FAA says it will “lead” investigation into Starship #11 crash yesterday

They’re coming for you next: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today that it will “oversee” the investigation into the crash at landing yesterday by SpaceX’s eleventh Starship prototype.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which had an inspector at SpaceX’s facilities to observe the test flight, said in a statement that the FAA will oversee the company’s investigation into the “prototype mishap.” The FAA has conducted similar mishap investigations after previous Starship test flights. “The [Starship] vehicle experienced an anomaly during the landing phase of the flight resulting in loss of the vehicle,” an FAA spokesperson said. “The FAA will approve the final mishap investigation report and any corrective actions SpaceX must take before return to flight is authorized.”

The FAA noted that it will also work with SpaceX to identify reports of light debris in the area, saying that there have yet to be any reported injuries or damaged to public property.

What will really go on here is that an FAA official will observe closely as SpaceX conducts the investigation. That official might have some background in space engineering, but he or she will be completely unprepared to actually lead the investigation. Thus in the end the FAA will really only be able to rubber stamp SpaceX’s conclusions, though it might as all governments do, demand its own pound of flesh before issuing that stamp.

Up to now the FAA has tried very hard to work with the new commercial space companies, especially SpaceX, doing as little as it can to impede their progress. There are strong signs however that this might now change with the Democrats in control of the White House and Congress. If so, expect the FAA to cause SpaceX some grief during this investigation, grief that could significantly delay further test flights.

NASA in contact with China to get the orbital data of its Tianwen-1 Mars Orbiter

Though by law NASA and the scientists cannot exchange data or communications with China due to security concerns, NASA and Chinese officials did exchange communications recently in order to coordinate the orbits of their orbiters presently circling Mars.

Jurczyk noted that NASA’s knowledge of China’s space program is largely limited to publicly available information because of restrictions placed by federal law on its interactions with Chinese organizations. Those restrictions do allow NASA to engage with China if approved by Congress. “Most recently, we had an exchange with them on them providing their orbital data, their ephemeris data, for their Tianwen-1 Mars orbiting mission, so we could do conjunction analysis around Mars with the orbiters,” he said.

In a brief statement to SpaceNews late March 29, NASA confirmed it exchanged information with the China National Space Administration (CNSA), as well as other space agencies that operate spacecraft at Mars. “To assure the safety of our respective missions, NASA is coordinating with the UAE, European Space Agency, Indian Space Research Organisation and the China National Space Administration, all of which have spacecraft in orbit around Mars, to exchange information on our respective Mars missions to ensure the safety of our respective spacecraft,” the agency said. “This limited exchange of information is consistent with customary good practices used to ensure effective communication among satellite operators and spacecraft safety in orbit.”

Such limited communications are actually permitted under the law that Congress passed, as long as they do not involve any exchange of technical information. There has been a push, however, in the planetary community for years to increase direct communications with China, allowing the transfer of all kinds of information, both scientific and technical. Until the law gets changed none of this should happen.

Of course, what matters laws these days? I will not be surprised if the Biden administration, rather than demanding a change in the law, instead begins expanded communications between NASA and China, in complete and utter contempt for the law, with no one objecting.

Congress taking aim at SpaceX and Starship testing

They’re coming for you next: The Democratic Party leaders on the House committee that normally does not overseer the FAA’s commercial space office have now raised their concerns about the recent test flights of SpaceX’s new rocket, Starship, in particular demanding an investigation into the flight of prototype #8, which the FAA claims had occurred despite one FAA issue.

The latest version of SpaceX’s FAA launch license for the Starship suborbital test flight program, issued March 12, allows those test flights to take place “only when an FAA Safety Inspector is present at SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch and landing site.”

The change stemmed from an investigation into SpaceX’s violation of that launch license during the SN8 test flight in December. SpaceX proceeded with the flight despite the FAA determining that the flight profile exceeded the maximum allowed risk to the uninvolved public for “far field blast overpressure” in the event of an explosion. While the SN8 vehicle exploded upon landing, there were no reports of damage outside of the SpaceX test site.

FAA directed SpaceX to investigate the incident, delaying the flight of the next Starship prototype, SN9. That investigation included “a comprehensive review of the company’s safety culture, operational decision-making and process discipline,” the FAA said in a Feb. 2 statement.

The FAA cleared SpaceX to proceed with launches, with SN9 and SN10 launching and landing — and both exploding upon or shortly after landing — on Feb. 2 and March 3, respectively. Neither caused any damage outside of the SpaceX test site.

The FAA’s response to SpaceX’s launch license violation, including the lack of any penalties beyond the investigation, prompted criticism from two key members of Congress. In a March 25 letter to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) sought to “register our concerns” with the incident. DeFazio is chair of the House Transportation Committee and Larsen the chair of its aviation subcommittee.

Much of these claims about the flight of prototype #8 however only appeared to become a significant concern after the Biden administration and the Democrats took power in January. Prior to that the FAA did not seem very troubled by that flight. In fact, the so called risk, “far field blast overpressure,” seems very contrived, especially since we have now had four Starship crashes on its landing pad, with no evident damage to even SpaceX’s own equipment nearby. Prior to January 20th the FAA was untroubled. After January 20th it suddenly became a deadly issue requiring stricter supervision by the government, though what that FAA inspector on sight can do or even know about the launch is baffling.

