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Comment Re:R&D versus production (Score 1) 105

their systems are certainly working better than other programs at their stage of evolution.

That depends on which "other programs" you look at. Back in the 1950's and early 1960's when we were still learning rocketry and their were no textbooks? Sure. They're doing much better. Compared to more modern programs... they're doing worse. Much worse. The open question, the only real question, the one with no satisfactory answer... is whether the problems are inherent to a startup with no collective experience, are due to their rapid prototyping process, or due to their constant schedule pressure. Or from elements of all three.
The one constant, the one thing we do know for a fact, it that SpaceX (or at least Musk) is consistently overconfident and equally consistently over promises and under delivers. He's not alone in that though... it's a pretty consistent feature of NewSpace. (Or AltSpace, or "mammals", whichever term you prefer.)

Comment Re:Fiat Currency (Score 1) 87

What I'd be curious about is whether it's somehow technically illegal to use foreign currency for transactions in the United States. I can pretty easily see a business in DC or NYC accepting Euros as payment if they have a lot of European customers.

Accepting foreign currencies is no problem. Paying out in foreign currencies or exchanging one for the other is where AFAIK things get sticky. I don't know how it is nowadays when most transactions are electronic... But stores along the Canadian border (here in Washington State) used to happily accept Canadian money (at a premium above the current exchange rate). What they wouldn't do is return your change in Canadian or exchange one for the other - that makes you a currency exchange, which requires a license.
Hmm... Looking at it that way, the two rulings may not be not as inconsistent as it seems on the face of it. In the Miami ruling, the defendant was conducting business solely in US Dollars, which is quite legal. (So long as he converted his books into dollars at tax time and paid his taxes in dollars.) In the Manhattan case, the defendant was, via Bitcoin, intentionally exchanging one currency for another - which is not legal without the appropriate license.

Comment Re:Fiat Currency (Score 1) 87

( We could envisage a scenario in which, absent such a decree/requirement, you and I could agree some complex scheme to defraud the Federal Government of tax revenue. I could sell you a car for "ten bananas" and when asked for taxes by the government, could give them a couple of pieces of fruit to cover the tax. )

You could, if you were ignorant of tax law. In reality, this "loophole" has long since been closed - you can conduct your transactions in any currency or in barter if you want, but you're required to convert that into US dollars to calculate your taxes and then pay your taxes in US dollars. (An additional requirement is to "show your work" - that is, to define the value of your currency and demonstrate your conversion method is valid.) So long as you don't try and pull a stupid stunt like claiming a "banana" is worth $0.15 when selling a new luxury car with 200 miles on it, the IRS does not care how you keep your books.

Comment After a three year break... (Score -1) 88

"Among the advances: astronauts can remain on the station up to 30 days".

Which leaves them (after a three year break in manned flight), what... forty years behind everyone else? Not that that will stop those who want China to give them stiffies and stroke material by re-igniting a Space Race.

China has just enough of a space program to let them claim (internally and externally) to be a Real Country with a Real Space Program, and not a yuan's worth more. Despite their many pronouncements about things they may do in some misty future, there's no evidence they intend to ever have anything more.

Comment Re:Tractors (Score 1) 400

With 60%+ of the workforce working in farming, the Industrial Revolution was predicted to cause massive unemployment that the society could never recover from.

While "never recover from" turned out to be wildly pessimistic - you're wildly clueless. There was indeed widespread unemployment and massive social disruption. Communism and anarchism (so wildly prevalent in the late 18th century) didn't spring out of nowhere. Nor were the masses of poor and the workhouses of Dickens' novels creations of whole cloth. It took better than a century for the bolus to work it's way through the system. (The US was lucky and missed the worst of it because we were still in the Manifest Destiny stage and expanding into the West.)

The microchip revolution has already taken away many jobs... and over the next couple of decades, it's poised to take many more.

Comment Re:The Free State Welcomes Edward Snowden (Score 1) 387

The movement is strong gaining new movers every week and unlike other movements has only grown larger over the years.

But despite being around for over a decade - you're only talking points are how actively you're growing and how you're the number one place in the world for BitCoins (whatever that means).

Get back to us when you've got something more than slogans, hot air, and bullshit.

