Archive for the ‘space’ Category

Russia Vows To Defeat U.S. Defenses With Missiles

December 2, 2008

Russia plans to upgrade its missiles to allow them to evade American weapons in space and penetrate any prospective missile shield, a Russian officer said Monday. The officer, Col. Gen. Nikolai Y. Solovtsov, chief of strategic missile forces, said Russia’s intercontinental ballistic missiles would be modernized to protect them from space-based components of the United States missile defense system, the news agency Interfax reported. He also said the military would commission new RS-24 missiles with systems to help penetrate a missile shield. The Kremlin has fiercely opposed the United States plan to deploy 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a related radar system in the Czech Republic.

–Associated Press

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visits a ballistic missile ...
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visits a ballistic missile site in Russia in October. Russia is developing missiles designed to avoid being hit by space-based missile defence systems that could be deployed by the United States, a top Russian general was quoted as saying Monday.
(AFP/Pool/File/Dmitry Astakhov)

Russia's intercontinental ballistic missile takes off from Plesetsk ... 
Russia’s intercontinental ballistic missile takes off from Plesetsk launching pad, May 29, 2007.(Str/Reuters)

The RS-24 is a new-generation intercontinental ballistic missile, which is equipped with a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) warhead. The RS-24 ICBM, which will replace the older SS-18 and SS-19 missiles by 2050, is expected to greatly strengthen the Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) strike capability, as well as that of its allies until the mid-21st century. The RS-24 missile will be deployed both in silos and on mobile platforms and together with the Topol-M single-warhead ICBM will constitute the core of Russia’s SMF in the future.

On 22 October 2008 Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) commander, said the new-generation RS-24 multiple-warhead missile system will enter service with the SMF in 2009n said on Wednesday. “We have carried out a series of successful ground and flight tests of the RS-24 missile. The new ICBM system will be put in service in 2009,” he said. Solovtsov said the new system would “strengthen Russia’s nuclear deterrence,” including its capability to penetrate missile defense shields, and will serve to counter elements of a U.S. missile defense system deployed in Central Europe.

The RS-24 was first tested on May 29, 2007 after a secret military R&D project, and then again on December 25, 2007. A new test launch of the RS-24 from the Plesetsk space center in northwest Russia has been planned for the end of 2008.


Russia’s military is planning to upgrade its missiles to allow them to evade American weapons in space and penetrate any prospective missile shield, a Russian general said Monday.

In comments to the Interfax news agency, Russia‘s Strategic Missile Forces chief, Col.-Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, as saying that Russia’s intercontinental ballistic missiles will be modernized to protect them from space-based components of the U.S. missile defense system.

The upgrade will make the missiles’ warheads capable of flying “outside the range” of the space-based system, Solovtsov was quoted as saying.

He didn’t elaborate, but Russian officials have previously boasted about prospective new warheads capable of making sharp maneuvers to dodge missile defense systems.

Solovtsov also reportedly said the military will commission new RS-24 missiles equipped with state-of-the-art systems to help penetrate a missile shield. He did not specify that Moscow intended to penetrate a U.S. missile shield, but the Kremlin has fiercely opposed the U.S. plan to deploy a battery of 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a related radar in the Czech Republic.

Russia has criticized U.S. plans for space-based weapons, saying they could trigger a new arms race. Washington has resisted efforts by Russia and China to negotiate a global ban on weapons in space.

Reflecting Russia’s suspicions about U.S. intentions, Solovtsov alleged Monday that the U.S. is considering the scenario of a first nuclear strike that would destroy most Russian missiles. A few surviving Russian weapons launched in retaliation could then be destroyed by the U.S. missile defense system.

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Space Shuttle Astronauts Ready to Fly

November 13, 2008

Tomorrow, the space shuttle Endeavour will rocket into space.  “Space vehicles can be like submarines.  Both are metal tubes, basically,” said the first submariner ever selected as an astronaut in NASA’s manned space flight program, Navy Captain Stephan G. Bowen.  “The difference is,” he told us, “In space the view is better.  In the submarine the food is better.”

