Blue Origin determines New Shepard ticket prices by who you are and what you can pay

From the first commercial launch of Blue Origin’s suborbital New Shepard spacecraft in 2021, the company has refused to reveal what its standard price is for a ticket.

Now, after five flights and fourteen passengers, one journalist has determined that the company does not appear to have a standard price, but instead determines its prices depending on who you are and what you can pay.

Blue Origin doesn’t advertise price information on its flight reservation page. Passengers say they have paid from zero to nearly $30 million. Industry insiders say Blue Origin’s ticket price is tailored to individual passengers based on a variety of factors.

“It’s not about money; it’s about who you are, your social capital, whether you align with their launch purposes. It’s kind of a package deal,” said Roman Chiporukha, cofounder of SpaceVIP, a platform that helps the wealthy book space trips, including Blue Origin’s. Blue Origin declined to discuss its pricing strategy. [emphasis mine]

How very socialist of Blue Origin, to treat people differently depending on such factors. Under this policy, people have paid from zero to $28 million per ticket.

The ticket policy itself is not illegal — as long as the price differences are not related to race, ethnicity, sex, or religion. It is just unseemly to consider a person’s wealth and status in determining a price.

China and Europe complete launches

In the past 24 hours both Europe and China successfully completed launches.

First Arianespace’s Ariane-5 rocket yesterday launched two commercial communications satellites, for Malaysia and India. With this flight the Ariane-5 rocket has only four flights to go before it is retired and replaced with ArianeGroup’s not-yet flown Ariane-6 rocket.

Then, China today used its Long March 2D rocket to launch three remote-sensing satellites.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

26 SpaceX
20 China
8 Russia
3 Rocket Lab
3 ULA
2 Europe (Arianespace)

The U.S. still leads China 35 to 20 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 35 to 33.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

 
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, 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.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.


The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
 

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

A snakelike Martian ridge

A snakelike Martian ridge
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on November 22, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows what the science team labeled a sinuous ridge. Make sure you also look at the full image. The ridge goes on to the south, but then fades way as an almost perfect ramp, only to have another even more wiggly but thinner north-south ridge begin only a few feet to the west.

Sinuous ridges like this are found in many places on Mars. Almost always their origin is thought the result of a former river channel that became a ridge when the surrounding softer material eroded away.

That explanation however does not seem to work for this ridge. It has too many other inexplicable features. For example, note how the peak of the ridge smoothly transitions from sharp to flat-topped. It has a soft appearance that is strengthened by the gap near the top.

It is almost as if this ridge is a kind of elongated sand dune! And guess what: The overview map below gives that explanation some believability.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: School board threatens parent with lawsuit if she doesn’t shut up

Alexandra Schweitzer: a true momma grizzly
Alexandra Schweitzer: a true momma grizzly

When parent Alexandra Schweitzer began challenging publicly the use of inappropriate sexual materials in the elementary schools in Oconomowoc Area School District (OASD) in Wisconsin, the school board made what appeared to be some minor superficial changes in its policy without really addressing her concerns.

Above all, school district officials would not confirm unequivocally that these materials — many of which advocated the queer agenda on gender — had been removed. Unsatisfied with this response, Schweitzer expanded her campaign.

After enrolling her children elsewhere, Alexandra continued to be an advocate and resource for local parents regarding their concerns. As President of No Left Turn in Education [NLTE]– Wisconsin, Schweitzer voiced her concerns, and those of district parents, in public forums and in testimony before the Wisconsin legislature.

Apparently, the school district did not like what she said in those public forums or in that testimony. It proceeded to hire an outside lawyer — using school funds — to send Schweitzer a cease-and-desist letter [pdf], threatening further legal action against her if she did not retract her statements and then shut up.
» Read more

Leaving Earth cover

There are now only 6 copies left of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. After I sell one more, I will be raising the price substantially. Thus, if you want to get an autographed copy of this rare collector's item for only $100, plus $5 shipping, now is the time to buy. Once I sell one more book and only have five copies left, the price goes up to $150 (plus shipping for the next two.

 

To get your copy while the getting is good, please send a $105 check (which includes $5 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to
 

Behind The Black, c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

 

Leaving Earth is also available as an inexpensive ebook!

 

Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel, can be purchased as an ebook everywhere for only $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 

If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big oppressive tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Winner of the 2003 Eugene M. Emme Award of the American Astronautical Society.

