Monthly Archives: June 2014

India’s new prime minister to watch rocket launch.

The competition heats up: The new prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, will watch the next commercial launch of his country’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV)

Modi would be called a tea party candidate in the U.S. He is very pro-capitalism and business. And though he has said he is very pro-space, I do wonder what he thinks of the commercial efforts of India’s space agency ISRO. ISRO is developing its rockets in an effort to capture international market share. It is as if NASA built the Falcon 9 and was trying to make money selling its use to private satellite companies.

I would not be surprised if Modi decides eventually to privatize this operation, taking the rocket development and commercial launches out of the hands of the government.

Share

First test flight for balloon company

The competition heats up: Worldview has successfully completed the first unmanned test flight of its stratospheric passenger balloon.

The flight brought a remote-controlled, balloon-borne craft up to a height of 120,000 feet (36.5 kilometers) and back down to 50,000 feet (15 kilometers). Then the craft was cut loose from the balloon and guided to a soft landing using an innovative parafoil.

The test over Roswell, New Mexico, marked a world record for the highest parafoil flight, World View said.

World View’s Tycho prototype is just one-tenth the size of the pressurized capsule that the Arizona-based company plans to build for its Voyager tours. But Tycho’s maiden voyage put the system’s aerodynamics to a valuable initial test, said Taber MacCallum, who is World View’s co-founder and chief technology officer (as well as Poynter’s husband).

While these balloon tourist flights won’t go as high as the suborbital flights planned by Virgin Galactic, XCOR, and others, they will last far far longer and cost a third the price. They have already sold out their first three flights.

Share

Russian government: Nyet to tourists.

Turf war in Russia: The Russian space agency has disavowed any plans to send two tourists around the Moon in a Soyuz capsule.

Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, will not be involved in a plan to send two space tourists on a flight around the Moon and was not consulted about the project, the federal space agency said.

The mission, hatched by U.S.-based space tourism firm Space Adventures and a major Russian spacecraft manufacturer, Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, would see two space tourists travel to the Moon aboard a modified Russian Soyuz spacecraft by 2017. However, Roscosmos was kept out of the loop on the plan.

The organizers “could have consulted with us before making such loud announcements,” said Denis Lyskov, Roscosmos’s deputy chief in charge of piloted flights, Izvestia reported Monday. “We are not participating in the moon project, we are not planning to modernize the Soyuz,” Lyskov was quoted as saying.

Considering the recent power play by the Russian government to grab back full control over Russia’s aerospace industry, this disavowal does not bode well for the private effort. If the government opposes the flight, it will be very difficult for Energia to go forward.

Share

Orbital Sciences has delayed its next Cygnus cargo launch to ISS until July 10 at the earliest.

Orbital Sciences has delayed its next Cygnus cargo launch to ISS until July 10 at the earliest.

This delay is in connection with their on-going investigation into the failure of a Russian engine during testing, the same kind of engine used by the Antares rocket.

Share

SpaceX delays its Falcon 9 Orbcomm launch until July.

SpaceX has delayed its Falcon 9 Orbcomm launch until July.

“SpaceX is taking a closer look at a potential issue identified while conducting pre-flight checkouts during (Sunday’s) countdown,” the company said in statement posted on its website on Monday. “SpaceX will stand down Tuesday while our engineering teams evaluate further,” it said.

Taking into account a previously scheduled maintenance period for the Eastern Test Range, which supports launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the earliest SpaceX expects to be able to fly is the first week of July.

The willingness of SpaceX to address technical issues rather than push for launch continues to recommend them to me, especially as the company also has a record of producing what it promises within a remarkably fast schedule.

Share

Tonight’s testimony and questioning of IRS commissioner John Koskinen concerning the destruction of Lois Lerner’s emails in connection with the IRS’s harassment of opponents of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party..

Cover-up: Tonight’s testimony and questioning of IRS commissioner John Koskinen concerning the destruction of Lois Lerner’s emails in connection with the IRS’s harassment of opponents of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party..

An outraged Issa insisted that Americans should be able to know “they’re being honestly treated by your employees, especially somebody at such a high level. Isn’t that in fact a priority that should have allowed for full retention?”

“If we had the right resources, there would be a lot of priorities,” Koskinen shot back.

“So the American people should believe that if they don’t have the resources to pay their taxes, they shouldn’t pay their taxes,” Issa jabbed, “because if the IRS doesn’t have the resources, it won’t keep records? That’s pretty much what you’re telling us here tonight, is that resources are a question of whether or not you retain key documents.”

