Sierra Space makes deal with UK spaceport for Dream Chaser landings

Capitalism in space: Sierra Space has signed an agreement with a spaceport in Cornwall, England, allowing it to land its Dream Chaser mini-shuttles there.

Sierra Space signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Spaceport Cornwall expressing support for future landings of Dream Chaser at the spaceport, also known as Cornwall Newquay Airport in southwestern England.

The MOU came after Sierra Space performed a study, supported by the U.K. Space Agency, evaluating the feasibility of using the spaceport for Dream Chaser landings. The lifting body vehicle is designed to glide to a landing on runways, and the initial study concluded the spaceport is “a suitable and viable return location for the orbital return” for Dream Chaser, Sierra Space said in a statement.

The more places Sierra can land Dream Chaser the more commercially viable it will be. For Cornwall, this strengthens its position as a spaceport, having already signed an agreement with Virgin Orbit to allow it to launch from there.

Shetland spaceport application rejected by local monument authority

The application to build a spaceport on one of the Shetland Islands has been rejected by a local monument authority because it would cause “extensive and adverse impact on the cultural significance” of a WWII radar station.

Mr Strang [head of the spaceport organization] said he was “greatly surprised” by the decision, claiming HES [Historic Environment Scotland] had “done nothing to preserve the site for the last 50 years”.

Skaw is the UK’s most northerly Second World War radar station and protected as a scheduled monument of national importance. The proposed space centre would be built almost entirely with in the RAF radar station site. It would require the removal of nine buildings, including air raid shelters, guard huts and those associated with the radar system. More than 200 archaeological features, such as foundations of buildings, gun emplacements and bomb craters would also be removed.

The Shetland Islands are very remote with few job opportunities for its residences. Putting a spaceport there seems like an excellent idea, especially because it will create hundreds of jobs where none exist now.

The radar facility did the same, but it did so more than seventy years ago, during World War II. Protecting these old and unused buildings for the sake of those long gone jobs seems utterly foolish.

The spaceport people say they will oppose this decision, but it is not clear from the article what they can do. The law as written appears to give this historical agency full power to veto.

ESA awards UK’s Orbex 7.45 million euros to fund rocket development

Capitalism in space: The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded the new United Kingdom smallsat launch company Orbex 7.45 million euros to help fund the development of its Prime rocket.

This will supplement the 4.7 million euros that Orbex has raised from private capital.

The funds from the award will go towards the completion of spaceflight systems in preparation for the first launches of Orbex’s 19-metre ‘microlauncher’ rocket, Prime. €11.25 million of the total funding will be assigned to work undertaken in the UK, in particular the lightweight avionics designed in-house by Orbex in Forres, and the guidance, navigation and control (GNC) software subsystem being designed by Elecnor Deimos, a strategic investor and partner of Orbex. The remaining €900,000 of the total funding package will support the development of the GNC for the orbital phase being developed by Elecnor Deimos for Orbex in Portugal.

If all goes right, Prime will make its first launch from Sutherland, Scotland, in ’22.

The contract award signals the shift at ESA that resembles what happened at NASA in the past decade, moving from designing and building its rockets and spacecraft to buying the product from private companies. While ESA might be providing a large bulk of the capital to develop Prime, it appears ESA is not involving itself heavily in the development itself, leaving that instead to the company.

Meteorite recovered in driveway in UK only days after landing

Meteorite hunters successfully recovered a meteorite only days after it plowed through the atmosphere and landed in a driveway in Gloucestershire in the United Kingdom on February 28th.

The fragment, weighing nearly 300 grams, and other pieces of the space rock were located after scientists reconstructed the flight path of the fireball that unleashed a sonic boom as it tore across the sky shortly before 10pm UK time on Sunday 28 February. The black chunk of rock, a carbonaceous chondrite never seen before in the UK, thumped on to a driveway in the Cotswolds town of Winchcombe, scientists at the Natural History Museum in London said, adding that further fragments were retrieved nearby.

Ashley Green, a scientist at the museum, said it was “a dream come true” to be one of the first people to see and study a meteorite that had been recovered almost immediately after coming down.

Footage of the bright streak captured by the public, and a camera network operated by the Natural History Museum’s UK Fireball Alliance, helped researchers calculate that the meteor had spent most of its orbit between Mars and Jupiter before it ploughed into Earth’s atmosphere.

