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In the Stars, The Long Awaited Age of Reason

Subscribe to EIW This article appears in the April 28, 2016 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

In the Stars, the Long Awaited Age of Reason

There, in the stars, lies the long awaited Age of Reason, when our species sheds at last the cultural residue of the beast.
         —Lyndon LaRouche

[Print version of this article]

April 24—In less than three weeks, the most critical international conference in the period since World War II—the Beijing Belt and Road summit—will convene. On May 14 and 15, the leaders and heads of state of 28 nations will gather, joined by representatives of 110 countries, industry leaders, business leaders, and others. It has already been announced that Russia’s President Putin will be the first guest of honor at the conference.

During the last three years, an invitation has been repeatedly extended to the United States to take up the offer of Chinese President Xi Jinping for win-win cooperation, to join in the great economic development perspective of the Belt and Road, for the benefit of all nations involved. This offer was first made to former President Obama in 2014, but was summarily rejected by the British-run Wall Street stooge who was then occupying the White House. Obama chose geopolitical confrontation over working with China and other nations for the good of mankind.

Now a new opportunity has presented itself. President Trump has expressed serious interest in, and has already taken initial steps toward developing a friendly working relationship with China, as was demonstrated in his recent discussions with President Xi at Mar-a-Lago, Florida. Again, the offer of “win-win” peaceful cooperation has been put forth, this time to President Trump. The opportunity now before the United States is very real. Were America to seize this opportunity, the murderous banking and financial looting policies of London and Wall Street might be replaced with a future of expanded economic opportunity, peace, and scientific progress. Those are the implications of accepting China’s offer to join in a commitment to the common aims of mankind through win-win cooperation. If President Trump were to announce his intention to attend the Belt and Road conference in May, this alone would be a singular action that could well shift the entire global picture.

Not least in importance, greater collaboration with the nations of the Belt and Road will give great impetus and greatly enhanced potential for joint efforts in science, particularly cooperative work toward the exploration and development of space. With full U.S. participation, a leap for all of mankind in space exploration becomes immediately and rapidly possible.

The Optimism of Space

On Monday, April 24, President Trump spoke with astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). He was joined in the Oval Office by his daughter Ivanka and astronaut Kate Rubins, and together they spoke with NASA ISS Commander Peggy Whitson and Col. Jack Fischer. The dialogue between the ISS astronauts and the President was broadcast live into hundreds of classrooms and space facilities around the United States, and was streamed and viewed worldwide as well.

The President honored Commander Whitson for her achievements as the first female commander of the ISS and for having spent more time in space than any other American astronaut. Their discussion touched on several topics, including a report from Whitson on the need to understand how microgravity works in space and how it effects the human body. She also reported that ISS astronauts are studying the problems of long-duration space missions, and the technological advances that will be required. More than 200 scientific experiments are currently underway aboard the space station.

Col. Fischer stressed the critical importance of international cooperation in space exploration. He talked about his trip to the ISS aboard the Soyuz with his Russian counterpart, veteran Cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin. Col. Fischer said, “The international space station is, by far, the best example of international cooperation and what we can do when we work together, in the history of humanity.”

Both American astronauts were explicit about the optimism and inspiration that participation in this mission has given them. This was demonstrated most beautifully by Col. Fischer, when he said, “I would say to all the students that are watching, the time to get excited is now. If you aren’t studying science and math, you might want to think about that, because our future in the stars starts now, and you can be a part of that, if, like Dr. Whitson, you can find that passion and work really hard. And we’re going to find a permanent foothold in the stars for humanity if you do that.”

The Role of the Visionary

On March 25, the Schiller Institute held an extraordinary conference in Munich, Germany, to honor the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of the great space pioneer Krafft Ehricke. Under the banner of “Krafft Ehricke’s Vision for the Future of Mankind,” Ehricke’s prime thesis that there are no limitations to the progress of mankind in the Universe was celebrated and discussed. As if a divine hand had intervened, on the very day of that conference, President Trump gave his truly inspiring national address, in which he declared, after signing the NASA Authorization Act, “With this legislation, we renew our national commitment to NASA’s mission of exploration and discovery. And we continue a tradition that is as old as mankind. We look to the heavens with wonder and curiosity.”

