Tag Archives: freedom

Enrollment at University of Missouri continues to drop

This is good news: The enrollment at the University of Missouri continues to fall since the violent demonstrations in 2015 instigated by race hustlers and leftwing radicals that shut the campus.

Now, The Dothan Eagle reports that the university is facing the lowest levels of enrollment since 2008, with official numbers showing that enrollment is down 12.9 percent. Additionally, the Eagle notes that, with the exception of the senior class, every incoming class is smaller than last year’s, and even international enrollment fell by 12.1 percent.

Meanwhile, the madness at Evergreen State College continues.

Until there is a significant change in administrations and facility at both these institutions, they deserve nothing better than bankruptcy.

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Private company makes first phonecall using smartphone and nanosats

Capitalism in space: The private smallsat company Sky and Space Global has successfully used its three test nanosats to transmit a phonecall and text messages sent to these satellites using an ordinary smart phone.

During the testing, Sky and Space Global engineers also sent text messages, images and voice recordings via the company’s three nanosatellites, dubbed the 3 Diamonds. The satellites, launched on June 23, circle the Earth in a sun-synchronous orbit at the altitude of 500 kilometers (310 miles).

Eventually, Sky and Space Global envisions building a constellation of 200 nanosatellites that would provide seamless communication services to people living in tropical regions where no communication capabilities currently exist.

They also plan to test the streaming of data through these nanosats from an airplane’s black box. If all goes well, their satellite constellation will be operational by 2020.

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Significant evidence found of double voting

voter fraud study

Testimony at one public meeting of Trump’s election fraud commission revealed significant evidence of several thousand individuals who have voted twice in elections.

Ken Block of Simpatico Software Systems gave a stunning report on the comparison that his company did of voter registration and voter history data from 21 states. He discussed how difficult and expensive it was to get voter data from many states—data that is supposed to be freely available to the public. According to Block, “the variability in access, quality, cost, and data provided impedes the ability to examine voter activity between states.”

Yet using an extremely conservative matching formula that included name, birthdate, and Social Security number, Block found approximately 8,500 voters who voted in two different states in the November 2016 election, including 200 couples who voted illegally together. He estimated that “there would be 40,000 duplicate votes if data from every state were available.”

Of those duplicate voters, 2,200 cast a ballot in Florida—four times George W. Bush’s margin of victory in 2000. His analysis “indicates a high likelihood [of] voter fraud” and that there is “likely much more to be found.”

The image on the right is one of the powerpoint slides used by Block during his presentation. which can be found here.

The public meeting included additional testimony from many other investigators, all of whom showed that if voter fraud is not widespread, the situation is such that it could easily become so. One recommendation that would prevent double voting as shown above would be to allow the states to more easily access each other’s databases in order to compare them.

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The final commercial 747 flights

Link here.

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

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

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

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

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UC-Berkeley comes out for free speech

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

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

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

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

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

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Egyptian leader demands Palestinians accept Israel in UN speech

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

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

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

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

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

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Lockheed Martin unveils standardized satellite lineup

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

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

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

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

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Stratolaunch tests engines on giant plane

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

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

The most interesting part of this story is this:

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

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

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

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Mitsubishi wins launch contract from Inmarsat

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

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

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

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

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

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Oh no! Climate panel might include skeptics!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ArianeGroup’s transition to Ariane 6 rocket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Northrop Grumman to buy Orbital ATK

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

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

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

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Dragon successfully returns from ISS

Capitalism in space: SpaceX’s last new Dragon capsule today returned successfully from ISS, splashing down in the Pacific.

I had originally described this Dragon capsule as the first reused capsule. It is not. That capsule returned to Earth in July. Thank you to SCooper, one of my readers, for noting my mistake. It is now corrected.

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India hopes to resume launches before December

Despite an August 31 launch failure, India is still planning to resume launches before December.

