Tag Archives: policy

Trump to the Moon!

Two stories in the past two days strongly suggest that the Trump administration is planning a two-pronged space policy approach, with the long-term goal of shifting most of space to private operations.

From the first link:

The more ambitious administration vision could include new moon landings that “see private American astronauts, on private space ships, circling the Moon by 2020; and private lunar landers staking out de facto ‘property rights’ for American on the Moon, by 2020 as well,” according to a summary of an “agency action plan” that the transition drew up for NASA late last month. Such missions would be selected through an “internal competition” between what the summary calls Old Space, or NASA’s traditional contractors, and New Space characterized by SpaceX and Blue Origin. But the summary also suggests a strong predilection toward New Space. “We have to be seen giving ‘Old Space’ a fair and balanced shot at proving they are better and cheaper than commercial,” it says.

Another thrust of the new space effort would be to privatize low-Earth orbit, where most satellites and the International Space Station operate — or a “seamless low-risk transition from government-owned and operated stations to privately-owned and operated stations.” “This may be the biggest and most public privatization effort America has ever conducted,” it says.

Essentially, they are going to do exactly what I suggested back in late December, give SLS/Orion a short-term realistic goal of going to the Moon. This is what it was originally designed for, and it is the only technology presently available that has even the slightest chance of meeting the three year deadline outlined above. More important, this will give Congress something in the negotiations, as SLS/Orion has been Congress’s baby — pushed and funded by Congress over the objections of the previous administration and without a clear mission to go anywhere — in order to keep the money stream flowing to the big “Old Space” companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Obama tried to simply cancel its predecessor, Constellation, and that did not sit well with Congress. Trump however understands negotiation and how to play the game. In order to eventually eliminate SLS Trump is going to provide Congress some short term excitement and some viable long term alternatives.

The long term alternatives will be private enterprise. Even as they send SLS/Orion on its grand finale to the Moon, the Trump administration will accelerate the restructuring of NASA to make the agency less of a design and construction operation and more a mere customer of private space. All non-military Earth orbital operations will be shifted to the private sector over time, so that once SLS/Orion has achieved that goal of completing a lunar mission there will be a strong enough private space sector to replace it, allowing Congress to let it go the way of Apollo and the space shuttle.

Lockheed Martin screwup delays delivery of Air Force GPS satellites

Our government in action! Incompetence by a Lockheed Martin subcontractor will delay the delivery of 32 new Air Force GPS satellites and will likely cost the government millions.

Lockheed has a contract to build the first 10 of the satellites designed to provide a more accurate version of the Global Positioning System used for everything from the military’s targeting of terrorists to turn-by-turn directions for civilians’ smartphones. The program’s latest setback may affect a pending Air Force decision on whether to open the final 22 satellites to competition from Lockheed rivals Boeing Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. “This was an avoidable situation and raised significant concerns with Lockheed Martin subcontractor management/oversight and Harris program management,” Teague said in a Dec. 21 message to congressional staff obtained by Bloomberg News.

The parts in question are ceramic capacitors that have bedeviled the satellite project. They take higher-voltage power from the satellite’s power system and reduce it to a voltage required for a particular subsystem. Last year, the Air Force and contractors discovered that Harris hadn’t conducted tests on the components, including how long they would operate without failing, that should have been completed in 2010.

Now, the Air Force says it found that Harris spent June to October of last year doing follow-up testing on the wrong parts instead of samples of the suspect capacitors installed on the first three satellites. Harris “immediately notified Lockheed and the government” after a post-test inspection, Teague said in his message.

So, the subcontractor first failed to do the required tests, then it did the tests on the wrong parts. Sounds like the kind of quality control problems we have seen recently in Russia and Japan.

The worst part? The contract is a cost-plus contract, which means the government has to absorb the additional costs for fixing the screw-up, not Lockheed Martin or its subcontractor.

Iran tests short range missile

Does this make you feel safer? Iran today launched a short range Mersad surface-to-air missile on a 35 mile test flight.

The launch took place on the same launchpad where earlier in the week they had placed and then removed an orbital Safir rocket, designed to put satellites into orbit. Why they removed it and launched the short range missile instead remains unknown

EPA employees protest Trump pick for agency head

The law is such an inconvenient thing: In direct violation of the Hatch Act about 30 EPA employees joined a Sierra Club protest of Trump’s pick to head the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

In Chicago, around 30 employees of the EPA’s regional office there joined a protest organized by the Sierra Club environmental group and the American Federation of Government Employees to protest Pruitt’s nomination.

Doug Eriksen, a spokesman for Trump’s transition team at the EPA, downplayed the Chicago protest, saying “employees have a right to take action on their private time.”

