On the radio

I will be doing a quickly scheduled appearance with Robert Pratt at 5 pm (Central) today on his Pratt on Texas radio network, airing across the Lone Star State. You can listen live here or from an affiliate station available here.

The interview is scheduled for 30 minutes, but it could go longer. The subject will be the muzzle of oppression that so many Americans are now willing to put on their faces.

First images from Chang’e-5 on the Moon

Panorama of Chang'e-5 landing site
Click for full image.

The new colonial movement: China’s state-run press has now released several images taken by Chang’e-5 on the lunar surface, including movies showing the landing and the ongoing digging operations.

The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, is part of a fisheye panorama of the entire landing site. I have cropped it to show only the central part. Except for the distant mountain, the terrain is very flat, which is not surprising as this is the Ocean of Storms mare.

Note however how deep the landing pad is pressed into the ground. This gives a sense of the dust layer that covers the surface.

The link above, as well as this link, show additional images as well as the two movies.

Take off is next, followed by the autonomous rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit with the craft that will bring the sample capsule back to Earth sometime around December 16.

Sagging cliffs on Mars

Sagging escarpment on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time! On Mars things change, but not like on Earth because the atmosphere is not as thick and there is no flowing water. The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, reduced, and annotated to post here, gives a good example of that slow change. The image was taken on August 29, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and shows the high escarpment that in this one place separates the planet’s southern cratered highlands from the transition zone down to northern lowland plains.

In this spot that escarpment, approximately 4,000 feet high, shows signs of avalanches and sagging. In the upper steep section, I point to what looks like a dust avalanche that wiped the slope clear of rough terrain as it rolled downhill. At the bottom of the cliff a large section has separated away. Since this cliff is located at 28 degrees north latitude and is in the midst of the chaos terrain regions I like to dub glacier country, it is very possible that this large section is actually buried glacial ice that in shifting down slope cracked, separating the lower section from the upper.

This particular location is east of an area dubbed Nilosyrtis Mensae (where there is a lot of evidence of glaciers and frozen ice), and about 650 miles north of Jezero Crater, where the rover Perseverance will land on February 18, 2021.

Rocket Lab provides detailed update on successful recovery of first stage after splashdown

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab has now provided a detailed update on the company’s first successful recovery of the first stage of their Electron rocket from the ocean on November 19, 2020.

Much of the press release reiterates what the company CEO Peter Beck said on November 24th, but in much better engineering detail. Key finding:

The stage held up remarkably well – not bad after experiencing the trip to space and back in just 13 minutes. The carbon composite structure was completely intact. As expected, the heatshield on the base of the stage suffered some heat damage during re-entry. It was never designed for this load case, but before we strengthen the heat shield we wanted to see just how much heat it could take unchanged. With a wealth of data on this now, our team has already started working on upgrades for future recovery missions.

They also intend to re-fly some components from that stage. I have embedded below the fold their footage taken during from the inside of the first stage during its splashdown.

The next recovery attempt in early ’21 will also splash down in the ocean. Before they attempt a helicopter snatch from the air they want gather more data.
» Read more

Change’-5 successfully gets sample from drilling

The new colonial movement: According to the state-run Chinese press, Chang’e-5 has successfully obtained its first lunar sample from a 2-meter deep drilled hole.

After making a successful soft landing at 11:00 p.m. BJT on Tuesday, the lander started rolling out its solar panel wings and unlocking some of the payloads onboard to prepare for sample collection.

The lander first drilled a 2-meter-deep hole, digging out soil, and sealed it up at 4:53 a.m. on Wednesday [today]. Next, it will use its robotic arms to scoop up more samples from the lunar surface for backup.

If all goes right, they will collect a second sample from the surface using a scoop, and then the ascent capsule will take off tomorrow. It will then rendezvous and dock with the orbiter and return capsule.

El Paso mayor blames spike in COVID-19 cases on Big Box retailers

Throw the mask away: Citing the contact tracing his government has done, the mayor of the Texas city of El Paso now thinks the source of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in his city is because of shoppers at the big box retailers like Walmart and Costco.

“We did a deep dive in our contact tracing for the week of November the 10th through the 16th and found that 55% of the positives were coming from shopping at large retailers, what we’d term as the big box stores,” Margo said. “And those are considered essential under CISA guidelines under homeland security. And we don’t really have- I don’t have any control over any limitations there.”

He said the city asked retailers like Walmart for “voluntary limitations” regarding occupancy.

