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NASA and DARPA are working on a nuclear-powered rocket that could go to Mars

The technology would also have significant national security implications

Washington Post By Christian Davenport, February 3, 2023

“……………………………………… If NASA’s going to get to Mars, it needs to find a way to get there much faster. Which is one of the reasons it said last week that it is partnering with the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on development of thermonuclear propulsion technology.

………………. DARPA, the arm of the Defense Department that seeks to develop transformative technologies, has been working on the program since 2021, when it awarded three contracts for the first phase of the program to General Atomics, Lockheed Martin and Blue Origin, the space company founded by Jeff Bezos. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.) A nuclear-powered rocket would use a nuclear reactor to heat propellant to extreme temperatures before shooting the fuel through a nozzle to produce thrust.

………………….. The program is called DRACO, for Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar (or in the vicinity of the moon) Operation……………………..

The agencies hope they’ll be ready to demonstrate their work with a spaceflight in 2027.

NASA is also working with the Department of Energy on a separate project to develop a nuclear power plant that could be used on the moon and perhaps one day on Mars.

But getting to Mars is exceedingly difficult, and despite claims from NASA for years that it was gearing up to send astronauts there, the agency is nowhere close to achieving that goal.

One of the main obstacles is the distance. Earth and Mars are only on the same side of the sun every 26 months. But even at their closest points, a spacecraft would have to follow an elliptical orbit around the sun that, as Tory Bruno, the CEO of the United Launch Alliance, wrote in a recent essay, will require “a great sweeping arc of around 300 million miles to arrive.”

……………………………. . The need for spacecraft that can maneuver away from the enemy has become clear during the war in Ukraine.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2023/02/03/nuclear-rocket-darpa-nasa/

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February 5, 2023 Posted by | space travel, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear-powered rockets to Mars – there are serious safety risks.

No one wants to see nuclear debris raining down on the Florida coast or Disneyland, and that’s not the only possible scenario.

An accident in orbit could potentially drop radioactive material into the atmosphere.

Nuclear powered rockets could take us to Mars, but will the public accept them?

Bob McDonald’s blog: NASA and DARPA are beginning development of a new fission rocket, Bob McDonald · CBC Radio · Jan 27, 2023 

NASA has signed an agreement with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a nuclear rocket that could shorten travel time to Mars by about one quarter compared to traditional chemical rockets. But before nuclear technology is launched into space, there are risks that need to be addressed to ensure public safety…………………….

While the technology of nuclear propulsion is certainly feasible, it may not be readily embraced by the public. The accidents at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima have left many people skeptical about nuclear safety. And there will be risk.

A nuclear rocket wouldn’t be used to launch a spacecraft from the Earth’s surface — it would be designed to run in space only. It would have to launch into orbit on a large chemical rocket — so the public would have to accept the risk of launching a nuclear reactor on a standard rocket filled with explosive fuel.

And rockets have and will malfunction catastrophically, in what with black humour rocket scientists sometimes call RUD — “rapid unscheduled disassembly.”

No one wants to see nuclear debris raining down on the Florida coast or Disneyland, and that’s not the only possible scenario. An accident in orbit could potentially drop radioactive material into the atmosphere.

Nuclear technology in another form has been used since the very beginning of the space program, just not for propulsion. Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) have provided power to deep space probes for instruments, radios and cameras on a range of missions…………………….

 The U.S. has seen several accidents, including one in 1968 when a launch failure of a Nimbus-1 weather satellite threw its RTG into the ocean. It was recovered intact and the fuel was reused on a later mission.

But there have been more serious accidents. Canadians may remember an incident from 1978, when a Soviet reconnaissance satellite scattered 50 kg of uranium from its nuclear thermal generator over 124,000 square kilometres of Canada’s North.

But a fission reactor is a much more complicated device involving higher temperatures, coolants and more nuclear fuel.

