Today’s Tidbits: November 17, 2017

Today’s Tidbits: November 17, 2017

Here are our tidbits for November 17, 2017:  China’s space transportation roadmap; new IADC guidelines for LEO constellations; Arecibo gets good news. Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

China’s Space Transportation Roadmap

Andrew Jones of summarizes China’s new roadmap for space transportation, which sets forth a broad range of capabilities through 2045 as envisioned by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).  Included are a reusable space plane by 2025, a 100 metric ton (MT) launch vehicle by 2030, a “next generation” of rockets capable of multiple interplanetary round trips by 2040, and a “nuclear powered space shuttle by 2040.”

New IADC Guidelines on Large Constellations in LEO

The Steering Group of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordinating (IADC) committee has issued new guidelines for large constellations — hundreds or thousands of small satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) like those envisioned by OneWeb and Starlink.

The IADC is a group of 13 space agencies that exchanges information on space debris research and identifies and evaluates options for debris mitigation.  It proposes voluntary guidelines that may be adopted by national or international bodies.

The new guidelines were adopted by IADC in September and just released to the public [].  The purpose “is to provide additional considerations on how adherence to the IADC mitigation guidelines [already promulgated] can be achieved by such [constellations].  It should be noted that these do not mean additional or expansion of IADC guidelines, but technical guidance on how best to comply with them.”

Among them is that “sufficient altitude separation between all parts of the constellation and with respect to other large constellations and crowded orbits in order to minimise [sic] the potential collision risk.”

That was a point repeatedly stressed by OneWeb’s Greg Wyler at a hearing before the space subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee last month.  He emphasized it again in a tweet:


Arecibo Observatory Gets Good News

Arecibo Observatory. Photo credit: USRA website

Battered by Hurricane Maria and still operating on generator power two months later, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico got good news yesterday.  The National Science Foundation (NSF), the primary funding source for the radio telescope, issued a Record of Decision to continue operations there [].

The debate over Arecibo’s future has been going on for years and is unrelated to the hurricane, but the timing of the announcement surely brought cheer to those who work there and are still suffering Maria’s effects.

NSF said it “would collaborate with interested parties to maintain science-focused operations at the observatory with reduced agency funding.”  The last four words are not as reassuring as the announcement overall, but NSF knows it has at least one other interested party — NASA, which uses Arecibo for tracking and characterizing asteroids.  NASA’s Associate Administrator for Science, Thomas Zurbuchen, tweeted his enthusiasm for the NSF decision.


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