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Crafty_Dog
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« on: February 13, 2009, 12:39:02 PM »

U.S, Russia: The Implications of a Collision in Space
Stratfor Today » February 12, 2009 | 2155 GMT

USAF/Getty Images
A Delta-II rocket carrying Iridium satellites

Summary

An operational Iridium communications satellite and an old Russian communications relay satellite (widely reported as decommissioned) collided Feb. 10 over northern Siberia, destroying both spacecraft. Though details are still emerging, such an incident is extraordinarily unlikely. This unlikelihood itself may help shed light on the event and its implications.

Analysis
Reports of the collision of two satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) on Feb. 10 hit the world presses the morning of Feb. 12. One of the crafts involved was an operational Iridium Satellite LLC communications satellite (part of the U.S. company’s extensive constellation); the other was an old Russian communications relay satellite that has been widely reported as nonoperational for roughly a decade. Stratfor is patently unconcerned with the collision’s effects on Iridium’s global coverage, even though that coverage is commonly thought to include extensive service to the U.S. military. (The company says that any impact was minimal.) Nor is Stratfor particularly troubled by the potential danger to the International Space Station (ISS), which also was reported to be minimal — the ISS orbits well below the altitude of the collision.

What is disconcerting is that the collision happened at all. Everything that has followed so far — the statements from NASA, U.S. Strategic Command and Iridium and the questions about debris danger (especially to the ISS) — is all par for the course.

The operational Iridium 33 (NORAD ID 24946) communications satellite and the reportedly long-decommissioned Cosmos 2251 (NORAD ID 22675) collided over northern Siberia just before 1700 GMT on Feb. 10. At an altitude of 491 miles, the incident took place well within the most heavily used band of LEO. Nevertheless, this is the first time in history that two satellites have collided. The statistical likelihood of this happening — despite how “crowded” that particular band of LEO is — is extraordinarily low, as the distances and vast empty spaces involved are enormous. In addition, the U.S. military cooperates with other agencies and entities that operate satellites in order to predict and prevent potential collisions. If these two satellites’ orbits were indeed stable, any collision should have been foreseen (though even the U.S. military cannot constantly track every object in the sky).

This is therefore an anomalous event. And there are essentially two ways to look at it.

First is the skeptical view — that because the statistical likelihood is so low, something more is at play here. While more details will always shed more light on an event, this point of view is based on the idea that if the odds against an accidental event are in effect astronomical, then what might appear to be incidental might have been deliberate.

In short, any object in space can be an anti-satellite weapon. The speed of orbital velocity (thousands to tens of thousands of miles per hour) makes the impact of even a screw or a bolt potentially catastrophic. The problem is one of guidance.

Related Links
United States: The Weaponization of Space
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Space and the U.S. Military: Operationally Responsive Space
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U.S.: The Real Reason Behind Ballistic Missile Defense
Old Russian satellites might not be completely out of commission even after they cease to be useful for their original purpose. They might retain some maneuvering propellant, for example. But while an old satellite could be nudged into another’s path — in the case of Iridium 33, an established, stable orbit — the matter is a bit more complicated. While two 1,000- to 2,000-pound satellites are not small, they are not large, either. Actually achieving a collision requires more refined maneuvering capability and guidance, something not necessarily resident in the average early 1990s communications relay satellite (if that was all Cosmos 2251 really was).

Stratfor is not asserting that a long-dormant communications relay satellite was directed to hit another satellite. There is currently no evidence of it, and such an event has extremely long odds. But in an event that appears to be so improbable, some foul play is a potential explanation — especially in the year after the United States unequivocally demonstrated its anti-satellite capability in response to the 2007 Chinese anti-satellite demonstration. Russia is historically the only other player in the anti-satellite game, and at the moment, Moscow is seeking to convince Washington in as many ways as possible that Russia should be treated with deference and respect.

The alternative explanation is that reality no longer conforms to the conventional wisdom on the utter improbability of such a collision. Obviously, statistical probability is rooted in mathematical calculations, and there is no doubt that this event is both extraordinary and improbable. But the alternative to the deliberate cause theory is that the unlikely nevertheless took place.

Statistical realities remain, and even the most unlikely event can happen. Either way, satellites are not about to start dropping out of the sky. But a completely accidental collision could imply that what has traditionally been completely improbable is becoming, increasingly, merely unlikely — that the traffic in LEO has begun to approach a threshold where a new traffic management scheme is becoming necessary. The traffic management and debris problems in LEO have become increasingly prominent in recent years — there is no air traffic control in space — and the Pentagon has been clamoring for more money to protect its space-based assets and track debris.

In short, the Feb. 10 collision reportedly took place at orbital velocities of 17,500 miles per hour. Such energetic events create particularly large amounts of debris. Early estimates suggest some 600 pieces will be added to the list of some 18,000 objects currently cataloged and tracked orbiting the earth. Collisions like this increase the danger for satellites and manned spaceflight alike in those orbits and thus degrade the usability of whole swaths of LEO. This comes just as more and more countries (most recently Iran) are recognizing the economic and military benefits of satellites and are moving to become spacefaring. Though they are unlikely to occur through accident and coincidence, too many of these collisions and energetic events would considerably increase the debris problem. Such a development would begin to dramatically alter the landscape of LEO.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2011, 12:02:08 AM »

By ANDY PASZTOR
Private spacecraft will begin docking with the International Space Station before the end of the year, months sooner than planned, after NASA gave the green light for the first cargo delivery by such a capsule.

Space Exploration Technology Corp. said the U.S. space agency has given tentative approval for it to conduct the late November flight. The launch will accelerate the shift to private ventures for future manned missions.

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.The flight will feature the initial effort to dock the company's Dragon capsule—the pioneer commercial spacecraft— with the space station, orbiting more than 200 miles above the earth.

In accelerating by at least several months the timetable for linking up with the station, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will provide the company and other private space outfits a symbolic and potentially important financial boost. Closely held SpaceX, as it is known, is based in Hawthorne, Calif., and was founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk.

The technical sign-off by NASA is expected to be followed shortly by final agency approval. And it marks a transition for the U.S. manned-exploration program, which previously relied entirely on government-funded and federally operated boosters and space vehicles to take both astronauts and cargo into space.

The latest schedule shift, according to some industry officials, also appears intended to deflect criticism that commercial space-transportation providers may find it difficult to quickly replace NASA's recently retired space shuttles.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, slated to blast the capsule into orbit, is nearly three years behind the company's ambitious early projections. SpaceX originally envisioned as many as four test flights in 2010 to show that the booster and the capsule would be ready for service.

