Several major rocket companies to the FCC: stay out!

In response to the proposal by managers at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it regulate satellite operations despite having no actual legal authority to do so, a cohort of major rocket companies as well as others have responded in firm opposition.

Major space companies, including SpaceX and Relativity, are urging the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to stick to its purview — spectrum usage — as it looks to potentially update its rules for in-space servicing, assembly and manufacturing (ISAM) missions.

There is plenty that the FCC could — and should do — to support ISAM missions that sit squarely within its regulatory bounds, the companies said. SpaceX and others, as well as startups like Orbit Fab, which wants to build refueling depots in space, and Starfish Space, which is developing a satellite servicing vehicle, submitted recommendations related to spectrum and ISAM. The commission also heard from Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance and other space companies and industry groups.

…Relativity Space and the industry association Commercial Spaceflight Federation separately argued that the FCC’s involvement in issues outside of those related to spectrum could result in duplicative approvals processes. These could be especially challenging for smaller startups and newer space entrants to navigate.

It is likely that if the FCC tries to impose regulations outside of its legal authority, one or more of these companies are going to sue to nullify those regulations, and will likely win. In the process nothing will be gained, and much lost. Thus, this advice from the industry makes great sense, and the FCC and the Biden administration should stop playing empire-building games and focus on what it is legally supposed to do.

SLS launch early on November 16th remains uncertain

Despite repeated assurances that the November 16, 2022 1:04 am (Eastern) launch of NASA’s SLS rocket remains on target, managers have also noted that damage to a small piece of caulking at the base of the shroud protecting the Orion capsule remains an issue that could cause a scrub.

But high winds from Nicole caused a thin strip of caulk-like material known as RTV to delaminate and pull away from the base of the Orion crew capsule’s protective nose cone at the top of the rocket. The material is used to fill in a slight indentation where the fairing attaches to the capsule, minimizing aerodynamic heating during ascent. The fairing fits over the Orion capsule and is jettisoned once the rocket is out of the dense lower atmosphere. “It was an area that was about 10 feet in length (on the) windward side where the storm blew through,” said mission manager Mike Sarafin. “It is a very, very thin layer of RTV, it’s about .2 inches or less … in thickness.”

Engineers do not have access for repairs at the pad and must develop “flight rationale,” that is, a justification for flying despite the delaminated RTV, in order to proceed with the launch. Managers want to make sure any additional material that pulls away in flight will not impact and damage downstream components.

In plain language, NASA managers would either have to issue a waiver that says this small piece of caulking poses no risk, or scrub and roll the rocket back to the assembly building to fix it. The second option would delay the launch another month, at a minimum.

A waiver however would continue NASA’s pattern with the shuttle (and continuing with SLS) to dismiss potential engineering problems simply to avoid schedule delays. With the shuttle, this pattern twice caused the loss of a shuttle and crew. With SLS, NASA has already waived by more than a year its rules concerning the stacked life of the rocket’s solid-fueled boosters. Agency managers have also waived the full test requirements from the dress rehearsal countdown, so that this test did not test everything it should.

It is expected that NASA managers will announce the waiver today on this problem. Whether it matters when the rocket goes through maximum dynamic pressure shortly after lift-off will likely determine the future of SLS.

CAPSTONE successfully enters lunar orbit

CAPSTONE successfully entered orbit around the Moon today, putting it into the planned Lunar Gateway halo orbit to test operations in that location.

CAPSTONE is now in a near-rectilinear halo orbit, or NRHO. This particular NRHO is the same orbit that will be used by Gateway, the Moon-orbiting space station that will support NASA’s Artemis missions. CAPSTONE is the first spacecraft to fly an NRHO, and the first CubeSat to operate at the Moon.

Mission engineers plan two more engine burns over the next five days to refine the orbit more precisely.

X-37B returns successfully to Earth after 908 days in orbit

One of the two X-37B reusable mini-shuttles that Boeing built for the military successfully returned to Earth early this morning after completing 908 days in orbit, a new longevity record.

This was the sixth mission of the crewless reusable plane, built by Boeing and jointly operated by the U.S. Space Force and the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. Known as Orbital Test Vehicle 6, it launched to orbit May 17, 2020, on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

On this mission the X-37B carried several U.S. military and NASA science experiments, including a Naval Research Laboratory project to capture sunlight and convert it into direct current electrical energy, and the U.S. Air Force Academy’s FalconSat-8, which remains in orbit.

It appears, based on the amount of information released after landing, that the Space Force is making more of what it does and will do on this and future X-37B flights more public.

