On Tuesday evening Congress took a key step toward encouraging the development of this industry when the Senate passed H.R. 2262, the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, with bipartisan support. The legislation provides a number of pro-business measures, such as establishing legal rights for US citizens to own resources in outer space as well as extending indemnification for commercial launches through 2025.
"This bill provides the boost America’s private space partners need as they lead the world into the future," said Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who chairs the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. "This bill will keep America at the forefront of aerospace technology, create jobs, reduce red tape, promote safety, and inspire the next generation of explorers."
Space mining advocates, including Planetary Resources, praised the new law. “Many years from now, we will view this pivotal moment in time as a major step toward humanity becoming a multi-planetary species," said Eric Anderson, co-founder and co-chairman of the asteroid mining company—which is backed by several Google founders. "This legislation establishes the same supportive framework that created the great economies of history, and it will foster the sustained development of space."
In addition to mineral rights and indemnification, the new law also extends the so-called "learning period," which protects space tourism companies by requiring paying customers to fly at their own risk and prevents the FAA from stepping in unless there is a major accident. The bill also extends the lifetime of the International Space Station through 2024, ensuring viability of commercial projects on board the orbiting laboratory.
The Chinese president keeps a tight grip on his power and does not permit others to speak for him. Foreign officials and scholars have found it difficult to penetrate President Xi’s inner circle and get to know the men who advise him on policy and matters of state. Based on research and interviews by The New York Times, here are some facts about five men who, to varying degrees, give advice to Mr. Xi and are trusted by him — for now.
Wang Qishan, 67, head of the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, Politburo Standing Committee member
A fan of “House of Cards,” he has told people that he pays special attention to the role of party whip, according to a Hong Kong magazine. That’s the job of the devious and menacing Frank Underwood character at the start of the show.
As a former finance official, he met often with Henry M. Paulson Jr., the Goldman Sachs chief executive who later became United States Treasury secretary under President George W. Bush. Mr. Paulson wrote that during the 2008 financial crisis, Mr. Wang said: “We aren’t sure we should be learning from you anymore.”
He is married to the daughter of Yao Yilin, a former vice-premier, but does not have children, which some political insiders say gives him fewer vested interests and makes him more immune to corruption.
Li Zhanshu, 65, head of the General Office of the Communist Party’s Central Committee, Politburo member
He drank socially with Xi Jinping when the two were county-level party chiefs in Hebei Province in the 1980s.
He once said in an interview that he abides by a Three-No’s Principle: “No screwing other people, no playing games, no loafing on the job.”
An uncle, Li Zhengtong, died in 1949 fighting as a Communist soldier against the Kuomintang. That took place less a month after the uncle had gotten married. Mr. Li has described his father bringing the uncle’s body back to their village on a cart. In a 2005 essay memorializing his uncle, Mr. Li wrote: “There is an endless yearning that dwells deep in my heart. No matter how time flies, my thoughts for him linger.”
Liu He, 63, head of the Communist Party’s Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs, Central Committee member
A fluent English speaker, he has an M.B.A. from Seton Hall University and an M.P.A. from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
He was awarded a top economics prize in China for writing a paper in 2012 that compared the 2008 global financial crisis with the Great Depression of the 1930s. He concluded with three lessons for China, including, “Have contingency plans for the worst-case scenarios.”
This summer, as foreign analysts were questioning the stability of China’s economy and its stock market, he told a Hong Kong television station, “There’s no problem; rest assured,” and, “There’s no problem with the stock market, either.”
Wang Huning, 59, head of the Communist Party’s Central Policy Research Office, Politburo member
He spent most of his academic career as a professor in the department of international politics at Fudan University in Shanghai and has been a policy adviser to Presidents Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping.
After a six-month visit to the United States in 1988, he wrote a book, “America Opposes America.” His purpose on the visit was to observe up close the “biggest capitalist country,” he wrote. “People wonder how this nation, with a short history of only 200 years, could become the most developed country in the world.”
Wei Chengsi, a former Shanghai official, wrote that he once asked Mr. Wang why he did not describe himself, a known proponent of strong centralized leadership, as a subscriber to “neo-authoritarianism.” Mr. Wang replied: “Because the Communist Party can only publicly accept one doctrine, and that’s Marxism-Leninism."
Gen. Liu Yuan, 64, political commissar of the Logistics Department of the People’s Liberation Army, Central Committee member
He is the son of Liu Shaoqi, the president of China from 1959 to 1968, who was purged by Mao during the Cultural Revolution and died in 1969 after months of being beaten and tortured.
He had an early career as a civilian official in Henan Province, rising to the post of vice governor, before being transferred to the People’s Liberation Army with the rank of major general.
The most vocal critic of corruption in the military, he was the first to challenge Gen. Gu Junshan and Gen. Xu Caihou, that latter of whom was a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, which oversees the military. Those two generals were later purged by Mr. Xi for corruption.
By EDWARD WONGMia Li and Yufan Huang contributed research.
The rebound in oil prices is still not here, and new data suggests that it will take some more time before the markets start to balance out.
