China and Russia launch a bunch of satellites

Russia today used its Soyuz-2 rocket to launch three communication satellites plus 19 commercial smallsats.

This was the first time Russia used the Soyuz-2 for these particular small communications satellites, as previously they had been launched by a variety of smaller rockets.

China in turn today used its Long March 4B to place two Earth resource satellites into orbit.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

25 China
15 SpaceX
10 Russia
4 ULA
4 Europe (Arianespace)

China has moved ahead of the U.S. 25 to 24 in the national rankings.

These numbers should change again in the next few days. The U.S. has had a number of scrubs and launch delays in the past few days. ULA has been repeatedly pushing back the previously delayed launch of a National Security Agency reconnaissance satellite due to a variety of problems related to its Delta 4 Heavy rocket. The launch is now set for just after midnight tonight (Monday night). [UPDATE: Launch scrubbed due to lightning and poor weather. Tentatively rescheduled for 11:58 pm (Eastern) on September 29.]

SpaceX meanwhile had to scrub a launch this morning (September 28) of another 60 Starlink satellites due to weather. No new launch date has yet been announced.

Northrop Grumman also has had to scrub tomorrow’s Antares launch of a Cygnus cargo freighter because of poor weather at Wallops Island. It is now set for the evening of October 1st.

SpaceX also has a scheduled launch tomorrow morning of a GPS satellite on its Falcon 9 rocket. This is also threatened by weather. There is also no word whether the ULA launch scrub will cause this launch to be delayed.

German instrument on Chang’e-4 documents dangerous radiation levels

This result is not a surprise: A German instrument on China’s Chang’e-4 lander, located now on the Moon’s far side, has measured the radiation levels there, and found them to be much worse than found on Earth.

DLR radiation physicist Thomas Berger from the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine, who participated in the publication explains: “The radiation exposure we measured is a good indication of the radiation inside a spacesuit. The measurements give us an equivalent dose rate – the biologically weighted radiation dose per unit of time – of around 60 microsieverts per hour. For comparison, during a long-haul flight from Frankfurt to New York, the dose rate is five to 10 times lower than this. On Earth’s surface, it is some 200 times lower. In other words, a long-term stay on the Moon will expose astronauts’ bodies to high doses of radiation.”

“Human bodies are simply not made to be exposed to space radiation,” adds Robert Wimmer-Schweingruber of the Christian-Albrecht University (CAU) in Kiel, whose team developed and built the LND instrument . “On longer missions to the Moon, astronauts will have to protect themselves from it – by covering their habitat with a thick layer of lunar rock, for example. This could reduce the risk of cancer and other illnesses caused by long periods of time spent on the Moon.”

Previous instruments had only measured the cumulative radiation for the entire mission. This instrument took multiple readings lasting one, ten, or sixty minutes, which gives a more realistic measure of what an astronaut would actually experience, once there.

ULA reveals Chinese-owned company attempted to steal rocket data

In an interview yesterday ULA’s CEO Tory Bruno revealed that a Chinese-owned software company tried to infiltrate the supply chain being set up to build their next generation Vulcan rocket.

Bruno said the Chinese-owned vendor identified in ULA’s supply chain was a provider of software for tools used to manufacture the company’s next-generation rocket Vulcan Centaur. Because the issue was detected quickly, no sensitive information was extracted by that supplier, Bruno said.

The company flagged as a risk was a tool supplier working with KUKA Robotics. According to ULA, KUKA had no access to ULA’s intellectual property. “ULA envisions no further future work involving KUKA or KUKA products,” the spokesperson said. “There was no evidence they attempted to obtain data, however, we have an obligation to our customers as well as our company to ensure we have taken all necessary steps to protect our IP as well as information the government has entrusted us with.”

The Pentagon has shown growing concern about Chinese ownership of U.S. suppliers and continues to impose cybersecurity requirements on contractors. “But I have to tell you this is just shocking in terms of the scale and ubiquity of this threat and this effort on the part of China to not only gain access to intellectual property through traditional means — hacking or espionage — but through infiltration of the supply chain,” Bruno said.

The article also notes that while the top tier subcontractors ULA might hire are almost all American owned, foreign companies own 70% of the smaller subvendors, and the number of Chinese-owned subvendors has grown 420% since 2010.

China’s effort to steal American technology has been a serious problem that has been ignored for too long.

Empty Chinese apartment complex overrun with plants and mosquitoes

The coming dark age: A Chinese apartment complex, designed to be an “eco-paradise,” has instead become an empty jungle overrun with plants and mosquitoes.

