We Are in a Space Race That America Needs to Win

Article by Richard M. Harrison and Peter Garretson                          July 10. 2020                          (newsweek.com)

• The Trump administration views space as a new arena of strategic competition. The Pentagon’s recently released ‘Defense Space Strategy’ defines the space domain as “vital to our nation’s security, prosperity and scientific achievement.” Today, the space market is estimated to be $350 billion. But the US Department of Commerce says that current projections put the global space economy at $1 trillion by 2030 and $3 trillion by 2040.

• Meanwhile, American private sector space firms have reduced launch costs, making the positioning of technologies in space more feasible and affordable than ever before. New technological breakthroughs have made activities like mining asteroids achievable within a decade. But this future space economy depends on investment, which depends on security, which depends on a committed US military presence in space. The US Space Force must be capable of defending American interests against both global adversaries who would disrupt US space architecture, as well as natural threats such as asteroids and comets.

• Undoubtedly, the biggest danger is the People’s Republic of China. Beijing recognizes the value of the space domain, and is now trying in earnest to utilize space to achieve its great power ambitions. In April 2019, Dr. Namrata Goswami told the U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission that China had plans to become the world’s leading space power by 2045. To this end, China has already landed on the far side of the Moon and created a lunar biosphere simulation, housing inhabitants within its closed ecosystem for a year. China is developing techniques for asteroid mining, and has developed nuclear-powered shuttles for space exploration and for the industrialization of the Moon. It plans to fabricate satellites that can harness energy in space to become the world’s top supplier of non-carbon producing energy.

• More specifically, China plans to create space-based commercial and industrial facilities and transportation by 2021; space-based power generation by 2030; lunar mining by 2030; and asteroid mining by 2032. China could also gain advantages in areas such as artificial intelligence and cyber-related technologies, thereby increasing its war-fighting capabilities and telecommunications

• The strategic role in space to which Beijing aspires is potentially threatening to the United States, both economically and militarily. The United States will need a concrete plan to go on the strategic offensive to prevail as the planet’s dominant space power.

 

The Trump administration is getting serious about space. Although they have been mocked by critics ignorant of their importance, steps like the administration’s commissioning of the U.S. Space Force, its establishment of a dedicated Space Command and the creation of a dedicated space technology development arm are all signs that the White House is beginning to view space as a new arena of strategic competition. The latest sign in this regard came last month, when the Pentagon formally released its Defense Space Strategy, which defines the space domain as “vital to our nation’s security, prosperity and scientific achievement.”

       Dr. Namrata Goswami

This bold statement reflects a potentially transformative reality: that space is still a largely untapped resource. Today, the current space market is estimated to be $350 billion, but in three decades, it could be worth exponentially more. By the middle of the 21st century, both Bank of America and Merrill Lynch estimate, the space economy will be worth roughly $2.7 trillion.

American policymakers are eager to tap into that potential wealth. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross gave a speech earlier this year at the World Economic Forum in Davos in which he noted that, “Current industry projections place the 2040 global space economy at between $1 trillion and $3 trillion. And I think we will certainly get to a trillion before 2030.” He specifically mentioned America’s near-term priorities in this domain to include lunar mining, asteroid mining and space tourism.

Industry, meanwhile, is already moving in this direction. American private sector space firms have reduced launch costs, making the positioning of technologies in space more feasible and affordable than ever before. Meanwhile, new technological breakthroughs have made activities like mining asteroids achievable within a decade.

But all of that hinges upon investor confidence, and that in turn requires security. For the space economy to expand to its full potential, tech firms and investors alike need to know that their stakes will be safeguarded by a U.S. government that is serious about space. Increasingly, American national security, and our growing list of space-based economic assets, requires a committed military presence with the capability to defend against dangerous naturally occurring phenomena (including asteroids and comets), as well as potential adversaries who are actively developing the means to disrupt, degrade and destroy vital components of the emerging U.S. space architecture.

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Artwork by Dave Simonds for The Economist

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Swiss Start-up ClearSpace Has Support from Microsoft to Clean Up Space

Article by Microsoft Schweiz                            June 22, 2020                            (news.microsoft.com)

• With a rapidly increasing number of satellites launched every year, the population of man-made debris orbiting Earth has exploded over the last ten years. Today there are more than 3,000 failed satellites orbiting Earth. These uncontrollable objects present risks of explosions or collisions with other satellites.

• After repeated notifications by the US Air Force Space Observation Center of collision risks between the SwissCube and other Space objects, the European Space Agency selected ClearSpace to execute the first-ever capture and removal of an uncontrolled satellite orbiting at 7 Kilometers per second at more than 600 Kilometer above sea level. The mission, called ClearSpace-1, is scheduled for 2025. In the meantime, ClearSpace, based in Ecublens, Switzerland, will focus on developing state-of-the-art technologies for sensor fusion, autonomous navigation and space robotics, integrating them into an agile satellite chaser.

