Environmentalists sue local Boca Chica officials for closing beaches for SpaceX

Muskhate: The Sierra Club and other environmental groups have now sued a variety of local Boca Chica government agencies for periodically closing the beaches during hazardous SpaceX operations.

The Sierra Club, the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas and non-profit Save RGV have joined together in a lawsuit against the Texas General Land Office, Texas land commissioner George P. Bush and Cameron County in Texas for closing Boca Chica Beach periodically for SpaceX operations during Starship tests, the Sierra Club stated May 5. The Boca Chica beach is near SpaceX’s Starbase facility, where it is building Starship rocket prototypes and their massive Super Heavy boosters.

“Restricting access to a public beach, as the defendants have done, violates the Texas constitution,” the Sierra Club said in a statement. None of the allegations have been proven in court, and the statement does not name SpaceX among the entities pursued in the lawsuit.

These are the same groups that have been lobbying government officials for the past few years to shut SpaceX down. They claim that a change to the state’s laws allowing these closures that was passed in 2013 violates the state’s constitution, and want the courts to agree.

Of course, we all know these organizations really have no interest in keeping the beaches open for public use. What they really want is to shut down SpaceX in Boca Chica, because that company is actually doing something exciting and innovative while bringing billions of investment capital to the Rio Grand Valley, including tens of thousands of new jobs. (The group called “Save RGV” is especially ironic and dishonest, since RGV stands for Rio Grand Valley. If their effort succeeded, they would not save RGV, but destroy it. All those jobs and billions would vanish, leaving the area as depressed and as poor as it has been now for decades.)

These groups also wish to destroy Elon Musk, because he has recently made it clear that he no longer is a knee-jerk supporter of all leftist causes.

Nor will their effort cease should they lose this case in court. They will do what environmental groups have done now for decades, find another minor legal issue and sue again, and again, and again, and again.

Local Texas state/city politicians pressure congressmen to get Starship approved by FAA

Local state/city politicians from Brownsville are applying pressure on their local congressmen to get the FAA to approve its environmental reassessment of SpaceX’s Starship facility in Boca Chica approved.

Asked if the BND [Brownsville Navigation District] Board of commissioners had made its position known to Reps. Vela and Gonzalez, Lopez said: “Actually, right now, we are in talks with both of them. We want them to help. It is a huge economic impact, having SpaceX here. It makes the Rio Grande Valley and in this case Brownsville more lucrative. It gives global attention to our city, which is something we have needed for a long, long, time.”

A reporter put it to Lopez that the City of Brownsville is hoping to attract thousands of tourists once SpaceX starts sending rockets to the Moon and Mars. “It would be a tremendous loss if we lose that,” Lopez said.

Both Congressmen are members of the Democratic Party, so I doubt seriously if they care that much for the economic benefits brought to Brownsville by SpaceX, no matter what they say in public. For Democrats nowadays it is environmental matters that trump all other issues, and so it would shock me if either Vela or Gonzalez buck their party’s agenda to pressure the FAA to approve the environmental reassessment.

However, the November elections are looming, and the polls do not look good for Democrats. If the FAA rejects the reassessment prior to that election and demands that a full environmental impact statement be written, something I now fear will happen because the FAA cannot get NOAA and the Interior Department to sign on, SpaceX will almost certainly shift its Starship operations to Florida. An impact statement would take years to complete, a delay that SpaceX cannot afford. Such a sequence of events would likely do great harm to the reelection campaigns of both Democrats.

I thus now wonder if the Biden administration will force the FAA to continue delaying its decision, month-by-month, until after that November election, thus allowing these Democrats to mouth support without risking anything.

We shall know I think before the end of the month, which is presently the FAA’s announced target date for making a decision. I am willing to bet they delay again, for the fourth time.

SpaceX begins filling methane tanks at Starship launchsite in Texas

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has begun the slow process of filling the storage tanks at its launchpad in Boca Chica with the methane that will be used by its Starship and Superheavy rocket once launched.

