May 24 News Items

Quietly, SpaceShipTwo Marches Toward Reality (Source: Florida Today)
Lots of people will be flying in space even after the space shuttles retire. Florida's Space Coast will lament the end of the shuttle program and the loss of thousands of great jobs. But, 2010 could mark the start of one of the most exciting periods in the history of human space flight. Gigantic leaps forward in our ability to fly people in space are coming and they're coming fast.

Out west, in the deserts of California and New Mexico, work is progressing on a launch system, a spaceship and a spaceport for the international partnership that is the odds-on favorite to become the world's first spaceline for tourists. In Mojave, the loss of three lives in a test-firing accident slowed but did not stop the development of SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic. The aircraft that will carry the spaceship to its "launch site" in the sky has already broken records in test flights. The football-shaped spacecraft could be rolled out for public viewing this fall and could make test flights soon after. (5/24)

Integration Woes Delay Launch of Navy's First MUOS Satellite to 2011 (Source: Space News)
The launch of the U.S. Navy's first Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) communications satellite will be delayed at least 11 months, to early 2011, because of technical troubles integrating the new satellite platform and a legacy payload, the Navy's space program leader told lawmakers May 20. The Navy is now developing a strategy to mitigate a potential gap in narrowband ultra-high frequency (UHF) satellite capacity in the next few years. One option the Navy looked at, which entailed having a commercial satellite host a dedicated UHF payload for Navy use, would not have been ready in time to solve the problem. (5/23)

Is There an Sino-Indian Space Race? (Source: Domain B)
Western analysts seem to believe that India's resurgent space program is a reaction to China's growing success in the field. But Indian officials deny this, saying its program is entirely based on India's own needs. Also, China's program is backed and funded by its armed forces and is therefore more defense oriented than India's. India's 2008 Chandrayaan-1 mission to orbit the moon, and China's first lunar probe Chang'e-1, which orbited in October 2007, have been described as exercises to boost the national prestige of the two most populous Asian countries.

Both Chandrayaan-1 and Chang'e-1 had fairly similar scientific objectives. While China's Chang'e-1 terminated its 16-month mission with impact on the lunar surface on 1 March this year, Chandrayaan-1 continues to study the lunar features in addition to exploring for the presence of water and Helium-3, a clean and abundant source of energy. Both countries have a firm eye on the moon's resources. While India has hinted at its eventual aim of mining for lunar resources, China is thinking of setting up a base on the moon.

Both India and China have announced plans to send a landing mission to the moon in the first half of the next decade. But while China is edging close to firming up its plan for a manned landing mission, the Indian Space Research Organization has made it clear that a manned moon landing project would be taken up only if it is "totally justified". Click here to view the article. (5/24)

Atlantis Returns to Earth with California Landing (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Space Shuttle Atlantis completed its mission to fix the Hubble Space Telescope with a Sunday morning landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California. NASA decided against a landing at Kennedy Space Center due to rainy weather. Atlantis launched from the Florida spaceport on May 11. (5/24)

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