Conscious Choice cover

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Rocket Lab shifts another launch from Virginia to New Zealand

Foot-dragging by NASA bureaucrats has apparently forced Rocket Lab to shift the launch of its CAPSTONE lunar orbit cubesat from its new launchpad in Wallops Island, Virgina, to its New Zealand launchpad.

CAPSTONE would be the second Rocket Lab mission in recent weeks that shifted from Virginia to New Zealand. The most recent Electron launch July 26 placed into orbit Monolith, a smallsat developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory. Monolith was originally going to launch on the first Electron mission from Virginia.

Rocket Lab said at the time that it shifted the launch of Monolith because of ongoing work by NASA to certify the software for the rocket’s autonomous flight termination system. A NASA spokesman said in July that the agency expected to complete certification of the unit by the end of the year.

Note too that Rocket Lab had originally hoped to launch from Wallops in 2020, but was forced to delay that launch to 2021 then because of NASA’s inability to approve this system. Now it looks like they won’t be able to launch in ’21 either.

This flight termination system is likely the same one that Rocket Lab has successfully used now for four years and more than twenty launches in New Zealand. Why it should take NASA literally years to approve it is shameful. As I wrote in November,

While I have no evidence of this, I cannot help being suspicious of these various government agencies. For years numerous people in the government put fake roadblocks up to slow or stop SpaceX’s first manned launch, merely because it threatened their turfs. This autonomous termination system will make the ground crews at Vandenberg and at Cape Canaveral irrelevant, and I would not be surprised if some of these issues were drummed up to delay or block this system because of that.

I know I am being cynical, but based on history it is not unreasonable to be so.

I think we are seeing evidence now that my cynicism was entirely justified.

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11 comments

  • pawn

    NASA has been trying to develop it’s own AFTS for over a decade. Wallops was involved in the work a few years ago and then it just died from lack of funding (interest). I’m sure there are plenty of experts around to confound any progress in the private sector.

  • Jay

    Yet Wallops is launching CRS2 NG-16 (Cygnus) this Tuesday (Aug.10th).

    In other news, the Wallops gift shop is now stuck with 1,000 T-shirts saying “Virginia is for Launchers”.

  • mkent

    This autonomous termination system will make the ground crews at Vandenberg and at Cape Canaveral irrelevant, and I would not be surprised if some of these issues were drummed up to delay or block this system because of that.

    Oh, good heaven’s no. I can personally attest that getting any change to any flight termination system approved by any range is an exercise in frustration, even for people who have been building flight termination systems for 30 years. Far from being made irrelevant, getting these AFTSs approved is the only way for the ground crews on these bases to keep from being swamped. There’s no other way they’re going to be able to keep up with current and predicted launch rates otherwise.

    For years numerous people in the government put fake roadblocks up to slow or stop SpaceX’s first manned launch, merely because it threatened their turfs.

    Fake roadblocks? People and organizations were bending over backwards to let SpaceX get away with things no other contractor could get away with. Need I remind you that SpaceX *blew up* a capsule that had just been docked at the ISS weeks before — a failure far more dangerous than either Starliner or Nauka ever experienced — and yet were not subjected to the same systemic root-cause analysis and re-flight that Boeing justifiably was.

    But I guess I should expect that reaction from someone who has publicly stated that federal law does not and should not apply to Elon Musk.

  • pawn

    I’m sure that Elon has learned a lot about dealing with the government over the years. Now it seems other companies are joining in the learning curve. The federal government developed the Ranges during the Cold War and the business conducted there was dominated by defense companies that never worried about losing money or going out of business so they had no idea on how to deal with a private company that never had to play “by the rules” or even questioned them.

    Things are changing but the bureaucracy remains very slow and self-serving to a large degree. It’s easy to perceive the situation in terms of roadblocks and turf. Those elements undoubtedly existed in some minds early on. SpaceX success has been remarkable. The other side of the coin is that safety culture has been bred on a history of bad things happening and possible worst case scenarios that haven’t happened, yet.

