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Space and Satellites

NPT Brief: Keeping Chinese Nuclear Weapons Off Hair-Trigger Alert

An overwhelming majority of NPT member states agree that keeping nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert presents an irresponsibly high risk of an accidental or mistaken launch. The final report of the last NPT review conference, held in 2010, included a requirement to lower alert levels. The United States is doing its best to make sure that requirement is stripped from the final language of the 2015 report, despite the wishes of many close U.S. allies. Read More

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No Need to Give Up on Peace in Space

The headlines from this year’s space symposium in Colorado Springs were full of doom and gloom. The U.S. assistant secretary of State for arms control warned, “The threat to outer space is real and growing.” He drew bright lines in the heavens between enemies and allies, dismissed international entreaties for negotiations in the United Nations Conference on Disarmament (UNCD), and called on U.S. allies to strengthen space deterrence.

U.S. Air Force Lt. General Jay Raymond told the packed house of space enthusiasts that China was enemy number one. He claimed a July 2014 Chinese missile defense test was actually an anti-satellite test and that it was successful, although he offered no new information in support of either claim. U.S. officials are using the recent Chinese test to justify greater U.S. reliance on space weaponry to protect U.S. satellites. Read More

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Three Reasons the UCS Satellite Database is Different from Other Satellite Catalogs

The purpose of the UCS Satellite Database is to provide information about the on-orbit capabilities of different actors and to provide a research tool for specialists and non-specialists alike, using open-source information about operational satellites.

We try very hard to keep the list accurate and useful, so we appreciate communication from the space community and our users suggesting improvements and pointing out errors.

While some “corrections” are truly errors, many of them arise from differences in definition of terms or misunderstanding about the Database’s purpose. For example, our aim is not to provide information on all orbiting objects (many of which are debris) or to assist in collision avoidance, nor to provide a catalogue of all objects that have ever been launched. Read More

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New Quarterly Update to the UCS Satellite Database

A new version of the UCS Satellite Database, which includes launches through January 31, 2015, has been posted at http://ucsusa.org/satellites and includes 1265 active satellites.

 

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Iran’s Fourth Successful Satellite Launch

Despite a report two weeks ago from Medium.com that Iran’s space program was unceremoniously shut down, it appears to be alive and well. Iran successfully launched a small satellite into orbit for the fourth time, just a day ahead of Iran’s national space day. Read More

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Russia’s Small Maneuvering Satellites: Inspectors or ASATs?

In May, Russia announced it had launched three Russian communications satellites, Kosmos-2496, -2497, -2498. An additional object was along for the ride, orbiting a few kilometers away from the declared payloads. Without a declared name, this satellite was subsequently classified as debris by the U.S. space surveillance system. Read More

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Visualizing the UCS Satellite Database

Quartz created an interactive visualization using the UCS Satellite Database data called “The World Above Us: This is every active satellite orbiting the earth.” It shows all the satellites in the database, with their image size proportional to their launch mass, set in altitude bands. You can pull up relevant details on each satellite, and set them in motion. You can highlight different populations (spy sats, type of user, etc.)

quartz satellites

A still image from the Quartz interactive website.

It’s a real pleasure to see someone take your work (in this case, primarily the work of Database researcher Teri Grimwood) and make something beautiful and useful from it.

 

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The Space Plane Returns to Earth

The third X-37B space plane flight is coming to an end this week, after a record 22 month long mission. We have written pretty extensively on the “space plane” here on ATN, and have a factsheet where we condensed that thinking. Read More

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New Quarterly Update to the UCS Satellite Database

A new version of the UCS Satellite Database, which includes launches through July 31, 2014, has been posted at http://ucsusa.org/satellitesRead More

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Five Kinds of Things the UCS Satellite Database Can Tell You

We’ve been getting a good number of questions about the UCS Satellite Database and have been happy to see it be useful as context in recent discussions about satellite imaging and the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370. Read More

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