US-China Space Wars & Moon-Mining

On May 30, two NASA astronauts were launched into space under the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, marking the return to a time when the United States transported its people into space without depending on foreign countries like Russia. U.S. private firms can now carry out launches to low-Earth orbits at competitive prices. Consequently, in addition to no longer being dependent on foreign countries for space assistance, NASA can now focus on its longer-term goal of launching Americans into deeper space.

In 2020, China’s Chang’e-5 moon mission discovered a new variant mineral now called Changesite-(Y). The crystal containing helium-3 could prove incredibly valuable as it may offer a new energy source. Scientists believe that the tiny crystals may be able to power nuclear reactors and are abundant on the moon. To put the power of helium-3 in perspective, about three tablespoons of helium-3 could replace 5,000 tons of coal.

Consequently, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) announced plans for three more moon missions over the next 10 years and the construction of a permanent lunar base.

The Chinese space agency frequently captures headlines heralding China’s achievements in space. Apart from Chang’e-5 landing on the moon, China managed to land a rover called Zhurong on Mars in 2021. However, China is slow in the space race. The United States sent its first uncrewed mission to the moon in 1962, followed by a human-crewed mission in 1969. Chinese unmanned craft reached Mars in 2020, a feat NASA had achieved with Mariner 4 in 1964, while the first U.S. craft to land on Mars was Viking 1 in 1975. Currently, with 2,944 satellites, the United States has nearly six times as many satellites orbiting the Earth as China with 499.

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Space Probe Launched in 1977 Begins Beaming Back ‘Impossible’ Data from Beyond the Solar System

You’re driving along and the “check engine” light flashes amber on your dashboard. Your engine is in no danger at the moment, but you have to get that examined before a real problem develops.

Imagine if your vehicle is nearly a half-century old. And is a spacecraft operating at the edge of the solar system.

Houston, we have a problem.

Or, more correctly, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California has one.

It’s because the space probe Voyager 1, launched in 1977, is sending data that’s not possible for it to originate, the UK’s Independent reports.

“A mystery like this is sort of par for the course at this stage of the Voyager mission,” according to NASA project manager Suzanne Dodd.

Essentially, all is well on Voyager 1 — commands are being performed when received (after a two-day interstellar space delay) — and apparently, the radio antenna is still properly aimed at earth.

But the probe is sending weird messages about its control systems that could not possibly show what’s actually taking place on board.

It looks like Voyager is happy with it, not having set off any systems for fault protection. It’s just sending out telemetry that apparently has been randomly generated.

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NATO’s ‘Space Policy’ Outlines Readiness to Jointly Respond to Attacks in Space

NATO on Monday made public its official “overarching Space Policy” that outlines how it would protect its members from space attacks, citing threats from potential adversaries.

The U.S.-led alliance said its collective defense principles will be extended to outer space in response to developments made at last year’s Brussels Summit.

“At the 2021 Brussels Summit, Allies agreed that attacks to, from, or within space present a clear challenge to the security of the Alliance, the impact of which could threaten national and Euro-Atlantic prosperity, security, and stability, and could be as harmful to modern societies as a conventional attack. Such attacks could lead to the invocation of Article 5. A decision as to when such attacks would lead to the invocation of Article 5 would be taken by the North Atlantic Council on a case-by-case basis,” the document states.

Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty states that an attack on any one of the 30 allies will be considered an attack on them all. Until now, it has only applied to more traditional military attacks on land, sea, or in the air, and more recently in cyberspace.

Considering that members have recognized that space is essential to NATO’s deterrence and defense, NATO will consider a range of potential options, for council approval, across the conflict spectrum to deter and defend against threats to or attacks on allies’ space systems, it said.

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“Inappropriate Giveaway of Galactic Proportions”: Outrage Over $10 Billion Taxpayer Gift to Bezos Space Obsession

Progressives on Wednesday slammed what they called a proposed $10 billion handout to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos—the world’s first multi-centibillionaire—in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act as a “giveaway of galactic proportions” in the face of growing wealth inequality and the inability of U.S. lawmakers to pass a sweeping social and climate spending package.

