Startup Proposes to Land Payload of Scientific Gear on Lunar Surface Some Time Next Year.
The government’s endorsement would eliminate the largest regulatory obstacle to plans by Moon Express, a relatively obscure space startup, to land a roughly 20-pound package of scientific hardware on the Moon sometime next year. It also would provide the biggest federal boost yet for unmanned commercial space exploration and, potentially, the first in an array of for-profit ventures throughout the solar system.
The expected decision, said the people familiar with the details, is expected to set important legal and diplomatic precedents for how Washington will ensure such nongovernmental projects comply with longstanding international space treaties. The principles are likely to apply to future spacecraft whose potential purposes range from mining asteroids to tracking space debris.
Approval of a formal launch license for the second half of 2017 is still months away, and the proposed mission poses huge technical hurdles for California-based Moon Express, including the fact that the rocket it wants to use hasn’t yet flown.
But the project’s proponents have considered federal clearance of the suitcase-size MX-1 lander and its payload as well as approval of a planned two-week operation on the Moon itself to pose the most significant legal challenges to the mission.
After months of lobbying by Moon Express officials and high-level deliberations among various federal agencies led by the White House science office, the people familiar with the matter said, the company appears close to obtaining what it has called “mission approval.” Until recently, Moon Express faced a regulatory Catch-22 because there was no template for getting Washington’s blessing for what it proposed.
Official action coordinated through the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates U.S. rocket launches and is responsible for traditional payload reviews, could come as soon as the next few weeks, these people said. Read the rest of this entry »
Amtrak train was traveling at twice speed limit
An Amtrak train in Philadelphia was traveling at more than 100 miles per hour, over twice the speed limit, when it entered a curve in the tracks and derailed, killing seven people and injuring more than 200, federal investigators said on Wednesday.
While the precise cause of Tuesday night’s crash remains to be determined, experts from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) believe the derailment would have been prevented by installation of an advanced safety system called “positive train control,” NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt said.
The engineer of the New York City-bound passenger train applied the locomotive’s emergency braking system just after entering the curved stretch of track, where the maximum allowed speed is 50 miles per hour (80 km per hour), Sumwalt said. Read the rest of this entry »
FBI’s Intelligence bulletin reported nine derailers stolen
Jason A. Ryan reports: Nine derailers, a piece of railroad equipment used to derail train cars for safety purposes in railyards have been stolen recently, sources said, citing the FBI’s weekly intelligence bulletin.
“The theft of these items is strange since they are of little use outside of the rail industry, according to the bulletin.”
Railroads have been targeted in the past by terrorists, the bulletin said.
It specifically mentioned the Oct. 1995 derailment of an Amtrak train in Hyder, Ariz. In that incident, one person was killed and 78 were injured when parts of the track were sabotaged. The FBI located a derail 50 miles from Hyder…(read more)
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – A Philadelphia commuter train was hit by a projectile about 20 minutes before an Amtrak train derailed a few miles up the track.
A spokeswoman for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority says there’s no indication that the incident is related to the derailment.
SpaceShipTwo crash investigation may take up to a year
(CNN) — The surviving co-pilot in the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo disaster is “alert” and speaking, the company that partnered with Virgin on the test flight program said Sunday.
“Because it was a test flight, it was heavily documented…we may have lots of evidence that will help us with the investigative process, and we appreciate that.”
— National Transportation Safety Board acting Chairman Christopher Hart
But while Peter Siebold appears to be recovering after the accident, not much is known about what caused the spacecraft’s apparent in-flight breakup. At least not yet.
A team of 13 to 15 investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board will be on site in the Mojave Desert for about a week. But analyzing the data from the test aircraft will take much longer.
DUBUQUE, Iowa —The wife of Doug Butzier confirmed Tuesday morning to KCRG-TV that it was Butzier who was killed in a plane crash Monday.
The crash was reported Monday night near Dubuque Regional Airport.
“I was just sitting in there watching TV and all that I heard was an airplane going vrrrmmm — boom! Blew up, came up and seen big ole flames on the neighbor’s yard,” plane crash witness Jeremy Becker told KCRG-TV.
Lunsford said law enforcement told him the sole occupant of the aircraft was killed in the crash. Lunsford said the plane took off from Ankeny Regional Airport about an hour before the crash.
The news helicopter had just stopped at a helipad to refuel on its way to another assignment when it crashed and burst into flames yards from the Space Needle in the heart of Seattle, killing the two men on board and seriously injuring a third man who was on fire when he escaped from his car.
It may be months before federal investigators know what caused the chopper to plummet at a busy intersection, setting three vehicles ablaze and spewing burning fuel down the street during the Tuesday morning commute.
“It was just a fireball. The whole thing burst into flames. I saw people running from their cars.”
The KOMO-TV flight was one of many helicopter flights that take off and land in Seattle’s downtown. Mayor Ed Murray said officials would review rules for helicopter pads in the city to determine if any changes need to be made.
Two people have been killed after a KOMO news helicopter crashed on top of at least three vehicles outside Seattle Center Tuesday morning and caught fire. A third person was taken to the hospital in critical condition.
The crash happened around 7:45 a.m. in the 400 block of Broad Street next to Fisher Plaza, which is home to KOMO.
The photographer was identified as Bill Strothman, who worked for several years at KOMO and whose son also works there. The name of the pilot has not yet been released.
“Not only were the cars on fire, the fuel running down the street was on fire.”
— Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore
Bo Bain, a construction worker, said he saw the helicopter land and stay on the pad for about a minute or two.
“When he went to take back off, the sound of the helicopter changed kind of drastically and I looked and the helicopter was almost immediately pitched sideways and off balance and he kind of nose-dove over the trees and clipped the top of the trees and crashed on the other side of the street,” said Bain. Read the rest of this entry »