Today’s blacklisted American: Previously blacklisted Oregon professor sues university for being further blacklisted because he tweeted “all men are created equal.”

Bruce Gilley
Bruce Gilley of Portland State University

They’re coming for you next: Professor Bruce Gilley of Portland State University in Oregon, who previously had a peer-reviewed paper on colonialism withdrawn from publication because of death threats, has now sued the university because the former communication manager for its Division of Equity and Inclusion blocked him from an internal college Twitter discussion group because he had the nerve to tweet “all men are created equal.”

You can read his lawsuit complaint here [pdf]. Gilley not only sued the university’s Division of Equity and Inclusion, he also sued directly Tova Stabin, the communications manager who blocked him.

What makes the case interesting is that the day after he filed his lawsuit, the university unblocked him and its lawyer sent him an apologetic letter. Here is part of that letter, as quoted in the lawsuit complaint:
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ULA stacks Vulcan-Centaur rocket for ground tests prior to first launch

ULA’s new Vulcan-Centaur rocket has finally been stacked in the company’s assembly facility at Cape Canaveral, ready to be rolled out for its first launchpad fueling tests prior to its first launch, tentatively scheduled for the end of March.

The odds of that launch date being met is quite uncertain. Right now neither the rocket’s payloads nor its solid rocket strap-on boosters have been added, and before that will happen the company plans to first roll the rocket out to the launchpad, do fueling and countdown tests. It will then roll it back to the assembly building to stack those components, and then roll it back to the launchpad for launch.

To meet that launch target everything must go perfectly during these preliminary operations, something that is generally unexpected for a rocket’s first launch. ULA however has an advantage, in that it has already done much of this testing using a dummy Vulcan, and it also has decades of experience launching rockets.

Much rides on this first launch. The payloads include Astrobotic’s first lunar lander, Peregrine, as well as Amazon’s first two test satellites for its Kuiper internet constellation. Also, ULA needs to complete two successful launches in order to get certified to begin its commercial launches for the military.

Virgin Orbit narrows cause of launch failure to $100 component

Though its investigation is not completed, Virgin Orbit has narrowed the cause of its January 9th launch failure from Cornwall to a $100 component in the second stage engine of its LaunchOne rocket.

Speaking on a panel at the SmallSat Symposium in Mountain View, California, Dan Hart said it was still premature to formally declare the root cause of the failed Jan. 9 flight of the company’s LauncherOne rocket on the “Start Me Up” mission from Spaceport Cornwall in England. However, he said while that investigation continues, evidence was pointing to a component in the rocket’s second stage engine.

“Everything points to, right now, a filter that was clearly there when we assembled the rocket but was not there as the second stage engine started, meaning it was dislodged and caused mischief downstream,” he said. He didn’t go into details about that component, other than to say that it was not an expensive item. “This is like a $100 part that took us out.”

Hart said the company would no longer use that filter and was “looking broadly” at other potential fixes.

No timeline as to when the company will complete the investigation or resume launches has been released. Since both the FAA and the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch are involved, we should expect it to take longer than necessary.

Relativity’s Terran-1 rocket on launchpad for final tests prior to first launch

Relativity has once again stacked its Terran-1 rocket on its launchpad at Cape Canaveral for its final ground tests prior to first launch, hopefully later this month.

The launch date has not been announced, nor has a specific schedule for those tests, which will likely include several dress rehearsal countdowns where the rocket will be fueled as if for launch.

Terran-1 is a smallsat rocket, most of which has been 3D printed. If successful, Relativity plans to follow it in 2024 with the 3D printed Terran-R, which would be comparable in size and power to SpaceX’s Falcon 9. The company also claims that rocket will be entirely reusable.

Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo mother ship unveiled after major overhaul

Virgin Galactic yesterday rolled its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship from its hanger after a 15-month overhaul in preparation for taxi and flight tests.

