German rocket startup looking for alternatives to Saxaford spaceport

Australian commercial spaceports
Australia’s commercial spaceports. Click for original map.

Because of regulatory delays at the Saxaford spaceport in Great Britain, the German rocket startup Hyimpulse has signed a launch deal with the Australian commercial spaceport Southern Launch.

In May, HyImpulse launched the inaugural flight of its suborbital SR75 rocket from the Southern Launch Koonibba Test Range. The flight had initially been expected to be launched from SaxaVord in Scotland, but delays in the construction of the facility forced the company to look elsewhere for a host.

On 6 June, Southern Launch announced that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with HyImpulse for the launch of additional SR75 missions from Koonibba. The agreement also included provisions for the pair to explore the possibility of launching orbital flights aboard the HyImpulse SL1 rocket from Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex on the south coast of Australia.

According to Hyimpulse’s November 2023 deal with Saxaford, it was to have flown two suborbital flights of the SR75 in 2024 and one orbital flight of SL1 in 2025.

It could very well be that SL1’s first orbital test launch will still take place from Saxavord, but the several years of delays caused by the red tape from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority in approving Saxavord has forced its customers to seek alternatives. Hyimpulse for example now has agreements not only with Southern Launch in Australia. The French space agency CNES has approved it to launch from French Guiana as well.

In addition, the German rocket startup Isar Aerospace in November 2023 signed a deal with the new Andoya commercial spaceport in Norway. Andoya had come into this spaceport competition very late, but it apparently won this deal because Isar saw the regulatory problems in the UK and decided to look elsewhere.

German rocket startup Hyimpulse completes suborbital test launch

The German rocket startup Hyimpulse yesterday succesfully completed its first suborbital test launch, launching from the Southern Launch spaceport on the south coast of Australia.

The 12-metre, 2.5-tonne test rocket dubbed “SR75” lifted off shortly after 0500 GMT from a launch site in Koonibba, South Australia. It is capable of carrying small satellites weighing up to 250 kg (551 pounds) to an altitude of up to 250 km (155 miles) while being fuelled by paraffin, or candle wax, and liquid oxygen.

Paraffin can be used as a cheaper and safer alternative fuel for rockets, reducing satellite transportation costs by as much as 50%, according to HyImpulse.

The company hopes to launch its SL-1 rocket on its first orbital test flight next year.

German rocket startup Hyimpulse’s first suborbital rocket arrives in Australia

Australian commercial spaceports
Australia’s commercial spaceports. Click for original map.

The German rocket startup Hyimpulse today announced that its first suborbital rocket, the SR75, had arrived in Australia for its planned first test launch.

On 28 February, Southern Launch, the commercial outfit that manages the Koonibba Test Range, revealed that a launch attempt of the suborbital SR75 rocket would occur between late April and early May. This likely gives the team little room for the unexpected as it prepares for launch.

Those launch dates depend on whether Australia’s government will issue the launch licenses on time. So far its ability to do so in a timely manner has been difficult if not impossible. For example, the rocket startup Gilmour, which wants to launch from Bowen at about the same time, has been waiting more than two years to get its approval, delaying its first orbital test launch by more than a year.

Gilmour’s Eris rocket now assembled and ready for launch from Bowen spaceport in Australia

Australian commercial spaceports
Click for original map.

The Austrialia rocket starup Gilmour has now assembled its first Eris rocket in anticipation of its first orbital test launch from that company’s Bowen spaceport on the east coast of Australia.

According to the report at the link, the launch could happen “in the coming weeks,” though no date has been set. Gilmour has already received its spaceport license from the Australian government, but has not yet gotten its launch license from the Australian Space Agency, despite putting in its application two years ago.

It appears there is now a race between this spaceport and the one on the south coast run by Southern Launch to launch first. Both are saying they will launch in mere weeks, but both are also awaiting launch approvals from the Australian Space Agency, which appears to be having difficulties making these first approvals. Either it is dragging its feet, or doesn’t know how to do this yet. Hopefully the bureaucrats will figure out how to say yes to freedom and let these spaceports and companies finally launch, before they run out of cash.