"Leaving Earth is one of the best and certainly the most comprehensive summary of our drive into space that I have ever read. It will be invaluable to future scholars because it will tell them how the next chapter of human history opened." -- Arthur C. Clarke

A telescope using a liquid mirror about to become operational

Link here. The telescope, located in the Himalayas, is “an international collaboration between institutions in India, Belgium, Poland, Uzbekistan and Canada.”

The mirror works by rotating it so that its thin layer of liquid mercury forms a parabola.

The tradeoff is that the [telescope]is fixed in a single position, so it only observes one strip of the night sky as the Earth rotates below it. But since the telescope will be hyper-focused on just one area, it’s well-suited for spotting transient objects like supernovas and asteroids.

It appears the scientists will use it to study this same strip of sky over five years, hoping to detect changes in that time period.

This telescope is more a technology test than an actual observatory. Eventually the best place to put such a telescope — and much larger — will be on the Moon, and to do that requires some construction and testing beforehand.

InSight team decides to shorten lander’s life to operate seismometer longer

The InSight science team has decided to continue to operate the lander’s seismometer through August rather than turning it off at the end of June, even though that longer use will drain InSight’s batteries sooner and kill the lander shortly thereafter.

The previous plan would have allowed the lander to survive through the end of the year, but would have meant no earthquake data would have been gathered after June.

To enable the seismometer to continue to run for as long as possible, the mission team is turning off InSight’s fault protection system. While this will enable the instrument to operate longer, it leaves the lander unprotected from sudden, unexpected events that ground controllers wouldn’t have time to respond to.

“The goal is to get scientific data all the way to the point where InSight can’t operate at all, rather than conserve energy and operate the lander with no science benefit,” said Chuck Scott, InSight’s project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

Apparently they have realized that it is now very unlikely that a dust devil will come by and clear the dust from InSight’s solar panels, so keeping the spacecraft alive longer — but getting no data — does not make sense.

The battlelines and alliances shift over big satellite constellations in space

Two stories today show that the competition for frequency use and orbital territory in space are shifting, partly because of international politics and partly due to changes in technology.

First the harsh conflict between OneWeb and Starlink over the positioning and frequency use of their constellations in orbit now appears to have vanished.

The companies have written a joint letter to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), declaring harmony in low Earth orbit (LEO) for spectrum coordination between their respective current and next generation broadband constellations.

In the letter, which is dated June 13, SpaceX and OneWeb request that the FCC disregard previously filed dissenting comments regarding spectrum coordination in LEO. SpaceX and OneWeb both submitted proposals for their first-generation internet constellations to the FCC in 2016, followed by a second round of proposals in 2020 for each company’s next-generation broadband satellites. Simultaneously, both SpaceX and OneWeb submitted complaints with the FCC in an attempt to get a leg up on each other. Now, it seems the companies are operating on friendlier terms.

The article I think correctly speculates that this new-found cooperation probably resulted from OneWeb’s need to use SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets to get its satellites in orbit, caused by Russia’s confiscation of 36 OneWeb satellites in response to Europen sanctions over the Ukraine War. During the launch negotiations I am sure SpaceX demanded both iron out their differences relating to the satellite constellations. While SpaceX might have been able to gain some advantages in that negotiation due to its strong position, I also suspect that OneWeb has not been hurt in any major way.

In the second story, SpaceX ramped up its opposition to a Dish 5G system in a wavelength used by its Starlink satellties.
» Read more

Psyche software issue could prevent launch this year

In a remarkably brief announcement on the Psyche website, the engineering team suggested that the flight software issue that forced a seven week delay in its launch might now prevent a launch this year.

This is the entire announcement:

NASA’s Psyche mission team continues to assess ongoing issues with the spacecraft’s flight software. The team is evaluating its ability to meet a schedule to launch in 2022 – the current launch period is Sept. 20 to Oct. 11. If it is determined that launch in 2022 is not possible, a full range of actions for how to proceed will be considered.

This year’s launch window would have gotten the spacecraft to the asteroid Psyche in 2026. Since this flight path required a fly-by of Mars, it is very unclear when another launch window will be available.

China’s Kuaizhou-1A smallsat rocket launches technology test satellite

China today used its smallsat solid rocket Kuaizhou-1A to put a technology test satellite into orbit.

