Where Do We Stand?
China just launched the first module to their new space station. They are rather proud of it, naming it Tiangong (meaning “Heavenly Palace” or “Sky Palace”). Still, I read somewhere that they intend to deorbit the station two years after completion to build their next orbiting platform.
In the same week, we hear about layoffs at Bigelow Aerospace, developers of future inflatable habitat modules for space stations. They say they are hunkering down to wait until someone in the U.S. once again has the ability to orbit people to put on space stations. It looks like they were getting cozy with Russia for a while, but I guess Russia won’t have room on Soyuz for enough launches to build a market for Bigelow habitats.
Private enterprise, if it can find a product to sell, will take over. At the rate things are going, NASA’s new heavy launch system, if it stays on its current schedule, and if it survives the budget cutting knife year after year, could be passed up by SpaceX‘s Falcon Heavy or something like it, or better, before it ever sees orbit. All of the government-run space agencies, including NASA, could find themselves launching on privately designed launch systems (notice I didn’t say “rockets”).
So, ya, we are still in the lead, for now, and others are catching up…for now.
In the mean time, if you want to know where Tiangong 1 is right now…click here.
- Lost in Translation: Cyrillic, Semantics and SpaceX (mbcalyn.wordpress.com)
- Space-obsessed teenagers sought by YouTube (digitaltrends.com)
- You: China’s great leap towards superpower status with space station test launch (guardian.co.uk)
- China’s Tiangong 1 Space Lab: Questions & Answers (space.com)
- China space station signals shift in space race (guardian.co.uk)
- China launches Tiangong-1 space station test module (guardian.co.uk)
- Chinese space station (xbradtc.wordpress.com)
- China Takes First Steps Toward A Space Station, Launches Tiangong 1 (techcrunch.com)
- China launches its first space lab module (digitaltrends.com)
- Tiangong-1 completes orbit maneuver & the future missions (rightways.wordpress.com)
- Bigelow Aerospace lays off 40 of 90 staff (nextbigfuture.com)
- This is a space station?!? (rakkav.wordpress.com)
- China Successfully Launches 1st Space Lab Module Into Orbit for Docking Tests (rightways.wordpress.com)
- China launches first space lab module Tiangong-1 (nextbigfuture.com)