June 28, 2016

Is China Militarizing Space? New Junk Collector Could Be Anti-Satellite Weapon (Source: SCMP)
A small spacecraft sent into orbit by the Long March 7 rocket launched from Hainan in southern China on Saturday is tasked with cleaning up space junk, according to the government, but some analysts claim it may serve a military purpose.

The Aolong-1, or Roaming Dragon, is equipped with a robotic arm to remove large debris such as old satellites. Tang Yagang, a senior satellite scientist with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, said the Aolong-1 was the first in a series of craft that would be tasked with collecting man-made debris in space.
For instance, it could collect a defunct Chinese satellite and bring it back to earth, crashing it safely into the ocean, he said.

But the question is: did China develop the cutting-edge technology only to clean up space junk? To the military, the robot had potential as an anti-satellite weapon, the researcher said. The Roaming Dragon is small. During peacetime, the craft could patrol space and prevent defunct satellites from crashing into big cities such as Shanghai or New York. During wartime, they could be used as deterrents or directly against enemy assets in space, said the researcher. (6/28)

Chinese Space Garbageman is Not a Weapon (Source: Space Daily)
China has launched a robot space garbageman. It's about time. Space debris is a growing problem, and more countermeasures must be taken to combat this threat. De-orbiting satellites with robots is a useful option in some cases.

Curiously, a story in Hong Kong's "South China Morning Post" on Tuesday June 28 accused China of launching a space weapon in the Roaming Dragon, with the garbage collection story as a cover. All things considered, this accusation seems somewhat unfair to the project. Space analysts around the world are aware that China has tested anti-satellite weapons.

China operates an extensive fleet of military support satellites and surely intends to make even more progress in this area in the future. But the Roaming Dragon seems like an impractical space weapon... Let's be clear. China is a major force in military space. Its rapid advances in this field pose a strategic challenge to global security. But the calling the Roaming Dragon a weapon test seems to be stretching credibility. Click here. (6/28)

India Tells Aerospace Industry to Enhance Capacity to Meet Demands (Source: Space Daily)
The Indian aerospace industry should enhance its capacity to meet the growing demand for space-based services, India's space agency ISRO said. "It is imperative for the aerospace industry to enhance its capacity to meet the rapidly increasing national demand for space-based services," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar said at a conference on 'Enabling spacecraft systems realization through industries' here. (6/28)

Airbus to Expand Poland's Satellite Production Capabilities (Source: Space Daily)
Airbus Defence and Space, the world's second largest space company, will be constructing a complex of clean rooms near Warsaw, thus boosting its Polish satellite production facility. The facilities are intended for use by PZL Warszawa-Okecie, a subsidiary of Airbus Defence and Space and PGZ. The clean rooms will initially be used for the production of harnesses, a vital element to keep the various electronic satellite components connected. (6/28)

Georgia Congressman Supports Spaceport Initiative (Source: Brunswick News)
A member of Congress from Georgia says he supports the development of a spaceport in the state. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA), whose district includes the site of the proposed spaceport in Camden County, toured the area Monday and afterwards said he was "very enthusiastic" about the prospects of a launch site there.

He said he wasn't concerned with potential environmental impacts from the spaceport, despite statements from the National Park Service that launches there could restrict access to the nearby Cumberland Island National Seashore. (6/28)

Seattle Space Pioneers Still Searching for Business Plan (Source: Crosscut)
The sky’s the limit on a burgeoning new industry in the Seattle area. No, not even the sky: These businesses have their eyes set on outer space. The region has become a hub for space technology companies such as Planetary Resources, which wants to mine asteroids, and Blue Origin, which builds rockets.

This cluster of local growth is why the NewSpace Conference decided to hold the event in Seattle last week, moving it away from Silicon Valley for the first time in the conference’s 11-year history. The conference brought aerospace engineers, company executives, investors and hopeful entrepreneurs together to talk about the state of the “NewSpace” age and where it’s heading. Click here. (6/28)

New NASA Tech Could Provide the Entire Solar System with Internet (Source: Inhabitat)
NASA is celebrating the first deployment of new technology at the International Space Station (ISS) that makes it much easier, faster, and more efficient to transmit data to Earth. Essentially, it’s the first step toward internet connectivity in space that is just as reliable as your home Wi-Fi signal. The new system, called Delay/Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN), provides a smart solution to interrupted connections, and lays the groundwork for Solar System-wide internet connectivity in the not-so-distant future. Click here. (6/27)

Google Earth and Maps Get Sharper Satellite Imagery with New Update (Source: Tech Crunch)
Now Google has updated Google Earth with the imagery from Landsat 8, launched in 2013. The new satellite is able to capture images with “greater detail, truer colors, and at an unprecedented frequency — capturing twice as many images as Landsat 7 does every day,” Google announced on its Google Maps blog this afternoon.

