Recently in space station Category
NASA has decided to fork out more cash to buy extra Soyuz seats to take its crews to the International Space Station. The deal signed with Roscosmos is valued at $424 million is for six "seats" and training and adds to an earlier deal to carry NASA astronauts until 2016. The new deal extension equates to a per seat price of $70.7 million - an increase of $10 million over the previous NASA Soyuz seat buy. NASA found itself forced into this position as its commercial crew capability will now not be ready until 2017 at the earliest and NASA needed to book these seats to cover itself until mid-2017.
NASA's Administrator Charles Bolden notes the delay to US provided commercial crew capability has been down to funding reductions forced on the administration.
Comment by David Todd: There is a danger that the pressing need for a US commercial crew capability may force the hand of NASA into choosing one of its three remaining contenders (SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada) to fund over the others. Of these, favourite for a funding boost is SpaceX which seems to be furthest down the road in having an unmanned version of its proposed crewed Dragon vehicle already flying, docking with and being recovered from the International Space Station. Nevertheless, this may not be the best choice for the longer term.
A Soyuz U launch vehicle successfully launched Progress M-019M (ISS-51P) on its mission to the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome located near Tyuratam in Kazakhstan. Aboard were 2.5 tons of cargo and supplies for the astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Due to orbital alignments, the passage to the space station will take the slower route lasting two days rather than the shorter six hour trip. Soon after launch an issue was reported involving the failure to deploy of one of the antennas needed for the KURS automatic docking system. Engineers are attempting to recover the antenna to its correct position
One of the KURS antennas is stuck in its folded/hinged forward in launch configuration. Courtesy: NASA
Update: While the KURS system and hence antenna is not essential for docking (the craft can be remotely manually controlled and docked), analysis of the latest information from Russian space sources quoted by news agency Interfax is that the KURS antenna has to be locked into its correct deployment position if a docking is to occur. In its current still folded position, it might physically interfere with the latching probe and pressurised seal of the docking system. One way round this would be for the Progress craft to approach close to the International Space Station and for a spacewalking astronaut to physically move the antenna to allow a final docking to take place.
After some days of delay variously caused by a premature separation of an umbilical and high level winds, new Antares launch vehicle built by Orbital Sciences Corporation and using Russian moon rocket engine techology was successfully launched into orbit at 2100 GMT on 21 April from the Wallops Island launch site on the east coast of Virginia, USA.
Antares lifts off. Courtesy: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Aboard was a dummy mass mimicking the Cygnus freighter spacecraft which will eventually be used to deliver payloads to the International Space Station under a NASA contract. Unlike its SpaceX Dragon competitor however, the Cygnus craft is not reusable and cannot be used to return cargo to Earth. On the Antares flight there were some real spacecraft flying. Dove 1 was a 5.5.kg triple cubesat technology demonstration design. In addition three Phonesat cubesats were flown to test mobile communications technology as avionics in orbit.
The launch vehicle's first stage is powered by two AJ-26 engines built by Aerojet, which are actually reworked NK-33 engines that were designed to power the Soviet-era N-1 manned moon mission launch vehicle.
Two Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station, Pavel Vinogradov and Roman Romanenko, performed spacewalk lasting six hours 38 minutes starting at 1402 GMT on 19 April. Their mission was to install and remove various experimental packages and to position a reflector device/docking aid on the rear end of the Zvezda module. During the spacewalk Vinogradov, 59, the oldest man ever to walk in space, lost his grip on a Vinoslivost materials science space exposure experiment panel (one of two) which floated away to become "space debris."
The Soyuz TMA-08M/ISS-34S mission carrying NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Pavel Vinogradov was launched successfully on a Soyuz FG rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome (near Tyuratam) in Kazakhstan at 2043 GMT on 28 March 2013. Using a faster approach multi-burn rendezvous profile, the vessel managed to rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station's Poisk module at 0228 GMT, only 5 hours 45 minutes after launch from Baikonur. This launch was the first time the rapid rendezvous technique was used for a manned launch, cutting two days from the usual rendezvous time. This new technique was first tested on three previous Progress cargo craft launches.
NASA has released film of the Soyuz FG rocket carrying the Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft being transported via train to its launch pad in Kazakhstan. The flight to the International Space Station is due to lift off on 28 March using the new shorter transport time approach. The spacecraft will have Cosmonaut and Soyuz Commander Pavel Vinogradov and NASA astronaut and Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy and Cosmonaut Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin aboard.
Dragon held on robotic arm awaiting release. Courtesy: NASA TV
After delays due to high seas in the landing area, the SpaceX Dragon CRS-2 cargo craft was finally splashed down in the Pacific on 26 March ready for recovery. Previously on the same day Dragon CRS 2 had unberthed/undocked with the International Space Station's (ISS) Harmony module at 0810 GMT and after being initially moved away using robotic arm it was fully released 1056 GMT. After making a series of three burns to move away from the space statiov Dragon CRS-2 made a de-orbit burn which was completed at 1556 GMT. Dragon CRS 2 re-entered at 1615 GMT and made splashdown at 1634 GMT in Pacific Ocean.
The Dragon CRS-2 craft nearly never made it to the International Space Station after a propulsion pressurisation blockage happened shortly after launch. However, engineers were able to remove this blockage by cycling the pressurisation system and Dragon was able to rendezvous and dock with the space station.
The planned undocking and return to Earth of the three-man Soyuz TMA-06M/ISS-32M spacecraft which is currently docked with the International Space Station, was delayed one day to 15 March due to poor weather (snow storm) at the planned landing site in Kazakhstan. Such delays have happened before. Soyuz TMA-13/ISS-17S was similarly delayed in April 2009.