Connect with us

Science

Boeing Astronaut Capsule Grounded for Months By Valve Issue

Published

on

By Associated Press | Updated: 14 August 2021

Boeing’s astronaut capsule is grounded for months and possibly even until next year because of a vexing valve problem.

Boeing and NASA officials said Friday that the Starliner capsule will be removed from the top of its rocket and returned to its Kennedy Space Center hangar for more extensive repairs.

Starliner was poised to blast off on a repeat test flight to the International Space Station last week — carrying a mannequin but no astronauts — when the trouble arose. A similar capsule was plagued by software issues in 2019 that prevented it from reaching the space station.

“We’re obviously disappointed,” said John Vollmer, vice president and program manager of Boeing’s commercial crew program. “We will fly this test when we’re ready to fly it and it’s safe to do so.”

Kathy Lueders, head of NASA’s human exploration office, said it’s “another example of why these demo missions are so very important to us … to make sure we have the system wrung out before we put our crews on.”

Boeing’s performance is in stark contrast to that of SpaceX, NASA’s other contracted taxi service. SpaceX has flown 10 astronauts to the space station in just over a year, with four more due to launch aboard the company’s Dragon capsule at the end of October. Elon Musk’s company will mark another first next month when it launches a billionaire into orbit with three guests, two of them contest winners.

Vollmer said moisture in the air somehow infiltrated 13 valves in the capsule’s propulsion system. That moisture combined with a corrosive fuel-burning chemical that had gotten past seals, preventing the valves from opening as required before the August 3 launch attempt.

As of Friday, nine of the valves had been fixed. The other four require more invasive work.

Rain from a severe thunderstorm penetrated some of the capsule’s thrusters at the pad, but engineers do not believe that is the same moisture that caused the valves to stick. Engineers are trying to determine how and when the moisture got there; it could have been during assembly or much later, Vollmer said.

The 13 in question are among dozens of valves that are tied into thrusters needed to get the capsule into the proper orbit and to the space station, and to also re-enter the atmosphere at flight’s end. All the valves worked fine five weeks earlier and performed well in the 2019 test flight, Vollmer said.

Vollmer said it’s too soon to know whether the valves will need to be replaced or even redesigned. Aerojet Rocketdyne supplied the valves, along with the rest of the propulsion system.

Given all the uncertainty, Vollmer was reluctant to say when Starliner might be ready for another launch attempt. Boeing will need to work around other space station traffic, as well as a NASA asteroid mission that’s due to launch on the same kind of rocket from the same pad in October.

“Probably too early to say whether it’s this year or not,” Vollmer told reporters.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Science

NASA Artemis Moon Mission Launch Planned for February 2022

Published

on

By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 23 October 2021

NASA said Friday it is now targeting February 2022 for the uncrewed lunar mission Artemis 1, the first step in America’s plan to return humans to the Moon later this decade. The space agency had initially wanted to launch the test flight by the end of this year, with astronauts on the ground by 2024 on Artemis 3, but the timeline has slipped back.

It achieved a major milestone Wednesday when it stacked the Orion crew capsule atop its Space Launch System megarocket, which now stands 322 feet (98 meters) tall inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

After further tests, it will be wheeled out to the launch pad for a final test known as the “wet dress rehearsal” in January, with the first window for launch opening in February, officials told reporters on a call.

“The February launch period opens on the 12th and our last opportunity in February is on the 27th,” said Mike Sarafin, Artemis 1 mission manager.

The next windows are in March and then April.

These potential launch periods are dependent on orbital mechanics and the relative position of the Earth with respect to its natural satellite.

The mission duration is expected to be four to six weeks.

It will also deploy a number of small satellites, known as CubeSats, to perform experiments and technology demonstrations.

Although likely to be pushed back, Artemis 2 is technically scheduled for 2023 and Artemis 3 for 2024, humanity’s return to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

NASA says the moonwalkers will include the first woman and first person of colour to make the trip.

The space agency is seeking to establish a sustainable presence on the Moon, and use the lessons it learns to plan a crewed trip to Mars in the 2030s.

Continue Reading

Science

First Movie in Space: Russian Actress, Film Director Return to Earth After Filming

Published

on

By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 18 October 2021

Russian actress and a film director returned to Earth Sunday after spending 12 days on the International Space Station (ISS) shooting scenes for the first movie in orbit.

Yulia Peresild, 37, and Klim Shipenko, 38, landed as scheduled on Kazakhstan’s steppe at 04:36 GMT (10:06am IST), according to footage broadcast live by Russia’s Roscosmos space agency.

Shipenko appeared distressed but smiling as he exited the capsule, waving his hand to cameras before being carried off by medical workers for an examination.

Peresild, who plays the film’s starring role and was selected from some 3,000 applicants, was extracted from the capsule to applause and a bouquet of flowers.

The actress said she is “sad” to have left the ISS.