Seven NASA astronauts are spending what they hope will be their last day on Earth before launching toward the International Space Station Friday night aboard the shuttle Endeavour.

The five-man, two-woman crew of Endeavour is a mix of spaceflight veterans and first-time flyers, but wholly committed to making vital repairs and delivering new gear to double the station’s occupancy up to six people next year.

Crew members of the space shuttle Endeavour on Mission STS-126 ... 
Crew members of the space shuttle Endeavour on Mission STS-126 arrive to prepare for launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida November 11, 2008.(Scott Audette/Reuters)

“I think every commander would like to think that he’s got the best crew that was ever assembled to fly a space station mission. I’m no exception,” said Endeavour commander Chris Ferguson in a NASA interview. “These folks are extremely talented, extremely hard-working.”

Endeavour is slated to launch toward the space station Friday at 7:55 p.m. EST (0055 Nov. 15 GMT) on a planned 15-day mission that will span Thanksgiving and the orbital laboratory’s 10th anniversary on Nov. 20.

Taking command

Shuttle commander Chris Ferguson is making his second trip to space on Endeavour’s STS-126 mission, but it’s his first trip in charge. He spent 12 days in space as the pilot for shuttle Atlantis to help deliver new U.S. solar arrays to the station in 2006.

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Russia’s Defense Industry Hit by Credit Crunch, Ivanov Says

November 11, 2008

Russia’s defense industry is facing difficulties in meeting orders from the state because of the global credit crunch, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said.

Sergei Ivanov
Sergei Ivanov

Many companies are suffering from cash-flow problems, Ivanov said in remarks carried on state television. The financial crisis is “hitting some defense companies quite hard,” and the situation could prove “troublesome” for the industry, he said.

This video grab from Russian NTV channel shows the Russian nuclear ... 
Above: This Russian submarine had an on board non nuclear accident that killed 20 this week.  She was on sea trials and scheduled to be tranferred to India.  She is now emblematic of Russia’s failing defense industry.

By Sebastian Alison, Bloomberg

Banks in which the state holds a large stake, including OAO Sberbank, Russia’s biggest bank, VTB Group, the second largest, and state development bank Vnesheconombank, should consider lending to defense contractors, he said.

Ivanov was speaking today at a meeting in Moscow of a government commission on strategic enterprises and the defense industry.

“We’re talking about an industry with a lot of expenses and not too much revenue,” said Masha Lipman, an analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center. She noted that Russia has recently made major arms sales to countries like Venezuela on credit with no repayments due for years.

Lipman said Russia’s Defense Ministry has been sending out mixed signals, for example by announcing cuts in military staffing numbers. This will produce tens of thousands of unemployed officers and the cost of retraining them for civilian jobs will be high, she said.

“Probably we will see that no such cuts will be made, because if you cut expenses in one place, you create them in another place,” she said.

Georgia War

Russia approved 344 billion rubles ($13 billion) in new defense spending last month following its five-day war with Georgia in August, Ivanov said on Oct. 16.

“Additional funds will be spent on purchases of modern weaponry, especially aircraft,” Ivanov, a former defense minister, said during a meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev.

At the same time, Russian state revenue may slump as the price of oil, its biggest export, plunges and capital flight accelerates on concern the global economy is entering a recession.

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Veterans Day: American Submariner Zooms Into Space an Astronaut This Week

November 8, 2008

“Space vehicles can be like submarines.  Both are metal tubes, basically,” said the first submariner ever selected as an astronaut in NASA’s manned space flight program, Navy Captain Stephan G. Bowen.  “The difference is,” he told us, “In space the view is better.  In the submarine the food is better.”

This week, Veterans Day week, Captain Bowen is scheduled to serve his country in space aboard the space shuttle Endeavour.


