ISS News: August 2011 Archives

Keith's note: A new report titled "Preparing for the High Frontier: The Role and Training of NASA Astronauts in the Post-Space Shuttle Era" has been completed by the National Research Council. The report examines staffing plans for the U.S. astronaut corps following retirement of the space shuttle and completion of the International Space Station. The report will be released on 7 September 2011 at 11 am EDT.

Orbital Receives FAA Commercial Space Transportation License For Taurus II COTS Demonstration Mission

"Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world's leading space technology companies, today announced that it received a Commercial Space Transportation Launch License from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program demonstration mission in early 2012. An expanded license covering the test flight of the company's Taurus(R) II rocket in late 2011 is expected to be granted in the near future."

Space Failures Raise Uneasy Questions, Moscow Times

"The Progress failure triggered a wave of talk about how far the space program has fallen since legendary Soviet days. But Igor Lisov, an expert with the Novosti Kosmonavtiki magazine, said that despite the setbacks, "it's too early to speak about the degradation" of Russia's space industry. "Every accident has its cause, and they shouldn't be generalized," Lisov said in a telephone interview. Within the industry, spacecraft accidents are considered unavoidable, with one out of every 100 launches expected to fail. But in Russia, the statistics might be augmented due to human factor."

Russia wastes billions in space, Pravda

"The crash of Progress space freighter is not the first breakdown that has occurred to Russian spacecraft. The previous incident took place in the middle of this August. Express AM4 communication satellite went off radar screens before it reached orbit. The cost of the lost satellite made up 7.5 billion rubles. A Proton booster rocket with three Glonass-M satellites on board crashed into the Pacific Ocean in December 2010. The crash resulted in the loss of 4 billion rubles. Geo-IK-2 global positioning satellite burnt in space in February this year. The breakdown halted the Russian space GPS program. Konstantin Kreidenko, an expert with Glonass Herald magazine, believes that the Russian space industry is outdated."

Rejoice Comrades! Glorious Era of Soyuz Begins (Update), Earlier Post

Space station could be at risk if crews are forced to leave temporarily, USA Today

"NASA International Space Station Program Manager Mike Suffred says evacuation is a distinct possibility in mid-November if Russian Soyuz rockets are not flying, writes Florida Today's Todd Halvorson. Past NASA risk assessment shows a one in 10 chance of losing the station within six months if there is no crew aboard to handle critical system failures. That soars to a 50% proability if it remains crewless for a year, the newspaper says."

Upcoming flights to and from space station face delays, CNET

"It's not a trivial thing," Suffredini said. "If you look at...risk assessments, some of the numbers are not insignificant. There is a greater risk of losing the ISS when it is unmanned than if it were manned. That's why, when we made our decision after the Columbia accident to keep the station manned, that is exactly why, because the risk increase is not insignificant."

Space station could be abandoned in November, SpaceflightNow

"I suspect that if we get close to Nov. 16 and we haven't flown a Soyuz yet, and by then we will have stepped down to three crew, we'll probably de-man the ISS and go to unmanned operations," Suffredini said. Russia is expected to present a recovery plan this week outlining tentative dates for launching the Soyuz rocket again. One scenario under consideration would see at least two Soyuz rockets with the RD-0110 third stage fly before the next manned launch."

Photos from Today's Space Station Flyover Of Hurricane Irene

This afternoon, starting at approximately 3:45 pm EDT, the International Space Station flew over Hurricane Irene. The flyover lasted approximately 6 minutes. At one point a member of the crew reacted to the sheer size of this storm by saying "We are used to travelling long distances - but this storm stretches from Cuba to Carolinas -- this is a huge scary storm". The flyover was shown live on NASA TV. Below are screen grabs made during the flyover taken from different cameras aboard the ISS.

Rohrabacher Reacts to Russian Soyuz Launch Failure; Calls for Emergency Funding of Commercial Crew Systems

"I am calling on General Bolden, the NASA Administrator, to propose an emergency transfer of funding from unobligated balances in other programs, including the Space Launch System, to NASA's commercial crew initiative. Funding should be used to speed up the efforts of the four current industry partners to develop their systems and potentially expand the recent awards to include the best applicants for launch vehicle development. NASA could potentially transfer several hundred million dollars from this long term development concept, since the SLS project has not even started, to the more urgently needed systems that can launch astronauts to ISS, reliably and affordably. This transfer will boost the development of American controlled technology and greatly reduce our dependence on the Russians."

