Thursday, April 19, 2018

SLS EM-1 Mission Making Progress, but STILL Behind Schedule

Top NASA human exploration administrators briefed the Human Exploration Operations (HEO) committee of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) on March 26, providing an update on development, testing, and preparations for the first integrated flight of the Orion crew spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) is currently expected to launch in 2020.

The pacing items for reaching launch readiness, referred to as “critical paths” in the schedule, continue to be construction of the first SLS Core Stage and the first Orion European Service Module (ESM). The agency is targeting the end of 2019 as a target launch date, but both critical path items are running around three months behind that schedule.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Orbital ATK Plans Next Generation Launcher Debut in 3 Years

Orbital ATK is preparing for the next phase of development for their Next Generation Launcher (NGL) – a solid and liquid fueled rocket designed for National Security, NASA science missions, and commercial flights. Under the current plan, Orbital ATK intends to introduce NGL from LC-39B at the Kennedy Space Center, FL, with certification flights in early 2021, with operational flights set to begin later that year.

NGL aims for debut in three years:

The progeny of NGL can be traced back to 2004, when then U.S. President George W. Bush announced the Constellation program, consisting of the crew launch vehicle known as Ares I – a five-segment Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) rocket, atop which sat a Liquid Oxygen/Liquid Hydrogen (LOX/LH2) upper stage.

A test flight variant of Ares I, known as Ares I-X, completed a successful test flight on 29 October 2009, shortly after which the Constellation program was cancelled by then U.S. President Barack Obama in favor of developing a more robust rocket that could carry both crew and cargo, the SLS, to locations Beyond Low Earth Orbit and shifting International Space Station crew rotation missions from NASA-made rockets to commercial rockets and capsules – a goal SpaceX and Boeing plan to fulfill.

Despite the Constellation program’s cancellation, Orbital ATK, the predecessor of which would have built the five-segment SRB for Ares I and the company that is now building the five-segment dual SRBs for SLS, continued to see a usefulness for the overall Ares I design. This initially translated in 2011 to the Liberty rocket, a five-segment SRB first stage with an Ariane V core serving as the upper stage.


addendum: the new rocket is called the OmegA.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Hints of China's Space Program Come From National People's Congress

China’s legislature wrapped up its annual session in Beijing in mid-March after making headlines for lifting a two-term limit on the Chinese presidency, making Xi Jinping the People’s Republic’s most powerful leader since founder Mao Zedong.

But in the shadow of the major political stories, the involvement of dozens of space sector officials in the high-profile 18-day long rubber-stamp political gathering also provided a rare opportunity for updates on various aspects of China’s space program and an outline of its reliably nebulous scheduling.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Russian Gov Issued a Contract for a Nuclear Space Tug

The Russian government has issued a contract to RSC Energia to develop a new class of rockets for lunar exploration and the contract documents indicate that a nuclear-powered space tug will be develop as well.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Did China Approach Vanuatu to Build a Permanent Military Base?

China has approached Vanuatu about establishing a permanent military presence on the tiny Pacific island, Australia’s Fairfax Media reported on Tuesday, a plan that would likely stoke regional tensions.

The report, citing unnamed sources, said no formal proposal had yet been made, but preliminary talks have been held about locating a full military base on Vanuatu. It added that the prospect of a Chinese military outpost so close to Australia has been discussed at the highest levels in Canberra and Washington.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Tuesday said she had been assured by Vanuatu officials that there was no formal proposal from Beijing, but she stopped short of addressing whether there had been any unofficial talks.

“The government of Vanuatu has said there is no such proposal, but it is a fact that China is engaging in infrastructure investment activities around the world,” Bishop told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.

“I remain confident that Australia is Vanuatu’s strategic partner of choice,” she said.

A spokesman for Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment, telephone calls to the Vanuatu High Commission in Canberra were not answered, and the Chinese Embassy in Canberra did not comment.

