Saturday, December 28, 2019


OK, that was a bummer:

"(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) — Boeing safely landed its crew capsule in the New Mexico desert Sunday after an aborted flight to the International Space Station that threatened to set back the company’s effort to launch astronauts for NASA next year.

The Starliner descended into the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in the frigid predawn darkness, ending a two-day demo that should have lasted more than a week. All three main parachutes popped open and airbags also inflated around the spacecraft to ease the impact.

“Congratulations, Starliner,” said Mission Control, calling it a successful touchdown.

A test dummy named Rosie the Rocketeer — after Rosie the Riveter from World War II — rode in the commander’s seat. Also returning were holiday presents, clothes and food that should have been delivered to the space station crew.

After seeing this first test flight cut short and the space station docking canceled because of an improperly set clock on the capsule, Boeing employees were relieved to get the Starliner back.

Recovery teams cheered as they watched the capsule drift down through the air and make a bull’s- eye landing. The touchdown was broadcast live on NASA TV; infrared cameras painted the descending capsule in a ghostly white.

As the sun rose, close-up views showed the large white and black capsule upright — with hardly any scorch marks from re-entry— next to a U.S. flag waving from a recovery vehicle. The astronauts assigned to the first Starliner crew — two from NASA and one from Boeing — were part of the welcoming committee.

It was the first American-made capsule designed for astronauts to make a ground landing after returning from orbit. NASA’s early crew capsules — Mercury, Gemini and Apollo — all had splashdowns. SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which made its orbital debut last winter, also aims for the ocean at mission’s end.

Minutes after touchdown, top NASA and Boeing officials poured into Mission Control in Houston to congratulate the team.

The capsule’s first trip to space began with a smooth rocket ride from Cape Canaveral on Friday. But barely a half hour into the flight, it failed to fire its thrusters to give chase to the space station and ended up in the wrong orbit.

The problem was with the Starliner’s internal clock: It did not sync up with the Atlas V rocket, throwing off the capsule’s timing.

The capsule burned so much fuel trying to orient itself in orbit that there wasn’t enough left for a space station rendezvous. Flight controllers tried to correct the problem, but between the spacecraft’s position and a gap in communications, their signals did not get through. They later managed to reset the clock.

Boeing is still trying to figure out how the timing error occurred. The mission lasted nearly 50 hours and included 33 orbits around the Earth.

Last month’s parachute problem turned out to be a quick fix. Only two parachutes deployed during an atmospheric test because workers failed to connect a pin in the rigging.

NASA is uncertain whether it will demand another test flight from Boeing — to include a space station visit — before putting its astronauts on board. Boeing had been shooting for its first astronaut mission in the first half of 2020. This capsule is supposed to be recycled for the second flight with crew; each Starliner is built to fly in space 10 times..."

It all began so well:

Quite a setback for Boeing, and I suppose that there may have been some Schadenfreude at SpaceX. To recap:

NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing to design a spacecraft for ferrying crew and cargo to the ISS. For reasons unknown to me, Boeing got almost double that from NASA vs SpaceX under its commercial crew program ($4 billion plus compared to $2.6 billion). Despite that discrepancy (discrimination?) SpaceX took the lead in the race to develop the new shuttle vehicle. SpaceX's Dragon crew capsule successfully completed its first orbital demo last March. You have to hand it to them: such a young company beating an old giant like Boeing, kudos. And not only that, but the Dragon was launched atop another SpaceX product as well, the Dragon 9. The only serious setback was the destruction of a capsule on a Cape Canaveral test stand. But if a launch abort test scheduled for next month goes well, SpaceX may well begin ferrying astronauts to and from the ISS by Spring, thus convincingly beating the competition. It would also mean the end of nine years of relying on Russian Soyuzes to do that.

If Boeing catches up however, and there's every reason to assume they will, it's unclear - at least to me - how the two designs can exist together. Let's compare the Starliner and the Dragon Crew capsule:

First the Starliner:

* Pricetag: Up to $4.9 billion

* Heritage: Apollo, Space Shuttle Boeing and its corporate predecessors have long experience manufacturing space vehicles. North American Rockwell built the Apollo Command Module.

* Seating Capacity: Up to 7. NASA required that each vehicle be able to transport four people to and from the station. A fifth seat is available on both vehicles. Each company advertises a seating capacity of seven.

* Head / Leg Room: Diameter: 15 ft. Height: 16.6 ft. Dimensions include service (propulsion) module.

* Engines: Aerojet/Rocketdyne Engines for abort and for maneuvering the Starliner in orbit are located in the disposable service module.

* Reusability: the crew capsule can be reflown up to 10 times. The service module will be discarded after each flight.

* Launch Vehicle: Atlas V 422 /Centaur Will be compatible with other rockets in future.

* Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 41

* Landing Site: Western U.S. Starliner will parachute to dry land, like Soyuz, and use airbags to cushion the impact. Landing sites at White Sands, NM; Dugway Proving Ground, UT; Edwards AFB, CA; Willcox Playa, AZ.

The Dragon:

* Pricetag: Up to $3.2 billion. Numbers for both companies include total NASA contract awards for developing, building, and certifying vehicles, two test flights, and up to six ferry flights to the ISS through 2024.

* Heritage: Dragon Cargo Vehicle SpaceX has been launching supplies to the space station since 2012. Crew Dragon is based on the Dragon cargo craft.

* Seating Capacity: Up to 7

* Head / Leg Room: Diameter: 12.1 ft. Height: 23.6 ft. Dimensions include Dragon’s cargo “trunk.”

