Author Archives: Robert Zimmerman

SpaceX successfully launches GPS satellite for Space Force

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched its first satellite for the Space Force, a GPS satellite.

It also successfully landed the first stage, which was on its first flight. This was also the 88th flight of the Falcon 9 since its inception in 2010, which now makes it the rocket with the most launches of any U.S. operational rocket, bypassing ULA’s Atlas 5, and doing it in about half the time.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

13 China
10 SpaceX
7 Russia
3 ULA

The U.S. now leads China 16 to 13 in the national rankings.

With Americans under attack where are Trump and the Republicans?

For me, the most distressing part of the panic over COVID-19 has not been the rules, the mandates, the nullification of the Bill of Rights, and the shut down of normal life, all of which have been terrible, wrong-headed, and a disaster for our country.

What has distressed me the most is the gutless response by the nation’s so-called conservative Republican politicians. All of the panic and harsh rules and economic damage has been designed by the Democrats to hurt the reelection chances of Trump. Little of it has anything to do with stopping the virus, and in fact most are nothing more than symbolic gestures that can accomplish nothing.

Despite this, Republican elected leaders have acquiesced to the Democrats demands, almost across the board.

Consider my own state of Arizona. My governor, Doug Ducey, is Republican. Republicans also have majorities in both houses of my state legislature. Yet, they have either let the Democrats run the show, or have acted in ways that are indistinguishable from the worst dictators in New York and New Jersey. First Governor Ducey imposed and then extended a lockdown that has bankrupted many businesses in the state. Then, as he began to loosen that lockdown he ceded his power to the generally Democratically-controlled local governments, letting them impose their own odious rules in place of his. The result is that in most big cities in the state, the lock down did not really end, but got tightened with new rules mandating masks.

Yesterday he reinstated part of his lock down for another thirty days. And like Democratic governors in Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, and New Jersey, the new rules he imposed [pdf] were arbitrary and capricious, and will thus have little if any effect. Bars, gyms, indoor movie theaters, and water parks have to close until July 27th. Government and community pools however can stay open. So can restaurants, shopping centers, clothing stores, and many other venues that previously were considered “non-essential.” He also banned any gathering of more than fifty people, but exempted political demonstrations and religious services.

And why did he do this? It appears there has been an increase in COVID-19 cases in the past few weeks! That means (oh no!) the number of people either hospitalized or dying might skyrocket, and overwhelm the hospitals!
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Calling this exoplanet alien is an understatement

Worlds without end: Using the space telescope TESS astronomers have determined that one of the hottest exoplanets known, with surface temperatures as much as 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit (hotter than our Sun), is even stranger than expected.

Not only does the exoplanet have a polar orbit around its star, that star rotates so fast that its equator bulges out, actually making its poles as much as 1,500 degrees F hotter than the equator.

With each orbit, KELT-9 b twice experiences the full range of stellar temperatures, producing what amounts to a peculiar seasonal sequence. The planet experiences “summer” when it swings over each hot pole and “winter” when it passes over the star’s cooler midsection. So KELT-9 b experiences two summers and two winters every year, with each season about nine hours.

The star, about 670 light years away, is thought to be twice as massive as the Sun, with the exoplanet having a mass 2.9 times that of Jupiter. Whether it is a gas giant like Jupiter or has an atmosphere is entirely unknown. At these temperatures the situation is so alien we really only know the orbit and approximate range of temperatures.

NASA awards Northrop Grumman contract for more SLS solid rocket boosters

NASA today awarded Northrop Grumman a $49.5 million contract to begin work on twelve more SLS solid rocket boosters, enough for six more SLS flights.

Under this letter contract, with a potential value of $49.5 million, NASA will provide initial funding and authorization to Northrop Grumman to order long-lead items to support building the twin boosters for the next six SLS flights. Northrop Grumman will be able to make purchases as the details of the full contract are finalized within the next year. The full Boosters Production and Operations Contract is expected to support booster production and operations for SLS flights 4-9. The period of performance for the letter contract is 150 days; the definitized contract will extend through Dec. 31, 2030.

I especially like the headline Doug Messier used today in his post of NASA’s press release of this award at Parabolic Arc: “NASA Sinks More Money into SLS.” An apt description, since the odds of this program continuing to 2030 as described is quite low. The cost is too high, and other more capable and less expensive rockets will be available in the next few years, making SLS the equivalent of the buggy whip. Any money NASA spends on it now is essentially cash the agency is wasting.

