Monthly Archives: March 2017

Atlas 5/Cygnus launch delayed until next week due to technical issue

The launch of the next Cygnus freighter to ISS has been delayed by ULA until next week in order to fix “a hydraulic issue found on ground support equipment.”

The launch had been delayed previously because of a hydraulic issue in the rocket itself.

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SpaceX signs lease for Florida warehouse to refurbish 1st stages

The competition heats up: SpaceX has signed a five year lease for a Florida warehouse near Port Canaveral store and refurbish its recovered Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy first stages.

This lease just firms up the reality that SpaceX is shifting from expendable first stages to a fleet of reusable first stage. Any rocket company that does not do the same is going to be left in the dust.

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Ariane 5 launch delayed by labor strike

The launch of two communications satellites on an Ariane 5 was delayed today by a strike at Arianespace’s French Guiana spaceport.

A work stoppage at the Ariane 5 rocket’s launch base in South America prevented rollout of the booster to the launch pad Monday, pushing back the liftoff of two communications satellites for Brazil and South Korea until at least Wednesday.

The fully-assembled launcher was set to roll out of the final assembly building Monday morning for the 1.7-mile (2.7-kilometer) journey to the ELA-3 launch zone at the Guiana Space Center. Arianespace officials were aiming for a launch attempt Tuesday evening.

But the rollout did not happen due to a “social movement” at the spaceport, according to Arianespace. Officials blamed the postponement on a strike among a segment of the workforce at the Guiana Space Center, which is managed by CNES, the French space agency, with support from the European Space Agency and numerous European contractors.

The article suggests that this was not a sanctioned strike, based on the expiration of a contract. Instead it appears to have been a wildcat strike, created to apply the most pressure in order to blackmail the company into giving the strikers more money. If so, and if Arianespace agrees to terms, its labor relations in French Guiana are going to decline quickly.

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Conservatives “violently threatened” at Lutheran college

Fascists: A survey of conservative students at St. Olaf College in Minnesota has found that many have been “violently threatened” because of their political beliefs, with most finding they do not have the ability to express their beliefs in public on campus.

On the night of the election, a student in the Pause threatened to beat up [College Republicans President Emily] Schaller, calling her a “f***ing moron.” Over the next couple of days, she overheard multiple students threaten to hurt the next conservative or Republican they saw. Vice President of St. Olaf College Republicans Kathryn Hinderaker ’19 had a similar experience.

“I think one of the hardest things was, the second day, I went into Buntrock and someone yelled from the bottom, ‘if you voted for Trump, you better be f***ing scared.’ Everyone clapped and applauded,” Hinderaker said. “Obviously, it didn’t feel super safe.”

This story is only a sample, but it illustrates the fascist and totalitarian culture of the left. I just wish that these conservatives had more courage. Had I been a student in that class where everyone applauded the idea of intimidating Trump voters I would have stood up and said, “Come on, show me how much you stand for liberty and freedom of speech and try and shut me up!”

The only proper response to a bully is to get in their face and tell them they are one. That always stops them in their tracks. Backing down to them in turn only emboldens them, and it certainly doesn’t make you safer.

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College eliminates English and math placement tests

The coming dark age: A West Virginia community college has stopped giving English and math placement tests, while also eliminating any comparable remedial classes.

A careful read of the article suggests that this decision is a desperate attempt by the college to deal with its influx of unqualified students, as noted by this quote:

“We are still getting some students who literally cannot read above a third-grade level, and I have never learned how to help such students,”

The college still wants these students to attend (which is a cash cow for the college) but it finds itself struggling to find the right approach for teaching them. Since there is no right approach (these individuals should simply not be in college), the situation results in a poorer learning environment for everyone.

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Capitalism in Space:
Private Enterprise and Competition Reshape the Global Aerospace Launch Industry

After much delay and discussion, my policy paper for the Center for a New American Security, Capitalism in Space: Private Enterprise and Competition Reshape the Global Aerospace Launch Industry, has finally been published.