When I worked for the FAA it was made very clear to me that the Hatch Act made it illegal for any government employee to participate in partisan political activities. Your freedom to vote the way you wished was not denied, nor was your general freedom of speech, but it was considered a clear conflict of interest to engage in political activities, especially activities that might put you in conflict with the policies of the President and his administration, your boss. These EPA employees are violating that law.

I suspect the reason the Trump administration is not very bothered by this is because they intend to cut the staffing at the EPA significantly, which means many of these people will be gone anyway. No need to get into a legal battle with them.Trump will propose slashing the EPA’s budget, the Republican Congress should gladly go along, and these partisan Democratic Party operatives with this government agency will be gone.

Trump jokes about “destroying” Texas politician

Uh-oh: In a conversation with a Texas sheriff about that state’s civil forfeiture laws — in which the state’s sheriff’s can rake in a lot of cash by stealing citizen’s property — the sheriff complained about a state senator who was trying to abolish the law, and Trump responded, “”Do you want to give his name? We’ll destroy his career.”

You can see the video of the joke here.

As noted at the first link above, Trump is clearly joking. Nonetheless, this is not something anyone with Trump’s power should joke about. It is similar to a joke Obama cracked early in his administration about using the IRS to squelch his opponents. The leftist press dismissed it, but that was exactly what Obama eventually did, weaponize the IRS as a tool to attack his political opponents.

I might support some of Trump’s policies, but this statement I find disgusting. There are plenty of lawbreakers (such as the rioters in Berkeley) that Trump would be justified in attacking and “destroying.” A legally elected legislator proposing reasonable changes to law is not one of them. It is this kind of behavior that fueled my doubts about Trump from the start. Worse, it is this kind of behavior that gives ammunition to violent rioters like those in Berkeley. As Trump might tweet, “Very bad!”

Orbital ATK sues DARPA over its satellite repair program

Orbital ATK has filed a lawsuit against the Defense Department’s DARPA division over its satellite repair program that is apparently going to award a contract to a Canadian company to develop a system for using robots to repair orbiting satellites.

Orbital argues that the federal program, called the Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites, would unfairly compete with its own privately funded effort, a system called the Mission Extension Vehicle 1, backed by at least $200 million from investors. The company has set up at a production facility in Northern Virginia, with a launch planned for next year.

DARPA wants to build out a government-funded program of its own, and is close to awarding a contract to a company that Orbital views as a competitor. In a contract announcement briefly posted on the agency’s website, DARPA said it is awarding a $15 million contract to Space Systems/Loral (SSL), a U.S. subsidiary of Canadian aerospace firm MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates. DARPA spokesman Jared B. Adams said the contract award was posted in error and elements of the deal are still being worked on.

In its lawsuit, Orbital alleges that the contract violates federal policy against creating government space programs that compete with existing commercial ones. “The U.S. National Space Policy explicitly directs government agencies to avoid funding activities that are already in development in the commercial marketplace,” the company said in a statement. “Orbital ATK will continue to pursue all available options to oppose DARPA from moving forward with this illegal and wasteful use of U.S. taxpayer dollars.”

DARPA normally pushes projects that no one is doing, either because the work is too experimental or can’t yet make a profit. In this case however it appears that this is not the case. Worse (from a political perspective), they are awarding the contract to a non-American company. I would not be surprised if Congress soon steps in and shuts this particular DARPA project down.

Democrats in Pima County vote to appeal World View court decision

The Pima County Board of Supervisors in Arizona has voted 3-2 on a party-line vote to appeal a judge’s decision that canceled the county’s deal with the space tourism balloon company World View because it violated state law.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to appeal a Superior Court decision which concluded the county violated state law when it signed an agreement and lease with World View, a space exploration company located near the Tucson International Airport.

The vote was along party lines, with the three Democrats voting for the appeal and the two Republicans voting against it.

The court ruled the county did not comply with a law which requires the county to appraise the property, hold a public auction, and negotiate a fair rental price before it agreed to build a $15 million complex for the company.

It seems to me that — rather than fight this in court — the smart thing to do here is to work out a new agreement that does not violate the law, something that the county was able to do with its lease agreements with Vector Space Systems. This apparently was what the Republicans on the board were proposing. Instead, the Democrats have chosen to fight, even though that will delay things further and is likely to fail in court anyway.

UC-Berkeley student newspaper publishes essays praising riots

The voice of leftist fascism: The University of California-Berkeley student newspaper The Daily Californian today published a set of essays praising the rioters that destroyed property, attacked opponents, and silenced the exercise of free speech at the university last week.

Read it all. The essayists justify their actions under the outright lie that Milo Yiannopoulos supports genocide. (He does not and never has.) One writer even suggests that because she believes in this lie, without providing any evidence, she should have the right to kill her opponents.

