Saturday, October 31, 2020

"Best Used By" Dates Are Approaching

Because of being tied up with miscellaneous things today, here's an odd collection of things taking up space in queue that are approaching their expiration date.

Since this attempt to amend the state's constitution is on the Florida statewide ballots this week, I'll lead with this:

A story on the "other costs" of lockdowns that Dr. Fauci and the other experts who can't see past the ends of their noses are recommending.  Suicides among young people nearly doubled in one county in Wisconsin.  I've been harping on the idea that there doesn't seem to have been a femtosecond worth of attention to the costs of locking down since the earliest days of lockdowns.  Now, around the world we're hearing about things like babies dying due to Covid travel restrictions, suicides being up as in that article, overdoses (arguably another form of suicide) being up, and people just seeming to be waking up to what will be a wave of cancer deaths starting out months ago and continuing for years.  Why?  Because of the lockdowns people aren't getting their cancer diagnosed when it's a stage 1 or stage 0, but will be getting diagnosed when their cancer is bigger, which means more likely to have metastasized and therefore harder to successfully treat. 

I think I saw someone else post this one I got in my email.  That sure would have made a mess! 

And I got a laugh out of this one (note the guy with the maracas at right):

The top must have been when the company was founded because the first successful Falcon 1 launch was September 28, 2008.

Finally, a cool screen shot from Lab Padre cam on Starship SN8 with tonight's Blue Moon/Hunter's Moon rising behind it.  "Hi, Mr. Moon; we're coming for you."

Friday, October 30, 2020

NASA's Crew-1 Mission on SpaceX Dragon Looks Rescheduled

The first operational crewed mission to the ISS on the SpaceX Crew Dragon had originally been scheduled for mid-October, than backed off until tomorrow, Halloween day.   Then there was a last seconds abort on another Falcon 9 mission, this one to carry a GPS-III satellite for the Space Force on October 2nd.  In an abundance of caution, SpaceX and NASA scrubbed tomorrow's launch, called Crew-1, while failure analysis took place.  

Any current or former technicians are going to love this story, courtesy of Teslarati.  They're calling it the nail polish delay. 

First some needed background.  The booster that auto-aborted two seconds before liftoff on October 2nd was a new Falcon 9 booster, which means it was built virtually side by side with Crew-1’s own new booster.  The rare last-second abort was quickly blamed on “unexpected pressure rise in the turbomachinery gas generator” by CEO Elon Musk.

Within 24 hours technicians had carefully gone over the engine and were unable to find any clues to the behavior.  But since the suspicious boosters were never-flown and not reused boosters, it led NASA and SpaceX to reschedule the Crew-1 for No Earlier Than (NET) 7:49 pm EST on Saturday, November 14th.  I'll note this adds to the argument that the cheaper, already-flown, boosters are actually safer because they've been tested more extensively. 
Now, during NASA’s October 28th Crew-1 briefing, SpaceX’s (Hans) Koenigsmann revealed that the company had ultimately decided to replace not one but two of Crew-1 booster B1061’s nine Merlin 1D engines. Thanks to Falcon 9’s namesake nine-engine booster design and SpaceX’s prolific rocket factory, that process was completed extraordinarily quickly, simply requiring the redirection of already qualified Merlin 1D engines from a fairly large pool. Based on Koenigsmann’s phrasing, SpaceX has already installed both replacement engines on the Crew-1 booster.
... in the course of the rapid and complex mechanical and electrical ballet preceding Falcon 9 first stage ignition, the rocket’s autonomous flight computer observed that two of the GPS III SV04 booster’s nine Merlin 1D engines appeared to be running ahead of schedule, so to speak. The computer immediately halted the ignition process to avoid what could have otherwise been a “hard” (i.e. stressful or damaging) start. SpaceX quickly began inspecting the rocket within 24 hours but was unable to detect anything physically or electrically wrong with Falcon 9’s Merlin 1D engines and engine section.

Out of an abundance of caution, SpaceX removed both misbehaving engines and shipped them to its McGregor, Texas development and test facilities where – somewhat miraculously – the same premature startup behavior was replicated on the test stand. After a great deal of increasingly granular inspections, SpaceX finally narrowed the likely cause down to a tiny plumbing line feeding one of the engine’s gas generator relief valves. In a seemingly random subset of relatively new Merlin 1D engines, SpaceX eventually discovered that a supplier-provided relief valve line was sometimes clogged by a protective lacquer Koenigsmann likened to “red nail polish.”

Used to selectively exclude parts of the engine tubing during a surface finishing process known as anodization, the lacquer was either unsuccessfully removed on a random selection of engine parts or was accidentally channeled into a blockage by over-enthusiastic cleaning. Ultimately, for whatever, reason that miniscule blockage was enough to cause affected Merlin 1D engines to consistently attempt to ignite a tiny fraction of a second early.

Crucially, when SpaceX discovered the possible cause and cleaned out the blocked plumbing, each previously affected Merlin 1D engine performed perfectly, all but directly confirming both the cause and the cure for Falcon 9’s October 2nd abort.
The only more "open and shut" way of proving a failure is put the bad part back in place and verify the problem happens again, but that may be impossible here.  The troubleshooting they've done seems to demonstrate that the lacquer used to coat the tubing was what caused the engine to misbehave.  Exactly how it could have sped up the process of starting is obscure to me, but since they say, "accidentally channeled into a blockage," maybe it's like putting your thumb over the garden hose to get it to spray harder. 

When I first read this, I thought of the lacquer like Glyptal, a compound often used to seal electronic circuits to keep adjustments from moving. On second thought, it seems more like masking tape that's masking off areas to keep them from getting anodized.  Nail polish is probably a better analogy.

A Merlin1D engine on the test stand at McGregor, Texas.  Probably a stock photo.  From Teslarati.

It's probably brash to say that Crew-1 is back on the schedule, but NASA has quarantined the crew for Crew-1, ordinarily a 14 day quarantine. The GPS-III satellite launch is currently set for Wednesday the 4th at 6:24 PM EST and they certainly won't reschedule Crew-1 if that doesn't go nominally.  That date is at least partially dependent on the NROL launch on Election Day at 5:58 PM EST because if they don't launch but delay 24 hours, they get priority over any other mission from the Cape. The NROL Delta IV scrubs have delayed SpaceX several times since June.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Making a Meme

After seeing the Big Tech leaders (Goo-Twit-Face) in Congress yesterday, something started bothering me.  Chief Twit Jack Dorsey reminded me of someone.   It was pretty easy to remember who, and put the two pictures together.  I think there's a pretty strong resemblance there.

