Tag Archives: government

A review of the Trump administrations’s SLS/Orion reprogramming options

Link here. This is a nice summary of the technical and political options being considered for the first unmanned Orion test flight, presently scheduled for June 2020, including replacing SLS with commercial launch rockets.

The article also noted that NASA is also looking at simplifying that test flight, because both SLS and Orion are behind schedule and this would make using a commercial rocket easier.

The currently baselined EM-1 [the test] mission would launch an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a trans-lunar injection (TLI) trajectory; once released from the launch vehicle, it will fly solo for the first time. The Orion would then make two large engine burns to insert itself into a Distant Retrograde Orbit (DRO) around the Moon. Depending on the time of year, Orion would stay in the DRO for a half or one and a half orbits before making two more large engine burns to return to Earth. Preliminary analysis indicates a June, 2020, launch of the full-up mission would fall into the “long-class” category, with Orion staying in a DRO with a twelve-day long period for one and a half laps and flying a five-week long flight.

Prior to Administrator Bridenstine’s announcement of the alternate launch study for EM-1, notes passed to [this website] indicated that NASA Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) Associate Administrator Bill Gerstenmaier had sent out a memo in early March indicating that studies to look at ways to keep the EM-1 launch in 2020 could not compromise any of the mission objectives; besides that, everything else was on the table.

The highest priority objective of the EM-1 mission is a lunar-velocity reentry test of the redesigned Orion heatshield, along with a full end-to-end test of the re-entry sequence and an in-space demonstration of Orion systems, many of which are flying for the first time.

Although Bridenstine’s public comments stressed flying EM-1 as a lunar orbit mission, there has been speculation that launching Orion out to near lunar distance without attempting either a lunar orbit or a lunar flyby could meet the highest priority objectives. Dropping the lunar orbit requirement or lunar flyby options would also relax launch opportunity constraints created by flying to the Moon and could perhaps reduce launch vehicle performance requirements enough to drop the [Earth orbit rendezvous] proposal and [docking] development work. [emphasis mine]

To use commercial rockets and still go into lunar orbit would require at least two commercial launches to get the required material up to orbit. It would also require developing Orion’s docking software now, something NASA had not planned to do until prior to Orion’s third flight several years hence. Avoiding lunar orbit means they can use a single Falcon Heavy launch and avoid these issues.

The highlighted phrase above indicates the most important priority of the test flight. This does not require lunar orbit. In fact, the Apollo mission tested its heat shield without leaving Earth orbit, and Orion can do the same.

It is still bothersome to read how haphazard NASA’s SLS/Orion program remains. They aren’t doing enough testing, their future flights are always in flux for political, schedule, and budgetary reasons, and they always seem to be in too much of a hurry to fly humans on very unproven vehicles. If NASA’s corrupt safety panel applied the same standards to SLS/Orion as it does to SpaceX and Boeing, the whole program would be shut down. It does not, because safety isn’t really its purpose. That panel’s goal is to serve NASA’s bureaucracy, and to protect its biggest projects (SLS/Orion) from any competition.

As for replacing SLS for that first Orion test flight, we shall see. The political forces opposing such a move are vast, and wield a lot of power.

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DARPA’s satellite servicing mission adrift

Capitalism in space? DARPA’s program to test a satellite servicing mission appears in serious and complex trouble with the termination by Maxar (previously called SSL) of its contract to build the structure, or “bus”, of the robot.

What makes this more complicated is that the company building the actual servicing payload is continuing its work.

While Maxar will no longer be providing the satellite bus, work on the servicing payload continues. Among the companies involved in that effort is Praxis, a company handling planning for mission operations of the RSGS servicing system, such as how the system will safely grapple the target satellite. “For our day-to-day operations, that hasn’t really affected us. We’re pretty far along on the payload development,” said Tony Marzi, general manager of Praxis, during a presentation at the MIT New Space Age Conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology here March 15.

DARPA is thus calling for proposals to launch this payload.

The irony here is that this DARPA project was under criticism from the start, even to the point that a competing satellite servicing company, Orbital ATK, sued the agency. That company, now part of Northrop Grumman, was building its own privately funded servicing robot, and considered DARPA’s effort to be unfair in that it provided direct government subsidies to its competitors.

While Orbital ATK lost its suit, it now appears it has won the competition — assuming it eventually launches its own mission.

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New Zealand threatens prison for publishing material showing this week’s shootings

They’re coming for you next: Even as the New Zealand government has issued threats of ten year prison terms for sharing or even possessing the video’s from the mosque shooting this week, the large internet corporations are moving in to support this censorship.

Terrorist Brenton Tarrant used Facebook Live to broadcast the first 17 minutes of his attack on the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand at approximately 1:40 p.m. on Friday – the first of two mosque attacks which left 50 dead and 50 injured.

