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Tag Archive: space station

  1. Soyuz emergency

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    A booster rocket carrying a Soyuz spacecraft with a Russian and a US astronaut onboard headed for the International Space Station (ISS) failed in mid-air today (11 October) forcing the crew to make an emergency landing.

    The rocket was carrying US astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin. Footage from inside the Soyuz showed the two men being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred, with their arms and legs flailing.

    The Russian federal space agency (Roscosmos) launched its Soyuz MS-10 crew vehicle with two new crew members  from Baikonur at 1440 local time. Failure came during a booster staging a few minutes in flight.

    The crewed Soyuz would normally ferry three people to the ISS but was carrying a reduced crew complement as part of Russia’s continued initiative to keep its total crew presence on Station to just two until the launch in late 2019 of their new science lab, Nauka.

    The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft had been in build operations for several years in preparation for its scheduled six-month mission to the Space Station. Earlier this year, it passed a series of pressure and acoustic tests to verify its fitness to carry crew to orbit, a process completed on 20 July with certification of the craft’s hermeticity.

    The emergency escape system has never been needed on the Soyuz-FG rocket, though it was used on 26 September 1983 during the Soyuz T-10-1 launch. In the final seconds of that count, the Soyuz T rocket caught fire on the launch pad, and the launch escape system pulled the crew away from the rocket just two seconds before the vehicle exploded.

    Within minutes of the emergency landing Russian news agencies reported that the crew had safely made an emergency landing and were in radio contact and that rescuers were on the way to pick them up.

  2. Pips in space

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    Seeds from Isaac Newton’s apple tree, which were blasted into space with British European astronaut Tim Peake, are now young trees and in need of a new home.

    The apple pips were taken to the International Space Station (ISS) on the ESA Principia mission where they spent six months floating in microgravity as part of the ‘Pips in Space’ project.

    Now the UK Space Agency (UKSA), the National Trust and Kew, who worked together on the project, have teamed up with South Kesteven District Council (SKDC) in Lincolnshire to launch a competition to find partners that share a commitment to inspire future Newtons to host the trees.

    The bidding was launched today (12 September) at Newton’s birthplace, Woolsthorpe Manor, during the media launch of this month’s SKDC-backed Gravity Fields Festival, the only event in the UK combining the discoveries of Newton with interpretations of his legacy.

    Organisations can bid for one of the eight unique saplings, explaining how they will give them space to grow, engage new audiences and promote curiosity.

    The pips were taken from the iconic Flower of Kent tree at Woolsthorpe Manor, Isaac Newton’s family home near Grantham, Lincolnshire, which is cared for by the National Trust.

    The tree, which still bears fruit every year was said to have prompted Newton to question why the apple fell, leading to his world-changing work around gravity. His landmark work, called Principia Mathematica, was chosen as the name of Tim Peake’s mission to acknowledge the debt of all space travellers to Newton’s work.

    Jeremy Curtis, Head of Education and Skills at the UKSA, said: “We are thrilled that our friends at Kew have managed to nurture these precious young trees to the point where they can begin independent lives.

    “Now we need to find good homes for them across the UK to help as many people as possible find out about the intertwined stories of Newton, gravity, physics, space travel and horticulture. Maybe one of the trees will one day inspire the next Newton!”

    On their return from space in 2016, the well-travelled pips went to Wakehurst Place, part of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where they spent 90 days sitting on a bed of agar jelly at 5 C to simulate the winter cold needed to trigger germination. Spring arrived for them in May 2017 when they were warmed to 15C and the young seedlings started to emerge. They have now been nurtured into ‘space saplings’.

  3. Space Station leak probe

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    Investigations into an air leak in a Soyuz return spacecraft docked to the International Space Station (ISS) have been stepped up as it was revealed this week that the hole was most likely a result of human error rather than a micro-meteorite impact.

    Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Roscosmos space agency told Russian media he was not ruling anything out, saying the hole was drilled “by a human hand” which could have happened on the ground before launch. He also speculated that it could have occurred after the spacecraft reached orbit on 6 June 2018.

