Tag Archives: regulation

NASA’s political and corrupt safety panel

After spending the last few years complaining about certain specific issues with the manned capsule efforts of SpaceX and Boeing, NASA’s safety panel this past weekend released its annual 2018 report. (You can download the report here [pdf].) Its position now on those certain specific issues can now be summarized as follows:

They make no mention of the parachute issues that forced Boeing to do numerous extra tests, causing probably a year delay in the program, though Boeing has had decades of experience with capsule parachutes and the entire American aerospace industry has never had a parachute failure.

The panel also admits that their concerns about SpaceX’s rocket fueling procedures is really not an issue.

The NESC [NASA Engineering and Safety Center] has independently studied the load and go procedure and provided a thorough report that identifies the hazards and available controls. Based on the NESC report, the CCP [Commercial Crew Program] has decided that the load and go concept is viable if subsequent analysis is adequate and if verifiable controls are identified and implemented for all the credible hazard causes that could potentially result in an emergency situation or worse.

As Emily Litela said, “Never mind!” Their concerns were never credible, as it really doesn’t matter if you fuel the rocket before or after the astronauts board, because in either case they are there when a lot of fuel is present. All the panel did was delay the first Dragon launch by at least a year by pushing this issue.

The panel is still holding onto its concerns about the installation blankets (COPV) used in SpaceX’s internal helium tanks, the location of the problem that caused the September 2016 launchpad explosion. Despite SpaceX’s apparent fixing of this problem, with 40 successful launches since that failure, they are listing further vague requirements:
» Read more

Share

China fails to reduce its methane coal mine emissions

Surprise, surprise! Using satellite data, a new study has now shown that China has not only failed to reduce its methane coal mine emissions, it has allowed those emissions to increase.

China, already the world’s leading emitter of human-caused greenhouse gases, continues to pump increasing amounts of climate-changing methane into the atmosphere despite tough new regulations on gas releases from its coal mines, a study shows.

China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, which accounts for approximately 72 percent of the country’s electricity generation. While data show that coal production has increased in China, it has been unclear until now much methane gas, or CH4, has increased. Methane that is released during coal mining is responsible for the majority of coal-related CH4 emissions and is likely the largest human-caused CH4 source in China.

“Our study indicates that, at least in terms of methane emissions, China’s government is talking the talk, but has not been able to walk the walk,” says Scot Miller, an assistant professor of environmental health and engineering and of earth and planetary sciences at Johns Hopkins University.

The truth is that while China might say it has imposed “tough new regulations,” its commitment under the Paris climate accords actually allowed it to increase its emissions significantly for years to come, even as those same accords required the U.S. to decrease its emissions. This unfair situation, which China has apparently taking full advantage of, is one of the major reasons Trump dumped the accords. It also illustrates how little the Paris Accords had to do with climate change. Its real goal was to shift the balance of power and wealth from the U.S. to other countries.

Share

Camden submits spaceport application to FAA

Capitalism in space: Camden County in Georgia has submitted its application to the FAA to create a spaceport in that county.

It took them three years “to comply with the detailed regulatory requirements necessary.” Whether they get approval or attract customers remains to be seen. We do know that at least one smallsat rocket company, Vector, has shown a willingness to launch from their site.

Share

High Russian officials lambast Roscosmos and its head

At a meeting earlier this week several high Russian officials sharply criticized both Roscosmos and its head, Dmitry Rogozin, for repeatedly predicting grand future successes even as the state of the Russian space program worsens.

On Wednesday, the prime minister of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, expressed his displeasure with the situation. During a meeting in Moscow with senior Roscosmos officials, Medvedev made sharply critical remarks that were reported by several Russian news organizations, including Gazeta.RU and RIA Novosti. (Translations were provided to Ars by Robinson Mitchell).

“This is a blunt and direct assertion: We need to quit projecting future plans, stop talking about where our missions will land in 2030, get to work, talk less, and do more,” Medvedev said. “We need to be more active in commercializing our space industry and increase Russia’s international market share of commercial launches.” [emphasis mine]

Medvedev as well as Russia’s deputy prime minister Yuri Borisov were blunt in noting that Roscosmos has done a bad job of competing in the commercial launch market, even as it made empty “grandiose projections” of its future deep space exploration plans.

Whether these criticisms will have any significant effect remains to be seen. Russia has structured its entire space industry into a single government-run corporation. Within Russia there is no competition, and everything is run from the top down. Such a set-up discourages innovation and risk-taking, the very things Russia needs for it to successfully compete on the world stage.

Imagine you are a young Russian guy with a clever idea for building smallsats in your basement. Or you are a young rocket engineer who has an idea about building rockets better. In Russian neither of these guys would be free to do anything, as all space projects must be supervised by Roscosmos. Roscosmos however is a government bureaucracy, and such bureaucracies are routinely loath to take risks and give power and opportunity to new people outside its power structure. Your project would either be squashed, or co-oped by the powers-in-charge so that it would not fly, as intended.

We see this in NASA today, with its decades-long resistance to new space companies like SpaceX. Fortunately, the U.S. aerospace industry has not been consolidated into a single government entity, run by NASA. Nor can it be, at least for now. The Constitution prevents government from doing this, while the political system allows for competition, even among politicians. The result has been that political appointees in both the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations have over the past dozen years pushed the idea of reducing NASA’s control over space, and have thus made possible the arrival of a viable commercial and very competitive space industry.

