Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year - More Chinese J-20 photos flooding the Internet.

Click to enlarge:

Happy New Year!

The old give way to the young. New thoughts sprout from fertile ground.

While the New Year beckons us with many promises, don't forget to give the old year its due.

Learn from past mistakes and carry the lessons of time with you.

This year resolve to laugh more, love more, forgive more, friend more and learn more.

May 2011 be your best year yet!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Chengdu J-20 photos.

More photos of the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter are popping up on the internet.
It remains to be seen if the West will view it as a threat. Althiough there are indications it hasn't flown yet, the J-20 is already being compared to the F-22.

The design looks like it incorporates styling cues from the F-22 /F-23 and the Russian Mig 1.42 project. Big airplane - much bigger than the USAF Raptor - but that might not be a good thing when it comes to being stealthy.

F-22 comparison photo:

Although Chinese propaganda and anti-U.S.commentators are already calling the J-20 the "Raptor Killer" - that's like naming a newborn as the next heavyweight champ before he can even walk.

They also said the MiG 1.42 was also a "Raptor Killer" but it never led to an operational aircraft.

MiG 1.42 MFI:

The F-22 is much more than a stealthy fighter aircraft and incorporates an advanced tracking,targeting and communication system that is at the present unrivaled and is still evolving. It may be years before the J-20 becomes operational.

Is the J-20 a paper tiger or a hidden dragon? Is it a Walmart Raptor or the real thing?

Stay tuned- I'll keep you posted.

-Steve Douglass

Monday, December 27, 2010

More photos surface of China's J-20 "stealth fighter"

A paper tiger? The very fact that Chinese internet security and airport security doesn't seem to care a fig - makes me thinks publicity and propaganda
op! - Steve Douglass


The U.S. flew its first stealth prototypes — the YF-22 and rival YF-23 — in 1990. Have the Chinese caught up? There are blurry pictures of the Chinese J-20 jet-fighter floating around. Some think the pictures are fake, others think that the pictures are real and have been pulled. Some analysts think that the pictures could be the products of a Chinese government misinformation campaign.
Chinese Internet forums are circulating the pictures.

The airplane depicted in the snapshots has many of the appropriate characteristics for a fifth-generation stealth-fighter prototype. It has a chiseled front-section, triangular wings, and a moving tailplanes. The Chinese J-20 seems to combine the front fuselage of the U.S. Air Force’s F-22 with the back half of Russia’s T-50 stealth prototype.

The J-20’s appearance have shaken the aviation industry that didnt expect a Chinese Stealth fighter for a decade. The J-20 seems to signal a big step forward for the Chinese air force. The PLA-Airforce seems to have come of age. It is no longer dependent on obsolete Russian or Israeli designs.

Is this the end of the US dominance of the air? Jittery analysts are still confused about the F-22 and the F-35.

The analysts sounded alarm bells when the Russia’s new T-50 fighter first flew.

The Pentagon has delayed F-35 production and China has apparently accelerated its own stealth development.

The J-20 hasn’t even flown yet. It took 15 years for the F-22 to enter front-line service; considering China’s quality-control problems with high technology, it could take a decade or more for the J-20 to appear in numbers that make any difference in the Pacific balance of power. Gates might have been slightly off in his assessment of the Chinese air force, but probably not by much.

LINK: Is it real?

LINK: Aviation Week's Bil Sweetman's assessment.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

China's new stealth fighter - the Chengdu J-20 a fabulous fake?


A photo of China's new stealth fighter - the Chengdu J-20 (NATO Firefang) started popping up on internet aviation forums today. The source is unknown.

I find it very interesting that it almost matches publicly released artist's renderings in angle and lighting.

In any event, the illustration gives a better view of what the pixelated photo doesn't.

So is it the real deal? Have the Chinese cracked the code for stealth technology - or is the J-20 all show and no go?

I'm sure the Pentagon is wondering just that.

-Steve Douglass

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Jong's threaten "sacred" war.

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- North Korea threatened Thursday to launch a "sacred war" after South Korea completed large military exercises near the volatile inter-Korean border.

"The revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) are getting fully prepared to launch a sacred war of justice of Korean style based on the nuclear deterrent at anytime necessary," North Korea's defense minister Kim Yong Chun said, according to the state-run news agency.

"The South Korean puppet forces perpetrated such grave military provocation as renewing their shelling against the DPRK during their recent exercises for a war of aggression in the West Sea of Korea," Chun said. "This indicates that the enemy's scenario for aggression aimed at the start of another Korean War, has reached the phase of its implementation.

