Tag Archives: freedom

First manned Dragon flight scheduled for May 27th

Capitalism in space: NASA today officially announced May 27, 2020 as the scheduled launch date for the first manned Dragon flight to ISS, the first time American astronauts will fly from American soil on an American rocket in an American spacecraft since the shuttle was retired almost a decade ago.

The launch is set for 4:32 pm (Eastern), and I am sure will be live streams by both NASA and SpaceX.


SpaceX reuses sections of damaged Starship prototype for next version

Capitalism in space: In building its fourth Starship prototype for testing, SpaceX has decided to reuse large sections of the previous Starship prototype, badly damaged during a pressure test several weeks ago.

On April 15th, eight days after Starship SN3’s [the damaged third prototype] remaining aft section was cut in half, the rearmost half – known as the skirt – was spotted stacked beneath a brand new engine section built for SN4. While confirming that a significant part of SN3 will be reused on SN4, it also indicates that only a less critical SN3 remnant was fit to join SpaceX’s next prototype.

Though they are not reusing the engines from that third prototype, I have full confidence they will, as they were part of the same bottom section of that prototype that was damaged during the test. This statement is incorrect. I had mistakenly assumed that because SpaceX had said it planned actual test hops eventually with this third prototype that three engines were already in place. They were not.


Rocket Lab steals Arianespace customer

Capitalism in space: It turns out that a new launch contract won by Rocket Lab this week was actually a payload that was originally going to fly on Arianespace’s Vega rocket.

What Tuesday’s announcement did not include was the fact that the Japanese company [Synspective] shuffled this launch from a Vega rocket onto Electron. The Vega rocket, which had its first failure in 15 launches last July, has yet to return to flight. The spaceport it launches from in French Guiana remains closed due to the coronavirus.

Synspective had signed a major agreement with Arianespace last year to launch what is hoped will become a 25-satellite constellation. It appears that because of the Vega rocket failure, along with its higher price, Rocket Lab is going to get that business instead. That Rocket Lab can provide Synspective a dedicated launch, to the orbit of its choice, also encouraged the switch.

The background of this deal suggests that Rocket Lab’s future is bright, assuming New Zealand and the United States are ever allowed to go back to normal as free and open countries.


New York falsely inflates COVID-19 death toll with no evidence

U.S. Wuhan virus deaths, as of April 14, 2020

Yesterday the nationwide death toll from the Wuhan virus suddenly jumped after several days of decline. The graph on the right, created using the numbers at this link, illustrates this. Until yesterday it clearly looked as if the epidemic was finally subsiding, and that the peak had occurred as expected several days ago.

Why the jump? Well it turns out the reason is because government officials in New York decided to add thousands of recent deaths to their total, based on no evidence of coronavirus, at all.

The city decided to add 3,700 people to its death tolls, who they “presumed” to have died from the virus, according to a report from The New York Times. The additions increased the death toll in the U.S. by 17%, according to the Times report, and included people who were suffering from symptoms of the virus, such as intense coughing and a fever.

The Times stated: “A limited number of tests have been available, and until now, only deaths where a person had tested positive were counted among those killed by the virus in New York.”

The report stated that Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio decided over the weekend to change the way the city is counting deaths.

In other words, de Blasio is falsely inflating the numbers. And I can guess why. The drop during the past few days indicated that this manufactured crisis was beginning to end. That cannot be tolerated, as these government officials are still in the process of cementing their totalitarian control over their citizens. More time is needed! Let’s balloon the totals to magnify the crisis beyond reality!

The symptoms described could easily apply just as much to the flu. Moreover, just because someone has a cough or fever does not mean this is what killed them. They don’t say, but I bet some of those individuals clearly died from other causes.

This is fraud and corruption at its worst.


State governments announce demands before releasing citizens from house arrest

A variety of state governments, having now enjoyed their first taste of unrestrained power over their citizens, have begun issuing their odious requirements before they will end the shut downs imposed due to the Wuhan virus, shut downs that are imprisoning their citizens in their homes, destroying businesses, and putting millions out of work.

Those requirements as stated are essentially impossible to meet, and will thus cause these shut downs to continue forever.

