'Ten times cheaper': Russian space company testing iodine rocket engine

By ethan / June 22, 2018

Russian spacecraft manufacturer Energia is developing an electric propulsion rocket engine which runs on ‘pure’ iodine. The new thruster can make rockets smaller, lighter and cheaper.

Engineers have patented a method of using iodine for electric-powered spacecraft propulsion, the Energia Space and Rocket Corporation said on Thursday. The company, based in the Moscow region, is the nation’s main builder of space rockets and components for the International Space Station (ISS). It said the idea to use ‘pure’ iodine for space exploration was first proposed in the 90s, but thorough research started only several years ago.

READ MORE: Russian space corporation boss announces switch to new generation carrier rockets

Solid iodine is easy to store, can be quickly converted into gas, and is cost-effective, compared to xenon which typically serves as propellant in electric-powered propulsion engines. Switching to iodine can potentially make the process “ten times cheaper’, while the engine itself will be smaller and less heavy, the company said. Furthermore, xenon-run engines are incapable of long-distance flights, like going to the Moon.

According to Energia, the new engines may be used in operating telecom satellites, and delivering humans and cargo in deep space.

“Ground tests will commence in late June,” told Pavel Scherbina, one of engineers leading the project.

The engine’s testing in space is planned for 2022, both onboard the ISS and the ‘Progress’ cargo ship.

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US-China trade war is great news for OPEC

By ethan / June 22, 2018

The US-Chinese trade rift threatens to limit US crude oil exports to China that have been gaining pace in recent months and eating into OPEC’s share in the market, a market that is setting the pace of global oil demand growth.

The heightened trade tension between the United States and China over the past week resulted in China threatening to slap a 25-percent import tariff on crude oil and refined oil product imports from the United States.

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FILE PHOTO: The Priscilla nuclear test © Galerie Bilderwelt / Getty Images

If this threat turns into reality, US crude oil—which is currently in high demand in Asia due to the wide $ 9-a-barrel discount to the Brent Crude international benchmark—will become uncompetitive.

A potential tariff would also limit the revenues of US oil exporters and force them to accept even steeper discounts to find new buyers of their oil to replace the sales in their second-largest single oil export market after Canada, analysts warn.

In case of reduced US oil exports to China, the biggest winner of an oil trade war will be OPEC—the supplier that has seen its market share diminished by US oil. The cartel would be the biggest beneficiary of possible Chinese tariffs on US oil imports, as these could help it regain market share, OPEC sources and industry officials tell Reuters.

Yet, they warn that the benefit would be short-lived. In the long run, tariffs and trade wars threaten not only global trade but also economic growth and global oil demand growth.

“In the long term, this will have a negative effect on the global economy even if, in the short term, it might be positive for other non-US producers,” Rainer Seele, chief executive at Austria’s oil company OMV, said in Vienna where OPEC officials and ministers and top oil industry executives attended a seminar this week.

Patrick Pouyanne, the CEO of supermajor Total, also voiced his concern that trade wars are “not good news for the world economy.”

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Sun Yanan at 2016 Rio Olympics © Reuters

While trade wars may hurt global economy, therefore hurting global oil demand in the long run, in the short term, the winner will be OPEC.

“For sure, it is good news for Algerian crude,” an Algerian oil source told Reuters, adding that “new tariffs will support flow from others sources starting from the fourth quarter. It is also a period of robust demand in China.”

“While China could secure the crude from alternative sources, such as West Africa which has a similar quality to US crude, the US would find it hard to find an alternative market that is as big as China,” Suresh Sivanandam, senior manager, Asia refining, at Wood Mackenzie, said earlier this week, commenting on the impact of possible Chinese tariffs on US oil imports.

According to WoodMac, US crude oil exports to China averaged around 300,000 bpd in the first quarter this year, accounting for just over 20 percent of all U.S. crude oil exports.

“This shows that China is a significant outlet for US crude exports and the early indications are that the exports would be much higher in Q2 2018 given the lower WTI-Brent differential which made the arbitrage to Asia look more attractive,” Sivanandam noted.

The consultancy forecasts that on a free trade basis, US crude exports to China will increase two-fold by 2023 from the current levels.

Read more on Oilprice.com: US-China trade war will hurt shale drillers

“Hence, the imposition of crude tariffs by China will impact the US-China trade and adds a significant downside risk to our base forecast for the medium term,” Sivanandam said.

