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Sven’s Space Blog
Sven Grahn is a pioneer in Swedish space activities. He started his career as a rocket assemply technician at the Kronogård base in 1962 and has remained true to the Swedish space business ever since. Sven has had leading roles in all SSC’s satellite projects, and has been engaged in most other SSC projects too… Before his retirement in 2006, he was Senior Vice President for Engineering and Corporate Communications. He is still very much involved in a number of projects for the SSC, but now as Senior Adviser. Swedish media often turn to Sven for expert comments on various space events, and his close colleagues know that they get quicker answers regarding space history from Sven than by googling the web!  Sven’s CV

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Reflections on space events
4/2/2007 4:31:45 PM | Permalink

Reflections on space events
This is the first issue of my space blog and, as a matter of tradition, the first issue should be accompanied by some sort of “mission statement”. So, here it is: the flow of events in our wonderful business is relentless and it is impossible to chronicle everything on a twice-monthly basis. So I will simply offer reflections on events that I personally find interesting – as simple as that. I hope you will enjoy it.
Sven Grahn, senior adviser, Swedish Space Corporation.

Off to the Moon – again
Would you believe it, China is about a month from launching its Chang’e 1 lunar orbiter? It will take off from the Xichang satellite launch centre in the Sichuan province. On 17 April a Long March 3A rocket will send the 2350 kg probe towards the Moon. This the first time since SMART-1, ESA’s moon probe built by SSC, that a mission to our nearest celestial neighbor is launched. Chang’e will use an interesting way to reach the Moon. Its elliptical orbit around the Earth will have its apogee raised in several steps until it reaches lunar distances. SMART-1 raised its apogee over a 13-month period by using electrical propulsion. Chang’e uses chemical propulsion. Many see this first Chinese mission to the Moon as a first step to land astronauts on the Moon. NASA administrator even said to Congress on 14 March that “The next humans to walk on the moon may well be Chinese”. Shades of the past when NASA’s boss James Webb warned that the Soviet Union was developing a rocket to compete with Apollo – which they were – but few believed him. Stay tuned.

There are many stories appearing about Germany’s plans for an unmanned lunar orbiter in 2013 – outside the ESA program (!!) – to the tune of €500 million ($658 million) – which sounds like a lot of money for just one mission, but as details emerge what the sum covers may become clearer. This is another program to follow closely.

Commercial transport to the ISS
Cynical observers of NASA’s effort to procure commercial-off-the-shelf (!) transport to the International Space Station say it is just a way of squirreling away money that can be used later for NASA’s own Crew Exploration Vehicle – the Shuttle replacement – if there is a lack of money. But the companies involved in the COTS program take it seriously. Check out the web site of one of them, Space-X, where you can read that the first unmanned five-hour test flight of their Dragon “space capsule” on the company’s Falcon-9 rocket is planned for the end of 2008! Wow! That’s the kind of aggressive schedule for orbital projects that we have not seen since the halcyon days of the Gemini program! We shall see.The company’s second attempt to launch its Falcon-1 rocket is scheduled for 19-20 March – break a leg!
In the meantime reports say that NASA will need an additional $350 million in fiscal 2009 and $400 million FY to counteract current budget cuts and put the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) back on schedule to make a debut in 2014.

Ever wondered about quantum entanglement?
An ESA study has shown that the quantum effect called entanglement remains intact over a distance of 144 kilometers opening up the possibility of using light beams with entangled photons to communicate with satellites. If you want to read a primer on the subject of quantum entanglement, try retired SSC engineer Stefan Zenker’s fascinating web site!

Upcoming space launches
This is a necessary element of a blog like this….but, just a warning, it can easily be incomplete and already outdated.

  • 19 March: Falcon 1 from Kwajalein in the Pacific with DARPASAT.
  • 27 March: Dnepr launch from Baikonur with i.a. Egypt’s first scientific satellite, Egyptsat 1.
  • 28 March: AGILE, the Italian gamma-ray astrophysics satellite on an Indian PSLV rocket.
  • 1 April: DSP-23 missile warning satellite on a Delta 4 Heavy from Cape Canaveral
  • 7 April: Soyuz TMA-10 crew transport to the ISS from Baikonur at 1731 UT.

The Soyuz launch will carry cosmonauts Yurchikhin and Kotov to be part of the next long-duration crew of the International Space Station – and – U.S. millionaire Charles Simonyi, a space tourist to make a visit to the ISS ending on 20 April.

Other possible launches in April: 

  • GeoEye 1 (Orbview 5), commercial earth observation with 0.4 meter resolution from Vandenberg
  • Hai Yang 1B, a Chinese small earth observation satellite on a Long March 2C from Taiyuan.
  • A Kosmos satellite, an electronic intelligence satellite of theTselina-2 type on a Zenit-2 rocket.

A deep dig into history
In addition to this blog for SSC I keep a web site for the real space aficionados – Sven’s Space Place. The most recent posting on that site is a short article about the radio systems of the Gemini manned spacecraft which carried the world’s first space-based radar back in 1965! So, a warning, this site is not for the faint-hearted, it goes into deep technical detail!

Off to Genoa
Next time I write this blog I hope to bring some impressions from a seminar, Humans in Space, which the European Science Foundation arranges in Genoa 21-23 March. My own contribution is entitled “The power of analogies and symbolism in discussing the role of humans in space”. An impressive-sounding title for sure, but don’t worry – nothing earth-shaking.

Best Wishes

Sven Grahn


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Author: felipe alvarado spotorno (10/16/2007 11:00:51 PM)
Mr Grahn:
I am an architectural student and in this days, y`m working in an academic project about the spacial exploration from the Atacama desert in Chile, Southamerica.
Now, the space ports around the world are located only in the north hemisphere, and this proposal is an architectural project from the south of the world. Atacama dessert is an special place for cientific investigation, because actually the best astronomical observatory are located in this area and the singular soils (like mars) in Atacama are very appropiated for the investigation about habitats out of the earth. Atacama will can be a window to the space and the universe.
Y write answering about this idea, because your expertise in this things can to guide a project like this. The project began like a scientific center for the development of human habitats and environments, in other world (moon, mars, etc…).
All suggest is welcome.
When the project will be ready, y`ll send information about this, if you are interested.
Atte. Felipe Alvarado Spotorno, working in the final exam to the Architect Degree

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Author: Zen (10/8/2007 1:08:16 AM)

Detailed information
Author: Nina Zou (7/5/2007 4:25:09 AM)
I am doing a job that related to the sounding rocket in China now. I benefit from your blog a lot. Looking forward to more information and the communication between us.

Ambiguous on purpose
Author: Sven Grahn (5/22/2007 11:10:30 PM)
Of course you are right, but I think NASA deliberately picked this acronym to make the connection with the original meaning of COTS – and the established one – i would say.

Best Wishes

NASA lingo for COTS
Author: Adam Soltan (5/20/2007 5:45:26 PM)
Mind you, in this case COTS means “Commercial Orbital Transportation Services” and not “commercial off the shelf” as one might expect. See for instance


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