Earlier this year, the spy satellite industry was hit hard by defense budget cuts. For the top two commercial satellite companies, which survive largely by providing imagery to the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies, the cuts left only enough money for one to survive. Now budget austerity has forced the companies to merge together and create a new space monopoly with control over what we see from orbit.
Archived posts with tag ‘space’
Axe on Stop Imperialism
Listen as I discuss Special Operations Forces in Africa and North Korea plus the Chinese space program with Eric Draitser at Stop Imperialism.
The second copy of the Air Force’s X-37B robotic space plane landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California early Saturday morning, ending a record-breaking 469-day orbital mission that began atop an Atlas rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on March 5, 2011. The safe landing of Orbital Test Vehicle 2 after more than 15 months in space is an indisputable triumph for the U.S. military and space industry. Much less certain is the X-37′s future. Budget cuts, labor woes and the looming specter of a Chinese rival could blunt the diminutive robo-shuttle’s orbital edge.
by ROBERT BECKHUSEN The U.S. military’s secret space plane is preparing to return from its second mission after an incredible 453 days in orbit (as of today). The robotic X-37B, which resembles a miniature space shuttle, is due to land at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California sometime in early to mid-June, depending on weather [...]
For the first time ever, China has launched more rockets into orbit in a year than the U.S. In 2011, the Chinese sent 19 rockets into space. The U.S. sent just 18. Russia, the Walmart of space launches, fired off no fewer than 31 rockets.
The past and future of America’s space arsenal intersected, briefly, in the summer of 2011. For two weeks in July, NASA’s Space Shuttle Atlantis roughly shared its Earth orbit with the Air Force’s X-37B, a 29-foot-long, highly maneuverable robotic spacecraft that entered service in early 2010 and has been cloaked in secrecy ever since. The X-37 was around 80 miles higher than the Shuttle, so it’s doubtful the four-person Atlantis crew, conducting the 135th and last Shuttle mission, ever saw the robotic craft. The X-37′s small size — barely a quarter the length of Atlantis — made a sighting even less likely.
The Air Force’s secretive X-37B space plane gets more mysterious by the day. Designed to spend up to nine months on unspecified errands in Earth’s orbit, the second copy of the Boeing-made craft, known as Orbital Test Vehicle 2, has now been in space for a year and two days — and is still going strong. The endurance milestone is unqualified good news for America’s space force at a time when its funding and future missions are in doubt.
by KYLE MIZOKAMI Japan’s answer to NASA — JAXA — is slated to add defense and intelligence tasks to its traditionally civilian role. Kyodo explains: A government panel on space program strategy plans to revise a law to allow the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to step outside its current commitment to peaceful projects and become [...]
On August 15, 2010, the U.S. Air Force almost lost a $2-billion communications satellite. A team of military and contract space operators eventually saved the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite, built by Lockheed Martin. But the rescue, admittedly an impressive technological feat, is also a window into the greatest weaknesses of the world’s leading space power, according to one space insider.
It was an epic space rescue that, in audacity and risk, echoed NASA’s campaign to save the astronauts aboard the doomed Apollo 13 moon mission. The biggest difference between the 1970 Apollo operation and the 14-month recovery of AEHF-1, an Air Force communications satellite, is that money was the only thing immediately at stake in the latter.
The Air Force’s mysterious X-37B space plane just got a little more mysterious. The 29-foot-long reusable mini-shuttle was designed to spend up to 270 days in orbit. The 270th day of the winged spacecraft’s second flight is today, but the military has no intentions of bringing the billion-dollar robotic vehicle back to Earth just yet. “It’s still up there,” Maj. Tracy Bunko told MSNBC.
Aerospace giant Boeing is in the process of shutting down one of America’s most storied laboratories. “Building 31,” part of Boeing’s research facility in Huntington Beach, California, helped develop some of the Pentagon’s most secretive weapons — that is, until bloated bureaucracy and benefit cuts demoralized and scattered its employees. Under current plans, the 60-year-old lab will close its doors for good in mid-2013.