Is U.S. Losing Ground In Space?

No, according to Futron Space Competitiveness Index. The U.S. remains top ranked among 10 nations in space competitiveness for 2011, but it is losing ground to global competitors as its space policy undergoes a major transition, especially in the area of human spaceflight. The U.S. is perched atop a list that includes Europe, Russia, China, […]
No, according to Futron Space Competitiveness Index. The U.S. remains top ranked among 10 nations in space competitiveness for 2011, but it is losing ground to global competitors as its space policy undergoes a major transition, especially in the area of human spaceflight. The U.S. is perched atop a list that includes Europe, Russia, China, Japan, India, Canada, South Korea, Israel and Brazil, reports the Bethesda, Md., consultancy this week in its fourth annual ranking study. Futron examined 50 metrics in making the rankings, including a trio of overarching indicators: government, human capital and industry. Of the 10 countries analyzed, only the United States has shown four straight years of competitiveness declines. By contrast, Russia, China and Japan have improved their own space competitiveness by 12%, 27% and 45%, respectively, over their relative starting points from when Futron’s benchmarking process began in 2008. Chinese gains are coming at the expense of the U.S. The Asian power matched the U.S. in numbers of launches during 2010 for the first time, the index notes. However, over the past decade (2001-10), Russia led all countries, with 248 orbital launches. The U.S. followed, with 197; next was China, with 70; and Europe, with 63. During the same period (2001-10), the U.S. produced the most spacecraft, 388; followed by Russia, with 219; Europe, with 188; and China, with 80. Overall trends studied by Futron reveal that cooperation in space tends to intensify competition. “Dominant actors are losing ground to a rising middle tier of space players, and the competitive gaps separating all nations are narrowing,” Jay Gullish, Futron Space & Telecommunications Div. director, said in a statement. The report finds that global space activity drives a substantial economic engine as well as fostering national pride and advancements in science and exploration. “Moreover, whatever the purpose of space investment, it is enabled by a common denominator: human capital,” according to the 2011 index. “Knowledge, skills and expertise ultimately define the leading edge of space activity. In a world where talent is mobile, the ability to educate, attract, retain and continuously enrich a base of skilled professionals is a growing determinant of which nations and actors lead in space competitiveness.” In related highlights, the index notes that Japan has strengthened its position relative to almost every other country through policy reforms that link government and industry. Russia’s world-leading launch sector is poised for increased activity as it prepares to begin Soyuz launches from Kourou, French Guiana, while providing essential crew and cargo transportation services to the International Space Station. China is increasing investments in technical education and civilian research institutes. India is enhancing space-related technical education to pursue future launch objectives. You can download the full report here.
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Will NASA Have To Buy Seats On The Russian Soyuz Rocket To Carry Its Astronauts Into Orbit?

The answer is “Yes” according to a lot of experts. The Obama administration has instructed Nasa to hand over to private companies the job of ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station. That is supposed to free NASA to focus on more ambitious goals, ultimately to take crews beyond the realm of low […]
The answer is “Yes” according to a lot of experts. The Obama administration has instructed Nasa to hand over to private companies the job of ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station. That is supposed to free NASA to focus on more ambitious goals, ultimately to take crews beyond the realm of low Earth orbit. So the thinking goes, anyway… However, it is obvious that the transition will not be swift and the replacement of the shuttle is many years off. So, if NASA still wants to carry its astronauts into orbit, there is only one way to do that: they must buy seats on the Russian Soyuz rocket. What do we know about Soyuz and how does it compare to NASA’s Space Shuttle program?
Soyuz docked to International Space Station
Soyuz (Сою́з) is a series of spacecraft designed for the Soviet space program by the Korolyov Design Bureau in the 1960s.  The Soyuz spacecraft family is still in service today. Soyuz spacecraft were used to carry personnel to and from Salyut and later Mir Soviet space stations, and are now used for transport to and from the International Space Station. The International Space Station maintains a docked Soyuz spacecraft at all times to be used as escape craft in the event of an emergency. How do the costs compare? According to the industry experts, the Soyuz represents the triumph of a low-cost approach to human space exploration. The Russian capsules are launched on massive expendable rockets, carrying astronauts in a kind of guided cannonball to and from orbit. By contrast, the U.S. built its space program around the most complex flying machine ever, the reusable space shuttle. While the U.S. has spent $209.1 billion on the space shuttle since its inception, the entire Russian space program currently costs just $2 billion a year. Do YOU think that reusable ships are not economically justified? Please comment below.
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