Tag Archives: freedom

We are not going to die from climate change

Tony Heller today published this quite thorough review of the failed climate predictions by global warming scientists/activists, while also providing a great summary of the real state of our climate.

You can disagree or question him on one point or another, but the overall data once again illustrates the uncertainty that surrounds climate science. We really do not know what is going on, and any predictions that claim we do are hogwash.

Above all, take a look at the section on the benefits of increased CO2 in the atmosphere. This data is widespread and robust, and has been confirmed by agriculturists for decades. The planet is getting greener and as a result more fertile as there has been an increase in atmospheric CO2.

Meanwhile, the fear-mongers insist the world will end in just over eleven years, based not on any real data but on their emotional desire for catastrophe.

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Youtube and Facebook censoring name of Ukraine leaker

It is now being reported that both Youtube and Facebook are removing any content that mentions the name of CIA analyst Eric Ciaramella, the so-called “whistleblower” is really a leaker of classified information from a telephone conversation between President Trump and the president of the Ukraine.

From the original story at The Federalist:

For the record, it is perfectly legal to say or write the whistleblower’s name, unless you are the intelligence community inspector general (ICIG).

The federal whistleblower statute only requires the ICIG keep a whistleblower’s identity confidential, unless the ICIG determines the name necessary to disclose. No other government official or private citizen is required to protect the anonymity of a whistleblower. No such statute exists. So why the censorship on the whistleblower’s name?

Because disclosing the whistleblower’s name will likely lead to research that makes public what many on the right already know — the whistleblower blew his whistle based on a partisan agenda.

Ciaramella’s name is no secret. Not only has RealClearInvestigations revealed it, he was mentioned in the Mueller Report, and was even identified in published testimony from the secret hearings of Congressman Adam Schiff’s intelligence committee on impeachment.

For so-called news organizations to team-up to help fulfill the Democratic Party’s impeachment strategy is beyond disgraceful. This is one reason I do not allow Google advertising on Behind the Black. Google, which owns youtube, is a very corrupt company that is also a hand-in-glove supporter of the Democratic Party. This is why I also do not use it for my searches, going instead to either Startpage or DuckDuckGo. It is also why I encourage my readers to send me Evening Pause suggestions from video sources other than youtube.

Facebook is equally corrupt, and acts to block conservative sites from getting traffic. Now it is acting as an agent of the Democratic Party in its effort to overthrow the 2016 election.

One more point: It is also disgraceful for all news services, from the left and the right, to label Ciaramella a “whistleblower.” He is no such thing. All he did was leak the contents of Trump’s phonecall, based not on direct knowledge but on hearsay, and then express his objections to Trump’s foreign policy based on what he falsely thought had happened during that call. The transcript of that call demonstrates this unequivocally.

Moreover, Trump is the president. He sets foreign policy, not some lowlife CIA bureaucrat. Ciaramella broke his CIA security clearance by leaking and then spreading this tale. He should be fired, not anointed the honorary title of “whistleblower.”

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SpaceX successfully launches 60 Starlink satellites

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched 60 more satellites in its Starlink internet satellites, while also reusing for the first time a Falcon first stage for a fourth time, reusing a fairing for the first time. The first stage successfully completed a barge landing. No word on whether they were able to recover the fairings.

I have embedded the replay of the live stream below the fold. They now have proved the capability of recovering and reusing 70% of their rocket.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

22 China
17 Russia
11 SpaceX
6 Europe (Arianespace)

The U.S. now leads China 23 to 22 in the national rankings.
» Read more

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New video of Starliner pad abort test

Boeing has released a new video of the Starliner pad abort test on November 4th, showing the full flight.

I have embedded the footage below the fold. The one aspect of this test that I have as yet not seen any explanation for is the red cloud to the left of the capsule’s touch down spot. It surely looks like the kind of smoke one sees from the release of certain toxic fuels. It was also something that the live stream video focused on, suggesting the possibility that its existence was important and needed to be recorded for engineering reasons.

