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Monday, July 27, 2009

Is it Time to include China in International Human Space Effort? Some think so.

China is methodically building advanced space hardware for their own space station to be lofted to space sometime in the fall of next year, it will be sending the Asian nation's first interplanetary probe to Mars next year, the Chinese space agency will select its first female space-goers from a pool of 16 pilots next year; and it is planning further robot probes to the Moon as well. Clearly, China is building national pride in what is proving to be a solid national space program.

Already there are hints of Sino-American diplomatic space efforts within Washington political circles with discussion of the inclusion of China in the International Space Station partnership and perhaps seeking the opportunity to loft an American astronaut aboard a Chinese-made space capsule in the years ahead. Efforts to cooperate in space with the Chinese should be given serious attention by President Barack Obama some now say.

After seeing a full-scale mock-up of the Shenzhou/Long March 2F booster in Beijing this month, this blogger is impressed by the technology the Chinese are seeking to employ and develop for routine space access. Inquiry as to space facility tours in China by Americans now appears to be problematic however. Chinese officals will allow visits to the Xichang space launch facilities but as of yet will not agree to foreign nationals to visit the Jiuquan Space Launch Center where the Chinese boost their astronauts to space.

To build space cooperation between the United States and the Chinese, perhaps Washington insiders should seek to enable:
  1. The launch of a Chinese astronaut to the International Space Station prior to the end of the space shuttle program next year; and, in return, the launch of an American astronaut on Shenzhou/Long March 2F in 2011 or 2012 to jump start greater space flight coperation for the coming decade.

  2. The Chinese should enable more transparency at the Jiuquan Space Launch Center and enable foreign nationals to tour the human space launch facilities and bear witness to the Shenzhou/Long March 2F human-rated space launches while in turn allowing the Chinese space tourists to witness civil space flight launches at the Kennedy Space Center in a People-to-People-like space launch exchange.

  3. The international space station partners should commence enabling the Chinese a birthing port at the orbiting lab and invite Chinese investment in the facility in the years ahead. The more capability to re-supply and provide two-way transport by humans to the $100-billion facility increases the return on investment in tangable and intangable ways to all of the international partners by adding the Chinese to the space access portfilio.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Black Sun Over China July 22nd

SPACEPORTS: A Total Solar Eclipse of the sun will occur on Wednesday, July 22,2009 with a magnitude of 1.080 that will be visible from a narrow corridor through Hangzhou and Shanghai, China where this Blogger is set to observe with expert astronomers. Here is a video of the solar eclipse path along the Earth.

A total eclipse occurs when the Sun is completely obscured by the Moon. The intensely bright disk of the Sun is replaced by the dark silhouette of the Moon, and the much fainter corona is visible. During any one eclipse, totality is visible only from at most a narrow track on the surface of the Earth and again this year it runs through the People's Republic of China.

This solar eclipse is the longest total solar eclipse that will occur in the twenty-first century, and will not be surpassed in duration until June 13, 2132. Totality will last for up to 6 minutes and 39 seconds. There will be several sites on the Internet to view the Total Solar Eclipse LIVE. Here is one from China and another will be the San Francisco Exploratorium. Here is a video example of the 2008 China eclipse.

In the meanwhile, July blog posts will not resume until July 25th upon return from China. Linked is an eclipse music video. Please visit the SpaceportsBlog again!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

President Obama Orders Sweeping National Space Policy Review for Change in 2010

President Barack Obama has issued a presidential orders (Study Directive-2 and 3) to scrutinize existing national space policy as part of a sweeping review that could culminate in a new strategy governing American civil and military space activities, according to SpaceNews.

The space publication noted that sources familiar with the Obama review say it will address a range of topics that fall into several categories, including space protection, international cooperation, acquisition reform and national space strategy to be lead by Peter Marquez, director of space policy for the White House National Security Council. The review will involve several offices and agencies, including the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the U.S. Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, State, Treasury and Transportation departments, and U.S. intelligence agencies.

The review could lead to a sweeping revamp of national space policy prior to mid-2010 and several changes to the space policies adopted by the Bush Administration.. Those familiar with the review say American outreach and cooperation with international partners on space activities is an area ripe for study, as is reform of the ITAR export control regime with regard to commercial communications satellites. In June, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that would give the administration authority to remove commercial satellites and components from rigorous State Department export licensing requirements.

Other topics on the table include commercial remote sensing, technology industrial base and acquisition reform, the need to maintain two expendable launch vehicles and a review of the Bush administration's stance on weapons in space.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Alternate Max Launch Abort System Is Now Being Readied for Flight at Wallops Island

The test launch of the boilerplate Max Launch Abort System for the Ares-1 rocket is now being re-set at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, VA for next week --- Wednesday, July 8 in the early morning, according to Accomack County Administrator Steve Miner. It has been delayed three previous times. See mission profile here.

The MLAS is a backup safety system for NASA's new generation of manned space vehicles and is designed to propel the crew to safety in event of a launch emergency. An alternate design to the current Orion escape system, the MLAS demonstration vehicle consists of a full-scaled composite fairing, a full-scaled crew module simulator and four solid rocket abort motors mounted in the boost skirt with motor mass simulators in the forward fairing.

During the launch, the vehicle is expected to reach an altitude of one mile in a brief flight and a full-size crew module replica will separate from the vehicle and parachute into the ocean in a simulation of an actual emergency. The vehicle, which was built at Wallops Flight Facility, is 33 feet tall and weighs 45,000 pounds.

NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. has played a major role in design and testing the the primary Orion launch abort system, designed by Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation. It will be tested at White Sands, New Mexico later this year [video]. The first test flights of the Ares-1 configuration are slated to begin at the Kennedy Space Center this summer [video 1, video 2].

Endeavour Set for July 11 Launch, Again

NASA has apparently solved the hydrogen leak that halted two launch attempts of STS-127 last month from the Kennedy Space Center now enabling a July 11th launch of the space shuttle Endeavour to the International Space Station and expanding the station population to 13 for the first time [video].

If the third launch attempt is successful at 7:39 PM EDT, Saturday, July 11th, the highly complex 16-day space shuttle mission will include five spacewalks, the use of three robotic arms -- two working together and one that will "walk" across the outside of the space station to expand the Japanese laboratory now apart of the ISS.

The race is on to complete the ISS prior to termination of the space shuttle launch program in September 2010. American private industry will then proceed to re-supply the space station with two commercial carriers - SpaceX's Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral, Florida and Orbital Sciences Corporation's Taurus II from Wallops Island, Virginia. The Russian Soyuz will thereafter exclusively ferry NASA astronauts until 2012.

Live Launch WebCast from Kourou

The Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana, the major European spaceport, is preapring for a lunch today. The Arianespace terminal count is now underway and the launch may be viewed by clicking here.