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SpaceX, Boeing design risks threaten new delays for U.S. space program
21 February 2019, 1:05 PM

NASA has warned SpaceX and Boeing Co of design and safety concerns for their competing astronaut launch systems, according to industry sources and a new government report, threatening the U.S. bid to revive its human spaceflight program later this year.

NASA is paying SpaceX $2.6-billion and Boeing $4.2-billion to build rocket and capsule launch systems to return astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil for the first time since America’s Space Shuttle program went dark in 2011.

Just ahead of the first scheduled un-manned test flight slated for March, 2nd under NASA’s multi billion-dollar Commercial Crew Program, NASA’s safety advisory panel cited four “key risk items” in its 2018 annual report earlier this month.

For Boeing, they include the capsule’s structural vulnerability when the heat shield is deployed. For SpaceX, the report mentioned the redesign of a SpaceX rocket canister following a 2016 explosion and its “load and go” process of fueling the rocket with the crew already inside the capsule. “Parachute performance” remained an issue for both companies.

“There are serious challenges to the current launch schedules for both SpaceX and Boeing,” the report said.

Two people with direct knowledge of the program told Reuters that the space agency’s concerns go beyond the four items listed, and include a risk ledger that as of early February contained 30 to 35 lingering technical concerns each for SpaceX and Boeing. Reuters could not verify what all of the nearly three dozen items are. But the sources familiar with the matter said the companies must address “most” of those concerns before flying astronauts and, eventually, tourists to space.

The NASA risk database is updated routinely during the course of NASA’s stringent certification process, which includes data collection, tests and collaboration with SpaceX and Boeing, the people said. The Boeing and SpaceX systems have already been delayed several times in recent years, which is common in this sector given the complexity of building multi billion-dollar spacecraft capable of shedding earth’s gravity.

NASA spokesman Joshua Finch deferred all technical questions on Boeing and SpaceX systems to the companies, citing confidentiality, but said: “Flying safely always takes precedence over schedule.”

Boeing spokesman Josh Barrett said the company “closed out” the capsule’s structural vulnerability risk when it completed its structural test program in January. While Boeing is working through a number of other issues, they “are not driving any major architectural system changes.”

“Our numbers show we are exceeding NASA’s safety requirements,” said Barrett.

SpaceX spokesman James Gleeson said the company, working with NASA, has developed “one of the safest, most-advanced human spaceflight systems ever built.”

“There is nothing more important to SpaceX than safely flying crew,” said Gleeson, calling it “core to our company’s long-term goal of enabling access for people who dream of flying to space.”

Founded by Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk, SpaceX has cut the cost of rocket launches with its pioneering reusable rocket technology, while Boeing traces its space business back to the first U.S. human space missions of the 1960’s and is also the world’s largest plane maker.

The clock is ticking. The U.S. has been paying Russia about $80-million per ticket for a ride to the International Space Station, a $100-billion orbital research laboratory that flies about 250-miles (402 km) above Earth.

There are no seats available for U.S. crew on the Russia spacecraft after 2019 given production schedules and other factors. NASA said last week it was considering paying for two more seats to the space station for this fall and spring 2020 to ensure U.S. access.

The NASA plan for extra seats came a week after its safety panel said Congress should come up with a “mitigation plan” in case delays threaten U.S. access to the space station – echoing earlier concerns from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

NASA is set to conduct a flight readiness review on Friday for SpaceX’s mission without a crew on March, 2nd. NASA will decide whether to approve the test flight without a crew, while SpaceX addresses the issues raised for a human mission.

Parachute weaknesses 

Three people familiar with the project say the U.S. space agency has identified some design discrepancies between earlier SpaceX capsules designed to haul cargo to the International Space Station, and a newer version designed to carry humans.

Some of the risks – such as those identified in the designs of the enormous parachutes that deploy when the capsule plummets back to Earth at supersonic speeds – are uncommon given how close SpaceX is to test flights, two of the people said.