    In an English-language report posted by the TASS news agency late on Monday, Rogozin – known for his often controversial comments and tweets – said the agency was “considering all the theories”, though in the case of the latter he did not address why an astronaut or cosmonaut might do such a thing given the obvious danger to the Space Station and its crew.

    “The theory one about a meteorite impact has been rejected because the spaceship’s hull was evidently impacted from inside,” he stated.

    The ISS crew – which comprises two Russian cosmonauts, three NASA astronauts and an ESA German astronaut – used tape to seal the leak after it caused a small loss of pressure that was not life-threatening.

    Initially it was announced that the hole in the side of the ship, which is used to ferry astronauts to and from orbit, was most likely caused from the outside by a tiny meteorite. NASA issued photos of the so-called ‘impact’ but after detailed analysis Roscomos admitted that an external impact had been ruled out.

    Apart from releasing a series of photos NASA has not commented, referring all questions to the Russian space agency which is overseeing the investigation.

    Alexander Zheleznyakov, a former space industry engineer and author, told the TASS state news agency that drilling the hole in zero gravity would be nearly impossible in that part of the spacecraft.

    “Why would cosmonauts do it?” he asked. The hole is in a section of the Soyuz ship that is discarded in orbit and not used to carry people back to Earth.

    It seems more likely the spacecraft was damaged during testing at Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan after passing initial checks and the mistake then hastily covered up. “Someone messed up and then got scared and sealed up the hole,” one space industry source speculated, but when the Soyuz reached the ISS the sealant “dried up and fell off”.

    Energiya, which builds the Soyuz spacecraft, will carry out checks for possible defects on all Soyuz ships and Progress unmanned ships used for cargo at its production sites outside Moscow and at Baikonur.

    The leak was discovered last Wednesday (29 August) evening when sensors aboard the ISS detected a slow loss of cabin air pressure. It was not deemed serious enough to wake the crew but the next morning it was traced the leak to the upper module of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft docked to the Russian Rassvet module.

    Photographs of the hole in the Soyuz’s upper habitation module showed what appeared to be a drill hole in an interior panel with several nearby gouges, like those that would be caused by a drill skipping across a surface before digging in.

    Some Russian media accounts have speculated a technician mistakenly drilled the hole during pre-flight processing and then attempted to cover up the mistake by applying a sealant of some sort. After two months in orbit, the sealant could have dried out and been expelled by cabin air pressure, causing the leak.

    Article first published on ROOM – The Space Journal website, 5/9/18

  4. Russia’s Space Station plan

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    Vladimir Putin used his appearance on television last week to announce Russian plans to build a national replacement for the International Space Station (ISS) once it reaches the end of its design life.

    The ISS is due to be decommissioned in 2023 and at present there is no agreement in place to build a successor.

    The president said a new station was necessary but that it would be designed to suit Russia’s needs.

    “We use the ISS for science and the economy but from the ISS only five per cent of the area of Russia can be seen,” he said.

    “From a national station, of course, we will be able to see the whole territory of our vast country.”

    Putin was quoted by Sputnik News as saying: “By 2023 we are going to create our own national orbital station. We will definitely bring this project to fruition and it will be under our control.”

    Dmitri Rogozin, Russia’s deputy prime minister, recently said the country would continue to stay with the ISS in the meantime.

    It had been suggested that the parts that Russia had contributed to the ISS should be removed and reused on the national station.

    Russia is presently the world’s leading space power mainly because the US, which has not replaced its Space Shuttle, still relies on Russia for transporting astronauts to Earth orbit.

    Charles Bolden, the head of NASA, assured a congressional subcommittee last week: “We are facilitating the development of a US commercial crew transportation capability with the goal of launching NASA astronauts from American soil in the next couple of years. This initiative will end our sole reliance on Russia.”

    Funding for Russia’s federal space programme by 2025 will be an estimated US$40 billion. The country is currently building a Cosmodrome in the far eastern Amur region that will replace Baikonur.