You can download the pdf here or at the Center here. Please feel free to distribute this widely. If you visit other websites please pass it on to them. This should be read by as many people as possible, especially since the space policy of the Trump administration remains at present undecided. This policy paper will help them work out a wise policy, with the paper’s key data point contained in this table:

SLS vs Commercial space

I document my numbers very carefully. The result illustrates clearly how much a failure the government model has been and continues to be. We have spent a lot of money since the 1970s on NASA and space, and have generally gotten very little for that investment, as demonstrated by the comparison between the accomplishments of private and government space in the past two decades. Going forward it is going to be very difficult for SLS/Orion to compete with the heavy lift rockets coming from SpaceX and Blue Origin.

My concluding words:
» Read more

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The layered mesas of Mars

The mesas of Uzboi Valles

Cool image time! The image above, reduced and cropped to post here, shows the layered deposits and complex erosion that has taken place in this area of Mars dubbed Uzboi Vallis. As noted at the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter post,

Layered deposits in Uzboi Vallis sometimes occur in alcoves along the valley and/or below where tributaries enter it. These deposits may record deposition into a large lake that once filled Uzboi Vallis when it was temporarily dammed at its northern end by the rim of Holden Crater and before it was overtopped and breached allowing water to drain back out of the valley.

It is important when looking at these erosion patterns, including the strangely shaped rippled sand dunes scattered through the larger image, that wind possibly plays an even more important part in causing erosion on Mars than liquid water might have in the far past.

Either way, the terrain here has the same stark and fascinating beauty as that seen in the American southwest. If we can ever make it possible to live on Mars, this will definitely be a place to visit when on vacation.

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Japan launches military satellite

Japan yesterday successfully launched a military surveillance satellite, dubbed the Information Gathering Satellite Radar 5 (IGS Radar-5).

Japan started the IGS program in 1998, presumably in response to North Korean missile tests around that time that sent missiles close to, or flying over, Japan.

In the years since, North Korea has repeatedly threatened to annihilate Japan (and South Korea and the United States), and continued to develop its nuclear-weapon and missile programs. The IGS satellites keep tabs on such efforts, help the Japanese government respond to natural disasters and perform several other functions, experts believe.

The first IGS craft lifted off in 2003. IGS Radar 5 is the 15th one in the program to take flight, though not all have made it to orbit. Two were lost to a launch failure in November 2003.

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The terrorist protesters in North Dakota

Fascists: The protesters in North Dakota who had tried for the past year to prevent construction of an oil pipeline appeared to spend as much time threatening the families and children of police officers as they did protesting the pipeline.

While protesters were fueling worldwide outrage and fundraising over allegations of police brutality, an aggressive cohort of agitators was terrorizing the families of law-enforcement officers with threats of death, rape and arson. “There were threats made to us, mostly that they were going to come burn down our houses or rape us while our husbands were gone,” said Allison Engelstad, who’s married to Jon Engelstad, a sheriff’s deputy in Morton County, North Dakota.

She had good reason to fear that protesters knew where they lived. The North Dakota State and Local Intelligence Center compiled a 41-page document of social media posts with threats along with photos, names, addresses and contact information for officers involved with the protest. “Every one of these cops has familys [sic] … Make there [sic] family pay,” read one Facebook post.

A live video feed taken from a January protest on the Backwater Bridge includes the voice of an activist shouting, “We’re going to gang-rape,” “Watch your family,” and “We’re going to kill your daughters, your mothers, your fathers, your grandparents, even you!” [emphasis mine]

I think even more revealing is this tidbit from the article:

Figures released March 1 by law enforcement showed that 661 of the 709 arrests involved out-of-state protesters. Of those arrested, 227 had a total of 1,503 previous citations and charges, including domestic violence, child abuse, robbery, burglary, drug possession and driving under the influence.

This was not a grassroots campaign. This protest was staged, and its intent was hostile to America and to the people who live in it. Pay close attention to which politicians align themselves with this protest, because that will reveal to you what they really believe.

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The math hidden in Van Gogh’s Starry Night

An evening pause: This pause is very apropos to some of Juno’s more recent Jupiter images.

Hat tip to Mike Nelson.