To fill the two existing tanks, which may store enough methane to fuel a stacked Starship and Super Heavy about 4/5ths of the way, SpaceX will need around 40-50 more tanker deliveries. Since last November, SpaceX has completed more than 320 liquid nitrogen and 200 liquid oxygen deliveries – equivalent to about 6700 tons (~14.8M lb) of LN2 [liquid nitrogen] and 4200 tons (~9.3M lb) of LOx [liquid oxygen]. If SpaceX maintains that average and focuses entirely on LCH4 [methane], the two horizontal tanks could be filled to the brim before the end of February.

Having a substantial amount of [methane] stored at the orbital tank farm will finally allow SpaceX to attempt the first major wet dress rehearsals (WDRs) and, more importantly, the first full static fires with flightworthy Super Heavy booster prototypes. Of course, a tank farm with full supplies of LOx, LCH4, LN2, and their gaseous equivalents is also a necessity for the first orbital Starship launch attempt, which has most recently slipped from a target of mid-2021 to no earlier than (NET) Q2 2022, pending regulatory approval.

The article also notes that the way SpaceX built two vertical methane tanks at the launchpad appears in violation of Texas regulations, and might either need a waiver from the state or be rebuilt in order to be used. Subsequently the company has added two horizontal tanks that conform to regulations, and it is these tanks it is now filling. More tanks however will have to be added to give it the fuel needed for launch.

FAA delays Starship approval again

Death by a thousand cuts: The FAA today announced that it is once again delaying the release of the final version of its environmental reassessment of SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility, the PEA, that will allow Starship orbital launches to occur there.

The FAA intended to release the Final PEA on February 28, 2022. The FAA now plans to release the Final PEA on March 28, 2022 to account for further comment review and ongoing interagency consultations.

Though the draft PEA had approved SpaceX future Starship operations at Boca Chica, all signs continue to point to heavy resistance to making that approval official both within the Biden administration as well as those other “interagency consultations.”

I predict that the FAA will delay again, and it will delay repeatedly month by month as agencies like Fish & Wildlife and NOAA refuse to go along. The only one who could break this deadlock would be President Biden, and the only chance he or any of the people running his administration will do so is if they decide to reject the FAA’s reassessment to instead demand a new and full environmental impact statement, which would likely take years to complete.

Texas politicians might want to wake up. If SpaceX fails to get this approval it will shift its Starship operations almost entirely to Florida. I must also add that politicians across the nation should wake up as well, because if the Biden administration blocks SpaceX, the many year delay for the launch of Starship will likely impact many many businesses nationwide. It will also negatively impact NASA’s effort to land humans on the Moon this decade.

Texas grants $5 million grants to two spaceport regions

Texas today awarded $5 million grants to two spaceport regions, one in Houston and the other in Cameron County where SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility is located.

Governor Greg Abbott today announced Spaceport Trust Fund grant awards of $5,000,000 to the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corporation and $5,000,000 to the Houston Spaceport Development Corporation. Administered by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism, the Spaceport Trust Fund is a financial tool to support the development of infrastructure necessary for establishing a spaceport in the state of Texas. The 87th Legislature appropriated $10,000,000 in funds in fiscal year 2022 to provide grants, disbursed on a cost-reimbursement basis, to help support the creation of quality jobs and attract continuing investments that will strengthen the economic future of the state.

The money is obviously intended to help pay for things like roads and bridges and other various improvements required to handle the increased traffic and population brought to the locations because of the new spaceport activity.

One wonders, however, why Houston got as much as the Boca Chica area. As far as I know, there is no spaceport begin built near Houston. It houses the Johnson Space Center, but that handles activities prior to and after launch.

I suspect there was some politics involved. Abbott couldn’t award Boca Chica while ignoring Houston, especially because Houston’s importance in the space industry is presently declining as the industry moves from a government-run model (epitomized by the Johnson center) to a private commercial model (epitomized by SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility). Abbott probably felt obliged to send some support Houston’s way to avoid accusations that he is ignoring its increasingly problematic position.

Today’s blacklisted American: Texan denied COVID healthcare because he is white

Racist criteria for medical treatment at MacArthur
Whites go to the back of the bus at MacArthur Medical Center

At the MacArthur Medical Center in Irving, Texas a white man was denied COVID monoclonal antibody treatments for the single reason that he happened to be white.

