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US Space Company ‘NanoRacks’ Teams Up with Chinese Client to Make History

For a price, NanoRacks can help almost anyone, anywhere send an experiment or small satellite to the International Space Station in orbit around the Earth

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NanoRacks
Astronaut Jack Fischer on the International Space Station with the experiment from the Beijing Institute of Technology. VOA
  • NanoRack is a Space Company in Houston, United States
  • The company helps in sending other experiments to the International Space Center (ISC)
  • NanoRacks teamed up with a client from China who were the first from the country to send an experiment to ISC

Houston, August 25, 2017: Imagine a post office for space. That is the job of U.S. space company NanoRacks. Just down the street from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, NanoRacks is one of many companies benefiting from the U.S. space program’s support for a broader range of commercial interests.

“There has been a shift in federal funding into more of this commercial space transportation program,” said David Alexander, director of the Rice Space Institute and professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University in Houston.

“What that has allowed these companies to do is essentially have an anchor client, an anchor customer and then build up their manifest and build up their client base and think of lots of new ways of accessing space for many different purposes,” Alexander added.

The space business

For a price, NanoRacks can help almost anyone, anywhere send an experiment or small satellite to the International Space Station in orbit around the Earth. The company made history this summer with a client from China.

“We’re all about democratizing access to space. It’s really important to me that we involve as many nations as possible,” NanoRacks Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Manber said.

The company has helped deliver space experiments and satellites of customers from 30 countries, including academic institutions in Eastern Europe, Peru and Vietnam.

The Beijing Institute of Technology, one of NanoRacks’ latest customers, became the first from China to have an experiment brought onboard the International Space station.

“They’re doing an experiment on DNA and how it mutates in microgravity,” Michael Lewis, chief technology officer of NanoRacks, said.

The research operation in China did not respond to VOA’s request for an interview, but NanoRacks’ Manber said findings from the Chinese experiment could have groundbreaking implications.

“They’ve shown abnormal results when DNA is subjected to space. That could mean, we can’t travel to Mars,” Manber said.

Getting Chinese experiment to ISS

Getting the Chinese experiment to the International Space Station was complicated because U.S. federal law prohibits NASA from working directly with China because of fears the Chinese could steal U.S. technology.

“First we brought it to the Obama administration. They were very concerned there was no ties to the People’s Liberation Army,” Manber said.

After two years, NanoRacks received approval from U.S. lawmakers.

A statement from NASA said, “NASA complied with all legal requirements to notify the Congress of this activity, and all of the ISS (International Space Station) partners approved the inclusion of the experiment from the Beijing Institute of Technology.”

However, there was one stipulation.

“We had to make sure that there was no technology transfer. No IT connection to the space station,” Lewis said. “We had a creative solution. We said, ‘OK, we’ll make sure that we plug in the experiment, and it’s not even connected data wise,’” he added.

Lewis said the self-contained autonomous Chinese experiment flew to the International Space Station on the SpaceX CRS-11 Dragon spacecraft. The experiment received only power from the space station and spent about three weeks there before returning to Earth.

“On the science side, a lot of us scientists would welcome the partnerships. There are other issues we don’t think about. Much of the Chinese space program is done through the military and the technology development they have gone through in the last few years, again, have been very successful,” Alexander said.

Aside from national security concerns, scientists and businesses are pushing for more international collaboration in space.

“You can’t do deep space exploration alone. The American government cannot do it without the American private sector, and America cannot do it without international colleagues. It’s too expensive. It’s too long term,” Alexander said. (VOA)

Next Story

More Students From Fake University In U.S. Arrested, Deported

International students who said they were attending a university have been arrested in Michigan on immigration charges

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DHS & ICE created the University to expose weaknesses in the student visa immigration process
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer looks on during an operation in Escondido, Calif. A sweeping expansion of deportation powers unveiled this week by the Trump administration has sent chills through immigrant communities and prompted some lawyers to advise migrants to gather up as much documentation as possible. Pay stubs, apartment leases or even gym key tags to prove they’ve been in the U.S. VOA

More international students who said they were attending a university that was actually a shell created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have been arrested in Michigan on immigration charges in recent months.

DHS and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) created the University of Farmington to expose weaknesses in the student visa immigration process, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Helms wrote in a sentencing memo, as reported by the Detroit Free Press. The paper broke the story last spring.

“While ‘enrolled’ at the university, 100 percent of the foreign citizen students never spent a single second in a classroom. If it were truly about obtaining an education, the university would not have been able to attract anyone, because it had no teachers, classes or educational services,” the memo said.

While the students were granted student visas to enter the U.S., they were in violation when they did not actually attend the school, federal agencies said. Of about 250 people arrested, more than 200 students voluntarily left the U.S., and 50 stayed until being arrested or deported, the Free Press reported. ICE officials said many of the students were from India.

Students in University
Group of students studying in Library of a University. Pixabay

The paper reported that some students — claiming they were entrapped by the U.S. government, which operated the fake university — hired attorneys to defend their right to stay.

It remains unclear what happened to the tuition and fees paid by the students. It cost approximately $12,000 to enroll in the fake school, the Free Press reported.

ALSO READ: China Alerts Students About Studying in United States

Last winter, eight people were arrested and indicted for conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit. Federal agencies said those charged helped at least 600 “foreign citizens to illegally remain, reenter and work in the United States and actively recruited them to enroll in a fraudulent school as part of a ‘pay to stay’ scheme.”

After conviction, the eight were sentenced to between 12 and 24 months. They face deportation after they serve their terms. (VOA)