Back In The Soyuz Again?

The good news is that we probably won’t have to abandon the International Space Station after all. The bad news is that we’re still dependent on the Russians to get our astronauts there.

NASA Confirms Russian Soyuz Failure Findings

An independent NASA panel reviewing data related to the Aug. 24 failure of the Russian Soyuz rocket transporting cargo to the International Space Station has confirmed that the Russian space agency correctly identified the cause of the problem and is taking appropriate steps to resolve it before the rocket’s next launch scheduled for Oct. 30, said William H. Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, determined that the most likely cause of the failure was contamination in the rocket’s fuel lines or stabilizer valve, which caused low fuel supply to the gas generator, Gerstenmaier told lawmakers Oct. 12 during a hearing of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s space and aeronautics panel.

See also:
NASA review clears way for manned Soyuz flights
Russian Soyuz Recovery Strategy Endorsed
NASA ‘confident’ Russia’s Soyuz rocket safe
NASA says Soyuz rockets safe for American astronauts
Russian Rocket Failure Shouldn’t Force Space Station Evacuation, NASA Tells Lawmakers
NASA Gives Blessing for Soyuz Rocket, Which is Ready for Takeoff [PHOTOS]
August’s Russian rocket failure is unlikely to force evacuation of the International Space Station
NASA Says Russian Soyuz Flight Risk Low
NASA offers Congress assurances over space station

Hopefully, the Russians have come to the correct conclusion as to what the glitch was on last August’s failed resupply flight and have taken the proper actions to fix the problem.

/although I’d feel a whole lot better if the next Soyuz flight, the first since the August crash, wasn’t manned, just in case the Russians still have it wrong

Abandon Ship!

What’s I say? This is what happens when you put all your eggs in the Russian technology basket and the basket falls apart.

Space station could be abandoned in November

Astronauts may need to temporarily withdraw from the International Space Station before the end of this year if Russia is unable to resume manned flights of its Soyuz rocket after a failed cargo launch last week, according to the NASA official in charge of the outpost.

Despite a delivery of important logistics by the final space shuttle mission in July, safety concerns with landing Soyuz capsules in the middle of winter could force the space station to fly unmanned beginning in November, according to Michael Suffredini, NASA’s space station program manager.

“Logistically, we can support [operations] almost forever, but eventually if we don’t see the Soyuz spacecraft, we’ll probably going to unmanned ops before the end of the year,” Suffredini said in an interview Thursday, one day after Russia lost a Soyuz rocket with an automated Progress resupply ship bound for the space station.

See also:
Will the Space Station be Abandoned?
International Space Station might be abandoned in November
Cargo Craft Loss Prompts ISS Concerns
NASA Sets Space Station Status Update Briefing for Monday
Roscosmos smarting after Progress loss
ISS crew safe despite supply failure: Russia, US
Matt Reed: After Russian crash, turn to the F-150 of American rockets
Progress Fails To Make Progress

Okay, so the Russian rockets are turning out to be piles of junk. Why can’t we launch the Progress cargo ship or the manned Soyuz capsule on top of the highly successful, dependable workhorse, Delta IV or Atlas V rockets? Where’s that old fashioned American ingenuity?

/and what about SpaceX, they’re already planning a rendezvous mission to dock with the ISS later this year, why can’t resources be poured into that and the schedule moved up?

Progress Fails To Make Progress

It’s been a really bad week for the Russians with two rocket failures in the last seven days and four failures total in less than a year.

Russian Progress space freighter lost

An unmanned freighter launched to the International Space Station (ISS) has been lost.

The Russian space agency said the Progress M-12M cargo ship was not placed in the correct orbit by its rocket and fell back to Earth.

The vessel was carrying three tonnes of supplies for the ISS astronauts.

. . .

It appears the Soyuz rocket’s third and final propulsion stage shut down early. As a result, the Russian federal space agency (Roskosmos) said, the Progress vessel “was not placed in the correct orbit”.

. . .

Officials reported the ship coming down in Russia’s Altai province, some 1,500km northeast of the launch site. A loud explosion was heard in the region and there were reports of windows being blown out, but it is not thought there were any injuries on the ground as a result of wreckage coming out of the sky.

See also:
Russia’s Progress M-12M launches toward ISS – fails to achieve orbit
Russian supply spacecraft crashes after launch
Russian cargo rocket lost in rare launch mishap
Technology.ISS supplies strained as Russian Progress freighter crashes to Earth
Space station manager: We can weather the Russian crash
Rocket headed for space station crashes
Russian Progress unmanned ISS resupply vehicle lost during launch
Russian Progress space truck crashes in Siberia
Unmanned Russian Supply Ship for Space Station Crashes
Search Underway for Remains of Russian Spacecraft
Debris from Russian space freighter falls in south Siberia
Spaceship crash ‘exposes Russia’s systemic failures’
Russia likely to suspend space deliveries over loss of Progress freighter
Roscosmos to tighten control of space industry after rocket lost
Russia grounds rocket, orders probe
Russian spacecraft lost to apparent engine failure uninsured
Will cargo crash leave ISS crew high and dry?