……………………. the engineers face a challenge to ensure that all checks and balances have been made to reassure the astronauts who will fly these machines — and people on the ground — that they can be operated safely before the technology is adopted. https://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/nuclear-powered-rockets-could-take-us-to-mars-but-will-the-public-accept-them-1.6727217

January 28, 2023 Posted by | 2 WORLD, space travel, wastes | Leave a comment

NASA partners with the military to test nuclear fission-powered spacecraft engine by 2027

The technological advancement has long been seen as critical to long-haul missions, including a manned trip to Mars.

Aljazeera 24 Jan 2023

The top official at the United States space agency NASA has said the country plans to test a spacecraft engine powered with nuclear fission by 2027, an advancement seen as key to long-haul missions including a manned journey to Mars.

NASA will partner with the US military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop the nuclear thermal propulsion engine and launch it into space, NASA administrator Bill Nelson said on Tuesday. The project has been named the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations or DRACO……………………..

Under the NASA-DARPA agreement, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate will lead technical development of the nuclear thermal engine, which will eventually be integrated with an experimental spacecraft created by the military.

The agency said the last US nuclear thermal rocket engine tests were discontinued in the 1970s… https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/1/24/nasa-to-test-nuclear-fission-powered-spacecraft-engine-by-2027

January 27, 2023 Posted by | space travel, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

New NASA Nuclear Rocket Plan Aims to Get to Mars in Just 45 Days

Science Alert23 January 2023, By MATT WILLIAMS, “…………………………. A few years ago, NASA reignited its nuclear program for the purpose of developing bimodal nuclear propulsion – a two-part system consisting of an NTP and NEP element – that could enable transits to Mars in 100 days.

As part of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program for 2023, NASA selected a nuclear concept for Phase I development. This new class of bimodal nuclear propulsion system uses a “wave rotor topping cycle” and could reduce transit times to Mars to just 45 days………………………….

Nuclear-Electric Propulsion (NEP), on the other hand, relies on a nuclear reactor to provide electricity to a Hall-Effect thruster (ion engine), which generates an electromagnetic field that ionizes and accelerates an inert gas (like xenon) to create thrust. Attempts to develop this technology include NASA’s Nuclear Systems Initiative (NSI) Project Prometheus (2003 to 2005)………………………………………..

A transit of 45 days (six and a half weeks) would reduce the overall mission time to months instead of years. This would significantly reduce the major risks associated with missions to Mars, including radiation exposure, the time spent in microgravity, and related health concerns.

In addition to propulsion, there are proposals for new reactor designs that would provide a steady power supply for long-duration surface missions where solar and wind power are not always available………….. more https://www.sciencealert.com/new-nasa-nuclear-rocket-plan-aims-to-get-to-mars-in-just-45-days

January 24, 2023 Posted by | space travel, USA | 1 Comment

Huge cost for Japanese tax-payers to clean up the botched nuclear waste storage at Tokai reprocessing plant

Righting shoddy nuclear waste storage site to cost Japan 36 bil. yen

 https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2023/01/a53b75be634e-righting-shoddy-nuclear-waste-storage-site-to-cost-japan-36-bil-yen.html – 16 Jan 23, The Japan Atomic Energy Agency estimates that it will cost taxpayers 36.1 billion yen ($280 million) to rectify the shoddy storage of radioactive waste in a storage pool at the Tokai Reprocessing Plant, the nation’s first facility for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, an official said Sunday.

Around 800 containers of transuranic radioactive waste, or “TRU waste,” were dropped into the pool from 1977 to 1991 using a wire in the now-disused plant in Tokai, a village in Ibaraki Prefecture northeast of Tokyo. They emit high levels of radiation.

The waste includes pieces of metal cladding tubes that contained spent nuclear fuel, generated during the reprocessing process. The containers are ultimately supposed to be buried more than 300 meters below surface.

The agency has estimated that 19.1 billion yen will be needed to build a new storage facility for the containers, and 17 billion yen for a building that will cover the storage pool and the crane equipment to grab containers.

The 794 containers each are about 80 centimeters in diameter, 90 cm tall and weigh about 1 ton, with many lying on their sides or overturned in the pool. Some have had their shape altered by the impact of being dropped.

The containers were found stored in the improper manner in the 1990s. While the agency said the storage is secure from earthquakes and tsunamis, it has nonetheless decided to improve the situation.