Australian spaceport on sourthern coast prepares for launch

Australian commercial spaceports
Click for original map.

According to a report today, the first suborbital launch from a new commercial spaceport on the sourthern coast of Australia is now expected by the end of April or early May.

New launch facilities at the Koonibba Test Range, South Australia’s first permanent spaceport, are almost complete ahead of the impending inaugural launch. Located northwest of Ceduna, the range is a partnership between Southern Launch and the Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation. It is the largest commercial testing range in the Southern Hemisphere.

Space Industries Minister Susan Close is today visiting the site ahead of the sub-orbital test launch of German manufacturer HyImpulse’s SR75 rocket, which, subject to final regulatory approval, will go ahead at the end of April or early May. The rocket will reach an altitude of 50 kilometres before parachuting back to Earth where it will be recovered for testing.

Southern Launch, marked on the map to the right, is on south coast of Australia. Two other Australian commercial spaceports also under development are noted on the northern and eastern coasts.

We shall see if this suborbital launch occurs as planned. Recently the evidence has suggested that Australia’s regulatory state is as bad as the United Kingdom, taking forever to issue licenses for private launches.

Australia moves to make skin color and sex more important in hiring space engineers than skill or knowledge

A new industry group, established with full support of the Australian government, has been formed to encourage the hiring of minorities and women in that nation’s space industry, merely because they are minorities and women.

The Australian Space Diversity Alliance (ASDA) said it aims to support senior leaders and minimise the barriers that marginalised groups face. It comes after a series of reports have shown the sector is lagging behind others in regard to gender disparity, and alongside a talent shortage critics say can only be overcome with a more diverse intake.

ASDA was founded by eight industry figures, including Defence Council of Victoria’s Anntonette Dailey, ANU’s Dr Cassandra Steer, and Raytheon’s Linda Spurr. Defence Connect is one of the group’s industry partners, alongside five state governments, the iLAuNCH Trailblazer initiative, and communications agency The Write Space.

It makes the typical and very bogus claims of these Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs that because woman comprise only 20% of the people in the space industry and minorities only 5%, bigotry must be involved. And the only solution is more bigotry, by favoring applicants from those groups even it they are less qualified than others.

The possibility that women and minorities might simply not be interested in doing this work is a reality that these race hustlers simply can’t tolerate. No, if women and minorities aren’t represented at a level we believe appropriate, we will make it so, regardless of skills, talent, knowledge or experience.

Expect the entire Australian space industry to suffer because of this effort.

Australian rocket startup gets government approval for its spaceport

Proposed Australian commercial spaceports

The Australian rocket startup Gilmour Space has now received a spaceport licence from the Australian government, allowing launches to occur from its Bowen spaceport on the northeast coast of Australia, as shown on the map to the right.

The company describes the approval from [Ed Husic Federal Minister for Industry and Science], who is also the minister in charge of the Australian Space Agency, as a vote of confidence in Gilmour’s technical capability, paving the way for the launch of Australia’s first sovereign-made rockets, ‘bridging Country to Sky’. Gilmour Space has also secured approval from the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, enabling the operation of the spaceport at Abbot Point.

Not all is unicorns and rainbows however. First, it appears Gilmour began negotiating for this approval two years ago, so the government took a looong time to say yes. The other spaceport on the map has been awaiting for a launch license for about the same length of time, and has still not gotten it.

Gilmour also wants to do its first test launch of its Eris rocket in the next few months, but it is still awaiting its launch license from the Australian Space Agency. We are therefore about to find out whether Australia’s government can issue that permit in the next few months, or will instead emulate Great Britain, and bog things down with endless red tape.

Australian rocket startup raises $36 million in private investment capital

Proposed Australian commercial spaceports

The Australian rocket startup Gilmour Space has now raised $36 million in private investment capital in its most recent fund-raising round. The company had previously raised $46 million.

The funding supports the small launch vehicle startup’s campaign to manufacture, test and begin launching rockets and satellites from the Bowen Orbital Spaceport in North Queensland.

