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Archive for June, 2019

Australian election May 18 to be fought on refugees, economy

April 11, 2019

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s prime minister on Thursday called a May 18 election that will be fought on issues including climate change, asylum seekers and economic management. “We live in the best country in the world,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters after advising the governor-general to authorize the election.

“But to secure your future, the road ahead depends on a strong economy. And that’s why there is so much at stake at this election,” he added. Morrison’s conservative coalition is seeking a third three-year term. But Morrison is the third prime minister to lead a divided government in that time and only took the helm in late August.

Opinion polls suggest his reign will become one of the shortest in the 118-year history of Australian prime ministers on election day. The polls suggest center-left opposition leader Bill Shorten will become the eighth prime minister since the country plunged into an extraordinary period of political instability in 2007.

The election pits Shorten, a former labor union leader who has presented himself as the alternative prime minister for the past six years, and Morrison, a leader who the Australian public is still getting to know.

Shorten said in his first news conference since the election was called that his government will take “real action on climate change” and reduce inequality in Australian society if his Labor Party wins power.

“Australians face a real and vital choice at this election. Do you want Labor’s energy, versus the government’s tiredness? Labor’s focus on the future, versus being stuck in the past?” Shorten said. Morrison is seen as the architect of Australia’s tough refugee policy that has all but stopped the people-smuggling traffic of boats from Southeast Asian ports since 2014. The policy has been condemned by human rights groups as an abrogation of Australia’s responsibilities as a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention.

Morrison’s first job in Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s newly elected coalition government in 2013 was as minister for immigration and border protection. He oversaw the secretive military-run Operation Sovereign Borders.

Asylum seekers from the Middle East, Africa and Asia would typically disable or sink their boats when intercepted by patrol ships in waters north of Australia so that the Australian crews would have to rescue them rather than turn the boats away. Under the new regime, the asylum seekers were placed in motorized life boats that were towed back to Indonesia. The life boats had just enough fuel to reach the Indonesian coast. The Indonesian government complained the policy was an affront to Indonesian sovereignty.

The government has also maintained a policy adopted in the final months of a Labor government in 2013 of sending boat arrivals to camps on the Pacific island nations of Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Those who attempt to reach Australia by boat are told they will never be allowed to settle there.

Morrison remains proud of virtually stopping people-smuggler boat traffic. He has a trophy shaped like a people-smuggler’s boat in his office inscribed with “I Stopped These.” Labor has promised to maintain the policy of banishing boat arrivals to the islands. But Labor says it would give priority to finding permanent homes for the asylum seekers who have languished in island camps for years.

The conservative coalition argues that the boats would start coming again because a Labor government would soften the regime. The government introduced temporary protection visas for boat arrivals so that refugees face potential deportation every three years if the circumstances that they fled in their homelands improve. Labor would give refugees permanent visas so that they have the certainty to plan their lives.

Climate change policy is a political battlefield in a country that is the world’s largest exporter of coal and liquefied natural gas and has been one of the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitters on a per capita basis because of its heavily reliance on coal-fired power generation.

Disagreement over energy policy has been a factor in the last six changes of prime minister. Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard introduced a carbon tax in 2012. Conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott scrapped it two years later.

The coalition is torn between lawmakers who want polluters to pay for their greenhouse gas emissions and those who reject any measures that would increase household power bills. The government aims to reduce Australian greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Labor has promised a more ambitious target of a 45% reduction in the same time frame. Action on climate change was a major priority for votes when conservative Prime Minister John Howard’s reign ended after more than 11 years at an election in 2007.

Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd immediately signed up to the U.N.’s 1997 Kyoto Protocol on reducing emissions. Australia and the United States had been the only industrialized countries to hold out. Climate change dropped down the list of Australian priorities after the global financial crisis hit.

But after Australians sweltered through a record hot summer and grappled with devastating drought, global warming has become a high-priority issue for voters again. The government warns that Labor’s emissions reduction plan would wreck the economy.

The coalition also argues that Labor would further damage the economy with its policy of reducing tax breaks for landlords as real estate prices fall in Australia’s largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne.

Morrison boasts that the conservative administration Prime Minister Howard led delivered 10 annual surplus budgets and paid off all federal government debt before the government changed at the 2007 election.

Rudd had planned a budget surplus in his government’s first fiscal year, but the global financial crisis struck. Many economists congratulate Rudd for keeping the Australian economy out of recession through stimulus spending. The coalition has accused Labor of spending too much and sinking Australia too deep in debt,

But debt has continued to mount since the conservatives regained the reins in 2013. But opinion polls suggest voters consider the conservatives to be better economic managers. The government brought forward its annual budget blueprint by a month to April 2 and revealed a plan to balance Australia’s books in the next fiscal year for the first time in 12 years.