The extractions have been delayed by about 10 years from the original plan and are expected to begin in the mid-2030s.

The Tokai Reprocessing Plant was the nation’s first plant that reprocessed spent fuel from nuclear reactors to recover uranium and plutonium. Between 1977 and 2007, about 1,140 tons of fuel were reprocessed. The plant’s dismantlement was decided in 2014 and is expected to take about 70 years at a cost of 1 trillion yen.

January 15, 2023 Posted by | Japan, space travel, wastes | Leave a comment

Space junk cowboys are ruining our night sky

 https://www.theage.com.au/national/space-junk-cowboys-are-ruining-our-night-sky-20221212-p5c5kw.html

Virginia Kilborn, Swinburne University chief scientist January 15, 2023

Without action, over the next decade the night sky as we know it will change drastically. Where once we saw constellations of stars, we will see moving constellations of satellites – hundreds and maybe thousands of them moving across the sky. The magic of a shooting star will be lost.

The constellations your parents once pointed out will be harder to find, and as Kamilaroi astrophysicist Krystal De Napoli has explained, the vital reference points that our First Nations astronomers have relied on for tens of thousands of years will no longer be visible.

Astronomers are already dismayed that their view of the universe is increasingly masked owing to optical and radio emissions from the thousands of objects overhead that make it more difficult to conduct paradigm-shifting research.

When it comes to access to space, we are undergoing a technological revolution. Once the domain of multinational companies and government agencies, the new space race is dominated by agile and comparatively young companies taking advantage of small satellite technologies, such as CubeSats –  nanosatellites the size and shape of a Rubik’s Cube.

These smaller satellites allow companies to quickly test new technologies in space and take less energy to launch to their lower-altitude orbits. While they offer significant benefits to us on Earth, such as monitoring weather patterns and natural disasters, and providing internet access to remote communities, they are less reliable, have higher failure rates and shorter lifespans than previous satellites.

We’re seeing the advantages of new design and advanced manufacturing technologies reducing the cost of sending satellites into orbit. But we should also be concerned about disposable space hardware going down the same path as other technologies, such as low-cost plastics. Plastics have allowed for the development of low-cost products, but the lack of life-cycle planning means plastic waste pollution is prevalent across the planet. We need to avoid this short-term thinking when it comes to satellites.

Rather than launching satellites designed for decades of use – for example the GPS navigation system, comprised of around 30 satellites – many companies are now planning for the launch of mega-constellations of thousands of small satellites in low Earth orbit. In the US alone, the Federal Communications Commission is approving tens of thousands of satellites for launch.

Astra has applied for 13,000 satellites, SpaceX has more than 3000 satellites already launched and has sought approval for 9000 more (but they’re looking at more than 30,000 in the future). Amazon has plans for over 3000 more satellites, and Telesat plans for about 2000 satellites with just a 10-year life span.

While small low Earth orbit satellites are designed to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere on the timescale of a decade or so, they deposit a higher concentration of aluminium than meteoroids. Over time, this will change the composition of the atmosphere. While the weight of satellite debris now entering the atmosphere is about 20 times less than that of meteoroids, satellites are mainly composed of aluminium; meteoroids are less than 1 per cent of that element. The long-term effects of this change could include changing the albedo, or reflective nature of the atmosphere.

With so many satellites in finite orbits above us, there is also a growing danger of collisions, which in turn could increase the amount of space debris orbiting Earth. NASA is already tracking more than 27,000 pieces of space junk and estimated there could be half a million pieces larger than 1 centimetre; and over 100 million pieces smaller than a centimetre.

Steps are being taken to tackle some of these issues. Here in Australia, space scientists, lawyers and policy experts from Swinburne University of Technology, EY, CSIRO’s Data61 and SmartCat CRC are working on a regulatory framework for AI-enabled systems that can operate to avoid collisions, while other projects are looking to remove existing debris and defunct technology from orbit.

Further afield, the International Astronomical Union has formed the Centre for the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference to work with technology companies and policymakers to ensure we preserve the night sky for research.