If we are to take up this challenge today, it is of paramount importance that every American fully grasp the critical importance of this effort on behalf of all mankind, for the necessary future of all. It must also be a shared commitment. All nations—all of humanity—must benefit from the cooperation among nations for the peaceful use and development of outer space. This is the ultimate win-win solution for all nations. It can be realized through crash programs, what Lyndon LaRouche has described as “the tight integration of the most advanced, most fundamental scientific research with the production and development of new technologies in a general way, such that there is no organizational separation between the most fundamental scientific research and production in general.”

The Time to Act Is Now

Many initiatives are already underway. On April 22, China celebrated its second annual national space day by carrying out the docking of the Tianzhou 1 supply ship with China’s Tianzhou 2 space lab, 240 miles above the Earth. Two days later—the same day that President Trump spoke with the ISS astronauts—China celebrated the anniversary of China’s first space satellite, launched on April 24, 1970.

Full participation by the United States in the upcoming Beijing Belt and Road Summit would have the immediate effect of advancing this progress dramatically. This is just what is needed. A new future beckons, one in which the legacy of war, zero growth, and cultural decay will become a memory. Bold action now will make the difference for future generations.

Richard Branson Doubles Down on His Goal to Build a Space Hotel

Billionaire Richard Branson has poured a lot of money into getting his Virgin Galactic spaceflight company off the ground and turn space tourism into a real, working industry. But when Branson talks about space tourism, he means much more than a system that simply ferries people into orbit and back. He’s talking about all of tourism — and that includes a bona fide hotel floating around high above the earth.

“One day we will have a Virgin hotel in space,” Branson casually remarked during an interview with The Washington Post on Friday. Although the British business mogul certainly has a healthy sense of humor, he was quite serious about achieving such an ambition.

This is far from the first time Branson has talked about building a hotel in space. In 2014, Branson briefly outlined a broader vision of space that included trips to Mars and a colony on the red planet, and asteroid mining.

Branson is far from the only one discussing the potential to build habitats for space tourists. Bigelow Aerospace and United Launch Alliance are currently working on a joint project to build and launch commercial space pods which could dock to the International Space Station or other future space structures — which could pave the way for more astronauts and scientists to travel to space and conduct short studies and research projects.

But it’s been a while since Branson has resurfaced with talk about hotels in a great vacuum beyond the planet’s atmosphere. Virgin Galactic has made fast strides since a fatal October 2014 spaceplane crash stalled much of its work. The company will conduct its first test flight later this year.

Branson is optimistic 2018 is the year the company finally sends people into space — though he cautioned on Friday that “I’ve made the mistake of giving dates before and being wrong.

“Space is tough,” he said. “All of us that are in it have found it tougher than we thought.”

And in that respect, Branson sees himself as part of a private spaceflight triumvirate in the U.S., along with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Blue Origin CEO (and Washington Post owner) Jeff Bezos. “You’ve got three people who are really putting a lot of time and energy into it,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll create some magic.”

Who will the first lucky individuals be? Branson mentioned the company has nearly 800 “Virgin Galactic astronauts” who have put down $250,000 each for a set on a future trip to space — and that includes physics luminary Stephen Hawking. Branson hopes as things move forward and the launch and trip operations become more streamlined, costs can be reduced, and the flights can be made more energy efficient and greener.

In fact, Branson is in Washington, D.C. this weekend to take part in the People’s Climate March to raise awareness about climate change and persuade the government to enforce bigger restrictions on carbon emissions and encourage more clean energy development. “Even if you are a skeptic,” said Branson, “it makes sense for America and the rest of the world to power the world with clean energy” as a way to create jobs and facilitate a cheap, stable system for delivering power to homes and businesses.

“Generally speaking, the earth is a pretty good place to be,” said Branson. “I don’t believe we all need to go live on the moon, or Mars … But I do think space can play, and has already played, a positive role here on Earth,” such as profoundly augmenting telecommunications systems and applications as a result of satellite infrastructure.

And few places are better at illustrating what clean energy can do than space habitats like the ISS. A future Virgin hotel will almost certainly be a solar power behemoth.