There really isn’t much to say. In Berkeley California today you risk your life if you try to speak your mind freely. These fascists run the university, have the support of the university administration as well as the elected city government, all Democrats, and will use that position of power to violently attack anyone that challenges them. This place no longer participates in the American vision of freedom and liberty. In fact, it functions in direct violation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Based on these events, and the university’s response to them, I think it perfectly reasonable to cut off all of its federal funding. We did far more when faced with this kind of fascist behavior by the Soviet Union in eastern Europe. We should do no less, if not far more, when we see such oppression raise its head here in the United States.

NanoRacks and Boeing to build private airlock on ISS

The competition heats up: NASA has signed an agreement with NanoRacks and Boeing to build private commercial airlock to attach to ISS in 2019 and be used for commercial operations.

Commercial opportunities through Airlock begin with cubesat and small satellite deployment from station and include a full range of additional services to meet customer needs from NASA and the growing commercial sector. Currently, cubesats and small satellites are deployed through the government-operated Japanese Kibo Airlock. Additionally, the crew on board may now assemble payloads typically flown in soft-stowage ISS Cargo Transfer Bags into larger items that currently cannot be handled by the existing Kibo Airlock. “We are very pleased to have Boeing joining with us to develop the Airlock Module,” says NanoRacks CEO Jeffrey Manber. “This is a huge step for NASA and the U.S. space program, to leverage the commercial marketplace for low-Earth orbit, on Space Station and beyond, and NanoRacks is proud to be taking the lead in this prestigious venture.”

Beyond station, the Airlock could at some future time, be detached and placed onto another on-orbit platform.

This is part of the overall transition at NASA from government-built and -run to privately-built and -run.

Democratic party leaders endorse obstruction as political tool

In a Politico article today about the political state of the Democratic Party, it appears both party leaders and the base are increasingly leaning to a “a take-no-prisoners posture” aimed at a continued and total opposition to all Trump policies.

Leading Democratic strategists warn that the first signs will appear in midterm elections, in which the primary electorate will demand more than just marching outside the White House or grabbing a bullhorn at an arrivals lounge. They’ll be expecting something close to 100 percent rejection of Trump’s agenda — making the coming years complicated for members of Congress, who have to vote on it, rather than the governors and mayors who get to assume a more offensive posture.

Essentially, it appears that the Democratic Party is coalescing around a strategy similar to that used in Wisconsin against conservative Republican Governor Scott Walker, a strategy based on no compromise and no negotiation and included legislative boycotts, demonstrations, protests and occupations inside the statehouse.

In Wisconsin that political strategy was a total and utter failure. Not only did the Democrats fail to stop any of Walker’s policy initiatives, their actions apparently helped shift that state into Trump’s hands in the November Presidential election. I suspect it will result in the same utter failure in the 2018 midterm elections, which do not favor the Democrats anyway.

It is especially amusing to note the political experts the Politico quotes for its analysis. Mark Longabaugh was a senior strategist for Sanders, who lost. Jason Kander ran for a Senate seat in Missouri in 2016. He lost. Anne Caprara ran a PAC that strongly campaigned for Hillary Clinton, who lost. She also held important strategy positions in the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from 2010 to 2014, a time period when the Democrats lost control of the Senate. Margie Omero has been a very visible pollster on television who consistently predicted that Hillary Clinton was almost certain to win the election. As we all know, Clinton lost.

And there’s Bob Shrum, who is given the most quotes, and says in support of the obstructionist strategy,

“This is a grass-roots reaction at a level of intensity that I haven’t seen in the Democratic Party since Vietnam,” said Shrum. “It even exceeds the reaction to Iraq, which was more a slow simmer than this kind of explosive reaction.”

Bob Shrum is also known as the man who has backed nine presidential Democratic candidates during the past three decades, all of whom lost. His record is so bad that it is known in Washington as the Shrum curse. The streak continued hilariously in the November election, when he announced just after Labor Day that the election was over and that Hillary Clinton was now certain to win. His curse immediately kicked in, as that was the exact moment her polls started to drop. And as with all of Shrum’s other political picks, she lost in the election.

As I noted last week, Einstein’s definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. This is more evidence that the Democrats are following this mental path.

Obamacare numbers continue to tank

We are still finding out what’s in it: Enrollment numbers in Obamacare for 2017 turn out to be far worse than any prediction, resulting in more insurance companies considering an exit.

[T]he nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted last year that 15 million Americans would enroll in Obamacare plans through the various marketplaces in 2017 (down from an initial expectation of approximately 21 million when the law first passed. The Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services lowered their 2017 expectations to 13.8 million. But the federal exchange totals are hundreds of thousands of consumers off-pace from last year, which was already sufficiently lackluster as to trigger an exodus of several major insurers. …Charles Gaba, a pro-Obamacare tracker of ACA signups, …estimated that to stay on track with the HHS projections, the federal exchange would need to tally roughly 10.6 million enrollees. The actual number was just 9.2 million.

The whole shebang is collapsing, regardless of what the Republicans in Congress do. Read the article, however, because it also provides some interesting analysis of what Congress is considering.

