Explosion during static fire test of SpaceX’s Starship-SN1 prototype

Capitalism in space: It appears that about two seconds into a static fire engine test tonight of SpaceX’s Starship-SN1 prototype, something went wrong, there was an explosion, the prototype suddenly lifted into the air and then crashed to the ground in a bigger explosion.

The video below shows the event three times. We shall have to await word from SpaceX as to what happened. So far it appears that no one was hurt.

Falcon Heavy wins launch contract for NASA’s Psyche asteroid mission

Capitalism in space: NASA today awarded the launch contract for its Psyche asteroid mission, set to launch in July 2022, to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket.

The total bid price was $117 million, which according to the release includes “the launch service and other mission related costs.” Though this is higher than the normal price SpaceX charges for a Falcon Heavy launch ($100 million), it is far lower than the typical price of a ULA launch. Furthermore, Falcon Heavy has more power, so it can get the spacecraft to the asteroid faster.

Photos prior to MEV-1 docking to Intelsat 901 satellite

Northrop Grumman has released photos taken by its Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV-1) as it approached the decommissioned geosynchronous communications satellite Intelsat 901, just prior to docking.

As this was the first ever rendezvous and docking with a geosynchronous satellite, these are the first photos ever of such a spacecraft in that orbit. It was also the first docking with a spacecraft not designed for docking. MEV-1 managed it by using the satellite’s engine nozzle as a docking port.

Intelsat 901 has been in orbit for 18 years, and was only decommissioned because it had run out of fuel. From the pictures it looked solid and undamaged, ready to go again.

Peering into a Martian pit

Peering into a pit
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The science team for the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter last week released the above image of a pit to the west of the giant volcanoes Arsia and Pavonis Mons. The left image is without any adjustments in exposure. The right image has brightened the pit’s interior to bring out details in order to see what’s there. As planetary scientist Ross Beyer of Ames Research Center noted in his caption:

The floor of the pit appears to be smooth sand and slopes down to the southeast. The hope was to determine if this was an isolated pit, or if it was a skylight into a tunnel, much like skylights in the lava tubes of Hawai’i. We can’t obviously see any tunnels in the visible walls, but they could be in the other walls that aren’t visible.

Wider view of pit
Click for full image.

Because the image has been rotated 180 degrees, north is down. The northern wall of the pit appears to be either very vertical, or overhung. A tunnel might head north from here, but because of the angle of the photograph, this cannot be confirmed.

To the right is a wider look from the full photograph, showing the surrounding terrain, with north now to the top. In line with this pit is a depression that crosses the east-west canyon to the north. This alignment strongly suggests that a fault or fissure exists here, and that an underground void along this fissure line could exist. It also suggests that a deeper and larger void could exist below that larger canyon.

This pit, and the accompanying fissures, were likely caused by crack-widening along these faults, produced as this volcanic region bulged upward.

Map of knowns pits surrounding Arsia Mons

This pit is also one of the many many pits found near these volcanoes. The map to the right shows by the black boxes all the pits documented by the high resolution camera on MRO in the past few years, with this new pit indicated by the white box.

Beginning in November 2018 until November 2019 I was almost doing a monthly post reporting the new pits photographed by MRO. Since November however the number of new pit images dropped. This is not because every pit has been imaged, but because it appears they have completed their initial survey.

Below is a list of all those previous pit posts:
» Read more

Review of Kepler data uncovers seventeen more possible exoplanets

Worlds without end: In reviewing the entire Kepler database of 200,000 stars, scientists have found seventeen more candidate exoplanets, including one only 1.5 times the mass of the Earth that is also in the habitable zone.

From the paper’s abstract:

We present the results of an independent search of all ~200,000 stars observed over the four year Kepler mission (Q1–Q17) for multiplanet systems, using a three-transit minimum detection criterion to search orbital periods up to hundreds of days. We incorporate both automated and manual triage, and provide estimates of the completeness and reliability of our vetting pipeline. Our search returned 17 planet candidates (PCs) in addition to thousands of known Kepler Objects of Interest (KOIs), with a 98.8% recovery rate of already confirmed planets. We highlight the discovery of one candidate, KIC-7340288 b, that is both rocky (radius $\leqslant 1.6{R}_{\oplus }$) and in the Habitable Zone (insolation between 0.25 and 2.2 times the Earth’s insolation). Another candidate is an addition to the already known KOI-4509 system.