The guy on the left is Emmy winning actor Peter Dinklage, most recently known for a role in the popular HBO series Game of Thrones.  Peter set a record in the Emmy awards, winning "Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama" four times for "Game of Thrones"- the most wins by an actor in that category in the Emmy Awards' history.  Of course, that's Jack Dorsey on the right.  For those who don't know, Peter Dinklage is a dwarf. 

The problem is I don't know just what goes on the meme.  Maybe their names across the top, and across the bottom:
  • They're both actors in a Game of Thrones,
    Peter is a professional.
  • They're both actors in a Game of Thrones,
    Peter says it on his resume and has won awards for acting.
  • One is a dwarf, the other tries to silence the little people.
  • One is an extremely accomplished man who has risen to great heights in his field.
    The other runs Twitter.
Comments?  Suggestions? 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Headline of the Day

From Teslarati: "SpaceX eyes multiple Starship lunar landings before first NASA Moon mission"
SpaceX Director Nick Cummings says that the company could potentially attempt multiple uncrewed Starship lunar landings before the first attempt at landing NASA astronauts on the Moon.

In April 2020, NASA announced the first commercial contract recipients under its new Human Landing System (HLS) program, awarding almost $1 billion in an uneven split between Dynetics, Blue Origin’s “National Team”, and SpaceX. While an undeniable boon for Dynetics, SpaceX’s inclusion arguably came as the biggest surprise, marking NASA’s first serious investment in Starship – the company’s next-generation, fully-reusable launch vehicle.
I have to admit I hadn't heard that name before (Nick Cummings), however he has been with the company since January of '19 as Director of Advanced Development for Civil Space.  I'll use that American Astronautical Society link instead of LinkedIn!

All that aside, note that the linked paragraph above said multiple uncrewed (i.e. robotic) lunar landings.  SpaceX is not taking the opportunity to compete with NASA by sending people to land on the moon; that's probably unwise.  Still, maybe it's because I've been an incurable space nut since the earliest days, but seeing a Starship land on the moon under autonomous control, maybe collect a sample or something and come back to earth would be unspeakably cool.

In testing their vehicle operationally and getting it to land on the moon and return, that would be an obvious challenge to the other HLS competitors.  Marcia Smith (@SpcPlcyOnline) put out two Tweets, saying.
"SpX's Nick Cummings shows nice aerial view of Boca Chica. And one of SN8 on pad getting ready to fly to 15 km with 3 Raptor engines. SN9 and 10 in production. 50 Raptors built now, prod rate will increase.
First orbital flight next yr; booster in construction now. "


"Wright (Dynetics) and Cummings (SpX) say they also plan uncrewed demo flt to lunar surface (Blue said earlier they will in '23). Wright says late '23/early '24. Cummings doesn't give dates, but will have many Starship flts to orbit and maybe more than 1 uncrewed lunar landing."
SpaceX has a well-publicized plan to send a space tourist on a lunar orbital mission by 2023.  The tourist is Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa who is planning to take a small crew of artists with him. I'm excluding that mission since it won't land on the moon. 

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has said that he's hoping to have several contractors for manned flight, which I have to assume includes going to the moon.  It's possible that all three of the HLS demo systems will be accepted, two, or only one.  I suppose at some point, the companies will have to make their hardware compatible or come up with ways for NASA to use the different pieces if there's more than one supplier.  

Mary, @bocachicagal, caught a shot of the painted nose cone in Texas and Teslarati paired it with this concept rendering of the Starship on the moon. I'm all but 100% sure the one on the right shows the NASA meatball logo right under the flag rather than the worm, like the one on the left.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Technical Difficulties Today

Completely unrelated to the blog, but plumbing issues that knocked me off kilter for the afternoon.  

Sort of a Halloween-ish motif for Halloween week.  From the Podcast Macabre.   

Around the time the washing machine was discharging into the kitchen and garage sinks, I had left YouTube showing the booster from Saturday coming back into Port Canaveral.  It's kinda cool. 

Whenever someone mentions that the Starship has three Raptor engines on it.  Somebody thinks, "three raptors?  Like this?" and posts this picture.  On just about every online forum there is. 

Sooner or later you get used to it. 

Monday, October 26, 2020

United Launch Alliance CEO Says Blue Origin Has Solved The Engine Problem

Just last Thursday, some of us were speculating that since we haven't heard anything out of Blue Origin in quite a while, something must be going wrong in the development of the BE-4 engine and New Glenn booster. 

Today, Ars Technica relays the news that ULA CEO Tory Bruno confirmed that, in a way, by announcing Blue Origin had fixed their issues. 
United Launch Alliance Chief Executive Tory Bruno said Friday that the problem was "sorted out," and that the full-scale, flight-configured BE-4 engine is now accumulating a lot of time on the test stand. Bruno made his comments about one hour into The Space Show with David Livingston.

Bruno's company, ULA, is buying the BE-4 engine to provide thrust for the first stage of its upcoming Vulcan-Centaur rocket. This booster may make its debut next year, although ULA is still awaiting delivery of BE-4s for the first flight. Two of these large engines—each providing about 25-percent more thrust than the RS-25s used on the Space Shuttle—will power each Vulcan rocket.

Blue Origin has been hotfire-testing the BE-4 engine for about three years, but there have been rumors of development challenges. Bruno himself confirmed during an interview two months ago that the turbopumps, which feed propellant at high pressure into the BE-4 combustion chamber, still required some troubleshooting. "It isn’t easy, but we know we can do it," he told the Denver Business Journal in August.
Blue Origin has been working on developing the BE-4 for the better part of the past decade. The BE-4 is a staged-combustion design running on methane and liquid oxygen. The engine will power ULA's Vulcan-Centaur as well as BO's New Glenn rocket, which Ars reports is unlikely to fly before at least 2022.  It may seem odd for competing rockets to use the same engine, but as Bruno has explained, it was less expensive for ULA to procure its main engines from Blue Origin than Aerojet Rocketdyne.

It has been said that the launch business may not exactly be "winner take all," but it certainly seems to be "winner take most." Let's assume for a minute that the SpaceX Starship meets its design goals and reaches orbit in 2021. They might not take every bit of business from the New Glenn, but it sure seems like they'll take most of it.  The New Glenn goes up against a launch vehicle that's bigger, and carries more payload to any orbit at a lower price?  Where exactly does that say "Winner" for New Glenn?

That aspect aside, I thought I'd post this story in light of the discussion about this in the comments last Thursday and Friday.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

A Ham Radio Series 16 – What’s A Phase Locked Loop?

I thought I'd do an example of a common use for a control loop system, so this will be a look at phase locked loop frequency synthesizers.  A PLL is a feedback loop system that generates multiple frequencies (it could be audio to RF) by tuning a variable oscillator that’s compared to a crystal reference.  In virtually all communications systems designed since the 70s, somewhere in the system you'll find frequency synthesis by phase locked loop.

