A good summary of the status of the election political battle

Link here. The author, William Jacobson, always has a solid legal grounding on the political warfare that is on-going today in America. In this case he argues correctly that the key has always been winning elections, and that the Republicans have consistently failed to play that game hard. They didn’t fight the use of loosely regulated mail-in ballotss They didn’t fight ballot harvesting. They didn’t reject the use of Dominion software. And he gives a classic example in Wisconsin, whose Supreme Court has rejected election lawsuits partly because of the following reason:

There is no better example of why elections matter, and how the 2020 presidential election was lost months ago. Liberal Jill Karofsky defeated conservative sitting Justice Daniel Kelly in an April 2020 election the Wisconsin Republicans completely botched by allowing it to take place the same date as the Democratic presidential primary. Guess who turned out to vote? Democrats. That took the court down to a nominal 4-3 conservative majority, with Justice Brian Hagedorn the weak conservative link.

In many other states, legal and political battles were fought strategically by Democrats over the several months leading up to the election. Democrats organized for a mail-in election, Republicans didn’t. Republicans were out-organized, out-hustled, and out-lawyered.

Even now the Republicans in Georgia are not gearing up to deal with potential election fraud in the upcoming Senatorial runoff elections that will determine who controls the Senate. They are fiddling around as the entire credibility of the election process burns. The odds of them winning even one of those two run-offs I rate is low, because not only will the same cheating take place by the Democrats, Republican voters will not come out to vote, because they don’t see their party as a useful party to vote for.

And yet, the most important and only task Republican-controlled state legislatures have right now is to insure that fraud cannot happen in future elections. It is their last hill to stand on. That in Georgia they seem uninterested in dealing with this now, before these runoffs, tells us how weakly they will likely fight in other states in the coming years.

And if they don’t fight, they will lose. It is that simple.

Ancient and recent volcanoes on Mars

Volcanic vent on eastern flank of Olympus Mons
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on October 25, 2020. It shows what it calls a “possible volcanic vent east of Olympus Mons”.

Is this active? If not, how old is it. Also, the elongated shape of the vent suggests the possibility of a lava tube, or at least some underground complexity to the release of its magma.

In order to get some clarity, I emailed Sarah Sutton of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory of the University of Arizona, who requested this photograph. Her response:

The image is of a small shield volcano with an elongated vent at the summit. We don’t have complete stereo here yet, so we can’t tell exactly what the height is. This vent might have sourced tube-fed flows, but in this case, we can’t resolve such features in the image data. This and other small shield volcanoes in the vicinity are partially buried by plains-forming lava flows. The lava flows around the base overlap the flows that emanate radially from the summit vent. Therefore we infer that the shield is older than the surrounding lava flows.

The vent, which runs from the southwest to the northeast, sits on top of a sloping wide hill, which is that small shield volcano described by Sutton. The flat plains surrounding this hill are from later eruptions from other and possibly larger volcanoes. The wider overview map below might give us a clue as to the source.
» Read more

SpaceX in preliminary negotiations for another big fundraising round

Capitalism in space: According to this report, SpaceX is now in preliminary negotiations with investors prior to beginning another big fundraising round, even though the company just raised $1.9 billion in private investment capital in August.

The talks are still in early phases, and exact pricing for the fundraising round has not yet been determined, one of the people said. Terms could still change, and it could take several weeks to decide and firm up allocations, the person added. SpaceX also may not be able to convince investors to give it the lofty valuation it desires. Allocations refer to which investors will be authorized to buy shares and how much they will pay for those shares.

“It’s a pretty big shock to me, honestly,” one of the people said. “What company jumps to double its valuation in six months? I don’t care at what scale you’re operating, it’s kind of crazy,” they added. “If you look at the series, every single valuation is a 10 to 20% bump.”

It appears that the company is trying to leverage its successes with Dragon, Starship, and Starlink to obtain more funding. The story also suggests that SpaceX now has a better sense of what it will cost to get Starship built, and thus is looking to obtain those funds now, when they are in a good position to get them.