Photos via Getty Images / Rob Kim

Virgin Galactic Aims to Fly Space Tourists in 2018, CEO Says

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is on track to begin commercial passenger spaceflights before the end of next year, the company’s chief executive said. 

For years, Branson has been optimistically forecasting the start of rides aboard SpaceShipTwo, an air-launched suborbital spaceplane that is designed to carry six passengers and two pilots to an altitude of about 62 miles (100 kilometers).  

During the suborbital hop, passengers will be able to experience a few minutes of microgravity and see the limb of Earth set against the blackness of space.

Virgin Galactic's commercial spaceplane Spaceshiptwo, shown here during a glide test in December 2016.

Virgin Galactic’s commercial spaceplane Spaceshiptwo, shown here during a glide test in December 2016.

Credit: Virgin Galactic

Branson has been more circumspect in his schedule projections since an October 2014 fatal accident during a test flight of Virgin’s first vehicle. But in an interview with The Telegraph earlier this month, the billionaire entrepreneur said he’d be “very disappointed” if the program isn’t well underway by the end of next year. 

Virgin Galactic is one of three companies in the Virgin Group’s spaceflight division, known as Galactic Ventures. On Wednesday (April 26), Galactic Ventures chief executive George Whitesides, a soft-spoken, former NASA staff chief, said Branson’s expectations for commercial flights in 2018 are realistic. 

“We’re well into test flight now,” Whitesides told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The Virgin CEO addressed the committee along with other industry leaders during a hearing on reducing regulation barriers in the space industry.

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides confirmed on April 26, 2017, that the company plans to fly space tourists in 2018.

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides confirmed on April 26, 2017, that the company plans to fly space tourists in 2018.

Credit: Getty Images

“We’re looking forward … to a fairly big transition of our staff to your state of New Mexico,” Whitesides added in response to a question from Sen. Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat.

Virgin Galactic intends to base its commercial spaceflight service at New Mexico’s Spaceport America, which was finished five years ago at a cost of nearly $220 million. 

Construction funds for the spaceport came from state oil and gas taxes and from bonds, which were backed by a quarter-cent tax levied by the two counties closest to the 18,000-acre spaceport. 

Spaceport America and many New Mexicans hope to see full commercial spaceflight operations begin as soon as possible,” Udall told Whitesides. 

The second in a planned fleet of Virgin spaceships is undergoing testing in Mojave, California. So far, the ship, known as VSS Unity, has made three glide flights. The company has not said when Unity’s first powered test flight will be, nor how many flights are expected before the start of commercial service. 

About 500 people have signed up to take a ride on SpaceShipTwo. Tickets are currently selling for $250,000. 

Follow Irene Klotz on Twitter. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

Pardon My Vomit: Zero G Ettiquette In the Age Of Space Tourism

It’s a new era for space travel. And if there’s one thing that sets it apart from the previous one, it is the spirit of collaboration that exists between space agencies and between the public and private sector. And with commercial aerospace (aka. NewSpace) companies looking to provide everything from launch services to orbital and lunar tourism, a day is fast-approaching when ordinary people will be able to go into space.

Because of this, many aerospace companies are establishing safety and training programs for prospective clients. If civilians plan on going into space, they need to have the benefit of some basic astronaut training. In short, they will need to learn how to go safely conduct themselves in a zero-gravity environment, with everything from how to avoid blowing chunks to how to relieve oneself in a tidy fashion.

In recent years, companies like Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Space Adventures, Golden Spike, and SpaceX have all expressed interest in making space accessible to tourists. The proposed ventures range from taking passengers on suborbital spaceflights – a la Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo – to trips into orbit (or the Moon) aboard a space capsule – a la Blue Origins’ New Shepard launch system.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo’s performing a glide flight. Credit: Virgin Galactic

And while these trips will not be cheap – Virgin Galactic estimates that a single seat aboard SpaceShipTwo will cost $250,000 – they absolutely have to be safe! Luckily, space agencies like NASA already have a very well-established and time-honored practice for training astronauts for zero-g. Perhaps the most famous involves flying them around in a Zero-Gravity Aircraft, colloquially known as the “Vomit Comet”.