I seriously doubt that no carbonaceous chondrite asteroids have never been found in Great Britain before. Instead, what the reporter misunderstood was that this was the first such asteroid in the UK recovered immediately after its arrival. Carbonaceous chondrites are very fragile. Much of their material will quickly erode and disappear, preventing researchers from obtaining a complete census of their entire make-up. Grabbing this thing mere days after landing means they will have a sample more closely resembling these kinds of asteroids in space.

In this way this rock is not much different than the samples being brought back from Hayabusa-2 and OSIRIS-REx. It isn’t as pristine, but it certainly carries far more information that meteorites recovered decades or even centuries after landing.

Similar quick recoveries in the past few years have forced some major rethinking about the make-up of the asteroid population. This meteorite will likely add to that revolution.

Lockheed Martin picks ABL’s rocket to make its first UK launch

Capitalism in space: Lockheed Martin has chosen the smallsat rocket company ABL Space Systems to launch its first UK satellite payload from Shetland.

Lockheed said Feb. 7 that ABL will perform a launch of its RS1 rocket from the Shetland Space Centre, a spaceport to be developed on the island of Unst in the Shetlands, in 2022. The rocket, on a mission called the UK Pathfinder launch, will place into orbit a tug developed by Moog in the UK that will then deploy six 6U cubesats.

The launch will fulfill an award made by the British government in 2018 to support development of a domestic launch capability. The $31 million contract to Lockheed Martin covered a launch, then planned for a spaceport at Sutherland in northern Scotland, as well as Moog’s orbital maneuvering vehicle.

Lockheed did not disclose at the time, though, which vehicle it would use for the launch. The company does not have a small launch vehicle of its own compatible with the spaceport, but has invested in companies working on such vehicles, including ABL Space Systems and Rocket Lab.

It appears Lockheed choose ABL over Rocket Lab because of its mobile launch capability. As designed, its RS1 rocket needs no permanent infrastructure at the launch site. All they need is a concrete pad.

This decision also heightens the competition between the two presently proposed UK spaceports in Sutherland, Scotland, and Unst, Shetland. While planning at Sutherland started earlier, local opposition appears to be slowing it down.

ABL is one of six smallsat rocket companies planning a first orbital launch in 2021. While it is unlikely all will do so, the likelihood is increasing that several will, which will make things very busy in the rocket industry.

Starlink begins rollout in United Kingdom; blocked in Russia

Capitalism in space: SpaceX’s Starlink internet service has now begun providing its service in the United Kingdom, following approval by the government there.

Because the British government is now also an owner of Starlink’s direct competitor, OneWeb, this creates an interesting conflict of interest that fortunately has so far not impeded SpaceX. We shall have to see whether this changes with time.

Meanwhile, in Russia a similar conflict of interest has resulted in some government action against Starlink.

Russia’s legislative body, the State Duma, is considering fines for individuals and companies in the country that use Western-based satellite Internet services. The proposed law seeks to prevent accessing the Internet by means of SpaceX’s Starlink service, OneWeb, or other non-Russian satellite constellations under development.

…In the Russian-language article, translated for Ars by Robinson Mitchell, members of the Duma assert that accessing the Internet independently would bypass the country’s System of Operational Search Measures, which monitors Internet use and mobile communications. As part of the country’s tight control on media and communications, all Russian Internet traffic must pass through a Russian communications provider.

It is not surprising that Russia would take steps to block Starlink service—the country’s space chief, Dmitry Rogozin, views SpaceX as a chief rival in spaceflight. Rogozin has been critical of both NASA and the US Department of Defense for subsidizing SpaceX through government contracts. (While it is true that SpaceX has received launch contracts from the US government worth several billion dollars, it has also provided launch services at a significant discount compared to other providers.) More recently Rogozin has said Starlink is little more than a scheme to provide US Special Forces with uninterrupted communications.

That the legislation is also aimed at blocking OneWeb however is strange, considering that OneWeb is quite literally Rogozin’s only remaining commercial customer for Roscosmos’s launch services.