Scientists confirm Hayabusa-2’s return capsule brought back material from Ryugu

Based on their first observations of the return capsule from Hayabusa-1, Japanese scientists yesterday confirmed that it successfully has returned material from the asteroid Ryugu.

JAXA said in a statement that they observed the sandy material at the entrance of the collection chamber, but have yet to look inside to see if more asteroid dust is lurking there. It is only the second time that scientists have returned material from an asteroid.

This find in the entrance portends a gold mine of material in the collection chamber itself.

Rocket Lab successfully launches Japanese radar satellite

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab early today successfully launched an Japanese radar satellite using its Electron rocket.

This was the company’s sixth successful launch in 2020, matching the count it had predicted at the start of the year it would reach. And this despite one launch failure. The rocket also sported a new and larger faring, giving Rocket Lab the ability to launch larger payloards or more satellites with each launch.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

33 China
24 SpaceX
14 Russia
6 Rocket Lab

The U.S. now leads China 39 to 33 in the national rankings.

Confirmed: Martian glacial features are ice

Lobate glacial flows on Mars
Click for full image.

Scientists using the radar instrument on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have now confirmed that the Martian glacial features that most resemble the glaciers seen on Earth are made of substantial amounts of ice, and were possibly active and growing only a few million years ago.

“Our radar analysis shows that at least one of these features is about 500 meters thick and nearly 100 percent ice, with a debris covering at most ten meters thick,” said Berman, lead author of “Ice-rich landforms of the southern mid-latitudes of Mars: A case study in Nereidum Montes” published online in Icarus at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2020.114170. PSI scientists Frank C. Chuang, Isaac B. Smith and David A. Crown are co-authors on the paper.

Global mapping of Viscous Flow Features (VFFs), a general grouping of ice-rich flow features in the southern hemisphere of Mars shows a dense concentration in Nereidum Montes, along the northern rim of Argyre basin. Located within a northwestern subregion of Nereidum Montes is a large number of well-preserved VFFs and ice-rich mantling deposits, the paper says, potentially the largest concentrations of any non-polar region in the southern hemisphere.

…Processed data from the Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft were used to search for basal reflections across VFFs within the region. For one in particular, these observations and analysis indicate that it is composed of nearly pure water ice. Model ages obtained from crater counts and their associated size-frequency distributions (SFDs) on both ice-rich mantling deposits and small lobate VFFs suggest that the deposits stabilized several to tens of millions of years ago in the Late Amazonian Epoch, and that small lobate VFFs likely formed due to the mobilization of mantling deposits.

This data here reinforces the impressions from many other places within the 30-60 degree latitude bands on Mars where many such features are found.

Mars might be a desert, but it is a desert like Antarctica, not the Sahara. Any settlement there must use the Earth’s south pole as its guide for construction and design.

Russia successfully completes second Angara rocket launch

The new colonial movement: After many delays, Russia today successfully completed the second launch of its new Angara rocket, placing a dummy test payload into orbit.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

33 China
24 SpaceX
14 Russia
5 Rocket Lab
5 Europe (Arianespace)

The U.S. lead over China in the national rankings remains 38 to 33. With this launch the total launches in 2020 now matches that achieved last year, something achieved despite the Wuhan virus panic.

Antrim County election audit: Dominion machines unreliable, evidence suggests vote tampering

The computer audit of the Atrim County election Dominion tabulator machines has found [pdf] irrevocable evidence that these machines and their software is unreliable, that the evidence suggests significant vote tampering, and also suggests criminal activity to do it.

The preliminary findings including 24 points, all of which are shocking. The second sums it up:

We conclude that the Dominion Voting System is intentionally and purposefully designed with inherent errors to create systemic fraud and influence election results. The system intentionally generates an enormously high number of ballot errors. The electronic ballots are then transferred for adjudication. The intentional errors lead to bulk adjudication of ballots with no oversight, no transparency, and no audit trail. This leads to voter or election fraud. Based on our study, we conclude that The Dominion Voting System should not be used in Michigan. We further conclude that the results of Antrim County should not have been certified.