This training program is really quite straightforward. After bringing astronaut trainees to an altitude of over 10,000 meters (32,000 feet), the plane begins flying in a parabolic arc. This consists of it climbing and falling, over and over, which causes the trainees to experience the feeling of weightlessness whenever the plane is falling. The name “vomit comet” (obviously) arises from the fact that passengers tend to lose their lunch in the process.

The Soviet-era space program also conducted weightlessness training, which Roscomos has continued since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since 1984, the European Space Agency (ESA) has also conducts parabolic flights using a specially-modified Airbus A300 B2 aircraft. The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has done the same since it was founded in 1989, relying on the Falcon 20 twin-engine jet.

Given the fact that NASA has been sending astronauts into space for nearly 60 years, they have certainly accrued a lot of experience in dealing with the effects of weightlessness. Over the short-term, these include space adaptation syndrome (SAS), which is also known as “space sickness”. True to its name, the symptoms of SAS include nausea and vomiting, vertigo, headaches, lethargy, and an overall feeling of unease.

Hawking has experienced zero gravity before, when he flew on Zero Gravity Corp’s modified Boeing 727 in 2007. Credit: Jim Campbell/Aero-News Network

Roughly 45% of all people who have flown in space have suffered from space sickness. The duration of varies, but cases have never been shown to exceed 72 hours, after which the body adapts to the new environment. And with the benefit of training, which includes acclimating to what weightlessness feels like, both the onset and duration can be mitigated.

Beyond NASA and other space agencies, private companies have also offered reduced gravity training to private customers. In 2004, the Zero Gravity Corporation (Zero-G, based in Arlington, Virginia) became the first company in the US to offer parabolic flights using a converted Boeing 727. In 2008, the company was acquired by Space Adventures, another Virginia-based space tourism company.

Much like Virgin Galactic, Space Adventures began offering clients advance bookings for sub-orbital flights, and has since expanded their vision to include lunar spaceflights. As such, the Zero-G experience has become their training platform, allowing clients the ability to experience weightlessness before going into space. In addition, some of the 700 clients who have already booked tickets with Virgin Galactic have used this same training method to prepare.

Similarly, Virgin Galactic is taking steps to prepare its astronauts for the day when they begin making regular flights into sub-orbit. According to the company, this will consist of astronauts taking part in a three day pre-flight preparation program that will be conducted onsite at Spaceport America – Virgin Galactic’s spaceflight facility, located in New Mexico.

Aside from microgravity, their astronaut training will also emphasize how to function when experiencing macrogravity (i.e. multi-g forces), which occur during periods of acceleration. The training will also include medical check-ups, psychological evaluations, and other forms of pre-flight prepation – much in the same way that regular astronauts are prepared for their journey. As they state on their website:

“Pre-flight preparation will ensure that each astronaut is mentally and physically prepared to savor every second of the spaceflight. Basic emergency response training prescribed by our regulators will be at the forefront. Activities to aid familiarity with the spaceflight environment will follow a close second.”

Blue Origin, meanwhile, has also been addressing concerns with regards to its plan to start sending tourists into suborbit in their New Shepard system. After launching from their pad outside of El Paso, Texas, the rocket will fly customers to an altitude of 100 km (62 mi) above the Earth. During this phase, the passengers will experience 3 Gs of acceleration – i.e. three times what they are used to.

Once it reaches space, the capsule will then detach from the rocket. During this time, the passengers will experience a few minutes of weightlessness. Between the intense acceleration and the feeling of freefall, many have wondered if potential clients should be worried about space sickness. These questions have been addressed by former NASA astronaut Nicholas Patrick, who now serves as Blue Origin’s human integration architect.

During an interview with Geekwire in January of 2017, he indicated that they plan to provide barf bags for customers to tuck into their flight suits, just in case. This is similar to what astronauts do aboard the International Space Station (see video above) and during long-term spaceflights. When asked about what customers could do to prepare for space sickness, he also emphasized that some training would be provided:

“It’s a short flight, so we won’t be asking people to train for a year, the way NASA astronauts trained for a shuttle flight, or three years, the way they train for a long space station mission. We’re going to get this training down to a matter of days, or less. That’s because we don’t have very many tasks. You need to know how to get out of your seat gracefully, and back into your seat safely.