By the way, I am open to Evening Pause suggestions from all my readers. If you have seen something that you think might fit as an evening pause, make a comment here telling me you have a suggestion. Don’t provide the link to the suggestion. I will email you so that you can send it to me direct and I can then schedule it.

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Trump budget proposal

The Trump administration today released its overall rough budget plan for 2018. This is not a detailed budget, but an summary of their plan, indicating where they wish to cut and where they wish to increase budgets. The proposal is also not complete, making no mention of the administration’s budget plans for many departments, such as the National Science Foundation.

Science research in the federal government is significantly impacted, but not as badly as most of the articles you will read in the mainstream anti-Trump, Democratic Party press. A few examples:

I must note that not all the news stories are blindly hostile to this budget proposal:

Of all the science agencies, NASA probably came off with the least change. The budget cuts only about 5% from the agency’s Earth science budget, while cutting some specific Earth science missions. The budget also supports SLS/Orion, though it finally puts the nail in the coffin of the asteroid redirect mission, an Obama proposal that has never garnered any interest from anyone else.

The Trump budget proposal in context

The key to understanding all these budget cuts is to see them in context, to compare the 2018 proposed budgets with the budgets these agencies received in the past. The table on the right gives some of this context (numbers shown are in millions) for several of the science agencies most effected by the proposal. The proposal is not detailed enough to pin down the changes for many other science agencies, but from this table it is clear that the Trump administration is not calling for the end of science, and is proposing some reasonable cost cutting, something that has been rare in government for many years.

What will be missed by most of the press about this Trump budget proposal is that it is not trying to trim the size of the federal government. While it cuts spending in many departments, those cuts are entirely aimed at providing room to raise the budget of the Defense Department by $54 billion. While I can applaud the desire of the Trump administration to be revenue neutral, the stark fact remains that by remaining revenue neutral Trump still leaves us with a gigantic annual federal deficit. They have made no effort to balance the overall budget.

Worse, this proposal would repeal the Budget Control Act of 2011, which imposed sequestration to the federal budget and has actually done the most in the past half century to bring that budget under control. Once this act is repealed, it will allow the spenders in Congress (of which the Republicans are as guilty as the Democrats) to open the floodgates once again. This will not be good.

Let me add one good aspect of the Trump budget. It proposes to eliminate a whole range of government political agencies that accomplish nothing but provide pork or to propagandize the Democratic Party’s positions:

The Budget also proposes to eliminate funding for other independent agencies, including: the African Development Foundation; the Appalachian Regional Commission; the Chemical Safety Board; the Corporation for National and Community Service; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the Delta Regional Authority; the Denali Commission; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the Inter-American Foundation; the U.S. Trade and Development Agency; the Legal Services Corporation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation; the Northern Border Regional Commission; the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; the United States Institute of Peace; the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness; and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Getting these eliminated will at least be a start to cleaning up the mess in Washington.

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Want to watch a nuclear bomb go off? You can!

Engineers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have obtained declassified films of many of the nuclear tests performed by the U.S. from 1945 to 1962 and are digitally scanning them and preserving them for posterity.

Conducted by LLNL weapon physicist Greg Spriggs and a team of film experts, archivists, and software developers, the project’s goal was to track down as many as possible of the ten-thousand 2,400 frames per second reels of film. This was because the cine film, and its immense historical and scientific value, was in danger of being lost for all time. The reels were mostly of acetate stock that was not stored under anything like ideal conditions and was slowly decaying or being attacked by fungus and microbes.

“You can smell vinegar when you open the cans, which is one of the byproducts of the decomposition process of these films,” says Spriggs. “We know that these films are on the brink of decomposing to the point where they’ll become useless. The data that we’re collecting now must be preserved in a digital form because no matter how well you treat the films, no matter how well you preserve or store them, they will decompose. They’re made out of organic material, and organic material decomposes. So this is it. We got to this project just in time to save the data.”

You can view a number of the films at the second link above. I have embedded below the fold just one, from Operation Teapot in 1955. This was a series of 14 tests in Nevada. In this particular video the explosion occurs in the air, and you can sense the incredible force of the explosion when the shock wave hits the ground and bounces back, producing the mushroom cloud. Not much would have survived that impact.
» Read more

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SpaceX successfully launches commercial satellite

The competition heats up: SpaceX tonight successfully launched Echostar 23.