• Luc Piguet, CEO and founder of ClearSpace, said, “ClearSpace-1…is the first milestone on the road to a future Space debris removal service at an affordable cost. …We are honored and delighted to have been selected for the Global Social Entrepreneurship Program and look forward to taking our collaboration to the next level – benefitting from Microsoft’s deep expertise and global reach while pursuing our quest in a cutting-edge, secure environment.”

• Andrew Reid, Head of the Swiss Microsoft for Startups program is very excited about the support from Microsoft saying, “The fact that ClearSpace has been selected to join Microsoft’s Global Social Entrepreneurship Program is a well-deserved recognition of the achievements and commitment of the entire team. This enables us to support ClearSpace on a global level and with even more international resources.”

 

Today there are more than 3,000 failed satellites orbiting Earth. These uncontrollable objects present risks of explosions or collisions with other satellites. With a rapidly increasing number of satellites launched every year, the population of man-made debris orbiting Earth has exploded over the last ten years. Keeping space clean in order to ensure sustainable growth in the future has become a huge challenge.

                         Luc Piguet

ClearSpace is committed to solve this problem. The international team, which brings together many years of experience from science and research (EPFL, MIT), agencies (ESA, Nasa/JPL and DLR) and major prime integrators (Airbus, Thales, Ruag, SSTL and others), can also count on the support of a high-ranking Advisory Board, including Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier. The idea emerged from the joint work of some of the founding members of ClearSpace at the EPFL Space Center after the launch of the SwissCube satellite in 2009. The team decided to tackle the problem following repeated notifications by the US Air Force Space observation center of collision risks between the SwissCube and other Space objects.

Pioneering the capture and removal of space debris

The European Space Agency (ESA) has decided to break the ground into sustainable Space development by pioneering this landmark mission and selected ClearSpace to lead it. ClearSpace’s mission is to execute the first-ever capture and removal of an uncontrolled satellite, that is orbiting at 7 Kilometers per second at more than 600 Kilometer above sea level. The team, in collaboration with renowned industrial partners, will focus on developing state-of-the-art technologies for sensor fusion, autonomous navigation and space robotics, integrating them into an agile chaser. The mission called ClearSpace-1 is scheduled for 2025.

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Virgin Galactic to Help Train Astronauts for NASA

Article by Paul R. La Monica                          June 22, 2020                              (weny.com)

• On June 22nd, Virgin Galactic announced that it has signed a deal with NASA to train private astronauts and coordinate trips to the orbiting International Space Station. Virgin Galactic will develop a new private orbital astronaut readiness program to identify candidates who will pay for a trip to space, arrange for their transportation and provide ground and orbital resources.

• Virgin Galactic will probably use the services of SpaceX or Boeing to actually get astronauts to the space station. Boeing has invested $20 million in Virgin Galactic. The company’s own SpaceShipTwo is a suborbital spaceplane that is incapable of making it to the cislunar ISS. Virgin Galactic says it has already received about 600 reservations for suborbital flights at the approximate price of $250,000 per seat.

• Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic will continue to use SpaceShipTwo for suborbital training flights, ranging from private citizens to government-backed scientific and technological research missions, to allow passengers to become familiar with the environment in space, such as G-forces and zero-G.

• Enthusiasm for space commerce is apparent in the stock market. Virgin Galactic stock shares have soared, even though the company continues to lose money. There is even a publicly traded investment fund with a ‘UFO’ brand that invests in companies catering to the business of space travel and exploration, having Virgin Galactic at the top of the list. Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s ‘SpaceX’ and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ ‘Blue Origin’ also have space travel companies.

 

      Virgin Galactic’s ‘SpaceShip Two’

SpaceX won’t be the only private company bringing people to the International Space Station. Virgin Galactic announced Monday that it has signed a deal with NASA to train private astronauts and coordinate potential trips to the ISS.

Shares of Virgin Galactic soared more than 10% on the news. The stock has surged nearly 45% so far in 2020, largely due to optimism about demand for private space travel, even though it continues to lose money.

As part of Virgin Galactic’s deal with NASA, the company will “develop a new private orbital astronaut readiness program,” it said in a statement.

                   Sir Richard Branson

“This program will include identifying candidates interested in purchasing private astronaut missions to the ISS, the procurement of transportation to the ISS, on-orbit resources, and ground resources,” the company added.

Virgin Galactic will likely need the services of SpaceX or aerospace giant Boeing, which is developing the Starliner space capsule and has invested $20

million in Virgin Galactic, to actually get astronauts to the space station.

Virgin Galactic’s own SpaceShipTwo is a suborbital spaceplane that is incapable of making it to the ISS, and the company has only sent five people to space on two suborbital test flights. The company says it has already received about 600 reservations for suborbital flights at the approximate price of $250,000 per seat.

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