After some initial taxi and flight tests in Mojave in California, the plane will fly to New Mexico for further flight tests with Unity attached. Company officials hope to complete these test flights by the end of March, and then begin commercial flights shortly thereafter.

In comparing the pictures released yesterday at the link above with this 2009 picture, it appears the company completely replaced the central bar that connects the plane’s two passenger sections. In the older picture, that bar was not straight, but was built like a very shallow upside-down “V”, with the center point where a SpaceShipTwo spacecraft was attached.

The new bar is straight, and appears more robust.

SpaceX successfully launches commercial communications satellites

SpaceX tonight successfully used its Falcon 9 rocket to place a commercial geosynchronous satellite into orbit for the company Hispasat.

The first stage successfully completed its sixth flight, landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic.

The 2023 launch race:

9 SpaceX
5 China
1 Rocket Lab
1 Japan
1 Russia

American private enterprise now leads China 10 to 5 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 10 to 7.

ULA closing facility in Texas that makes parts for the retiring Atlas-5 rocket

ULA has announced that it is shutting down its facility in Harlingen, Texas, that makes parts for the company’s soon-to-be retired Atlas-5 rocket.

The facility will shut down at the end of this year, with a loss of about 100 jobs.

This closure is actually a very positive sign for ULA. It indicates that it is streamlining its operations. For example, construction of the Vulcan rocket that replaces the Atlas-5 is all done in Alabama. One of the reasons Atlas-5 cost so much was the widespread distribution of its ULA facilities, probably done to satisfy congressional demands.

With Vulcan, ULA has instead been much more focused on making it less expensive so it can compete with SpaceX. Thus, it simplified its construction, putting everything in Alabama. (Choosing Alabama was likely to satisfy the most powerful senator at the time, porkmeister Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), who has now retired.)

Space station builder Voyager raises $80 million in private investment capital

Capitalism in space: Voyager Space, one of three companies that NASA has provided funds to build a private space station, has now raised $80 million in private investment capital.

The funding includes participation from NewSpace Capital, Midway Venture Partners and Industrious Ventures, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings and other documents viewed by TechCrunch. Seraphim Space also participated, TechCrunch has confirmed. The funding was filed with the SEC on January 27.

The company is building Starlab in partnership with Nanoracks (which is the majority owner of Voyager) and Lockheed Martin, which has already received $160 million from NASA.

Spanish airport to become a rocket spaceport

Teruel airport in Spain, located about 200 miles east of Madrid, has announced plans to expand its operations to make itself a rocket spaceport.

At a recent conference, it was announced that PDL Space plans to operate satellite micro launchers from the little-known airport, located some 300km east of the capital Madrid.

Another company, Sceye, plans to install stratospheric spacecraft at the airport, which, since coming into commission ten years ago, has been used primarily as a maintenance centre for large aircraft.

The airport is located in the eastern interior of Spain. Any orbital launches will have to cross considerable parts of the country, as well as other European and African countries. This however might not be a problem for the moment, as PDL at present appears to be building suborbital rockets.

SpaceX successfully launches 53 Starlink satellites

Using its Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX early this morning successfully launched from Cape Canaveral another 53 Starlink satellites.

This was the 200th Falcon 9 launch. The first stage, making its fifth flight, landing successfully on a drone ship in the Atlantic. The two fairing halves completed their sixth and seventh flight respectively. At of this writing the satellites themselves have not yet been deployed.

The 2023 launch race:

8 SpaceX
5 China
1 Rocket Lab
1 Japan

American private enterprise now leads China 9 to 5 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 9 to 6.

Is Amazon’s Kuiper Constellation project in trouble, or is it fleeing Seattle?

According to a on-going listing of open space-related jobs in Seattle, Amazon has almost completely ceased hiring in that city, even as it is about to launch the first prototype test satellites in its proposed internet Kuiper satellite constellation.

To see the decline, take a gander at the graph here.

The analyst at the first link also noted in a later tweet this fact about Amazon hiring in Seattle:

…Went from 189 at end of October to 14 yesterday (in WA state, not total). It’s unusual, at least in the nearly 3 years I’ve been monitoring. Could be due largely due to Amazon hiring freeze.