Copies of Tarrant’s livestream, along with his lengthy manifesto, began to rapidly circulate on various file hosting sites following the attack, which as we noted Friday – were quickly scrubbed from mainstream platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Scribd. YouTube has gone so far as to intentionally disable search filters so that people cannot find Christchurch shooting materials – including footage of suspected multiple shooters as well as the arrest of Tarrant and other suspects.

On Saturday, journalist Nick Monroe reported that New Zealand police have warned citizens that they face imprisonment for distributing the video, while popular New Zealand Facebook group Wellington Live notes that “NZ police would like to remind the public that it is an offence to share an objectional publication which includes the horrific video from yesterday’s attack. If you see this video, report it immediately. Do not download it. Do not share it. If you are found to have a copy of the video or to have shared it, you face fines & potential imprisonment.”

Distributing this killer’s video to me seems more than odious, but having the government and these internet giants team up to censor it, while also censoring distribution of his manifesto, which showed clearly that this madman was no right wing Trump supporter, is even more unconscionable. Such censorship only serves to encourage further such attacks, as it shows that future attackers can have far more influence and impact than merely killing fifty people. They can shut down free speech and western civilization worldwide.

This censorship also allows the liberal Democratic press to continue to push the lie that this madman was instigated by Trump, without no facts to challenge it.

That dark age sure is coming, and it looks like it is getting here faster every day.

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ULA’s Delta 4 rocket launches Air Force communications satellite

Capitalsm in space: ULA yesterday used its Delta 4 rocket to successfully place in orbit an Air Force communications satellite.

This is one of the last launches of the the Delta 4 member in the Delta rocket family.

The mission marked the next-to-last flight of the Delta 4 rocket variant with a single first stage core — known as the Delta 4-Medium — as ULA begins retiring segments of its launcher family in preparation for the debut of the new Vulcan booster, which the company says will be less expensive than the existing Atlas and Delta fleet.

Gary Wentz, ULA’s vice president of government and commercial programs, said the company’s decision in 2014 to retire the Delta 4-Medium was intended to reduce the company’s costs. “We started looking at the products that we were providing, and found that maintaining these two families of launch vehicles, both the Delta and the Atlas, through this period decreased our flight rate, and therefore increased our costs,” Wentz said. “That really drove it, based on the competitive industry we’re in, trying to maximize our competitiveness.”

The Delta 4-Medium family provides the same range of lift capability as the less expensive Atlas 5 rocket. The Delta 4-Heavy, which will remain operational through at least the early-to-mid-2020s, uses three Delta 4 first stage cores bolted together to haul heavier payloads to orbit than any of the Atlas 5 configurations.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

3 SpaceX
3 China
2 Europe (Arianespace)
2 Russia
2 ULA

In the national rankings, the U.S. has now widened its lead on China to 5 to 3.

Note that two different American companies are matching the launch numbers of three other whole countries. This I think illustrates well the power of freedom and competition. Rather than have a single nationalized rocket system (as was attempted in the 2000s when Boeing and Lockheed Martin created ULA, then the only American rocket company), the U.S. has transitioned back to its roots, allowing freedom to produce multiple companies competing for both private and government business. This has reduced costs, encouraged innovation, and ended up producing more jobs and wealth.

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The Washington Empire strikes back!

In response to the revelation earlier this week by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine that the agency is considering replacing SLS with commercial rockets for Orion’s first unmanned lunar test mission in June 2020, the swamp in Washington quickly rallied to SLS’s defense.

Not surprisingly, porkmeister Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) led the charge:

“While I agree that the delay in the SLS launch schedule is unacceptable, I firmly believe that SLS should launch the Orion,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said in a statement to SpaceNews.

This was followed by statements from industry groups and other lawmakers, all supporting SLS. Next came Bridenstine himself, who emphasized his strong support of SLS at a conference yesterday, then issued a memo to NASA employees reiterating that support.

As far as I can tell, the only way SLS will eventually die is when private companies begin doing things that SLS is designed for, for less money and faster, and for profit. And that won’t happen if this Washington swamp has its say. Rather than see an American success, these cronies have made it clear in the past decade that they will work to squelch any such success if poses any threat to their boondoggles. And it appears now that they are moving to block Bridenstine’s suggestion for that first Orion flight.

Whether this new big government campaign against private enterprise succeeds however is not clear.
» Read more

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Rogozin: Russia and U.S. to use both countrys’ manned capsules to ISS

According to statements made today by Roscosmos head Dmitri Rogozin, Russia and the United States now plan to send their astronauts to ISS using both the Russian and American capsules.

“We agreed with the NASA leadership to preserve our agreements and principles of cooperation. Astronauts will fly on board Soyuz, and we will use US spacecraft,” he said, adding that US spacecraft will need to get certification first.

