Tag Archives: government

TMT consortium applies for Canary Islands building permit

The coming dark age: The consortium that wants to build the Thirty Meter Telescope has applied for a building permit to build the telescope in the Canary Islands, Spain, thus preparing to abandon their years-long effort to put the telescope in Hawaii.

Thirty Meter Telescope Executive Director Ed Stone said in a statement Monday that the group still wants to break ground on Mauna Kea, but they need to have a backup plan. “We continue to follow the process to allow for TMT to be constructed at the ‘plan B’ site in (Spain) should it not be possible to build in Hawaii,” Stone said. “Mauna Kea remains the preferred site.”

But Native Hawaiian activists say they will not budge until the project moves elsewhere. Protest leaders, who say they are not against science or astronomy, told The Associated Press that the Spain permit is a positive development, but it’s not enough for them to end their blockade of Mauna Kea’s access road, where more than 2,000 people have gathered at times. “There’s lots of good science to be done from the Canary Islands,” said Kealoha Pisciotta, who has helped organize the protest on Mauna Kea. It would “be a win for everyone.” [emphasis mine]

Do not expect the protests to end when TMT officially abandons Mauna Kea. I fully expect the protesters to increase their demands, calling for the closing of more telescopes on the mountain.

It appears that the United States is no longer ruled by law. The TMT consortium spent years following the law, negotiating deals with everyone, including local native Hawaiian religious groups, and finally obtained their permits, twice. This wasn’t good enough for the protesters and their leaders, who wish to rule by fiat and mob power. Those protesters have likely won, mostly because the Democratic Party that runs Hawaii is on their side.

It also appears that the United States is becoming a nation that no longer gives priority to obtaining new knowledge about the universe. If TMT moves to Spain, its loss will be somewhat equivalent to the Catholic Church’s attack on Galileo in Italy. That action in the 1600s essentially killed the Italian Renaissance, with the growth of the scientific method and new knowledge shifting to Great Britain and France, the wealth and prosperity that new knowledge brought going with that shift.

Posted from the airport on the way to Denver.

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Proton launches military communications satellite

A Russian Proton rocket today successfully launched a military communications satellite into orbit.

This was the third Proton launch this year, the most since 2017. It also put Russia in the lead for most launches in 2019, the first time that country has been in first since 2015:

12 Russia
11 China
9 SpaceX
5 Europe (Arianespace)
4 India

The U.S. still leads Russia in the national rankings, 15-12.

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First images from Chandrayaan-2

Earth from Chandrayaan-2

India yesterday released the first images taken by its lunar orbiter/lander/rover Chandrayaan-2, taken from Earth orbit of the Earth.

The image on the right is one example, and was taken mostly for engineering purposes. All the images (available here) demonstrates that the spacecraft’s camera is working properly, and it can orient itself accurately.

They now hope to put the spacecraft into lunar orbit on August 20th, with the landing attempt set for September 7th, after they have lowered that lunar orbit sufficiently.

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Hundreds arrested in Moscow demonstrating for open elections

Continuing protests in Moscow demanding the right of independent candidates to run for election have resulted in hundreds of arrests in the past week.

I am very much reminded of the protests that led to the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. The difference is that then the government did little to stop them, and then allowed their candidates to run for office, sweeping the communists from power.

Now, Putin’s government seems to be following China’s approach to such protests, which cracked down hard against its own protests in the early 1990s and was thus able to stay in power.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong China is faced with its own new protest movement, now in its ninth week. At this moment China has held off using its full military power to stop the protests, but that might change soon. If so, things will get very bloody.

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Russia denies OneWeb permission to operate in Russia

Russian government agencies this week denied permission to OneWeb to operate and provide internet services within Russia, even though Russia is launching a large bulk of OneWeb’s satellite constellation.

One agency denied them permission to use certain radio frequencies. Another has said no because it claims the satellites could be used for espionage. The first denial, in 2017, came from Roscosmos, which is also the agency launching OneWeb’s satellites.

The latest refusal of OneWeb was a sign that the country’s authorities remain keen to continue tightening their control of internet access, said Prof Christopher Newman at Northumbria University.

“[Satellite internet] presents an existential strategic threat to their trying to limit internet activity within their boundaries,” he told the BBC. “There are going to be large swathes of Russian territory… that are going to become very dependent on internet from space.”

Russia continues its sad slide back to Soviet-style authoritarianism and poverty.