Regardless, the fact that any onboard astronauts would have been safely returned to Earth, based on this test, should mean Boeing’s abort system is functioning properly. They note that they have pinpointed the reason one parachute did not deploy (“attributed to the lack of a secure connection between the pilot chute and one of the main chutes”), a problem that is probably quite simple to fix. Hopefully that one failure will not cause any significant delays in their future flights, including the first manned flight next year.
» Read more

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The dark future predicted by this week’s elections

Because the elections this past week on November 5 took place during an off year, they were mostly local, and thus have a limited value in predicting the public’s overall political attitude. The results however can still give us a hint about the future, and are thus worth looking at for that reason.

In general, the results were mostly mixed, with Democrats doing great in some suburbs and in Virginia, and Republicans doing great in the down slate races in Mississippi and Kentucky. The governorship elections were also mixed, with the Republicans winning in Mississippi and the Democrats winning in Kentucky.

Other results also suggest mixed results on a variety of propositions. The link above notes the defeat of a leftist proposition in Washington that would have repealed the state’s prohibition on using affirmative action quotas. On the other hand, in New York City voters approved ranked voting, an election system that Democrats have used in Maine and California to destroy Republican opposition.

Overall however I consider these results a disaster for the future of freedom, democracy, and our Constitutional system. The Democratic Party has made it very clear in the past three years that it no longer respects all three. More importantly, they have also made it clear that they are willing to use slander, libel, and any number of vicious McCarthyite tactics to squelch and destroy anyone who opposes them.

It is terrifying to me that the public seems undecided or ambivalent about these facts, and still willing to vote for Democrats, many of whom have openly supported these tactics and positions. In fact, it suggests a large percentage of the population, majorities in many places, actually applaud the Democratic Party’s fascist tactics and positions.

This week’s elections therefore once again reaffirm for me a very pessimistic future coming in the next few election cycles. Even if Trump should win in 2020, the voting pattern that we have seen in both 2018 (when the voters gave control of the House to the Democrats) and 2019 suggest that his win will be mixed, and that the power the Democrats presently hold in Congress will remain firm and unchallenged. This is what the voters have been telling us. They are not ready to clean house in the Democratic Party.

Dark times are coming. Be ready.

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Boeing proposes manned lunar lander that bypasses Gateway

Capitalism in space: Boeing today announced its bid to build a manned lunar lander for NASA’s Artemis program, with its lander launched to go directly to the Moon rather than stopping at the proposed Lunar Gateway lunar space station.

The company said its “Fewest Steps to the Moon” proposal, submitted for NASA’s Human Landing Services program, minimized the number of launches and other “mission critical events” needed to get astronauts to the surface of the moon. “Using the lift capability of NASA’s Space Launch System Block 1B, we have developed a ‘Fewest Steps to the Moon’ approach that minimizes mission complexity, while offering the safest and most direct path to the lunar surface,” Jim Chilton, senior vice president for space and launch at Boeing Defense, Space and Security, said in a company statement.

The two-stage launched would launch on the enhanced Block 1B version of the rocket, which uses the more powerful Exploration Upper Stage (EUS), and go into lunar orbit. It would either rendezvous with the lunar Gateway or directly with an Orion spacecraft, where astronauts would board it for a trip to the lunar surface. The lander is designed to be launched as a single unit, rather than in separate modules that would be aggregated at the Gateway. The lander also doesn’t require a separate transfer stage to maneuver from a near-rectilinear halo orbit to low lunar orbit, as some other designs have proposed.

This approach, the company said in a statement, reduces the number of mission critical events, such as launches and dockings, to as few as five. Alternative approaches, Boeing claims, require 11 or more such events. [emphasis mine]

Boeing is essentially proposing a plan that makes Gateway unnecessary, a bidding ploy that very well might work with the Trump administration, which has already reduced Gateway’s initial construction to speed up its attempt to get to the Moon by 2024.