A phase locked loop is a control system; a negative feedback loop that compares the phase of two signals and generates an error that's used to correct the difference between them. Since all negative feedback systems are continually correcting themselves, you can think of it as a limited "self-correcting" system.  Here's a diagram of a simple PLL:

The variable signal is generated by a Voltage Controlled Oscillator (VCO), and divided down in frequency. This divider is programmable to divide by a range of integers. The divided signal’s phase is compared to the reference, (which is also usually divided down from a higher frequency) and an error signal is generated. The comparison is most often performed in a Phase/Frequency Detector (PFD) which (as its name implies) is sensitive to frequency differences as well as phase differences. When the two inputs are very far apart in frequency, it generates a beat note at its output. This helps the system find its place and lock up faster than other types of detectors. There are other, simpler phase detectors that have pretty much fallen out of use except for specialized applications: double-balanced mixers, and exclusive-OR gates are the most common of these. The output of the PFD is usually sent through an Op Amp integrator and lowpass filtered before being applied to the oscillator's control port. The loop filter doesn’t have to be an active filter, but tends to be one in high performance PLLs. Many cellular phones, WLANs and other "cheap wireless" designs use passive RC (Resistor-Capacitor) filters. The main reason to use an opamp active filter is to allow larger VCO control voltage swings than the PLL chip will allow. This, in turn, helps minimize VCO noise.

When I first started working on RF synthesizers, the reference dividers were a handful of chips, perhaps five, the programmable dividers were another four or five, and the PFD was still another chip. With current parts, you can get everything for a PLL, including the VCO in a single surface mount technology (SMT = tiny) chip.

PLLs can be designed to generate any frequency, from audio to millimeter waves, and they can be very simple (like this example) or very complex.  But just because you can build one doesn’t mean it will be worth the effort. When industry first started building synthesizers, a flood of really rotten radios hit the ham market. Before synthesizers became widespread, you chose the frequency you were tuned to either by multiplying crystals (in VHF/UHF gear), by mixing crystals and Variable Frequency Oscillators, or, in the cheapest receivers, by a free-running VFO alone. It’s much easier to build a really crappy synthesizer than it is to ruin a crystal. To understand what separates a good one from a bad one requires some understanding of how loops generate and shape noise. Those discussions can be rather involved, so I won’t get into those. You simply can’t design a synthesizer without knowing your requirements for noise, spurs, and modulation.

Most of the critical concepts, behaviors and parameters of a PLL can be covered with a simple example based on some easy numbers. Let's assume that the loop is generating 800 MHz, with a reference frequency of 100 kHz. That means the divider is set to 800/0.1 or 8000. What happens if the counter is suddenly incremented to divide by 8001? The frequency at the input of the PFD is now lower than the reference: it's (briefly) 800/8001 or 99.9875 kHz. When the edges of divided VCO and the reference at the PFD input no longer line up, this causes an asymmetry in the pulses going to the loop filter. The loop filter integrates the difference, causing the voltage applied to the VCO (and VCO output frequency) to go up until the edges occur at the same time. That can only happen when the VCO is running at 800.1 MHz.

Another way of looking at this is that the system is acting as a frequency multiplier. We can multiply the 100 kHz reference by any number that we enter into the dividers; and in a typical synthesizer like this, the output frequency has to be an integer multiple of the reference. Octave tuning ranges (2:1), or wider, are routine. This is a frequency multiplier that multiplies by 8000. Typical circuits you can find will multiply by maybe up to four times.  The amount of hardware it takes to generate a range of frequencies on 100 kHz spacing is much higher without the PLL.

Since we've effectively multiplied a crystal, the benefit of the PLL is that we've transferred the crystal's characteristics onto the free-running oscillator. It's now as stable and accurate as the crystal. But there's a cost. Like any multiplier, spurious outputs and noise are made worse by the multiplication ratio; in fact, they're 20 log N worse. That means noise on the crystal oscillator is made worse by 78 dB in this example. Crystals are so good, though, that they can usually withstand that sort of degradation. I'd be delighted if that were the only noise source.

A characteristic if this sort of simple PLL is that it can only step in frequency differences that are the input to the phase detector. For a simple example, you might want to step in 5 kHz steps for the 2 meter FM band. That means that the frequency at the phase detector from both the reference and the VCO have to be divided down to 5 kHz. You can divide them further, say to 1 kHz for frequency steps that small, and that causes an increase in the noise floor out of the synthesizer, which can create in-channel noise from nearby, off-channel signals.

There are limits to this because every time you increase the division you increase the noise (did I ever mention physics is a bitch?). The increase in noise is 20*Log(division ratio). That means if I want to make my synthesizer tune in 1 kHz steps, I have divide by a factor of five more, and 20*log(5) is 14 dB. By the time you get to an HF radio that may be tuning with a tuning step of 10 Hz, the noise in a simple design like this is unbearable and other techniques are needed.

What other techniques? One is called Fractional-N Synthesis. Imagine the frequency synthesizer that we just played with has a wire coming out that allows us to toggle the least significant bit of the counter. If we set the signal on that wire high, it divides by 8001 giving us 800.1 MHz, and if we set it low, it divides by 8000 giving us 800.0. What would happen if we hooked this bit up to a square wave generator and toggled it?

If we toggled it slowly, the synthesizer would hop back and forth between N=8000 and (N+1) = 8001 (800 and 800.1 MHz).  If it's slow enough, you can watch hop back and forth on a spectrum analyzer.  If we increased the toggle rate to something higher, the output changes. Now we achieve an average divider ratio of (N+(N+1))/2 or N+1/2 and the output shows up at 800.050 MHz. 

This is the basis of all fractional N techniques, and you can actually build a PLL that will work this way using 1980s technology: an off the shelf parallel entry PLL chip (e.g., MC145152) and latches (SN7475) that toggle the programming bits between N and N+1.  You'll need something to generate the square wave toggle, like a "good ole triple nickel" 555 timer chip. 

The advantage of doing this Fractional-N is that you've just decreased your step size, giving you the same results as dividing your reference by another factor of two, but you have cheated the universe out of the 6 dB noise hit you would get by using the lower reference! But this is engineering; there has to be a cost, and there is. You will get different spurious outputs at the fractional offset, the effective new reference. (That is, the old system would tend to produce spurs at 100 kHz either side of the carrier; this will tend to produce them at 50 kHz spacing).  Modern chips are available that allow a step size of 1/16 the reference: that's a noise improvement of 24 dB. And that's not the end of it.