We know this is true because the individual, Harrison Hill Smith, posted a video of his experience, available at the link. Here is a transcript:

“So I’m not going to be able to get it today because I don’t qualify? What if I smoke or vape? What if I were black and Hispanic. Then I’d be able to qualify?” the white man, presumably Harrison Hill Smith, asks the healthcare worker in the video.

“Yup,” the healthcare worker, who’s black, replies.

“I’m being denied medical service because of my race?” Smith then asks again just to confirm.

“That’s the criteria,” the worker indifferently responds.

It also appears that the Texas Department of Health approves this discriminatory policy.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: The massacred Alamo defenders were a myth, because they were white!

The Alamo, censored

Today’s blacklist story really begins with with 70-year-old Phil Collins from the rock band Genesis. Though born and raised in England, Collins has been for most of his life a passionate aficionado of all things related to the battle of the Alamo in Texas in 1836. That passion caused him to accumulate in his life a gigantic collection of Alamo memorabilia worth 10 million pounds, including the rifle that belonged to Davy Crockett and the sword that belonged to Mexican general Santa Anna.

In 2014 Collins, who is in poor health, donated that entire 430-piece collection to the state of Texas, on the condition the state build a museum at the Alamo to exhibit it. That museum is scheduled to open next summer, and is expected to attract millions to the site.

So, who is being blacklisted? Well, it appears it is the Alamo itself, or at least the true history of that battle, where a Mexican army of 6,000 overwhelmed a small outpost manned by only 200 Texan volunteers. No prisoners were taken, all were killed. That butchery became the rallying cry for Texas independence from Mexico.

It appears that this story must no longer be told, even though true, because it celebrates the unwavering courage of the settlers from the United States who created Texas, while illustrating the cruel dictatorship of Mexico at that time.
» Read more

First FAA hearing on Starship environmental assessment dominated by supporters

Capitalism in space: The FAA yesterday conducted its first of two virtual public hearings to allow public comment on its proposed environmental assessment that would allow SpaceX to launch orbital Starship missions from Boca Chica, Texas>

According to the story at the link, the comments were dominated by supporters, interspersed with the typical small number of anti-development environmental activists.

Over the course of more than three hours on Monday, members of the public who had registered in advance were given three minutes each to deliver their oral public comments on Starship and the draft. Most were in favor of SpaceX, though many positive comments appeared to originate from outside of Texas. A smaller number of people also voiced concerns about impacts on local ecosystems and species near Boca Chica.

The second hearing is scheduled for tomorrow.

FAA now taking public comments on the licensing of SpaceX to launch Starship/Superheavy from Boca Chica

Capitalism in space: The FAA today announced by email that it is now taking public comments on the “Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA)” it requires from SpaceX before it can issue a launch license at Boca Chica, Texas for Starship/Superheavy orbital launches.

From the email:

The FAA invites interested agencies, organizations, Native American tribes, and members of the public to submit comments on all aspects of the Draft PEA. Public comments are due on Monday, October 18, 2021. Comments or questions on the Draft PEA can be addressed to Ms. Stacey Zee, SpaceX PEA, c/o ICF, 9300 Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA 22031. Comments may also be submitted by email to SpaceXBocaChica@icf.com. Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, be advised that your entire comment – including your personal identifying information – may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold from public review your personal identifying information, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

The FAA will also hold two public hearings on October 6th and 7th, though it provided no information yet on where those hearings will be held.

This announcement means that the Starship/Superheavy orbital test flight cannot occur any earlier than October 18, 2021, and will actually occur at least several weeks or months later, based on the schedule outlined on slide 32 of this FAA presentation [pdf]. Once the 30-day public comment period ends the FAA must then hold “an industry workshop” reviewing the comments and then issue an update of the PEA, or a rejection of it.

Though the chances of the FAA rejecting SpaceX’s permit are practically nil, I fully expect this process to be slow-walked by the FAA under orders of the Biden administration in order to do whatever it can to prevent this orbital flight occurring before SLS’s first launch, now expected in early ’22.

I hope I am wrong, and that the FAA surprises me. We can only wait and see.

Update: If you think I am crazy thinking that the politics of the Biden administration will cause a slowdown in the FAA’s process, just read this story about the FAA suddenly imposing flight restrictions at the southern border to block drone flights by media outlets that show the illegal immigrant crisis there.