This launch is almost four weeks after their last launch, which sent a Dragon capsule to ISS. Their goal this year has been to do one launch every two weeks, a goal they have not yet reached. The next launch, which will also place a commercial communications satellite into orbit, is tentatively set for March 27, and will also be the first launch that reuses a first stage. If they make that happen it will be first time they have hit the two week launch rate this year. They will then try to follow with another Dragon resupply mission, this time reusing a Dragon capsule for the first time.

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Less evidence of dark matter in early universe

The uncertainty of science: Astronomers have discovered less evidence of dark matter surrounding galaxies in early universe.

Stars in the outer regions of some far-off galaxies move more slowly than stars closer to the center, indicating a lack of dark matter, astronomer Reinhard Genzel and colleagues report online March 15 in Nature. If confirmed, the result could lead astronomers to reconsider the role dark matter played in early galaxy evolution and might also offer clues to how nearby elliptical galaxies evolved.

In contrast with these distant galaxies, stars orbiting on the outskirts of the Milky Way and other nearby galaxies move too fast for their velocities to result only from the gravity of gas and stars closer to the galactic center. If visible galactic matter is embedded in a cloud of invisible dark matter, though, gravity from the invisible matter can explain the high stellar velocities. Using stars’ orbital velocities in nearby galaxies as a reference, astronomers expected that stars in galaxies farther away would behave similarly. “Turns out that is not the case,” says study coauthor Stijn Wuyts of the University of Bath in England.

In other words, scientists at this moment really have no idea what causes the faster rotation in the outskirts of modern nearby galaxies.

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Titan’s fizzy oceans?

New research suggests that the hydrocarbon lakes of Titan might periodically fizz with nitrogen bubbles.

A recent NASA-funded study has shown how the hydrocarbon lakes and seas of Saturn’s moon Titan might occasionally erupt with dramatic patches of bubbles.

For the study, researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, simulated the frigid surface conditions on Titan, finding that significant amounts of nitrogen can be dissolved in the extremely cold liquid methane that rains from the skies and collects in rivers, lakes and seas. They demonstrated that slight changes in temperature, air pressure or composition can cause the nitrogen to rapidly separate out of solution, like the fizz that results when opening a bottle of carbonated soda.

These results might help explain the mysterious islands that seem to appear and disappear and then reappear in Titan’s lakes. Rather than islands, they might be patches of nitrogen bubbles.

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Minneapolis: another American city destroyed by Democrats

Link here. Democrats will see this as a partisan attack. It really isn’t. It is instead another attempt to point out the stark fact that the leftwing policies put forth by the Democratic Party in the past half century have been routinely disastrous.

But by 1988, then-mayor Donald Fraser—a member of the DFLP—had grown troubled by the stark contrast he saw between the majority of his city and who were thriving economically, and a number of African-American neighborhoods where crime, teenage pregnancy, and welfare dependency were experiencing a growth spurt. Taking a page out of the same playbook other big city Democrat mayors were using, Fraser believed that the cure was redistribution of income. He decided to revamp the way in which social-welfare expenditures were allocated and believed, specifically, that federal and local agencies needed to focus more of their resources on the economic problems confronting unwed mothers (who were disproportionately black) and their children.



Fraser’s successors as mayors of Minneapolis—Sharon Sayles Belton (1994-2001), R.T. Rybak (2002-2013), and Betsy Hodges (2014-present)—have shared this same core belief in the importance of massive public expenditures on social-welfare programs and wealth-redistribution initiatives.

The result has been disastrous. As of 2015, the poverty rate in Minneapolis was 25.3%, nearly twice the 14% statewide rate for Minnesota and the 14.3% rate for the United States as a whole. In 2010, a study of 142 metro areas in Minnesota found that only 15 bore a heavier property-tax burden than Minneapolis, and that was before the city raised its property taxes by 4.7% in 2011.

More recently, Minneapolis property taxes increased by 3.4% in 2016, and by a crippling 5.5% in 2017.