It’s not that I was a big fan of the space shuttle, but if the Russians can’t get these recurrent rocket failure problems under control, there’s a possibility that the International Space Station might eventually have to be abandoned, because there’s currently no available alternative to supply the ISS. The ISS managers are putting on a brave face that they can manage the cargo loss, but losing three tons of scheduled resupply has just got to hurt.

/what is it they say about putting all your eggs in one basket?

Lost In Space Again

When it comes to launching satellites, the Russians can’t seem to catch a break.

Russia Loses Contact With Satellite After Rocket Launch

Russia’s Federal Space Agency lost contact with a new communications satellite shortly after it launched into space due to an apparent communication glitch on the spacecraft’s rocket, Russia’s space agency has reported.

The satellite, called Express-AM4, blasted off atop a Proton rocket on Wednesday (Aug. 17) at 5:25 p.m. EDT (2125 GMT) from the central Asian spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where it was early Thursday morning local time.

According to a translated statement posted in Russian to the country’s Federal Space Agency website, officials said flight controllers lost contact with the satellite due to an apparent communications problem with the Proton rocket’s Breeze M upper stage. Later, another statement suggested that the rocket stage may have been found though the status of the Express-AM4 satellite was unclear.

. . .

The new rocket malfunction is the latest of several embarrassing Russian launch failures or incidents for Russia’s space program in a single year.

See also:
Missing satellite found off designated orbit
Lost Russian satellite found in wrong orbit
Russia loses newly launched telecom satellite
Russian Inquiry Into Express-AM4’s Anomaly…
Russia loses contact with $265-million Express-AM4 satellite shortly after launch
Satellite loss deals ‘severe blow’ to Russia: experts
Powerful communications satellite feared lost in space
Contact lost with freshly launched satellite in Russia
Missing satellite found off designated orbit
Russia loses contact with satellite after launch: reports
Russian Federal Mission Express-AM4 Anomaly Investigation Underway
Russia loses contact with just-launched £160m satellite in latest setback for its space industry
Russia loses contact with Europe’s biggest communications satellite
Russian satellite missing within hours of takeoff
Russia Loses Contact With Newly-Launched Satellite

Looking on the bright side, at least they don’t currently have this sort of problem with their manned space flights.

/which is a really good thing since, now that the U.S. space shuttle program is grounded, we depend on Russia to ferry out astronauts back and forth from the International Space Station

And Then There Were None

Welcome home Atlantis, a safe ending to the thirty year space shuttle program that saw the tragic loss of 40% of the fleet.

Ghostly Landing of Atlantis Closes America’s Space Shuttle Era Forever

Barely discernable in the pre-dawn twilight and appearing as an eerie, ghost like figure, Space Shuttle Atlantis and her four person crew swiftly glided to a triumphant landing at the Kennedy Space Center that closed out NASA’s three decade long Space Shuttle Era – in the wink of an eye it was all over.

Atlantis touched down almost invisibly on Runway 15 at the Shuttle Landing Facility at 5:57 a.m. EDT and rolled to a stop moments later to conclude the history making 13 day flight to the International Space Station and back. During the STS-135 mission Atlantis orbited the Earth 200 times and journeyed 5,284,862 miles.

The all veteran crew of space flyers comprised of Shuttle Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialists Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim.

. . .

“Mission complete, Houston,” radioed Commander Ferguson. “After serving the world for over 30 years, the space shuttle has earned its place in history. It’s come to a final stop.”

See also:
‘Mission complete, Houston’
Atlantis’ triumphant swan song ends NASA’s 30-year space shuttle program
Space shuttle Atlantis in final dawn touchdown to end 30 year programme
Space shuttle era ends with touchdown of Atlantis
Crowd Welcomes Home, Thanks Final Shuttle Crew
Atlantis makes perfect final landing
Final Space Shuttle Crew Leaves Plaque on Atlantis
Shuttle photographers capture last landing of Atlantis
Space shuttle Atlantis’s final flight in pictures
A bittersweet end to the space shuttle program
After shuttle lands, Mission Control to go quiet
Lights go dim at Mission Control
Space Shuttle’s End Prompts Doubts About NASA’s Future
Grounding an exciting, perilous 30-year adventure

Yes, it’s sad that America’s manned space program is effectively grounded for the time being and that thousands of jobs will be lost. However, the space shuttle was arguably America’s most dangerous manned space vehicle, costing 14 lives over three decades.