Labor also promised to deliver a surplus budget in the year starting July 1, but it has yet to detail how it will achieve this goal. Labor has also promised to spend an additional AU$2.3 billion ($1.6 billion) over four years on covering treatment costs of cancer patients. It’s an attractive offer with half Australia’s population expected to be diagnosed with some form of the disease in their lifetimes.

The conservatives have largely taken credit for Australia’s remarkable run of 28 years of economic growth since its last recession under Labor’s rule. Morrison hopes that voters will look to him to deliver a sequel to the Howard years when a mining boom delivered ever-increasing budget surpluses.

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Algeria Postpones Presidential Vote After Contenders Disqualified

2 June 2019

Algeria has postponed presidential elections planned for next month after the two candidates were disqualified. The polls were to elect a successor to Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who resigned after pressure from protesters.

Algeria’s Constitutional Council announced Sunday that it would be “impossible” for the presidential vote to go ahead on July 4 because the only two candidates in the race had been rejected.

The elections were planned after mass pro-democracy protests and pressure from the military forced long-time leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down in April.

Algerians have been holding marches for months, calling for political reforms and a clear break from the elite that dominated politics during Bouteflika’s two decades in power. The protesters have also demanded the polls be delayed over fears of vote rigging.

Two candidates rejected

Only two, largely unknown, candidates lodged bids by the deadline last week. The council said it had knocked back both application but did not explain why.

“Based on this decision, it is impossible to conduct the presidential elections on July 4,” the council said in a statement, according to Algeria’s official news agency APS.

The council added that it was now up to interim President Abdelkader Bensalah to set a date for a new vote. Bensalah had been appointed interim leader until July 9, but protesters say they want him gone.

On Friday, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marched in the capital, Algiers, and other cities to demand his resignation, along with that of Bouteflika ally, Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui.

Source: allAfrica.

Link: https://allafrica.com/stories/201906030002.html.

Algeria to hold first post-Bouteflika presidential election July 4

By Darryl Coote

APRIL 11, 2019

April 11 (UPI) — Algeria’s newly appointed interim leader set July 4 to hold the presidential election following last week’s resignation of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Senate leader Abdelkader Bensalah, 77, made the televised announcement Wednesday, according to state-run media Algeria Press Service, which comes a day after Algerian lawmakers appointed him the nation’s interim president for the next 90 days.

Bensalah, who is unable to run in the election, also announced plans to create a “sovereign” body with both politicians and civil society in order to foster conditions necessary for an honest election process, Al Jazeera reported.

The announcement failed to placate protesters who have held mass demonstrations since February demanding a change in the country’s leadership.

The protests first erupted after President Bouteflika announcement late February that he would be running for a fifth term.

The 82-year-old Bouteflika, who had held tight to the reigns of his country since 1999, resigned April 2, after Algeria’s army chief said it would pursue a constitutional procedure to declare the ailing, wheelchair-bound president unfit to rule.

Despite Bouteflika’s resignation, protests persisted as the public worried the country’s rule would only shift to another member of the same regime, and Bensalah’s appointment did little to assuage those concerns as he had served as Speaker of the Council under Bouteflika.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior, Local Authorities and National Planning announced through the state-run Algeria Press Service Wednesday that it had authorized 10 political parties and 22 national and inter-provincial associations.

The ministry said it had examined files on the different parties and associations on a case-by-case basis and allowed 10 political parties “to hold their constituent congresses in accordance with the provisions of the organic law on political parties” while “certificates of approval have been issued to 22 national and inter-provincial associations.”

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2019/04/11/Algeria-to-hold-first-post-Bouteflika-presidential-election-July-4/3061554973003/.

SpaceX Dragon Heads to Space Station After Successful Launch

by James Cawley for NASA ISS News

Kennedy Space Center FL (SPX)

May 04, 2019

More than 5,500 pounds of cargo is on its way to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. The company’s 17th commercial cargo mission to resupply the space station began at 2:48 a.m. EDT on May 4, 2019, with liftoff aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Kenny Todd, International Space Station Operations and Integration manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, explained during the postlaunch press conference that launch success far overshadowed fatigue with the early morning launch.

“If you have to be up, I can’t think of a better reason than to see one of these launches – it was absolutely spectacular,” Todd said. “We’re really excited to get Dragon on board in a couple of days.”