MOSCOW,  (RIA Novosti) – The U.S. space shuttle Endeavour will be launched on November 14 from Cape Canaveral in Florida to the International Space Station, NASA has informed Russia’s space agency.

The spacecraft will lift off at 8:55 p.m. EST (00:55 GMT November 15), to deliver commander Christopher J. Ferguson, pilot Eric A. Boe, specialists Stephen G. Bowen, Robert S. Kimbrough, Heidemarie M. Stefanyshyn-Piper and NASA astronauts Donald R. Pettit and Sandra H. Magnus to the International Space Station.

Space shuttle Endeavour commander Chris Ferguson, left, answers ...
Space shuttle Endeavour commander Chris Ferguson, left, answers questions during a news conference with pilot Eric Boe, center, and mission specialist Steve Bowen at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008.(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Endeavour will carry a reusable logistics module that will hold supplies, including equipment needed to enlarge the station’s resident crew to six members, additional exercise equipment, devices for the regenerative life support system and spare hardware.

During their 15-day mission, the astronauts are to conduct four spacewalks and transfer and set up more than seven tons of equipment and supplies inside the orbital laboratory.

This Oct. 28, 2008 file photo shows Space shuttle Endeavour ... 
This Oct. 28, 2008 file photo shows Space shuttle Endeavour crew members, from left, commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Eric Boe and mission specialists Steve Bowen, Sandra Mangnus, Shane Kimbrough, Donald Petit and Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper at a news conference at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The Endeavour, background, is scheduled for launch on Nov. 14. With a visit to the Hubble Space Telescope off until next spring at the earliest, NASA on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008 chose Nov. 14 for its next space shuttle launch, a flight by Endeavour to the international space station.(AP Photo/John Raoux, file)

Captain Stephen G. Bowen, USN

Upon completion of the submarine training pipeline he spent three years attached to USS PARCHE (SSN 683) and completed qualification in Submarines on USS POGY (SSN 647). After attending the MIT/WHOI Joint program in Ocean Engineering he reported to USS AUGUSTA (SSN 710) for duty as the Engineering Officer. During this tour he qualified for command of nuclear powered submarines. In 1997 he reported to the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) in the Office of Plans and Policy and worked on the USSOCOM Future Concepts Working Group. For 9 months in 1999 he was the Reactor and Propulsion inspector for the Navy’s Submarine Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV). In May 2000 he became the first Executive Officer of the Pre-Commissioning Unit VIRGINIA (SSN 774) the first of the new VIRGINIA Class submaine.  Bowen is the first Submarine Officer selected by NASA in July 2000 as a mission specialist. He reported for training at the Johnson Space Center in August 2000. Following the completion of two years of training and evaluation, he was initially assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office Station Operations Branch. Bowen is assigned to the crew of STS-126 targeted for launch in November 2008. Endeavour will carry a reusable logistics module that will hold supplies and equipment essential to sustain a crew of six on the International Space Station, including additional crew quarters, a regenerative life support system, and a Resistive Exercise Device (RED).

USS Pogy

Icon Of World War II To Present Refurbished, Returns to Historic Mission

November 8, 2008

The aircraft carrier USS Intrepid is an icon hero of World War II.  She suffered five attacks by suicide pilots —   — and over 200 sailors were killed on her decks.

Intrepid participated in the Pacific Theater of Operations of World War II, most notably the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Later she recovered spacecraft of the Mercury and Gemini programs and served in the Vietnam War. Since 1982, Intrepid has been part of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City. Because of her prominent role in battle, she was nicknamed “the Fighting I.”

Read about USS Intrepid on Wikipedia:

Above: USS Intrepid in the World War II time frame

Intrepid Returns to New York WaterfrontFrom Fox News, NY


The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is reopening to the public with a two-day celebration.

A Saturday ribbon cutting aboard the World War II aircraft carrier will be followed by musical performances and fireworks.  Members of the Fire Department, the Police Department and the military also will gather for a game of tug-of-war.

The museum on the Hudson River underwent a 22-month, $120 million restoration at a New Jersey drydock. It returned home last month.