Until a few months ago, NASA officials were still expecting a pair of demonstration flights of the Dragon capsule in 2011 to ensure the safety and reliability of its systems. According to that scenario, SpaceX would have had to demonstrate rendezvous and berthing capabilities in separate flights.

Monday, SpaceX said the agency "has agreed in principle" to combine separate software and hardware tests into a single mission, slated to blast off at the end of November on a Falcon 9 rocket and dock with the station about a week later.

As a result, SpaceX expects to use the upcoming flight to deliver the first few hundred pounds of crew supplies to orbit. If all goes well, that will be at least several months faster than was projected under previous NASA schedules.

In its Monday release, SpaceX said that by combining government and private funding, it hopes to increase the reliability, safety and frequency of space travel. Depending on demand, the company said it has manufacturing plans that could turn out up to six Dragon capsules annually. A spokeswoman for the company, which signed more than a dozen launch contracts in the past year, said the late 2011 mission "kicks off what will be a rapid increase in the frequency" of operations.

Last December, SpaceX became the first company to successfully launch and recover a capsule from Earth orbit.

The pear-shaped Dragon capsules are slated to begin regular cargo-delivery missions for NASA in 2012, under a $1.6 billion commercial contract structured to pay the company based on the total amount of material shipped to the space station.Such performance-based payouts weren't part of traditional NASA contracts, which often relied on features that assured contractor profits regardless of delays or budget overruns.

Seeking to cut costs and revitalize NASA for deep-space exploration, President Barack Obama wants to use private space taxis to support the space station. NASA has provided seed money to SpaceX and a number of other companies to work on projects capable of transporting astronauts to and from the station by the second half of this decade.

Simultaneously, SpaceX and other commercial-space groups are vying to provide larger rockets and more-capable capsules, required for longer-term manned missions to venture deeper into the solar system.

NASA officials have said they are pleased with the progress made by SpaceX but also intend to continue to pursue other options, including a rival commercial rocket-capsule combination that has its own contracts to deliver cargo to orbit.

Between the fall of 2006 and spring of 2011, congressional auditors determined that NASA paid SpaceX more than $290 million for certain work to develop and test the company's cargo-transportation system. According to the same report, the company achieved more than three-quarters of 40 pre-determined milestones on schedule.

The accelerated cargo-delivery schedule comes as NASA and congressional leaders continue to spar over the cost and schedule of a proposed NASA heavy-lift rocket eventually intended to take astronauts to an asteroid and beyond.

NASA officials have said they are refining final cost estimates for a heavy-lift rocket able to blast 130 tons into space. It would emphasize space-shuttle designs and, at least initially, rely on solid rocket-motor technology. In later versions, NASA experts envision shifting more to liquid propellants and in-orbit refueling options.

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Space Exploration Technology CEO Elon Musk
.NASA's proposed next-generation rocket would fly just twice in the next 10 years and, along with a manned capsule dubbed Orion, could carry a price tag as high as $38 billion, according to industry officials and lawmakers. Inside and outside NASA, critics of the heavy-lift alternative have said those cost and schedule projections compare unfavorably with projects being pursued by SpaceX and its peers.

NASA has also been hit by bipartisan criticism it hasn't adequately complied with congressional mandates to use shuttle-derived technologies for its proposed heavy-lift rocket. These critics fault its long-range exploration plans for improperly favoring commercially developed manned systems.

To try to resolve that dispute, some lawmakers have taken the extraordinary step of voting to issue congressional subpoenas to obtain internal NASA documents detailing agency decision-making. Such critics have accused agency officials of trying to sabotage the heavy-lift rocket concept, by giving Congress allegedly inflated cost figures and unrealistically long development timetables for that launcher system.

Write to Andy Pasztor at andy.pasztor@wsj.com

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2011, 05:39:29 PM »

Our dominance in outer space WAS a vital piece of our military superiority.  Baraq is throwing it away.  This is one of his most serious errors.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15523123
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« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2011, 05:46:21 PM »

Our dominance in outer space WAS a vital piece of our military superiority.  Baraq is throwing it away.  This is one of his most serious errors.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15523123

An error implies it's not on purpose.

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« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2011, 10:12:55 AM »


Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen indicated he is prepared to commit $200 million or more of his wealth to build the world's largest airplane as a mobile platform for launching satellites at low cost, which he believes could transform the space industry.

Announced Tuesday, the novel, high-risk project conceived by renowned aerospace designer Burt Rutan seeks to combine engines, landing gears and other parts removed from old Boeing 747 jets with a newly created composite craft from Mr. Rutan and a powerful rocket to be built by a company run by Internet billionaire and commercial-space pioneer Elon Musk.

Dubbed Stratolaunch and funded by one of Mr. Allen's closely held entities, the venture seeks to meld decades-old airplane technology with cutting-edge booster-rocket designs in an unprecedented way to assemble a hybrid that would offer the first totally privately funded space transportation system.

The ultimate goal—which has eluded corporate and government rocket scientists for decades—is to build a reliable and flexible aircraft-based launch option capable of hurling satellites as heavy as a pickup truck into low-earth orbit.

Intent on recycling parts to reduce both development time and expense, Mr. Allen nonetheless conceded in an interview that "the price of admission is stiff for these kinds of projects."

Messrs. Rutan and Allen, who made history in 2004 by teaming up on SpaceShip One, the first privately built rocket ship to reach the edge of space, now hope to modify and supersize that same concept. Industry officials estimate Mr. Allen spent at least $25 million on their original venture, and he doesn't dispute that.

Without releasing specific numbers, the billionaire investor and philanthropist reiterated Tuesday that the latest effort "will end up costing at least an order of magnitude more than I put into SpaceShip One."

Stressing that he has "long dreamed about taking the next big step in space flight," Mr. Allen released a statement emphasizing he hoped to usher in "the dawn of radical change in the space launch industry." But in response to questions from reporters, he said Vulcan Inc., his Seattle-based investment company, wouldn't be ready with such a large financial commitment "if we didn't think there were going to be a lot of customers."

Related
Earlier: Budget, Technical Woes Hamper Space Ventures
Earlier: SpaceX Wins Major Deal to Launch Commercial Satellite

.Mr. Allen and his team hope to offer attractive rates well below current launch costs, which can run anywhere from $30 million to more than $200 million, depending on the weight of the payload and height of the orbit.