There is a new voluntary sustainability rating being promoted by the World Economic Forum and the US Federal Communications Commission has recently changed the regulations regarding low Earth Orbit satellite disposal, requiring a much quicker re-entry into the atmosphere to ensure these items don’t clog up our sky.

These are positive steps, but we need to go further and reconsider whether we need to launch thousands of satellites in the first place.

Finding better ways to do things now means both harnessing space to improve life on Earth and avoiding the destruction of one of our greatest assets – the night sky.

January 15, 2023 Posted by | 2 WORLD, space travel | Leave a comment

For Heaven’s Sake – Examining the UK’s Militarisation of Space

December 13, 2022, By Dr. David Webb of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space

I have been working on behalf of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) with Peter Burt from Dronewars UK on a new joint publication called “For Heaven’s Sake: Examining the UK’s Militarisation of Space”. It was launched in June and looks at the UK’s emerging military space programme and considers the governance, environmental, and ethical issues involved.

The UK’s space programme began in 1952 and the first UK satellite, Ariel 1, was launched in 1962. Black Arrow, a British rocket for launching satellites, was developed during the 1960s and was used for four launches from the Woomera Range Complexin Australia between 1969 and 1971. The final launch was to launch Prospero, the only British satellite to be placed in orbit using a UK rocket in 1971, although the government had by then cancelled the UK space programme. Blue Streak, the UK ballistic missile programme, had been cancelled in 1960andspace projects were considered too expensive to continue. 50 years on and things have changed.

Space is now big business – the commercial space sector has expanded and the cost of launches has decreased. The UK is now treating space as an area of serious interest. The government has also recognised that space is now crucial for military operations. So, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) now has a Space Directorate, which works closely with the UK Space Agency and is responsible for the military space policy and international coordination. UK Space Command, established in April 2021 ,is in charge of the military space programme and is closely linked with US Space Command and US Space Force. While the UK typically frames military developments as being for defensive purposes, they are also capable of offensive use………………………………………………………..

Although many of these launches may be for commercial companies, space use has evolved into a fuzzy military/commercial collaboration and Alexandra Stickings, a space policy and security analyst at the Royal United Services Institute in London, believes that the Shetland and Sutherland spaceports will need military contracts to be viable. She said “I am of the opinion that the proposed spaceports would need the MoD as a customer to survive as well as securing contracts with companies such as Lockheed” and the military will want to diversify their launch capabilitiesso the Scottish locations could provide an option for certain future missions.”  She also warned that: “There is also a possibility that if these sites become a reality, there will be pressure on the MoD to support them even if the cost is more than other providers.”………………………………..

Although many of these launches may be for commercial companies, space use has evolved into a fuzzy military/commercial collaboration and Alexandra Stickings, a space policy and security analyst at the Royal United Services Institute in London, believes that the Shetland and Sutherland spaceports will need military contracts to be viable. She said

“I am of the opinion that the proposed spaceports would need the MoD as a customer to survive as well as securing contracts with companies such as Lockheed” and the military will want to diversify their launch capabilitiesso the Scottish locations could provide an option for certain future missions.”  She also warned that: “There is also a possibility that if these sites become a reality, there will be pressure on the MoD to support them even if the cost is more than other providers.”…………………….

……………………  https://safetechinternational.org/for-heavens-sake-examining-the-uks-militarisation-of-space/

December 14, 2022 Posted by | space travel, UK | Leave a comment

Australia a”pot of gold” for America’s military section to wage war in space

US Space Force eyes ‘prime’ Australian real estate for future warfare operations, ABC News, By defence correspondent Andrew Greene 3 Dec 22

Visiting senior US military officers believe Australia is a “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow”, as they eye off this continent’s “prime” geography for future space operations.

Key points:

  • US military officials visiting Australia say conflict in space in the next few years is a very real prospect
  • They believe the war in Ukraine is demonstrating the growing importance of space as a new war-fighting domain
  • Australia’s southern location and potential launch sites near the equator make it an attractive prospect for future operations

Top-ranking members of the US Space Force are warning of China’s growing capability in the emerging military domain as they meet defence counterparts and local industry representatives.

