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U.S. Marines Send F-35 Stealth Fighter Squadron to Japan 

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It marks the first time for that stealth aircraft to be stationed overseas.

The US Marine Corps said it has sent a squadron of F-35B fighter jets to Japan, marking the first operational overseas deployment for the controversial aircraft that is under scrutiny from president-elect Donald Trump.

The deployment of the 10 planes to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni on Honshu Island marks a major milestone for the F-35, which has been bedeviled by technical glitches and soaring cost overruns.

With a current development and acquisition price tag already at $379 billion for a total of 2,443 F-35 aircraft, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 is the most expensive plane in history, and costs are set to go higher still.

The Marines’s version of the plane, known as the F-35B, is capable of conducting short takeoffs and vertical landings.

Trump last month sent shockwaves through the aerospace industry when he tweeted that he wanted rival Boeing to price out a possible alternative.

“Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!” Trump tweeted December 22.

The F/A-18 Super Hornet does not have stealth capabilities and has been in use since the late 1990s.

Once servicing, maintenance and other costs for the F-35 are factored in over the aircraft’s lifespan through 2070, overall program costs have been projected to rise to as much as $1.5 trillion.

Proponents of the F-35 tout its speed, close air-support capabilities, airborne agility and a massive array of sensors giving pilots unparalleled access to information. Read the rest of this entry »

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China Auto Glass Tycoon Cao Dewang Moves Jobs to U.S., Citing High Taxes at Home

Cao Dewang, Chairman of Fuyao Glass

Shanghai (AFP) – A Chinese auto glass tycoon has caused a stir by shifting part of his empire to the United States and setting up a factory in Ohio, citing high taxes and soaring labour costs at home.

Cao Dewang’s $600-million investment comes after Donald Trump threatened to declare Beijing a currency manipulator and slap 45 percent punitive tariffs on Chinese imports to protect American jobs.

The 70-year-old tycoon’s decision to open a glass factory in the eastern American state of Ohio in October — a rare case of jobs being exported from China to the US — triggered an outpouring of criticism on social media.

The phrase “Cao Dewang has escaped” became a hot topic, generating nearly 10 million views on the Twitter-like Weibo microblog and many comments urging China to “not let Cao Dewang run away”.

Cao’s Fuyao Glass Industry Group — a supplier to big names including Volkswagen and General Motors — claims to be the biggest exporter of auto glass in the world, reporting 2.6 billion yuan ($370 million) profits last year. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Obama Administration ‘Laundered’ U.S. Cash to Iran Via New York Federal Reserve, European Banks

These disclosures shine new light on how the Obama administration moved millions of dollars from U.S. accounts to European banks in order to facilitate three separate cash payments to Iran totaling $1.7 billion.

  reports: A member of the House Intelligence Committee is accusing the Obama administration of laundering some $1.7 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars to Iran through a complicated network that included the New York Federal Reserve and several European banks, according to conversations with sources and new information obtained by the lawmaker and viewed by the Washington Free Beacon.

New disclosures made by the Treasury Department to Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), a House Intelligence Committee member, show that an initial $400 million cash payment to Iran was wired to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY) and then converted from U.S. dollars into Swiss francs and moved to an account at the Swiss National Bank, according to a copy of communication obtained exclusively by the Free Beacon.

“By withholding critical details and stonewalling congressional inquiries, President Obama seems to be hiding whether or not he and others broke U.S. law by sending $1.7 billion in cash to Iran. But Americans can plainly see that the Obama administration laundered this money in order to circumvent U.S. law and appease the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Once the money was transferred to the Swiss Bank, the “FRBNY withdrew the funds from its account as Swiss franc banknotes and the U.S. Government physically transported them to Geneva” before personally overseeing the handover to an agent of Iran’s central bank, according to the documents.

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“Think about this timeline: the U.S. withdraws $400 million in cash from the Swiss National Bank and then physically transports it to another city to hand-off to Iranian officials—three days before Iran releases four American hostages. But it gets worse: less than a week after this, the U.S. again sends hordes of cash to Iran.  As we speak, Iran is still holding three more Americans hostage and I fear what precedent this administration has set.”

These disclosures shine new light on how the Obama administration moved millions of dollars from U.S. accounts to European banks in order to facilitate three separate cash payments to Iran totaling $1.7 billion.

“For the first settlement payment in January, Treasury assisted the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) in crafting a wire instruction to transfer the $400 million in principal from the Iran FMS [Foreign Military Sales program] account on January 14, 2016.”

— Rep. Mike Pompeo

The latest information is adding fuel to accusations the Obama administration arranged the payment in this fashion to skirt U.S. sanctions laws and give Iran the money for the release of U.S. hostages, in what many have called a ransom.