The concept seems to border on science fiction. It envisions a behemoth mother ship with twin, narrow fuselages, featuring six Boeing Co. 747 engines attached to a record 385-foot wingspan, plus a smaller rocket pod nestled underneath. Expected to weigh roughly 1.2 million pounds, the combination would roughly match the maximum takeoff weight of the largest, fully loaded Airbus A380 superjumbo plane, but the wings would be more than 120 feet longer than those of the Airbus A380.

Flying at roughly 30,000 feet, the craft would climb sharply just as it released the rocket, which would use a cluster of four or five engines to boost itself into orbit.

The sheer size of the endeavor presents severe engineering and production challenges. While scientists have long studied the principles of air-launched rockets—Mr. Rutan recalls beginning preliminary work on such a project as long ago as 1991—Stratolaunch Systems Inc., as the new venture is called, still hasn't firmed up critical design details.

In an interview, Gary Wentz, a former senior National Aeronautics and Space Administration official tapped as the new company's chief executive, suggested the business case for the project also may be fluid. He didn't give details about the most likely types of missions and why the new system would manage to attract a wider range of customers than NASA's phased-out Delta II rockets, which Stratolaunch hopes to replace. The Delta II's production costs and other expenses were too high to justify serving limited government and commercial markets.

Unlike conventional rockets that blast off from a pad, air-launched systems similar to the one Mr. Allen wants to put together are designed to deliver a broad range of satellites to space without the constraints of weather or optimal times and locations to try to reach specific orbits.

As a result, the project's motto is "any orbit, any time," and a big selling point is that the carrier aircraft can relocate more than 1,300 miles without refueling to search for a suitable launch location.

Costs are supposed to be kept under control partly by recycling 1960's-vintage airplane technology and partly by spreading rocket development and operating costs across various commercial, military and civilian missions. Different-size versions of the proposed rocket already have flown and are currently under development by Mr. Musk's team for U.S. government and commercial launches, as well as for foreign customers.

If all goes well, Stratolaunch officials predict test flights of the hybrid space vehicles could begin in five years and commercial operations could commence by the end of the decade. "I'm optimistic because we're reusing so much existing technology," Mr Allen said.

Ultimately, the aim is to spur human space flight, though the officials acknowledged work on a capsule that potentially could carry astronauts or, less likely, a spaceplane with wings vaguely resembling NASA's retired space shuttles, remains at an early stage.

Mr. Rutan, renowned for his engineering prowess and penchant for secrecy, said in an in interview that one of the nagging questions had been "whether you could build something big enough to deliver a significant payload to orbit." The plan calls for launching satellites weighing up to 13,500 pounds.

Scaled Composites LLC of Mojave, Calif., the company Mr. Rutan founded and sold to Northrop Grumman Corp. years ago, is slated to build the all-composite structure. Mr. Rutan retired a few months ago but agreed to sit on the new company's board. Speaking of his close relationship with Mr. Allen and calling the former Microsoft chief technologist "a visionary" when it comes to space flight, Mr. Rutan said "he is more than someone you just go to for money."

The 58-year-old billionaire, along with high-school classmate Bill Gates, wrote the programming language that led to the founding of Microsoft.Since he left Microsoft in 1983, Mr. Allen has launched into a variety of enterprises. He founded a rock museum in Seattle as well as a computer museum that houses old mammoth-sized servers. He and owns the Seattle Seahawks football team and the Portland Trailblazers basketball team. He lost $8 billion in his investment with cable company Charter Communications when it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009.

Enlarge Image

 
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Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft Corp.
.The proposed launch system also brings into the mix a third high-profile champion of commercial space flight: Mr. Musk, who so far has spent some $100 million of his personal fortune on Space Exploration Technologies Corp., a Southern California start-up that last December became the first commercial entity to successfully launch and recover a capsule from outside the atmosphere. His company, called SpaceX, is slated to supply a slimmed-down version of its Falcon 9 rocket.

With its historic breakthrough, SpaceShip One helped give birth to the fledgling space-tourism industry—its basic design was embraced by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic LLC suborbital project. Virgin Galactic also harbors dreams of satellite launches, but its primary focus will be giving thrill rides exposing passengers briefly to the sensations of weightlessness.

In a statement Tuesday, the Virgin Galactic chief said he welcomed the announcement because "the potential of the industry we are leading is immense, but will depend on the continuing emergence of truly safe, affordable and transformative technologies." Messrs. Allen And Rutan, the statement said, boast a "record in that respect (that) is unmatched."

The latest brainchild of Mr. Allen, who also thought earlier about launching a space-tourism venture, suggests the logical evolution of commercial space efforts. Until now, the budding industry has primarily featured companies operating on their own and typically eschewing connections to mainstream space firms or leaders. But Stratolaunch Systems, based in Huntsville, Ala., the center of traditional U.S. rocket design, has former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin and Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, as directors.



Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203518404577096493595261190.html#ixzz1gWg41t1j
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2011, 06:47:44 PM »

By MARY KISSEL
New York

'I wanted to create a spaceship where myself and my children could go into space, and our friends could go into space," exclaims billionaire CEO Richard Branson with his trademark toothy grin. Coming from someone else, this kind of talk might be considered mildly delusional. But in Mr. Branson's telling it's hard not to believe in the creativity of capitalism to better the world in ways you might not expect. Mr. Branson is in the Steve Jobs category of entrepreneurs—he believes that if he builds it, they will come.

I'm sitting with Mr. Branson in his Virgin Group's hip Bleecker Street offices, adorned with a big London Tube mural and modern art, ostensibly to talk about his new book, "Screw Business as Usual." Fine. After a long exposition from one of the world's best-known entrepreneurs on why it's okay to spend shareholder money on "the seemingly intractable problems in the world," I steer him into talking about his extreme tourism companies, Virgin Galactic and Virgin Oceanic.

"The best ideas come from people just wanting to create, like [Google co-founder] Larry Page in his garage just wanted to create a product that he could play with, and then you go and try to make sure that you can pay the bills at the end of the month," Mr. Branson says. He's flanked by Jean Oelwang, CEO of his empire's charitable arm, Virgin Unite, who doesn't seem pleased that I'm not interested in "high-impact social investment." But Mr. Branson is on a roll. "If I'd gone to the accountants and said, could you please work out the profit and loss of starting a spaceship company—especially when we didn't even have a spaceship—they would've laughed at me."