I must emphasize that these are candidate exoplanets, meaning their existence has not been confirmed by other observations, and could very well turn out to be false positives.

Still, that this independent review matched the previous list of Kepler candidates within 98.8% means that the list of exoplanet candidates from Kepler is solid and worth further study. With thousands of candidates, however, that further study is likely going to take a very long time. And the backlog will be growing significantly with the many thousands of additional exoplanet candidates expected to be found by TESS.

The modern blacklist in climate science

Link here. This story, which outlines the effort by global warming scientists to blacklist any scientist who expresses skepticism about human-caused global warming, is really not news. This odious effort was documented more than a decade ago in the climategate emails, where people like Michael Mann and others revealed their attempts to block publication of any papers by such skeptics.

The horrible part of the story however is how the blacklist effort has grown in fury and effectiveness since those climategate emails were released. Instead of being outraged that these scientists were warping peer review, the climate field rallied around them in support. Now, not only do global warmists try to block publication by any skeptics, they now work to deny them funding and to get them fired from their jobs.

And they have been increasingly successful. Do not expect any really honest science to come from the climate field for years to come. It has created for itself a very secure bubble. Nothing can challenge its work, even when that work involves data tampering and falsification.

Trump pushing for major FISA reform or he will let law expire

It appears that President Trump is now demanding a major rewrite of the law that authorizes the FISA court or else he will allow the law to expire.

Congress has approximately 10 working days to reauthorize three expiring provisions of the USA Freedom Act, a 2015 bill that overhauled the country’s surveillance laws, with Attorney General William Barr and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) backing a “clean” extension.

But Trump threw a grenade into those already fragile plans Thursday, when Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told reporters that the president supports his effort to include broader reforms of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as part of any reauthorization of the intelligence programs. “I’ve talked to the president, and I plan on insisting on getting a vote,” Paul said, asked by The Hill about including broader FISA reforms in a bill would authorize the expiring provisions of the USA Freedom Act.

Paul wants a vote on an amendment that would prevent FISA warrants from being used against Americans. Paul’s proposal would also prevent FISA information from being used against Americans in a domestic courtroom. The president, according to Paul, is supportive of his amendment.

Trump’s apparent support for including broader changes to the surveillance court associated with FISA comes as he’s railed repeatedly about his campaign being “spied” upon by the Obama-era FBI. [emphasis mine]

The simple fact is that the FISA court has always been unconstitutional. As written, it is designed — and been used — to bypass the fourth amendment’s requirement that no searches be conducted of a person’s private property without probably cause and a search warrant. Paul’s amendment would simply bring the FISA court into line with constitutional law.

It would be criminal if both Congress and Trump allow this court to be renewed without making this change, especially considering the abuse committed by the Obama administration and government officials of the court in the past four years. Yet, Attorney General Barr as well as Senate leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) are calling for exactly that.

Barr indicated during the lunch that Trump would support a clean extension of the three programs. McConnell threw his support behind extending the authorities during a press conference after the powwow with Barr. “These tools have been overwhelmingly useful according to our intelligence advisors, and I hope that when the Senate deals with these expiring provisions in a couple of weeks, we will be able to continue to have them in law, which will, of course, provide maximum protection for the American people,” McConnell told reporters.

As good as McConnell has been in getting Trump’s conservative judges confirmed to the courts, he sometimes infuriates me. Considering the abuse of power seen in the FBI, Justice Department, and Obama administration, it makes no sense to renew these laws unchanged.

More SLS launches planned/proposed?

According to this article from Ars Technica, NASA is considering shifting gears in its Artemis lunar program to become more dependent on SLS rather than a mix of SLS and commercial rockets.

The new plan, if implemented, would substantially cut commercially developed rockets—such as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy and Blue Origin’s New Glenn—back from the Artemis program. Previously, NASA had said it would launch elements of its Human Landing System on commercial rockets, because such vehicles cost much less than the estimated $2 billion rate per launch of the SLS vehicle. Now, perhaps, private rockets may be called upon to launch smaller pieces such as a lunar rover to the Moon’s surface.

The source document, which appears to be very preliminary and which NASA calls “inaccurate”, also calls for four SLS launches leading up to the 2024 lunar landing, something that seems very very unlikely. Not only would it require Boeing to move faster in building additional SLS rockets, something the company has routinely been unable to do, this schedule assumes funding from Congress for SLS, something that remains unclear.

It also appears from the proposed launch schedule that Lunar Gateway is fading from view. This makes great sense, as the Gateway only causes delays and higher costs for any lunar landing program, something the Trump administration clearly wishes to avoid.

