Sunday, September 15, 2019

Russia Postpones its Superheavy Rocket...again

Russia’s Progress Rocket Space Centre plans to start preparations for manufacturing a super-heavy rocket no earlier than in 2020, a company spokesperson told TASS on Friday.

"Once the stage of detail design is over, the process of drafting work design documents and preparations for launch of production will follow. Preparations for production will begin no earlier than in 2020," the source said.

The project’s overall volume of financing will be known later, once other companies taking part in the project submit their technical and economic feasibility documents, he added.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Pondering the Precambrian #40



Palaeopascichnus jiumenensis can be used to determine the Ediacaran/Cambrian boundary.

There's a new way to determine oxygen levels during paleo time periods.  It seems to check out in the Neoproterozoic-Cambrian transition based on comparison to other methods.

A bilateralan metazoan (animal) fossil and trackway was found in China dating from the Ediacaran.

The rise of siliceous sponges helped shift the Ediacaran ecosystems to the modern Cambrian. 

The differences between the Weng'an and Kuanchuanpu biotas is largely due to how they were preserved.

Acritarchs from the Ediacaran Doushantuo Formation allow for biostratigraphic correlation with the Tanarium conoideum–Cavaspina basiconica Assemblage Zone.

There appears to have been long term denudation of the continents from the middle Ediarcaran based on Nd isotope traces in carbonates.

A new formation has been found dating from the Cryogenian with evidence of bacterial and algae life in South China.

How much hydrothermal activity was there during the Marinoan Glaciation (snowball earth episode) during the Cryogenian?

There is evidence of a large igneous province in the Tonian.


Horodyski moniliformis, regarded by some as a eukaryote fossil from the Calymmian, has been declared a pseudofossil.


Plate tectonics have evolved over the last 2.5 billion years.

Is there evidence for the oxygen overshoot hypothesis from the Orosirian?

There was a paleocontinent named 'Atlantica' proposed.  Recent research suggests it was configured rather differently than proposed.

Evidence has arisen supporting a snowball earth scenario during the Huronian glaciation.

An asteroid impact has been IDed from the Rhyacian in Australia.

Did the supercontinental cycle begin in the PaleoProterozoic?


There is evidence of a PaleoArchean continent.

Origin of Life:

Prebiotic amino acids can bind to lipid membranes and stabilize them.

When did eukaryotes originate?  Do we have a way to understand that?

Did the lack of nitrogenase limit early life?

Friday, September 13, 2019

SpaceX's Starhopper Flight

A prototype of SpaceX’s next-generation launch system performed a brief test flight Aug. 27, a key step in the system’s development.
The “Starhopper” vehicle lifted off from a pad at SpaceX’s test site near Brownsville, Texas, at 6:02 p.m. Eastern. The vehicle took off vertically, translated a short distance, then landed vertically on a different pad a little less than a minute after takeoff.

The long-awaited test was intended to go to an altitude of 150 meters, although it was not immediately clear from the webcast of the flight exactly what altitude the vehicle achieved. The company provided no commentary for the webcast, and ended it shortly after the vehicle made what appeared to be a successful landing.

SpaceX attempted to fly Starhopper Aug. 26, but the attempt was scrubbed after the Raptor engine failed to ignite. SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk later tweeted that “dual redundant torch igniters” in the engine appeared to have malfunctioned and needed to be inspected before trying again.

The vehicle, powered by a single Raptor engine that uses methane and liquid oxygen propellants, made its first free flight July 25, rising several meters off the pad before landing about 10 to 15 seconds later. At the time, Musk said he expected a “hop” to an altitude of 200 meters in “a week or two.”

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Terminator Times #62

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones):

Watch USAF's RoboPILOT on its first flight.

A USAF MQ-9 Reaper was shotdown in Yemen.

The USAF has stated drones, not fighters are the future of air to air combat.  Well, and the B-21 with A2A capabilities.

The Russians stated a USAF RQ-4 Global Hawk was detected near Crimea.

The US Army is seeking suicide drone proposals.

The USN provided an update on the MQ-25A.

A British Watchkeeper drone crashed for embarrassing reasons.

China and Iran showed off tactical UAV concepts at MAK.

China is demoing the CH-4 for Indonesia.

China showed off a Loyal Wingman concept at MAKS.  And another.

India may buy 10 Maritime Predators.  Or more for more branches of the military.

Iran unveiled the Kian long range strike UAV.

Iran displayed the Mobin stealthy UAV concept at the MAKS2019 airshow.

Iraqi Shi'ite militias stated 2 fighters were killed near the Syrian border by a UAV and they are blaming Israel.

Two Israeli UAVs crashed in Lebanon.

Israel launched an attack on a QODS base in Syria to prevent a drone attack.

Lebanon stated Israel's drone strikes on it are an act of war.

Lebanon is claiming an Israeli drone dropped incendiaries on a forest.

Russia has flown its Israeli derived Forpost UAV.

Russia has flown its Altius-U UAV, the Russian Reaper equivalent.