Whistleblower exposes climate data manipulation at NOAA

The corruption of climate science: A retired award-winning climate scientist has revealed that the publication of a NOAA paper that claimed the pause in global warming since 1998 did not exist was rushed into publication so that it would appear just prior to the Paris climate conference in 2015.

Worse, the paper’s authors disregarded NOAA’s rules for peer review, destroyed their raw data so that no one could check their results, and purposely threw out data that raised questions about their conclusions.

NOAA’s 2015 ‘Pausebuster’ paper was based on two new temperature sets of data – one containing measurements of temperatures at the planet’s surface on land, the other at the surface of the seas. Both datasets were flawed. This newspaper has learnt that NOAA has now decided that the sea dataset will have to be replaced and substantially revised just 18 months after it was issued, because it used unreliable methods which overstated the speed of warming. The revised data will show both lower temperatures and a slower rate in the recent warming trend.

The land temperature dataset used by the study was afflicted by devastating bugs in its software that rendered its findings ‘unstable’. The paper relied on a preliminary, ‘alpha’ version of the data which was never approved or verified. A final, approved version has still not been issued.

None of the data on which the paper was based was properly ‘archived’ – a mandatory requirement meant to ensure that raw data and the software used to process it is accessible to other scientists, so they can verify NOAA results.

Read the whole article. It is remarkably detailed for a modern newspaper story, delving carefully into the kind of details that must be looked at to truly understand the corruption of science that has taken place in government agencies like NOAA and NASA.

Does this story prove that human-caused global warming is not happening? Of course not. What it does show is that there is fraud going on, and that much of the science press releases issued by these agencies cannot be trusted.

Man wearing Trump hat assaulted at Berkeley today

Fascists: A UC-Berkeley student wearing a Trump hat was attacked by two men today on the college campus.

The student—who was wearing one of Trump’s token Make America Great Again hats at the time of the exchange—was later identified as Jack Palkovic, a member of Berkeley’s College Republicans chapter who helped organize Wednesday night’s events. CBS reports that two unidentified men emerged from the vehicle, yanked the Trump hat from Palkovic’s head, and began to beat him until bystanders eventually intervened.

Although the two men attempted to flee the scene, police officers were able to prevent their escape, and placed both men in custody.

Charges against the attackers are being filed.

A side note: Today my wife and I were driving about town doing errands, and we passed an anti-Trump demonstration that reminded me remarkably of the tea party demonstrations I participated in in 2010-2011. The demonstrators had homemade signs, were smiling and enthusiastic, and doing nothing illegal. While I disagree with them politically, I celebrate their willingness to express publicly their political opinions most whole-heartedly.

There is one difference between these peaceful anti-Trump demonstrators and the tea party demonstrators that is important however. The former have rarely shown horror at the kinds of violence seen this week on college campuses and perpetrated in their name. They might mouth distaste for the violence, and might never do it themselves, but they have no outrage about it and if asked usually express some satisfaction that those bad conservatives or the bad people who support Trump got silenced. Too often, they celebrate the violence, even if they won’t do it themselves.

Among every tea party protester I have ever met (and I have met a lot of them), such behavior was always considered absolutely unacceptable. The idea of committing violence against their opposition was horrifying to them.

This distinction is important. It points us to the source of our modern political problems.

How past fascist dictators took power

Link here. The process as described in this quote should sound very frightfully familiar:

Under the leadership of Benito Mussolini, the Fascist Party of Italy seized control of the country in 1922 with the “March on Rome.” Before marching on the nation’s capital, Italian fascists committed violent acts across most of northern Italy. The king of Italy, fearing more bloodshed, appointed Mussolini Prime Minister of Italy. No election took place, and the Italian fascists used violent tactics to achieve power.

Spanish fascists came to power through a military coup, after the military leadership did not like the results of the most recent election, and the coup resulted in a civil war lasting from 1936 to 1939.

In Germany the fascist path to power was longer and more complicated for the National Socialists, or Nazis. Hitler attempted to mimic Mussolini in 1923 with the Beer Hall putsch, an attempt to overthrow local authorities. It did not succeed and resulted in a few deaths and the arrest of several Nazis, including Hitler. After the failed coup, the Nazis decided to use the democratic process to take over Germany. Yet not until the election of July 1932 did the Nazis become the largest party in the German Parliament. Despite winning a plurality of votes (37 percent), the Nazis did not receive a majority of the votes needed to form a government. The Nazis refused to join any coalition, which resulted in another election in November 1932. In that election the Nazis again won a plurality but not as large as before (only 33 percent). Despite the loss, the Nazis refused to form a coalition until Hitler was made chancellor, which occurred in January 1933. Once Hitler was chancellor, he ordered another parliamentary election.

