News Briefs – February 5, 2020

Days after Brexit, UK navy arrives in Belgium for war games

Britain may have just left the European Union, but the country’s navy was the first to arrive for U.S.-led war games over the next six months across Europe.
The Royal Navy was busy Feb. 3 offloading heavy military vehicles in the Belgian port of Antwerp. The vehicles will be involved in the Defender-Europe 2020 exercises, which will see the biggest deployment of U.S. troops — some 20,000 personnel — to Europe in the last 25 years. In all, around 37,000 soldiers from 18 countries, not all of whom are members of the NATO military alliance, will be taking part.
The war games are a test of the U.S. military’s ability to pour thousands of troops and equipment into Europe alongside NATO allies and partners in times of crisis. Many of the exercises will be held in countries neighboring Russia like Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The bulk of the forces are deploying in February, with the main exercises taking place in April and May. The maneuvers wind up in August. Some of the exercises will involve air-dropping soldiers to pre-positioned equipment or erecting temporary bridges for river crossings in combat-like conditions. AP

Space station’s cosmic detector working after 4 spacewalks

The cosmic detector that required a series of difficult spacewalking repairs is back in action.
The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is working better than ever, Samuel Ting, the Nobel laureate who oversees the instrument, said Jan. 31.
The $2 billion spectrometer — the International Space Station’s premier science instrument — has now measured 152 billion charged cosmic rays in its hunt for elusive antimatter and dark matter, said Ting, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
A pair of astronauts conducted four spacewalks, beginning in November, to replace the spectrometer’s failing cooling system.
The final spacewalk, on Jan. 25, was the only one where Ting was not at NASA’s Mission Control in Houston. Instead, he was in Switzerland at the control room for the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, which helps run the spectrometer.
“The only time I was not there, something happened,” Ting said. But he said he was never nervous — even when a leak cropped up in one of the coolant lines Jan. 25 — and was always confident the spacewalks would succeed.
Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano plugged the leak by repeatedly tightening the fitting for the line.
The spectrometer has been at the space station since 2011. Ting expects it to last the lifetime of the station, or another five to 10 years.
Ting said the instrument already has provided strong candidates for antimatter and dark matter. AP

Boeing confirms SEC investigating disclosures around 737 Max

Boeing has confirmed that securities regulators are investigating the company in connection with the 737 Max, which was grounded after two deadly crashes.
Boeing disclosed the Securities and Exchange Commission investigation in a regulatory filing Jan. 31.
The filing provides few details of the probe beyond saying that Boeing is cooperating with government investigations including those by the Justice Department and the SEC. Boeing said it cannot estimate possible losses that could result from lawsuits and investigations.
Boeing said that in preparing financial statements, it made assumptions about the outcome of accident investigations and the expected costs it would bear in 2020 and 2021 from the Max’s grounding. It didn’t disclose those assumptions, but said they are “highly uncertain and significantly affect the estimates inherent in our financial statements.”
The existence of an SEC investigation was previously reported by news organizations.
It has taken Boeing far longer than it originally expected to complete fixes to the plane including flight-control software that played a role in two crashes that killed 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia and led regulators to ground the plane worldwide last March.
Boeing shut down the Max assembly line near Seattle last month, although company officials have suggested it might re-open this spring. Boeing doesn’t expect Federal Aviation Administration approval of its changes to the plane until mid-year. AP

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