China launches environmental satellite

Using its Long March 6 rocket, China early today launched what China’s state-run press claimed was an environmental satellite for “atmospheric and marine environment surveys, space environment surveys, disaster prevention and reduction, and scientific experiments.” Whether that is true is anybody’s guess.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

52 SpaceX
50 China
19 Russia
9 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise now leads China 75 to 50 in the national rankings, and trails the rest of the world combined 78 to 75.

FYI, posting is late today because today Diane and I were out hiking, having fun.

China launches Tianzhou freighter to Tiangong-3 space station

Earlier today China successfully used its Long March 7 rocket to launch the fifth Tianzhou freighter to its Tiangong-3 space station.

At 12:10 p.m., Tianzhou-5 conducted a fast automated rendezvous and docking at the rear docking port of the space station’s core module Tianhe. This is the first time that China’s cargo craft has completed a fast automated rendezvous and docking in about two hours, setting a world record, according to Pan Weizhen, a designer of the cargo craft system from the China Academy of Space Technology.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

52 SpaceX
49 China
19 Russia
9 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise now leads China 75 to 49 in the national rankings, and trails the rest of the world combined 77 to 75.

SpaceX launches two Intelsat communications satellites

Using its Falcon 9 rocket SpaceX today successfully launched two Intelsat geosynchronous communications satellites into orbit.

The first stage completed its 14th flight, but was not recovered. This was not a failure, but intended because the rocket needed the fuel to instead get the satellite into its proper geosynchronous orbit.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

52 SpaceX
48 China
19 Russia
9 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise now leads China 75 to 48 in the national rankings, and only trails the rest of the world combined 76 to 75.

The Battle of Samar

An evening pause: For Veterans Day, a story about the men who in World War II risked their lives and died to make it possible for freedom to reign for the next three-quarters of a century.

Hat tip Mike Nelson. For a much longer and more detailed documentary describing this battle, go here.

November 11, 2022 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay.



China: We like dumping out-of-control rockets on your head!

China has now signaled that it intends to ramp up the launch rate of its Long March 5B rocket, its most powerful rocket but also a rocket with a core stage that falls to Earth out-of-control after each launch, risking injury and damage to others.

Liu Bing, director of the general design department at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), told Chinese media that the the Long March 5B, designed for launches to low Earth orbit, would be used together with the Yuanzheng upper stage series to launch multiple satellites for constellations.

Though not clearly stated, the launcher and YZ-2 combination could be used to help deliver high numbers of satellites into orbit for the planned national “guowang” satellite internet megaconstellation.

It is very possible that with the addition of an upper stage, engineers could reconfigure the rocket so that the first stage is shut down and separated earlier so that it immediately falls into an ocean drop zone following launch. At the same time, making sure that drop zone is always over the ocean might be difficult for some polar launches.

What China really has to do is to upgrade the engines on the core stage so that they can be restarted. At present these engines can only be started once, and once shut down they are dead. If the stage reaches orbit — which it has done on all previous launches — there is then no way to control it, and since that orbit is unstable the stage crashes to Earth, who knows where, shortly thereafter. With restartable engines the stage could easily be de-orbited properly.

China has expressed utter contempt for the complaints of other nations about these out-of-control crashes, claiming the risk is infinitesimal. While quite small, it still exists.

Ted Muelhaupt of the Aerospace Corporation said in July that the odds of debris from the reentry following the launch of the Wentian module ranged from one in 230 to one in 1,000. This was more than an order of magnitude greater than internationally accepted casualty risk threshold for the uncontrolled reentry of rockets of one in 10,000, stated in a 2019 report issued by the U.S. Government Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practices.

Small or not, China is a signatory to the Outer Space Treaty, and every out-of-control crash has been a violation of that treaty. This behavior clearly makes China a rogue nation, not to be trusted.

Pushback: VMI alumnus cancels $1 million bequest because of the school’s support of critical race theory and its slandering of those who disagree

VMI: adopting anti-American indoctrination
VMI: eager to push anti-American indoctrination

Today’s blacklist story is a perfect one for Veterans Day. In open letter published today in the Roanoke Star, Douglas Conte and an alumnus of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), announced that he had changed his will to remove a $1 million bequest to the school because of its aggressive support of critical race theory — in defiance of orders by the state government — as well as its aggressive slandering anyone who disagreed with the school administrators.

