SLS static fire abort not caused by malfunction but too-tight parameters

According to NASA today the reason the SLS static fire test cut off after only one minute was because of too conservative margins set in the computer software.

In an update today, however, NASA said it was engine 2 that caused the abort. At that moment, the engines were underdoing a gimble test where they are rotated in different directions just as they must do during ascent to steer the rocket. Actuators in the Thrust Vector Control system that generate the force to gimble an engine are powered by hydraulic Core Stage Auxiliary Power Units (CAPUs). The CAPUs for engine 2 exceeded pre-set test limits and the computer system automatically shut down the test as it was designed to do, but NASA said it would not have been a problem during a launch.

According to NASA’s update,

The specific logic that stopped the test is unique to the ground test when the core stage is mounted in the B-2 test stand at Stennis. If this scenario occurred during a flight, the rocket would have continued to fly using the remaining CAPUs to power the thrust vector control systems for the engines.

Note too that another issue during the test needs resolution:

Initial data indicate the sensor reading for a major component failure, or MCF, that occurred about 1.5 seconds after engine start was not related to the hot fire shutdown. It involved the loss of one leg of redundancy prior to T-0 in the instrumentation for Engine 4, also known as engine number E2060. Engine ignition begins 6 seconds prior to T-0, and they fire in sequence about 120 milliseconds apart. Test constraints for hot fire were set up to allow the test to proceed with this condition, because the engine control system still has sufficient redundancy to ensure safe engine operation during the test. The team plans to investigate and resolve the Engine 4 instrumentation issue before the next use of the core stage.

No decision has been made yet whether they will do another static fire test before shipping the core stage to Florida for launch. They are under a time limit, as they have begun stacking the SLS rocket’s strap-on solid rocket side boosters, and those only have a life expectancy of one year once stacking has begun.

As far as I am concerned, nothing about the development of this rocket makes sense. I would never fly on it no matter how much money was offered to me, and anyone who does must know the terrible risk they take.

New daily record for search engine DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo, the search engine that respects the privacy of its users, has set a new record for use with more than a 100 million daily search requests for the first time.

Privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo reached a major milestone in its 12-year-old history this week when it recorded on Monday its first-ever day with more than 100 million user search queries.

The achievement comes after a period of sustained growth the company has been seeing for the past two years, and especially since August 2020, when the search engine began seeing more than 2 billion search queries a month on a regular basis. The numbers are small in comparison to Google’s 5 billion daily search queries but it’s a positive sign that users are looking for alternatives.

The numbers are still too small. Why is anyone who reads this still using Google? It is incredibly trivial to switch. More important, you will find that you are getting better information in your searches, as DuckDuckGo does not play favorites nor does it squelch results from some websites because it disagrees with their politics.

And best of all, your privacy will be better protected.

Today’s blacklisted conservative: Lawyer who represented Trump fired by university

They’re coming for you next: A lawyer who both represented Trump in his legal challenges to the November 3rd vote count as well as gave a public speech in support of Trump has been fired by his university.

Chapman University President Daniele Struppa promptly denounced Eastman for engaging in constitutionally protected free speech. Struppa accused Eastman in a Jan. 8 statement of playing “a role in the tragic events in Washington, D.C., that jeopardized our democracy. … Eastman’s actions are in direct opposition to the values and beliefs of our institution. He has now put Chapman in the position of being publicly disparaged for the actions of a single faculty member, and for what many call my failure to punish and fire him,” Struppa wrote.

Struppa also said, “This week has also demonstrated that this country has a great deal of work to do for social justice and equity.”

Lisa Leitz, a professor of peace studies at Chapman, was one of 169 faculty members who signed an open letter addressed to the university demanding Eastman be fired. She told a local media outlet that Eastman’s appearance at the rally and his Trump campaign activities have damaged the university. “It associates us with a racist insurrection against the U.S. democracy, and it undermines the credibility of every faculty member,” she said.

On Jan. 13, Struppa announced that a settlement had been reached with Eastman and that he would be leaving his post “effective immediately.”

And what exactly did this man do? Nothing illegal, that’s for sure. All he did was express his opinion, in public, and then take action as a lawyer to represent his client.

I plan on posting one of these “newly blacklisted” stories daily for as long as they keep happening. Sadly, I already have a backlog. I could be reporting these stories of oppression and blacklisting I think for the next four years, daily, without any trouble at all. That is assuming of course they don’t come after me and get this website shut down, something I fully expect is a possibility in the next four years.

