News Briefs – November 19, 2018


U.S. military chief says tech giants should work with Pentagon

The top U.S. military officer says it’s problematic that American tech companies don’t want to work with the Pentagon but are willing to engage with the Chinese market.
U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told the Halifax International Security Forum Nov. 17 that the U.S. and its allies are the “good guys.”
Dunford avoided mentioning Google by name. But worker unrest at the company helped scuttle Google’s Maven project to help the U.S. military scan battlefields using drones and artificial intelligence.
Dunford says companies that share intellectual property with Chinese entrepreneurs are essentially sharing it with the Chinese military.
He noted the U.S has had a competitive advantage since World War II because of public and private cooperation. AP

Nevada Museum of Art to launch $1.5 million space balloon

A museum in Nevada says it is about to send a diamond-shaped sculpture into space that will be visible to the naked eye at night.
The Nevada Museum of Art’s $1.5 million project will launch Nov. 19 from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, the Reno Gazette Journal reported. But while on Earth, it has not had a smooth ride, with some scientists deeming it obnoxious and a blemish on the night sky.
“If everybody loves a piece of art, then it’s probably not doing its job,” museum spokeswoman Amanda Horn said. “But if people are talking about it, then it’s already achieving its goal. It’s doing what it’s supposed to do.”
The 100-foot-long (30-meter-long) sculpture will be stuffed in a package attached to a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The sculpture that self-inflates as a balloon will burst from the package and remain in orbit for about 60 days before it burns.
It is made of a polyester film-like material and will look like a sparkle at night. It will orbit Earth once every 90 minutes, passing over the Reno area most nights.
The “Orbital Reflector” project is the idea of Berlin-based artist Trevor Paglen, who said the project was “designed as a provocation.”
“An opportunity to think about outer space, the geopolitics of the heavens, and the militarization of earth orbits,” he wrote in an essay. “It’s a project about public space, and a project about who gets to exercise power over our planetary commons, and on what terms.”
And, indeed, it has provoked some people.
“Adding another satellite like this brings nothing beyond what the many purposeful ones in orbit look like already. Or the many natural phenomena already there to enthrall. It’s a completely empty artistic statement,” Mark McCaughrean, senior adviser for Science & Exploration at the European Space Agency, tweeted in August.
A Kickstarter campaign and contributions from museum donors are funding the project.
People can track the balloon using the app Star Walk 2. AP

Space station supplies launched, second shipment in two days

A load of space station supplies rocketed into orbit from Virginia on Nov. 17, the second shipment in two days.
And another commercial delivery should be on its way in a couple weeks.
“What an outstanding launch,” said NASA’s deputy space station program manager, Joel Montalbano.
Northrop Grumman launched its Antares rocket from Wallops Island before dawn, delighting chilly early-bird observers along the Atlantic coast. The Russian Space Agency launched its own supplies to the International Space Station on Friday, just 15 hours earlier.
The U.S. delivery will arrive at the orbiting lab Monday, a day after the Russian shipment. Among the 7,400 pounds of goods inside the Cygnus capsule: ice cream and fresh fruit for the three space station residents, and a 3D printer that recycles old plastic into new parts.
Thanksgiving turkey dinners — rehydratable, of course — are already aboard the 250-mile-high outpost. The space station is currently home to an American, a German and a Russian.
There’s another big event coming up, up there: The space station marks its 20th year in orbit on Nov. 20. The first section launched on Nov. 20, 1998, from Kazakhstan.
“As we celebrate 20 years of the International Space Station,” Montalbano noted, “one of the coolest things is the cooperation we have across the globe.” Then there’s the U.S. commercial effort to keep the space station stocked and, beginning next year, to resume crew launches from Cape Canaveral. “To me, it’s been a huge success,” he said.
This Cygnus, or Swan, is named the S.S. John Young to honor the legendary astronaut who walked on the moon and commanded the first space shuttle flight. He died in January.
It is the first commercial cargo ship to bear Northrop Grumman’s name. Northrop Grumman acquired Orbital ATK in June. SpaceX is NASA’s other commercial shipper for the space station; its Dragon capsule is set to lift off in early December.
Experiments arriving via the Cygnus will observe how cement solidifies in weightlessness, among other things. There’s also medical, spacesuit and other equipment to replace items that never made it to orbit last month because of a Russian rocket failure; the two men who were riding the rocket survived their emergency landing. Three other astronauts are set to launch from Kazakhstan on Dec. 3. AP