Space Matters #6

At a glance: In an eventful fortnight, the US has published a new National Space Policy. China is expecting its lunar sample retrieval mission to land back on Earth in a few days. The US military is rechristening its bases for its Space Force. A  Dutch-New Zealand company will now conduct test flights of its sub-orbital spaceplanes, which are to be capable of multiple flights in a day from conventional airports.

The Great Game for Space: 

The US has published a new National Space Policy:

According to reports, the policy reaffirms the US’s emphasis on space as a strategically important domain. In the text, the US Space Force’s role is further formalised, as deterring and countering threats in orbit, as well as supporting US military and allied assets in operations on Earth.

All eyes on China as its Lunar Sample Return Mission is set to return in the next few days:

The Chang’e-5 also planted the People’s Republic of China’s flag, besides scooping up more than 2 kilograms of lunar soil samples. According to reports the final stages of the mission are progressing without incident. The mission is expected to land back on Earth between 16-17 December. Some reports hint that the utility of this mission is the lessons it provides for the prospective Chinese manned Lunar mission expected in the near future.

The US has re-christened two US Air Force installations for its “Space Force”.

According to reports, the US has renamed two Air Force facilities in Florida to reflect their use by the new Space Force. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station will now be known as  Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, while Patrick Air Force Base will be known as Patrick Space Force Base. The two installations, however, have not been transferred to the US Space Force as the recently passed National Defence Authorisation Act( NDAA) curtails the Pentagon’s ability to reassign assets to different branches without congressional oversight.

Launches, New Gear and Plans:

Strategically important Angara A5 Russian Heavy Lift Rocket successfully tested:

According to reports the Russian state space company Roscosmos confirmed the successful test launch of Angara A5, which is capable of carrying upwards of 20 tonnes into orbit.

The ULA has launched NROL-44 a US SIGINT satellite onboard a Delta IV Heavy Rocket

According to reports, after a troubled three month period, the United Launch Alliance(ULA) reported a successful launch of the Delta IV Heavy Rocket carrying the NROL-44. The NROL-44 is a US National Reconnaissance Office geostationary satellite capable of collecting Signals Intelligence(SIGINT).

Israel has announced plans for another moon mission in 2024

SpaceIL, the non-profit responsible for the 2019 failed Israeli attempt to put a lander on the moon, made the long awaited announcement in a tweet. According to reports, the new Beresheet 2  mission will be equipped with two landers and one orbiter.

The US Space Enterprise Consortium SpEC  will award contracts upto $12 Billion

According to reports, the SpEC, established in 2017 by the US Military to spearhead efforts to attract private enterprise and award military space contracts, will now offer contracts for rapid development of prototype technology to the tune of up to $12 Billion.

Dawn Aerospace receives clearances for its suborbital space planes 

According to reports the Dutch-New Zealand spacecraft maker has now received clearance from New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority(CAA) to conduct test flights of its MK-II Aurora. The MK-II Aurora is envisaged as a platform capable of multiple space flights in a single day in a manner similar to conventional aircraft and using existing infrastructure for them.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity spaceplane’s long anticipated test flight was unsuccessful

According to reports failsafe measures kicked in as the monitoring computers onboard lost contact with the rocket engines just as the spacecraft’s fuselage was detached from its dual fuselage carrier aircraft, White Knight Two.

Interesting Publications and Resources:

  • An interesting analysis by Capt. Michael Sinclair (USCG), explaining the more nuanced background surrounding the newly published US National Space Policy.
  • An interesting research article exploring the concept of identifying routes to speed up deep space travel and exploration exponentially.
  • The Secure World Foundation’s Space Policy Brief for the incoming Biden Administration.

    The views expressed above are the author’s own and do not represent Takshashila Institution’s recommendations.