What these Democrats really don’t like is that someone is freely accomplishing something without their supervision or control. Like mobsters looking to exhort money, they are essentially telling SpaceX, “Nice business you got here. Sure would be a shame if something happened to it.”

With today’s fourth Starship crash, expect the Demorats in Congress now to swarm like flies over manure, all aimed at shutting down the most innovative new American space company in decades.

Today’s blacklisted Americans: Democrats go after Parler and its investors

Our modern Congress, as controlled by the Democratic Party
What the modern Congressional show trials will resemble,
as demanded by the Democratic Party

In February Democratic Party congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) and her fellow Democrats demanded the social media platform Parler provide Congress a detailed list of all its investors and creditors, while also demanding the FBI investigate the company.

The Democratic Party demands were based on an outright falsehood, that Parler was part of a conspiracy to overthrow the government during the protests at the Capitol on January 6th.

In her letter, the congresswoman goes on to claim that Parler “allowed Russian disinformation to flourish on its platform prior to the November 2020 election, facilitating Russia’s campaign to sow chaos in the American electorate.”

“Individuals with ties to the January 6 assault should not — and must not — be allowed to hide behind the veil of anonymity provided by shell companies,” continued Maloney in her letter.

The problem with this fantasy is that the evidence shows that the public social media planning for the January 6th protest was done on all the platforms, not just Parler, with the bulk taking place on the more established older forums like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit.

Moreover, Parler this week responded to Maloney by pointing out that it had teamed up with the FBI — prior to January 6th — in order to track any posts that might suggest violence or illegal activity.
» Read more

Biden nominates former senator Bill Nelson for NASA administrator

The Biden administration today announced that it has nominated former Democratic senator Bill Nelson for Florida to be the next NASA administrator.

Nelson was a big proponent of SLS. He also was a big opponent of commercial space for many years, changing his mind only during the last few years in the Senate.

He is also old, 78. Though that age by itself does not guarantee failing mental abilities, the last time I saw Nelson live was during 2017 hearings instigated by senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) related to the Outer Space Treaty. During those hearings he struck me as confused, unaware of the most recent developments in commercial space, and repeatedly struggling to express himself on the simplest topics.

In this sense he will make a great bookend with Joe Biden. In both cases the weak-minded elected official does not run things. Instead, it is the unelected Washington bureaucracy in charge.

How this will impact the growing and successful commercial space market at this moment remains unclear. Within NASA there are two camps, one favoring private enterprise and the other wanting to control it so that NASA decides everything. For the last half of the 20th century through the first decade of the 21st the latter was in charge. In the past decade the former has gained ascendancy.

As a longtime supporter of the latter group, Nelson’s appointment therefore could shift that battle in a way that aborts America’s new private space effort.

Biden fires Boeing on SLS; gives job to Acme

In an interesting announcement today, the Biden administration fired Boeing as the prime contractor for SLS and gave the job to a well-known southwest company dubbed Acme.

Anticipating critical comment, White House spokesmen pointed out that Acme had a long history of use of solid-fuel rockets for crewed applications, “without loss of human life or serious injury” despite some less-than-fatal mishaps.

…The spokesperson also added, “It should be noted that Acme’s products have never killed anybody. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Boeing.”

Before you comment, make sure you read the article at the link closely, and also click on the two links in the article to get some detailed background on Acme, from some original sources.

Military admits F-35 is impossible to use, expensive, and an utter failure

Another typical federal project: The military has now admitted that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet, a decades-long project to replace the F-16, is an utter failure and must be replaced.

The list of basic problems with the jet are truly appalling.

In spite of its advanced technology and cutting-edge capabilities, the latest stealth fighter suffers from structural flaws and slew of challenges.

Most recent among them is a structural engine flaw and shortage in its production. The F-35’s engine problem is partly based in not being able to deliver them for maintenance as fast as needed, in addition to a problem with the heat coating on its rotor blades which shortens engine lifespan considerably. Defense News described it as a “serious readiness problem”, suggesting that as soon as 2022, nearly 5 to 6 per ent of the F-35 fleet could be effectively grounded as it waits for engine replacements.

Another challenge is the plane’s software. Most modern fighter jets have between 1 to 2 million lines of code in their software. The F-35 averages 8 million lines of code in its software, and it’s suffering from a bug problem. To fix this, the US Department of Defense is asking three American universities to help figure it out.

The fighter jet also suffers from a slightly embarrassing touchscreen problem. After making the switch from hard flipped switches to touch screens, pilots report that unlike a physical switch that you’re confident has been activated, touch screens in the plane don’t work 20 percent of the time says one F-35 pilot.

The worst part of this story is that this kind of incompetence has been par for the course for big federal projects like this for decades. Our government in Washington is corrupt and unqualified to even be dog catcher, but we voters don’t seem to have the courage to fire them. We certainly don’t fire the politicians who appear quite willing to encourage this corruption.

Another detailed essay demanding SLS be cancelled

Link here.

The analysis is detailed, thoughtful, thorough, and technical. It is worthwhile to read every word, slowly, carefully, and with an open-mind. The lead:

The SLS axiomatically cannot provide good value to the US taxpayer. In that regard it has already failed, regardless of whether it eventually manages to limp to orbit with a Falcon Heavy payload or two.