And remember, these attacks against outspoken conservatives are only a precursor for when these thugs come after you, no matter who you are. You might not be speaking out publicly, but you have had the temerity to read this material, something that the cultural dictators who now rule us cannot allow.

More evidence Mars’s glaciers formed across many ice ages

The uncertainty of science: New research using the boulders found on the top of Martian glaciers has now strengthened the evidence that Mars must have undergone many previous ice age cycles going back as much as 800 million years, with those glaciers waxing and waning during each cycle.

This new data helps map the cycles earlier than 20 million years ago, which have been difficult to map out based solely on the orbital data available from Earth and from Mars orbit. The results suggest that before then there were from six to twenty additional cycles during the last 300 to 800 million years.

These numbers are decidedly uncertain. It is likely that there were many more cycles, as suggested by the many layers seen at the edges of the north and south polar ice caps.

Be aware as well that if you read the press release you should know that it falsely implies that this research is the first to map out these ice age cycles. This is not true. All this research has done is provide more evidence for cycles prior to 20 million years ago, cycles that scientists have long believed must have happened based on other data.

In the end, for us to map out the full climate history of Mars will require numerous ice core samples at the planet’s poles, something that will not be possible until people are living and working on Mars routinely.

Mysterious colors on Mars, near the landing site of Europe’s rover

Mysterious colors on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time! Today the science team for the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) released a new captioned image, which I have cropped and reduced to post here to the right.

The photo was taken October 12, 2020, and shows a small very colorful area on top of an isolated hill. To quote the caption, written by Sharon Wilson:

An isolated, elongated mound (about 1 mile wide and 3.75 miles long) rises above the smooth, surrounding plains. Horizontal layers are exposed at the northern end of the mound, and its surface is characterized by a very unusual quasi-circular pattern with varying colors that likely reflect diverse mineral compositions.

…The origin of this mound is unknown, but its formation may be related to the clay-bearing rocks in the nearby Oxia Planum region.

» Read more

Chang’e-5’s lunar samples less dense than expected

Because the lunar samples retrieved by China’s Chang’e-5 probe were less dense than expected, it ended up recovering only 3.8 pounds of material rather than the targeted 4.4 pounds.

The probe had estimated the lunar rocks to have a density of 1.6 grams per cubic millimetre, based on data from past missions by other countries, said Pei Zhaoyu, the mission spokesman. Going by that figure, the probe stopped taking samples after just 12 hours, apparently assessing that the target had been reached. “However, from tests, the actual density might not be that high,” Pei told reporters.

This is not a failure, but a discovery. In order to make sure the lander did not recover too much material, weighing too much, they needed to set limits based on the expected weight of the material recovered. That these samples taken from the Mons Rümker volcano complex are lighter than expected reveals something about them. It suggests the lava here was different than lava samples taken elsewhere.

Beals Science – Resurrecting a carbide lamp

An evening pause: Long time cavers are very familiar with the carbide lamp, as it was used routinely until around 1998, when LED lights arrived and finally superseded it.

Until then, the advantage of a carbide light was the quality of the light it produced, a soft bright glow rather than the harsh reflective rings produced by older electric lights.

The disadvantage however was the endless fiddling required to keep them working. For example, near the end of this video when he finally gets the light to work, he turns up the water flow to brighten the light. I guarantee that very soon the light would go out, as he was flooding the carbide. The water drip had to be precisely right. Too slow and not enough gas. Too fast and too much water.

I personally hated carbide lights because of that fiddling, especially because lamps made after 1970 were junk and didn’t work well. Most cavers who used carbide would scour yard sales to find old lights like this one, as older carbide lamps were made well and would work reliably.

Hat tip Jeff Poplin.

Today’s new member of the blacklist: conservative radio host Robert Pratt

Without warning the marketing heads of the corporation that manages the radio stations that air the conservative Pratt on Texas radio show for the past fifteen years announced today they were cancelling the program, despite its profitable status and high ratings.

Robert Pratt’s comments on this decision:

Since I began the program, in April of 2006 taking the time slot of the syndicated Michael Reagan show, Pratt on Texas has more than paid the show’s way increasing TM’s take during the time slot significantly. It was setup that way with Clear Channel in 2006; if successful it was to be a complete win-win proposition and if not it would fold.

And thanks to each of you, I had it confirmed Friday night, that ratings for Pratt on Texas are as great as ever. We have consistently been not just the top talk or news program in our base KFYO market in “afternoon drive,” we have generally been the top, second, or third spot with our intended adult demographic, in all radio formats, in each ratings book for 14 years – almost unheard of. But those things are not valued in Cancel Culture because the goal is to have fewer hear differences of opinion, not more.