According to the Roscosmos head, this will create an alternative in manned space missions to the International Space Station.

This suggests that once the U.S. commercial capsules are operational the two countries will return to the situation that existed when the shuttle was flying, with Americans sometimes flying on Russian spacecraft and Russians sometimes flying on American spacecraft. Under that set-up however, there was no direct payment by the U.S. for its seats on those Russian spacecraft, since it was a straight embargo deal.

Will this be the case now? We shall see. NASA for the past two decades has increasingly worked to keep the Russian space effort operating, sometimes even to the detriment of American efforts.

If Russia no longer gets money from the U.S. for its space flights it simply might not be able to afford to fly. We really won’t need them, but for a number of reasons we might decide to pay them to keep them in the game, both from a foreign policy perspective as well as some underhanded motives that are divorced from considerations of the national interest.

Unfortunately, separating these two issues has become increasingly difficult, especially because of the spreading corruption that is taking over the Washington establishment. This establishment more and more cares little for this country. Instead, it puts its own interests and power first, often in direct violation of the Constitution and the fundamental principles that founded the United States. Under these conditions that establishment might decide it is better to help the Russians, even if it hurts America and its citizens.

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Electric power restored in Venezuela

Socialist Paradise! The socialist government of Venezuela yesterday managed to restore electric power after a week-long blackout.

Power has returned to Venezuela after a week after the country was plunged into darkness, but access to uncontaminated water remains critical.

Venezuelan Information Minister Jorge Rodrigues said at a press conference on Wednesday that power was 100 percent restored, adding: “President Nicolas Maduro has decided to resume work activities throughout the country” on Thursday. “School activities remain suspended for another 24 hours.”

Water, however, remains a problem. The blackout worsened the quality of drinkable water in the country, with many residents reporting what appeared to be oil-contaminated black water coming out of their taps.

As is usual for leftist fascists who have caused incomprehensible misery and catastrophe, the Maduro government immediately looked for scapegoats, blaming both the United States and its political opposition. Like all fascists, they are never responsible for their own failures. The blame is always found elsewhere.

I guarantee that this power restoration is very temporary. Venezuela, once very wealthy, is now bankrupt. It has run out of other people’s money, and no longer has the resources, under socialist rule, to fix these issues. Nor is its socialist government willing to do anything to reform its operations. More disasters are certain.

But don’t worry. This is the paradise the Democrats in Congress plan for us here in the U.S. What could possibly go wrong?

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NASA considering replacing SLS with commercial rockets for first Orion test mission

Capitalism in space: Faced with endless delays that will likely prevent the first scheduled launch of SLS in June 2020, NASA is now considering using commercially purchased rockets to send the Orion capsule and European service module on that same mission.

NASA now believes the Space Launch System will not be ready for the EM-1 test flight by June 2020, the program’s most recent target launch date. Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said Wednesday the space agency is weighing alternatives to keep the Orion spacecraft on track for a lunar mission in 2020 to test the capsule’s European-built power and propulsion module, and assess the performance of the crew capsule’s heat shield during blistering re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere from the moon.

“Some of those options would include launching the Orion crew capsule and the European service module on a commercial rocket,” Bridenstine said in a hearing with the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Bridenstine said it is important for NASA to stick to its commitment to launch EM-1 by June 2020, and his announcement Wednesday marked the first time a NASA leader has publicly discussed launching the Orion spacecraft’s first lunar mission on a commercial rocket, and not the more expensive government-run Space Launch System. “Certainly, there are opportunities to utilize commercial capabilities to put the Orion crew capsule and the European service module in orbit around the moon by June of 2020, which was our originally-stated objective, and I’ve tasked the agency to look into how we might accomplish that objective,” Bridenstine said.

Because Orion and its service module are so heavy they cannot be launched by a single Falcon Heavy rocket. However, that rocket could easily put everything in orbit in two launches, where the two parts could dock together.

There is still a problem with this plan, according to Bridenstine:

“I want to be clear. We do not have, right now, an ability to dock the Orion crew capsule with anything in orbit. So between now and June of 2020, we would have to make that a reality.”

I find this fact incredible. NASA built Orion without the capability to maneuver and dock with other spacecraft? If this is true, it shows once again the outright incompetence of anything our federal government does, including NASA.

Regardless, Bridenstine’s announcement is very good news. If Orion is launched on that 2020 first test mission using commercial rockets, it will demonstrate clearly the uselessness of the expensive and very delayed SLS. It will also make it politically easier to consider shutting it down, before it eats up more funds.

More important, this statement by Bridenstine indicates that there are many people in the Trump administration that have come to this same conclusion. This statement also means that they are beginning to make the political moves necessary to make the cancellation of SLS possible.