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NASA/NOAA failure report for GOES-17: The government screwed up

A joint investigation by NASA and NOAA into the failure issues on the GOES-17 weather satellite, launched in March 2018, have determined that the problem with the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), the satellite’s main instrument, was caused by

a blockage in the instrument’s loop heat pipes, which transfer heat from the ABI electronics to its radiator. The blockage restricted the flow of coolant in the loop heat pipes, causing the ABI to overheat and reducing the sensitivity of infrared sensors.

You can read the short full report here [pdf].

My immediate thought in reading the press release above was: So a blockage caused the problem. What caused the blockage? Was it a design failure or a construction mistake? Or what? The answer to this question is even more critical in that the same issues have been identified in GOES-16, though not as serious.

Moreover, GOES-16 and GOES-17 are the first two satellites in a planned new weather constellation of four satellites. Knowing who or what caused this blockage prior to construction and launch of the two later satellites is critical.

I immediately downloaded the report and read it, thinking it would name the contractor and the cause of the blockage.

Nope. The report is remarkably vague about these details, which the report justifies as follows:

The report is NASA sensitive, but unclassified (SBU), because it contains company proprietary information. The report also contains information restricted by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and/or the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). This summary report provides an overview of publicly releasable information contained in the full report.

In other words, this report is an abridged version of the full report, which is being kept classified because it contains both commercial proprietary information and information that if released would violate ITAR regulations designed to keep U.S. technology from reaching foreign hands.

What this public report does imply in its recommendations, in a remarkable vague way, is that the problem occurred because the government had demanded changes during construction that forced significant redesigns by the contractor, none of which were then given sufficient review.

Or to put it more bluntly, NOAA and NASA, the lead agencies in the GOES project, screwed up. They forced the contractor to make changes, probably very late in the process, resulting in inadequate review of those changes.

The recommendations put forth many suggestions to institute a more detailed review process, should late changes in the construction of the next two GOES satellites be required or demanded. Such recommendations however will only further delay and increase the costs for building those satellites. Since the entire constellation went overbudget significantly (from $7 billion initially to $11 billion), and has also been very late (see this GAO report [pdf]), this means that the next two satellites will be even later and more expensive.

For NASA and NOAA this is just fine, pumping more money into each agency. For the taxpayer it is terrible.

The whole process should be dumped. Give the job of building these satellites to the private sector, entirely. Get these agencies out of the construction business. The only contribution they are presently adding is more cost and delays, while also causing satellite failures.

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Landowners in Scotland sign lease for spaceport

The new colonial movement: The landowners for a planned commercial spaceport in Sutherland, Scotland, have now signed a 75-year lease with the spaceport developers.

Construction of the project is anticipated to begin next year with the UK Space Agency (UKSA) providing a grant of £2.5million to HIE, as well as funding two launch companies who will use the facility once it is operational.

I highlight the word “UK”, which stands for the United Kingdom, because that word indicates another very big unstated obstacle to this spaceport. The UK as a whole has voted to leave the European Union. The population of Scotland however voted against that exit, and its leaders have indicated that they will not go along with the plans of the new British prime minister, Boris Johnson, to exit, deal or no deal. In fact, they have indicated that they would instead want to leave the United Kingdom in that case.

Should that happen, the future of this spaceport will be threatened. The deals that have made it possible have come from the UK space agency, a entity that Scotland would no longer belong should it leave the United Kingdom.

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Chinese test microsat deorbits and crashes into Moon

The new colonial movement: A Chinese tiny smallsat, sent to lunar orbit to test the technology of such microsats, has been deorbited and allowed to crash into the far side of the Moon.

The micro satellite crashed into a predetermined area on the far side of the Moon at 10:20 p.m. on July 31 (Beijing Time), the center said Friday.

Weighing 47 kg, Longjiang-2 was sent into space on May 21, 2018, together with the Chang’e-4 lunar probe’s relay satellite “Queqiao,” and entered the lunar orbit four days later. It operated in orbit for 437 days, exceeding its one-year designed lifespan.

The development of the micro lunar orbiter explores a new low-cost mode of deep space exploration, said the center. The micro satellite carried an ultra-long-wave detector, developed by the National Space Science Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, aiming to conduct radio astronomical observation and study solar radiation.

China might be stealing a lot of the space technology it is using to make it a major space power, but it is also doing a fine job of refining and improving that technology. Its capability to do practically anything in space as well if not better than anyone else continues to grow.

