Tag Archives: government

Cruz’s Space Frontier Act reintroduced; extends ISS to 2030

This week a bi-partisan group of senators reintroduced Senator Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) Space Frontier Act.

The bill closely follows last year’s version of the Space Frontier Act, which Cruz and then-Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) shepherded through the Senate. Most of the bill covers efforts to reform commercial launch and remote sensing regulations in parallel with rulemaking activities currently underway by the Commerce and Transportation Departments. The bill also authorizes an extension of the International Space Station from 2024 to 2030 and elevates the Office of Space Commerce within the Commerce Department to the Bureau of Space Commerce.

They have changed one item that caused the House to reject the bill last year, one that exempted space-related bureaucracies from “the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which sets requirements for public meetings by such committees.” I suspect the exemption was an attempt to keep the job simple for these bureaucracies. At the same time, allowing them to function in the dark as they make regulations is not good either.

I have read through the bill [pdf], and my impression is that it really won’t change much. That it mandates the extension of ISS to 2030 however is important, as this means this big government project will continue to be funded, whether or not it makes sense to do so. Many in the space station private sector have said that it would be better that ISS was gone so that their efforts would not have to compete with it. I’m not sure this is true, however. All NASA really has to do to make ISS more commercially viable is to allow more commercial activities on it, including allowing private companies to attach their own modules that they own and control. Should NASA do this, the objections of the private space station community would become moot.

On a positive note, forcing NASA to continue to support ISS — which does have great value — will make it harder for NASA to find money for its Lunar Gateway boondoggle, a project that to my mind has far less obvious value, especially because it will cost far more than ISS to build and operate.

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A look at the March 31 Ukrainian election

Link here. It appears to be a race between a Trump and two established politicians of mixed qualities.

The choice is stark.

Stay the slow and not-quite-steady course with a deeply unpopular but seasoned leader [incumbent President Petro Poroshenko] who knows the ropes and has taken Ukraine westward despite foot-dragging on reforms and a failure to tackle entrenched corruption.

Go with another veteran [former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko], a political survivor with a dodgy past twice imprisoned by opponents who has lost two presidential elections but is banking on public disappointment and populist promises to carry her to victory.

Or take a chance on a comedian [Volodymyr Zelenskyy]with no experience in politics and governing but who has managed to tap into an antiestablishment mood similar to what’s brought unconventional leaders to power in the West by appealing directly to them for answers.

Right now, the comedian leads in the polls, and in looking at the videos at the link, it sure looks like he is trying to duplicate Trump’s success.

If no one gets 50% in the March 31 election, they will hold a run-off on April 21.

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UK lawmakers reject all Brexit deals

The British parliament today rejected for the third and probably last time the deals negotiated by prime minister Teresa May in connection with her country’s exit from the European Union.

Right now it looks like the UK will leave the European Union on April 12, with no deal. While this possibility is causing heartache and terror among establishment politicians in Europe and Britain, it would honor the will of the voters, who voted to leave, period. The deals that have been offered have generally been a maneuver to nullify that vote.

Those establishment politicians have offered several new options to nullify the voters’ choice, including delaying the exit by a year to allow time for new negotiations, or offering a do-over election. Right now it looks like neither will happen, and Great Britain will leave.

Will an exit be good or bad? It is hard to say, but my sense is that it will be generally good for Great Britain, with most of the suffering focused among the establishment, who have used the EU as a means to power. An exit will strip them of this.

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An explanation of the on-going Israeli elections

Link here. The video at the link is very much worth watching, as it clearly and quickly explains the nature of the on-going Israeli election, while also giving a sense of the present election trends.

Bottom line is that the conservative coalition led by Netanyahu remains solidly in the lead, reinforced by a new poll today.

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Senate rejects Democratic New Green Deal 57-0

The Senate yesterday rejected the Democratic New Green Deal proposal by a vote of 57-0, with 43 Democrats (including Bernie Sanders) voting present.

No senator voted to begin debate on the legislation, while 57 lawmakers voted against breaking the filibuster. Democratic Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona joined 53 Republicans in voting “no.” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who caucuses with the Democrats, also voted “no.”