Amazon is required by its FCC license to get over 1,600 Kuiper satellites launched in the next 40 months. The first two are only scheduled for launch on the first Vulcan launch now targeting a late March liftoff. As test prototypes, they will have to be tested for a period of time in orbit, followed by an assessment that might require changes in the design and construction of later satellites. These satellites would then have to be launched at an unprecedented rate, almost faster than anything SpaceX has done with its Starlink constellation.

At the moment it thus seems impossible for Amazon to meet the FCC deadline.

That the company appears to have stopped hiring space-related positions in Seattle at this very moment makes that goal even more impossible. This hiring freeze thus suggests that management has decided that the Kuiper project is untenable and is quietly cutting it off at the knees.

Or it could be that the hiring freeze is instead an indication that Amazon is slowly shifting operations out of leftist and insane Washington state. If so, work on the Kuiper project, including hiring, might be going on elsewhere.

Regardless, the state of the Kuiper project continues to be tenuous and uncertain, at best.

Hat tip to Jay, BtB’s stringer.

Developments at the Houston Spaceport industry park

Link here. The article gives a detailed review of the various space-related businesses (Axiom, Intuitive Machines, Collins Aerospace) that have set up operations at this industry park focused on attracting space companies to the Houston area.

The park in a sense in misnamed, as it isn’t a launch facility. However, it is now building a taxiway that will connect the park directly to Ellington Airport, which for these businesses will help facilitate the transport of large space station modules and lunar landers.

SpaceX successfully launches 49 Starlink satellites and a D-Orbit space tug

SpaceX today successfully used its Falcon 9 rocket to launch 49 Starlink satellites as well as a D-Orbit space tug carrying one of its own customer’s satellites from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

The first stage successfully completed its seventh flight, landing on a drone ship in the Pacific. The D-Orbit tug with its four payloads has also successfully deployed.

The 2023 launch race:

7 SpaceX
5 China
1 Rocket Lab
1 Japan

American private enterprise leads China 8 to 5 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 8 to 6.

German rocket startup Isar Aerospace gets first American customer

The German rocket startup Isar Aerospace, which hopes to complete the first launch of its Spectrum rocket this year, has signed its first launch contract with an American company, the satellite broker and space tug company Spaceflight.

U.S.-based launch services provider Spaceflight said Jan. 25 it has booked a dedicated launch in 2026 from Isar Aerospace, the German rocket developer aiming to perform the first test flight of its Spectrum vehicle this year. The mission is slated to lift off from Isar’s launchpad in Andøya, Norway, to sun-synchronous orbit (SSO).

Their agreement also includes an option for an additional dedicated launch in 2025, which Isar chief commercial officer Stella Guillen told SpaceNews could also use a launchpad it is developing at the Guiana Space Center near Kourou, French Guiana.

Spaceflight has been scrambling to find rockets for its tugs, since SpaceX announced in March 2022 it would no longer carry them. It signed a deal with Arianespace to fly on its Vega rocket, but launch failures have delayed its launch.

Isar is one of three German rocket startups vying for business. The race to be the first to launch remains very tight.

SpaceX successfully launches a record 56 Starlink satellites

SpaceX early today successfully launched a record 56 Starlink satellites on a single Falcon 9 rocket, which also carried a record mass for the rocket.

The first stage successfully landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic, completing its 9th flight. The fairing halves completed the 6th and 7th flights.

The 2023 launch race:

6 SpaceX
5 China
1 Rocket Lab
1 Japan

American private enterprise now leads China 7 to 5 in the national ranks, and the entire world combined 7 to 6.

Arianespace’s chief condemns the idea of independent private European rocket companies

Stéphane Israël, the head of Arianespace, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) commercial rocket division, yesterday strongly condemned the idea of allowing independent private European rocket companies to develop and compete with his government operation.