No, what he should be doing is telling these retailers to stop requiring masks. These companies were the first to fall in line with the mask mandates, and have been aggressive in requiring them from customers. Smaller retail shops have not imposed such strict mandates, while restaurants don’t require masks at all while you are at the table.

That he has found a link between new cases and shoppers in these mask-filled venues only confirms what common sense tells us: That the improper use of masks by everyone in these stores has acted to speed the spread of the virus, not slow it.

The muzzle of oppression

WHO's do's and don't's for mask use
For the full images, go here and here.

Previously I had labeled the masks that our control-freak society is demanding everyone wear, wherever they go and whatever they do, as a mask of ignorance. While the evidence is still uncertain on whether high quality masks, used properly, can stop the spread of COVID-19, the improper use of masks guarantees that they will contribute to the virus’s spread.

Take a look at the WHO graph to the right. Do you use the mask as they advise? I guarantee you do not. Masks are routinely handled all the time, are reused, are not kept antiseptic, and are not made of the right materials. Rather than blocking the virus, people are instead wearing a pathogen gatherer on their face, exactly where they breath.

No wonder the number of cases have been skyrocketing worldwide. I would not be surprised at all if the widespread improper use of unsanitary masks since the early summer has contributed to that rise.

I however no longer see masks as simply a symbol of ignorance. I now see masks as a symbol of oppression, and the willingness of Americans to submit to that oppression, without a whimper. In fact, the mask will prevent anyone from really hearing that whimper. It tells everyone you are willing to be silenced and subjugated, like a dog..
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A spray of Martian meteorites

A spray of small secondary impacts
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on October 26, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It is what the camera team calls a “terrain sample,” meaning it was not specifically requested by a researcher but was instead chosen by the camera team because they need to regularly take images to maintain the camera’s temperature. When they do this, they try to pick a location that hasn’t been photographed in high resolution previously, and that might have some interesting features. Sometimes the photo is boring. Sometimes they hit pay dirt.

In this case, the photo captured an small impact crater, about 1,300 feet across, surrounded by a spray of secondary impacts. The color portion of the image shows what I suspect are dust devil tracks cutting across a surface that, because of its blue tint, is either rough or has frost or ice within it. At 48 degrees north latitude, the possibility of the latter is high, especially because this location is northwest of the Erebus mountains, where SpaceX has its prime Starship candidate landing zone and where scientists suspect ice is readily available very close to the surface. The overview map below shows this context.
» Read more

LRO looks at Yutu-2

Yutu-2's travels on the Moon through October 2020
Click for full image.

The new colonial movement: The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) science team today released an update of the travels of China’s Yutu-2 lunar rover, presently operating on the far side of the Moon.

The photo to the right, reduced and annotated to post here, shows the rover’s present position, having traveled about 1,650 feet to the northwest in the 22 months since landing. The goal, according to Yutu-2’s science team, is to get the rover beyond the present ejecta field of debris thrown from a large impact to the north, and reach a basalt covered region about a mile away. At the pace they are setting, about 100 feet per lunar day, it is going to take them about another three years to get there. Whether the rover will last that long is the question, but I suspect they are hopeful, based on the almost two years of operations so far.

If you go to the link you can also see a short movie showing month-by-month where the rover ended up when it shut down for each long lunar night.

Chang’e-5 lands on Moon

The new colonial movement: According to official Chinese reports, Chang’e-5 has successfully soft-landed on the Moon in preparation for its gathering of samples to bring back to Earth.

The Chang’e 5 lander began final descent at 09:58 EST (14:58 UTC) with an expected touchdown 15 minutes later at 10:13 EST (15:13 UTC).

All broadcasts of the event were abruptly stopped just before the landing burn was to begin — throwing the mission into question with CCTV in China at first saying landing coverage would resume at 21:00 EST — an 11 hour delay to the landing. Minutes later, official sources — via social media — proclaimed a successful landing.

Blocking a broadcast like this is very typical of totalitarian governments, and totalitarian societies. Think about that the next time Youtube or Google or Facebook or Twitter or an American university silences speech they don’t like.

As for the lander, all other news reports that I have so far found provide no further details. It appears that all we know comes from a single sentence announcement of success from the Chinese press.

Arecibo’s suspended instrument platform has collapsed onto dish

The suspended 900-ton instrument panel of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico collapsed early today, crashing down onto the radio telescope’s dish.