And for good reason. Governments have long dominated space, starting with the Soviet Union's 1957 launch of Sputnik 1. The U.S. soon followed. "If they'd used just a small fraction of that money as prize money and given it to the best commercial companies, that money would've been far better spent," Mr. Branson muses. "The $10 million [Ansari] X Prize very much sparked our move into space travel," he notes, referring to the competition organized by entrepreneur Peter Diamandis and launched in 1996.

Mr. Branson had dreamed of exploring the final frontier for decades. "I think it just simply goes back to watching the moon landing on blurry black-and-white television when I was a teenager and thinking, one day I would go to the moon—and then realizing that governments are not interested in us individuals and creating products that enable us to go into space," he says. In 1995, after making billions of dollars in the music and airline businesses, Mr. Branson registered a new company, Virgin Galactic (the name "sounded good"), at London's Companies House. Then the company started searching for rocket scientists and the right technology.

Several years later, in July 2002, Virgin's team traveled to California to check on American aerospace designer Burt Rutan's progress on the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer, a plane built "to circumnavigate the globe non-stop on a single tank of fuel," according to Virgin's website. Virgin discovered that Mr. Rutan intended to compete for the X Prize with SpaceShip One, the world's first privately developed spacecraft, financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

Mr. Branson quickly struck a deal: Virgin would license Mr. Rutan's SpaceShip One technology from Mr. Allen if he won the competition. In 2004, Mr. Rutan did just that, and Virgin Galactic was off to the races.

Fast forward to this October, when Mr. Branson and his children Sam and Holly christened Spaceport America, which advertises itself as "the world's first purpose built commercial spaceport" and is located about 55 miles north of Las Cruces, New Mexico. In typical outsize Branson fashion, the 61-year-old rappelled from the ceiling of the hangar—now called the "Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space"—and, while dangling in midair, chugged from a bottle of champagne in front of a large crowd to celebrate.


Mr. Branson is still radiating enthusiasm. "We've got just short of 500 people now signed up to go, which is actually more people than have been up to space in the history of space travel, and we hope to put those up in our first year of operation," he says, predicting the first commercial flight by "about next Christmas," although he acknowledges that there have been many delays.

He hopes "to get the price down so that hundreds of thousands of people out there will have the chance to become astronauts; not just, you know, a very, very few wealthy people." Tickets today cost $200,000, with deposits starting at $20,000. The Virgin Galactic website enjoins interested parties to "contact one of our Accredited Space Agents around the world."

What's so important about an expensive, suborbital joy ride, I ask? "If it was just about the joy ride, that would be exciting enough in itself," Mr. Branson says, leaning forward in his chair. "But the fascinating thing about adventures like that" is that when people "push the limits" and see "what they're capable of, other byproducts come that they hadn't even thought of at the time." He proceeds to tick off an impressive list.

"We can put satellites into space at a fraction of the price that it currently costs," he says—and Virgin is working with a "tiny little" company (the name of which hasn't yet been publicly disclosed) to do just that. "Whereby, for instance, [on] Google, you can see what's going on six months ago, these satellites will be able to see what's going on right now."

Mr. Branson, a longtime environmentalist, envisions using the satellites as a kind of celestial Earth-protector to monitor tree cutting in the Amazon, catch and identify ships illegally fishing, and test whether "global warming is a reality or not." (Mr. Branson is a believer in climate change, even if the U.S. still has "skeptics"—like "The Wall Street Journal," he quips.)

The scientific applications are huge. NASA has already purchased a ticket for a flight, with the intention of conducting experiments in suborbit—and why not? Unlike the old Shuttle program, which had launches a few times a year, scientists could use SpaceShip Two to conduct several experiments a week. NASA is turning itself "into a body to contract out to private companies, and that makes sense," Mr. Branson says, "but it's obviously a great pity from the American taxpayer's point of view that they didn't do that 50 years ago."

Mr. Branson is excited about the potential for faster transportation, too. "In future years, we hope that we can turn our technology into very fast intercontinental airline travel," he says. "I can't promise that we're going to pull it off, but we're definitely going to give it a try. And from suborbital we'll definitely be going orbital." Analysts tell me that Virgin Galactic's mother-ship plane, WhiteKnight Two—which ferries SpaceShip Two aloft and drops it into the atmosphere—is made of light carbon and could have military applications, too.

Mr. Branson isn't the only businessman exploring private spaceflight. California's XCOR Aerospace, for instance, is building the Lynx rocket plane, which will also carry passengers and payloads. Test flights are scheduled for late 2012. Unlike SpaceShip Two, the Lynx takes off from a runway and doesn't depend on a carrier ship, so it has lower operating costs. Tickets start at $95,000 and the company may even beat Mr. Branson into suborbital space, if Virgin Galactic continues to have delays.

Could government regulation put a damper on these private space ventures? "You've got some very innovative thinking, I think, in government in America," Mr. Branson says, with officials "realizing that to start a whole new spaceship industry, they need some flexibility and they don't need to strangle an industry at birth by overregulating." He points to laws that limit liability in case of an accident, giving kudos to the Obama administration for supporting such efforts.


Space isn't the only frontier Mr. Branson is exploring. Virgin Oceanic plans to launch a one-person submarine in 2012 to "journey to the deepest part of each of Earth's five oceans." And "we hope to be going 10,000 foot further down than Everest is high. So it's going to be quite an eerie, six- to seven-hour trip heading down. But scientists are frothing at the mouth with the possibilities of what we could discover," Mr. Branson says. "In the history of mankind," only two people have ever been below 18,000 feet and the ocean is "twice as deep" as that.

After the first solo pilot tests the sub, Mr. Branson himself will pilot it to the bottom of the Puerto Rico Trench, near his private island of Necker in the British Virgin Islands. "It's going to be ridiculously exciting and absolutely terrifying as well," he exclaims. Someday he wants to build a business like Virgin Galactic, only taking paying customers—so called "aquanauts"—into the ocean's depths, but that's still some way off.

So what advice does Mr. Branson have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Think of what frustrates you—and if you're frustrated by something and you feel 'Dammit, if only people could do this better,' then go try to do it better yourself. It can start off in a really small way . . . and you'll be surprised: If you're doing it better yourself, in whatever field it is, you'll be filling a gap and you suddenly might start creating a business."

Who knows? You might even end up in space.

Ms. Kissel is a member of the Journal's editorial board.