The question here is whether it is allowed to inflict humiliation and tragedy on the US public, who so richly deserve an actual legitimate launch program run by and for actual technical experts.

The best time to cancel SLS was 15 years ago. The second best time is now.

While this essay is brilliant, its real significance is that it is another data point in the growing sense I have that the Washington community is preparing itself for cancelling SLS at last. Such an essay would not have been written or paid attention to five years ago. I know. I wrote my own and got no traction.

Today attention is getting paid. More importantly, we are seeing a range of people and news organizations advocating similar anti-SLS positions, positions that would have been thought politically impossible only a few short years ago.

The clock is ticking on SLS. If any of its planned upcoming tests or flights fail, it will face a firestorm of hostility. And even if they succeed, its days appear numbered.

Rumors: Biden considering former Senator Bill Nelson for NASA administrator

According to leaks to the press yesterday, the Biden administration is considering hiring former Florida senator Bill Nelson to become NASA’s administrator.

That the DC rumor mill is abuzz with this story suggests that the White House is putting out a trial balloon to see the reaction to such a choice. At first glance Nelson appears a good pick. Before he was defeated in his last election by Republican Rick Scott (R-Florida), he had been one of Congress’s biggest advocates for space exploration and NASA. He had even flown as an astronaut on the shuttle back in 1986, just weeks before Challenger broke up during launch.

However, there are several issues that would make this a very poor choice. First, Nelson’s advocacy for NASA was centered on funding big space, not private enterprise. Nelson was one of those legislators who mandated the construction of SLS, and resisted for years NASA’s new commercial space effort.

Second, Nelson’s last years in Congress revealed that he had lost touch with some of the basic concepts of freedom and property rights that founded the United States. For example, he was one of a group of bi-partisan senators that in 2018 proposed a law that would have denied Americans their second, fifth, sixth, and seventh amendment rights by proactively forbidding them the right to buy firearms merely because a Washington bureaucrat decided to put them on a no-fly list. The law was a mindless emotional response to a terrible school shooting that killed a lot of children, and its proposal illustrated that its sponsors were no longer thinking, but emoting blindly.

That Nelson joined in and was willing to give the government so much power does not make him the best choice to lead NASA as it tries to become just another customer being served by an independent robust and free market of space companies.

Finally, and maybe most important, Nelson is 78 years old. In his last years in office he showed his age. I watched him struggle as both a speaker and legislator during hearings in 2017. His enthusiasm for space was unchecked, but his sharpness was gone.

If chosen to run NASA he will make a good bookend for his president, who has also shown clear signs of failing mental health. Under such weak leadership, it will be the bureaucracy that will rule, and the track record of NASA’s bureaucracy has not been good. It resisted for decades ceding power to the private sector, wanting instead to maintain control over all rocket and spacecraft development, including what those rockets and spacecraft would do. Only in the past decade has that power been wrested from its grasp.

Given power again I expect it to use that power to return to its old ways and squelch the emerging free and competitive aerospace market. This will not be good for either the exploration of space, or for America itself.

Today’s blacklisted Americans: All Republicans who questioned the November election count

The dead Bill of Rights
The now cancelled Bill of Rights.

They’re coming for you next: The list of Americans whom the left and Democratic Party wish to blacklist just keeps getting longer. Now, in league with its chief slander organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), any Republican politician who wanted an investigation into the numerous and often very credible allegations of fraud and vote tampering in the November presidential election has been slated for cancelling and the destruction of their lives.

The SPLC, which has routinely slandered ordinary conservatives and organizations by falsely labeling them as a racists and hate groups merely because they believe in certain entirely mainstream positions, such as being against abortions and in favor of family rights, is now demanding the removal and deplatforming of more than half the Republicans in Congress, because they questioned that election.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has an answer, and it amounts to blacklisting more than half of the Republicans in Congress — if not expelling them altogether. For good measure, the SPLC also calls for the permanent social media “deplatforming” of every “public figure” who questioned the 2020 election results.

The SPLC’s annual “Year in Hate and Extremism” report presented this cancel culture overdrive as the solution to “far-right and racist narratives.” While the SPLC has long branded mainstream conservative and Christian organizations “hate groups,” listing them alongside the Ku Klux Klan, and urging Big Tech to blacklist them, this latest cancel culture demand seems extreme, even for the SPLC.

To quote the report itself:
» Read more

ESA contracts Airbus to build three more Orion service modules

The European Space Agency (ESA) late last week announced that it has awarded Airbus a contract to build three more service modules for NASA’s Orion capsule.

This new contract supplements the existing contract that already has Airbus building three service modules. With six service modules in the pipeline, the ESA is signaling that it is very confident the Artemis program will continue.

The key question remains: Will it continue with SLS as the rocket of choice? Right now there simply aren’t the funds to build six SLS rockets. Congress has only funded two. Moreover, the pace of construction for SLS means that, if funded, it will likely take a decade at least for it to launch these six capsule/service modules. Since SpaceX’s Starship/Super Heavy will likely be operational in about half that time, and will also be capable of much more for far less, I suspect that if these additional Orion capsules get launched, they will do so on something other than SLS.

