China has never been particularly apologetic about its contribution to the looming threat of space debris, but authorities might finally have to offer up some kind of conciliatory “sorry we nearly bombed your village with huge chunks of used rocket.” Last night residents of two separate villages in Jiangxi, China, awoke to very large pieces of the lunar probe Chang’e II’s launch rocket falling back to Earth around them.
Though the world found out about it through a Russian media outlet, China has been conducting complicated space maneuvers with two of its science satellites over the past few months, directing two of its "Shi Jian" (practice) satellites to rendezvous some 370 miles above the Earth, and possibly even touch. But the fact that China has been so hush-hush about the close encounter has some wondering what it plans to use such technology for.
While U.S. legislators continue to argue the fate of America's heavy-lift rocket ambitions, China is setting the bar high by looking into launch vehicle designs that could generate a thrust of more than 660 tons, increasing by orders of magnitude the nation's ability to launch heavy payloads into space.
China is already developing a heavy-lift rocket expected to make its preliminary test flights in 2014, the Long March-5. The LM-5 would boast 132 tons of thrust, plenty for delivering cargo to the space station or reaching geostationary transfer orbit where most communications satellites are launched.
A who’s who of space-exploration contenders wouldn’t be complete without capitalists, NGOs, big government and the clinically insane.
By Bruce GriersonPosted 04.12.2004 at 6:00 pm 0 Comments
Not long ago, space seemed the almost exclusive purview of governmentsâ€ specifically those of the United States and the Soviet Union. Now, with private rocket companies building relatively inexpensive launch vehicles and entrepreneurs hawking the notion of sending tourists into space, anyone with a grand vision, a feasible plan and a big bankroll can take a shot at the great beyond. Here’s our map of this brave new world. Influence is measured by distance from the Sun—the closer a group is, the more important it is.