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« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2011, 07:53:58 AM »



BEIJING — Broadening its challenge to the United States, the Chinese government on Thursday announced an ambitious five-year plan for space exploration that would move China closer to becoming a major rival at a time when the American program is in retreat.
Coupled with China’s earlier vows to build a space station and put an astronaut on the moon, the plan conjured up memories of the cold-war-era space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. The United States, which has de-emphasized manned spaceflight in recent years, is now dependent on Russia for transporting its astronauts to the International Space Station. Russia, for its part, has suffered an embarrassing string of failed satellite launchings.
China has been looking for ways to exert its growing economic strength and to demonstrate that its technological mastery and scientific achievements can approach those of any global power. The plan announced Thursday calls for launching a space lab and collecting samples from the moon, all by 2016, along with a more powerful manned spaceship and space freighters.
In recent years, China has also sought to build a military capacity in keeping with its economic might, expanding its submarine fleet and, this year, testing its first aircraft carrier, a refurbished Soviet model. Under the new space plan, it would vastly expand its version of a Global Positioning System, which would have military as well as civilian uses.
The plan shows how the government intends to draw on military and civilian resources to meet the goals, which the government is betting will also produce benefits for the Chinese economy. “This approach offers lessons for other advanced space powers, including the U.S., which needs to make sure it sustains its high-level investment in various aspects of space development across the board,” said Andrew S. Erickson, a professor at the United States Naval War College who has studied the Chinese space program.
While a leader in the business of launching satellites, China is still years behind the United States in space. Its human spaceflight accomplishments to date put it roughly where the United States and the Soviet Union were in the mid-1960s.
But China has consistently stuck to a development timeline for its program and met the realistic goals set out in its five-year plans, which are mainstays of the Communist Party’s authoritarian system.
For human spaceflight, the plan lays out a continuation of China’s steady but unrushed efforts to develop technologies and extend its capacities. It says that China will begin the work to land its astronauts on the moon, but it does not provide a target date for when they will go.
“I think it is a comprehensive, moderately paced program,” said John M. Logsdon, former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. “It’s not a crash program.”
By contrast, NASA’s direction tends to shift with every change of presidency. President George W. Bush called on NASA to return to the moon by 2020. President Obama canceled that program and now wants the agency to send astronauts to an asteroid. NASA shut down its 30-year space shuttle program after a final flight in July.
“The one thing that is admirable about their program is they don’t have fits and starts,” said Joseph R. Fragola, a space safety expert who has visited the space facilities in China. “Their program is low budget but it is laid out, and they follow it in an orderly process, and we don’t do that.”
Experts say Beijing is approaching its space program the way it did its military modernization. In addition to the aircraft carrier, which it bought from Ukraine, China has also made a progress on an anti-ship ballistic missile, which could be deployed to ward off foreign warships. Last January, the Chinese military tested a stealth fighter hours before Robert M. Gates, the defense secretary at the time, met in Beijing with President Hu Jintao.
Unlike in the United States, where there are separate military and civilian space programs, in China the People’s Liberation Army is the driving force behind development of the Chinese space program. Civilian institutions, including various universities and laboratories, are part of the military-led efforts. In the white paper that laid out the plan, released by the State Council, China’s cabinet, the authors took pains to say that Beijing was not seeking to challenge any nation militarily with its space program.
“China always adheres to the use of outer space for peaceful purposes, and opposes weaponization or any arms race in outer space,” the paper said.
(Page 2 of 2)
Analysts say one of the more notable goals of the five-year strategy is to further develop the Beidou Navigation Satellite System, which on Tuesday began providing navigation, positioning and timing data on China and surrounding areas. The white paper said China intended to have a global system by 2020, with 35 satellites in orbit. If it met that goal, China would join Russia in having a system that tries to rival America’s. China has already launched 10 satellites for the Beidou system, and plans to launch six more next year.
Beidou is not as advanced as its American counterpart, but it is expected to overshadow the Russian system and would provide the Chinese military with an alternative to relying on a civilian version of the American network. Beidou would also be used for civilian purposes, like providing drivers with a navigation tool.
“This has major commercial implications, it has major security implications,” Mr. Erickson said. “To be a great military and space power, it’s important to have one’s own satellite navigation system.”
The white paper, which follows similar reports released in 2000 and 2006, also said China would develop new Long March launch vehicles to deliver heavier payloads into orbit. It will also work on improving conditions for human spaceflight.
To lay that groundwork, the paper said, China “will launch space laboratories, manned spaceship and space freighters; make breakthroughs in and master space station key technologies, including astronauts’ medium-term stay, regenerative life support and propellant refueling; conduct space applications to a certain extent and make technological preparations for the construction of space stations.”
On deep-space exploration, the paper said China planned to launch orbiters that would make soft lunar landings and do roving and surveying. After that, the paper said, China will collect samples of the moon’s surface and bring them back for analysis.
The paper also said China planned to carry out a comprehensive plan for upgrading its satellite technology and widening the uses of its satellites.
“In aggregate, this is clearly going to propel China even further into space to a significant degree,” Mr. Erickson said. “There’s relentless progress across the board.”
In 2003, China became the third country to send a human into space, behind the United States and the Soviet Union, when it put Yang Liwei into orbit around the earth. It launched a lunar probe in 2007 that orbited the moon and took pictures, and the next year completed its first spacewalk when Zhai Zhigang remained for 13 minutes outside the Shenzhou 7 spacecraft.
China’s Long March 5 rocket, currently under development, would be able to lift about 25 tons to low-earth orbit, comparable to the United States’ Delta IV Heavy rocket and much smaller than the Saturn V rocket that launched the Apollo spacecraft to the moon four decades ago. But that would be enough for China to get to the moon by launching its lunar spacecraft in pieces and assembling it in the earth’s orbit.
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« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2012, 10:45:13 PM »

Newt has taken quite a razzing on his lunar colony idea, and Romney hit him with a devastating zinger in the debate last night about it, but I say Newt tonight speak at quiet uninterrupted length with Greta Van Sustern (whom I normally don't watch, but it was there when I turned on the TV to see if the new Spartacus was recording, but I digress , , ,)  It was actually QUITE thoughtful.  I doubt I can do it justice but before I go upstairs I would toss out some thoughts for consideration.

1) The Chinese ARE going.