For example, the fascist Democratic governor of the fascist state of California has now released the six demands that must be met before it will consider lifting the house arrest it has placed on its citizens.

The actual order can be found here [pdf] The demands, all of which insist on heavy future surveillance and odious limits on the freedoms of California’s citizens, all violate the Bill of Rights, and all have been imposed by degree, with no election or legislative action. They state that before the government will release its citizens from house arrest, the government must have, to quote:
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Trump halts payments to WHO

President Donald Trump today announced that he is halting the U.S. contribution to the World Health Organization (WHO) as a result of its poor response to the Wuhan flu.

Trump declared that the United States would undertake a 60-to-90 day investigation into why the “China-centric” WHO had caused “so much death” by “severely mismanaging and covering up” the coronavirus’ spread, including by making the “disastrous” decision to oppose travel restrictions on China.

The United States is the WHO’s largest single donor, and the State Department had previously planned to provide the agency $893 million in the current two-year funding period. Trump said the United States contributes roughly $400 to $500 million per year to WHO, while China offers only about $40 million. The money saved will go to areas that “most need it,” Trump asserted.

This type of action is what has differentiated Trump from the politicians from either party since Ronald Reagan was president. All the presidents since Reagan would have, at best, called an investigation (fake in truth) and in the end done nothing to change anything. Trump has repeatedly put the hammer down hard on international organizations like WHO that fail to do their job, or act as agents for foreign governments.

That money can certainly be put to better use than giving it to the bureaucrats at the UN, almost all of whom are avowed enemies of the United States and of freedom.


Bloomberg News killed story, fired reporter, critical of China

Modern journalism: According to NPR, Bloomberg News killed an investigative story about China’s Communist Party elites and their high lifestyles — eventually firing the reporter — out of fear its publication would get their business kicked out of China.

Former Bloomberg News correspondent Mike Forsythe was part of a Bloomberg team that published an “award-winning investigation” in 2012 into the accumulation wealth by China’s ruling class. He was part of an ongoing effort in 2013 “focusing on Chinese leaders’ ties to the country’s richest man, Wang Jianlin. Among those in the reporters’ sights: the family of new Chinese President Xi Jinping. The story gained steam throughout 2013.”

The “story never ran,” NPR reports. The reason? NPR obtained audio of Bloomberg News founding editor-in-chief Matthew Winckler from a private conference call:

“It is for sure going to, you know, invite the Communist Party to, you know, completely shut us down and kick us out of the country … So, I just don’t see that as a story that is justified … There’s a way to use the information you have in such a way that enables us to report, but not kill ourselves in the process and wipe out everything we’ve tried to build there,” [emphasis in original]

This is the new organization owned and run by a former presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, Mike Bloomberg. And Bloomberg is still spending millions to support Democratic candidates across the country.

I however wonder what country he is working for. It certainly does not appear to be the U.S.


Intuitive Machines reveals details of lunar landing mission

Capitalism in space: Intuitive Machines (IM), one of a handful of private companies that NASA has awarded contracts to build lunar landers of the agency’s science instruments, yesterday revealed the landing site and launch date of its first mission to the Moon.

IM will launch the Nova-C lander in October 2021 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The target landing site is Vallis Schröteri (Schröter’s Valley) in the Moon’s Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms). The company said the site is “flat, free of craters and rocks, and has abundant sunlight” throughout the 14-day mission.

Five NASA payloads and others from commercial customers will be aboard, but IM did not specify what they are. Nova-C can take 100 kilograms to the lunar surface and provide 200 watts of power. Nova-C is based on NASA’s Project M lunar lander and Project Morpheus, which were designed, developed and tested by Johnson Space Center to demonstrate planetary landing technologies. The core team that developed Morpheus left government and founded IM.

Because the lander belongs to Intuitive Machines, not NASA, they have the right to sell their spare payload space to others, increasing their profits above what NASA will pay them. This shifts control of the mission from NASA to the private company, and in the long run will encourage the development of a private unmanned lunar landing industry.

Nor is IM alone in this. NASA has purchased landers from Astrobotics and Masten, with Astrobotics aiming for a 2021 landing and Masten in 2022. Both also have spare payload space, and are offering this to others.