After WWII, the ship saw service in the Korean and Vietnam wars and was twice a recovery ship for NASA astronauts. Since 1982 it has become one of the city’s most popular tourist sites, drawing some 750,000 visitors yearly over the past decade.

USS Intrepid’s Reopening, New Dedication Features Honors, Praises, HistoryBy Bill Blayer, Newsday


After a two-year, $120-million restoration project for ship and pier, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum reopens to the public Saturday with a day of special events.

The official grand reopening event will be held Tuesday on Veterans Day, when President George W. Bush is scheduled to be onboard to be honored by the museum.

After extensive work at a Bayonne drydock and a Staten Island pier, the historic aircraft carrier berthed at Pier 86 at West 46th Street and 12th Avenue offers new exhibits including areas of the ship never before accessible, four new aircraft and the rest of the planes repainted, a new public park-like pier and new handicapped accessibility. It also will charging higher admission fees: $3 more for adults to $19.50.

The first visitors begin touring the new displays and renovated ... 
The first visitors begin touring the new displays and renovated aircraft in the hangar bay on board the USS Intrepid, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008, in New York. The ship reopened to the public today after a two year renovation. (AP Photo/Edouard H.R. Gluck)

On Saturday, the museum will open at 10 a.m. At 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., the Chaminade High School band will perform; at 1 there will be a tug-of-war between the FDNY, NYPD, Navy and Marine Corps; at 5:30 there will be a performance by the USO and Liberty Belles; at 6 a performance by Annapolis Men’s Glee Club and Barbershop Quartet; and fireworks at 7 p.m. Sunday hours are 10 to 6.

On Tuesday, the ship commissioned in 1943 will be closed to the public until 2 p.m. while the president attends Veterans Day ceremonies and is presented with the 2008 Intrepid Freedom Award. The award recognizes world leaders who embody the ideals of world freedom and democracy. Prior honorees include presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Margaret Thatcher and Silvio Berlusconi, and Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

“This is only the second time a sitting president has visited us,” museum president Bill White said.

Gov. David A. Paterson also is scheduled to attend along with 2,500 veterans.

The museum expects 1 million visitors in the next year to see the new exhibits aboard the 29,000-ton ship, including the newly opened fo’c’sle area where the anchor chains are stored in the bow, officers’ quarters and crew’s mess.

Ben Kalsman, 5, reaches skyward, as he sits on the shoulders ... 
Ben Kalsman, 5, reaches skyward, as he sits on the shoulders of his Father, Arden, waiting to board the USS Intrepid, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008, in New York. The ship reopened to the public today, after a two year renovation. (AP Photo/Edouard H.R. Gluck)

Celebrating Flight and Aircraft In the Temple of the Wild Blue Yonder

November 1, 2008

THE first thing visitors encounter in the main display area of the Udvar-Hazy Center, the National Air and Space Museum annex near Dulles airport in the Virginia countryside, is a huge black spy plane.

By Henry Fountain
The New York Times
It’s an SR-71A Blackbird, the ultimate hot-rod aircraft, one of about 30 built at the Lockheed Skunk Works in California in the 1960s. This one last flew in 1990, traveling the 2,300 miles between Los Angeles and Washington in 1 hour 4 minutes 20 seconds — a transcontinental blur.

But now it’s at a standstill, giving visitors the chance to appreciate its outrageousness. There are the two massive engines on short, stubby wings; the tiny cockpit where the two-man crew was shoehorned in wearing bulky pressure suits; and the sweeping titanium fuselage that was built so loosely, to allow for expansion in the heat of supersonic flight, that the fuel tanks that made up the bulk of the plane routinely leaked, losing as much as 600 pounds of fuel taxiing to the runway.

Planes, including a Boeing 307, above, are ready for inspection.  Photo by Andrew Councill for The New York Times

The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., is about air and space, yes, but as the Blackbird shows, it’s also about frozen time. More than 150 aircraft and spacecraft that in their day were among the swiftest or slowest, most graceful or ungainly, most useful or useless, sit on the floor and hang among the catwalks of this giant hangar of a museum as if plucked from the sky.

