China rocket failure likely to set back next space missions

China rocket failure likely to set back next space missions
The Long March-5 Y2 rocket takes off from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in Wenchang, Hainan Province, China, on July 2, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 05 July 2017

China rocket failure likely to set back next space missions

China rocket failure likely to set back next space missions

BEIJING: The failure of China’s Long March 5 rocket deals a rare setback to China’s highly successful space program that could delay plans to bring back moon samples and offer rival India a chance to move ahead in the space rankings.
Experts say the still unexplained mishap shows that for all its triumphs, China’s space program is not immune to the tremendous difficulties and risks involved in working with such cutting-edge technology.
“China’s approach has been slow and prudent, trying to avoid this kind of ‘failure,’ even though they knew it was going to occur sooner or later,” Joan Johnson-Freese, an expert on China’s space program at the US Naval War College, wrote in an e-mail.
Authorities say the Long March 5 Y2 that took off Sunday in the second launch of a Long March 5 rocket, suffered an abnormality during the flight after what appeared to be a successful liftoff from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in the southern island province of Hainan. The incident is under investigation and the authorities have yet to comment on possible causes, or any knock-on effects on the program as a whole.
In a testimony to the high respect China’s program now commands, the failure drew widespread commentary in the space community, including from SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk, who tweeted Sunday: “Sorry to hear about China launch failure today. I know how painful that is to the people who designed & built it.”
Nicknamed “Chubby 5” for its massive, 5-meter (16-foot) girth, the Long March-5 is China’s largest and most brawny launch vehicle, capable of carrying 25 tons of payload into low-earth orbit and 14 tons to the more distant geostationary transfer orbit in which a satellite orbits constantly above a fixed position on the earth’s surface
That’s more than double that of the Long March 7, the backbone of the Chinese launching fleet, making it the linchpin for launch duties requiring such massive heft such as interplanetary travel.
First among those is the mission slated for November by the Chang’e 5 probe to land a rover on the moon before returning to Earth with samples — the first time that has been done since 1976. China’s most technically demanding mission to date, it had been put off before because of funding and then technology, Johnson-Freese said.
While the Long March 5 has suffered other setbacks, the lunar mission is “certainly the most visible one,” she said.
Other upcoming Chinese missions include the launch next year of the 20-ton core module for China’s orbiting Tiangong 2 space station, along with specialized components for the 60-ton station that is due to come on-line in 2022 and other massive payloads in future. The Long March 5 was also due to be the launch vehicle for a Mars rover planned for the mid 2020s.
Problems with the Long March 5 may stem from its use of liquefied gases that are less stable than the sort of propellants used in other rockets, said Morris Jones, an Australian space analyst and regular contributor to SpaceDaily.com. Unlike earlier rockets that used highly toxic fuels, the Long March 5 burns a more environmentally friendly and less expensive kerosene-liquid oxygen-liquid hydrogen mix — which is more complex and harder to regulate.
Jones called such setbacks typical of the development phase of a new rocket and said additional launches may be required to work out the kinks. Sunday’s launch failure will delay the Chang’e 5 mission at least until next year, while there may also be a small delay in launching the space station components, Jones said.
Finding a fix “takes a lot of time and effort but there is no other way to produce a reliable rocket,” Jones said.
Test launched for the first time last year in what had been a towering success, the 57-meter (187-foot) two-stage rocket is just slightly less powerful than the most powerful rocket in service, the US’ United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV, although SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is designed to carry a payload into low-earth orbit of more than 50 tons.
Since the first launch in 1970, China’s Long March series of rockets have been a remarkably solid bet, achieving a success rate of around 95 percent. That’s helped facilitate a program that conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, making China only the third country after Russia and the US to do so, put a pair of space stations into orbit, and landed its Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit” rover on the moon. Administrators suggest a manned landing on the moon may also be in the program’s future.
Not all has been smooth sailing, however.
A Long March 3B rocket launched June 18 launch placed its communications satellite in a lower-than planned for orbit. Though the satellite is climbing into its proper altitude on its own, the effort will reduce its useful lifespan in space. A least two similar incidents reportedly occurred last year.
With two mishaps coming so close together, Chinese space officials may decide to take a pause to re-evaluate manufacturing quality or other aspects of the program, said Stephen Clark of Spaceflight Now. That may include launching another Long March 5 test flight before attempting the Chang’e 5 mission, Clark said.
Both Clark and Johnson-Freese said they hope the failure doesn’t deter Chinese officials in their pursuit of greater transparency and international participation in the country’s space program.
Yet, rivals, primarily India, may see the setback as an opportunity to steal a march on China, whose geostrategic influence has benefited significantly from its role as a technology leader in space, said Johnson-Freese.
India’s Mars Orbiter Mission, called Mangalyaan, is already orbiting the red planet, years before China is ready to launch such a mission, and it won acclaim and a place in the record books earlier this year by placing 104 nano satellites in orbit from a single rocket.
“The failure of the Long March 5 may provide a window of opportunity for India,” said Johnson-Freese.