I expect at a minimum some universities will make a deal. Rather than have their students build an orbiting cubesat for training and education, now they can have them build a science instrument that will land on the Moon.


First manned Dragon mission slips to end of May

Capitalism in space: According to NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, the first manned flight of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule will now occur at the end of May, not mid-May, and will last two or three months.

“I think we’re really good shape,” Bridenstine said in an interview Thursday. “I’m fairly confident that we can launch at the end of May. If we do slip, it’ll probably be into June. It won’t be much.”

The article at the link also reveals that the two astronauts will spend between two to three months on board ISS, not two weeks as originally planned.


Virgin Orbit completes capture-carry test of LauncherOne

Capitalism in space: Virgin Orbit yesterday completed the first capture-carry test of LauncherOne with it attached to the company’s 747 loaded with cryogenic materials.

In previous flight tests, the booster’s tanks were filled with water, which is much warmer than LOX.

For this cryogenic test, Virgin Orbit substituted liquid nitrogen for the LOX as a safety precaution. “So, for this end-to-end rehearsal, we’ll have liquid nitrogen — which is very similar in temperature to liquid oxygen, but which would pose less of a risk in case anything were to go wrong despite all of our planning — in our LOX tanks for both stages,” Virgin Orbit wrote in a mission update.

They say this was their last test prior to LauncherOne’s maiden flight. They have not yet set a date for that flight.

This maiden flight was first supposed to happen in 2018, but in that year development of this rocket slowed to a snail’s pace, probably because they had lost a major launch contract.

The contract award only two days ago from the Space Force will likely reinvigorate Virgin Orbit.

My 2016 prediction that Virgin Orbit would make its first operational flight before Virgin Galactic, even though Virgin Galactic had been started development of SpaceShipOne more than a decade earlier, is still holding. The race now appears to be neck-in-neck, as Virgin Galactic claims it will do operational flights this year. We shall see.


Boeing’s fall from grace at NASA

Eric Berger at Ars Technica yesterday uncovered a NASA report that outlined its selection process for awarding a contract for providing cargo to the agency’s proposed Lunar Gateway space station — eventually won by SpaceX — that gave Boeing’s proposal a terrible ranking.

Of the four contenders, [Boeing] had the lowest overall technical and mission suitability scores. In addition, Boeing’s proposal was characterized as “inaccurate” and possessing no “significant strengths.” Boeing also was cited with a “significant weakness” in its proposal for pushing back on providing its software source code.

Due to its high price and ill-suited proposal for the lunar cargo contract, NASA didn’t even consider the proposal among the final bidders. In his assessment late last year, NASA’s acting chief of human spaceflight, Ken Bowersox, wrote, “Since Boeing’s proposal was the highest priced and the lowest rated under the Mission Suitability factor, while additionally providing a conditional fixed price, I have decided to eliminate Boeing from further award consideration.” [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words could possibly be a death sentence for Boeing. The company has numerous other serious problems, including its commercial 737-Max airplane, its KC-46 Pegasus tanker for the Air Force, and of course its SLS rocket for NASA. For NASA to say that it will no longer consider Boeing in future contract bidding, especially since NASA has been one of Boeing’s biggest customers for decades, cannot be good for the company’s already badly suffering bottom line.

Berger also notes how much NASA’s attitude toward Boeing has changed since the agency removed Bill Gerstenmaier as head of its manned space operations. Gerstenmaier had apparently given Boeing the highest marks routinely, and appeared to have lost his ability to look at the company objectively. Moreover, his (and NASA’s) kid-glove treatment of Boeing for decades probably contributed to that company’s sloppy bid on the Lunar Gateway cargo contract. They were likely not used to tough questioning, and didn’t put the proper effort into writing their bid.

For the taxpayer and the American space effort, however, this report is wonderful news. It appears that NASA is breaking its tight and blind partnership with the big space contractors that has for decades handicapped the nation’s ability to get things built in space. These contractors have not been able to deliver, but because of their powerful allies on Congress, NASA has for years kowtowed to them in contract awards.

Now however it appears NASA’s management has become quite willing to reject these powerful companies, despite Congressional backing, in order to get the best deal and the best product, for the nation.