“We’ll teach you a few safety procedures, like how to use the fire extinguisher – and maybe how to use the communication system, although that will come naturally to many people. What we’ll probably spend some time on is training people how to enjoy it. What are they going to take with them and use up there? How are they going to play? How are they going to experiment? Not too much training, just enough to have fun.”

“Getting sick to your stomach can be a problem on zero-G airplane flights like NASA’s “Vomit Comet,” but motion sickness typically doesn’t come up until you’ve gone through several rounds of zero-G. Blue Origin’s suborbital space ride lasts only 11 minutes, with a single four-minute dose of weightlessness.”

Bezos also addressed these questions in early April during the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, where his company was showcasing the New Shepard crew capsule. Here too, audience members had questions about what passengers should do if they felt the need to vomit (among the other things) in space.

“They don’t throw up right away,” he said, referring to astronauts succumbing to space sickness. “We’re not going to worry about it… It takes about three hours before you start to throw up. It’s a delayed effect. And this journey takes ten or eleven minutes. So you’re going to be fine.”

On April 27th, during a special Q&A session of Twitch Science Week, Universe Today’s own Fraser Cain took part in a panel discussion about the future of space exploration. Among the panelists were and Ariane Cornell, the head of Astronaut Strategy and Sales for Blue Origin. When the subject of training and etiquette came up, she described the compact process Blue Origins intends to implement to prepare customers for their flight:

“[T]he day before flight is when we give you a full – intense, but very fun – day of training. So they are going to teach you all the crucial things that you need. So ingress, how do you get into the capsule, how do you buckle in. Egress, how do you get out of the seat, out of the hatch. We’re going to teach you some emergency procedures, because we want to make sure that you guys are prepared, and feel comfortable. We’re also going to teach you about zero-g etiquette, so then when we’re all up there and we’re doing our somersaults, you know… no Matrix scenes, no Kung Fu fighting – you gotta make sure that everybody gets to enjoy the flight.”

When asked (by Fraser) if people should skip breakfast, she replied:

“No. It’s the most important meal of the day. You’re going to want to have your energy and we’re pretty confident that you’re going to have a good ride and you’re not going to feel nauseous. It’s one parabola. And when we’ve seen people, for example, when they go on rides on NASA’s “Vomit Comet”… What we’ve seen from those types of parabolic flights is that people – if they get sick – its parabola six, seven, eight. It’s a delayed effect, really. We think that with that one parabola – four minutes – you’re going to enjoy every second of it.”

Another interesting issue was addressed during the 33rd Space Symposium was whether or not the New Shepard capsule would have “facilities”. When asked about this, Bezos was similarly optimistic. “Go to the bathroom in advance,” he said, to general laughter. “If you have to pee in 11 minutes, you got problems.” He did admit that with boarding, the entire experience could take up to 41 minutes, but that passengers should be able to wait that long (fingers crossed!)

But in the event of longer flights, bathroom etiquette will need to be an issue. After all, its not exactly easy to relieve oneself in an environment where all things – solid and liquid – float freely and therefore cannot simply be flushed away. Luckily, NASA and other space agencies have us covered there too. Aboard the ISS, where astronauts have to relieve themselves regularly, waste-disposal is handled by “zero-g toilets”.

Similar to what astronauts used aboard the Space Shuttle, a zero-g toilet involves an astronaut fastening themselves to the toilet seat. Rather than using water, the removal of waste is accomplished with a vacuum suction hole. Liquid waste is transferred to the Water Recovery System, where it is converted back into drinking water (that’s right, astronauts drink their own pee… sort of).

Solid waste is collected in individual bags that are stored in an aluminum container, which are then transferred to the docked spacecraft for disposal. Remember that scene in The Martian where Mark Watney collected his crew members solid waste to use as fertilizer? Well, its much the same. Poo in a bag, and then let someone remove it and deal with it once you get home.