The vote had been teed up by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a bid to make Democratic senators — including several 2020 presidential candidates — go on the record about the measure. McConnell had called the proposal “a radical, top-down, socialist makeover of the entire U.S. economy.”

The speech that Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) gave prior to the vote is worth watching for every one of its 13 minutes. He describes the substance of this bill quite accurately, and he does so in a most amusing manner.

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The National Space Council’s full recommendations

Yesterday’s meeting of the National Space Council resulted in a number of recommendations beyond vice-president Mike Pence’s announcement that the Trump administration is quite willing to dump SLS if it doesn’t get its act together.

First, see this statement by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. He outlines the tasks that NASA has now been given, including getting astronauts on the Moon by 2024. Those tasks also require NASA to “[s]tay on schedule for flying Exploration Mission-1 with Orion on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket next year, and for sending the first crewed mission to the lunar vicinity by 2022.”

This article at SpacePolicyOnline outlines those tasks in more detail, stating that:

NASA will create a Moon-to-Mars Mission Directorate and make all necessary efforts to achieve Exploration Mission-1 no later than 2020 and Exploration Mission-2 no later than 2022. [emphasis mine]

These announcements inadvertently reveal two facts. First, the establishment of a new directorate at NASA is Bridenstine’s attempt to shake up and take control of NASA’s bureaucracy. This will allow him to put people in place that support his agenda.

Will this work? I doubt it. I have watched NASA administrators do this time after time in the past twenty years, with nothing really changing. In a sense, it is really nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Second, they are admitting here (as indicated by the highlighted words) that the first SLS unmanned launch will not happen in June 2020. They have reviewed everything and realized the fastest way to get this launch off is to allow SLS to launch it, but they have also realized that the June date can’t be met. This announcement gives NASA and Boeing an extra six months, to the end of 2020, to get the mission off the ground.

The recommendations also included the release of major suggested changes to streamline how both the State Department and the FAA regulate commercial space. Neither appear to streamline things much. For example, the FAA’s new rule [pdf] on federal commercial space transportation requirements is only 580 pages long. My eyes glazed over as soon as I started reading it. Similarly, the new State Department procedures appear as complex. I haven’t digested either yet, so my pessimism might be unfounded. We shall see.

All in all, the significance of these policy announcements is not so much in the details, all of which illustrate the continuing incompetence and failures of the federal space bureaucracy. What these announcements instead tell us is that the Trump administration is finally attempting the first baby steps for gaining some measure of control over that federal space bureaucracy. It is telling that bureaucracy that it had finally has to do something, or face the consequences.

Whether the administration’s efforts will succeed however remains very questionable. Many in that bureaucracy and in Congress will oppose this effort. They like things as they are, where billions get distributed throughout the country to their friends, and no one is ever required to accomplish anything. And they have managed for the past twenty years to maintain this status quo. It will not be easy to force a change now.

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India claims it has successfully destroyed a satellite using an anti-sat missile

The new colonial movement: In a speech to his nation today, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that they have successfully completed their first anti-sat test, using a missile to destroy a satellite in low Earth orbit.

The Indian ASAT test is believed to have destroyed either the Microsat-R or the Microsat-TD satellite, likelier the former according to some sources. They were both built by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). ISRO launched the Microsat-R on January 24 this year and the Microsat-TD a year before that.

Prime Minister Modi declared the test, codenamed Mission Shakti, a success and claimed that an ASAT missile had destroyed the satellite in its low-Earth orbit.

The missile in question is described as a kinetic kill vehicle, which means it does not carry any explosives or other devices. Instead, its ‘kill’ capability arises simply from the fact that it smashes into the target satellite and shatters it using its kinetic energy.

At this altitude, about 300 km, experts said that debris from the collision would fall back to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere in a matter of weeks instead of posing a threat to other satellites. As a result, Mission Shakti is called a controlled ASAT test.