Despite what one TM employee has intimated this weekend to a former TM employ, there has been no contractual or other dispute between TM and Perstruo Texas, Inc. (Perstruo Texas, Inc. is the entity that owns and contracted with TM to provide Pratt on Texas and of which I am an employee and officer.)

So no, there is no money losing, no sagging ratings, nor business disputes (other than the cancellation executed Friday night of course.)

Understand that Cancel Culture doesn’t care about money. Cancel Culture is about advancing a political agenda and operates outside of the idea of making money and being successful financially. The goal is to marginalize, at minimum, and to de-platform and destroy the ability of opposing viewpoints from reaching an audience.

Post election certification, Cancel Culture has rapidly grown beyond its roots in social media to include all forms of media and political thought sharing. It will flourish without mass opposition.

I have no doubt this is the reason behind this decision as well, based on numerous discussions I’ve had with other conservative media people. They are scared, they have ample evidence that the fascist left is coming for them, and they don’t know what to do about it.

Pioneers and the future

The asteroid mining ship Dream Watcher docked on the Mars space station.
From Pioneer: The asteroid mining ship Dream Watcher docked
on the Mars space station Landville, c2183.

When I first wrote my sole science fiction book, Pioneer, back in the mid-1980s, I strongly believed (and still do) that for the human race to prosper in space and truly build new civilizations on other worlds, freedom, private enterprise, and courage would be required.

It was for this reason there is absolute no mention of NASA in the book. Unlike most modern movies that idolize this mostly dysfunctional government agency and see it as the only solution for accomplishing anything in space (watch The Martian again to see what I mean), I knew that while government will be strongly involved in space exploration for the foreseeable future, for anything to get done quickly those governments will best step aside and figure out how to let their citizens both freely do it and also own what they do.

This weekend’s aborted SLS static fire test illustrates my point perfectly. Rather than depend on private enterprise to get this rocket built, both George Bush Jr. and Congress decided to give the job to their government bureaucrats. The result has been nothing for now over a decade.
» Read more

Where I was this past weekend

Bob Zimmerman underground

Several readers have asked in the comments for a report on what I did this past weekend.

I went caving. The photo to the right, taken on a previous trip several years ago, will give you an idea. The cave is amazingly beautiful. The trip was to designed to give a bunch of people a chance to see it.

I won’t say much more than this, mostly because it is unwise to reveal too much about the caves one visits because this then attracts people to them who are often either inexperienced (and thus a risk to themselves) or untrustworthy in terms of protecting the cave’s beauty. I am totally willing and open to bring anyone who wants to go to the caves I visit, but a newbie should go the first time with someone experienced, for the reasons already outlined.

Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne successfully reaches orbit

Capitalism in space: After eight years of development, Virgin Orbit has finally used its LauncherOne air-launched rocket to successfully put ten satellites into orbit.

After an eight month stand down to resolve issues revealed during the first mission of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket, the company made their second orbital launch attempt on Sunday, January 17. The air-launched rocket successfully carried ten CubeSats to their target orbit for NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program.

This makes Virgin Orbit the second smallsat rocket company to achieve orbit, following Rocket Lab. They have beat out a large number of startups, and are now well positioned to gain some of the market share in this new component of the launch market.

They have also made true my September 2016 prediction that Virgin Orbit would complete its first commercial launch before Virgin Galactic’s first suborbital commercial flight, even though Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo began development eight years earlier.

As for the 2021 launch race, right now only SpaceX and Virgin Orbit have launched in 2021. They are tied for the lead, and also combine to put the U.S. ahead 2 to nothing over everyone else.

SLS core stage static fire test aborts after only one minute

During the crucial first static fire test of SLS’s core stage yesterday — meant to last a full eight minutes — the booster aborted the test after only one minute.

It’s still too early to know exactly what caused the early shutdown in Saturday’s engine test.

Flight controllers could be heard during the test referring to an “MCF” (a major component failure) apparently related to engine No. 4 on the SLS booster. John Honeycutt, NASA’s SLS program manager, added that at about the 60-second mark, cameras caught a flash in a protective thermal blanket on the engine, though its cause and significance remain to be determined.