When it comes to lunar tourism, space sickness and waste disposal will be a must. And when it comes to Elon Musk’s plan to start ferrying people to Mars in the coming decades – aboard his Interplanetary Transportation System – it will be an absolute must! It will certainly be interesting to see how those who intend to get into the lunar tourism biz, and those who want to colonize Mars, will go about addressing these needs.

In the meantime, keep your eyes on the horizon, keep your barf bags handy, and make sure your zero-g toilet has a tight seal!

Sources:

Collaboration Between China And European Space Agency To Build Moon Outpost Is Now Brewing

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A potential space collaboration between China and the European Space Agency is looking bright. A senior official of the Chinese space agency has confirmed the bilateral talks.

According to Tian Yulong, China space agency’s secretary general, the talks were focused on the lunar base.

The talks were also confirmed by Pal Hvistendahl, a spokesman for the ESA. Besides the human outpost on the moon, other joint ventures are also in the pipeline, according to the spokesman.

China has already announced that it is planning to reach the darker side of the moon by 2018 and there will be a Mars mission by 2020.

“The Chinese have a very ambitious moon program already in place,” Hvistendahl said and added that the space race of the ’60s is off now.

To explore space for peaceful purposes, international cooperation is essential, the spokesman added.

ESA’s Moon Village A Launch Pad To Mars Mission

Meanwhile, ESA director general Johann-Dietrich Woerner mentioned the proposed “Moon Village” and said it would be an international launching pad for future missions to Mars and serve as a tool to develop space tourism and lunar mining.

The cooperation with ESA on the moon village will be beneficial for China in accomplishing the space goals.

ESA Cooperation As Fillip to Chinese Programs

China has been trying to make rapid strides in space programs the past few years. The first unmanned cargo spacecraft of China was recently launched to the Tiangong-2 unmanned space station to prepare the station for advanced programs and trials of docking and detaching from the station.

China sent its first man into space in 2003. But that was more than 40 years after a Russian cosmonaut hit the orbit.

That is why there is a perception that China has been a laggard in space programs compared with big powers like the United States or Russia. Also, China cannot have space collaboration with the United States as space cooperation with China has been excluded by the latter under a law passed in 2011. China was also kept out of the International Space Station over security concerns.

NASA Plan For Space Station That Orbits Moon

Meanwhile, NASA is also going ahead with its plans to construct a space station at the lunar orbit and has roped in international partners. The science station will fill the vacuum caused by the retirement of the International Space Station in the 2020s.

The size will be a fraction of the ISS. Yet the new station with its location at the cis-lunar orbit will be giving a foothold for all human missions to asteroids, the moon, and Mars. The egg-shaped orbit will be away by 1,500 km to 70,000 km (930 miles to 44,000 miles) from the moon.

The design of the station has been under progress and the first mission may be launched in 2023. The plan is to position a robotic spacecraft called Power and Propulsion Bus or PPB in the orbit around the moon.

That will be followed by the addition of a pair of modules weighing less than 10 tons each to be bolted to the PPB. The new structure can house four astronauts for 90 days. The space facility will also get a Russian-built airlock module in the mid-2020s to enable the crew to walk outside the space home.

Both modules will be backed with four docking ports with mutual connections so that they can receive visiting spacecraft.

The advantage of choosing cis-lunar space is that it is not very congested compared with Earth orbit and designers can afford thinner walls around the space station.

© 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

ViaSat-2 satellite now scheduled to launch on June 1, 2017


An artist's impression of the ViaSat-2 satellite. Image: Boeing.

An artist’s impression of the ViaSat-2 satellite. Image: Boeing.

ViaSat has confirmed the scheduled launch date for the ViaSat-2 satellite is June 1, 2017.

The ViaSat-2 satellite will launch aboard an Arianespace Ariane 5 ECA launch vehicle from the Guiana Space Centre, Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

The satellite will be sent into geostationary transfer orbit by the launch vehicle and will provide broadband services from an orbital slot located at 69.9° west longitude.

The ViaSat-2 satellite system is expected to significantly improve speeds, reduce costs and expand the footprint of broadband services across North America, Central America, the Caribbean, a portion of northern South America, as well as the primary aeronautical and maritime routes across the Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe.