When Tennessee Republican Rep Scott DesJarlais asked Koskinen how much money it would take to replace the IRS’s computer systems in order to prevent another major data loss, he answered that it would cost between $10 and $30 million. In a tense moment, DesJarlais then reminded him that the IRS paid $89 million in bonuses last year, including $1 million to agency employees who owed back taxes.

Be sure the watch all the videos at the link. If you do and you still believe John Koskinen is telling the truth and is not a political thug who is doing the bidding of the White House to cover-up its use of the IRS to harass its political opponents, then you are probably so naive you believe Nigerian emails.

More information about tonight’s hearing here.

Share

The Curiosity science team celebrates the completion of a full Martian year since the rover’s landing.

The Curiosity science team celebrates the completion of a full Martian year since the rover’s landing.

This is mostly a press event aimed at convincing the world that the project is accomplishing its goals. Though they are justified in touting the many significant things about Mars and the past environment in Gale Crater that Curiosity has uncovered, we mustn’t forgot that the main goal was always to climb the slopes of Mt Sharp in order to study its geological layers and thus the long term geological history of Mars. The rover has not yet done this, and because of the greater-than-expected wheel damage the rover is experiencing, is at risk of not being able to get where it has to go.

Share

The scandal of fiddled global warming data.

The mainstream press finally notices: The scandal of fiddled global warming data.

Goddard shows how, in recent years, NOAA’s US Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) has been “adjusting” its record by replacing real temperatures with data “fabricated” by computer models. The effect of this has been to downgrade earlier temperatures and to exaggerate those from recent decades, to give the impression that the Earth has been warming up much more than is justified by the actual data. In several posts headed “Data tampering at USHCN/GISS”, Goddard compares the currently published temperature graphs with those based only on temperatures measured at the time. These show that the US has actually been cooling since the Thirties, the hottest decade on record; whereas the latest graph, nearly half of it based on “fabricated” data, shows it to have been warming at a rate equivalent to more than 3 degrees centigrade per century.

I reported on Steve Goddard’s work back in January. Though these mainstream journalists are very slow in getting the story, it is good that some of them are finally waking up.

Share

In searching for three kidnapped teenagers, Israel has uncovered dozens of tunnels, weapons caches, and explosive labs hidden throughout the Palestinian-controlled Hebron region of the West Bank.

In searching for three kidnapped teenagers, Israel has uncovered dozens of tunnels, weapons caches, and explosive labs hidden throughout the Palestinian-controlled Hebron region of the West Bank.

Some of the tunnels were found by soldiers inside the homes of Palestinians, under large pieces of furniture and laundry machines. Using their specialized equipment, Yahalom (diamond in Hebrew) forces participated in dozens of raids on the homes of Palestinian activists across the West Bank, confiscating caches of weapons and explosives. The unit’s forces discovered some 20 laboratories for manufacturing improvised explosives devices (IEDs) hidden in homes they searched. “We would arrive at a suspicious home and find a family living on the first floor and a laboratory with explosives on the third floor,” said a senior officer in the unit. We also discovered underground spaces in the Hebron area which we had not known about previously,” he added.

The important take-away from this is that Hebron has been under Palestinian control since the early 1990s as per the Oslo accords. Instead of using that control to build a prosperous and independent state that would be a peaceful neighbor to Israel, the evidence once again shows that — like Gaza — the Palestinian leadership and population used the opportunity to instead wage war and to kill and kidnap Israelis.

Share

The IRS cancelled its emailing archive service only weeks after Lois Lerner’s computer crashed.

Cover-up: The IRS cancelled its emailing archive service only weeks after Lois Lerner’s computer crashed.

Lois Lerner’s computer allegedly crashed in June 2011, just ten days after House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Dave Camp first wrote a letter asking if the IRS was engaging in targeting of nonprofit groups. Two months later, Sonasoft’s contract ended and the IRS gave its email-archiving contractor the boot.

IRS official and frequent White House visitor Nikole Flax allegedly suffered her own computer crash in December 2011, three months after the IRS ended its relationship with Sonasoft.

The timing is too perfect for anything but a cover-up. They were blatantly working for Obama’s campaign and the Democratic Party, and realized they needed to destroy the documents that proved that fact.

Share

Left wing activists demand but fail to prevent someone from videotaping an open public event they had scheduled at a college.

