SpaceX donates used Merlin engine and Falcon 9 grid fin to Smithsonian

A SpaceX used Merlin engine and a Falcon 9 grid fin will go on display at the Smithsonian Air & Space museum when it reopens its east wing after a major renovation.

In addition to the 2019 launch of SpaceIL’s “Beresheet” moon lander, which entered lunar orbit but crashed into the moon’s surface, the donated Merlin engine was one of nine that flew on the first stages of two other Falcon 9 rockets. In 2018, it was launched twice from Vandenberg Air Force Base (today Space Force Base) in California, helping to loft commercial communications satellites (Iridium-6) and an Argentinian Earth-observation satellite (SAOCOM 1A). The latter stage was the first to land on land on the U.S. West Coast, as opposed to using one of SpaceX’s ocean-going droneships.

The grid fin flew only once, on the 2017 launch that placed a South Korean communications satellite in orbit.

From an engineering perspective, one can’t help wondering why SpaceX chose to donate these items in particular. Why for example did the grid fin fly only once? And why was the Merlin engine retired?

Pushback: Smithsonian ordered to no longer violate the First Amendment

The evil hat that Air & Space banned
The evil hat that Air & Space officials banned

Pushback: The Smithsonian Institution, which runs the Air & Space museum as well as other museums in Washington, D.C., has been ordered by the courts to stop violating the First Amendment, as it did when on January 20, 2023 it harassed and ejected students from a pro-life group, there as part of their participation in the annual March for Life demonstration, because they were wearing wool caps that said “pro-life” on them.

According to the consent order [pdf], the Smithsonian expressed “regret” for the event and promised to “remind all security officers stationed at NASM [National Air & Space Museum] of the rights of visitors.”

The order however does not simply accept the museum’s expression of regret. It specifically enjoins the Smithsonian and its employees “from prohibiting visitors to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum from wearing hats or other clothing with messages, including religious and political speech” and requires it to distribute the consent order to “all security officers stationed at NASM, as well as other Smithsonian personnel who interact with the public, including volunteers and museum staff, within 7 days.” It also orders the museum to tell its security officers that their behavior on January 20th was wrong.
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Today’s blacklisted Americans: Catholic students kicked out of Air & Space museum for wearing pro-life hats

The evil hat that Air & Space banned
The evil hat that Air & Space officials banned

They’re coming for you next: A dozen Catholic students, having just attended the March for Life event on January 20, 2023 in Washington, found themselves being chased from the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum because they were all wearing hats with a pro-life message.

According to their lawyer,

Once in the museum, they were accosted several times and told they would be forced to leave unless they removed their pro-life hats. The group all wore the same blue hat that simply said, “Rosary PRO-LIFE.” Other individuals in the museum were wearing hats of all kinds without issue.

The museum staff mocked the students, called them expletives, and made comments that the museum was a “neutral zone” where they could not express such statements. The employee who ultimately forced the students to leave the museum was rubbing his hands together in glee as they exited the building.

According to the students and their parents, the kids were all wearing the same hats in order to find each other in the crowds.

When asked by the press about this incident, the museum responded as follows:
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Nice overview of space tourism options

Link here. The author does an excellent job outlining in detail the pros and cons of each space tourism option, from Virgin Galactic (“joy ride”) to Axiom’s orbital station trips (“Five stars!”)

She misses a few however, such as the recent announcement by the balloon company Worldview that it plans near space tourists flights in competition with Space Perspectives, and for a much smaller ticket price. There are also two Spanish balloon companies gearing up to capture this end of the space tourist business.

Regardless, if you’ve got some spare cash and want to spend it in an adventurous way, here is a guide for doing so.

Bezos donates $200 million to Air & Space Museum

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and Blue Origin and about to fly on the first commercial suborbital flight of his New Shepard spacecraft, today announced the donation of $200 million to the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

The Smithsonian said $70 million of the money would support museum renovations. The other $130 million would go toward building a new education center at the museum called the Bezos Learning Center to inspire students to promote innovation and explore careers in science, math and engineering.

While this is a very gracious and generous act, in the long run it might actually have been better for Bezos to have used this money to get his rocket company off the ground. Success in that manner would be far more effective in inspiring students. Once Blue Origin is actually launching humans into orbit to explore the heavens such a donation might have made better sense. Those student would not only be inspired by the achievement, Bezos would then be providing them a way to join in.

Still, the gift will do much to help maintain the nation’s capabilities in space. Good for Bezos.

Space Force hypes unspecified Russian anti-satellite test

Yesterday Space Force officials released a scathing press release condemning a so-called Russian anti-satellite test, calling it “a threat” while providing zero details about what the Russians actually did.

I saw the press release and realized it was nothing more than an effort by the new Space Force to justify its existence and to possibly encourage more funding from Congress. Until they release some details about the test itself, the story simply doesn’t merit coverage.

Our compliant and brainless media today however immediately jumped on the Washington swamp bandwagon with numerous stories reinforcing and supporting the Space Force lobbying effort. Here are a few examples:

All of these articles buy into the Space Force agenda, with practically no skepticism. All provide lots of quotes from a variety of Washington “experts” backing the Space Force position, insisting that the Russians are evil and have now demonstrated a new capability that requires a big U.S. response. None provide any further detail about the test itself, meaning that no further information on it was available, and that their stories were nothing more than a xerox of that empty Space Force press release.

Only this story from C4ISRNET described the press release properly, giving no play to these so-called “experts” because any quotes they would provide were merely a transparent lobbying effort for the Space Force. Instead, the article provided this much needed background:

Brian Weeden, director of program planning for the Secure World Foundation, said the test is likely of the Nudol, a ballistic-missile system capable of taking out satellites in low earth orbit. He warned not to overreact, as the system has been tested several times in recent years. According to the CSIS Aerospace Security Project’s Space Threat Assessment 2020, Russia conducted its seventh test of Nudol in December 2018.

As to why military leaders issued the statement, Weeden said it is “part of the DoD being more public about what’s going on in space, which is good. But it also seems the only thing they’re doing about it is using it to justify more U.S. spending on our own counterspace capabilities.” [emphasis mine]

In other words, this test is nothing unusual, and was being hyped by the Space Force in order to garner a bigger budget for the new agency.

Sadly, this is par for the course. Our entire society is presently shut down because medical “experts” in Washington and the mainstream leftist press did the same thing with COVID-19, hyping what was clearly nothing more than a new disease variation of the annual flu season so much that they convinced American public it was another Black Plague. The result: a new Great Depression, millions out of work, and the end of American freedom, all for the benefit of those Washington “experts” and that leftist press.