Space: June 9, 2002

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The Space Shuttle is showing its age. To use the ancient equipment which checks the solid boosters before launch, engineers have to track down old Intel 8086 chips, made during 1981. The xenon floodlights used to light up the runway approaches are all but impossible to keep in service as the parts are no longer made. A new lighting system has been installed, but it produces a different kind of lighting, and astronauts are flying test approaches in business jets to get used to the new system. China plans to launch 30 spacecraft, many of them military or dual use, through the end of 2005. This would be an unprecedented number of launches for them. The first, on 15 May, were the Fengyun-1D weather satellite and the Haiyang-1 ocean survey satellite. Both are nominally civilian spacecraft but their data would be useful to military forces planning or conducting operations.--Stephen V Cole


 


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