In the end, such laws will only end up doing more damage to Russia than to SpaceX. When you don’t allow competition you basically don’t allow any achievements at all. Russia will sink into a second-class status, not because its people are second-class but because its government is.

Tragically it appears the U.S. federal government is now in a race with Russia to the bottom.

Smallsat rocket startup Obex raises $24 million

Capitalism in space: The smallsat rocket startup Obex of the United Kingdom today announced that it has raised $24 million in private investment capital to support the development of its Prime rocket.

Conceived and developed as an environmentally sustainable launch system, the Orbex Prime rocket uniquely uses bio-propane, a renewable biofuel that cuts CO2 emissions by 90% compared to traditional kerosene-based rocket fuels. Designed to be recoverable and re-usable, Orbex Prime is intended to leave no debris in the ocean or in orbit around the Earth. The company is constructing the rocket vehicle at factories in Forres, near Inverness in Scotland, and Copenhagen in Denmark.

…Orbex has already confirmed six commercial satellite launch contracts, with the first launches expected in 2022. The company’s preferred launch site will be the Sutherland spaceport on the northernmost coast of Scotland, which was granted planning permission in mid-August 2020.

Whether the Sutherland spaceport happens however remains uncertain. Though it still appears to be moving forward, there is a lot of local opposition to it, some with clout. It appears however that Orbex is aware of this reality, and is developing Prime to allow it to launch from other sites.

That the company is trying to build this rocket as reusable right from the beginning is encouraging. It shows that the rocket industry is finally accepting the new paradigm established by SpaceX. For them to achieve this by ’22 however will be quite challenging.

Wealthy environmentalist picks his preferred UK spaceport

Capitalism in space: A wealthy businessman who is also involved in environmental causes has invested almost 1.5 million pounds in the proposed spaceport planned for the Shetland Islands, the northernmost British islands.

What makes this investment especially interesting is this same environmentalist’s opposition to a different spaceport proposed for Sutherland, Scotland.

Danish businessman Mr Povlsen, who is reportedly worth £4.5bn thanks to his Bestseller clothes retail empire, and his wife own thousands of acres of land in Sutherland, and on other estates in the Highlands. [Their company] Wildland Ltd has raised concerns about Space Hub Sutherland’s impact on the Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands Special Protection Area, and has sought a judicial review of Highland Council’s permission for the satellite launch project.

Another of the Povlsens’ companies, Wildland Ventures Ltd, has invested in Shetland Space Centre.

This apparently is the ultimate in NIMBY (not in my backyard!). It seems this couple is throwing its weight behind the Shetland site in order to help keep the Sutherland site (in their backyard) from being built.

Lockheed Martin to move its smallsat rocket launch project to the UK

Capitalism in space: Lockheed Martin announced today that it is moving its Pathfnder smallsat rocket operation to a new spaceport in Shetland in the United Kingdom, with the first launch targeted for ’24.

This Shetland site is a different UK spaceport than the Sutherland site, also in Scotland, where both Lockheed Martin and the British company Orbex also hope to launch.

FCC approves expansion of OneWeb constellation to 2,000 satellites

Capitalism in space: The FCC has approved the request by the satellite company OneWeb to increase the size of its satellite constellation from 720 to 2,000 satellites, at 50% of which must be launched by August ’26.

The company, now exiting bankruptcy with its purchase by a partnership of the UK government and an Indian-based communications company, appears gearing up to resume launches.

The FCC’s approval was partly because it would “increase competition for broadband services.” Under the Trump administration the goal is to encourage as many private space companies as possible, to promote innovation and the lowering of costs to the consumer. This decision continues that policy.

UK spaceport in north Scotland approved

Capitalism in space: A commercial spaceport in Sutherland, Scotland, has received full approval from the local planning commission.

With planning permission now secured, construction is on course to begin before the end of the year, and HIE is hopeful that the site could be operational and supporting its first launch as early as 2022.

Their prime customer, a UK company dubbed Orbex Space, had said two years ago it would do its first launch by 2021, so this announcement also reveals a year delay in that first launch.

Lockheed Martin, teamed with Rocket Lab, has also said it will launch from this site.

United Kingdom partnership buys bankrupt OneWeb

Capitalism in space? A partnership between the UK government and an Indian company operating in the UK has purchased the bankrupt satellite company OneWeb for $1 billion.