OPEC and Russia will only be too happy to fill in for a possible US import decline on the Chinese market. The two top crude oil suppliers to China are Russia and Saudi Arabia, with Russia beating the Saudis for the top spot in each of the past 13 months.

To be sure, Chinese tariffs on US oil imports are not a certainty, and many analysts think that it’s just the latest scare tactic in the trade spat. The trade war could be “put on hold” again, but in case China slaps tariffs on US oil, almost everyone will lose in the long run. In the short term, there could be one winner—OPEC.

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

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Donald Trump already planning second UK visit post- Brexit, recording reveals

By ethan / June 22, 2018

A second visit to the UK by Donald Trump is already being planned, and it could come as early as next March. It follows Theresa May’s rejection of calls to cancel the US president’s visit in July over his clampdown on immigration.

Britain’s National Security Adviser Mark Sedwill and US Ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson were recorded making plans for Trump to come to the UK for a full state visit as soon as the UK crashes out of the EU.

“Let’s plan for a series of visits in his first term,” Sedwill is heard saying during the opening of the new US embassy in March in a recording released by Channel 4.

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First lady Melania Trump wore a controversial jacket during her visit to Texas, June 21, 2018. © Kevin Lamarque

After suggesting next May for a state visit, he adds: “The key thing is that we get him here.”

Johnson replies: “Let’s get him here once. Once you get it then, you know what you are dealing with.”

Trump will be landing in London on July 14, despite widespread opposition to the his administration’s controversial policies.

Calls for the upcoming visit to be cancelled were recently renewed after it emerged that the president had given the green light for an immigration policy that separated children from their parents as they attempted to cross the US border illegally.

Prime Minister Theresa May rejected calls for President Donald Trump’s visit to be called off over what was branded an “inhumane” immigration policy.

The Tory leader did condemn Trump’s so-called “zero tolerance” policy in the Commons on Wednesday. She said it was wrong and that images and audio of children crying as they were separated from their guardians were “disturbing.”

Yet the PM ignored calls for the invitation to be revoked, citing the importance of the US-UK “special relationship” in the areas of security and defense. “When we disagree with the United States, we tell them so,” May told the Commons.

“But we also have some key shared interests with the United States, in the security and defense field and in other areas as well, and it is right that we are able to sit down and discuss those with the president of a country with which we have had a longstanding – and will continue to have a longstanding – special relationship.”

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Iran may exit nuclear deal in coming weeks – Deputy FM

By ethan / June 22, 2018

The Iran nuclear deal is in “intensive care” and it’s possible that Tehran will have to withdraw from the pact if an agreement cannot be reached with its European signatories, the country’s deputy FM Abbas Araghchi has warned.

Iran wants to preserve the deal but adjustments need to be made as a result of Washington’s decision to withdraw from the landmark accord, Abbas Araghchi said in an interview to Euronews. The deal has “lost its balance” due to the US withdrawal, he added, so “if Europeans, and other remaining participants of the JCPOA are interested in Iran remaining in the deal, they should compensate [for] the absence of the US, and the re-imposition of US sanctions.”

READ MORE: Iran vows to reopen Fordow uranium enrichment plant if nuclear deal collapses

Tehran has repeatedly stated that it wants to salvage the deal, but has expressed frustration over European proposals for preserving the accord. Ali Akbar Salehi, chief of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said on Tuesday that Europe’s proposals to save the deal after the US withdrawal were not acceptable to Tehran. “If it continues like this, all sides will lose,” Salehi said.

The European Union is considering a range of options to help breathe life into the faltering deal. Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s chief diplomat, said in May that the bloc was considering deepening Europe’s economic ties with Iran, shielding banking transactions with Tehran, and maintaining Iranian oil and gas purchases – as well as using EU finance to boost investment in the Middle East country. Like Araghchi, she likened the nuclear deal to “a relative in intensive care.”


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Russian space corporation boss announces switch to new generation carrier rockets

By ethan / June 22, 2018

The director of Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos has revealed plans to wrap up production of the mainstay carrier rocket, Proton, and start building the latest generation of rockets, including returning launch vehicles.

We have the following objective set before us: to produce the necessary quantity of our legendary Proton rockets under the already-signed contracts and then close this project. In the future we will be using only the Angara rockets,” Dmitry Rogozin said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

He also emphasized that the Proton project had fulfilled its historic task and now it was time to switch to the new generation of launch vehicles.

