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Middle East, Space Taxis, Pakistan

Dated: 17 Sep 2014
Posted by Christine Chan
Category: International, New Markets, Security, Technology
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Middle East: General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee he did not rule out the possibility of sending American combat troops to fight ISIS.  The realities of a prolonged campaign, General Dempsey said, could make such a hands-off approach untenable, particularly if the battle against the militants moves into densely populated cities where airstrikes are less effective and the chances of civilian casualties are much higher.  Additionally, the sectarian divide is causing some issues in building the Arab coalition that will ultimately be responsible for stabilizing their region.  With the Sunni camp being led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE and the Shiite’s being led by Iran and Iraq, the question remains as to whether or not they will be able to put aside their sectarian differences and unite against the existential threat to the region.

Space Taxis: Boeing and SpaceX will partner with NASA to manufacture and operate “space taxis” to transport astronauts to the International Space Station. Officials say the partnership will end U.S. dependence on Russian space transport.  By flying astronauts commercially from the United States, NASA could end Russia’s monopoly on space station crew transport. The agency pays $70 million per person for rides on Russian Soyuz capsules, the only flights available for astronauts since the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle fleet in 2011.  Additionally, the companies retain ownership of their vehicles and can sell rides to customers outside of NASA, including private tourists.

Pakistan: Al Qaeda militants tried to hijack a Pakistan Navy frigate earlier this month and use it to target U.S. Navy vessels.  While the plot was foiled, the raid, in which 10 militants and one petty officer died, raised fears about terrorist infiltration of the nuclear-armed nation’s military forces.  “If they hadn’t been detected, the minimal damage would have been similar to the USS Cole in 2000. However, if they had somehow managed to maneuver the weapons systems, then we are talking about a full scale naval engagement,” said Pakistani security official.

ISIS, US Energy Boom, 3-D Printing

Dated: 15 Sep 2014
Posted by Christine Chan
Category: Security, Technology
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ISIS : Representatives of twenty countries gathered in Paris on Monday to coordinate a global response to combat the militant group ISIS, which released a third video over the weekend showing the beheading of a British aid worker. French president François Hollande called for united international action to tackle the threat, while Iraqi president Fuad Masum urged world powers to take broader military action against ISIS. So far, about forty countries—including ten Arab states—have committed to a coalition to help fight the extremist Sunni insurgency in Iraq and Syria.

US Energy Boom: Skeptics of the U.S. energy boom have been saying it can’t last much longer because it requires drilling an ever-increasing number of wells, however the boom already has lasted longer than anyone would have imagined.  The number of rigs drilling in the U.S. is basically flat, but production is rising while the federal Energy Information Administration has stated that this “drilling productivity” is showing no sign of slowing.  While the federal government recently predicted that oil production would rise through 2019 and then flatten off, a second scenario in the report assumed that extraction technology would continue to improve, leading crude output to rise through 2040, if not longer.  Notable that US O&G output nearly tripled since 2007, up to 12M barrels a day. Graph below.

3-D Printing: Aerojet Rocketdyne recently won an Air Force contract to use 3D printing technology to develop liquid-propellant rocket engine applications destined for military launchers. The hope is that additive manufacturing will help make producing rocket engines faster and less expensive than traditional methods by replacing the need for castings, forgings, platings, machining, brazing and welding. In June, Aerojet said it had 3D-printed and tested an entire engine capable of 5,000 pounds of thrust in only three parts.