The decision for the U.K. government to purchase OneWeb came with few details about when satellite launches will resume and exactly what the OneWeb satellites will now be used for and even who will have access to them once launched.

The overall deal is worth $1 billion USD, with the U.K. government and Bharti Enterprises Ltd. (an Indian-based company with an operational arm in the U.K.) each committing $500 million USD to the acquisition deal.

The buy-out is expected to close by the end of the year and will represent a 90% overall stake in OneWeb, with the organization’s original investors maintaining a 10% share according to reports from Bloomberg News.

The Johnson government has indicated it wishes to use the OneWeb constellation, still incomplete, as some sort of navigational tool, like GPS. The problem is that the satellites were not designed for this, but for providing internet service.

The article provides a good overview of the questions raised by this government decision. It is hard to figure how this purchase makes sense for the UK government. The impact however on one of OneWeb’s launch providers, Russia, could be very negative. OneWeb was going use a lot of Soyuz rockets to get its satellites off the ground, and had become practically the only commercial customer Russia still has. It is unclear what will happen now with that contract deal.

Local authorities in Scotland have approved spaceport concept

Capitalism in space: Local authorities in northern Scotland have recommended that planning of a private spaceport in Sutherland should move forward.

Will this happen? I wonder, based on this detail from the article:

Councillors on Highland Council’s north planning applications committee will consider the proposals for Space Hub Sutherland on Friday.

The local authority has received 457 objections to the plans and 118 representations in support of them. Impact on the environment and risk to human health are among the reasons for the objections.

Local community councils have supported the project because it is expected to create new jobs.

The article implies that the local communities support the project, but I’m not sure. Either way, in our fear-driven society today getting that many objections would be is a major hurdle for any project to leap.

U.S. & U.K. sign space agreement

Anticipating the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, the Trump administration has signed an new space agreement with the U.K. in order to facilitate the ability of U.S. companies export British technology as well as launch from its spaceports.

I cannot find the actual text of the agreement so my description, based on news reports and the press release (linked above) might be wrong. It does appear however that the agreement is designed to smooth out the regulatory environment that might block commercial space development involving both countries.

It also seems required because of the UK’s exit from the EU. They need to sign bilateral agreements with other nations to replace the EU framework.

UK parliament approves Brexit deal at last

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s deal to leave the European Union on January 31, 2020 was finally approved today by Parliament 330 to 231.

Not so fast. The deal calls for eleven months of negotiations on the various issues involved for the exit, and the head of the EU was in London calling for an endless extension of that deadline.

The new president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen came to London yesterday for her first face-to-face talks with Mr Johnson. She was accompanied by the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier who will now lead trade discussions on behalf of the bloc after managing the divorce stage.

…During a speech at the London School of Economics, where she spent a year in hiding as a student in the late 1970s after becoming a target of the left-wing terrorist Baader-Meinhof gang, she said that a full deal would not be achievable in just 11 months. She said: ‘Without an extension of the transition period beyond 2020 you cannot expect to agree on every single aspect of our new partnership. We will have to prioritise.’

Mr Barnier echoed a similar sentiment in a speech in Stockholm today as he said: ‘We are ready to do our best and to do the maximum in the 11 months to secure a basic agreement with the UK, but we will need more time to agree on each and every point of this political declaration.’

This game by these elitists is getting very tiresome. Johnson responded by saying that there would be no extensions.

Major victory for Boris Johnson, Tories, and Brexit

A victory for democracy: In the elections today in the United Kingdom it appears at this moment that the conservative Tories under Boris Johnson, running under a platform to quickly enforce the public’s vote three years ago to leave the European Union, have won the biggest majority since the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher.

As is typical in the modern journalist field, these results are also much more favorable to the conservatives than all the polls, which had called for a much closer result. The result is also a major rejection of Great Britain’s leftist and increasingly anti-Semitic Labor Party under Jeremy Corbyn.

Most important, the victory for Johnson is also a vindication of his strong position that he and Great Britain’s politicians had a responsibility to respect the voters’ choice three years ago to exit the European Union, and the effort by politicians to nullify that vote was a direct attack on democracy. The voters have clearly shown their contempt for that nullification effort, and have said so forcefully at the polls.

