer and easier to handle than traditional propellants.

Share

SpaceX sets May 10 for next launch, the first for Falcon 9’s final design

Capitalism in space: After analyzing the data from Friday’s static fire dress rehearsal, SpaceX has now scheduled the launch of Bangabandhu-1, Bangladesh’s first communications satellite, for May 10.

The significance of this launch is that it will be the first of what SpaceX calls the Block 5 version of this Falcon 9 first stage, a final design intended for many reuses and quick turnaround.

The star of the show is the new, unflown first stage core 1046, which is the first “Block 5” Falcon 9 first stage. Block 5 is the final major upgrade to the Falcon 9, the culmination of over 10 years of development and evolution of SpaceX’s workhorse rocket.

Block 5 has numerous advantages over past versions of the Falcon 9, notably including higher thrust engines, improved and more resilient recovery hardware, and the ability to be reflown within 48 hours of landing after a previous mission. Block 5 was also designed to meet – and in some cases exceed – NASA’s strict Commercial Crew Program requirements, which SpaceX must follow in order to be able to fly NASA astronauts, expected to begin in early 2019.

Block 5 cores are also expected to be reused 10 times before undergoing any major refurbishment, and SpaceX hopes to fly each booster up to 100 times before it is retired.

NASA has demanded that SpaceX fly at least seven different launches with the Block 5 stages before it will permit its astronauts on board (unlike SLS, where NASA has even considered flying astronauts on board with no previous test flights). Thus, getting this rocket flying is crucial to getting Americans back in space, on an American-made rocket.

Share

Dragon returns successfully from ISS

Capitalism in space: A reused Dragon capsule successfully splashed down on Saturday, returning after a month-long cargo mission to ISS.

The successful splashdown Saturday marked the conclusion of SpaceX’s 14th resupply mission to the space station under the space transport company’s more than $3 billion, 20-launch cargo contract with NASA. It was the third round-trip cargo flight with a reused Dragon capsule.

I await the first time one of these capsules completes its third flight into space. That will be significant.

Share

Atlas 5 successfully launches Mars lander InSight

ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket early this morning successfully launched NASA’s newest Mars lander InSight.

InSight will drill a seismic probe into the Martian surface and monitor earthquake activity. This will be the first time such monitoring will occur, and the probe is planned to do it for at least two years.

The launch puts the U.S. back in a tie with China for the lead in launches this year. The standings:

13 China
8 SpaceX
5 Russia
5 ULA

Share

Musk releases image of Falcon 9 fairing floating back to Earth

On Tuesday Elon Musk released an image of a Falcon 9 fairing as its parafoil opened to slow and guide the fairing back to Earth.

The image is pretty, but doesn’t really provide any information about SpaceX’s effort to recover its rocket fairings. The next attempt should come during their next Vandenberg launch in mid-May.

Share

Poll finds Democrats losing ground with millenials

A poll of more than 16,000 registered voters between 18 and 34 years old has found a significant loss of support in the past two years for the Democratic Party.

The online survey of more than 16,000 registered voters ages 18 to 34 shows their support for Democrats over Republicans for Congress slipped by about 9 percentage points over the past two years, to 46 percent overall. And they increasingly say the Republican Party is a better steward of the economy.

Although nearly two of three young voters polled said they do not like Republican President Donald Trump, their distaste for him does not necessarily extend to all Republicans or translate directly into votes for Democratic congressional candidates.

I normally don’t report on polls, as they are a notoriously unreliable predictor of future events. However, the number of participants here is so high that I decided it merited consideration.

At the same time, Republicans should not begin their victory dance. The poll also noted that “Only 28 percent of those polled expressed overt support for Republicans in the 2018 poll – about the same percentage as two years earlier.”

Share

Successful test flight of New Shepard

Capitalism in space: Blue Origin today successful flew its New Shepard suborbital spacecraft on its second test flight.

You can watch the video of the full flight here. Try not to cringe listening to the announcer, who I think sometimes overdoes it.

They were aiming for a maximum altitude of 350,000 feet, which would place the capsule more than 100 kilometers or 66 miles above the Earth, the generally accepted altitude for the start of space. The live stream showed an maximum altitude of about 347,000, but the article says that later recalculations estimated a top altitude of 351,000.

Either way, they have now successfully achieved a safe suborbital spaceflight twice with this spacecraft, and both times carried science payloads. Meanwhile, their direct competitor, Virgin Galactic, has come no where close, even after fourteen years of development.

