Russia: August 2021 Archives

Russian cosmonauts find new cracks in ISS module, Reuters

"Russian cosmonauts have discovered new cracks in a segment of the International Space Station that could widen, a senior space official said on Monday, the latest in a series of setbacks. "Superficial fissures have been found in some places on the Zarya module," Vladimir Solovyov, chief engineer of rocket and space corporation Energia, told RIA news agency. "This is bad and suggests that the fissures will begin to spread over time."

Kathy Lueders finally got around to tweeting "NASA astronauts, including Serena Aunon-Chancellor, are extremely well-respected, serve their country and make invaluable contributions to the agency. We stand behind Serena and her professional conduct. We do not believe there is any credibility to these accusations." and Bill Nelson retweeted this tweet and added "I whole heartedly agree with Kathy's statement. I fully support Serena and I will always stand behind our astronauts.". Why does it always seem to take 24 hours for NASA to state the obvious - after everyone else already has?

Twelve theses of American claims against Roscosmos and answers to them, TASS (auto translated)

"As for getting it a hole in orbit, some circumstances should be taken into account, my anonymous interlocutor believes. First, the illness of one of the astronauts - as it became known from scientific workabout the first case of thrombus formation in orbit, when Serina Maria Auñon-Chancellor was already on Earth, she was subjected to this misfortune. "And this could provoke an acute psychological crisis," which could lead to attempts in various ways to speed up her return to the planet, my anonymous interlocutor believes."

Keith's note: This article appears on TASS, a mouthpiece which is owned by the Government of Russia. Clearly Roscosmos PAO was busy refuting various news reports about ongoing problems within Russia's space efforts so they could pump it out as "news" on Tass. This is a typical article you see from time to time - one that is made even more disjointed by automatic web translation. But one part of this article shines through the bad translation: a cheap shot against an American astronaut accusing her of an emotional break down and sabotaging a Soyuz so that she could get home earlier. Truth be known this sounds more like one of those goofy movie plots that Russia always seems to want to film on the ISS.

It is unlikely that the crude depiction of this American astronaut's health is remotely accurate. But if there was even the slightest issue of a medical concern the last thing Roscosmos - directly or by proxy - should be doing is talking about it in public - for any reason. To do so is a gross violation of "Code of Conduct for the International Space Station Crew" signed by Russia and all ISS partners and codified as law in the U.S. as 14 CFR § 1214.403. Specifically:

"In particular, all personal medical information, whether derived from medical monitoring, investigations, or medical contingency events, shall be treated as private medical information and shall be transmitted in a private and secure fashion in accordance with procedures to be set forth by the MMOP."

Meanwhile, one would hope that NASA makes a public stance on this nonsense in support of their employee. Something tells me that NASA PAO is not up to that task. This entire TASS article, bad translation not withstanding, is childish, defensive, and not the sort of thing that a great spacefaring nation should be putting out to explain its problems. It is time to grow up Roscosmos.

Keith's note: Looks like NASA PAO quietly sent this out to a few people last night. But you had to be psychic to know to ask for it in the first place. You gotta wonder why they do not just post it on their website so as to send a clear message to Roscosmos i.e. "This ain't cool. Knock it off".

"All the International Space Station partners are dedicated to mission safety and the welfare of the crew. The International Space Station partners all participate in multiple reviews prior to every major station activity to assess and ensure the safety of all crew members. The hole that was detected in late August 2018 by the space station crew was quickly sealed, restoring air-tight pressure to the station. Russian cosmonauts conducted a spacewalk that December to gather additional engineering data for Russian specialists on Earth and to look externally at the effectiveness of the internal repair. The Soyuz spacecraft was thoroughly checked and deemed safe for the crew to return to Earth, which it did, on Dec. 20, 2018. To protect their privacy, the agency will not discuss medical information regarding crew members."

Space Station Incident Demands Independent Investigation, Jim Oberg, IEEE Spectrum

"How close the station had come to disaster is an open question, and the flight director humorously alluded to it in a later tweet that he'd never been so happy as when he saw on external TV cameras that the solar arrays and radiators were still standing straight in place. And any excessive bending stress along docking interfaces between the Russian and American segments would have demanded quick leak checks. But even if the rotation was "simple," the undeniably dramatic event has both short term and long-term significance for the future of the space station. And it has antecedents dating back to the very birth of the ISS in 1997."