The Kuaizhou-1A rocket is not the same as the Kuaizhou-11 rocket, which some have speculated exploded during a static fire test in the fall of ’21. Both are part of a family of rockets designed for fast launch.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

26 SpaceX
19 China
8 Russia
3 Rocket Lab
3 ULA

The U.S. still leads China 35 to 19 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 35 to 31.

Has work begun on a dedicated helicopter mission to Mars?

Overview map

The easternmost point in the Mars Helicopter traverse
Click for full image.

In my routine searches through the image archive for the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, I recently came upon several images labeled “Candidate Mars Science Helicopter Traverse” that I at first thought referred to Ingenuity’s extended mission in Jezero Crater.

A closer look however revealed these photos have nothing to do with Ingenuity or Jezero Crater. Taken in November ’21, January ’22, and March ’22, the images instead cover parts of the south rim of Valles Marineris, the solar system’s largest canyon, and appear to be research for a future dedicated Mars helicopter mission. The overview map above shows the location of these photos by the black dots. Three locations have each been imaged twice to produce a stereoscopic view that can precisely measure the topography.

The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, shows the easternmost image, taken November 3, 2021. Not only does it show ample flat areas, the picture captures an impressive avalanche flow coming down from that southern interior canyon slope.

All the images were requested by planetary scientist Edwin Kite of the University of Chicago. Though I tried several times to contact Dr. Kite to get more information, he unfortunately did not respond. It could be this work is still too preliminary and thus he does not wish to comment.

Nonetheless, the extent of the three sets of images give us a fair idea of the kind of missions Kite and others might be considering. From east to west the distance between the images is about four hundred miles, and covers a traverse of the southern interior slopes of Valles Marineris along that entire length. The photos look mostly at the base of the canyon’s slope, each showing clearly that a helicopter flying there would have plenty of landing spots.

Obviously this first dedicated Mars helicopter mission might not cover this entire distance. Right now these images could simply be the first tentative research on choosing potential landing areas. Regardless, it appears that at least one scientist has already concluded that Ingenuity has proven such helicopter missions make sense, and is beginning to target one of Mars’s most spectacular locations, Valles Marineris, for that mission.

Today’s blacklisted American: Student gov’t demands blacklisting of every club that does not endorse the queer agenda

Student government at North Texas opposes freedom of speech

They’re coming for you next: The student government at North Texas University has passed a resolution that demands the school blacklist of every club that expresses any dissenting opinion about the queer agenda.

From the resolution [pdf]:

THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED THAT, any UNT Student Organization that engages in harassment, discrimination, hate crimes, and/or violation of UNT policy through transphobic posts, statements, and actions be immediately suspended to protect the mental, emotional, and physical health of transgender students at UNT. [emphasis mine]

Note how this resolution isn’t condemning actual harassment. Instead, it considers mere disagreement to be “harassment, discrimination, and a hate crime”, and thus must be punished.

The resolution lists a bunch of incidents where so-called “trans” students (more accurately described as emotionally unstable individuals who want to make-believe they are of a different sex) were offended and felt “unsafe” when others expressed their opposition to this queer agenda. The key and most significant event however involved an appearance at the school of Jeff Younger, who was then running for the state legislature but more importantly had been involved in a very public and truly horrifying case where one of his two sons had been forced by a guardian to dress as a girl because that guardian had decided the boy was one. (To understand how horrifying, look at the images at the link.)

Younger had fought but failed to protect his son. He came to the campus to tell his story, which was then disrupted by leftist protests of chants and obscenities. Apparently, it is all right for Younger to feel “unsafe.” These leftist rules as always apply in only one direction.

The article at the link quotes Program Officer Graham Piro from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression:
» Read more

South Korea successfully launches its Nuri rocket

The new colonial movement: South Korea today successfully launched its home-built Nuri rocket, placing a test satellite, a dummy satellite, and four university cubesats into orbit.

The government program to build this rocket began in 2010 and cost $616 million, though not all of that money was devoted to the rocket. South Korea’s space agency has four more launches planned through 2027.

This was obviously South Korea’s first launch this year. The leaders in the 2022 launch race thus remain the same:

26 SpaceX
18 China
8 Russia
3 Rocket Lab
3 ULA

American private enterprise now leads China 35 to 18 in the national rankings, and leads the entire world combined 35 to 30.