“I’m visiting my allies and we’re talking about future partnerships that we can have,” US Space Force Lieutenant-General Nina Armagno told reporters in Canberra.

“This is prime country for space domain awareness,” the director of staff of the US Space Force added while speaking at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.  

The three-star general has travelled to Canberra along with Lieutenant-General John Shaw, the deputy commander of the US Space Command who is responsible for America’s combat capabilities above Earth……………………………..

Both of the visiting military officers believe the war in Ukraine is demonstrating the growing importance of space as a new war-fighting domain…………………………..

Australia’s own Defence Space Command was only formally stood up in March, but General Armagno says this country already has the natural advantage of its southern-hemisphere geography and potential launch sites close to the equator.

“It seems as [if] Australia is sitting on a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, really, for our common national security interests,” she said.   https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-12-02/us-space-force-eyes-australian-real-estate-future-warfare/101724368

December 2, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, space travel, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Rocket Lab: Helping the US wage endless wars from space

 https://thedailyblog.co.nz/2022/10/25/rocket-lab-helping-the-us-wage-endless-wars-from-space/By John Minto, October 25, 2022

It’s clear local mana whenua were misled by Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck when iwi land at Mahia Peninsula was leased to launch satellites into space.

At the time Peter Beck was clear Rocket Lab would be used for civilian purposes only and would not take up military contracts, despite this being a particularly lucrative path to take.

Fast forward a few years and we find Beck has abandoned any principles he may have had and his company is now majority owned by the US military and is launching satellites for US military purposes.

The government has to sign off on each launch to make sure it is in line with what’s acceptable to this country but it’s clearly a rubber stamp process conducted by Stuart Nash.

Any assurances from Peter Beck or Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash, who signs off on the launches for the government, that Rocket Lab’s work is for the betterment of mankind are not credible.

Peter Beck sets up straw man arguments saying claims of Rocket Lab weaponizing space are “misinformation” and the company would “not deal in weapons”. “We’re certainly not going to launch weapons or anything that damages the environment or goes and hurts people,” he told Newshub last year.

What nonsense. These are “straw-man” arguments. No-one has claimed the rockets contain weapons but what is absolutely clear is that the US military launches rockets for military purposes and this is what is happening at Mahia.

The NZ Herald reported last year on the capabilities of “Gunsmoke-J satellites”, which have been launched from Mahia for the US military, saying:

The other is the “Gunsmoke-J” satellite being launched for the US Army’s Space and Missile Defence Command (SMDC).

Gunsmoke-J is a prototype for a possible series of nano-satellites that will collect targeting data “in direct support of Army combat operations” according to a US Army fact sheet and a US Department of Defence budget document.

Green MP and party spokesperson for security and intelligence, Teanau Tuiono, is right to speak out:

“Weaponising space is not in our national interest and goes against our international commitments to ensuring peace in space,”

“The government should put in place clear rules that stop our whenua being used to launch rockets on behalf of foreign militaries”

and

“We should not be a launching pad for satellites for America’s military and intelligence agencies,” Green Party security and intelligence spokesman Teanau Tuiono said.

Rocket Lab is donkey deep with US strategies for “full spectrum dominance of the planet – including space. In doing so Beck and the government have made Mahia a target for conventional or even tactical nuclear weapons if hostilities break out between the US and another world power.

It’s ironic that the government provided start-up funds for Beck to get Rocket Lab off the ground only for Aotearoa New Zealand to find the company has put us to bed with a foreign military and made us target for conventional or nuclear attack.

Mana whenua in Mahia are right to be concerned – and so should the rest of us.

The government is “consulting” at the moment on these issues in their Space Policy Review.

Make a submission for the peaceful use of space here (Deadline 31 October)

October 26, 2022 Posted by | New Zealand, space travel, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Russian delegation at UN calls on USA to join initiative to renounce weapons in space

Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova’s comment on the US initiative in the UN General Assembly First Committee

The other day, the US delegation submitted to the UN General Assembly First Committee an aide-memoire on proposed UN General Assembly resolution on destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile testing. We analysed the text to discover that our apprehensions concerning this US initiative were valid.

