The Other Space Race
Active Space Programs in Iran, Brazil, India, Japan, China, Israel…
Back in the early sixties, John F. Kennedy declared America’s intention of putting a man on the Moon, a dream that was fulfilled with the Apollo 11 lunar landing in July 1969. The space race featured the USSR and the USA, vying to be the first each time mankind took another step forward in the exploration of space, following the launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union in 1957.
These days, lots of countries have active space programs and here at Dark Roasted Blend, we take a look at the other space race.
The European Space Agency or ESA was founded in 1975 and currently has eighteen member countries. ESA employs over 2,000 people and has an annual budget of over $5 billion US, dedicated to space exploration. ESA launches take place from the spaceport located close to the equator near Kourou in French Guiana in northern South America:
The European space program makes use of the Ariane rocket family, which has undergone considerable changes over the years.
The Ariane 1 rocket was used to launch satellites into orbit from 1979 to 1986 (left image below). Ariane 2 and 3 were used between 1986 and 1989 and the Ariane 4 from 1988 to 2003, with the current version, Ariane 5, taking over in 1997. Here’s an Ariane 5 ECA launched on August 14, 2008 (right image):
The Giotto robotic spacecraft was launched by ESA in 1986 to study Halley’s Comet. The probe came within just under 600 kms of the comet’s nucleus, transmitting spectacular pictures back to Earth:
The European space program also designed reusable space vehicles similar to the US Space Shuttle. Hermes was designed in France in the mid-seventies and began to be developed in the late eighties by ESA. Unfortunately, the project had to deal with a variety of issues that were never fully resolved. The project was cancelled in 1992, without any Hermes vehicles being constructed:
Skylon is a reusable space plane currently being designed by a company in the UK:
China has a very well developed space program and is only the third country after the USA and the former USSR to successfully launch humans into space. China’s first manned space mission, Shenzou 5, was launched in October 2003.
China’s main Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre is located in the Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia:
Shenzou 7, China’s third manned space mission, was launched in September 2008. This is an artist’s impression of the Shenzou 7 spacecraft in Earth’s orbit:
Like the European Space Agency, China has also worked on vehicles to replace the Space Shuttle, such as this space plane:
On the right image below is the launch pad at Japan’s largest space development centre at Tanegashima. Japan also has a space center at Uchinoura (Mv rocket, left image):
Hope-X was Japan’s version of the Space Shuttle, which originally dates back to the 1980’s. It was going to be part of Japan’s involvement in the International Space Station project, but was cancelled in 2003:
India’s space program is based at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre near Chennai in Southern India:
Here we see one of the Indian rockets for the unmanned Moon mission in 2008:
Here’s the nosecone of the rocket (left) and a blast off (right):
Oceansat-2 is India’s sixteenth remote sensing satellite, launched in 2009:
Avatar is an unmanned single-stage reusable space plane currently developed by India for use as a satellite launcher (left image below). On the right is the model of the Indian space shuttle called “Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator”:
Iran announced in the summer of 2011 that it had plans to send a monkey into orbit as part of its space program. Iran has also previously stated that it plans to send a man into space by 2017. The Iranian Space Agency is mostly based in Semnan province in the north of the country, where Iran has cooperated with North Korea and Pakistan in the past:
Head of Iran’s Omid Satellite rocket:
Here’s a launch rocket at the Brazilian Space Agency’s Alcantara Base in the northeast of the country. The space program used to be run by the military, but came under civilian control in 1994. Brazil launched its first rocket successfully into space in October 2004. In 2006, the first Brazilian astronaut traveled to the International Space Station as part of the Expedition 5 mission:
The agency also operates the Barreira do Inferno Launch Center (right):
The Israel Space Agency was founded in 1983 and Palmachim Airbase serves as Israel’s main spaceport, with launches taking place over the Mediterranean Sea:
And of course, it isn’t just governments involved in the space race these days, but private companies as well.
SpaceShipOne was a suborbital air-launched spaceplane developed by Mojave Aerospace Ventures. In 2004, the plane undertook the world’s first manned private spaceflight, with the assistance of the mother ship White Knight, winning a $10 million prize in the process. SpaceShipOne was immediately retired from service but a successor was soon being developed:
Highly successful British entrepreneur Richard Branson launched Virgin Galactic to promote suborbital spaceflight and intends to offer orbital flights at some point in the future. The Spaceship Company is a joint venture between Virgin and Scaled Composites, designers of SpaceShipOne:
Unveiled to the waiting world in late 2009, here we see Spaceship 2 and its mother ship, White Knight, which carries it to the outer reaches of space:
This would probably end up to be the Biggest Aircraft Ever Built
Stratolaunch Systems (a Paul G. Allen project) have developed this giant aircraft, which will have test flights in 2015 with an operational launch planned for 2016.
It will be used to launch private spacecraft carrying cargo, and eventually people, into orbit. The giant aircraft combines parts from two 747 airliners, including six engines. The wingspan is 385 feet, longer than the International Space Station.
BONUS: Here is an interesting image from the 1963 issue of LIFE magazine: “The New Astronauts” learn to eat while weightless -
Avi Abrams is the creator, writer, and owner of Dark Roasted Blend;