Comment Re:Might want to watch this (Score 1) 266

While it's true that liquid oxygen and kerosene make an explosive mixture, they still need something to start the big kaboom.

If the LOX froze the kerosene, then that "something" could be almost anything short of "exploded just for the sheer hell of it". That's a very touchy and sensitive combination.

Submission + - Philae Found! Rosetta Spies Dead Comet Lander (seeker.com)

astroengine writes: With only a month before its mission ends, the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission swooped low over Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko to see the stranded Philae lander jammed in a crack. After months of searching for the lander, which made its dramatic touchdown on Nov. 14, 2014, mission scientists had a good idea as to the region the robot was in, but this is the first photographic proof of the lander, on its side, stuck in the craggy location called Abydos. "This wonderful news means that we now have the missing 'ground-truth' information needed to put Philae's three days of science into proper context, now that we know where that ground actually is!" said Rosetta project scientist Matt Taylor in a statement.

Submission + - Google kills the modular Ara phone

nickovs writes: The New York Times is reporting that Google has pulled the plug on Project Ara, the modular mobile phone that would allow users to replace and upgrade phone parts. Although Google discussed the Ara platform at their developer conference only a few months ago the article reports:

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, is dropping plans to create a customizable, or modular, smartphone with interchangeable parts, two people briefed on the matter said Thursday.

It would appear that this change is a result of the restructuring of the Google monolith into the Alphabet group of companies:

Last year, the company moved to a holding company structure, separating the profitable advertising business from the money-losing “moonshots.” By forcing those projects to report losses publicly, the thinking was that it would help to rein in never-ending investment.

Comment Re:Ars Are Welcome To Try (Score 1) 84

If you've seen the video, it's reasonably clear that the initial signs of trouble - i.e. the start of the explosion - happens right at the top of the First Stage, perhaps where the Second Stage engine might be situated within the casing.

If you've seen the video and have any clue what you're talking about - it's abundantly clear that the the first signs of trouble appear where the second stage umbilical attaches to the vehicle. (Right about where the intertank bulkhead is believed to be.)

Yet on this, Ars reckon that they know what the fault is and that the fault lies with SpaceX. They may even be right...

Well, no. The article makes no mention of the location of the fault and no assumption as to who is responsible. Or, to put it another way, your claim is a complete fabrication. (And yet, you claim to not be a SpaceX fanboy.)

There could be literally scores or hundreds of reasons behind the failure. That failure could be design, material defect, or process in nature, or it could be an obscure combination of several things. It could quite easily be a failure induced on SpaceX because of constraints imposed elsewhere, by someone else.

Yet, the fact remains, this is the second accident related to the 2nd stage. (Which carries a higher proportion of the total d/v than is normally considered acceptable due to the requirement to conserve d/v in the first stage to allow recovery.) And given the relatively small number of flights of the F9, having two accidents raises grave questions about the reliability of the launcher and the capability of the operator.

And even if the failure was the result of constraints imposed elsewhere by someone else, anyone with a clue (and who is not a fanboy) knows that it's SpaceX's vehicle on SpaceX's launcher - and SpaceX is responsible for building and operating a vehicle that doesn't blow up regardless of the source of the constraints.

I'm quite certain that there will be people who read this comment and think ("Ah, SpaceX fan-boy there...")

The problem isn't that you're a SpaceX fanboy (though you claim otherwise, you work very hard to give the impressions that you are)... It's that you have utterly no clue what you're talking about.
Eric Berger (the author of the piece) does indeed know what he's talking about - and he's not the only knowledgeable person wondering if SpaceX shouldn't stop constantly iterating and concentrate on the basics and flying out their manifest.

Comment Re:Liability (Score 1) 59

Low temperature failure of the o rings was a known problem that they could have avoided by delaying for a warmer day.

Only to have the o-rings fail anyhow... Seriously, the myth that the cold caused the accident needs to die in a fire. The o-rings were a ticking time bomb at any temperature - the worst failures pre-51L occurring with launch temps in the 70's and 80's. (Which is why NASA already had a fix in the pipeline when they launched 51L.) The cold contributed to the accident, but it did not in and of itself cause the accident.

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I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.