The audit also included data from two other counties as well, all of which confirmed the results from Antrim.
The audit found that the software for this election somehow failed to properly scan a “staggering” number of ballots, up to 81% in one case, requiring a manual unsupervised adjudication of the scan in order to record the vote. This failure rate — averaging 68.05% — was completely different than past election records, and exceeded the allowable election error rate established by the Federal Election Commission guidelines, 1 in 250,000 ballots (.0008%), by many orders of magnitude.

They also found evidence of willful obstruction of justice to hide these facts. The files and adjudication logs are missing. There was also an attempt to zero out the machines before the audit could obtain its data. Finally, the software was updated just before the election, and then just afterward.

The only reason to change software after the election would be to obfuscate evidence of fraud and/or to correct program errors that would de-certify the election. Our findings show that the Central Lake Township tabulator tape totals were significantly altered by utilizing two different program versions (10/232020 and 11/05/2020), both of which were software changes during an election which violates election law, and not just human error associated with the Dominion Election Management System. This is clear evidence of software generated movement of votes. The claims made on the Office of the Secretary of State website are false.

Read it for yourself. More important, download it immediately and pass it to friends. I predict that many of your Democratic Party friends will dismiss it as fake. Some however will not. If just ten percent recognize these facts the election will likely get invalidated.

And make sure you pass it to your legislators. Any state that used these machines needs to review the results, and most likely must invalidate them. We need a new election.

Data: Hospitals underwhelmed by 2nd COVID wave, as they were with 1st

Chicken Little report: Federal government data now shows that hospital capacity has never been at full capacity or even strained during the first wave of COVID-19 in the spring, as well as the current spike now.

[F]ederal government data compiled from state-level reports suggests that hospitals nationwide have considerable space left to deal with both routine medical issues and COVID-19 patients. The Department of Health and Human Services offers on its website estimates of hospitalization rates across the United States.

…The HHS numbers belie forecasts of impending collapse of the U.S. medical system. As of Saturday, the department estimated that hospitals nationwide were at about 75% capacity. ICU beds were even lower, at 63.5%. Patients who had tested positive for COVID-19 occupied just under 15% of all beds nationwide. Even in areas that have recently posted huge surges in positive COVID tests, the numbers were largely similar to the national average: In New York, 76% of hospital beds (and 61% of ICU beds) were taken.

In California, where positive test results have skyrocketed, 76% of inpatient beds were likewise filled (though the ICU numbers were notably higher than New York’s, at 79%). Ohio, which has also seen a surge in positive tests over the last few months, has 71% of inpatient beds taken, and 77% of ICU beds.

Those numbers are not far out of line with national average occupancy rates seen in normal times and are, in some cases, lower than what are widely considered optimal rates.

There’s more at the link, but overall the data confirms what I wrote back in March, only two weeks after some states had declared statewide emergencies, imposed lockdowns, and destroyed their economies based on a panicked fear of a gigantic spike that would overwhelm their hospitals. The data then strongly suggested that these fears were unwarranted. This new data confirms that conclusion.

The lockdowns, mandates, and cancellation of the Bill of Rights were all entirely unnecessary. Worse, corrupt politicians (mostly Democrats) have morphed their so-called purpose from easing the sudden arrival of many sick patients (“flatten the curve”) to a vain attempt to prevent the spread of the virus, something that only six months ago sane people knew was impossible.

Under this new impossible mantra (“Stop the spread!”), lockdowns will never end. Which to these corrupt politicians is just fine, as it gives them the kind of absolute power they crave.

Chang’e-5 on its way back to Earth

The new colonial movement: Chang’e-5 today successfully fired four engines for 22 minutes to leave lunar orbit and begin its journey back to Earth, with a planned arrival date in China for its sample return capsule around December 15/16th.