SpaceX proposing big launch rate increase in Florida

Capitalism in space: According to documents filed with the FCC, SpaceX is planning a big increase in the number of launches from its two launchpads in Florida in the next few years.

SpaceX projects performing 38 launches from Florida in 2020, 30 from SLC-40 and eight from LC-39A. By 2023, the company projects as many as 70 launches, 50 from SLC-40 and 20 from LC-39A, an annual rate that holds steady through 2025. The vast majority would be Falcon 9 launches, although it expects as many as 10 Falcon Heavy launches a year, all from LC-39A.

These numbers include both Dragon cargo and crew launches, Starlink satellite launches, and a variety of other commercial customers, including launches into polar orbits, something that in the past was reserved for Vandenberg on the west coast, not Florida. The launch estimates are also likely high, as they come from an environmental assessment. SpaceX probably wants to get clearance for this many launches, just in case things go far better than expected. They will likely do less, though I would not be surprised if the numbers are still record-setting.

In addition, the documents outline SpaceX’s plans to build a mobile launch tower to accommodate national security payloads that must be installed on their rocket vertically. Falcon Heavy could provide this service, but right now its payloads get installed horizontally.

Northrop Grumman completes test of Omega rocket 2nd stage

Capitalism in space: Northrop Grumman yesterday successfully executed a static fire test of the second stage of its OmegA rocket, set for first launch next year.

The first two stages are solid rockets, based on the solid rockets used by the space shuttle. They still have to test the liquid-fueled third stage.

The rocket’s development has essentially been funded by the military, and will thus be used mostly by them to launch national security payloads.

Another professor arrested for lying about working with China

Another professor, this time from the University of Tennessee, has been arrested for lying about his ties to China in a NASA proposal.

Anming Hu, an associate professor in the department of mechanical, aerospace and biomedical engineering at the university’s flagship Knoxville campus, was charged with three counts of wire fraud and three counts of making false statements…

Prosecutors say Hu defrauded the National Aeronautics and Space Administration by failing to disclose the fact that he was also a professor at the Beijing University of Technology in China. Under federal law, NASA cannot fund or give grant money to Chinese-owned companies or universities.

According to the indictment, as the University of Tennessee last December was preparing a proposal on Hu’s behalf for a NASA-funded project, Hu provided false assurances to the school that he was not part of any business collaboration involving China.

I wonder how much technical information he passed to China’s space effort.

First image of possible asteroid in orbit around the Earth

asteroid orbiting the Earth?
Click for full image.

The Gemini telescope in Hawaii has produced the first image of what might be only the second asteroid ever discovered in orbit around the Earth.

The newly discovered orbiting object has been assigned the provisional designation 2020 CD3 by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center. If it is natural in origin, such as an asteroid, then it is only the second known rocky satellite of the Earth ever discovered in space other than the Moon. The other body, discovered in 2006, has since been ejected out of Earth orbit. 2020 CD3 was discovered on the night of 15 February 2020 by Kacper Wierzchos and Teddy Pruyne at the Catalina Sky Survey operating out of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson, Arizona.

The photo to the right has been cropped to post here. The streaks are stars, since the telescope was tracking the asteroid in an attempt to cull the most resolution of it from the image.

This object is only a few yards across, and could very well be a piece of space junk from a mission launched many decades ago. It is also not in a stable orbit around the Earth, and is expected to be ejected from that orbit in April.

The coming small satellite revolution

Today I received a press release from the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), announcing a half-day symposium in Washington, D.C. on March 26, 2020 entitled ““The SmallSat Revolution: Doing More with Less.” The announcement was an invitation for the working press to register and attend, noting that the speakers will include, among others, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator science, Jeffrey Mamber, president of NanoRacks, and Patricia Cooper of SpaceX.

As interesting as this might sound at first glance, I will not attend. For one thing, it is on the other side of the continent, and I can’t afford to fly cross country for such a short meeting. For another, I don’t see the point. I attended a lot of these DC symposiums when I lived in Maryland, and though they were often very educational and the free food (paid for almost always by the taxpayer) was always enjoyable, I routinely found them somewhat lacking in newsworthy content.

Thirdly, and most important, yesterday I attended a much more newsworthy one day conference here in Tucson on exactly the same subject, dubbed the Arizona Academic CubeSat Symposium. Unlike the Washington event above — which will likely be a mostly superficial look at the burgeoning cubesat industry — yesterday’s symposium was focused on letting students and scientists describe actual and very ambitious cubesat projects presently under construction or design.