Giant dark starspots explain Betelgeuse’s dimming last year

Astronomers now think that unusually large dark starspots on the face of the red supergiant star Betelgeuse caused its dimming from October 2019 to April 2020.

“Corresponding high-resolution images of Betelgeuse from December 2019 show areas of varying brightness. Together with our result, this is a clear indication of huge star spots covering between 50% and 70% of the visible surface and having a lower temperature than the brighter photosphere,” said co-author Peter Scicluna from the European Southern Observatory (Eso).

“For comparison, a typical sunspot is the size of the Earth. The Betelgeuse star spot would be a hundred times larger than the Sun. The sudden fading of Betelgeuse does not mean it is going supernova. It is a supergiant star growing a super-sized star spot.” said co-author Prof Albert Zijlstra from The University of Manchester, UK

Starspots have been identified on the surface of Betelgeuse previously, so what is interesting here is how large these spots were.

A minor rill on the Moon

Kathleen, a rill on the Moon
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The image above, reduced to post here, is a colorized digital terrain model produced from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) data. On top of the original mosaic of photos the LRO science team has overlaid the elevation data obtained by LRO’s laser altimeter. It shows a tadpole shaped pit dubbed Kathleen, with its tail trailing off to the southeast. As they note:

Kathleen is a pyroclastic vent with a sinuous rille (colloquially known as Rima Mozart [Not IAU confirmed]) that extends from the southeast end of the vent. Rilles are large channels formed by sustained channelized lava flows. This vent is a great location to investigate ancient volcanism on the Moon.

The elevation data reveals one interesting feature: The lowest part of the vent pit is not at its western end, where one would think at first glance, based on the general dip that produced the rill flowing to the east. That the lowest point is at the widest section of the pit instead suggests that this pit no longer looks as it did when it was venting. In the almost four billion years since it is thought all volcanic activity here ceased, there has been plenty of time for the slow erosion processes on the Moon, caused by radiation, micrometeorites, and the solar wind, to partly fill this pit and round out its cliff walls.

The two overview maps below provide some context.
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Russia to lower launch price of new Angara rocket

Capitalism in space: According to its 2019 financial report, the Russian manufacturer of that country’s new Angara rocket intends by 2024 to lower launch price from about $100 million to about $57 million.

The high cost price of the latest Angara carrier rocket before the start of its serial production is due to the need for the Khrunichev Space Center to work at two sites, the press office of the State Space Corporation Roscosmos told TASS on Monday. “Before the production process is fully moved to the site of the Polyot company in Omsk, the Khrunichev Space Center has to work at two production sites, which creates additional overhead costs,” a Roscosmos spokesman said.

As part of its trials, the Angara rocket is being produced singly instead of serially, he said. “After the serial full-cycle production is launched, the item’s cost price will decrease,” the spokesman said.

Essentially they are claiming that the cost will drop once they start full production.

Masks = virtue signaling

This essay by Robert Pratt about the uselessness of masks to stop or slow the spread of COVID-19 has this very clarifying quote:

“When a person is infectious with a virus it is estimated that they may shed one hundred billion virus particles a day – that works out to 10 million per breath,” [Dr. John Lee, a former professor of pathology at a UK medical school] pointed out.

Given that the most common cloth masks in use by people have thousands of pores, holes between the fabric threads, several times larger than the width of a human hair and that a full thousand virus particles can fit through a space the size of a human hair side-by-side even laboratory controlled fit and use of a mask, conditions not present in actual life usage, does little to stop the spread of virus particles.

…If just a breath contains 10 million virus particles, the pressurized large release associated with a sneeze or cough is reasonably likely to be much greater and will put millions of virus particles straight through a mask as well as much more out the side perimeters of such.

So let’s summarize: The mask, worn for long periods, forces you to rebreath your carbon dioxide at higher levels than normal, lowers the oxygen content to levels that are considered unhealthy, and in the end can do little to block the virus. On top of this, if you unconsciously touch the front of your mask (such as to pull it down to talk to someone), and your hand had not been sanitized just beforehand, you have just taken the risk of placing the virus on the mask, at exactly the place you breath.

Sounds like a plan to me, eh?

Politicians continue to lie about COVID-19 to generate fear

Total U.S. daily deaths from the Wuhan flu

They just won’t stop lying: On June 26 there was a strange and unbelievable jump in the number of deaths from COVID-19. The graph to the right (source here), up-to-date through June 28, illustrates this. Compare it to the graph I posted on June 25 (in an essay that makes a nice bookmark with this essay). All of a sudden there were 2,500 deaths from the Wuhan flu the very next day, when we had seen no numbers like that since early May and the totals had been steadily and very consistently declining for weeks. In fact, the decline continued along the same exact trend, following this strange uptick in deaths.