An experimental green housing project in a Chinese megacity promised prospective residents life in a “vertical forest,” with manicured gardens on every balcony. All 826 apartments were sold out by April this year, according to the project’s estate agent, but instead of a modern eco-paradise, the towers look like the set of a desolate, post-apocalyptic film.

The problem? The mosquitoes love the plants too. Only a handful of families have moved into Chengdu’s Qiyi City Forest Garden because of an infestation, state media reported.

The pictures at the link are quite incredible. Imagine being surrounded by neighbors who allow their property to fall apart and you have a sense of what these buildings look like.

China launches rocket from ocean launch platform

The new colonial movement: China today successfully put nine Earth observation smallsats into orbit using its Long March 11 rocket, and it did it by launching from a floating launch platform.

I have embedded video of the launch below the fold. Notice that the rocket appears to ignite its first stage engines after it is flung upward from the platform, similar to the launch of an ICBM from a submarine. This is not surprising, as the Long March 11 solid fueled rocket is based on ICBM technology.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

23 China
15 SpaceX
9 Russia
4 ULA
4 Europe (Arianespace)

The U.S. still leads China 24 to 23 in the national rankings.

» Read more

China’s Kuaizhou-1A rocket fails at launch

China’s Kuaizhou-1A rocket yesterday failed during launch, though no details have been released.

Kuaizhou 1A and Kuauzhou 11 are rapid response rockets derived from intercontinental ballistic missiles that are capable of placing satellites into orbit on short notice. Launches are managed by ExPace, a commercial subsidiary of the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation.

The Kuaizhou-1A is the smaller of the two rockets. This was its first failure after ten successful launches.

China launches another remote sensing satellite; crashes 1st stage near homes

The new colonial movement: China today used its Long March 4D rocket to launch another remote sensing satellite.

UPDATE: It appears the first stage booster crashed near a populated area. Footage of the crash can be seen here. Note that the red smoke indicates very toxic materials. Anyone who goes close risks serious health problems.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

22 China
15 SpaceX
9 Russia
4 ULA
4 Europe (Arianespace)

In the national rankings the U.S. still leads China 24 to 22.

China successfully lands its reusable version of the X-37B

The new colonial movement: After only two days in space, China today successfully landed what appears to be its reusable version of the X-37B.

No photos of this spacecraft have been released, nor has China provided any specific information about its shape or design. What we know however suggests it is similar in concept to the unmanned, pick-up-truck-sized X-37B.

Apparently this short flight was to test its ability to reach orbit and then return autonomously. According to the state-controlled Chinese press, it did so.

China launches its version of X-37B

The new colonial movement: It appears that China has launched its version of a reusable X-37B mini-shuttle, or at least, that is most likely first guess, based on the meager data available.

China launched a new experimental reusable space vehicle on Thursday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center using a Long March-2F/T – Chang Zheng-2F/T – launch vehicle. Launch from the LC43/91 launch complex, under a veil of secrecy with no official launch photos or even a launch time disclosed.

Chinese media emitted a laconic report referring, that “the test spacecraft will be in orbit for a period of time before returning to the domestic scheduled landing site. During this period, it will carry out reusable technology verification as planned to provide technical support for the peaceful use of space.”

More at the link, though the lack of information, especially the refusal to even give a launch time, strongly indicates China wants to limit knowledge of this spacecraft’s position in space, thus limiting the ability of others to photograph it. What is known however does point to this being a variation of a small reusable unmanned shuttle, like the X-37B.

While once again China has not come up with something new, copying (or stealing) the idea from someone else, having such a vehicle gives them a significant capability. They can now test many different technologies in orbit for long periods, and get them back to Earth for study afterward.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

21 China
15 SpaceX
9 Russia
4 ULA
4 Europe (Arianespace)

The U.S. continues to lead China 24 to 21 in the national rankings.

Another Chinese national arrested for spying

The Department of Justice on August 25th arrested a Chinese national as he was trying to leave the country with classified military computer software.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped Hu Haizhou, a researcher from the University of Virginia’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering [who] also work[ed] for a Chinese military-linked university too, before he could board a flight to Qingdao, China, from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Tuesday, said an FBI special agent in an 11-page affidavit filed on Friday in federal court in Virginia.

According to the agent, Matthew Rader, CBP investigators questioned Hu and searched his electronic devices, which revealed UVA-research-related files stored on his laptop, including “bio-inspired research simulation software code” developed by “Professor 1.” Bio-inspired research relates to studying the complexities of flying and swimming creatures in nature and applying that to manned flight or submersibles — often with military applications.

