Tag Archives: freedom

Airbus gets ESA as customer for its ISS commercial platform

Capitalism in space: Airbus has signed up the European Space Agency (ESA) to use its as-yet unlaunched ISS Bartolomeo module as an experimental platform.

The Bartolomeo platform – named after Christopher Columbus’ younger brother – is currently in the final stage of launch preparation at Airbus in Bremen and is scheduled for launch to the ISS in March 2020. Bartolomeo is developed on a commercial basis by Airbus using its own investment funds and will be operated in cooperation with ESA.

The platform can accommodate up to 12 different experiment modules, supplying them with power and providing data transmission to Earth. Bartolomeo is suitable for many different experiments. Due to the unique position of the platform with a direct view of Earth from 400 kilometres, Earth observation including trace gas measurements or CO2 monitoring of the atmosphere are possible, with data useful for climate protection or for use by private data service providers.

This is the European effort to duplicate the slow commercialization of ISS that is also taking place in the U.S., with more and more of the payloads and operating platforms on the station being developed, owned, and operated not by NASA but by private companies.

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NASA picks science payloads for 1st two unmanned private lunar landers

Capitalism in space: NASA has chosen the science instruments that will be put on the 1st two unmanned privately built lunar landers aimed at arriving on the Moon in 2021.

Two experiments will be flown on both landers. The Astrobotic lander gets an additional nine instruments, while Intuitive Machines gets three.

The most interesting tidbit from the press release is that NASA hopes to make “about two deliveries of scientific and research payloads to the Moon per year starting in 2021.” Seems overly optimistic to me, though in the long run the approach makes sense for NASA. These landers are relatively small and cheap, so the cost to fly a lot of them is not exorbitant. Under this arrangement, if one fails you simply figure out why and quickly fly another.

For this new American industry the approach also works. The companies will own the designs, so soon they will be able to market this technology to other customers, at what is historically record low prices for such a mission. The result is likely going to be the arrival of a swarm of new customers.

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SpaceX wins first new launch contract in 2020

Capitalism in space:The Egyptian communcications satellite company Nilsat this week announced that it has awarded SpaceX the launch contract for its next satellite.

This was SpaceX’s first contract award in 2020.

The article goes into great detail about SpaceX’s present launch manifest, which according to the company has contracts for future launches equaling $12 billion.

Based on public info, SpaceX has roughly 55 customer launches on its manifest. The company also intends to launch as many as 24 dedicated Starlink missions this year and will need at least another 40-50 on top of that to complete the first phase of the broadband internet satellite constellation (~4400 spacecraft). Meanwhile, SpaceX has won at least nine separate launch contracts – two Falcon Heavy missions and seven Falcon 9s – in the last 18 months, but has launched 22 customer payloads in the same period.

In fewer words, SpaceX is effectively launching its existing commercial missions much faster than it’s receiving new contracts. In 2019, for example, the company launched only 11 commercial missions – 13 total including two internal 60-satellite Starlink launches. SpaceX launched 21 times in 2018, a record the company initially hoped to equal or even beat last year, but – for the first time ever – the launch company was consistently ready before its customers were.

It appears SpaceX intends to pick up any slack in launch contracts with Starlink satellite launches, which once in orbit are another major income source for the company.

Overall, it seems to me that SpaceX is quite awash with capital, which reinforces their decision to not take government money to develop Starship. Using their own capital they are free to build as they see fit, with no one from the government who knows less than they do looking over their shoulder and kibitzing.

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Launch abort data suggests Dragon performed “flawlessly”

A preliminary review of the data gathered during SpaceX’s launch abort test on January 19, 2020 suggests the system performed “flawlessly”.

The Crew Dragon began its launch escape maneuver at 10:31:25 a.m. EST (1531:25 GMT) — initiated by a low setting of an on-board acceleration trigger — when the Falcon 9 was traveling at a velocity around 1,200 mph (536 meters per second), according to SpaceX.

Eight SuperDraco thrusters immediately pressurized and ignited as the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage engines were commanded to shut down as part of the abort sequence. The escape engines on the Crew Dragon produced nearly 130,000 pounds of thrust at full power. The SuperDracos performed flawlessly, SpaceX said, accelerating the capsule away from the top of the Falcon 9 at a peak acceleration of 3.3Gs. The SuperDracos accelerated the spacecraft from about 1,200 mph up to more than 1,500 mph (about 675 meters per second) in approximately seven seconds, according to SpaceX.

