Bye Bye, Neutrality Pai: FCC Chairman to Call it Quits on Jan. 20

Ajit Pai
  • Chairman who led the effort to kill net neutrality will depart with the Trump Administration and his massive coffee cup
  • FCC approved constellations of thousands of satellites by SpaceX and Amazon under his leadership
  • Official announcement from the FCC is below

WASHINGTON, November 30, 2020 (FCC PR) —Today, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced that he intends to leave the Federal Communications Commission on January 20, 2021. Chairman Pai issued the following statement:

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve at the Federal Communications Commission, including as Chairman of the FCC over the past four years. I am grateful to President Trump for giving me the opportunity to lead the agency in 2017, to President Obama for appointing me as a Commissioner in 2012, and to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and the Senate for twice confirming me. To be the first Asian-American to chair the FCC has been a particular privilege. As I often say: only in America.

“I also deeply appreciate the chance to have worked alongside the FCC’s talented staff. They are the agency’s best assets, and they have performed heroically, especially during the pandemic. It’s also been an honor to work with my fellow Commissioners to execute a strong and broad agenda. Together, we’ve delivered for the American people over the past four years: closing the digital divide; promoting innovation and competition, from 5G on the ground to broadband from space; protecting consumers; and advancing public safety. And this FCC has not shied away from making tough choices. As a result, our nation’s communications networks are now faster, stronger, and more widely deployed than ever before.

“I am proud of how productive this Commission has been, from commencing five spectrum auctions and two rural broadband reverse auctions in four years, to opening 1,245 megahertz of mid-band spectrum for unlicensed use, to adopting more than 25 orders through our Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative, to aggressively protecting our communications networks from national security threats at home and abroad, to designating 988 as the three digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and much, much more. I’m also proud of the reforms we have instituted to make the agency more accountable to the American people. In particular, for the first time ever, we’ve made public drafts of the proposals and orders slated for a vote three weeks before the agency’s monthly meetings, making this the most transparent FCC in history.

“Last but not least, I want to thank my family for all they have done to enable me to serve at the agency. The public service of one generally results from the private sacrifice of many, and I’m grateful for their love and support.”

Starship Flight Test Set for Next Week

SpaceX will attempt a high-altitude flight test of its Starship prototype sometime next week. Teslerati reports:

CEO Elon Musk says that SpaceX’s first fully-assembled Starship prototype is on track for its 15-kilometer (~50,000 ft) launch debut after completing a second three-engine static fire test on Tuesday.

Starship serial number 8’s (SN8) three Raptor engines ignited for a few seconds around 5:30 pm CST (UTC-6) on Tuesday, November 24th, less than four hours before a record-breaking Falcon 9 rocket  launched another batch of Starlink satellites roughly a thousand miles to the east. Perhaps briefly producing upwards of 600 metric tons (6000 kN/~1.3M lbf) of thrust, Starship SN8’s second triple-engine static fire was actually the first with that particular trio of engines.

Cameron County has posted the following schedule for closing Highway 4 and Boca Chica Beach to allow SpaceX to conduct the test.

TEMP. CLOSURE DATETIME OF CLOSURE
(CST)
CURRENT BEACH STATUS
Primary DateNov 30, 20207:00 am to 6:00 pmClosure Scheduled
Secondary DateDec 1, 20208:00 am to 5:00 pmClosure Scheduled
Secondary DateDec 2, 20208:00 am to 5:00 pmClosure Scheduled

Musk has estimated there is a one-in-three chance of Starship landing successfully. There are two more Starships in production.

NASA TV Coverage Set for Next Space Station Resupply Mission with SpaceX

Falcon 9 lifts off with the the cargo Dragon CRS-20 mission. (Credit: NASA webcast)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA commercial cargo provider SpaceX is targeting 11:39 a.m. EST Saturday, Dec. 5, for the launch of its 21st commercial resupply services (CRS-21) mission to the International Space Station from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. CRS-21 will deliver science investigations, supplies, and equipment for NASA and is the first mission under the company’s second Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA. Live coverage will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website, with prelaunch events Friday, Dec. 4, and Saturday, Dec. 5.

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SpaceX Launches 16th Starlink Mission

Credit: SpaceX

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — On Tuesday, November 24 at 9:13 p.m. EST, SpaceX launched its sixteenth Starlink mission from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The Falcon 9 first stage rocket booster that supported this mission previously flew on six other missions: the Telstar 18 VANTAGE mission in September 2018, the Iridium-8 mission in January 2019, and four Starlink missions in May 2019, January 2020, June 2020, and August 2020.

ollowing stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which was located in the Atlantic Ocean. One half of Falcon 9’s fairing previously supported a mission, and the other half previously supported two.

Last month, SpaceX launched its “Better Than Nothing Beta” test program. Service invites were sent to a portion of those who requested availability updates on Starlink.com and who live in serviceable areas.

A couple weeks ago, Canada granted Starlink regulatory approval and SpaceX has now rolled out the service to parts of southern Canada.

If you would like to learn more about the service, please visit the Reddit AMA SpaceX engineers recently participated in.

Research Investigations on CRS-21 Sponsored by the ISS U.S. National Laboratory

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (CASIS PR) — SpaceX’s 21st commercial resupply mission (CRS-21) to the International Space Station (ISS) is slated for launch on December 5 at 11:39 a.m. EST from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The ISS U.S. National Laboratory is sponsoring more than 15 payloads on this mission that will bring value to our nation and further enable a sustainable market in low Earth orbit.