My immediate thought, from an American perspective: If only the American voters were as willing to make such a forceful statement. Our Democratic Party has been acting as bad and as anti-democratic as the politicians in the UK these past three years. It is long past time for a major political house-cleaning in Washington.

So far, the American voters have shown no inclination to do this, however, and in fact in the 2018 election did the exact opposite, rewarding the corrupt Democratic Party with more power by giving them control of the House. The result has been this ludicrous impeachment effort by the Democrats that is blatantly an effort to nullify the 2016 presidential election. They have no grounds for impeachment and the removal of Donald Trump, other than the fact that they don’t like him and that he beat them in a fair election.

They should be punished in the same way. Will the American voters do it? So far I remain pessimistic. I also pray every day that my pessimism turns out to be wrong.

Climate change protesters mob local UK spaceport council

Mob rule: A local Cornwall council meeting yesterday approved a $10 million grant for a new spaceport despite protesters screaming and yelling in the gallery and outside, forcing the meeting to end early.

After deciding not to defer a decision, councillors voted to grant £10.32m of capital funding to the spaceport by 66 to 34, with one abstention.

The gallery then erupted with chants as protesters launched paper airplanes. The chamber was then cleared of councillors and the meeting adjourned as the crowds continued to chant and shouted at councillors as they left saying things like “shame on you”. [emphasis mine]

Police were required to maintain order.

I have highlighted the vote count to note that these protesters clearly did not have that much real support. Their protests however remain a good intimidation tactic, so expect more protests if this project continues, especially because it appears the climate change crowd is beginning to behave as if any new technology is a threat. From the article it appears the protests were dominated by global warming activists from the group Extinction Rebellion. Also, “the groups Red Rebels and deathly-looking Penitents were joined by locals carrying signs and flags.”

I grant that it might not make sense for this local council to spend so much money for a spaceport, especially because they are doing it mostly for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. They are likely to find the money wasted.

The protests however are mindless and an act of bullying, and are not the way to debate this or any subject sanely.

UK to have general elections December 12th

The British parliament has voted 438 to 20 to approve prime minister Boris Johnson’s demand that they hold general elections on December 12th in exchange for getting an extension to remain in the European Union until the end of January.

Though polls suggest that the public supports Johnson strongly in his effort to leave the EU, an actual election is something completely different. We shall now see if it will really happen.

Personally, I am pessimistic. The opposition to Brexit, like the opposition to Trump in the U.S., has never accepted the results of their previous defeats. I doubt any who voted against Brexit then have changed their mind since, while their unrelenting effort (like the resistance to Trump) has likely worn down its support.

UK Tories purge 21 who opposed party today

The Conservative Party in Great Britain today expelled 21 members who voted against Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to exit the European Union, deal or no deal.

[The expulsion plan was announced] just hours after lawmakers in Britain passed legislation designed to stop Johnson from taking the UK out of the European Union without a formal deal. The House of Commons earlier Tuesday passed a bill allowing members of Parliament to introduce legislation forcing Johnson to ask for a three-month extension from the EU if a deal is not made by Oct. 31, the Brexit deadline.

The bill passed in a 328 to 301 vote, with 21 members of the governing Conservative Party defecting and joining the opposition party, The Guardian reported.

Johnson has also announced that he will call for general elections, to decide if his party should remain in power. At the moment it appears he does not have a majority in parliament to rule.

At the same time, Johnson has soared in the polls for his hardline exit strategy, and it also appears this strategy is garnering him international political support.

If Johnson wins in the elections, he will have succeeded in purging his party of the equivalent of what conservatives in the U.S. call RINOs, fake conservatives who mouth the right thing but don’t really mean it and when push comes to shove always betray the people who voted for them. This will put Johnson in a very strong political position for doing what he was chosen to do, uphold the choice of the electorate when they voted to leave the European Union.

Landowners in Scotland sign lease for spaceport

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

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

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

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

Boris Johnson to be next British PM

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

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

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

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

UK smallsat rocket company unveils upper stage prototype

Capitalism in space: The smallsat rocket company Orbex yesterday unveiled a prototype of the upper stage of its Prime rocket.