At this point it appears the only reason the first manned launch might be delayed a bit is if NASA decides to turn it into a long duration mission, requiring new training for the crew.

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Taking back the arts to make them meaningful again

Link here. The essay first outlines the destructive corrupt and meaningless consequences of postmodernism on the arts:

The systematic undermining of the arts were a prerequisite for the Marxist goal of cultural disintegration. Before elitists began decreeing blatantly absurd claims such as mere words can magically transform men into women, or that Jeffrey Epstein killed himself, our cultural institutions replaced art with artifice. What they call “art” is an empty mimicry, lacking substance and significance.

The result has been absurd museum exhibits where garbage, literally garbage, is lauded as great works of art

The essay then describes a new and booming movement in the artistic community, dubbed remodernism, focused on restoring art to its more laudable place in the human heart.

In 2000, two English painters, Charles Thomson and Billy Childish, codified what they called Remodernism, an insurgency against the manipulative and destructive Postmodern status quo. Remodernism acknowledges the purpose of art: an inclusive means of spiritual communion and connection. This inspiring message is particularly in sync with the values of the United States.

Remodernism is the latest iteration of the American character: ordinary people working as explorers and inventors, optimistic, self-reliant and productive. A Remodernist artist formulates expressions of personal liberty to convey higher meaning, personal growth, and connectivity.

Remodernism sees art as a conduit for shareable moments of beauty, enjoyment, comprehension, and truth. Assembling these elements together approaches a state of grace, the ultimate expression of the love bestowed on us by our Creator. We are called to follow His example.

In other words, the goal of art should to be raise us up, rather than tear us down. I couldn’t agree more.

As they say, read it all.

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Trunk from Dragon recovered intact

Capitalism in space: In recovering various pieces, including the capsule, dropped in the Atlantic during its January 19 launch abort test, SpaceX (and Elon Musk) were surprised to retrieve the capsule’s trunk section, normally attached below the capsule, largely intact and undamaged.

The recovery does not mean SpaceX will recapture and reuse this component in the future, since on an orbital flight the trunk would go into orbit. What it does suggest strongly is that SpaceX’s engineering is remarkably robust. To quote the old Timex commercial, “Takes a licking, keeps on ticking!” Kudos to them.

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The long term ramifications of SpaceX’s crew Dragon on the future of the human race

Crew Dragon's parachutes deployed
Crew Dragon soon after its parachutes had deployed
during the launch abort test.

The successful unmanned launch abort test by SpaceX of its crew Dragon capsule today means that the first manned flight of American astronauts on an American rocket in an American spacecraft from American soil in almost a decade will happen in the very near future. According to Elon Musk during the press conference following the test, that manned mission should occur sometime in the second quarter of 2020.

The ramifications of this manned mission however far exceed its success in returning Americans to space on our own spacecraft. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine touched upon this larger context with his own remarks during the press conference:

We are doing this differently. NASA is going to be customer, one of many customers. I want SpaceX to have lots of customers.

Bridenstine is underlining the real significance of the entire commercial program at NASA. Unlike every previous manned space project at the space agency, NASA is not doing the building. Instead, as Bridenstine notes (and I recommended in my 2017 policy paper Capitalism in Space), it is merely a customer, buying a product built entirely by a private company. And while NASA is involving itself very closely with that construction, it is doing so only as a customer, making sure it is satisfied with the product before putting its own astronauts on it.

NASA also does not own this product. As Bridenstine also notes (and I also recommended in Capitalism in Space), SpaceX owns the product, and once operational will be free to sell seats on crew Dragon to private citizens or other nations.

This different approach also means that NASA is not dependent on one product. From the beginning its commercial crew program has insisted on having at least two companies building capsules — Dragon by SpaceX and Starliner by Boeing — so that if there is a launch failure with one, the second will provide the agency with redundancy.

Bridenstine was very clear about these points. He wants multiple manned spacecraft built by competing American capsules, both to provide the government with redundancy but also to drive innovation and lower costs.

SpaceX of course is the quintessential example of how to lower costs.
» Read more

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Crew Dragon unmanned launch abort a success

Crew Dragon's parachutes deployed

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has successfully completed an unmanned launch abort test of its crew Dragon spacecraft.