The return capsule is expected to land in northern China in the Inner Mongolia region after separating from the rest of the spacecraft and floating down on parachutes. The material would be the first brought back since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 probe in 1976.

The rocks and other debris were obtained both by drilling into the moon’s crust and scooping directly off the surface. They may be billions of years younger than those brought back by earlier U.S. and Soviet missions, possibly offering insights into the moon’s history and that of other bodies in the solar system.

The landing sequence is the last major engineering challenge, though hardly as challenging as the autonomous rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit.

SpaceX successfully launches commercial radio satellite

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched a new commercial radio satellite for Siruis.

The first stage was making its seventh flight, the fifth in 2020. It successfully landed on the drone ship. The fairings were also both previously flown.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

33 China
24 SpaceX
13 Russia
5 Rocket Lab
5 Europe (Arianespace)

The U.S. now leads China 38 to 33 in the national rankings. The U.S. has also completed the most launches in a single year since 1968. Unlike 1968, all the launches this year were flown by private companies, either for commercial customers or for the government, with rockets owned by the companies. In 1968 almost all the launches were for the government, and the rockets were controlled by the government, even if built by private companies.

Note that this very successful year occurred during a year when many businesses were forced to shutdown due to the Wuhan panic. It appears many rocket companies decided this was not a reason to cease operations.

Virgin Galactic’s first Unity launch from New Mexico fizzles

Capitalism in space: Virgin Galactic’s first attempt to launch its SpaceShipTwo Unity suborbital spacecraft from its New Mexico spaceport ended almost immediately after the ship was released from WhiteKnightTwo when its engines did not ignite.

All appeared normal during the flight’s early phases. VSS Unity was carried into the air by its twin-fuselage mothership, known as WhiteKnightTwo VMS Eve, and was released to fly free at an altitude of more than 40,000 feet.

A webcast provided via NASASpaceflight.com showed the flash of the plane’s hybrid rocket motor lighting up, but only for a second. After the flame-out, Test pilots Dave Mackay and C.J. Sturckow brought Unity back down to the spaceport for a gliding landing.

I wish Virgin Galactic well, but at this point consider the company a backwater in the drive to develop a commercial space tourism industry. It took them too long to get to this point. Even if they should start flying tourists next year, they will be competing with orbital tourist flights by SpaceX, and the contrast is stark. I simply no longer see a viable customer base for Virgin Galactic, unless they get a lot of government subsidies.

Indonesia & SpaceX considering launchsite there

Capitalism in space: Indonesia has been in discussions with SpaceX and Elon Musk about establishing a SpaceX launch site in that country.

President Joko Widodo discussed the idea with SpaceX founder Elon Musk during a phone call on Friday, the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime and Investment Affairs said in the statement. Musk intends to send a team to Indonesia in January to study partnership opportunities, it said.

Makes sense for Musk to consider such a move, especially if the U.S. and Texas governments start to turn the screws on his Boca Chica launch site. Furthermore, it is his intention to eventually launch Starship/Super Heavy from a floating launch platform. Establishing arrangements with other foreign nations for putting it in their waters gives the company more flexibility.

People always migrate toward freedom. For two hundred and fifty years, that meant they moved to the United States. This now is changing, as the U.S. culture is signaling its increased hostility to this most important founding principle. Expect more stories like this in the coming decades.

Supreme Court dismisses Texas suit on election

The dead Constitution

The Supreme Court today dismissed the Texas lawsuit asking it to invalid the election results in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia because of election law changes made by bureaucrats rather than the state legislatures as directed by the Constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday evening rejected the state of Texas’ challenge to the 2020 election results in four battleground states, extinguishing one of the last remaining hopes for President Trump’s campaign to reverse Joe Biden’s lead in those states.

“The State of Texas’s motion for leave to file a bill of complaint is denied for lack of standing under Article III of the Constitution,” the justices ruled. “Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections. All other pending motions are dismissed as moot.”

No one should be surprised by this. It is not the court’s job to give permission to the state legislatures to do their job. It is their responsibility to act, and they have ample evidence that the vote has been, if not stolen, very unreliable and not trustworthy.