Irene As Seen From Orbit

Photo: Hurricane Irene As Seen From The International Space Station

"This panoramic view of recently-formed Hurricane Irene was acquired by the crew of the International Space Station early Monday afternoon from a point over the coastal waters of Venezuela. At the time Irene was packing winds of 80mph and was just north of the Mona Passage between Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. Although no eye was visible at this time, the storm was strengthening and exhibited the size and structure of a classic "Cape Verde" hurricane as it tracked west-northwestward towards the southern Bahamas."

Russian space freighter fails to reach designated orbit, RIA Novosti

"Russian space agency Roskosmos said the Progress M-12M space freighter failed to reach the designated orbit on Wednesday due to a rocket engine failure. A source in the Russian space industry earlier said the spacecraft had sent a breakdown report while separating from the Soyuz-U carrier rocket on Wednesday. The Mission Control was unable to receive any telemetry data from the spacecraft so far."

Rocket failure dooms space station cargo freighter launch, Spaceflight Now

"Separation of the Progress 44P was expected at 9:09 a.m. EDT (1309 GMT) to start its two-day automated chase to rendezvous with the station for docking Friday. Instead, the malfunction sent the rocket falling back to Earth. The Interfax news agency reported the spacecraft re-entered the atmosphere over eastern Russia. All 43 previous Progress flights for the International Space Station over the past 11 years had occurred successfully."

Russian space cargo ship fails to reach orbit, CBC

"But the state news agency RIA Novosti quoted Alexander Borisov, head of a the Choisky region in Russia's Altai province, as saying pieces of the craft fell in his area some 1,500 kilometres northeast of the launch site. "The explosion was so strong that for 100 kilometres glass almost flew out of the windows," he was quoted as saying."

Communication With Progress 44 Lost After Launch, NASA

"Mission Control Moscow reported that communication with the Progress 44 cargo craft was lost 5 minutes, 20 seconds after its launch at 9 a.m. EDT today. Preliminary data from the Russian Federal Space Agency indicate there was a problem with the propulsion system, and that the vehicle did not reach its desired orbit."

Russia likely to suspend space deliveries over loss of Progress freighter, RIA Novosti

"The scheduled launches of the [Soyuz] rockets are likely to be suspended because of the space freighter accident... until the reasons [of the accident] are established," the source said. This means that members of the International Space Station's crew are likely to stay at the station longer than planned and that the new crew will not be able to replace them on schedule, he said."

Russians lose supply spacecraft, could cause issues for NASA, Houston Chronicle

"It's interesting to note that the launch comes about one month after the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, issued the following triumphant statement: "From today, the era of the Soyuz has started in manned space flight, the era of reliability."

Keith's note: ISS Program Manager Mike Suffredini will hold a press briefing on NASA TV at noon EDT to discuss the Progress mission failure. One would assume that this will affect Soyuz crew flights due to the commonality in launch systems.

Suffredini: Shortly after third stage ignition the spacecraft shut the engine down. The third stage and Progress subsequently crashed. Soyuz-FG (crew) and Soyuz-U (cargo) have similar third stage designs so this will have impact on the planned 22 September crew launch. We can go several months without a resupply vehicle if that becomes necessary. We have a 40-50 days of contingency beyond normal crew stay time. Eventually the Soyuz vehicle on orbit will 'time out' and have to come home. If the anomaly is solved the Progress flight in October could fly sooner.

NASA to share telescope cost, Nature

"The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is perilously overbudget and under threat of cancellation, but Nature has learned that it may be offered a financial lifeline. The flagship observatory is currently funded entirely through NASA's science division; now NASA is requesting that more than US$1 billion in extra costs be shared 50:50 with the rest of the agency. The request reflects administrator Charles Bolden's view, expressed earlier this month, that the telescope is a priority not only for the science programme, but for the entire agency. NASA expects that the total cost of getting the 6.5-metre telescope to the launch pad by 2018 will be about $8 billion, around $1.5 billion more and three years later than an independent panel predicted in November 2010."

