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Is there currently a space rivalry between the US and China?



Headlines proclaiming the rise of a new “space race” between the U.S.
and China have become common in news coverage following many of the
exciting launches in recent years.

have pointed to China’s rapid advancements in space as evidence of an
emerging landscape where China is directly competing with the U.S. for

This idea of a space race between China and the U.S.
sounds convincing given the broader narrative of China’s rise, but how
accurate is it? As a professor who studies space and international
relations, my research aims to quantify the power and capabilities of
different nations in space.

When I look at various capacities, the
data paints a much more complex picture than a tight space race between
the U.S. and China.

least for now, the reality looks more like what I call a complex
hegemony – one state, the U.S., is still dominating in key space
capabilities, and this lead is further amplified by a strong network of

A clear leader makes for a boring race

the current situation a race implies that the U.S. and China have
roughly equal capabilities in space. But in several key areas, the U.S.
is far ahead not only of China, but of all other spacefaring nations

Starting with spending: In 2021, the U.S. space budget
was roughly US$59.8 billion. China has been investing heavily in space
and rocket technology over the last decade and has doubled its spending
in the last five years. But with an estimated budget of $16.18 billion
in 2021, it is still spending less than a third of the U.S. budget.

U.S. also leads significantly in the number of active satellites.
Currently, there are 5,465 total operational satellites in orbit around
Earth. The U.S. operates 3,433, or 63% of those. In contrast, China has

the U.S. has more active spaceports than China. With seven operational
launch sites at home and abroad and at least 13 additional spaceports in
development, the U.S. has more options to launch payloads into various
orbits. In contrast, China has only four operational spaceports with two
more planned, all located within its own territory.

Parity with nuance

the U.S. may have a clear advantage over China in many areas of space,
in some measures, the differences between the two countries are more

In 2021, for instance, China attempted 55 orbital
launches, four more than the U.S.‘s 51. The total numbers may be
similar, but the rockets carried very different payloads to orbit.

vast majority – 84% – of Chinese launches had government or military
payloads intended mostly for electronic intelligence and optical
imaging. Meanwhile, in the U.S., 61% of launches were for nonmilitary,
academic or commercial use, predominantly for Earth observation or

stations are another area where there are important differences hiding
beneath the surface. Since the 1990s, the U.S. has worked with 14 other
nations, including Russia, to operate the International Space Station.

ISS is quite large, with 16 modules, and has driven technological and
scientific breakthroughs. But the ISS is now 24 years old, and
participating nations are planning to retire it in 2030.

Chinese Tiangong space station is the new kid on the block. Construction
was only completed in late 2022, and it is much smaller – with only
three modules. China has built and launched all of the different parts
and remains the sole operator of the station, despite having invited
others to join.

China is undoubtedly expanding its space
capabilities, and in a report published in August 2022, the Pentagon
predicted that China would surpass U.S. capabilities in space as early
as 2045. However, it is unlikely that the U.S. will remain stagnant, as
it continues to increase funding for space.

Allies as force multipliers

A major point of difference between the U.S. and China is the nature and number of international collaborations.

decades, NASA has been fruitfully cultivating international and
commercial partnerships in everything from developing specific space
technologies to flying humans into space.

The U.S. government has
also signed 169 space data sharing agreements with 33 states and
intergovernmental organizations, 129 with commercial partners and seven
with academic institutions.

China also has allies that help with
space – most notably Russia and members of the Asia-Pacific Space
Cooperation Organization, including Iran, Pakistan, Thailand and Turkey.
China’s collaborators are, however, fewer in number and have far less
developed space capabilities.

to return to the surface of the Moon excellently highlight this
difference in ally support and synergy. Both the U.S. and China have
plans to send people to the surface of the Moon and to establish lunar
bases in the near future.

These competing lunar aims are often
cited as evidence of the space race, but they are very different in
terms of partnerships and scope.

In 2019, Russia and China agreed
to jointly go to the Moon by 2028. Russia is contributing its Luna
landers and Oryol crewed orbiters, while China is improving its Chang’e
robotic spacecraft.

Their future International Lunar Research
Station is “open to all interested parties and international partners,”
but, to date, no additional countries have committed to the Chinese and
Russian effort.

contrast, since 2020, 24 nations have joined the U.S.-led Artemis
Accords. This international agreement outlines shared principles of
cooperation for future space activity and, through the Artemis Program,
specifically aims to return people to the Moon by 2025 and establish a
Moon base and lunar space station soon after.

In addition to the
broad international participation, the Artemis Program has contracted
with a staggering number of private companies to develop a range of
technologies, from lunar landers to lunar construction methods and more.

