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Posts tagged ‘Orbiting Greenglade Prime’

The Second Moon Race

by Simon Mansfield

Gerroa, Australia (SPX)

Mar 13, 2017

The US and China are in an undeclared race back to the Moon.

At first glance it’s easy to dismiss China’s efforts as being little more than what the US and Russia achieved decades ago. And while the pace of China’s manned launches has been slow with over a year in many cases between launches; looks can be deceptive and China has achieved each critical step towards building a permanent space station within the next few years. Meanwhile, its overall space program builds out each critical element to support regular manned space operations.

At the same time, the US continues to pursue its own mix of military, science and civil space operations. Compared to every other national space program the US leads by such a distance it’s hard to imagine its achievements being eclipsed anytime soon.

Among the so called space community there are several groupings. Some are traditional in outlook and view the space program in purely military and or scientific terms. And while there is obviously a healthy commercial space industry – the focus here has been entirely on Earth orbit platforms such as communications and earth observation satellites.

As is well known, another group has emerged over the past 20 years and is often described as New Space. With an initial focus on space tourism, this has expanded to asteroid mining and the colonization of Mars.

Having closely followed these developments the one clear conclusion is how little has actually occurred with these dreams. Despite the regular round of space conferences and the like, the same dreams are repeated over and over. And the years keep on passing by with little to show for their efforts.

Despite a flurry of space tourist flights to the ISS, no private paying passenger has ridden a Soyuz to the ISS since 2009. Virgin Galactic remains Earth bound, while nearly every other company selling space tourist dreams has folded. The only near term contender is WorldView, which plans to launch balloons to the upper stratosphere that will enable long duration flights to an altitude where the illusion of being in space is about as real as you can get without actually flying a 100km ballistic mission profile.

SpaceX is often portrayed as the great game changer. And, like Blue Origin, both companies have embraced new computer based design methodologies that have significantly sped up rocket engine development while also reducing costs. But Blue Origin has yet to launch a single payload into space, and SpaceX is wholly dependent on traditional customers such as NASA and the large commercial satellite communication operators.

SpaceX’s recent announcement of a cis-lunar mission faces no significant obstacles and may achieve its goal of launching two paying customers by 2018 – but there is no shortage of industry observers who seriously doubt that this timeframe is realistic and expect the launch date to slip to 2019/2020 and even longer.

For now, the real action will remain with the government space programs of the US, Russia, the EU, China and India.

Given NASA’s recent history of attempting to develop a new heavy lift launcher only to abandon yet another program after spending billions, it’s been easy to dismiss the Space Launch System as just another make work program for Alabama.

Frequently derided as the Senate Launch System, in honor of its government backers in the US Senate, there is far more to this than many realize.

That the SLS is so strongly backed by the US Senate, should point to what the real objective of the SLS program actually is.

The stated reason has been to travel and land on a passing asteroid and achieve a significant “space first” that would obviously play well for national prestige. And while this may be one of its mission objectives, the obvious similarities to the Saturn 5 launcher should make it clear why the Senate has so readily backed the SLS program. Namely as a ready-to-go launcher for an Apollo Redux should China show any intention or, more importantly, near-term capability of sending humans back to the Moon.

Despite the dreams and aspirations of so many across New Space national prestige is what drives the civil space programs today as much as it has done for the past 60+ years.

China would be delighted to be the second nation to make it to the moon in what would be an entirely new achievement that would signal to the world that China was the new Superpower to respect and aspire to.

The US Senate has, in my opinion, long understood the realpolitik of this and for this reason demanded that NASA develop the SLS program as an undeclared back up plan that could be readily sped up when China begins to make its play for a manned mission to the lunar surface.

Within the framework of global superpower politics – the US cannot allow China to land humans on the Moon before the US returns.

For China to be landing people on the Moon while the US can’t even launch its own astronauts to the ISS, would be a global projection of power that would be immensely damaging to US prestige and power.

It would appear that this intersection of superpower politics has been communicated to President Trump and the undeclared race back to the Moon is fast becoming a reality.

Elon Musk has sought to deal SpaceX into the game with the CIS-Lunar mission. China has now responded with a flurry of well placed stories in its domestic media about its own manned Lunar program. And all of sudden everyone is talking about sending humans back to the moon.

In response, the Mars or Bust crowd has begun complaining that this is all a distraction that will make the “Journey to Mars” an even more distant prospect than what it is now. And that only private enterprise can make us a space faring species.