“It seemed that 12 days was a lot, but when it was all over, I didn’t want to leave,” she told Russian television.

“This is a one-time experience.”

The team was ferried back to terra firma by cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, who had been on the space station for the past six months.

21st century space race

The filmmakers had blasted off from the Russia-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in ex-Soviet Kazakhstan earlier this month, travelling to the ISS with veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov to film scenes for “The Challenge”.

If the project stays on track, the Russian crew will beat a Hollywood project announced last year by Mission Impossible star Tom Cruise together with NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

The Russian movie’s plot, which has been mostly kept under wraps along with its budget, centres around a surgeon who is dispatched to the ISS to save a cosmonaut.

Shkaplerov, 49, along with the two Russian cosmonauts who were already aboard the ISS are said to have cameo roles in the film.

The mission was not without small hitches.

As the film crew docked at the ISS earlier this month, Shkaplerov had to switch to manual control.

And when Russian flight controllers on Friday conducted a test on the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft the ship’s thruster fired unexpectedly and destabilised the ISS for 30 minutes, a NASA spokesman told the Russian news agency TASS.

The team’s landing, which was documented by a film crew, will also feature in the movie, Konstantin Ernst, the head of the Kremlin-friendly Channel One TV network and a co-producer of “The Challenge”, told AFP.

Russian firsts

The mission will add to a long list of firsts for Russia’s space industry.

The Soviets launched the first satellite Sputnik, and sent into orbit the first animal, a dog named Laika, the first man, Yuri Gagarin, and the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova.

But compared with the Soviet era, modern Russia has struggled to innovate, and its space industry is fighting to secure state funding with the Kremlin prioritising military spending.

Its space agency is still reliant on Soviet-designed technology and has faced a number of setbacks, including corruption scandals and botched launches.

Russia is also falling behind in the global space race, facing tough competition from the United States and China, with Beijing showing growing ambitions in the industry.

Russia’s Roscosmos was also dealt a blow after SpaceX last year successfully delivered astronauts to the ISS, ending Moscow’s monopoly for journeys to the orbital station.

In a bid to spruce up its image and diversify its revenue, Russia’s space programme revealed this year that it will be reviving its tourism plan to ferry fee-paying adventurers to the ISS.

After a decade-long pause, Russia will send two Japanese tourists – including billionaire Yusaku Maezawa – to the ISS in December, capping a year that has been a milestone for amateur space travel.

Continue Reading

Science

Nobel Prize in Physics 2021 Winners: Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann, and Giorgio Parisi

Published

on

By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 5 October 2021

US-Japanese scientist Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann of Germany, and Giorgio Parisi of Italy on Tuesday won the Nobel Physics Prize for climate models and the understanding of physical systems, the jury said.

Manabe and Hasselmann share one half of the prize for their research on climate models, while Parisi won the other half for his work on the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems.

“Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann laid the foundation of our knowledge of the Earth’s climate and how humanity influences it,” the Nobel Committee said.

“Giorgio Parisi is rewarded for his revolutionary contributions to the theory of disordered materials and random processes,” it added.
Ads by

For the past two years, the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences has honoured findings in the field of astronomy, leading watchers to speculate it was due for a change of field.

“The discoveries being recognised this year demonstrate that our knowledge about the climate rests on a solid scientific foundation, based on a rigorous analysis of observations,” Thors Hans Hansson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics said.

In 2019, James Peebles of Canada and the US was given the award for discoveries explaining the universe’s evolution after the Big Bang, together with Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz of Switzerland for the first discovery of an exoplanet.

This was followed in 2020 with a focus on black holes, with Britain’s Roger Penrose, Germany’s Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez of the US being honoured.

The Nobel season continues on Wednesday with the award for chemistry, followed by the much-anticipated prizes for literature on Thursday and peace on Friday before the economics prize winds things up on Monday, October 11.

Continue Reading

Science

ISRO’s Commercial Arm NSIL Announces First ‘Demand-Driven’ Satellite Mission

Published

on

By Press Trust of India | Updated: 2 October 2021

ISRO’s commercial arm, NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) on Friday announced its first “demand-driven” communication satellite mission as part of Space reforms announced by the Government in June last year. NSIL, incorporated in March 2019, got mandated to undertake operational satellite missions on a “demand-driven” model, wherein it has the responsibility to build, launch, own and operate the satellite and provide services to its committed customer.

As part of this initiative, NSIL, a Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE), under the Department of Space (DOS), is now undertaking its “1st demand driven communication satellite mission” named GSAT-24, a four-tonne class Ku- band satellite. NSIL is getting this satellite built by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) and will be launching it using Ariane-5 launcher operated by Arianespace. “The entire satellite capacity on-board GSAT-24 will be leased to its committed customer M/s Tata Sky for meeting their DTH application needs,” an NSIL statement said.