As before, the new Google Earth imagery is also cloud-free, thanks to mining nearly a petabyte of data. That’s more than 700 trillion pixels, the company notes, or 7,000 times more pixels than the number of estimated stars in the Milky Way, it adds, having fun with the numbers. (6/27)

The Wizard War in Orbit : Black Black Boxes (Source: Space Review)
As the US signals intelligence satellite effort ramped up in the 1960s, agencies developed a wide range of payloads to fly on spacecraft to study radar signals and communications. In the second part of his history on the subject, Dwayne Day explores what is known about some of those efforts through declassified documents. Click here. (6/27)
Jovian Fireworks: Juno Arrives at Jupiter (Source: Space Review)
While many Americans will spend next Monday celebrating Independence Day, NASA will be busy with the arrival of the Juno spacecraft at Jupiter. Jeff Foust reviews the goals of the mission and the challenges it faces dealing with the harsh radiation environment around the giant planet. Click here. (6/27)
A New Level of Urgency for Space-Based Solar Power (Source: Space Review)
The US military has examined space-based solar power in the past, but has taken little action beyond studies. Nathan Kitzke argues that developing even small-scale systems could have benefits for both military operations and national leadership. Click here. (6/27)
How Next President Can Build New National Security Space Strategy (Source: Breaking Defense)
The next administration must do a “strategic rebalancing” of means to achieve what have been consistent national space security ends (goals): stability, sustainability and freedom of access. But a significant challenge to both reaffirming ends, and determining and implementing means, is structure, as we point out in a recent Strategy Paper for the Atlantic Council. Click here. (6/27)

If We’re Going to Get to Mars, These Rockets Need to Work (Source: WIRED)
If humans are going to get to Mars, they’re going to need rockets with some serious liftoff power. NASA’s Space Launch System is the most powerful rocket in the world—it has twin five-segment solid rocket boosters, four liquid propellant engines, and a minimum of 70 metric tons of lifting power—but engineers won’t know until June 28th if it’s really going to work. Click here. (6/27)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Consolidates Space and Defense Business Units (Source: Space News)
Aerojet Rocketdyne announced June 27  that it expects to save $8 million annually by consolidating its six business units into two: Space and Defense. Both units will report to Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO Eileen Drake once senior vice presidents have been named. Until that happens, the Space unit will report to Drake and the Defense unit will report to Aerojet Rocketdyne Chief Operating Officer Mark Tucker.

Aerojet Rocketdyne also announced last week that it plans to save up to $20 million a year by refinancing its debt. Neither California, Alabama, Florida, Virginia nor Washington — all states with a significant Aerojet Rocketdyne presence — had posted layoff notices from the company. (6/27)

DARPA’s Next Space Project: Command and Control Software (Source: Space News)
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency could award contracts worth as much as $21.5 million for industry to develop new software systems meant to improve how the Defense Department visualizes and responds to threats in space. The contracts are the first part of a DARPA program called Hallmark, which, in the past year, has become one of the agency’s top space priorities. The agency requested $28 million for the program in its 2017 budget. (6/27)

New Horizon’s Spacecraft Just Spot a Canyon on Pluto’s Moon (Source: CSM)
Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, has a canyon that rivals not only Earth’s Grand Canyon, but every other canyon in the solar system. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft offered humanity its first detailed look at the icy worlds on the edge of the solar system when it sped past Pluto on July 14, 2015, with seven instruments collecting data that scientists will continue to receive until October.

The data sent back so far has already pointed to far more dynamic processes than scientists could have predicted shaping the dwarf planet and its moon over the past 4.5 billion years, which is exactly why the scientists launched the probe into the unknown. (6/27)

US, Chinese Spacecraft May Cut Demand for Russia's Soyuz Vehicles (Source: Tass)
Russia’s spacecraft manufacturer Energia fears that successes of US companies and China’s progress in upgrading its Shenzhou vehicles may reduce the demand for Soyuz and Progress spacecraft. "Systematic perfection of China’s manned spacecraft Shenzhou and creation of a national orbital station Tiangong are fraught with the risk demand for Russia’s manned spacecraft on the world market may ease unless their technical parameters and costs are improved," Energia said in the annual report. (6/27)

Russia's Plan To Spin Off a New Space Station From the ISS (Source: Popular Mechanics)
The potential breakup of an international alliance is now brewing, and no, we're not talking about Brexit. This one is happening above our heads. Russian plans to split the ISS have been circulating for years. Now, for a host of political, financial, and technical reasons, this isn't just a wild idea on paper anymore.

Russia's main contractor in human space flight just detailed its plans to separate the newest modules from the International Space Station (ISS) once the long-lived project comes to an end in the 2020s. It plans to build a new habitable base in Earth orbit called the Russian Orbital Station, or ROS. The outpost will include three modules initially, possibly joined by two more in the future. (6/27)

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