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Trouble at the International Space Station


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Author Topic: Trouble at the International Space Station  (Read 265 times)
Kiwithrottlejockey
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« on: December 15, 2013, 04:42:36 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

NASA astronaut: Spacewalk to fix ISS system would be ‘exciting’

By AMINA KHAN | 4:07PM PST - Friday, December 13, 2013

The International Space Station experienced a failure in one of its two ammonia cooling loops, NASA officials said on Wednesday. — Photo: NASA.
The International Space Station experienced a failure in one of its two ammonia cooling loops, NASA officials said on Wednesday. — Photo: NASA.

A MALFUNTIONING cooling system part on the International Space Station may require an astronaut spacewalk to fix it if the team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston can’t get the system back up and running, according to NASA officials.

“Any time you have something like this, it’s good news-bad news,” said NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio in a video-recorded interview on the agency’s site. “Of course, the bad news is, the station’s having problems and we have to go out and do a repair. The good news is, we have the spare parts, we have the training, we have the skills.”

“And of course,” he added, “going out and doing a spacewalk is very exciting — yet very challenging.”




Engineers continued to work on the problem for a third day after a pump in one of two ammonia cooling loops outside the station shut down on Wednesday morning, officials said. The problem may come from a malfunctioning valve inside the pump that may not be modulating the temperature correctly.

Affected systems on the Japanese and European modules were moved over to the other cooling loop, officials said, and the space station can run just fine using only one cooling loop.

"Some of the science experiments have been shut down due to the lack of cooling.... We’re still very comfortable up here," Mastracchio said.

But a resupply flight initially scheduled for later this month may need to be put off if they can’t figure the problem out in time, Kenny Todd, the ISS mission operations integration manager, said in a NASA video interview.

“This is a position we don’t want to be in long term,” Todd said.

No plans have been announced for an astronaut spacewalk. The team at NASA Johnson is still experimenting with the faulty valve from ground control to see whether any clues, such as changes in temperature and flow rate, will allow them to determine what exactly has gone wrong.

“We’re going to kick the can for a little bit,” Todd said.

If a spacewalk is scheduled, it would come months after Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano nearly drowned in space after his malfunctioning spacesuit began to fill his helmet with water.

"You can imagine, you’re in a fishbowl. … That’s not anything you take lightly," NASA flight director David Korth said at the time.


http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-iss-international-space-station-astronaut-nasa-spacewalk-20131213,0,3715618.story
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Kiwithrottlejockey
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« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2013, 02:54:07 pm »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Astronauts successfully replace faulty pump on ISS

By MONTE MORIN | 11:20AM PST - Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A NASA TV image shows astronauts Mike Hopkins, left, and Rick Mastracchio position a spare ammonia pump during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. — Picture: AFP/Getty Images/December 24th, 2013.
A NASA TV image shows astronauts Mike Hopkins, left, and Rick Mastracchio position a spare ammonia pump during a spacewalk outside
the International Space Station. — Picture: AFP/Getty Images/December 24th, 2013.


NASA astronauts Tuesday successfully replaced a faulty fluid pump in the International Space Station, following two days of work in the open vacuum of space 260 miles above the Earth's surface.

The 7½-hour spacewalk was only the second in NASA history to occur on Christmas Eve. The first was in 1999, when astronauts made repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Like any DIY home-improvement project, the work involved a glitch or two. The first occurred when a fluid line refused to budge and Astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins struggled to remove it.

When they finally did get it off, tiny flakes of frozen ammonia drifted from the connection, raising concerns that the flakes had landed on the astronauts' spacesuits and might be brought back into the ISS, where they would instantly turn to a corrosive gas.

Though the crewmen initially planned to undergo a decontamination procedure known as a "bake-off," that requirement was waived in the final minutes of the mission. Lengthy exposure to the sun during the work probably eliminated the threat, Mission Control in Houston determined.

"Head to the barn," Mission Control told the astronauts as they entered the space station's airlock just before 11 a.m. PST, after completing the work.

Mastracchio and Hopkins had been tasked with replacing a pump in one of the station's two external ammonia cooling loops. The system is responsible for keeping instruments inside and outside the station from overheating.