Phase Locked Loops are a specialty of their own in radio design, although the advent of band-sampling radios based on really fast Analog to Digital Converters are pushing PLL design.  The entire field is always changing, and there are always new tricks to learn.  That's part of the fun.  I thought that in light of my talking about feedback and control loops, I'd do a piece on how they really get used.  This is just one small example. 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Weekly Shop Update

I'm trying to get myself to work fast enough to merit a weekly post.  I'm getting close to being able to try to get the engine running but not there yet. 

Last week's update focused on issues with what I've been calling my counterweight - the drawing I copied it from called it a crankshaft throw.  The crankshaft wasn't staying in the hole that was intended for it no matter what I did.  I thought I could always re-make it, and several comments suggested I peen the shaft to to raise bumps of metal and enlarge the diameter by .002 or .003 that way.  I thought I'd go with something I've done many times, and made a bushing.  I enlarged the hole to 3/8", reamed to size, and then made a bushing that was 3/8 OD and 5/16 ID.  Then I attached the bushing with the green LocTite 680. 

This worked out well.  To get the shaft to press fit into the throw into the bushing, I had to push it in by putting the two pieces in a woodworking bench vise and close the vise.  A good, tight, press fit.

Once I had the crankshaft set in the throw, it was then easy to build up the engine the rest of the way.

The work for the last couple of days has been pinning the flywheel to the crankshaft.  The flywheel will turn on the shaft, a sliding fit, and the ignition timing is preset by adjusting the angle of the crank before pinning it. 

You will note that the rectangular crankshaft throw that's in this sketch is not that shape I have. I spent a little CAD time figuring out how to modify the position of mine so I could set it manually.  The top edge of my crankshaft throw needs to be sloped down to the right by 8o to make the line between the centers of crankshaft and piston connecting rod 15o to the horizontal.

Once that position is set, the flywheel is clamped to keep it from moving and the flywheel is drilled through, going partially through the crankshaft.  I bought an assortment of spring pins for this, but I haven't pinned it yet. 

Aside from that, I ordered a plastic fuel tank from a hobby shop, that should be here Monday. I haven't put the piston rings on the piston and fitted that, yet, but I have everything to do that. I still need my ignition points and to hook up the ignition components. Then I should be able to run the engine with an electric motor driving it for a half hour or so, to ease the fit somewhat. Finally, after that, I should be able to start trying to make it run on its own.

EDIT 1116 AM EDT: to move the second to last picture a little more to the left.

Friday, October 23, 2020

The First Starship Gets Its First Sunrise

And it's a beautiful thing.  Sunrise this morning at Boca Chica, Texas, screen cap from Lab Padre feed.
The nose cone section was stacked last night around sunset and work proceeded on it all night.  This is the first time anyone has seen the full-sized Starship, approximately 50m (165') tall,  and a bit less than half the size of the final Starship and Super Heavy booster, a combination originally called Big Falcon Rocket (BFR).  People who talk far more than I do on the Lab Padre video refer to this as the opportunity to watch history being made, and it really is.  One step at a time, at a pace which sometimes feels glacial, but is like shooting Class VI rapids compared to everybody else.

Pic credit at the bottom; NomaddNSF.

I've run across a rather geeky and interesting space blogger named Casey Handmer, who is far beyond my meager math models in the things I've read.  He has a long but very technically astute post about Starship called "The SpaceX Starship is a very big deal" and if you're interested in what the buzz about this BFR is all about, it's a must read. 
Starship is the upper stage vehicle. It has a dry mass of 200 T, a fuel/ox mass of 1200 T, and a nominal payload of 150 T. Combined with high performance methane-oxygen vacuum engines, Starship is capable of over 7 km/s of Δv, which is very important.

Starship is boosted for Earth launch by Super Heavy, which is capable of lifting Starship to about 4 km/s before returning to the launch pad.

Both stages are designed to be fully reusable, enabling both high reliability and very cheap launch cost. Indeed, the marginal cost per flight could fall to $5m or below, reducing launch costs to the neighborhood of $35/kg, or 1000x less than Shuttle.  [Bold added - SiG]
After he gets several important expense and business concepts out of the way, he comes to the meat of the article:
With the money question out of the way, we can ask ourselves: What is Starship for? SpaceX could make plenty of money with incremental improvements on the Falcon launchers, and even build up Starlink without Starship.

Starship is for building nations in space. I don’t mean Project Artemis or some version of “The Martian,” though Starship could easily do both. I mean serious logistics.
In 10 years, Starship flights will be sold by the dozen. Starship is only cheap if it gets used as much as possible. The only meaningful barrier to production today is engine manufacture, and that will be through the hardest part of the learning curve well before commercial flights begin.
In the remainder of the article, he concludes that while Starship is gigantic by current standards, current planning numbers are to expect 120 meters, (394 feet) tall, it's about the minimum size for a vehicle to land on Mars as intended.  It's small for a vehicle that will turn virtually every aspect of spaceflight upside down.

It is so bold and brash a goal that a first impression is that it's too bold. Can't be done. The fact that it is being entirely funded by the commercial operations of SpaceX makes it all the easier to watch with amazement as the world changes.  As we watch, read postings and tweets, we see them methodically taking on the challenges and working through the issues.  Enough to dramatically reduce doubt they'll ever make it.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk tweeted, "SN8 Starship with flaps & nosecone should be done in about a week. Then static fire, checkouts, static fire, fly to 60,000 ft & back." I've been saying it could take that big hop by the end of the month.  Since that's next weekend, I'll go with the majority and say that since this is the first time anyone has ever worked on the complete Starship, that 60,000 ft hop will take longer to get to.  Expect it to be the second half of November.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Air Force Stops Funding Blue Origin's New Glenn Development

In a move I hadn't heard of, Space News reported Monday that when the Air Force selected their two main launch services providers for the next five years, they stopped a previous contract that Blue Origin had won in 2018.  Blue Origin is protesting that call.
The Air Force in August selected United Launch Alliance and SpaceX as its launch providers for the next five years. Blue Origin competed for the job but lost and, as a result, the Air Force plans to terminate a $500 million contract Blue Origin received in 2018 to advance the development of its New Glenn rocket.

The company is moving forward with New Glenn with the goal to debut the vehicle in 2021 and pursue commercial work, but it is trying to make the case to the Air Force that it should continue to fund the vehicle and the ground infrastructure that it would need to be certified for national security missions.  

“We’re discussing with the Air Force the path forward for certification,” Megan Mitchell, Blue Origin’s director of government and legislative affairs, told SpaceNews.