The long-planned South Korean exercises, billed as the largest land and air winter drills, were conducted just 15 miles from the North Korean border.
Richardson: We were 'very close' to war Diplomats agree to disagree on Koreas South Korea's war shift

More than 800 military personnel, fighter jets and anti-tank missiles took part in the exercise in Pocheon, which also involved more than 100 types of weapons.
The drills took place on undisputed South Korean territory but it was the timing that was worrisome to the region. Tensions have been running high since the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan last March, killing 46 sailors.
South Korea and the international community blamed the North for the Cheonan incident, but Pyongyang denied the accusations.

Then, last month, North Korea said the South's navy fired into Northern waters and in retaliation, it shelled Yeonpyeong Island, killing four South Koreans.
South Korea said its Navy was simply holding drills and conducted similar naval exercises again on Monday, drawing threats from Pyongyang that it would attack again.

But that did not happen.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak had harsh words for North Korea on Thursday.
"In the case of another surprise attack, the country must launch a merciless counterattack," Lee said.

The hostilities come amid transition in North Korea -- the ailing leader Kim Jong Il is believed to be in the process of transferring power to his son, Kim Jong Un. Some analysts believe the upcoming internal changes have prompted the North to flex its military muscle.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


CNN:CIA Task Force: WTF

It's no secret that WikiLeaks' cable document dumps have caused ripples of concerns and speculation about how well the United States can keep secrets – its own and those of other countries.

It's been embarrassing to both U.S. diplomats and foreign leaders mentioned in the cables, but there haven't been any bombshells from the small percentage of documents released so far. The CIA, known for its ability to keep secrets, is taking no chances of being pulled further into the fray. The CIA has only been mentioned a few times in the cables, and has not been hit nearly as hard as other agencies and diplomats, but it does not appear willing to wait on the sidelines.

And it has an answer for WikiLeaks: WTF. Seriously.

In a move that couldn't be more ironic, and made for headlines such as the above, the CIA adopted a task force. And like all things involving the military, or secrecy, acronyms are huge. So when the CIA developed the WikiLeaks Task Force, naturally, it was likely thinking of the KISS method – Keep It Simple Stupid.

But in doing so, the CIA has proved it either has a really good sense of humor or was trying to send a snarky message, or perhaps someone at the agency just didn't think hard enough about the name choice.

"Officially, the panel is called the WikiLeaks Task Force," The Washington Post reports. "But at CIA headquarters, it's mainly known by its all-too-apt acronym: W.T.F."

OK, all jokes and obvious humor aside, the CIA is trying to do something real here – and that's to try and protect its reputation for secrecy.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and top aides had to start a new game plan – going to meet with foreign ministers, explaining, apologizing, cajoling and trying – to salvage relationships that she and the Obama administration had worked hard to establish. The State Department went into "war room" mode, pulling together an emergency round-the-clock team to handle the fallout.

So no doubt, the CIA is looking to make sure it won't be in the same situation.

"The director asked the task force to examine whether the latest release of WikiLeaks documents might affect the agency's foreign relationships or operations," CIA spokesman George Little told The Washington Post.

That's a high priority, officials told the paper. Because having any compromised informants really could lead to a real WTF situation – and not one the CIA or any government department would want on its hands.

North Korea launches dreaded FAX attack!

(CNN) -- North Korea is retaliating for a November artillery attack -- with an onslaught of faxes to South Korea, an official said Wednesday.
Earlier this month, faxes started arriving at South Korean companies, South Korean Unification Ministry deputy spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said Wednesday. The faxes blame South Korea for the November 23 artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island.

"Responsibility for the attack lies with the South," states the fax, according to Lee. "Groups in the South should rise up against the South Korean government."
The ministry says 15 companies, consisting of two religious groups, seven trade companies, five civic groups and one media organization, reported they had received the fax. The first report of a fax came in on December 8, according to Lee.
South Korea's war shift Diplomats agree to disagree on Koreas Crisis on the Korean peninsula.

The ministry estimates that 50 to 80 companies likely received the messages, but have not reported them yet to the government.

Most of the companies that received faxes had prior contact with North Korea through inter-Korean events or business operations, Lee said.
All of the reported faxes were in the same format and none of them included updated information about the recent and ongoing South Korean drills, the ministry said.


Monday, December 20, 2010

al Qaeda hiding in your salad bar?

CBS) In this exclusive story, CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports the latest terror attack to America involves the possible use of poisons - simultaneous attacks targeting hotels and restaurants at many locations over a single weekend.