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FAA To Begin Environmental Review at SpaceX Texas Launch Site

Rendering of SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch complex. (Credit: SpaceX)

WASHINGTON (FAA PR) — SpaceX has informed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that it plans to apply for licenses for suborbital and orbital launches of its Starship spacecraft powered by the Super Heavy rocket at its launch site in Boca Chica, Texas.

The proposed update to Starship/Super Heavy operations  falls outside of the scope of the existing final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision for the launch site and requires additional environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 

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Sunday SpaceX Starlink Satellite Launch

Falcon 9 payload shroud. (Credit: SpaceX)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX is targeting Sunday, November 22 for launch of its sixteenth Starlink mission, which will launch 60 Starlink satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The instantaneous launch window is at 9:56 p.m. EST, 02:56 UTC on Monday, November 23.

You can watch a live webcast of this mission, which will begin about 15 minutes prior to liftoff.

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Of Rockets, Sand and Oceans: A Trip to Vandenberg

The top of a Falcon 9 rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Greetings from Lompoc.

Ken Brown and I drove over from Mojave today for the Falcon 9 launch of Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite on Saturday morning. Launch is scheduled for 9:17 a.m. PST. As always, your local time may vary. You can catch all the action on NASA TV.

The European environmental satellite, which NASA and NOAA are supporting, will study the oceans. That’s something we saw a good bit of today.

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Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Satellite Set to Launch on Saturday From Vandenberg

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite undergoes final preparations in a clean room at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for an early November launch. (Credits: ESA/Bill Simpson)

The newest satellite to monitor global sea level is ready for its journey into space. Here’s what to expect.

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (NASA PR) — Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, the latest in a series of spacecraft designed to monitor our oceans, is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. The satellite will be followed in 2025 by its twin, Sentinel-6B. Together, the pair is tasked with extending our nearly 30-year-long record of global sea surface height measurements. Instruments aboard the satellites will also provide atmospheric data that will improve weather forecasts, climate models, and hurricane tracking.

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Private Israeli Astronaut Made Fortune Selling Weapons, Security Systems & Other Services to Developing Nations

Michael Lopez-Alegria, Eytand_Stibbe and two unidentified individuals will fly on the AX-1 mission. (Credit: Axiom Space)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A former fighter pilot paying to become the second Israeli to fly into space late next year made his fortune by supplying military weapons, security systems and other services to the governments of Angola, Nigeria, Haiti, Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Eytan Stibbe, 62, will join retired NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria and two unidentified individuals on a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for a privately-funded mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Stibbe will pay for the cost of the trip and stay at the station.

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Hearts, Airlocks and Asteroids: New Research Flies on 21st SpaceX Cargo Mission

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The 21st  SpaceX cargo resupply mission that launches from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida carries a variety of critical research and technology demonstrations to the International Space Station. The mission represents the first on an upgraded version of the company’s Dragon cargo spacecraft designed to carry more science payloads to and from the space station.

Highlights of the payloads on this mission include:

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Orbit Fab to Launch Orbital Fuel Depot Next Year

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Orbit Fab plans to launch its first operational fuel depot into orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket no earlier than June 2021.

Orbit Fab’s Tanker 001 Tenzing will store propellant for satellite serving spacecraft and other vehicles that need refueling. The spacecraft will be placed in a sun synchronous orbit by one of Spaceflight Inc.’s Sherpa orbital transfer vehicles.

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Report: Loverro Feared 2024 Moon Landing Would be Imperiled by Boeing Contract Protest

Douglas Loverro (Credit: NASA)

A former senior NASA official violated procurement regulations in his dealings with Boeing out of fear the company could delay the Trump Administration’s plan to land astronauts on the moon in 2024, The Washington Post reports.

The Post reports that NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration Doug Loverro reached out to Boeing Senior Vice President Jim Chilton in February to tell the company it would not win a study contract for the Human Landing System, a vehicle that will take astronauts to and from the lunar surface. The call came at a time when NASA was not to contact any of the bidders.

Loverro, who abruptly resigned in May, wanted to find out if Boeing planned to protest its loss. If so, NASA would need to issue stop work orders to the winning bidders until the Government Accountability Office (GAO) ruled on the protest. GAO reviews usually take months.

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Nanoracks to Provide ISS with New Doorway to Space

Illustration of Bishop commercial airlock on International Space Station. (Credit: NanoRacks)

by Margo Pierce
NASA’s Spinoff Publication

Anyone who has gotten a sofa stuck in a doorway on moving day knows how frustrating it is when there’s no other way in or out. The doorways on the International Space Station, or airlocks, have worked just fine for 20 years. But as more researchers and companies wish to expand the scope and size of the projects they send into low-Earth orbit, a larger doorway could help.

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Marshall Team Enables Increased Science Return from International Space Station Astronauts

The Payload Operations Integration Center at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. (Credit: NASA/Emmett Given)

https://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news/releases/2020/marshall-team-enables-increased-science-return-from-international-space-station-astronauts.html

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — Flying silently through the void of space around a globe of blue and green is the most advanced science laboratory ever developed: the International Space Station. Inside humanity’s orbiting outpost is a buzz of activity as explorers, pilots, doctors, and scientists from around the world conduct experiments, maintain the facility, and develop new technologies.

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