“We’ve learned that the FAA just implemented a two week TFR (Temporary Flight Restrictions) over the international bridge in Del Rio, TX, meaning we can no longer fly our FOX drone over it to show images of the thousands of migrants,” Fox News reporter Bill Melugin tweeted. “FAA says ‘special security reason.’”

Fox’s report resulted in a quick lifting of this flight restriction on their drone, but the action by the Biden administration shows that it is quite willing to interfere with normal aviation regulations for its own political reasons.

SpaceX leases several large facilities in Brownsville, Texas

Capitalism in space: In a clear sign that SpaceX plans to expand its Starship/Superheavy operations in Boca Chica, Texas, it has now leased several large facilities in nearby Brownsville.

Earlier this month, the company signed leases with the Brownsville South Padre Island Airport (BRO) for 46,000 square feet of warehouse space and a neighboring private industrial park owned by PacVentures for 60,000 square feet of warehouse space. Francisco Partida, the airport’s special projects manager, said talks with SpaceX about leasing the former Taylorcraft building at 2100 Les Mauldin Road began in mid-July.

The company was looking for 100,000 square feet of warehouse, which the airport couldn’t supply, though SpaceX found the additional square footage it needed in the privately owned industrial park at 1900 Billy Mitchell Blvd., he said.

SpaceX has also committed about a half million dollars to repairing and refurbishing the airport warehouse.

Today’s blacklisted American: Head of software game company forced out because he expressed a pro-life opinion

The Bill of Rights cancelled at Tripwire
No freedom of speech allowed in the software
and gaming industries.

They’re coming for you next: John Gipson, the co-founder and president of the software game company Tripwire, has been forced to step down because he had the nerve to issue a single tweet expressing support for Texas’s new anti-abortion law.

The tweet quickly generated intense controversy. Many individual gamers called for a boycott of Tripwire’s games, sharing tips on how to hide listings for its products in Steam’s online game store or making donations to women’s charities in Mr Gibson’s name.

Supporters of the Texas law also responded, with the original tweet clocking up nearly 13,000 replies.

But Shipwright Studios, a “work-for-hire” studio that contributed to some of Tripwire’s games, wrote it was ending a three-year relationship because of Mr Gibson’s comments. “While your politics are your own, the moment you make them a matter of public discourse you entangle all of those working for and with you,” Shipwright Studios said. “We cannot in good conscience continue to work with Tripwire under the current leadership… [and] will begin the cancellation of our existing contracts”.

Tom Banner studios, the creator of one of the games that Tripwire publishes (Chivalry 2), also came out condemning Gibson, as did several of his partners at Tripwire.

So what evil thing did Gibson say? Here is the entire content of his tweet:
» Read more

Musk’s Boring Co offers to dig tunnel for resident transportation during launch closures

Capitalism in space: Elon Musk’s Boring Company has proposed digging a tunnel so that people can still access Boca Chica’s beaches even during periods when SpaceX is doing launch operations and needs to close the surface roads.

The Boring Company (TBC) met with Cameron County officials to discuss the possibility of a tunnel project running from South Padre Island (SPI) to Boca Chica Beach.

The Boring Company pitched the idea of an SPI-Boca Chica tunnel to Cameron County administrator Pete Sepulveda Jr. and county engineer Benjamin Worsham early this summer. Cameron County officials have been thinking of giving people access to part of Boca Chica Beach even during closures.

The county has said it likely cannot afford to pay for such a thing, but Musk’s company is still proposing to do an in-depth study to find out what will be necessary to make it happen.

It could very well be that Musk might find some cash to help pay for this himself. The public relations would be excellent, and it would I think be the right thing to do. It is also possible that the local communities will have more cash themselves because of the booming economy SpaceX is bringing them.

Musk donates more big money to revitalizing downtown Brownsville

It appears that a charitable foundation established by Elon Musk has recently decided to up its donations to the Brownsville Community Improvements Corporation by an extra $1 million, the money aimed at helping to revitalized the downtown of Brownsville, the nearest large city to SpaceX’s Boca Chica spaceport.