Hu “did not have lawful, authorized access to this material, and he admitted that Professor 1 would not want him to have it and would be upset to learn that HU possessed it,” the FBI said. The professor, who runs the multiuniversity Flow Simulations Group, has been developing this code over the last 17 years and is sponsored by the U.S. government’s National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research. The FBI special agent said that probable cause existed to charge Hu federally with fraud-related illicit computer intrusions and the theft of trade secrets.

More here.

These stories are beginning to sound repetitious, as they keep happening on almost a weekly basis. It appears that until the Trump administration the swamp in Washington had absolutely no interest for decades in protecting this nation from spying and the theft of military secrets from China or from anyone else.

Seems par for the course. At best our so-called elites are incredibly incompetent. At worst they have shown themselves to be traitors, with their loyalties aligned more with foreign powers than with the United States.

Canada proposes new global treaty to control mining in space

The globalists at the UN fight back! A Canada-led effort, endorsed by more than 140 academics, politicians, and diplomats, has proposed that the UN and international community create a new treaty to control mining in space.

Signatories to the request for the UN to intervene believe space must be regulated internationally – similarly to Antarctica or the world’s seabeds – and all countries, including non-space-faring ones, get a say in decision-making. The alternative, they warn, could be a splintered approach where companies conduct flag-of-convenience resource extraction in space under whichever country has the least onerous rules. [emphasis mine]

The Trump administration has made it clear that it wants the ability to establish U.S. law on its space operations, both in spacecraft and on its future bases on the Moon and elsewhere, an ability that the Outer Space Treaty forbids. To get around the treaty, the administration has created what it calls the Artemis Accords. The accords require that any nation that wishes to partner in the American-led Artemis program to explore and colonize the Moon must agree to support the establishment of private enterprise and ownership, with the laws of each nation applied to its own operations. To do this the Trump administration is negotiating individual bi-lateral agreements with its Artemis partners.

In essence, the U.S. is using the strategy of dividing and conquering to overcome the Outer Space Treaty’s restrictions.

Canada’s effort is designed to counter the U.S. approach, which is a strong sign that the Trump effort is working. I suspect the battle-lines are now being drawn between China and the many nations that are not operating in space (note the highlighted text), and the U.S. and those space-faring capitalistic nations that wish to partner with it, such as India and the European Space Agency. In fact, Japan and the U.S. today announced continuing negotiations leading to an agreement endorsing their partnership in Artemis, including the Artemis Accords.

Where Russia stands in this battle remains uncertain. They desperately need to partner with someone in the new effort to get to the Moon, since they no longer have the economic resources to do it themselves. The U.S. has made it clear they could join Artemis, but the Putin government opposes the Artemis Accords, preferring that the international community (meaning governments such as them) retain ownership over space resources. They have begun negotiations to partner with China, but it is unclear how much China wishes to partner with anyone.

Regardless, it would be terrible blow to freedom and private enterprise for the U.S. to agree to this Canadian-led effort. Should that approach win, it would make provide ownership and capitalism in space impossible. All power and control will devolve to the global international community, which will then dictate that nothing can happen but what it wants. For example, all the many nations incapable of doing anything in space will want a piece of the action from those nations and companies that are capable, and the result will be that no one will do anything because it simply will not be profitable. Space will simply become another failed communist state, dying before it even becomes born.

Another professor arrested for lying about ties to China

This is beginning to be a weekly event: Today another professor, this time from Texas A&M, was arrested for lying in grant applications by not disclosing his university affiliations in China.

Professor Zhengdong Cheng, 53, is charged with conspiracy, making false statements and wire fraud. Cheng led a team conducting research for NASA while secretly working with China, according to federal investigators.

“Dr. Cheng is accused of hiding his affiliation with the Guangdong University of Technology, along with other foreign universities, while disregarding the rules established under his NASA contract during his employment at TAMU,” said FBI Houston Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner.

More and more it looks to me as if China cannot invent anything themselves, only update what they steal.

Chinese company successfully completes 300 meter hop of first stage

Linkspace hopper prototype being transported to launch site

The new colonial movement: The Chinese pseudo-company Linkspace has successfully completed a 300 meter hop of the first stage of its new rocket.

Video of the hop can be seen here. The photo to the right is a screen capture from that video showing the rocket being transported to the launch site. Based on this image, the stage appears small, no more than twenty feet tall. I suspect this is only a prototype, comparable in many ways with SpaceX’s Grasshopper, which was a prototype to test vertical landing.

This success however lays the groundwork for building a full scale model.

I call Linkspace a “pseudo-company” in that it might have raised independent investment capital and appears to work as a private company, in China and with rockets there is no such thing. Everything this company does is closely supervised by the government. There is no independence here.