Keith's note:If you visit the website of author Charles Justiz you will see that a photo of an astronaut holding his latest book on the International Space Station is featured. As I mentioned last March, when this first appeared online, I was not aware that authors could get NASA astronauts to do on-orbit promotion and commercial "product placement" on the ISS unless there was a clear EPO tie-in, Space Act Agreement, etc. The webpage that originally featured this product endorsement was eventually pulled offline after I took note. But now the product placement photo is back. I guess the rules have changed.

Product Placement on the ISS (Update), earlier post

Keith's note: @AstroRobonaut is tweeting about today's activation activities aboard the International Space Station. Track his tweets as he starts to be come part of the ISS crew.

Keith's update: Photo: Robonaut's View This Morning From Inside the International Space Station @AstroRobonaut "This is what I see right now. Sure wish I could move my head and look around."

- Robonaut To Tweet From The Space Station, earlier post
- Photos: Freeing Robonaut From His Cage, earlier post

Photo: Astronauts Planking in Space

"Four members of the joint STS-135/Expedition 28 crews are able to spend part of their last shared time onboard the International Space Station performing floating exercises that can't be done in Earth's gravity. Inside the Harmony Node 2 module, are NASA astronauts Mike Fossum (top), Expedition 28 flight engineer, and Doug Hurley, STS-135 pilot; and Ron Garan, Expedition 28 flight engineer. The crew member at bottom is partially obscured and is unidentified."

Keith's note: What's that - you don't know what "planking" is?

- Planking (definition), Wikipedia
- Planking, Facebook

A Station with a View: The Importance of Earth View to Crew Mental Health

"A recent crew survey found that astronauts reported one area of spaceflight they found particularly enriching involved their perception of the Earth. The flip side to this finding is the implication that the lack of an Earth view may negatively impact crew psychological well being. To seek verification of this emotional tie to a view of our planet, my colleagues and I chose to examine available data from the Crew Earth Observations or CEO. The goal was to see if there was a correlation between crew photography and mental well being based on the frequency of self-initiated images vs. those mandated by scientific directives."

Falcon 9/Dragon: Preparing to Berth With the International Space Station

"Over the last several months, SpaceX has been hard at work preparing for our next flight - a mission designed to demonstrate that a privately-developed space transportation system can deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS). NASA has given us a Nov. 30, 2011 launch date, which should be followed nine days later by Dragon berthing at the ISS. NASA has agreed in principle to allow SpaceX to combine all of the tests and demonstration activities that we originally proposed as two separate missions (COTS Demo 2 and COTS Demo 3) into a single mission. Furthermore, SpaceX plans to carry additional payloads aboard the Falcon 9's second stage which will deploy after Dragon separates and is well on its way to the ISS. NASA will grant formal approval for the combined COTS missions pending resolution of any potential risks associated with these secondary payloads. Our team continues to work closely with NASA to resolve all questions and concerns."

Photo: One Last Visit To The Cupola

"Backlit by Earth's "day time" light, NASA astronaut Sandy Magnus, STS-135 mission specialist, gets one last visit to the Cupola onboard the International Space Station. on July 18, 2011."

Keith's note: I do not think suicide is funny - under any circumstance. Yet this photo essay makes a point - and it uses a powerful iconic image of an anonymous person in a spacesuit in an exaggerated fashion to make that point. A lot of people are rather depressed and demoralized right now with the retirement of the Space Shuttle. Entire careers have come to an abrupt end. Yet some people (including the media) have gone overboard and are waving their arms around as if NASA itself is going to disappear - and that it is deliberatley doing this to itself. Some people see humor in this photo collection. I see sadness - sadness bordering on bad taste. Suicides are often a cry for help. Slide the bar under the image to scroll through the image collection and see for yourself.

Maybe someone could come up with a more inspiring version of this photo essay - one that points to the future ahead?

Jason Silverman's note: That Astronaut Suicides photo essay was pretty disturbing. You asked for something portraying the opposite viewpoint, and I thought of sending you this collage that I made this summer. It shows how much we have to look forward to in space over the coming decade. Larger view


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This page is an archive of entries in the ISS News category from August 2011.

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