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Toyota and JAXA to work together to build lunar rover

Capitalism in space? Toyota and and Japan’s space agency JAXA announced yesterday that they have signed an agreement to build lunar rover.

The rover “will be an important element supporting human lunar exploration, which we envision will take place in the 2030s”, JAXA Vice President Koichi Wakata told a symposium in Tokyo. “We aim to launch such a rover into space in 2029.”

The rover is still in the conceptual stage, but an illustration in the news release showed a six-wheel vehicle that somewhat resembled an armored personnel carrier.

A spokesman for Toyota, which plans to ramp up fuel-cell cars as a zero-emission alternative to gasoline vehicles, said the project would give the company a chance to test its technologies in the moon’s harsh environment and improve them. [emphasis mine]

Ten years to build a rover? That’s not capitalism, that’s a government jobs program whose only goal is to spend money and never accomplishes anything.

Japan continues to disappoint. Even as India and China forge ahead aggressively with new space technology and exciting projects, Japan seems unable to harness its considerable private resources to bring life to its aerospace industry. Their unmanned planetary program, as illustrated by Hayabusa-2, is right now having some success, but the pace of achievement has tended to be slow and laborious. This rover project seems to continue that trend.

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Water system in Caracas goes dry

The water system in Caracas, capital of the socialist paradise of Venezuela, is now shutting down because it needs electricity to operate and it does not have it because of the collapse of the power system.

Caracas began going dry Monday as Venezuela’s power crisis put utilities out of commission, risking supplies for 5.5 million people, many of whom found themselves reduced to carrying buckets of filthy river water.

Service, intermittent in normal times, was scarce to nonexistent in large swathes of the capital and experts saw little reason for hope. Caracas is 900 meters above sea level and water comes from the Tuy system of reservoirs and pumping stations below. Those depend on a reliable electric supply of 2,000 megawatts, said Norberto Bausson, who was the head of state utility Hidrocapital in the 1990s. “As of this morning, this system hasn’t been restarted yet,” Bausson said Monday. “The supply of water for the city is at risk.”

The power crisis — and now the water crisis — are testing the hold of strongman President Nicolas Maduro. Opposition leader Juan Guaido is trying to topple him after a re-election widely viewed as fraudulent and using as his main argument widespread deprivation after six years of Maduro’s rule. Hunger is widespread in the nation. Its infrastructure has decayed to critical levels.

But wait! Think of the wonderful things these people are doing to prevent climate change! No power system, no burning of those evil fossil fuels, and less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere! This is exactly what the modern luminaries of the Democratic Party like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) want.

We should all congratulate Maduro and work to emulate him here in the U.S.

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Trump’s budget will not “destroy” or “gut” science

Our terrible press does it again. Yesterday the Trump administration released its proposed 2020 federal budget [pdf], and as usual the pro-government propagandists in the media got to work to lobby against it.

This proposed budget will do none of these things.

These articles all fail to apply even the slightest and tiniest bit of context to their analysis. The budget numbers proposed by the Trump administration might reduce the budgets of some science agencies from what they had gotten the year before, but overall the proposed budgets remain gigantic, far more than received by these same agencies only a few years before.

You don’t believe me? Let me open your eyes.
» Read more

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Anti-Semite Democrat says Trump simply isn’t human

They’re coming for you next: In a discussion noting similar immigration policies of both Trump and Obama, anti-Semite Democrat congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) said that the comparison was “silly” because “One is human. The other is really not.”

Every Democratic voter had better realize this basic fact: Too many of the people they are voting for see their political opponents in this light, which means it will be very easy for them to treat their opponents as bugs that should be squashed. And this is what almost always happens when leftist socialists gain power, in the Soviet Union, in Germany, in North Korea, in East Germany, in China, and in innumerable other places in the past century.

Omar is simply being honest about her hateful bigotry.

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The nationwide Venezuela power outage

Link here. The article gives a good overview of the now days-long blackout that will go on for days more. Key quote:

How did the country reach this point, in terms of its power network?

Years of disrepair, lack of maintenance and investment. From a human capital point of view, repressive management, terrible wages, and unsafe working conditions. For instance, the technicians are forbidden to talk about this. In February 2018, union leader Elio Palacios was detained because he said that a national blackout was imminent.

The one detail that would have accurately described those years of neglect would have been “socialist rule.” The people who have been in charge of Venezuela since the 1990s have all been heroes of today’s modern American socialists like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as well as most of the leaders in the Democratic Party.

Be prepared for the same here. We already see signs of this collapse in urban cities that have been solid Democratic Party strongholds for decades, such as San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. These fascist political leaders like political and economic collapse, because they can use it as a lever to garner more power and wealth to themselves.