In March 1933, the election was held and the Nazis again received only a plurality of the votes (43 percent). This would be the last open election until after World War II, because Hitler decided it would be easier to consolidate power through terror, fear, and even political murders, rather than trying to work with other parties.

So, what’s the pattern? How do fascists take power? First, they are angry with election results or how the country is being run. Then fascists use militant tactics to force the population into supporting, or acquiescing in, their cause, even though most citizens don’t actually support the fascist agenda. [emphasis mine]

This is a detailed educated illustration why I use the term fascist to describe the behavior of much of the most militant wings of the left and the Democratic Party. It is what they have become, and what they are doing.

I pray that in America we will not do what was done in Italy, Spain, and Germany, and acquiesce to the use of violence and terror to make us bow to the will of dictators.

The fascist face of the left

If you have any doubts at the violent, destructive, and hateful goals of the new left and the anti-Trump protests, just take a look at this detailed report of the UC-Berkeley riots two nights ago, including videos and many pictures. Your doubts will disappear.

The second video is most disturbing, first because of the very paramilitary and organized manner in which the protesters acted, and second in the complete and total lack of police presence to maintain order. Peaceful protest is one thing. Violence and the organized destruction of property is another. That Berkeley has only arrested one person for these riots tells us that the government in that city sides with these fascist rioters, and wants to see them harm their opponents.

Make sure you also watch the other videos showing these protesters run down and beat people. Truly inspiring!

Judge strikes down Tucson/Worldview spaceport deal

A deal between Pima County in Tucson Arizona and the space tourism balloon company World View has been struck down.

The Tucson judge sided with the libertarian Goldwater group, which argued Pima County ran afoul of state rules governing subsidies and incentives to businesses. “Judge Woods’ ruling protects Pima County taxpayers from having to foot the bill for World View’s untested business model,” said Jim Manley, senior attorney at the Goldwater Institute. “Instead of relying on a sweetheart deal from taxpayers, World View will need to pay market rates to lease its building, just like every other business in Pima County.”

Goldwater attorneys didn’t like that Pima County approved the deal without a popular ballot measure and that the deal was done without an appraisal. Goldwater also argued the lease deal was for less than market rates for a custom building. “The county is free to renegotiate the lease,” said Manley, “but only after they appraise the building, hold a public auction, and lease the building to the highest bidder. All of that will protect taxpayers from illegally subsidizing a private business.”

As much as I want this business to thrive, I think the Goldwater Institute was right. Pima County violated numerous laws and even some parts of the state constitution putting together this deal. Even if there was no corruption here, it opened the door to future backroom corruption if the deal was allowed. Now, I expect World View and the county will have to renegotiate.

Congress moves to overturn numerous Obama regulations

Using a 1990s law that allows Congress to overturn regulations with simple majorities, Congress has this week passed a slew of bills doing exactly that.

The article provides a detailed list. What is significant here is that this is only the first week. With a Republican Congress and a Republican President, there is little to prevent the passage of numerous such bills in the coming months. As much as conservatives have fretted in recent years about the cowardice of the Republican leadership, now that they have some control over the situation it appears they are moving to do something concrete and conservative with that control.

Hang on. It is going to be an interesting next few years.

Congressional report worries over Falcon 9 engine cracks

A forthcoming congressional report, reported by the Wall Street Journal, reveals that NASA is concerned about cracks that occur in the turbopumps of SpaceX’s Merlin engines.

The newspaper says the report has found a “pattern of problems” with the turbine blades within the turbopumps, which deliver rocket fuel into the combustion chamber of the Merlin rocket engine. Some of the components used in the turbopumps are prone to cracks, the government investigators say, and may require a redesign before NASA allows the Falcon 9 booster to be used for crewed flights. NASA has been briefed on the report’s findings, and the agency’s acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, told the newspaper that he thinks “we know how to fix them.”

A spokesman for SpaceX, John Taylor, said the company already has a plan in place to fix the potential cracking issue. “We have qualified our engines to be robust to turbine wheel cracks,” Taylor said. “However, we are modifying the design to avoid them altogether. This will be part of the final design iteration on Falcon 9.” This final variant of the Falcon 9 booster, named Block 5, is being designed for optimal safety and easier return for potential reuse. According to company founder Elon Musk, it could fly by the end of this year.

Here’s the real scoop: SpaceX initially built the engines to fly once, just as every single rocket company has done in the entire history of space, excluding the space shuttle. Under these conditions, the cracks could be considered an acceptable issue, which is what they mean when they say “We have qualified our engines to be robust to turbine wheel cracks.” My guess is that they tested the engines, found that the cracks were not a significant problem for a single flight, especially because the Falcon 9 rocket uses nine Merlin engines on the first stage and thus has some redundancy should one fail. And based on SpaceX’s flight record — no launch failures due to failed engines — that conclusion seems reasonable.

