Los Angeles: The world’s largest aircraft took off over the Mojave Desert in California, the first flight for the carbon-composite plane built by Stratolaunch Systems Corp, started by late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, as the company enters the lucrative private space market.
The white airplane called Roc, which has a wingspan the length of an American football field and is powered by six engines on a twin fuselage, took to the air shortly before 7 am Pacific time (1400 GMT) and stayed aloft for more than two hours before landing safely back at the Mojave Air and Space Port as a crowd of hundreds of people cheered.
“What a fantastic first flight,” Stratolaunch Chief Executive Officer Jean Floyd said in a statement posted to the company’s website.
“Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems, Floyd said. “We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, today’s flight crew, our partners at Northrup Grumman’s Scaled Composites and the Mojave Air and Space Port.”
The plane is designed to drop rockets and other space vehicles weighing up to 5,00,000 pounds at an altitude of 35,000 feet and has been billed by the company as making satellite deployment as “easy as booking an airline flight.” Saturday’s flight, which saw the plane reach a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour and altitudes of 17,000 feet, was meant to test its performance and handling qualities, according to Stratolaunch.
Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, announced in 2011 that he had formed the privately funded Stratolaunch.
The company seeks to cash in on higher demand in coming years for vessels that can put satellites in orbit, competing in the United States with other space entrepreneurs and industry stalwarts such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and United Launch Alliance — a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Stratolaunch has said that it intends to launch its first rockets from the Roc in 2020 at the earliest. Allen died in October 2018 while suffering from non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma, just months after the plane’s development was unveiled.
“We all know Paul would have been proud to witness today’s historic achievement,” said Jody Allen, Chair of Vulcan Inc and Trustee of the Paul G. Allen Trust. “The aircraft is a remarkable engineering achievement and we congratulate everyone involved.” Reuters
‘Window dressing, made no difference,’ says US on Hafiz Saeed’s previous arrest
Washington: The Trump Administration expressed doubts over Pakistan’s intentions in arresting terrorist Hafiz Muhammed Saeed, the mastermind of the 2001 Parliament attack and the 2008 Mumbai attack, saying his previous arrests made no difference either to his activities or that of his outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba.
“We’ve seen this happen in the past. And we have been looking for sustained and concrete steps, not just window dressing,” a senior administration official told reporters Friday, ahead of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the US next week.
Saeed, a UN-designated terrorist was arrested on Wednesday — the seventh times since December 2001, when he was nabbed in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament.
“Let me reassure you, we are clear eyed about the history here. We’re under no illusions about the support that we could see from Pakistan’s military intelligence services to these groups. So we will look for concrete action,” the official said when asked about the actions that Pakistan has taken against terrorist group and if the US believes in them.
“I noticed that Pakistan has taken some initial steps such as pledging to seize assets of some of these terrorist groups. And, of course, they put under arrest yesterday Hafiz Muhammed Saeed, the leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba which is responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks,” said the official requesting anonymity.
But the official quickly noted that this was the seventh time that Saeed was arrested since 2001 attack on India’s Parliament when he was detained right after that attack and was subsequently released.
“That is why we are very clear eyed and realistic when you see him arrested” as he has been arrested and released in the past. “So we would look to see that Pakistan take sustained action in actually prosecuting these people,” the official said.
“Quite frankly, the previous arrest of Hafiz Muhammed Saeed hasn’t made a difference and the LeT has been has been able to operate. So we’re monitoring the situation,” said the senior administration official as reporters asked questions on the links between Pakistani intelligence services and terrorist groups.
The US “remains concerned” about terrorist groups that continue to operate in Pakistan, such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Haqqani network. “We do have concerns about link between these groups and Pakistan intelligence services in military. That’s no secret,” the official said.
The US, the official said, welcomes Prime Minister Khan’s pledge that Pakistan will not allow its soil to be used by militant groups and its vocal leadership and the Trump Administration is pressing for a new direction in this regard.
According to the official, the US has seen some initial steps with Pakistan pledging to seize the assets of some of these terrorist leaders, pledged to reform the madrasa and has taken under administrative control some of the facilities owned by these groups.