Passover: Celebrating Freedom

An evening pause: For tonight, the second Passover Sedar, a short video explaining some of the philosophical underpinnings of Passover. Though decidedly from the reform (and liberal) side of the Jewish community, it still summarizes much of what Passover represents. On this holiday each person must imagine themselves a slave, so as to better appreciate what freedom represents.

The orthodox side of the Jewish community would add that this freedom comes from God, for which we must be ever thankful. The orthodox would also note that our freedom exists because of the arrival of the Torah, the Ten Commandments, and the rules for living a good life, handed down to at Mt. Sinai, after the exodus.

I say, be humble and try to do right, to the best of your ability, no matter what others demand (the Bible, even for someone who does not believe in God as the religions do, provides a good instruction manual). Do that, and you will certainly be free.


New study suggests lockdowns did nothing to change epidemic growth

A new study produced by researchers at University College London, University of Pennsylvania and Harvard has found that the lockdowns imposed on populations actually accomplished little in slowing the growth of the Wuhan flu epidemic, and that social distancing appears to have been more than sufficient to do the job.

This information comes from the researchers’ twitter feed, and is about to be published. The key quote:

The mean daily case growth rate had _already_ been declining at this point. There was no additional decline in mean daily case growth after implementation of statewide restrictions on internal movement (“lockdowns”)

The researcher then try to make believe the lockdowns were still a good idea, denying their own results, but there it is for all to see. We have risked bankrupting our whole economy and thrown out our Constitution for no reason.


SpaceX moves forward on Starlink launch April 16

Capitalism in space: Despite the recent postponement by customers of two other planned launches because of the Wuhan panic, SpaceX appears to be moving ahead with plans to launch another sixty of its own Starlink satellites on April 16.

According to one unconfirmed news report, six SpaceX employees have tested positive for coronavirus. The company has not commented, however, either on this report or on its own internal policies for dealing with the Wuhan panic.

The Space Force meanwhile has not shut down its range operations in Florida, thus allowing launches from anyone to go forward.


Masten’s lunar lander wins NASA contract

Capitalism in space: Masten’s XL-1 lunar lander has won a NASA contract to bring a suite of science instruments to the Moon’s south polar regions, the launch targeted for December 2022.

The company also hopes to sell payload space on the lander to other customers.

Masten won a task order for NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program valued at $75.9 million. Masten will deliver nine science and technology demonstration payloads to the lunar surface near the south pole by December 2022 on the company’s XL-1 lander.

The CLPS payloads, with a mass of about 80 kilograms, will serve as the initial, anchor customer for that mission, Sean Mahoney, chief executive of Masten, said in an interview. He said there are “hundreds” of kilograms of additional payload space available on the lander, and that the company is working to line up additional customers.

Masten is now the third private company with an active contract with NASA to land science payloads on the Moon. Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines are the others, with their missions targeting 2021 for launch.


Rocket Lab tests 1st stage capture using helicopters

Capitalism in space: In early March, prior to the shutdown of New Zealand due to the Wuhan panic, Rocket Lab successfully completed a test whereby one helicopter dropped a dummy first stage over the ocean, the stage’s parachutes released to slow it down, and then a second helicopter captured it and gently transported and deposited it safely on land.

This test was part of the company’s effort to recovery its first stages so they can be reused. Because of their small size and the difficulty of developing the software, they have decided that a vertical landing is not economical. This test however shows that capturing the stage by parachute is possible. The real trick will be getting the first stage back through the atmosphere to an expected target spot and be able to release its parachutes. Proving that part of the effort will have to wait until the panic is over and New Zealand releases its citizens from house arrest.

I have embedded video of the test below the fold.
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The 50th anniversary of Apollo 13

Today NASA announced its plans to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the launch of Apollo 13 on April 11, the only Apollo mission to fail in its goal of landing on the Moon while also proving that the engineering design of Apollo was brilliant, making possible under dire conditions the safe return to Earth of the astronauts.