A key Intelligence source has confirmed the threat as "credible." Department of Homeland Security officials, along with members of the Department of Agriculture and the FDA, have briefed a small group of corporate security officers from the hotel and restaurant industries about it. Report: Terror in the U.S.

"We operate under the premise that individuals prepared to carry out terrorist acts are in this country," said Dec. of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on Dec. 6, 2010.

The plot uncovered earlier this year is said to involve the use of two poisons - ricin and cyanide - slipped into salad bars and buffets.

Of particular concern: The plotters are believed to be tied to the same terror group that attempted to blow up cargo planes over the east coast in October, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In online propaganda al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has praised the cargo attack, part of what it called "Operation Hemorrhage."

The propaganda says in part, "...attacking the enemy with smaller but more frequent operations" to "add a heavy economic burden to an already faltering economy."

Manuals and videos on jihadist websites explain how to easy it is to make both poisons.

"Initially it would look very much like food poisoning," said St. John's University professor of pharmaceutical sciences Dr. Susan Ford.

She showed how little of each poison could be fatal by putting a small amount of poison in cups.

Armen Keteyian: Are these dosages enough to really harm someone or kill someone?

Susan Ford: Yes, these are 250 milligrams and that is the fatal dose.

Keteyian: So just that much sodium cyanide is enough to kill me?

Ford: Yes, it is.

That leads to a difficult debate: The need to inform the public without alarming it.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said, "A threat you might feel is sufficiently specific and credible to tell the people who are professionally involved might not be specific or credible enough to tell the general public."

Chertoff says it's important to let public health officials know that what looks like food poisoning could be a terrorist attack.

On Monday Dept. of Homeland Security spokesman Sean Smith said, "We are not going to comment on reports of specific terrorist planning."

The fact remains the government and hospitality industries are on alert.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Failure to connect: Missile interceptor misses target.

(CNN) -- A test of the United States' only long-range missile defense system failed Wednesday -- the second failure this year in two tries.
The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency said both the intermediate-range ballistic missile target and the long-range interceptor missile launched successfully, radar and sensors worked properly and the "kill vehicle" deployed. But the "kill vehicle" didn't hit the target.
"Program officials will conduct an extensive investigation to determine the cause of the failure to intercept the target," the agency said. "The next flight test will be determined after identification of the cause of the failure."

The last test, in January, failed because of a problem with the sea-based X-band radar, the agency said.

The X-band radar sits atop a modified floating oil platform and provides information about incoming missiles so military officials can launch a response.
In both Wednesday's test and the test launched earlier this year, the target missile launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The $100 billion missile shield program has had numerous problems. In December 2008, an interceptor launched from Vandenburg "killed" a target launched from Kodiak, Alaska. But the test wasn't able to determine a key aspect -- whether the interceptor could tell the difference between a decoy and a real missile -- because the decoy failed to launch.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

US Navy makes wicked railgun record

By Geoff Fein, Office of Naval Research Public Affairs

NAVAL SURFACE WARFARE CENTER DAHLGREN, Va (NNS) -- The Office of Naval Research (ONR) achieved a milestone Dec. 10 when it successfully conducted a world-record 33-megajoule shot of the Electromagnetic Railgun aboard Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division.

"Today's railgun test demonstrates the tactical relevance of this technology, which could one day complement traditional surface ship combat systems," said Rear Adm. Nevin Carr, chief of naval research.

"The 33-megajoule shot means the Navy can fire projectiles at least 110 nautical miles, placing Sailors and Marines at a safe standoff distance and out of harm's way, and the high velocities achievable are tactically relevant for air and missile defense," he said. "This demonstration moves us one day closer to getting this advanced capability to sea."

Besides the extended ranges, the railgun also improves safety for Sailors and Marines because it will eliminate the need for a high-energy explosive warhead and traditional gun propellants. Removing explosives and chemicals will reduce the munitions logistic chain.

A megajoule is a measurement of energy associated with a mass traveling at a certain velocity. In simple terms, a one-ton vehicle moving at 100 mph equals a megajoule of energy.

In 2008, ONR conducted a 10-megajoule shot for media and visitors at Dahlgren. Today's demonstration showed researchers are steadily progressing toward developing a gun that could hit targets almost 20 times farther than conventional ship combat systems. A 33-megajoule shot, for example, could potentially reach extended ranges with Mach 5 velocity, five times the speed of sound.