In Russia, under Putin, they did exactly the opposite in 2015, ending competition and consolidating their industry under full government control. The results since have not been pretty. In 2015 Russia led the world in launches with 34. In 2018 they only launched fifteen times, the lowest total for that country since the 1960s.

Nor do I expect this trend to change in the near future, notwithstanding the blunt talk above by Russia’s leaders. At least for the next decade, I expect Russia to be a very minor player in space.

Share

Kickstarter campaign starts to finance launch of garage-built cubesat

Capitalism in space: PocketQube has initiated a 30-day Kickstarter campaign to fund the launch of its first home-made plastic cubesat.

I have written about this project previously, because it epitomizes the old-fashioned vision of a single guy or gal working in his or her basement or garage to build a new invention. It now appears they are getting close to being ready to launch.

Make sure you watch their video at the first link above. It not only explains what they’ve accomplished so far as well as what they hope to do, it is quite amusing at how it pokes fun at the kind of fake-epic videos we see from NASA, promising big but delivering little. In the case of this project, they are instead promising little, but if they succeed they should deliver big.

This quote from the Kickstarter page though I think reveals once again where the real barriers to commercial space lie:

The biggest risk to the project is licensing. The FCC has placed additional burdens on small satellite operators after an incident earlier this year that resulted in four unlicensed satellites being placed into orbit. Possible delays in our applications could result in Mini-Cubes missing the flight. We do have a backup flight should that happen but it will not launch until 2020 at the earliest.

The quote refers to Swarm’s unlicensed launch of four cubesats in March 2018, and the FCC’s subsequent response, imposing fines and strict reporting requirements on Swarm. It now appears some of those strict reporting requirements have been applied across the board to all cubesat companies, increasing costs and paperwork, and even threatening their viability.

No matter the justification, it is once again the government that stands in the way of the ability of free humans to follow their dreams. I have seen this pattern repeat itself for the last half century, resulting in little space exploration since the Apollo landings. It now stands in the way of a new revolution in commercial space.

Share

Oregon & Washington politicians considering supervision of parents of all newborn babies

They’re coming for you next: The Democratic politicians in both Oregon and Washington are pushing new legislation that would mandate supervision by government health care workers of the parents of all newborn babies.

According to the Beaver Valley Times, “When the program is complete, every new parent — this includes adoptions — would receive a series of two or three visits by someone like a nurse or other health care practitioner. The visits could include basic health screenings for babies; hooking parents up with primary care physicians; linking them to other services; and coordinating the myriad childhood immunizations that babies need.”

The program has been piloted in Lincoln County but has not been tried statewide.

Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-Beaverton), who sits on the powerful Ways and Means Committee that will hammer out the language of the legislation, has said that universal home visits are a priority for her.

And Oregon is not alone in the push for “universal” home visits. Washington Governor Jay Inslee tweeted earlier this month, “My budget would also offer universal home visits. This gives every new parent the opportunity to get a visit from a nurse during the first few weeks back home with their newborn to share important information and build confidence.”

While it’s not clear whether either of these programs would be mandatory, the use of the term “universal” suggests that they would. It’s frightening to think about what would happen to parents who refuse such visits.

Read it all. It is obvious to both the author and I that while the present programs are vague about their mandatory nature, the goal is that they will soon become so.

Share

A visit to the Mexican border

Last night President Trump gave his first prime-time speech to the nation, focused specifically on the hot-button issue of illegal immigration. You can read the full text, with the Democratic response, here. A fair analysis can be read here, which also includes a thorough critique of the press’s mindless partisan reaction.

I usually don’t watch such speeches. I read the transcript afterward, to see if there is any substance there (usually not). It saves time.

What I did do yesterday however was visit the very location that is the subject and focus of these speeches, the border between the United States and Mexico. Diane and I and Earl, a visiting friend from back east, decided to give Earl a taste of international travel by driving down to Nogales to cross the border for lunch.

We do this periodically, not to go sightseeing but buy many of our prescription drugs, which tend to be about 75% cheaper in Mexico and do not require that prescription for purchase. For example, one of our cats has a fungal disease called valley fever which requires giving her a pill twice a day. In the states that drug costs more than $200 for a ninety day supply. In Mexico I can get that same amount for less than $50. (The cost difference illustrates well the mess our Congress has created of our drug industry, since the high cost is directly related to government regulations imposed in the last two decades and topped off by the passage of Obamacare in 2010.)

Anyway, below are some photos from this trip. They give you a sense of what it is like at one of the major populated border crossing points, which by the way and not surprisingly does not much resemble the impression given by our modern mainstream press.
» Read more

Share

FCC fines company $900K for unapproved satellite launch

The FCC has issued a $900K fine against the smallsat company Swarm for its unlicensed launch in January on an Indian rocket of four smallsats.

Along with paying a massive fine, Swarm has agreed to submit reports to the FCC before every satellite launch it wants to make for the next three years. These reports must include all of the details about the launch vehicle that will carry the satellites, the time and location of the launch, and contact information for who is coordinating the launch. And Swarm has to do this a lot, too. Reports need to be submitted within five days of Swarm purchasing a ride on a rocket, or within 45 days of the flight. Additional reports must be submitted when the satellites are shipped to be integrated on the rocket, whenever the satellites are actually integrated, and around the time the launch is supposed to take place.