2) The US space program, thanks to His Glibness, is in utter disarray.  We even have to rent rides with the Russians to go to outer space to fix what we have up there now;

3) Much of our military dominance requires dominance of space and the Chinese are working to turn that into our Achilles' heel;

4) Anyone up to establishing a colony on the moon would be able to develop the ability to launch rocks, a.k.a. meteors, at targets on earth with the consequences of nuclear bombs without the radiation.  (for the non-scientific gist of the idea, see Robert Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

Think on this , , ,
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« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2012, 01:30:42 AM »

Space is the new high ground. I wouldn't want to fight an equal if they were so much as standing two steps up the hill in front of me. Giving up space is crazy.

I don't know what they would do on a moon base. Mining on the moon is basically impossible and all you end up doing is ruining the vacuum, which is a part of what could make it useful.

Would there be any point other than some kind of military application?
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« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2012, 03:46:26 PM »

Space is the new high ground. I wouldn't want to fight an equal if they were so much as standing two steps up the hill in front of me. Giving up space is crazy.

I don't know what they would do on a moon base. Mining on the moon is basically impossible and all you end up doing is ruining the vacuum, which is a part of what could make it useful.

Would there be any point other than some kind of military application?

Isn't this where you'd normally blame America for everything wrong on the globe and assert that if the Chinese use the moon to drop rocks on US cities, it's our fault?
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« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2012, 07:04:00 PM »

Umm , , , GM , , , I think he was essentially agreeing with what I posted , , ,
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« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2012, 07:06:41 PM »

Umm , , , GM , , , I think he was essentially agreeing with what I posted , , ,

I know, I was expressing surprise.
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« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2012, 07:09:18 PM »

May I suggest that you do so in a way that he will want to agree with us more instead of less?  cheesy
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« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2012, 02:18:59 PM »

" The moon also has two very important resources that would be useful for some country to control by military means, water and helium 3.

    Lunar frozen water, recently discovered in great abundance, can be used to sustain a lunar settlement and refuel space craft headed to other destinations in the solar system. Control the water and one controls access not only to the moon but to destinations beyond.

    Helium 3, an isotope not found on the Earth, is envisioned by some scientists as a clean burning fuel for future, fusion power plants. If and when fusion power becomes reality, control of the Moon becomes the rough equivalent of control of the Persian Gulf."

- Mark Whittington
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Cranewings
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« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2012, 02:21:02 PM »

Space is the new high ground. I wouldn't want to fight an equal if they were so much as standing two steps up the hill in front of me. Giving up space is crazy.

I don't know what they would do on a moon base. Mining on the moon is basically impossible and all you end up doing is ruining the vacuum, which is a part of what could make it useful.

Would there be any point other than some kind of military application?

Isn't this where you'd normally blame America for everything wrong on the globe and assert that if the Chinese use the moon to drop rocks on US cities, it's our fault?

No, I'd just assume we did it to ourselves to get Americans fired up to go to war with the Chinese (;
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« Reply #15 on: January 29, 2012, 09:11:57 PM »

I used to be among the few who cringed at the space program.  It is to me the epitome of public private partnerships.  It is the answer to the question we aren't supposed to ask: Since we have all this power over other people's money, what should we do with it? 

For the nation, we face a stagnant economy, fossilizing entrepreneurship, mounting deficits and debt, a constitutional, budget and political crisis over impending government heathcare, Arab Spring, Iran going nuke, Chavez offering to host, Iraq into civil war, Afpak! Burma, leadership crisis in N.K, possible war in the South China Sea...  and Newt says, as predicted here by GM: "Oh look, a shiny orbital mirror!"
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« Reply #16 on: September 13, 2013, 10:09:19 AM »


Summary

Editor's Note: This is the first installment of a two-part series on the evolution of the U.S. and Russian space industries.

SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation -- two private U.S. companies -- will each launch a rocket over the next week, the success of which is critical for their expansion as private space companies. SpaceX's launch will be its first with a new set of powerful rocket engines, essential for their Falcon rockets to deliver heavier payloads into orbit. Orbital is hoping that its Cygnus spacecraft will become the second private spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station. (SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft has done it twice.)

For the United States, private space development is key to furthering space exploration and technology over the course of the next century. NASA is incentivizing private space flight development by setting goals for these companies while providing them with some funding and eventually awarding NASA contracts to the most successful ones. The U.S. incentive program is particularly focused on improving the private space industry's more powerful rocket systems, which would enable them to deliver heavier payloads into orbit and also make them safe enough to launch manned spacecraft. Ultimately, the United States hopes competition between these companies will substantially reduce the costs of spaceflight.

Analysis

Several NASA programs are driving the push for private space development. The main initiative is the Commercial Orbital Transport Services program -- aimed at providing supplemental financial support to companies, which are competing for NASA contracts, to deliver supplies and crew to the International Space Station. NASA already has awarded contracts to the two aforementioned companies for cargo resupply trips to the International Space Station and is currently providing funds to three companies -- SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corporation -- which are competing to provide manned space flights to the International Space Station.

On Sept. 17, Orbital Sciences Corporation will launch its Cygnus resupply spacecraft on its Antares rocket to the International Space Station for the first time on a demonstration flight. While this is Orbital's first flight to the International Space Station, SpaceX has completed two trips in the past year and had been expected to fly its third resupply mission in December or January. However, SpaceX's third trip has been delayed, making the Antares demonstration important because it may be called upon for a quick turnaround resupply mission instead.

NASA's program for private manned flights to the International Space Station is intended to supplant Russia's Soyuz capsule as the preferred method for transporting NASA's astronauts to the space station. In addition, NASA is conducting a similar program for certifying private launch vehicles deemed safe enough to launch manned capsules (Russia's Soyuz-FG is currently the only launch vehicle NASA has certified). Those currently being considered are United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket, which Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corporation's spacecraft would use, and SpaceX's Falcon 9 v1.1.