 Notwithstanding the growth in revenues generated by these taxes, the government of Minneapolis has been incapable of balancing its budget. In 2015, for example, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority’s budget included $84 million in federal subsidies and grants. In 2017, the Metropolitan Council—which describes itself as “the regional policy-making body, planning agency, and provider of essential services for the Twin Cities metropolitan region”—received $91 million in federal funding. That same year, the Minneapolis Public Schools operated with a budget deficit of nearly $17 million.



This pattern has repeated itself throughout the United States. For the past half century almost every urban area has been dominated politically by Democrats. In that same time period, those urban areas have seen a distinct worsening of their economic situation. Even as these American cities have imposed a higher and higher tax burden on their successful citizens, they have seen higher and higher deficits. At the same time, poverty and economic failure has increased.

The important thing to note here is that the policies of the Democratic Party are a failure. Since that party seems incapable of changing those policies, it is essential that voters stop voting for it, either to force a change within that party or to remove that party from any position of power. Those are our choices, if we wish to improve the future of the United States.

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House leans to less regulation of commercial space

During a hearing on March 8 of the House subcommittee on space the representatives overall pushed for less regulation of commercial space activities.

The overall problem was once again dealing with the Outer Space Treaty:

At a March 8 hearing of the subcommittee, members and witnesses grappled with the issue of how the government should oversee emerging commercial space activities in order to comply with obligations to the Outer Space Treaty, including whether such oversight is, in fact, required. Such “authorization and continuing supervision,” as specified in Article 6 of the treaty, is handled today by various agencies for commercial communications and remote sensing satellites and for launch. It’s less clear who would regulate new activities, ranging from commercial lunar landers to satellite servicing efforts, creating uncertainty in industry about who, if anyone, could provide that authorization and continuing supervision.

An April 2016 report delivered to Congress by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, required by Section 108 of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015, recommended what it called a “mission authorization” approach for providing that oversight. This approach would be modeled on the payload reviews performed by the Federal Aviation Administration during the launch licensing process, including an interagency review of proposed missions. While the mission authorization concept had won support from many in industry, as well as the FAA and some members of Congress, a change of administrations and its approach to regulation has emboldened some who want to limit industry regulation.

“Unfortunately, the Obama administration issued a report last year that called for expansive regulations over all types of private space activities,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science Committee, at the hearing. He cited a “crisis of overregulation” in general as a reason to oppose the previous administration’s proposal.

The House members and the witnesses apparently rejected the regulatory proposals that had been put forth by the Obama administration, and were instead searching for ways to limit the amount of regulation required under the Outer Space Treaty.

I say, dump the treaty. Nothing in it helps the development of space by private individuals or companies. Everything in it encourages bureaucracy and the limitation of private property.

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SpaceX wins another Air Force launch contract

The competition heats up: SpaceX has been awarded a $96.5 million contract to launch an Air Force GPS satellite.

This price is about $14 million more than the last SpaceX Air Force launch contract. That’s probably because SpaceX was trying to undercut ULA’s price by as little as possible so that they could increase their profit. Until there are others in the business who can compete with SpaceX’s prices, the company is sitting pretty in any competitive bidding situation. Their costs are less, so they can always beat everyone else’s prices, while maximizing their profits.

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Ukraine-Canadian partnership to launch from Nova Scotia

The competition heats up: A new launch company based in Canada and using a Ukrainian-made rocket called the Cyclone-4M has chosen as its launch site a location in Nova Scotia.

The rocket appears to be a variation of the Ukrainian Tsiklon-4 rocket, and would make this company competitive and in fact more capable than India’s smaller PSLV rocket that recently put 100 smallsats into orbit.

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Engineer invents teabag dunking machine

Rube Goldberg lives! I don’t know why, but an engineer has invented a machine that can dunk his teabag automatically.

The teabag is hooked onto a crank and kept in position with a piston-like mechanism so that it’s moved up and down over a strategically-placed mug of hot water. The crank is mounted to copper tubing and chained to a five sprocket cassette that in turn is chained to the shaded-pole motor. Dunking starts when a switch is flicked.

Be sure to watch the video at the link.

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