More important, Boeing’s proposal makes it very clear how unnecessary Gateway is, and how that boondoggle actually slows down our effort to return to the Moon. This is great news, for several reasons. First it shows that Boeing, one of the old big contractors that historically has depended on government dollars, is now publicly stating that it is not in favor of Gateway. This in turn makes it more politically acceptable for politicians to take this position. Expect more public advocacy against building Gateway.

Second, it shows that Boeing is trying to sell SLS. It wants Congress to appropriate more launches, and by showing Congress a cheaper way to use it the company is hoping legislators will buy into their proposal. SLS might be an exceedingly expensive rocket, but Gateway only makes it worse. Boeing is showing the world that there is a better and cheaper way to do things.

This also suggests that Boeing is recognizing the competition coming from SpaceX and others that might kill SLS, and is now trying to make SLS more competitive. While I am not a fan of SLS, if this proposal indicates an effort by Boeing is finally to make SLS more efficient and affordable I can only celebrate. The rocket has capabilities that are unique, and if its cost can be reduced in any way that can only benefit the U.S. effort to compete in the exploration and settlement of the solar system.

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U.S. formally begins exit from Paris climate agreement

On Monday the Trump administration fulfilled one of Trump’s campaign promises and formally began the year-long process to exit the Paris climate agreement.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the move in a statement. “President Trump made the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because of the unfair economic burden imposed on American workers, businesses, and taxpayers by U.S. pledges made under the Agreement,” Pompeo said. “The United States has reduced all types of emissions, even as we grow our economy and ensure our citizens’ access to affordable energy….The U.S. approach incorporates the reality of the global energy mix,” he added, arguing “innovation and open markets” will drive emissions reductions.

There is ample data that indicates the U.S. is beating the targets of the Paris accord, even though Trump made it clear very shortly after taking office that the government would no longer require its implementation.

The article is amusing in its biased effort to provide a soapbox for every special interest (from environmentalists to Democrats) to express their horror at Trump’s decision. Like most
mainstream outlets, it devotes practically no effort to give the whole story.

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Boeing & NASA declare pad abort test a success

According to the NASA press release for yesterday pad abort test of Boeing’s Starliner capsule, the test was a success even though one of three main parachutes did not deploy successfully.

A pitcharound maneuver rotated the spacecraft into position for landing as it neared its peak altitude of approximately 4,500 feet. Two of three Starliner’s main parachutes deployed just under half a minute into the test, and the service module separated from the crew module a few seconds later. Although designed with three parachutes, two opening successfully is acceptable for the test parameters and crew safety. After one minute, the heat shield was released and airbags inflated, and the Starliner eased to the ground beneath its parachutes.

All reports say that this parachute issue will not effect the December 17 planned launch of the first unmanned orbital flight to ISS.

I find NASA’s reaction to this anomaly fascinating. Previously the agency repeatedly made a very big deal about the slightest anomaly by both Boeing and SpaceX on any test or procedure. While the agency’s response to these problems could have been reasonably justified, the caution it sometimes exhibited, often causing significant delays that might have been avoidable, was somewhat disturbing, especially when contrasted with the agency’s willingness to accept far more serious issues in connection with SLS and Orion.

Now however, the agency has no problem with the failure of one parachute to deploy during this test. While I actually agree with this response, the contrast is interesting and suggests to me that politics and deadlines (with the Russian Soyuz contract running out) are finally exerting some influence over NASA’s safety people. I suspect it has been made clear to them that unless something really seriously goes wrong, as long as the tests would have resulted in living astronauts, the safety bureaucrats had better not stand in the way of progress.

If so, this is very good news. It means that, assuming nothing really goes wrong with the remaining tests, the first manned missions are finally going to occur next year, relatively early in the year.

Posted at the Hayabusa-2/OSIRIS-REx asteroid conference in Tucson this week.

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Sunspot update October 2019: Sunspot activity continues to flatline

For the fifth month in a row the Sun has produced practically no sunspots, possibly the longest such stretch since astronomers began recording the sunspot cycle in the 1700s.