Note also this quote from the second link above:

“What can you do without electricity?” said Leonel Gutierrez, a 47-year-old systems technician, as he carried his six-month-old daughter while he walked to find groceries. “The food we have has gone bad.”

Yet this is exactly the future envisioned by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) in her New Green Deal, where all future electricity will come only from renewable resources, a concept that is simply impossible. The result will be no electricity at all.

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Dragon successfully splashes down in Atlantic

Capitalism in space: SpaceX’s manned Dragon capsule has successfully returned to Earth, splashing down in the Atlantic this morning.

There is a short video at the link showing the splashdown.

As far as I can tell, this test mission went 100% right. They now have the capsule they will use for the launch abort flight, which they hope to do by June, if not sooner. Assuming that goes well, they will be ready to do the manned flight by July, as planned.

The only thing I can see preventing this would be elements in NASA’s bureaucracy, Congress, and the federal government that are hostile to SpaceX and the concept of independent free Americans doing great things. These elements prefer giving power and control to their big bloated government, even if it can’t accomplish anything and that failure gives aide and comfort to hostile foreign powers.

We shall see if those elements move to block this mission in the coming months.

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The anti-Semitic Democratic Party

House Democrats have been forced to delay passage of a simple resolution condemning anti-Semitism because of opposition to that resolution from within the party.

Read the article. The reason they can’t pass it is because leftist and Muslim factions within the party support anti-Semitism, and have been working to water the resolution down so much that it becomes meaningless.

The bottom line is that the political Democratic Party, the people who run for office as well as run the party itself, is filled with bigots who focus on race, religion, and ethnicity above all. They rank everyone by these superficial factors, not by who they are as a person. Thus, all Americans who support Israel have “duel loyalties” Similarly, if you are white and male and voted for Donald Trump you must be a racist who supports slavery. And if you are black you have the right to hate whites, because of how much they all oppressed your ancestors.

If you are a registered Democrat and are opposed to bigotry, you might want to reassess your loyalty to that party.

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Increased isopropyl alcohol detected at ISS following Dragon docking

The Russian press today announced that there was a significant increase in the amount of isopropyl alcohol detected in the atmosphere of ISS following docking and opening of the hatch of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule.

While obviously this needs to be investigated, there are several details the Russian press leaves out. First, what normally happens when a manned capsule or new module arrives and the hatch opens? I suspect we always see a jump in readings for a wide range of atmospheric components. Second, what harm does this increase in ispropyl alcohol have to the station, its experiments, or its occupants? I suspect none, though obviously if it could be avoided that would be better.

Once again, we need to be aware that the Russians motives here might not be entirely pure. They have political and economic reasons to work against a success by SpaceX, and articles such as this reflect that. Issues like this of course need to be checked out and fixed if possible or necessary, but the goal of this article might not be that at all.

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NASA cancels overbudget instrument for Europa clipper

Because its budget had ballooned to three times its original estimate, NASA has decided to cancel a science instrument for its Europa Clipper probe to Jupiter’s moon.

[Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science] said in the memo that, at the time of the February review, ICEMAG’s estimated cost has grown to $45.6 million, $16 million above its original cost trigger and $8.3 million above a revised cost trigger established just a month earlier. That cost was also three times above the original estimate in the ICEMAG proposal. “The level of cost growth on ICEMAG is not acceptable, and NASA considers the investigation to possess significant potential for additional cost growth,” Zurbuchen wrote in the memo. “As a result, I decided to terminate the ICEMAG investigation.”

The contrast between how NASA operates in its unmanned planetary science programs with how the agency operates in its manned programs is striking. The agency’s planetary program is probably its most successful achievement, and has been for decades. Spacecraft almost always get built close to budget, launch on time, and accomplish amazing things when their arrive at their planetary targets, either the Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, or Pluto and beyond. Part of the reason for this success is a willingness by NASA to make hard decisions, such as the one above, even if it might ruffle some political feathers. The result is that everyone focuses on getting the job done, on budget and on time. They know that if they screw up, as the ICEMAG team did here, they might find themselves on the chopping block.

In contrast, as I noted in my previous post, NASA allows things to get out of control in its manned program. In fact, they might consider this a feature of the system, not a bug. The goal is not to accomplish anything, but to funnel cash to the states and districts of elected officials. The result is that nothing ever flies, or if it does, it does so very late, very over budget, and often with technical difficulties. Worse, the focus on pleasing corrupt lawmakers like Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) means that NASA is often hostile to the success in manned space by others, such as SpaceX.

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NASA reassessing SLS first launch date

Surprise, surprise! NASA is now reassessing the planned launch date of the first unmanned launch of its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, suggesting the 2020 date, already three years behind schedule, will be further delayed.