In less than seven hours I saw the following:
» Read more

VIPER lunar rover delayed, NASA seeks new bids for delivering it to Moon

NASA earlier this week revealed that it is delaying the launch of its VIPER lunar rover until 2023, even as it announced that it is seeking new bids from commercial companies for delivering it to Moon.

In the past two months NASA has apparently been trying to reorganize its unmanned lunar exploration, resulting it a variety of puzzling and sometimes sudden shifts in policy and direction. First they announced they are going to issue a request for proposals, then they delayed it, then they issued it only to withdrew it one week later, with no explanation.

This week’s announcement is another attempt to release this request, accompanied by the delay in VIPER. Though NASA says the delay is to allow “for upgrades so that the rover can conduct longer and more exciting science on the Moon”, I think instead it is to simplify it so that the commercial companies will be able to launch and land it. VIPER’s heritage designs come from an earlier NASA rover project dubbed Resource Prospector that was cancelled because it was going to be too expensive and complex. I think the private companies building landers for such a rover told NASA that they couldn’t handle those heritage designs, forcing NASA to rethink.

If my suspicions are true, this is actually a very good sign. NASA is allowing the private sector to guide it in ways to save money and work more efficiently. That guidance might cause some initial delays as NASA shifts course, but in the long run it will make for a better run operation, costing less while accomplishing more.

Chinese scientists publish radar results from Chang’e-4 lander

Layers as seen below ground by Chang'e-4 radar

The new colonial movement: Chinese scientists today published their first ground-penetrating radar results from their Chang’e-4 lander on the far side of the Moon.

Using a ground-penetrating radar instrument on Chang’e-4, researchers have found that the rover is likely sitting on different layers of ejecta—debris from multiple impacts over time that rained down at high velocities to blanket the lunar surface and now fill the crater. “[We] see a very clear sequence of [layers],” says Elena Pettinelli of Roma Tre University in Italy, one of the paper’s co-authors.

The rover’s radar instrument was able to penetrate up to 40 meters below the surface of the moon, more than twice the distance achieved by its predecessor, the Chang’e-3 mission, which landed on the lunar near side in December 2013. Data from the latest mission show three distinct layers beneath the rover: one made of lunar regolith, or soil, down to 12 meters; another made of a mix of smaller and larger rocks down to 24 meters; and a third with both coarse and fine materials extending the rest of the 40-meter depth.

The figure to the right comes from the paper [pdf] Though the layers have not been dated, their differences suggest different past events in the formation of this surface.

These results are excellent, but they also have many uncertainties. Radar can tell you a lot, but the only way you can really ever know anything about what’s below ground is to go there and actually do some digging.

Starship moved to launch site

Capitalism in space: SpaceX’s Starship-SN1 prototype has been transported to its launch site at Boca Chica in preparation for a series of tests prior to its first launch hop, hopefully to a height of 12 miles.

Whether SN01 is still destined for flight, it’s safe to say that Starship SN01 tank testing could begin in a matter of days — SpaceX currently has early-morning roadblocks indicative of such testing scheduled from February 29th to March 2nd. SpaceX is likely to kick off by filling SN01 with water to check its tanks for leaks, followed by liquid nitrogen – chemically neutral but still incredibly cold. After that, SN01 would likely graduate to Raptor engine installation and a wet dress rehearsal (WDR) with liquid oxygen and methane before moving on to a static fire attempt, if all goes well.

I have embedded below the fold a fifteen minute video showing the transport operation. The pace is slow, so I suggest playing it at 2x normal speed, using the settings.

My immediate thought in watching this video is that SpaceX’s mobile transport vehicle certainly cost far less than the two mobile launchers NASA built for SLS (for a cost of about a billion dollars). In fact, SpaceX’s entire Starship development program will likely cost less than what NASA spent on just its mobile launchers.

» Read more

Sea Launch launch platform finally moving to Russia

A giant Russian ship has arrived in California and has loaded for transport to Russia the Sea Launch giant mobile launch platform that now belongs to the Russian airline company S7.

The tale behind this move is long and convoluted. Sea Launch had been a partnership between Boeing, Russia, and the Ukraine, designed to lower the cost to launch with a launch platform that could be moved into the best location for each launch. After a launch failure the company went bankrupt, however, and Boeing wanted out. In addition, Russia invaded the Crimea, going to war against the Ukraine, making that part of the partnership impossible.