“It is not possible to copy-paste the US model,” he said. “It is not possible. The level of space spending in the United States is five times higher than in Europe, and the private capital is not the same. So if the answer is to say let’s do what the US has done, I think we will not manage to do it.”

Moreover, Israël said the European Space Agency must resist supporting microlaunchers to the point where these companies might compete with the existing capabilities.

“A huge mistake would be that this focus on microlaunchers destabilizes Ariane 6 and Vega C—it would be a historic mistake,” he said. “Microlaunchers can be of support to boost innovation. But we should not make any confusion. This launcher will never give autonomous access to space to Europe. They’re on a niche market representing maybe 10 percent of the market, and less than that when it comes to European needs.”

He said this in Brussels at the 15th European Space Conference, where it appears he was trying to convince the ESA to block any competition with Arianespace.

Israël might say this, but not only has his track record in predicting the success of commercial space in the U.S. been bad, other European governments are not taking his advice. Both Germany and the United Kingdom have several rocket startups gearing up for their first launches this year, with others in Spain and France not far behind. Moreover, Israël doesn’t have much to offer in competition. Arianespace’s Vega rocket, intended to be a low cost option, has failed on three of its last eight launches. The Ariane 6 rocket is years behind schedule, and has not yet launched. And both are overpriced and cannot compete, not only with the American rocket startups but with India’s government rockets.

Moreover, those European governments have in recent years been taking control and power away from Israël and Arianespace. Unlike earlier rockets, the Ariane 6 rocket is not controlled or owned by Arianespace. Instead, it belongs to ArianeGroup, the partnership of Airbus and Safran that is building it. Arianespace’s role in operating it will be greatly limited, once it begins flying.

Stacked Starship and Superheavy complete first full wet dress rehearsal countdown

SpaceX yesterday successfully completed a full wet dress rehearsal countdown of its stacked Starship prototype #24 and Superheavy prototype #7, fueling both completely and taking the countdown down to T-0.

On this rehearsal however the Superheavy engines were not fired. From two SpaceX tweets:

Starship completed its first full flight-like wet dress rehearsal at Starbase today. This was the first time an integrated Ship and Booster were fully loaded with more than 10 million pounds of propellant

Today’s test will help verify a full launch countdown sequence, as well as the performance of Starship and the orbital pad for flight-like operations

Next step: Another full wet dress rehearsal countdown that includes a short static fire test of all 33 Superheavy Raptor-2 engines. Once that is done successfully, the company will be ready for that first orbital launch.

Meanwhile, SpaceX awaits its launch license from the FAA. I remain pessimistic that it will be issued on a timely manner, as there are clear signs the Biden administration wants to use its power against Musk, whom it now sees as an enemy.

Rocket Lab successfully completes first launch from the U.S.

Using its Electron rocket, Rocket Lab yesterday placed three smallsats into orbit, launching for the first time from Wallops Island in Virginia.

The company now has three launchpads, one in Wallops and two in New Zealand. Expect its launch pace in 2023 to ramp up to, at a minimum, once per month.

The 2023 launch race:

5 China
5 SpaceX
1 Rocket Lab

In the national rankings, the U.S. leads China, 6 to 5. No one else has yet launched, though Japan plans a launch today.

First Vulcan rocket arrives at Cape Canaveral

ULA’s first Vulcan rocket has now arrived at Cape Canaveral in preparation for its planned inaugural launch before the end of March.

This first mission for Vucan will fly in a VC2S configuration. “VC” stands for “Vulcan Centaur.” The number, in this case “2,” represents the number of solid rocket boosters needed and the final letter stands for the payload fairing length.

VC2S will use a 51-foot-long Standard payload fairing. Nestled inside will be a few different payloads. This mission will send the first two Kuiper prototype satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander to the Moon and a Celestis Memorial Spaceflight payload into deep space. The remains of several people connected to the original Star Trek series will be launched on what Celestis dubbed the “Enterprise Flight,” including show creator Gene Roddenberry along with actors Nichelle Nichols and Jackson DeForest Kelley.