SpaceX is now redesigning to eliminate the cracks, however, because such cracks are not acceptable for engines that will fly multiple times on reused first stages.

Thus, this story, as leaked, appears to me to be a hit job by powers in Congress who dislike the competition that SpaceX poses to big government rockets like SLS. SLS will use salvaged shuttle engines, designed initially for many reuses, and thus are superior in this manner to SpaceX’s Merlin engines. The shuttle engines however were also built by the government, which didn’t care very much about the cost of development, or making any profits. The comparison thus is somewhat bogus. Moreover, I suspect these cracks were only discovered after SpaceX successfully landed and recovered some first stages. To put them on trial in the press now for doing good engineering research and redevelopment seems somewhat inappropriate.

The report itself has not yet been released, though it does also note lingering issues with the parachutes being developed for Boeing’s Starliner capsule.

Overall, both companies are struggling to start their operational flights by 2019. For Congress or NASA to try to put more roadblocks up in that development seems most counterproductive.

Iran officials thumb their noses at Trump

Responding to Trump administration statements “putting Iran on notice” for its ballistic missile tests in violation of UN resolutions, Iran officials responded today by saying they don’t care and that there is nothing the U.S. can do to stop them.

The most frightening quote from this story however is this:

While Iran says its missile program is aimed at displaying the country’s “deterrent power and its ability to confront any threat”, some IRGC commanders have said that Iran’s medium-range ballistic missiles were designed to be able to hit Israel.

Iran refuses to recognize Israel.

Remember, Iran has already had one leader who advocated wiping Israel off the face of the Earth.

UAE considers initiating its own manned space program

The competition heats up: At a space conference this week in Abu Dhabi, a UAE official said that his country might begin work on a manned space program.

He also said that they plan a follow-up to their Hope Mars mission, which now has a July 2020 launch date.

The UAE’s prime goal right now with their space effort is to promote the development of a new aerospace industry. Thus, I do not expect them to accomplish much in the near future. Even their Mars mission is I think mostly being built and launched by others (India is helping with the spacecraft and Japan is launching it). In the long term, however, this effort is wise, and will eventually produce for them a real industry.

Russia proposes increased space cooperation with the U.S.

They need the money: At a science conference on Tuesday the Russian ambassador to the United States stated that his country would welcome increased space cooperation between the two countries.

“I think it would be premature for me to speculate as to whether this zone of overlapping interests will increase or decrease,” Kislyak said. “We haven’t heard a new policy yet from the United States.” He suggested, though, there may be opportunities for the countries to cooperate on NASA’s long-term plans for human Mars exploration. “That is moon exploration, which is very much on our agenda. It’s space medicine and many, many other issues,” he said. “Our programs are not identical, but there’s always been a lot of overlap that provides room for serious and significant cooperation.”

“If the U.S. government chooses programs that would be extending that kind of cooperation,” he added, “they will find us to be willing to work with you.”

As I said, they need the cash. They want to keep their space industry alive, but low oil prices combined with the corruption that has shut down their launch industry has left them very cash poor. A combined Russian/SLS/Orion project to the Moon would be very helpful for them.

ESA commits $91 million to reusable rocket engine development

The competition heats up? Despite a general lack of interest in reusability, the ESA has now committed $91 million to develop a new low cost prototype reusable rocket engine.

In an interview with SpaceNews, Airbus Safran Launchers CEO Alain Charmeau said FLPP is allocating 85 million euros ($91 million) to Prometheus to fund research and development leading to a 2020 test firing. Now that Prometheus is an ESA program, Charmeau expects more countries will get involved. “ESA will pay the contract to Airbus Safran Launchers and then Airbus Safran Launchers will cooperate with European industry, of course France and Germany, but we will have also contributions from Italy, Belgium, Sweden and probably a couple of others to a smaller extent,” Charmeau said.

This project reminds me of many NASA development projects. The agency spends the money to do a test firing, but the prototype is never used and gets abandoned as soon as the test is completed.

Things might change, however, come the 2020s. By then I think American companies will be quite successful in their effort to create reusable rockets, and that will leave Europe in the lurch competitively. Their solution at this time for combating that future competition however is not getting more competitive. Instead, as noted in the article at the link, Airbus Safran, the company building Ariane 6, wants the ESA to compel its members to use their rocket, regardless of cost.

Russian prosecutors indict four rocket engineers for Proton failure

This won’t solve Russia’s problems: Russian prosecutors have recommended criminal charges against four rocket engineers for failing to properly calculate the right amount of fuel, resulting in a Proton launch failure.

According to the spokesman, Energiya department head Balakin, section head Martynov and his deputy Lomtev responsible for asdeveloping operational documentation failed to ensure that their subordinate, engineer Bolshigin, should timely adjust the calculation formula for resetting the fuel control system. “The document on the need for such adjustment was submitted to the organization’s relevant department but was written off by the engineer as fulfilled. As a result, the calculation formula remained unadjusted,” the spokesman said. “Subsequently, Balakin, Martynov, Lomtev and Bolshigin who knew for sure that the formula for the calculation of the fueling level contained incorrect data that could not be used during a rocket launch agreed operational documentation without pointing to a mistake in calculations,” the spokesman for the Prosecutor General’s Office said.

