Just when things were getting a little dull on the space front, lots of things seem to be happening at once. Politicians have realised that there is a long gap between the retirement of the shuttle and the earliest point that the new system, Constellation, could be flying to the space station. There is talk of trying to close that money with more cash, and retiring the shuttle later than 2010. But this will be politically risky, because the chances of an accident with each shuttle mission are possibly as high as 1 in 75. In any case, at some point engineers have to stop working on the shuttle and start building the new system, there has to be a gap of sorts. Then, just as things couldn't look worse, Russian goes and invades Georgia, scuppering plans to buy Russian transport to the space station in the gap.
Enter the Dragon. The war in Georgia is prompting a rethink of America’s route into space. Aug 21st 2008
We also published a a piece that has been in preparation for a long time, on export controls in the US space industry. Not exactly headline grabbing stuff, but actually crucial if you work in this business.
BRIEFING: Space technology
Earthbound. Gravity is not the main obstacle for America’s space business. Government is. Aug 21st 2008