On Saturday, the astronauts worked for 5½-hours to disconnect the faulty pump from four ammonia fluid lines and move it to a storage site.




Early Tuesday morning, the astronauts maneuvered a new, refrigerator-sized pump into place with the help of a massive robotic arm controlled by Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata inside the station.

"Mike Hopkins taking a special sleigh ride on this Christmas Eve," Mission Control commentator Rob Navias said as Hopkins stood on the end of the robotic arm gripping the new pump.

The 3-year-old ammonia pump stopped working on December 11th due to a faulty valve, requiring astronauts to halt numerous science experiments until the problem was resolved. The replacement pump is one of three spares on the ISS.

The second day of repair work was initially planned for Monday, but the spacewalk was postponed a day due to a potential problem with Mastracchio's spacesuit. Crew members reported that water entered the suit when the astronaut accidentally hit a switch in the space station airlock.

The postponement allowed crew members to assemble a second replacement suit for Mastracchio.

The recent spacewalks were absent the problems that plagued Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency in July. During that walk, Parmitano's helmet began to fill with water when the suit's cooling system backed up and began to leak. The astronaut nearly drowned as blobs of weightless water clung to his head.

NASA officials said the problems with the two spacesuits were unrelated, and that the suits had been modified to prevent such episodes in the future. Those modifications included the installation of absorbent pads and breathing snorkels.




http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-christmas-eve-spacewalk-20131224,0,916354.story
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Kiwithrottlejockey
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« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2013, 10:19:51 am »


From the Los Angeles Times....

Long day of headaches for Russian spacewalkers

By MONTE MORIN | 2:19PM PST - Friday, December 27, 2013

Cosmonauts set a Russian spacewalk record Friday as they attempted to install two high-fidelity cameras to the exterior of the International Space Station. The cameras had to be removed when they failed to transmit data to Earth. — Picture: NASA TV.
Cosmonauts set a Russian spacewalk record Friday as they attempted to install
two high-fidelity cameras to the exterior of the International Space Station.
The cameras had to be removed when they failed to transmit data to Earth.
 — Picture: NASA TV.


IT WAS a day of headaches and broken records for two Russian spacewalkers Friday as the cosmonauts spent over eight hours installing two cameras on the exterior of the International Space Station, only to remove them when they failed to work.

"Back and forth back and forth," quipped one of the cosmonauts as they hauled the two bulky cameras back into a space station airlock. "It was actually easier to take it out than put it in."

Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy had installed the two cameras ahead of schedule, but had to reverse course when the cameras failed to transmit telemetry and other data to ground controllers.

In the process of installing and uninstalling the equipment, the cosmonauts spent 8 hours and 7 minutes in the vacuum of space — a new Russian record.

The previous Russian record was set earlier this year at 7 hours and 29 minutes. However, the longest international spacewalk record is 8 hours, 56 minutes and was set by NASA astronauts Jim Voss and Susan Helms on March 11th, 2001.

The primary goal of Friday's mission was to attach two high-fidelity cameras to a platform on the Zvedza service module of the ISS, according to NASA. The high- and medium-resolution cameras were to be operated by the private company UrtheCast, of Vancouver, Canada.


Cosmonauts set a Russian spacewalk record Friday as they attempted to install two high-fidelity cameras to the exterior of the International Space Station. The cameras had to be removed when they failed to transmit data to Earth. — Picture: NASA TV.
Cosmonauts set a Russian spacewalk record Friday as they attempted to install
two high-fidelity cameras to the exterior of the International Space Station.
The cameras had to be removed when they failed to transmit data to Earth.
 — Picture: NASA TV.


The company, whose name is pronounced like "Earth Cast", intends to live stream images of Earth 260 miles below. "Anyone with Internet access will be able to log onto the website and view the world as the astronauts see it," states the company's website.

The cameras will be examined inside the space station to see if the problem can be resolved.

"Thanks for all your hard work," a ground controller told the cosmonauts as they finally entered the ISS and closed the hatch behind them, around 1 p.m. PST. "We're really sorry it worked out this way."

The spacewalk was streamed live on NASA TV and the conversation between Russian ground controllers and the cosmonauts was translated by an interpreter.