The donation was revealed during remarks by Josh Mejia, executive director of the Brownsville Community Improvements Corporation, during a Brownsville developers luncheon .

In his remarks, Mejia, pictured above, gave an update on the e-Bridge Center and other quality of life improvements coming to Brownsville. But, he received the biggest applause when he mentioned inward investment by Elon Musk. “I was texting back and forth with my board members and about 45 minutes ago I receive an email from the Musk Foundation. It is like perfect timing. It is like they know we are here. Well, they just mentioned they donated another million (dollars) towards this program. So, now we have $2 million,” Mejia said. The audience cheered.

This donation is all part of the modern game that requires big business enterprises to make payoffs to local and national politicians and “community activists.” Both Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos know this, and are playing the game to hilt. Both know that the politicians and “community activists” have been telling them, “Nice business you got here, shame if something happened to it.” Bezos responded by donating big to DC’s Air & Space museum, while spreading the wealth to many space advocacy groups.

Musk is instead focusing his payoffs to the local community, where it might do the most good for both him and the locals that his business affects. This donation is not the first he has made to Boca Chica, Brownsville, and south Texas. His foundation has also donated $20 million to the county schools, and another $8 million for other downtown Brownsville projects. The results, obviously helped by the business SpaceX is also bringing to the town, have been noticeable.

In the months since Musk pledged his $10 million, at least 10 downtown properties have gone under contract with interested buyers, said real estate broker Bob Torres Jr. Buildings that used to lease for 25 cents a square foot are now leasing for $1 to $1.50 per square foot.

Home prices have increased nationwide due to the pandemic and low inventory. In Brownsville, this trend has been exacerbated by SpaceX. “People are buying houses sight unseen from Washington state, Portland, Oregon,” Torres said. “They’re going above the asking price, which hardly ever happens.” Real estate broker Bruno Zavaleta III had a client drive from Atlanta and buy three houses.

According to the Brownsville/South Padre Island Board of Realtors, the median price for a home in Brownsville was $212,900 in June, up 47 percent from June 2020. To help with inventory, Esperanza Homes is building 675 houses in northern Brownsville. It will develop this master-planned community over the next six to eight years with a nonprofit community housing development organization called “come dream. come build.”

This pumping of donations by Musk to the local community however will not sell well with the mafia in Washington. The money isn’t going to them, and bullies don’t like that, even if the money is really doing good. Bezos understands this. It doesn’t really matter if the money he donates accomplishes anything real. What matters is that he has paid off the thugs who could make big trouble for him in the future.

Right now it is unclear who’s strategy will work best for protecting each company’s interests. Much will hinge on what each company actually accomplishes in the next few years. SpaceX is clearly ahead in this area, but Blue Origin can certainly catch up.

Hat tip Robert Pratt of Pratt on Texas.

Today’s blacklisted American: Veteran pilot under investigation by American Airlines for expressing his opinions

Coca-Cola's bigoted company policy
Examples of Critical Race Policy materials that
were being used at Coca-Cola

Blacklists are back and American Airlines want ’em! American Airlines has instituted an investigation into the opinions of one of their pilots, Guy Midkiff, because he committed the “crime” of criticizing the introduction of the bigoted and Marxists program called Critical Race Theory (CRT) in his local schools.

The attacks against him by one group that supports CRT have been vicious and slanderous, as documented at this story. The members of this group, the Southlake Anti-Racism coalition (SARC), have repeatedly commented on American Airlines’ Twitter feed, accusing Midkiff of harassing students and women while calling him a racist, all without any evidence. Some examples:
» Read more

Axiom chooses Houston for its astronaut training and space station construction facility

Capitalism in space: Axiom, the company building the next private modules to be added to ISS, has chosen Houston as the location for its astronaut training and space station construction facility.

Axiom Space, based in Houston, plans to develop a 14-acre headquarters campus at the spaceport located at Ellington Airport. It will use this campus to train private astronauts and for production of its Axiom Station. Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the project on Tuesday.

…Terms of the deal, including how the development would be financed, are still being worked out and must be approved by City Council. The Houston Airport System, for instance, could help provide financing that Axiom Space would pay back.