[Ramon Lugo, director of the Florida Space Institute at the University of Central Florida] says no one was near the dish when the platform fell. But he did not have all the details on how the structure came down. He believes it was because of a failure of one of the remaining cables connecting the platform to one of three support towers. These cables were carrying extra stress following the two previous failures. And since the Thanksgiving holiday, Lugo says, wires were breaking in these remaining cables at a rate of about one a day. He says he told NSF the structure only had a week or two remaining before it would collapse.

They plan on figuring out exactly what caused the collapse, but that is only to facilitate the planned decommissioning and removal of the telescope.

To me, this is another indicator of the arriving dark age. Earlier American generations would not only have never allowed this facility to fall into such disrepair, they would have never considered dismantling it. Instead, they would be planning how to make it bigger and better. Not today.

New problem found on Orion that could delay its launch by a year

The failure of a power unit on the Orion capsule slated to fly on SLS’s first test flight late in ’21 could delay that test flight by as much as an additional year.

Replacing the PDU isn’t easy. The component is difficult to reach: it’s located inside an adapter that connects Orion to its service module — a cylindrical trunk that provides support, propulsion, and power for the capsule during its trip through space. To get to the PDU, Lockheed Martin could remove the Orion crew capsule from its service module, but it’s a lengthy process that could take up to a year. As many as nine months would be needed to take the vehicle apart and put it back together again, in addition to three months for subsequent testing, according to the presentation.

Lockheed has another option, but it’s never been done before and may carry extra risks, Lockheed Martin engineers acknowledge in their presentation. To do it, engineers would have to tunnel through the adapter’s exterior by removing some of the outer panels of the adapter to get to the PDU. The panels weren’t designed to be removed this way, but this scenario may only take up to four months to complete if engineers figure out a way to do it.

A third option is that Lockheed Martin and NASA could fly the Orion capsule as is. The PDU failed in such a way that it lost redundancy within the unit, so it can still function. But at a risk-averse agency like NASA, flying a vehicle without a backup plan is not exactly an attractive option. It’s still not clear what went wrong inside the unit, which was tested before it was installed on the spacecraft, according to a person familiar with the matter.

None of these options are good. The first two will certainly delay the planned November 2021 launch, which by the way is already four years behind schedule. The third will risk a failure of the mission, which though unmanned would certainly lead to further delays in the manned mission expected one or two years later.

That they don’t know why the unit failed and cannot fix it easily speaks very badly to the design of Orion and SLS. Compare this with SpaceX, which in the past month has demonstrated it can in only days switch out engines on both its commercial Falcon 9 rocket and its new next generation Starship rocket. Moreover, SpaceX has demonstrated repeatedly that once they identify an issue they move immediately to understand it and fix it.

With NASA, Orion, and Orion’s contractor Lockheed Martin, such flexibility and agility appears all but impossible. They have designed a monster that cannot be fixed easily, cannot launched quickly, and costs an ungodly amount of money.

I increasingly believe that Starship will reach orbit before SLS/Orion, even though the latter has been in development for almost three times longer, and will cost 25 times more.

The election has been stolen

The dead Constitution

Today the Republican leaders of the Pennsylvania state legislative rejected a resolution by 26 members of their caucus to open an investigation into the questions of election fraud in their state, claiming that they simply do not have time to address their resolution based on the state’s laws.

Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster County, and Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre County, said in a statement issued as the caucus broke that they agreed the state’s elections processes and procedures need a top-to-bottom review for consistency and fairness, but they said there is no time to take legislative action on this year’s results and they will not be calling the House back into session. Their joint statement read, in part:

“We are physically unable to consider any new legislation before the end of session. A simple resolution takes three legislative days for consideration and a concurrent resolution takes five legislative days to move through both chambers, which means we do not have the time needed to address any new resolutions in our current session,” which expires Monday as per the state constitution.

The Republican leaders made it clear they will address the election irregularities in their next session. Whoopie! By then it will be too late. I expect the same thing to now happen in Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Republican-controlled statehouses are going to acquiesce to these results, despite amply evidence that demands a thorough review. (And I say this even though my own Republican state representative, Mark Finchem, today called for Arizona to withhold its electoral votes. He might be fighting the good fight, but he is also fighting his own party leadership.)