Prime Minister Khan himself said that Pakistan cannot reach its full potential unless it has peace and stability in the region. Of course, peace and stability in the region would require it to crack down on the terrorist and militant groups that are creating the instability, the official said. Pakistan really needs to prove that this time they are something different, he said.
It’s our America: Michelle Obama weighs in on Trump
Washington: Former first lady Michelle Obama added her voice to the Democratic outcry following President Donald Trump’s attack on four ethnic minority congresswomen, saying “there’s a place for all of us.”
“What truly makes our country great is its diversity… Whether we are born here or seek refuge here, there’s a place for all of us,” Obama tweeted, without mentioning Trump.
“We must remember it’s not my America or your America. It’s our America.”
Trump has come under intense fire after he attacked four first-term Democratic congresswomen known as the “Squad.”
In a rare move, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on Tuesday rebuked Trump for “racist comments” after he said the four should “go back” to their countries of origin if they are not happy in the United States.
But chants of “Send her back!” directed at Somali-born congresswoman Ilhan Omar broke out at Trump’s “Make America Great Again” rally in Greenville, North Carolina on Wednesday night.
Trump claimed to reporters in the Oval Office the following day that he was not pleased by the taunts and attempted to cut them short.
Television footage, however, showed he let the chant continue for more than 10 seconds before he resumed speaking.
“Those are incredible people. Those are incredible patriots,” Trump told reporters outside the White House on Friday when asked about the chants.
“She’s lucky to be where she is, let me tell you,” he added about Omar.
The first-term lawmakers — all but one of whom, Omar, were born in the United States — are of Hispanic, Arab, Somali and African-American descent.
Some Republicans have urged Trump to tone down the rhetoric, but the president has made it clear that attacks on the “Squad” will be a centerpiece of his 2020 re-election strategy — despite the risk of inflaming racial tensions and widening the partisan divide.
Omar responded to the chants by condemning Trump’s “racist remarks” and branding him a “fascist.”
The president’s “nightmare is seeing a Somali immigrant refugee rise to Congress,” she told supporters when she returned home to Minnesota Thursday night.
“We are going to continue to be a nightmare to this president, because his policies are a nightmare to us,” she said through a megaphone to the cheering crowd at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
During talks with Pak PM, Trump to seek release of doctor who helped track Osama
Washington: US President Donald Trump, during his meeting next week with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, would seek the release of jailed Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi who helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden, a senior administration official said Friday.
The two leaders are scheduled to meet at the White House on Monday.
“This is an extremely important issue to the President and the American people. I think Pakistan could demonstrate its leadership role in the region and among the international community by freeing Dr Afridi who remains unjustly imprisoned in Pakistan,” a senior administration official told reporters Friday.
Before being elected as the president of the United States Trump had said during his campaign that he will get Afridi freed within two minutes from Pakistan.
Afridi helped the CIA track down al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in 2011. He was later arrested and is currently serving a jail-term in Pakistan.
In an interview to Voice of America, the lawyer and family of Dr Afridi, expressed hope that Trump and Khan would discuss his release.
“Dr Afridi can’t sleep properly due to harsh conditions and sweltering heat as there is no window in the cell where he is kept. Imran Khan is visiting the US, but if Dr Afridi remains in pain, then I think the visit won’t be a success,” his lawyer Qamar Nadeem told the VOA.
The United States has requested Pakistan to free Dr Afridi, the senior administration official told a group of reporters ahead of the Monday meeting between Trump and Khan.
“We have clearly and regularly communicated this to Pakistan at the highest level in public and private and will continue to do so until he is released. Pakistan’s leadership will be judged by treatment of Dr Afridi, while he remains in prisons. We are calling on Pakistan to release him,” said the senior administration official.
Describing Dr Afridi as a “hero”, the senior administration official said that he helped the US capture the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, the worst terrorist incident in history.
“This is something that is of the utmost importance to us. It is likely to come up (during the meeting),” the official said, adding that it remains a very important issue for the US. He has been unjustly imprisoned, the official said.