SLS dress rehearsal countdown ends at T-29 seconds

NASA’s fourth attempt to complete a full dress rehearsal countdown of its giant SLS rocket today ended at T-29 seconds, just short of the complete countdown.

It appears the countdown had one issue — a hydrogen fuel leak at the point where the umbilical fuel line attaches to the rocket — that mission control decided to ignore (or “mask” to use their word) so that they could proceed into the count as far as possible. It was this decision however that caused the two-hour delay in the countdown. They then resumed the countdown at T-10 minutes, the beginning of terminal count.

During the terminal count, the teams performed several critical operations that must be accomplished for launch including switching control from the ground launch sequencer to the automated launch sequencer controlled by the rocket’s flight software, and important step that the team wanted to accomplish.

NASA will hold a press conference tomorrow at 11 am (Eastern) to discuss the results of this dress rehearsal. While the leak is concerning, I expect NASA to decide that this dress rehearsal was a success, that they will roll the rocket back to the vehicle assembly building where they will fix this problem, after which the agency will declare the rocket ready to launch by the end of August.

While risky, doing otherwise likely raises other risks. If they decide to do another dress rehearsal the launch faces more delays. And waiting much longer continues to increase the danger that the solid rocket side boosters will not function as intended because they have been stacked almost a year longer than their accepted use-by date.

If this turns out to be the plan, expect the actual launch countdown to be as plagued with issues and delays and scrubs. NASA has yet to demonstrate it can do this smoothly with no problems. Worse, this level of mediocre performance has been par for the course for this entire SLS program.

If that launch should go smoothly it will be a welcome and unprecedented event.

David Bull – David’s Choice

An evening pause: Hat tip Cotour, who admits “This is a bit different.” I agree, but it gives you a flavor from the past when a new technology first met art, to produce something beautiful but new. From the youtube webpage:

The next in our ‘David’s Choice’ series, where Tokyo-based woodblock printmaker David Bull introduces some of his favourite prints. This time, the print(s) being featured are from the old Doi Hanga Company, and are two different scenes of the Kagurazaka district of Tokyo. The designers were Tsuchiya Koitsu, and Noel Nouet, and the prints were originally published in the late 1930s.

Water and dry ice at the Martian north polar ice cap

water and dry ice at the Martian north pole
Click for original image. Click here for full image.

In our third Martian cool image of the day, we go to the north pole of Mars, as seen from orbit by the high resolution camera of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Taken on March 30, 2022 and cropped and reduced to post here, this picture shows some of the distinct and unique geological features found only on the polar caps of Mars. From the caption by Candy Hansen of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona:

Both water and dry ice have a major role in sculpting Mars’ surface at high latitudes. Water ice frozen in the soil splits the ground into polygons. Erosion of the channels forming the boundaries of the polygons by dry ice sublimating in the spring adds plenty of twists and turns to them.

Spring activity is visible as the layer of translucent dry ice coating the surface develops vents that allow gas to escape. The gas carries along fine particles of material from the surface further eroding the channels. The particles drop to the surface in dark fan-shaped deposits. Sometimes the dark particles sink into the dry ice, leaving bright marks where the fans were originally deposited. Often the vent closes, then opens again, so we see two or more fans originating from the same spot but oriented in different directions as the wind changes.

The top layer of translucent dry ice falls as dry ice snow during the winter, than sublimates away with the arrival of spring. Since this photo was taken in autumn, we are looking at features left over from the activity from the spring and summer.

Perseverance peers towards the rim of Jezero Crater

Perseverance peers through winter haze
Click for full image.

Overview map
Click for interactive map.

In our second cool image from Mars today, the Mars rover Perseverance gives us its own long distance view of the dusty winter air inside Jezero Crater. The photo above, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on June 16, 2022 by the rover’s left high resolution camera, and looks to the southwest towards the crater’s western rim.

As with today’s previous cool image from Curiosity, we can see several ranges, each with distance faded more by the dust that hangs in the air during the winter on Mars. In the foreground right is the nearest cliff of the delta that flowed into Jezero over time in the past. Next is a knob and ridge line, also part of that delta flow but farther away. Third are some farther ridges that might have been part of that flow but maybe not.

Faintest of all are the highest mountains that form the western ridge of Jezero Crater, barely visible in the haze.