Honeycutt said it’s too early to know if a second hot-fire test will be required at Stennis, or if it can be done later at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the SLS is scheduled to launch the uncrewed Artemis 1 mission around the moon by the end of this year. Similarly, it’s too early to know if Artemis 1 will still be able to launch this year. “I think it’s still too early to tell,” Bridenstine said of whether a 2021 launch for Artemis 1 is still in the cards. “As we figure out what went wrong, we’re going to know kind of what the future holds.” [emphasis mine]

If this engine abort had occurred during a launch, with the two strap-on solid rocket boosters still firing (and no way to turn them off), the entire rocket would have been lost. Thus, for NASA to even consider shipping this core stage to Florida before figuring out the problem and fixing it is downright insane.

They need to figure out what went wrong, fix it, and then test again, even if if means the first unmanned Artemis flight experiences a serious delay. If they don’t then this whole program is proved to be an idiotic sham (something I have believed for about a decade), and should be shut down by Congress and the new President, immediately.

I am reporting this late because this weekend I was out in the country on a caving trip, taking a very much needed break from the truly horrible news of modern America.

SpaceX replacing two engines on Starship prototype #9

Capitalism in space: After the static fire engine tests earlier this week, SpaceX has decided to replace two of the Raptor engines in its ninth Starship prototype before moving on to its 50,000 foot test flight.

“Two of the engines need slight repairs, so will be switched out,” SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said via Twitter early this morning (Jan. 15).

Musk did not give a target launch date for SN9. But he did say, in another tweet, that it’s “probably wise” to perform another static fire with the vehicle after the engine swap is complete. So a weekend launch for SN9 seems pretty unlikely.

Makes sense, but I must admit a bit of disappointment. I was really hoping that the next flight would occur on the same day NASA attempts its first static fire test of the core stage of SLS. The contrast would have been edifying.

Personally this delay is great for me, as I will be out in the country caving this entire weekend, and would have missed it if it had occurred during the weekend. I will miss the SLS static fire test, but that will be far less interesting (unless something goes wrong).

Blue Origin aims for first manned suborbital flight in April

Capitalism in space: According to this CNBC report, Blue Origin is now targeting its first manned suborbital flight of New Shepard by April, after completing one more unmanned test flight in late February.

Blue Origin on Thursday completed the fourteenth test flight of its New Shepard rocket booster and capsule. Called NS-14, the successful test flight featured the debut of a new booster and an upgraded capsule. Beyond the upgrades, CNBC has learned that NS-14 also marked one of the last remaining steps before Blue Origin flies its first crew to space.

The flight was the first of two “stable configuration” test flights, people familiar with Blue Origin’s plans told CNBC. Stable configuration means that the company plans to avoid making major changes between this flight and the next. Additionally, those people said that Blue Origin aims to launch the second test flight within six weeks, or by late February, and the first crewed flight six weeks after that, or by early April.

We shall see. The sources are anonymous, and thus not entirely reliable. Furthermore, this schedule is far faster than the pace that Blue Origin has traditionally set.

At the same time, the competition to get those first suborbital passengers in space is heating up, as Virgin Galactic is rumored to have a somewhat similar schedule. Moreover, the first entirely private manned orbital tourist mission by SpaceX is presently set for October. If these two suborbital companies fail to begin manned flights before SpaceX their ability to garner customers will be sorely damaged.

InSight scientists give up on heat sensor mole

After another failed attempt earlier this month to dig with the German-made mole on the InSight Mars lander, the science team has decided to abandon all further efforts.

After getting the top of the mole about 2 or 3 centimetres under the surface, the team tried one last time to use a scoop on InSight’s robotic arm to scrape soil onto the probe and tamp it down to provide added friction. After the probe conducted 500 additional hammer strokes on 9 January, with no progress, the team called an end to their efforts.

This means the heat sensor, one of the two instruments carried by InSight, is also a failure, and will not be able to provide any data about the planet’s interior temperature.

From the beginning InSight appears to have been a poorly run and badly chosen project. Other than a weather station, it carried only two instruments, a seismometer and a heat sensor. Its launch was delayed two years when the French attempt to build the seismometer failed and JPL had to take over, fortunately with success. Now the failure of the German-made mole has made the heat sensor a failure.

To send a lander to Mars at a cost of a billion dollars with so little payoff seems in hindsight to have been bad use of money. Plenty of other NASA planetary missions have done far better for far less.

Another professor arrested for hiding ties to China

An MIT professor has been arrested for hiding his extensive ties to the Chinese communist government, even as he took almost $20 million in grants from the Department of Energy.

According to prosecutors, Gang Chen, a mechanical engineering professor at MIT, has held various positions on behalf of the PRC aimed at promoting China’s technological and scientific capabilities. He allegedly shared his expertise directly with Chinese government officials, “often in exchange for financial compensation,” said prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston.