For Washington visitors whose encounters with the Air and Space Museum have been limited to the original 1976 building some 30 miles away on the National Mall, the Udvar-Hazy Center, which opened in 2003 and is named for a major donor, an aviation industry executive, can be quite a different experience. There are fewer “name” aircraft like the Spirit of St. Louis to gawk at, no moon rocks to touch, and while as in the Mall building there can be hordes of schoolchildren, their noise tends to dissipate in the cavernous arched structure. Over all, with more than twice the exhibition space and about one-fifth the visitors, the Virginia museum has a quieter, more worshipful feel.

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Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.jpg

India eyes larger slice of satellite launch sector

October 23, 2008

NEW DELHI (AFP) – India’s first moon mission not only makes it a serious player in space exploration but also holds the prospect of a bigger slice of the lucrative satellite launch market, analysts say.

The country staged a flawless launch Wednesday of its first unmanned lunar orbiting spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 — the Sanskrit word for Moon Craft — with an Indian-built rocket from its southeastern coast.

“The launch has considerable political significance as it’s an assertion of India’s credibility in the area of space exploration,” said New Delhi-based strategic analyst Uday Bhaskar.

If all goes to plan, the 1.5-tonne satellite should be flying over the pockmarked lunar surface November 11. It’s being sent on a two-year mission to map in-depth the moon’s topography and its mineral and chemical properties.

The launch, greeted with chest-thumping patriotism, “demonstrated the nation’s growing technological potential,” said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

India sees the space journey as further boosting its diplomatic weight in the wake of the recent deal on civilian atomic cooperation with the United States that ended its nuclear pariah status.

The main exploration goal of the thrifty lunar mission — it cost just 79 million dollars, less than half that of similar expeditions by other countries — is to assess and map lunar mineral resources, Indian officials say.

India aims to launch the first Indian into space by 2014 and maybe to put a man on the moon by 2020.

Indian Space Research Organisation head G. Madhavan Nair has said the current mission will “unravel the mystery of the moon.” But some analysts argue that enhanced global status was a far stronger motive.

“It’s a moustache kind of thing — and moustache matters,” said Jane’s Defence Weekly analyst Rahul Bedi, referring to India’s national pride.

Asian nations have recently been at the forefront of space exploration — a field that was previously dominated by the United States, Russia and the European Space Agency.

China, whose space programme is far more advanced than India’s, was the first Asian nation five years…

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China Getting Ahead of U.S. In Space; Space Warfare?

October 16, 2008

The Shenzhou 7 mission and spacewalk should serve as a reminder that China is building space capabilities that could surpass U.S. technological advances and boost China’s diplomatic and economic ties with its allies, a panel of experts said here Oct. 8.
By Becky Iannotta
Space News Staff Writer

China’s success this decade with three human spaceflight missions, including Shenzhou 7 in September, as well as the development of remote-sensing and satellite navigation systems, two satellite export deals and the January 2007 use of an antisatellite weapon to shoot down one of its own satellites punctuate China’s broader national interest to become a “comprehensive power,” the panelists said.

They warned that China’s space program is dominated by young aerospace engineers who could help propel the nation’s advancements past the United States, which faces difficulty replacing its aging aerospace work force.

China’s wide reach into manned space missions, satellite navigation and communications, and Earth monitoring could help the nation gain a foothold in an already competitive commercial space market, the panelists said.

“A newcomer like China [is] going to take a slice of a very stable pie, which means there are going to be other losers. Will it be the U.S., Europe, Russia? It’s going to be something difficult that we’ll have to contend with,” said Kevin Pollpeter, China program manager for the Defense Group Inc.’s Center for Intelligence, Research and Analysis in Washington. “China’s rise in space power is a negative sum consequence for the United States.”