What this anti-sat test really demonstrates is India’s ability to to hit a very tiny target that is moving more than 17,000 miles per hour with a missile shot from Earth, which proves they can hit any target on Earth, with great accuracy. And it thus a blunt message to both Pakistan and China. Don’t attack us, because if you do, we have the capability to do you great harm.

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OneSpace orbital launch fails

Capitalism in space? The first orbital launch attempt by China’s smallsat company OneSpace failed today.

No information about the cause of the failure or what happened has been released as yet.

I’m going to say this again: While OneSpace is financed through private capital, like a private company, it is also supervised closely by the Chinese government. It is hardly a private company as we in the West would define it.

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Pence reiterates Trump administration’s willingness to abandon SLS

Turf war! At today’s National Space Council meeting, vice-president Mike Pence reiterated the Trump administration’s willingness to replace SLS with commercial rockets, if that is what it will take to get Americans back to the Moon by 2024.

Pence said the schedule for completing SLS must be accelerated, but also opened the door to using rockets built by a commercial spaceflight company for the lunar mission. “We’re not committed to any one contractor. If our current contractors can’t meet this objective, then we’ll find ones that will,” he said. “And if commercial rockets are the only way to get American astronauts to the moon in the next five years, then commercial rockets it will be.”

It is very clear now that the Trump administration is beginning the political war necessary for shutting down the SLS boondoggle, something that cannot happen easily considering how its large workforce is scattered in so many states and congressional districts. To make it happen, they need to publicly illustrate its failure, repeatedly, but do so in a manner that does not overly antagonize SLS’s supporters. This is why both Pence and NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine have been careful to express support for SLS, even as they hint at its replacement.

The battle is joined, however, and that could be a very good thing for the American space industry, in the coming years.

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OneSpace to attempt first orbital launch this week

OneSpace, one of a bunch of companies in China attempting to launch smallsats, is expected to attempt its first orbital launch this week.

The article gives a nice overview of the present competition in China between several of these smallsat private companies, dubbed OneSpace, LandSpace, ISpace, and LinkSpace. All are funded through private investment capital, so all claim to be a private companies. However, nothing done in space in China is done without the approval and direction of the government. They might be designed as private companies, but they are also designed expressly to serve the needs of the Chinese government. That their company names are all so similar only strengthens this conclusion.

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Key House Democrat announces opposition to Trump’s Space Force proposal

Adam Smith (D-Washington), the House Democrat who now heads the committee that approves military space funding, has announced his opposition to Trump’s Space Force proposal.

He revealed two objections. One, he claimed the proposal was top heavy in management, with its leadership delegated to one civilian and two generals. The second complaint I think is more pertinent.

The Trump proposal includes language about the Space Force’s civilian workforce that the Democrats just can’t stomach. In his statement, Smith says that “a large part of the proposal is an attack on the rights of DoD civilian employees. It asks for broad authority to waive long-standing and effective elements of civil service rules, pay rates, merit-based hiring, and senior civilian management practices.”

As usual, the Democrats are more interested in acting as union reps for the government workforce than serving the needs of the country. Trump’s proposal, as put forth, might not make sense, but Smith is clearly not interested in fixing it. Instead, he wants shape this new bureaucracy so that it provides him and DC with more funding and power. The country can go to hell.

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Russia cuts Proton price to match SpaceX

Capitalism in space: Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, yesterday said that Russia will cut costs so that the price they charge for a Proton launch will match SpaceX.

Russia is struggling to regain its Proton customer base after the launch failures of the past few years. I don’t think matching SpaceX’s prices will do it. Right now satellite companies view them as offering a less reliable product, and until they can prove this impression false they need to offer their rocket for even less that SpaceX.

This is in fact what SpaceX did at the beginning. Its rockets were untested and thus risky to use. To compensate they offered a cheaper way to space. Now Russia has to do the same, or the business will continue to go to others. I wonder if Rogozin understands this.

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Update of Starhopper testing in Texas

Link here. Nothing spectacular yet, just steady and relatively quick developments.

I did find one aspect of these events a little disturbing:

In quick order, residents of Boca Chica Village were notified via mail of imminent tests and road closures that would occur as early as this week, the week of 18 March.