They are just too cowardly to do it. They’d rather have an excuse to cop out. They will now do so, saying that they can’t do anything because the Supreme Court told them they couldn’t. This is a lie, and a joke.

The election has been stolen. Do not expect there ever again to be a legitimate election in the United States. Expect Democrats to begin winning every race, in every battleground swing state.

New data confirms and localizes uplifted lunar dust as seen by Apollo astronauts

The uncertainty of science: In a paper released today, scientists reveal the detection of electrostatic dust events on the Moon similar to those observed by Apollo astronauts, and find that these events might not be global but instead confined to craters during twilight. From the abstract:

Lunar horizon glows observed by the Apollo missions suggested a dense dust exosphere near the lunar terminator. But later missions failed to see such a high‐density dust exosphere. Why the Apollo missions could observe so large number of dust grains remains a mystery. For the first time, we report five dust enhancement events observed by the Lunar Dust Experiment on board Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer [LADEE] mission, which happen near a twilight crater with dust densities comparable to the Apollo measurements. Moreover, the dust densities are larger on the downstream side of the crater and favor a higher solar wind temperature, consistent with an electrostatic dust lofting from the negatively charged crater floor. We also check the Apollo observations and find similar twilight craters, suggesting that the so‐called dust exosphere is not a global phenomenon but just a local electrified dust fountain near twilight craters.

The dust clouds the astronauts thought they saw near the horizon have been theorized to be dust uplifted by static electricity. However, all later missions had so far failed to detect this phenomenon, until now. That the result also pinpoints the location and ties it to twilight is important for future missions to the Moon. Astronauts can thus minimize any damage by this dust by shutting down operations during lunar twilight periods.

Breaking: Starship prototype #9 tips over inside assembly building

It appears from the 24-hour live stream provided by LabPadre that the ninth Starship prototype tipped over inside the assembly building to rest against one wall. You can see it happen at about 8 seconds into the video below:

No word on whether anyone was hurt, nor any information about the cause. My guess is that it occurred during the operations to move this prototype to the launchpad.

UPDATE: It appears no one was hurt, but there is damage to the fins, which might also mean damage to the hull. This in turn might make it unsafe to fly this prototype, as the hull forms the walls of the methane/oxygen tanks.

The day has not been good for SpaceX. Earlier they had to scrub the launch of a commercial communications satellite at T-30 seconds for reasons that they did not provide. High altitude winds had delayed the launch an hour or so, but it appears this was not the reason. According to SpaceX’s website, “SpaceX is standing down from Friday’s launch attempt of the SXM-7 mission to perform additional ground system checkouts.” They are targeting Sunday for the next launch attempt.

Strange crater in the basement of Mars

Strange crater in Hellas Basin
Click for full image.

Today’s cool image to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, is intriguing for a number of reasons. Taken on September 11, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), it shows a partially buried crater found in the middle of Hellas Basin, the lowest point on Mars and what I like to call the red planet’s basement.

What makes this crater intriguing is the layered pile of material filling its interior. If I didn’t know any better, I would think some construction crew has used a bulldozer to push debris from the crater’s right half in order to smooth the ground in preparation for building a strip mall, office building, or housing development.

This of course is not what happened. Then what did create those layered piles in the crater’s left half?
» Read more

Boeing and NASA delay again the 2nd unmanned demo flight of Starliner

Boeing and NASA yesterday announced that they now plan to fly the second unmanned demo flight of Starliner in late March, rather in January as last scheduled.

Though there have been hints for awhile that a launch close to the start of the new year was no longer likely, this announcement confirms those hints. This means that it will have taken Boeing more than a year to fix the software issues that forced the first demo mission to abort its docking with ISS and come back early.

Whether this will delay the manned mission, which they are still targeting for as early as the summer of ’21, remains unclear. I think it will all depend on how well that the demo mission goes.