Gilmour Space, founded in 2012, is developing a three-stage rocket called Eris. The first Eris test flight is expected “in the coming months, pending launch approvals from the Australian Space Agency,” according to the Gilmour Space news release. A second test flight is expected later this year and commercial launches are scheduled to begin in 2025. [emphasis mine]

The map to the right shows both the location of Gilmour’s Bowen launch site, but also that of Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA), which is building a spaceport open to all rocket companies.

Gilmour had originally announced plans for an April 2023 launch. Though it is not surprising for a new rocket company to experience delays in developing a new rocket, the highlighted phrase in the quote above, which has appeared in a previous story in September 2023 about the delays at Gilmore, strongly suggests Australia’s government might be a problem as well. Its legal framework is strongly influcenced by Great Britain’s, which has turned out to be a nightmare for both rocket companies and spaceports. That approvals have been pending now for many months is further evidence this is so.

Firefly wins Australian payload for its second Blue Ghost lunar lander mission

Firefly yesterday announced that the Australian commercial company, Fleet Space Technologies, will fly its seismometer on Firefly’s second Blue Ghost lunar lander mission, planned to land on the far side of the Moon in 2026.

Fleet Space’s SPIDER payload is part of the Australian Space Agency’s Moon to Mars initiative that’s aligned with NASA’s Artemis program to support future habitation on the Moon. Upon deployment of the payload, Firefly’s Blue Ghost lunar lander will provide ongoing power and communications, enabling SPIDER to capture seismic data from the lunar surface for up to 14 days. This data will offer insights into the geological properties of the lunar subsurface and its mineral profile, such as water ice, that can support lunar infrastructure and further regolith exploration.

The mission also has payloads from NASA and the European Space Agency. Note that all three governments are buying the lunar landing services from this private company, rather than build the lander themselves.

Australia and the U.S. agree to facilitate rocket launches in Australia

A technology agreement announced on October 25, 2023 between Australia and the U.S. included language that will allow for American rocket companies to launch from Australia, as well as Australian rocket companies to launch American satellites.

According to the White House statement, the agreement…

…provides the legal and technical framework for U.S. commercial space launch vehicles to launch from Australia in a manner that: protects sensitive U.S. launch technology and data in Australia consistent with our shared nonproliferation goals; and creates the potential for new space-related commercial opportunities.

A private Australian spaceport, Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA), has been working to bring U.S. launches there. In addition, an Australian rocket startup, Gilmour Space, wants to launch American payloads. This new government agreement is supposed to facilitate both.

Varda signs deal with Australian private spaceport operator to land its capsules

Blocked from landing its American-built space capsules by the American government, the startup Varda has now completed negotiations and signed an agreement with Southern Launch, an Australian private spaceport operator, to land its capsules at the Koonibba Test Range northwest of Adelaide.

Varda’s business plan is to launch unmanned capsules in which pharmeceuticals and other products that can’t be made on Earth are manufactured, then return the capsule to earth where they are sold for a profit. This deal will allow Varda to land its next capsule there in 2024.

Meanwhile, Varda first capsule, presently in orbit after manufacturing pharmeceuticals for HIV, appears to be a total loss because the FAA and the Pentagon refused it permission to land in the U.S., for what appear to be purely bureaucratic reasons.

There was no single specific issue that held up the reentry, he said. “It was ultimately a coordination problem amongst three different groups that had not worked through this operation before.” He added that there were no safety concerns with Varda’s spacecraft or its ability to meet requirements for an FAA license. An additional challenge is that Varda is the first company to seek an FAA reentry license through a new set of regulations called Part 450. Those regulations are intended to streamline the process but, on the launch side, have been criticized by companies for being difficult.

The U.S. government is now the enemy of its citizens, so incompetent that it actually works to block them from achieving their goals.

Blocked by its own American government, Varda now looks to Australia

Because the U.S. military as well as the FAA refused to issue Varda a license to land its recoverable capsule from orbit — carrying actual HIV pharmaceuticals that can only be manufactured in space — the company is now negotiating with a private range in Australia for landing rights.