On Friday, Mr Kiran Kumar [head of ISRO] was optimistic that the workhorse rocket would resume flights within a couple of months. “We have identified what the problem is, and we are going through simulations to make sure what we are concluding, is what has exactly happened (during the unsuccessful flight on August 31). The committee, which has been set up to go through the report is having detailed discussions and the report will come out very soon. After the committee gives its final report, we will resume the launches by November-December,” he said, on the sidelines of silver jubilee celebrations of Antrix Corporation Ltd, the corporate arm of ISRO.

They might not meet this goal, but that they are trying to resume launches in less than four months indicates that they are emulating the private sector and not most typical government agencies like NASA in this matter. Both NASA and ISRO have in the past sometimes taken years to recover from a launch failure. After SpaceX’s launchpad explosion in September 2016 they vowed to launch in less than four months, and managed to do it in five months. That ISRO is now trying to do the same indicates that the competition has forced them to up their game.

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Big news: Free speech is allowed in Berkeley

Last night conservative Ben Shapiro was able to give a speech before about 700 people on the UC-Berkeley campus with no disruptions or violence, mostly due to a major security effort by the city and university.

Outside, as many as 1,000 people were gathered — some protesters, others onlookers — and a group of up to 50 students occupied a breezeway at the ASUC Student Union, where they’d put up a sign, “Students Against Fascism and War,” and interacted with the crowd. They exited the building calmly just before the Zellerbach event ended at 9 p.m. “There’s a sense of relief and satisfaction that the event was able to go forward without disruption, that those who chose to protest did so in largely nonviolent ways and that, overall, things went as well as could be expected,” said UC Berkeley Assistant Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Dan Mogulof, at a media briefing later that night.

UC Berkeley Police Chief Margo Bennett said the event was “orderly,” attended by people who were “respectful and interested” in the speaker and that it concluded peacefully.

Only a few arrests were made, and no violence occurred.

While the success of this event shows progress compared to previous events where violent thugs rioted, it is still damning to California and Berkeley and the liberal/leftist community of Berkeley that we are all surprised that no violence occurred. Instead, the need for security illustrates the intolerance of this community and its willingness to silence dissent.

In two weeks conservatives will be holding a major event on the campus, with a whole slate of speakers. It will be another opportunity for the Berkeley community to show us how tolerant they are to free speech and the open marketplace of ideas.

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Orbital ATK begins assembly of first orbital repair satellite

Capitalism in space: Orbital ATK has begun the assembly of Mission Extension Vehicle 1, (MEV-1), designed to attach itself to commercial satellites and extend their life.

Controlled by the company’s satellite operations team, the MEV 1 uses a reliable, low-risk docking system that attaches to existing features on a customer’s satellite. The MEV-1 provides life-extending services by taking over the orbit maintenance and attitude control functions of the client’s spacecraft. The vehicle has a 15 year design life with the ability to perform numerous dockings and repositionings during its life span.

They hope to launch before the end of 2018. Meanwhile, the legal battle between Orbital ATK’s effort to build this satellite repair mission and DARPA’s effort to subsidize SSL’s own satellite repair mission continues in Congress with the introduction of two amendments favoring Orbital ATK.

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ESA buys the first Ariane 6 launches

The European Space Agency (ESA) has purchased the first two Ariane 6 launches to place four of its Galileo GPS satellites in orbit in the 2020-21 timeframe.

This is not a big surprise, since ESA is mandated to use Arianespace’s rockets, and the space agency is the obvious candidate for making the first commitment to this new rocket’s use.

The press release does not mention the price that Arianespace is charging for these launches, but I suspect it isn’t anywhere near as cheap as they will have to charge to truly private and commercial customers. Essentially, I am willing to bet that this contract award is a bit of crony capitalism, designed to pass some extra cash from ESA to Arianespace.

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It is now bad to cheer for the USA in California

Link here. The story is about how the principal of a local high school sent an email to the families of all students telling them that they should reconsider chanting “USA!” at sports events, as such chants might offend some.

The school’s principal sent out an email to families, Wednesday and relayed the same message to students over the school’s PA system, clarifying any confusion.

She told students and parents that sometimes “We can communicate an unintended message.” She also said USA chanting is welcome, but it may be best to do it at what she says are appropriate times, like following the national anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance. School officials worry the chants could come across as intolerant and offensive to some.