The article at the link illustrates in several ways the nature and politics of this boondoggle. First, SLS work was allowed to continue during the government shutdown, while NASA froze work on the commercial manned capsules of SpaceX and Boeing. This despite the fact that the commercial manned capsules are probably far more essential. Without them we either have to continue to depend on the the increasingly unreliable Russian Soyuz rocket and capsule, or lose all access to our own space station in orbit. Delays in SLS however will have little impact on the future of the nation, since it is unlikely it will do anything for years to come.

The contrast here illustrates the preferences of NASA’s political management. They see the commercial companies and their spacecraft as a threat to NASA and its international buddies, and wish to slow it down if they can. At the same time, they are doing whatever they can to help SLS.

Second, this quote shows one of the reasons NASA favors SLS:

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, represents MSFC, in Huntsville. He introduced [Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) Director Jody Singer] by noting that as committee chairman he has “more than a passing interest” in what NASA does and a “parochial” interest as well. He told Singer to “keep doing what you’re doing” and “we’ll keep funding you.”

Singer described SLS as “America’s rocket” because more than 1,100 companies in 44 states are involved in building it, supporting more 32,000 jobs and producing $6 billion in economic benefit.

Shelby’s “parochial interest” is to keep this jobs program going. A vast majority of those companies and jobs are in his state, so he wants to fund it, even if it never launches. And he has been using his political clout for years to keep those funds flowing. with that first launch date continuing to slip forever into the future..

In a common sense world, with the cheap new rockets being developed by the private sector that can do what SLS is supposed to do but for much less, and far sooner, NASA and the federal government would shut this boondoggle down in a minute. Unfortunately, we do not appear to be in a common sense world any longer.

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More conflict on India-Pakistan Kashmir border

Gunfire this weekend from soldiers on both sides of the disputed India-Pakistan Kashmir border has resulted in more casualties.

Pakistan’s military said two of its soldiers were killed in an exchange of fire with Indian forces near the Line of Control that separates Kashmir between the rivals. It marked the first fatalities for Pakistani troops since Wednesday, when tensions dramatically escalated between the nuclear-armed countries over Kashmir, which is split between them but claimed by both in its entirety.

Indian police, meanwhile, said two siblings and their mother were killed in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The three died after a shell fired by Pakistani soldiers hit their home in the Poonch region near the Line of Control. The children’s father was critically wounded.

There appears to be an effort by politicians to ease the tensions, but it is not clear whether this effort is working.

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Canada commits to NASA’s Lunar Gateway boondoggle

Canada’s leftwing government has agreed to be NASA’s first official international partner in the agency’s Lunar Gateway project, designed to go nowhere and cost billions.

Canada has become the first nation to formally commit to NASA’s lunar Gateway project with a financial contribution to cover a 24-year period and the development of a new generation robotic Canadarm.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement Wednesday that Canada would be partnering with NASA and spending 2 billion Canadian dollars ($1.4 billion) over 24 years on the Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway program, a human-tended facility in orbit around the moon, as well as other space programs. The announcement included funding of 150 million Canadian dollars over five years for a new Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program to help small and medium-sized businesses develop new technologies to be used and tested in lunar orbit and on the moon’s surface in fields that include artificial intelligence, robotics and health.

Canada will develop and contribute a smart robotic system – Canadarm3 – that will repair and maintain the Gateway, Trudeau announced.

I wonder if this Canadian program will survive a new rightwing administration. Such boondoggles often don’t, or get reshaped into something completely different.

Of course, this question assumes a truly rightwing government might someday retake power in Canada.

We are now entering a new cold war. This time the battle lines are not between the capitalist west and a communist Soviet bloc, but between the socialist big governments across the globe and the capitalist free citizenry struggling to survive independently under the thumb of those increasingly oppressive governments.

We can see this clearly in space. While big government space agencies in the U.S., Europe, Russia, and Canada are teaming up to get coerced government funding for Gateway (even as they work to simultaneously squelch any competing space exploration visions), private companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and the new smallsat companies strive to launch their own private endeavors, using profits and any available investment capital they can convince others to freely provide them.

The big government space programs will spend a lot of money taken involuntarily, wield power to maintain their dominance, and likely accomplish relatively little for all that power and money. The small private efforts, if allowed to do what they want to do, will spend comparatively little capital (voluntarily committed to them), work very efficiently, and likely get a lot more done. The key is whether the former will allow the latter the freedom to operate.

Sadly, the track records of powerful government throughout the history of the world leaves me very pessimistic about this coming cold war. Those governments will quite likely use its growing unchecked power to squelch any competition, especially competition that makes them look foolish.

We have already seen this happen somewhat at NASA with its commercial crew program. Unless the public starts voting for politicians that favor them over the government — something that public simply hasn’t done for more than a century — I can only see this government dominance grow and worsen.