After a successful climb into space, the Dragon spacecraft now is in orbit with its solar arrays deployed and drawing power.

“We had a beautiful launch today; it was really great,” said Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX’s vice president, Build and Flight Reliability. “Dragon is on the way, the orbiter is great – it’s right on the money.”

The Dragon spacecraft will deliver science, supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory. Science experiments include NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 (OCO-3) and Space Test Program-Houston 6 (STP-H6).

OCO-3 will be robotically installed on the exterior of the space station’s Japanese Experiment Module Exposed Facility Unit, where it will measure and map carbon dioxide from space to increase our understanding of the relationship between carbon and climate.

STP-H6 is an X-ray communication investigation that will be used to perform a space-based demonstration of a new technology for generating beams of modulated X-rays. This technology may be useful for providing efficient communication to deep space probes, or communicating with hypersonic vehicles where plasma sheaths prevent traditional radio communications.

Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning at 5:30 a.m. on Monday, May 6. Capture is scheduled for 7 a.m.; installation coverage is set to begin at 9 a.m. Astronauts aboard the station will capture the Dragon using the space station’s robotic arm and then install it on the station’s Harmony module.

The Dragon spacecraft will spend about four weeks attached to the space station, returning to Earth with more than 4,200 pounds of research, hardware and crew supplies.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/SpaceX_Dragon_Heads_to_Space_Station_After_Successful_Launch_999.html.

Russian-US crew arrives at International Space Station

March 15, 2019

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (AP) — A Russian-American crew arrived at the International Space Station on Friday, five months after a botched launch led to an emergency landing for two of the three astronauts.

This time, the Russian Soyuz rocket carrying NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch along with Roscosmos’ Alexei Ovchinin lifted off precisely as planned from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 12:14 a.m. Friday (1914 GMT Thursday).

Six hours later, their capsule docked at the orbiting outpost. On Oct. 11, a Soyuz carrying Hague and Ovchinin failed two minutes into flight, activating a rescue system that allowed their capsule to land safely. That accident was the first aborted crew launch for the Russian space program since 1983, when two Soviet cosmonauts safely jettisoned after a launch pad explosion.

On Friday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine congratulated the crew on a successful launch. “So proud of Nick Hague for persevering through last October’s launch that didn’t go as planned,” he tweeted.

Speaking at a pre-launch news conference at Baikonur, the astronauts said they trusted the rocket and fully believed in the success of their mission. “I’m 100 percent confident in the rocket and the spacecraft,” Hague said. “The events from October only helped to solidify that and boost confidence in the vehicle to do its job.”

The trio will join NASA’s Anne McClain, Roscosmos’ Oleg Kononenko and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency who are already on the space station. They will conduct work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science.

When one of the four strap-on boosters for their Soyuz failed to separate properly two minutes after their launch in October, Hague and Ovchinin were jettisoned from the rocket. Their rescue capsule plunged steeply back to Earth with its lights flashing and alarms screaming, subjecting the crew to seven times the force of gravity.

Hague emphasized Wednesday that they were well-trained for the emergency. “The nature of our profession is we spend 90-95 percent of our time practicing what to do when things go wrong,” he said. “And so we spend all that time training, running through all those scenarios. And because we do train that way, like in October when things like that happened, we were ready to do what we need to do to come out successfully.”

The October failure was the first aborted launch for the Russian space program in 35 years and only the third in history. Each time, the rocket’s automatic rescue system kept the crew safe. A Russian investigation attributed October’s launch failure to a sensor that was damaged during the rocket’s final assembly. The next crew launch to the space station in December went on without a hitch.

Ovchinin recalled that they felt “more annoyed than stressed” when their rescue capsule touched down in the barren steppes of Kazakhstan. “It was disappointing and a bit frustrating that we didn’t make it to the International Space Station,” he said.

NASA and Roscosmos praised the crew’s valor and composure in the aborted launch and promised to quickly give them a second chance into space. “We don’t accept the risk blindly, we have mitigated it as much as we can, and we always plan to be successful,” Hague said.

Ovchinin stressed that the aborted launch in October was an “interesting and very useful experience” that “proved the reliability of the emergency rescue system.” Since the 2011 retirement of the U.S. shuttle fleet, Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft have been the only vehicles that ferry crews to the space station.

NASA, however, is counting on SpaceX and Boeing to start launching astronauts later this year. The SpaceX ship Dragon returned Friday from a six-day test flight to the space station and could take astronauts there on its next flight as early as this summer.

Isachenkov reported from Moscow.