As before, we regard the moratorium on testing the above type of anti-satellite weapon (ASW) announced by the White House in April as a purely declarative move. The UN General Assembly statements and draft resolutions are clearly not enough to prevent an arms race in space (PARIS), all the more so for a country that has had experience – at least since 2008 – destroying space objects with ASW.

The United States remains bashfully silent about the most important thing: are they willing to permanently rule out the combat use of this type of weapon? The resolution says nothing about it. There are no commitments regarding the development and production of such systems, or the prospect of ever destroying the Pentagon’s existing anti-satellite capabilities.

Moreover, the possibility of deploying ASW means on the US reusable unmanned space shuttle X-37B, which is capable of staying in orbit for a long time, performing manoeuvres and carrying a payload, cannot be ruled out. By the way, our multiple requests to the United States to clarify the X-37B platform’s goals and objectives have so far remained unanswered.

Military dominance and superiority in outer space being set as clear goals in US doctrinal documents, their view of space as an arena of confrontation and their plans for achieving these goals are quite telling if one wants to understand Washington’s genuine motives. It is no coincidence that the US delegation at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament is doing its utmost to hinder the start of talks on a multilateral instrument which contains reliable international legal guarantees against deploying weapons of any kind in outer space and the renunciation of the use of force or the threat of force against space objects. The Americans are using every pretext to avoid working on the Russian-Chinese draft treaty designed to fulfill PARIS goals………………….

Washington can prove it has serious intentions if it revises its destructive stance and the US delegation that is participating in the Conference on Disarmament joins the efforts to start talks as soon as possible on a legally binding instrument with guarantees of non-deployment of weapons in space, non-use of force or threat of force against space objects.

Specifically, the approach promoted by Russia involves the following commitments:

– not to use space objects as a means of destroying any targets on Earth, in the air or outer space;

– not to create, test or deploy weapons in space to perform any tasks, including for anti-missile defence, anti-satellite activity, or use against targets on Earth or in the air, and to eliminate such systems that the states already possess;

– not to create, test, deploy or use space weapons for anti-missile defence, anti-satellite activity, or use against targets on Earth or in the air;

– not to destroy, damage, or disrupt the normal functioning and not to change the flight paths of space objects owned by other states;

– not to assist or encourage other states, groups of states, international, intergovernmental, or any non-governmental organisations, including non-governmental legal entities that were established, registered or located on the territory under their jurisdiction and/or control, to participate in the above activities.

In addition, the accession of the United States and its allies to the international initiative/political commitment not to be the first to place weapons of any kind in outer space would be a really important confidence-building measure. We are once again calling on Washington to follow the example of more than 30 UN member states and join this initiative, as well as to support the UNGA draft resolution on that matter.

We are ready to substantively and professionally discuss the US initiative in this context of multilateral efforts to arrive at a comprehensive solution to PARIS issues.  https://mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/1835061/

October 26, 2022 Posted by | politics international, Russia, space travel, weapons and war | Leave a comment

New Zealand MP says Rocket Lab launches could betray country’s anti-nuclear stance

The commercial space company rejects criticism of satellite launches for the US military,

Guardian, Eva Corlett in Wellington, @evacorlett 17 Oct 22,

New Zealand commercial space company, Rocket Lab, has faced new opposition to its activities on behalf of foreign militaries, with one New Zealand Green MP saying its actions could fly in the face of the country’s anti-nuclear stance.

The American-New Zealand company, founded by Peter Beck in 2006, provides rockets to deliver payloads into orbit from its launch site on the Māhia Peninsula, in New Zealand’s north. A third of Rocket Lab’s activities have been on behalf of defence and national security agencies. These include launching US and Australian spy satellites, the controversial “Gunsmoke J” satellite, and most recently Nasa’s capstone spacecraft.

The company’s contracts with the US have been flagged as concerning by the Māhia community, the Green party, and Rocket Lab Monitor – a watchdog group.