This flatlining is very obvious in NOAA’s October update of its graph showing the long term sunspot activity of the Sun, released yesterday, and posted below, with annotations:

October 2019 sunspot activity
The graph above has been modified to show the predictions of the solar science community for the previous solar maximum. The green curves show the community’s two original predictions from April 2007, with half the scientists predicting a very strong maximum and half predicting a weak one. The red curve is their revised May 2009 prediction, extended in November 2018 four years into the future.

SILSO October graph

As it has done in previous four months, in October the Sun produced practically no sunspots. The graph on the right, produced by Sunspot Index and Long-term Solar Observations (SILSO), shows only one weak sunspot at the beginning of October.

Even though the previous 2008-2009 solar minimum was one of the deepest and longest ever recorded, the lack of sunspots in the past five months has significantly beaten it for inactivity, as shown on the first graph above. That previous minimum never had a period of even two months with so few sunspots. Furthermore, the Sun has now been blank 74% of the time in 2019, a record of blankness that beats the yearly record of either 2008 or 2009. If the Sun continues to be as blank as it has been for the next two months, 2019 will easily set the record for the year with the fewest sunspots ever recorded.

The big question remains: Are we heading for a grand minimum with no sunspots for decades? We still do not know. Even these unprecedented trends prove nothing, as we really do not yet have a clear understanding of why the Sun undergoes these various cycles of sunspot activity/inactivity. The Sun could still come back to life in the coming years. We can only wait and see. As I noted however in last month’s sunspot update, the arrival of a new grand minumum, the first since the 1600s, could have important consequences:

During past grand minimums there is evidence that the Earth also cooled, though the link between the two phenomenon remains circumstantial and unproven. If we see another grand minimum, and the Earth once again cools, then we might be able to finally tie these two phenomenon together.

It is essential that climate scientists pursue this question. Answering it might very well defuse the fears presently expressed by leftist politicians and the leftist press of an oncoming period of global warming.

At the same time, it might also present us with the possibility of an oncoming period of significant global cooling, during which it will be so cold that we might face crop failures (as happened in the previous grand minimum in the 1600s).

We need to know what is going on with the Sun, and its consequences for Earth, as soon as possible. Whether we can find out this solar cycle is unlikely, but a cold hard look at the data would do much to answer the question.

I wonder however if there any climate scientists around willing to do so. Questioning human-caused global warming carries great career risks. In fact, taking any position counter to the prevailing wisdom on any scientific issue appears to carry risks, as demonstrated by the experience recently when a journal decided to publish a paper that questioned modern gender politics:
» Read more

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SpaceX successfully completes 13 parachute drop tests of Crew Dragon

Capitalism in space: SpaceX in two weeks has apparently completed a strong of thirteen successful parachute drop tests of its Crew Dragon capsule.

SpaceX says it successfully completed thirteen consecutive tests of Crew Dragon’s new Mk3 parachutes, all of which were completed in less than two weeks. This essentially blows Bridenstine’s expectations out of the water, as SpaceX has surpassed his predicted 10 tests and done so barely three weeks into the tentative 12-week window he set. SpaceX now has plenty of time to either continue testing Crew Dragon’s parachutes or refocus its efforts on other equally important qualification challenges.

Prior to those thirteen consecutive successes, SpaceX suffered two failures during single-parachute Mk3 testing. The first two development tests of the Mk 3 design used loads much higher than the parachutes would ever see in operation in an effort to better understand overall design margins and system performance. After a period of rapid iteration with parachute provider Airborne Systems, the faults responsible for those two stress-test failures were resolved and subsequent drop tests confirmed that Mk3’s suspension lines – the numerous lines connecting the parachute to Crew Dragon – are far stronger than those on Mk2.

Bridenstine had mentioned in a tweet that SpaceX was planning ten drop tests, so the company has now exceeded those plans.

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Boeing completes Starliner pad abort test

Embedded below the fold is the video of today’s Starliner pad abort test, cued up to just before launch. While the capsule landed safely, it appears that one of it’s parachutes deploy improperly. If so, this probably means Boeing will not be able to launch the unmanned demo flight to ISS on December 17.