Afghan official: Bombs hit 2 minivans in Kabul, 7 dead

Afghan official: Bombs hit 2 minivans in Kabul, 7 dead
Updated 12 June 2021

Afghan official: Bombs hit 2 minivans in Kabul, 7 dead

Afghan official: Bombs hit 2 minivans in Kabul, 7 dead
  • The first explosion killed six people and wounded two and the second explosion killed one and wounded four
  • The area where the explosions happened is largely populated by the minority Hazara ethnic group

KABUL: Separate bombs hit two minivans in a mostly Shiite neighborhood in the Afghan capital Saturday, killing at least seven people and wounding six others, the Interior Ministry said.
The attacks targeted minivans on the same road about 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) apart in a neighborhood in western Kabul, Interior Ministry deputy spokesman Ahmad Zia Zia, said.
It wasn’t immediately clear what type of bombs were used and no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks. Daesh has carried out similar bombings in the area, including four attacks on four minivans earlier this month that killed at least 18 people.
The first explosion killed six people and wounded two and the second explosion in front of Muhammad Ali Jinnah hospital, where a majority of COVID-19 patients are admitted, killed one and wounded four.
The area where the explosions happened is largely populated by the minority Hazara ethnic group who are mostly Shiite Muslims. Shiites are a minority in mostly Sunni Afghanistan, and the local Daesh affiliate has declared war against them.
Hundreds of Afghans are killed or injured every month in violence connected to the country’s constant war. But Hazaras, who make up around 9 percent of the population of 36 million people, stand alone in being intentionally targeted because of their ethnicity and their religion.
Violence and chaos continue to escalate in Afghanistan as the US and NATO continue their withdrawal of the remaining 2,500-3,500 American soldiers and 7,000 allied forces. The last of the troops will be gone by Sept. 11 at the latest.


After charming leaders, Queen Elizabeth sits back for parade

After charming leaders, Queen Elizabeth sits back for parade
Updated 12 June 2021

After charming leaders, Queen Elizabeth sits back for parade

After charming leaders, Queen Elizabeth sits back for parade
  • On Friday, she was the star turn at a reception with the G-7 leaders and their spouses at the Eden Project
  • She drew laughter from her guests as she chided them during a group photo session: “Are you supposed to be looking as if you’re enjoying yourself?”

LONDON: Fresh from charming leaders at the Group of Seven summit, Queen Elizabeth II was back at her residence at Windsor Castle on Saturday to view a military parade to mark her official birthday.
The 95-year-old monarch sat on a dais to watch the ceremony that despite ongoing social distancing restrictions did not disappoint on the pomp and pageantry front. If she was tired after meeting G-7 leaders, including US President Joe Biden, on Friday evening, it didn’t show.
The ceremony is a gift from the Household Division of army regiments, which has a close affinity with the monarch. It featured soldiers who have played an integral role in the COVID-19 response, as well as those who have been serving on military operations. She was seen beaming from ear to ear as the nine planes of the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows flew past in formation and let loose their red, white and blue smoke.
The traditional Trooping the Color ceremony is normally staged in London and features hundreds of servicemen and women and thousands of spectators. However, for the second year running, that was not possible and it was a slimmed-down affair in the grounds of Windsor Castle, which is around 27 miles (44 kilometers) west of the capital.


Dubbed a mini Trooping the Color, it featured soldiers in ceremonial scarlet coats and bearskin hats. The servicemen and women on parade numbered almost 275, with 70 horses, compared with the 85 soldiers who took part in the ceremony last summer. A small handful of seated guests lined part of the quadrangle — a change from last year when only the military were present.
The ceremony originated from traditional preparations for battle. The colors — or flags — were “trooped,” or carried down the lines of soldiers, so they could be seen and recognized in battle.
Lt. Col. Guy Stone, who planned the queen’s official birthday celebrations in Windsor Castle’s quadrangle, said he wanted to create a “memorable and uplifting day” for the monarch.
The ceremony took place a couple of months after the death of her 99-year-old husband Prince Philip, whose funeral also took place at Windsor Castle.
Though she has been mourning the loss of her husband of 73 years, the queen has carried on performing her duties, including delivering a government-scripted speech to mark the new session of parliament.
On Friday, she was the star turn at a reception with the G-7 leaders and their spouses at the Eden Project, a futuristic botanical garden housed inside domes that features the world’s largest indoor rainforest.
She drew laughter from her guests as she chided them during a group photo session: “Are you supposed to be looking as if you’re enjoying yourself?”
Though the queen’s actual birthday is on April 26, she celebrates another one in June when the British weather — it is hoped — is more conducive to outdoor celebrations. It’s a royal tradition that goes back to 1748 and the reign of King George II, whose actual birthday was in November.
One of the major parts of the queen’s official birthday is her award of honors to those deemed to have made a positive contribution to society.
This year’s honors list has celebrated those at the forefront of the UK’s rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines over the past few months, which has been credited with turning around the country’s pandemic response.
Sarah Gilbert, the professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford who was instrumental in the development of the vaccine being manufactured by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, and Kate Bingham, the former head of the UK Vaccines Taskforce credited for the country’s successful procurement program, have both been recognized with damehoods.
Though the UK has seen Europe’s highest virus-related death toll, with nearly 128,000 people having lost their lives, its vaccination program has been deemed one of the world’s speediest and most coherent rollouts.


