As if European industry wasn’t in a weak position already, the German decision – triggered by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan – to move away from nuclear power towards renewables, such as solar, wind and biomass power, is starting to put upward pressure on prices. The surcharge for renewable energy is to rise to 5.5 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) in 2013 from 3.6 in 2012. For an average three-person household using 3,500 kWh a year, the 47 percent increase amounts to an extra €185 on the annual electricity bill.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government’s plans to phase out of nuclear energy by 2022 is looking increasingly reckless – and unpopular with the German public. French electricity, which is 80% derived by nuclear power, already much cheaper than what German households are paying.
German electricity prices already some of the highest in the EU
As the American space upstart SpaceX gets ready to resupply the International Space Station under a commercial agreement with NASA later on today, the established players in the international space launch market are starting to take notice of SpaceX’s low-cost strategy and what it will mean to the future satellite launching business. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will start to compete for commercial business in the coming years and will probably seek to undercut current players on price.
The current commercial space-launch leader, Arianespace with over 50% of the satellite launch market, is currently working on an upgrade to its Ariane 5 rocket which would give the vehicle a 20 percent boost in payload-carrying power and a re-ignitable upper stage. There are, however, different views of the rocket’s future from its two major owners i.e. the French and German governments. The French government is conscious of the future competition from SpaceX and other upstarts and wants to skip the current Ariane 5 upgrade altogether and concentrate on a new more cost effective version to be called Ariane 6. The German Aerospace Center wants to continue the Ariane 5 upgrade instead, which has already commenced, and potentially team up with NASA to work on the Orion deep-space crew transport spacecraft. The French and Italians are sceptical to Orion and want to work on a European low-earth orbit spacecraft instead. There could also be an option to work on the Ariane 5 upgrade and development of Ariane 6 concurrently, but that would require an increased budget.
Arianespace currently needs 120 million Euros in government support annually in order to be commercially viable. Final policies and budgets will be agreed on during a November conference of European Space Agency members.
Arianespace’s Ariane5 rocket takes off
The German subsidiary of European missile systems company MBDA has developed a solid-state laser weapon with an output of 40 kW. The purpose of the weapon is to take down airborne mortar shells and is claimed to have cut through 40 mm-thick steel plates “in a few seconds”.
Germany’s new laser gun
MBDA is owned by European aerospace and defense giants BAE Systems, EADS and Finmeccanica. BAE Systems and EADS have proposed a merger recently.
MBDA’s laser gun is said to be ahead of its US competitors who have only managed a 25 kW laser zap-gun so far.
Research & development spending as percentage of GDP is going up in Germany and might soon catch up with the US, according to this article in the Economist. Spending in Japan is going down while the UK is still lagging behind.
This link to Booz & Co annual report on corporate R&D provides some interesting reading on R&D strategic advantage.
Germany has passed China and Saudi Arabia to declare the largest trade surplus in the world, some $200 Billion in current account surplus this year. A big reason for the rise is increasing industrial exports to China, but a decrease in imports from the Asian giant. A strength in industrial products such as automobiles and heavy industry are big reasons for the successful exports, while an emphasis on producing rather than consuming seem to keep imports down.
Global trade balances – surplus countries in blue, deficit countries in red, the darker the color, the larger the imbalance
Churches being destroyed by rebels in Syria
Christian churches are being desecrated and looted in the Syrian city of Homs. The raids are being carried out by the Free Syrian Army, which is backed by a large number of international players, the US, Britain, France, Turkey, al-Qaida, and the Muslim Brotherhood among them.
That (nominally) Christian Europe lets this go on without even condemning it is a disgrace. The Russian TV channel reports:
Thousands of Christians have fled certain areas of Homs that fell into rebel hands in February.
Meanwhile, US intelligence operatives and diplomats continue to step up their contacts with Syrian rebels to help organize their growing military operations against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
According to senior US officials, the CIA and the State Department are helping the Free Syrian Army develop logistical routes for moving supplies into Syria and providing training in communications.
Reportedly, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been paying salaries to the Syrian rebels for several months now. Meanwhile, Turkey, which hosts some units of the Free Syrian Army, ensures material and technical support, according to sources.
And many believe that as long as the US and its allies continue to blindly support the radical rebels, stability in Syria will remain unattainable.
It’s time that Germany steps up and in the strongest terms condemn the US and its Islamist allies!
The European Space Agency (ESA) is currently undertaking two studies in order to find use for its space truck, the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), when it has completed all its missions to the International Space Station in 2014. The ATV is an expendable, unmanned resupply spacecraft developed by the ESA and manufactured by Astrium Space Transportation in Germany. Five ATVs are designed to supply the International Space Station with propellant, water, air, payloads and experiments.
ESA’s ATV in orbit
One of the studies will investigate whether the ATV’s service module section could provide propulsion for NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which is designed to carry astronauts to deep space destinations such as asteroids, the moon and Mars. This would give the European space manufacturer a major role in future space exploration.
The other study envisages a future for the spacecraft in providing services in low-earth orbit such as pushing infrastructure around in space or serving as a vehicle for robots that fix or decommission old satellites.
The ATV taking shape at the Astrium factory in Bremen, Germany
Three ATVs have already been launched with the latest one still orbiting with the ISS. The next ATV, named “Albert Einstein”, will be launched in Spring 2013.