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Congress has been investigating the circumstances surrounding the payment for months and said the administration is blocking certain requests for more detailed information about the cash transaction with Iran.

“By withholding critical details and stonewalling congressional inquiries, President Obama seems to be hiding whether or not he and others broke U.S. law by sending $1.7 billion in cash to Iran,” Pompeo told the Free Beacon. “But Americans can plainly see that the Obama administration laundered this money in order to circumvent U.S. law and appease the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

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As new details emerge, congressional critics such as Pompeo and Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) are beginning to suspect the U.S. government laundered the money in order to provide Tehran with immediate access. Read the rest of this entry »


Explore the Apollo 11 Command Module in 3D

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Erin Blakemore reports Forty-seven years ago, mankind achieved what was once unthinkable when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon. But getting him there involved more than strapping the astronaut to a rocket and pressing “go.” Armstrong and his colleagues headed to space in the most advanced spacecraft of their time: the Apollo 11 command module, Columbia. Now, you can explore the module without leaving your couch with the help of a newly-released 3D model that offers unprecedented access to one of history’s most important technological achievements—and the inside scoop on what it was really like to be an Apollo astronaut.

The model is the result of painstaking digitization efforts by the Smithsonian Institution, which houses Columbia at the National Air and Space Museum, and Autodesk, Inc. Given the complexity of the craft—and the fact that photographers weren’t allowed to actually touch it while capturing every nook and cranny—the 3D model is an impressive feat.

It’s available to anyone with an internet connection and offers glimpses unavailable to museum visitors, who are not allowed to explore the inside of the craft. The model can be viewed online, but also comes with publicly available data files for 3-D printing or viewing with virtual reality goggles.

Command Module Spinning Gif

Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins lived in Columbia during their time in space on the Apollo 11 mission, which launched from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969. Four days later, Aldrin and Armstrong headed to the moon’s surface on the “Eagle” lunar module.

Columbia itself is filled with clues as to life as an early astronaut. While photographing the inside of the module, curators discovered markings made by the astronauts on their mission, including information relayed by mission control and a hand-drawn calendar that documents the journey. The men even scribbled notes to one another on the walls, including a warning about “smelly waste!” that presumably cautioned intrepid explorers to keep away from a certain panel on the cramped craft. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] State Department Can’t Defend Selling American Airplanes to a State Sponsor of Terrorism 


SpaceX Lands Fourth Booster after Successful Falcon 9 Launch

 reports: SpaceX enjoyed a trio of successes on Friday when it launched its Falcon 9 rocket, landed the first stage and deployed a communications satellite.Falcon 9 blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 5:39 p.m. Eastern time with the Thaicom 8Wochit

SpaceX on Friday landed its third consecutive rocket on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, during a mission that successfully launched a commercial communications satellite to orbit.

“Falcon 9 has landed,” a member of SpaceX’s launch team confirmed about 10 minutes after a 230-foot Falcon 9 rocket’s 5:39 p.m. blastoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

About 20 minutes later, the rocket’s upper stage deployed the Thaicom 8 satellite in orbit as planned.

“All looks good,” reported SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral

Photos: SpaceX launch from Cape Canaveral with Thaicom 8

Later, Musk said the rocket stage had landed at close to the top speed it was designed to handle, possibly undermining its stability on the ship floating more than 400 miles offshore.

“Prob ok, but some risk of tipping,” he said on Twitter.

[Read the full story here, at floridatoday.com]

If it staid upright, crews planned to board the unpiloted “drone ship” to weld shoes over the rocket’s four landing legs and sail it back to Port Canaveral within a few days.

Musk’s comment was a reminder that despite a remarkable run of three straight booster landings and four in the company’s last six missions, the landings remain experimental.

SpaceX’s long-term goal is to cut launch costs by reusing rockets. Musk wants to achieve aircraft-like operations, with teams needing only to hose down down and refuel rockets between flights.

But the rockets landed Friday and three weeks ago have sustained more damage, possibly too much to allow them to fly again.
Read the rest of this entry »


SpaceX Continues Ambitious Launch Schedule with Next Mission, Fifth One This Year

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Emily Calandrelli reports: Less than a month after their last successful mission, SpaceX is back at it again. Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 5:40pm EST tomorrow with telecommunications satellite Thaicom 8 on board.

What’s truly notable is that tomorrow’s launch will be the fifth one for SpaceX this year, demonstrating an increased launch frequency compared to last year.

In 2015, SpaceX conducted a total of six successful Falcon 9 launches, putting their launch frequency at about one launch every other month. So far this year, they’ve doubled that frequency with nearly one launch per month.

