Canadian Inuit officials demand halt to rocket launch

The coming dark age: Canadian Inuit officials are demanding that the launch of a European atmospheric research satellite by a converted Russian ICBM be stopped out of fear of the pollution it might cause.

The position of the rocket company is based on calculated engineering:

In a statement to CBC News, the European Space Agency insisted the fuel won’t reach Earth’s surface. “Please remember that under standard pressure, hydrazine boils at 113.5 C,” the agency said. The stage containing the fuel will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere much hotter than that, it said. “The structural parts lose their integrity and by melting the destruction of the stage occurs. The agency said that six kilometres above the ground “the propellant components have completely burnt up.”

The position of the protesters is based on fear and lack of knowledge:

The concern for Inuit is the rocket’s second stage, which contains hydrazine-based fuel and is expected to splash down in the North Water Polynya. Though it’s outside of Canada and Denmark’s international waters, it’s home to a vast array of birds and marine mammals that Inuit rely on for food.

“It’s the birthing ground of all the animals that we eat, that people in the North depend upon,” said Eva Aariak, Canada’s commissioner on the Inuit Circumpolar Council and former Nunavut premier. “I know it’s being played down in terms of the kind of effect it would have, but nobody knows. This is the most concerning part is that nobody really knows. And before people know exactly what kind of effect it can have, we will keep fighting.” [emphasis mine]

The article also interviews a pro-Inuit scientist whose primary evidence apparently comes from a youtube video.

There is no doubt that hydrazine is very toxic, which is why it is generally not used as the launch fuel for rockets. However, these protests appear based on mindless fear, almost like the protesters were primitive tribesman afraid of thunder. Ah, but maybe that is exactly what they are!

Russian military abandons Rokot

Beginning in 2016, the Russian military will stop using its Rokot launcher, switching to Soyuz and Angara rockets instead.

The reason? Rokot relies on some imported parts, while Soyuz and Angara are build entirely in Russia.

It is interesting how fast the Russians are moving to stop their dependence on foreign parts, compared to the United States. Rather than try to build Russian-built parts for Rokot, they have taken the simplest and fastest approach and simply switched rockets.

In the U.S. Congress is instead demanding that a new rocket engine be build for Atlas 5 to replace the Russian engine, an expensive and time-consuming process. Wouldn’t it make more sense to say buy-buy to Atlas 5 and just switch to the Falcon 9?