You see, to these California officials, the United States is essentially an evil and racist nation whose only past achievement was to enslave minorities. To show pride in this country is to show pride in this vision, and they want to make sure their students all know this.

What a slander and lie. To me, this position not only illustrates the utter ignorance of these school officials, but their hatred of all things American. If I had a kid in this school I would now be homeschooling them.

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How not to land a rocket

The SpaceX blooper reel! It shows some crash footage that had not been released earlier. Also, the captions almost certainly were written by Musk himself, and if not, reek of his sense of humor, and also reveal the humbleness that he and his company bring to this effort. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you will make it hard to spot the moment when you are making a major error.

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Berkeley creates police state in anticipation of conservative speaker

Free speech in fascist California: In order to prevent violence against a conservative speaker, the town of Berkeley is imposing very strict security controls for tomorrow’s event.

The key security measure that I think will make the most difference are these:

UC Berkeley’s Provost Paul Alivisatos sent a recent campus-wide message detailing security plans, saying no one wearing masks or carrying weapons of any sort will be allowed on campus.

Police will block off the building where Shapiro is scheduled to speak and several other buildings hours before the event starts. Anyone entering the secure zone to pick up tickets must present a photo I.D. Nearby parking lots will be closed.

Berkeley police chief Andrew Greenwood said police will make “very strong, rapid arrests” Thursday night if any protesters have weapons or wear masks.

You want to commit violence, you won’t be able to do it anonymously, as was allowed previously.

Though it is tragic that so much of the population of California hates dissent so much that they are willing to commit violence to squelch opposing points of view, it is progress that the local government and university administration are finally acting to defend the people’s right to speak freely.

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Wasserman Schultz’s IT guy Imran Awan funnelled data to illegal secret server

Imran Awan, Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s IT guy who is now charged with bank fraud, was initially banned when it was discovered that he was funnelling data and emails of numerous Democratic congressmen to a secret server and to Dropbox — against House rules — and then tried to hide this fact from investigators.

Now-indicted former congressional IT aide Imran Awan allegedly routed data from numerous House Democrats to a secret server. Police grew suspicious and requested a copy of the server early this year, but they were provided with an elaborate falsified image designed to hide the massive violations. The falsified image is what ultimately triggered their ban from the House network Feb. 2, according to a senior House official with direct knowledge of the investigation.

The secret server was connected to the House Democratic Caucus, an organization chaired by then-Rep. Xavier Becerra. Police informed Becerra that the server was the subject of an investigation and requested a copy of it. Authorities considered the false image they received to be interference in a criminal investigation, the senior official said.

Data was also backed up to Dropbox in huge quantities, the official said. Congressional offices are prohibited from using Dropbox, so an unofficial account was used, meaning Awan could have still had access to the data even though he was banned from the congressional network.

Awan had access to all emails and office computer files of 45 members of Congress who are listed below. Fear among members that Awan could release embarrassing information if they cooperated with prosecutors could explain why the Democrats have refused to acknowledge the cybersecurity breach publicly or criticize the suspects.

It appears that Awan might have been blackmailing these Democrats. There is also the strong possibility, though no direct evidence has as yet been found for this, that he and his co-workers were working for foreign powers in the Islamic world.

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“Taking the red pill”

Link here. The article gives us a hint that the oppressive, thug-like, brownshirt behavior coming from many on the left is actually backfiring, and backfiring in a big way.

The term “taking the red pill” derives from the movie “The Matrix,” the trippy sci-fi classic. Morpheus, the resistance leader played by Laurence Fishburne offers Neo, the movie’s hero played by Keanu Reeves, a choice: He can take the blue pill and remain in the repressive artificial world known as the Matrix where “you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.” Or he can take the red pill and tumble down the “rabbit hole” where he will come to realize that everything about his life was a lie.

The left’s intensifying war on free speech has produced a surge of red pill videos. Some take Owens’ in-your-face approach. Others are meandering, hipster confessionals delivered with the wordy earnestness of characters in a Duplass brothers movie.