And with their government using its space effort as a management test for determining the best individuals to promote into the government’s power structure, do not expect their space effort to wane anytime in the near future.

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Chandrayaan-2 successfully completes 4th orbit burn

The new colonial movement: India’s lunar orbiter/lander/rover Chandrayaan-2 today successfully completed its fourth engine burn, this time raising its orbital apogee to 89,472 kilometers (55,595 miles).

The next burn is scheduled for August 6, when the spacecraft’s orbit brings it back down to its perigee.

By September they expect to raise that apogee high enough so that it is within the Moon’s gravitational sphere of influence, when they will be able to put it the spacecraft into lunar orbit.

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Why drastic education cuts in Alaska tell us everything about the coming dark age

Faced with a gigantic $1.6 billion budget deficit, last month Alaska’s Republican governor, Mike Dunleavy, used his line item power to veto about $444 million from the state’s total budget of $8.3 billion. Among those cuts included an unprecedented almost 41% cut in the state’s university system.

Understanding the background for these cuts is not something easy to pin down in today’s partisan press. I first came across the story today in this Nature article, clearly written to lament the cuts and the harm they will do to education and science. This quote will give you the flavor:

Researchers are waitivng anxiously to see how university administrators will apply the cuts, which could fundamentally reshape science in the state — including UA’s world-class Arctic and climate research programmes. The first hint came on 30 July, when the university’s governing board voted to consolidate the system’s three main branches — in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau.

“It’s awful,” says Milligan-Myhre. “I had to turn away a student planning on starting in the fall because I just don’t know what the department or his degree would look like in a year or two.” She’s also encouraging her current students to graduate as soon as possible.

The problem with the article is that it gave literally no background into the cuts, and Dunleavy’s reasoning for doing them, a example of today’s typically bad journalism. We might justly oppose these education cuts, but before we as sane citizens can do that we must at least understand why they are being made. Nature failed to give us that information, and instead spent its time propagandizing for the blind spending of money for education.

I started doing searches on the internet to find out some background information. (More on that experience later.) Most of the articles were very superficial, though this article at least outlined the difficult budget situation faced by Dunleavy.

After a lot of searches on two different search engines requiring me to dig down several pages on both, I finally found this article at U.S. News & World Report that outlined in a very non-partisan way the issues.
» Read more

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Senate passes budget-breaking bill

A coalition of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate today passed the Trump budget deal that will end sequestration and other budget limits.

Congress sent a two-year budget and debt ceiling deal to President Trump over the objection of 22 Senate Republicans. Many Republicans failed to heed a last-minute tweet from President Trump urging them to back the accord. It passed by a vote of 65-28. Five Democrats voted against the deal.

Once signed by Trump, the deal will permit unfettered federal borrowing through July 31, 2021 and busts federal spending caps by $320 billion over the next two fiscal years. It leaves out an extension of the Budget Control Act, which expires in two years. The act imposed spending restraints meant to force lawmakers to impose fiscal reforms.

“This may well be the most fiscally irresponsible thing we have done in the history of the United States,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, declared ahead of the vote.

Republicans bolted away from the deal much the same way they rejected it in the House when it passed the measure last week over the objections of 132 GOP lawmakers. [emphasis mine]

These votes reveal the real political battle going on right now in the U.S. This spending bill passed because about half the Republicans in both houses of Congress teamed up with the majority of Democrats. Those that voted against are the remains of the tea party movement, and are also the remains of the original American dream. They are also now a minority with little power, so little that they do not even have Trump on their side.

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New NASA development contracts include refueling work by SpaceX

Capitalism in space: Yesterday NASA announced a bunch of partnership agreements with thirteen companies, where those companies will get NASA assistance at no cost to help them develop new engineering that would aid future solar system exploration.

The partnerships covered everything from helping small companies develop new space electronics, heat shields, and new types of thrusters to helping Blue Origin develop the technology for for landing on the Moon.

An article at Ars Technica today about this NASA announcement focused specifically on the SpaceX deal, mainly for its important political implications.

The partnership will have two different NASA agencies helping SpaceX develop the refueling technology it needs for Starship to reach Mars. The key is that this deal has NASA openly supporting technologies that are in direct competition with its own SLS rocket. When such research work was proposed back in 2010, it was opposed quite strongly by past agency officials as well as powerful politicians in Congress, for exactly that reason.

It was a contentious time in space policy, as the White House was pushing for more funding for new space companies—and new space ideas such as fuel-storage depots—while Congress wanted to keep NASA in the rocket-building business.