The four companies (one a Chinese government operation) aiming for first orbital launch in 2020

Link here. The three private companies are Astra, Firefly, and Virgin Orbit. The fake Chinese private company is Expace.

Of the four, only Firefly has not yet attempted to launch, and in many ways remains the dark horse in this competition, coming out of bankruptcy to become reborn with a new investor. All three of the American private companies however have made it clear they intend to launch before the end of the year. The Chinese company’s plans are unknown (not surprisingly). Astra will be first, with its next launch attempt set for later this month.

Yutu-2 completes 20th lunar day on Moon

The new colonial movement: The Chinese lunar rover Yutu-2 has completed its 20th lunar day on the farside of the Moon, and has now been put in sleep mode for the long lunar night.

Yutu 2 continued on its planned journey to the northwest of the lander, according to the China Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP). The rover covered 90 feet (27.64 meters) during the lunar day to make a total of 1,610 feet (490.9 m) of roving since setting down on the far side of the moon in January 2019.

The article at the link includes some images, including visual data from the ground-piercing radar that suggests at least four layers in the lunar subsurface.

China admits Three Gorges Dam deformed under flood pressure

Not good: Earlier this week the Chinese government finally admitted what a number of independent writers have noted, that the gigantic Three Gorges Dam has deformed from the record flood waters that are pressing against it this year.

The official Xinhua News Agency quoted the operator of the the world’s largest hydroelectric gravity dam as saying that some nonstructural, peripheral parts of the dam had buckled.

The dam was a pet project of the late Premier Li Peng and a monumental pride of the nation when it blocked and diverted Asia’s largest river in 1997.

The deformation occurred last Saturday when the flood from western provinces including Sichuan and Chongqing along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River peaked at a record-setting 61,000 cubic meters per second, according to China Three Gorges Corporation, a state-owned enterprise that manages the dam and the sprawling power plant underneath it.

The company noted that parts of the dam had “deformed slightly,” displacing some external structures, and seepage into the main outlet walls had also been reported throughout the 18 hours on Saturday and Sunday when water was discharged though its outlets.

Not surprisingly the Chinese government also insisted that the dam is really okay and there is nothing to worry about. And we trust them implicitly, don’t we?

Now for the punchline: If the dam does not hold the city most threatened by it is Wuhan, home to the COVID-19 virus that has panicked the globe.

Another university researcher arrested for spying for China

The FBI yesterday arrested a researcher who had been working at the University of California-Davis and had lied about here contacts with the Chinese communist party and its military.

Juan Tang, 37, who had been a visiting cancer researcher at UC Davis for several months, left her Davis apartment in June after FBI agents questioned her about evidence that she lied concerning whether she was a member of the Chinese military or Communist Party when she applied for a visa, according to federal court papers.

…U.S. authorities have no authority to enter the consulate without permission, and it was not immediately clear Friday whether she had voluntarily surrendered. Jail records show the FBI arrested her overnight and booking was still in progress Friday morning.

She is one of four Chinese researchers charged by the Justice Department this week for spying. The other three have already been arrested.

Tianwen-1 successfully launched, on its way to Mars

UPDATE: According to news reports, China tonight successfully launched Tianwen-1 towards Mars, with arrival expected in February 2021.

Below the fold is a live stream of the launch of the Long March 5 rocket. It is not in English, and since it was not linked to China’s mission control, it only covers the first two minutes or so, after which the rocket went out of sight.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

17 China
11 SpaceX
7 Russia
3 ULA
3 Japan

The U.S. still leads China 18 to 17 in the national rankings.
» Read more

Tianwen-1 launch set for July 23rd

China has rolled out its Long March 5 rocket and is now preparing to launch its Tianwen-1 orbiter/lander/rover to Mars this coming Thursday, July 23rd, some time between 12 am and 3 am (Eastern).

A Long March 5 rocket is set for liftoff with China’s Tianwen 1 mission some time between 12 a.m. and 3 a.m. EDT (0400-0700 GMT) Thursday, according to public notices warning ships to steer clear of downrange drop zones along the launcher’s flight path.

Chinese officials have not officially publicized the launch date. Chinese state media outlets have only reported the launch is scheduled for late July or early August, and officials have not confirmed whether the launch will be broadcast live on state television.

This will be the first operational launch of the Long March 5, which has had three previous test launches, with the first two failing. The success of the December launch, as well as the May success of the related Long March 5B, made this Mars mission possible.

After achieving orbit in February 2021 and spending two months scouting the landing site, the lander will descend to the surface, bringing the rover with it. The prime landing site is Utopia Planitia, in the northern lowland plains.

Utopia Planitia, the prime landing site for China’s Tianwen-1 Mars rover

More blobs in Utopia Planitia
Click for full image.