Keith's note: The first person I thought of when this happened was Jim Oberg. Back in the 90s Jim and I were tag teaming coverage of things that happened on board Mir as part of the Phase 1 effort to build a joint U.S./Russian space station out of what was once Mir-2 and Space Station Freedom. NASA was not happy with what we reported. Much of what we uncovered spoke to bad communications between the U.S. and Russian teams, an underlying level of distrust, and a lot of ad hoc decision making. But the over-arching intent on both sides was to make things work - since things simply had to work - and to put forth that unified front - especially when things got rocky.

These items from 1997 come to mind:

Charlie Harlan's Thoughts on Spaceflight Safety, 29 June 1997

"When NASA originally began the Shuttle/Mir Program, no rigorous safety analysis or risk analysis was accomplished. NASA decided based on the then understood historical performance of safe Mir operations to accept that record as a given. This was done by a subjective review process unlike the systematic safety and reliability analytical techniques utilized for U.S. human spaceflight. If you remember, at that time the Russians were not always forthright about their systems failures or some of the problems they had in the past. The decision was made at the highest levels of NASA, and the formal safety analysis that was established for the Phase I Program was only for the new joint operations activities, new experiments, and new procedures. The acceptance of the existing Mir safety record was driven by management judgment, and therefore for formal and structured documented risk baseline exists for the start of the program. It should be very clear to everyone that the risk level to human safety on the Mir Station has increased somewhat since the early management decisions and agreements were made."

Better-Cheaper-Faster: The Risk of Being Open and Honest (Part 1), 16 July 1997

"Instead, PAO reverts to its least open behavior on the Shuttle/Mir program. A harbinger of things to come on ISS? Individuals who are allowed to speak for NASA are thoroughly briefed so as to know what NOT to say. Press releases are diluted and sanitized. I get all the internal NASA email, so I see what doesn't make it on TV - or the press wires. I hear all the stories from frustrated program managers who speak of PAO saying things such as "why do they need to know this" or "we'd rather not let that out right now".

Keith's note: Echoes from the past. Example: the sanitized stuff that dribbled out of NASA PAO after the Nauka event designed to minimize details as to what actually happened and to accentuate the level of cooperation between the U.S., Russia, and other ISS partners. I guess we'll have to wait for one of those one hour Aerospace Safety Advisory Committee telecon meetings at some point in the future - the sort of meeting NASA PAO never announces - where the truth will start to dribble out - as it did after Mir and other accidents.

Jim also recounts the rocky first hours of the launch of FGB-1 - aka Zarya - on 20 November 1998. It refused to obey firing commands and the U.S. was kept in the dark for a while. Flash forward to 2021 and its twin - Nauka - originally built as FGB-2 as the back up for FGB-1 (paid for by the U.S.) had similar problems once reaching space.

To be certain the International Space Station program has been a resounding success overall and future international efforts could do well to learn from it. Given the continued bad blood between the U.S. and Russia it is astonishing that the ISS has managed to exist - literally and politically - above the fray of terrestrial squabbles. Indeed, it has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize as a result - an idea I personally thing is worth pursuing. I am one of the 100,000+ people who designed and built this amazing spacecraft - one that was paid for by over a billion taxpayers. And I call it the "Undiscovered Country" since I feel its fullest potential has yet to be tapped.

But, accomplishments and potential aside, this does not mean that the picture onboard the ISS is perfect. It is not. Underneath the orbital comradery there are still problems. The ISS program just declared the first "spacecraft emergency" in its entire existence on orbit. That is big news, right? Yet NASA and Roscosmos do not want to talk about it. Why is that?

I hope Congress holds a hearing on this - just like they did after the fire and collision on Mir a quarter of a century ago. If something is broken then it needs to be fixed - even if NASA won't admit that there is a problem. And what is it they say about people and organizations who have problems? The first step is to admit that there is a problem.

Nauka Was An Accident Waiting To Happen And NASA Knew, earlier post


Loading

 



Monthly Archives

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Russia category from August 2021.

Russia: July 2021 is the previous archive.

Russia: September 2021 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.