The Air Force chose ULA and SpaceX over Northrup Grumman and Blue Origin.  Back in August, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition Will Roper said that the service planned to terminate the LSAs with Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman (LSA = Launch Services Agreement), explaining that the Air Force didn't have the money to continue funding those agreements.  Naturally, the Air Force started to prepare for legal challenges, which seems to be the norm.
The purpose of the agreements was to help Phase 2 competitors pay for launch vehicle development and infrastructure. Blue Origin received $500 million; Northrop Grumman $792 million and ULA $967 million. The funds were to be spread out through 2024, and the Air Force from the beginning said the LSAs would be terminated with those companies that did not win a Phase 2 procurement contract.
Blue Origin argues that they should be funded in the interest of national security. Megan Mitchell, Blue Origin’s director of government and legislative affairs, told SpaceNews.

Mitchell said she could not disclose how much of the $500 million from the LSA contract has been invested so far in New Glenn and ground infrastructure.  “But I can tell you we had begun development of national security space-unique infrastructure required to meet national security needs. We also completed the initial segment of the national security space launch certification process, the assessment phase,” she said.

If the Air Force decided to continue funding New Glenn, “they would get a third certified launch provider strengthening assured access to space for critical national security space assets,” said Mitchell.

Development of the New Glenn will continue.  Blue Origin has lined up paying customers for satellite deliveries to orbit, but this is undoubtedly a setback for the company.  They also have paying customers (United Launch Alliance) for their BE-4 methane/LOX engines.  It has always struck me as an interesting rocket.  It was going to be (still may become) the first reusable, orbital class rocket powered by methane-oxygen engines, and in the size class of the Saturn V. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Virus Response Goes Far Beyond Sanity

Two stories have emerged in the last few days.  One just stupid, the other ominously stupid.  The simply stupid one first

You may have seen this story at Western Rifle Shooters; Ireland, a country of about 5 million people, has gone to a severe lockdown system where people are forbidden to go more than 5 km, or 3 miles, from their homes. 

Irish biochemist and podcaster, Ivor Cummins shows data that during the worst of epidemic in Ireland, the death rate was approximately one person per million per week.  A total of 1,852 people are listed as fatalities of the virus, but as Ivor points out in the video, during the worst of the epidemic, when fatalities were rising almost vertically on the graph he shows, 95% of the people diagnosed with Covid were not given treatment (!) because they were considered too ill or weak for ICU treatment, and left to die (it's a Nationalized Health System there; they let people die all the time).  The 5% remnant that was treated represents 93 deaths, or just over 13 weeks at 1 death per million.  The situation isn't that bad now.  The current ICU population is around 7 people in ICU per million population. 

Why? This video from Ivor last week has the same question but outlines what seems to be the plans for the new lockdown.

The other case, as I said, is more ominous.  This story broke a couple of days ago and was picked up by Breitbart, linked from Watts Up With That.  Dr. Michael Levitt, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Chemistry was cancelled from a biodesign conference, a specialty he practically founded, because of things he as published about Covid-19.  Read that again: the conference had nothing to do Covid-19, he was cancelled because conference organizers had received ‘too many calls’ from other speakers ‘threatening to quit’ because of his views on Chinese coronavirus. He has long maintained that the threat is overblown and that ‘we’re going to be fine.
Professor Levitt – Professor of Structural Biology at the Stanford School of Medicine – was one of the earliest critics of what he sees as the worldwide overreaction to Chinese coronavirus. He describes the extreme measures taken by many governments to control it as ‘another foul-up on the part of the baby boomers.’

He told the Unherd podcast:
I am a real baby boomer – I was born in 1947, I am almost 73 years old – but I think we’ve really screwed up…We’ve left your generation with a real mess in order to save a relatively small number of very old people.
Though his position has earned him many enemies within the scientific establishment,  his predictions of the disease’s trajectory have proved a lot more accurate than the scaremongering models of alarmists like Neil Ferguson.
Dr. Levitt put it this way in his Twitter statement:

His thought crime was to observe that in outbreak after outbreak of this disease, a similar mathematical pattern is observable regardless of government interventions. After around a two week exponential growth of cases (and, subsequently, deaths) some kind of break kicks in, and growth starts slowing down. The curve quickly becomes “sub-exponential.”  Pretty much everyone who has analyzed the numbers has seen this pattern, and  - Newsflash! - it's so common among viruses that it has a name, the Gompertz curve.  I know I've written about this before, referencing an article from April.  
This may seem like a technical distinction, but its implications are profound. The ‘unmitigated’ scenarios modelled by (among others) Imperial College, and which tilted governments across the world into drastic action, relied on a presumption of continued exponential growth — that with a consistent R number of significantly above 1 and a consistent death rate, very quickly the majority of the population would be infected and huge numbers of deaths would be recorded. But Professor Levitt’s point is that that hasn’t actually happened anywhere, even in countries that have been relatively lax in their responses.
Now practitioners in the field of Computational Biology and Biodesign are rejecting the father of the field because he points out a simple truth that anyone who can do computations should be able to recognize.   And yet these people call themselves scientists. 

As Dr. Levitt says, A New Dark Age Cometh.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Starship Another Step Closer to The Hop

I've been keeping track of the life of Starship prototype number 8, and the last couple of nights have clicked off major milestones.  Two nights ago, they did a successful pre-burner ignition, and last night they did another pre-burner test, followed by a static firing of all three raptor engines. 

The video appears to be an edit of the two event videos into one.  There's a firing of something at about the 20 second mark.  After that finishes, at about 42 seconds, the recording changes to a slightly smaller view (slightly shorter lens on the video camera) and a clock appears at lower right.  At 1:20, the main static firing appears to happen, which is significantly brighter and bigger than the one at 20 seconds. 

The nose cone that will go on this set of tanks has been built and the reporting says the addition will be done there on the test pad. The nose cone has had its aerodynamic surfaces added.

I'm not sure if there will be another engine firing test once the nose cone is installed, but they are awaiting FAA approval to hop to approximately 50,000 feet.  That event will be like nothing we've seen before. 

SpaceX has developed a way for Starship to land that's mostly not like their Falcon 9 landings, and not like a Space Shuttle landing, which was a dead stick; that is, no thrust, no propulsion, but a slightly aerodynamic "lifting body."  Starship comes in to the atmosphere belly first as a way to dissipate speed by lots of friction over lots of area.  In the last several Starship lengths above ground, it suddenly fires engines and thrusters, goes through vertical, then lands on legs standing upright like the Falcon 9.  This simulation video was up on YouTube by a group called C-bass Productions.   I recall seeing a Twitter exchange while looking up something Elon had said.  This video was there and he gave them a big thumb's up, then mentioned some detail that wasn't right.  They fixed that detail and this is the improved version.

SpaceX lost a lot of Falcon 9 boosters before they finally refined things well enough to start landing them regularly.  I'll probably faint if they nail the first landing instead of crashing the first try. Now it's easier to understand why they're currently building serial numbers 8 through 14. Along with Super Heavy booster SN1.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Now is the Time...

Well, maybe not now now, but the time is soon.  Next week for sure. 