The notice to residents revealed that a security checkpoint would be set up on the road leading to Boca Chica Village and that residents would have to show proof of residence in order to gain access to their homes; any passengers in those vehicles would also have to show proof of residence.

This indicates that no guests will be allowed past the security checkpoint during the coming flight test operations of Starhopper.

A hard checkpoint beyond which no access to Boca Chica Beach will be granted will be further down the road.

By what right do the authorities have the power to prevent American citizens from bringing guests to their homes? None. If I lived in this development I would fight this, hard.

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European Court upholds conviction for condemning Mohammad’s child marriage

Fascist Europe: The European Court today upheld the Austrian conviction and punishment of a woman merely because she gave a talk where she described and then condemned Mohammad’s child marriage to a six-year-old, that he consummated with a rape when the child was nine.

Sabaditsch-Wolff, a diplomat’s daughter who has lived and worked in the Middle East, was censured for having spoken at a meeting organized by the right-wing Austrian Freedom Party 10 years ago in Vienna. Her intention was to speak about the treatment of women and the practice of jihad (“Holy War”) in countries such as Iran and Libya, on the basis of her own experience.

During her speech aimed at an audience of about 30 people, she spoke freely about the prophet Muhammad and his relationship with Aisha, whom he saw and desired when she was six years old. He married her on the spot, and the union was consummated when she was nine. He “liked to do it with children,” she said, adding that she had argued with her sister about the words she would use to describe the facts.

She insisted on being straightforward: “A 56-year-old and a six-year-old? What do we call it, if it is not pedophilia?”

A journalist present at the meeting taped her words. His editor-in-chief went on to turn them over to the police, and Sabaditsch-Wolff was indicted for inciting hatred toward Muslims and for having disparaged their prophet as unworthy of veneration.

She was not found guilty of the first violation. But she was condemned for the “disparagement” in 2011 to a 480-euro fine (about 550 U.S. dollars) or up to 60 days imprisonment.

The court has essentially endorsed the heckler’s veto, though we all know that if a Christian tried to do the same they would be denied. What will now happen is that the European Union will team up with vast numbers of new Muslim immigrants it forced its member nations to accept in the past decade to impose sharia on Europe.

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Does the Mueller report suggest there is hope?

I have come to three somewhat contradictory conclusions in thinking this weekend about the unexpectedly reasonable conclusions announced in the final Mueller report, stating that, despite two years of intense investigation which at times bordered on a witch hunt, there was no collusion between Trump and the Russians to win the election.

1. Robert Mueller is a hack who works hard for the liberal Washington swamp, doing their bidding whenever he can. The summary letter of his report by Attorney General William Barr inadvertently reveals this.

In the first paragraph of Barr’s letter he describes Mueller’s report has entitled “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.” This would imply that Mueller’s goal was to investigate all possible aspects of Russian interference, including collusion that might have also taken place in the Clinton campaign.

However, in the very next paragraph Barr states,
» Read more

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Rogozin: Investigation into Soyuz sabotage to continue on ISS

In his remarks to journalists today Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin also said that the Russian investigation into the hole that was drilled in a Soyuz capsule last year is not over, and that they plan to do further “experiments” on ISS.

“The samples collected on the ISS are insufficient for final conclusions. Apparently, additional experiments in orbit will be required,” Rogozin said.

What those “additional experiments in orbit” will be was not explained. I suspect he is referring to the security cameras the Russians are installing on their part of ISS, with the hope of catching the saboteur in the act.

What I think is going on here is that they have not been able to uncover who did this on the ground, and are now trying to imply it might have been sabotage by a U.S. astronaut. Rogozin can’t say this outright, because he wants to keep good relations with the U.S. in the partnership on ISS. He can hint at it, however, and let his own press run with it.

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Russia offers to take over ISS if US exits

How kind of them! Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, told journalists today that Russia has formulated a proposal to take over ISS operations completely should the U.S. withdraw from the station.