Within the next two months, Swarm must also establish its own “compliance plan” and appoint a compliance officer to make sure the company adheres to all of the regulations surrounding a satellite launch. This entails crafting clearly defined procedures and checklists that every employee must follow to confirm that the FCC’s licensing requirements are being met.

I have very mixed feelings about this. While it is important that the FCC make sure U.S. satellites are compliant with the Outer Space Treaty and that satellite makers and launch companies do not do things willy-nilly without some common sense coordination, this settlement, with its complex bureaucratic paperwork requirements, strikes me more as a power play by the agency to tell everyone that the government will rule here.

At the same time, I can understand the FCC’s concern. We are about to see a smallsat revolution, with tens of thousands of these satellites being built and launched by numerous big and small companies. The FCC wanted it very clear to everyone the need to get that licensing done properly. This settlement makes that clear.

Share

NASA’s warped measure of safety

In posting an invitation to social media users to attend the launch of the first unmanned test flight of SpaceX’s man-rated Dragon capsule on January 17, 2019, NASA’s public relations department added the following warning:

NASA has a series of reviews before the uncrewed test flight, and the outcome of these reviews, including the Flight Readiness Review, will ultimately determine the Demo-1 launch date.

For months I have reported numerous examples of NASA’s safety panel acting to create fake problems that will force a delay in this launch. First it was the fueling method. Then it was the insulation on the helium tanks. Then there was the need for SpaceX to fill out all the paperwork. Now it is the parachute system and worries about the safety culture at SpaceX.

I might take these concerns seriously, except that NASA’s safety panel seems to be so sanguine about far more serious safety issues with NASA’s SLS rocket and Orion capsule. This double standard is starkly illustrated once again in this NASASpaceflight.com article about NASA’s plans for the very first manned Orion/SLS mission.

On that manned mission, NASA will fly a host of new equipment for the first time. For example, the capsule’s “Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), crew displays, and other crew systems will be making their debut in Orion.” Anything else that has flown previously will essentially have done so only once, during the first unmanned test flight of SLS/Orion.

It gets worse. While NASA has demanded SpaceX fly the final manned version of its Falcon 9 rocket seven times before it will allow its astronauts on board, the agency plans to launch humans on SLS on only its second launch. More astonishing, that second launch will include a mission taking those astronauts on a loop around the Moon.

During the Apollo missions in the 1960s, NASA had a policy that no mission would head to the Moon without carrying a lunar module (LM). The logic was that the LM would act as a lifeboat should something go wrong with the Apollo capsule, a logic that was actually proven during Apollo 13.

NASA did send Apollo 8 to the Moon without the LM, but it did so in the context of a Cold War space race and an end-of-the-decade commitment by an assassinated president. The agency then knew the risks were high, but it decided the situation justified those risks.

NASA is not faced with a Cold War space race today. Instead, it has a grossly over-budget and long delayed boondoggle called SLS/Orion, increasingly embarrassed by the quick and efficient achievements of private space companies. In a desperate effort to keep that boondoggle alive, the agency is apparently pushing it to fly it too soon and with inadequate development. In fact, it appears to me that the safety culture at NASA that caused both shuttle accidents (a desire to favor frequent launches while ignoring safety analysis) has returned at NASA, and it has done so with a vengeance.

Meanwhile, the contrast with how the agency’s safety panel treats SpaceX versus SLS/Orion demonstrates how corrupt and unreliable that safety panel has become. They no longer really work to reduce risk. Their goal appears to promote government-built rocket systems over those manufactured by the private sector.

Hat tip to Kirk Hilliard for pointing out the language in the NASA pr invite to the SpaceX launch.

Share

Supreme Court limits government’s attempt steal land for endangered species

The Supreme Court today ruled against the federal government’s attempt to designate private land as a habitat for an endangered species, even though that endangered species doesn’t even inhabit that land.

In a unanimous ruling the justices rejected the federal government’s attempt to designate roughly 1,500 acres in Louisiana as critical space for the dusky gopher frog. “Only the ‘habitat’ of the endangered species is eligible for designation as critical habitat,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in the opinion.

The frog hasn’t lived on the land in five decades, having shifted to neighboring counties. But the government, fearing future events might push the frog back, sought to designate the land, which would have imposed severe restrictions on what the owners could do with it.

Consider the chutzpah of the federal government in attempting to do this. If the court had ruled in their favor, it would have allowed them to designate any piece of property anywhere in the country as a habitat for any species, and thus negate all property rights, forever.

Share

Leftist San Fran shuts down Airbnb business

They’re coming for you next: The leftist government of San Francisco has forced the shut down of a chain of Airbnb rentals owned by a couple for violating the city’s many laws.

A San Francisco couple has been fined $2.25 million and ordered to not engage in listing their real estate properties on sites like Airbnb until 2025 for repeated violations of the city’s short term rental laws, the city attorney announced Monday.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera said landlords Darren and Valerie Lee have been running “an illicit hotel chain” during San Francisco’s housing crisis rather than lawfully renting the units to residential tenants.

Though it clearly appears the couple had violated San Francisco laws, the real question is the immoral nature of the laws.

