Posts Tagged ‘Hermes’

Al-Jazeera on the First Test Flight of India’s Space Shuttle

September 19, 2018

In this short clip, just over two minutes long, from Al-Jazeera, posted two years ago in 2016, Tariq Bezley reports on the first test flight by the Indian Space Agency of their space shuttle. The shuttle was launched into space on top of a rocket fired from India’s launch facility north of Chenai. The craft separated from the rocket at an altitude of 70 km and re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, which heated it up to 2,000 degrees.

A female scientist speaking for the Observer Research Foundation, Rajeswari P Rajagopalan talks on the video about how it was necessary to test the shuttle’s heat shield.

Besley states that so far only the US, USSR, Japan and Europe have launched reusable shuttles. He states that NASA’s Space Shuttle flew 135 missions in 30 years before it was finally decommissioned. It has been replaced by the US air forces X-37B test vehicle. This unmanned vehicle was on its third mission, and had been up there for a year. However, the secrecy surrounding its missions have provoked speculation that it is a spy satellite, or is being tested to deliver weapons from space.

He then goes on to discuss the Dreamchaser, the spaceplane being developed by the private Sierra Nevada firm to service the International Space Station. Its first flight is planned for 2019. India’s space shuttle is in a much earlier stage of development, and it’s estimated that it’ll be 10 or 15 years before it is ready to fly.

Besley also discusses how India successfully put a spacecraft in orbit around Mars in 2014, becoming the first Asian nation to do so.

Rajagopan states that China has flourishing military space programme, which is a direct challenge to India, and India has to respond if it is not to be left lagging behind.

Further tests will be carried out on the Indian spacecraft, including on the supersonic scramjet engine which the Indians hope will one day power the spaceplane. The Indians say that their Mars mission cost a tenth of that of other missions to the Red Planet. Besley concludes that if their space shuttle can achieve the same savings, space travel will become much more affordable for all.

A number of countries have developed plans for different spaceplanes. The Russians had their own version of the Space Shuttle, Buran, which looked exactly like the American. It has been mothballed since the Fall of the USSR and has never flown. The French designed a small spaceplane, Hermes, which was to go on top of their Ariane rocket in the 1990s. This was very much like the American Dynosoar spaceplane proposed in the 1950s, but never actually built. The Germans also designed a spaceplane, Sanger, named after one of their leading rocket scientists. This would consist of two craft, a larger plane acting as a first stage, which would piggy-back a second plane into orbit.
And then there was the British HOTOL project of the 1980s which also used airbreathing ramjet engines to take the plane into space. This was never completed because of problems with those same engines. The technology has since been perfected, and a new British spaceplane, Skylon, has been developed. It has been forecast that it will come into service sometime in the next few years, possibly flying from spaceport launch sites in Cornwall or Scotland.

The video shows how sophisticated India’s space programme is, and I’ve no doubt that their entry into space will lower launch costs significantly. While the American shuttle was an amazing piece of engineering, it was massively expensive. It only became competitive as a launch vehicle against Ariane and the other rockets because it was heavily subsidized by the American government.

I look forward to the development of India’s spaceplane and that country joining the US and Russia in launching manned space missions. Perhaps if more countries develop reusable spacecraft, humanity will at last enter a real age of crewed space exploration and colonization.

Vox Political: Eurostar Sold by Tories to Tory Donor

March 10, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has posted this piece, exposing the latest bit of corruption from the party nicknamed ‘The Selfservatives’, Eurostar sell-off: Isn’t this interesting? It reports that Eurostar has been sold off to Hermes LLP, one of whose shareholders, Michael Glendonbrook, has donated extremely lavishly to the Tory party. Glendonbrook also has shares in two other companies, whose boards are also adorned by David Gamble, Hermes’ chairman.

The stories over at

This is yet more corruption from the party that seems to be vying with Bliar’s administration to be the most flagrant example of ‘crony capitalism’. It’s precisely the same kind of policies that made John Major’s administration notorious for ‘sleaze’ in the early and mid-1990s. Like Cameron, Major was keen to privatise state industries, which were then sold to companies with the same MPs and civil servants on their boards, who were in charge of the very same privatisation.

The French on the other side of La Manche, remarked that they had legislation in place to prevent such corrupt sales of public assets. Indeed, one French official remarked ‘You call it sleaze. We call it corruption’.

It also shows something about the Euro-scepticism in the Tories. It appears to be less resentment at the interference of a foreign, corrupt bureaucracy, as the Euro-sceptics angrily shout, and more bitterness at the fact that the fact that there is a large, supra-national legislature that actually occasionally does have morals higher than theirs, and dares to hold them to account. Hence the determination to jettison not just Europe, but the European Court of Human Rights and all the international laws protecting British citizens from persecution by their own government.