[Read the full story here, at TechCrunch]

In March, President of SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell, stated that the company actually plans to launch a total of 18 times in 2016, which would triple the number of successful launches compared to 2015. She also said that they plan to increase that launch rate even further the following year with 24 hopeful launches in 2017.

The expected increase would be remarkable considering there were only 82 recorded successful orbital launches in the entire world last year. This number was down from 2014, which saw 90 successful orbital launches – the highest number of annual launches in two decades.

With more Falcon 9 launches comes more rocket recovery attempts, and tomorrow’s mission will be no exception.

After the launch, SpaceX will make another attempted recovery of the first stage of their rocket on a drone ship out at sea.

SpaceX's Of Course I Still Love You drone ship / Image Courtesy of SpaceX

SpaceX’s Of Course I Still Love You drone ship / Image Courtesy of SpaceX

A land-based recovery was ruled out for this mission because Thaicom 8 needs to be inserted into geostationary orbit (GEO: an altitude of above 22,000 miles), which means the mission will require higher speeds and more fuel and wouldn’t be able to navigate back to land.

Missions like these are precisely why SpaceX has worked to perfect their sea-based landings. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: EgyptAir Flight from Paris to Cairo Disappears from Radar 

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An EgyptAir flight traveling to Cairo from Paris has dropped off the radar, the airline confirmed Thursday morning.

The airline posted on Twitter that Flight 804, a Boeing 737 with 59 passengers and 10 crew members on board had vanished.

The airline said the flight was at its cruising altitude of 37,000 feet when it disappeared at 2:45 a.m. Cairo time (8:45 p.m. EDT). EgyptAir said the plane was approximately 10 miles inside Egyptian airspace…(read more)

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Source: Fox News


Japan Succeeds in Test Flight of First Stealth Fighter Jet

Development of the stealth fighter comes as Japan faces new security challenges in the form of China’s expanding force posture.

Japan’s first stealth fighter jet successfully took to the skies on Friday as the country joins a select group of world military powers wielding the radar-dodging technology.

Technological super power Japan, despite strict constitutional constraints on the use of military force imposed after World War II, has one of the world’s most advanced defence forces and the development of the stealth fighter comes as it faces new security challenges in the form of China’s expanding force posture.

“The first flight has a very significant meaning that can secure technologies needed for future fighter development. We also expect it can be applied to other fields and technological innovation in the entire aviation industry.”

— Defense Minister Gen Nakatani

The domestically developed X-2 jet took off from Nagoya airport in central Japan on its maiden test flight as dozens of aviation enthusiasts watching the event erupted in applause as it lifted off into the clear morning sky.

In this Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 photo, a crew member of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy monitors on the deck of the China's aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailing on the East China Sea for sea trials. The Liaoning departed for its first-ever sea trials in the South China Sea, a mission likely to draw scrutiny amid Beijing's drive to assert its claims to those waters and their island groups. (AP Photo) CHINA OUT

A crew member of Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy monitors on the deck of the China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailing on the East China Sea for sea trials. The Liaoning departed for its first-ever sea trials in the South China Sea, a mission likely to draw scrutiny amid Beijing’s drive to assert its claims to those waters and their island groups. (AP Photo)

Television footage showed the red-and-white aircraft roaring into the air, escorted by two Japanese military fighters that were collecting flight data.

The single-pilot prototype safely landed at Gifu air base, north of Nagoya airport, after a 25-minute flight with “no particular problems,” said an official at the defence ministry’s acquisition agency.

It was an “extremely stable” flight, the pilot was quoted as saying by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the main contractor.

“The control of the aircraft went exactly as in our simulated training sessions,” the pilot added. Read the rest of this entry »


Raw: NASA Ultra HD Video of Aurora Borealis

NASA used 4k ultra-high definition technology to release vibrant video of the Aurora Borealis, created with time-lapses shot from the International Space Station.


Drone Degree Develops at East Texas University 

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LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) – Alex Osiadacz reports: A budding drone program at one East Texas university is giving students more career options in the aviation industry.

LeTourneau University‘s degree in the unmanned aircrafts has students looking to get involved, and the economics of the industry might be the leading factor. It’s a practice ground for the next generation of pilots, and the developing industry is driving more into the field.

“You don’t often think about that for every drone there’s a pilot behind it controlling it,” aviation professor Ruedi Schubarth said.

There’s not a flight deck, but it’s more than just a remote control, and that’s getting some excited about the opportunities. Read the rest of this entry »


Remembering the Apollo 1 Disaster: How 3 Astronauts were Killed 49 Years Ago Today 

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The crew of Apollo 1 were the first fatalities in America’s space programme, but they will forever be remembered as pioneers of manned space exploration.