Eventually, Congress got the upper hand, putting NASA on track to build the large SLS rocket at a development cost of more than $2 billion a year. The rocket program mostly benefited the Alabama space center and was championed by Alabama State Senator Richard Shelby. The potential of in-space fuel storage and transfer threatened the SLS rocket because it would allow NASA to do some exploration missions with smaller and cheaper rockets. As one source explained at the time, “Senator Shelby called NASA and said if he hears one more word about propellant depots he’s going to cancel the Space Technology program.”

The line from other NASA officials was that as a technology, propellant depots were not ready for prime time. In 2011, former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin and current Executive Secretary of the National Space Council Scott Pace—both SLS advocates—wrote a withering criticism of the technology for Space News.

Now however the Trump administration is helping SpaceX develop refueling for Starship, which if successful will help make SLS irrelevant. This is more evidence that the Trump administration is laying the political groundwork that will allow it to shut SLS down, actions that were impossible in the political culture of Washington only two years ago.

This quote in the article is probably the most startling of all:

“Administrator Bridenstine is clearly executing on President’s Trump’s guidance to increase commercial public-private-partnerships at NASA,” Miller, now chief executive of UbiquitiLink, told Ars. “The game-changing technology that NASA has discovered is capitalism. This program proves NASA leadership has figured out the future is reusability mixed with commercial public-private-partnerships.” [emphasis mine]

Imagine that. An American government agency has learned that capitalism is the way to go. Will wonders never cease?

Update: See this related Ars Technica article: The SLS rocket may have curbed development of on-orbit refueling for a decade (Hat tip reader Calvin Dodge.)

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iSpace plans eight launches in 2020

After its first successful orbital mission last week, China’s semi-private rocket company iSpace announced today that it hopes to complete eight launches in 2020.

Clients from Singapore, Italy, Spain, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka, as well as mainland customers, have already either signed up for a spot on iSpace’s rockets or expressed interest.

iSpace is open to both private and government clients. “It’s the same for us whether it’s a private or a state-owned company,” Vice President for Marketing and Communications Yao Bowen said.

The price tag to launch a rocket is 4.5 million euros ($5 million), Yao added.

This launch price is just under what Rocket Lab has been charging, $6 million, and is clearly designed to take business from them. It is however higher than what Vector says it will charge, $4 million, should that company ever get its rocket off the ground.

The article also notes the investment capital raised by iSpace, totaling just over $100 million. This does make this company appear a private company, but don’t believe it. Its existence is very much tied to and supervised by the Chinese government.

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Democrats once again push to repeal 1st amendment

A party of fascists: A group of Democratic Senators today re-introduced their 2014 constitutional amendment that would repeal the first amendment of the Bill of Rights.

The language from 2014:

To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.

Essentially, this amendment eliminates the ban set by the first amendment that states that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.”

If you have always been a registered Democratic, you need to reassess that position. This party has nothing to do with that political organization from the past. It has morphed into a fascist and oppressive bunch of totalitarians who pose a serious threat to everyone’s freedom.

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School fires teacher for praising western civilization

They’re coming for you next: A California private school, covering elementary through high school grades and catering to Hollywood celebrities, fired one of its teachers in May for praising western civilization.

On the 5th of May, the American Freedom Alliance convened a conference on leftist radicalism. Before David Horowitz stepped up to the podium to discuss the threat of leftist extremism, Dr. Karen Siegemund, the president of the AFA, welcomed the attendees by speaking to our common values. “Each of us here believes in the unparalleled force for good that is Western Civilization, that is our heritage, whether we were born here or not,” she said.

After Dr. Siegemund and Horowitz’s remarks, a panel discussed radicalism in the school system.

The day after this event, Dr. Siegemund was informed by Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles, the school where she had taught mathematics for four years and where she had studied as a child, that her contract would not be renewed because she had praised western civilization.

The conference, which had addressed leftist radicalism in educational institutions, had struck home.

“On Monday, I was informed that my teaching contract won’t be renewed because of my ‘widely publicized views,’” Dr. Siegemund said. “You know, I’d always known I was vulnerable – of course. We on the right all know how vulnerable we are. But when it happens – when you actually become a victim, a casualty of this Long March, of the Left’s silencing tactics, it’s truly breathtaking.” [emphasis mine]

The key here is that the modern cultural left is not interested in other points of view. Either you agree with them, or you are evil and must be squashed. Or as Orwell said, speaking of the socialist/communist attitude toward power in 1984:

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

Orwell’s book was supposed to a warning to the future. Instead, for the left it has become an instruction manual. As spoken by those in power in Orwell’s book,

Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten…The process will still be continuing long after you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller.