The agreement between Varda and Southern Launch, a company based in Adelaide, Australia, would allow Varda’s second mission, scheduled to launch in mid-2024, to reenter and land at the remote Koonibba Test Range. “We plan, with the Koonibba Test Range, to conduct a reentry operation as soon as our second orbital mission, which the launch and reentry would be in mid-2024,” [Delian Asparouhov, the company’s chairman, president, and co-founder,] told Ars.[emphasis mine]

In other words, Varda’s first launched capsule, in space now but unable to land, has become a total loss, simply because the U.S. government blocked its return. The HIV drugs it produced while in orbit will never become available for sale. Nor will Varda be able to use it to demonstrate the returnable capability of its orbiting capsule.

Such a loss could easily destroy a startup like Varda, which is certainly not yet in the black as it develops its technology.

What is most disgusting about this blocking is that at the same time the military and the FAA refused Varda permission to land, those agencies had no problem letting NASA drop its OSIRIS-REx sample capsule in the same landing range in Utah.

Right now our federal government has become the enemy of the American people, doing whatever it can to stymie them, whether by intention or by incompetence.

The public wakes up, but the window for freedom will remain open for only so long

Is a real house-cleaning about to happen?
Is a real house-cleaning about to happen?

The barbaric massacres committed by Hamas in Israel last week along with the left’s endorsement worldwide of those atrocities has appeared to awaken the long dormant outrage of the general population. Suddenly, people no longer seem willing to accept the lies and slanders of the left. Claiming Hamas was justified in killing babies and children while also taking many women and children hostage is a position that even many leftists cannot tolerate.

If you don’t believe me, watch this short clip from Bill Maher’s show, Real Time. Not only does Maher — a proud self-admitted lefty himself — trash the modern left in academia, the audience joins in to cheer that trashing.

It isn’t however only the left’s recent open support of Hamas that has inspired this disgust. It is also likely inspired by the many other abuses of power by the government (an arm of the power-hungry left) during the past three years. Those abuses, from lockdowns to censorship to blacklisting to mask and medical mandates, accomplished only one real thing: The abuses turned neutral ordinary people into ardent warriors against the left.

This shift was evident in three elections worldwide in the past few days.
» Read more

Commercial spaceport in Australia signs its first launch contract

Australia map showing ELA spaceport location
The red dot marks ELA’s location, on the north coast of Australia.

Australia’s first commercial spaceport, Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA), has signed a multi-launch contract with a South Korean startup rocket company, Innospace, with the first launch targeting April 2025.

Though Innospace successfully launched a suborbital test flight in March, it has not yet launched a rocket to orbit. Meanwhile, ELA is negotiating with a number of other rocket companies, but it also appears it is having problems with the administrative state in the U.S.

The South Korean company is first off the blocks as it is not subject to the strict technological transfer regulations applied by the United States.

[ELA’s CEO Michael] Jones says delays to the signing of a Technological Safeguards Agreement (TSA) between Canberra and Washington is holding up several potential US customers. “We’re still waiting with bated breath for the TSA, despite a bilateral announcement by Biden and Albanese in Japan in early June that the deal was done and dusted,” he explains. “We were all expecting it to be released by the end of the financial year and the process of being endorsed by Parliament begun”.

A pattern of delay and intransigence in Washington, blocking commercial space, does seem to be developing since Joe Biden took over as president.

An apparent rocket section washes up on Australian coast

What appears to be a section of India’s PSLV rocket washed up on the western Australian coast yesterday, though at the moment the identity of the wreckage as not been confirmed.

Dr Alice Gorman, an expert in the field of space archaeology, said she believes the object is a fuel cylinder that came from the the third stage of India’s polar satellite launch vehicle rocket (PSLV), as many have suggested on social media.

The article includes a picture of that stage in orbit during a 2017 launch, and the similarity is obvious. If true, its specific launch at present remains unknown, though it appears it could have been floating in the ocean for years, a fact that is surprising in itself.

Australian industrial space park threatened with shut down

With the loss of government funds caused by decisions of the new Labor government in Australia, a space-centered industrial park proposed for Adelaide Airport is threatened with shut down.

The previous government was going to contribute about $20 million to build a shared facility, and this had encouraged a number of space manufacturers to add their own $26 million. With the loss of that $20 million from the government two of those companies have now backed out.