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RIA Novosti/Russian Defense Ministry

However, the freshly-appointed Russian space chief did not disclose any dates at which the switch to the new launch vehicles is scheduled, saying that it would be possible to discuss the details when Russia’s main producer of space rockets, the Khrunichev Center, finishes the relocation from Moscow to Omsk.

The original Proton launch vehicle was developed in late 1960s, but currently Russia uses a much more advanced and capable Proton-M version of the rocket. The price of one Proton launch is estimated at about $ 70 million.

The work on the Angara project started in early 1990s and the first test launch of the newest A-5 model, destined to replace the Protons, was successfully conducted in 2014. Angara’s engine RD-191 is described by experts as the world’s best “clean” engine that uses kerosene and oxygen as fuel. According to the Khrunichev Center, the engine can be used up to 10 times or more – which creates an opportunity for developing returning carrier rockets within the Angara family.

Currently one launch of the Angara vehicle costs about $ 100 million but the price is expected to decrease after the production is moved from Moscow to Omsk.

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White pupils lag behind because they lack immigrant families’ ‘drive,’ Ofsted chief says

By ethan / June 22, 2018

White working-class children in disadvantaged communities are failing to perform as well as their ethnic-minority classmates because they lack the “drive” of immigrant families to succeed, the Ofsted chief has said.

Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of the education watchdog, hit back at claims that Ofsted’s inspectorate gave lower ratings to schools in lower-class communities with a majority of white pupils.

Recent Ofsted figures show that only four percent of secondary schools with a majority of white pupils received an “outstanding” grade, while almost half got Ofsted’s lowest two ratings. By contrast, 29 percent of schools where ethnic minorities were more prevalent were rated as outstanding, while fewer than one-in-five were inadequate. 

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© Rick Wilking

“We can’t pretend that Ofsted judgments are not lower in certain areas – many of them with a high proportion of white working-class children. But that shouldn’t surprise us,” Spielman said in her keynote address at the Festival of Education on Thursday. 

The Ofsted chief then suggested that questions have yet to be addressed about the wider economic factors involved. Recent years, she said, have seen “a long overdue debate” about why white working-class communities have fallen behind – a discussion not only in England but “echoed throughout continental Europe and across the Atlantic.”

“We are having to grapple with the unhappy fact that many local working-class communities have felt the full brunt of economic dislocation in recent years, and, perhaps as a result, can lack the aspiration and drive seen in many migrant communities,” Spielman added.

Michael Wilshaw, Spielman’s predecessor as head of Ofsted, took it a step further by saying white pupils’ parents simply “don’t care.”

“The reason why London schools are doing so well, apart from good headteachers and good teachers, is because a lot of the immigrant families care about education, they value education, they support their children,” Wilshaw said.

“I’m working in parts of England with white British populations where the parents don’t care. Less than 50 percent turn up to parents evening. Now that’s outrageous.”

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US government accuses Google of collaboration with China over Huawei ties

By ethan / June 22, 2018

US lawmakers have questioned Google’s “strategic partnership” with Chinese major smartphone producer Huawei saying it “could pose a serious risk to US national security” and American consumers.

Huawei, which is the world’s third-largest smartphone maker by market share, is running the Google-owned Android operating system on its devices. In January, Google and Huawei signed a partnership to work on a new standard of mobile phone messaging.

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© Lucas Jackson

“We urge you to reconsider Google’s partnership with Huawei, particularly since your company recently refused to renew a key research partnership, Project Maven, with the Department of Defense. This project uses artificial intelligence to improve the accuracy of US military targeting, not least to reduce civilian casualties,” said a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai signed by both Republican and Democrat lawmakers.

The letter accuses Google of being more willing to cooperate with Beijing rather than Washington. “While we regret that Google did not want to continue a long and fruitful tradition of collaboration between the military and technology companies, we are even more disappointed that Google apparently is more willing to support the Chinese Communist Party than the US military.”

Washington has continuously accused Huawei of working for Beijing. In February, Americans were warned not to buy Huawei devices since they could be used to spy on users.

The Chinese company said last month that US firms are failing to compete with Huawei, which is why politics are used to stop its business in the US. “They cannot compete with us on product, on technology, on innovation, so they compete with us [using] politics,” the head of Huawei consumer business, Richard Yu, told CNBC.