Today’s blacklisted American: Democrats working to fire civil servant

They’re coming for you next: Congressional Democrats and the Biden administration have been on a campaign to fire a recently hired civil servant because he had previously been a Republican political appointee.

Michael Ellis, who last served as the former senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council during the Trump administration, was put on administrative leave from his new position as the general counsel at the National Security Agency, just hours after President Joe Biden was inaugurated.

Ellis — a Navy Reserve intelligence officer, Yale Law School graduate, and Jeopardy! winner — had first applied for the position in January 2020, and went through an extensive months-long vetting process conducted by a panel of non-partisan civil servants, according to the two former officials. Ellis was ultimately selected for the position in mid-November by Paul Ney, the Pentagon’s general counsel whose first job at the department came during the George W. Bush administration as the Navy’s principal deputy general counsel. He started his position on Tuesday, January 19.

However, recent news reports revealed that a day later, on Inauguration Day, NSA Director Army Gen. Paul Nakasone placed Ellis on administrative leave, pending the outcome of an inquiry by the Department of Defense inspector general into the circumstances of his hiring.

It is no secret that Democrat lawmakers for months opposed Ellis going from an appointed position in the Trump administration to a non-partisan civil service position in the government — a practice commonly referred to as “burrowing in.”

The Democrats might have a complaint about Ellis’ civil servant hiring if this “burrowing in” strategy was a new one, but in fact, far more Democratic Party political appointees have used it over the years to become civil servants — who are difficult to remove — than Republicans, and as far as I know, the Republican Party has almost never moved to get them fired when it took power.

No, what the Democrats are doing here is part of their on-going purge from government of any Republicans, as I have already shown by previous posts in this daily stream of blacklisted Americans. The bureaucracy in Washington is almost completely controlled by their supporters. Can’t have anyone there who might dissent from the Democratic Party’s agenda. They must all be removed, now!

Moreover, if this effort at a purge was unique, applied only to this one Republican, it might be more understandable in the dog-eat-dog world of politics. The Democrats might have justifiable reasons for opposing strongly this one person.

In this new age of Democratic Party blacklists and censorship, however, this kind of blacklisting effort is instead par for the course. The Democrats are trying to destroy all Republicans wherever they can, not because of any policy differences but merely because they are Republicans. This story is just one of many.

SpaceX competitors lobbying to kill FCC subsidy for Starlink

A lobbying effort instigated by some of SpaceX competitors in the rural internet service business is now working to kill the $886 million subsidy the FCC had awarded the company for developing its Starlink internet constellation.

The losers in the awards process apparently are teaming up with the Democrats to challenge all the awards, with SpaceX their main target.

The [award to SpaceX was] made when Trump administration appointees still controlled the FCC and now the agency is led by Biden appointees who could cut off applicants it considers dubious. Last month, 160 House and Senate members urged the FCC to scrutinize recipients, in part because network construction takes time. “We fear that we will not know whether funds were improperly spent for years to come,” said the lawmakers.

There is a “a need for proper upfront assessment,” Representative Jim Clyburn, of South Carolina, the No. 3 House Democrat, said in an email. He said many applicants claim to be able to deliver faster service to new customers than they are delivering to current subscribers.

This is a fight for government hand-outs, period. The losers are now using political pressure to change the decision. And since the Democrats generally hate SpaceX (and Elon Musk) because it is so successful at actually achieving what it sets out to do, they are glad to help them. Not only will it bring these politicians campaign donations (called bribes if you are honest), it will destroy the one space company that is proving that capitalism and freedom works.

From my perspective, no one, including SpaceX, should get these funds. SpaceX is proving they aren’t necessary to get the job done (bringing fast internet service to rural communities). Moreover, the federal government really doesn’t have the cash, deep in debt as it is.

But then, my perspective is now considered quaint, even “raaaaaaacist”, in our modern corrupt Marxist society.

New Democrat head of House subcommittee covering NASA says he supports Artemis

The new Democrat head of the House appropriations subcommittee that covers NASA funding, Matt Cartwright (D-Pennsylvania), appears to support the Artemis program established during the Trump administration, though he has also indicated that he does not favor the timeline imposed by Trump to land a manned mission on the Moon by ’24.

Cartwright’s embrace of Artemis during [a] July 2020 webinar was a change from 2019 when he was one of several members reacting skeptically to a supplemental budget request from the Trump Administration after it unexpectedly accelerated the timeline for putting people back on the Moon from 2028 to 2024. He complained NASA did not even have a cost estimate for the entire effort, yet expected Congress to embrace it.

In 2018, he expressed concern about proposed cuts by the Trump Administration to NASA’s earth and space science activities especially climate programs and WFIRST (now the Roman Space Telescope). He urged NASA to follow the Decadal Surveys produced by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

What his prior views presage now that he chairs the subcommittee remains to be seen. It is widely expected the 2024 deadline will be pushed back, perhaps to the 2028 date NASA originally planned, but Cartwright appears favorably disposed towards the agency overall.

Delaying the Moon landing by SLS forever is the real goal, so the jobs program can be extended without any risks. To actually fly might result in a failure, something that no politician wants.