UK launch services provider Orbex has unveiled a completed engineering prototype of the second stage for its Prime rocket at the opening of its new headquarters and rocket design facility in Forres in the Scottish Highlands. Prime is a small satellite launcher that is set to be the first UK rocket to launch UK satellites from a UK launch site. Orbex also announced two customers who have signed up for Prime launches.

They are aiming for 2021 for their first launch from the United Kingdom’s first spaceport in Sutherland in northern Scotland. Orbex and Lockheed Martin are the two companies that have a deal to use this spaceport.

The more significant part of this announcement that the two new launch agreements, from the smallsat satellite companies UK-based Surrey and Swiss-based Astrocast. This means that have some customers.

UK names rover for 2020 ExMars mission

The United Kingdom has named its rover for 2020 ExMars mission in honor of Rosalind Franklin, one of the scientists who contributed to the discovery of the helix structure of DNA.

Franklin is best known for her work on the X-ray diffraction images of DNA. Her data was a part of the data used to formulate Crick and Watson’s 1953 hypothesis regarding the structure of DNA. Unpublished drafts of her papers show that she had determined the overall B-form of the DNA helix. Her work supported the hypothesis of Watson and Crick and was published third in the series of three DNA Nature articles. After finishing her portion of the DNA work, Franklin led pioneering work on the tobacco mosaic and polio viruses. Franklin died from ovarian cancer at the age of 37, four years before Crick, Watson and Wilkins were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962 for their work on DNA.

Though this isn’t entire clear from the press release, it appears that they will refer to the rover as either “Rosalind Franklin” or “Rosalind.”

Local opposition might delay UK spaceport

The United Kingdom’s first spaceport, proposed for the northern tip of Scotland, faces strong opposition from the local community as well as within the organization that owns the land.

The land is controlled by the Melness Crofting Estate (MCE), a company that represents about 56 local crofters. Three of its seven directors have resigned over how the plans have been handled.

George Wyper, one of those who stepped down, claimed that much of the community had been kept in the dark. In a ballot, 27 crofters voted to press ahead with talks to lease land to the spaceport while 18 voted against. Ten failed to vote and one ballot was rejected. Mr Wyper believes that important details were not shared. ‘Some people did not know what they were voting for,’ he said. ‘It’s getting quite vicious here — with Facebook and things. It’s causing a split in the community.’

He told the Highland Press & Journal: ‘There is quite a split in the community and a lot of bad feeling about this. It could go to the Scottish Land Court, which could take years to resolve.’

While in many ways some aspects of the opposition here reminds me of the opposition in Hawaii to the Thirty Meter Telescope, the difference is that that here it a large percentage of the landowners protesting. They have real standing, and thus are in a much stronger position to shut the spaceport down.

From what I can gather, the source of the problem here falls to the UK government, which apparently has done a very bad job in negotiating this deal.

Leftist thugs take over British college

Evergreen, with a British accent: A leftist cabal of antifa brownshirts has taken over King’s College London, with the administration there bowing to their demands that have shut down any dissent on campus.

The college now faces a scourge unprecedented in the U.K.: rampant violence against visiting speakers on campus. The violence is perpetrated by a small but organized coalition of radical leftist students. Rather than punish those students, the administration has opted to extend free-speech restrictions to the student groups targeted by the unrest. In the aftermath of Antifa’s disruption, the college enacted punitive restrictions on all of the upcoming activities of the Libertarian Society. The college even cancelled a scheduled talk about free speech with Dr. Adam Perkins, one of its own professors.

The administration is being held hostage by intolerant leftist students who dictate which ideas should be restricted through the threat of violence. Speakers associated with the far left are therefore given a free pass when invited onto campus, while conservative, libertarian, and pro-Israel groups are frequently forced to alter their events in order to allay extensive complaints from the agitators. Restrictions forced upon student events by the administration include the imposition of an extra speaker to create debate, a limit on the number of attendees, and, of course, the authoritarian Safe Space policy. The message these restrictions send is that “controversial” ideas, rather than autonomous individuals, drive violence on campus.

Read it all. It will appall you. I hope this college goes bankrupt. I would certainly not send my kids there.

Hat tip Robert Pratt of Pratt on Texas.

Scotland’s first commercial rocket test flight

Capitalism in space: A private smallsat rocket company, Skyrora, has successfully completed a suborbital test flight, the first commercial rocket test flight in Scotland.