This first Vulcan launch will also be the first of two flights required by the Pentagon in order to certify Vulcan for military launches. Since ULA already has contracts for seven Vulcan military launches, it very much wants to get these two launches off this year, as soon as possible. According to the article at the link, ULA is thus aiming to fly this year those two test flights, followed quickly by the first military launch.

Whether it can complete three Vulcan launches in 2023 is quite uncertain. For example, it will need to get four more BE-4 engines from Blue Origin for the second and third launches, and there is no indication at this time that Blue Origin is close to delivering.

Then there is the delays and risks involved with this first launch. Though ULA has decades of experience building and launching rockets, the first launch of a rocket almost always experiences delays during testing. We should expect the same with Vulcan.

Assuming this schedule holds, however, this means ULA is targeting 10 launches in 2023, five Atlas-5 launches, two Delta Heavy launches, and three Vulcan launches. That would be the most launches by this company in a year since 2016.

First launch from Shetland Islands predicted for the fall

According to an official at the SaxaVord spaceport in the Shetland Islands in Scotland, its first orbital satellite launch is now expected before the end of this year.

Scott Hammond, director of operations at SaxaVord spaceport, acknowledged there is often uncertainty around timetables for private space launches. However, he said a recent agreement with a German company, Rocket Factory Augsburg, would see them begin testing their engines in the summer ahead of a launch later in the year.

He told the Press Association: “Probably in July, we’re going to start full stage testing. That will be the full, first stage, nine engines all firing for about three minutes. So that’ll be really, really impressive. I expect about four months or so of that depending on success. And then we’re looking with Rocket Factory to launch towards the end of the year, for the orbital launch.”

I would not bet a lot of money on this schedule. Rocket Factory is a German rocket startup that has never launched before, and the first launch from such startups are routinely delayed months to years. What Hammond is really doing is creating buzz for SaxaVord, even as a rival spaceport in Sutherland, Scotland, is getting built.

Investment in space dropped 58% in 2022

According to a new report by Space Capital, a New York venture capital firm, overall investment in space dropped 58% in 2022, dropping from the $47.4 billion peak in 2021 to $20.1 billion in 2022.

Space Capital, a New York-based venture capital firm, published its Space Investment Quarterly Jan. 19 for the fourth quarter of 2022. The report notes that early-stage startups fared better than later-stage and growth companies.

One exception was SpaceX, which raised $2 billion in 2022, or 32 percent of the total 2022 private investment in space infrastructure. SpaceX was also in the minority because it raised capital in both 2021 and 2022. Only 38 percent of the space infrastructure companies that raised capital in 2021 sought additional funding in 2022.

Essentially, if you remove SpaceX from the picture, major investment in space startups largely came to a halt in 2022. Furthermore, the report states that it also expects further investment in 2023 to be parsimonious. Apparently the venture capital community has realized how risky many of these space startups are (as seen by the loss of stock value for companies like Virgin Galactic, Astra, and Virgin Orbit), and is becoming more careful where it puts its money.

SpaceX completes first Starlink launch of 2023

Using a new first stage, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched 51Starlink satellites into orbit this morning from Vandenberg Space Force Base, the first Starlink launch of 2023.

The first stage successfully landed on a drone ship in the Pacific.

At present, SpaceX and China are tied for the lead in the 2023 launch race, each having completed 5 launches so far this year. No one else has launched as yet.

The COVID jab: An emerging health disaster whose name cannot be spoken

Sudden collapse
One of many sudden collapses. Click for full video.

While from the beginning it appeared that the various COVID shots from different pharmaceutical companies were relatively safe to take, time is proving this assumption to be very false, with the data increasingly suggesting that the jab not only poses a significant, dangerous, and immediate health risk to young people, its long term effects on everyone who either chose to get it or was forced to by government mandate could very well be disastrous.