Everything took place exactly as planned. The image to the right is a screen capture shortly after the main chutes had become fully deployed. The recovery of the capsule is still ongoing, and will take a bit more than an hour. A press conference has been scheduled at 11:30 eastern, viewable on NASA-TV.

Based on what was seen, it appears that SpaceX is ready to put astronauts on this capsule. It is time to do so.

I have embedded a replay of the entire test, below the fold.
» Read more

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SpaceX is shifting all Starship design work to Boca Chica

Capitalism in space: In a change in plans, SpaceX is no longer having two competitng Starship design teams working in both Florida and Boca Chica, and is now in the process of moving all hardware to Boca Chica.

Though the article is mostly about SpaceX’s fleet of ships, it notes this change in Starship development plans.

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A detailed look at Boeing’s recent aircraft problems

Link here. The article is entirely focused at reviewing only Boeing’s recent aircraft projects (Boeing 787, Boeing 747-8, Boeing KC-46A, Boeing 777X and Boeing 737 MAX), all of which appear to have had a lot of development issues.

The worst of the lot was the KC-46A, with many of the problems shared by our incompetent federal government. Initially proposed in 2001 (that is not a typo), the contract award did not occur until 2010, with delivery of the first 18 planes set for August 2017. The GAO predicted this delivery would be late, and the GAO was right.

Worse, Boeing has had cost overruns on the tanker totaling $3.4 billion above the initial fixed cost development contract of $4.9 billion (that is also not a typo).

The article also cites far too many examples of where Boeing requested waivers in order to meet schedule, even though the waiver allowed serious safety issues to linger, a behavior that reminded me strongly of NASA’s management during the shuttle program, resulting in the loss of two shuttles because the agency preferred to push its schedule rather than deal with serious engineering problems.

When you add the delays, cost overruns, and sometimes absurd mistakes that have occurred during Boeing’s development of SLS, this article is far more disturbing. It gets worse when you consider the issues that have delayed the launch of Starliner, some of which (the parachutes) should not have been an issue considering Boeing’s half century of experience.

All told, these problems portray a company that is akin to our federal government, badly managed and ripe for disaster. While the U.S. aerospace industry would take a deep hit if Boeing went under, that hit however would likely be temporary, especially considering the problems Boeing is having.

Freedom must allow bad businesses to fail so that fresh faces not bogged down by old problems can come to the fore and replace them. If Boeing collapsed I suspect a host of new companies would quickly appear, all likely more capable of producing what the nation’s aerospace industry needs. Because right now, Boeing is certainly not doing the job.

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Watching SpaceX’s Crew Dragon launch abort

The launch abort test flight of SpaceX’s crew Dragon capsule remains on schedule for launch at 8 am (eastern) on Saturday, January 18, 2020.

NASA has announced that it will provide live coverage. I would assume SpaceX will as well, but there is no indication of that at the NASA announcement or at SpaceX’s website.

I will admit that though I very much would like to watch this live, it will go off at 6 am in Tucson, a bit early for this night owl writer.

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Boeing releases video of Starliner’s first orbital demo flight

Capitalism in space: Boeing has released a video showing what it was like to be on its Starliner capsule during its first orbital demo flight on December 20, 2019.

Flying alongside the uncrewed Starliner’s only official passenger — a spacesuit-clad, instrumented dummy (or anthropometric test device) named “Rosie” (after the World War II icon Rosie the Riveter), Snoopy, in plush doll form, served as the vehicle’s “zero-g indicator.” The video shows the doll floating weightless at the end of its “leash” after the Starliner entered Earth orbit.

The video is embedded below the fold. It is relatively boring, which actually is a good thing. The interior of the capsule does not seem much disturbed during each phase of the flight, from launch, separation from launch vehicle, and touchdown.
» Read more

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First head of Space Force to be officially sworn in

First head of Space Force, General John Raymond of the Air Force, will be officially sworn in today at the White House.

Raymond assumed the duties of the first head of the Space Force on December 20, 2019, when U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act that officially launched the new force. “The Space Force will help us deter aggression and control the ultimate high ground,” Trump said at the NDAA signing last month. Officials say the Space Force will organize, train and equip military personnel who primarily focus on space operations.

Raymond was named commander of the new United States Space Command upon its creation in August of last year. That command, which sought to better organize the U.S. military’s space assets and operations, is being phased out as personnel are transferred to the Space Force.