In 2019, the New Zealand government banned launch activities that were not in the country’s national interest, or were a breach of both domestic and international laws. The minister for economic and regional development, Stuart Nash, who is also the MP for the area that covers the Māhia Peninsula, has the ability to veto space launches that are not considered to be in the national interest, including payloads that contribute to nuclear weapons programmes or support or enable specific defence, security or intelligence operations contrary to government policy.

But the Green party’s security and intelligence spokesperson, Teanau Tuiono warned last week that it is “unclear when the national interest test should be invoked” and that there is no guarantee the satellites will not be used to assist nuclear programmes.

“Weaponising space is not in our national interest and goes against our international commitments to ensuring peace in space,” he said.

“Launching space satellites from Aotearoa could improve the ability of foreign actors to control a nuclear explosive device,” Tuiono said. “But right now, the government is allowing operators like Rocket Lab to put payloads into space for the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command and the US Space Force.”

Tuiono said that this poses a risk to New Zealand’s nuclear-free stance, which was enshrined in law more than 35 years ago and is considered a defining moment in the country’s history.

“We risk betraying the anti-nuclear generation and handing our kids a less safe world,” Tuiono said………………………………………………………

Watchdog group, Rocket Lab Monitor, has said it’s skeptical that this is a fail-proof system and worries the country’s space agency lacks in-house expertise to assess if satellites are contributing to nuclear weapon programmes.

“It all relies on the ‘intent’ of a payload rather than monitoring what it actually ends up being used for,” its spokesperson Sonya Smith said.

Smith pointed to Rocket Lab’s 2021 launch of the “Gunsmoke-J” satellite – an experimental satellite that, according to the US army, can “provide tactically actionable targeting data” to “warfighters”, and to which Minister Nash admitted he was “unaware of [its] specific military capabilities”.

Last month, the government announced a new aerospace strategy, that includes further financial support for the emerging sector. At the same time, it opened a review to allow the public to give feedback on the future of New Zealand’s space policy.  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/17/new-zealand-mp-says-rocket-lab-launches-could-betray-countrys-anti-nuclear-stance

October 18, 2022 Posted by | New Zealand, space travel | Leave a comment

Opposition in New Zealand to Military Space Launches

September 27, 2022 Posted by | New Zealand, opposition to nuclear, space travel, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Space race – the old macho aim – USA and China to beat each other

A new space race? China adds urgency to US return to moon

By ELLEN KNICKMEYER September 15, 2022 WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s not just rocket fuel propelling America’s first moonshot after a half-century lull. Strategic rivalry with China’s ambitious space program is helping drive NASA’s effort to get back into space in a bigger way, as both nations push to put people back on the moon and establish the first lunar bases.

American intelligence, military and political leaders make clear they see a host of strategic challenges to the U.S. in China’s space program, in an echo of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry that prompted the 1960s’ race to the moon. That’s as China is quickly matching U.S. civil and military space accomplishments and notching new ones of its own.

On the military side, the U.S. and China trade accusations of weaponizing space. Senior U.S. defense officials warn that China and Russia are building capabilities to take out the satellite systems that underpin U.S. intelligence, military communications and early warning networks………………………..

NASA, the U.S. civilian space agency, is awaiting a new launch date this month or in October for its Artemis 1 uncrewed test moonshot. Technical problems scrubbed the first two launch attempts in recent weeks.

China likewise aims to send astronauts to the moon this decade, as well as establish a robotic research station there. Both the U.S. and China intend to establish bases for intermittent crews on the moon’s south pole after that…………………………………….

And for space more broadly, Americans alone have tens of thousands of satellites overhead ………………………

The moon programs signal that “space is going to be an arena of competition on the prestige front, demonstrating advanced technical expertise and know-how, and then also on the military front as well,” said Aaron Bateman, a professor of history and international affairs at George Washington University and a member of the Space Policy Institute……………………………….

A 1967 U.N. space treaty meant to start shaping the guardrails for space exploration bans anyone from claiming sovereignty over a celestial body, putting a military base on it, or putting weapons of mass destruction into space.