The Fairfax Media report said the preliminary discussions involved an initial access agreement, under which Chinese naval ships would dock to be serviced, refueled and restocked, and that would eventually lead to a full military base.

Such a plan would mark an expansion of China’s military aspirations beyond its controversial activities in Asia, particularly the South China Sea, where it has been building artificial islands on reefs, some with ports and airstrips.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Pondering the Precambrian #8



Some paleosols found in the Baltic were formed during the NeoProterozoic during an extended weathering event.

What came first?  High levels oxygen in the atmosphere or animals?  Animals.

Evidence encrusting became an ability of Metazoans during the Ediacaran.

Were the Beltanelliformis fossils of the Ediacaran just cyanobacteria colonies?

There is evidence of carbon isotopic excursions from the Ediacaran Bilara Group in India.

The Ediacaran carbon isotopic excursions in South China are associated with phosphite upwellings.

There is evidence of the Ediacaran glaciations from Morocco.

Evidence of the transition from anoxic oceanic conditions during the Cryogenian to the oxic in the Ediacaran as well as the great meltwater from the Cryogenian snowball has been found.

Evidence of the mixing of glacial waters with the anoxic ocean has been found in California from during the Cryogenian.

There appears to have been an oxygen spike during the early Tonian.

There are banded iron formations in early NeoProterozoic Hainan, China.

Can Nanosims be useful in examining organic walled microfossils from the NeoProterozoic?

It appears something was burrowing in the late Ediacaran of Mongolia, much earlier than previously thought.

Exploring the effect of oxygen on the formation of haze in the NeoProterozoic atmosphere.


The Upper Vindhyans formation in India dates from the Late MesoProterozoic.

Evidence from China suggests the oceans of the Ectasian were anoxic to suboxic.

There is also evidence of Ectasian/Calymmian boundary oceans having banded iron formations.

Evidence from China also suggests active hydrothermal systems put a lot of iron into the shallow seas during the break up of the Columbia supercontinent.

Does photosynthesis in modern plants date to the Stenian?


It appears the oceans of the Siderian become oxygenated 250 million years BEFORE the atmosphere did.

There is evidence a snowball earth scenario unfolded during the Siderian as well.

It looks like there is evidence of a tsunami or a storm from the PaleoProterozoic.

Organic remains in granular iron formations suggest they might be biological in origin.

Paleoproterozoic stromatolites from South Africa were formed in a restricted basin.

Evidence of the Great Oxygenation Event comes from rock salt from Russia.


The Late Heavy Bombardment is being questioned.

By the end of the NeoArchean, the first modern continents had formed.

There may be volcanogenic pseudofossils in the PaleoArchean formation at Pilbara.

There's evidence of an oceanic plateau from the Archean in Nunavut, Canada.

University of Tuebingen in Germany and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing experimentally attempted to recreate the ocean of the Archean to explain its banded iron formations.

When did life originate?  At the dawn of the Archean?  Or later?


What the nitrogen cycle of a prebiotic Earth might have been like.


Chromium isotopes can give false data for oxygen levels.

Chemists have found a plausible formula for the origin of life in Prebiotic earth.

Argnine might have played an important role in the origin of life.

A new origin of life hypothesis has been forwarded.

Did volcanic eruptions spew enough sulfur dioxide to kick off the origin of life?

Manganese oxides can produce pseudofossils.

Constraining the Early Earth's climate and oceanic acidity.

When was the earliest life could have originated?

Did ice in the earliest Earth's ocean help facilitate the origin of life?

Oceanic tides may greatly decrease when supercontinents form.

Friday, April 13, 2018

A/2017 U1 Oumuamua: Just a bit More Info

Oumuamua is likely from a binary star system.

What can Oumuamua teach us?

The Greenbank Radio Telescope listened to Oumuamua for the OH 18 cm emission line.

An Australian radio telescope listened for SETI signals from Oumuamua.

Oumuamua is in an excited spin state.

The effects of tidal torques on Oumuamua.