Share

Summit between leaders of North and South Korea began today

The first summit in more than a decade between the leaders of North and South Korea began today.

The two leaders are meeting at Peace House, south of the demarcation line in the border truce village of Panmunjom.

Kim is the first North Korean leader to step foot in South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War, and the two leaders are expected to discuss issues relating to peace and denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

The two leaders smiled and shook hands after which Kim gestured to Moon to cross over to North Korea briefly, which they did for a few steps, then returned to the South, holding hands.

Though no one should trust much of what Kim says or does, this summit is certainly a testament to the foreign policy of Donald Trump. During the Obama administration, all we had from North Korea were nuclear tests and threats of war, with the U.S. weakly responding with typically empty diplomatic statements of “serious concern.”

Now Kim is signing the guest register in South Korea like so: “New history starts now; age of peace, from the starting point of history.” Trump forced his allies, most specifically China, to put pressure on him, and it has apparently had a positive effect.

Share

House passes law reforming commercial space licensing rules

The House yesterday passed a new law to reform the commercial space licensing rules.

Essentially, the bill shifts a majority of commercial space regulation to the Department of Commerce, and matches somewhat closely the recommendations being put forth by the Trump administration.

The bill appears to be almost identical to the version I analyzed in great detail in an op-ed for The Federalist last year. It has the same positives and negatives. While it definitely aims at simplifying the licensing process for space (abolishing such agencies as NOAA’s Office of Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs that recently tried to claim it had the right to license all photograph of Earth from space.), it does not appear to completely make Commerce that “one-stop shop” for all licensing, allowing the FAA and FCC to retain their space licensing responsibilities. Moreover, it appears, as I noted in my op-ed, to avoid the more essential legal problems, such as the Outer Space Treaty, that hamper private space today and will hamper private space even more in the future.

Regardless, it does appear that the turf war over licensing between Commerce and the FAA is over. Though the law still must get through the Senate, it does appear that Commerce has mostly won. It will get the majority of this bureaucratic bauble. What that bureaucracy will do with it, however, is the real question.

Share

Trump administration considering reinstating fees to purchase Landsat images

The Trump administration is considering reinstating the fee system to purchase Landsat images that existed prior to 2008.

Not surprisingly, the Nature article is completely hostile to this idea. The quote below gives a flavor.

Since the USGS made the data freely available, the rate at which users download it has jumped 100-fold. The images have enabled groundbreaking studies of changes in forests, surface water, and cities, among other topics. Searching Google Scholar for “Landsat” turns up nearly 100,000 papers published since 2008.

A USGS survey of Landsat users released in 2013 found that the free distribution of Landsat imagery generates more than US$2 billion of economic benefit annually — dwarfing the programme’s current annual budget of roughly $80 million. More than half of the nearly 13,500 survey respondents were academics, and the majority lived outside the United States. [emphasis mine]

Why should scientists, a majority of which are not even Americans, have a free ride?

Share

Russian lawmakers introduce legislation to ban rocket engine sales to U.S.

Link here. The article provides practically no information about the legislation or its chances of passing. Instead, it focuses on the past history behind ULA’s use of the Russian RD-180 rocket engine in its Atlas 5 rocket as well as the recent efforts to replace it.

Thus, I have no idea if this legislation signals a real threat to future ULA launches or not. Moreover, the article tries to make it sound that the U.S. is entirely reliant on this rocket engine, something that is simply not true.

Nonetheless, this story underscores again the need for ULA to find a different engine to power its rockets. They shouldn’t be dependent on a rocket engiine built by a foreign power that has political motives that sometimes conflict with those of the United States.

Share

North Korea suspends nuclear and rocket programs

Can we believe it? In anticipation of the upcoming summits with both South Korea and President Trump, North Korea today announced that it has suspended both its nuclear and missile programs.

The new policy, which sets the table for further negotiations when the summits begin, was announced by leader Kim Jong Un at a meeting of the North Korean ruling party’s Central Committee on Friday and reported by the North’s state-run media early Saturday.

Kim justified the suspension to his party by saying that the situation around North Korea has been rapidly changing “in favor of the Korean revolution” since he announced last year his country had completed its nuclear forces. He said North Korea has reached the level where it no longer needs to conduct underground testing or test-launching of ICBMs.

I think the real reason he announced this is that he knows that if he continues the program, he shall be increasingly isolated. Trump’s pressure on China forced that nation to put the screws on Kim, and as a result he really has no choice but announce the suspension of these programs.