Fascists: Left wing activists demand but fail to prevent someone from videotaping an open public event they had scheduled at a college.

Watch the video below the fold. You will be amused when the leftists try to block the videographer’s camera and somehow think this prevents him from recording their actions. If anything, it allows him to document forcefully their lack of respect for free speech.
» Read more

Share

The history of Russia’s new Angara rocket.

The history and origin of Russia’s new Angara rocket.

A fascinating read, as it gives some of the office politics and back-fighting that surrounded the decision to pick the builder of this new rocket. For example, when the government picked the company Khrunichev to build the rocket,

[C]ritics charged that traditional Russian nepotism had played a role — at the time, a daughter and the son and law of the Russian president Boris Yeltsin worked for Khrunichev. As a consolation prize, RKK Energia was awarded the development of the second stage for the Angara rocket.

Later, in a move reminiscent to the space shuttle’s history (where the winning contractor eventually ended up using the basic design of their losing competitor), Khrunichev dumped the design they had used to win the contract and switched over to something almost identical to what Energia had proposed. And in the process, they cut Energia out of the deal entirely.

Share

Engineers have now developed techniques to a produce materials as light as aerogel but many times stronger.

Engineers have now developed techniques to a produce materials as light as aerogel but many times stronger.

Aerogels are incredibly light, so light that the record holder, aerographene, boasts a density of just 0.16 mg/cm3. Currently, aerogels are used for insulation, tennis racquets, as a means of controlling oil spills, and were used on the NASA Stardust mission to collect samples from a comet’s tail. Unfortunately, despite its seemingly ephemeral nature, its very much a solid and will shatter if pressed hard enough, so its use is limited.

The new materials developed by the MIT/LLNL team aren’t aerogels, but are metamaterials. That is, artificial materials with properties that aren’t found in nature. The idea is to structure it, so that it has the lightness of aerogel, but is much stronger. The strength of the new materials comes from their geometric structure, not their chemical composition.

The technique used to make these materials is a variation of 3D printing, but at molecular scales.

If this works, the weight of rockets and spaceships is going to drop significantly, making access to space far less expensive. It will also make it possible for a far less power rocket to put into orbit far bigger payloads.

Share

Radar images of Titan taken in 2013 by Cassini show a twelve-mile patch appear in one of the moon’s methane lakes, then disappear.

The mysteries of science: Radar images of Titan taken in 2013 by Cassini show a twelve-mile patch appear in one of the moon’s methane lakes, then disappear.

They really don’t know what this patch is.

Prior to the July 2013 observation, that region of Ligeia Mare had been completely devoid of features, including waves. Titan’s seasons change on a longer time scale than Earth’s. The moon’s northern hemisphere is transitioning from spring to summer. The astronomers think the strange feature may result from changing seasons.

In light of the changes, Hofgartner and the other authors speculate on four reasons for this phenomenon:

  • Northern hemisphere winds may be kicking up and forming waves on Ligeia Mare. The radar imaging system might see the waves as a kind of “ghost” island.
  • Gases may push out from the sea floor of Ligeia Mare, rising to the surface as bubbles.
  • Sunken solids formed by a wintry freeze could become buoyant with the onset of warmer temperatures during the late Titan spring.
  • Ligeia Mare has suspended solids, which are neither sunken nor floating, but act like silt in a terrestrial delta.

“Likely, several different processes – such as wind, rain and tides – might affect the methane and ethane lakes on Titan,” [says Hofgarnter]

It is very important to remember that Titan is a very alien planet to the Earth. While some features, its methane lakes, have a superficial resemblance to lakes on Earth, the materials and environment are completely different. For example, on Earth the only thing that generally floats on water is ice, so that when winter arrives the surface freezes while the water below remains liquid. On Titan, if the methane freezes the ice will sink.

Share

SpaceX now says that Tuesday will be the earliest it will try again to launch six Orbcomm satellites on its Falcon 9 rocket.

SpaceX now says that Tuesday will be the earliest it will try again to launch six Orbcomm satellites on its Falcon 9 rocket.

There were attempts to launch both on Saturday and Sunday, with weather scrubbing the first and an unspecified technical problem scrubbing the second.

Share

To be fair, let’s watch a montage of the Democratic representatives and their statements during today’s House hearing of IRS commissioner John Koskinen.

To be fair, let’s watch a montage of the Democratic representatives and their statements during today’s House hearing of IRS commissioner John Koskinen.