It's been a very busy week for ISS crew members, who performed three separate spacewalks.

The first two spacewalks were aimed at repairing a faulty cooling pump on the space station's exterior, and were executed by NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins. The Russian spacewalk was unrelated to the cooling pump problem.


http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-russian-spacewalkers-20131227,0,3651690.story
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« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2014, 11:28:12 am »


From the Los Angeles Times....

NASA wins White House approval to extend life of space station

NASA plans to announce that the U.S. will keep the International Space Station going through 2024.

By MARK K. MATTHEWS | 3:00AM PST - Wednesday, January 08, 2014

NASA plans to announce this week that it has White House approval to extend the International Space Station's operations through 2024. — Photo: NASA.
NASA plans to announce this week that it has White House approval to extend the International Space Station's operations through 2024. — Photo: NASA.

WASHINGTON — The world's most expensive science project — the $100-billion-plus International Space Station — is poised to get four more years in orbit. According to documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, NASA plans to announce this week that it has White House approval to extend the station's operations through 2024.

The decision follows years of pressure by top NASA officials, who consider the station a crucial steppingstone to future exploration. But a four-year extension probably would cost NASA about $3 billion a year from 2021 to 2024. That's a major chunk of the agency's annual budget of about $17 billion, and a longer mission could force NASA to make tough financial decisions in the future.

The Obama administration's approval, however, doesn't guarantee that the station, which has been continuously occupied since 2000, will survive past its current end date of 2020. At some point, Congress must approve a NASA budget that includes an extension of the station's life. The plan also must get the support of whoever wins the White House in 2016, though the backing of President Obama now might make it harder for the next administration to say no.

Still, the move is expected to reassure NASA's international partners, which have wondered how long the U.S. plans to commit to the station. NASA's announcement will coincide with a visit to Washington this week by leaders of the world's space agencies.

"Arriving at this decision in a timely and coordinated fashion will, hopefully, prove beneficial to our international partners as they struggle with decisions on funding for their space programs," NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden wrote in an email to NASA and administration officials that praised the decision.

The announcement also has the potential of sending a signal to China, NASA's latest cosmic competitor.

In 2003, China became just the third country to launch an astronaut into space, and Beijing reportedly is making plans to assemble its own space station next decade.

By keeping the International Space Station operational, NASA can maintain its own symbol of technical advancement while limiting attempts by the Chinese to woo global partners for its outpost.

The symbolism is especially important for NASA because of the agency's recent struggles with its human exploration program.

After NASA retired the space shuttle in 2011, the U.S. lost the ability to ferry its astronauts to the station, which orbits about 220 miles above Earth. NASA is paying Russia about $1.7 billion through 2017 for the service.

Later this decade, NASA hopes to hire private "space taxis" to take on that responsibility while bringing those dollars back to U.S. companies. But it's unlikely those spacecraft will be ready before 2017.

Keeping the station going until 2024 gives these U.S. companies, including Hawthorne-based SpaceX, a chance to fly the NASA missions for several years. It's an economic boost that will help them compete with foreign rocket companies.

Central Florida also could benefit, with SpaceX flying cargo-resupply missions to the station from Cape Canaveral. Any extension of the station's life probably would result in the continuation of those flights.

NASA officials said they were confident they could keep the outpost aloft for years, despite occasional troubles such as a problem with the observatory's cooling loop that spacewalking astronauts had to repair last month.

"The structural margin of the ISS will be fully adequate to support ISS operations through at least 2028," wrote the authors of a December report that examined the issues involved in extending the life of the station.

Adding four years to the station also would help NASA and its partners recoup their investment in the station, because little science was done aboard the observatory in its early years.

"ISS is now in its most productive era of utilization for scientific research and technology demonstration," the report said.

As late as 2008, the crew averaged only three hours of science work a week. Now, the six-member team is doing at least 50 hours weekly.

Research includes Earth observation, the study of cosmic rays and the effect of spaceflight on astronaut health.

Figuring out how space affects humans will be especially important if NASA ever plans an expedition to Mars, a round trip that probably would take years and expose space explorers to a wide variety of dangers, including radiation.


http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-space-station-20140108,0,7366379.story
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