What we really don’t know is if this announcement can be taken seriously. Its public framing, justified under the lie that the programs were completed, makes me very suspicious that he is lying about everything. We shall see how Trump takes it in the coming months..

Share

Asian rivers produce almost all the world’s ocean pollution

A new study has found that 95% of all ocean pollution comes from only 10 rivers worldwide, and of those 8 are in Asia.

Dr Schmidt pooled data from dozens of research articles and calculated the amount in rivers was linked to the ‘mismanagement of plastic waste in their watersheds.’ He said: ‘The 10 top-ranked rivers transport 88-95 per cent of the global load into the sea.’

The study follows a recent report that pointed the finger at China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam for spewing out most of the plastic waste that enters the seas. The Yangtze has been estimated in previous research to dump some 727 million pounds of plastic into the sea each year. The Ganges River in India is responsible for even more – about 1.2 billion pounds. A combination of the Xi, Dong and Zhujiang Rivers (233 million lbs per year) in China as well as four Indonesian rivers: the Brantas (85 million lbs annually), Solo (71 million pounds per year), Serayu (37 million lbs per year) and Progo (28 million lbs per year), are all large contributors.

The article also notes this:

More than half of the plastic waste that flows into the oceans comes from just five countries: China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. The only industrialized western country on the list of top 20 plastic polluters is the United States at No. 20.

The U.S. and Europe are not mismanaging their collected waste, so the plastic trash coming from those countries is due to litter, researchers said.

While China is responsible for 2.4 million tons of plastic that makes its way into the ocean, nearly 28 percent of the world total, the United States contributes just 77,000 tons, which is less than one percent, according to the study published in the journal Science.

So, the next time you see a wild-eyed leftwing environmentalist trying to blame western civilization, capitalism, and the U.S. for the world’s pollution, please remember this study. It is the free nations of the world that have nimbly reacted well to the problems of pollution, not communist dictatorships like China or Vietnam.

I should add that the record of democracies here is not perfect by far. The rivers of India are a big contributor to this pollution. That country needs to deal with this problem also.

Share

Blue Origin’s CEO gives an update on the company’s rockets

Link here. According to the CEO, Bob Smith, they are making good progress on developing their BE-4 rocket engine, and also expect to test fly New Shepard again in a few weeks.

In both cases, he admits that development has taken longer than expected. For example, in discussing New Shepard, he said the following:

Smith said Blue Origin is still planning to start flying people on its New Shepard suborbital spaceship by the end of the year, after further uncrewed tests. “We would have loved to have flown more, earlier, but the design incorporation didn’t go as quickly as we’d like it to,” Smith said.

I have no idea what he means by “design incorporation.” The bottom line however is that they have had issues that slowed things down.

The article provides a lot more details. Overall, while he says nothing that contradicts earlier reports, he provides a good summary of the company’s status.

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

Sierra Nevada opens all rockets to launching Dream Chaser

In a status update for its Dream Chaser reusable mini-shuttle cargo ship to ISS, Sierra Nevada officials also revealed that they are considering a wide range of launch companies for future launches.

SNC announced a contract with ULA in July 2017 that covered two Dream Chaser launches, in 2020 and 2021. Both would use the Atlas 5 552, the largest version of the Atlas 5 with a five-meter payload fairing, five solid rocket boosters and a dual-engine Centaur upper stage.

However, Sirangelo said the company was looking at other options for launching the second and later Dream Chaser ISS cargo missions. “It’s a quite interesting time in the launch business, where we see all the major launch companies coming out with a new launch system,” he said. “We are looking at all of the launch systems.” Sirangelo said later that the company issued a request for proposals for multiple Dream Chaser launches. “We’ll probably be making a decision by the end of this year,” he said. “We’re gotten tremendous response for it.” He declined to discuss specific vehicles under consideration but said SNC received “really great response from all the major providers.”

Their willingness to open up the launch bidding is merely a recognition that they can save money by encouraging competition for their business. The vehicle itself has not yet completed its design review, though they hope to begin its assembly within a month, with a planned launch date in late 2020.

The company was awarded its cargo contract in January 2016, more than two years ago. It seems to me that it has taken far too long to get to this point. I wonder if NASA has thrown up roadblocks, as it has with SpaceX.

Share

Wernher von Braun material up for auction

Original material by Wernher von Braun that formed the basis for three classic 1950s coffee table books about the future of space is up for auction.

