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Morning Brief: SpaceX Shoots for ISS on Saturday

by Renewing America Staff
May 15, 2012

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket with a Dragon capsule lifts off from Cape Canaveral for a test flight in 2010. (Scott Audette/Courtesy Reuters) SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket with a Dragon capsule lifts off from Cape Canaveral for a test flight in 2010. (Scott Audette/Courtesy Reuters)

Space commercialization may take a small step forward on Saturday (NYT). SpaceX is planning to launch the first commercial capsule to the International Space Station (ISS). If successful, SpaceX’s Dragon will ferry cargo to ISS, and validate a reusable spacecraft capable of carrying astronauts. SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk—who also co-founded Paypal and Tesla Motors—vowed his company will send humans to Mars within twenty years. Closer to Earth, several startups are receiving research and development funds from NASA to develop equipment to reach earth orbit.

Noted astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson sat down with Foreign Affairs Editor Gideon Rose to discuss the importance of space exploration in supporting economic growth and stimulating scientific and technological progress.

4G Smartphones Face Limited Chip Supplies

Qualcomm, the sole provider of LTE chips that allow cell phones to connect to new 4G and older cellular networks, is capacity constrained (Bloomberg). A shortage in these chips may slow the growth of mobile technology and applications; access to the faster 4G networks aids the shift of web use from computers to smartphones. Qualcomm contracts Asian manufactures, such as Taiwan Semiconductor, to make its chips. Those manufactures are grappling with unexpectedly high demand, increasingly complex chips, and manufacturing processes that decrease production yields.

Innovation. Read more on how the U.S. capacity to innovate could play a chief role in economic growth.

International Trade and Investment

Senate to Review Ex-Im Reauthorization Amendments

TheHill reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will allow Senate votes to proceed on five GOP amendments to the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) today. The proposed amendments—which would limit the power of Ex-Im or modify its charter—are all expected to fail to secure sixty votes for approval. The amendments highlight the tension within the GOP over Ex-Im; business groups favor reauthorization, while many conservatives such as ex-Senator John Sununu argue against Ex-Im reauthorization (Boston Globe).

CFR’s Ted Alden discusses the issues facing lawmakers as they consider Ex-Im reauthorization, including the increasingly aggressive actions of developing countries to finance their exports and Ex-Im’s efforts to match them.

Software Piracy Growing in Developing World

As computer sales in emerging markets surge past sales in developed markets, software piracy accelerates (Financial Times). Research indicates that 68 percent of software in emerging markets is pirated, compared to 24 percent in mature markets. For instance, in China $3 billion of software was sold in 2011, but an estimated $9 billion in additional software was pirated. Software industry groups are calling for greater legal protection and enforcement.

This CFR Independent Task Force report encourages the Obama administration and Congress to adopt a “pro-America” trade policy that brings to more Americans the benefits of global engagement.

International trade and investment. Read more from leading analysts on the debate over next steps in U.S. trade policy.

Infrastructure

Girding the Electrical Grid

The sun will reach the peak of its eleven-year activity cycle next year, and U.S. electrical regulators are debating how best to protect the electrical grid from sunstorms (WSJ). Experts disagree on the vulnerability of the modern electrical grid as regulators weigh whether to require hundreds of millions of dollars in new safeguards. During a sunstorm, excessive amounts of charged solar particles buffet the Earth’s magnetic field, inducing current flows in the electrical grid that could lead to surges and blackouts. Such an event led to a nine-hour blackout across most of Quebec in 1989.

Infrastructure. Read more on how upgrading the nation’s aging network of roads, bridges, airports, railways, and water systems is essential to maintaining U.S. competitiveness.

The Morning Brief is compiled by Renewing America contributor Steven J. Markovich.

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