Not surprisingly, a twitter mob immediately formed to protest the fact that a bible, officially blessed by religious leaders at the Washington National Cathedral, will be used during the swearing in. I especially like the over-the-top outrage expressed by the childish leader of this twitter mob:

Mikey Weinstein, president and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said Sunday’s ceremony displayed overtones of “Christian privilege” within the Defense Department. “The MRFF condemns, in as full-throated a manner as is humanly possible, the shocking and repulsive display of only the most vile, exclusivist, fundamentalist Christian supremacy, dominance, triumphalism and exceptionalism which occurred at yesterday’s ‘blessing’ at the Washington National Cathedral,” he told Military.com on Monday.

My response to Mikey-boy: You are a very bigoted, very anti-Christian, and a very hateful person. You should get a life.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, it remains to be seen whether the establishment of a separate organization for handling the space-related military needs of the U.S. will do more harm than good. The idea makes sense, as the military for the past two decades has had a problem giving priority to space matters because of in-house turf wars between the various military branches, and thus the U.S. effort has stagnated somewhat.

The track record of Washington in the past half century when such things are attempted however is not good. Instead of getting more focused and accomplishing more, Washington has instead consistently grown a bloated bureaucracy that actually gets less done for more money. And in this case, it appears that might be what will happen here, as the giant budgets for the Space Force put forth by the Pentagon have suggested they are aiming to use it to build new empires rather than streamline and focus operations.

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Protests in Iran against Islamic government

The protests in Iran continue, fueled by the admitted shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing everyone on board, as well as what appears to be a clear opposition to the Islamic government and the terrorists its supports.

The link has good video of both the protests and the government’s violent reaction. However, the best and most illustrative video indicating where these protesters stand is the one that shows Iranian protesters refusing to walk on the American and Israeli flags, painted on the ground by the government in the hope that they would be trampled.

Meanwhile, other protesters have been ripping down posters of Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Quds forces and master Iranian terrorist leader whom Trump killed last week.

It is unclear what will happen next. The situation in Iran today reminds a great deal of the protests that took place in the Soviet bloc shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union, and helped bring that communist empire down. They also remind me of the same protests in China at the same time, which were met with vicious force, killing thousands, which allowed that communist dictatorship to maintain power.

We don’t know which route the Islamic leadership in Iran will take. They have clearly shown themselves willing to kill thousands. At the same time, they are presently as economically weak as the Soviet communists were, which doesn’t give them the resources needed for resisting an aggressive revolt.

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Farmers swarming to buy used 40-year-old tractors

Buy dumb! The market for used 40-year-old tractors is booming, due to the “smart” but expensive-to-repair designs of modern computer-based tractors.

Tractors manufactured in the late 1970s and 1980s are some of the hottest items in farm auctions across the Midwest these days — and it’s not because they’re antiques. Cost-conscious farmers are looking for bargains, and tractors from that era are well-built and totally functional, and aren’t as complicated or expensive to repair as more recent models that run on sophisticated software.

“It’s a trend that’s been building. It’s been interesting in the last couple years, which have been difficult for ag, to see the trend accelerate,” said Greg Peterson, the founder of Machinery Pete, a farm equipment data company in Rochester with a website and TV show. “There’s an affinity factor if you grew up around these tractors, but it goes way beyond that,” Peterson said. “These things, they’re basically bulletproof. You can put 15,000 hours on it and if something breaks you can just replace it.”

Because of the computer software built into the new machines, a farmer can no longer fix it himself. He must call in a service truck, at high cost with long wait times. This extra cost is on top of the high cost to buy the new tractor, which cost a lot more than the used machines.

I predict that the cost for used tractors is going to continue to rise, until some smart entrepreneur realizes the market possibilities, and begins making new tractors without the bells and whistles.

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Update on Dream Chaser

Link here. According to Sierra Nevada, the company that is building this mini-shuttle cargo ship, they are on track to launch next year. They are also aggressively working on a Dream Chaser version that would be able to transport humans to space.

SNC has “never stopped working” on the crewed version of Dream Chaser, Lindsey said. While the company’s focus right now is getting the cargo version ready for its first flight on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan-Centaur rocket next year, the first crewed flight “absolutely” will take place within 5 years.

“There’s interest, not necessarily from NASA, but other customers” that Lindsey expects to grow once the cargo version is flying. SNC will offer either a “taxi model” where it supplies the crew to fly it, or a “rental car model” where the customer provides the crew. It will be up to the customer to decide.

