Monday, October 20, 2014

Ethanol From Cellulose Goes Into Industrial Production

This from Biofuels Digest for 10-20-2014:

In Kansas, Abengoa Bioenergy officially opened the world's largest cellulosic biorefinery in Hugoton on Friday, surrounded by dignitaries such as US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Kansas senior Senator Pat Roberts, former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson among many others.

The second generation cellulosic ethanol plant in Hugoton, Kansas, located about 90 miles southwest of Dodge City finished construction in mid-August and began producing cellulosic ethanol at the end of September with the capacity to produce up to 25 million gallons per year.

In today's Digest, we have the complete story - including remarks by US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, US Senator Pat Roberts, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Abengoa CEO Manuel S├ínchez Ortega and Abengoa Bioenergy chief Javier Garoz - and more - plus the full background on the refinery and industry reaction, at

At last,  non-food ethanol is arriving.  We now have a way to eat the corn,  and make fuel out of the cobs and stalks,  and it scales up to industrial operations.  When this catches on in a big way,  there will be no more "food versus fuel" as the excuse for not employing this technology to the max.

There's a lot more cellulose to convert out there than there is grain.  That'll take the resource-limitation off of ethanol production rates.  Which leaves only bureaucratic recalcitrance from those agencies in the pockets of big oil,  and from congress itself.

As it says in my other ethanol-related postings,  you can use this stuff in very stiff gasohol blends in totally factory-stock cars,  of any age.  It acts to extend catalytic converter life,  by keeping the soot buildup down.  Engines and engine oil run cleaner,  and last longer.  All from reduced flame soot.

Which also is why mileage is the same as plain gasoline up to about E-40:  the reduced-soot flame is also a more efficient combustion process.  That is what my doctoral dissertation was about.

E-10 is currently "unleaded regular",  E-15 is available in a few places for newer cars,  just not widely available.  I routinely use E-30 to E-35 in all my 4-stroke equipment of any age,  and have for 8 years.  If there were a problem in cars or 4-stroke lawn equipment,  I'd have found it by now.

The 2-stroke and boat motor communities need to catch up and get on board with this,  by making the change to ethanol-compatible materials.  The automotive and 4-stroke folks did this years ago,  and my experimentation confirms it.  The airplane folks also need to make this change:  leaded avgas won't be around forever.

The EPA is simply wrong to restrict its use to E-10 or E-15 for "fear of damage to emission controls",  and to restrict its use as E-15 to newer cars.  They listened too closely to the lobbies and not to the actual science and experimentation.

See also on this site not far below:

11-2-13:  "An Update on Ethanol Fuel Use"

11-3-13:  "Aviation Alternative Fuel Compatibility Issues"

Friday, September 5, 2014

Mars "Thighbone"?

Depending upon where you look on the internet,  this NASA photo has created quite a stir.  It was taken by the latest Curiosity rover on Mars.  The object in photo center looks very much like a thigh bone,  based on our Earthly experiences with human and animal skeletons. 

NASA say this is just an oddly-shaped eroded rock.  Maybe so.  But,  it is a striking-enough image to warrant further investigation.  Such investigation is certainly something that Curiosity can do.  So,  it should be done.   You all should contact NASA and demand that it be done.  It’s your tax dollars. 

If I was present on-site,  I would look at sampling that “thighbone” to confirm or deny exactly what it is made of.  And,  I would scratch around in that dirt looking for more such weirdly-shaped artifacts.  In the interests of science,  such an effort is certainly with the effort. 

For one thing,  the dark holes evident in the photo suggest that there are subsurface cavities under the rocks whose outlines we can see in the dirt.  Cavities?  Really?  How did they get there?  Those are awfully good questions!  They deserve answers.  

Update 9-6-14:

This same article and picture appeared as a letter-to-the-editor in the Waco "Tribune-Herald" Saturday 9-6-14.

Update 9-13-14:

As best I can tell from the news releases,  Curiosity did not stop and poke around at this site.  The press releases say it has arrived at Mount Sharp,  its intended target.  Too bad,  this was a very interesting site.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Extremism in Any Form is Evil

Update:  8-28-2014:  A version of this made the op ed page of the Waco,  Texas,  "Tribune Herald" Thursday 8-20-14.

The beheading of American journalist James Foley by the Muslim extremist organization we call ISIS has brought to a head a very serious question:  what do we do about evident evil operating in our midst?  Mr. Foley’s murder is not the only crime  committed by these people:  thousands have already died at their hands in Syria and Iraq.         