Watch it, please. For those who are old enough to remember the Watergate hearings, you will be strongly reminded of the Republicans then defending Nixon. It was pitiful when the Republicans did it then, and it is pitiful when the Democrats do it now.

The IRS has admitted it wrongly harassed conservatives. It is also clearly participating in a cover-up. To make-believe these things didn’t happen and that the victim here is the IRS is beyond shameful.

Share

The superintendent at a Connecticut school that blocked access to conservative websites while allowing access to comparable liberal sites has finally issued a response to the charge.

The superintendent at a Connecticut school that blocked access to conservative websites while allowing access to comparable liberal sites has finally issued a response to the charge.

Superintendent Jody Goeler posted a response this morning to the school’s website, blaming the Dell SonicWall service they use. Goeler wrote, “As interest in this topic has expanded, the district has pressed Dell SonicWall for more information about how websites are assigned to categories and why there are apparent inconsistencies, as discovered by the student, in classifications particularly along conservative and liberal lines.” Goeler added, “The district is trying to determine the reason for the inconsistency and if the bias is pervasive enough to justify switching to another content filtering provider.”

Goeler concluded her letter saying, “Once we receive a statement from Dell SonicWall clarifying its process for assigning websites to categories, I will post it on our website for your review at www.ctreg14.org.

Blaming the filtering company is interesting. It is possible they are the source of the bias. I remain skeptical and wonder if the school knew and went along with it without comment — until they got caught.

Share

SpaceX scrubbed its Falcon 9 commercial launch of six Orbcomm satellites tonight because of an issue with the rocket’s second stage.

SpaceX scrubbed its Falcon 9 commercial launch of six Orbcomm satellites tonight because of an issue with the rocket’s second stage.

The next launch opportunity is Saturday evening, and based on other sources it sounds like they hope to fly then.

Share

Lois Lerner’s hard drive crashed ten days after the chairman of the House Ways & Means committee sent a letter to the IRS asking the agency was engaged in targeting.

Here’s another tidbit about Lois Lerner’s lost emails: Her hard drive crashed ten days after the chairman of the House Ways & Means committee sent a letter to the IRS asking the agency if it was engaged in targeting.

What a coincidence! She discovers that Congress is interested in what she has been doing and suddenly her hard drive crashes, destroying all the emails she has written about this very subject. Do you smell a rat?

In addition, Congress last week discovered through other subpoenaed emails that Lerner was having conversations at that time with Department of Justice prosecutors about investigating conservative nonprofits. The evidence thus continues to suggest strongly that the White House was intimately involved in the decision use the IRS to harass its conservative opponents.

Share

The IRS Commissioner John Koskinen smirked as he insisted that “no apology is owed” by the agency for its actions.

One more post on today’s IRS House hearing: The IRS Commissioner John Koskinen smirked as he insisted that “no apology is owed” by the agency for its actions.

Watch the video. As I said earlier, the arrogance of the man is disgusting.

Share

More revelations from today’s IRS hearings, this time indicating evidence of White House involvement.

More revelations from today’s IRS hearings, this time indicating evidence of White House involvement.

The evidence remains circumstantial, but very damning nonetheless. The White House needs to explain exactly what happened in a meeting between the IRS chief counsel and President Obama exactly two days before that chief counsel changed IRS criteria for approving tax exempt status in a manner that increased the harassment of conservatives.

Share

More video from IRS commissioner John Koskinen testimony today during House hearings.

More video from IRS commissioner John Koskinen’s testimony today during House hearings.

Koskinen is so full of crap I think I could fertilize half the farm fields in the state of Iowa with it. This response from Kevin Brady (R-Texas) sums it up quite cogently.

“The IRS denied for two years targeting of Americans based on their political beliefs. That wasn’t the truth. They said it was a few rogue agents in Cincinnati. That wasn’t the truth. You said you were targeting liberal organizations. That wasn’t the truth. Then you assured us you would provide us all the emails in May and that wasn’t the truth. And today, you are telling us out of thousands of IRS computers, the one that lost the emails was a person of interest in an ongoing congressional investigation. And that is not the truth either. This is the most corrupt and deceitful IRS in history.”

» Read more

Share

The head of the Clinton library in Arkansas has banned researchers from a conservative media outlet.

Leftwing tolerance: The head of the Clinton library in Arkansas, also a donor to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, has banned researchers from a conservative media outlet because it used that research to publish stories critical of Hillary.