No one during the podcast mentioned this fact, so it could mean that they considered the landing a success regardless. It is even possible that they planned it with only two chutes. Or it could be the corporate culture at Boeing, similar to the culture in the Soviet Union, to avoid mentioning non-obvious problems to the public in order to make believe all is well. We will have to wait and see.

UPDATE: More information here on the failure of one chute:

Video of the test appeared to show all three chutes deploy, but only two remained attached to Starliner – a significant issue that will have to be investigated and evaluated.

Hat tip to reader Col. Beausabre for the link to the video.
» Read more

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How to watch Boeing’s Starliner pad abort

Link here.

It is presently scheduled for 9 am (Eastern) on November 4, with a three hour window. The live stream on NASA television will go up about ten minutes before. Anyone watching should be prepared for long waits of nothing happening, followed by a very quick event over in mere minutes.

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Cygnus successfully launched by Antares

Capitalism in space: Northrop Grumman today successfully launched its Cygnus unmanned cargo freighter to ISS, using its Antares rocket.

This was only the third launch for Northrop Grumman this year, which matches its total last year and has been its typical count for the past decade and a half. Previously that number was mostly Pegasus launches. Now it is the Antares/Cygnus launches to ISS, as Pegasus has lost most of its business.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

20 China
17 Russia
10 SpaceX
6 Europe (Arianespace)
4 ULA
4 India

The U.S. now leads China 22 to 20 in the national rankings.

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Upcoming schedule of Boeing & SpaceX manned capsule tests

The next two months are going to be a busy time for both Boeing and SpaceX as they attempt to complete the last tests necessary to their respectively Starliner and Crew Dragon capsules before they each launch a manned mission to ISS.

Below is that schedule as of today:

November 4: Boeing will do a Starliner pad abort test, to be live streamed.
November 6: SpaceX will do a final static fire test of Crew Dragon’s SuperDraco abort engines.
November-December: SpaceX will do a series of parachute drop tests of Crew Dragon
December 17: Boeing will launch Starliner unmanned in a demo mission to ISS.
December (third week): SpaceX will complete a launch abort test of Crew Dragon

The article at the first link above provides a lot of detail about both companies’ abort tests.

Assuming these tests all go as planned, both companies will then have completed all engineering tests required prior to their first manned missions. As far as I can tell, the only thing standing in their way at that point will be filling out the voluminous paperwork that NASA is demanding from them.

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Update on Starship Mk1 assembly

Link here. It appears its launch pad has been assembled at Boca Chica and the spacecraft has been moved and placed on it.

It also appears that they are aiming for the first tests no earlier than November.

The newest videos at the link are worth a glance, though somewhat tedious as with each they view a worksite from a distance where not much appears to happen quickly. The last however shows the ship being moved and lifted and placed on the launch pad.

I cannot deny a certain skepticism when I look at this first iteration of Starship. The hull especially fills me with trepidation, since it is made up of many welded riveted together plates that do not create a smooth surface. I wonder how this surface will respond to returning from orbit at near orbital speeds.

UPDATE: I mistakenly referred to the plates initially as “riveted”. They are welded together, as correctly noted by one of my readers, and I have corrected the post accordingly.

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UK to have general elections December 12th

The British parliament has voted 438 to 20 to approve prime minister Boris Johnson’s demand that they hold general elections on December 12th in exchange for getting an extension to remain in the European Union until the end of January.

Though polls suggest that the public supports Johnson strongly in his effort to leave the EU, an actual election is something completely different. We shall now see if it will really happen.

Personally, I am pessimistic. The opposition to Brexit, like the opposition to Trump in the U.S., has never accepted the results of their previous defeats. I doubt any who voted against Brexit then have changed their mind since, while their unrelenting effort (like the resistance to Trump) has likely worn down its support.

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Starship manned lunar landings by 2022?