The reality though is that the space tourism industry has achieved next to nothing of what it has promised over the past 15 years. The asteroid miners are just paper projects that fill in slots for the conference circuit and are decades away from recovering any minerals from an asteroid for commercial purposes.

Comparisons to the age of discovery of the 16th and 17th centuries are usually best taken with a grain of salt given the sailing ships of those times had a functioning biosphere readily at hand and actual gravity to support them, along with complete radiation protection and an endless supply of cheap labor and food.

However, there is one aspect that can be reasonably compared – and that is time. It took decades and in some cases centuries for the full potential of the new world to be exploited in any significant way. Moreover, spaceflight and terrestrial flight are not the same. They are separated by many orders of magnitude in cost and energy. It is therefore entirely unsurprising that we are only where we are now with space exploration and development. Logically, this will change over the coming decades, but it will take far longer than most are prepared to accept.

In the meantime, the Second Moon Race has begun, and will be readily embraced by NASA and its private industry contractors, be they legacy or new space.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/The_Second_Moon_Race_999.html.

Under Trump, the Moon regains interest as possible destination

Washington (AFP)

March 12, 2017

Dismissed by former US president Barack Obama as a place explorers had already seen, the Moon has once again gained interest as a potential destination under Donald Trump’s presidency.

Private sector companies in particular are energized by the prospect of future space exploration missions beyond low-Earth orbit, where the International Space Station circles the Earth.

Even though Trump himself has said little about the subject, his close circle and some former NASA officials have made clear their interest in returning to the Moon by way of partnerships with the private sector.

Billionaire Elon Musk, the president and chief executive of SpaceX, along with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who also runs a rocket company called Blue Origin, have met with Trump’s advisers several times since the Republican won the presidency.

“There is certainly a renewed interest in the Moon in the Trump administration,” said John Logsdon, former director of the Space Policy Institute at The George Washington University.

Some of Trump’s advisers worked on the Constellation program, conceived by former president George W. Bush with a goal to return humans to the Moon for the first time since the pioneering US Apollo missions of the 1960s and ’70s.

Obama cancelled Constellation, deeming it too costly and repetitive in nature, opting instead to work toward new and unexplored destinations like an asteroid and, one day, Mars.

“The people advising Trump on space in a sense are still angry at that and believe it was a mistake,” said Logsdon.

“If the Trump administration gets out of the current chaos and if their approach to the budget would allow it, I think within the next 12 months, we will see a major space initiative involving a public-private partnership — hopefully international partnership — focused on a return to the Moon.”

– Bold –

Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, which represents the private sector of spaceflight, agreed.

“I think the Trump administration wants to do something big and bold and the Moon is certainly that idea,” he told AFP.

NASA’s current focus on developing what will be the world’s most powerful rocket, known as the Space Launch System, which will propel a new capsule, Orion, to deep space, one day carrying people around the Moon, to an asteroid or even to Mars by the 2030s.

Stallmer described this program as “very expensive.”

“I think you cannot proceed with a mission to the Moon and beyond at this point anymore without a partnership with the commercial industry,” he added.

Since the US-run space shuttle program ended in 2011, NASA has forged partnerships with private industry, including SpaceX and Orbital ATK, to resupply the International Space Station.

SpaceX plans to start sending astronauts to the orbiting outpost as early as 2018.

“I know that there is no backing down from the commercial sector, from the commercial launch companies on their desire and vision to go to the Moon and beyond. These are very exciting times,” said Stallmer.

SpaceX said last month it had signed its first contract to send two space tourists on a trip around the Moon at the end of 2018, but did not give many details, including the cost or their identities.

SpaceX has also vowed to send an unmanned spacecraft on a journey to Mars in 2018, as a prelude to manned missions one day.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that its owner Bezos is working on an Amazon-like delivery service to the Moon.

The proposal has not been made public, but was circulated to the Trump team and NASA in the form of a seven-page white paper, the report said.

– Moon colonies –

The goal of the project is to enable “future human settlement” on the Moon.

“It is time for America to return to the Moon — this time to stay,” Bezos was quoted as saying in an email to the Post.

“A permanently inhabited lunar settlement is a difficult and worthy objective. I sense a lot of people are excited about this.”

Oklahoma Republican lawmaker Jim Bridenstine, who has told Trump he wants to be the next NASA administrator, has praised cooperation between the US space agency and private industry, and called for a return to Moon mission as a way to boost needed resources on Earth, such as water.