Gemma Lavender writes: Following the success of the Mercury and Gemini missions in the 1960’s, NASA set about planning a series of manned missions to the Moon that would become known as the Apollo missions, under direction of John F. Kennedy to land a man on the moon by 1970. Apollo 1 was to be the first manned mission and, although it would not travel to the moon itself, it was intended to test important technologies in Earth orbit with Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee on board. Tragically, however, the spacecraft was destroyed in a cabin fire during a launch pad test 47 years ago on 27 January 1967.

Each of the three astronauts had been influential during NASA’s space exploration program in the run-up to Apollo 1. Gus Grissom was the second American in space aboard Liberty Bell 7, the second Project Mercury flight, in 1961. He later became the first American to fly in space twice, piloting the Gemini 3 spacecraft in orbit in 1965.

The Apollo 1 crew are pictured here during water egress training. Image Credit: NASA

The Apollo 1 crew are pictured here during water egress training. Image Credit: NASA

Edward White was the first American to walk in space during the Gemini 4 spaceflight, also in 1965, when he spent 36 minutes outside the spacecraft. Roger Chaffee was the only one of the three who had not flown in space before. He was chosen in NASA’s third pool of astronauts in 1963 and served as capsule communicator on the ground alongside Grissom for White’s Gemini 4 mission. Read the rest of this entry »


China Tests New Hypersonic Weapon

China has conducted yet another test of a hypersonic glide vehicle designed to defeat U.S. missile defenses.

Franz-Stefan Gady reports: This week, the People’s Republic of China successfully conducted a sixth flight test of its DF-ZF (previously known as WU-14) hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), Bill Gertz of The Washington Free Beacon reports.

The DF-ZF is an ultra-high-speed missile allegedly capable of penetrating U.S. air defense systems based on interceptor missiles.

The launch of the DF-ZF took place at the Wuzhai missile test center in central China’s Shanxi Province. A ballistic missile transported the DF-ZF HGV near the edge of the atmosphere, where it separated from its launcher and then glided to an impact range a few thousands kilometers away in western China, according to The Washington Free Beacon.

“The DF-ZF flight was tracked by U.S. intelligence agencies and flew at speeds beyond Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound,” Gertz notes. Previous tests of the DF-ZF took place on June 7, January 9, and August 7, 2015, and December 2, 2014. Read the rest of this entry »


U.S. Officials Believe ISIS Planted Bomb on Russian Plane

(CNN) Barbara Starr reports: The latest U.S. intelligence suggests that the crash of a Russian passenger jet in the Sinai over the weekend was most likely caused by a bomb on the plane planted by ISIS or an ISIS affiliate, according to a U.S. official familiar with the matter.

“There is a definite feeling it was an explosive device planted in luggage or somewhere on the plane.”

But the official stressed a formal conclusion has not been reached by the U.S. intelligence community.

“There is a definite feeling it was an explosive device planted in luggage or somewhere on the plane,” the official, who is familiar with the latest U.S. intelligence analysis of the crash, told CNN.

Other U.S. officials also told CNN that the analysis is pointing toward the cause being a bomb.

Based on the same intelligence, the U.S. belief is that ISIS or an ISIS-affiliated group is responsible for the attack, the official said….(read more)

Source: CNNPolitics.com


Analysis: China’s Aggression Requires a More Forceful American Response

Beijing’s New World Order

Like wedding anniversaries, state visits by foreign leaders are occasions to celebrate the positive, and that’s what the Obama Administration will stress as Chinese President Xi Jinping tours the U.S. this week. Get ready for an announcement about arms-control in cyberspace, a progress report on a bilateral investment treaty, and bromides about mutual friendship.

“Under Mr. Xi, Beijing sees itself as a strategic rival rather than a partner. Its foreign policy is increasingly aggressive, sometimes lawless, a reality that’s become clear even to the Obama Administration.”

These columns have rooted for China’s emergence as a major U.S. trading partner and responsible global power since Deng Xiaoping became the first Chinese Communist leader to visit the U.S. in 1979. And we’ve had more than a few occasions to score China-bashers in Washington, whether over protectionist steel tariffs or allegations of Beijing’s “currency manipulation.”

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“China’s lawlessness is most obvious at sea and in cyberspace. Since 2010 Chinese leaders have claimed ‘indisputable sovereignty’ over most of the South China Sea, covering an area more than twice the Gulf of Mexico and among the world’s most heavily trafficked commercial waterways.”