Air Force bars employees from WikiLeaks mirrors

(Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force has blocked employees from visiting media websites carrying leaked WikiLeaks documents, including The New York Times and the Guardian, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

Major Toni Tones, a spokeswoman at Air Force Space Command in Colorado, said the command had blocked employees whose computers are connected to the Air Force network from accessing at least 25 websites that have posted WikiLeaks documents.

The Air Force "routinely blocks Air Force network access to websites hosting inappropriate materials or malware (malicious software) and this includes any website that hosts classified materials and those that are released by WikiLeaks," she said.

The Air Force move comes as the U.S. government seeks to minimize the damage from WikiLeaks' release of 250,000 State Department cables through media outlets and on its own website.

The cables released last month, which reveal blunt, sometimes derisive depictions of foreign governments and leaders, have been an embarrassment for Washington.

Past releases this year by WikiLeaks contained sensitive information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which Washington said compromised national security and put people at risk.

Phantom Ray transport test video


Voyager on the edge of our Solar System


Voyager 1, the most distant spacecraft from Earth, has reached a new milestone in its quest to leave the Solar System.

Now 17.4bn km (10.8bn miles) from home, the veteran probe has detected a distinct change in the flow of particles that surround it.

These particles, which emanate from the Sun, are no longer travelling outwards but are moving sideways.

It means Voyager must be very close to making the jump to interstellar space - the space between the stars.

Edward Stone, the Voyager project scientist, lauded the explorer and the fascinating science it continues to return 33 years after launch.

"When Voyager was launched, the space age itself was only 20 years old, so there was no basis to know that spacecraft could last so long," he told BBC News.

"We had no idea how far we would have to travel to get outside the Solar System. We now know that in roughly five years, we should be outside for the first time."

Dr Stone was speaking here at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, the largest gathering of Earth scientists in the world.

Particle bubble
Voyager 1 was launched on 5 September 1977, and its sister spacecraft, Voyager 2, on 20 August 1977.

The Nasa probes' initial goal was to survey the outer planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, a task completed in 1989.

They were then despatched towards deep space, in the general direction of the centre of our Milky Way Galaxy.

Sustained by their radioactive power packs, the probes' instruments continue to function well and return data to Earth, although the vast distance between them and Earth means a radio message now has a travel time of about 16 hours.

The newly reported observation comes from Voyager 1's Low-Energy Charged Particle Instrument, which has been monitoring the velocity of the solar wind.

This stream of charged particles forms a bubble around our Solar System known as the heliosphere. The wind travels at "supersonic" speed until it crosses a shockwave called the termination shock.

At this point, the wind then slows dramatically and heats up in a region termed the heliosheath. Voyager has determined the velocity of the wind at its location has now slowed to zero.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Phantom Ray gets a ride ...

Photo credit: Boeing photo
Neg. #: MSF10-0213-001
Chris Haddox
Boeing Phantom Works
Office: 314-234-6447
Mobile: 314-707-8891

ST. LOUIS, Dec. 13, 2010 -- The Boeing [NYSE: BA] Phantom Ray unmanned airborne system sits atop a NASA Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), a modified Boeing 747, as it takes off at 1:40 p.m. Central time for today's test flight at Lambert International Airport. The 50-minute flight was conducted in preparation for Phantom Ray's upcoming transport on the SCA to the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

"This is exciting not just because it's the first time that an aircraft other than the space shuttle has flown on the SCA, but also because it puts Phantom Ray that much closer to making its first flight," said Craig Brown, Phantom Ray program manager for Boeing.

The SCA flights with Phantom Ray are being conducted under a Boeing-funded, commercial Space Act Agreement with NASA. Once Phantom Ray arrives at Dryden, it will undergo ground and high-speed taxi tests to prepare for its first flight in early 2011.

Phantom Ray is one of several programs in Boeing's Phantom Works division that are part of the company's rapid prototyping initiative to design, develop and build advanced aircraft and then demonstrate their capabilities.


Artist Rendering:

Phantom Ray spotted riding piggie back on 747 today

I long for the Cold War days when they only threatened to nuke us ...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Update on CIA WikiLeaks Mirror ...

My friend at the Ace Tomato Company sent me another interesting link tonight concerning the CIA/WikiLeaks mirror site.

I wonder how many innocents will be caught in this Honey Pot?


Related: What is SIRPNET?

WikiLeaks Splitting

London (CNN) -- Arguing that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has "weakened the organization," a newly organized rival to the website known for leaking official secrets says it will launch Monday.
The founders of say they are former WikiLeaks members unhappy with the way WikiLeaks is being run under Assange.