ULA’s Delta-4 Heavy successfully launches reconnaissance satellite

Capitalism in space: After a several month delay, ULA’s Delta-4 Heavy tonight successfully launched a reconnaissance satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

33 China
23 SpaceX
13 Russia
5 Rocket Lab
5 Europe (Arianespace)

The U.S. now leads China 37 to 33 in the national rankings. The U.S. launch total this year matches the number of launches achieved in 1969, and is the most launches by the U.S. in a single year since then.

Arizona state senate to hold official hearing tomorrow on election

In a major shift, the Arizona state senate will tomorrow to hold an official hearing, with subpoena powers, on the questions relating to the vote count of the November 3rd election.

The hearing will be live streamed on the Arizona government’s website.

Whether it will be substantive, or designed to obscure the issues, remains unclear. The track record of the Republican leadership nationwide for the past two decades has consistently had them mouth platitudes in order to con their conservative base into thinking they were working in their interest, when in truth that leadership was repeatedly trying to do the exact opposite.

I hope I am wrong. It does appear that the many serious and substantive allegations relating to the vote are forcing the Republican leadership to respond, even if it is against their desire. Such an official Senate hearing would have to be called by the Senate president, Republican Karen Fann, which means it must have her endorsement.

Morocco agrees to Abraham accords, normalizing relations with Israel

Today President Trump announced that Morocco has agreed to become the fourth Islamic/Arab nation to sign the Abraham Accords, thus establishing normal diplomatic relations with Israel.

America gave Morocco an important concession as part of the deal. “Today, I signed a proclamation recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara,” Trump added. “Morocco’s serious, credible, and realistic autonomy proposal is the ONLY basis for a just and lasting solution for enduring peace and prosperity! Morocco recognized the United States in 1777. It is thus fitting we recognize their sovereignty over the Western Sahara.”

Whether these deals will survive a Biden administration remains unclear. What is clear is that unlike any administration since the Carter administration in the late 1970s, Trump has successfully achieved the first peace deals between Israel and its Arab neighbors. His approach, different than the accepted wisdoms of the Washington establishment, succeeded where those accepted wisdoms had failed.

It is a shame that the unmitigated and irrational hate that so many on the left have of Trump has made them incapable of recognizing this accomplishment. The nation, in fact the world, should be celebrating these deals with enthusiastic joy. It is not, for these childish reasons.

Video: How election officials can cheat with Dominion voting software

The video is from today’s hearing in the Georgia legislature on the questions regarding the November 3rd election. Just watch. As noted at the link where I got the video:

Elections Supervisor Misty Martin gives a hands on demonstration of how to cheat with Dominion. This video was shown today by Colonel Waldren during his Georgia House of Representatives testimony.

The Dominion voting machines that Georgia and several other states use are open to manipulation during the counting process. This first of two videos shows the weaknesses of the system and the ways in which an unscrupulous election official may alter ballots with virtually no chance of being caught.

The point here is not whether anyone tampered with the results. The point is that the Dominion software used is utterly unreliable and can be used easily to tamper with the results. Any election that depended on this software is thus highly suspect, and should be thrown out.

It also means that if this software is used we cannot trust the results from the runoff of two Senate races in Georgia in January.

Starship: Old-fashioned American know-how

Starship about 2 minutes into its flight

Yesterday’s truly epic first flight of SpaceX’s giant Starship rocket illustrated several truths that bear repeating, in clear and forceful language.

SpaceX succeeded because its company philosophy is open-minded, fearless, and thus free.

The open-mindedness culture comes from Elon Musk’s insistence that they never settle on any design if they can find a better way to do it. It is this approach that drives the company’s developmental process. The first Falcon 1 rocket made orbit, but despite that triumph Musk quickly abandoned it for the Falcon 9 when it was clear that it wasn’t powerful enough to garner enough satellite business.

