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The great NASA carve up

It should become apparent over the course of this year that the NASA bidding process for the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), part of the agency’s new Exploration Transportation System (ETS), is about managing change and not about jumping through the hoops of a real procurement process. NASA has not even selected a contractor for the […]

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Shrinking space station, wider goals?

“Each year brings corrections to the programme”, Anatoly Perminov head of Russia’s Federal Space Agency said dryly at the heads of agencies International Space Station (ISS) press conference last week His agency has been considering the long term future of the station. Its already had to swallow the hard fact that its science power module would not […]

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Racing to failure?

A new commercial space race sounds dramatic and the fact that the two vehicle technologies are US and Russian harks back to the Cold War competition NASA won to get to the Moon.

But both parties should be thinking about being as safe as they can, not who can be first. The first fatal commercial suborbital flight could also be the last and that fantastic future, unforeseen by Clarke and Kubrick, may become a sorry story of hubris.

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Sir Richard, me and the FBI

I looked down to see a moustached man looking up at me from his unmarked car’s front passenger window, which was wound down. The agent opened his wallet and sure enough his badge said federal agent, “We’d just like to pull up and talk to you”.

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Reflecting on the future

Yesterday was the third anniversary of the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia and its seven crew on re-entry and on 28 January it was twenty years since the Space Shuttle Challenger’s ascent disaster in 1986, which killed its seven astronauts. Now the remainingfleet of three Orbiters is expected to be retired by 30 September 2010, 29 years and almost six months after the maiden flight of Shuttle Columbia in April 1981.

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A meeting of minds?

Militant space enthusiasts may seem like an odd phrase but they are out there and for them NASA is the enemy and the likes of Burt Rutan and his SpaceShipOne (SS1) vehicle, the great white hope.

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Once in a lifetime trip (hopefully)…

To be offered a trip by the European Space Agency (ESA) to go to Baikonur Cosmodrome where Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin were launched into the inky blackness of space is not something you turn down. For us here in comfy western Europe that cosmodrome, deep in Kazakhstan in central, is a trip out of the ordinary.

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Europeans await ministers’ Kliper December decision

A year ago Russia’s calls for international co-operation to develop its proposed Kliper spacecraft seemed fruitless and likely to end as another initiative from a space faring nation that would only ever appear as a graphic in a powerpoint presentation, but 2005 has seen the situation change dramatically.

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SpaceShipOne proves nothing

Reaching space was a great achievement for SS1 and its strong evidence that an SS2 could reach 100km and beyond again but for how much? When Space Exploration Technologies Falcon 1 rocket developer and internet billionaire Elon Musk is asked why he got into the space business he answers, “to turn a large fortune into a small one.” How deep are your pockets Mr Branson?

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As inevitable as gravity

Under the framework agreement governing the international partnership that is the International Space Station (ISS) the US was to become responsible for crew emergency return after Russia had supplied 11 Soyuz capsules to transport crew and do the escape capsule job. When the X-38 was cancelled in 2001 it was clear that the US would not have its own vehicle to do the job come April 2006 when the last Soyuz fell to Earth.

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