Research has shown billions of tons of water ice can be found at each lunar pole.

“Water ice on the Moon could be used to refuel satellites in orbit or perform on-orbit maintenance,” he wrote in a blog post in December.

“Government and commercial satellite operators could save hundreds of millions of dollars by servicing their satellites with resources from the Moon rather than disposing of, and replacing, their expensive investments.”

This could translate into lower bills for users of satellite internet, television and radio services, he said.

The lunar soil is also believed to be rich in rare Earth minerals that are widely used in electronic devices.

The Google Lunar XPrize Foundation is also in on the action, recently announcing its five finalists for a $20 million award to the first team to land a robot on the Moon.

Source: Moon Daily.

Link: http://www.moondaily.com/reports/Under_Trump_the_Moon_regains_interest_as_possible_destination_999.html.

NASA finds missing LRO, Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiters

Washington (UPI)

Mar 10, 2017

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said it has located its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft after disappearing for years.

JPL said scientists found the spacecrafts orbiting the moon by using a new technological application found on ground-based interplanetary radar.

“Finding LRO was relatively easy, as we were working with the mission’s navigators and had precise orbit data where it was located,” Marina Brozovic, a radar scientist at JPL, said in a statement. “Finding India’s Chandrayaan-1 required a bit more detective work because the last contact with the spacecraft was in August of 2009.”

The Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1, which is a five-foot cube, launched on October 22, 2008, and NASA’s LRO launched on June 18, 2009.

JPL, which is located in the California Institute of Technology, said scientists found Chandrayaan-1 about 124 miles above the moon’s surface, but the spacecraft is considered lost. The spacecraft is more than 230,000 miles away.

To find the spacecraft, JPL used the 230-foot antenna in NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California to send out a powerful beam of microwaves toward the moon. Radar echoes then bounced back from the moon’s orbit and were received by the 330-foot Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.

The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, which is operated by the National Science Foundation with NASA funding, and has the most powerful astronomical radar system on Earth, conducted follow-up observations.

“Hunting down LRO and rediscovering Chandrayaan-1 have provided the start for a unique new capability. Working together, the large radar antennas at Goldstone, Arecibo and Green Bank demonstrated that they can detect and track even small spacecraft in lunar orbit,” JPL said in a statement. “Ground-based radars could possibly play a part in future robotic and human missions to the moon, both for a collisional hazard assessment tool and as a safety mechanism for spacecraft that encounter navigation or communication issues.”

Source: Moon Daily.

Link: http://www.moondaily.com/reports/NASA_finds_missing_LRO_Chandrayaan-1_lunar_orbiters_999.html.

SpaceX to Fly Two Tourists to the Moon in 2018

Mar. 01, 2017

Private space exploration company SpaceX has announced its most ambitious mission yet—a plan to orbit the moon in 2018.

The company headed by scientific and tech mind Elon Musk claims that their mission is on-target, including having recruited two astronauts that have elected—and paid a hefty chunk of change—to have the privilege of going into space.

If everything goes as planned, the two space tourists would launch in late 2018 in a Dragon 2 capsule launched by SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. They would float past the moon before being pulled back in by gravity and returned to the Earth’s surface.

If SpaceX is successful in their venture, the two volunteers will be the first of humanity to take the trip in more than 40 years. Since the successful trips around and on the moon more than 40 years ago, no man (or woman) has made it anywhere close to the big cheese in the sky—mostly due to the fact that scientists felt they had gathered enough information and could not justify another expensive and dangerous trip around the moon just for the sake of doing it.

Still, SpaceX clearly has something to prove and taking a trip around our small orbiting crater is an important next step. SpaceX has announced plans in the past to take humanity all the way to Mars in the next few years, so this trip will be considered a vital prerequisite for that ambitious project.

Meanwhile, some are skeptical that SpaceX is attempting too much too soon.

Mary Lynne Dittmar, executive director of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, said in the New York Times:

“It strikes me as risky. I find it extraordinary that these sorts of announcements are being made when SpaceX has yet to get crew from the ground to low-Earth orbit.”

While the tourists would be trained, they would mostly be relying on automated systems during their trip, meaning that they would have nowhere near the survival training that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration astronauts experience. If something were to go wrong, they wouldn’t be much help in saving themselves or their spacecraft.

This new venture of private companies tackling the space race is a test for the government and society. If SpaceX can prove its worth by safely transporting these tourists and returning them back home, safe and sound, it will go a long way in proving that the private tech and space company has what it takes to get us to Mars.