The demonizing of western civilization and American history is all part of a comparable effort to make that knowledge inaccessible to future generations. And it appears that too many modern Americans are too cowardly to fight that effort.

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Europe completes 1st rollout of Ariane 6 mobile launch gantry

The mobile launch gantry that Europe will use for its new Ariane 6 rocket successfully completed its first rollout tests last week.

This gantry is the equivalent of NASA’s VAB building. Within this gantry they will assemble Ariane 6 vertically, then roll the gantry back for launch.

Assembling a rocket vertically I think is more costly, but it also makes it possible for the rocket to launch payloads that must be installed in this manner. Thus, Ariane 6 will have this selling point over rockets like the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, which are assembled horizontally.

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Chandrayaan-2 completes third orbit maneuver

Chandrayaan-2 has completed its third engine burn to raise the apogee of its orbit to 71K.

The next burn is set for August 2, when the spacecraft returns to its orbital low point, the perigee. As it raises its orbit each time the time between burns gets extended because the orbit gets longer. By September however the apogee will put the spacecraft in the Moon’s gravitational field of influence, and when Chandrayaan-2 reaches that apogee engineers will then fire its engines again to slow it down and enter lunar orbit.

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TMT protests continue, block all astronomy research to Mauna Kea

The Hawaiian government continues to allow protesters against the Thirty Meter Telescope to block all access to Mauna Kea, thus also blocking researchers and maintenance crews from working on the thirteen operating telescopes already there.

Protests against construction of a giant telescope have halted work at existing observatories on the Big Island, a report said. Workers at other facilities on the dormant Mauna Kea volcano have been denied access by demonstrators opposed to the Thirty Meter Telescope, Hawaii News Now reported Sunday.

The Mauna Kea Observatories house 13 telescopes that have led to astronomical breakthroughs for more than 40 years, including the first photo of a black hole and the discovery of the first interstellar object in space.

“All we’re looking to do is to go up the road and resume what we’ve been doing for 50 years,” said scientist Doug Simons from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. The two-week closure of the access road leading to the summit has resulted in the potential loss of a year’s worth of discoveries, said Simons.

The demonstrations have also affected the scientists’ interactions with family and community members. “They have these great bonds within their family and their friends, and now there’s a big rift there,” said Jessica Dempsey from the East Asian Observatory and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope. [emphasis mine]

If my memory is correct, previous protests did not block access to the other telescopes. That they are now doing it suggests that the protesters feel empowered and are now going for their real goal, a complete shutdown of all astronomy on Mauna Kea. The highlighted text implies this. Native workers for the other telescopes appear have suddenly discovered that these protesters want to also destroy their jobs.

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Russia launches communications satellite

Using its Soyuz rocket the Russians today launched a satellite aimed at providing communications to Russia itself.

The satellite, while apparently providing civilian communications services, was a Russian government project. It is not commercial as we would define it in the west.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

11 China
10 Russia
9 SpaceX
5 Europe (Arianespace)
4 India

The U.S. continues to lead China 15 to 11 in the national rankings. At the moment it also looks like Russia has a chance to top 20 launches in 2019, which would make this its best launch year since 2015. This suggests that they have finally begun to recover from the discovery in 2017 that an engine contractor was using substandard welding materials to pocket some extra cash, thus causing many launch failures.

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Trump gets asylum deal with Guatemala

After Trump threatened Guatemala with tariffs earlier this week, that government suddenly decided yesterday to agree to an asylum deal it had previously rejected.

After President Trump invited the media into the oval office, he announced Guatemala was signing a “safe third country” asylum agreement with the United Stated. Effectively blocking Central American asylum seekers from reaching the United States and filing asylum applications. [As an outcome of the agreement asylum seekers who travel through Guatemala can no longer seek U.S. asylum.]

This agreement combined with recent Mexican efforts, also agreed to after a Trump threat of high tariffs, probably means there will be a significant reduction in illegal immigration. For certain the caravans from two years ago will cease.

As always, this does not mean the U.S., Trump, or his supporters do not welcome immigrants. What is demanded is that they follow the law.

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NASA to do full engine test of SLS first stage

NASA confirmed yesterday that it will do a full engine test of its SLS first stage, what it calls the Green Run test.

