Zhurong continues south, inspecting dunes

Zhurong's travels as of July 31, 2021

The Chinese science team for their Zhurong Mars rover released new images yesterday, including a map showing the rover’s present position.

The new images and location has confirmed that the white streaks seen in orbital pictures are small dunes of sand blown by the thin Martian wind.

The map to the right, created using their map but annotated and providing a wider context, shows their present location relative to the lander and surrounding terrain. So far the rover has traveled about 1,900 feet, about 1,000 feet per month. Since it seems to be operating as planned, I expect China will extend the mission once it completes its nominal three-month tour in about two weeks.

At that travel pace there is much of interest that is within the rover’s range. I expect they are heading south partly because this brings them closer to their original landing site, which is an area they probably studied at length before landing. Whether they head to the largest crater, visible only partly on the image’s south edge, remains unclear.

Russia offers conflicting causes for Nauka engine firing

Russian officials have now suggested two explanations for the accidently ignition of the engines on the new Nauka module to ISS, neither of which appears to have involved any real investigation.

Vladimir Solovyov, flight director of the space station’s Russian segment, blamed the incident on a “short-term software failure.” In a statement released Friday by the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Solovyov said because of the failure, a direct command to turn on the lab’s engines was mistakenly implemented.

He added the incident was “quickly countered by the propulsion system” of another Russian component at the station and “at the moment, the station is in its normal orientation” and all its systems “are operating normally.”

Roscosmos director Dmitry Rogozin later Friday suggested that “human factor” may have been at play. “There was such euphoria (after Nauka successfully docked with the space station), people relaxed to some extent,” Rogozin said in a radio interview. “Perhaps one of the operators didn’t take into account that the control system of the block will continue to adjust itself in space. And it determined a moment three hours after (the docking) and turned on the engines.” [emphasis mine]

So, was it human error? Or was it the software programming? Or both?

No matter what the specific cause, these conflicting stories, thrown out in almost an offhand manner, demonstrate that the real fundamental cause was the terrible, sloppy, and error-prone quality control systems at Roscosmos and all the aerospace companies it has taken over since the Putin administration consolidated Russia’s aerospace industry into a single government-run corporation.

These kinds of failures seem to happen with Russia now repeatedly. From launch aborts to launch failures to corruption in contracting to corruption in engine construction to plain simple sabotage, mistakes and errors and poor planning and dishonesty seem to hound their space effort at every level. Thank God Americans no longer have to fly on a Soyuz capsule, though one American on board ISS is still scheduled to come home on one.

Without competition and freedom, there is no pressure in Russia to improve, to improvise, to rethink, and to clean house when a management gets stale or corrupt. Instead, operations stultify and develop dry rot. They can’t see problems or even fix them efficiently. If anything, management circles the wagons to protect itself, while often deliberately ignoring the problems.

Rocket science is hard. It can quickly kill people when done poorly.

I think it will be a great relief to end this partnership. And the sooner the better.

GAO rejects protests by Blue Origin and Dynectics over lunar lander award

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today rejected the protests by Blue Origin and Dynectics against the award by NASA of its manned lunar lander contract to SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft.

In denying the protests, GAO first concluded that NASA did not violate procurement law or regulation when it decided to make only one award. NASA’s announcement provided that the number of awards the agency would make was subject to the amount of funding available for the program. In addition, the announcement reserved the right to make multiple awards, a single award, or no award at all. In reaching its award decision, NASA concluded that it only had sufficient funding for one contract award. GAO further concluded there was no requirement for NASA to engage in discussions, amend, or cancel the announcement as a result of the amount of funding available for the program. As a result, GAO denied the protest arguments that NASA acted improperly in making a single award to SpaceX.

GAO next concluded that the evaluation of all three proposals was reasonable, and consistent with applicable procurement law, regulation, and the announcement’s terms.

Finally, GAO agreed with the protesters that in one limited instance NASA waived a requirement of the announcement for SpaceX. Despite this finding, the decision also concludes that the protesters could not establish any reasonable possibility of competitive prejudice arising from this limited discrepancy in the evaluation.

This decision will likely allow NASA to proceed with the contract, and for SpaceX to begin work on the revisions it will need to make to Starship to make it a lunar lander.

The decision also puts companies like Blue Origin and Dynectics on notice: You need to prove you have the goods, or you won’t win customers. Commit some of your own funds to research and development, start building actual prototypes you can test, and the world will begin to beat a path to your door.

