Well... while we've been on the subject of space news the past couple of days, here's yet another very strange one to ponder in the context of the past two days' blogs, shared with us by Ms. P.H. There's a meme present in this article that we've encountered in last Sunday's blog, and again in yesterday's blog. Notably, here the meme is repeated in yet a third source, and one that is "all business", so to speak:
First, the deal appears straightforward enough:
"Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC’s) Space Systems and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) announce the signing of a new Dream Chaser® program cooperation during the U.S. German Aerospace Roundtable (UGART) at the 31st annual Space Symposium hosted by the Space Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colorado."
Nothing unusual here other then the usual talk and agreements for international space cooperation, this time between the German government and an American company. Nothing to see hear, move along... right?
The meme occurs in the interesting context of following two paragraphs:
"The cooperation, which was entered into today, builds upon the successful one-year Dream Chaser technical agreement signed in 2013. The new agreement, which extends through 2017, will continue the valuable developmental work completed while identifying new and advanced technologies to pursue in order to further advance the crewed and uncrewed Dream Chaser spacecraft as a flexible low-Earth orbit (LEO) space transportation system for a variety of missions and customers. One of the cooperative activities completed this year was the Dream Chaser for European Utilization (DC4EU) study performed by SNC, OHB Systems AG (OHB) and DLR.
“'We are pleased to continue to work together with SNC as part of their Dream Chaser team,' said Prof. Jan Woerner, chairman of the executive board of DLR. 'We recognize the significant value of the Dream Chaser, especially for LEO and we look forward to working together for new applications. The versatility of the Dream Chaser – crewed or uncrewed - allows for multiple applications such as transportation of cargo and humans as well as direct use for activities such as removing space debris.'" (All emphases added)
Now, recall the original context from Sunday's blog where we first encountered this reference to "space junk," the Russians claimed that they have discovered a group of spy satellites disguised as "space debris" which, they said in an unusual choice of words, had a "state affiliation." As I wrote in Sunday's blog, the choice of words is, if anything, highly unusual. If they were the definite assets of a state, then why not simply say that? "These spy-satellites-cum-space-junk" belong to an unnamed nation." But no, they are "state affiliated." So what's the affiliation? corporate? religious? a political institution or "stateless" political party?
Now we have this interesting bit of "international amity and accord" of the German Space Agency and an American company teaming up to produce a technology that can transport cargo, be either manned or unmanned, and that apparently has a kind of "go, grab, and snab" capability to "remove space debris."
Thus, in the context of the two previous days' blogs, what might we be looking at? Might we be looking at the creation of a publicly proclaimed mission brief for this technology masking a covert one, namely, an anti-spy satellite capability?
If so, then other questions arise: Why develop this particular type of technology? Why not simply concentrate on anti-satellite missiles, ground based "satellite zappers" and so on? Why the need to "remove" a bunch of space debris? Of course, even the word "remove" is capable of several interpretations in this context. Does "remove" imply destruction? Or does it imply, as I have suggested, a "grab and snab" capability? If the latter, the motivations would be clear enough: nations study other nations' secret technology all the time, to gain intelligence about their capabilities, and to asses whether or not "they" are "ahead" of "us." As if to reinforce this interpretation, the very next paragraph summarizes the technology capability:
"SNC’s Dream Chaser is a multi-mission-capable space utility vehicle that is able to flexibly operate as an independent science platform, logistics enabler or orbital servicing vehicle with the ability to deploy, retrieve, repair, replace, refuel or assemble items in space. Dream Chaser provides the only reusable, lifting-body spacecraft with a commercial runway landing capability, anywhere in the world - offering safe, affordable, flexible and reliable transportation to space."
In other words, a 'retrieve, repair, replace" capabilty launchable from any standard commercial runway... Grab, and snab. And the third time in the short space of a few days that "space debris" has been cited as a meme in space-related articles, which began with the strange Russian statement. One time: it's weird; twice, it's a coincidence; but thrice, then we're dealing quite possibly with a deliberate meme, and this time, with a highly suggestive German involvement no less.
Within the context of the previous two days' blogs, however, disturbing speculative possibilities arise. Why, for example, is this the third instance of a reference to "space debris" in such a short period of time? Here, there is no mention of "spy satellites disguised as space debris," but in the context of the Russian article we blogged about last Sunday, the ante and speculative possibilities ramp up considerably. Could it be, that in addition to grabbing and snabbing a bit of someone else's technology, that the other covert purpose is to discover the exact nature of that "state affiliation" that the Russians are talking about? Could the purpose be, in other words, not only to determine what the technological capabilities of some of that "space debris" really are, but who it really belongs to?
And with that, I'll...
...see you on the flip side...