This decision makes sense. SpaceX for example routinely does a static fire test of its first stages before every flight. NASA however had hesitated doing this test because it will likely force a delay in the first launch of SLS. Unlike a commercial company like SpaceX, NASA is incapable of doing this test and then proceeding to flight quickly, mostly because the size of SLS (it is very large) and its design (very cumbersome) makes such quick action difficult.

This decision however means that it is almost certain that SLS’s first unmanned test launch cannot happen in 2020. For NASA to make Trump’s commitment to fly a lunar landing by 2024 means that NASA must compress SLS’s schedule to one flight per year. First the unmanned test flight would occur, probably in 2021. Then the first manned test flight around the Moon would follow, in 2022 or 2023. Finally the landing mission would take place in 2024.

Can NASA do this? I have many doubts. The agency’s biggest obstacle would be getting their lunar lander built in time, which by the way is not yet even designed. This isn’t the only problem. NASA for years has said that they will need from one to three years between SLS flights. This schedule demands more from them.

Meanwhile, there is a good possibility that SpaceX will beat them to the Moon. If that happens, then expect SLS to die, either before or after its first or second flight.

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Chandayaan-2 completes first orbit burn

India’s lunar orbiter/lander/rover Chandrayaan-2 yesterday completed its first orbital engine burn, raising its apogee, the high point in its orbit, 6,000 kilometers to about 51,000.

This boost meant that Isro scientists have to perform one less manoeuvre in the Earth orbit than what was planned earlier. According to the path chalked out for Chandrayaan-2 before the launch, the on-board propulsion systems were to be fired six times in Earth orbit – five times to raise the apogee and once to raise the perigee. Now, only four more “burns”, or firing of the propulsion system, will be needed on July 26 and 29, and August 2 and 6, to reach the final orbit of 233.2 x 143,953km.

…With a final boost on On August 14, Chandrayaan-2 will escape Earth’s orbit and begin its seven-day journey towards the moon. The spacecraft is scheduled to reach the moon orbit on August 20.

Once in lunar orbit they plan four more burns to lower the spacecraft to a 100 kilometer circular orbit, where the lander/rover will release and begin their own lowering process aimed for a September 7 landing.

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China smallsat company succeeds in orbital launch

A Chinese semi-private company, iSpace, successfully launched two smallsats into orbit today.

iSpace’s Hyperbola-1 rocket blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre at 1 p.m. (0500 GMT) Thursday, sending two satellites and payloads into a predetermined orbit, the company said in a statement on its official Wechat account.

The successful orbital launch was preceded by two failures since late last year by other startups.

More here.

I am very reluctant to call this company, along with the other Chinese smallsat companies OneSpace and LandSpace, a private commercial firm. While it might get investment capital within China, it is very clearly supervised closely by the government. Moreover, its use of solid rocket motors, as noted in the second link, strongly suggests it is taking advantage of Chinese military technology, something that could only happen under government control. From the second link:

It’s unclear how much it cost for iSpace to build the rocket. Chinese state-owned automaker Changan’s passenger car brand Oushang said it would sponsor the launch, but didn’t specify the amount. In OneSpace’s case, the firm’s nine-meter-tall, solid-propellent rocket cost the company $78 million to design, build, and launch. iSpace’s main private backers (link in Chinese) include domestic private-equity firms CDH Investments and Matrix Partners.

iSpace didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

But private space companies are also getting state support in China. All of the private launches so far, for example, have taken place at Jiuquan—Elon Musk’s SpaceX recently launched a rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, while its main customer is the US Air Force. What’s different in China is the constraints that come with having state backing. In June, China rolled out a set of rules that restrict what private companies can develop and manufacture. It’s unclear if that may restrict private companies’ capabilities in building larger rockets that could rival state rocket builders. [emphasis mine]

The money for this comes from state-owned companies. The technology comes from military hardware. The goals are almost all military in nature. I would also bet, because of the lack of information released, that the satellites launched today were military payloads. This is hardly an independent private company competing on the open market.

Nonetheless, this success gives China a new capability and raises its status as a world space power.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

10 China
9 Russia
8 SpaceX
5 Europe (Arianespace)
4 India

The U.S. still leads China 14 to 10 in the national rankings.

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Mueller’s testimony today proves witch hunt failed

There have been numerous stories today in all the press, both left and right, about Robert Mueller’s testimony today in Congress, mostly concluding that Mueller came off very badly, thereby bursting the balloon of the continuing empty and largely disproved accusations by the Democrats that Trump colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. If anything Mueller proved by his stumbling answers plus his refusal to answer more than 150 questions that his effort was at best incompetent, and at worst a partisan witch hunt.