The time for what? If you want to pay any attention to political polls - and I sure hope you haven't paid a minute's worth of attention to them so far - the time when they start to mean something is coming.  Why?  Like all of the mass media news, polls can do one of two things: they can tell a narrative or they can tell the truth.  Since about the start of the primary season last year, polls have been used to set up a narrative.  
Now, however, a new narrative is starting, one vastly more important to the pollsters than their descriptive narratives of how the election will be.  This narrative is "who will predict the results the closest?"  This narrative allows the company that got the closest to raise their rates they charge others who want to use their services. 

As you know, the big campaigns hire their own full time pollsters.  That's how Kellyanne Conway ended up running Trump's campaign and working in the White House.  She ran a polling company, called (imaginatively enough) The Polling Company, and predicted better than the others along the way.  For lower profile (and lower budget) campaigns, they can either hire pollsters or just read them in the paper like we do.  Being right is marketable.   
I haven't thought much about it or paid much attention to it.  It's a pretty safe bet that a standing president will get elected; in the last 100 years, only four presidents have not been reelected with the last being George H.W. Bush in 1992.  Before that it was Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford in the 1970s, and then you have to go back to  Herbert Hoover in 1932.  A president has to be pretty widely disapproved of to not be re-elected and based on rallies and signs of enthusiasm I see, I don't see that sort of disapproval of Trump.  Certainly the far left disapproves of him, but I'm not convinced the narrative we get everyday about widespread dislike reflects reality. 

While researching my previous writings to see if I'd addressed this before, I stumbled across a fun post from almost exactly this day in 2016.  There's a college called Chapman University in California that does an annual poll on the greatest fears people have.  I found it interesting that the highest percentage of fears was of corrupt government officials.  There were some smart people back in 2016! 

Since the survey was in my post from October, and it's October now, I naturally wondered if Chapman had the 2020 survey posted.  They didn't; the most recent was the 2019 survey.  The '19 survey just isn't prettied up like the '16 survey was, but I present the 10 biggest fears of which people said they're either "afraid" or "very afraid."  

I note that the number one fear is still corrupt government officials, and the percentage has gone up from 60.6% to 77.2%, an increase of 27%.  I notice also that while in 2016, the other 9 out of 10 top fears all measured in the range of 35.5% to 41%, this year the other 9 ranged from 55.7% to 68%.  Is it valid to conclude people are more afraid of things in general?  Also note that some of them remain in the top ten: fear of "People I love becoming seriously ill" or dying, and not having enough money for the future.  This year's fear of cyber-terrorism sounds like or 2016's fear being a victim of a terrorism or terrorist attack on the country.  This year departs seriously from 2016 in the fear of pollution, climate change and extinction.    

Sunday, October 18, 2020

What's the Deal With The Honey Badger AR Pistol?

Back in August, the story got out that the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (BATFE - motto, "Making It Up on the Fly Since, Well, Forever") had notified a company called Q, LLC that their AR Pistol, called Honey Badger, was a short-barreled rifle and therefore regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA) subject to the $500 tax and absurd waiting period.  BATFE sent a "cease and desist" letter to Q that included warnings for their customers. 

To get into what all those terms mean would take a thousand words, but to many readers who drop by here, they're familiar words and concepts.  I'd take a bet that a lot of people are saying something like, "it looks like any other AR pistol.  WTF??"  To make things even less clear, the BATFE has put their "cease and desist" order on hold, allegedly to get some sort of backing from someone higher.

Here's the short version. The NFA in 1934 created an arbitrary definition of a rifle and a pistol that depended on size and how you hold it. Suddenly, rifles with 12 or 14" barrels that used to cost $50 or less, required a $500 tax stamp. The difference was that a rifle was braced against the shoulder while a pistol was handheld.  A rifle (or shotgun) was required to have a barrel longer than 16".  A pistol wasn't.  When AR caliber pistols started to become available, they weren't allowed to have a foregrip, as you'll see on tons of ARs, but people found the recoil of the pistol uncomfortable to manage.  After the brace was invented, the BATFE essentially said if the brace is held against the shoulder, the pistol is magically transformed into a short barreled rifle.  Then they said, no, never mind. 

I'd highly recommend that if you have questions about how we got where we are, or you just want to hear some solid commentary from Alex Bosco at SB Tactical who actually invented the Pistol Stabilizing Brace ® and Michael Bane, listen to Michael Bane's podcast .  It's about an hour but worth it. 

Bane starts with the observation that this could be an attack on Donald Trump by insiders at the BATFE.  Holdovers put in place by Eric Holder.  It's no secret that there are anti-gun forces in the ranks of the BATFE.  This could be their attempt to drive a wedge between gun owners and Trump to help get Biden elected, so they can start to enact the destruction of the second amendment.  From what both of them say, the wedge appears to be working. 

According to Alex Bosco, the BATFE is telling him they're defining weapons according to the old line about pornography: "We'll know it when we see it." They're making the law as obscure and impossible to understand as can be.  They're implying that if you make any modification to a gun that crosses some imaginary line that they won't tell you about, they'll subject you to the $10,000 fine and years in prison.  Maybe you put a red dot on you AR pistol, or a scope; never mind that you can put those on any handgun, you've made your AR pistol into a rifle so you're going to federal prison.

Tyrants love that sort of power.  Having some familiarity with the 80% lower concept and happenings, it seems to me the BATFE has always tried to make every ruling as muddy and unclear as possible.  The better to entrap you with.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Small Shop Update

Where "small" modifies update, not shop.  

Not much has happened with my little Webster ICE (internal combustion engine) since my last update two weeks ago, not because of lack of trying, just lack of success.  One part I made has been giving me fits.  This one; a counterweight design I copied from the web without details and apparently didn't make properly.  

The sizes aren't very obvious - you can see by the out of focus Q-Tip on the left that it's not an enormous part.  From the center of the radiused curve at the top to the bottom of the bottom radius, it's 1.82".  
There are two shafts visible.  Both of them are 5/16" drill rod;  0.3215".  The problem is with that lower shaft protruding behind the part, there's too much of a gap between the shaft and plate it goes through.  That's a quarter inch thick aluminum plate.  It's too loose a fit (meaning I made the hole too big) and Red LocTite has broken twice - the latest time today.  I need that part to fit where it goes to determine the thickness of some spacers I need to make that will go on the shaft (it's the crankshaft - that short one facing you at the top drives the piston).  

With the shaft out of there, I compared the hole to a reamer I have that's .001 oversized.  The oversized reamer drops through the hole without touching it, and calipers (which are not the way one really measures a hole) say it's closer to 0.317 which is insanely out of spec.  I have to think I just used a drill bit.  That's just plain not good thinking on my part.  One of the things that has slowed me down is waiting for LocTite to cure on this part. 