Read it. It provides a lot of examples of former leftists suddenly realizing that they have little in common with the modern left.

Is this happening? I suspect it is, but it is doing so very far below the radar of the mainstream press and our bankrupt intelligentsia.

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Trump administration shuts down NIH anti-gun research

The NIH has quietly shelved all funding for gun research, most of which had been instigated under the Obama administration as a propaganda tool to promote gun control.

The article from Science is remarkable — coming from a mainstream academic source — in that it provides a fair description of the perspective of the NRA and gun-owners.

Note: Reader Kirk noted my error in originally crediting this article to Nature, when it truth it was Science that published it. Post corrected. Sorry!

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Virgin Orbit wins launch contract

Capitalism in space: Virgin Orbit today announced it has signed a contract with Cloud Constellation to launch the first dozen satellites in their SpaceBelt constellation.

The initial deployment of the SpaceBelt network will be powered by a dozen ~400 kilogram satellites placed into low inclination orbits. Taking full advantage of LauncherOne as a dedicated launch service for small satellites and as a uniquely flexible service enabled by air-launch, the SpaceBelt constellation will be deployed using single-manifested launches occurring in rapid sequence. The initial launch is expected to occur as early as 2019.

This definitely puts pressure on Virgin Orbit to produce its first launches as promised.

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Space hype versus reality

Three stories today illustrate the importance of maintaining some skepticism when reading the claims of rocket companies.

I could probably also include the story earlier today about the model rocket test launch that was hyped absurdly by the company and the British newspapers that reported it.

The first story reports the comments of a local politician claiming that SpaceX will be launching from its Boca Chica Texas spaceport by the end of 2018. Interesting, but I’d rather go by what the company itself says, and what SpaceX CEO Gwynne Shotwell says today is “Our Texas site still doing landscaping, could be avail in ~ 2 yrs; no rush given our capacity at two Fla pads.”

In other words, the local official’s prediction was a bit overstated, and therefore should not be taken too seriously.

The second story however can be taken a bit more seriously, since it is a report from an actual company official, Clay Mowry, Blue Origin’s vice president of sales, marketing and customer experience. He explains that they hope to resume New Shepard suborbital test flights before the end of the year, with manned test flights occurring in 2018. However, he says little about why there was such a long gap in New Shepard launches after they completed their last test flight in October 2016. At that time they said they would be doing more test flights in early 2017, but by the spring of 2017 had back tracked.

The claim that they might be flying again before the end of the year, however, still carries weight, in that it matches earlier statements. In other words, Blue Origin has been very careful not to make promises it cannot meet. In rocket science this care cannot always be met, but they clearly have tried hard. This is why I take Mowry’s statement that they hope to fly humans on New Shepard in 2018 with some trust.

The third story is a perfect example of how a company loses trust. Virgin Orbit is part of the Virgin set of companies run by Richard Branson, and used to be part of Virgin Galactic. Branson and Virgin Galactic have been making promises now for more than a decade, none of which have born fruit. This unreliability has made me very skeptical about anything they say, which is also why I do not report their claims much anymore. When they actually fly something I will write about it.

For awhile I thought Virgin Orbit was a different bird, as the executives there have been more careful, only making cautious promises and then more or less fulfilling them. The story above however gives me pause. Even as they admit they have had to delay their test program their president still insists that they will be able to ramp up to two launches per month by 2020. Considering the fact that no single private company has yet managed to do such a thing, in the more than half century since the beginnings of the space age, I think it is a little dangerous for this guy to make this claim, even before the company has even launched its first rocket. Virgin Orbit might do it, but such wild claims make me very suspicious of them.

And then there was today’s earlier story about Starchaser Industries. They launch a model rocket 4000 feet in the air, and from this they claim that they will be putting humans on a suborbital rocket in only two years. If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you, cheap.

