Category Archives: Technology and Society

The Covington “Scandal”

Thoughts from Neo.

Disagreeing With DC Conventional Wisdom

isn’t a crime, let alone an impeachable offense. It is time to rethink NATO, perhaps past time.

NATO and the EU have been free riding for a long time. It was an organization for a different era and power structure. Putin’s Russia doesn’t have the resources to conquer Europe, especially if they start getting serious about their own defense.

[Sunday-afternoon update]

Yes. Europe was never a true partner in its own defense. They had a (brief) excuse in the midst of the Marshall Plan, but we’ve been indulging them in their own socialism and unwillingness to spend on their own defense for the decades since recovery. Time to rethink it.

And for those who think that Trump is Putin’s “stooge,” did Putin order him to insist that Europeans spend more on their own defense and live up to their NATO obligations?

[Bumped]

The End Of Rockets?

No, Futurism:

All that essential, but not actually useful, extra weight jacks up the cost of a mission. Falcon Heavy launches cost $1.2 million USD per ton of payload. Again, that’s a crazy improvement from earlier missions, but that many zeros on a space mission mean these launches will stay out-of-reach for consumers or smaller companies.

No one outside of SpaceX knows what Falcon Heavy costs (and that depends on whether you mean average cost or marginal cost).

And then there is the environmental cost. These souped-up rockets use more fuel, and Falcon rockets rely on what’s basically kerosene and oxygen. Per launch, the carbon these missions spew isn’t that much. But if space flight frequency reaches the twice a month threshold that SpaceX is aiming for, experts think the overall carbon output could reach 4,400 tons a year. If every private space company chimes in with their own launch emissions, that number could climb dramatically.

Not everyone uses kerosene. Blue Origin (and ULA) plan to use liquid natural gas (mostly methane), which has much lower carbon content. And they both plan LOX/LH2 upper stages, whose exhaust is water. And even at a hundred times that amount, it would continue to be dwarfed by the airline industry.

There are also all the potential atmospheric impacts that we don’t understand very well. Burning rocket fuel emits soot and a chemical called alumina, and scientists have started to study how these molecules break down our ozone layer, something we’ve been working hard to restore over several decades.

Again, not all rocket fuel. Methane will produce almost no soot, and hydrogen none. And only solid rockets emit alumina, and only ULA plans to use them (OK, well, NASA will have them on SLS, if it ever flies, but it will hardly ever fly).

No, it will be a long time, if ever, before we need space elevators, even if they’re technical feasible and practical.

Missile Defense And Launch Costs

I did a thread on Twitter this morning.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Trump’s missile-defense strategy.

As I noted above, if the space segment is now feasible, it’s despite, not because of government launch policy for the past three decades (except possibly for COTS).