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Dazzling fireball streaks across sky over European Russia (VIDEOS)

By ethan / June 22, 2018

Residents of the European part of Russia have reported a bright fireball lighting up the sky, which was emitting a blinding light. Theories on social media varied from a simple meteor to aliens arriving for World Cup 2018.

The glowing object was spotted in the sky from Voronezh, Lipetsk, Tula and Oryol regions on Thursday morning, according to photos and videos released on Russian social media network VKontakte.

READ MORE: Flying suitcase v old TV set: Instagram roars with laughter over video of satellite passing ISS

“Is it a meteor?” “Is it an explosion?” people wondered. Others suggested that it was a space object, like an asteroid. Some conspiracy-lovers claimed that the fireball was connected to military exercises held somewhere nearby. “Probably they fired [something] during the drill,” one person wrote.

Some creative users didn’t miss the chance to joke that the space object was none other than a UFO, and that the aliens had arrived to watch the FIFA 2018 World Cup.

Meanwhile, Deputy Director of the State Astronomical Institute of Moscow State University Olga Silchenko debunked the ‘alien’ theories by identifying the object as merely a small meteor. “This one is not linked to any meteor showers, this is a single, random celestial body,” she told TASS.

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Man detained after bomb scare at London’s Charing Cross rail station

By ethan / June 22, 2018

Charing Cross rail terminal in London was evacuated after reports of a man on the tracks who claimed to have an explosive device, the British Transport Police said. The suspect was swiftly detained by officers.

“A man claiming to have a bomb at #CharingCross station has now been arrested,” British Transport Police said. “We are now working to reopen the station as soon as possible.”

The terminal, one of the busiest in the country, was evacuated “as a precaution,” police stated. 

Officers from London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed that they were assisting BTP’s work at the station.

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Sanctioned Russian interior minister says he had ‘no problem’ getting US visa

By ethan / June 22, 2018

The Russian interior minister, who is in New York for a UN police summit, says he did not face any problems entering the US. Vladimir Kolokoltsev was among 24 Russians hit by US sanctions in April.

While Russia-related sanctions imposed by the US Treasury might have caused headaches for some Russian businessmen, this has not been the case for Russia’s top law enforcement official.

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© Mikhael Klimentyev / Sputnik

Kolokoltsev, who arrived for a two-day UN Chiefs of Police Summit (UNCOPS) on Wednesday, said that he did not encounter any “significant problems” as he planned his visit to New York. The meeting sees police chiefs from 193 nations coming together to discuss their forces’ contribution to UN peacekeeping missions and the role of police in preventing international conflicts from spiraling into violence.

The Russian minister has praised the US State Department for an impeccably organized trip.

“I can say even more – the way the US State Department handled our delegation’s security and transport issues did not give rise to criticism,” Kolokoltsev said, adding that “everything was top quality” and he did not experience any problems.

Apart from taking part in the summit’s sessions, Kolokoltsev held separate meetings with UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and South Korea’s National Police Agency chief Lee Chul-Sung.

Speaking on the sidelines of the forum, Kolokoltsev said that Moscow is mulling expanding its police’s involvement in the UN peacekeeping activities.

“We are ready to consider the question of Russian police officers participating in projects of specialized police groups, including joint English-language missions with other countries,” he told media on Thursday.

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The U.S. Treasury Department building © Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images North America

In April, 24 Russians businessmen and state officials were put on a list of persons sanctioned for what US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin described as “a range of maligned activity around the globe,” accusing Moscow of “occupying” Crimea, fanning violence in the war-ravaged eastern Ukraine and backing Syrian President Bashar Assad.

In addition to Kolokoltsev, several high-profile Russian officials, including the head of the National Guard Service Viktor Zolotov, ex-FSB head Nikolay Patrushev and chair of the Russian Federation Council Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev, were subjected to the punitive measures.

The restrictions also targeted major Russian corporations, such as the world’s second-largest aluminum producer Rusal and Russian defense corporation Rosoboronexport.

Russia denounced the move as a flagrant violation of international norms,  particularly the principles of free trade, and slapped Washington with counter-measures, signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month.

The legislation allows Moscow to cease international cooperation in response to “hostile actions” from foreign states, including to impose import and export embargos on certain goods.

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