Putting these guys in prison is probably the worst thing the Russians can do. It will strike fear throughout their entire aerospace industry, causing all other engineers to take as few risks as possible, or leave the industry entirely. What the Russians should do is simply fire them, and reward those that noted the problem with promotions and increased pay.

In a truly competitive free market such a response will work, because even if the companies don’t reform themselves new companies will step forward to replace them. Russia however does not have a truly competitive free market, and so their only recourse is top-down bullying and threats. “Do it right or we will jail you!”

I should add that the company involved, Energia, has nothing to do with the recent corruption discovered in the construction of the upper stage engines for both Proton and Soyuz. That involved a different Russian company entirely.

How government wrecked the gas can

Link here. This story should not surprise you. More important however are the article’s concluding words:

Ask yourself this: If they can wreck such a normal and traditional item like this, and do it largely under the radar screen, what else have they mandatorily malfunctioned? How many other things in our daily lives have been distorted, deformed and destroyed by government regulations?

If some product annoys you in surprising ways, there’s a good chance that it is not the invisible hand at work, but rather the regulatory grip that is squeezing the life out of civilization itself.

Almost all of the petty technological annoyances we struggle with today are the result of foolish federal regulation.

Hat tip John Harman.

Almost 200 federal workers to take “civil disobedience” class

One hundred and eighty federal workers have signed up to take “civil disobedience” class on how to resist the Trump administration.

Dozens of federal workers have reportedly attended a support group for civil servants that serves as a forum for discussing opposition to the Trump administration. Some federal employees have already expressed defiance against the Trump administration following a gag order, which has since been lifted, that restricted the Environmental Protection Agency and departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services from contacting the press or posting about the administration on social media.

This will not end well for these federal workers, which in the long run will be good for the American public. These people are not qualified to work in the federal government, because they think they are there to tell us what to do, rather than work for the American taxpayer who pays their salary. They will “resist”, Trump will find out who they are, and then he will fire them.

The private weather industry moves forward

Link here. Key quote:

Early next month, aerospace start-up Spire Global of Glasgow, UK, will send a mini-satellite into space aboard an Indian government rocket. This ‘cubesat’ will join 16 others that are beaming a new type of atmospheric data back to Earth — and some scientists worry that such efforts are siphoning funding away from efforts to push forward the science of weather forecasting. Spire will begin providing observations to the US government on 30 April.

The probes track delays in radio signals from Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites as they pass through the atmosphere — a technique known as radio occultation. Researchers can use the data to create precise temperature profiles of the atmosphere to feed into weather-forecasting models — and eventually, perhaps, climate models.

Spire and its competitor GeoOptics of Pasadena, California, are participating in a pilot project announced in September by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is under pressure from the US Congress to determine whether it can cut costs by using commercial weather data. But scientists worry that such efforts are hampering the development of radio occultation. For years, they have sought federal funding for a project to advance the technique, but Spire and its competitors say they can offer high-quality data for a fraction of the price. [emphasis mine]

The quotes I have highlighted illustrate the hidebound leftist scientific opposition to introducing private enterprise into weather research. The article, published in the journal Nature, never once articulates in any way how these private efforts will hurt scientific research. What it does show is that the private effort will cost a tenth of the government effort while getting launched much faster. The money, however, will go to these private companies, and not the scientific factions that up until now have lived on the government money train.

The complaints here are the same as those I saw in NASA back about a decade ago when NASA first considered hiring private companies to provide it cargo to ISS. This is a turf war. NOAA is now being pressured by Congress to do the same: stop building big expensive weather satellites and buy the service for much less from the private sector. The scientific community sees this as a threat to its funding and is trying to stop it.

With Republicans controlling all three branches of the federal government I think this opposition will be fruitless, and we shall see the shift to private enterprise in weather data-gathering to accelerate.

Government-owned Alaska Aerospace considers second spaceport

The competition heats up: State-owned Alaska Aerospace is considering opening a second spaceport outside the state and closer to the equator.

Alaska Aerospace operates the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska. The Kodiak Island complex is capable of polar, sun-synchronous and high-inclination orbits, but does not support the equatorial launches that make up most of the industry demand. With the new launch facility, Campbell said having equatorial launches will give the corporation a competitive advantage and also bring more customers to Kodiak.

The state no longer funds the corporation, which has never made money. Still, it now has contracts with Rocket Lab and Vector Space Systems and this new move is an obvious effort to make itself more viable.