ISIS is an example of religious extremism in operation “at full tilt”.  These are people who believe that God has told them to kill those who think differently from them,  in any way.  They believe so strongly in this,  that they are willing to commit any atrocity,  no matter how evil,  “in the name of God”. 

My reading of the Bible and multiple other religious texts leads me to believe two things:  (1) these scriptures are complicated and self-contradictory enough to support any interpretation one wants to promulgate,  simply by taking things out of context,  and more importantly (2) if that little voice inside you says “kill for God”,  that ain’t God you are listening to.  It’s Satan (or whatever name in any religion for the personification of evil). 

We are now faced with the rapid spread of a very evil idea across much of the middle east and Africa,  plus some other places,  including here at home.   Since before the 9-11 attacks,  we have been trying to fight this evil idea with military force,  and with police work.  In all the decades since,  we have not succeeded. 

We have also completely failed to recognize that it is not exclusively Muslim extremism that threatens us!  There have been Christian extremists willing to kill doctors and bomb clinics over here,  for many years now.  “Killing for God”!  That’s really Satan’s work. 

You must remember that all religions can be corrupted by the evil of extremism. 

Governments around the world have completely failed to stand up to this evil in any effective way.  You don’t fight a bad idea with weapons,  you fight it with a better idea. 

And that means that you demonstrate publicly and frequently why your idea is good,  while simultaneously demonstrating publicly and frequently why their idea is bad.  Our government is so hog-tied with “political correctness” that it has not ever done this,  and to this day it cannot,  “for fear of offending someone”. 

Not offending the bad guys?  That’s utter bullshit!

Folks,  the only folks who should be offended by such a message are the evil extremists themselves!  I really don’t care if I offend them,  they are Satan’s minions!  Death is too good for them,  but very expedient for the rest of us.

What all of us really have to do is get the truth out there,  to prevent the further spread of this evil religious-extremist idea,  no matter the religious label it bears. 

And spread it has,  especially among the uneducated and the downtrodden,  which is something I can understand.  Why educated persons would fall for an extremist creed is something I do not personally understand,  but the available data says that they do:  the Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan for one,  who held a doctoral degree in the mental health field. 

Since governments around the world,  especially ours,  are paralyzed by political correctness and completely ineffective,  this counter-message has to come from the grassroots.  I don’t care what religion we are talking about,  if there is a preacher of whatever stripe promoting violence and hostility from his pulpit,  then remove him!  Cast him out as the servant of Satan that he is.  Period. 

The rest of you,  testify to your neighbors,  especially those of other religions,  about how God does not demand that we kill unbelievers.  Right now,  it is crucially important that the good majority of Muslims speak out in exactly this way,  for it is Muslim extremists who are killing the most people right now.  But,  that does not let the rest of us off the hook!

It’ll take at least 2 or 3 generations to rid the world of this evil,  but we can do it,  all of us,  together.  Doesn’t matter what your faith is. 

The hell of it is,  political extremism is just as evil.  Examples include the Nazis,  the Fascists,  and the Communists,  just in the 20th century.  I see political extremism on the rise all around us,  right here in the US,  and it will eventually be just as deadly as religious extremism,  to the continued existence of a free people. 

Think about that,  before you forward your next political-email hit-piece.  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Realities of Air Launch to Low Earth Orbit

Air launch to LEO works better if you take into account the three top items in their order of importance:  (1) staging speed,  (2) path angle at staging,  and (3) staging altitude.  These three items are not even close to equal importance,  speed is simply everything (an unfortunate technological fact-of-life).  You get do-able second stage mass ratios starting about Mach 5 to 6,  and reasonable second-stage mass ratios at about Mach 10,  for two-stage vehicles. 

Speed at staging figures directly into the delta-vee requirements associated with the rocket equation for the second stage.  Path angle at staging gets you to a second stage trajectory that needs no lift (and no drag-due-to-lift) for a simple non-lifting ballistic trajectory to orbit.  Altitude at staging gets you some extra energy in the flight vehicle energy-management equations,  but is the weakest of the three effects,  by far. 

An all-rocket first stage airplane can do this job,  but it is of enormous size,  with some very serious structural issues having to do with landing gear loads that start to resemble a water balloon resting on nails.  That’s a common sense thing,  as well as a structural design thing.  On the other hand,  you can save weight by using airbreathing propulsion to the greatest extent possible in that first stage.  “Greatest extent” simply means the widest-possible range of speeds.  That’s just common sense.