The timing of deployment of the SpaceX parachutes and the interaction of the parachutes themselves have raised concerns about parachute performance, and potentially whether they will be able to slow down the capsule enough to ensure the crew’s safety, two people said.

SpaceX has completed 17-parachute tests for the Commercial Crew Program so far, with an additional 10 tests planned prior to Crew Dragon’s second demonstration mission, Gleeson said. He also said its parachute systems are designed with redundancy so the vehicle can still safely splashdown in the event that one parachute fails.

NASA’s safety panel said in its report that SpaceX may be required to re-design its parachute system. A re-design would likely trigger more testing and potentially weeks or months of extra delays, two of the people said.

NASA also found design problems with the system that helps orient SpaceX’s capsule in an upright position once it lands in the ocean, raising the risk of taking on excessive amounts of water, according to two industry sources and confirmed by a NASA official.

SpaceX’s Gleeson said Crew Dragon’s outer shell is water-resistant, and the spacecraft itself is buoyant and does not pose a risk to crew members after splashdown.

Risk of more delays 

NASA announced earlier this month that SpaceX was now targeting March, 2nd instead of Feb, 23rd for its un-crewed Crew Dragon test flight, with its astronaut flight planned for July. NASA explained the delay by citing vague concerns for both contractors, such as the need to complete hardware testing and other work.

NASA said Boeing’s un-crewed Starliner would fly “no earlier” than April, with the crewed mission currently slated for August. This is the schedule now at risk, according to the NASA report.

The challenges in front of Boeing include last year’s failure during a test of its launch-abort engines, which spilled caustic fuel on the test stand, Boeing’s Barrett said. The accident was caused by faulty valves which Boeing has re-designed and re-ordered from the supplier, though the new valves must be re-tested, Barrett said.

The test flights are also part of collecting the data needed to close out some risk items, NASA said.

“SpaceX and Boeing both have challenges, both comparable, from a safety perspective,” said one U.S. government source.


Orlando Pirates coach Micho Sredojevic.
Sredojevic blames players for loss to SuperSport United
21 February 2019, 10:23 AM

Orlando Pirates coach Micho Sredojevic has put the blame on their 1-0 loss to SuperSport United, on his players.

Sredojevic says had the players made good use of their turnovers, the results in the only ABSA Premiership match played at the Mbombela Stadium last night, would’ve been be different.

The coach also lamented captain Happy Jele’s missed penalty that would have brought the Bucs back into the game.

“We created chances but it was not enough. We needed to convert them, I believe that penalty would totally turn the game upside and space to attack more; to go even for a win because we have come with an intention of a win, it looks like pressure has entered inside us.”

National Armed Forces Day.
Armed Forces Day celebrated
21 February 2019, 7:48 AM

The commemoration of the sinking of the SS Mendi in the English Channel in 1917 in which more than 600 South African soldiers perished will form part of the activities of the SANDF’s Armed Forces Day in Cape Town on Thursday.

The annual event has been held in different provinces since 2013.

The Western Cape is the seventh province to host Armed Forces Day.

Spokesperson, Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, says the main aim is to honour those soldiers who died in the line of duty and those who continue to serve in the army.

“It also coincides with the commemoration of the SS Mendi, the Armed Forces Day is also the way of testing the capabilities of the SANDF, if anything can happen, will the SANDF be able to deploy their forces in any province, we are testing our logistical capabilities and the state of readiness of the South African Defence Force.”

Meanwhile, Western Cape Minister of Community Safety Alan Winde, has called on the National Defence Force to rather assist police with peace-keeping, than to go on week-long, expensive parades which are paid for by tax payers.

Winde says since 2012 the Western Cape government has made 12 separate formal demands for the temporary deployment of the SANDF as a visible peacekeeping force, to free up police to do investigative work.

He says their shooting of artillery as fanfare, is traumatising gang-ridden communities, who rather want the army to assist them.