"It has weakened the organization," one of those founders, Daniel Domscheit-Berg says in a documentary airing Sunday night on Swedish television network SVT. He said WikiLeaks has become "too much focused on one person, and one person is always much weaker than an organization."
In an e-mail to CNN, Domscheit-Berg said the group hopes to launch its site Monday.

Like WikiLeaks, which facilitates the anonymous disclosure of secret information, Openleaks says its goal is to help people deliver material to news outlets and other organizations without being identified. The Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, citing internal Openleaks documents, reported that the new site intends to act as an intermediary, "without a political agenda except from the dissemination of information to the media, the public, non-profit organizations, trade and union organizations and other participating groups."
Pfizer among corporate WikiLeak targets Assange could face U.S. indictment

Domscheit-Berg said WikiLeaks put "everything we had" into the high-profile disclosures of hundreds of thousands secret U.S. documents over the past five months.
"I think the wisest thing to do would have been to do this slowly, step by step, to grow the project. That did not happen," he says in the SVT documentary.
Assange and WikiLeaks have been the focus of worldwide condemnation since their first major release of classified U.S. documents in July. Since it began disclosing more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables in November, it has been hit with denial-of-service attacks, been kicked off servers in the United States and France and lost major revenue sources.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Today at the local airport ...

Alaska C-17 crashed ruled pilot error

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A pilot's overly aggressive maneuvering and overconfidence were blamed in an investigative report on a C-17 plane crash at an Anchorage military base that killed all four airmen on board.

Besides pilot error, the crew on board was also faulted for failing to notice the dangerous situation that culminated with the plane stalling and crashing into some woods July 28 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

"The mishap pilot violated regulatory provisions and multiple flight manual procedures, placing the aircraft outside established flight parameters at an attitude and altitude where recovery was not possible," the report's executive summary says.

Bob Hall, a base spokesman, said Friday evening he didn't know which of the three pilots was at the controls when the massive $184 million plane crashed during a training demonstration for an air show. A Pacific Air Forces spokeswoman also said the pilot's identity would not be disclosed out of sensitivity to the families.

"Who sat where in the plane is not being released," said Capt. Alysia Harvey.

Pacific Air Forces, based at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, released the results of its investigation Friday evening.

The probe "found clear and convincing evidence the cause of the mishap was pilot error," the report says. It also found evidence that other factors including overconfidence and misplaced motivation contributed to the crash.

"Furthermore, the mishap co-pilot and mishap safety observer did not realize the developing dangerous situation and failed to make appropriate inputs."

When the stall warning sounded, the co-pilot responded by saying "temperature, altitude lookin' good," according to the report.

The investigation also found evidence that the flight deck crew ignored warnings.

According to investigators - and video prior to the crash - the pilot made an aggressive right turn after the C-17's initial climb-out and left turn. The stall-warning system was activated as the plane banked, but the pilot continued the turn and there was no way to avoid a stall.

"Although the pilot eventually attempted to recover the aircraft, he employed incorrect procedures, and there was not sufficient altitude to regain controlled flight," the report says.

The C-17 crashed into a wooded area about a minute after taking off, sending a fireball hundreds of feet into the air and damaging a section of the Alaska Railroad's main track.


Friday, December 10, 2010

C.I.A. mirroring WikiLeaks as a Honey Pot?

A friend from the Ace Tomato Company - posted this link to me: LINK


Very interesting if it is true.


FAA: records out of date - security concern.

Washington (CNN) -- The Federal Aviation Administration says registration records for as many as one-third of all private aircraft are out-of-date and inaccurate, and has begun the process of re-registering aircraft in the United States -- a task made more urgent by the threat posed by criminals and terrorists.
Of the 357,000 registered aircraft in the United States, records for about 119,000 are believed to be out of date, with many of them believed to be junked or inactive aircraft, the FAA said.

But the inaccurate records also could conceal criminal or even terrorist activity, say some security and aviation experts, who say it is critical that the FAA restore order to its records.

To deal with the disarray, the FAA is in the process of canceling registration for all civil aircraft -- a category that includes virtually everything except military aircraft -- and requiring the owners to re-register. The re-registrations will be phased-in over three years, and aircraft owners will be required to renew the registrations every three years thereafter.
"These improvements will give us more up-to-date registration data and better information about the state of the aviation industry," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in July, when the rule took effect.

The FAA has long grappled with getting a handle on its records, in recent years requiring owners to report the sale of aircraft, the scrapping or destruction of aircraft, or a change in mailing address. But many owners have not complied with those requirements, the FAA said. And many aircraft owners do not voluntarily update the database with other information, it said.