“This is Roscosmos’ proposal. We believe that we can keep the station in case the Americans decide to withdraw from this project, through other countries and partners. We have technological and technical capabilities to keep the station on the orbit and fully provide both electric energy and water there,” Rogozin said.

Roscosmos’ director general explained that the Russian section may add new modules on the basis of the Science-Power Module (SPM), the first version of which will be launched to the station in 2022. “Here the Russian Federation has a unique opportunity. We can duplicate the SPM. Its design makes it possible to turn into home for other states – there can be the SPM-2, SPM-3, SPM-4, they may grow further, extending the international part of the station. We formulated this proposal, and we suggest our new partners doing it,” Rogozin said. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted text reveals Russia’s real goal. They take over station operations, and then sell to other nations modules for the station. Does the UAE want its own space station manned program? Buy a Russian-built module of your own, get it attached to ISS, and “Voila!” you have a very sophisticated and relatively permanent in-space facility all your own. And Russia will provide you the manned ferrying services!

This idea makes great sense. The Russians could even do it should the U.S. stick with ISS. It allows them to offer something far superior to the private, small, and short-lived separate station modules that a variety of private American companies are developing and offering for purchase or rent.

Of course, NASA could do the same, by allowing our private companies to attach modules of their own to ISS, for their own purposes. Historically, however, NASA’s management has been hostile to private enterprise, and in the past has frequently acted to oppose independent commercial activities on ISS. For example, when Russians wanted to fly Dennis Tito to ISS NASA strongly opposed this, and tried to stop it.

NASA has been changing in the past decades, however, so it could be that if the Russians push this hard, the competition could help the factions in NASA who are favor of private and free competition gain control of station management.

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Mueller submits report, ends investigation

Special Council Robert Mueller today submitted his report to his new boss Attorney General Bill Barr at the Department of Justice, officially ending his two year long investigation that was supposedly aimed at proving collusion between Donald Trump and the Russian government in order to get him elected.

In those two years, Mueller made a few indictments, none of which had anything to do with Trump-Russian collusion. Most were process crimes, created during the investigation against individuals for either not answering questions perfectly or because Mueller went on a fishing expedition until he found something. None would have happened had this faux investigation had not been instigated.

Moreover, according to the news story at the link, Mueller is “not recommending any further indictments” with this submission.

Or to put it more bluntly, this was all a sham, aimed at deposing the legally elected president of the United States.

Meanwhile, evidence of real collusion, involving Obama and Hillary Clinton and the Russians, was ignored, and in fact the FBI took hostile actions against those involved in revealing it.

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Yutu-2 heads west!

LRO images of Yutu-2 on the Moon
Click for full image.

A new image from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) shows the path taken by the Chinese lunar rover Yutu-2 during its second lunar day of travel on the Moon. The LRO images on the right, cropped and reduced in resolution to show here, compares the rovers position at the start and end of February. The white arrow indicates the rover, with its Chang’e-4 lander visible between the three craters to the east. As noted by the LRO science team:

LRO passes over any given place on the Moon at least once every month (in the daylight), allowing the westward progress of the Yutu-2 rover to be seen. At the end of February, Yutu-2 was 69 meters from it’s home base, the Chang’e 4 lander; LROC images show Yutu-2 made 46 meters of westward progress during the month of February.

It appears from these orbital images that they are taking the smoothest route, with the fewest obstacles, away from the lander.

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Air Force’s launch contracting plans under scrutiny

It appears the Air Force wants to decide now which two rocket companies it will use for its launch needs in the 2022 to 2026 time period, and this desire is raising hackles among those companies.

[T]he Air Force will choose only two companies to meet its launch needs from 2022 to 2026, with one provider winning 60 percent of the contracts and the other taking 40 percent. There is no provision to on-ramp other companies during the time frame.

This sets up a rather frantic competition between the incumbents, ULA and SpaceX, and newcomers Blue Origin (with its New Glenn booster) and Northrop Grumman (with its Omega rocket). Moreover, the timing appears to prejudice the competition in favor of the incumbents, which already have existing launch systems the government can assess.

Something is really fishy here. Why does the Air Force need to limit its services to only two companies? And why do they have to make this decision now, three to seven years before the launches will occur? Common sense says you instead issue specific contract bids, for each launch, as they are needed, thus allowing as many companies as possible to compete for the business.

In fact, this policy seems to directly contradict the Air Force’s stated goal, repeated many times in the past few years, to widen competition in the launch industry, both to lower cost and to give the military strategic redundancy in its needed launch services.

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China’s future lunar exploration plans

In a poster presented on Tuesday at this week’s 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas, China outlined its future plans for lunar exploration.

Systematically considering the major scientific issues of the Moon and the lunar in-situ utilization resources, Chinese scientists and technical experts have proposed a vision to preliminarily build a research station on the Moon’s South Pole by implementing 3-4 missions before 2035.

The first mission will carry out a comprehensive exploration in the South Pole of the Moon, including the topography, elemental composition and volatile contents of the Moon, and the information on the structure of the South Pole from shallow to deep levels. Water (ice) in the permanent shadow area was detected in-situ to reveal the content, distribution and source of water and volatiles on the surface of the Moon. After that, a sampling return mission will be arranged to collect samples from the South Pole of the Moon and return them to the Earth. In addition to the scientific exploration of the Moon, the utilization of lunar resources should also be taken into consideration. In later missions, lunar platforms will be used to make astronomical or earth observations and to consider the use of lunar resources. [emphasis mine]

China clearly intends to put its footprints on the Moon. It is not fiddling around with an orbital lunar station, as it looks like we are with NASA’s Gateway project. While China explores the surface, we will be stuck in orbit (maybe).

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Boeing delays unmanned test flight of manned capsule

According to this story today, Boeing has delayed from April to August its first unmanned test flight of its Starliner manned capsule. It has also delayed the first manned flight from August to November.

NASA refused to comment other to say it would announce new schedules next week. The article also stated this:

The initial April launch was ahead of a United Launch Alliance mission for the Department of Defense in June from the Cape Canaveral launch pad in Florida, so Boeing would have needed to clear the launch pad by the first week in May, one of the sources said, describing the pressure not just on technical issues but also launch schedules at Cape Canaveral.

I suspect the technical issues are related to Boeing’s need to do more tests of the attitude thrusters on Starliner following the leak that occurred in a test last summer.

I also hope that next week’s announcement will reveal a firming up of SpaceX’s schedule. By now they should have a good idea of when they can do their launch abort test reusing the Dragon capsule used during their successful first unmanned test flight in March. That will in turn allow them to firm up the launch date for the first manned flight.

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Andrew Yang: the fascist future of the Democratic Party

Want to know what the future of the Democratic Party will be? You need only take a look at the stated presidential goals of Andrew Yang.

Yang’s proposals in the first two stories would violate the first amendment of the Bill of Rights, having government impose its will on both free speech and religion. His proposal in the third story would bankrupt the nation while imposing back-breaking taxes on everyone. The result would be Soviet- and Venezuelan-style socialism/communism. And anyone with even the slightest education can imagine where that will get us.

The fourth story illustrates his uneducated narcissism. He fears that automation and robots are going to put people out of work forever, and wants to use the power of government to fix this danger.

Even if he is right about the dangers of automation, however, what makes him think he is so smart that he has the slightest idea what to do? He doesn’t. No single human ever does on problems of this complexity. Instead, the free market usually answers the problem quite effectively. Remember Aesop’s fable about necessity being the mother of invention?

If automation kills some jobs, others will pop up to replace them. This is what happened in the 1960s and 1970s when the first wave of panic occurred over automation. Then there were numerous articles about how automation was going to put everyone out of work. It never happened, and it won’t happen in the future.

Yang will probably not be the Democratic Party candidate for president. Still, his stance and nonchalant willingness to violate the Constitution to impose his will on others is very typical of most young Democrats. This is where that party is heading, even as it embraces bigotry and anti-Semitism, while working to corrupt the election process.

Yang is typical of the young Democratic Party. That future should send chills up the spine of every free American. As I’ve said repeatedly, they’re coming for you next.

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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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