Picking Up Where We Left Off

NASA may be grounded, but the Chinese are just getting warmed up.

Rocket launches Chinese space lab

A rocket carrying China’s first space laboratory, Tiangong-1, has launched from the north of the country.

The Long March vehicle lifted clear from the Jiuquan spaceport in the Gobi Desert at 21:16 local time (13:16 GMT).

The rocket’s ascent took the lab out over the Pacific, and on a path to an orbit some 350km above the Earth.

The 10.5m-long, cylindrical module will be unmanned for the time being, but the country’s astronauts, or yuhangyuans, are expected to visit it next year.

Tiangong means “heavenly palace” in Chinese.

See also:
“Heavenly Palace:” China’s dream home in space
Space flight in service of science
Tiangong-1 blasts off
China’s Space Launch Closes Gap With U.S.
China launches Heavenly Palace space station module
China launches module for space station
China launches 1st space station module
China Launches Spacecraft, Eyes Space Station
China Launches ‘Heavenly Palace-1’ Into Space; Takes Step Toward Station
China Set to Launch Its Own Space Station; Mission: Unknown
China Launches Space Lab; An Insider Look Into China Space Program
Rocket’s red glaring error: China sets space launch to America the Beautiful
Tiangong 1

Okay, so the Chinese are still quite a ways behind the U.S. space program.

/but hey, at least they have an active space program

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Two Up, Two Down

This is the second failed flight for the HTV-2, at $160 million per splash.

DARPA issues statement on failed flight of hypersonic aircraft

The Falcon launched at 7:45 a.m. from Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Santa Barbara, into the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere aboard an eight-story Minotaur IV rocket, made by Orbital Sciences Corp.

After reaching an undisclosed sub-orbital altitude, the aircraft jettisoned from its protective cover atop the rocket, then nose-dived back toward Earth, leveled out and began to glide above the Pacific at 20 times the speed of sound, or Mach 20.

Then the trouble began.

“Here’s what we know,” said Air Force Maj. Chris Schulz, DARPA’s program manager. “We know how to boost the aircraft to near space. We know how to insert the aircraft into atmospheric hypersonic flight. We do not yet know how to achieve the desired control during the aerodynamic phase of flight. It’s vexing; I’m confident there is a solution. We have to find it.”

See also:
Pentagon’s hypersonic flight test cut short by anomaly
Pentagon’s Mach 20 Missile Lost Over Pacific — Again
DARPA drops another HTV-2
Second Flop: DARPA Loses Contact With HTV-2
DARPA Launches and Loses Hypersonic Aircraft: Update
The Air Force Loses a Second Superfast Spaceplane
Falcon HTV-2 is lost during bid to become fastest ever plane
Falcon hypersonic vehicle test flight fails
Review Board Sets Up to Probe HTV-2 L
DARPA loses contact with hypersonic aircraft
Lost at sea. Military loses contact with hypersonic test plane
Misdirection, Always Watch What The Left Hand Is Doing

So, in order to find out what went wrong, the Air Force needs to find this tiny HTV-2 drone, that they lost contact with, somewhere in the vast Pacific ocean. Good luck with that, they never lost the first one the dunked.

/why do I get the feeling there’s not going to be a third time?

Chinese Dragon And American Eagle Headed In Opposite Directions

While we unilaterally disarms under Obama, the Chinese are strengthening their military capabilities, specifically gearing toward a confrontation with the United States.

China Strengthens Strategic Capability, Report Says

The U.S. Defense Department said in a report issued yesterday that China continues to strengthen its strategic capability through updates to its nuclear and missile systems, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, June 3; Anne Flaherty, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, Aug. 16).

. . .

Beijing’s aggressive spending on its effort to become a top military force has been recognized for some time, AP reported. China has rejected U.S. concerns about its defense program. Frustrated by Washington’s military support for Taiwan, it has halted U.S.-Chinese military contact that could address the issue.

“The limited transparency in China’s military and security affairs enhances uncertainty and increases the potential for misunderstanding and miscalculation,” the report says (Flaherty, Associated Press).

U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the Pentagon document “paints an alarming picture, despite its ‘glass half full’ perspective,” the Washington Times reported.

“It is clear that China is aggressively expanding its military capabilities, which appear to be aimed at limiting American strategic options in the Pacific,” he said. “This troubling reality is inconsistent with China’s supposed interest in fostering a peaceful, stable region” (Bill Gertz, Washington Times, Aug. 16).

Read the report:

Military and Security Developments
Involving the People’s Republic of China
2010

See also:
U.S. Sounds Alarm at China’s Military Buildup
Economic powerhouse China focuses on its military might
Pentagon: China Continues to Expand Military Capability
The Chinese Military Challenge
China Could Intervene at Military ‘Flash Points,’ Pentagon Warns
China threat: Now you see it, now you don’t
Chinese military’s cyber-attack capabilities mysterious: Pentagon
China Fires Back on U.S. Report
China warns U.S. military report threatens ties
Pentagon’s China military report ‘ignores objective truth,’ says China
Chinese Government Rejects Pentagon Report on Country’s Military Ambition

I used to think that, given our vast Pacific superiority in the air, in space, and on the sea, there was no way in Hell that China would ever dare to invade Taiwan or otherwise engage the United States in a military conflict. Now, I’m no longer sure that’s necessarily true.

/every day, they get stronger, we get weaker, and the gap in the military balance of power narrows toward parity