Was it a sign of the coming second wave that so many Chicken Littles have been predicting with the partial reopening of the economy, allowing people to leave house arrest? Or was it a sign of some shenanigans by some government officials to manipulate the numbers because they didn’t like how consistently the death totals were dropping, thus giving Americans some hope and the ability to put aside their fears of a coming plague and go back to normal.

Which would you pick?
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Yutu-2 travels 62 feet during 19th lunar day

According to the official Chinese press, Yutu-2 traveled another 62 feet during its 19th lunar day on the far side of the Moon.

I did not get that number from the article, which was written to imply falsely that the rover’s total travel distance since landing (463 meters) was what it did during this single lunar day. To get the real travel distance I took the total from the previously reported total travel distance and figured the difference.

If you want to be educated to the absolutely useless nature of a state-run press, put both links above in separate tabs and compare. You will discover that other than some very minor changes, the new news story is essentially a cut-and-paste of the previous. Which by the way is a cut-and-paste of the last few reports. They don’t even bother to make believe (like the leftist American mainstream media) that they are giving us some information. They simply don’t.

NASA tests SLS backup tank to failure

In preparation for the only planned full scale static fire engine test of the core first stage of the SLS rocket, NASA engineers have successfully completed a tank test to failure on a back-up oxygen tank.

The tank was filled with water to simulate the oxygen, and cracked as expected at the predicted pressure and at the predicted weld. A short 11-second video of the moment of failure test is embedded below the fold.

This test illustrates the methods by which NASA works. Unlike SpaceX, which is doing similar tests at the very beginning of its Starship design stage to best improve their design, NASA does this testing at the very end of construction, to prove that what they have built will work. The former method in the long run is less risky and faster, as SpaceX quickly finds out what works and doesn’t and builds accordingly.

The latter method is more risky because it depends on complex computer models, which can always be wrong. It also is more expensive in that it requires NASA to build its rockets with large margins of error, just in case those models are wrong. Finally, it appears to take longer to build, because of those required large margins of error. Your rocket or spaceship needs almost to be “gold-plated” to make sure it will work, when completed, since you really can’t test it in the design phase and build it more efficiently based on those tests.
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Sierra Nevada starts installing thermal tiles on Tenacity

Capitalism in space: Sierra Nevada has received and started to install the thermal protection tiles for its first Dream Chaser reusable mini-shuttle, dubbed Tenacity.

The Thermal Protection System (TPS) tiles are one of the major hardware components used on Dream Chaser and cover nearly the entire craft to protect it from the heat of the sun and the plasma regime during atmospheric reentry. The tiles can withstand the scorching heat of 1,650°C (3,000°F) and prevent the vehicle from being destroyed during reentry.

Dream Chaser has approximately 2,000 TPS tile compared to the 24,000 tiles used on the Space Shuttle. Dream Chaser is about 1/4 the size of a Shuttle Orbiter. The tiles on Dream Chaser utilize a room temperature vulcanizing (RTV) silicone to keep the tiles bonded to the vehicle at all times. The silicone can withstand high temperatures, making it ideal for use. Each of the tiles is tested by a mechanism that pulls on each one, helping avoid issues of the tiles falling off, which happened early in the Space Shuttle Program.

The company notes that the vehicle remains on schedule for a 2021 launch on a ULA Vulcan rocket.

Some quick and easy evidence proving masks are unhealthy

The video below illustrates very simply and quickly the reasons masks are generally a bad idea, especially for anyone with any chronic respiratory disease that causes reduced lung function. What it shows that within your mask the levels of oxygen are routinely below OSHA’s recommendations. While a healthy person will not suffer significantly, wearing a mask for a long period of time will certainly lead to headaches and diminished function. For a person with asthma or chronic pulmonary disease the low levels of oxygen, combined with the higher levels of CO2 (which you are rebreathing) will eventually cause serious harm.

The video comes from this link, which includes similar demonstrations.

Wearing a mask is simply not supported by the science. There is no clear evidence it stops or even slows the spread of the Wuhan virus, and it carries with it negative medical consequences.

The negative social consequences need not be discussed. They are beyond counting.

California Democrats vote to allow all forms of discrimination

Fascist California; The Democrats controlling all levels of the government in California this week voted to repeal their constitutional statutes that forbid discrimination based on race, sex, ethnicity, or national origin.