If they can get this spacecraft operational, they will join SpaceX as a leader in the reusability market, having built a ship that can be flown repeatedly on profit-making missions. In fact, it appears that the entire private American effort to get humans into space is aggressively shifting towards full reusability. SpaceX has got the first stage solved, and is also now routinely reusing its cargo Dragon capsules. It is also working to make both the upper stage (Starship) and manned capsules (crew Dragon) reusable. Sierra Nevada is in turn working on the manned spacecraft with Dream Chaser. Similarly, Blue Origin says the first stage of its New Glenn rocket will be reusable.

Those companies and nations that ignore this development (such as the Europeans Space Agency and Russia) will find themselves left far behind. Reusablity of rockets has been proven, and it lowers the cost to get to space so radically that without it you cannot compete.

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House committee approves bill coordinating the government’s space weather work

The House science, space, and technology committee has approved a new bill that establishes a coordinating structure for the many government agencies involved in observing and research space weather, the material that the Sun throws at us that can affect electrical grids and communications.

A similar bill has been approved by the Senate commerce committee, but with several important differences, the most important of which is likely this provision in the House bill:

The provision requires NOAA to establish a commercial space weather data pilot program within one year of the bill’s enactment. Through that program, NOAA is to offer to enter into contracts with “one or more entities in the commercial space weather sector” to provide data that meets standards and specifications that NOAA, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, must publish within 18 months of enactment. The data may be ground-based, ocean-based, air-based, or space-based. NOAA “may offer” to award “at least one” competitively-bid contract within 12 months of when the Integrated Strategy required in the bill, as reviewed by the National Academies, is transmitted to Congress. “If” one or more contract is awarded, NOAA is to assess the value of the pilot program and report to Congress within 4 years of enactment.

The goal of this provision is to shift construction of new space weather facilities, including satellites, from the government to private industry. Like NASA and the Defense Department, NOAA in recent decades has generally done a poor job of building satellites cheaply and quickly to maintain its in-space monitoring network. The hope is that by depending on the growing private sector, the agency can get its satellites replaced more effectively, while also energizing the space private sector.

The Senate and House bills both have only passed through committee. We shall see if the Senate agrees to add this provision to its version of the bill.

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UK parliament approves Brexit deal at last

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s deal to leave the European Union on January 31, 2020 was finally approved today by Parliament 330 to 231.

Not so fast. The deal calls for eleven months of negotiations on the various issues involved for the exit, and the head of the EU was in London calling for an endless extension of that deadline.

The new president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen came to London yesterday for her first face-to-face talks with Mr Johnson. She was accompanied by the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier who will now lead trade discussions on behalf of the bloc after managing the divorce stage.

…During a speech at the London School of Economics, where she spent a year in hiding as a student in the late 1970s after becoming a target of the left-wing terrorist Baader-Meinhof gang, she said that a full deal would not be achievable in just 11 months. She said: ‘Without an extension of the transition period beyond 2020 you cannot expect to agree on every single aspect of our new partnership. We will have to prioritise.’

Mr Barnier echoed a similar sentiment in a speech in Stockholm today as he said: ‘We are ready to do our best and to do the maximum in the 11 months to secure a basic agreement with the UK, but we will need more time to agree on each and every point of this political declaration.’

This game by these elitists is getting very tiresome. Johnson responded by saying that there would be no extensions.

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Senate considers rules change permitting dismissal of House impeachment lacking submission

The Republican Senate leadership is considering a rules change that would allow them to dismiss the House impeachment of Donald Trump if the articles of impeachment are not delivered in a timely manner.

The resolution would give the House 25 days to send articles of impeachment over to the Senate. After that, a senator could offer a motion to dismiss “with prejudice for failure by the House of Representatives to prosecute such articles” with a simple majority vote, according to Hawley’s proposal.

I should note that the Senate is entirely within its rights to do this. The Constitution does not require the delivery of those articles in any specific manner, as has become customary. All it says, literally, is that the House “shall have the sole power of impeachment,” and that “the Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments.” That’s it. If the Senate wishes to dismiss an impeachment that the House passed but didn’t deliver officially, it can do so.

This Democratic clown show and attempt to overturn an legal election they lost is about to end quite embarrassingly for these Democrats. Hopefully however the embarrassment will be multiplied many fold come November, with a wipe-out landslide for Trump and the Republicans. It is long past time to clean house in the Democratic Party.