In the brief span of just two years since the abrupt dismissal of General Peay as Superintendent, the Institute has traveled far down the path of political correctness. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and the tenets of Critical Race Theory (CRT) ideology, have sunk their toxic roots into the fabric of VMI life.
» Read more

Advanced Space wins lunar orbiter contract with Air Force

Advanced Space, the company that is presently running the CAPSTONE mission that will arrive in lunar orbit on November 13th, has won a $72 million contract with the Air Force Research Laboratory to build and operate a new experimental lunar orbiter.

The mission, dubbed Oracle, is targeting a 2025 launch and will operate in lunar orbit for two years.

“Our primary goals for the program are to advance techniques to detect previously unknown objects through search and discovery, to detect small or distant objects, and to study spacecraft positioning and navigation in the XGEO realm,” said James Frith, the principal investigator. XGEO refers to the space beyond geosynchronous orbit out to the moon. Oracle will operate in the vicinity of Earth-moon Lagrange Point 1, about 200,000 miles from Earth. The GEO belt, by comparison, is about 22,000 miles above Earth.

An additional goal of Oracle is to help mature AFRL’s green propellant technology. “While there are no specific plans yet to refuel Oracle, AFRL wants to encourage civil and commercial development of on-orbit refueling services,” said Frith.

The federal government’s transition from the building rockets, spacecraft, and satellites to simply buying them from the private sector continues. In the past, when the Air Force attempted to design and build everything, a project like this would have cost at least five times more and taken two to five times longer to get launched. Now, it hires Advanced Space to do it, and gets what it wants quickly for lower cost.

UK govt requests public comment on Shetland spaceport

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of the United Kingdom, tasked with regulating space operations, has requested public comment on the environmental impact of the proposed Shetland spaceport, dubbed SaxaVord and presently under construction.

Shetland Islands Council granted planning permission in February, with Lockheed Martin and Skyrora among the companies looking at launching satellites, as early as next year.

One of the environmental considerations is for no launches or tests between mid-May and the end of June to avoid disturbing breeding birds. U nst’s 135 bird species include red-throated divers, merlins, puffins and Arctic terns.

The spaceport has said it expects to conduct at least 30 launches a year, once operational. That number is probably optimistic.

Meanwhile, it is beginning to appear that — at least in these early stages — the CAA is not going to be helpful to Great Britain’s effort to develop a space industry. Not only does this action suggest it is not enthused about this spaceport and is putting up barriers to it, it has slow-walked the licensing of the Virgin Orbit launch from Cornwall, costing that company so much money because of the delay that its liquidity was threatened.

SLS rides out hurricane; engineers now assessing damage

NASA’s SLS rocket has apparently successfully survived on the launchpad the hurricane-force winds from Nicole, though engineers will need to inspect the rocket to see if there is any less obvious damage that might delay the now scheduled November 16th launch.

With blastoff on a long-delayed maiden flight on tap next week, sensors at pad 39B recorded gusts as high as 100 mph atop a 467-foot-tall lightning tower near the rocket. But winds at the 60-foot-level, which are part of the booster’s structural certification, peaked at 82 mph, just below the 85 mph limit.

The observed winds were “within the rocket’s capability,” said Jim Free, manager of exploration systems at NASA headquarters. “We anticipate clearing the vehicle for those conditions shortly.”

“Our team is conducting initial visual check outs of the rocket, spacecraft and ground system equipment with the cameras at the launch pad,” he tweeted. “Camera inspections show very minor damage such as loose caulk and tears in weather coverings. The team will conduct additional on-site walk down inspections of the vehicle soon.”

If no issues are found, the countdown will begin on November 14th.

Divers for documentary discover large piece of Challenger

Divers for a television documentary have discovered a large piece from the shuttle Challenger that broke up 74 seconds after launch in 1986.

The piece is more than 15 feet by 15 feet (4.5 meters by 4.5 meters); it’s likely bigger because part of it is covered with sand. Because there are square thermal tiles on the piece, it’s believed to be from the shuttle’s belly, Ciannilli said.

The fragment remains on the ocean floor just off the Florida coast near Cape Canaveral as NASA determines the next step. It remains the property of the U.S. government. The families of all seven Challenger crew members have been notified.

The History Channel will air a show describing this discovery on November 22nd.

Poulenc – Trio for piano, oboe and bassoon

An evening pause: The players are Henri Sigfridsson, Rachel Bullen and Etienne Boudreault. The music is late 20th century classical. Though this can sometimes be grating, this piece is quite comparable in sound and melody to a lot of great 20th century art rock. And the instruments are unusual, the playing is grand, and it definitely gives us some variety.

Hat tip Diane Zimmerman.