Scramjet is neither ready-for-prime-time technologically,  nor a wide speed-range type of propulsion just yet (X-51 flew in scramjet at Mach 5 +/- 0.1).  It takes over at about Mach 4 ,  minimum,  so going for Mach 10 capability,  you cover only a delta-Mach of 6.  If your scramjet system really only gets you to Mach 7 or 8 as currently seems practical,  well,  the delta-Mach drops to 3 or 4.  That’s a lot more likely outcome for the next few decades.

The fastest turbines that ever were (those powering the SR-71),  were good only to about Mach 3.6-ish,  which is woefully short of an adequate staging speed.  So such a first stage would require rockets as well,  and also some protection for the engines against overheated inlet air,  at speeds above Mach 3.6-ish,  which the SR-71 never had.  If the turbine-powered stage can take off on only-turbine power,  then the airbreathing delta-Mach is about 3.6-ish at maximum,  since turbine supplies static (Mach 0) thrust. 

Plain ramjet technology has been well-proven in flight for many decades now,  and can be arranged to work from Mach 1.8-ish to Mach 6 quite easily.  That's a delta-Mach of 4.2-ish.  That figure is at least as good as the more realistic scramjet concepts,  and better than any of the turbine concepts.  So,  of the choices,  it’s quite simply the best,  especially when you look at technological readiness-for-application.  That’s just basic common sense plus the facts of technological readiness. 

If one were to do a combined rocket-ramjet propulsion airplane for a first stage,  we would take off on rocket at Mach 0 and accelerate to about Mach 1.8,  then transition to ramjet and climb-and-accelerate to Mach 6 as high as is feasible,  then go back on rocket power,  pull up sharply,  and accelerate exoatmospheric to speeds that would have been near Mach 10 in the air.  And,  with ramjet,  there’s less susceptibility to overheated inlet air (no turbomachinery to damage).

That switching back and forth between rocket and ramjet requires either combined-cycle or parallel-burn (with separate engines).  Combined cycle is quite simply not technologically ready for prime time,  and has always very seriously compromised the performance of both propulsion cycles,  because of the incompatible engine geometries.  So parallel-burn with separate engines really is the way to go!  Basic common sense.   

The hardest part of the design is packaging the rocket engines somewhere in the airframe,  because the ramjet will essentially fill the fuselage (a hard technological fact-of-life).  But the rocket thrust chambers are actually quite small,  and will fit inside the aft portions of the wing strakes or fillets.  Plus,  there is now aerospike nozzle technology to eliminate drag-inducing huge engine bells.  The next hardest part of the design will be inlet and combustor heat protection-as-reusable devices,  not one-shot ablatives as in missile work. 

This could have been done at least 2 decades ago.  It was not. 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Education Disaster!

The Wednesday 8-13-14 “Trib” has an opinion-page article warning that the two demoted Waco ISD principals were not the sole cause of their schools’ poor performance on the new standardized tests.  I agree,  and want to present my opinion about the truth of poor performance,  and extend it to statewide,  not just Waco ISD. 

And permit me to be extremely blunt,  in the interests of total clarity.

There is a 3-part disaster that has overwhelmed the public school system in this state (and I contend elsewhere,  too).  Until those three things are all fixed,  this horrible disaster will continue.  Those three things are:

(1) Tying funding to the outcome of a low-ball standardized test,  in the name of a political slogan (“accountability”) that has nothing to do with how education actually functions in the classroom.

(2) “Social promotion”,  meaning passing students to the next grade or class,  even though they have not mastered the necessary skills to succeed.

 (3) Grade inflation,  which has made GPA’s and diplomas meaningless in both the workplace and in the hunt for admission to college.

The standardized testing disaster is about 30 years old now.  Its hallmark characteristics are (a) the perennial promise that “things will improve because we will hold people accountable”,   (b) the perennial result that things do not improve,  and (c) the testing standard is always a minimum “low-ball” expectation of student performance. 

One operational definition of insanity is repeating the same things over and over,  and expecting a different outcome.  TEAMS,  TAAS,  TAKS,  now STAAR,  nothing about this series of test incarnations is really any different at all.  Nothing has ever improved,  excepting some very limited local exceptions (which prove to have nothing to do with testing and “accountability”,  upon close inspection). 

Question:  why are we still doing this,  when it is quite demonstrably insane? 

