While we're on the subject of space, a few weeks ago I blogged about the USA's development of a drone space plane, capable of launching from a normal runway, achieving low orbit, and then returning like a space shuttle. In effect, the technology makes the space shuttle obsolete (and that of course, is one of those things that makes one go "hmmmm..."). Now in the wake of a new Chinese-Venezuelan space cooperation, Europe has made it's own announcement:
This is significant not only from the space technology point of view, but from the geopolitical, for it is another signal that the UK is aligning itself very definitely with Europe, and not the USA, and doing so in the geopolitical "high ground" of space. In the wake of the messages being sent back and forth by the Obama Administration and London during the president's recent visit there (see yesterday's blog), this is again, in my opinion, a significant development.
Technologically, this article makes me, well, just plain suspicious. The technological proposals for this type of hybridized engine have been around since (you guessed it), the Nazis. In my book The Nazi International I mentioned similar schemes were proposed by none other than Dr. Ronald Richter. Similar schemes - albeit highly impractical ones - were proposed by the Nazi engineer Saenger. I mention this odd historical context only to highlight one important point, namely, that we may be relatively assured that the public announcement by the Europeans to press ahead with the development of this technology probably lags by several years their actual covert development of it.
And it is also, in my opinion, another veiled message, namely, that the technology can be weaponized, for indeed, that was Saenger's original purpose for it, and certainly Richter was alluding to similar modes of deployment when he mentioned his own ideas to the US Air Force. It's another indicator, in my opinion, that there is now a definite fissure, if not fully-fledged fracture, emerging between Washington and Europe, notwithstanding the latter's tacit support of Washington in the current Middle East upheavals (but let us remember, that it was France, and not Washington, that took the lead with respect to Libya). The message here seems to me to be clear, and not so subtle: Europe intends to remain in space, and to remain a "player," with or without Washington's approval.