“I don’t think it’s at all by coincidence or happenstance that it is now in this period of what people are claiming is renewed great-power competition that the United States is actually investing the resources to go back,” said Bateman, the scholar on space and national security. “Time will tell if this turns into a sustained program.”………………………………… https://apnews.com/article/astronomy-russia-ukraine-space-exploration-science-technology-f98448825e588e8902bb74519b55ba9f

September 20, 2022 Posted by | politics international, space travel, USA | Leave a comment

Can the testing on anti-satellite weapons be banned?

U.S. looking to encourage more countries to join ASAT testing ban, Space News, by Jeff Foust — August 31, 2022

WASHINGTON — As a second session of a United Nations working group on reducing space threats approaches, U.S. government officials say they’re looking for ways to encourage more countries to back a ban on anti-satellite weapon tests.

Vice President Kamala Harris announced April 18 that the United States would refrain from conducting direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) tests, calling such debris-generating activities “reckless and irresponsible.” She called on other nations to also halt such tests.

Her speech, officials later said, was timed to influence discussions at the first meeting of a U.N. Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on norms of behavior for reducing space threats held in May in Geneva. During that meeting Canada announced that it would join the United States in the ASAT testing ban. In July, the New Zealand government announced that it, too, would commit not to test direct-ascent ASATs. Neither country had developed or were planning to develop such weapons………………………………………………………………………

In 1963, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution that called on countries not to place nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in outer space, which eventually became part of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty………  https://spacenews.com/u-s-looking-to-encourage-more-countries-to-join-asat-testing-ban/

August 31, 2022 Posted by | 2 WORLD, space travel, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Astronauts Going to Mars Will Receive Many Lifetimes Worth of Radiation

Universe Today, In a recent study published in Space Physics, an international team of researchers discuss an in-depth study examining the long-term physiological effects of solar radiation on astronauts with emphasis on future astronauts traveling to Mars, to include steps we can take to help mitigate the risk of such solar radiation exposure. The researchers hailed from the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, India, United States, Italy, Greece, and Germany, and their study helps us better understand the in-depth, long-term health impacts of astronauts during long-term space missions, specifically to Mars and beyond.

Exposure to ionizing radiation is one of the main health risks to astronauts in crewed missions to Mars,” said Dr. Dimitra Atri, a Research Scientist at New York University Abu Dhabi, and lead author of the study. “Going to Mars is going to be humanity’s ultimate adventure in the 21st century — it would be unfortunate if the mission is successful, but astronauts suffer major health issues or even die because of radiation exposure. So, we need to estimate radiation exposure in a very careful way and study its overall impact on human health. It will also help us develop mitigation strategies to keep our astronauts safe.”

To conduct their study, the researchers utilized a computer simulation known as Geant4 with a model human phantom to calculate how each organ of the human body is affected by radiation doses from exposure to energetic charged particles for prolonged periods. These include impacts on an astronaut’s health such as Acute Radiation Syndrome, nervous system damage, and a higher risk of cancer. The CDC defines Acute Radiation Syndrome, also known as radiation sickness or radiation toxicity, as “an acute illness caused by irradiation of the entire human body (or most of the body) by a high dose of penetrating radiation in a very short period of time (usually a matter of minutes).”

Combining their data from the model human phantom with dozens of past medical studies, the researchers discuss the underlying impacts of ionizing radiation on physiological systems, to include the nervous, immune, and skeletal systems, and behavioral effects, along with impacts on genetic material and risk of cancer. They considered a crewed mission to Mars comprising of 600 days in cruise phase to and from the Red Planet and spending 400 days on the Martian surface. While they noted a knowledge gap regarding past medical studies and their own study, they stated radiation limits set by the European Space Agency, Roscosmos, Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, and NASA would be surpassed during a crewed mission to Mars.

“It is a comprehensive study modeling the impact of charged particles — protons, alpha particles, heavier species on a human phantom by using CERN’s charged particle interaction code, said Dr. Atri. “We were able to calculate radiation dose deposited in various organs of the human body. ………….  https://www.universetoday.com/157285/astronauts-going-to-mars-will-receive-many-lifetimes-worth-of-radiation/

August 23, 2022 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, space travel | Leave a comment