“You just have to walk the streets in these communities that are so crime-ridden, that are dealing with these shootings every night, whose children are being shot and murdered. Ten murders a day. It would have been way better to have our military supporting our police rather than disrupting.”

Click on video below: 

Empire actor Jussie Smollett
Chicago police charge Empire actor with filing false report of assault
21 February 2019, 7:15 AM

US police on Wednesday charged Empire actor with lying to authorities about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack on the streets of Chicago.

Jussie Smollett, who stars in the Fox network drama “Empire,” is facing felony criminal charges of disorderly conduct and filing a false police report.

He claimed that on January. 29th two masked men beat him late at night in downtown Chicago while yelling racist and homophobic slurs.

The alleged incident initially seemed to serve as an example of growing intolerance in the US and led to an outpouring of support for the actor. But over the following weeks, the 36-year-old went from victim to suspect.

“Felony criminal charges have been approved by Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office against Jussie Smollett for Disorderly Conduct / Filing a False Police Report,” Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement late Wednesday.

“Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest.”

Smollett’s attorneys promised to conduct their own investigation and mount “an aggressive defence.”

“Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked,” attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said in a statement.

The actor reported to police that his alleged assailants poured bleach on him, tied a rope around his neck, and yelled “This is MAGA country” – a reference to US President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

But detectives grew suspicious of the account after interrogating two men who reportedly revealed that they were hired to stage the incident.

Chicago TV station WBBM said the men, brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, claimed Smollett was unhappy that a threatening letter he had earlier received at the Chicago studios where “Empire” is filmed had not received enough attention.

Gloria Schmidt, the brothers’ attorney, told reporters Wednesday that the men testified under oath about what they knew without a plea agreement and did not expect to be charged with a crime.

“They’re not guilty of anything,” Schmidt said.

“I think Jussie Smollett should come clear, because the truth will set him free,” she said.

The initial news of Smollett’s claims led to widespread condemnation and shock. An outpouring of support came from public figures such as Emma Watson, Katy Perry, and Joe Biden.

Senators and Democratic 2020 presidential candidates Cory Booker and Kamala Harris both called the incident “an attempted modern-day lynching.”

President Trump commented that the alleged attack was “horrible.”

But Smollett’s story appeared to unravel with a steady stream of leaks to US media, and has since become a cautionary tale in an era where incomplete information is quickly spread via social media.

“Many politicians and journalists seemed to suspend all critical thought in a campaign to indict not just Mr. Smollett’s attackers but the country as a whole,” opinion writer Noah Rothman wrote in The New York Times.

The Chicago Tribune newspaper echoed that sentiment, while warning that the crime Smollett described “certainly was possible.”

A 2018 analysis published by The Center for Public Integrity found more than 2.4-million crimes between 2012 and 2016 in which hate was suspected to be a motivating factor.

FBI statistics show hate crimes rose 17% in the US in 2017, especially against African-American and Jewish populations.

“The real tragedy in all of this is that hate crimes are, in fact, on the rise in the Trump era,” Rothman said.

Senator Harris was among those struggling to reconcile her initial statements with how the case has unfolded, when asked on Monday by a reporter about what she now thought of Smollett’s claims.

“It’s something we should all take seriously whenever anyone alleges that kind of behaviour, but there should be an investigation,” Harris said, according to Fox News.

Suicide due to cyber-bullying not taken seriously: Montana community
21 February 2019, 6:57 AM

The Doornpoort community in Montana, north of Pretoria, is accusing the Gauteng Education department of not seriously addressing the matter of a schoolgirl’s suicide after a cyber-bullying incident.

A video of the girl naked has been doing the rounds on WhatsApp.

The community says Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi’s failure to visit the school shows neglect from the department.

Doornpoort Community Forum chair Tshepo Loso says, “We would really like to know and be involved in the investigation that the department will be running in order for us to also contribute in preventing such things from happening again, because it was clear to us as the community that the school does not have measures or mechanisms or methodologies to deal with such cases whenever there is a matter like this that arises.”



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