The FAA's database identifies each aircraft by its registration number -- or "N" number, which is displayed on the plane's tail or fuselage -- its complete description, and the name and address of its registered owner.
In seeking to upgrade the requirement three years ago, the FAA noted that various levels of law enforcement use the database in drug smuggling investigations and "their efforts now have expanded to include matters of homeland security."
Proper records can assist investigators, aviation and security. Authorities routinely check the "N" number, or tail number, of suspicious planes, or planes that have entered restricted airspace.

Just as importantly, an accurate database can help the FAA notify aircraft owners of safety-related information, such as Airworthiness Directives.
The incomplete records are a security concern, but probably not a security problem," said Chris Dancy, a spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

"Most of these planes are probably right where they're supposed to be. The FAA has just lost track of them through lost paperwork or the database not being updated or the owners not answering the triennial survey that the FAA sends out," Dancy said.

"So they're probably where they are supposed to be -- owned by the people the FAA last has record of. They just don't know that."
Dancy said most aircraft owners recognize the need for accurate records, and that AOPA has tried to minimize the inconveniences associated with re-registration.

"We offered some suggestions when the (new requirement was proposed) to try to make it a little less burdensome. But the fact of the matter is that the database is woefully out of date. It does need to be brought up to date. We thought it could be done without canceling current registrations. The FAA decided canceling was the best way. It's now the law of the land," he said.

Cheese in space ...

(CNN) -- Call it one small step for a cheese, one giant leap fromage-kind.

A wheel of Le Brouere cheese was the secret cargo aboard the SpaceX Dragon, the first commercial spacecraft to be recovered from Earth orbit, the company revealed Thursday. SpaceX co-founder Elon Musk hinted at the cargo after the capsule's successful splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday afternoon, suggesting it had something to do with the British comedy troupe Monty Python.

The block of fermented curd was a nod to one of the group's best-known sketches, "Cheese Shop." The wheel, described only as "very big," was being towed back to California aboard a barge along with the spacecraft and "basking in the glow of being the first cheese to travel to orbit on a commercial spacecraft," company spokeswoman Kirstin Brost told CNN.

In another comedy reference, the payload was bolted to the floor of SpaceX's Dragon 9 spacecraft in a circular drum bearing a picture of a cow and the warning "Top Secret!" -- a nod to the 1984 spoof by the creators of "Airplane!"


Next X-37B launch set for March/April

Aviation Week: Guy Norris:

LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Air Force says the second planned mission of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) will “expand the operating envelope” of the autonomous space vehicle, potentially increasing the orbital cross-range and capability of landing in stronger crosswinds.

Richard McKinney, Air Force undersecretary for space programs, says the second test X-37B – OTV-2 – is being prepared in Boeing’s California space facilities for transfer “soon” to Cape Canaveral. From there it will be launched on an Atlas V in the March-April 2011 time period.

Lt. Col. Troy Giese, X-37B program manager from the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (Afrco), which manages the X-37B program, says OTV-2’s mission will focus on “expanding the operating envelope of what its capabilities are. This time, we put more restrictions on landing winds and on orbiting cross-range. We picked an orbit that was well within its ability to get back to Vandenberg Air Force Base,” he adds. The next flight may have a more exaggerated orbit to test the cross-range recovery characteristics and may end up with an attempted recovery in more marginal weather.


Pentagon locking the barn after the horse has been stolen

(WIRED) -- It's too late to stop WikiLeaks from publishing thousands more classified documents, nabbed from the Pentagon's secret network.
But the U.S. military is telling its troops to stop using CDs, DVDs, thumb drives and every other form of removable media -- or risk a court martial.
Maj. Gen. Richard Webber, commander of Air Force Network Operations, issued the

December 3 "Cyber Control Order" -- obtained by Danger Room -- which directs airmen to "immediately cease use of removable media on all systems, servers, and stand alone machines residing on SIPRNET," the Defense Department's secret network.

Similar directives have gone out to the military's other branches.
"Unauthorized data transfers routinely occur on classified networks using removable media and are a method the insider threat uses to exploit classified information. To mitigate the activity, all Air Force organizations must immediately suspend all SIPRNET data transfer activities on removable media," the order adds.

It's one of a number of moves the Defense Department is making to prevent further disclosures of secret information in the wake of the WikiLeaks document dumps.
Pfc. Bradley Manning says he downloaded hundreds of thousands of files from SIPRNET to a CD marked "Lady Gaga" before giving the files to WikiLeaks.