While en route to the Moon on April 13, an oxygen tank in the Apollo service module ruptured. The lunar landing and moonwalks, which would have been executed by Lovell and Haise, were aborted as a dedicated team of flight controllers and engineering experts in the Apollo Mission Control Center devoted their efforts to developing a plan to shelter the crew in the lunar module as a “lifeboat” and retain sufficient resources to bring the spacecraft and its crew back home safely. Splashdown occurred in the Pacific Ocean at 1:07 p.m. April 17, after a flight that lasted five days, 22 hours and 54 minutes.

NASA is celebrating this anniversary in many virtual ways, though all public in-person events have been cancelled due to the Wuhan panic.

Below is a video showing the launch.as covered on CBS (Hat tip reader Mike Nelson).

The visuals are not great, partly because it was broadcast on an analog television, and partly because it appears to be a recording taken by a camera looking at that broadcast. At several points it appears the television loses vertical hold (a problem typical of early televisions). Still, it is worth watching simply to see how news organizations covered such events then, in comparison to today.

If you want to spend some time of your Wuhan house arrest watching more, the video automatically jumps to later videos of CBS’s coverage, including the moment the failure occurred as well as the splashdown. I will post these next week, on the fiftieth anniversary of each event.


Russia hostile to Trump declaration to promote private enterprise in space

Russia today issued the first international response to the Trump executive order yesterday calling for private enterprise and property in space, and that response was decidedly negative.

Attempts to seize the territories of other planets are harmful to international cooperation, Deputy Director General of Roscosmos for International Cooperation Sergey Saveliev said on Tuesday. “Attempts to expropriate outer space and aggressive plans to actually seize territories of other planets hardly set the countries for fruitful cooperation,” Saveliev said.

He recalled that there were examples in history when one country decided to start seizing territories in its interests. “Everyone remembers what came of it,” Saveliev added.

Part of the goal of Trump’s order was to try to garner international support for the idea of allowing private property in space. The Russian response today suggests that they will not go along, and instead will use the words of the Outer Space Treaty to block such rights.

As I have been saying for years, the real solution is to pull out of the treaty. It forbids us from establishing our laws anywhere in space, which means future space-farers will be second class citizens, with their only rights determined by the UN, not the Bill of Rights.


Boeing to do second unmanned test flight of Starliner

Capitalism in space: Boeing officials said yesterday that they now plan a second unmanned demo mission to ISS of their Starliner manned capsule in order to make sure they have cleared up all the issues that plagued the first unmanned flight in December.

The company on Monday confirmed a report in the Washington Post that it will fly a second uncrewed demonstration mission — which Boeing calls an Orbital Flight Test — before astronauts ride a Starliner into orbit.

“We have chosen to refly our Orbital Flight Test to demonstrate the quality of the Starliner system,” Boeing said in a statement Monay. “Flying another uncrewed flight will allow us to complete all flight test objectives and evaluate the performance of the second Starliner vehicle at no cost to the taxpayer. We will then proceed to the tremendous responsibility and privilege of flying astronauts to the International Space Station.”

Right now they are aiming for an October/November launch date.


Trump signs executive order supporting private ownership in space

President Trump today signed a new executive order reiterating the United States’ support for private enterprise in space, including the ownership of any resources mined or obtained from other orbiting bodies, such as the Moon and the asteroids.

The text of the order is here. It acts to underline previous laws passed by Congress supporting private ownership in space. It also does three things:

1. It makes it very clear that the U.S. will oppose any effort by the international community to impose the Moon Treaty in space. This U.N. law, which is not the Outer Space Treaty that has governed space since 1967, was never ratified by the U.S., and in fact was only signed by seventeen countries. Its provisions were hostile to private property and private enterprise, essentially making both impossible in space. Thus, today’s executive order states:

The United States is not a party to the Moon Agreement. Further, the United States does not consider the Moon Agreement to be an effective or necessary instrument to guide nation states regarding the promotion of commercial participation in the long-term exploration, scientific discovery, and use of the Moon, Mars, or other celestial bodies. Accordingly, the Secretary of State shall object to any attempt by any other state or international organization to treat the Moon Agreement as reflecting or otherwise expressing customary international law.