Russia didn’t have the money to buy Boeing out, so Boeing put a lien on the platform, preventing anyone from using it. Eventually, Russia paid Boeing off by providing the company several passenger seats on their Soyuz spacecraft that it could sell, which as far as I can tell have not been used. Along the way the Russian airline company took possession, though in truth it is really the Russian government in charge. They hope to use it to launch a next generation Soyuz rocket upgrade, supposedly built by S7.

Northrop Grumman completes first robotic docking to a satellite

Capitalism in space: Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) on February 25, 2020 completed first robotic docking to a satellite for the express goal of extending that satellite’s life.

This was the first time ever that a commercial robotic satellite docked with a second commercial satellite for such a purpose. It was also the first time such a docking has been done using no government funds.

More information here.

MEV-1 will stay docked to this satellite for about five years, providing it attitude control and guidance. The robot will then move the satellite into a safe graveyard orbit, detach, and be then capable of docking with a second satellite to extend its life as well. Moreover, Northrop Grumman is building a second MEV, with the hope it will be hired to save other satellites.

This achievement lays the foundation for a new stage in commercial space. It proves that unmanned robots can dock with objects in space, both to repair them and extend their life, but also to remove them from orbit and thus reduce the quantity of space junk.

Virgin Galactic losses grow in second public report

In its second quarterly report, Virgin Galactic’s losses grew from $46 million to $73 million, even as the public trading value of its stock value has skyrocketed in the past few months.

The company is also about to start taking deposits from new customers for suborbital tourist flights.

Whether this will happen, and be profitable, remains an unknown. The company has taken so long and spent so much developing its suborbital spaceship that they are now being overtaken by orbital space tourism.

SpaceX gets approval for Starship/Super Heavy factory in LA

Capitalism in space: Having abandoned plans to build its Starship/Super Heavy rocket factory at the Port of Los Angeles in 2019, SpaceX has changed its mind and now gotten approval for the factory from the LA City Council.

First announced in March 2018 and abandoned for about a year beginning in March 2019, SpaceX has refreshed plans to build giant rocket parts in a California port, simplifying aspects of the original proposal and relying heavily on the fact that steel is far easier to handle than carbon fiber. Now, the company wants to refurbish and repurpose a number of old abandoned buildings already present at Port of LA Berth 240, effectively replicating a somewhat smaller version of the Starship production facilities SpaceX is in the middle of building in South Texas.

With Los Angeles Harbor Commission and City Council approvals both safely in hand, SpaceX’s Port of LA Starship is now officially a question of “when”, not “if”. When the concept first popped back into the public discourse late last month, it came alongside a report from CNBC reporter Michael Sheetz that SpaceX wanted to start building Starship parts as few as 90 days after it reapproached Port officials.

The speed in which SpaceX is moving here is very typical for the company. Bodes well for real test flights both this year and next.

Europe considering delaying ExoMars2020 two years

The Europe Space Agency (ESA) is considering delaying the launch of its ExoMars2020 Mars rover two years because of continuing problems with its parachutes.

According to a spokesperson for the European Space Agency (ESA), a “working-level review” for the project was held among ESA and Roscosmos officials in late January, and a preliminary assessment was forwarded to the respective heads of the space agencies, Jan Wörner of ESA and Dmitry Rogozin of Roscosmos, on February 3. “They instructed the respective inspectors general and program chiefs to submit an updated plan and schedule covering all the remaining activities necessary for an authorization to launch,” the ESA spokesperson said. “This plan will be examined by the two agency heads who will meet on 12 March to jointly agree the next steps.”

It appears that the European and Russian officials will make a public announcement about ExoMars next month. Their options include pressing ahead with a launch this year or delaying two years until the next favorable window for a launch to Mars opens. Given multiple issues with the mission, a source said a delay is the most likely option.

The parachutes are not the only problem. They have just discovered during thermal testing that the glue used in the the hinges of the rover’s solar panels comes unstuck.

In August 2019, when the parachute issues were first revealed (after much hemming and hawing by ESA officials), I predicted a 50-50 chance they’d delay. When in September 2019 the problems were found to be more serious than first admitted, I lowered the chances of meeting the 2020 launch date to less than 25%.

Right now I predict that the launch of ExoMars2020 will not occur this summer, but will be delayed until the next Martian launch window in 2022. You heard it here first.