The Chinese consulate in New York allegedly requested that Chen, a naturalized U.S. citizen, act as an “overseas expert” for the PRC. He was also a member of two talent programs that the PRC has used to place Chinese students at American universities.

This is not the NASA scientist who pled guilty to similar charges yesterday.

It appears to me that the Trump Justice Department is trying to wrap up as many of its cases of academics spying for China as it can before Joe Biden takes over.

Leftist activist arrested for inciting riot at Capitol

A leftist activist who is very anti-Trump and heads an organization founded in support of Black Lives Matter causes has been arrested by the FBI for participating and inciting the riot that occurred at the Capitol Building on January 6th.

[John] Sullivan, the founder of “an activist group formed after the killing of George Floyd in the summer of 2020” entitled Insurgence USA which “calls itself anti-fascist and protests police brutality,” insisted he was only inside the U.S. Capitol on January 6th to “record.”

…The 18-page affidavit reveals that Sullivan allegedly incited violence by exclaiming “we gotta get this [expletive] burned” and “it’s our house mother[expletive].” … During one of his interactions with others, Sullivan can be heard in the video saying, “We gotta get this [expletive] burned.” At other times as he is walking through the Capitol, Sullivan can be heard saying, among other things, “it’s our house mother[expletive]” and “we are getting this [expletive].”

At this link you can see a video of Sullivan speaking at what appears to be a DC rally, threatening violence and insurrection against Trump.

He is not the only one arrested, and his leftist agenda only illustrates that the politics of the individuals who attacked the Capitol Building were not all the same. It also adds weight to the possibility that many who were there were not there in support of Trump, as has now become the accepted but very unproven wisdom, but might actually have been there to help slander those Trump supporters.

And I still want to know more about that woman in the pink hat.

Craters in slush on Mars

Dust devil steak across a slushy plain on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on October 27, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It was taken not for any particular research project, but as one of the periodic images the camera team needs to take maintain the camera’s proper temperature. When they need to do this, they often will take a picture in an area not previously viewed at high resolution. Sometimes the image is boring. Sometimes they photograph some geology that is really fascinating, and begs for some young scientist to devote some effort to studying it.

In this case the photo was of the generally featureless northern lowland plains. What the image shows us is a scattering of impact craters that appear to have cut into a flat plain likely saturated with ice very close to the surface.

How can I conclude so confidently that these craters impacted into ice close to the surface? The location gives it away.
» Read more

These rioters in the Capitol are not Trump protesters

Below is a video taken inside the Capitol building on January 6th, apparently right after protesters have broken a window and gotten inside. It opens with one of them asking someone outside “Where’s the floor plan?” Later a woman in a pink wool hat outside sticks her head through the window, shouting military-like commands with a bullhorn.

Watch. I have been to numerous conservative demonstrations. I have never ever seen Republican protesters act like this. Never. Their behavior has almost always tried to stay within the law, and when someone begins to act unlawfully, usually there are cries everywhere to stop, with several quickly moving in to prevent it. Conservative protesters also are never organized in this manner. They come to the protest randomly, and mill about randomly.

A second video at this link is from outside before they have broken the window, and shows the woman in the pink hat apparently in command and helping to use a battering ram, clearly prepared beforehand, to smash a window.

As far as I am concerned, these rioters are not supporters of Trump. Their techniques, behavior, and approach all scream Antifa, in every way, dressed up to look like Trump supporters.

I might be wrong. There is no evidence right now one way or the other. Finding and interrogating that woman in the pink hat would be especially illuminating, because this footage clearly shows her breaking the law and leading the attack.

Too bad we no longer have a legitimate police force in DC willing to honestly investigate this.

Live stream of New Shepard flight: Successful flight

UPDATE: The flight has completed successfully, with the capsule reaching a height of about 66 miles, or about 107 kilometers. The booster was doing its first flight, with the capsule doing its eighth flight.

Original post:
——————–
Capitalism in space: I have embedded the live stream of today’s New Shepard suborbital flight by Blue Origin. The countdown is just under T-19 as I write this.

Watch if you want, though you will have deal with Blue Origin’s pr, including their somewhat noxious anchor, who spends much of her narration telling us how wonderful and breath-taking and amazing everything is, no matter what happens.
» Read more

Scientist pleads guilty of lying about ties to China

A NASA scientist yesterday pled guilty of lying about his participation in China’s Thousand Talents program, designed to recruit scholars for stealing U.S. intellectual property.