The blue dot in the overview map to the right marks Perseverance’s approximate position when the photo was taken. The yellow lines my guess as to the area covered by the photo. The green dot marks Ingenuity’s present position after its last flight, much closer to the delta that I had predicted.

Martian mountains, near and far

Navigation image
Click for full image.

Martian mountains, near and far
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, taken on June 18, 2022 by high resolution camera on the Mars rover Curiosity, provides a close-up of the area indicated by the arrow in the navigation camera image above taken three days earlier.

Because the rover had moved uphill slightly during those three days, the close-up can peek over what was the most distant ridge to see farther up Mount Sharp. (For context take a look at the overview map here.) All told, this close-up to the right shows four mountain ridges/ranges. First we have the ridgeline to the right, partly in shadow, which forms the right wall of the saddle that Curiosity appears heading for. Next we can see to the left the top section of the large 1,500 foot high mesa on the other side of the canyon Gediz Vallis. Note its many layers, all of which are going to become a major item of study as Curiosity gets closer.

Third we have a very rough and tumbled ridgeline, formed in a layer the geologists have dubbed the sulfate bearing unit. This layer tends to be very light in color, and more easily eroded. Curiosity is presently beginning to move into this layer as it climbs.

Finally there is the most distant ridge, which is simply the higher reaches of Mount Sharp though not its peak by a long shot.

The dusty winter air is quite evident by the chariscuro effect, causing the more distant ridges to appear more faded.

Note: This will be the first of three cool Martian images today. Stay tuned.

NIH to discriminate against whites in awarding research grants

Federal government: dedicated to segregation!
NIH: dedicated to racial discrimination

“Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has now created a program to award about $20 million in grant money exclusively to black researchers, thus favoring research not because of its merit but solely because of the skin color of the grantee.

The program will create a new class of NIH’s standard R01 research grant designed to “encourage a more diverse pool of PIs [principal investigators],” said Walter Koroshetz, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), at a recent meeting. NINDS is launching the program, aimed at new PIs and those whose labs are at risk of folding, together with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In 2021, the three institutes partnered on a policy with similar aims that NIH later pulled because of concerns it would violate federal antidiscrimination laws.

The NIH attempted to create a similar bigoted grant program last year, but had to back off when critics pointed out its obvious illegality. Agency officials now claim this new program passes muster, because

…it aims to enhance diversity “in a very broad sense,” [NIH extramural chief Michael] Lauer says. An NIH spokesperson notes that although the program “encourages” applications from researchers in underrepresented groups, “it is not exclusive—all new investigators and at-risk investigators are eligible to apply.” (NIH defines “at-risk” as a PI who will have no NIH grants if their high-quality proposal isn’t funded.)

What a lie. We all know that the grant application will require each applicant to state their race, and the NIH will then automatically disqualify anyone who isn’t black. It will also conveniently never make public the actual racial breakdown of those who win grants from this program, in order to hide its bigotry.

SLS dress rehearsal countdown continues, though T-0 delayed two hours

The SLS dress rehearsal countdown is proceeding today as planned, though the countdown’s end at T-0 is now 4:38 pm (eastern), two hours later than previously announced.

Apparently they have delayed T-0 from the beginning of the two-hour simulated launch window to its end. This decision so early in the count suggests the launch team wants to give itself extra time either to deal with some issue that has come up that they haven’t told us about yet, or to give themselves more time in case some issue should come up.

ISS forced to dodge space junk from Russia’s November ’21 anti-sat test

Last week the Russians were forced to use the engines of the Progress cargo capsule docked to ISS to shift the station’s orbit slightly to avoid a collision with some debris left over from Russia’s anti-satellite test in November 2021.

“I confirm that at 22.03 Moscow time, the engines of the Russian Progress MS-20 transport cargo ship carried out an unscheduled maneuver to avoid a dangerous approach of the International Space Station with a fragment of the Kosmos-1408 spacecraft,” Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin wrote on Telegram (opens in new tab), according to a Google translation, using Roscosmos’ designation for Progress 81.

While the Russians have consistently denied the anti-sat test and the 1,500 satellite pieces it created would cause a collision threat, yesterday’s action was not a surprise, and was predicted by many right after the test.

The concern however is not the debris that has been identified and is being tracked, since collisions from that stuff can be predicted and avoided. The concern is from the smaller pieces that were not identified.