Arianespace successfully completes first Ariane 5 launch in almost a year

Arianespace today successfully completed its first Ariane 5 launch since August 2020, placing in orbit two commercial communications satellites.

The long gap in launches occurred because of a vibration issue discovered during that August 2020 launch durng the release of the rocket’s two fairing halves.

Engineers introduced modifications to the Ariane 5’s payload fairing, or nose cone, to reduce vibrations imparted on the satellites during separation of the shroud, which protects payloads during the first few minutes of flight through the atmosphere. Ground teams will analyze data from the rocket to make sure the changes reduced the vibrations.

Another launch is scheduled for September, followed next by the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in either November or December. The results from today’s launch as well as the one in September will determine if the Webb launch will go forward on time.

These issues with Ariane 5, delays imposed by the company in fear of the Wuhan flu, and other launch problems with Arianespace’s Vega rocket, has meant that this is only its second launch in 2021, a pace that is below its pace for most of the last decade. Whether the company can recover and pick up the pace before the end of the year will depend on what they learn during today’s launch.

With only two launches total, Europe’s Arianespace remains off the leader board in the 2021 launch race:

24 China
20 SpaceX
12 Russia
3 Northrop Grumman
3 Rocket Lab

The U.S. lead over China in the national rankings remains 30 to 24.

Peter, Paul and Mary – Don’t Ever Take Away My Freedom

An evening pause: A nice intro to the weekend as well as a fitting closing to my July fund-raising campaign. Strangely, there are no live performances of this song by Peter, Paul, & Mary available on the web. Could it be that they themselves became uncomfortable with its sentiments in later years, being hardcore leftists? I wonder. Consider the lyrics:

[Third verse]
Now when I’m old and thinking over the life that I’ve led
If there’s one final wish left to me
I will pray for the children yet to be born
I will pray that they will always live free

Don’t ever take away their freedom
Don’t ever take it away
Let us cherish and keep that one part of our lives
And the rest we’re gonna find one of these days

These are not the sentiments of most leftists today. The last thing they want is freedom for all. What they want now are mandates, edicts, rules, regulations, and a boot smashing the face of all humans, forever, in the guise of a muzzle.

Note also that the song opens with Home on the Range, which is how PP&M originally recorded for their album, Peter, Paul, & Mommy Two.

Today’s blacklisted American: Town tries to silence Trump supporter; he sues

Banned for being conservative
No first amendment rights in Long Beach, New York!

The modern dark age: Because the town of Long Beach, New York has forced a Trump supporter to hide his car, festooned with pro-Trump and conservative messages, he is suing that town for $25 million for denying him is first amendment rights.

“I believe the city is trying to silence me because I’m pro-Trump,” [Michael Wasserman] told The Post. The 62-year-old entrepreneur has become known in the area for plastering his home — along with his Porsche and Jeep — with a rotating variety of political flags and stickers.

Now he has filed a $25 million federal suit — against the City of Long Beach, the chief of police, the city manager and specific police officers — after officials forced him to remove the flags on his cars.

The town claims they are a violation of an ordinance stating that “[No] sign shall be erected, affixed or maintained within the perimeter of any … public street or public property.” Wasserman parks his car on a public street outside his home.

“They’re bending and massaging the ordinance to fit the crime,” Wasserman told The Post. “This is a blatant attempt to silence me.”

The picture above shows Wasserman leaning on his car, with his home behind him, also covered with flags and political banners.

The city claims they are simply enforcing a law that forbids signage without permission on public streets. Yet, how are the signs on Wasserman’s car any different then every bumper sticker you see? They are not, and this is where Wasserman’s claim that it is pure political oppression seems confirmed.

Wasserman’s case is further reinforced by the treatment he gets generally in this blue-state New York town:
» Read more

Apollo: When Americans last did some real exploring

The journey of Apollo 15 on the Moon
Click for full image.

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the landing of Apollo 15 on the Moon. To commemorate that event the science team for Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) today published some orbital images that capture the astronauts’ travels while on the Moon. The picture to the right, reduced to post here, outlines in oblique view their various excusions to the edge of Hadley Rille and the foot of a mountain dubbed Hadley Delta. As they note,

While Apollo 15 was the fourth mission to land a crew successfully on the lunar surface, it still pioneered many new technologies and had many firsts.