Capitalism in space: According to SpaceX’s CEO Gwynne Shotwell at a conference on October 25, the company is targeting the first unmanned cargo landing of Starship on the Moon by 2021, with manned missions shortly thereafter.

Shotwell, speaking at Baron Fund’s annual investment conference at the Metropolitan Opera House on Friday, gave an update on SpaceX’s goals for Starship. “We want Starship in orbit next year; we want to land it on the moon before 2022 with cargo and with people shortly thereafter,” Shotwell said.

However, much like Musk in his presentation last month, Shotwell hedged her estimate, saying that “every time I make a prediction about schedule I turn myself into a liar.”

If they even come close to doing this they will certainly make NASA’s SLS rocket look ridiculous. They began serious development of Starship in early 2019. Even if development takes twice as long as Shotwell’s prediction, they will be landing on the Moon in about six years, in 2025. SLS has been in development since 2004, and its total cost once launched is expected to be more than $25 billion, a cost that does not include an extra $1.6 billion NASA has said it needs to land on the Moon by 2024 and that Congress has so far refused to appropriate.

SpaceX meanwhile has raised $1.3 billion, from private sources, to build Starship.

If you were a customer which product would you buy?

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Crew Dragon successfully tests SuperDraco engines

Capitalism in space: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, planned for a launch abort test in December, has successfully completed a set of static fire engine tests of two of its SuperDraco launch abort engines.

They next plan a static fire test of all eight engines, followed by that launch abort flight. If all goes well with both, the only thing blocking SpaceX from launching its first manned mission early in 2020 will be the paperwork NASA is demanding they fill out prior to flight.

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Fourth SARGE suborbital flight fails, crashes

Capitalism in space: The fourth flight of Exos Aerospace’s suborbital rocket failed yesterday when the rocket’s parachute apparently failed to deploy, sending the rocket crashing to the ground.

A good overview of the company and SARGE’s history can be found here. The live stream of today’s launch is embedded below the fold, cued to just before launch.

This failure appears at this moment to be far more serious than their previous failure, where the rocket shutdown prematurely but safely landed without damage using its chutes.
» Read more

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Virgin Galactic stocks go public on October 28

Buyer beware: With the official completion of a merger of Virgin Galactic with the venture capital company Social Capital Hedosophia this week, it will be possible to buy stock in the company as early as Monday, October 28.

The space-tourism company run by billionaire Sir Richard Branson has been approved to merge with Social Capital Hedosophia, a venture capital firm that helps technology companies list on public markets, according to a Wednesday SEC filing from the company.

The merger is expected to close Friday. On Monday, Social Capital’s ticker, “IPOA,” will become Virgin Galactic’s, and trade under “SPCE.”

As I say, buyer beware. Virgin Galactic has spent fifteen years spending a lot of investment capital without achieving what it promised to do years ago, fly tourists on suborbital space flights. Along the way we’ve seen Richard Branson make a lot of exciting announcements about how he is about to fly in space, none of which ever happened. Instead, they crashed their spaceship, killing one pilot.

If you want to invest money in this company you should be aware of their so far poor track record.

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Virgin Orbit to add 3rd stage to LauncherOne for planetary missions

Capitalism in space: Even as it prepares for its first orbital demonstration flight, Virgin Orbit today announced that it is considering development of a third stage that will make the rocket capable of launching planetary cubesat missions.

John Fuller, Virgin Orbit advanced concepts director, said the company is deciding between three “highly energetic third stage” options for LauncherOne that would enable the rocket to launch up to 50 kilograms to Mars or 70 kilograms to Venus. The “Exploration 3-Stage Variant” of LauncherOne would also have the ability to launch around 100 kilograms to the moon or toward Lagrange points, he said.

“What we do is we take that third stage and bring the overall impulse of the vehicle up to a point where we can reach very high energies to launch to cis-lunar, interplanetary or even asteroid targets,” Fuller said Oct. 24 at the 70th International Astronautical Congress here.