The article also notes a number of other space-related areas where government funding is being cut off. All this appears to be the result of the change in government, and the decision of the new Labor government to end such subsidies.

New Australian government cancels $1.2 billion program to launch four government satellites

The new Australian Labor government has canceled a $1.2 billion program funded by the previous government to pay for four satellites to provide both civilian and military data from orbit.

The cut will primarily affect the NSMEO program, which was to have four satellites launched between 2028 and 2033 to give Australia a new stream of information from space. While the goal was primarily for civil use, maritime situational awareness data — crucial for keeping an eye on Australia’s sovereign waters — was also part of the project. Also, the weather and earth observation capabilities would have had clear military applications.

Instead the new government has decided to continue the previous policy of using the space capabilities of “its international partners.”

It is unclear whether this decision is good or bad. If the money was to be spent buying these satellites from new Australian satellite companies, it could have helped jump start that nation’s satellite industry. If the plan had instead been to have the government design and build the satellites, then it likely would have merely been a government jobs program that would have cost a lot and accomplished little. In the latter case the new government would thus be shutting down a wasteful program. In the former it prevents a new private industry from forming.

Lockheed Martin picked by Australia to build two military communications satellites

Australia’s military announced yesterday that it has chosen Lockheed Martin as the “preferred bidder” to build two military communications satellites.

According to Australian media reports, the ADF [Australian Defense Force] is interested in buying at least two geostationary communications satellites and wants a sovereign military satcom capability. Currently Australia’s defense forces rely on commercial satellite services and on the U.S. Wideband Global Satcom constellation. Air Vice-Marshal David Scheul, head of Australia’s Air Defence and Space Systems Division, said the project will deliver the country’s “first sovereign-controlled satellite communication system over the Indo-Pacific ocean regions.”

Lockheed Martin edged out competing teams led by Airbus, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Australia’s largest satellite operator Optus.

To get the contract, Lockheed Martin partnered with almost a dozen Australian companies. The specifics of the deal however still have to be worked out.

Australian rocket startup Gilmour preps for first test launch

Gilmour Space Technologies, a new Australian rocket startup, is now targeting April for the first test launch of its three-stage Eris rocket from a launchpad on the northeast coast of Australia.

Standing 25 m (82 ft) high, [Eris] has a first-stage diameter of 2 m (6.6 ft), and a second-stage diameter of 1.5 m (4.9 ft), and it’s designed to take a payload mass up to 305 kg (672 lb) up as high as 500 km (311 miles) for delivery to sun-synchronous or equatorial orbits. The Eris will be powered by five of Gilmour’s own Sirius rocket engines. This is a hybrid engine, meaning it uses a liquid oxidizer but a solid fuel. In a final bench test to destruction, it generated 115 kilonewtons (25,850 lbf) and burned for more than 90 seconds before exploding.

More information here.

Australian Space Agency confirms debris is from SpaceX Dragon capsule

Officials from the Australian Space Agency have inspected and confirmed that the debris that landed recently in the southeast Australia came from service module/trunk of a SpaceX Dragon capsule.

The agency had been alerted by Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist from the Australian National University, who first realised the timing and location of the debris falling coincided with a SpaceX spacecraft which re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere at 7am on 9 July, 20 months after its launch in November 2020.

Tucker believes the debris came from the unpressurised trunk of the SpaceX capsule, which is critical to take off but dumped when returning to earth.

This capsule was Resilience, launched on November 15, 2020 on SpaceX’s second manned launch for NASA. The capsule and crew returned in April, 2021. The service module apparently remained in orbit until July 2022, when its orbit decayed.

This service module was considered small enough it would burn up in the atmosphere. That assumption was apparently wrong. Though the pieces caused no damage, SpaceX needs to revise its operations to make sure future service modules will come back over the ocean, just in case sections reach the surface.

NASA completes suborbital launch from commercial spaceport in Australia

Early this morning NASA successfully completed its first rocket launch from Australia since 1995, launching a suborbital payload from a new commercial spaceport on the northern coast of Australia.

The rocket is Nasa’s first of three to blast off from the newly constructed Arnhem Space Centre on the edge of the Northern Territory. Scientists hope it will help them study the impact of a star’s light on the habitability of nearby planets.