Some of the technologies developed for Apollo 15 included new suits, which were more flexible and had longer life support capabilities, as well as the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), a rover capable of speeds up to 15 km / hour. With these advancements, astronauts Commander David (Dave) Scott and Lunar Module Pilot James (Jim) Irwin were able to travel more than eight times the distance traveled during the previous mission, for a total of over 25 km.

All told, astronauts Dave Scott and Jim Irwin spent more than 18 hours exploring the lunar surface on three scouting trips, covering 15.5 miles. During all those excursions their only protection from the harsh lunar environment was that thin spacesuit. In addition, if their rover broke down a walk back to the lunar module would become a race against suffocation.

And even then, they still had to get that lunar module off the ground, rendezvous and dock with the Apollo 15 command module, and then get that module back to Earth safely.
» Read more

United Kingdom passes comprehensive spaceflight regulations

Capitalism in space: As required by the Outer Space Treaty as well as to lay a framework for commercial and private space launches from within the United Kingsom, the UK this week passed new comprehensive spaceflight regulations that appear modeled closely after already existing regulations in the United States.

From the government’s press release:

The legislation provides the framework to regulate the UK space industry and enable launches to take place from British soil for the very first time. It will unlock a potential £4 billion of market opportunities over the next decade, creating thousands of jobs and benefiting communities right across the UK.

This also puts the UK in a unique position as the first country in Europe able to launch spacecraft and satellites from home soil. This could lead to better monitoring of climate change, as well as improved data for satellite navigation systems, improving journeys right here on the ground, too.

The full law can be read here. It is long, so I have not reviewed it entirely, but it does seem to be closely modeled after several U.S. laws, including the 2004 Space Amendments Act that presently guides FAA regulation and licensing of commercial space launches. The UK even gave its own Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) the same job the FAA has in the U.S.

Inmarsat to launch new low orbit communications satellite constellation

Capitalism in space: Inmarsat announced yesterday that it plans to launch a 150 satellite constellation in low Earth orbit to supplement and improve its already orbiting communications satellites in high geosynchronous orbit.

The company is investing $100 million over the next five years to lay the groundwork for deploying 150-175 LEO spacecraft.

They aim to join satellites Inmarsat has in geostationary and highly elliptical orbits from 2026. Inmarsat, which currently operates 14 satellites, is also on track to add five new GEO and two HEO spacecraft to its network over the next five years.

Its incoming multi-orbit constellation, called Orchestra, seeks to improve latency, network speeds and resiliency for communications services across its core maritime, aviation, government and enterprise markets.

This new constellation is also an effort by Inmarsat to keep its communications product competitive against the newer constellations being launched by SpaceX (Starlink) and OneWeb.

For the space launch industry, this just means more launches, more demand for rockets, and more money to be made.

Note that Inmarsat’s approach here is the correct way to respond to competition. Rather than try to squelch your competitors using government regulation, as Viasat is attempting, Inmarsat is instead up its game, improving its product, and thus matching the challenge its competitors are offering it.

One last question: Will this new constellation, set to be operational by ’26, get there before Amazon’s long promised Kuiper constellation? Right now I’m willing to bet that it will, considering how slow Amazon has been in developing that system.

Apollo 11 lunar ascent stage might still be in orbit around the Moon

New data about the Moon’s interior and gravitational field suggest that the Apollo 11 lunar ascent stage, the part of the LM that carried the astronauts back from the Moon, might still be in orbit around the Moon, rather than have crashed into its surface as long assumed.

Using the GRAIL gravity model and the General Mission Analysis Tool (GMAT) simulator, Meador expected to find the LM’s orbit destabilizing very quickly. What he found – and was verified by a third party using different methods – was that the Ascent Stage had a feedback mechanism that caused the orbit to stabilize itself over a period of every 24 days. When he ran the simulation forward, the orbit remained stable until the present day.

The upshot of this is that the Ascent Stage may still be in orbit now and could be observed when it is in the right position in relation to the Earth and the Sun. However, Meador emphasizes that the LM was never intended to be very robust. Designed to operate for only about 10 days, it was also filled with batteries and fuel tanks, which could have exploded years ago, either destroying the craft or sending it off on a new trajectory.

If the stage is in lunar orbit, than it probably is one the most valuable and quickly reachable artifacts from one of space’s most historic missions. While the Apollo artifacts left on the Moon should be left where they are, this piece could be recaptured and returned to Earth for both study and exhibition.

In fact, if it is still in orbit it should be recovered, to preserve it.