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SpaceX crew Dragon launch abort test delayed another week

NASA and SpaceX have delayed the launch abort test flight of the company’s crew Dragon capsule one week, to January 18, in order to allow “additional time for spacecraft processing.”

SpaceX has made it clear for the past month that their hardware is ready to go and that they could have launched by the end of December. That makes me suspect that the processing delay relates to NASA’s bureaucracy and paperwork requirements.

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Firefly reschedules first rocket launch for April

Capitalism in space: Due to a number of engineering issues, Firefly Aerospace has pushed back the first launch of its Alpha rocket from March to April, 2020.

In particular, figuring out the two-stage rocket’s avionics system “gave us fits,” Firefly CEO Tom Markusic told Space.com in a recent interview. That’s because the company was originally hoping to make Alpha’s flight-termination system fully autonomous, he explained.

When the vendor couldn’t qualify that advanced system in time, the vendor switched to the usual “human in the loop” system. But waiting for parts pushed back Firefly’s December 2019 launch time frame to something closer to March 2020. Firefly then chose to take a little more time for further refinements and is now aiming for April 2020 for the first launch of the 95-foot-tall (29 meters) rocket, Markusic said.

According to the article at the link, the company plans two other launches in 2020. We shall see if that pans out.

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Tonight’s SpaceX launch

Capitalism in space: Tonight SpaceX is hoping to launch another 60 Starlink smallsats as part of its planned huge constellation aimed at providing internet access worldwide.

The launch is scheduled for 9:19 pm Eastern, with a 20 minute launch window. I have embedded the live stream below the fold if you wish to watch, beginning fifteen minutes before launch. Or you can go to SpaceX’s own website instead.

The launch has some significance. First, with this launch SpaceX will leap-frog a number of other satellite companies attempting to accomplish the same thing. Though it only began pursuing this project about two years ago, with this launch SpaceX will have the largest satellite constellation of any company in orbit.

Second, the first stage will be flying for the fourth time, a record, and all flown since September 2018, a mere sixteen months. That’s once every four months, a pace that far exceeds anything the space shuttle ever accomplished. Moreover, SpaceX intends to land it and reuse it again. The launch savings from this reuse guarantees that they will be able to undercut those other satellite companies when they begin offering services on the Starlink constellation. [Note: My readers corrected me: SpaceX has already launched a first stage four times.]

The company will also make another attempt to recover one fairing half.

UPDATE: The launch appears successful, including a successful landing of the first stage.

SpaceX right now is the leader in the 2020 launch race, as they are the only one to have completed a launch in 2020.
» Read more

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NY, Illinois, California populations in decline

According to several different analyses of census data, all released in the past few days, the Democratically-controlled liberal states of New York, Illinois, and California are seeing either historic drops in population or historic drops in population growth.

For these major states to experience reductions in population growth or declines at this time, during an economic expansion, suggests that other factors are driving people from them. Could it be their leftist socialist policies, which routinely bring high taxes, heavy regulation, and an oppressive political climate? I suspect so, especially because in the past century such socialist/communist policies have routinely caused the same result repeatedly in other countries. People fled the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc in Europe (controlled by the Soviet Union), they fled North Korea, they fled China for Hong Kong, they fled Cuba, and they have been fleeing from Venezuela.

And where do they go? Foreign refugees in large numbers clamor to enter the U.S., but if that destination is unavailable they then favor other capitalist nations, where freedom and private enterprise are honored. And in the U.S. the populations continues to generally shift toward more conservative states, places where those same concepts are also honored.

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A Christmas Carol

An afternoon pause: As I have done for several years on Christmas day, I bring you the classic 1951 version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, starring Alastair Sim. To my mind this movie is still by far the best adaption of the book. It is also a truly wonderful movie.

As I wrote last year,

Dickens did not demand the modern version of charity, where it is imposed by governmental force on everyone. Instead, he was advocating the older wiser concept of western civilization, that charity begins at home, that we as individuals are obliged as humans to exercise good will and generosity to others, by choice.

It is always a matter of choice. And when we take that choice away from people, we destroy the good will that makes true charity possible.

Enjoy, and have a Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas!

I have found myself being very lazy today. Rather than posting, I’ve been watching Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol and videos on how to wrap your cat for Christmas.

All silliness, but the music for that Magoo film remains top-notch and worth listening to.