Axiom said construction could begin in 2021, and it expects to have a functional headquarters campus in 2023. The company grew its workforce to 90 people this year and is looking to hire another 100 next year. Ultimately, it could add more than 1,000 jobs for the Houston area.

For Axiom, the most important event in the coming year will be its private manned mission to ISS, using SpaceX’s Dragon capsule. That flight, presently scheduled for the fall, will put it on the map.

Key legal issues behind the Texas petition to Supreme Court re election issues

Link here.

The author reviews the petition, the logic behind it, and the legal possibilities. She also cogently reviews the worst examples of misbehavior in the four swing states, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Michigan, that justify Supreme Court action. If you are one of those people that refuses to recognize the illegalities in the handling of the election in those states, you should read this article to education yourself.

The key point however is this:

These injuries, Texas asserts, demand a remedy. But the remedy sought is not what some may surmise is the goal—a second term for President Trump.

No, what Texas seeks is for the Supreme Court to mandate that the defendant states comply with the Constitution, and that means that electors are selected by the states’ legislatures. Texas makes this point clear, stressing: “Plaintiff State does not ask this Court to decide who won the election; they only ask that the Court enjoin the clear violations of the Electors Clause of the Constitution.”

Texas is essentially demanding what I suggested several weeks ago: If election issues are not fixed, elected state Republicans must refuse to certify.

Texas is demanding that these four states put the decision to the legislatures, since their election counts cannot be trusted. While the arguments are sound, it remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court will listen.

Musk confirms he has left California for Texas

SpaceX founder Elon Musk today confirmed that he is selling his homes in California and is moving permanently to Texas.

Musk did not reveal whereabouts in the Lone Star State he has moved to. It’s also unclear whether he will purchase any property there, given that he stated earlier this year that he wants to rid himself of possessions and is only interesting in renting.

Over the summer, the Musk Foundation officially consolidated its headquarters in Austin – a city that also houses a Tesla assembly plant. However, Musk is also known to spend time in Boca Chica, on the southeast coast of the state, where there is a SpaceX facility.

For the time being, both Tesla and SpaceX remain headquartered in California. It is unclear whether Musk will officially move both businesses to Texas at a later date.

I expect that both Tesla and SpaceX in California will soon be leaving as well. Musk is shrewd however. He has been shifting both slowly from California in the past two years as he has found it increasingly impossible to deal with government officials there. Witness Starship for example. Two years ago it was to be built in the Port of Los Angeles. Now, with little fanfare all operations have moved to Texas.

Musk will leave slowly, so as to not stir a political hornet’s nest among the fascist legislators of California. They consider everything everyone owns as belonging really to them, and will not take kindly to any attempt of Musk to escape.

Texas sees 400% increase in homeschooling

The silver lining? Faced with odious rules and remote zoom classes in the public education system due to fear and terror over the corona virus, Texas parents are choosing to homeschool their children this year, with the numbers rising by 400%.

The spike, the group reported, stems directly from the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) pandemic schooling guidelines sparking a mass exodus from the public school system as parents opt to teach their children at home over enrolling them in a digitized, remote state-run classroom.

Our government public schools have been corrupted by leftist indoctrination for years, while they have steadily done a worsening job at educating children in the basics. (Witness for example the ignorance exhibited by the Antifa protesters about American history.) Maybe this disaster created by the Wuhan flu panic might have some benefits, such as getting parents more involved once again in their kid’s education, and thus improve it.

Because, based on everything I’ve seen and read about modern public school education and culture, parents really can’t do worse.

Texas business reopens in defiance of shut down with armed security

The future: A Texas tatoo parlor decided last week to reopen in defiance of the shut down regulations imposed by its state government, and did so with the help of armed security.

When Jamie Williams decided to reopen her East Texas tattoo studio last week in defiance of the state’s coronavirus restrictions, she asked Philip Archibald for help. He showed up with his dog Zeus, his friends and his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

Archibald established an armed perimeter in the parking lot outside Crash-N-Burn Tattoo, secured by five men with military-style rifles, tactical shotguns, camouflage vests and walkie-talkies. One of them already had a large tattoo of his own. “We the People,” it said.