Onlookers who travelled to the remote site glimpsed the rocket for only about 10 seconds before it shot out of view.

After a short fifteen minute flight the sounding rocket and payload were recovered. The next suborbital launch is scheduled for July 4th.

Corporal Matthew Creek – The Last Post

An evening pause: Played at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. From the youtube page:

In military tradition, the Last Post is the bugle call that signifies the end of the day’s activities. It is also sounded at military funerals to indicate that the soldier has gone to his final rest and at commemorative services

In honor of this Armistice Day, the eleventh day of the eleventh month, and those who gave their lives for freedom, something that appears at this moment sadly lost in Australia.

Australia to build unmanned lunar rover for NASA

NASA and Australia have signed a deal whereby Australia will provide an unmanned lunar rover on which NASA will put its science instruments, with the package taken to the Moon by a commercial lander.

As part of the agreement, a consortium of Australian businesses and research organizations will develop a small rover that can operate on the lunar surface. The rover would have the ability to pick up and transfer lunar regolith (broken rock and dust) to a NASA-operated in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) system on a commercial lunar lander. Such a rover could fly to the Moon as early as 2026.

While this agreement helps widen the competition in the commercial unmanned planetary aerospace industry, it does so by helping the industry of another country. This policy fits the general philosophy of the Democratic Party and the Biden administration, which generally focuses on aiding other countries before the U.S.

Posted on the road to Phoenix.

Meteorite stolen five years ago from Australian museum recovered

A meteorite that was stolen five years ago from a small Australian museum, only two weeks after it was donated to that museum, was recovered by police two days ago.

While the police have returned the meteorite, they have not yet revealed much else.

On Saturday, Queensland Police executed a search warrant at a Cairns address and recovered the space rock, valued at more than $16,000.

Investigations are underway into the incident, and no charges have been laid, but the sisters are pleased the meteorite is back in their possession.

…Police investigating the incident said they were looking into a number of leads relating to the theft. “I believe it definitely has a story to tell,” Senior Constable Heidi Marek said. “I’ll leave it up to detectives to uncover that story but hopefully we’re able to reveal a bit of information down the track.”

That no charges were file is most puzzling. I hope the full story is soon revealed.

Arsonists the cause of most of Australia’s bushfires

It ain’t climate change: Police in Australia have arrested almost two hundred arsonists, suspected of the causing the bulk of the bushfires that have been sweeping the country.

Thus the cause is not global warming, an absurd claim that has been made repeatedly over the past few months by various climate scientists who in their spare time make their livings as either actors or activists. As noted in the article at the link:

Melbourne University Professor Janet Stanley, quoted in the Australian, said that the arsonists were typically young males aged 12 to 24 or older men in their 60s – generally from an unsettled background. She said, “They are often kids not succeeding in school, or they have left school early and are unemployed. The boundaries between accidentally and purposefully are unclear because many arsonists don’t plan on causing the catastrophe that occurs. Often there is not an intention to cause chaos and the penalties for accidentally lighting a fire are far less than purposefully lighting a fire.”

What is especially sad is that these actors and celebrities expect us to take them seriously, when it is very clear they haven’t faintest idea what they are talking about. Worse, news outlets seem to think their ignorant opinions are worth reporting, as if they carry real weight in the discussion.

Think about it. Why should any adult give any credence to the opinions of a teen-age girl about the science of climate when she is intentionally not attending school and therefore is intentionally not getting educated? No adult should. That so many do, including many politicians (who also known nothing about the subject), speaks volumes about the decay and childishness of our culture today.

Australia signs on to NASA’s Artemis project

Australia has committed $150 million to help its private sector contribute to NASA’s Artemis project and Trump’s goal to land a manned mission on the Moon by 2024, signing a joint agreement with NASA on September 21.

The government is investing $150 million over five years for Australian businesses and researchers to join NASA’s endeavour, and deliver key capabilities for the mission. “We’re backing Australian businesses to the moon, and even Mars, and back,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. “We’re getting behind Australian businesses so they can take advantage of the pipeline of work NASA has committed to.”

The specifics, as quoted from the agreement, are somewhat vague.