The company however has still not flown the rocket, and that first flight is now about a year-plus behind schedule. They say they are preparing for the first orbital mission before the end of year but until it happens there is plenty of room for skepticism.

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December 17 officially set for Starliner unmanned orbital launch

Capitalsm in space: NASA and Boeing have now officially scheduled the launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule on its first unmanned demo flight to ISS for December 17.

Boeing had announced this date earlier, but it is now official.

The next two months will be a very busy period for tests of the two privately built manned capsules being built by Boeing and SpaceX. Not only will Boeing fly Starliner on its first unmanned orbital mission, the company will also do a pad abort test of Starliner on November 4. SpaceX in turn will be doing a major parachute test campaign for Dragon, as well as a launch abort test, right now roughly scheduled for late November.

If all go well, both companies will be ready for the first manned flights of both capsules in the first quarter of 2020.

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Judge rules civil forfeiture is unconstitutional

A South Carolina judge has ruled that the use of civil forfeiture against individuals is unconstitutional and must cease.

Circuit Judge Steven H. John has ruled that the South Carolina’s civil asset forfeiture regulations violate the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights of the citizens.

…Judge John notes all of these problems in a decisive ruling that smacks down the practice of civil asset forfeiture. In his 15-page opinion, he writes that South Carolina’s forfeiture practice violate both the U.S. Constitution and the state’s because the statutes “(1) place the burden on the property owner to prove their innocence, (2) unconstitutionally institutionally incentivizes forfeiture officials to prosecute forfeiture actions, and (3) do not mandate judicial review or judicial authorization prior to or subsequent to the seizure.” He also notes that the statutes violate citizens’ Eighth Amendment protections against excessive fines.

This is plain common sense, and an easy conclusion if one simply reads the unmistakable words in the Constitution. Unfortunately, decisions like this have so far been relatively rare. Hopefully this decision will start a trend.

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China officially withdraws extradition bill that sparked Hong Kong protests

The Chinese government has now officially withdrawn the extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong citizens to be tried within China and that triggered the on-going Hong Kong protests.

We will have to see if this defuses the situation. The protesters have put forth other demands, such as calling for an investigation of the Hong Kong police, instigated by their sometimes violent behavior in response to the protests. More important, the protests have also demanded the return of real elections to Hong Kong, something the Chinese government eliminated in recent years.

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UK hypersonic engine component passes test

An important component of the hypersonic engine being developed by Reaction Engines, a private company based in the United Kingdom, has successfully passed a major test.

UK company Reaction Engines has tested its innovative precooler at airflow temperature conditions equivalent to Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. This achievement marks a significant milestone in its ESA-supported development of the air-breathing SABRE engine, paving the way for a revolution in space access and hypersonic flight.

The precooler heat exchanger is an essential SABRE element that cools the hot airstream generated by air entering the engine intake at hypersonic speed.

This is good news for the company and the engine, but don’t expect to buy a ticket on a spaceship using SABRE anytime soon. This success is only a beginning. They remain a long way from flight.

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Blue Origin partners with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Draper to build lunar lander

At a science conference yesterday Jeff Bezos announced that Blue Origin has formed a partnership with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper to propose building a manned lunar lander for NASA.

In the first major update on the company’s lander program since May, Bezos said Blue Origin has assembled a “national team” of aerospace contractors to develop, build and fly the three-stage spacecraft, which is based on Blue Origin’s previous work on the Blue Moon landing system.

“Blue Origin is the prime contractor, Lockheed Martin is building the ascent stage, Northrop Grumman is building the transfer element and Draper is doing the GNC (guidance, navigation and control),” Bezos said Tuesday at the International Astronautical Congress in Washington. “We could not ask for better partners. Blue Origin, in addition to being the prime, is going to build the descent element.”

Blue Origin is competing for a NASA contract to develop a crewed lunar lander, or Human Landing System, for the Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the surface of the moon by the end of 2024.