In the end it will not be SLS anyway that gets Americans back to the Moon. It costs too much and is badly designed. It might fly once or twice, but after that Congress will drop it while keeping Artemis, albeit in a very different form. Instead of having NASA design and build things, the new Artemis will be built by the many companies who were awarded fixed priced contracts during the Trump administration to develop their own hardware as fast as possible and as inexpensively as possible.

The distinction is important, because the latter is more likely to succeed in a reasonable amount of time.

At the same time, with Congress on board and a Democrat in the White House, it is not surprising that the policy is immediately shifting to a slower timeline. Can’t get this done too fast! I must also add that 2028 was not NASA’s original date for its return to the Moon. Before the Trump administration took control of Artemis, NASA had wanted to complete Gateway first, which based on all of NASA’s previous schedules would have pushed a lunar landing into the 2030s. Do not be surprised if this sluggish schedule is reinstated.

In fact, with the present incompetents in charge in Washington, I fully expect China to own the Moon, while U.S. politicians brainlessly dither on how to spend pork.

Leftist activist arrested for inciting riot at Capitol

A leftist activist who is very anti-Trump and heads an organization founded in support of Black Lives Matter causes has been arrested by the FBI for participating and inciting the riot that occurred at the Capitol Building on January 6th.

[John] Sullivan, the founder of “an activist group formed after the killing of George Floyd in the summer of 2020” entitled Insurgence USA which “calls itself anti-fascist and protests police brutality,” insisted he was only inside the U.S. Capitol on January 6th to “record.”

…The 18-page affidavit reveals that Sullivan allegedly incited violence by exclaiming “we gotta get this [expletive] burned” and “it’s our house mother[expletive].” … During one of his interactions with others, Sullivan can be heard in the video saying, “We gotta get this [expletive] burned.” At other times as he is walking through the Capitol, Sullivan can be heard saying, among other things, “it’s our house mother[expletive]” and “we are getting this [expletive].”

At this link you can see a video of Sullivan speaking at what appears to be a DC rally, threatening violence and insurrection against Trump.

He is not the only one arrested, and his leftist agenda only illustrates that the politics of the individuals who attacked the Capitol Building were not all the same. It also adds weight to the possibility that many who were there were not there in support of Trump, as has now become the accepted but very unproven wisdom, but might actually have been there to help slander those Trump supporters.

And I still want to know more about that woman in the pink hat.

Blacklists are back and the Democrats have got ’em

The Bill of Rights, cancelled

They’re coming for you next: Oh boy, it’s the 1950s again and its time for witchhunts from Congress and big corporations.

Unlike the 1950s, however, the question will not be whether you have ever been a member of the Communist Party. No, now the question will be much more effective and to the point. It will be “Have you ever been conservative or a member of the Republican Party?”

And as always, today’s progressive Democratic Party is on the ball! Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has revealed members of the House are planning to form a commission to “rein in” conservative media, to prevent them from “spewing disinformation and misinformation.”

During a lengthy Instagram Live on Tuesday evening where she revealed that she feared for her life during the siege, the “Squad” member accused the mainstream media of “spewing disinformation” ahead of the deadly riot in which five people died.

“There’s absolutely a commission that’s being discussed but it seems to be more investigating in style rather than truth and reconciliation,” she said. “I do think that several members of Congress in some of my discussions have brought up media literacy because that is part of what happened here,” Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) went on. “We’re going to have to figure out how we rein in our media environment so you can’t just spew disinformation and misinformation,” she said.

Hey, Alexandria, I’ve got the perfect name for your congressional commission. Why not call it the House Un-American Activities Committee? You could subpoena right-wing writers and journalists to testify against their will in Congress, demanding to know their party affiliations. You could also set up lists of these proven conservatives so that businesses nationwide can blacklist them and keep them from working.

In fact, many of big corporations, their boards dominated by Democrats, are already ahead of the curve, cutting off all donations to all Republicans who simply wanted to find out if there was election fraud in the 2020 election. Other businesses in turn have begun firing anyone who worked for Trump.

It is obvious, Alexandra, that the work will be rewarding and productive. Get that committee going. Send out those subpoenas. Harass those witnesses.

We can’t have those evil Republicans poisoning our glorious socialist paradise, can we?

Space Force picks Alabama for its future headquarters

In a victory for Alabama and its politicians, the U.S. Space Force has chosen the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville as the location for its future headquarters.

The selection of Redstone Arsenal is a huge win for Huntsville, nicknamed “Rocket City.” U.S. Space Command is currently based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. Alabama was considered a long shot and Colorado was the front runner, given its incumbent status and concentration of military installations and space industry contractors.

U.S. Space Command was established in August 2019 as the military’s 11th unified combatant command. The future headquarters will have approximately 1,400 military and civilian personnel.

While there are many good reasons to pick Huntsville, I guarantee a major factor was the clout exercised by Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), head of the Senate appropriations committee. He will no longer be in charge of the committee with the new Senate, but in his final act as head he likely used it to get the Space Force to move to his state.

This decision however is not yet final. According to government officials, it will take six years (!) to make the move, and already the politicians in Colorado, where the Space Command is presently based, are lobbying to rescind it.