“I think it should be a business’s right if they want to close or open,” said Archibald, a 29-year-old online fitness trainer from the Dallas area who lately has made it his personal mission to help Texas business owners challenge government orders to keep their doors shut during the coronavirus pandemic. “What is coming to arrest a person who is opening their business according to their constitutional rights? That’s confrontation.”

More businesses need to do the same. If enough do it, the police thugs will have no choice but to back off and let these Americans go about their business of freely pursuing life, liberty, and happiness.

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.

Texas court says it is okay for Texas university to steal

Theft by government: The Texas appeals court has ruled that is acceptable for the University of Houston to use photos and intellectual material belonging to someone else without paying for it.

A Texas appeals court has ruled that the University of Houston does not have to pay the photographer of a picture it has been using in online and print promotional materials. Houston photographer Jim Olive says the university removed copyright markings from an image downloaded from his stock library, failed to credit him when it was used and wouldn’t pay when he sent a bill, but the university claims it has sovereign immunity and that it can’t be sued.

Worse, the court required the photographer to pay the university’s legal costs.

SpaceX shifts some Starship/Super Heavy construction to Texas

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has decided to shift some of the construction of its new Starship/Super Heavy rocket from Los Angeles to its Boca Chica facility in Texas.

In tweets later Jan. 16, Elon Musk, the founder and chief executive of SpaceX, said that development of the vehicle itself, including the Raptor engines that power it, would continue in Hawthorne, while at least the prototype versions of Starship are built in Texas. “We are building the Starship prototypes locally at our launch site in Texas, as their size makes them very difficult to transport,” he said.

A shift to South Texas, industry sources said, could be a way to reduce expenses, given the lower cost of living there versus the Los Angeles area. However, that region of Texas has a much smaller workforce, particularly in aerospace, compared to Southern California.

Meanwhile, I keep hearing from my sources in the industry that SpaceX is facing more serious problems because of the coming decline in the manufacture of large geosynchronous satellites. The smallsat revolution appears to be the cause, and SpaceX’s larger rockets are not ideal for launching these tiny satellites. I am not entirely convinced of this pessimistic conclusion, but if SpaceX is in trouble it will likely be a tragedy for manned spaceflight. The smallsat rockets cannot put people in space. Neither can the gigantic government rockets like SLS. Without innovative companies like SpaceX building and launching large rockets for profit, the development of the large inexpensive rockets needed for human travel will be significantly hampered.

Republican wins special election in black/Hispanic district in Texas

Is this significant? A Republican today won a special election for a Texas state senate seat in a predominately black and Hispanic district that was won by Hillary Clinton by 12% and hasn’t been held by a Republican for more than a hundred years.

It is dangerous to extrapolate the results from a single state legislative district to the wider nation. Nonetheless, for a Republican to win such a seat in a district whose two biggest demographics are Hispanic and black suggests we might yet see a historic shift this coming election. If the Democrats can no longer depend on these voters, they will find it difficult to win any national elections.

SpaceX cancels Texas subsidy that required Boca Chica operation in 2018

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has canceled a small Texas subsidy that required it to begin operations at its Boca Chica spaceport by September 2018.

The company terminated a deal reached with the office of then-Gov. Rick Perry in late 2013 that earmarked $2.3 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund for the future spaceport at Boca Chica beach, which is near Brownsville. The project has experienced delays and SpaceX had received about $400,000 of the money, but it now has paid back all of it.

The deal mandated that, to receive the incentives dollars, the spaceport be operational by Sept. 30 this year and employ 180 people by the end of 2018. It appears SpaceX was unlikely to meet either target.

This does not mean that SpaceX is abandoning the spaceport, only that it can’t meet the schedule required by this subsidy. This also might explain why they requested an additional $5 million from Texas. They knew they were going to lose this $2.3 million subsidy and were lobbying to make up for it with other state funds.

Hat tip Robert Pratt of Pratt on Texas.

SpaceX seeks more government money for Texas spaceport

It appears that SpaceX is asking for an additional $5 million in government subsidies to build local infrastructure for its Boca Chica spaceport in Texas.

This new money would be in addition to about $15 million already set aside for SpaceX’s spaceport. It is unclear however what it will exactly pay for.