A collection of some of the most important seminal documents of the Space Age are open for bids as rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun’s “Man Will Conquer Space Soon” archive goes on the block. A collection of signed technical drawings, schematics, memos, orbital diagrams, and mathematical calculations related to von Braun’s efforts to sell an ambitious space program to both the American public and the US government, it’s the centerpiece of the Space and Aviation Auction at Boston-based RR Auction through April 19.

On March 22, 1952, the American weekly feature magazine Collier’s hit the newsstands. Among its usual mixture of advertisements and articles was the first of a series of features that would run for the next two years. These seemed like the wildest science fiction at the time, but would become established fact within a surprisingly few years. The series was called “Man Will Conquer Space Soon” and included painstakingly detailed color illustrations by magazine artists Chesley Bonestell, Fred Freeman, and Rolf Klep. It outlined a complete program for building an unmanned satellite, a manned space shuttle, a space station, an expedition to set up an outpost on the Moon, and topped it off with the conquest of Mars.

Later compiled into and expanded by three coffee table books – Across the Space Frontier (1952), Conquest of the Moon (1953), and The Exploration of Mars (1956) – the series was the brainchild of Wernher von Braun, one of the great rocket pioneers of the 20th century. He was the man behind Germany’s V2 rocket, and architect of the Saturn V booster that would send the first men to the Moon on the Apollo missions.

Those coffee table books are three of my most prized books in my somewhat large library. Anyone who was involved in the 1960s space race read them. When I was old enough to read I found them in my local library. They formed the basis of Disney movies, television shows, and rides at Disneyland. Other Hollywood productions were influenced by them. And most important of all, young men like Jim Lovell were influenced by them, making them want to be astronauts.

Share

SpaceX successfully launches NASA new exoplanet telescope

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully placed NASA’s new explanet space telescope, TESS, into orbit.

The first stage, which was making its first flight, successfully landed on the drone ship in the Atlantic. They hope to reuse this booster on a future Dragon launch.

Update: TESS’s solar arrays have successfully deployed.

The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

11 China
8 SpaceX
4 ULA
3 Japan
3 Russia
3 Europe
3 India

The U.S. is now ahead of China, 12 to 11, in the national list.

Share

Republicans make criminal referrals for Clinton, Comey, Lynch, and others

In a sane world this would be big news: Eleven Congressional Republicans have made a criminal recommendation to the Justice Department against Clinton, Comey, McCabe, Lynch, and others in connection with a number of different scandals, including the misuse of the FISA court and the Uranium One scandal.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee member Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Florida, along with nine other colleagues sent the letter Wednesday to Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray criminally referring former FBI Director James Comey, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for their involvement in the investigations into President Trump and alleged violations of federal law. FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and his paramour FBI lawyer Lisa Page, whose anti-Trump text messages obtained by the DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, were also included in the referral.

“We write to refer the following individuals for investigation of potential violation(s) of federal statutes,” states the letter obtained by this reporter. “In doing so, we are especially mindful of the dissimilar degrees of zealousness that has marked the investigations into Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, respectively. Because we believe that those in positions of high authority should be treated the same as every other American, we want to be sure that the potential violations of law outlined below are vetted appropriately.”

If you want to read the letter, go here.

I saw this story on these two sites about two hours ago, and have looked in vain for coverage elsewhere. This could mean that it is bogus, though I doubt it since both sites are generally very reliable. It could also mean that other news sources haven’t caught up. It could also mean that most mainstream media wants to ignore it, because (as operatives for the Democratic Party) they do not want the public to know about it.

Either way, it is very big news when a former Secretary of State and presidential candidate, the former Attorney General, and the former head of the FBI are suspected of crimes. I think we shall find out if this story is real by tomorrow.

Share

Rocket Lab delays launch

Rocket Lab has decided to delay its April 20th launch Electron launch to its next launch window to give it time to review a technical issue uncovered during a dress rehearsal countdown last week.

In an interview during the 34th Space Symposium here, Rocket Lab Chief Executive Peter Beck said that engineers detected “unusual behavior” in a motor controller for one of the nine engines in its first stage. “We want to take some time to review that data,” he said on the decision to delay the launch.

The next launch window for the mission is in about three weeks, he said. While Rocket Lab owns its own launch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula, he said the company has to work with third parties that provide range safety services when scheduling launches. That should also be enough time, he added to assess the problem and make any hardware changes to the vehicle.

The second paragraph explains why they announce their launch dates as windows. They must give the local communities surrounding their launchpad sufficient notice of when a launch is planned. Interestingly, this system will become irrelevant when they start launching every two weeks, as planned by the next year. When that happens, there will always be a launch window open.

Share
1 2 3 103