Let me make several predictions:
» Read more

A place on Mars where lakes, snowfall, and rivers once existed

Inverted channels near Juventae Chasma
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped and enhanced to post here, attracted my immediate interest when I was going through the November image dump from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) because of its meandering sharp ridges, estimated to be about sixty feet high on average. While I have previously posted MRO images of inverted channels such as these, their particular sharpness, plus their large number in this localized single image, aroused my curiosity. What is their history? Does this illustrate an particularly interesting place on Mars?

The picture itself was taken was on September 29, 2020 by MRO’s high resolution camera. The blue areas in the color strip probably indicate coarser-grained surface. This makes sense, as these ridges are believed to have been initially carved as channels by flowing water or ice, which compressed their riverbed and thus made it resistant to erosion. Over time, the surrounding terrain eroded away, leaving that channel behind now as a upstanding ridge. The surrounding eroded terrain should thus be expected to be rougher.

Where did the water for these rivers come from, however? As always, the overview maps below give the context, and a possible explanation.
» Read more

Election fraud update

Below the fold is an embed of today’s Arizona hearing on the possibility of election fraud. As this is posted it just begun. Whether you think fraud occurred on November 3rd or not, you should listen. It either should reassure you, or make you reconsider your doubt about there being any fraud.

The hearing itself is not an official legislative hearing, because the Republican leadership has refused to allow such a hearing. Because of this, this hearing does not have subpoena power in order to initiate an actual investigation.

In other words, it appears the Republican leadership in Arizona is allying itself with the Democrats to block any investigation. If this does not change fast, I would expect that the support the Republican Party presently gets will disintegrate rather quickly. Why vote for these weasels if they won’t do what their supporters want.

Once again, it is crucial for Arizona voters to call the Republican leadership in the state House and state Senate and tell them this:

  • Senate President: Karen Fann, 602-926-5874
  • Senate Majority leader: Rick Gray, 602-926-5413
  • Speaker of the House: Russell Bowers, 602-926-3128
  • House Majority leader: Warren Petersen, 602-926-4136

Meanwhile in Georgia, a judge has, after some indecision, now ordered that no Dominion voting machine should be rebooted or wiped for the next ten days in order for investigations to proceed in connection with a variety of lawsuits.

Amazingly, at the same time yesterday the Dominion system in the county that covers Atlanta crashed, delaying the recount and investigation. How convenient.

In Pennsylvania, it is now known that, during a mere ninety-minute period 99.4% of almost 600,000 votes went to Joe Biden. The only place you get that kind of percentage is either in Soviet Russia, or if fraud was perpetuated. And if by some miracle these numbers are legitimate, some detailed explaination must be provided.

Based on this and other data, a state judge has blocked any certification of the vote, pending a full investigation, noting in her decision that based on that data the lawsuits outstanding are likely to prevail.

» Read more

Japan launches experimental military communications satellite

The new colonial movement: Japan today successfully used its H2A rocket to launch an experimental military communications satellite aimed at testing long range optical communications by laser.

The JDRS-1 will relay optical and radar data from Japan’s Information Gathering Satellites (IGS) and other data from science satellites to Earth. Few details of the satellite have been revealed due to the largely military nature of its mission.

The new satellite carries Laser Utilizing Communication System (LUCAS) developed by JAXA. LUCAS uses infrared light to facilitate inter-satellite links at rates of up to 1.8 gigabits per second.

This launch is the fourth for Japan in 2020, and puts it in a tie with Europe. The leader board in the 2020 launch race however remains unchanged:

31 China
22 SpaceX
12 Russia
5 ULA
5 Rocket Lab

The U.S. remains ahead of China 35 to 31 in the national rankings.

Chang’e-5 now in lunar orbit

The new colonial movement: China’s lunar sample return probe Chang’e-5 has now entered in lunar orbit, with its landing to occur in three days.

Over the next week, the probe, composed of four parts – the orbiter, lander, ascender and Earth re-entry module – will perform multiple complicated tasks on a tight schedule.

The four parts will separate into two pairs. The lander and ascender will head to the moon and collect samples, while the orbiter and Earth re-entry module will continue to fly around the moon and adjust to a designated orbit, getting ready for the docking with the ascender.

The landing operation is expected in three days. Once touched down on the lunar surface, the lander will collect two kilograms of lunar sample.

The plan once on the surface is to gather a sample from the surface as well as from a six-foot deep core sample.

Wealthy environmentalist picks his preferred UK spaceport

Capitalism in space: A wealthy businessman who is also involved in environmental causes has invested almost 1.5 million pounds in the proposed spaceport planned for the Shetland Islands, the northernmost British islands.