[W]hat should really be on trial here are not the Herreras but the laws that San Francisco has put in place to stifle the gig economy. The Herrera family owns those apartment buildings and they pay the taxes, are responsible for all the maintenance and took the risk of investing in the properties. Clearly, there is a market for short-term rentals because if there weren’t they wouldn’t be able to remain profitable. Why is the city telling them how they must rent out their property?

The public doesn’t benefit from these laws, providing the owners keep the properties up to code and safe to inhabit. The only beneficiaries are the major hotel chains who charge outrageous prices for rooms and lobby politicians heavily (as well as donating generously to their campaigns) to try to squeeze out the gig economy. If the Herrera family has any hope of prevailing here it should come by way of a challenge to these short-term rental laws and the chance to expose the influence of the hotel lobby that drives them.

This is what you get when you allow government too much power: Corruption, favoritism, and oppression. I have in recent years made it my business to avoid California at all costs. This story reinforces that position.

Share

Hawaii Supreme Court rules in favor of TMT

Hawaii’s Supreme Court today upheld by a 4-1 vote the construction permits of the consortium building the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea.

In its own press release, the TMT consortium said that it “will move forward with fulfilling the numerous conditions and requirements of [the state’s permit] prior to the start of any construction.”

The comments by one of the the telescope’s opponents at the first link are revealing.

Kealoha Pisciotta, one of the main leaders against the telescope, said she’s doesn’t know what their next steps will be, but she’s not hopeful that more legal wrangling will help. “The court is the last bastion in democracy,” she said. “The only other option is to take to the streets. If we lose the integrity of the court, then you’re losing normal law and order, and the only other option is people have to rise up.” [emphasis mine]

Let me translate: We didn’t get our way, so we’re now going to throw another tantrum! Expect more protests and attempts to block construction. Expect the Hawaiian government, dominated almost entirely by Democrats, to fold to those protests. Expect more delays. For example, do you really think the permit process was really done?

State Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairwoman Suzanne Case said the next steps involve telescope builders submitting construction plans. The department will review the plans before issuing permission to proceed.

This was all done almost a decade earlier, and was exactly what the Supreme Court ruled on. To bring it up now suggests the state government is still quietly looking for loopholes to stop the construction, even though the public supports construction and the protesters are a decided minority.

Share

Trump moves forward on Space Force; commercial space reorganization

In a speech by Mike Pence yesterday the Trump administration outlined its continuing plans to moves forward with a new military branch focused on space as well as a reorganization of the bureaucracies that regulate commercial space into a single Commerce Department agency.

Pence said the National Space Council and National Security Council will review space operational authorities “to ensure that our warfighters have the freedom and flexibility they need to deter and defeat any threat to our security in the rapidly evolving battlefield of space.” A lack of centralized leadership and accountability threatened U.S. ability to “advance our national security in space,” Pence said. “The time has come to stop studying the problem and start fixing it.”

The Trump administration in August announced an ambitious plan to usher in a new “Space Force” as the sixth branch of the military by 2020. Such a change, which the Defense Department has estimated would cost $13 billion in the first five years, must first be approved by Congress. Pence said at an earlier Washington Post forum that China and Russia have established similar space forces. “This is what our competitors are already doing. And the president is determined to make sure that America leads in space, as well, from a military standpoint,” he said.

…The proposed bill would also create the Bureau of Space Commerce under the U.S. Department of Commerce to liaise with industry representatives and organizations, according to a copy provided to Reuters. It also calls for $10 million per year for five years starting in 2020 to fund the commerce arm.

I am traveling up to Phoenix as I write this to be a talking head on a Science channel television show, so I haven’t yet reviewed carefully this proposal. Based on the quote above, the cost for the Space Force is absurd. This is an office, not a military force. At $13 billion it looks more like gold-plated pork.

Meanwhile, the proposed Commerce agency makes sense only if it truly replaces other bureaucracies. I am not yet sure that will happen.

Share

Trump scraps academic EPA air pollution panel

The head of EPA in the Trump administration has scrapped the academic EPA air pollution panel that has dominated the agency’s air quality control standards for decades.

Andrew Wheeler, the acting chief of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), yesterday fired a panel of scientific experts charged with assisting the agency’s latest review of air quality standards for particulate matter. He also scrapped plans to form a similar advisory panel to aid in a recently launched assessment of the ground-level ozone limits.

Those steps, coupled with Wheeler’s previously announced decision to concentrate authority in a seven-member committee made up mostly of his appointees, quickly sparked objections that the agency is intent on skewing the outcome of those reviews in favor of industry.

…Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is supposed to review the adequacy of the standards for particulate matter, ozone and four other common pollutants every 5 years with help from outside experts. While the seven-member committee, officially known as the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), has the lead in the process, the [scrapped] review panels are supposed to provide additional know-how in assessing the relevant scientific literature, which can span a variety of academic disciplines.

Essentially the acting administrator is continuing the effort of the former EPA head, Scott Pruitt, to de-emphasize the domination of the leftist academic community in these matters. Naturally, the academics are screaming, but then, screaming has recently become the left’s only debating point in all matters of national discussion.

Share

UAE passes a space law

The new colonial movement: The United Arab Emuirates Cabinet has passed a space law, supposedly designed to encourage the development of their space sector.

I say “supposedly” because of this:

“Although the details of the new law are not yet publicly available, I believe it has tremendous potential and am excited by the UAE’s incorporation of educational guidelines into the legal framework,” said Sunil Thacker, senior partner at the STA law firm.