Today’s blacklisted American: Student mob shuts down Ann Coulter speech at Cornell

The modern dark age: Despite Cornell University’s refusal to agree to their demands and cancel the lecture, a mob of students prevented her from speaking last night, forcing her in the end to cancel her lecture because she could not get a word out without being interrupted.

What appears to have happened, the Review added, is that protesters “seemed to be employing a chain tactic, beginning just as soon as the last heckler was removed, so as to continuously speak over Coulter.”

As The College Fix previously reported, Cornell University had denied a student petition to disinvite Coulter.

And at the beginning of Coulter’s talk Wednesday evening, the dean of students warned the audience that disruptors would be removed and referred to the Office of Student Conduct, the Review reported.

» Read more

November 10, 2022 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay.


  • Images of China’s Tiangong-3 station, from in space and from the ground
  • Here, here, and here. The first was taken from the Tianzhou-4 cargo ship after it undocked. The second is a nice short movie. The third’s ground-based telescope was a bit unsteady, to put it mildly.


A cliff face of volcanic erosion on Mars

A cliff face of volcanic erosion on Mars
Click for full image.

Today’s cool image is a variation of yesterday’s, showing another area on the edge of Mars’ largest volcanic ash field, dubbed the Medusae Fossae Formation and about the size of India. This time however the edge is an abrupt cliff, not the slow petering out of wind-shaped mesas.

The picture to the right, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, was taken on August 27, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows what I very roughly estimate to be a 1,500 to 2,500 foot high cliff that appears to delineate the edge. To the north we have a plateau of intersperse layers of flood lava and ash. To the south those layers have eroded away, leaving a rough lava plain with a handful of scattered wind-sculpted mesas.

The overview map below, by providing a wider view of his region, makes its nature clearer.
» Read more

Rocket Lab sets date for 1st launch from Wallops

On the same day it won a contract to build a control center for Globalstar’s satellite constellation, Rocket Lab also set December 7, 2022 as the target date for its first Electron launch from Wallops Island in Virginia.

The company had originally hoped to launch from Wallops two years ago, but delays caused by NASA’s bureaucracy in approving the flight termination software made that impossible.

With two operating launchpads, one in New Zealand and one in the U.S., Rocket Lab should now be able to ramp up its launch pace, assuming it has the customers. So far this year the company has done about one launch per month.

Atlas-5 completes last launch at Vandenberg

ULA’s Atlas-5 rocket early this morning successfully launched a NOAA weather satellite, completing this soon-to-be-retired rocket’s last launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

The company also successfully tested an inflatable heat shield it wants to use to safely recover and reuse the first stage engines on its new Vulcan rocket.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

51 SpaceX
48 China
19 Russia
9 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise now leads China 74 to 48 in the national rankings, but trails the rest of the world combined 76 to 74.

November 9, 2022 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay, who also clued me into the two previous posts, which I decided to give more attention to. Thanks Jay!


  • Thales Alenia Space completes next Cygnus, ready for shipment to U.S.
  • I am not sure if Thales installs the solar panels. If so, I suspect they will want to wait before shipment in order get a report on why one panel did not deploy on the Cygnus now in orbit. It is also possible that Northrop Grumman installs the panels, and will handle any revisions after delivery.


  • A closer look at Virgin Orbit’s financial picture
  • Apparently, the delays in the UK are seriously hurting the company. Because they only have one 747 carrier plane, Cosmic Girl, they can only do one launch at a time, which means later launches — and the revenue they produce — are pushed back. The company thus desperately needs a second 747 so the delays on one launch don’t impact others.

China switches heavy-lift Long March 9 from expendable to reusable

China has abandoned its original plans to build its Long March 9 heavy lift rocket — intended to be comparable to NASA’s SLS — as an expendable rocket with side boosters and instead design it with a reusable first stage.

A new model of a Long March 9 rocket featuring grid fins and no side boosters recently went on display at the ongoing Zhuhai Airshow in southern China, prompting speculation that the long-standing plan of an expendable rocket had been dropped.

Liu Bing, director of the general design department at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), later confirmed the new direction in an interview with China Central Television Nov. 7. The new, current plan for the rocket will be a three-stage, 108-meter-high, 10-meter-diameter and 4,180 metric ton rocket capable of delivering 150 tons to low Earth orbit (LEO), 50 tons to lunar transfer orbit (LTO), or 35 tons to Mars transfer orbit. The rocket is scheduled to be ready for test flight around 2030.

The design however has not been finalized.