But it is now impossible to ignore that China is attempting to redefine its relationship to America and the rules of world order. Under Mr. Xi, Beijing sees itself as a strategic rival rather than a partner. Its foreign policy is increasingly aggressive, sometimes lawless, a reality that’s become clear even to the Obama Administration. The U.S. needs to show that it will resist this behavior—even as it seeks to steer China’s leadership back toward global norms.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

China’s lawlessness is most obvious at sea and in cyberspace. Since 2010 Chinese leaders have claimed “indisputable sovereignty” over most of the South China Sea, covering an area more than twice the Gulf of Mexico and among the world’s most heavily trafficked commercial waterways. The dubious basis for this claim is a dotted-line on a 1947 Chinese Nationalist map—the same Nationalists Mao Zedong exiled to Taiwan in 1949.

Beijing’s leaders have used this map to assert maritime claims against Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. They also make claims against Japan. Their aggressive island-building, which has created 2,900 acres of new land, is the most visible example. Read the rest of this entry »


Hillary: How To Party Like It’s 1938

In The Wall Street Journal, Alan Reynolds says Hillary Clinton parties like it’s 1938—her capital-gains tax proposal has been tried before, by Franklin Roosevelt, with disastrous results….(read more)

Source: WSJ


[VIDEO] MH370 Mystery: Officials Confirm Fragment Is From Missing Flight


The Malaysian prime minister confirmed Wednesday that the airplane fragment that washed up on an island last week came from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 — the first definitive clue to the greatest mystery in modern aviation.

The fragment, a 6-foot-long, barnacle-encrusted wing flap, was discovered July 29 by a crew cleaning the beach on Reunion Island, a French territory in the Indian Ocean off the southern tip of Africa.

Investigators had already determined that it came from a Boeing 777, and Flight 370 was the only plane of that model missing in the world.

But the confirmation on Wednesday provided the first concrete physical evidence of what became of the plane after it disappeared from radar on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board. Read the rest of this entry »


The Top-Secret Flights that Ended the War

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70 years after the atomic bombings, time stands still on the island of Tinian

 writes:Imagine disembarking on the shore of a remote tropical island. Walking cautiously past swaying palm trees into the heavy undergrowth, you soon encounter what appears to be the fossilized bones of an enormous prehistoric creature. The thick parallel lines might have been ribs, and the long straight stretches its spine or appendages. Naturally you’re moved to wonder how it appeared when alive, how it moved about and what it ate.

For dyed-in-the-wool history buffs or those merely looking for an exotic place off the beaten track to relax, Tinian beckons. It’s an easy trip from Japan. If you take a Delta Airlines flight to Saipan during daylight hours, be sure to request a window seat on the right side of the aircraft. On the plane’s approach to neighboring Saipan, you’ll get a fantastic bird’s-eye view of the “ribs” of that prehistoric creature — the four runways of North Field — which in the waning months of World War II was the largest operational U.S. air base in the world.

Home to barely 3,000 people, the 101-sq.-km island of Tinian is one of three inhabited islands of 14 that make up the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. Over a period of half a century — between 1899 and 1944 — Tinian went from being controlled by Spain to Germany, Japan and finally the U.S., which in July 1944 captured the island in an eight-day campaign that was largely overshadowed by the bigger and bloodier battle on Saipan, located just 9 km to the north.

From the late 1930s, Japan had begun to augment its military presence in the Nampo Shoto (groups of islands south of the main archipelago), sending 1,280 convicts from Yokohama Prison to Tinian to expand Hagoi Field, located at the north end of the island, with a 1,450-meter-long runway.

Once in American hands, teams of U.S. Navy construction battalions (known as “CBs” or “Seabees”) swarmed over the island, eventually moving an estimated 11 million tons of coral to build runways, taxiways, buildings and some 145 km of roads. The former Japanese airstrip was extended for use by the U.S. Air Force’s new long-range B-29 bombers, adding three more 2,440-meter runways.

It was from North Field’s runway, “Able,” that a specially modified B-29 christened Enola Gay, took off in the early hours of Aug. 6, 1945, to drop the first atomic bomb ever used in warfare on the city of Hiroshima.

Retracing history

I’d visited Tinian once before in 2007, but left to my own devices failed to find several of the places I’d wanted to see. This time I had much better luck, thanks to an introduction to the island’s resident historian, Don Farrell.

Farrell, who’s married to a native of Tinian, has taken up the story of his new home with gusto. In addition to publishing an illustrated guidebook for visitors in 2012 titled “Tinian: A Brief History,” he’s currently nearing completion of his magnum opus, a detailed history of the atomic bomb project that promises to shed new light on Tinian’s role in the war.

Arriving at the lobby of the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino clad in sandals, Bermuda shorts, aloha shirt and a baseball cap, Farrell appears like a modern-day Robinson Crusoe — if Crusoe had driven a Mazda pickup truck.

“What would you like to see?” he asks me while delivering a firm handshake.