In this photo released by China's manned space project on Sunday, ... 
In this photo released by China’s manned space project on Sunday, Oct. 5, 2008 and distributed by China’s Xinhua News Agency, China’s Shenzhou-7 spaceship, is pictured from a small monitoring satellite six seconds after it was released from the spaceship on Sept. 27, 2008. Launched about two hours after Chinese astronaut Zhai Zhigang finished the country’s first spacewalk, the monitoring satellite has sent back over 1,000 pictures of the spaceship, Xinhua said.(AP Photo/Xinhua)

China has closely guarded its space budget, in large part because it is dominated by the military, panelists said. Chinese leaders reported that the Chang’e lunar program cost “no less than building a mile of subway in Beijing,” Pollpeter said.

Astronaut Zhai Zhigang of China holds the national flag after ...
Astronaut Zhai Zhigang of China holds the national flag after exiting the Shenzhou VII space craft in this September 27, 2008 video grab.REUTERS/CCTV via Reuters TV

While concerns linger about China’s January 2007 shootdown of one of its own weather satellites with an antisatellite missile, or A-Sat, China primarily sees space as a diplomatic tool. China prefers jamming and dazzling satellites rather than more aggressive action, said Dean Cheng, senior Asia analyst with CNA Corp. in Alexandria, Va. Jamming is intentional interference with satellite signals; dazzling is illuminating a satellite with a laser in order to blind it.

Themes that can be found throughout the writings concerning China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) indicate China is focused on space deterrence, Cheng said, describing how a country’s military capabilities, economy and communications could be affected by space warfare.

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China Eyeing New Satellites?

By Peter J Brown
Asia Times

If China wants to become a dominant space power, it must step up and take a leading role in providing new Earth observation satellite (EOSAT) technology. However, the field is crowded and becoming more so, making this a far more difficult task than previously thought.

China has been slow to make any significant headway in the global satellite communications market – see China lost in SE Asian space (Asia Times Online, October 10, 2008) – and sharing EOSAT technology was sitting at the top of the list when it outlined its regional “space cooperation” priorities in October 2005. That’s when the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO) Convention was signed in Beijing byChina, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan, Peru, Thailand and later Turkey.

Just three years later, in early September this year, China launched a 510 kilogram research EOSAT into low Earth orbit, part of a joint project which involved Thailand, Iran, Pakistan, Mongolia, Bangladesh and South Korea. Besides enhancing disaster response capabilities in the region, this EOSAT will be used to monitor and assess natural resources and agricultural trends, among other things.

Almost immediately after, on October 1, Thailand’s Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA) announced the successful launch of the Thailand Earth Observation Satellite (THEOS). This European-built, Russian-launched satellite has apparently already attracted offers from China, Japan and Sweden….

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U.S. Missile Defense In Space?

By Bill Gertz
The Washington Times
Space-based defense

Congress voted recently to approve $5 million for a study of space-based missile defenses, the first time the development of space weapons will be considered since similar work was canceled in the 1990s.

Appropriation of the money for the study was tucked away in a little-noticed provision of the Continuing Resolution passed recently by Congress and followed two years in which Congress rejected $10 million sought for the study. <

Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican and a key supporter of missile defenses, said approval of the study highlights the need to provide comprehensive protection from the growing threat of missile attack and to limit the vulnerability of vital satellites to attack.

“We have the potential to expand our space-based capabilities from mere space situational awareness to space protection,” Mr. Kyl said in a Senate floor speech.

“In the past 15 years, the ballistic missile threat has substantially increased and is now undeniable,” he said on Sept. 29.

A total of 27 nations now have missile defenses, and last year, over 120 foreign nations fired ballistic missiles, he said. North Korea and Iran both are developing missiles and selling the technology for them, he added.

Mr. Kyl also said the Pentagon’s annual report expressed concerns about accidental or unauthorized launches of long-range missiles from China and about the growing vulnerability of vital satellite systems to attack by anti-satellite weapons, as shown by China’s 2007 anti-satellite weapons test.