This partnership reminds me of the way the aerospace industry functioned before the arrival of SpaceX. No one would compete. Instead, they would meet like a cartel and divvy up the work so that everyone had a share. The result was that very little new stuff got built, and over time the entire industry began to die.

The goal of this partnership now seems aimed at Congress and convincing legislators (especially the Democrats who control the House) to drop their opposition to Trump’s 2024 Moon proposal and fund it. Whether this will work remains unknown, and will likely have to wait until after the results of the 2020 election.

Meanwhile, it is very interesting that Blue Origin is the prime contractor, considering how very very little Blue Origin has so far achieved in space. I wonder if Bezos has committed some of his personal capital to this venture (more than $2.8 billion cash intended for his space ventures), and doled it out to Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper as an incentive to become subcontractors.

Bezos’ presentation also provided an update on Blue Origin’s BE-7 engine, designed as part of this lunar lander. It appears however that he said nothing about the BE-4 engine that the company is building for both ULA’s Vulcan rocket and its own New Glenn rocket. Except for one update in August, there has been little said about this engine in about a year and a half. As this engine is key to the entire company’s financial future, this silence makes me continue to wonder if it has issues.

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British parliament passes Johnson’s Brexit deal while pushing for more delays

The British parliament yesterday finally for the first time passed a deal for leaving the European Union (EU), but then rejected the timetable created by prime minister Boris Johnson to complete that exit by October 31.

The PM [prime minister] did tonight what Theresa May was unable to do in three years – get a majority in the Commons to actually leave the EU. Boris this evening said it was “joyful” that MPs had finally “embraced a deal”.

But minutes later the PM tonight lost his vote 308 – 322 on the crucial timetable motion, leaving his promise to get us out of the bloc by Halloween in tatters. Furious MPs had claimed they didn’t have enough time to look at the 100 page bill.

The PM revealed he would put the Brexit Bill on ice and hit “pause” while the EU consider what to do.

Whether Johnson will have the UK leave at the end of the month, deal or no deal, remains unclear. It increasingly looks like the EU will not give an extension, so if parliament sticks to its guns on rejecting the timetable then the exit will occur on October 31st with no deal. Johnson in turn might also trigger a general election in response.

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Rocket Lab announces new upper stage for taking satellites beyond Earth orbit

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab yesterday unveiled plans for a new upper stage to their Electron rocket that will allow them to send satellites to lunar orbit.

Rocket Lab will combine its Electron launch vehicle, Photon small spacecraft platform, and a dedicated bulk maneuver stage to accomplish extended-range missions and deliver small spacecraft to lunar flyby, Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO), L1/L2 points, or Lunar orbit. These capabilities can then be expanded to deliver even larger payloads throughout cis-lunar space, including as high as geostationary orbit (GEO).

The satellites involved here would all be very small cubesats, but since these small satellites are increasingly becoming the satellite of choice for unmanned missions Rocket Lab’s timing here I think is excellent. They are putting themselves in position to garner this new market share.

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Large numbers of minorities and Democrats attend Trump rallies

According to statistics issued by the Trump campaign manager, significant numbers of Democratic voters, minorities, and non-voters have been attending Trump rallies.

In Dallas: “The data revealed that nearly 54,000 voters signed up for the event, with almost one in eight (12 percent) who didn’t vote in the last four elections and more than one in five (21.4 percent) who identified as Democrats. Eleven percent of the registrants were Hispanic.”

In New Mexico: “Of the 45,000 who registered, 94 percent were from within the state and 78 percent were matched to voter files. More than one in five voted in one or none of the past four elections, and 40 percent were Hispanic, the data showed. Nearly one in three were Democrats.”

In Minnesota: “More than 42,000 voters were identified in the data, of whom 13 percent voted in none or one of the past four elections. Also, 30 percent were Democrats.”

If these numbers reflect reality even vaguely, they strongly suggest two things. First, that large numbers of Democrats are abandoning that party. Second, that Trump is bringing in voters who had habitually not voted in the past. Both trends, if true, suggest disaster for the Democratic Party in 2020.

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