U.S. 2020 Mars rover faces delays

A new inspector general report has pinpointed a number of issues that could cause a delay in the 2020 launch of the next American Mars rover mission.

The biggest risk to the mission, according to NASA OIG, is the sampling system that will be used to collect and store samples of Martian rock and soil that a future mission will gather for return to Earth. That system, an essential part of the mission, has several key technologies that are less mature than planned at this phase of the mission’s development. “The immaturity of the critical technologies related to the Sampling System is concerning because, according to Mars 2020 Project managers, the Sampling System is the rover’s most complex new development component with delays likely to eat into the Project’s schedule reserve and, in the worst case scenario, could delay launch,” OIG stated.

I find it puzzling that the sampling system is an issue. This rover is essentially based on Curiosity, which has very sophisticated equipment for grabbing and even storing samples for periods of time. I don’t understand why such systems could not be quickly revised for future retrieval.

Nonetheless, there are other problems however.

Two instruments on the Mars 2020 mission have also suffered problems. One, called MOXIE, is designed to test the ability to generate oxygen on Mars, saw its estimated increase by more than 50 percent during its development. NASA has taken steps to reduce some of that cost growth by eliminating development of an engineering model and skipping further design improvements in one element of MOXIE.

Another instrument designed to study atmospheric conditions on Mars, MEDA, has suffered delays because of a “financial reorganization” by its developer, Spain’s National Institute for Aerospace Technology. OIG concluded in its report that MEDA is unlikely to be ready for delivery to NASA in April 2018, as currently scheduled. That could require adding MEDA to the rover later in the overall assembly process, or flying the mission without the instrument.

One of the reasons the Obama administration decided to make this 2020 rover mission a reboot of Curiosity was to save cost and development time. Thus, it does not speak well for NASA’s planetary program that they are having these problems.

Gorsuch picked by Trump for Supreme Court

President Trump tonight named Neil Gorsuch as his pick to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

My fear that Trump would go for the more moderate Thomas Hardiman has proven unfounded. Instead, this more conservative choice once again suggests that Trump is shifting increasingly to the right.

In fact, I think the insane and insulting attacks brought against Trump by the left have actually served to make him more conservative. As Rush Limbaugh noted today,

Would you like an illustration of what I mean by Donald Trump not being ideological and how it’s a problem? He understands he has opposition. How could he not? (chuckles) I mean, I’m sure he knows that he’s got opposition. Don’t misunderstand me, now. And I’m sure that he may have had his eyes opened about some of these people. In his mind, they’re Democrats. Liberal, conservative, that’s not in his lexicon, folks. I’m not offering this as a criticism. It’s just a truth. It’s something that, if you want to understand Trump, then there’s no better deconstructor of Trump and explainer of Trump who’s not in the inner circle than me.

All during the campaign I did my best to explain to everybody — leftists, media, conservative, Republicans, Never Trumpers — who Trump is, why Trump is, why Trump was winning, who Trump’s supporters are. And the thing that I kept saying is, “He’s not ideological.” So he knows he’s got opposition, he knows Democrats, and he’s probably had his eyes opened here. I’m sure that over the course of his life some of these people now calling him names trying to destroy him have been his friends. So his eyes are no doubt opened. I don’t doubt that.

When Trump first announced his candidacy, everything he did and said at that time fit with Limbaugh’s analysis, except that at the time I think Trump was much more middle of the road. I think he truly believed his liberal background working closely with Democrats would make them treat him decently. Instead, they have come at him guns blazing, calling him the worst sort of names, making the most vile accusations against him, and even attacking his family and his children.

The result? Trump has, as Limbaugh notes, had “his eyes opened.” He might not be a philosophical conservative, but more and more it appears that he recognizes the corrupt hate coming from the left, and is less and less inclined to give them an inch. Instead, he moves rightward. I also think this is the same pattern we are seeing nationwide among voters.

Right now the Democrats in the Senate look like they are planning to copy the strategy to try to block Trump’s Cabinet appointees used by Texas and Wisconsin Democrats in 2003 and 2011 respectively.

This is not the first time Democrats have blocked a Republican majority from proceeding by refusing to take their seats and thus denying Republicans a quorum. In 2003, 11 Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives literally fled the state for weeks in order to prevent a redistricting plan favored by Republicans. Eventually, one of them returned and the redistricting plan was passed. More recently, in 2011, Wisconsin Democrats fled to Illinois for three weeks to avoid a vote on Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s budget bill because of provisions that were opposed by Wisconsin unions. However, the GOP-controlled legislature defeated the Democrats’ maneuvers by separating these bills from the budget and passing them separately.

In both cases, the Democrats not only failed to win, but their actions caused the voters to move to the right, voting in more Republicans and significantly reducing Democratic influence in both these states. With Wisconsin the result has been the shift of that state from a blue to a red state.

They say that Einstein called insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I think this nicely defines the Democratic Party these days.

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