This data also suggests that other Apollo ascent stages as well as other past lunar orbiters might also still be in lunar orbit, and should be located.

Nauka engines fire unexpectedly after docking; forces cancellation of Starliner launch

The soap opera of the Nauka module to ISS became even more dramatic today when its engines fired unexpectedly after its docking, causing the station to shift in orbit and forcing Russian mission controllers to shut it down and fire other engines to return the station to its proper orbit.

Russia’s Roscosmos space agency attributed the issue to Nauka’s engines having to work with residual fuel in the craft, TASS news agency reported. “The process of transferring the Nauka module from flight mode to ‘docked with ISS’ mode is underway. Work is being carried out on the remaining fuel in the module,” Roscosmos was cited by TASS as saying.

It appears that because they needed to improvise the rendezvous using different engines, there is more fuel left over in Nauka than expected once it docked, and this needs to be vented safely. Somehow, instead of venting the module ignited the engines.

NASA has subsequently postponed tomorrow’s second unmanned demo launch of Boeing’s manned Starliner capsule until the agency has a clear understanding of the issue and has confirmed that Nauka’s presence is not a serious safety issue.

The view of Jezero Crater, from both Ingenuity and Perseverance

The view from Ingenuity during 10th flight
Click for full image.

Cool image time! Today the Perseverance science team released the 200 images that Ingeniuty took during its 10th flight on July 24, 2021.

The photo to the right was taken about 25 seconds before the helicopter landed, and looks to the southwest. In the foreground can be seen the ridge of rocks and pebbles that the scientists sent Ingeniuty to photograph. In the distance can be seen the rim of Jezero Crater, about 7.5 miles away, with some rounded hills that sit in the crater floor about 5.5 miles away.

The white box indicates the area covered by two high resolution images taken by Perseverance on July 28th that I have combined into the panorama below.
» Read more

Atomic oxygen in Mars’ atmosphere, as seen by Al-Amal

Oxygen distribution on Mars

The UAE’s Al-Amal Mars orbiter on July 19, 2021 released a new spectroscopic image, showing the global distribution of atomic oxygen in the Martian upper atmosphere.

The Emirates Ultraviolet Spectrometer (EMUS) mapped the distribution of atomic oxygen in the planet’s upper atmosphere, showing a dense patch emerging from the nightside into the new day.

The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, shows this.

Over the next two years, covering one single Martian year, Al-Amal will monitor the distribution of this oxygen to see how it fluctuations from season to season, as well as from day to day. Gather this information will help the theorists untangle the past atmospheric history of Mars.

Today’s blacklisted American: Democrat endorses racial discrimination and press censorship aimed at whites

Discriminated against by Chicago Democrats
Eagerly discriminated against by Democrats

Blacklists and segregation are back and the Democrats have got ’em: Lori Lightfoot, the Democratic Party mayor of Chicago, recently and enthusiastically defended her past racial disciminatory policy of refusing to give any one-on-one interviews to white reporters, saying she intends to do it again.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she would “absolutely” grant interviews only to journalists of color again after she drew waves of backlash earlier in the year when she announced the policy.

“I would absolutely do it again. I’m unapologetic about it because it spurred a very important conversation, a conversation that needed to happen, that should have happened a long time ago,” the Democrat said on a segment of the New York Times’s podcast Sway, released on Monday.

“Here is the bottom line for me: To state the obvious, I’m a black woman mayor,” she said. “I’m the mayor of the third-largest city in the country. Obviously, I have a platform, and it’s important to me to advocate on things that I believe are important. Going back to why I ran — to disrupt the status quo. The media is critically important to our democracy. … The media is in a time of incredible upheaval and disruption, but our City Hall press corps looks like it’s 1950 or 1970.”

» Read more

For the first time astronomers measure the rotation of exoplanets

The uncertainty of science: Using the Keck Telescope in Hawaii astronomers for the first time have measured the rotation of several exoplanets orbiting the star HR8799, about 129 light years away.

Using the state-of-the-art Keck Planet Imager and Characterizer (KPIC) on the Keck II telescope atop Hawaiʻi Island’s Maunakea, astronomers found that the minimum rotation speeds of HR 8799 planets d and e clocked in at 10.1 km/s and 15 km/s, respectively. This translates to a length of day that could be as short as three hours or could be up to 24 hours such as on Earth depending on the axial tilts of the HR 8799 planets, which are currently undetermined. For context, one day on Jupiter lasts nearly 10 hours; its rotation speed is about 12.7 km/s.