Library dean Carolyn Henderson Allen informed editor-in-chief Matthew Continetti in a June 17 letter that the library had “officially suspended” the Free Beacon‘s research privileges. The Free Beacon published the Hillary Papers, drawn from the archive of the late Clinton confidante Diane Blair, in February. Those papers are also housed in the special collections at the University of Arkansas.

“I am writing you to direct you and the Washington Beacon Press to cease and desist your ongoing violation of the intellectual property rights of the University of Arkansas with regard to your unauthorized publication of audio recordings obtained from the Roy Reed Collection,” wrote Allen.

Not only did the library ban the researchers, it wants to squelch the results of their research so that no one can read it. How open-minded and tolerant of them!

Share

The truth versus the leftwing media.

The truth versus the leftwing media.

Read it. First the author describes what really happened. Then he describes how the press has dishonestly tried to spin it. And that spin is quite dishonest, as the facts here are very clear and include rulings by both federal and state courts that make the spin entirely unjustifiable.

Share

“They just got rid of it. … It really looks bad and I’ve got to say it looks like a cover-up to me.”

“They just got rid of it. … It really looks bad and I’ve got to say it looks like a cover-up to me.”

The quote comes from a House hearing today where lawmakers blasted the head of the IRS for claiming it has lost two years worth of Lois Lerner’s emails.

Update: I think it worthwhile to include video of this exchange between Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. The arrogance of Koskinen is, to use Ryan’s world, unbelievable.
» Read more

Share

As China’s Yutu lunar rover barely continues to survive, unable to move, its scientists prepare to publish their results.

As China’s Yutu lunar rover barely continues to survive, unable to move, its scientists prepare to publish their results.

But other systems and scientific instruments — a panoramic camera, infrared and X-ray spectrometers and a ground-penetrating radar — are operating normally, says Zheng: “The rover can still carry out measurements from the fixed location and send scientific data to the ground station.” …

Yutu’s penetrator radar has detected several layers underneath its path, says Long Xiao, a planetary scientist at China University of Geosciences in Wuhan. Under the surface soil, known as regolith, it found a layer of debris from a crater-forming impact and two layers of lava flows, made of basalt.

Though the rover lost its ability to rove within days of landing on the Moon, the mission is certainly an overall success for China. When they send their next rover to the Moon this first experience will serve them very well.

Share

In a speech in Singapore, the head of Arianespace said that the company urgently needs to overhaul its Ariane 5 rocket in order to meet tough competition from SpaceX and Russia’s Proton rocket.

Recognizing the competition: In a speech in Singapore, the head of Arianespace said that the company urgently needs to overhaul its Ariane 5 rocket in order to meet tough competition from SpaceX and Russia’s Proton rocket.

“We have a newcomer in America with SpaceX. Yes, competition is increasing, but when competition is increasing, we need to be more and more agile,” said Israel. While recognising that Arianespace was the market leader, “we have to ask ourselves one question: what should we do to remain the leader? Europe is very serious about launchers, and Europe will not give up when it comes to launchers.”

For Arianespace this speech is a very good thing, as it demonstrates again that Israel — and the company — are aware of the competitive challenge put forth by SpaceX and are not making believe it doesn’t exist.

Share

The late arrival of Russia’s first private satellite

The competition heats up? The Dnepr rocket launch of 37 satellites yesterday also included the launch of the first private Russian satellite.

TabletSat-Aurura owned by the company SPUTNIX weighs 26.2 kg and is made to operate for one year. It is intended for remote Earth sensing in the interests of a private company. The satellite was made using Russian technologies and a minimum of foreign components. Its cost is about one million US dollars.

Igor Komarov, the head of the United Rocket and Space Corporation, said “the launch of Aurora, the first Russian private satellite, is a successful example of public-private partnership in the field of space exploration as private companies clearly cannot fulfill their strategic tasks without the state. ,,, I am confident that cooperation between the state and private aerospace agencies in designing and manufacturing high-tech craft will become an important stimulus for further development of Russian competitive technologies.”

SPUTNIX Director-General Andrei Potapov said his company’s plans included “creating a cluster of small spacecraft and craft for super high-definition aerial video surveying and imaging with a resolution of down to one meter per pixel”. [emphasis mine]

Why do I have doubts about this Russian achievement? The reasons are twofold.
» Read more

Share
1 2 3 4 5 7