What makes this investment especially interesting is this same environmentalist’s opposition to a different spaceport proposed for Sutherland, Scotland.

Danish businessman Mr Povlsen, who is reportedly worth £4.5bn thanks to his Bestseller clothes retail empire, and his wife own thousands of acres of land in Sutherland, and on other estates in the Highlands. [Their company] Wildland Ltd has raised concerns about Space Hub Sutherland’s impact on the Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands Special Protection Area, and has sought a judicial review of Highland Council’s permission for the satellite launch project.

Another of the Povlsens’ companies, Wildland Ventures Ltd, has invested in Shetland Space Centre.

This apparently is the ultimate in NIMBY (not in my backyard!). It seems this couple is throwing its weight behind the Shetland site in order to help keep the Sutherland site (in their backyard) from being built.

Arizona state legislators to hold public hearing on election fraud

A group of legislators from the Arizona House and Senate have organized a public hearing on November 30, 2020 in Phoenix, open to the public, where they will allow experts as well as President Trump’s legal team to present evidence of election tampering in Arizona.

The President’s legal team will be present from DC to assist in a fact finding hearing with select members of the Arizona House and Senate and a panel of experts. The goal will be to gather the evidence that justifies calling a special session to contemplate what happened and take immediate action accordingly.

The hearing will be chaired by state representative Mark Finchem, who also happens to be my own representative. I have been in correspondence with him for the past week about the election, trying to find out if the Republican-controlled legislature was going to do anything to deal with the significant questions relating to the vote count. It appeared that though he and other conservative legislators were trying to get the Republican leadership to bring the legislature back into special session, those leaders were stalling.

From the second link:

“Since shortly before the 2020 election a number of my colleagues and I have been examining potential fraud pathways and illegal actions through which our 2020 election could become tainted. My worst fears have come to light in the process, and so far the evidence has been blocked from an official public forum.,” Rep Finchem said. “A few weeks ago I requested approval for the House Federal Relations Committee to hold a hearing on the integrity of the Arizona 2020 election. That hearing has not yet been approved by House leadership, and time is of the essence to show proof that our election has been compromised.” [emphasis mine]

It appears these conservatives have decided to do an end-around of their RINO leadership, and hold these hearings anyway. According to what Finchem has told me, the hearing will be live streamed, beginning at 9 am (Mountain) by both the One America News Network (OANN) and the Western Journal.

The goal is to make the evidence public, and thus apply some pressure on that leadership, which includes Republican governor Doug Ducey, to bring the legislature back into session. As Finchem himself noted in a Western Journal podcast on November 24th, the Constitution is very specific. To paraphrase his comments, it specifically puts the job of picking the electors in the hands of the state legislatures, not the voters or the courts. It is their duty therefore to act.

If you live in Arizona, you should be calling the offices Governor Ducey (602 542-5381) as well as House Speaker Russell Bowers (602-926-3128), demanding that they bring the legislature back into session and address the evidence, forcing a correct and careful audit of the vote, and if this cannot clarify and correct the count (no matter who wins), deny any candidate the state’s electoral votes.

I must also note something I wrote to Finchem, and is also evident in Pennsylvania. Republicans and Trump are not being well served by the state Republican leaderships in both these states. In both cases the leadership has been reluctant to do anything, washing their hands like Pontus Pilate, even though there is strong evidence that the Democrats may have stolen the election.

This is shameful, and incredibly foolish on their part. If they do not do something now, they guarantee that in coming elections they will be removed from office, by further fraud and election tampering. Do they not have instinct for survival? Or are they content to walk into the gas chambers with nary a protest?

Eroded and possibly wet Lohse Crater

Gully flow near central peak of Lohse Crater on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time! Today we take a look at one particular 100-mile-wide crater, Lohse Crater, located in the southern cratered highlands on Mars. The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, focuses in on one of the many eroding gullies found in the mountainous region surrounding the crater’s central peak. Taken on August 20, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the full image is centered on that central peak, just off the south edge of this cropped section. This new image is part of a long monitoring campaign, begun in 2007, of this central peak region. For more than six Martian years, scientists have been tracking the numerous gullies found throughout the central peak region to see if there have been any changes.