Source: EcoWatch.

Link: http://www.ecowatch.com/spacex-orbit-moon-2292971632.html.

Russian supply ship launched to International Space Station

February 22, 2017

MOSCOW (AP) — An unmanned Russian cargo ship lifted off successfully Wednesday on a supply mission to the International Space Station. A Soyuz-U booster rocket carrying the Progress MS-05 spacecraft blasted off as scheduled at 11:58 a.m. (0558 GMT) from the Russian-leased Baikonur launch complex in Kazakhstan.

The mission follows the Dec. 1 botched launch of the previous Progress ship, which crashed less than seven minutes after liftoff, spraying fiery debris over a sparsely populated area in southern Siberia near the border with Mongolia.

An official Russian investigation concluded that the failed launch was caused by a manufacturing flaw in the Soyuz booster’s third-stage engine. Prior to Wednesday’s launch, space officials ran rigorous checks of the engines already built and conducted a comprehensive scrutiny of manufacturing facilities.

The launch went ahead without a hitch and the spacecraft entered a designated preliminary orbit en route to the space outpost. It’s set to dock at the station Friday. A Dragon supply ship launched Sunday by SpaceX is also set to arrive at the station this week. NASA said the Dragon spacecraft has waved off Wednesday’s docking, adding that the Mission Control Center in Houston is evaluating the next attempt for rendezvous.

The station is currently inhabited by NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson, Andrei Borisenko, Sergei Ryzhikov and Oleg Novitskiy of Russia, and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

Turkey launches second military surveillance satellite

05 December 2016 Monday

Turkey launched its second military surveillance satellite — the Gokturk 1 — from the Kourou Launch Center in the French Guiana on Monday.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan along with several other top Turkish officials witnessed the launch of the communication satellite during a ceremony at the Turkish Aerospace Industry (TAI) in Ankara.

The satellite put into orbit is a high-resolution optical earth observation satellite for civilian and military applications, which has a capability of scanning high-resolution images (up to 0.8 meters) and an onboard X-band digital imaging system to handle data compression, storage, and downloading, according to the Turkish Armed Forces.

Addressing the ceremony, Erdogan said developing and manufacturing more advanced satellites than Gokturk 1 was the next target for Turkey.

“With a scanning capability up to 0.5-meter (1.64-foot) resolution, we will benefit from the satellite in wide areas ranging from damage assessment after natural disasters to harvest forecasts,” the president said in televised comments.

“Today, Turkey’s external dependence in the defense industry is half the amount of what it used to be 14 years ago. Domestic participation rate in this satellite [industry] is 20 percent,” he added, highlighting that Turkey remains committed to ending its foreign dependency in the defense and space sectors.

Apart from its military applications, the satellite’s imaging capabilities could be used to monitor forest control, illegal construction, crop management, and casualty assessment after natural disasters.

Television broadcasts and satellite communication signals of the satellite would be able to cover the entire Africa continent.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/headlines/181245/turkey-launches-second-military-surveillance-satellite.

Moscow to mull building Russian orbital station in Spring 2017

Moscow (Sputnik)

Nov 17, 2016

In spring, Moscow will consider Russian scientists’ proposal to build a national orbiting space station to replace the International Space Station. The proposal to establish a Russian national orbiting space station to replace the International Space Station (ISS) after 2024 will most likely be debated by the government next spring, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Wednesday.

“Within the field of view is the idea proposed by our scientists to create a national orbital space station instead of the ISS. But this is a pending issue associated with political and technical issues. It will be probably decided in spring 2017,” Rogozin told reporters.

Russia’s space industry development strategy into 2030 should be developed in the next 90 days, Rogozin said.

Moscow’s cooperation with the new US administration, the deputy prime minister said. “Much will depend on the political moments in relations with the Americans, with the new administration. It will be discussed,” he said.

ISS’ Life Span Could Extend Into 2028

The International Space Station (ISS) could see its life span extended by four years into 2028, the head of Russia’s S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation (RSC) Energia said Tuesday.

“Maybe the ISS will receive continued resources. Today we discussed the possibility of using the station until 2028,” General Director Vladimir Solntsev said at a high-tech industries conference. International Space Station, an international multirole orbital research facility, in space since 1998.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Moscow_to_mull_building_Russian_orbital_station_in_Spring_2017_999.html.

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