/the shuttles are old, costly to fly and maintain and, in my opinion, it’s well past time for their retirement, they belong in museums, not in space, we need to move on to newer, safer, and more efficient space travel technology

Going Nowhere Not So Fast

I think the old girl is trying to tell NASA something, she doesn’t want to fly.

Space shuttle Discovery’s mission delayed again

Space shuttle Discovery’s final flight keeps getting delayed.

The space station delivery mission is now off until the end of February. NASA had been aiming for an early February liftoff, but managers decided Thursday to take more time to complete repairs to Discovery’s external fuel tank.

Following a failed launch attempt in early November, cracks were found in metal struts of the massive tank. More cracks were discovered last week, after the shuttle was returned to its hangar. NASA is considering reinforcing all 108 struts on the central part of the tank for extra safety, NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said Friday.

The initial cracks were so big that the insulating foam on top of the damaged struts, or so-called stringers, split open. That’s NASA’s main concern: Cracking could cause foam to break away during liftoff and slam into Discovery. Columbia ended up being destroyed in 2003 after a slab of foam gouged a wing.

See also:
Discovery To Miss Early February Launch
Repairs Delay Discovery Launch as Shuttle Program Winds Down
Shuttle Discovery’s launch delayed for further repairs
US Shuttle Launch Delayed Again
Safety probe delays space shuttle launch until late February
NASA Pushes Space Shuttle Discovery Launch to Late February
NASA Rules Out Early February Launch for Discovery
Fuel tank woes delay space shuttle launch again
More delay for space shuttle Discovery launch
Shuttle Discovery’s launch postponed
Discovery launch delayed
Space Shuttle Discovery
Space Shuttle Discovery
STS-133 Mission Information
STS-133

Discovery is more than 25 years old and even when these space shuttles are in perfect shape they’re the most inherently unsafe manned spacecraft the U.S. has ever flown. Personally, I say pull the plug now, Discovery belongs in a museum, not on a launch pad. She obviously doesn’t want to fly, why tempt fate?

/is it really worth risking another shuttle crew to deliver some equipment to a space station that’s probably going to be abandoned within ten years anyway?

Better Luck This Time

After failing to remove a broken coolant pump last Sunday, NASA and two American spacewalkers regrouped, tried again, and were successful this time.

Space station spacewalk saga: faulty pump removed, more work ahead

Two crew members from the International Space Station took a major step toward replacing a critical piece of the orbiting laboratory’s cooling system today, following a failed attempt Sunday.

During a 7 hour, 26 minute spacewalk, Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Army Col. Douglas Wheelock removed a coolant pump on the outside of the station, clearing the way for another spacewalk Monday to install an on-board spare.

The pump failed unexpectedly on July 31, cutting in half the station’s capacity to shed heat generated by its electrical systems, laboratory experiments, as well as six active astronauts.

The six crew members aboard the station were never in danger, NASA officials have emphasized. But the outage forced mission managers to significantly curtail research activities on the orbiting lab.

“Lots of smiles down here guys,” came the word from mission control as Dr. Caldwell Dyson and Colonel Wheelock sat in the air lock after the spacewalk.

A major fix-it project

Swapping the coolant pumps represents one of the 14 most difficult maintenance jobs station crews face. Spacewalks ordinarily take weeks to plan because they require detailed choreography. But the urgency of returning the station’s cooling system to full capacity prompted planners to accelerate the process for a repair job astronauts had trained for with only the broadest of brush strokes.

For instance, last night, engineers were still working on procedures governing the use of the station’s robotic arm for today’s effort. The broad-brush plan for removal of the pump that astronauts used in training had assumed that the arm wouldn’t be available.

Clamping an astronaut to the end of the robotic arm, then having him hold a 780-pound pump steady while a crew member inside the station moves the two to the spot where planners want to deposit the pump – that’s a procedure planners would rather not develop at the last minute, mission officials said.

But they did.

“There are so many facets to a major change out that you just don’t really get to tackle” in the planning stage “unless you train for it at a very detailed level, which we hadn’t done yet,” said Michael Suffredini, NASA’s space station program manager, during a post-spacewalk briefing.

See also:
Spacewalkers make space station coolant repairs
Space Station Repair Job Makes Headway
Astronauts remove cooling pump from space station
Astronauts Successfully Remove Failed Pump on International Space Station
Astronauts successfully remove faulty pump outside ISS
Astronauts progress in mission
Spacewalkers remove railed ammonia pump on space station
Spacewalk Fail

Chalk one up for NASA ingenuity and our adaptable, seat of the pants spacewalking astronauts.

/let’s just hope installing the replacement pump goes more smoothly than removing the old one