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Rising tensions between India and Pakistan

One day after India completed an air strike in Pakistan on what it called a “militant group” responsible for a suicide bombing that killed more than 40 Indian soldiers earlier in February, Pakistan now claims it has shot down two Indian jets near the border between the two countries.

Why should we care?

The escalation, many fear, has increased the risk of a full-fledged military confrontation between the two nuclear-armed countries. The biggest worry for the international community at the moment is that this could lead to a nuclear confrontation. Although, both countries have played down the risk of a nuclear war, regional and international players remain watchful.

The possibility of nuclear war? No big deal, and far less important than watching and being absorbed by Congressional testimony of a convicted liar whose life, no matter how odious, has been destroyed not because of anything he actually did but because he simply happened to be the lawyer for Donald Trump.

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Trump walks out on North Korea summit

Unsatisfied with the deal offered by North Korea’s leader on his nuclear weapons, President Trump abruptly ended their summit meeting in Vietnam today.

Donald Trump’s talks with Kim Jong-un ended abruptly on Thursday as the president said he was forced to walk away after the North Korean dictator demanded that all sanctions be lifted in return for giving up only some of his nukes.

Trump said the final snag that caused the sudden breakdown was over sanctions – and Kim’s push to have all of them lifted in exchange for a concession Trump and his secretary of state could not live with. ‘Sometimes you have to walk away,’ Trump told reporters at a press conference in Hanoi that was abruptly moved up after a breakdown in talks.

The president expressed his hope that the two leaders would meet again, but acknowledged: ‘It might be soon, it might not be for a long time. I can’t tell you.’

The standard American politician since the 1960s would have instead gone through with the ceremonies, including signing some form of fake agreement that in terms of the U.S. would have stunk. That standard American politician would have typically been willing to sell out the U.S. in order to save face.

Trump is no standard American politician. He is there to actually negotiate, and sometimes a negotiation requires you, as he said, to walk away, as Reagan did with the Soviets in 1986.

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ExoMars prototype test driven from 6,000 miles away

The engineering team that will drive ExoMars 2020 on the surface of Mars in 2021 has completed a test drive using an engineering prototype, controlling it from more than 6,000 miles away.

Experts at the European Space Agency’s centre in Oxfordshire completed a series of tests across nearly 6,900 miles (11,000 km) in order to see how the Mars rover reacts to commands across large distances.

When on the surface of Mars, the rover will need to be controlled when it is up to 250 million miles from Earth.

The trials team used a new model called ‘Charlie’ to test hardware, software and to practice science operations for the future European Space Agency (ESA) ExoMars rover, which will look for life on Mars in 2021. The Atacama desert was chosen because it is the closest we can get to a Martian-like environment.

I must admit that every press release from Europe about ExoMars 2020 gives me worried chills. Each release is often filled too much with empty boasts and little substantive detail. Worse, each seems to repeatedly remind me of some guy working in his garage on a weekend project.

The issue could merely be a case of poor press release writing, but something about each release makes these alarm bells go off in the back of my mind. With the launch only about sixteen months away, I hope I am wrong.

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Arianespace successfully launches first set of six OneWeb satellites

Capitalism in space: Using a Russian-built Soyuz rocket, Arianespace today successfully launched the first set of six OneWeb communications satellites.

This is the first of 21 Soyuz launches to put the entire OneWeb constellation into orbit. OneWeb also has launch contracts with Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne.

The 2019 launch standings:

2 SpaceX
2 China
2 Europe (Arianespace)
1 ULA
1 Japan
1 India
1 Russia

It could be argued that this Soyuz launch should be placed under Russia. I place it under Europe because they are the one’s who signed the contract.

The U.S. now leads China and Europe 3-2 in the national rankings.

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Europe to build reusable first stage

Capitalism in space: Even as Europe works to develop Ariane 6, their non-reusable next generation rocket, Ariane Group and the French are now considering replacing it with a different rocket with a reusable first stage.

Late last week, the European rocket maker Ariane Group and the French space agency CNES announced the creation of an “acceleration platform” to speed development of future launch vehicles. The initiative, called ArianeWorks, would be a place where “teams work together in a highly flexible environment, open to new players and internationally.”

“In this era of NewSpace and in the context of fierce competition, ArianeWorks will accelerate innovation at grassroots level, in favor of mid-tier firms and start-ups, with commitment to reducing costs a major priority,” a news release sent to Ars states.

As part of the announcement, the organizations released a promotional video for the group’s first step—a so-called Themis demonstrator. The goal of this project is to build a multiple-engine first-stage rocket that launches vertically and lands near the launch site. The rocket will be powered by Europe’s Prometheus engine, a reusable liquid oxygen and methane engine that may cost as little as $1 million to build.