Republican congressman Doug Lamborn, who represents Colorado Springs, sent a letter to President-elect Biden urging him to reverse what he called a “political decision” to move U.S. Space Command to Alabama. “I am disappointed by the horrendous decision to rip U.S. Space Command out of its home in Colorado Springs and move it to a new location,” said Lamborn.

As always, pork is the goal, not defending the U.S. in the most effective manner.

NASA moves up static fire test of SLS core stage

NASA today announced that it has rescheduled the full duration static fire engine test of the core stage of SLS’s first stage, moving it up one day to this coming Saturday, January 16th.

During the test, engineers will power up all the core stage systems, load more than 700,000 gallons of cryogenic, or supercold, propellant into the tanks and fire all four engines at the same time.

If all goes right, that test will last about 8 minutes, the full time those engines are intended to fire during launch.

For SLS a lot rides on this test. Should anything go wrong, it will likely delay the launch, presently scheduled for November (though there are rumors this date is no longer likely). And since we now have a new administration taking power that is also linked politically with the previous Obama administration that was generally uninterested in SLS, a failure during this test could very well signal the death knell for this vastly over-budget and far behind schedule project.

For SLS to survive, this test must succeed, and fire for its full duration.

Congress frees Europa Clipper from SLS

It appears that Congress has at last removed its requirement that the unmanned probe Europa Clipper must be launched on the continually delayed and very expensive SLS rocket.

Almost unnoticed, tucked into the 2021 fiscal NASA funding section of the recently passed omnibus spending bill, is a provision that would seem to liberate the upcoming Europa Clipper mission from the Space Launch System (SLS).

According to Space News, the mandate that the Europa Clipper mission be launched on an SLS remains in place only if the behind-schedule and overpriced heavy lift rocket is available and if concerns about hardware compatibility between the probe and the launcher are resolved. Otherwise, NASA is free to search for commercial alternatives to get the Europa Clipper to Jupiter’s ice-shrouded moon.

Not only will this secure Europa Clipper’s launch schedule, which had deadlines imposed by orbital mechanics that SLS was not going to meet, the more than $1 billion in savings by using a SpaceX Falcon Heavy will allow the probe to do more while giving NASA more money for other planetary missions.

This is excellent news. It signals that Congress’s long love affair with SLS because of the ample pork it sends to many districts might finally be waning. If so, there is a good chance it will finally be killed, freeing up its bloated budget.

Sadly, in a sane world some of those savings would be used to reduce the overall federal deficit even as some was also used to expand NASA’s space effort. We are not in a sane world, however, so expect no reduction in the federal budget, at all.

Still, this is a move by Congress towards some fiscal responsibility that will make NASA’s efforts more efficient. For that small improvement we should be grateful.

Is the ultimate Republican Party failure theater about to happen?

The dead Constitution

For the past thirty years the Republican Party has been amazingly consistent in almost every political battle put before it by the increasingly leftist and radical Democratic Party. Almost every single time, the leaders of this so-called conservative political party have put on a big show of resisting the leftist and radical proposals put forth by Democrats, only in the end to back down, making a deal that allows those policies to take effect in some manner or another.

I am not sure who originally coined the term, but in recent years this incompetence has often been called “failure theater.” The Republican Party justifies its failures by citing the big theatrical fight they put on. They then promise they will fight harder next time, only to fail again. And again. And again.

This failure theater has been going on repeatedly for decades, since Ronald Reagan was president. Then Donald Trump came along. Unlike the establishment Republicans who ran for president since Reagan (Bush Sr., Dole, Bush Jr., McCain, Romney), Trump generally does not back down easily. He does not participate in failure theater. When he fights he fights to win, which has made the corrupt leadership in the Republican Party very uncomfortable for the past four years.
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Eleven senators announce decision to challenge election results

A group of eleven senators, led by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today announced that they will challenge the election results in the disputed states, demanding that Congress set up a commission to investigate the results and prove them legitimate before certification. From their statement:

To wit, Congress should immediately appoint an Electoral Commission, with full investigatory and fact-finding authority, to conduct an emergency 10-day audit of the election returns in the disputed states. Once completed, individual states would evaluate the Commission’s findings and could convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed.

“Accordingly, we intend to vote on January 6 to reject the electors from disputed states as not ‘regularly given’ and ‘lawfully certified’ (the statutory requisite), unless and until that emergency 10-day audit is completed.

This group joins Senator Josh Hawley (R-Kansas), who has already announced he will vote against certification, and about 140 House Representatives, who have said the same.

Their statement is thoughtful and detailed, not an emotional soundbite. It also states the following:

We are not naïve. We fully expect most if not all Democrats, and perhaps more than a few Republicans, to vote otherwise. But support of election integrity should not be a partisan issue. A fair and credible audit-conducted expeditiously and completed well before January 20-would dramatically improve Americans’ faith in our electoral process and would significantly enhance the legitimacy of whoever becomes our next President. We owe that to the People.

These are matters worthy of the Congress, and entrusted to us to defend. We do not take this action lightly. We are acting not to thwart the democratic process, but rather to protect it. And every one of us should act together to ensure that the election was lawfully conducted under the Constitution and to do everything we can to restore faith in our Democracy. [emphasis mine]

That election integrity is now a partisan issue is the real problem. There are more than enough reasonable allegations and evidence suggesting widespread fraud in the disputed states of Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona, and no election should be accepted until those allegations are investigated properly. Otherwise no one is ever going to trust any election again.