The bottom line here is to use some common sense and thoughtful judgment in reading stories about future space achievements. The first three stories above are actually all well written, well researched, and very careful in how they report their stories. It however is not necessarily their job to tell you whether the claims are trustworthy, especially if the claims seem reasonable based upon the available information. The last however is an example of bad journalism, rewriting a press release without doing any research at all.

In all cases, it is important to distinguish between stories about what is going to happen versus what is happening. I always prefer the latter, since a real achievement will always trump a mere prediction. And when it comes to the space industry and rocket science, predictions surely must take a back seat to reality.

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Journalist and author claims police actions against looting equals “white supremacy”

Our bankrupt intelligentsia: Journalist and author Sarah Jaffe went on Twitter yesterday to claim that the police effort to catch and arrest looters in Florida is the equivalent of “white supremacy.”

When she was lambasted by numerous other Twitter users for this dumb statement she doubled down, implying (with an obscenity) that her critics were all Nazis.

This minor story illustrates two things. First, that someone as uneducated and thoughtless as this person can get published and be treated as a respected author demonstrates the intellectual bankruptcy of our modern elites. Everything to her is race and bigotry. Capitalism is evil. Anyone who disagrees with her is a racist or a Nazi. Comparing this childishness with the thought processes seen when you read Shakespeare, John Adams, or William Butler Yeats, and you will see that the future of modern western civilization does not look good.

Second, this story shows again why anyone who has any intelligence should avoid Twitter. That venue is not for thoughtful discussion. It is specifically designed to cause people to hurl insults at each other, and only serves to lower the level of our intellectual discourse. And I am not alone in this opinion.

Far more fundamental is the way Twitter intensifies and amplifies pathological social tendencies among those who act within, report on, and write about the political world. It turns politicians, political staffers, reporters, editors, pundits, and analysts into petty, vain, childish, showoffy, hostile, vindictive, dogmatic, impulsive, careless versions of their best and most professional selves. This makes Twitter horrible for our politics and equally bad for journalism. The single best thing for both politics and journalism would be for Twitter to go out of business tomorrow.

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Arianespace announces new launch contracts

Capitalism in space: Arianespace today announced it has won a new launch contract for two different satellites, bringing its launch manifest to 53.

The press release contains a lot of interesting tidbits:

  • They plan to complete 11 launches in 2017, which is slightly above their yearly average in the past six years.
  • In 2018 they presently have only 7 launches planned, the lowest number since 2013.
  • Of the 53 launches, Ariane 5 will do 17, Soyuz 27, and Vega 9, suggesting a shift away from Ariane 5, which has been the company’s mainstay.
  • The private joint partnership of Airbus and Safran, now called ArianeGroup, has taken control of the business, and has begun streamlining it.
  • Arianespace has now been relegated to only handling “customer relations” and launch operations.

Overall, it looks like this European private/government partnership is doing reasonably well in the new very competitive launch market. I still expect their business to shrink in the coming years, but I think they will be around for awhile.

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Private rocket does short test flight

Capitalism in space: A private British rocket company, Starchaser Industries, successfully launched a small rocket from the back of a truck yesterday and sent it about 4,000 feet in the air.

All the articles covering this event appeared to essentially be rewrites of the company’s press release, and provide little usable information about the flight. The test launch had the rocket split into three sections at 4,000 feet and return to Earth by parachute. This apparently was the intended test goal, though one parachute did not release.

Based on what I read, I must admit I am not impressed. The head of the company made a lot of claims about flying humans on a bigger rocket soon to come, but based on this launch I think that is almost all hogwash. Essentially this launch looked like a big model rocket, with little capabilities beyond that. Previous stories about this company and its head have been equally dubious. In one, he made ridiculous claims. In another, it was reported that his bookkeeper had embezzled 200K pounds over six years from the company.

All in all, I think my real issue here is with the press. I read five different stories about this launch from so-called major British news sources like the Times of London and the Daily Telegraph, and not one had the slightest skepticism, or did the slightest research. Each journalist also appeared completely ignorant of space engineering and the history of space exploration, and seemed more interested in touting the wonders to come from this British entrepreneur. As a journalist myself I found this incredibly embarrassing.

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