This conclusion is not a surprise however to anyone who has paid even the slightest close attention Mueller’s work, both now and in the past.

However, the short clip below the fold, taken from Mueller’s testimony today, best represents how corrupt and incompetent Mueller really is. It took place during questioning by a friendly Democratic congressman as he was attempting to demonstrate how honorable and fair-minded Mueller is. Instead, it proved why almost everything attempted by our so-called elites in Washington fails. They don’t have to be corrupt because they are also incompetent.

The clip comes from a story at PJ Media. For Mueller and the Democrats, it is embarrassing. For Trump and the Republicans it is laughable. For the American people it is distressing, because we all know that Mueller is very stereotypical of most of those running Washington.
» Read more

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Hawaii’s governor expresses support for TMT protesters

In the ongoing protests that have blocked construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) as well as shutdown all thirteen other telescopes on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, Democrat governor David Ige visited with the protesters yesterday, expressing sympathy for their positions.

Ige indicated last week that he was willing to talk to protesters. But his visit and statement Tuesday were the first public steps he’s taken toward that end. “We will be working together to determine next steps that are in the best interests of all the people of Hawaii,” Ige said in his statement.

In a nod to activist preferences, his statement referred to them as “protectors” of Mauna Kea instead of protesters.

Protest leader Kealoha Pisciotta said officials must consider not building the telescope on Mauna Kea. She said she met previously with the mayor and governor without making any progress. “We’ve done all of that. But it’s window dressing trying to get our buy-in,” Pisciotta said. “We really need people to honestly consider our positions this time.”

TMT will not be built on Mauna Kea. Bet on it. Ige always favored the protesters. Following standard Democratic Party strategy, he made believe he would enforce the law, but set things up so that the protests would have a chance to swell and block construction. He is now using this situation as a ploy to give the protesters what they want, while making believe he has no choice.

Moreover, Ige’s actions likely mean that the other thirteen telescopes are in serious danger as well. It is very likely that this power grab will allow the protesters, a small minority in Hawaii that does not have the support of the majority of the population, to force their shut down.

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Northrop Grumman to build Gateway habitation module

The boondoggle never dies! NASA has decided it will give a sole source contract to Northrop Grumman to build the minimal habitation module of its Gateway lunar space station, based on that company’s Cygnus unmanned freighter.

NASA is also bypassing a traditional procurement process for the Minimal Habitation Module. Rather than requesting bids from industry, and then evaluating the responses, NASA plans to fast-track a contract with Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, an operating unit of Northrop Grumman formerly known as Orbital ATK.

The pressurized habitation compartment will be docked with the Gateway’s Power and Propulsion Element in a stable near-rectilinear halo orbit around the moon. NASA announced in May that Maxar Technologies won a contract worth up to $375 million to build the Power and Propulsion Element, which will provide electricity and maneuvering capability for the Gateway station using high-power plasma thrusters, but does not include any pressurized section.

The Gateway is a mini-space station NASA plans to build in an orbit that swings as close as 2,000 miles from the moon about once per week. The Gateway will act as a stopover and safe haven for astronauts heading for the moon’s surface, NASA is designing the mini-station to accommodate myriad scientific experiments and engineering demonstrations required for more ambitious ventures deeper into the solar system, and eventually Mars.

The Trump administration wants to focus on a lunar landing by 2024, and so it forced NASA to reduce its Gateway boondoggle to the minimum necessary to make that lunar landing possible. This module, with the service module that Maxar is building, is that minimum Gateway.

And why do we even need this? Well, it appears that SLS and Orion and the not-yet-built or even designed lunar lander, by themselves, are not capable of getting astronauts to the Moon. A way station is somehow required.

Note also that the contract amount remains a secret, redacted from the NASA paperwork. Note also that NASA “still plans to add more elements to the Gateway, including contributions from international partners, after accomplishing the human landing on the moon.”

In other words, this is a typical Washington swamp buy-in, connived by the big space contractors and NASA to weasel this boondoggle into existence, even though the Trump administration is not interested. By keeping the cost secret at this point, they avoid some bad press and the possibility of political opposition. Their plan is to get the minimal Gateway funded and launched into space, and then demand more money to pay for the whole thing once the project exists.