Answer:  follow the money.  Not only is this a mindless scheme for allocating increasingly-scarce resources from an increasingly-stingy state,  but also it has spawned an enormous parasitic business community supplying testing materials and “test training” materials for students,  for profit. 

That’s where a lot of the money now goes,  that used to go to school funding.  A lot of the rest funds the burgeoning bureaucracy instead of schools themselves.  Miseducation-for-profit.  Evil.

Anybody who has ever set a goal for others knows that you must set the mark high.  A few will reach it,  most will fall short,  that’s just life.  If you set the mark high,  many of those falling short will still perform acceptably.  If you set the mark low,  all those falling short will fail. 

All of these standardized tests have been and still are low-ball marks.  Wrong idea!  Worse-than-useless. 

Tying funding to the standardized test puts extreme pressure on schools to teach only to the test,  which is a low-ball mark,  guaranteeing failure,  actually.  Money talks louder than the law,  as we all already know. 

So it doesn’t matter that the law says “teach your subject”,  the money says otherwise.  “If it ain’t on the test,  it don’t get taught”.  Bad idea!  Very great evil!

The other two evils are older than the standardized testing disaster.  I saw their beginnings around me in the mid 1950’s. 

Social promotion comes from being more concerned about self-esteem than about demonstrable mastery of knowledge and skills.   But,  the workplace only values mastery of knowledge and skills,  it doesn’t care one whit about self-esteem!   None of my contemporaries who were “socially promoted” ever did well in subsequent grades. 

So,  social promotion demonstrably doesn’t work,  and it is the wrong preparation for the workplace.  Why are we still doing this?  Extremely bad idea! 

Grade inflation comes about from not grading student results on an absolute standard (grading-on-the-curve).  The old absolute standard was usually 70% for passing,  as determined by experience in previous centuries.  It worked then,  it’ll still work now.  Simple as that. 

Generally speaking,  there is content appropriate to each grade or course,  and test materials of many kinds have long been available to assess whether students have mastered the content.  For centuries,  this is how teachers at all levels did their jobs quite effectively. Graduating students actually knew their stuff.  But no more!

Why did we quit doing this?  It has made diplomas worthless.   Graduates are unfit for the workplace.  This is completely insane!

Final comments:

In earlier decades,  accountability came about entirely locally by the principal knowing whether or not his teachers were doing their jobs effectively.  That was his job:  to know and to act.  The superintendent’s job was to know whether his principals were doing theirs,  and to act.  The school board’s job was to know whether its superintendent was doing his job,  and to act.  All local,  with the school board accountable at the local polls.

This local control system that worked so well has been usurped by state (and now federal) bureaucrats intent on micromanaging and controlling all aspects of education to a one-size-fits-all formula.  It’s all based on the demonstrably-insane idea of low-ball standardized testing,  which today so profoundly distorts classroom teaching and curriculum away from what was developed over the centuries.  It is also very expensive to operate vast bureaucracies like that. 

Please be careful who you elect to statewide office:  they have been driving this disaster for the last 3 decades,  at the very least.  All that we really need from the state is (a) the money,  and (b) a proper list of what to teach in each grade and class (which we already have).  Local control supplies all the accountability we ever needed. 

I’m not sure we need anything from the feds.  Their money always has insane strings attached.

The rest of the insane state education superstructure that we have let build up over the last few decades needs to be destroyed,  and not replaced.  There would be a lot more money to go around directly to the schools that way. 

Beware:  this same insanity is also beginning to creep into higher education! 

To paraphrase Smokey the Bear:  only you can prevent this disaster,  at the polls. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

On Calls for More Gun Control

Elliot Rodger is the latest mass shooter whose actions provoke calls for "more gun control".  It is easy in the heat of the moment to listen to emotion rather than reason.  It helps to look at the numbers.

Here’s a non-comprehensive list of seven recent mass shooting incidents that grabbed media attention.  The list has names,  where it happened,  and a judgement as to why.  There are two patterns,  one predominant. 
Of the seven,  four were known to have mental problems,  but were able to get guns legally,  because no court ever found them crazy and institutionalized them.  That’s the criterion currently used to “exclude” people judged to be crazy from getting guns,  and it clearly doesn’t work right. 

In the case of Jared Loughner,  the store that sold him his guns was reported as definitely uncomfortable doing so,  but had no grounds to deny the sale.  The background check revealed no court judgement as to Loughner’s sanity.  They were faced with a person who obviously had mental problems,  but a clean record as to his sanity.  Yet his friends,  his college faculty,  and his doctors all knew he had problems. 

