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?

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