At least 12 injured in shooting in downtown Austin, Texas

At least 12 injured in shooting in downtown Austin, Texas
Updated 12 June 2021

At least 12 injured in shooting in downtown Austin, Texas

At least 12 injured in shooting in downtown Austin, Texas

AUSTIN, TEXAS: Officials in Texas say at least nine people have been injured following a shooting Saturday morning in downtown Austin.
Police said in a tweet that multiple victims had injuries. The Austin-Travis County EMS said in a series of tweets that at least 12 patients had received treatment or been transported to local hospitals.
It was unknown how many of the injuries may have been gunshot wounds.
It was unclear what sparked the shooting. Police have not announced any suspects or arrests.


France’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word

France’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word
Updated 12 June 2021

France’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word

France’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word
  • Since Britain completed its exit from the EU late last year, relations with the bloc and particularly France have soured

CARBIS BAY, England: French President Emmanuel Macron offered on Saturday to reset relations with Britain as long as Prime Minister Boris Johnson stood by the Brexit divorce deal he signed with the European Union.
Since Britain completed its exit from the EU late last year, relations with the bloc and particularly France have soured, with Macron becoming the most vocal critic of London’s refusal to honor the terms of part of its Brexit deal.
At a meeting at the Group of Seven world’s most advanced economies in southwestern England, Macron told Johnson the two countries had common interests, but that ties could only improve if Johnson kept his word on Brexit.
“The president told Boris Johnson there needed to be a reset of the Franco-British relationship,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
“This can happen provided that he keeps his word with the Europeans,” the source said, adding that Macron spoke in English to Johnson.
Johnson will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel later on Saturday, where she could also raise the row over part of the EU divorce deal, called the Northern Ireland protocol.
The British leader, who is hosting the G7 meeting, wants the summit to focus on global issues, but has stood his ground on trade with Northern Ireland, calling on the EU to be more flexible in its approach to easing trade to the province from Britain.


Russia’s Vladimir Putin hopes US counterpart Joe Biden less impulsive than Donald Trump

Russia’s Vladimir Putin hopes US counterpart Joe Biden less impulsive than Donald Trump
Updated 12 June 2021

Russia’s Vladimir Putin hopes US counterpart Joe Biden less impulsive than Donald Trump

Russia’s Vladimir Putin hopes US counterpart Joe Biden less impulsive than Donald Trump
  • Russian leader describes Biden as a ‘career man’ who has spent his life in politics
  • Biden has said he is under no illusions about Putin and has described him as ‘a killer’

WASHINGTON: Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced hope Friday that US President Joe Biden will be less impulsive than his predecessor Donald Trump, ahead of his first summit with the new US leader.
In an interview with NBC News, Putin described Biden as a “career man” who has spent his life in politics.
Though he described relations with the United States as having “deteriorated to its lowest point in recent years,” Putin said he expects he can work with Biden.
“It is my great hope that, yes, there are some advantages, some disadvantages, but there will not be any impulse-based movements on behalf of the sitting US president,” he said, according to a translation by NBC News.
“I believe that former US president Trump is an extraordinary individual, talented individual... He is a colorful individual. You may like him or not. But he didn’t come from the US establishment,” Putin was quoted as saying.
Biden plans to raise a range of US complaints, including over purported Russian election interference and hacking, in the summit with Putin on Wednesday in Geneva at the end of the new president’s first foreign trip.
Putin has openly admitted that in the 2016 vote he supported Trump, who had voiced admiration for the Russian leader. At their first summit, Trump infamously appeared to accept Putin’s denials of election interference.
Biden has said he is under no illusions about Putin and has described him as “a killer” in light of a series of high-profile deaths including of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov.
Asked directly if he is “a killer,” Putin chuckled but did not give a yes or no answer.
“Over my tenure, I’ve gotten used to attacks from all kinds of angles and from all kinds of areas under all kinds of pretext and reasons and of different caliber and fierceness, and none of it surprises me,” he said, adding that the term “killer” was a “macho” term common in Hollywood.
Such discourse “is part of US political culture where it’s considered normal. By the way, not here, it is not considered normal here,” he said.
Putin also dismissed as “fake news” a report in the Washington Post that Russia is planning to supply Iran with an advanced satellite system that would allow it to track potential military targets.
“At the very least, I don’t know anything about this kind of thing,” the Russian leader said, speaking from the Kremlin. “It’s just nonsense garbage.”
According to interviewer Keir Simmons, Putin also denied any knowledge of cyberattacks on the United States, and called on Biden to strike a deal with Russia on cyberspace.