The Ka-band geostationary satellite was designed to offer high-capacity connectivity and wide coverage, with the flexibility to move capacity to where demand requires it.

The company says the satellite is expected to double the bandwidth of ViaSat-1, with more than 300 Gigabits per second (Gbps) of total network capacity, as well as providing seven times the broadband coverage over its predecessor.

ViaSat-2 is expected to enter service in early calendar year 2018.

At the recent Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Don Buchman, Vice President and General Manager, Commercial Mobility at ViaSat, said its Gen 2 equipment, which will enable compatibility between the ViaSat-1, -2 and -3 satellites, will be available to install in May.

“What we’re bringing to the in-flight internet market is so drastically different than anything else. We’re delivering a vertically-integrated system – from the satellite to the terminal and the access points on the aircraft – that is optimised to keep pace with the most powerful communications satellites in the world – ViaSat-2 and ViaSat-3,” said Buchman.

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ViaSat-2 satellite now scheduled to launch on June 1, 2017 was last modified: April 27th, 2017 by Steve Nichols

Space executives ask for updated regulations, more aid

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A Falcon 9 rocket briefly fired its nine Merlin main engines at Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 ahead of a planned launch. Emre Kelly

WASHINGTON – Out-of-date regulations, a looming backlog of license applications and a lack of viable destinations in Low Earth Orbit threaten to hamper the nation’s burgeoning commercial space industry.

That’s what several commercial space executives on Wednesday told a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee panel overseeing the space program.

What they want is a government assist when it comes to helping companies develop technologies, handle the growing volume of launches, and extend liability and intellectual property protections. What they also want is for government to streamline and simplify regulations they say are already proving cumbersome.

For example, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Air Force, two agencies in charge of licensing commercial space activities, need to update regulations that recognize the industry’s growing use of reusable rockets, Rob Meyerson, president of Blue Origin, told committee members.

The company, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, will begin flying test pilots next year on suborbital rides of its New Shepard reusable booster and capsule.

While pursuing an FAA launch license of its New Glenn spacecraft recently at a federal range, Blue Origin officials found they had to comply with an “entirely different but equally rigorous” set of regulations for both the FAA and the Air Force for the same vehicle.

“This is duplicative and onerous and will increase costs, delays and uncertainty,” Meyerson told senators.

Robert Bigelow, whose Bigelow Aerospace builds inflatable space habitats, said he’s worried there aren’t enough destinations in the Low Earth Orbit aside from the International Space Station. He wants to help develop a “lunar depot” that would orbit the moon and enable access to the lunar surface.

The industry needs places to test transportation systems, try out operating networks and conduct experiments. And it needs customers willing to pay for such services, he told senators.

“NASA is too focused on just transportation systems to the ISS,” Bigelow said. “Whether the (space station) continues or not, additional destinations besides the ISS are vital to sustain a viable space crew and cargo enterprise with new markets that eventually will replace the (orbiting lab).

Others who testified also said the FAA office that reviews and issues commercial launch licenses needs a boost in staffing given the impending increase of applications aerospace firms are expected to file in the coming years.

And they want the government to permanently extend indemnification protections to insure companies if a mishap causes catastrophic third-party losses. The current protections expire in 2025. And they want to ensure any intellectual property developed by U.S. companies while they’re in space belongs to the company.

It wasn’t just a gripe session.

They praised NASA’s use of Space Act agreements that give commercial space firms more flexibility than traditional government contracts.

And the aerospace executives were appreciative of the gains made under the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act Congress passed in 2015 that has helped accelerate the number of commercial launches in recent months, and paved the way for dozens more to come.

That law extended the life of the space station to 2024, provided U.S. citizens who collect materials from asteroids the right to keep those samples, and gave companies more time to meet certain safety standards so they can develop technology and work through issues without potentially costly and burdensome rules.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, the top Democrat on the panel, told them the steps forward must be pragmatic.

“We all know challenges exist but the key to success here is balance,” said Nelson, whose home state has seen a commercial activity spike at Cape Canaveral. “Balance between public and private space endeavors, between competition and cooperation, (and) between risk and public safety.”

Contact Ledyard King at lking@gannett.com; Twitter: @ledgeking

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