The Falcon 9 that first launched in 2008 was a very different rocket from the Falcon 9 that launches today, as shown by the two pictures below. In the 2008 Falcon 9 the engines were configured differently and it had no legs. The modern Falcon 9 has landing legs, a different engine arrangement, and much of the innards have been redesigned to give the rocket more oomph.
» Read more

Watch ULA try again to launch its Delta-4 Heavy

Capitalism in space: ULA will today try once again, after numerous scrubbed and aborted attempts in August and September, to launch its Delta-4 Heavy rocket carrying a National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite.

The mission is set to take off at 6:15 p.m. EST (2315 GMT) Thursday from pad 37B at the newly-renamed Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Forecasters predict near-ideal weather with a 90% chance of favorable conditions during the launch window Thursday evening.

Many of the launch problems earlier this year were due to issues in the launch pad. The article at the link describes the major refurbishing that ULA has done since then to fix them.

I have embedded their live stream of the launch, below the fold. It is set to go live at 5:55 pm (Eastern).

Note also that the next few days will be very busy for the American rocket industry. Tomorrow (Friday) both SpaceX and Astra have launches scheduled, with the latter making its second attempt to complete its first orbital launch. Then Rocket Lab has another Electron launch from New Zealand scheduled for the next day (Saturday).

That’s four launches in three days. If just two succeed, it will raise the total U.S. launches in 2020 to 38, which would be the most American launches in a single year since 1969, the year the country put men on the Moon.
» Read more

Smallsat rocket startup Obex raises $24 million

Capitalism in space: The smallsat rocket startup Obex of the United Kingdom today announced that it has raised $24 million in private investment capital to support the development of its Prime rocket.

Conceived and developed as an environmentally sustainable launch system, the Orbex Prime rocket uniquely uses bio-propane, a renewable biofuel that cuts CO2 emissions by 90% compared to traditional kerosene-based rocket fuels. Designed to be recoverable and re-usable, Orbex Prime is intended to leave no debris in the ocean or in orbit around the Earth. The company is constructing the rocket vehicle at factories in Forres, near Inverness in Scotland, and Copenhagen in Denmark.

…Orbex has already confirmed six commercial satellite launch contracts, with the first launches expected in 2022. The company’s preferred launch site will be the Sutherland spaceport on the northernmost coast of Scotland, which was granted planning permission in mid-August 2020.

Whether the Sutherland spaceport happens however remains uncertain. Though it still appears to be moving forward, there is a lot of local opposition to it, some with clout. It appears however that Orbex is aware of this reality, and is developing Prime to allow it to launch from other sites.

That the company is trying to build this rocket as reusable right from the beginning is encouraging. It shows that the rocket industry is finally accepting the new paradigm established by SpaceX. For them to achieve this by ’22 however will be quite challenging.

Beresheet-2 will have two landers instead of one

The new colonial movement: SpaceIL, the Israeli non-profit company that built the failed Beresheet-1 lunar lander, yesterday announced its plans to build Beresheet-2, this time with an orbiter and two lunar landers, and launch it by ’24.

The two landers would be much smaller than the first spacecraft — about 260 pounds each, fully fueled, compared with a bit less than 1,300 pounds for Beresheet — and they would land on different parts of the moon. The orbiter would circle the moon for at least a couple of years. The three spacecraft of Beresheet 2 would together weigh about 1,400 pounds.

Even though the designs would be new, they would reuse many aspects of Beresheet, and the founders said they had learned lessons that would increase the chances of success for the second attempt. SpaceIL will again collaborate with Israel Aerospace Industries, a large satellite manufacturer.

SpaceIL is looking for funding from both private and Israeli government sources. It is also looking for funds from other nations, a decision which revealed the most intriguing part of this announcement:

SpaceIL hopes that international partnerships will pay for half of the cost of Beresheet 2. Mr. Damari said the United Arab Emirates, a small but wealthy country in the Persian Gulf that has set up an ambitious space program in recent years, was one of seven nations interested in taking part. He declined to name the other six.

If this flight ends up to be a partnership between Israel and the United Arab Emirates it will send shockwaves through the Arab world, most especially among the supporters of the terrorist leaders ruling the Palestinian territories.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7