Global supplies are still too large to justify a significant rally in oil prices. The latest indicator that the glut of oil has yet to ease comes from the FT, which concludes that there is 100 million barrels of oil sitting in oil tankers. Oil has piled up in tankers that are floating at sea, as onshore storage space begins to dwindle.
The level of crude oil stashed at sea is nearly double what it was earlier in 2015. “Onshore storage is not quite full but it is at historically high levels globally,” David Wech of JBC Energy told the FT. “As we move closer to capacity that is creating more infrastructure hiccups and delays in the oil market, leading to more oil being backed out on to the water.”
Rising levels of crude stored at sea has more to do with shrinking capacity onshore, rather than traders stockpiling volumes in order to profit from an eventual rebound in prices. Oil tanker rates have surged this year, so it doesn’t exactly make sense to store oil at sea strictly for a trading opportunity. Daily ratesfor very large crude carriers (VLCCs) are around $60,000 per day, although down from a peak of $111,000 per day hit on October 8.Off Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, Asia’s main oil hub, around 35m barrels of crude and shipping fuel are being stored on 14 VLCCs.
SYDNEY—Global miners including Rio Tinto PLC and Iluka Resources Ltd. have long made a pile of profit from digging up a sludgy commodity known as mineral sands, then shipping it to countries such as China where it is used to whiten bathroom tiles or in household paints.
Now, these miners are shooting to be at the forefront of technological change—supplying the same commodity for use in 3-D printing. They are working on ways to cut the cost of producing titanium dioxide, the compound commonly produced from mineral sands, and investing in technologies that will make it more attractive for the 3-D printing industry.
In doing so, they hope to protect profits from future swings in demand for titanium dioxide. Prices of the mineral sand rutile have fallen more than two-thirds from their peak in 2012, amid a slowdown in the pace of demand from traditional users. That has forced miners to slash output: Iluka—the world’s second-biggest producer of titanium dioxide, with mining facilities in the U.S. and Australia—dug up 23% less raw rutile in the first nine months of 2015 versus a year earlier. Rio Tinto, the No. 1 producer, has closed furnaces in Canada and South Africa and says its global operations are running at about 60% of their capacity.
3-D printing—also called additive manufacturing—offers great potential to diversify the market for mineral sands. The technology has transformed within a decade from a niche industry making models, prototypes and smaller items such as hearing aids to one that has attracted investments from companies including jet-engine maker General Electric Co. and appliance giant Whirlpool Corp.These manufacturers want stronger, more lightweight materials that don’t cost more than the ones that they currently use.
3-D printing involves slicing a digital image of an object into thousands of layers, which printers then recreate one at a time in plastic, metal or other materials. A powdered form of the chosen material, such as titanium dioxide, is used to create the three-dimensional object from a computer design. In the case of titanium, the powder is melted layer by layer with a laser to create the item.Advertisement
While high costs to slow print speeds have constrained the 3-D printing industry, there are signs of more rapid growth. Consultancy Wohlers Associates Inc., based in Fort Collins, Co., predicts it to be worth US$21.2 billion in 2020, up from US$4.1 billion last year.
“It is potentially a turbocharger over time on demand for titanium dioxide,” said David Robb, Iluka Resources’s managing director.ENLARGE
The size of the market for 3-D printing powder—which includes forms of titanium, as well as steel, cobalt and other raw materials—is set to increase at a compound rate of 24% each year through 2020 to be worth US$500 million, according to MicroMarket Monitor, an India-based research company. It foresees 3-D printing being increasingly adopted in the manufacturing of some components used in the automobile and aerospace industries.
To be sure, 3-D printing currently accounts for a small segment of the titanium-dioxide market and miners say it may be years before it contributes to their profits in a big way. Nearly 90% of titanium dioxide produced goes into pigments for paints, paper and plastics.
While mineral sands account for only a fraction of Rio Tinto’s profits compared with iron-ore sales, they are the main business of the world’s other top two suppliers, Iluka and Stamford, CT.-based Tronox Ltd.
Iluka is diverting a portion of its mineral-sands output to an industrial unit in Rotherham, a former steelmaking center in northern England. There, scientists for closely held Metalysis are testing a technology that they hope will simplify and dramatically reduce the cost of producing titanium powder. Iluka, owns 18% of Metalysis.
Rio Tinto is also “positioning ourselves on a technical side and a production side” for a potential spurt in demand for 3-D printing powder, said diamonds and minerals chief executive Alan Davies.
The mining giant has teamed up with The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and École de Technologie Supérieure, an engineering school in Montreal, and is supporting four other academic projects assessing the production of titanium metal powders that could be used in 3-D printing, Mr. Davies said.
Boeing Co., which already makes several hundred types of aircraft parts using 3-D printing, including air duct components, has been investigating a process called electron-beam melting, as it works well with titanium.
Boeing said it is continuously reviewing 3-D printing methods, believing the technology offers “the potential for widespread use” to create titanium parts for its aircraft.
However, Boeing said titanium powder is currently much more expensive than aluminum and steel, so there needs to be a strong business case for it to replace those materials.
Still, Iluka says new planes tend to contain about three times the titanium of older models.
“If you have a process that systematically changes out some of the componentry or engines with a lighter and equally strong metal, it is really a compelling case,” said Rio Tinto’s Mr. Davies.