I should probably just remake the part.  It was cut on the CNC mill and I'm sure I have the file somewhere, or can re-create one.  Since I've tried LocTite twice, I don't think that's going to work for me.  I've read many places that a good alternative is to knurl the part, which forces some metal up around the cuts it makes.  I don't know if that's going to be enough to get it to fit, but it's going to be better than what I have.  

My only success has been making an adapter from the RC engine carburetor to the intake port on the engine.  This part works acceptably well. 

The adapter is on the left, from the odd-sized port on the carburetor to the odd-sized port on the engine. 
I still need to order a fuel tank (or make one, which frankly seems like too much work) and make a few odd little parts that will take minutes to make.  

Friday, October 16, 2020

The Great Barrington Declaration

The Great Barrington Declaration is statement from a group of infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists who have come together to protest the Covid-19 lockdowns and try to reduce the unwanted deaths and personal tragedies the lockdowns are causing.  Of course, last week, the WHO essentially kick started several stories about lockdowns and particularly about how countries with strong lockdowns fared no better - and some times worse - than countries without lockdowns.

I didn't start out going this direction.  I was reading a FEE article on a thing the Federal Reserve is doing (incompetently, of course) but stumbled across some interesting things down this side road. 

To begin with, FEE itself has a week-old article, “5 Charts That Show Sweden’s Strategy Worked. The Lockdowns Failed."  Then they linked to an article invoking Elon Musk's bravado about opening the Almeda Tesla factory despite California lockdown rules  ("Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules. I will be on the line with everyone else.  If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.")  Elsewhere in the article Musk said, "Sweden Was Right" and tweeted this plot:

It's pretty clear that the pandemic was over in Sweden by about mid to late June.  According to other public records, the reason for the large number of deaths they had in the exponential growth phase around the start of April and through the first couple of months of decline was due to making the Cuomo mistake and putting active Covid cases into nursing homes.   

Musk said this in a reply to Toby Young's Tweet about the Great Barrington Declaration. 

Note that Young says that both Google and Reddit have shadow banned the declaration, which is severe censorship.  It's banning any mention by a group of qualified scientists of ideas that disagree with the candidate they're propping up.  

Because I don't use Google or the Big Tech media (present blog excluded, of course), I had no problems finding the Declaration.  I use Duck Duck Go and it was the first return in the search results.  I tested Bing and it was the first return in those results, too. 

Listen, if you're an adult with an IQ above room temperature, and haven't stopped using Google yet, you haven't been paying attention.  You really shouldn't be using Google as your search engine; and you shouldn't be using Twitter or Facebook for your news feed.  Instagram or Pinterest are for looking at pretty things or collecting pictures, not news or current events.  Actually, scratch the limit about having an "IQ above room temperature."  Nobody should be using Google or those others.  These tech companies are too dishonest to reward with your eyeballs (which is what they're charging advertisers for).  

Thursday, October 15, 2020

More Space Action Ketchup

After a couple of weeks with very little going on, a lot has come up in the last couple of days.  In no particular order:

Firefly Aerospace said its Alpha rocket first stage completed its final acceptance test on Friday, Oct. 9, at its test facility in Briggs, Texas. In a (rather impressive) video posted online, the test appeared to last for a bit less than 20 seconds.  Back in March , we did a piece that said they hoped for an operational launch by this past summer.  Clearly, we're well past summer, and while the Alpha rocket is headed for Vandenburg AFB to prepare for flight, they have a lot to do in the remaining ~76 days of 2020.  The video is 1 minute long and shows three different views of the roughly 20 second burn.

Remember the "self-eating" autophage rocket reported on back in 2018?  This week's Rocket Report from Ars Technica reports that the United Kingdom's Defense and Security Accelerator has pledged nearly $120,000 to further development of a novel "autophage" rocket. The project, under development at the University of Glasgow, burns its own structure as propellant during its ascent to orbit.
Autophage engines have already been test-fired by the Glasgow team using all-solid propellant. The new funding will underwrite the research required to use a more energetic hybrid propellant: a solid tube of fuel containing a liquid oxidiser. The engine will be test-fired at Kingston University in London’s new rocket laboratory in London next year.
One of the most interesting things that's happened to me in the 10 years of this blog is that the principal investigator on the engines, Dr. Patrick Harkness of the University of Glasgow, stumbled across the posting I put up and contributed to the discussion. 

Yesterday, NASA awarded contracts to four companies for studies related to in-space refueling.  In an August 2019 post, we covered the beginning of work between NASA and SpaceX on refueling.  This extends that and adds other companies to the program.  What follows is an excerpt from that NASA web page, and doesn't include another family of awards for Lunar Surface Technology Demonstrations.  The total announced yesterday was $370 million.
  • Eta Space of Merritt Island, Florida, $27 million
    Small-scale flight demonstration of a complete cryogenic oxygen fluid management system. As proposed, the system will be the primary payload on a Rocket Lab Photon satellite and collect critical cryogenic fluid management data in orbit for nine months. The small business will collaborate with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
  • Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado, $89.7 million
    In-space demonstration mission using liquid hydrogen – the most challenging of the cryogenic propellants – to test more than a dozen cryogenic fluid management technologies, positioning them for infusion into future space systems. Lockheed Martin will collaborate with Marshall and Glenn.
  • SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, $53.2 million
    Large-scale flight demonstration to transfer 10 metric tons of cryogenic propellant, specifically liquid oxygen, between tanks on a Starship vehicle. SpaceX will collaborate with Glenn and Marshall.
  • United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Centennial, Colorado, $86.2 million
    Demonstration of a smart propulsion cryogenic system, using liquid oxygen and hydrogen, on a Vulcan Centaur upper stage. The system will test precise tank pressure control, tank-to-tank transfer, and multi-week propellant storage. ULA will collaborate with Marshall, Kennedy, and Glenn.
It has been reported that this might represent the first funding NASA has ever given to SpaceX for the Starship vehicles.

Speaking of SpaceX and the Starship development, as anticipated on Sunday, all three raptor engines have been mounted on prototype SN8, and testing began during the overnight hours last night.  Testing will resume with a road closure at 9:00 PM CDT until 6:00 AM tomorrow, followed immediately by closure tomorrow, the 16th, from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM CDT. Anticipation is running high that a Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) will be conducted tonight followed by a static firing test tomorrow.  

A WDR is a test in which the fuel is loaded, turbopumps are spun up, preburners may be lit, but the raptor engine is NOT ignited.  A road closure & FAA TFR (overflight restriction) are required, and the fuel load is reported to the FAA.  The same requirements apply to the static engine firing.  As we learned with the previous prototypes (SN5 and 6), a static firing will last for around 4 to 5 seconds.  It still doesn't seem too optimistic to believe the 50,000 foot hop might happen by Halloween.

