Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
  Space Travel News  

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Paparazzi In Space

File image.
by Morris Jones
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Apr 21, 2011
For the second time, an attempt to take a photograph of a Space Shuttle docked with the International Space Station has been thwarted. Russia has again declined to undock a Soyuz spacecraft for a photographic expedition. It's highly possible that the Shuttle program will end with no clear photograph of an entire orbiter and the entire International Space Station docked together.

The technical issues behind Soyuz are better discussed elsewhere, but the decision highlights a shortcoming in spaceflight. There is no easy way to get a camera out to a fair distance from the ISS and take a look back. It's time for some paparazzi in space.

We've been down this path before. At various times, small free-flying satellites have been launched to take images of other spacecraft. One was deployed from a Shuttle payload bay in the 1980s, and returned some great pictures of the Shuttle in orbit.

There have also been experiments with microsatellites flying openly discussed missions to image other spacecraft, and sometimes photograph the rockets used to launch them. It's also fairly likely that missions like this have also taken place covertly.

It really shouldn't be too difficult to do this from the ISS. A small satellite bus with a camera, a navigation system and a set of cold nitrogen thrusters could be tossed out an airlock, then sent on a photographic tour. Russian cosmonauts used to hand-launch small satellites when spacewalking from earlier space stations, and the Japanese are planning to launch some small satellites from their own ISS laboratory module.

A small satellite inspector like this would be useful for more than just nice paparazzi photographs. It could be used for technical inspections of areas that would be otherwise difficult to inspect. This could ease the burden on spacewalkers, who must sometimes go outside to check on things.

The spacecraft could be attached to an external payload rack, where it could be plucked by a robot arm, deployed on a flight, then retrieved by the arm and returned to storage. Alternatively, it could be stored internally and tossed out a small scientific airlock. This option, however, could make retrieval more difficult.

The use of non-toxic propellants and the possible use of buffers around the spacecraft would reduce the potential for damaging the exterior of the space station. A small object like this, with the capability to only make a small change in its velocity, would further reduce the risk of damage in the event of a collision.

The technical capability for such a small flying camera has been with us for a long time, and the cost would not be great. In retrospect, such a device should have been sent to the ISS years ago.

It's probably too late to launch one before the Shuttle program ends, but the Station itself will be flying for a long time. The loss of the Shuttle will bring a reduction in the ability to inspect the station from spacecraft performing rendezvous. Thus, the need for a paparazzi satellite will be greater than ever.

This would be an ideal project for small research teams. Somebody needs to take up the challenge.

Dr Morris Jones is an Australian space analyst and writer. Email Replace NOSPAM with @ to send email.

Share This Article With Planet Earth DiggDigg RedditReddit
YahooMyWebYahooMyWeb GoogleGoogle FacebookFacebook

Related Links
Station at NASA
Station and More at Roscosmos
S.P. Korolev RSC Energia
Watch NASA TV via Space.TV
Space Station News at Space-Travel.Com

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

CSA Celebrates A Decade Of Success With Canadarm2
Longueuil, Canada (SPX) Apr 20, 2011
Ten years ago, Canadarm2 was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. A larger, more robust successor to the Shuttle's Canadarm, Canadarm2 has provided a full decade of flawless service as the Station's sophisticated "construction crane," having assembled the ISS module by module in space. Canadarm2 has unloaded hundreds of tons of equipment and ... read more

Ariane Ariane 5 enjoys second successful launch for 2011

Ariane rocket launches two telecoms satellites

Ariane 5 Cleared For Launch With Yahsat Y1A And Intelsat New Dawn

SpaceX aims to put man on Mars in 10-20 years

NASA Orbiter Reveals Big Changes in Mars' Atmosphere

Dry ice find hints Mars was a wetter place: study

A Tale Of Two Deserts

Mars Rover's 'Gagarin' Moment Applauded Exploration

India Eyeing Collaboration With JPL In 2016 NASA Lunar Mission

BRP To Contribute To Canadian Moon And Mars Exploration Programs

Naveen Jain Co-Founder And Chairman Of Moon Express

Project Morpheus To Begin Testing At NASA's Johnson Space Center

Carbon monoxide detected around Pluto

The PI's Perspective: Pinch Me!

Later, Uranus: New Horizons Passes Another Planetary Milestone

Can WISE Find The Hypothetical Tyche In Distant Oort Cloud

Tuning Into ExoPlanet Radio

Radio signals could 'tag' distant planets

The Shocking Environment Of Hot Jupiters

Titan-Like Exoplanets

Russia may launch light Soyuz carrier rocket by 2012

Weak Russian component downed Indian rocket Says Ex-ISRO chief

NASA awards $270 million in spaceship contracts

No Fleet Future For X-37B

Asia's star ever brighter in space

What Future for Chang'e-2

China setting up new rocket production base

China's Tiangong-1 To Be Launched By Modified Long March II-F Rocket

Fast-Rotating Asteroid Winks For Astronomer's Camera

Cold Asteroids May Have A Soft Heart

WISE Mission Spots 'Horseshoe' Asteroid

WISE Mission Spots Horseshoe Asteroid

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement