Tag Archives: policy

Northrop Grumman leases part of VAB for assembling Omega rocket

Northrop Grumman has become the first private company to lease a bay of the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center, where it will its new OmegA rocket.

Northrop Grumman will assemble and test its new OmegA rocket inside the massive facility’s High Bay 2, one of four high bays in the building. … The company also is modifying mobile launcher platform-3 (MLP-3) to serve as the launch vehicle’s assembly and launch platform. Both the VAB and MLP-3 were originally built for the Apollo Program and went on to enable the three-decade Space Shuttle Program.

OmegA’s development is being funded by an $800 million contract with the Air Force.

In many ways, I could ask the exact same question here as I just did in the post below about the Chinese government’s pseudo private launch industry: From an American private enterprise perspective, this Air Force attempt to create a commercial launch industry using government funds but tight government supervision and control is very puzzling. OmegA will be competing directly with other American launch companies that are privately funded, owned, and run by private corporations (though also getting significant government contracts for their already operational products). How the federal government prevents its government agencies (NASA, the Air Force) from putting their thumbs on the scale to favor one over the other I do not understand.

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China launches three satellites on new rocket

China today successfully completed the first orbital launch of its privately-funded but government-built smallsat Smart Dragon rocket, putting three smallsats into orbit.

From the Chinese state press:

The rocket, developed by the China Rocket Co. Ltd. affiliated to the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALVT), blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 12:11 p.m. (Beijing Time).

The three satellites, respectively developed by three Beijing-based companies, will be used for remote sensing services, communication and Internet of Things.

Different from the carrier rockets of the Long March family, the new Dragon series is developed in a commercial mode to meet the market demand of launching small commercial satellites, said Wang Xiaojun, head of CALVT.

What they mean by “a commercial mode” is that the funding comes from private Chinese investors who hope to make money from the rocket’s launches. However, this is not a private operation by any means, since the rocket is owned and built by a government entity and uses military solid motors.

From an American perspective, this Chinese attempt to create a commercial launch industry using private funds but tight government supervision and control is very puzzling. This government company is now competing directly with other Chinese launch companies that are, at least superficially, owned and run by private corporations (though also supervised closely by the government). How the Chinese government prevents its government agencies from putting their thumbs on the scale to favor one over the other I do not understand.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

12 Russia
12 China
10 SpaceX
6 Europe (Arianespace)
4 India

The U.S leads 17 to 12 over Russia and China in the national rankings.

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Marshall wins Artemis manned Moon lander pork

As expected and despite opposition from some Texas lawmakers, NASA yesterday announced that it has given the bulk of the management of its Artemis manned lunar lander project to the Marshall Space Flight Center.

Marshall will be in charge of two of the contractors who will build what NASA conceives as three components for the lander: the transfer vehicle, the descent module, and the upper ascent stage:

The lunar lander, consisting of three components, also will be launched atop commercial rockets and docked at the Gateway before any astronauts arrive. One component, a sort of carrier craft known as a transfer vehicle, would take the lander from Gateway down to a lower orbit. From there, the lander’s descent module will make a rocket-powered landing on the moon, initially carrying two astronauts.

The astronauts would ride down to the surface in the pressurized cabin of an upper ascent stage. That stage will use the descent module as a launching pad, much like the Apollo astronauts did 50 years ago, to climb back up to the transfer vehicle and then on to Gateway.

Marshall will supervise construction of the transfer vehicle and the descent module, while the Johnson Space Center in Texas will manage construction of the upper ascent stage.

Does no one in NASA or the Trump administration see the stupidity of this? It is as if Ford decided that the interior and exterior sections of its cars will be assembled in two different factories, and only combined after they are assembled. The logistics of making sure they will fit and work together during final assembly could only increase costs, delay assembly, and almost guarantee engineering issues. No intelligently run business would do such a thing.

Government however is not an intelligently run business. It is run by politicians, whom we the public have not held to any kind of quality standard for the past half century. Thus, NASA is forced to spread this pork around because politicians in Alabama (Senator Richard Shelby) and Texas (Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn) demand it do so.

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A directory of skeptical climate websites

Link here. The list is very comprehensive, including many of the sites I check frequently. Note too that many of these sites are very rigorous in the analysis of data, often far more rigorous than many modern peer-reviewed climate papers I read.

As they are skeptical, so should you be. Don’t take anything said at these sites at face value, but don’t dismiss what they say outright either. Pay attention, because you might find that you will become more discerning in the future when you are bombarded with chicken-little pronouncements from the global warming activist crowd.

One quote from the article bears some contemplating:

Virtually all powerful vested interests in the Western hemisphere recognize climate change alarm as leverage to impose self-serving policies and garner higher profits. The reasons for this are myriad. [The article then lists sixteen such reasons, all well known and well documented.]

Taken individually, each of these reasons—and this list undoubtedly omits additional special interests that benefit from climate change alarm—represent a profound shift in public policy. Each of them represents investments skewing away from optimal returns and instead towards returns that favor a politically entitled group. The overall impact of all of them is regressive, increasing the cost-of-living for the most economically vulnerable populations.

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Tlaib lies about desire to visit grandmother in West Bank

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaid (D-Michigan), banned by the Israeli government from making a political trip to visit Israel and the West Bank, then wrote a private letter to Israel interior minister Aryeh Deri, asking for permission to just go to the West Bank to visit her aged grandmother.

In a letter obtained by CNN, Deri revealed Tlaib had requested and was granted permission to enter the West Bank to visit her grandmother, who is 90 years old. “This could be my last opportunity to see her. I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit,” the Michigan Democrat wrote to Deri. [emphasis mine]

As soon as the interior minister gave her this permission, Tlaib then announced publicly today that she would not accept this offer:

“Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in–fighting against racism, oppression & injustice,”

As the interior minister noted correctly today, “I agreed to this humanitarian request, but it turns out that it was just a provocation aimed at embarrassing Israel.”

Tlaib is a dishonest liar who hates Israel and all Jews. She allies herself with the worst Jew-hating Palestinians who want to wipe Israel out and kill all the Jews that live there. It thus no surprise that Israel banned her political visit. (And if you doubt the anti-Semitism of Tlaib and her partner Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota), read this story: Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib Partnered with Vicious Anti-Semites to Plan Their Trip to Israel.)

Yet, that Israel still was willing to let her come, on the condition it was only to visit her grandmother, says a great deal about Israel itself.

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Protest filed against NASA contract awards for unmanned lunar landers

Deep Space Systems, one of the private companies that bid for a NASA contract to build a private lunar lander to carry NASA instruments to the moon, and did not get the contract, has filed a protest against that decision.

I found out about this through my industry sources. I have no further information about the protest itself.

The timeline however is intriguing. The contracts were awarded to three different companies on May 31, 2019. Deep Space Systems’ protest was filed on June 24, 2019.

On July 30, 2019 one of contract winners, Orbit Beyond, backed out of the deal. Whether the protest or Orbit Beyond’s exit are related is at present unknown, though I wonder if they might be connected.

Either way, the question now arises: Who will replace Orbit Beyond? I also wonder if this protest gives Deep Space Systems an advantage for getting that replacement contract. This last thought is pure speculation and very unlikely. There are several other companies that are more well known and might be better qualified, and it would be inappropriate for NASA to allow its decision-making process to be pressured because of this protest.

Regardless, stay tuned for more information. This story is going to get more interesting.

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When told Clinton’s missing classified emails were sent to gmail, FBI was uninterested

But Russia! A new Senate report has revealed that the computer specialist hired by Hillary Clinton to wipe her private server had copied and sent all her missing classified emails to an ordinary gmail account, and when this illegal fact was revealed to fired FBI agent Peter Strzok, in charge of the investigation, Strzok had no interest in following up.

Virtually every single one of Hillary Clinton’s emails were sent, potentially secretly, to a cryptically named Gmail address, according to a new Senate report.

The finding, which has not been previously reported, means that Clinton’s emails, including classified ones and ones which were later deleted, likely existed on Google’s U.S.-based servers. The FBI said in the report that it knew this — and of the suspicious explanation for it — but did not alert other intelligence agencies or the public, according to the report.

The FBI says that the suspicious Gmail address was set up by an IT aide, Paul Combetta, who worked for a company that managed Clinton’s server. Combetta is the same IT aide who used BleachBit to permanently erase copies of Clinton’s emails after they were subpoenaed by the House, misled the FBI about it, and was given immunity from prosecution, all while asking for basic computing advice on Reddit.

This story confirms several blatantly obvious facts, as well as reveals some new ones about the partisan agenda of the FBI.

First, we must underline again the very obvious fact that Hillary Clinton had broken the law by using a private email server. There is no question about this. If she was brought to trial on this charge the evidence would have her found guilty in a nanosecond.

Second, Peter Strzok’s disinterest in the facts against her, and the support he got at the time from his superiors, provides more proof of the FBI’s pro-Democrat partisanship and its willingness to provide cover for Clinton, for political reasons. The FBI at the end of the Obama administration was entirely corrupt, and willing to be weaponized to help Democrats (and Clinton) win elections. After Trump won it then became weaponized to try to overturn that election.

Third, this story strongly implies that those missing emails, more than thirty thousand, might very well be recoverable. They were sent to Google, and Google is notorious for keeping material it isn’t supposed to keep. Moreover, the report appears to confirm earlier news reports that Clinton’s unsecured emails had been captured by outside hackers tied to China, which means that China probably has them also.

In other words, Trump’s joke asking the Russians to provide them to us was wrong. He should have been asking the Chinese.

Jokes aside, this evidence proves that many people from the Obama administration should be prosecuted for a variety of crimes, the worst of which was an effort to interfere with a legal and constitutional election. Whether that happens remains very doubtful in my mind, considering how much illegality Democratic politicians have gotten away with in recent years.

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The Philippines creates its own space agency

The new colonial movement: Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, today signed a new law creating that country’s own space agency.

According to the law, the Philippine Space Policy focuses on six key development areas: national security and development, hazard management, climate studies, space research and development, space industry capacity building, and space education and awareness.

In an interview with ANC News, Marciano said that research facilities will be built in the upcoming development New Clark City in Pampanga province. Under the Philippine Space Development Fund, approximately $190 million will be dedicated to the development of PhilSA across five years.

In reading the law itself, it appears that this is mostly a governmental power play, taking over supervision of any space-related industries while justifying some pork and bureaucracy.

The Philippines wants to compete for the future resources of space, but like India, UAE, and most other third world nations they are copying the worst aspects of the model created by the U.S. in the 1960s: a government-run program that designs and controls everything. This can work for awhile, assuming your society and government is not very corrupt (which was the case initially with NASA in the U.S.). In the end however the dry rot sets in, and the whole thing becomes a fake government jobs program, accomplishing relatively little for the money spent.

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Texas and Alabama fight over space pork

Turf war: Several powerful Texas lawmakers announced yesterday their opposition to NASA’s decision to give the lead management for the next lunar lander to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

The question is which Center will manage development of the landers, a plum assignment. NASA plans to procure them through public-private partnerships rather than traditional contracts. The actual design will be determined by whatever companies win the contracts, but NASA’s concept is for a trilogy of vehicles: a transfer vehicle to take the crew from the Gateway to a lower lunar orbit, then a descent vehicle to take them to the surface and an ascent vehicle to return them to Gateway.

…According to Ars Technica, … NASA is assigning overall responsibility for the lunar lander program to Marshall, which will also oversee acquisition of the transfer and descent vehicles. JSC will oversee the ascent vehicle.

In a letter to Bridenstine today, Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and Rep. Brian Babin, all Republicans, expressed surprise and asked Bridenstine to reconsider. They argue that JSC should be in charge of the entire program, not just one of the three vehicles. Marshall’s expertise is in rocketry while JSC is “ground zero for human space exploration.”

They also disagree with splitting the work between two Centers, “an unnecessary and counterproductive departure from the unquestionable success” of the lander for the Apollo program.

This fight is not over who will actually build anything, but how to distribute the pork. In truth, the NASA agency that does this “management” does almost nothing. It is the contractor that builds the spacecraft. You could condense the management into a team of less two dozen (and that’s probably high). Instead, NASA and these politicians use the contractors to justify the existence of whole departments and hundreds of employees and large facilities, all of which are mostly irrelevant, especially if the Trump administration is serious about letting private industry do the job.

Worse, this fight — and NASA’s need to make these politicians happy — is forcing the agency to turn the work once again into a Frankenstein monster, distributing responsibility in absurd ways. I guarantee that in the end the management will not all go to Texas, meaning that the management of the different contractors will be split to different agencies, making for a very inefficient and badly managed program.

The result is going to be, as always, delays, cost overruns, bad designs, a lot of wasted money, and little accomplished.

I want to make special note of Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in this affair. He ran for president as a new conservative, out to drain the swamp of Washington. Now, as senator, he is increasingly becoming captured by that swamp, participating in all the same corruption he railed against during his presidential run.

If he was really serious about draining the swamp, he would be pushing to trim NASA’s management, both in Alabama and in Texas. Instead he is fighting to build it up.

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Fascist and Democratic-controlled California

Two stories yesterday suggested that there might be hope that a revolt might be brewing in California against the fascist Democratic one-party rule that presently dominates the state:

In the first story, a Republican defeated a leftist Democratic — who favored the socialist New Green Deal put forth by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) — for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council.

In the second story it appears that Trump is actually raising more money in California than most of the Democratic candidates for president, and he is doing it with mostly small donations.

I wouldn’t get your hopes up. In Los Angeles the victor won but only narrowly. As for California’s campaign donations, Trump’s totals ($3.2 million) pale in comparison to the more than $26 million Californians have donated to all the Democratic candidates total.

Meanwhile, the state’s Department of Education has accepted an anti-Semitic and ethnic studies curriculum fashioned by academics and politicians blatantly hostile to both Israel and Jews.

The proposed curriculum section on “Arab American Studies Course Outline” contains a number of passages concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as “Direct Action Front for Palestine and Black Lives Matter,” “Call to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel” and “Comparative Border Studies: Palestine and Mexico.” It also includes studying national figures such as Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the late Columbia University professor Edward Said, Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour, the late radio personality Casey Kasem, actress Alia Shawkat and the late White House correspondent Helen Thomas—all of whom are associated with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric, and in the case of the congresswomen, a push to enact legislation punishing Israel.

As for the Holocaust and past oppression against Jews, the curriculum considers these irrelevant, and leaves them out completely.

Nor is this the only example of California’s growing totalitarian culture. In 2018 the one-party Democratic legislature passed a law that requires
» Read more

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Israel to block entry to Muslim anti-Israeli Congresswomen

The Netanyahu Israeli government today announced that it will not allow Muslim congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) to enter their country because of their anti-Israeli boycott stances.

“As a vibrant and free democracy, Israel is open to any critic and criticism, with one exception,” Netanyahu said. “Israel’s law prohibits the entry of people who call and operate to boycott Israel, as is the case with other democracies that prevent the entry of people whose perception harms the country. “The same is true of the US towards an Israeli Knesset and other public figures in the world.”Congressmen Talib and Omar are leading activists in promoting boycott legislation against Israel in the US Congress. Only a few days ago, we received their visitation plan, and it became clear that they were planning a campaign whose sole purpose was to strengthen the boycott and negate Israel’s legitimacy.”

That both congresswomen are anti-Semites might also have been a factor in this decision.

Recognize this: Democrat politicians can spout ugly lies as much as they want (“All Trump voters are white supremacists!”), they can act to silence all opposition, they can even threaten the lives of anyone who disagrees with them, but should even one conservative dare, dare, to fight back it is considered behavior worse than Hitler.

Bah. I say good for Netanyahu and the Israelis. Tell these bigots to go jump in a lake. Let them scream and yell and throw tantrums. It will only better reveal how hateful these congresswomen really are.

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French solar road a total failure

The first French attempt to build a road that had solar panels embedded in it to produce power has turned out to be a total failure, after only two years.

Despite the hype surrounding solar roads, two years after this one was introduced as a trial, the project has turned out to be a colossal failure — it’s neither efficient nor profitable, according to a report by Le Monde.

The unfortunate truth is that this road is in such a poor state, it isn’t even worth repairing. Last May, a 100-meter stretch had deteriorated to such a state that it had to be demolished. According to Le Monde’s report, various components of the road don’t fit properly — panels have come loose and some of the solar panels have broken into fragments.

On top of the damage and poor wear of the road, the Normandy solar track also failed to fulfill its energy-production goals. The original aim was to produce 790 kWh each day, a quantity that could illuminate a population of between 3,000 and 5,000 inhabitants. But the rate produced stands at only about 50% of the original predicted estimates.

The article notes that a 230-foot-long Dutch solar bicycle path has been more successful, meeting its energy goals. It also has not deteriorated. I suspect that both results are because it is being used by bicycles and pedestrians, not cars.

What always bothers me about these projects is not their sincere good intentions, but the unwillingness of their promoters to honestly assess the final results, good or bad. They laud the project’s good intentions as if that is all that matters, and rip into anyone who questions the practicality of the project. When the project fails these same promoters, usually politicians, disappear into the darkness, ignoring the bad result as they promote some new pie-in-the-sky proposal.

In this context I am especially reminded of Democratic politicians who loved Venezuela’s socialist experiment, until it went bankrupt as every socialist experiment always does.

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A review of Glenn Reynolds’ The Social Media Upheaval:
A Modern Call for Freedom

We have a free speech problem in America, and it isn’t because our government is trying to restrict our speech.

The problem exists because almost all our speech today is fed through a tiny handful of giant social media outlets, Google, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and Twitter, all of whom seem dominated by leftists and partisan Democratic Party ideaology.

Only last week we saw a perfect example of this problem. A mob of protesters had gathered outside the private home of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) because he refused to acquiesce meekly to draconian new gun control laws.

Several protesters shouted threatening obscenities against McConnell and his wife, with the leader of the local Kentucky chapter of Black Lives Matter, Chanelle Helm, screaming for someone to “just stab the mother-%#$&!&/!”

McConnell’s campaign office then followed the next day with the following tweet:

Last night, an angry left-wing mob of Amy McGrath supporters stormed Senator McConnell’s Louisville home screaming obscenities and hoping someone would “just stab the mother****** in the heart.”

The tweet then linked to a video showing this mob’s violent chants and death threats.

Twitter’s response? It suspended McConnell’s account, even though he threatened no one and merely wanted to highlight the vicious ugliness of his opponents. Meanwhile the tech giant continued to allow direct statements of violence against the right by many leftists, including one thread dubbed “#MassacreMitch,” with no consequences.

Only after the Republican Party threatened to pull all of its advertising from Twitter did that social media giant finally back down and reinstate the McConnell account, though it added a warning tag to the video.

Twitter, like Google and Facebook, has decided to take sides in the political battles that this country is now undergoing. And with their almost godlike total power over internet access, these tech giants are in a position to very effectively censor any opposition to their political goals.

So what do we do? In an effort to make an intelligent stab at this issue, Glenn Reynolds, law professor at the University of Tennessee and the manager of the internet site Instapundit, has recently written a book on the subject, The Social Media Upheaval (Encounter Books 2019). As the book’s Amazon page notes,
» Read more

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Hong Kong airport reopens as protesters retreat

It appears the actions by Chinese riot police yesterday has caused the airport protesters in Hong Kong to back off and allow the airport to reopen.

Most of the protesters left the airport Tuesday after riot police tried to enter the terminal, fighting with demonstrators who barricaded entrances with luggage carts. The brief clash led to several injuries.

The violence included protesters beating up at least two men they suspected of being undercover Chinese agents. Airport security appeared unable to control the crowd, and paramedics later took both men away. Police have acknowledged using “decoy” officers, and some protesters over the weekend were seen being arrested by men dressed like demonstrators — in black and wearing face masks.

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, identified one of the men as a journalist at the nationalistic Chinese tabloid. “Fu Guohao, reporter of GT website is being seized by demonstrators at HK airport,” Hu wrote on his Twitter account. “I affirm this man being tied in this video is the reporter himself. He has no other task except for reporting.”

The protesters apologized that some of them had become “easily agitated and overreacted.” On posters, the demonstrators said they have been “riddled with paranoia and rage” after discovering undercover police officers in their ranks.

Meanwhile the article describes other clashes elsewhere in Hong Kong. The conflict in Hong Kong does not appear to be over, by any means.

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Chandrayaan-2 successfully puts itself in route to the Moon

Chandrayaan-2 today successfully completed its last Earth perigee burn, raising its orbital apogee so that it will enter the Moon’s gravitational sphere of influence on August 20th.

Chandrayaan-2 will approach Moon on August 20, 2019 and the spacecraft’s liquid engine will be fired again to insert the spacecraft into a lunar orbit. Following this, there will be further four orbit maneuvers to make the spacecraft enter into its final orbit passing over the lunar poles at a distance of about 100 km from the Moon’s surface.

…Subsequently, Vikram lander will separate from the orbiter on September 02, 2019. Two orbit maneuvers will be performed on the lander before the initiation of powered descent to make a soft landing on the lunar surface on September 07, 2019.

Vikram will be doing the hardest part, the landing.

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Arecibo gets $12.3 million NSF grant

The National Science Foundation has awarded the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rica a $12.3 million grant to pay for needed repairs and upgrades following the hurricane damage from 2017.

The money will pay for the following work:

  • Repairing one of the suspension cables holding the primary telescope platform, ensuring long-term structural integrity of one of the main structural elements of the telescope.
  • Recalibrating the primary reflector, which will restore the observatory’s sensitivity at higher frequencies.
  • Aligning the Gregorian Reflector, improving current calibration and pointing.
  • Installing a new control system for S band radar, which is part of the microwave band of the electromagnetic spectrum.
  • Replacing the modulator on the 430 MHz transmitter, increasing consistency of power output and data quality.
  • Improving the telescope’s pointing controls and data tracking systems.

Most of this looks to be very basic maintenance, which suggests the telescope is still very starved for funds.

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Riot police attack Hong Kong airport protesters

Riot police today attacked the Hong Kong airport protesters, storming into their midst with batons and pepper spray.

CNN International reported, following the police operation that reporters witnessed at least four arrests and that officers appeared to be targeting specific people. To get through the protesters, police used pepper spray and batons to push back the crowd. According to an official statement from Hong Kong police, airport officials requested that the riot officers enter the airport to rescue a man who protesters had apprehended and accused of being an undercover police officer. The South China Morning Post also reported that the airport received a court injunction requesting police remove the protesters from the premises, though Hong Kong police did not issue an official statement to that effect and officers left without clearing out every protester.

Pro-democracy protesters shut down the airport Tuesday for the second day in a row, forcing administrators to cancel all flights, in a bid to get the China-controlled Hong Kong government to listen to their demands. Some protesters appeared to panic and target others suspected of working for the communist government after officials admitted this weekend that officers had dressed up as protesters to infiltrate the marches.

So far this attack today does not appear to be an effort to shut the protest down with violence. It appears that after extracting two men, possibly pro-China reporters, the police retreated, though the authorities are now limiting access to the airport, probably with the goal of starving the protest with a lack of new supporters.

A very sad messy situation. The Chinese want to impose its tyranny on Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s citizens want to remain free. The result are street protests that can only turn violent, one way or the other, because China’s government is very unlikely to back down.

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NASA extends life of private BEAM module

Capitalism in space: Having found that Bigelow’s privately built ISS module BEAM has exceeded its design capabilities, NASA has now decided to leave it docked to ISS for at least five more years, using it as a storage bin.

BEAM cost NASA a whopping $17 million, considerably less than it has traditionally spent (a billion-plus) for its previous ISS modules, designed and built under full NASA supervision.

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Linkspace completes vertical take-off and landing test

China’s semi-private company Linkspace on August 9 successfully completed its highest vertical take-off and landing test flight yet, flying to a height of 300 meters.

The 8.1-meter-tall, 0.65-meter-diameter, 1.5-metric-ton rocket reached an altitude of 300.2 meters during its 50-second flight before making a powered descent and vertical landing with an accuracy of 0.07 meters, Linkspace CEO Hu Zhenyu stated on Sina Weibo, a Chinese Twitter-like service. The launch follows two tests reaching 20 and 40 meters in March and April respectively.

The latest test was carried out at a new facility in the Lenghu region of Qinghai province in the northwest of the country. Chinese magazine Future Aerospace states that the RLV-T5 is powered by five variable-thrust rocket engines which use ethanol and liquid oxygen, a propellant combination used by the German V2 rockets.

Unlike the other new semi-private Chinese commercial companies, Linkspace appears to be using liquid fueled rockets, rather than depending on military solid rocket technology. This suggests to me that this company, aggressively supervised by the Chinese government, will eventually be going for both the small and big orbital business, not just smallsats.

I also give credit to the Chinese, both their government and this company, for quickly facing reality posed by SpaceX’s capabilities and working to develop their own rocket reusability as fast as possible. In contrast, Europe, Russia, and the old American big rocket companies have mostly sat twiddling their thumbs, making believe that this capability is either irrelevant, or still impossible, even as SpaceX has taken all of their business because it can undercut their prices significantly as it repeatedly re-uses its Falcon 9 first stages.

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Blue Origin protests Air Force launch procurement process

Blue Origin has submitted a protest to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) yesterday about the Air Force plan to pick two launch providers now for all its satellite launches after 2026.

According to a copy of the protest obtained by FLORIDA TODAY, the ordering period for the launches would run from 2020 to 2024 and ultimately select two contractors for flights beginning in 2026.

“The most recent market research, however, indicates the total global addressable space launch market, including NSSL launches, could support three or even four U.S. launch companies,” the protest reads. “Even the Agency’s own LSP source selection support contractor – the Aerospace Corporation – predicts that the space launch market has significant potential to suffer from a launch capacity shortfall because U.S. and foreign government launches will require most of the available launch capacity.”

I couldn’t agree with Blue Origin more. The Air Force wants to limit competition in the 2020s to only two companies, which will almost certainly be ULA and SpaceX since they are the only two presently flying, when by the 2020s there might be several more companies available providing competition that can lower the price.

There is no reason for the Air Force to make this decision now. None. When they need to order these launches in the early 2020s they should open that bidding process to all comers, and pick appropriately, then. Everything about this Pentagon plan stinks, reeking of the corruption that permeates Washington. I even wonder if some people have gotten pay-offs in connection with the decision to favor only two companies. It wouldn’t surprise me. (I myself have been offered money to let military lobbying companies ghostwrite op-eds using my name, supporting this Air Force plan, offers that I very bluntly turned down.)

Also, even if Blue Origin’s protest now fails, expect whoever doesn’t get picked by the Air Force now to file lawsuits in the 2020s when they are denied the right to bid on those future launches. And expect the Air Force to then back down, as it was forced to do when SpaceX was denied the right to bid on Air Force contracts early in this decade.

One more thought: This protest suggests Blue Origin already expects to not get picked. This expectation might also explain why Jeff Bezos decided to sell more Amazon stock last week, raising almost $3 billion in capital. He might be anticipating that Blue Origin will be cut out of those Air Force contracts, and so needs more of his own money to develop its New Glenn rocket.

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ESA confirms ExoMars parachute test failure

You heard it hear first! The European Space Agency (ESA) today confirmed earlier stories from last week that the parachutes for its ExoMars 2020 spacecraft had failed during a high altitude drop test on August 5.

I reported this on Saturday, August 10, noting that ESA had not confirmed it. It apparently took them a week to write the press release.

This was the second consecutive test failure for these parachutes, as noted in the release.

On 28 May this year, the deployment sequence of all four parachutes was tested for the first time from a height of 29 km – released from a stratospheric helium balloon. While the deployment mechanisms activated correctly, and the overall sequence was completed, both main parachute canopies suffered damage.

Following hardware inspection, adaptations were implemented to the design of the parachutes and bags ready for the next high-altitude test, which was conducted on 5 August, this time just focusing on the larger, 35 m diameter, parachute.

Preliminary assessment shows that the initial steps were completed correctly, however damages to the canopy were observed prior to inflation, similar to the previous test. As a result, the test module descended under the drag of the pilot chute alone.

The tests occur at high altitude where the Earth’s atmosphere mimics the thin atmosphere of Mars. In both cases it appears the parachutes became damaged very early in their deployment process, possibly during deployment. This means there might be a design problem with the deployment process. It also means that both tests were unable to test the chutes themselves, as they were damaged before inflation, meaning that the engineers still do not know if they would work as intended once filled with air.

All this puts incredible time pressure on the mission, which needs to launch in the summer of 2020 to meet its launch window. There is very little time to redesign and retest these chutes. I would rate their chances of meeting that launch date as less than 50-50.

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As protesters shut down Hong Kong airport, government brings military into city

Be prepared for bad news: While protesters against a new Chinese law in Hong Kong have shut the airport down, the Chinese government has begun to bring its military into the downtown area.

The initial cause of these protests is an attempt by China to impose a new extradition law on Hong Kong that would allow them to extradite people from Hong Kong into mainland China.

The changes will allow for extradition requests from authorities in mainland China, Taiwan and Macau for suspects accused of criminal wrongdoings, such as murder and rape. The requests will then be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Several commercial offenses such as tax evasion have been removed from the list of extraditable offenses amid concerns from the business community. Hong Kong officials have said Hong Kong courts will have the final say whether to grant such extradition requests, and suspects accused of political and religious crimes will not be extradited.

The government has sought to reassure the public with some concessions, including promising to only hand over fugitives for offenses carrying maximum sentences of at least seven years.

It appears that the population in Hong Kong does not trust the Chinese government that has ruled them since the British left in 1999. They fear the misuse of this law in order to arrest anyone the Chinese government doesn’t like.

The question is whether the Chinese can do in Hong Kong what they did in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Then the government moved the military in and massacred the protesters, effectively ending any political opposition to communist rule. If they do this in Hong Kong they will also end the lingering freedom in that city left over from British rule..

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NOAA revises upward its ordinary average 2019 hurricane season prediction

NOAA last week announced that it is revising upward its hurricane prediction for the 2019, changing it from average and ordinary to slightly higher than average and ordinary.

Seasonal forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center have increased the likelihood of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season to 45% (up from 30% from the outlook issued in May). The likelihood of near-normal activity is now at 35%, and the chance of below-normal activity has dropped to 20%.

The number of predicted storms is also greater with NOAA now expecting 10-17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or greater), of which 5-9 will become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or greater), including 2-4 major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or greater). This updated outlook is for the entire six-month hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30.

The problem with NOAA’s desire to imply that we are all going to die from massive hurricanes is twofold. First, take a look at the most recent hurricane graphs at Weatherstreet.com. NOAA’s unrevised prediction for Atlantic hurricanes was totally in the center of the average for the years from 1966 to 2009. It also was significantly below 2005, the worst hurricane year on record that was used by global warming activists to claim global warming was causing more storms that were more extreme.

The problem is that 2005 was an outlier. For almost a dozen years afterward no category 3 or more hurricanes made landfall in the U.S. and only a very few have followed since.

The newly revised prediction still predicts an average and ordinary number of hurricanes in 2019, just very slightly above the average for the past half century.

But no matter. The number will be higher! We are all going to die! We must silence anyone who disagrees because their denialism will cause more deaths!

Welcome to the coming dark age.

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Forbes censors climate article questioning human-caused global warming

An August 9th article at the magazine Forbes — discussing the skepticism that many scientists have about human-caused global warming — was removed today by the magazine “for failing to meet our editorial standards.”

Or to put it more accurately, they censored it for failing to follow the knee-jerk blind demands of the global-warming political movement.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) has now published the article in full, so that “interested readers [can] make up their own minds about the research by Nir Shaviv and Henrik Svensmark.”

Read the article. The only things unreasonable in it is the suggestion that there is a 97% consensus among climate scientists. That claim is false, as noted by the authors of the paper [pdf] where the claim comes from, in their own abstract.

We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW [human-caused global warming], 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming.

What these statistics actually prove is that 66.4% of all climate scientists understand that it is inappropriate to endorse or even reject a theory, when the data is insufficient. The remaining third, whether they endorse or reject human-caused global warming, do not understand the scientific method, in the slightest.

As for the censored Forbes article, it first outlines some of the most reasonable uncertainties of science surrounding the climate, focusing most specifically on the influence of the Sun, as shown by research by Shaviv and others. Then it notes how the climate community is working to squelch such research, dishonestly, as noted by Shaviv:

Any scientist who rejects the UN’s IPCC report, as he does, will have trouble finding work, receiving research grants or publishing, he said.

I must add that I have interviewed Nir Shaviv myself in connection with several astronomy articles, and found him to be a rigorous and intelligent scientist interested only in pursuing knowledge and the truth.

The bottom line now however is that the pursuit of knowledge and truth is no longer allowed in the climate field. Step out of line and the modern global warming inquisition will move in quickly to silence you, to smash its jack-booted foot into your face.

Hat tip to one of my readers, who when he sent this article to me opened by quoting me and Scott Adams: “They’re coming for you next.” Fortunately, I have tried very hard to anticipate such attacks, which is why I created Behind the Black. This website has made me free and independent of such oppressive tyranny. The only thing that would stop me from expressing my thoughts freely would be a lack of support from my readers. Fortunately, my readers have been increasingly generous, suggesting that they like the idea of freedom and open debate.

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Environmentalist group opposes Scottish spaceport

An environmentalist group is working to organize opposition to the construction of a spaceport on an island in the Hebrides Islands.

The North Uist Conservation Group is concerned that the proposal would damage the coastal wilderness of Scolpaig, and tourism from nature lovers who visit the island to see otters, golden and white-tailed eagles, wading birds and the corncrake.

It is also worried about the impact on the nearby North Uist Machair, a designated Special Area of Conservation, and an area of peatland, which is a carbon sink. The RSPB bird reserve at Balranald is five kilometres from the proposed spaceport, it added.

They think a spaceport will hurt tourism? They might want to take a look at Florida in the U.S. If handled right, a spaceport will bring many more tourists to this very remote location.

As for the nearby wildlife and peat, they should take a look at Florida again. When the Kennedy Space Center was created the U.S. government also made the large surrounding territory, needed to remain undeveloped so that launches could occur safely, a gigantic wildlife preserve. That preserve has prospered magnificently in the ensuring decades, since the launches do it no harm.

Of course, these facts matter little. The people opposing this spaceport are, like the protesters in Hawaii that oppose TMT, not really interested in facts. Nor are they really interested in preserving anything. What really motivates them is the desire for power. If they aren’t in charge of something, then they must be given the power to prevent it.

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Nurse gets death threats for posing with Trump

They’re coming for you next: A hospital nurse who worked to save lives after the Dayton massacre this past weekend was doxxed on Twitter and has since gotten death threats for posing in a photograph with Trump

I’d like you all to meet Rita. She’s an ICU Nurse at Miami Valley Hospital. She was one of the many heroes that helped save lives in Dayton following the mass shooting.

While President Trump was visiting the hospital, he was told about her hard work. He personally approached her, thanked her and asked for a photo. She was so happy and ecstatic to meet the President.

She posted the photo online and has since received numerous death threats, harassing messages and pure bullying. As a result, she deleted her Facebook and now has to be escorted in and out of work.

The link quotes the tweet that doxxed her, which in a sense is only worsening the situation.

Much of this problem comes from twitter, where you can post anything you want completely anonymously, and if you are attacking conservatives or Republicans, face no punishment. Truly an evil company.

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Reports of another ExoMars parachute failure during test

Following a failure of ExoMars’ parachutes during a May test, there are now reports that a second failure occurred on August 5.

A fresh test of the parachute system for the Russian-European mission ExoMars-2020 have failed again as a structural mockup of the Russian-built lander crashed during the simulated landing, a source familiar with the test results told Sputnik.

The test with the use of a high-altitude balloon was carried out on August 5 at a Swedish Space Corporation’s test site in northern Sweden.

“Tests of the parachute system at the Esrange test site in Sweden failed. A full-size mockup of the landing module of the ExoMars-2020 Martian station crashed during the landing,” the source said.

I have seen this report in two other sites, but it has not yet been confirmed by the European Space Agency.

If these reports are true, the chances of ExoMars launching in July 2020 is likely almost nil. They haven’t even begun assembling the spacecraft, and have had two parachute failures in tests, with the second destroying the prototype used for those tests.

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IAU approves 2nd set of Pluto names chosen by New Horizons team

My heart be still! The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has now officially given its glorious stamp of approval to a second set of fourteen names given by the New Horizons’ team to features on Pluto.

Several people and missions who paved the way for the historic exploration of Pluto and the Kuiper Belt – the farthest worlds ever explored – are honored in the second set of official Pluto feature names approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the international authority for naming celestial bodies and their surface features.

The new names were proposed by NASA’s New Horizons team, which carried out the first reconnaissance of Pluto and its moons with the New Horizons spacecraft in 2015. Along with a short list of official names the IAU had already approved, the mission science team had been using these and other place names informally to describe the many regions, mountain ranges, plains, valleys and craters discovered during the first close-up look at Pluto’s surface. [emphasis mine]

In case you don’t get it, I am being very sarcastic above. I consider the IAU to be incredibly arrogant in its claim that it, and it alone, can approve the names given to surface features on other worlds. Initially the IAU was given the task by the astronomical community of organizing the naming of celestial bodies seen in telescopes, to reduce confusion. Somehow the IAU has expanded that responsibility to include the naming of every rock and pebble on every world in the universe.

To this I say bunk. I also know that future spacefarers in space will say the same thing, and tell the IAU to go jump in a lake. In a sense, the New Horizons team did exactly that when they made their name choices very public from the beginning, essentially telling the IAU that the New Horizons’ team is picking the names, not the IAU.

In related news, the IAU has now approved the naming convention the OSIRIS-REx team intends to use to name features on Bennu. However, in this case the IAU is doing its real job, helping to organize the naming conventions to reduce confusion.

The named features on Bennu will include several terrain classification types that the IAU also approved for asteroid (162173) Ryugu’s surface features (currently being explored by the Japanese Space Agency’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft). These include craters, dorsa (peaks or ridges), fossae (grooves or trenches) and saxa (rocks and boulders). The last of these types – saxum – is a new feature classification that the IAU introduced earlier this year for small, rocky asteroids like Ryugu and Bennu. These surface features on Bennu will be named after mythological birds and bird-like creatures, complementing the mission’s existing naming theme, which is rooted in Egyptian mythology.

The actual names the OSIRIS-REx team will chose for each unique feature will however be their choice, not the IAU’s. Though the IAU will eventually announce it has “approved” those choices, it will never really have the right to have a say in those decisions.

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Are you a decent human being?

In recent weeks I have grown so horrified by the blatant hate being screamed by Democrats and leftists in the mainstream press against Republicans, conservatives, and Trump supporters that I have found myself unable to write about this stuff.

It is just too disgusting. Here are just a few examples that barely represent the full gamut of anger and hate being expressed by Democrats and their willing accomplices in the press:

All of the accusations against Trump and Republicans in these stories are outright lies, worthy of Joseph Goebbels. And the actions of Democratic politicians like Biden and Castro to attack and smear Trump and his supporters is equally vile, and worthy of the worst form of scapegoating done by anti-Semites. Worse, these people are using terrible mass murders, committed by clearly unstable and sick individuals, to score political points. Such behavior is beyond the pale.

One might, if one was willing to stretch the truth beyond the breaking point, to find some justification in the criticisms of Trump. However, though Trump’s twitter comments are often ugly and crude and insulting, the one thing a careful reading of all those statements reveals is that he has always tried to state the truth, honestly and bluntly. Moreover, there is no evidence of racism in any of his comments. He has merely been attacking those who deserve attacking.

The Democratic attacks, however, on the decency of the American population, especially its non-minority population, are especially vile and dishonest. Remember, this is the same population that only a few years ago twice voted for a black president. For Democratic politicians and mainstream press pundits to accuse it of being in favor of white supremacy is more than just absurd, it is a lie and slander.

The problem I have is that I try to be a decent human being. I don’t like to give these liars and slanderers a platform to spread their hateful lies. In fact, I don’t even wish to read or discuss their childish and mean-spirited behavior. Thus, I have posted nothing until now about the mass murders that occurred this past weekend and the reactions to them.
» Read more

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