As for the other two planets, the team was able to constrain the spin of HR 8799 c to an upper limit of less than 14 km/s; planet b’s rotation measurement was inconclusive.

These results are somewhat uncertain, as are any conclusions theorists try to draw from them. Even if confirmed, the sample is so small it doesn’t tell us anything yet about overall trends in planet formation or the expected spin rate of planets as they form.

Nonetheless, the detection appears valid and thus a scientific triumph. Astronomers have been telling me for years that figuring out ways to find out more about exoplanets is going to become the next hot subject in astronomy. This result illustrates this.

Scientists: Clay, not liquid water, explains radar data under Martian south icecap

The uncertainty of science: In a new paper scientists claim that clay materials, not liquid water, better explain the radar data obtained by orbital satellites, initially hypothesized to be liquid water lakes under Mars’ south polar icecap.

Sub-glacial lakes were first reported in 2018 and caused a big stir because of the potential for habitability on Mars. Astrobiologists and non-scientists were equally attracted to the exciting news. Now, the solution to this question, with great import to the planetary science community, may be much more mundane than bodies of water on Mars.

The strength of this new study is the diversity of techniques employed. “Our study combined theoretical modeling with laboratory measurements and remote sensing observations from The Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) instrument on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. All three agreed that smectites can make the reflections and that smectites are present at the south pole of Mars. It’s the trifecta: measure the material properties, show that the material properties can explain the observation, and demonstrate that the materials are present at the site of the observation,” Smith said.

This paper is only one of several recently that has popped the balloon on the liquid lake theory. Nothing is actually proven, but the weight of evidence is definitely moving away from underground liquid water under the south pole icecap.

India officially delays launch of its next lunar rover to ’22

The new colonial movement: India has now officially delayed the launch of its next lunar rover, Chandrayaan-3, to the third quarter of 2022.

Chandrayaan-3 was planned to demonstrate India’s capability of soft landing on a celestial body, with the rover then communicating with Earth via the existing orbiter from Chandrayaan-2. The orbiter has an estimated lifespan of seven years. The third mission was announced months after the Vikram lander aboard Chandrayaan-2 crash-landed on the lunar surface just 2.1 km from its destination in September 2019. Chandrayaan- 3 was initially scheduled for late 2020 or early 2021, but the disruption caused by the pandemic affected the schedule.

The Wuhan flu panic has essentially shut down India’s entire space program for more than a year. Not only has the country only done one launch so far in 2021, far less than expected, it has also had to delay its manned space program by a year, as well as the launch of its own new smallsat rocket.

The delay in launches, including that smallsat rocket, is likely losing India customers in the commercial market, especially because the private rocket companies in the U.S. have continued to launch with almost no delays. If India doesn’t get off the ground soon its rocket industry will be seriously damaged in a way that might take years to recover.

China’s Long March 2D rocket launches earth observation satellite

China today successfully used its Long March 2D rocket to launch an earth observation satellite into orbit.

The launch was from one of China’s interior spaceports, so the expendable first stage and fairings landed within China. No word on whether they landed uncontrolled or used the parachutes or grid fins to control the landing.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

24 China
20 SpaceX
12 Russia
3 Northrop Grumman
3 Rocket Lab

The U.S. still leads China 30 to 24 in the national rankings.

Nauka finally docks with ISS

ISS configuration with Nauka added
The configuration of the Russian portion of ISS with
Nauka and the as-yet launched docking hub.

This morning the new fullsize module to ISS, Nauka, finally docked with the station, ending a week of tension because of issues with its engines.

The docking was not without issue, with Russian cosmonauts noting that Nauka wasn’t on the correct course less than an hour before docking; however, a retro burn quickly corrected the issue. After also troubleshooting an issue with the TORU manual docking system, Nauka successfully docked in automated fashion to the Zvezda service module’s nadir port at 09:29 EDT / 13:29 UTC, marking the first major expansion to the Russian segment for over 20 years.

They will now begin a series of eleven spacewalks to outfit the module. This includes installing a new European-built robot arm and transferring an airlock and radiator on a different module that were originally built to be attached to Nauka and have been waiting eleven years for its much delayed arrival.

In November Russia will then launch a small docking hub module that will dock with Nauka and provide the docking ports that were lost when the Piers module was detached earlier this week (thus allowing Nauka to dock). This new docking hub is also critical, because it will allow Russia to limit dockings to the aft port on Zvezda, which has serious structural stress issues and must be treated gently to prevent further hull cracks and air leaks.