Today’s cool image is not only cool, it gives a nice feel for the likely shallow ice table that is probably found close to the surface throughout the lowland northern plains of Utopia Planitia, which is also the prime landing site for China’s Taenwen-1 Mars lander/rover, scheduled for launch sometime in the next four days. [Update: there are now indications the launch will not occur until early August.]

The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on May 9, 2020 and shows a nice collection of strange land forms on the western edge of Utopia Planitia. In this one picture we can see large mounds that might be evidence of cryovolcanic activity (mud volcanoes), strings of small mounds that might be the same but that also suggest underground faults and voids, and distorted and eroded craters that could have buried glacial material in the interiors.

The largest crater in the upper left looks like it is actually filled with ice that has also spilled over to fill the adjacent and linked depression.

This location is quite typical of Utopia Planitia. See for example this post from May 13, 2020: The blobby wettish flows of Mars. In the mid-latitudes here we find ample evidence that buried very close to the surface is an ice table that when hit by an impact melts to form these strangely shaped craters.

China’s actual target landing area is far to the east of today’s cool image, in an area that is appears far less rough. » Read more

Launch update on Mars missions

The launch status of the three missions to Mars:

First, the launch of UAE’s Hope orbiter by Mitsubishi’s H-2A rocket has been pushed back to July 20th due to bad weather. Their launch window extends to August 3rd, so they still have two weeks before it closes.

Second, China has rolled to the launchpad the Long March 5 rocket, with the Tienwen-1 orbiter/lander/rover. Though they have only said that the launch will occur between July 20th and July 25th, based on past operations, they usually launch six days after roll-out, putting the launch date as July 23.

China has also provided some clarity as to Tienwen-1’s landing site on Mars. According to this Nature Astronomy paper [pdf], published on July 13th, their primary landing site is in the northern lowland plains of Utopia Planitia. The Tienwen-1 science team has also considered [pdf] the northern lowland plains in Chryse Planitia, on the other side of Mars.

Since they will spend two to three months in Mars orbit before sending the lander and rover to the surface, it could very well be that they won’t make a final decision until they get into orbit.

Finally, on July 7th Perseverance was mounted on top of its Atlas-5 rocket for its July 30th launch. Its launch window closes on August 15.

Launch failure for China’s new Kuaizhou-11 rocket

For reasons not yet specified, China’s new Kuaizhou-11 rocket today failed on its inaugural launch.

Many reports will say that this is a commercial rocket developed by the private company Exspace. That is not true. Like all Chinese aerospace companies, they do their work wholly under the supervision of the Chinese government.

The development of the KZ-11 began in 2015, with a maiden launch originally scheduled for 2018. The rocket is developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASIC) and commercialized by the China Space Sanjiang Group Corporation (Expace).

The launch vehicle can loft a 1,500 kg payload into a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) or 1,00 kg to a 700 km sun-synchronous orbit.

The KZ-11 solid launch vehicle adopts a mobile launch platform, integrated power supply equipment, test and launch control facilities, aiming facility and temperature control facility, to carry vehicles from the technical support center to launch site, complete temperature control of payload, vehicle test and launch.

CASIC is in many ways China’s equivalent of NASA. And everything described in the last paragraph above, from solid rockets to mobile launches, are technologies developed expressly for military purposes. China will not let such things out for commercial companies to use however they wish, no matter what they claim.

Results from Yutu-2 determine “gel-like” rocks are impact melt

Chinese scientists have now published their analysis of the “gel-like” rocks seen by China’s Yutu-2 lunar rover back in October 2019, and have concluded that they are glasses produced from melt occurring during an impact.

The authors describe the material as a dark greenish and glistening impact melt breccia, measuring 20 inches by 6 inches (52 by 16 centimeters). These features are signs of possible presence of glasses, which are usually sourced from impact melts or from volcanic eruptions.

According to the paper, the breccia — broken fragment of minerals cemented together — was formed by impact-generated welding, cementing and agglutinating of lunar regolith and breccia. The material, they say, resembles lunar impact melt breccia samples returned by NASA’s Apollo missions. In particular, similarities with the Apollo samples designated 15466 and 70019 are noted, a comparison made earlier by lunar scientist Clive Neal at the University of Notre Dame. Sample 70019, collected by astronaut and trained geologist Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, is made of dark, broken fragments of minerals cemented together and black, shiny glass.

The results are not definitive, however. The paper notes that the analysis is limited by the fact that VNIS measurements were taken under bad illumination conditions and other factors.

This conclusion is not surprising, as the rover has been traveling through a region dominated by impact ejecta.

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