However, none of the three competitors for the manned missions to the International Space Station will be able to compete initially with the Soyuz in terms of cost; it will remain cheaper for NASA to buy seats from the Russians for the foreseeable future. But eventually these firms will pick up spaceflight contracts that are currently going to Russia, even if they are more expensive than using Russian rockets. The United States' strategy is not about just developing these private firms and then using them as NASA's personal fleet, but cultivating an industry that can eventually succeed in the future without NASA's aid to bring down the overall cost of space missions.
Reducing Lift Costs

The most important result of this strategy will be the added funding for developing private commercial space flight services -- particularly for lifting heavier communications satellites into orbit or lifting multiple smaller ones. SpaceX's Falcon rockets, United Launch Alliance's Atlas V and Delta IV Heavy are powerful rockets that can deliver heavy payloads into orbit, and NASA is hoping that the private space industry can eventually drive the costs down substantially, making the United States a low-cost commercial space launch provider in the future.
Selected Medium-Heavy Lift Rockets

Launch vehicles can largely be broken down into several categories based on the mass of the payload they launch into low-earth orbit. Two launch vehicle classes -- middle- and heavy-lift launch vehicles -- are particularly valuable because there are few of these types currently operational and also because they can deliver larger payloads to various orbits. In addition, these classes have more strategic military importance because military satellites often serve a wider range of roles than commercial satellites, requiring more equipment onboard and making them larger and heavier. Many also go into orbits significantly beyond low-earth orbit. Medium-lift launch vehicles can also launch some of these satellites into low-earth orbit, but in the case of Russia, Japan, the European Union and the United States, they also service manned and unmanned flights to the International Space Station.

SpaceX's Falcon rockets may be the most ambitious. All of SpaceX's missions thus far have been with the Falcon 9, which used weaker rocket engines than the ones currently under development. The upgraded version, the Falcon 9 v1.1, will use newly designed rocket engines that provide more thrust, allowing for the launch of larger payloads. The engines, the Merlin 1D, ran into problems during testing earlier this year that delayed the first launch of the Falcon 9 v1.1. The engines were finally successfully tested in July, and now SpaceX is set to launch the rocket for its first flight on Sept. 15. While the SpaceX's Falcon 9 v1.1 has the hopes of eventually delivering astronauts to the International Space Station, the real prize is developing a heavy-lift launch vehicle, which helps the company reduce lift costs.

The Falcon 9 v1.1 itself is only able to deliver about 60 percent of what other, more powerful rockets can deliver into low-earth orbit. However, SpaceX will use a Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket in tandem with two additional Falcon 9 v1.1 rockets flanking it as boosters to form the Falcon Heavy rocket, which will be powerful enough to deliver as large a payload to low-earth orbit as any rocket currently in service. This will make it the largest rocket of U.S. origin until NASA deploys the Space Launch System, a powerful rocket intended to send capsules beyond earth orbit that will surpass the Saturn V as the most powerful launch vehicle ever designed. The Falcon Heavy's first launch is planned for 2014, but a successful Falcon 9 v1.1 launch is a prerequisite for that, making the launch Sept. 15 important for SpaceX's plans.

In addition, SpaceX is designing a reusable first stage (the first stage is the bottom part of the rocket that falls away from the rest of the rocket after liftoff) of its Falcon rockets -- SpaceX's Grasshopper rocket is testing the concept -- as part of an effort to reduce lift costs. The private U.S. space industry in this area of space flight exists primarily because NASA contracts make it economically viable, not because it is profitable on its own. Lowering costs enough to render direct NASA or U.S. government assistance unnecessary will likely require significant innovation -- the type that SpaceX is striving to meet -- such as reusing parts of the rocket to bring down operating costs. Other tactics will be necessary to make the private space industry viable, including advanced space technology applications such as mining objects or constructing larger vehicles or space stations in orbit, but reducing lifting costs is a prerequisite for achieving those, and this is what NASA and the industry are focusing on.

Read more: The Future of U.S. Space Strategy | Stratfor

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« Reply #17 on: September 16, 2013, 08:12:04 AM »

Editor's Note: This is the second installment of a two-part series on the evolution of the U.S. and Russian space industries. Click here for Part 1.

International Launch Services, a U.S.-Russian joint venture, is expected to launch a Russian Proton-M rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in late September or early October, making it the first Proton-M rocket to be launched since one exploded shortly after liftoff in July. The rocket had been scheduled for a launch in mid-September was postponed due to a technical issue. While a successful launch would not remove all concerns surrounding the reliability of the Proton-M and other Russian rockets, another failure could be disastrous.

Over the past few years, Russia's space industry has been plagued by launch failures and other problems due to an overreliance on outdated Soviet technology and quality control shortfalls. Despite this, Russia has emerged as the world's leader in commercial payload launches -- accounting for nearly half of all launches -- and taken over manned missions for NASA to the International Space Station. However, the continued growth of the U.S. space industry is threatening Russia's dominance, forcing Moscow to take initial steps to reform the industry.

Analysis

The space industry is important to Russia for two main reasons: First and foremost, it is a strategic resource for the Russian military. For example, the payload for the doomed Proton-M launch in July was three GLONASS navigation satellites -- Russia's alternative to the United States' GPS. While such a service has civilian applications, it also aids the military by providing more accurate targeting and navigation information.
Orbital Launches 2011-2012

Second, the industry has economic importance, since Russia is responsible for about 40 percent of worldwide orbital launches each year. The size of the global space industry is now close to $500 billion, though much of the recent increase in value has been in communication and navigation technology, areas where Russia has not partnered with drivers in the industry internationally. Instead, Russia has become the dominant launch service for these platforms. Nonetheless, Russia is not integrated with the operation of satellites in orbit, so its value to the international space industry is dependent on its ability to successfully launch spacecraft.
Recent Struggles

Since 2010, Russia has had numerous rocket failures, including four involving the Proton-M, hurting the country's competitiveness in commercial spaceflight. International Launch Services, the company behind the Proton-M launches, has had to reduce its price due to increased insurance premiums and concerns about the reliability of the Proton-M launches. The pervading problem with the industry has been that most of the technology has not significantly evolved since the fall of the Soviet Union. For instance, the Proton-M's first stage has only been moderately upgraded since its original inception in 1965 and was the cause of the July 2013 explosion.

Most of the other Proton-M rocket failures have been caused by one of the common secondary rockets, the Briz-M, that was introduced in 2000 but has developed a reputation for unreliability. This highlights another problem that Russia has faced: the advanced age of its space industry workforce. The average age of a worker in the industry is about 45, and the average age of one with a doctorate is about 60, meaning that the space industry will experience a demographic crunch within the next five to 10 years. Moreover, Russia has not cultivated a younger aerospace workforce or one that is entrepreneurial like the one in the United States. Numerous experienced cosmonauts have been leaving for more lucrative industries, as seen by cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov's recent resignation to take a job with Russian energy giant Gazprom.
Selected Medium-Heavy Lift Rockets

The uncertain future of Russia's space industry has brought added scrutiny to the next launch of the heavy-lift Proton-M rocket, in light of the failure in July. While a successful launch would not erase all concerns about its reliability, another failure would be disastrous for its reputation and push other companies to launch their satellites and other payloads with competitors. However, it is important to note that the unreliability of the Proton-M has not affected the Soyuz rocket family -- the most frequently used rocket in history, which handles Russia's manned space flights to the International Space Station. Still, the Russian space industry's future is heavily tied to the Proton-M, which is already the world's second-busiest commercial launch rocket and Russia's most powerful launch vehicle.