And it does not matter who wins. If a proper investigation debunks the allegations and calls Biden the winner, then so be it. Our goal should not be keeping Trump in office, but to make sure the voting process is fair, honest, and reliable.

Puerto Rican government commits $8 million to rebuild Arecibo

The government of Puerto Rico earlier this week announced that it has allocated $8 million to rebuild the Arecibo Observatory.

Via an executive order, Gov. Wanda Vazquez made reconstruction of the observatory public policy. In a ceremony at La Fortaleza, the seat of the island’s government, Vazquez said that the Puerto Rican government believes that the telescope’s collapse provides a great opportunity to redesign it, taking into account the lessons learned and recommendations from the scientific community so that it remains relevant for decades to come.

…Vazquez said that she and her administration want the scope to once again become a world class center and the $8 million being allocated for reconstruction includes funds to repair the environmental damage caused by the collapse, something that has already begun under the supervision of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

We shall see what happens. $8 million is not really enough to rebuild Arecibo. And the NSF has been trying to unload it from its budgetary responsibility for almost a decade. I would be shocked if that agency now suddenly decided to fund its reconstruction.

Only if Congress gets involved will this likely change, and that wouldn’t surprise me, considering how nonchalant our present Congress is about spending money that doesn’t exist.

NASA budget passed by Congress rejects ’24 lunar landing

No surprise: The NASA budget that was passed by Congress this week as part of a giant omnibus bill only gave NASA 25% of the requested funds the agency says it needs to develop a human lander required for an Artemis manned mission to the Moon by ’24.

Overall, NASA will receive $23.271 billion, almost $2 billion less than requested. Importantly for the Trump Administration’s Artemis program to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, it provides only $850 million instead of $3.4 billion for Human Landing Systems.

…The Trump Administration requested a 12 percent increase for NASA in order to fund the Artemis program: $25.2 billion for FY2021 compared to the $22.9 billion it received in FY2020. While the goal of returning astronauts to the Moon has broad bipartisan support in Congress, the Trump deadline of 2024 — set because it would have been the end of his second term if he had been reelected — won lukewarm support at best from Republicans and none from Democrats who pointed to both budgetary and technical hurdles.

It was always clear that the Democrats were not going to cooperate with Trump to could get that lunar landing during his second term. Moreover, the real goal of Artemis is not space exploration, but distributing pork. Stretching out these missions so that they take many many years achieves that goal far better than a tight competitive schedule that gets things done. This is why SLS and Orion have been under construction, with no flights, for decades, even as SpaceX moves forward with Starship/Super Heavy in only a few years.

A Biden presidency actually increases the changes that Artemis will get better funding, but that funding will always be designed to stretch out the program for as long as possible. Our policymakers in Washington really do not care much for the interest of the nation. What they care about is their own power and aggrandizement.

House passes bill that attempts to protect Apollo Moon sites

The House today passed a bill that would require any American business planning a Moon mission to agree to not disturb the Apollo lunar landing sites.

[The bill] requires any federal agency that issues a license to conduct a lunar activity to require the applicant to agree to abide by recommendations in the 2011 NASA report “NASA’s Recommendations to Space-Faring Entities: How to Protect and Preserve the Historic and Scientific Value of U.S. Government Artifacts” and any successor recommendations, guidelines or principles issued by NASA.

All well and good, but this does nothing to stop other nations from touching those sites. Moreover, making all of those sites and whatever the astronauts did there totally sacrosanct is not reasonable. On the later Apollo landings the astronauts used a rover to travel considerable distances. Should every spot the astronauts visited by now considered holy? If anything, scientists will wish to return and gather more data at these locations to better understand the initial Apollo results.

Not that any of this really matters. In the long run the decision on how much these sites should be protected will be made by the people who live on the Moon. I suspect, as pioneers living on the edge of survival, they will have less interest in making memorials to past achievements and be more focused on getting things done, now.

A good summary of the status of the election political battle

Link here. The author, William Jacobson, always has a solid legal grounding on the political warfare that is on-going today in America. In this case he argues correctly that the key has always been winning elections, and that the Republicans have consistently failed to play that game hard. They didn’t fight the use of loosely regulated mail-in ballotss They didn’t fight ballot harvesting. They didn’t reject the use of Dominion software. And he gives a classic example in Wisconsin, whose Supreme Court has rejected election lawsuits partly because of the following reason:

There is no better example of why elections matter, and how the 2020 presidential election was lost months ago. Liberal Jill Karofsky defeated conservative sitting Justice Daniel Kelly in an April 2020 election the Wisconsin Republicans completely botched by allowing it to take place the same date as the Democratic presidential primary. Guess who turned out to vote? Democrats. That took the court down to a nominal 4-3 conservative majority, with Justice Brian Hagedorn the weak conservative link.

In many other states, legal and political battles were fought strategically by Democrats over the several months leading up to the election. Democrats organized for a mail-in election, Republicans didn’t. Republicans were out-organized, out-hustled, and out-lawyered.