Mr. Kyl said he hopes Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who will choose what government or private-sector agency will conduct the study, will choose the Institute for Defense Analyses, a federally funded research center, to carry out the study.

A Senate report on the study stated that independent groups that could produce it include Energy Department national laboratories, or scientific and technical organizations.

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Chinese astronaut makes nation’s first spacewalk

September 27, 2008

BEIJING – A Chinese astronaut on Saturday performed the nation’s first-ever spacewalk, the latest milestone in an ambitious program that is increasingly rivaling the United States and Russia in its rapid expansion.

The Long-March II-F rocket carrying the Shenzhou VII manned ... 
The Long-March II-F rocket carrying the Shenzhou VII manned spacecraft blasts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu province September 25, 2008.(Xinhua/Li Gang/Reuters)

Mission commander Zhai Zhigang floated out of the orbiter module’s hatch in the spacewalk, shown live on state broadcaster CCTV. Tethered to handles attached to the Shenzhou 7 ship’s orbital module’s exterior, Zhai remained outside for about 13 minutes before climbing back inside and closing the hatch behind him.

“Shenzhou 7 has left the module, physically feel very good. Greetings to all the people of the nation and all the people of the world,” Zhai said.

Fellow astronaut Liu Boming also emerged briefly from the capsule to hand Zhai a Chinese flag that he waved for an exterior camera filming the event. The third crew member, Jing Haipeng, monitored the ship from inside the re-entry module.

Top Communist Party officials including President Hu Jintao watched the spacewalk from a Beijing command center, breaking into applause with the successful completion of each stage of the maneuver.

The successful spacewalk paves the way for assembling a space station from two Shenzhou orbital modules, the next major goal of China’s manned spaceflight program. China is also pursuing lunar exploration and may attempt to land a man on the moon in the next decade — possibly ahead of NASA‘s 2020 target date for returning to the moon.

China launched its first manned mission, Shenzhou 5, in 2003, becoming only the third country after Russia and the United States to launch a man into space. That was followed by a two-man mission in 2005.

In step with its growing list of achievements, the military-backed program has grown progressively less secretive and officials have hinted in recent days at a desire for greater cooperation with other nations. China plans to mass produce the next version of the Shenzhou ship to service a future space station and says it may make such missions available to other countries.

Space cooperation between China and other nations has so far been limited and the U.S. has refused Chinese involvement in the international space station for fear it could gain technical secrets applicable to its arms industry.

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Vietnam blasts into the satellite age

April 19, 2008

by Frank Zeller 

HANOI (AFP) – Vietnam blasted into the satellite age on Saturday when a rocket launch from South America propelled its first orbiter into space, allowing it to beam home telecoms data and television signals.
From a command centre set amid lush rice fields outside the capital Hanoi, scientists tracked the Arianespace rocket as it propelled the Vinasat-1 on its path to hover 36,000 kilometres (22,000 miles) above the equator.

An Ariane 5 rocket ready for its second mission of 2008 at Kourou ...
An Ariane 5 rocket ready for its second mission of 2008 at Kourou Spaceport, clearing the way for a final countdown to its liftoff on April 19, 2008 with telecommunications satellites, including one for communist Vietnam.(AFP/HO)

“This project is politically, economically and socially important,” said Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, soon after the launch, noting that it would help to “raise Vietnam’s image on the international stage.”

The blast-off may only have been a small step for the European space agency in French Guiana, but it represents one great leap for communist Vietnam, a developing country with patchy phone coverage that only introduced the Internet a decade ago.
Vietnam Launches Its First Satellite by PEP 

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Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung addresses a ceremony ...
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung addresses a ceremony held in Hanoi, on April 19, to mark the launch of Vietnam’s first satellite. With a rocket launch from South America, Vietnam blasted itself into the satellite age, putting into space its first orbiter that will beam home telecom data and TV signals.(AFP/Hoang Dinh Nam)