It is even unclear whether this lawyer has seen the language. He is quoted extensively, raving about the wonders this new law will bring, but states no specifics. In the top-down sheik-run UAE, he has no other choice.

Share

Bill increases funding to FAA space office, adds other provisions

A bill about to be approved by Congress increases funding to the FAA Office of Commercial Transportation while also requiring that office to create several new regulatory positions.

The bill authorizes a significant increase in spending for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, or AST, from the $22.6 million it received in fiscal year 2018 to a little more than $33 million in 2019, growing to nearly $76 million in 2023. Appropriators, though, have not matched that authorized increase for 2019, with House and Senate versions of spending bills funding the FAA offering just under $25 million for AST.

The reauthorization bill includes several policy provisions associated with commercial spaceflight as well. One would require the FAA to designate an official within its air traffic organization to serve as the single point of contact for working with the head of AST on airspace issues associated with commercial launch activity.

Another provision establishes an “Office of Spaceports” within AST intended to support commercial licensing of launch sites and develop policies to promote infrastructure improvements at such facilities. It also requires AST to develop a report within one year of the bill’s enactment on spaceport policies, including recommendations on government actions to “support, encourage, promote, and facilitate greater investments in infrastructure at spaceports.” It directs the Government Accountability Office to prepare a separate report on ways to provide federal support for spaceports.

The bill creates a category of commercial spaceflight vehicles known as “space support vehicles” that cover parts of launch vehicles systems flying for other purposes, such as training or testing. Such vehicles would include the aircraft used by air-launch systems. The bill allows commercial flights of space support vehicles without the need for a full-fledged airworthiness certificate from the FAA.

It is hard to say if these provisions will help or hurt the growth of commercial space. It does appear that Congress’s goal was to help, but their methods always include more spending and greater bureaucracy.

The article also reviews a number of bills not yet agreed to by Congress that would address the regulation of Earth observation satellites as well as satellite servicing. It quotes a number of industry experts supporting the laws being proposed, but once again, it is unclear if those laws would help or hurt. My previous review of one of these laws presently working its way through the House was decidedly mixed. It will clarify and simplify many of the regulatory problems that presently exist, while creating more bureaucracy.

Share

3D gun files still available to public despite judge’s ruling

Pushback: Despite a judge’s apparently unconstitutional ruling that banned the free give-away of the plans for printing 3D guns, the company that is producing them has instead made them available for purchase, at any price the buyer designates.

The ruling was intensely shaky and a jab to both the First and Second Amendment, so naturally Democrats were aroused.

But their celebration was premature.

Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson crushed their short-lived happiness during a Tuesday press conference where he revealed that he actually won’t be stopped from sharing technical data; he will simply sell the files via his website, defcad.com. (Yes, he can do this.) “This judge’s order, stopping us from simply giving things away, was only an authorization that we could sell it, that we could mail it, that we could email it, that we could provide it by secure transfer. I will be doing all of those things, now,” announced Wilson.

“A lot of this to me was about principle,” he continued. “For many years, I just chose not to sell these files, because I’m an open-source activist. I believed in demonstrating that there was a right to commit this information to the public domain.”

“But, this is my opportunity to correct the media all in one place. To read headline after headline about how you can no longer 3D-print a gun, you can no longer have these files, this is not true. This has never been true. I now have to demonstrate this to you, forcefully, to deliver the point.”

There is no set price for the material; patrons are asked to give whatever they’d like in exchange. Wilson said the money would be used for further legal fees.

The judge’s ruling was completely bogus, especially since the Trump Justice Department had already settled the suit that the Obama Justice Department had brought. Moreover, since when can a judge ban the publication of any information the U.S.? His ruling appears to violate the First Amendment, and possibly the Second Amendment as well.

Share

Trump EPA proposes new power plant climate rules

The Trump administration has now proposed a revision to the climate rules established by the Obama administration to limit carbon dioxide releases at power plants.

President Donald Trump’s administration released a plan today to regulate carbon dioxide emissions at power plants, undercutting a much broader effort by former President Barack Obama to slash planet-warming gases.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal would give states wide latitude for determining how to cut greenhouse gases from the power sector, a key contributor in the U.S. to climate change. The proposed rule is far narrower than the Obama plan, which sought to cut emissions across the power sector rather than only at individual plants.

On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump promised to repeal Obama’s rule, called the Clean Power Plan. His administration stopped short of that today and is instead offering a weakened alternative to avoid a potentially damaging defeat in court.

Based on the article and the actual proposal [pdf], I am far from convinced this change reduces regulation that much. It appears to shift the regulation to the states, but whether this simplifies things for power plant operators is very doubtful.

Not surprisingly, the Democrats and various leftist environmental groups oppose the change. Expect lawsuits, since it is absolutely forbidden for any subsequent president to ever change policies set by past Democratic presidents.

Share

Researchers say cubesats with propulsion systems must have encrypted software

Capitalism in space: Researchers from Yale University are recommending that the smallsat industry establish rules requiring all future cubesats that carry their own propulsion systems be encrypted to prevent them from being hacked.

That research by a team of graduate students, presented at the AIAA/Utah State University Conference on Small Satellites here Aug. 9, recommended the space industry take steps to prevent the launch of such satellites to avoid an incident that could lead to a “regulatory overreaction” by government agencies. “We would propose as a policy that, for those cubesats and smallsats that have propulsion, that the industry adopt a ‘no encryption, no fly’ rule,” said Andrew Kurzrok of Yale University.