Elliot Rodger.......CA girl shooter.........crazy,  never institutionalized
Wade Page.........Sikh temple shooter..seduced by extremist politics
Jared Loughner...AZ rep shooter.........crazy,  never institutionalized
James Holmes.....CO theater shooter...crazy,  never institutionalized
Harris&Klebold..Columbine school......crazy,  never institutionalized
Adam Lanza.......Newtown CT school..crazy,  never institutionalized, criminal act
Nidal Hasan........Ft. Hood...................seduced by extremist religion

Of the seven,  there was one (Lanza) widely-known to have serious mental problems,  who was denied owning guns by his mother,  but still encouraged to use them for sport under his mother’s supervision.  This didn’t “work” either,  since he killed his mother to get her guns and go shoot up that school.  Guns (even locked up) in the same house with a crazy person just isn’t a good idea.

The other two in the list were seduced by extremist politics or religion into committing their crimes.  This is the same phenomena that creates home-grown terrorists like the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston,  and most recently a Florida resident who became a suicide bomber in Syria.  It is a significant enough effect to worry about. 

Dealing with the Mental Health Leak

What this tells me is that the way we do background checks is very flawed with respect to mental health problems.  It is currently an “either-or” choice based on a court judgement of insanity.  What we need is more gradual and less legally-formalized. 

The sense that a potential gun customer “isn’t quite right” should trigger a deeper look than the simple records search background check for a court judgement.  It should trigger the local police doing interviews of associates and health providers as to their perceptions of mental fitness. 

The idea is increasing impediments with increasing evidence of mental problems,  not just an “on-off switch set too high”,  as it is now.  Had that been in place,  it is likely that 4 of the 7 incidents listed would not have taken place.  But,  doing it effectively but fairly will require thought,  debate,  and compromise. 

Dealing with Seduction by Extremism

This applies to explosives as well as guns.  In addition to the two mass shooter cases listed,  plus the Tsarnaev brothers,  and the recent Florida suicide bomber,  there was also the Oklahoma City bomber.  All of these were known to be believers in either extremist politics or extremist religion before committing their acts. 

The same sort of idea should be used:  increasing impediments to gun (or potentially-explosive materials) purchases with increasing evidence of extremist belief.  Exactly how to do that fairly will require thought,  debate,  and compromise. 

Other Observations

The two main gun control schemes popular in politics are magazine size limits,  and a ban on semi-automatic rifles that cosmetically-resemble military machine guns.  Neither would be effective,  as some simple calculations demonstrate. 

                Clip Size Limits

For an out in-the-open scenario,  shots must be aimed to hit people.  That takes about two seconds per shot for a well-trained shooter,  with recent practice.  It also takes about 5 seconds to change a clip. 

To get off 100 shots with 30-round clips will take about 60 seconds per full clip,  three full clips,  with three clip changes (15 more seconds),  plus 10 more rounds out of the fourth clip (20 more seconds).  That’s 100 shots in 215 seconds.

Using instead 8-round clips (16 seconds to empty),  the same 100 shots requires 12 full clips (12 changes for 60 seconds) and 4 shots out of a thirteenth (8 more seconds).  That totals to 260 seconds.  The difference is only 45 seconds in almost 4 minutes time.  Limiting clip size will not have a significant effect.

For an enclosed-space scenario,  shots need not be aimed,  because people are tightly-packed together in the worst case,  such as a classroom.  It takes about a half-second between trigger pulls.  It still takes 5 seconds to change clips.

100 shots with 30-round clips:  3 full clips (45 seconds plus 15 seconds changing 3 clips) plus 10 shots from the 4th clip (5 more seconds).  That’s 65 seconds for 100 shots.

100 shots with 8-round clips: 12 full clips at 4 seconds each plus 60 seconds changing clips 12 times) plus 4 rounds (2 seconds) from the thirteenth clip.  That’s 100 shots in 110 seconds. 

The difference is still only 45 seconds.  Having to change more clips doubles the time,  but both times are still quite short.  The smaller clip is just not that much of an impediment to kill lots of people.    

                Ban on Semi-Automatic Weapons that Look Like Machine Guns

It’s a semi-automatic rifle with a firing rate of 1 aimed shot every 2 seconds,  or 2 non-aimed shots every second,  no matter what it looks like.  Same firing rate.  No difference in how fast one can kill with it.  So,  what’s the point of banning cosmetic appearance? 