This agreement is part of NASA’s effort to accumulate allies for both Artemis and its lunar space station Gateway. Australia has now joined Russia, Europe, Japan, and Canada. All of these nations and their space agencies desperately want the U.S. project to take place, most especially Gateway, as it will firm up funding for them all for decades.

NASA already has the big space contractors behind Artemis, though Boeing has expressed some opposition to Gateway. It has also awarded a lot of small contracts to a number of companies in the new commercial space industry to support Artemis. On top of this, it has distributed the project’s management within NASA so as to solidify support in Congress.

By accumulating these allies whose interests are in line with NASA’s goals, the agency hopes to convince Congress to fund the project. Unfortunately, the House, controlled by the Democrats whose only policy goal these days is to oppose Trump, have so far refused to fund the Trump 2024 manned mission.

Whether Artemis and Gateway will happen remains an open question. Congress wants the pork both projects will bring them. I predict that if both houses of Congress return to Republican control in 2020 they will fund this boondoggle.

Unfortunately, this won’t get us anywhere near the Moon, as the project as designed actually makes lunar landings more difficult and expensive. Getting from Gateway to the lunar surface requires more equipment and fuel than going directly there. If built as NASA has proposed, our astronauts will watch from Gateway as China and India land and begin settling the Moon.

But it will justify the spending of a lot of taxpayer money in congressional districts for decades to come. Hooray!

Japan’s plan for returning Hayabusa-2’s Ryugu samples to Earth

Japan’s today provided an update on what it has done to prepare the location where Hayabusa-2’s samples from the asteroid Ryugu will land on Earth.

The landing site is in the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) in the outback of southern Australia. Japan has already signed an agreement with that country for the recovery, as well as done preliminary surface work

The recovery site is an Australian Government prohibited area and is not accessible to the public. As part of the preparatory work, a field survey of the proposed recovery site in the WPA was conducted with permission from the Australian Government. This preparatory work confirmed the suitability of both the proposed recovery site and the candidate site for the antenna station that will search for the capsule.

The landing of the recovery capsule is now scheduled for late in 2020.

Stratolaunch shutting down?

According to a Reuters story today based upon anonymous sources within the company, Stratolaunch is about to cease operations.

The key quote from the article:

As of April 1, Stratolaunch had only 21 employees, compared with 77 last December, one of the four sources said. Most of the remaining employees were focused on completing the carrier plane’s test flight.

The decision to set an exit strategy was made late last year by Allen’s sister, Jody Allen, chair of Vulcan Inc and trustee of the Paul G. Allen Trust, one of the four people and the fifth industry source said. Jody Allen decided to let the carrier aircraft fly to honor her brother’s wishes and also to prove the vehicle and concept worked, one of the four people said.

If true, this is hardly a surprise. The company was never able to find a viable path to orbit. It had built a spectacular plane, but could not find a rocket for that plane to launch.

Australian agency pushes Australia to join NASA Gateway project

The new colonial movement: An Australian government agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), has put forth a space roadmap for that nation that includes a push for them to participate in NASA’s lunar orbiting Gateway project.

“And when you look at a moon base, the support systems of oxygen, water, food – and the general support systems around it – is something that nobody has ever done before,” he said. “When we looked around Australia, these are areas where Australia has as much skill as anyone else. Things like dry farming capabilities, remote mining capability, the fact that CSIRO perfected the titanium dust that you can 3-D print from … there are a whole range of things where we can potentially contribute.” It is an interesting fact that Australia has exceptional expertise in 3D printing titanium. This is even more interesting when you consider that on the moon – according to Dave Williams – there is an oxide that is very similar to titanium that could be reduced to a titanium dust, with oxygen as a by-product.

“Realistically, NASA will lead the whole thing. But they will be looking for partners, and the idea will be to identify which niche areas Australia should try to push its industry into, and try to get support for and to make it work,” he said.

Essentially, they are proposing that Australia get in on the Gateway boondoggle by focusing on and then offering to provide peripheral support services.

Much of this is bureaucratic twaddle, not to be taken too seriously. At the same time, it does outline for Australia areas where there are needs, and where their private space companies could make money.

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