That recommendation comes as cubesat developers, who once had few, if any, options for onboard propulsion, are now looking to make use of more advanced chemical and electric propulsion systems. Some of those technologies can provide smallsats with large changes in velocity, which can enable major orbital changes.

Kurzrok and colleagues at Stanford University and the University of Colorado modeled several different propulsion systems on a notional 10-kilogram nanosatellite, assuming the spacecraft was in a 300-kilometer orbit and that the propulsion systems accounted for half the spacecraft’s mass. The results ranged from the satellite reaching medium Earth orbit altitudes within two hours when using chemical propulsion to passing geostationary orbit in about a year with an electric propulsion system.

The scenario involving the nanosatellite with chemical propulsion is particularly troubling, he said. “What are the abilities within two hours to track that something isn’t where it’s supposed to be and then warn or take some sort of secondary action?” he said, concluding that the satellite reaching GEO in a year is a much less plausible threat.

The concern, then is a scenario where hackers are able to take control of a satellite and redirect it quickly.

Getting encryption for their software would raise costs, but it really is the cost of doing business. Better for the industry to create these rules than wait for the federal government to step in, as the government regulation will certainly end up being more odious and difficult to change.

Share

New York shuts down 7-year-old’s lemonade stand

Fascist New York: Because of complaints by commercial vendors, New York bureaucrats moved to shut down a 7-year-old’s lemonade stand.

Soon-to-be second-grader Brendan Mulvaney ran afoul of government regulators last Friday when vendors at the Saratoga County Fair in upstate Ballston Spa whined to a state health inspector that he had no permit to sell refreshments from his family’s front deck just outside the fairgrounds.

Being just a kid, he was also undercutting their pricey drinks by nearly 90 percent, selling lemonade for just 75 cents — a significant discount from the $7 cups inside the fair. He also peddled $1 snow cones and bottled waters. The vendors griped to a state health inspector doing a routine inspection of the fair, and his next visit was to the Mulvaneys’ home. He promptly ordered the stand shut down, leaving the family shocked.

Note that the stand is on the family’s porch, on private property. The boy has has also been operating it for three years, with no problems.

Essentially, the local vendors used the government as a hammer to smash the competition, even if it was something as innocuous as a child’s lemonade stand. And New York, being a fascist state run by fascist Democrats, immediately moved to do the bidding of those vendors.

The government, embarrassed by this, is now trying to fix it, but they still claim that a permit is required for the stand. How nice of them! In modern New York, no one is allowed to start a business without government permission!

Share

San Francisco legislators propose banning company cafeterias

Fascist California: Two San Francisco supervisors plan to introduce local legislation that will ban companies from having their own cafeterias for employees.

The measure, proposed by Supervisor Ahsha Safai and co-sponsored by Supervisor Aaron Peskin, would adjust zoning laws to ban workplace cafeterias moving forward, but would not be retroactive.

Peskin said the measure, was inspired by tech companies like Twitter and Airbnb, which are widely known to have access to dining in their own buildings, depriving nearby restaurants of the dollars usually spent by nearby workers. The measure has the support of Gwyneth Borden, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and other local merchants.

Under the legislation which is expected to be introduced Tuesday, “you can’t have an industrial kitchen in your office building,” Peskin said. Peskin said the legislation sought to avoid the “Amazon effect that impacts retail and restaurants across the county,” he said. “This is forward thinking legislation.”

Isn’t it amazing how these leftists think that they not only have the right to dictate how everyone else lives their lives, they are also arrogantly convinced that they are anointed with the perfect wisdom necessary to impose their will.

As I have said, California is not a place you should consider moving to, at this time. It is heading for Venezuela, and should get there in about a decade.

Share

House committee approves new space weather bill

The House Science Committee yesterday approved new space weather bill that would shift responsibility for coordinating the government’s space weather observation capabilities to the National Space Council, while also creating a pilot commercial program for launch weather satellites.

It appears there was some heavy political maneuvering involved with this bill, as there was a late switch of language that changed its focus.

The new text has a strong focus on the private sector. In the policy section, for example, it explicitly states that “space weather observation and forecasting are not exclusive functions of the Federal Government” and the government “should, as practicable, obtain space weather data and services through contracts with the commercial sector, when the data and services are available, cost-effective, and add value.” The bill requires the Secretary of Commerce to establish a pilot program for obtaining space weather data from the private sector that appears analogous to NOAA’s commercial weather data pilot program.

The Senate will still have to review and approve this new bill.

Share

Changes to big August 3 commercial crew announcement do not bode well

On August 3 NASA is planning on making a big announcement concerning its commercial crew program. Yesterday the agency revealed that the NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine, will reveal the names of the crew for the first commercial crew flight.

The changes in how that announcement will be made however suggest that they had hoped to make a bigger announcement and have been forced to back off. Initially, vice president Mike Pence was to have made the announcement. He has now canceled his participation. Also, there had previously been rumors that the announcement would have included the launch dates for both SpaceX’s and Boeing’s first flights. That the new press release makes no mention of dates suggests the dates have been delayed.

I hope I am wrong.