It appears that China has been watching NASA’s attempts to launch SLS, and decided copying that rocket is likely a mistake. So instead, they have decided to copy Falcon 9 instead, though make Long March 9 a much bigger rocket.

All of this however is really nothing more than engineering by PowerPoint. Nothing so far really exists, and any plans for a rocket whose first test launch is eight years away are plans that no one should take very seriously.

Rocket Lab leases engine test facility at Stennis

Rocket Lab has finalized a 10-year lease for using one of the engine test facilities at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi for developing the Archimedes rocket engine for its new Neutron rocket.

With the new agreement, the A-3 Test Stand and about 24 surrounding acres at Stennis will be incorporated into the Archimedes Test Complex. Archimedes is Rocket Lab’s new liquid oxygen and liquid methane rocket engine that will power its large, reusable Neutron rocket.

Rocket Lab will have exclusive access to use and develop the A-3 Test Stand area, including associated propellant barge docks and buildings. The initial 10-year agreement includes an option to extend an additional 10 years.

The Mississippi Development Authority is providing assistance for Rocket Lab to develop the new site and to relocate and install needed equipment.

With this agreement Rocket Lab is clearly moving forward aggressively in its project to build a new rocket that can complete head-to-head with SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

Time for another Wuhan panic update

Democrats might soon enter the Truth booth
When it comes to the COVID lie, we are all being forced
to enter that door.

This update will be a relatively short one, but it will once again demonstrate, with data, that the claims by politicians and government health officials that COVID required draconian restrictions on the lives of Americans were utterly wrong, and they were so wrong it proved those politicians or officials were either filled with malice or were completely incompetent.

This report by the way merely supplements earlier reports, of which just a few can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. And these are only my reports since July. If you search Behind the Black going back to 2020 you will find many more stories backing up this new evidence.

All in all, the panic over COVID has simply provided more damning evidence that the so-called elites who run our society are generally bankrupt, have incredibly poor judgment, and should be fired as soon as possible.
» Read more

Not one climate model predicts global temperature; all predict too much warming

Climate models versus actual observations for the past 50 years

Even as we wait for the final results in numerous elections yesterday, I thought I would throw the chart to the right out for my readers to digest.

The chart was created by climate scientist Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama, who has also been one of the principal investigators for one of NASA climate satellites.

As seen in the accompanying plot, 50-year (1973-2022) summer (June/July/August) temperature trends for the contiguous 48 U.S. states from 36 CMIP-6 climate model experiments average nearly twice the warming rate as observed by the NOAA climate division dataset.

…The official NOAA observations produce a 50-year summer temperature trend of +0.26 C/decade for the U.S., while the model trends range from +0.28 to +0.71 C/decade.

Not one climate model predicted the actual global temperature for the past half century. All predicted too much warming, with about half the models predicting twice as much warming as actually occurred.

In other words, the models continue to express opinion, not science. To rely on any model for establishing climate policy is not only foolish, it is downright irresponsible.

But don’t worry. Joe Biden and the Democrats are on their game, and will shut down all fossil fuel energy sources, because it simply feels right to them.

Meanwhile, on a related side note, the fact that it is no longer possible to finish counting the votes on election day — something that Americans did routinely for more than two centuries long before computers — either is another sign that serious election tampering is going on, or is a clear demonstration that we have entered the new dark age, where it will no longer be possible to accomplish some of the most basic tasks of a true civilization.

In either case, the barbarians rule, and we all suffer because of it.

Erosion at the edge of Mars’ biggest volcanic ash field

Erosion at the edge of Mars' biggest ash field
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, was taken on August 13, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It is another fine example of the wind-blown sculpted terrain that one finds routinely in Mars’ largest volcanic ash field, dubbed the Medusae Fossae Formation. About the size of India, this gigantic field is thought to be the source of most of the dust on Mars.

This particular location sits on the northernmost edge of that huge field. The elongated mesas mark the field’s edge, disappearing to the north but becoming thick and extensive to the south. The prevailing southeast-to-northwest winds have acted to clean most of the ash away.

We can get an idea about how deep and pervasive that field once was at this location by the pedestal crater in the middle right. Once, the floor of that crater was below the top of the ash field. At that time, the top of the dunes marked the general ground level across this entire image. Over time, the winds blew most of this material away, but the denser packed floor of the crater resisted that erosion, and thus now stands above the surrounding terrain.

The more normal-looking craters nearby could have occurred before the ash was deposited, or after it was blown away. The impact that created the pedestal crater however occurred when the ash covered everything here.
» Read more

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