“What do you say we retrace the actual route the bomb parts took from their arrival on the island?” I suggest.

After stopping for bottled water and gasoline, we head north. Our first destination is Tinian’s small port, where the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis, on a top-secret mission, delivered the housing and key components of the uranium bomb on July 26, 1945. (Four days later a Japanese submarine would sink the ship east of the Philippines, with great loss of life.)

No ships, or people, are in port and there’s little left to see. We turn around and head northward on a bumpy, but still negotiable, road marked “8th Avenue.” (The roads in Tinian, named after streets in Manhattan, also include Broadway, Columbus Avenue and Riverside Drive.)

On our way north, we deviate up an overgrown hillside leading to the ruins of the Rasso Jinja, a Shinto shrine at the top of Mount Lasso, which at 171 meters marks the highest point on Tinian. Little remains of the shrine or the B-29 homing tower that stood close by. What can be seen is the concrete foundation of the old U.S. Army hospital. Read the rest of this entry »


NASA Picks Four Astronauts to Fly First Commercial Space Missions

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“These distinguished, veteran astronauts are blazing a new trail, a trail that will one day land them in the history books and Americans on the surface of Mars.”

— NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA has selected four veteran astronauts to lead the way back into orbit from U.S. soil.

On Thursday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden named the four who will fly on capsules built by private companies — SpaceX and Boeing. Each astronaut has test pilot experience and has flown twice in space.

The commercial crew astronauts are: Air Force Col. Robert Behnken, until recently head of the astronaut office; Air Force Col. Eric Boe, part of shuttle Discovery’s last crew; retired Marine Col. Douglas Hurley, pilot of the final shuttle crew; and Navy Capt. Sunita Williams, a two-time resident of the International Space Station.

“These distinguished, veteran astronauts are blazing a new trail, a trail that will one day land them in the history books and Americans on the surface of Mars,” Bolden said on his blog.

SpaceX and Boeing are aiming for test flights to the space station by 2017. It will be the first launch of astronauts from Cape Canaveral, Florida, since the space shuttles retired in 2011.

In the meantime, NASA has been paying Russia tens of millions of dollars per ride on Soyuz spacecraft to ferry astronauts; the latest tab is $76 million.

Bolden noted that the average cost on an American-owned spacecraft will be $58 million per astronaut, and each mission will carry a crew of four versus three, in addition to science experiments.

The four — who will work closely with the companies to develop their spacecraft — range in age from 44 to 50, and have been astronauts for at least 15 years. Each attended test pilot school; Williams specializes in helicopters. Read the rest of this entry »


SpaceX and the Russian Rocket Mess

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Boeing and Lockheed aren’t the enemy, but accelerating a competitive launch business is worth some risks

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes: The first thing to notice is how rapidly Elon Musk’s SpaceX is altering the market for government-sponsored rocket launches.

“Should Congress, however bad the precedent, climb down from sanctions enacted last December curtailing the Pentagon’s reliance on a Russian-made engine to put U.S. military satellites in orbit?”

Witness how frequently the words “to compete with SpaceX” appear in industry statements and press coverage. To compete with SpaceX, say multiple reports, the United Launch Alliance, the Pentagon’s traditional supplier, is developing a new Vulcan rocket powered by a reusable engine designed by Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin.

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Because of SpaceX, says Aviation Week magazine, Japan’s government has instructed Mitsubishi to cut in half the cost of the Japanese workhorse rocket, and China is planning a new family of kerosene-fueled Long March rockets. “Stimulated by SpaceX’s work on reusable rockets,” reports SpaceNews.com, Airbus is developing a reusable first stage for Europe’s venerable Ariane rocket.

“Yes, say the Pentagon, the national intelligence leadership and the White House, because avoiding disruption to crucial military launches is more important than any symbolic weakening of sanctions against Russia.”

All this comes amid one of those Washington battles ferocious in inverse relation to the certainties involved. Should Congress, however bad the precedent, climb down from sanctions enacted last December curtailing the Pentagon’s reliance on a Russian-made engine to put U.S. military satellites in orbit?

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

Yes, say the Pentagon, the national intelligence leadership and the White House, because avoiding disruption to crucial military launches is more important than any symbolic weakening of sanctions against Russia. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Boeing Prepares the 787-9 Dreamliner for the 2015 Paris Air Show


Watch as Boeing’s expert crew rehearses the flying display that will be performed at the 2015 Paris Air Show. Get a preview before the show

 


[VIDEO] New POV Video from SpaceX Takes You for a Ride on Crew Dragon’s First Flight

“It was a great, great outcome,” Musk said after the test. “Had there been people on board, they would have been in great shape.”