First the immediate risks. The numbers of individuals who have died suddenly and abruptly after getting the jab has been horrifying and shocking. Never in my life have I seen so many young and healthy people suddenly keeling over in public situations and dying. This story underlines the horror of the situation:

Such occurrences were unheard of prior to 2021. As noted at the link, “In fact, 500% more soccer players in the EU are dropping dead from heart attacks than just one year ago.” To capture the real horror of these events you need only watch the short video at this link. The thread that follows provides further documentation of this epidemic of “sudden death” and its apparent connection to the COVID shots.

Still, the actual medical link of these sudden heart failures to the COVID shots remains somewhat tentative, though more and more research is tying the two together.

From the last link:
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Hakuto-R completes five of ten milestones on test flight

Ispace’s private commercial lunar lander, Hakuto-R, has now completed five of the ten milestones the company had established before launch as its goals on this first test flight to the Moon.

The first five milestones completed are:

  • Completion of launch preparations
  • Completion of launch and deployment
  • Establishment of a Steady Operation Status
  • Completion of the first orbital control maneuver
  • Completion of stable deep-space flight operations for one month

The next five milestones involve entering final lunar orbit and landing successfully, the most difficult milestones of all.

SpaceX to build five Starship/Superheavy prototypes in 2023

According to Elon Musk, SpaceX intends to build five Starship/Superheavy prototypes in 2023 for flight testing.

Assuming they can get launch permits, these five rockets should provide the company ample launch testing capability for at least the next two years, especially if it succeeds in landing these units and can consider reusing them in test flights.

At this moment, the launch permits from the federal government appears the main obstacle to getting this heavy lift reusable rocket tested and operational.

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy successfully launches Space Force satellites

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket today successfully launched a Space Force communications satellite plus a secondary military payload.

The two side boosters completed their second flight, landing at Cape Canaveral. The core stage was not recovered, as planned. Actual deployment of the satellites will not occur for another six hours.

At this moment China leads SpaceX 5 to 3 in the 2023 launch race. No one else has as yet launched successfully.

Stratolaunch’s Roc airplane completes 2nd captive-carry test flight

Stratolaunch’s giant Roc airplane, the largest in existence, successfully completed its second captive-carry test flight, carrying a Talon-A (TA-0) hypersonic test vehicle under its central fuselage during take-off and landing.

The flight set a new duration record lasting a total of six hours and reached a maximum altitude of 22,500 ft., representing another important step forward in the company’s near-term goal of completing separation testing with TA-0. Primary test objectives included flight outside of the local Mojave area for the first time and evaluation of the separation environment. Roc and TA-0’s onboard data systems provide critical information on the aerodynamic loads and moments prior to release of TA-0, helping to ensure safe separation of the vehicle from Roc. The flight team also practiced chase formation and communication sequencing for the upcoming separation test.

The company has a contract with the Air Force to use the operational Talon-1 spacecraft, released from Roc, to do hypersonic test flights, hopefully in the first half of 2023.

Sweden cuts ribbon on Esrange spaceport

Sweden yesterday officially inaugurated a new commercial launch site at the Esrange spaceport that the ESA had used previously for suborbital tests.

The site is an extension of the Esrange Space Centre in Sweden’s Arctic, around 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the town of Kiruna. Around 15 million euros ($16.3 million) have been invested in the site, which is expected to serve as a complement to Europe’s space hub at Kourou in French Guiana. It will also provide launch capabilities at a time when cooperation with Russia and the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan has been curtailed by the war in Ukraine.

Esrange’s state-owned operator, the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC), aims to launch its first satellite from the site “in the first quarter of 2024”, a spokesman told AFP on Friday.

At this moment, there are three commercial rocket spaceports racing to complete the first orbital launch from Europe. Esrange in Sweden and the two UK spaceports, Spaceport Sutherland in Scotland and SaxaVord in the Shetland Islands. Cornwall in the UK is an airport, so it can only launch rockets that use an airplane, which essentially limits its launch customers to Virgin Orbit.

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