Crew members of the Artemis II mission are NASA astronauts Christina Hammock Koch, Reid Wiseman and Victor Glover and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen. NASA

China is not the only game in town

China may seem like the main competitor of the U.S. in space, other
countries have space capabilities and aspirations that rival those of

India spends billions on space and plans to return to the
Moon, possibly with Japan, in the near future. South Korea, Israel,
Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Germany and the European Union
are also planning independent lunar missions.

has developed impressive technological space capabilities, including
rendezvous proximity technology to send a spacecraft to an asteroid and
bring samples back to Earth, that rival and even surpass those of China.

the past, the space race was about who could reach the stars first and
return home. Today, the goal has shifted to surviving and even thriving
in the harsh environment of space.

I believe it is not surprising
that, despite its decisive lead, the U.S. has partnered with others to
go to the Moon and beyond. China is doing the same, but on a smaller
scale. The picture that emerges is not of a “race” but of complex system
with the U.S. as a leader working closely with extensive networks of

Svetla Ben-Itzhak, Assistant Professor of Space and International Relations, Air University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Alien space debris stuck in Earth’s orbit, researchers say




Recently, a group of experts from Harvard University, led by physics
professor Avi Loeb, announced the possible presence of alien space
debris in Earth’s orbit, reports the Daily Star.

space research expert Professor Loeb is confident that the discovery of
such “interstellar objects could help expand our knowledge of possible
alien civilizations and technologies. A team of scientists is conducting
research to confirm that some of the objects in our orbit may be
connected to other star systems.

During an interview with Live
Science, Professor Loeb explained that these objects could enter the
solar system from interstellar space, defying Jupiter’s gravitational
pull and occupying limited orbits around the sun.

Some of them may
have technological origins similar to the probes sent by mankind into
interstellar space, such as Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, Pioneer 10 and 11
and New Horizons.

despite these interesting assumptions, Professor Loeb did not specify
what specific objects he was talking about. In his research report, he
notes that there could be “a significant number” of potentially
detectable objects in Earth’s orbit.

To confirm their assumptions,
the team of scientists uses computer simulations and the Vera Rubin
Observatory (Chile) with a high-resolution camera of 3.2 billion pixels.
This will allow for regular observations of the Southern sky and the
possibility of detecting several captured objects about the size of a
football field.

It is assumed that these interstellar objects passed through the
boundaries of the solar system and may carry unique information about
other civilizations and their technologies. If we could confirm the
origin of these objects, the mysteries that open before us, this would
be a real breakthrough in space exploration.

Professor Loeb
expresses hope that the new research will not only help expand our
knowledge of extraterrestrial technologies, but may also lead to the
discovery of new alien civilizations . Answers to such questions can be
of global significance and influence our understanding of the place of
mankind in the Universe.

while there are still many questions and assumptions, the study by
Professor Loeb and his team opens a new chapter in space exploration.
Each new discovery can be the key to deciphering the mysteries of the
cosmos and the possibility of encountering alien life forms.

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Betelgeuse is acting strange again




Betelgeuse, a red giant on the brink of death, continues to show
unusual behavior. After the Great Blackout, which occurred in late 2019
and early 2020, the star became unusually bright. It is now the seventh
brightest star in the sky, while it normally ranks tenth. This has led
to speculation that Betelgeuse is preparing to explode in a
spectacularly large supernova.

However, scientists believe it’s too early to tell, and it’s likely
that this behavior is due to ongoing fluctuations after the Great
Blackout of 2019, and the star will return to normal within a decade.

Betelgeuse is one of the most interesting stars in the sky. It is
about 700 light-years from Earth and is a red giant in the last stage of
its life. It is also an unusual star for a red giant because it was
previously a monster blue-white O-type star, the most massive class of

Betelgeuse has changed its spectral type because it has almost
exhausted its hydrogen reserves. It now burns helium into carbon and
oxygen and has expanded to a gigantic size: about 764 times the size of
the Sun and about 16.5 to 19 times its mass.

Eventually it will run out of fuel to burn, become a supernova, eject
its outer material, and its core will collapse into a neutron star.

Before the Great Blackout, Betelgeuse also had periodic fluctuations
in brightness. The longest of these cycles is about 5.9 years and the
other is 400 days. But it seems that the Great Blackout caused changes
in these oscillations.

A new paper by astrophysicist Morgan McLeod of the
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has shown that the 400-day
cycle appears to have been halved. This pulsational cycle is probably
caused by expansion and contraction within the star. According to
simulations carried out by MacLeod and his colleagues, the convective
flow inside Betelgeuse may have risen and become material that separates
from the star.

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