The two-minute video shows the Dragon capsule blasting off from its Florida launchpad, separating from its trunk and reaching a maximum velocity of 345 mph, according to SpaceX. The Crew Dragon flew about 5,000 feet into the air before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean under its parachutes….(read more)

Mashable.com


Meet Valkyrie, NASA’s ‘Superhero Robot’

nasa-superhero-robot

Designed to compete in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, this “female” robot could be the precursor to robo-astronauts that will help colonize Mars.

What if NASA’s Robonaut grew legs and indulged in steroids? The result might be close to what NASA has unveiled: Valkyrie is a humanoid machine billed as a “superhero robot.” Developed at the Johnson Space Center, Valkyrie is a 6.2-foot, 275-pound hulk designed to compete in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC). It will go toe to toe with the Terminator-like Atlas robot from Boston Dynamics in what’s shaping up to be an amazing modern-day duel. In an interesting twist, Valkyrie seems to be a girl. Read the rest of this entry »


China’s Mysterious ‘Dark Sword’ Could Become World’s First Supersonic Drone

Dark-Sword

China’s mysterious “Dark Sword” combat drone could become the world’s first supersonic unmanned aviation vehicle, reports the website of the country’s national broadcaster CCTV.

The Dark Sword — known in Chinese as “Anjian” — made quite a stir in 2006 when a conceptual model of the unusually shaped triangular aircraft made its debut at the Zhuhai Airshow in southern China’s Guangdong province.

The model was subsequently exhibited at the Paris Air Show but has disappeared from future airshows, with no official word on the development of the UAV. Some claim the project has already been scrapped due to insufficient funding or other reasons, while others believe the development of the drone is now being kept secret as it is undergoing further research and testing.

Chinese aviation expert Fu Qianshao told CCTV that while he does not know the status of the Dark Sword project, the drone could become the world’s first supersonic UAV if it proves a success. He said he would not be surprised if the project is still ongoing in secret as a lack of transparency is nothing new for the aviation industry and is an approach commonly taken by the Americans.

Fu believes even conceptual models of aircraft can reveal something about a country’s technology and the quality of its research and development, adding that analyzing models at Zhuhai can allow experts to gauge the pulse of China’s aviation industry and pick up data that may be more valuable than what the developers are leaking out to the public. Read the rest of this entry »


Ex-Im Officials Blow Through Millions of Tax Dollars on First-Class Luxury Travel

anon-lux-flight2

WashingtonExaminer reports: Officials of the Export-Import Bank of the United States blew the agency’s travel budget by millions of dollars after taking 400 first-class flights over the last three years, according to records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

“Conservatives in Congress have long sought to defund Ex-Im as a corporate welfare program, while President Obama has defended it as a job creator.”

Ex-Im is a federal agency that provides taxpayer subsidies to U.S. exporters such as Boeing, General Electric and Caterpillar.

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“In fiscal 2012, Ex-Im budgeted $1.7 million for travel expenses but spent $2.7 million. In fiscal 2013, Ex-Im budgeted $1.2 million but spent $2.2 million. And in this fiscal year, Ex-Im budgeted $1.3 million but expects its end-of-year spending to total $2.3 million.”

Last month, the Hill reported that “officials with the Export-Import Bank have exceeded their travel budget over the last three years by $3 million, according to disclosures filed with the House Financial Services Committee.

[Also see Timothy P. Carney’s The Export-Import Bank and the German model]

anon-lux-flight1

“A NASA employee flew from Frankfurt to Cologne, Germany, for $6,851, a flight that cost almost 52 times more than the $133 coach fare.”

But documents newly obtained by the Washington Examiner show that it was not just the frequency of the travel that caused Ex-Im officials to exceed their budget, but the way they chose to travel. Read the rest of this entry »


Pro-Palestinian Protesters Play Dead Outside Boeing, Neglect to Protest Hamas’ Jew-Hating Rocket Attacks on Israeli Civilians

via 10 Twitter / Discover.


Big Test Coming for Missile Defense System

GMD_January_test

For Defense TechBrendan MGarry reports: The Pentagon’s next big test of its multi-billion-dollar homeland missile defense system is slightly more than a week away, according to a news report.

The Missile Defense Agency plans to conduct the next test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System on June 22, according to an article by Tony Capaccio of Bloomberg News.

One of the Boeing Co.-made interceptors will be launched from an underground silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in an attempt to strike a dummy missile fired from a Pacific range, according to the article. The exercise is designed to gauge whether the system is capable of knocking out an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile.

The agency’s director, Navy Vice Admiral James Syring, described it as the agency’s “highest near-term priority,” during a hearing Wednesday before members of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, headed by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois.