* Engines: SpaceX Draco / Superdraco Engines are onboard. Superdraco engines are used for abort only.

* Reusability: Yes, Dragons are reusable, although test flights will fly new vehicles. Cargo trunk is discarded after each flight.

* Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9 Block 5

* Launch Site: Cape Canaveral LC 39A (same pad used for Apollo 11 and the space shuttle)

* Landing Site: Atlantic Ocean

I'm at a loss as to why NASA is even contemplating to use both systems, since, despite it being probably a marvel of engineering, a Starliner is no match for a Crew Dragon. It's not only that a Crew Dragon has, apart from room for the astronauts, also plenty of space for (unpressurized) cargo - it started out as a cargo vessel after all. It's the price tag, with the Dragon costing about 3/4 of a Starliner. In my humble opinion, the only thing that the Starliner has going for it is the ability to land on solid ground instead of somewhere on the Atlantic, where anything can go wrong. That, and its compatibility with other launch vehicles. But why a cash-strapped NASA would still be willing to consider a spacecraft on which a seat would cost even more than on a Soyuz is beyond me. Indeed, last November NASA's Inspector General found that a Starliner seat will cost "slightly more" than a seat on a Soyuz, while a Dragon seat will cost only half of that!

Is it perhaps the desire to have at least a modicum of redundancy? So that in case of failures showing up only after a substantial number of flights of either craft, necessitating its grounding, the other type still remains to continue, without having to rely on Russian craft again?

It's weird.


Thursday, December 26, 2019


Via MDR Sachsen (Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk), 25 DEC, 2019:

"In Aue-Bad Schlema ist es am Heiligabend in einem Pfarrhaus zu einer Messerstecherei mit zwei Verletzten gekommen. Die evangelisch-lutherische Kirchgemeinde St. Nicolai hatte am 24. Dezember Bedürftige ins Pfarrhaus geladen. Keiner sollte allein den Weihnachtsabend verbringen müssen. Wie die Polizeidirektion Chemnitz mitteilte, gab es jedoch Streitigkeiten mit einem 53-jährigen Mann aus Syrien, der daraufhin der Veranstaltung und des Pfarrhauses verwiesen wurde. Offenbar hatte es eine Auseinandersetzung während der Ausgabe von Geschenken gegeben.

Schlichtungsversuch endet blutig
Kurze Zeit später tauchten mehrere Männer aus dem arabischen Raum im Pfarramt auf. Es entfachte sich ein erneuter Streit, welcher in Tätlichkeiten gegen einen 34-jährigen Iraner eskalierte. Ein 51 Jahre alter Mitarbeiter der Kirchgemeinde wollte den Streit schlichten und wurde dabei niedergestochen. Bisherigen Erkenntnissen zufolge wurde ihm ein Messer in den Bauch gerammt. Er wurde schwer verletzt. Der Mann sei noch in der Nacht notoperiert werden, sagte der Außendienstleiter der Polizeidirektion Chemnitz gegenüber einem MDR-Reporter vor Ort. Der Iraner erlitt leichte Verletzungen. Die Polizei fahndet nach den flüchtigen Tatverdächtigen..."

Gist of the story:

* the evangelical-Lutheranian church community Saint Nicholas of aue-Bad Schlema invited the needy in the preacher's house on DEC24
* a 53 yo Syrian showed up, and got into a word fight with the preacher or his helpers when they distributed stuff to those present
* he was told to knock it off and got out...
* ... only to return shortly thereafter with several arab men. There was again a fight, only this time not only with words. There was physical violence between the arabs and a 34-yo Iranian
* a volunteer who was distributing presents to those present wanted to intervene and tried to talk sense in the arabs and the Iranian
* for this, he was rewarded with a knife in his stomach.
* he was gravely wounded and rushed to a hospital, where he underwent an emergency operation
* the Iranian was lightly wounded
* Police is looking for the perps...

And good luck with THAT.

I want to apologize for the very light blogging over the past couple of months. There's several reasons for that. First of all, I discovered Twitter, and although that medium doesn't allow for in-depth stories or elaborate posts, you can quickly reach huge numbers of people with the multitude of alarming stories re islamization/immigration now so rampant in Europe. Time spent on Twitter is time not spent on Blogger.

Secondly, more than anything else biz has been consuming my time. We have gone thru very, very hard times over the past couple of years - in fact, since autumn 2012 (not that before that, it was easy). I hope we'll be out of the red by the end of March 2020, when my company's fiscal year ends. Normally we should be.

Thirdly, I am having some health issues again.

Anyway, I loved the blogger medium from the start and I don't think Twitter will ever replace it. If I had to choose between the two, it would definitely not be Twitter.

The important thing here is to keep in mind that the absence of blog posts does not mean things are looking brighter in Europe. Totally not. If anything, it's far worse. Europe, at least Western Europe, is dying. And it's a death of its own making. The story above is not a fait divers. It's ALL OVER THE PLACE. The fabric of our society is mercilessly being torn apart.



Tuesday, December 24, 2019


Like every year, DowneastBlog wishes its readers of good will all across the globe a Merry Christmas!!! May you find solace, rest, peace and happiness.

“Nativity” by Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre, 1714-1789. He was a talented painter, draughtsman and administrator in the latter days of the Kingdom of France, becoming Premier peintre du Roi in 1770 (until his death in 1789). Among his students was Etienne-Louis Boullée, the mystical visionary architect with the grandiose neoclassical designs.