An "up the skirt" photo of SN8 and the three raptor engines.  SpaceX photo tweeted by Elon Musk. 
Locally - and noteworthy - the next Starlink launch is scheduled for Sunday morning at 8:27 EDT, and a second Starlink mission is scheduled for Wednesday at 12:36 PM.  Teslarati notes this will bring some milestones with it.  
Regardless of the schedule uncertainty and potential for delays, if SpaceX manages to successful launch Starlink-13 and Starlink-14 within the next two or so weeks, October will mark the first time the company has launched three Starlink missions in one month. If the missions weren’t for Starlink, SpaceX would effectively be creating the second largest commercial satellite constellation in the world in less than 30 days.

Additionally, reports that SpaceX has assigned Falcon 9 booster B1060 to Starlink-14. If Starlink-14 lifts off on schedule on October 21st, B1060 will beat out B1058 for the crown of fastest booster turnaround, launching twice in just 48 days. Falcon 9 B1058 set the current world record when it beat NASA’s Space Shuttle (54 days) with a 51-day turnaround earlier this year.
The reference to "potential for delays" relates back the Delta IV Heavy launch for NROL, which has been scrubbed numerous times since its initial launch date back last June.  It's currently scheduled for October 23rd  (next Friday) at 10:00 PM. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Looking A Month Into the Future - The Transition Integrity Project's Plans

To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, “If you complain the US isn’t democratic enough, you just might be living in a country designed by geniuses and run by idiots.”

This is an exploration of the document from the Transition Integrity Project, “Preventing a Disrupted Presidential Election and Transition.”  The 22 page .pdf is currently available at:

As I don't know that site, I assume it could go down at any time.  I can't emphasize enough that everyone should read and understand this.  I mentioned the TIP a month ago in my post about the Color Revolution against the US, as one of the groups organizing the revolution. 

The TIP pretends to be unbiased but is rabidly anti-Trump, anti-constitution, and anti-America as founded.  An easy example is in a footnote on page 3 (the start of the actual text of their study).   “TIP recognizes and shares the view that the Electoral College is profoundly anti-democratic, and that numerous long-standing practices also function to create structural biases in our voting system. For present purposes, however, these constraints are treated as givens.”  

The electoral college, like all of the constitutional government, is designed to balance the rights of less populated states with the higher population states.  Our legislative branch has a House of  Representatives, with the number of representatives proportional to the population of the state, and a Senate where every state gets the same number of senators.  In the electoral college, each state has a number of electors equal to the number of its representatives and senators; there are an additional three electors appointed to Washington D.C.; as if they were the least populous state.  Currently, there are 538 electors; with the mass flight out of New York and California, perhaps their numbers of electors go down and destination states get more.

As best as could be agreed upon, every aspect of the constitution is written to protect the rights of the minority while having majority rule.  Every gunnie I’ve ever talked with about it knows the axiom, “Democracy is two wolves and sheep voting on what’s for dinner.”  A simple majority-rule system with none of the constitutional protections offers just that much protection of minority opinions on policies.   Calling for the country to abolish the electoral college for being anti-democratic is simply saying they want all the power for themselves. 

But that's not what TIP is about.  TIP did a classic DC thing and had politicians role play four scenarios for the election.  It should go without saying that with people pretending to be other people, the results are not likely to be exactly what the people being modeled would really do in the scenarios, but simply illustrates how the players viewed the situations.  

The document describes the scenarios this way:
The four scenarios were developed after a consultative process involving outreach to experts on elections and transitions, political violence and instability, governance, and scenario planning and game design.  Each of the four scenarios developed was different. (See Appendix B for a summary of the scenarios and key actions.)  In one scenario, the exercise posited that the winner of the election was not known as of the morning after the election and the outcome of the race was too close to predict with certainty; in another, the exercise began with the premise that Democratic party candidate Joe Biden won the popular vote and the Electoral College by a healthy margin; and in a third, the exercise assumed that President Trump won the Electoral College vote but again lost the popular vote by a healthy margin. The fourth exercise began with the premise that Biden won both the popular vote and the Electoral College by a narrow margin.
What strikes me about this is that in no scenario do they consider president Trump would win the electoral college and the popular vote.  Joe Biden won both by a wide margin in scenario two and won both by a narrow margin in four.  In scenario one, it was too close to call the morning after the election and they prepare for a long period of actively finding votes to count.  
Note that in case three, where Trump wins the electoral college but loses the popular vote by “a healthy margin” that the constitutional term for that is “elected president.”  Even in that case, the role-players go all out to take power back from the president.  This scenario played through three turns; by the end of the first turn:
...the country was in the midst of a full-blown constitutional crisis characterized by: 1) Political chaos; 2) Widespread threats of violence, and sporadic actual violence in the streets; and 4) A hostile, dangerous, highly-partisan, and frequently unconstrained information and media environment.
Throughout the document, the TIP players pretend that violence in the streets is right wing phenomenon and not the "peaceful protests" of antifa and BLM.  They talk about right wing agents provocateur going into democrat party protests to ensure violence happens.  There is no limit to projection.  

Turns two and three deteriorate farther.  This is the scenario I mentioned last month in which Washington Oregon and California secede from the country, but Obama convinced them to declare a bunch of other conditions. Among them was to divide California into five states to increase the number of senators they have, make Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico states, so they can get even more blue senators and representatives.  Think of it as stacking the legislature instead of (or in addition to) stacking the court.  
One of the most consequential moves was that Team Biden on January 6 provoked a breakdown in the joint session of Congress by getting the House of Representatives to agree to award the presidency to Biden (based on the alternative pro-Biden submissions sent by pro-Biden governors).  Pence and the GOP refused to accept this, declaring instead that Trump was reelected under the Constitution because of his Electoral College victory. This partisan division remained unresolved because neither side backed down, and January 20 arrived without a single president-elect entitled to be Commander-in-Chief after noon that day. It was unclear what the military would do in this situation.
The degree to which the TIP role-playing games will affect what happens to the country is hard to put number on.  The mere fact that they've been planning for conflict over this election since 2016 is itself a sign of bad things coming.  As we've seen vividly lately, in Portland and most recently Denver, antifa is resorting to murder more often these days.  The election will be contested first, and at no time that I can remember has the need to win by more than the fraud margin been more vivid.  Every option involved violence, started by Trump or “Alt Right / Boogaloo supporters.”   Naturally, the left-wingers wouldn't do such a thing - or so they imply. 

The TIP study is full of TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome) but I still think everyone should at least skim it.  When you read of the thousand and one bad things they say Trump will do, just substitute the left wing mob to get a more accurate picture.