NSIL said it has entered into a necessary agreement with Tata Sky for utilising the satellite capacity on-board GSAT-24 and with Arianespace for seeking the launch services. GSAT-24 satellite will be owned and operated by NSIL on a commercial basis. The GSAT-24 satellite mission will be fully funded by NSIL. NSIL is envisaging the launch of GSAT-24 satellite during first quarter of 2022, it was stated.

Continue Reading

Science

Inspiration4 in Space: What Life Is Like Aboard the SpaceX Dragon Capsule

Published

on

By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 18 September 2021

The first space tourism mission by Elon Musk’s SpaceX blasted off from Florida on Wednesday and the four crew members — a billionaire and three other Americans — have already seen more than 25 sunsets and sunrises.

SpaceX has released few details about their adventure since they reached an orbit which is more distant than that of the International Space Station.

Here’s what we know about their life on board:

Nine square meters

The four space tourists are aboard the SpaceX crew capsule called Dragon.

It is 8.1 meters (26.7 feet) tall and has a diameter of four meters (13 feet).

The capsule is composed of a trunk, which is inaccessible to the crew, upon which sits the living quarters.

The entire volume of the capsule is just 9.3 square meters (328 square feet).

Chris Sembroski, a 42-year-old Air Force veteran who is one of the crew members, has compared it to travelling with friends in a van — one you can’t step away from though if you want to take a break.

Toilets with a view

The exact technology behind the toilets aboard the capsule is a SpaceX secret.

But Hayley Arceneaux, one of the four crew members, said in a Netflix documentary that the “bathroom is on the ceiling.”

“Really literally a panel that we take off and there’s like a funnel,” Arceneaux said. “There’s no upside down in space.”

The toilet is located near the clear glass observation dome, or cupola, installed on Dragon, which provides a spectacular 360-degree view of the cosmos.

“When people do inevitably have to use the bathroom, they’re going to have one hell of a view,” billionaire Jared Isaacman, the mission commander, told Business Insider.

Privacy is ensured with a simple curtain.

‘Eating, doing chores’

SpaceX released a video call Friday between the Inspiration4 crew and patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

The 29-year-old Arceneaux, who was treated for bone cancer as a child at St. Jude and works there now as a physician assistant, was asked by a patient what the astronauts do for “fun” in space.

She said they have spent time “eating, doing chores and looking out the window at the world.”

Sembroski said they’ve also been doing “a lot of blood tests and glucose monitoring.”

The astronauts were also asked what is their favorite “space food.”

“My favorite space food is pizza which I had yesterday and I’ll probably have for dinner tonight also,” said Sian Proctor, 51, who teaches geology at a small college in Arizona and was a finalist to become a NASA astronaut.

Musical interludes are also planned. Each passenger drew up a 10-song playlist and Sembroski planned to bring his ukelele.

The instrument and other objects are to be auctioned later with the proceeds going to St Jude.

The goal of the mission is to raise $200 million for the hospital, with Isaacman personally donating $100 million.

Scientific research

SpaceX tweeted on Thursday that the crew had carried out a “first round of scientific research.”

One of the goals of the mission is to collect data on the effects of the environment of space on complete novices.

Their cardiac rhythms, sleep and blood oxygen levels will be monitored along with radiation exposure.

Their cognitive functions were tested before the flight and will be examined again on their return.

Continue Reading

Science

Chinese Astronauts Return Safely to Earth After 90-Day Space Station Mission

Published

on

By Reuters | Updated: 18 September 2021

Three Chinese astronauts returned to earth on Friday after a 90-day visit to an unfinished space station in the country’s first crewed mission since 2016.

In a small return capsule, the three men – Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo – landed safely in the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia in the north of China at 1:34 pm, state media reported.

The Shenzhou-12 mission was the first of four crewed missions planned for 2021-2022 as China assembles its first permanent space station. The process requires 11 missions, including the launches of the station’s three modules.

Construction kicked off in April with the launch of the Tianhe module, the future living quarters of the space station. Slightly larger than a city bus, Tianhe was where Nie, Liu and Tang have stayed since mid-June, marking China’s longest spaceflight mission.

While in orbit, the astronauts conducted spacewalks, validated Tianhe’s life-support system, tested the module’s robotic arm, and sorted supplies for upcoming crewed missions.

The second crewed mission is planned for October, with the next batch of astronauts expected to stay on Tianhe for six months.

Ahead of that Shenzhou-13 mission, China will send an automated cargo spacecraft – Tianzhou-3 – to Tianhe carrying supplies needed by the next crew.

Tianzhou-3 will be launched in the near future, state media said recently.

Blocked by US law from working with NASA and by extension on the US-led International Space Station (ISS), China has spent the past decade developing technologies to construct its own space station.

China’s space station, expected to be completed by the end of 2022, will be the sole alternative to the 20-year-old ISS, which may be retired in 2024.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

Continue Reading

Trending