To stop that from happening again, an August internal review suggested that the Pentagon disable all classified computers' ability to write to removable media.
About 60 percent of military machines are now connected to a Host Based Security System, which looks for anomalous behavior. And now there's this disk-banning order.

One military source who works on these networks says it will make the job harder; classified computers are often disconnected from the network, or are in low-bandwidth areas.

A DVD or a thumb drive is often the easiest way to get information from one machine to the next. "They were asking us to build homes before," the source says. "Now they're taking away our hammers."

Read the full story at Wired

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Have Blue?

I received this very interesting image today. It has no camera-related metadata attached so I don't know if it is authentic. It appears to be a photo of one of the Have Blue prototypes flying over the Groom Range. Can anyone verify this?

Disclaimer: As usual I am highly skeptical of anonymous sources and digital images without any EXIF data. Until it is proven otherwise - do not consider this image as genuine.

-Steve Douglass

Other previous published photos of Have Blue:

UPDATE: download full resolution image HERE

Contrast adjusted ( in Photoshop ) reveals what look like scratches. This may be a scan of a print or slide.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

F-117 Stealth Trainer?

A friend of mine (Dean Muskett) was out at the local airport today and shot this photo of one of Holloman's T-38 jet trainers on the ramp. What surprised me was to see the tail stripe adorned with F-117s and not the usual F-22 Raptors.

There have been many (recent) sighting reports of F-117s still flying - even though they were retired a few years ago. Could this mean the F-117 and a training squadron has been reactivated? Something to look into.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Normal Holloman T-38 sporting Raptors on the tail.
USAF photo.


Space X lifts off!

(CNN) -- The SpaceX commercial rocket lifted off at 10:43 a.m. ET.
The first commercial spacecraft slated to orbit Earth and re-enter successfully was originally scheduled to lift off shortly after 9 a.m. but was delayed.
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule had a 9 a.m. to 12:22 p.m. ET launch window.

A successful launch and re-entry would be the latest steps toward commercial space ventures that could eventually ferry astronauts and cargo to the international space station.

In July, a test launch of the Falcon 9 rocket was "essentially a bullseye," SpaceX officials said after the rocket successfully pushed past the earth's atmosphere and deposited a mock-up of its Dragon space capsule in orbit.
NASA has been flying shuttles in low Earth orbit and going to and from the space station for 30 years. The administration would like to see whether private companies can do it cheaper and more efficiently, as the shuttle program is about to fly into retirement.

NASA has selected SpaceX and another company, Orbital Sciences, to each develop an orbital vehicle because the United States will not have its own way to get to the space station. The United States will be renting space from the Russians aboard their Soyuz spacecraft.

But the competition is rabid. SpaceX is the first company to reach the launchpad. By this summer, it had spent almost $400 million to get there.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal, said in July that if all goes well after a series of test flights, SpaceX will be ready to begin flying cargo to the space station next year.
Musk says they can begin ferrying astronauts to the space station within three years.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

WikiLeaks Assange jailed

London (CNN) -- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was sent to jail Tuesday while a London court decides whether to order his extradition to Sweden.
The judge at the City of Westminster Magistrate's Court refused to grant Assange bail, despite several celebrities coming forward and offering to pay his surety.

Assange, who was in court with security guards on either side of him and his lawyer in front, must now stay in custody until December 14. It was not immediately clear if the court would decide on that date whether to release him.

In making his decision, the judge cited the fact that Assange gave no permanent address and has a nomadic lifestyle, and that he has access to significant funding that would make it easy for him to abscond.
English socialite Jemima Khan had offered to pay surety of 20,000 pounds ($31,500) and journalist John Pilger also offered a sum of money.

At the start of the proceedings, Assange was asked for his address and at first gave a post office box. When told that wasn't sufficient, he wrote a location on a piece of paper and handed it to the judge; it was later revealed that Assange wrote "Parkville, Victoria, Australia" on the paper.

The judge repeatedly said the case is "not about WikiLeaks," but about serious sexual offenses that allegedly occurred on three occasions with two women.
The media was allowed inside the courtroom initially but was later ordered to leave.
Assange appeared in court after turning himself in at a London police station. He was arrested on a Swedish warrant, though he has not been charged with any crime.


Blades ...

Army Chinooks photographed at Rick Husband Airport in Amarillo.

Photo by Steve Douglass

Monday, December 6, 2010

Continental screw-up killed Concorde

Paris, France (CNN) -- The fiery crash that brought down a Concorde supersonic jet in 2000, killing 113 people, was caused partially by the criminal negligence of Continental Airlines and a mechanic who works for the company, a French court ruled Monday.