This quote makes clear the goal of the bigoted Democrats:

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, the San Diego Democrat who is carrying ACA5 [the bill’s official designation], said mass uprisings in recent weeks against police brutality and systemic racism have shown that new solutions are needed to address the discrimination that remains in many communities.

“As we look around the world, we see there is an urgent cry — an urgent cry for change,” Weber said on the Assembly floor. “After 25 years of quantitative and qualitative data, we see that race-neutral solutions cannot fix problems steeped in race.” [emphasis mine]

So if race neutral polices won’t work, it appears she is suggesting they put into law race-biased policies, kind of like the Nazis did. In this case they will aim to specifically favor the Democrats’ rainbow coalition of minorities — specifically blacks, homosexuals, and illegal immigrants — to the detriment and oppression of everyone else.

Of course, these benefits will not apply to any blacks or homosexuals or immigrants who happen to be conservative. In that case their minority status is now null and void, as it can do nothing to help Democrats maintain power.

None of this should surprise us. After fifty years the Democratic Party is finally returning to its roots as the party of segregation, discrimination, and race hatred. They are simply rephrasing it slightly to fool people.

The law will have to still be approved by the voters in November, but since these Democrats are also forcing through California mail-only voting, they will have no problem fixing the results to their satisfaction.

Biden would use presidential power to force everyone to wear masks

They’re coming for you next: Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden said today that he would would use his power as president to require everyone to wear masks.

“I would go back to making sure that everybody had masks,” Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, told KDKA. “The one thing we do know is that these masks make a gigantic difference. I would insist that everybody in public be wearing that mask. … I would do everything possible to make it required that people had to wear masks in public,” he added later. [emphasis mine]

Put aside the fact that the benefits of mask use remain highly uncertain, and also include some very likely negative medical consequences. Also put aside Biden’s incorrect assumption that somehow there once had been a national mandate to wear masks.

What I find horrifying is the assumption that a president has the right to require such a thing. Not only does Biden assume he can issue such an edict, it appears that everyone now assumes they must obey it.

Nowhere under law is such a draconian dictate by a president allowed. Nowhere. In fact, if anything, the Bill of Rights expressly forbids it.

And yet, we have come to a place where a presidential candidate thinks he will have that right, and I guarantee he will be supported in that belief by his entire party.

Make no mistake. They’re coming for you next.

Extensive fraud found in New Jersey mailed ballots

The end of valid elections: Officials in New Jersey have discovered extensive fraud in a local election involving one out of every five mail-in ballots, putting into question the election results and resulting in the indictment of four men, including one candidate.

In the City Council election, 16,747 vote-by-mail ballots were received, but only 13,557 votes were counted. More than 3,190 votes, 19% of the total ballots cast, were disqualified by the board of elections. Due to the pandemic, Paterson’s election was done through vote-by-mail. Community organizations, such as the city’s NAACP chapter, are calling for the entire election to be invalidated.

The article is a horror-show, showing starkly how going to mail-in ballots will guarantee that all future elections will be rigged. This quote especially illustrates this fact:

[D]ozens of lawsuits have been filed across the country contesting state requirements used to certify mail-in ballots. “Among the main targets are witness and signature requirements for absentee ballots — such as signing the envelope, or getting a witness or notary to sign it, or making sure the voter’s signature is legible,” notes an NPR report earlier this month.

Those lawsuits seeking to expand vote-by-mail include one brought in Nevada earlier year, which aims to do away with signature verification on mail-in ballots altogether – even though ballot signatures not matching voter records was the reason Paterson disqualified over 2,300 ballots.

Since voting is controlled by local authorities, and since very few Republicans at the local level seem willing or able to fight these measures, I honestly do not expect the November election to reflect an accurate count. Instead, I think it will be heavily rigged in favor of the Democrats.

The only hope for overcoming this rigging will be that the many voters who have never voted before come out in huge numbers and vote against their incumbent governments. Unfortunately, I see little sign that this will happen.

UK to bid for purchase of bankrupt OneWeb

Capitalism in space? The United Kingdom appears about to bid $500 million to purchase the bankrupt satellite communications company OneWeb, apparently in an effort to use its satellites as a quick form of GPS-type satellites.

Among the uses being claimed for OneWeb’s technology is that it could be an alternative Galileo, the GPS satellite constellation built by the EU. Britain was kicked out of the project as a result of Brexit. Some have speculated OneWeb might be used as a cheaper alternative.