Rocket Lab returns to flight, launching an American military test satellite

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab tonight (July 29th in New Zealand) successfully launched its Electron rocket to place an American military technology test satellite into orbit.

This was the company’s first launch since a launch failure in May. Though the company has previously fished two first stage boosters out of the ocean as they test the engineering to allow the recover and reuse of those first stages, on this flight they made no such attempt.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

23 China
20 SpaceX
12 Russia
3 Northrop Grumman
3 Rocket Lab

The U.S. now leads China 30 to 23 in the national ranks. Last year the U.S. launched 40 times total. With the year seven months old, the U.S. has already reached three quarters of that number, suggesting that there is an outside chance that this year it could break its record of launches in a year, 70 in 1966. At the least the U.S. looks like it will achieve comparable launch numbers that were typical in the mid-1960s, at the dawn of the space age when NASA and the military were launching a lot to figure out the best way to do things.

Now the launches are privately owned, and exist because everyone is making money doing it. Assuming the world doesn’t get hit with a real disaster (instead of last year’s fake Wuhan flu panic), expect these numbers to continue to rise in the coming years.

Glen Campbell – William Tell Overture

An evening pause: “Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!”

Hat tip Mike Nelson.

Note: I am in need of new evening pause suggestions. If you wish to suggest something that you think the readers here will like, mention that you have something to suggest in a comment but don’t, I repeat, don’t say what the suggestion is. I will contact you directly to get it, also providing you the guidelines for offering more suggestions.

The nearest hill to China’s Zhurong

Pitted cone near Zhurong
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The science team for the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) today released a pair of images the camera took on June 28, 2021 of the nearest pitted cone to China’s Zhurong rover.

The stereo anaglyph to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, allows you, with blue-red 3D glasses, to see the cone in three dimensions. Quite impressive. As noted by Alfred McEwen of the Lunar & Planetary Laboratory in Arizona in his caption,

This image completed a stereo pair of a region just west of where the Zhurong rover landed in southern Utopia Planitia.

The cutout is from a portion of the stereo anaglyph, showing an enigmatic pitted cone. Is this cone composed of sediments or volcanic materials? The sharp bright features surrounding the cone are aeolian (wind-blown) landforms.

According to McEwan, the hill itself is about 200 to 220 feet high, with the pit at its top about 60-65 feet deep.

While McEwan has told me this cone would be his primary target if he was running Zhurong, it appears the Chinese are instead heading south toward the largest nearby crater, and on the way inspecting the parachute, fairing, and heat shield discarded just prior to landing.

The mosaic below from three MRO context camera images provides a wider overview.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: Twitter bans all election audit accounts in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Wisconsin

Liberty and freedom banned
Twitter’s goal: Only Democrats can have freedom of speech.
Photo credit: William Zhang

The new dark age of silencing: In a single purge Twitter yesterday banned all the accounts of all election audits going on in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Wisconsin.

Earlier today Twitter permanently suspended all nine of the official ‘Audit War Room’ accounts from it’s platform. The accounts were a main source for breaking updates and were banned as part of big tech’s continued attempt to shield the public from the stunning revelations being found regarding the fraudulent 2020 election.

Unsurprisingly, Twitter provided no reason for the suspensions. [emphasis mine]

Note the highlighted sentence. Twitter is no longer even pretending that it is banning these accounts because of some vague “community standard” that each violated. No, Twitter banned them simply because it is possible that the election audits going on in these states might actually uncover evidence of election fraud, and to allow honest and real news reporting can no longer be allowed, if that reporting might threaten the dominant leftist agenda and the Democratic Party politicians who are imposing it.
» Read more

July 27, 2021 Zimmerman Space Show podcast

The podcast of my two-hour appearance last night on The Space Show with David Livingston is now available here.

Thank you to David and tor everyone who called or emailed questions. Twas a very good show, to my mind. It also allowed me hone my verbal description of my new book, Conscious Choice. When I finish a book, I tend initially to get buried in the details in describing it in interviews. This appearance allowed me to get an idea on how to talk about the book quickly, in summary. I think it went well, and will certainly get better with future appearances.

Blue Origin working to make 2nd stage of New Glenn reusable

Capitalism in space: According to this Ars Technica article by Eric Berger yesterday, Blue Origin has begun working on a project dubbed Jarvis, focused on making the upper stage of its orbital and as yet unlaunched New Glenn rocket reusable.