2. The order re-emphasized the U.S.’s commitment to allowing private companies to retain ownership of any resources they mine from other worlds. Though the Outer Space Treaty appears to allow this, there is some uncertainty, and because that treaty also forbids nations from claiming any territory to establish their sovereignty and laws upon that territory, establishing the ownership of mining resources under U.S. law remains unsure. Today’s order essentially states that U.S. law will apply to those resources:

Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law. Outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view it as a global commons. Accordingly, it shall be the policy of the United States to encourage international support for the public and private recovery and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law.

3. The order makes clear that the U.S. will use all of its influence to convince all other space-faring nations to agree to this approach.

This last item might be the most important. If the Trump administration can convince all other nations to some new approach that allows for private property in space, the difficulties created by the Outer Space Treaty might be bypassed.


COVID-19 model predictions continue to be too high

Two stories off the wire today illustrate again the overheated and over-stated predictions of the computer models being used by federal and government officials are simply wrong.

The first prediction resulted in a panic that caused hospitals nationwide to cease all “non-essential” medical procedures out of fear they would overwhelmed with serious Wuhan virus sufferers. Instead, hospitals sit empty with little activity and some have had to cut staff and hours because the loss of the income from those “non-essential” procedures is bankrupting them. And in New York, the worst hit state, the model was four times too high:

The model projected that New York would need 65,400 hospital beds by April 4, but only 15,905 were actually used, according to former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson.

The second story reports that the IHME model that the White House and state governors have been relying on to justify shutting down the entire U.S. economy, bankrupting millions of small businesses, and putting millions of people out of work, has reduced its prediction for deaths from COVID-19 from about 93,000 to about 82,000, a number is still certainly too high based on the actual deaths so far. Earlier they were claiming hundreds of thousands could die.

Meanwhile, policy nationwide has been based on the assumption, clearly stated by Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House coronavirus task force, that “No state, no metro area, will be spared.”

The numbers however make this statement seem absurd. This state-by-state analysis today shows that the bulk of the problem is focused in the New York metropolitan area:

Thus, we can ascertain by these numbers that 53% of all U.S. Coronavirus deaths are coming from the two states of New York and New Jersey.

…If you throw out the numbers for the top five and bottom five states, removing the extreme highs and lows – the other 40 U.S. states (including Puerto Rico) will have suffered an average of 70 deaths from Coronavirus.

In other words, we have allowed our politicians to bankrupt us over an illness that has killed so few people in most of the country (most of which were aged and likely very sick already) that the numbers could almost have been considered rounding errors.


Astra furloughs and lays off a fifth of its workforce

The smallsat rocket company Astra Space recently reduced its workforce from 150 to 120, with most of those let go furloughed for three months during the Wuhan flu panic with some laid off entirely.

This reduction appears due mostly because of the panic, as it has killed their efforts to raise more investment capital. However, the “anomaly” that caused the complete loss of a rocket during countdown a few weeks ago might also have contributed. According to this article, which gives some more details of that “anomaly,” which apparently was a fire that destroyed the rocket, caused by “an unfortunate mistake.”


Third Starship prototype collapses during tank pressure test

During the final part of a tank pressure test the third SpaceX Starship prototype apparently collapsed, its outer welded hull failing.

Video below the fold. The prototype is on the right, and it appears it fall inward along its hull welds.

The SN3 (Serial Number 3) vehicle incorporated lessons learned from previous vehicles and test articles, and took advantage of improved manufacturing techniques and expanded facilities at SpaceX’s South Texas launch facility.

The next round of testing began this week with cryogenic proof testing. These tests saw the vehicle filled with liquid nitrogen at cryogenic temperatures and flight pressures. Proof testing began in Thursday and continued through to Friday morning when SN3 failed during what appeared to be the end of the test.

With Elon Musk noting “we will see what data review says in the morning, but this may have been a test configuration mistake,” on Twitter and the first-look observations, the fault may have been related to detanking, rather than another failure under pressure.

I’m no engineer, so I wonder how detanking could cause such a failure.
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First estimate of the cost of the Wuhan panic shutdown

The estimated lose to the U.S. economy due to the shutdown over the Wuhan panic is now estimated at $32 trillion, more than the entire annual gross national product for the country.