Skyrora saw its 2.5 metre (9ft) projectile reach altitudes of almost four miles after taking off at the Kildermorie Estate in Ross-shire. Known as Skylark Nano, it accelerated to Mach 1.45 – more than 110mph.

One could also describe Skylark Nano as nothing more than a big model rocket. Nonetheless, the company is using this test flight to improve its chances to win the competition for some of the money the UK government will award to private companies in connection with the establishment of its new spaceport in Sutherland, Scotland.

UK estimates its new spaceport could capture thousands of smallsat launches

Capitalism in space: Estimates by the United Kingdom’s space agency suggest that its new spaceport in Scotland could capture thousands of smallsat launches by the end of the 2020s.

Figures released … suggest that existing ‘rideshare’ small satellite launches (small satellites piggybacking on larger missions) are capable of meeting less than 35% of the total demand. This reveals a significant gap in commercial small satellite launch provision for which future UK spaceports are well placed to compete.

The press release also gives an update on the recent actions of the two smallsat rocket companies, Orbex and Lockheed Martin (in partnership with Rocket Lab), to establish operations in Scotland.

It remains to be seen whether these predictions will come true. Right now it appears that a giant boom in the smallsat industry is about to happen, and if it does the need for launchpads will become critical. If so, the policy shift in the UK to favor private spaceflight is arriving at just the right time.

United Kingdom picks location in Scotland for spaceport

The British government, after years of study, has chosen a location in northern Scotland for its first homegrown spaceport.

In a statement issued in advance of the start of the Farnborough International Airshow, the U.K. Space Agency said it will provide initial funding of 2.5 million pounds ($3.3 million) to begin development of a vertical launch site in Sutherland, on the Atlantic coast in northern Scotland.

In its announcement, the agency said it selected the site “because Scotland is the best place in the U.K. to reach highly sought-after satellite orbits with vertically launched rockets.” The site would allow launches to the north, supporting spacecraft operating in sun-synchronous or other highly inclined orbits.

The announcement gave few details about the facility or indicated what company, or companies, would use it, but noted launches would begin there in the early 2020s. More information is expected to be announced July 16 at the air show.

This announcement contradicts a 2016 policy decision that had instead opened up spaceport licensing to whatever location wished to do it. Now the British government appears to have stepped in and picked this one site, though the article also says they are considering a second site for horizontal launches, using such systems as the Pegasus rocket, Stratolaunch, and LauncherOne.

New spaceport bill becomes law in the United Kingdom

The new colonial movement: A new bill designed to encourage the establishment of private or public spaceports in the United Kingdom has now become law.

If you wish to read the entire law, you can download it here [pdf] My quick review suggests it deals only with the regulations and liability issues necessary to encourage the creation of spaceports, which is confirmed by the language in the press release above.

In other words, the UK punted. Initially there were suggestions this law would try to deal with the property right issues related to the Outer Space Treaty. I suspect that as they reviewed those issues, the government realized they couldn’t do much about them, without changing the treaty itself, and decided to focus on what they could change. This law is aimed at bringing spaceport business to the United Kingdom, and in that I hope it works.

UK health system considers banning surgery for smokers and the obese

Coming to a single-payer plan near you! Great Britain’s nationalized health system has proposed banning surgeries for anyone who smokes or is overweight.

In recent years, a number of areas have introduced delays for such patients – with some told operations will be put back for months, during which time they are expected to try to lose weight or stop smoking.

But the new rules, drawn up by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Hertfordshire, say that obese patients “will not get non-urgent surgery until they reduce their weight” at all, unless the circumstances are exceptional. The criteria also mean smokers will only be referred for operations if they have stopped smoking for at least eight weeks, with such patients breathalysed before referral.

East and North Hertfordshire CCG and Herts Valleys said the plans aimed to encourage people “to take more responsibility for their own health and wellbeing, wherever possible, freeing up limited NHS resources for priority treatment”. Both are in financial difficulty, and between them seeking to save £68m during this financial year. [emphasis mine]

This is what happens when you centralize control of an industry into the hands of government. Rather than compete and find ways to better serve their customers while saving money, as the competitive private market does, a centralized top-down government operation rations services so that fewer people can get them.

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