Bezos had been asking his senior staffers about reusable upper stages, but advisers told him such an approach was unlikely to work, sources said. Bezos also seems to have been told the SpaceX “fail forward” method of rapidly prototyping and testing Starships, with few processes and procedures, would be unlikely to succeed.

However, over the last year, Bezos took note as SpaceX launched and landed its Starship vehicle. This is one of the reasons he decided to initiate a project named “Jarvis” at Blue Origin within the reusable second-stage program. Sources said Bezos has walled off parts of the second-stage development program from the rest of Blue Origin and told its leaders to innovate in an environment unfettered by rigorous management and paperwork processes. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted sentences indicate evidence that the management that Bezos brought in to run Blue Origin for him in 2017 was definitely old school big space managers, with limited vision and timid about risk-taking, and that Bezos is beginning to recognize this and shift control of the company away from them.

This is excellent news, and suggests that we shall finally see some real progress at Blue Origin, something that has been lacking for the past four years. It also suggests that Bezos now recognizes he needs to make his rocket competitive with what SpaceX has, and is taking steps to make that happen

Isn’t competition and freedom wondeful? When allowed to flourish it makes things happen fast, and with amazing daring.

German startup rocket company raises $75 million

Capitalism in space: The German startup rocket company Isar Aerospace announced today that it has raised $75 million, bringing the total in private investment capital it has obtained to $180 million.

The initial funding had funded construction of their Spectrum smallsat rocket. This new funding the company says will be used to expand their manufacturing and to begin work on making their rocket reusable.

Spectrum, the rocket Isar is developing, is a two-stage vehicle designed to place up to 1,000 kilograms into low Earth orbit. The vehicle is powered by Aquila engines that the company is also building.

Guillen said the company is preparing to start tests of the full Aquila engine soon on a test stand in Kiruna, Sweden. Isar is also working on a launch site in Norway, having signed an agreement in April with Andøya Space for exclusive use of a pad at a new site under development by the state-owned launch site operator.

A first launch of Spectrum from Andøya is expected in the second half of 2022, she said. The company expects to conduct three to four launches in 2023, with a long-term goal of about 10 launches per year. While Andøya is well-suited for launches to sun-synchronous orbits, Isar is considering alternative launch sites, such as French Guiana, for missions to lower inclination orbits.

Isar is one of three German smallstat rocket company startups, and appears from all accounts to be ahead of the other two, Rocket Factory Augsburg and HyImpulse Technologies, in funding and development.

There is some long term historical context to these German rocket companies. Following World War II, Germany was forbidden to build such things, both legally and culturally, as rockets too closely resemble the V2 rocket used by Hitler to bomb Great Britain. Even when Germany joined the European Space Agency as a partner the rocket building was left mostly to the French and the Italians.

This has now changed, partly because the rockets are small, partly because Europe has been shifting to the capitalism model in its space industry, partly because the memories from World War II have faded, and partly because ESA’s subsized effort at Arianespace to build a new low-cost replacement for its Ariane 5 rocket has not been successful. The Ariane 6 costs too much, and is thus not garnering customers from within ESA.

I think it will be really great to start listing separate European private companies in my launch race updates. Doing so will only emphasize the global acceleration of the competition to get into space.

The Music Man – Till There Was You

An evening pause: Sung by Shirley Jones, from one of the greatest American musical films ever made, The Music Man (1962).

Diane and I have been watching a lot of those ’40s, 50s, and 60s American musicals. To today’s bitter and cynical youth, these films might seem to portray a too-perfect world filled with too much happiness and wealth. And while there is some truth to that cynical view, it is mostly wrong. The America portrayed in these films was actually quite like this. People were free, they were generally happy, and they lived a life of prosperity that no one before had ever seen. Nor are future generations likely to see such a life again during the coming dark centuries. These musicals provide a window into that time.

These musicals as well as most of the Hollywood movies prior to the 1960s are also quite unique in the history of literature and art in that they told stories not of kings or rulers or nobility, but of ordinary people. Such stories were rarely told before the coming of America. This fact also tells us much about the culture that then existed. It was ruled by those ordinary people, and thus the art and literature catered to them.

Which is why the Marxist power-driven culture that now dominates this country is desperate to ban the viewing of such art and the learning of that history. It tells a tale they cannot stomach.

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