This is what NASA does routinely, for all its projects. It lies about the initial cost, low balling it, so as to get the politicians to buy in. The result for the past two decades however is that NASA fails to build much of anything, while wasting gobs of taxpayer dollars on non-productive jobs here on Earth.

Do not be surprised if we see the same with Gateway. In fact, I would bet on it.

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Boris Johnson to be next British PM

Boris Johnson has won the Tory party election to become the United Kingdom’s next prime minister.

In his victory speech, Mr Johnson promised he would “deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat Jeremy Corbyn”.

Speaking at the Queen Elizabeth II centre in London, he said: “We are going to energise the country. We are going to get Brexit done on 31 October and take advantage of all the opportunities it will bring with a new spirit of can do. [emphasis mine]

Johnson has made it very clear that he intends to bluntly honor the will of the voters and be out of the European Union as quickly as possible. Do not expect him to spend any time negotiating a fake exit deal that tries to avoid that exit, as did his predecessor Theresa May.

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Protests continue at Mauna Kea

Even as the number of protesters dropped (due to the demand that alcohol-drinking and pot-smoking cease), the protests against construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) continue, aided by emotional support given by Hawaii’s lieutenant governor during a visit to the protest site.

Last week, law enforcement officials saw some protesters — who call themselves “protectors” — drinking beer and they could also smell marijuana, Dennison said. Other protesters said they would patrol the area and ask the beer drinkers and marijuana smokers to leave, Dennison said.

Law enforcement officers no longer report beer drinking or the odor of marijuana, he said.

Hawaii Lt. Gov. Josh Green visited Mauna Kea this morning to offer his ear, advice and services as a doctor to people on the mountain blocking construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope. Green, who is from Hawaii island, also said Gov. David Ige should meet with the kupuna, or Hawaiian elders, serving as decision-makers in the group, and he apologized for some of the things said earlier that have offended demonstrators. “I am here to listen,” he told a group kupuna under a canopy during a misty morning. “And I want to say I’m sorry for some of the things that have been said in the past days and weeks.” [emphasis mine]

I have been saying for two years that Governor David Ige and his Democratic Party government in Hawaii will do nothing to stop the protests. They want to play it both ways. They mouth support for the telescope in an effort to satisfy the majority of the population (which wants it built), while doing everything they can to make sure the protests succeed in stopping construction.

This is exactly what is happening now. As long as the Democratic Party controls the government in Hawaii, TMT will never be built there.

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Agreement on bankrupt budget deal today?

Update: It does appear a deal has been reached, and it appears at first glance to be as bad as I suspected.

Initial post: It appears that the White House and House Democrats are about to finalize a budget deal that will guarantee the national debt will continue to balloon for years to come, thus growing the power of Washington.

These sources tell FOX Business that the deal includes spending caps and debt ceiling increases for two years each, respectively. The deal reportedly includes spending increases for defense and non-defense spending.

A source close to the negotiations tells FOX Business that, for now, the deal would put no restrictions on reprogramming money for spending items – like a border wall.

Sources tell FOX News’ Chad Pergram that the deal would permanently end the sequester and also suspend the debt limit until July 31, 2021. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words will also continue the decades-long shift of power from Congress to the President. Congress might allocate money to specific projects, but this deal, if agreed to as described, will now allow the President to rearrange the budget however he sees fit.

While Republicans might celebrate this change so that Trump can build his wall, in the end we will all suffer, because this arrangement ends up putting almost unlimited power in the hands of a single individual.

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India successfully launches Chandrayaan-2

The new colonial movement: India yesterday successfully launched its lunar orbiter/lander/rover Chandrayaan-2 into orbit.

India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV MkIII-M1, successfully launched the 3840 kg Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft into an earth orbit today (July 22, 2019). The spacecraft is now revolving round the earth with a perigee (nearest point to Earth) of 169.7 km and an apogee (farthest point to Earth) of 45,475 km. Today’s flight marks the first operational flight of the GSLV Mk III.

They will slowly raise the spacecraft’s apogee over the next two months to bring it into the Moon’s gravitational sphere of influence, when they will begin lowering the orbit leading to a separation of the lander/rover for a September 7 landing near the Moon’s south pole.

This was the third launch of the upgraded GSLV Mark III. With this launch India now has an operational rocket it can use to launch its astronauts into space in 2022.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

9 China
9 Russia
8 SpaceX
5 Europe (Arianespace)
4 India

The U.S. continues to lead in the national rankings, 14 to 9.

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