A model of the Ohotnik-B at the MAKS2019 airshow shows a changed exhaust nozzle.  Russia also claims it will start delivering Ohotniks in 2025.

Russia's Orion-2 UAV is at least two years away.

The Russians displayed several UAVs and UAV concepts at MAKS.

Russia displayed a model of a hypersonic testbed.

Saudi Arabia was attacked by drone again causing a 'minor' gas fire at an oil field.  Another drone attack targeted the Abha airbase/airport again.  Saudi Arabia said it downed a drone in that attack.  The Houthis claimed to attack Riyadh with drones.  Saudi Arabia claims to have shot down two Houthi drones.

Taiwan is pursuing multirotor UAVs.

Taiwan has developed a ship launched UAV.

A Turkish Bayraktar TB2 may have been spotted in Libya.

Turkey is supporting local UAV development.

General Atomics got a contract to upgrade Reaper and Gray Eagle UAVs.

General Atomics welcomed more Belgium suppliers to the MQ-9B program.

Northrop is boosting its RQ-4 Global Hawk production capabilities.

Unmanned Ground Vehicles (Bolos and Ogres):

US Army has started investigating robotic decoy tanks.

The British are looking for robots to load its missiles onto Royal Navy ships.

Estonia is leading the EU project to develop the next gen UGV.

Russia is developing unmanned T-72 tanks.

General Robotics has improved its DOGO robot.

ReconRobotics has enhanced its ThrowBot with a stun grenade.

Rheinmetall proposed launching Warmate suicide drones from its Mission Master UGV.

Unmanned Surface Vehicles (Ro Boats):

A new USN surface squadron in San Diego will soon receive its first Sea Hunter USV.

China is developing the JARI USV.

ZSQUARED has developed a USV.

Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (robo subs):

The USN's Knifefish UUV has reached milestone C.

General Dynamics won a contract for the LRIP of the Knifefish.

Software Bots:

The USAF doesn't yet trust software bots to select targets.

The Pentagon AI lead is saying to start with 50% solutions and then improve.


The US Army is leaning on industry for its manned/unmanned teaming.

The USMC has unveiled its modernization plan and it relies heavily on unmanned systems.

A report to Congress on autonomous weapon systems.

Is the campaign to stop killer robots unethical and immoral?

Friday, September 06, 2019

Europa Clipper has has a key Review

A NASA mission to a potentially habitable moon of Jupiter has cleared a major review despite uncertainty about when, or how, it will launch.

NASA announced Aug. 19 that it had formally confirmed the Europa Clipper mission to proceed into its next phase of development, known as Phase C. That will cover final design of the spacecraft, followed by assembly and testing.

“We are all excited about the decision that moves the Europa Clipper mission one key step closer to unlocking the mysteries of this ocean world,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, said in a statement announcing the milestone.

Europa Clipper will enter orbit around Jupiter and make dozens of close approaches to Europa, one of the planet’s largest moons. Europa has an icy surface, below which most scientists believe is a deep ocean of liquid water. Combined with the interior heat source that keeps the ocean from freezing, and the presence of organic compounds, Europa has the basic requirements to support life.

While the programmatic milestone Europa Clipper achieved, known in NASA parlance as Key Decision Point C, is the point where NASA sets the schedule and budget for the mission, exactly when Europa Clipper will launch is not yet clear. In the statement announcing the mission’s confirmation, NASA noted that current plans have the spacecraft ready for launch as soon as 2023. However, the mission has a formal launch readiness date of 2025.

That uncertainty is linked to how the mission will be launched. The mission’s preferred launch option is the Space Launch System, which will allow the spacecraft to travel directly to Jupiter without the need of gravity assists, arriving within three years of launch. Language in appropriations bills for fiscal year 2019 and prior years also directed NASA to use the SLS.


The IG office of NASA is asking for flexibility for the launch of the Europa Clipper.  This includes which launch vehicle will be used and when.  If NASA selects any other launch vehicle, the arrival at Europa will be delayed by over 5 years, if not more.  For that reason, I'd have to say I hope Congress declines the request.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

The Anthropocene Didn't Just Start, Dates from at least 4,000 Years ago

Humans had caused significant landcover change on Earth up to 4000 years earlier than previously thought, University of Queensland researchers have found.

The School of Social Sciences' Dr Andrea Kay said some scientists defined the Anthropocene as starting in the 20th century, but the new research showed human-induced landcover change was globally extensive by 2000BC.

The Anthropocene - the current geological age - is viewed as the period in which human activity has been the dominant influence on Earth's climate and the environment.

"The activities of farmers, pastoralists and hunter-gatherers had significantly changed the planet four milennia ago,'' Dr Kay said.

The ArchaeoGLOBE project used an online survey to gather land-use estimates over the past 10,000 years from archaeologists with regional expertise.

"The modern rate and scale of anthropogenic global change is far greater than those of the deep past, but the long-term cumulative changes that early food producers wrought on Earth are greater than many people realise," Dr Kay said.

"Even small-scale, shifting agriculture can cause significant change when considered at large scales and over long time-periods."

Note: *NO* part of the globe was exempt.  Not even the Americas.