One of the things I suspect we can look forward to in 2016 - along with an ever-crazier geopolitical situation, if current trends continue - is the expansion of international space industry, and this pace, I suspect, will only intensify in the coming year. Consider this story from Dec. 21st last year, shared by Mr. J.H.:
The sweeping implications here are worth spelling out explicitly. Ponder these revelations;
The sides signed a cooperation agreement on navigation technologies and the use of the Russian satellite navigation system Glonass. Russian state-owned nanotechnology company RUSNANO and the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation also signed a strategic partnership agreement.
Among other documents, Russia and China also signed a strategic cooperation agreement on the development of Russian company I-Teco's cloud computing and data processing center, the other parties to the deal were the China-Eurasia Economic Cooperation Fund and the Huawei company.
Russia, China Develop High-Precision Navigation System Draft for SCO, BRICS
On Monday, Russia's GLONASS Union said Russia and China would also finalize a deal this month to establish two joint ventures to develop, manufacture and sell new satellite navigation devices that would receive signals from three major navigation systems, BeiDou, GLONASS and US Global Positioning System (GPS).
If one reads a bit between the lines here, there are several implications that bear mentioning. Firstly, while the earth-bound competition between the BRICSA bloc and the West will ratchet up, particularly in space matters as well as geopolitically, the real question is why there is a need for such a muscular presence in space, one that is clearly designed to integrate the Russian and American GPS systems, as well as to crunch enormous amounts of data. I strongly suspect that this is because space-monitoring and communications redundancy is being built into the global space monitoring systems in the guise of this competition between the West and Russia/China. As more and more satellites - and the coming age of microsatellites - turn local Earth-space into a debris cloud, that the ability to monitor all those satellites via open and not military systems had become the major pressing issue. The bottom line here is that redundancy is being built into the system, and this brings us to our second point:
Secondly, this redundancy - plus the mention of nanotechnology - implies that we are in the initial stages of a global "build out and build up" of orbit based capacity, both in communications and in the crucial area of on-board repair systems capability. After all, why launch expense rockets to repair a satellite if onboard nanosystems can be developed to repair damage to satellites. Such a capability implies the long term capability of the design of complex onboard nanosystems repair for long-term manned and unmanned missions out of Earth orbit. Such capabilities would be essential to any plans for the commercial exploitation of space, such as asteroid mining and/or permanent off-world human bases. In short, the Russian-Chinese deal is, as the article suggests, part of a strategic, i.e., long term vision, and that long term vision itself implies a final point:
Thirdly, it suggests that what is being created over the long-term is an infrastructure platform to sustain a global economy to support and sustain large scale efforts in space, and space commercialization. Here the mention of adaptability of the planned Russo-Chinese systems to existing US capability are an important clue and corroboration of such an interpretation. We also need to consider, in this regard , the Russian and Chinese plans for a massive expansion of infrastructure and development throughout Eurasia. The Russian plans for railroad expansion in the far north and Arctic regions of the country, creating in effect an Arctic version of the Trans-Siberian railroad, and similar Chinese plans for high speed rail networks from China to Europe, suggest the creation of a massive economic structure and infrastructure that would be necessary for a similarly massive expansion into space as well as its applications to more terrestrial-bound economic considerations.
Like it was in 2015, I strongly suspect that space will continue to be an important, though quiet story(like it also was in 2015).
See you on the flip side...