April 5, 2019: Weekly Spatial Resolutions

Raptor test
Raptor engine test without the Starhopper. The video below is the test with the engine in the Starhopper. This site contains my opinions and ideas only, not the opinions or ideas of any organization I work for. It’s my idea playground, and I’m inviting you in. Welcome! Image from Elon Musk’s Twitter feed.

Micah Zenko on the Dangers of the US Threat-Industrial Complex

Why is this non-space article/interview at the top of the list? It’s because this is ALWAYS happening with U.S. space news. Mr. Zenko’s article highlights at the end of this interview just how non-critical journalism is about many of the stories put out. With some notable exceptions. this problem goes double for the space industry coverage in the United States.

Part of this non-critical problem is because space industry coverage is done by enthusiasts, myself included. Part of it is because journalism as an industry has been undergoing shifts in business models, as well as training, and perhaps even re-definitions of what journalism is, degrading standards for truth and research. Non-stories like this don’t help. Probably the most relevant factor is that, until very recently, space in the U.S. was once the domain of primarily NASA and military missions. This is a problem I confront EVERY DAY.

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about space operations to help push the appearance of a need for certain space-based defense systems. There’s even more emotionally-charged information being pushed about regarding space debris and space situational awareness. Cyber-security, mentioned in the article, is another trope (I honestly believe that the large U.S. information companies, such as Facebook and Google, are much worse enemies of U.S. civil liberties–especially when working with the government). Probably the worst bits of misinformation have been during this constant campaign regarding Chinese activities in space. The “Space Race” between China and the U.S. always seems to capture some journalist’s imagination quarterly.

Sure, China needs to be watched. So does Russia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, India, Pakistan, Mexico…I think you get the idea.

China has been extremely successful in setting up a generally reliable space program for itself. It launched lunar landers and rovers successfully. It launched not one, but two crewed space stations (and intends more). It experiments with things that may have interesting consequences, such as quantum communications satellites, satellites with a video capture capability, etc. China does not fool around when it comes to its space program.

This does not mean China is a military threat in space. China, in many ways, is still behind the U.S. space industry. China’s satellite numbers are dwarfed by the numbers deployed from U.S. companies, for example. China uses old, but proven and improved, tech to get its people to and from its space stations. More so than the United States, China’s space industry is still extremely reliant on government largess. This is currently a strength for that nation’s industry, but it could quickly, as we’ve seen in the United States with NASA, turn into a weakness.

My response is not meant to depict China as a friendly nation. It’s to agree with the author’s views during the interview and chime in that the problems he’s noting are not just in the areas he’s monitoring. It’s also not just in the space industry (although the problems are obviously there). As I indicated earlier, the problem is significantly bigger, taking resources away from true threats to U.S. citizens. And if we keep swallowing these scare stories uncritically, we will eventually become a very large threat to ourselves, as we keep spending money to keep away the ghosts.

Sate-Light the Ceiling Lamp

This just looks like a fun project. A spacecraft that’s a lamp. The model’s solar arrays are LEDs instead.

I have most of the things needed to build it. I just may do it myself. Although I might need a different filament color. If I do make this, I’ll post a picture or two here.

I promise!

SpaceX’s Starhopper vehicle test-fires its engine for the first time

Some evidence of SpaceX’s activities with its Starhopper in Texas. Not much to see. Lots of flame, some smoke, but I don’t see even the purported small “hop” it made. Maybe it did. The thing is huge, though, and all that noise and fire is from ONE ENGINE (there will be three eventually). Look at other pictures with semis parked close by, and the size is immediately apparent. Here’s hoping for higher hopping of the SpaceX Starhopper. It’s success, should it achieve it, is likely to change many things inside the space industry…and outside of it.

 

And that’s all this week. I have to keep this short, because it’s been very, very busy. I probably will not be posting next week, because I will be even busier. To the one person reading this blog, I apologize.

See you in two weeks!

 

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