Essentially they are copying SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, except for the fuel. And they admit it. Moreover, this action tells us that the problems Ariane 6 has had getting European contracts has become serious enough that they have finally recognized that it simply cannot compete with the new wave of reusable rockets expected in the next decade. Building a new rocket that does not have a reusable capability is not viable in the coming market.

They should have recognized this four years ago, but better late then never.

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Bad climate science, bad climate journalism

The coming dark age: It appears that the most fundamental concept of science, that all research is subject to skepticism, questioning, and doubt, is no longer followed by the world’s leading science journal Science, in either the research or journalism it publishes.

In reporting today how the Trump administration is establishing a climate review panel that will include global warming skeptics, this so-called science journal describes this effort as follows:

The White House is recruiting researchers who reject the scientific consensus on climate change for its “adversarial” review of the issue.

The proposal to form a “Presidential Committee on Climate Security” at the National Security Council (NSC) has shifted, into an ad-hoc group that will review climate science out of the public eye. Those involved in the preliminary discussions said it is focused on recruiting academics to conduct a review of the science that shows climate change presents a national security risk.

William Happer, a senior director at the NSC and an emeritus Princeton University physics professor not trained in climate science, is leading the effort.

Among those who have been contacted are the relatively small number of researchers with legitimate academic credentials who question the notion that humans are warming the planet at a rapid pace through the burning of fossil fuels. A number of the names the White House is targeting are those frequently invited by Republicans to testify at congressional hearings on climate change where uncertainty is emphasized.

The stated goal of the committee, according to a leaked White House memo, is to conduct “adversarial scientific peer review” of climate science. [emphasis mine]

The article also stated that the panel “will also include scientists who agree with the vast majority in the field of climate science that humans are warming the planet at a pace unprecedented in the history of civilization.”

First of all, it is not clear that “a vast majority in the field of climate science” agree with that global warming hypothesis. And even if it was, it would not matter. Science isn’t determined by consensus or majority rule. It is determined by facts, and if the facts don’t support the beliefs of 97% of all climate scientists, all 97% of those scientists are wrong. That this writer and the editors at Science don’t understand this is shocking.
» Read more

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NASA okays March 2, 2019 Dragon test flight

NASA has finally approved SpaceX’s unmanned test flight on March 2nd of its Dragon capsule.

They completed the last flight readiness review today, and the press conference revealing this decision is going on right now, at the link. They have noted one issue that came from the review today, relating to questions by the Russians about the software used by Dragon as it docks at ISS. It apparently they did not consider this a reason to delay the launch. They must think they can get it dealt with before the docking. (The manned Dragon docks itself directly with the station, rather than being berthed to the station by the robot arm, as is done with the unmanned cargo Dragon capsule.)

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Global warming in Tucson!

Global warming in Tucson!

As I start writing this post it is snowing hard here in normally sunny and warm Tucson. In fact, this winter has been one of the coldest in years, averaging about 15 degrees below average, according to one long time resident and friend. He might have his number wrong, but without doubt this is the coldest winter I’ve experienced since we moved here in 2011. The image on the right was taken looking out across my backyard about ten minutes ago. The city of Tucson and the Santa Catalina mountains should be plainly visible in the distance. Instead, between falling snowflakes all one can see is whiteout.

Obviously, this is proof of global warming!

I am of course joking. A single storm, a single cold winter, or even a half dozen cold or warm winters, are nothing more than weather. Such events tell you nothing about the Earth’s climate or any of its global trends. Unfortunately, the global warming crowd does not seem to understand this. Get the temperature above normal for an hour, and they are screaming about how we are burning up and it is now necessary to abandon our constitutional rights to give the government the power to do whatever it wants, with them in charge.

And when the weather is cold? These same “experts” then claim that this also is proof of global warming. To any rational person, such claims are absurd, and serve only to prove that these experts are untrustworthy.

Today, Tony Heller at his The Deplorable Climate Science Blog put together a masterful essay outlining the failure of these irrational experts, entitled “The Five Top Arguments Against Climate Alarmism”, then summarized what this means in a second essay, “The Malicious Intent Behind Climate Alarmism.” As he so correctly concludes:

We need to have a robust discussion about our energy future centered around engineers – not decisions based on hysteria by politicians and academics who don’t know the first thing about climate or energy. The American people need to be educated, not fed propaganda and have their information sources censored. Our survival depends on an adequate supply of energy, not mindless hysteria and fear over an essential trace gas. Without carbon dioxide, life itself can not exist.

Without a reliable supply of energy, modern civilization can’t exist.

Read both of Heller’s posts. He backs up his conclusions with facts.

And by the way, by the time I finished this short post it stopped snowing. More proof of global warming!

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