Even now the Republicans in Georgia are not gearing up to deal with potential election fraud in the upcoming Senatorial runoff elections that will determine who controls the Senate. They are fiddling around as the entire credibility of the election process burns. The odds of them winning even one of those two run-offs I rate is low, because not only will the same cheating take place by the Democrats, Republican voters will not come out to vote, because they don’t see their party as a useful party to vote for.

And yet, the most important and only task Republican-controlled state legislatures have right now is to insure that fraud cannot happen in future elections. It is their last hill to stand on. That in Georgia they seem uninterested in dealing with this now, before these runoffs, tells us how weakly they will likely fight in other states in the coming years.

And if they don’t fight, they will lose. It is that simple.

Supreme Court dismisses Texas suit on election

The dead Constitution

The Supreme Court today dismissed the Texas lawsuit asking it to invalid the election results in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia because of election law changes made by bureaucrats rather than the state legislatures as directed by the Constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday evening rejected the state of Texas’ challenge to the 2020 election results in four battleground states, extinguishing one of the last remaining hopes for President Trump’s campaign to reverse Joe Biden’s lead in those states.

“The State of Texas’s motion for leave to file a bill of complaint is denied for lack of standing under Article III of the Constitution,” the justices ruled. “Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections. All other pending motions are dismissed as moot.”

No one should be surprised by this. It is not the court’s job to give permission to the state legislatures to do their job. It is their responsibility to act, and they have ample evidence that the vote has been, if not stolen, very unreliable and not trustworthy.

They are just too cowardly to do it. They’d rather have an excuse to cop out. They will now do so, saying that they can’t do anything because the Supreme Court told them they couldn’t. This is a lie, and a joke.

The election has been stolen. Do not expect there ever again to be a legitimate election in the United States. Expect Democrats to begin winning every race, in every battleground swing state.

SpaceX’s Starlink constellation wins $885 million in federal subsidies

Capitalism in space: In awarding $9.2 billion in subsidies to providers of rural high-speed internet to rural customers, the FCC gave $885 million of this allocation to SpaceX’s Starlink constellation.

SpaceX was not the biggest beneficiary, however.

Most of the RDOF Phase I subsidies are going to terrestrial broadband service providers, led by LTD Broadband with an award of $1.32 billion. CCO Holdings, a subsidiary of Charter Communications, is due to serve 1.05 million sites around the country, leading the list for that metric.

The FCC said 85% of the 5.2 million sites to be served would get gigabit-speed broadband. SpaceX is due to serve nearly 643,000 sites with download speeds of 100 megabits per second or more.

Regardless of its good intentions, this distribution of federal cash sickens me. These companies don’t need it to do what they are doing, and are all sure to make plenty of profit without it. The federal government meanwhile is trillions in debt. It has to print money to give this away, something that is not going to go well in the long run.

Trump administration asks Senate to remove SLS requirement for Europa Clipper

The Trump administration has requested the Senate to change the language in its NASA spending bill to remove its requirement that Europa Clipper be launched on SLS.

NASA wants the option to launch the Europa probe using commercial rockets, such as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy. It also says that there are technical reasons that make using SLS problematic, and worse, the agency simply does not have enough SLS rockets to fly its planned (but unfunded) manned Artemis missions and also launch Europa Clipper.

The House has already removed that requirement in its version of the bill. The Senate has not, probably because the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), is a big fan of SLS (much of it built in his state), and has acted for years to pump money into that project.

If the requirement is not removed, Europa Clipper’s launch will likely be delayed by several years, and cost $1.5 billion more.

The coming purge

Hitler's purge in 1934, the night of long knives
Hitler’s violent purge of his opponents in 1934: The Night of Long Knives.

I have just finished reading The Memo: 20 years inside the deep state fighting for America first. Written by military intelligence and national security expert Richard Higgins, it described his long and mostly fruitless effort in Washington to make our foreign military policy more effective.

In 2016, in desperation, he allied himself with Donald Trump, hoping that a victory by this very unconventional outsider might finally put Higgins in a position of some control.

It did not work out that way. At first the established players in Washington blocked his appointment. Eventually he managed to get an assignment at the National Security Council (NSC), but at a lower ranking than initially promised. Worse, the make-up of that council remained largely controlled by Democratic Party holdovers. As Higgins described things at the NSC in the first year after Trump’s inauguration:
» Read more

The left is now reaping what it sowed

A Democrat literally responds to Trump's 2016 victory
This is an actual Democrat’s
respond to Trump’s 2016 victory

For four years, since his election, Donald Trump has been met with a never-ending wave of hatred, hostility, and downright total opposition by the Democratic Party and its many very partisan supporters in the mainstream press, the academic community, and in the general public.

If you are conservative, I am sure you’ve all seen it. Not only has it been impossible these past four years to have a reasonable conversation with Democrats about Donald Trump, your opinions and thoughts are routinely treated with insulting contempt and scorn when you tried. Trump was a racist and evil, despite there being no credible evidence to that effect, and if you tried to find out what the evidence was for such a slander you were immediately slandered and called the same.

Trump himself has faced this same level of irrational hate continuously since his election. And it is irrelevant that he often descends to the same tactics. In the climate created by the left since the Obama administration legitimized the use of slander in political discourse, what other choice did he have if he wished to survive?

Lies in fact has too often comprised the only tactic used by the Democratic Party and the left since Trump’s arrival. » Read more

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