However, while acquiring such a satellite network would be a coup, industry sources are divided on whether the satellites could be easily retrofitted to perform a role as GPS. GPS technology is also owned by the US, and Washington has been against its allies building rival systems. “The system was built as a communications network,” says one source, questioning how easily it could be changed to GPS.

The article also notes that three Chinese companies are also considering bidding. All these foreign bids (especially the Chinese ones) however face U.S. government review, which will I expect almost certainly reject the Chinese bids.

The deadline for bids is tonight, so we shall find out soon.

Dragon capsule on ISS doing better than expected

Capitalism in space: The first manned Dragon capsule, presently docked to ISS, is doing better than expected according to NASA officials, who have also now set August 2nd as their target date for the return to Earth.

Tests of the solar panels and the capsule’s power systems have so far been “better than expected.” Besides these tests, they still have one other major in-orbit test.

On July 4, the space station crew will perform a habitability test with the craft, with four astronauts climbing into the capsule and practicing everyday activities like sleeping, hygiene tasks, as well as emergency procedures to see what it will be like for future crewed missions. On Demo-2, only two astronauts were on board for the trip but regular flights will carry at least four people, so this test will help inform astronauts on those future trips.

Privately-built Japanese smallsat successfully tests new technology

Capitalism in space: A privately-built Japanese smallsat has successfully tested seven new technologies on a six-month long mission that was launched in January on Japan’s newest low-cost Epsilon rocket.

For the first time, the Japanese space agency turned over development of one of its satellites to a startup. Axelspace Co. developed RAPIS-1 for the agency is a short time period, going from design to launch in only about two years, the agency said. The satellite bus features a standardized interface that made attaching instruments and equipment easier. The mission equipment and bus were independently designed to prevent failures of the former from affecting the latter, JAXA said.

The article at the link provides details about the technologies tested, all of which increase significantly the capabilities of smallsats to replace standard larger and heavier satellites.

Russia signs deal to for first space tourist spacewalk

Capitalism in space: Russia and Space Adventures have inked a deal to fly two tourists to ISS in 2023, with one doing the first space tourist spacewalk.

At the moment they do not have any signed customers, but this agreement is essentially an okay from Russia to do the spacewalk, and is probably an effort by them to offer something better than SpaceX for its tourist flights. For SpaceX or Boeing to offer spacewalks will require cooperation from NASA, since neither company has spacesuits capable of doing such a thing. They need NASA’s suits, but NASA will likely not give its approval, at least in the near future. Unlike the Russian Orlan suits, the NASA spacesuits are very complex and difficult to use. Letting a tourist use one for a spacewalk is probably too risky.

Thus, don’t be surprised if SpaceX soon begins designing its own EVA spacesuit.

Either way, the next few years in space are getting more exciting by the day. SpaceX already has two contracts for tourist flights, and Russia is upping the competition by offering spacewalks. On top of that Axiom is beginning construction on its own space station habitat on ISS where tourists can live.

Expect lots of private commercial manned flights in the coming years.

COVID-19 hospitalizations dropping across the board

Hospitalizations from COVID-19, week by week
Click for full resolution image.

The graph to the right, produced weekly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and presently up-to-date through June 13th, bluntly shows why the panic over COVID-19 has been absurd and unjustified. (Hat tip Doug Ross @ Journal for noting it first.)

It shows the trends in Wuhan flu hospitalizations week to week, separated by age group. The only age groups seriously impacted by the disease have been those over 50. The cohorts under seventeen do not even register on the graph. Moreover, these are numbers per 100,000. Even at its worse, the disease only put about 30 people (over 65) out of every 100,000 into the hospital. Though maybe a bit higher it is hardly different than what we see normally during any normal flu season. It is also, like what we see during flu season, hardly something to panic over.

The graph also shows that the disease’s impact is clearly fading, across the board, even as the number of identified cases is rising. Even in the 18-49 cohort, which is right now experiencing the greatest rise in new cases, the hospitalizations are dropping, to about 2 or 3 people out of every 100,000.

This is not something to fear. It certainly does not justify the nullification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Nor does it justify the requirement that everyone go about their lives wearing a mask, which not only does nothing to stop the disease but probably increases everyone’s chances of getting sick.

Doug Ross in his post on this graph I think summarizes the situation best:

You gots it, Sparky. The key metrics indicate that overall, the U.S. is crushing the China scourge. Of course, the media — whose singular goal is the destruction of the Constitution — wants to shriek about the growth of “positive test results”, not hospitalizations or mortality. But that’s what the media do. They aren’t about objective facts, or news, they’re about promoting fascism. Ain’t that right, Acosta?