                Response Times

There’s perfectly-good reasons to declare gun free zones today,  just as in the Old West.  But you have to defend them,  or the people therein are sitting-duck targets.  Towns being small in the Old West,  an armed deputy could be anywhere in town in 60 seconds at a dogtrot.  That actually worked quite well.

The shooting scenario times calculated above range from 1 minute to just over 4 minutes.  That’s why the Old West 1 minute response worked as well as it did,  and it is why the same standard applies today. 


Fix the mental health leak in the background check process.  It’s the most effective thing we could do,  by far. 

Forget the rest of the popular gun control proposals.  They’re demonstrably ineffective. 

Cut police emergency response times nearer to 1 minute.  If this takes armed guards on site,  then so be it.  Just make sure they are trained as peace officers,  they’ll need to be.  

Start thinking about how to impede gun (and explosive materials) purchases by those known to hold extremist beliefs.

Update 6-7-14:

The latest shooter incident at Pacific College actually proves my points about gun-free zones.  The local law enforcement confirms that if the student with the pepper spray had not acted to take-on the shooter,  the death toll would have been worse.  That proves my first point about the required response time to defend a gun free zone.

The fact that the student with the pepper spray was successful,  being an almost-unarmed civilian,  was due to the shooter's poor choice of weapon.  He was using a shotgun,  not a clip-fed weapon.   The extended time to reload gave the student his chance to take the shooter down.

In a reverse way,  this proves my second point,  because this would not have worked,  had the shooter been using a clip-fed weapon.  That would have required the student to have been armed equally or better,  and to have been trained to do this kind of dangerous work.

My second point is: defenders of gun free zones need to be real peace officers with real training and proper weapons.   Civilians (including school teachers) with concealed-carry permits,  do not qualify.  Just "bite the bullet" and hire qualified guards.  That's the right decision.

Update 6-8-14:

A version of this article appeared as a guest column in the Waco Tribune-Herald newspaper today (Sunday).

Friday, April 18, 2014

Congrats to Spacex

News reports today (Friday 4-18-2014) show (1) successful launch of Falcon-9R,  (2) successful injection of Dragon onto orbit,  targeted for rendezvous with ISS Sunday,  and (3) data received from 1st stage of Falcon-9R for 8 seconds after (after !!!!) landing in the Atlantic.

Congrats to Spacex!!!  Very,  very,  very well done!!!


Update 4-27-2014:  news in the last few days indicates two things:  (1) Spacex is suing the US government to break the government-mandated monopoly held by ULA in the military payload launch business,  and (2) it appears more and more likely that Spacex will build its private launch facility in far south Texas.  Both are very good news indeed.

Update 5-15-14:  In recent days we have seen a court-ordered stay forbidding the purchase of RD-180 engines from Russia for ULA's Atlas-5,  followed by a vacating of that very stay,  based on government agency testimony.

Testimony that buying those engines from a company run by an individual under sanction,  does not violate said sanction!  "Curioser and curioser," said Alice.

And,  we have seen that same Russian company,  via its sanctioned executive,  say that it will not sell any more RD-180 engines to the US for purposes of military launch,  nor will it provide product support for those already sold.

Now,  ULA has engines in inventory to support the next block of military launches using Atlas-5,  but will get no product support from Russia anymore.  This is the block of launches that Spacex was denied access to competing for (provoking the lawsuit).

Does it not seem stupid in the extreme to depend on rocket engines from what is now a hostile power,  for our military space launches?  Does anybody else get that impression?

Please comment!!


Update 8-7-14:  News releases indicate that Spacex has decided to build their all-commercial launch facility in South Texas.  That is wonderful news.  From there,  there's plenty of dry-land options available to recover and re-use first stages from Falcon-9 and Falcon-Heavy (same article,  just 3 at a time).  Prospects for dry-land recovery are not so good for any of the Atlantic coast launch locations.  Re-usability issues must have figured into that location decision.

A few weeks earlier,  Musk revealed Dragon version 2,  the manned capsule.  It's quite spacious inside.  The all-propulsive pinpoint landing without using parachutes is very,  very intriguing.  No one has offered hard numbers,  but the heat shield is good enough for a free-return from Mars,  which is far beyond what is required to return from the moon.  Thus,  that capsule could be re-flown dozens,  perhaps a hundred,  times from Earth orbit before needing heat shield replacement.  Musk really is quite serious about re-usability.