I focused on this specific gully because I think it illustrates well why planetary scientists are monitoring these gullies. Whatever flowed down from the cliff on the left hit the material on the right hard enough and fast enough to imprint a curve into the material on the crater floor. Moreover, it does not appear to have simply been a landslide, for several reasons. First, the cliff does not appear cut back at the flow’s head, as you would expect if a section had broken off. Second, the material in the flow does not look like debris from an avalanche. In fact, there does not appear to be very much debris in the gully at all.

Third, and most important, the flow appears to originate at the cliff base, kind of what you’d expect if there was seepage coming out of a layer in that cliff face. Kind of what you’d expect on Earth, at a spring!

Was that flow water? This is the big question. Lohse Crater is significant in that it was one of the first locations on Mars [pdf] spotted by Mars Global Surveyor in the late 1990s where gullies were found suggesting some form of regular erosion possibly caused by flowing water. As this 2005 paper then concluded,
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Next Virgin Orbit LauncherOne test flight set for late December

Capitalism in space: According to Coast Guard notices, the next Virgin Orbit attempt to put its new LauncherOne rocket into orbit should occur sometime between December 18-21.

A Nov. 24 “Local Notice to Mariners” by the U.S. Coast Guard stated that Virgin Orbit “will conduct hazardous operations” offshore from San Nicolas Island, California, between Dec. 18 and 21. Those operations will take place during a four-hour window that opens at 1 p.m. Eastern.

The notice does not explicitly state that a launch will take place, but Virgin Orbit used the same language in a Coast Guard notice for its first orbital launch attempt in May. That earlier notice, which also cited “hazardous operations,” had the same four-hour window and location for the operations.

The company has not officially announced the launch date, but it has said it would fly this mission before the end of this year.

The article also notes that another smallsat launch startup, Astra, has announced its next launch attempt will take place during a 12-day launch window starting December 7th.

Orbit of pristine comet in outer solar system is shifting inward

The orbit of a pristine comet that until now has kept it in the outer solar system, where it never got warm enough shed any material, is now shifting inward to join what is dubbed the Jupiter-family of comets, whose orbits are generally within that of Jupiter.

Although it has likely lost some supervolatile ices such as carbon dioxide ice (also known as dry ice) in the outer solar system beyond Jupiter, it is unlikely to have ever been in the inner solar system (where Earth, the other rocky planets, and [Jupiter-family comets] orbit), which is warm enough for water ice to sublime (‘evaporate’ from solid to gas),” Steckloff said. “This means that [Comet 2019] LD2 is a pristine comet, and presents a unique opportunity to observe how pristine [Jupiter-family comets] behave as their water ice begins to sublime for the first time and drive comet activity. Moreover, this transition is likely to finish in only 40 years from now, which is a blink of an eye for astronomy. This means that people alive today will be able to follow this object all the way through its transition into the [Jupiter-family] population.”

In 2019, when 2019 L2 was first identified, it was thought to be an asteroid that had suddenly become active, like a comet. Astronomers soon realized this was a mistake, that it was a comet whose orbit was being changed by its interaction with Jupiter.

The new data refines this conclusion, and confirms that observations of 2019 L2 will provide a lot of information about the make-up of the early solar system. More important, the comet’s orbit will allow for many observations, over a long period of time, unlike most comets that zip around the Sun in a year or so and then are gone.

Problems discovered in new Japanese H3 rocket engine

Engineers at Mitsubishi have discovered technical problems in the engine for Japan’s new H3 rocket, forcing its first test launch to be delayed into 2021.

The Japanese space agency JAXA told SpaceNews that problems were found with the new LE-9 engine’s combustion chamber and turbopump. “Fatigue fracture surfaces were confirmed in the apertural area of the combustion chamber inner wall and the FTP blade of the turbo pump,” according to a JAXA spokesperson.

JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), the prime contractor for the H3, were aiming to hold the inaugural launch by the end of 2020 before the discovery of issues in May. However engineers testing the LE-9 cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen engine for the H3 first stage encountered a potential issue back in May. This led JAXA to announce in September that the first flight would slip to some time in Japanese fiscal year 2021, beginning April 1, 2021. The rocket’s second launch likewise slipped to Japanese fiscal year 2022.

The H3 is intended as a cheaper and more competitive version of Mitsubishi’s H2 rocket, which has failed to garner much business outside of Japanese government launches because of its cost. That the H3 isn’t being built to be reusable however means it will likely not achieve that goal, as it will not be able to lower it enough to compete with SpaceX.

This launch delay further weakens its ability to compete, as it gives more time for other cheaper alternatives to hit the market.

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