Share

Santa Barbara requires jail time for giving out plastic straws

Fascist California: The city of Santa Barbara has now passed a law that will impose jail time to any restaurant employee who hands out plastic straws.

The city of Santa Barbara has passed an ordinance that will allow restaurant employees to be punished with up to six months of jail time or a $1,000 fine for giving plastic straws to their customers.

The bill was passed unanimously last Tuesday, and covers bars, restaurants, and other food-service businesses. Establishments will still be allowed to hand out plastic stirrers, but only if customers request them.

This is always how fascist states begin, by passing what seems to be very innocuous laws that have golden and pure good intentions. They they pass more laws, and more laws, and impose stricter rules, and demand more and more from everyone, until the only individuals who are free are those in charge, since none of these rules are ever applied to them.

California has been traveling this road already for many years. They are right now about a decade behind Venezuela. I would not move there, at this time, if I were you. You will regret it.

Share

Trump administration proposes revisions to Endangered Species Act

The Trump administration has proposed some regulatory revisions to Endangered Species Act that would scale back somewhat its sometime draconian powers.

The proposed regulatory changes are both technical and consequential. One, for instance, bears the deceptively dull title of “elimination of blanket 4(d) rule” (E&E News PM, 4 April). The ESA prohibits the “take” of species designated as endangered, while Section 4(d) of the law allows the agency to establish special regulations for threatened species. In 1978, FWS used this authority to extend the prohibition of take to all threatened species. This is known as the “blanket 4(d) rule.”

Take covers a wide range of actions, including those that “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect” a threatened or endangered species. This blanket 4(d) rule for threatened species can be modified by a species-specific 4(d) rule.

Conservatives and private-property advocates have previously sought to scale back the blanket 4(d) rule, which they say erases what should be a meaningful distinction between threatened and endangered species. The proposal would cover only future listings. “Some of our regulations were promulgated back in 1986, and frankly, a great deal has been learned by the agencies administering the act and by the public,” Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told reporters today.

Another change would establish that the “foreseeable future” definition used in making ESA listing decisions extends only so far as officials “can reasonably determine that the conditions posing the potential danger of extinction are probable.”

A potentially key change involves critical habitats, which are areas important for recovery of a species. Sometimes an area can be considered important for recovery even when it is not currently occupied by the species in question. Under the new proposal, FWS and NOAA Fisheries will designate unoccupied critical habitat only when the occupied areas are inadequate to ensure the conservation of the species or if inclusion of unoccupied areas would yield certain other specified benefits.

In some “rare” cases, officials say, there may be no critical habitat designated.

The article above, from the journal Science, shocked me by its reasonable discussion of these proposed changes. I had expected an anti-Trump screed, similar to the original version of this Daily Mail article from yesterday. Today it reads more reasonably, but yesterday the article was far more devoted to airing opposition to the Trump proposals.

No matter. There is madness out there, it has taken possession of the entire anti-Trump community. It won’t make a difference how reasonable the administration’s proposals might be, there will be over-the-top declarations about the evils of these proposals and how they will destroy everything.

Share

SpaceX’s first test crew Dragon capsule arrives in Florida

Capitalism in space: The first man-rated Dragon capsule set to fly has arrived in Florida to be prepped for launch.

Even though the vehicle is called a “Crew Dragon,” this Dragon won’t carry crew on its first flight. Instead, it’s due to make an uncrewed practice run to the space station during what’s known as Demonstration Mission 1, or DM-1.

Before this week’s shipment to Florida, the Dragon underwent thermal vacuum tests as well as acoustic tests at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio. Today SpaceX showed off a picture of the Crew Dragon, which is a redesigned, beefed-up version of its robotic cargo-carrying Dragon, via Twitter and Instagram.

NASA’s current schedule calls for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to launch the DM-1 mission next month from Kennedy Space Center. However, that schedule is dependent not only on the pace of preparations, but also on the timetable for station arrivals and departures.

SpaceX is clearly on schedule to fly the first unmanned test flight in September, and the first manned flight in January 2019. And once that manned flight take place, I can see no reason why operational flights shouldn’t follow soon thereafter.

Yet, NASA said earlier this week that those operational flights will almost certainly be delayed until 2020, mainly because SpaceX might not be able to get the paperwork filled out fast enough.

Here’s my prediction: If SpaceX flies that manned mission in early 2019, expect their operational flights to begin soon thereafter, not in 2020. NASA will have no choice but to accept the capsule and begin flights.

Share

A science journal describes how evil Trump is destroying EPA

Link here.

If you have no idea why we have Trump, and why we are likely to get more of him, read this article from the science journal Nature. It is a carefully written screed, written entirely from the point of view of those hostile to Trump and his effort to rein in the EPA’s regulatory culture. No one is interviewed to give the Trump perspective, and even if some had been, the author is so certain that Trump is evil and wrong in his efforts that I am sure the Trump perspective would have been misinterpreted, or even slandered. (This I am sure is why the article says that EPA management did not “respond to requests to comment on the article’s allegations.” The allegations were already set. Nothing anyone said from the administration would change those conclusions.)

Still, I am certain the author could have gotten opinions from some of the skeptical scientists whom the Trump administration has brought in to advise EPA. None however were interviewed.