Update: Meanwhile, the New Mexico state legislature is considering dumping another $10 million to Spaceport America. (Hat tip Robert Pratt) From the article:

Other provisions of the updated budget proposal might raise eyebrows. One is $10 million for Spaceport America to build a new hangar. State officials hope the Spaceport can become a tourist draw.

I don’t know how they can imagine this will ever be a tourist draw, since Spaceport America is a spaceport with practically no customers except for Virgin Galactic, which unlike SpaceX will likely never fly.

Note: A reader noted that I mistakenly wrote that Spaceport America was in Texas in the initial post. The reader is correct. I wrote without thinking, and now have fixed the post.

Federal agencies question establishment of SpaceX spaceport and three liquefied natural gas plants in Brownsville

Two federal agencies are questioning the safety of establishing three liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants near SpaceX’s new spaceport in Boca Chica, Texas.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is reviewing the applications for the LNG export terminals, which plan to take natural gas from the Eagle Ford south of San Antonio, liquefy it and export the LNG to overseas customers.

The Federal Aviation Administration hosted an Aug. 18 meeting to discuss space launch activities near the proposed LNG facilities, according to a FERC filing released on Thursday. During the meeting, FAA officials discussed their role and regulations regarding commercial space launches, as well as the agency’s licensing and public safety requirements prior to the launch of any future mission.

While it makes perfect sense to keep a rocket launchpad safely away from large amounts of liquefied natural gas, I found the article’s concluding paragraphs to be most revealing:

Meanwhile, environmentalists, who were critical of the SpaceX project and oppose the LNG plants, said the launch site is too close to the proposed export terminals. “This announcement should be a wake-up call and warning that putting LNG terminals within six miles of the SpaceX launch site is a bad idea,” Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club Chair Jim Chapman told the Business Journal. “Furthermore, Annova LNG wants to put its facility within the SpaceX launch closure area. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that idea won’t fly.” [emphasis mine]

Note how the environmentalists are essentially against everything. They really aren’t opposed to having these two facilities being placed too close to each other, what they really want is that nothing gets built at all. Most instructive.

SpaceX lobbies Texas government for spaceport backing

The competition heats up: In testimony today before the Texas legislature, a SpaceX official called for more government funding to support the company’s spaceport construction in Boca Chica near Brownsville, Texas.

At a recent joint legislative committee hearing held at UT-Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville, Caryn Schenewerk, senior counsel and director of governmental affairs for SpaceX, pointed out that zero dollars were appropriated to the Texas Spaceport Trust Fund during last year’s legislative session. In contrast, Schenewerk said, Florida commits $20 million a year to its spaceport infrastructure fund.

“One of the things I want to highlight for you is that unfortunately, the spaceport trust fund was not funded in the 84th Legislature and we will certainly be advocating for it to be considered by the 85th and for it to be part of the budget in the 85th Legislature,” Schenewerk testified. “By contrast, Florida consistently funds its space infrastructure fund to a tune of $20 million a year. Those infrastructure matching grants go to exactly the kind of activities that we are undertaking at Boca Chica. They are public-private partnerships for investing specifically in what is so costly an undertaking, the infrastructure.”

Obviously, SpaceX’s spaceport is going to require an increased financial commitment by the state government to build and maintain the increased infrastructure that such large operations require. At the same time, SpaceX doesn’t need a handout. They shouldn’t expect the taxpayers to pay for their private spaceport.

The article does provide some updated information about the spaceport’s construction status. It looks like they are aiming for a 2018 launch date.

Texas town regulates SpaceX engine tests

Nice rocket company you got here. It would be a shame if something happened to it: The city council of McGregor, Texas, has imposed new regulations and fines on SpaceX should it perform rocket engine tests at its facility there in a manner the council does not like.

Though the city council was entirely within its rights, and the ban on night testing make sense, in reading the list of fines and regulations I couldn’t help thinking that they will in the end only accomplish one thing: to drive SpaceX away. This regulation in particular stood out:

The actual launching of any vehicle into the atmosphere or into space is specifically prohibited at the McGregor facility.

This would appear to ban SpaceX from doing any more hover tests of the Falcon 9 first stage. For an innovative company like SpaceX to operate as it wants, it needs the freedom to operate as it wants. These restrictions could prevent the company from doing so.

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