Regardless, a Merry Christmas to my many readers. And a Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish readers. May we all have good will to all, even when we disagree.

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SpaceX completes new round of crew Dragon parachute tests

Capitalism in space: SpaceX this week completed a new round of crew Dragon parachute tests, meeting a goal they had announced in October.

This clearly paves the way for the January 11th launch abort test, followed by the first manned flight, as soon as February or March 2020, according to the article at the link.

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Boeing fires CEO

Boeing today fired its CEO Dennis Muilenburg, citing the need to “restore confidence in the company.”

The company has had a very bad year, with the grounding of its 737-Max airplane, the cost overruns and delays in its NASA Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, and the failure of its Starliner manned capsule to dock with ISS this past weekend.

Whether this change will accomplish anything is hard to say. The problems above appear very deeply embedded within the company’s culture, and might require the kind of wholesale changes that big bloated corporations like Boeing are generally loath to impose.

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Starliner lands safely after failed orbital insertion

Capitalism in space:Boeing’s Starliner capsule successfully landed today in New Mexico, returning to Earth prematurely because of its failure to reach its proper orbit after launch two days ago.

The article quotes extensively from both NASA and Boeing officials touting the many successful achievements of this flight, while trying to minimize the failure that prevented the capsule from docking with ISS properly. And that failure?

The mission elapsed timer issue that cut short Starliner’s planned eight-day mission started before the spacecraft lifted off Friday from Cape Canaveral aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, according to Chilton. “Our spacecraft needs to reach down into the Atlas 5 and figure out what time it is, where the Atlas 5 is in its mission profile, and then we set the clock based on that,” Chilton said in a press conference Saturday. “Somehow we reached in there and grabbed the wrong (number). This doesn’t look like an Atlas problem. This looks like we reached in and grabbed the wrong coefficient.”

“As a result of starting the clock at the wrong time, the spacecraft upon reaching space, she thought she was later in the mission, and, being autonomous, started to behave that way,” Chilton said. “And so it wasn’t in the orbit we expected without the burn and it wasn’t in the attitude expected and was, in fact, adjusting that attitude.”

I read this and find myself appalled. While I agree that overall the mission proved the capsule capable of launching humans to ISS (which is why NASA is considering making the next Starliner mission manned despite this failure), this failure suggests a worrisome lack of quality control at Boeing. I can’t even imagine how the Starliner software could be mis-configured to “grab the wrong number.” This explanation makes no sense, and suggests they are spinning the failure to avoid telling us what they really did wrong.

Either way, I suspect that NASA will approve a manned launch for Starliner’s next orbital flight, but will do so only after dwelling on the problem for at least six months.

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Starliner launch fails, spacecraft to return to Earth

After being successfully placed in a preliminary orbit by ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket early this morning, Boeing’s Starliner capsule failed to reach its required orbit for docking with ISS when its own rocket engines did not fire properly at the right time.

The orbit it is in is stable, and the spacecraft is undamaged. Engineers now plan to bring it back to Earth on Sunday, landing at White Sands, New Mexico.

It appears some software issue had the capsule fire its own rockets either at the wrong time or for too short a time. The spacecraft was then in the wrong orbit, and needed to use too much fuel to correct this issue, making it impossible to dock with ISS.

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However, for reasons Boeing engineers do not yet understand, Starliner’s Mission Event Timer clock malfunctioned, causing the vehicle to think it was at a different point in the mission and at a different time in its mission that it actually was.

…This resulted in Starliner’s Reaction Control System thinking the Orbit Insertion Burn was underway and executing a series of burns to keep the vehicle oriented in the insertion burn attitude; however, the Orbit Insertion Burn was not actually occurring.

When mission controllers realized the issue, they sent manual commands to Starliner to perform an Orbit Insertion Burn in a backup window that came roughly eight minutes after the planned maneuver. However, a known and brief gap in NASA satellite communications caused a further delay.

By the time Starliner was finally able to burn its engines and get into a stable orbit, it had burned 25% more propellant than anticipated.

Boeing is certainly not having a good year. First it has had to shut down production on its new 737-Max airplane due to several crashes caused by software issues. Next its SLS rocket for NASA has had endless cost overruns and delays. Now Starliner fails during its first launch.

For ULA, however, the Atlas 5 rocket performed exactly as planned, so this launch gets listed as a success. They have now completed 5 launches this year.

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