China preparing for space station missions

Beijing (XNA)

Mar 06, 2019

The China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) announced Monday that the core module of the country’s space station, the Long March-5B carrier rocket and its payloads will be sent to the launch site in the second half of this year, to make preparations for the space station missions.

China is scheduled to complete the construction of the space station around 2022. It will be the country’s space lab in long-term stable in-orbit operation.

The space station will have a core module and experiment modules, which are under development and will be launched into space by the Long March-5B.

Joint exercises will be carried out in the Wenchang Space Launch Center at the end of 2019 for the maiden flight of the Long March-5B.

Programs to select and train astronauts are underway.

China is committed to making the country’s space station an international platform for scientific and technological cooperation, according to the CMSEO.

In June this year, the CMSEO will work with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs to complete the application selection of China’s space station and launch a number of cooperation projects.

China’s Tiangong-2 space lab, launched on Sept. 15, 2016, is conducting in-orbit tests and will de-orbit after July this year.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/China_preparing_for_space_station_missions_999.html.

NASA Spacecraft to use ‘Green’ Fuel for the First Time

Edwards AFB CA (SPX)

Jun 11, 2019

A non-toxic, rose-colored liquid could fuel the future in space and propel missions to the Moon or other worlds. NASA will test the fuel and compatible propulsion system in space for the first time with the Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM), set to launch this month on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.

The mission will demonstrate the exceptional features of a high-performance “green” fuel developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The propellant blends hydroxyl ammonium nitrate with an oxidizer that allows it to burn, creating an alternative to hydrazine, the highly toxic fuel commonly used by spacecraft today.

Spacecraft love hydrazine, but it’s toxic to humans. Handling the clear liquid requires strict safety precautions – protective suits, thick rubber gloves and oxygen tanks. GPIM promises fewer handling restrictions that will reduce the time it takes to prepare for launch.

“Spacecraft could be fueled during manufacturing, simplifying processing at the launch facility, resulting in cost savings,” explained Christopher McLean, principal investigator for GPIM at Ball Aerospace of Boulder, Colorado. The company leads this NASA technology demonstration mission.

Another perk of the is performance. It’s denser than hydrazine and offers nearly 50% better performance – equivalent to getting 50% more miles per gallon on your car. This means spacecraft can travel farther or operate for longer with less propellant onboard.

In order to tap into the propellant’s benefits, engineers first had to develop new hardware – everything from thrusters and tanks to filters and valves. GPIM uses a set of thrusters that fire in different scenarios to test engine performance and reliability. Planned maneuvers include orbit lowering and spacecraft pointing.

Aerojet Rocketdyne in Redmond, Washington, designed, built and extensively tested the GPIM propulsion system. The hardware consists of a propellant tank and five 1-Newton thrusters to carry the non-toxic fuel.

Fred Wilson, director of business development for Aerojet, has decades of experience in spacecraft propulsion systems. Wilson gave credit to NASA for funding the technology, through flight demonstration. Taking the green propellant from the lab to space insures the capability can be fully adopted by government and industry.

“If it weren’t for the initial investment and inherent risk of doing something for the first time, this technology would likely already be in space,” said Dayna Ise, executive for NASA’s Technology Demonstration Missions program that manages GPIM. “NASA stepped up to fund it because we see the value and potential for this technology to propel spaceflight forward.”

Building upon the GPIM work, Wilson says Aerojet is moving forward on a range of other thrust-level propulsion systems to utilize high-performance green propellant.

“We see interest in using green propellant across the space industry,” Wilson said. “The trend is towards smaller and smaller satellites, to do more mission in a small package.”

The technology appeals to small and cube satellite builders who have small budgets and serious space and weight limitations. From small satellites to large spacecraft, there’s a wide range of space missions that can benefit by using green propellant. “GPIM has the potential to inspire new ideas and new missions,” McLean said.

GPIM will illustrate the benefits of the green fuel and help improve how satellites are designed and operated. The propellant and propulsion system could be used in place of hydrazine regardless of a spacecraft’s purpose or destination.

NASA has been charged to land humans on the Moon in 2024 and establish a sustainable presence by 2028. There is potential for this technology to be used for a variety of lunar missions within the Artemis program, but first it must be demonstrated in space.

GPIM is a technology demonstration mission made possible by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). It draws upon a government-industry team of specialists from NASA, Ball Aerospace, Aerojet Rocketdyne and AFRL. GPIM is one of over 20 satellites launching as part of the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission, which is managed by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/NASA_Spacecraft_to_use_Green_Fuel_for_the_First_Time_999.html.

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