That number is of course preliminary, but for a first guess I think it is probably low, especially because it does not include the following:

  • Lost opportunity cost for businesses
  • Lost opportunity cost for individuals who had to delay dreams, plans, etc.
  • The loss of freedom (priceless)
  • The cost of not educating millions of students and falling further behind in academic standards

It also assumes we get back to work relatively soon. Should the shut down extend through May, I think the Great Depression will appear like a lark in comparison.

Note that the overall social cost of this panic and shutdown cannot be measured, as it is also establishing new social distancing customs that are probably overwrought and counter-productive for a healthy society.


Momentus wins contract with Taiwan university

Capitalism in space: Momentus, a company that sells a small upper stage designed to provide orbital transportation for cubesats, has won a new contract with Taiwan university.

Under the agreement, Momentus will provide in-space transportation for a satellite mission called Intelligent Remote-Sensing and Internet Satellite (IRIS)-A. Odysseus is providing pre-launch testing and arranging launch services for the IRIS-A mission developed by Taiwan’s National Cheng Kung University. IRIS-A is designed to test technology to improve the quality of downlink signals.

In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, Momentus executives say they are continuing to sign up customers interested in traveling on Vigoride, a vehicle to move small satellites from their drop-off point in orbit to their final destination.

The article does not say what rocket will launch the cubesat plus Vigoride, but Momentus has a contract with SpaceX to launch five cubesats as secondary payloads, so this is probably how the payload will reach orbit.

Normally cubesats launched as secondary payloads on big rockets like the Falcon 9 have very limited options on the orbits they can reach. The primary payload’s requirements are what rules. The idea here is Vigoride takes over once deployed and moves the satellite to the exact orbit needed. If Momentus is successful in doing this it will give cubesat makers many more launch options. It will also put more competitive pressure on the smallsat rockets like Rocket Lab’s Electron, since its main selling point is how it can put cubesats where they want to go, something that bigger rockets have not been able to do, up until now.


NASA selects full crew for first operational Dragon mission

Even though SpaceX’s first demonstration manned mission to ISS has not yet occurred, NASA yesterday announced the selection of the full four person crew for the second flight, set for later this year and intended as the first operational mission to ISS, lasting six months.

This announcement tells us several things, all good. First, it appears NASA has now definitely decided that the demo mission, presently scheduled for mid-May, will be a short-term mission. They had considered making it a six-month mission, but it now appears they have concluded doing so will delay the demo launch too much.

Second, that NASA is solidifying its plans for that operational flight, the second for Dragon, including a tentative launch date later in 2020, is further evidence that they intend to go through with the demo mission in mid-May.

Finally, it appears that NASA has decided that it will not buy more seats on Russian Soyuz capsules, something that they had previously hinted they needed to do because the agency was worried the American capsules would not be ready this year. The article describes the negotiations on-going with the Russians about the use of Dragon, as well as the future use by Americans of Soyuz. NASA wishes to have astronauts from both countries fly on both spacecraft (Starliner too, once operational), but Russia is as yet reluctant to fly its astronauts on Dragon. They want to see that spacecraft complete more missions successfully.

Regardless, future flights of Americans on Soyuz will cost NASA nothing, as the agency wishes to trade the seats on the U.S. capsules one-for-one for the seats on Soyuz. It also means that NASA has decided it doesn’t need to buy Soyuz flights anymore, as it now expects Dragon to become operational this year.


2019 was a boom year for the commercial space industry

Capitalism in space: According to a new industry report, 2019 was one of the strongest in years for the entire commercial space industry.

More than 183,000 workers were employed in the U.S. space workforce at the end of 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Core employment, those jobs most closely aligned with the space industry and not the larger aerospace industry, rose to 141,520 jobs in 2019. This represents a 4.1% increase from the 135,930 private sector workers in 2018 and marks the third year in a row of increasing employment in this workforce and the highest level since 2012.

Some sectors saw significant gains in employment over the last five years. Together, the workforce supporting manufacturing of space vehicles, space vehicle propulsion units, and other space vehicle parts grew by nearly 20% over the past five years, adding more than 14,000 new employees. Other sectors experienced decline. Broadcast and wireless communications equipment manufacturing employment decreased 9.8% over the past five years, shedding more than 5,000 workers.

The report also noted that the COVID-19 panic will likely cause a major negative impact to the industry in 2020, hurting the smaller companies the most.

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