Transcendental Bloviation

Politics, Space, Japan

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Wisconsin Project calls for interns

I just ran across the Wisconsin Project while researching ITAR and launch technology export controls. It's in the U.S., and thus requires a right to work in the U.S. However, they don't require a security clearance, and they operate in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin, presumably in part for the academic freedom benefits.

This organization appears to be a balanced source of useful information. I was amused by how one Project report baldly uses "spy satellite" to describe an orbiting object that the launching country, in its UN registration, chose to characterize as little more an experiment in satellite technology. I found especially amusing the quote from a government official saying that the rocket that launched this satellite poses no threat to neighboring countries because .... it only goes straight up. Hm, where is there a stable orbit straight up? A spy satellite in geosynchronous orbit -- I guess that might be a first. Wait, no ... you still need a non-vertical kickstage delta-V for GEO .... Well, with the Earth's rotational delta-V at the launch zone, you can get an orbit established at ... Hey! That doesn't square with U.N.-registered orbital elements! And what would it do way out there anyway? Spy on the Moon?! Oh, I'm so confused now ....

Space can't yield significantly greater benefits without improvements in launch economics, and since all launch technologies are dual-use, regulation is a fait accompli. So, for the foreseeable future, getting more effective, lower-cost regulation won't be possible without more openness, and without more openness, relaxing ITAR to help globalize the launch industry for more competitiveness might be impossible. The Wisconsin Project appears to play a useful role in creating more openness. It's non-partisan, and doesn't play favorities among nations as far as I can tell, so it might be worth looking into for SGAC members in search of career-building internships.

-michael turner


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