    I wish RL the best of luck in the future but that future will be brighter the farther away from the bureaucrats it can get and remain.

  • pawn

    Oh, and by the way, it’s now called the, AFSS, Automated Flight Safety System. Rebranding.

  • Edward

    mkent,
    You wrote: “Need I remind you that SpaceX *blew up* a capsule that had just been docked at the ISS weeks before — a failure far more dangerous than either Starliner or Nauka ever experienced — and yet were not subjected to the same systemic root-cause analysis and re-flight that Boeing justifiably was.

    I explained in another thread that the explosion did not require another test of Dragon’s flight operations to ISS, but you just can’t seem to get your head around test engineering. I have worked in test engineering on spaceflight units, and we do not do expensive complete end-to-end tests for units that do not require that level of testing. The root cause of that explosion was valves that have a very limited purpose. All that needed testing were the new valves not the whole system. Boeing, on the other hand, has yet to demonstrate that its spacecraft can rendezvous and dock with ISS, so it needs another test of that system, which requires another launch in order to perform that part of the test. Since their spacecraft is reusable, it also requires another reentry and landing.

    When your first part of your note said that you could “personally attest that getting any change to any flight termination system approved by any range is an exercise in frustration,” I thought you might have actually worked in the space industry, but your inability to understand the business demonstrates otherwise.

  • NASA and the state of Virginia (which operates the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA Wallops) would love to see more launches from that facility. It’s an underused spaceport. They would like the flexibility that the facility provides. Wallops is a lot easier to reach than New Zealand. Undoubtedly less fun, but much faster and cheaper to get satellites and personnel there. My best guess is there are technical issues in getting the flight termination system approved, not any larger effort to prevent Rocket Lab for operating there.

    Rocket Lab’s major problem is SpaceX. The Transporter missions are soaking up hundreds of smallsats annually and making it difficult for small launch companies to find payloads. That’s why Rocket Lab and Relativity Space and others are developing larger boosters. I could see a number of smallsat launch companies going out of business not due to any flaws in their boosters but because they’re driven out of business by SpaceX.

  • mkent

    I could see a number of smallsat launch companies going out of business not due to any flaws in their boosters but because they’re driven out of business by SpaceX.

    Gwynne Shotwell has publicly stated that she intends to put all of the small launch companies — including Rocket Lab — out of business.

  • Richard M

    Aside from Virgin Orbit, there’s only one operational smallsat launcher so far, and that’s Rocket Lab. And from the disclosures that were entailed by its SPAC deal, we also know that even Rocket Lab is losing money right now – about $30 million last year, I believe. It has yet to have a profitable year.

    While SpaceX *is* cutting into the smallsat market, it had become apparent to Peter Beck that even before that, there wasn’t yet enough smallsats (at least, in its payload range) for Rocket Lab to get quickly into the black.

    But here is where the burgeoning LEO constellations come in. There’s going to be plenty more, like it or not, to join Starlink and OneWeb. And those other constellation operators are not going to be keen to just give Elon Musk money to launch their satellites. So there’s going to be room for at least one more high cadence medium/heavy class launch player, maybe even two, even aside from who gets into the next NSSL round.

    In short, there’s not much danger yet of SpaceX becoming a monopoly launch provider – even setting aside protected national launch providers with captive domestic markets.

  • mkent related: “Gwynne Shotwell [President/CEO SpaceX] has publicly stated that she intends to put all of the small launch companies — including Rocket Lab — out of business.”

    Throw Down! Baby! I would take that as a challenge. Maybe not everyone will play in the same league, but there’s room for market differentiation. There’s Boeing and Airbus, but also Fokker, Bombardier, Embraer, and others.

  • DanL

    mkent quote: “Gwynne Shotwell [President/CEO SpaceX] has publicly stated that she intends to put all of the small launch companies — including Rocket Lab — out of business.”

    mkent: Do you have a source for this quote? This statement seems highly irresponsible for any CEO to make publicly. Shotwell appears to be much more savvy than this.

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