SLS dress rehearsal countdown begins

NASA engineers began their fourth attempt to complete a full dress rehearsal countdown of the SLS rocket yesterday, with everything proceeding so far as planned.

Overnight, engineers powered up the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System’s core stage. Teams also configured several systems on the ground, rocket, and spacecraft and performed activities to prepare umbilicals that connect the rocket and spacecraft to the mobile launcher and are used to provide power, communications, coolant, and propellant.

Actual fueling begins tomorrow, when the countdown is supposed to conclude at T-0 at 2:40 pm (Eastern).

NASA live stream is available here.

SpaceX completes its third launch in less than 48 hours

Capitalism in space: SpaceX tonight successfully completed its third launch in less than 48 hours, launching a commercial communications satellite.

The first stage completed its ninth flight, landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. At this moment, though the satellite is in orbit it has not yet been deployed.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

26 SpaceX
18 China
8 Russia
3 Rocket Lab
3 ULA

American private enterprise now leads China 35 to 18 in the national rankings, and leads the entire world combined 35 to 29.

At this point the U.S. is halfway to matching its annual record for launches of 70, set in 1966. With the year not quite half over, the U.S. is also only seven launches behind its total of 48 last year, which had been the most launches for the U.S. in a year since 1968. SpaceX itself is only five launches behind its own record of 31 from last year, and is easily on a pace to meet its goal of 60 launches this year.

UAE’s Rashid lunar rover getting ready for November launch

The new colonial movement: Engineers have now delivered the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) first lunar rover, Rashid, to France for testing and preparation for its early November launch on a Falcon 9 rocket.

The 10-kilogram rover will now spend a few weeks in Toulouse for vibration and thermal vacuum testing, a series of final checks to ensure it can survive the extreme environment during a rocket launch and spaceflight. It will then be moved to Germany, so it can be integrated with a Japanese lander, called Hakuto-R Mission 1, built by private company ispace inc, which will deliver the rover to the lunar surface.

Once completed, it will be shipped to the launch site in Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre in September.

Unlike the UAE’s Al-Amal Mars orbiter — which was mostly built in the U.S. by American companies and universities as part of a training program for UAE citizens, Rashid appears to have largely built in the UAE by those engineers.

South Korea reschedules launch to June 21 after fixing sensor issue

The new colonial movement: South Korea space officials from its KARI space agency have now rescheduled the second test launch of their home-built Nuri rocket for June 21st, after replacing a fuel sensor on the rocket that was not working.

ARI said engineers identified the problematic part within the sensor and replaced it, and Kwon said they also found no other problems after inspecting the rest of the rocket. Kwon noted that the rescheduled launch date could be subject to change depending on weather conditions.

This will the second time KARI has attempted an orbital launch of Nuri, with the first experiencing an upper stage failure in October 2021.

Kitt Peak telescopes undamaged from wildfire

Firefighters have so far been able to protect the telescopes on Kitt Peak in Arizona from being damaged by a fast burning wildfire that began a week ago.

In a statement, NOIRLabs, which manages Kitt Peak Observatory for the National Science Foundation, said a crew of firefighters are working on the summit with multiple engines. Hydrants have been tested, and fire hoses deployed to defend the observatory’s buildings, they said, adding firefighters are dropping “large amounts” of fire retardant on the southern end of the observatory in an effort to slow the fire’s advance.

On Thursday, firefighters cleared a line of trees and brush below the peak’s southern ridge, an effort that was “mostly complete” by the evening, said NOIRLabs. Firefighters also cleared the area around individual domes, as well around “critical infrastructure,” and around flammable propane tanks. In some places, ground crews started backfires to create fuel breaks, officials said.

Firefighters are continuing to remove brush on the slopes, and have spotters watching for hot-spots.

That this point it appears the telescopes are safe, as the fire teams allow the fire to burn out.

SpaceX successfully launches German military satellite

Capitalism in space: SpaceX this morning used its Falcon 9 rocket to successfully launch a German reconnaissance satellite, completing its second of three launches this weekend.

The first stage completed its third flight, landing at Vandenberg, in thick fog. The third launch is set for just after midnight tonight.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

25 SpaceX
18 China
8 Russia
3 Rocket Lab
3 ULA

American private enterprise now leads China 34 to 18 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 34 to 29.

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