Two super-Earths found orbiting nearby red dwarf star

Worlds without end: Astronomers have detected evidence of two super-Earths orbiting Gliese 887, only 11 light years away and the brightest red dwarf star in the night sky.

They used a technique known as “Doppler wobble”, which enables them to measure the tiny back and forth wobbles of the star caused by the gravitational pull of the planets. The regular signals correspond to orbits of just 9.3 and 21.8 days, indicating two super-Earths – Gliese 887b and Gliese 887c – both larger than the Earth yet moving rapidly, much faster even than Mercury. Scientists estimate the temperature of Gliese 887c to be around 70oC.

Because Gliese 887 is a very constant star, not very active, and with relatively few strong flares, they think these planets have a chance of retaining their atmospheres.

Be aware that these are like most exoplanets only candidate exoplanets. Until their existence is confirmed by other researchers, it is possible the detection is a false one.

Axiom hires European company to help build private ISS module

Capitalism in space: Axiom has hired the European company Thales Alenia, to build the habitation module of its commercial space station that will initially attach to ISS.

Axiom’s station modules will form a new section of ISS that will be able to operate independently, so that when ISS is decommissioned it can detach and remain operational in space.

That Axiom did not choose either Boeing (which I think built most of NASA’s ISS modules) or Northrop Grumman (which has been pushing an upgraded version of its Cygnus capsule as future station modules) is intriguing. I suspect with Boeing cost was the major reason, as Boeing’s modules are generally far too expensive. There also might be questions about that company’s quality control.

Why Northrop Grumman lost out however is unclear. Its Cygnus design is relatively inexpensive, and has clearly demonstrated that it works very reliably. obvious. Thales Alenia makes that Cygnus module for Northrop Grumman, so why buy it from the U.S. company when you can get it from the builder. (Thanks to reader Doug Booker for pointing out this obvious fact, one I had forgotten.)

Either way, this contract award gets us one step closer to truly private operations in space. Eventually competing private stations such as Axiom’s will replace government stations like ISS. That will in turn certainly lower costs and and increase innovation, which in turn will accelerate the development of the engineering required to build practical interplanetary spaceships.

This of course assumes we remain a free nation. Right now I have strong doubts.

India’s space agency creates new bureaucracy to encourage commercial space

The new colonial movement: In a televised speech yesterday, the head of ISRO, India’s space agency, outlined the steps they are now taking to encourage a new private commercial space industry, which appear centered almost entirely around the creation of a new bureaucracy.

Sivan announced in detail, reforms intended for the space sector, which were approved by the Cabinet Wednesday. The prime change, the ISRO chief said, is that the private sector will no longer be confined to just supplying components but will now be able to build and launch satellites and rockets, provide launch services, perform intensive research and developmental activities, participate in ISRO’s science and planetary missions, and offer space services commercially.

To facilitate the private sector presence in ISRO, the agency has launched the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), an independent nodal agency, Sivan said. “The agency will ensure safety, security, and quality, engage in monitoring space business activity, enable ease of business at low cost for private players, ensure permission and authorisation of private activities,” he said. “It will also act as a nodal agency for hand-holding and promoting private sector in space endeavours, aiding ISRO to share technical expertise and facilities.” [emphasis mine]

This might work, but I have my doubts. While the first paragraph in the quote above sounds great, the second quote kind of blows the wind out of the sails. Rather than letting their private companies operate independently, ISRO is going to supervise them closely. Under such conditions it is unlikely an independent space industry building cutting edge and risky new technology can truly prosper. If ISRO does not like what a private company wants to do, all it will have to do is simply not give them permission to do it.

Perseverance launch delayed two days

NASA and ULA have agreed to delay the launch of the new Mars rover Perseverance two days, from July 20th to July 22nd, because of “a contamination concern.”

NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance was scheduled to launch toward the Red Planet on July 20 from a pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. But a problem cropped up as engineers worked to encapsulate the rover in the nosecone of its Atlas V rocket, which was built by United Launch Alliance.

“NASA and United Launch Alliance are now targeting Wednesday, July 22, for launch of the Mars 2020 mission due to a processing delay encountered during encapsulation activities of the spacecraft,” NASA officials said in an update. “Additional time was needed to resolve a contamination concern in the ground support lines in NASA’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF).”

This contamination likely relates to their effort to keep the rover free from Earth biology.

The official launch window closes on August 11th, though they can still launch as late as August 15th and get to their targeted landing site in Jezero Crater on Mars.

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