According to Defense News, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to merge the $250 billion U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (USICA)—aimed largely at countering the rise of China—with next year’s NDAA, which would authorize up to $778 billion in military spending. That’s $37 billion more than former President Donald Trump’s final defense budget and $25 billion more than requested by President Joe Biden. The NDAA includes a $10 billion subsidy to Bezos’ Blue Origin space exploration company.

“Providing Jeff Bezos with $10 billion of taxpayer money would be an inappropriate giveaway of galactic proportions,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), said in a statement Wednesday.

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The Secret Arms Race in Space Revealed

There’s an ongoing ‘arms race’ in space as Russia, China and the United States develop satellites that can counter one another.

While space-to-space weapons have been in development for decades, most famously with the Soviets’ Almaz space stations, Russia and China have recently showcased their capabilities in targeting US satellites.

On Monday, Russia launched a missile into space and destroyed one of its own satellites in a “show of force,” according to AFP.

“It demonstrates that Russia is now developing new weapons systems that can shoot down satellites,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

This threat of satellite warfare – in addition to China’s hypersonic missile program – prompted then-President Trump to establish the U.S. Space Force as a branch of the Armed Forces in 2019.

“Both Russia and China have developed ‘space stalker’ satellites that can be manipulated to physically interfere with others, according to Brian Chow, an independent space policy analyst who spent 25 years at the Rand Corp think tank,” reported AFP. “With robotic arms, ‘they can just stalk the opponent satellite and move it somewhere else, or bend an antenna’ to render it useless, said Chow.”

These techniques were developed partially in response to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty which forbade countries from placing “nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit.”

Last year, the US military said that two Russian satellites were “stalking” a US spy satellite in high orbit.

More recently, in August, China tested the limits of the treaty by launching a a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile which reportedly flew in low-orbit space before cruising down to its target.

The test caught the US military by surprise.

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Northrop Grumman robotic MEV-2 spacecraft, in a first, catches active Intelsat satellite

Two aerospace firms accomplished an industry first on Monday, as a small Northrop Grumman spacecraft docked successfully with an active Intelsat satellite to provide service and extend its life.

Intelsat’s IS-10-02 satellite is nearly 18 years old, and operating well past its expected lifespan, but the Northrop Grumman-built spacecraft called MEV-2 will add another five years of life to IS-10-02, essentially re-fueling the satellite and giving it a new engine for control.

The companies hit a milestone in the growing business of servicing satellites while in space.

“Today’s successful docking of our second Mission Extension Vehicle further demonstrates the reliability, safety and utility of in-space logistics,” Tom Wilson, vice president of Nothrop Grumman’s strategic space systems said in a statement. “The success of this mission paves the way for our second generation of servicing satellites and robotics, offering flexibility and resiliency for both commercial and government satellite operators, which can enable entirely new classes of missions.”

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US military eyes nuclear thermal rocket for missions in Earth-moon space

The U.S. military aims to get a nuclear thermal rocket up and running, to boost its ability to monitor the goings-on in Earth-moon space.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) just awarded a $14 million task order to Gryphon Technologies, a company in Washington, D.C., that provides engineering and technical solutions to national security organizations.

The money will support DARPA’s Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program, whose main goal is to demonstrate a nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system in Earth orbit. 

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It’s been a wild weekend for Russian startup 3D Bioprinting Solutions.

First, the company announced a partnership with fast food chain KFC as part of an effort to create the “world’s first laboratory-produced chicken nuggets.”

Now, the same company is ready to announce that it’s been hard at work bringing similar tech into orbit as well.

In an experiment on board the International Space Station that took place in 2018 but has only now been published, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononoenko was tasked to 3D print human cartilage cells in near-zero gravity using a machine called “Bioprinter Organ.Aut,” as reports — a machine assembled by, you guessed it, 3D Bioprinting Solutions.

The goal was to investigate ways to reverse some of the negative effects of spending prolonged periods of time in space, in particular evidence that parts of the human body can atrophy over time — something we’ve known about for quite some time.

The eventual hope is to give astronauts the ability to print entire body parts in space, according to the researchers — just in case something goes catastrophically wrong during a mission.

paper about the research was published in the journal Science Advances last week.