What is most embarrassing about the article is its description of two of the main changes the Trump administration has imposed on EPA to widen and make more transparent the scientific work it does. First,
» Read more

Share

Israel considers a loosening of its gun laws

The Israeli government is considering a relaxing of its gun laws in order to allow more ordinary citizens the ability to own and carry guns for self defense.

Israel is mulling relaxing gun rules that will allow up to 40,000 more people to get weapons, the local media reports. Gun-lobbying politicians hope the measure will help ordinary citizens to neutralize “terrorists.”

The Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan proposed to allow any Israeli citizen who passed rifle training in the IDF to apply for a gun license, Tel-Aviv-based daily Haartez reported on Sunday. According to the paper, the required level of training for the license will be equivalent to the one of an IDF combat infantry soldier. If introduced, the measure will be a win for Israel’s gun lobby that had been fighting to lower the bar for gun ownership in order to help regular citizens defend themselves during terror attacks.

“Sending the citizens of Israel to protect themselves with pizza trays, selfie sticks, guitars and umbrellas is a crime of the state against its citizens,” politician Amir Ohana, who leads the gun lobby caucus in the nation’s parliament told Haaretz. “A law abiding citizen, who has the basic skill required, is entitled to be able to defend himself and his surroundings.”

It is simple common sense. It is the same common sense the required all citizens in the American west to know how to use a gun or rifle, and to be armed. Unfortunately, Israel does not have a second amendment, so the right to bear arms is something that the government can give or take, depending on who wins elections.

Share

Billions to replace or decommission thousands of wind turbines

The unintended consequences of good intentions: The tens of thousands of wind turbines installed in the last two decades are wearing out, and no one has the billions it will cost to either replace them or decommission them.

The life span of a wind turbine, power companies say, is between 20 and 25 years. But in Europe, with a much longer history of wind power generation, the life of a turbine appears to be somewhat less. “We don’t know with certainty the life spans of current turbines,” said Lisa Linowes, executive director of WindAction Group, a nonprofit which studies landowner rights and the impact of the wind energy industry. Its funding, according to its website, comes from environmentalists, energy experts and public donations and not the fossil fuel industry.

Linowes said most of the wind turbines operating within the United States have been put in place within the past 10 years. In Texas, most have become operational since 2005. “So we’re coming in on 10 years of life and we’re seeing blades need to be replaced, cells need to be replaced, so it’s unlikely they’re going to get 20 years out of these turbines,” she said.

Estimates put the tear-down cost of a single modern wind turbine, which can rise from 250 to 500 feet above the ground, at $200,000. With more than 50,000 wind turbines spinning in the United States, decommissioning costs are estimated at around $10 billion.

In Texas, there are approximately 12,000 turbines operational in the state. Decommissioning these turbines could cost as much as $2.3 billion. Which means landowners and counties in Texas could be on the hook for tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars if officials determine non-functional wind turbines need to be removed.

Or if that proves to be too costly, as seems likely, some areas of the state could become post-apocalyptic wastelands steepled with teetering and fallen wind turbines, locked in a rigor mortis of obsolescence.

The key here is that wind power is simply not profitable. The turbines were built almost exclusively because of giant federal subsidies — increased significantly during the Obama administration — that are expected to cost taxpayers almost $24 billion from 2016 to 2020.

Those subsidies might disappear under the Trump administration, but even if they don’t, they aren’t there to remove turbines but to build them. The companies that built the turbines aren’t making enough to pay for their replacement.

Share

Trump replaces Obama’s oceans policy

President Trump yesterday issued an executive order replacing the oceans policy Obama had established with a policy that emphasizes “…the economy, security, global competitiveness, and well-being of the United States.”

The full executive order is here. The Science article at the link above not surprisingly provides quotes from a number of Trump opponents, including the head of NOAA during Obama’s administration, to express their opposition to this change.

One author of the Obama oceans policy is disappointed. The Trump policy “represents a significant step backward, a throwback to the 1960s when the primary focus was on aggressively expanding the use of the ocean with the assumption that it is so immense, so bountiful that it must be inexhaustible,” marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco, who led the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under Obama, tells ScienceInsider. “We learned through painful experience that the ocean is indeed exhaustible, but we also learned that if we are smart about how we use the ocean, it can provide a wealth of benefits for decades and decades.”

Obama’s policy had emphasized “stewardship,” she notes—a word not used in the new order. Trump “blatantly rejects this all-important focus on stewardship,” Lubchenco says. “Put another way, the policy reflects a shift from ‘use it without using it up’ to a very short-sighted and cavalier ‘use it aggressively and irresponsibly.’”

Lubchenco is significantly overstating the negatives of Trump’s new policy. Its language is hardly “aggressive” or “irresponsible.” It does shift the focus from restricting the use of the oceans by regulation to encouraging their use for the “economic, security, and environmental benefits for present and future generations of Americans.” It that context the policy recognizes that “clean, healthy waters” are essential to provide those benefits.

I suspect that little will really change with this order. It will take years, if ever, to get the federal bureaucracy to shift its culture from controlling what Americans do to working with them. Nonetheless, this order demonstrates that Trump, unlike the past two Republican presidents, is serious about shifting federal policy in a conservative and less intrusive direction. The Bushes mouthed conservative ideas, but did little to stop the over-regulation imposed by the federal government. Bush Jr was especially worthless, as he did practically nothing to overturn the regulations that Clinton imposed, and in many ways supplemented or encouraged more regulation.

Share
1 2 3 52