Beethoven – Moonlight Sonata

An evening pause: Here what counts is the audience. From the youtube webpage:

Mongkol is a 61-year-old former logging elephant. His captive-held life was spent hauling trees in the Thai forest. His body shape is deformed through hard labor, he lost his right eye and tusk in this brutal logging practice. Mongkol was rescued and brought to Elephants World to spend the rest of his days relaxing peacefully in freedom by the River Kwai. I discovered Mongkol is an extremely gentle, sensitive elephant who enjoys music, especially this slow movement by Beethoven which I play to him occasionally in the day and night.

I think he listens with as much rapt pleasure as anyone who loves Beethoven.

Hat tip Tom Biggar.

Enclosed Martian canyon, filled with ice

Ice-filled canyon on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo on the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on November 21, 2019. The uncaptioned image was simply entitled “Ice-filled Graben.”

The location is on the lower flanks of the giant volcano Alba Mons, which in itself sits north of Olympus Mons and the volcanic Tharsis Bulge. The canyon is called a graben because it was formed when a section of the crust slips downward along parallel faults. It does not have the features of a rill, or lava flow, as it starts and stops suddenly. It probably formed due to the rise of the volcano, pulling apart its flanks along faults, causing some sections then to slip downward.

How do the scientists know this is ice-filled? I suspect they have other data that indicates the presence of water, but there are also clear features inside this canyon that resemble the glacial features found elsewhere on Mars. For example, note the parallel lines near the canyon walls. These indicate past surface levels as well as layers within the ice from cyclic climate processes. The line of pits along the southwest wall, where the surface gets more sunlight, also suggests that this sunlight is causing more ice to sublimate away.

Finally, the graben is located at 46 degrees north latitude, definitely far enough north for such ice to exist, based on ample other research.

College apologizes because teacher accurately quotes historical document

The coming dark age: The head of the University of Oklahoma has publicly apologized for a journalism professor because that professor had, after warning the class, accurately read aloud an historical document that included the word “nigger.”

The heart of the apology says it all:

The professor, a faculty member in History, read from a historical document that used the “N-word” repeatedly. While she could have made the point without reciting the actual word, she chose otherwise. Her issuance of a “trigger warning” before her recitation does not lessen the pain caused by the use of the word. For students in the class, as well as members of our community, this was another painful experience. It is common sense to avoid uttering the most offensive word in the English language, especially in an environment where the speaker holds the power.

This apology is downright hostile to the pursuit of knowledge, and coming from the head of a university is especially appalling.

My regular readers know that I forbid the use of obscenities by commenters, as I oppose the recent cultural trend to make their use ubiquitous and casual. I think it debases everyone, and prevents thoughtful debate. However, if you want to get an accurate sense of history you must have the open-mindedness to tolerate hearing such things in order to understand that history.

Moreover, this administrator assumes that his students are so pathetically weak and delicate that hearing this word would destroy them. Poppy-cock! What is really happening is that he is bowing to the race-mongers and political bullies who have been using their demands on what language to speak to force everyone to endorse their political rule.

The future is grim if it will become impossible to learn anything that might offend you. In fact, in that culture you really will not be able to learn anything at all.

NASA leaning towards long-duration flight for 1st Dragon mission

Capitalism in space: According to one former astronaut as well as a review of photos of the training being given to the astronauts who will fly on SpaceX’s first manned Dragon flight, this Space News article thinks that NASA will make that first flight a long-duration mission.

This Dragon demo mission is officially still planned as a short mission, no more than two weeks. To extend it requires additional training, which the photos appear to show, and would thus delay its launch by as yet an unspecified time period.

The article also cites a third reason NASA is now favoring the long-duration option: The issues with Boeing’s manned Starliner capsule:

Another factor in any decision to extend Demo-2 is the status of the other commercial crew vehicle, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. That vehicle flew an uncrewed test flight in December, but software problems during the flight, including one which shortened the mission and prevented a docking with the ISS, have raised questions about whether a second uncrewed test flight will be needed. An investigation into those problems is expected by the end of this month.

Even if NASA decides a second uncrewed test flight of Starliner is not needed, a review of all of the spacecraft’s one million lines of code, and other reviews, is likely to delay a crewed test flight of the spacecraft. NASA and Boeing had previously agreed to make that test flight a long-duration mission, with NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson performing space station training in addition to that for the Starliner itself.

The delay in Boeing’s long duration mission leaves a gap in the schedule for maintaining crews on ISS. Flying Dragon long-duration would help solve that.

1 2 3 5