Even as Russia deals with these problems, Russia's competitors have not slowed down. The private space industry in the United States is focusing on reducing lifting costs and developing powerful commercial rockets. This has the potential to affect Russia's market share in the future if the reliability concerns are not abated and Moscow cannot reinvigorate its domestic space industry.
Russia's Response

The move in the United States toward a public-private model for the space industry, coupled with Russia's internal problems, is causing Moscow to reconsider the organization of its own space program. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Russian industry was partly privatized, with its research and development being undertaken by private companies in which Moscow retained some ownership.

On Sept. 4, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin announced the details on a renationalization plan that was hinted at immediately following the Proton-M's latest failure. Moscow will create a joint-stock corporation, United Rocket and Space Corporation, that will be initially 100-percent owned by Moscow and controlled by the Russian Space Agency. Within one year, nearly the entire Russian space industry will be consolidated under this corporation, containing 33 enterprises.

The effort is aimed at increasing oversight and efficiency in the industry, but there are factors that could limit its success. Because the industry was only partially privatized initially, reconsolidation and nationalization may not help matters much. The government already largely owns most of the companies. However, increasing efficiency by removing redundancies and improving coordination among the companies could be beneficial. Yet the biggest problem -- the dwindling amount of human capital in the industry -- is one that cannot be remedied by the space industry itself but instead will depend on Russia's education and incentive programs, as well as its demographic profile.

Regardless, Russia is moving forward with several ambitious projects, largely at the behest of President Vladimir Putin. The first is the construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome in southeastern Russia, which the government hopes will be complete by 2018. Currently, all of Russia's manned and most of its commercial launches take place in Kazakhstan, and Moscow has been planning to develop a launch facility in Russia with the same capabilities since dissolution of the Soviet Union. The second is the Angara rocket family, expected to replace the Proton-M and several other Russian rockets, which will be launched primarily at the Vostochny Cosmodrome. In addition, the Angara-7 rocket will be more powerful than any other active Russian rocket. Yet, the Angara rocket family has been in development since 1995, and it is too early to predict whether it will prove more effective than the Proton-M. The first launch is currently scheduled for mid-2014, although this could be delayed.

The challenge for Russia will come not only from competition in the United States but also the declining number of sufficiently educated workers available for the Russian space industry. By bringing its space industry back under Moscow's close control, Russia is essentially taking the opposite approach of the United States, which is moving to privatize its space industry as a way to lower costs and improve results. Both strategies have their advantages. Historically national space programs have fared far better, largely due to the amount of capital available to them and their proximity to military applications, but it remains to be seen if this will remain true in the future.

Read more: The Future of Russian Space Strategy | Stratfor

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« Reply #18 on: December 02, 2013, 11:53:21 AM »

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/02/world/asia/china-prepares-to-launch-moon-rover-mission.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20131202
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« Reply #19 on: December 21, 2013, 11:47:29 AM »

Quick aside: Easterbrook is hands down my favorite football commentator. I've posted several of his columns on the football thread as well. He can be pretentious, but he is the smartest football commentator around, and willingly adds politics and other topics in his ESPN pieces.

See below for examples of his writing on NASA and meteors, and etc.:

http://blogs.reuters.com/gregg-easterbrook/tag/nasa/

http://blogs.reuters.com/gregg-easterbrook/2011/12/23/really-really-big-questions/

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=easterbrook/061128

From that article:
News from Nearby Space: Meanwhile the more researchers learn about asteroid and comet strikes on Earth, these events seem much more common than previously assumed -- which is definitely not good news. Last summer, TMQ laid out the disturbing evidence that space-rock strikes powerful enough to cause mass extinctions were not confined to the primordial mists: Something gigantic smashed into the Earth about 10,000 years ago, and there might have been a severe comet or meteorite strike as recently as the year 535. Recently researcher Dallas Abbott of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University has found indications that a huge comet or asteroid fell into the Indian Ocean about 4,800 years ago, causing global tsunamis

Abbott's work is especially important because she is studying the oceans, not land. Most of what's known about past space-object strikes comes from the study of land craters. But three-quarters of Earth's surface is water; Abbott reasoned that three-quarters of space objects must crash into the seas. Her work suggests a lot of comets and large rocks have hit the seas, many recently in geologic terms. As recently as a decade ago, most scientists assumed that space-rock strikes powerful enough to cause general devastation happen only every million years or so. Now it looks like they are far more frequent. If a rock comparable to the one that struck the Indian Ocean 4,800 years ago struck today in Kansas, half the population of the United States might die. And as TMQ endlessly points out, what is NASA doing about this? Absolutely nothing.

NASA continues to waste about 10 billion of your tax dollars annually on a space station project that had no scientific value, existing solely to justify money for aerospace contractors and staff budgets at NASA manned-flight centers. NASA plans to waste 200-500 billion of your tax dollars on return-to-the-Moon missions that don't even have a theoretical justification -- the sole purpose of return-to-the-Moon is money for NASA insiders. Yet if a comet or large meteor was spotted heading toward our world, NASA could do nothing. And NASA isn't even researching possible anti-space-rock technology. No agency of your government wastes taxpayers' money more cynically or systematically than the National Aeronautics and Space Agency. If a big space object strikes the Earth, sending humanity's survivors back into the Dark Ages, our descendents will consider the present Washington government history's worst collections of fools for doing nothing while there was time.
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bigdog
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« Reply #20 on: January 03, 2014, 03:55:34 AM »

http://earthsky.org/earth/small-asteroid-entered-our-atmosphere-just-hours-ago
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« Reply #21 on: January 03, 2014, 07:46:57 AM »

 shocked shocked shocked
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bigdog
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« Reply #22 on: February 18, 2014, 05:02:53 AM »

http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/17/us/asteroid-earth-close-call/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

From the article:

Only in space would 2 million miles be considered a close call.

An asteroid with an estimated diameter of three football fields zoomed by Earth late Monday, missing our home by about that distance.
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