Continental Airlines was fined 202,000 euros ($268,400) and ordered to pay 1 million euros to Air France, which operated the doomed flight.
Mechanic John Taylor received a fine of 2,000 euros ($2,656) and a 15-month suspended prison sentence for involuntary manslaughter.

The aircraft manufacturer EADS was also found partly responsible for the crash and ordered to pay 30% of damages to victims involved in the case.
Air France has already paid an unspecified sum in damages to the families of most of the victims of the only crash ever of a Concorde.
Concorde crash verdict Concorde crash anniversary

The mechanic was the only person found guilty in the trial before a judicial panel in the Paris suburb of Pontoise. He was not present for the verdict.
His former supervisor, Stanley Ford, and three French officials were found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Henri Perrier, Jacques Herubel and Claude Frantzen were responsible for the design, testing and certification of the Concorde.

The charges had said the engineers could have acted much earlier to correct well-known design flaws in the plane.
Lawyers for Continental and Taylor rejected the guilty verdicts.
"I am shocked by this verdict, Taylor's lawyer Francois Esclatine said. "I haven't had a chance to speak with my client yet, but I will tell him that he should appeal."

Olivier Metzner, a lawyer for Continental, said the airline "will not let itself be pushed around in this way and we will definitely appeal."
The airline called the verdict "absurd" in a statement.
Saying that the airline and Taylor were "the sole guilty parties shows the determination of the French authorities to shift attention and blame away from Air France," which operated the flight and maintained the aircraft, Continental said.

"To find that any crime was committed in this tragic accident is not supported either by the evidence at trial or by aviation authorities and experts around the world," the statement said.

Air France, which was a plaintiff in the Concorde trial, posted a statement on its website saying, the French national carrier "welcomed the decision of the criminal court which recognizes Continental's full criminal and civil liability in the Concorde accident."

The Concorde burst into flames and smashed into a hotel on takeoff on July 25, 2000. Air France stopped flying the supersonic jets in 2003.
A Continental Airlines plane that took off shortly before the doomed flight was found to have played a key role in the crash.

A titanium strip allegedly fell off a Continental DC-10 which took off just before the Concorde. Judicial investigators say the strip was improperly installed on the DC-10 engine, prompting the charges against the airline, Ford and Taylor.

A lawyer for the American airline had argued that Concorde's problems were apparent decades before the crash and that Continental was not to blame.
An investigation revealed a tragic chain of events that brought down Air France Flight 4590 shortly after takeoff from Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport: a tire under the left wing blew on takeoff when it struck the small strip of titanium on the runway.

The blown tire sent debris into the wing, causing the fuel tank to rupture and sparking the catastrophic fire that led to the crash that killed 100 passengers, nine crew and four people on the ground.

Wikileaks publishes terrorist vulnerabilities list

(CNN) -- WikiLeaks has published a secret U.S. diplomatic cable listing locations abroad that the U.S. considers vital to its national security, prompting criticism that the website is inviting terrorist attacks on American interests.
The list is part of a lengthy cable the State Department sent in February 2009 to its posts around the world. The cable asked American diplomats to identify key resources, facilities and installations outside the United States "whose loss could critically impact the public health, economic security, and/or national and homeland security of the United States."

The diplomats identified dozens of places on every continent, including mines, manufacturing complexes, ports and research establishments. CNN is not publishing specific details from the list, which refers to pipelines and undersea telecommunications cables as well as the location of minerals or chemicals critical to U.S. industry.

The list also mentions dams close to the U.S. border and a telecommunications hub whose destruction might seriously disrupt global communications. Diplomats also identified sites of strategic importance for supplying U.S. forces and interests abroad, such as in the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf and the Panama Canal.
The cable is classified secret and not for review by non-U.S. personnel.

The United States and Great Britain condemned the disclosure.

"There are strong and valid reasons information is classified, including critical infrastructure and key resources that are vital to the national and economic security of any country," U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told The Times newspaper in London.

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, "may be directing his efforts at the United States but he is placing the interests of many countries and regions at risk," the paper quoted Crowley as saying. "This is irresponsible."
British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement that the publication is "damaging to national security in the United States, Britain and elsewhere."

The list is "a gift to any terrorist (group) trying to work out what are the ways in which it can damage the United States," said Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee in Britain.

"It is grossly improper and irresponsible" for Assange and his website to publish that information, he said.


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