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
December 1st, 2014
November 19th, 2014
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.)
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.
July 11th, 2014
Inside Defense reports that the Pentagon’s assessment of the Iranian intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) threat has changed substantially for the first time since 1999. The new assessment appears in the unclassified executive summary of the Pentagon’s January 2014 Annual Report on Military Power of Iran. Read More
April 3rd, 2014
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
March 17th, 2014
March 15th, 2014
The Pentagon voiced its concern this week that the U.S. GPS navigation capabilities could be held at risk by increasingly capable Chinese anti-satellite capabilities. But it is worth noting that while individual satellites might be threatened, disabling the system and knocking out navigation services is much harder. Read More
March 3rd, 2014
One strange effect of the seven Oscar wins yesterday for Alfonso Cuarón’s film Gravity is that many more people will be conversant about something that was mostly the kind of thing specialists talked about—just how damaging space debris from anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons can be. In Gravity, astronauts played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney struggle for their lives after debris from a satellite destroyed on-orbit by Russia threatens the space shuttle and space station. Read More
December 18th, 2013
Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) recently announced that he will not seek reelection in 2014. The congressman was well known for his opposition to cooperation between the U.S. and China in space. UCS criticized his approach to this question on numerous occasions.
The restrictions on U.S.—China cooperation in space are counterproductive. They punish well-meaning Chinese scientists and engineers and abet Chinese hard-liners who oppose cooperation every bit as strongly as Mr. Wolf. Lack of normal contact between the U.S. and Chinese space communities increases mistrust and misunderstanding, forestalls cooperative research that could benefit both and does little to curb China’s technological development. The restrictions are a public policy failure and before he departs Congressman Wolf should remove them. It would be a fitting end to the distinguished career of a public servant who, more often then not, advanced the role of science in the conduct of public policy.
In an age when many of our elected representatives cannot see far past the next election, Congressman Wolf took a principled stand on China and expended considerable personal effort to pursue it. His ban on cooperation in space was motivated, in part, by legitimate and important concerns about human rights in China. While the ban did little to advance human rights in China, and actually impinged upon the rights of many of the Chinese scientists and engineers caught up in the ban, the retiring congressman from Virginia deserves respect, not ridicule, for trying to make a difference.
December 6th, 2013
While the world is focusing on negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program, where do things stand on the other piece of the puzzle, the Iranian space-launch and missile program? Read More
November 20th, 2013
Last spring the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) produced a report that included a lengthy section on the future of Chinese space science and technology. A translation with commentary is now available on the UCS website.