On or about October 27, 2020, MEYYAPPAN was interviewed by the FBI, NASA OIG, and the USAO, in New York, New York. During that interview, MEYYAPPAN falsely stated, among other things, that he was not a member of the Thousand Talents Program and that he did not hold a professorship at a Chinese university. In truth and in fact, MEYYAPPAN was a member of the Thousand Talents Program and held a professorship at a Chinese university, funded by the Chinese government.

This guy is one of a slew of scientists the Trump administration has caught spying for China. There are certainly many others, as our academic community generally has more loyalty to communism and China than it does to the U.S.

Unfortunately, he will likely be one of the last such spies caught, as we can surely expect the Biden administration, with its own ties to China, to shut down this national security work.

Blacklists are back and the Democrats have got ’em

The Bill of Rights, cancelled

They’re coming for you next: Oh boy, it’s the 1950s again and its time for witchhunts from Congress and big corporations.

Unlike the 1950s, however, the question will not be whether you have ever been a member of the Communist Party. No, now the question will be much more effective and to the point. It will be “Have you ever been conservative or a member of the Republican Party?”

And as always, today’s progressive Democratic Party is on the ball! Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has revealed members of the House are planning to form a commission to “rein in” conservative media, to prevent them from “spewing disinformation and misinformation.”

During a lengthy Instagram Live on Tuesday evening where she revealed that she feared for her life during the siege, the “Squad” member accused the mainstream media of “spewing disinformation” ahead of the deadly riot in which five people died.

“There’s absolutely a commission that’s being discussed but it seems to be more investigating in style rather than truth and reconciliation,” she said. “I do think that several members of Congress in some of my discussions have brought up media literacy because that is part of what happened here,” Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) went on. “We’re going to have to figure out how we rein in our media environment so you can’t just spew disinformation and misinformation,” she said.

Hey, Alexandria, I’ve got the perfect name for your congressional commission. Why not call it the House Un-American Activities Committee? You could subpoena right-wing writers and journalists to testify against their will in Congress, demanding to know their party affiliations. You could also set up lists of these proven conservatives so that businesses nationwide can blacklist them and keep them from working.

In fact, many of big corporations, their boards dominated by Democrats, are already ahead of the curve, cutting off all donations to all Republicans who simply wanted to find out if there was election fraud in the 2020 election. Other businesses in turn have begun firing anyone who worked for Trump.

It is obvious, Alexandra, that the work will be rewarding and productive. Get that committee going. Send out those subpoenas. Harass those witnesses.

We can’t have those evil Republicans poisoning our glorious socialist paradise, can we?

Starship prototype #9 completes three static fire tests in one day

Capitalism in space: SpaceX engineers today successfully completed three static fire tests of their Starship prototype #9, all within a space of just over three hours.

The three-engine SN9 vehicle performed its second, third and fourth “static fire” tests in quick succession today (Jan. 13) at SpaceX’s South Texas facilities, near the Gulf Coast village of Boca Chica. The engines lit up briefly at 1:28 p.m. EST (1828 GMT), again at 3:22 p.m. EST (2022 GMT) and then yet again at 4:36 p.m. EST (2136 GMT).

During static fires, engines blaze briefly while a vehicle remains tethered to the ground. SN9 already had one such test under its belt, having completed a short static fire on Jan. 6.

In each case they likely practiced their countdown and fueling procedures, followed by procedures allowing for a quick recycle should they have to abort a countdown but have time to still launch that day.

All this strengthens the reliability and overall design and operation of the rocket as they develop it.

The actual hop could occur, based on road closure announcements, on Friday. It is also possible the company will do additional static fire tests beforehand.

I think it also pertinent to once again compare SpaceX’s development approach to that of Boeing and NASA in their development of SLS. SpaceX is aggressively doing a lot of tests of hardware, continually. They then redesign and rebuild based on those tests. The pace is fast and compressed, and gets things built at a remarkable low cost, considering. It also forces them to design things in a way that makes redesign easy and fast.

Boeing and NASA have done no such tests in building SLS. Instead, they designed it by computer, giving themselves large safety margins in design. This might have reduced or eliminated the need for tests, but it raises the cost of the rocket while stretching out the development time enormously. And it carries great risk. In two days they will attempt their very first static fire test of SLS’s core stage, after almost a decade of development. The actual launch is planned for within a year.

If that static fire test has any issues, the whole SLS project will face serious problems that will, based on its design, be very difficult to fix.

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