An interceptor launched from the same site last July missed its target, the latest in a series of failures dating to 2008. Lawmakers, including Durbin, have criticized the military’s plans to increase the number of interceptors despite lingering problems with the technology. Read the rest of this entry »


Air and Space Artifacts to Get New Display in D.C.

National Air and Space Museum (Photo by Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images)

National Air and Space Museum (Photo by Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Some of the most iconic artifacts of aviation and space history will be getting an updated display for the 21st century, with the Apollo moon landing as the centerpiece.

“We’re trying to figure out what the museum needs to do to stay in touch. We want to inspire people of all ages to want to know more and to do more.”

— Museum Director J.R. “Jack” Dailey

For the first time since its 1976 opening, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum plans to overhaul its central exhibition showing the milestones of flight. The extensive renovation announced Thursday will be carried out over the next two years with portions of the exhibit closing temporarily over time, said Museum Director J.R. “Jack” Dailey.

Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis” aircraft from the first trans-Atlantic flight, John Glenn’s Mercury capsule from his first Earth orbit and an Apollo Lunar Module recalling America’s first moon landing will be among the key pieces to be featured. Such artifacts have made the Air and Space Museum the nation’s most-visited museum, drawing 7 million to 8 million visitors each year.

Read the rest of this entry »


Boeing’s Black Smartphone for Spies Self-Destructs to Save Secrets

myce-boeing-black-android-smartphone

“Any attempt to break open the casing of the device would trigger functions that would delete the data and software contained within the device and make the device inoperable.”

Peter-GravesGiuseppe Macri  reports:  Leading avionics technology developer and manufacturer Boeing is breaking into the smartphone market with “Black” – a Mission Impossible-worthy device that self-destructs if an attempt is made to breach its security.

“Boeing’s Black phone will be sold primarily to government agencies and companies engaged in contractual activities with those agencies that are related to defense and homeland security,” Legal counsel for Boeing Bruce Olcott wrote in the company’s detailed letter to the FCC earlier this month, asking the agency to keep the phone’s specs secret. “The device will be marketed and sold in a manner such that low-level technical and operational information about the product will not be provided to the general public.”

Black will run on an Android operating system as a “sealed device” requiring a non-disclosure agreement to be signed for use. Read the rest of this entry »


Capitalist-Flesh-Eating Zombie Socialists Hail New Zombie Leader in Seattle

From the dustbin of history, the zombie socialists

From the dustbin of history, the zombie socialists

Newly elected Sawant sings from the old socialist playbook: Capitalism “is a dirty word.” 

Note: I support this trend–truth in labeling. As many as one third, to one half of contemporary liberal democrats are closet socialists. They’d like to be able to say it, but they can’t. With Sawant’s help, hopefully more will come out of the closet, and fly their flag, as honestly as she does.

Andrew Johnson writes: At last week’s Wall Street Journal CEO Council meeting in Washington, D.C., President Obama quipped about the repeated charge that he’s a socialist. “But, no, you’ve got to meet real socialists,” he said. “You’ll have a sense of what a socialist is.” For those who are interested, meet newly elected Seattle Council member Kshama Sawant.

Running as a Socialist Alternative candidate, Sawant turned some heads in mid November by defeating longtime Democratic incumbent Richard Conlin for a seat on the city council. Running on issues such as a $15-per-hour minimum wage, she became the first socialist to win a citywide election in Seattle in nearly a century, thanks to the backing of Occupy Seattle (of which she is an organizer) and local unions. It’s been little more than a week since she claimed victory, but Sawant’s brazen promotion of socialist values is winning her praise and supporters in the progressive movement.

Sawant sees no need to hedge her views as “leaning” toward socialism or as sharing its perspective “on some of the issues.” In fact, even the Democratic-party establishment that has, in her words, “controlled” the Emerald City’s politics for years, is not exempt from her criticism. In a statement following Conlin’s concession on November 15, she thanked him for his public service before taking a piercing jab to say her election proves “a majority of voters are fed up with the corporate politicians.” In 2012, she challenged the Washington state-house speaker, a Democrat, and she managed to garner one-third of the vote. Regarding President Obama, she told Salon that he believes in capitalism and that there is “no basis in reality” to suggest he believes otherwise. The Stranger, a local alt-weekly that endorsed Sawant, credited her “brash style” and “refreshingly blunt rhetoric” with helping propel her to victory.

Read the rest of this entry »


The growing list of companies that have announced layoffs since Obama’s re-election

Elections Have Consequences

Here we are, three days after the election, and there’s already a long list of companies that have announced layoffs, and many are directly citing Obama’s policies as the reason.

These companies alone represent thousands of jobs, and this is just the beginning. The Blaze has even more.  November’s jobs report is going to be brutal.

via Poor Richards News