by Launchspace Staff
Bethesda MD (SPX) Aug 30, 2011
Last Wednesday, an unmanned Russian spaceship carrying tons of cargo for ISS crashed in Siberia shortly after blast-off. Liftoff of the Soyuz booster carrying the Progress module from the Baikonur Cosmodrome occurred at 9:00 a.m. EDT. This was supposed to be the 44th successful cargo delivery mission to the space station. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the first failed attempt to get supplies to the station crew.
The Russian space agency reported that the problem was with the upper stage propulsion system. A malfunction caused a premature shutdown of the upper stage engine, resulting in the failed mission.
Communications with the vehicle were lost about six minutes into a planned nine-minute burn. The core first stage of the Soyuz did shut down and separated as planned, about five minutes after liftoff. However, the four-nozzle engine of the upper stage apparently had an anomaly which left the Progress module far short of its planned orbit.
This mission failure leaves the ISS crew without needed supplies. Fortunately, onboard reserves should be sufficient to sustain the crew members for several weeks. Nevertheless, several issues have been raised by this loss. First, the crew may have to depend on reserves for some time, while a failure review takes place.
No other Progress launches to ISS will be allowed during the review and possibly later due to launch vehicle modifications, launch sequencing and other preparations. Furthermore, the commonality between the supply and the crew launch vehicles will keep any crew replacements from being sent to the station.
If the failure review, cause determination and corrective measures take too long, the crew will run short of supplies and may have to return to Earth in their reentry capsules, leaving the station uninhabited for some time. Furthermore, an extended inability to send Progress modules to the station may result in the natural reentry of ISS due to an extended period of unmitigated decay caused by atmospheric drag.
The station's orbit needs to be raised periodically to maintain space flight.
Should this happen, we will lose our $100+ billion investment in the ISS. In effect, this would end the U.S. human space flight program altogether.
How did we get ourselves into this pickle of a situation? Over the past several years, we have systematically dismantled and retired the Space Shuttle program, cancelled its replacement program and have asked the private sector to eventually provide crew rides and cargo to ISS.
In the meantime, we are paying the Russians to provide expensive "taxi" rides for our astronauts. Now the "taxi service" is out of service and we have no back up. To put it kindly, it seems there is a void in NASA's planning processes.
If NASA were an entrepreneurial company, it would have just gone bankrupt and out of business. Maybe it did and just doesn't yet realize it.
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Progress space freighter destroyed in atmosphere
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Aug 30, 2011
Large pieces of the Progress M-12M space freighter have not been discovered because the ship most likely burned up in the Earth's atmosphere or the third stage of the Soyuz-U carrier rocket exploded, a source in the space industry said on Monday. "Large pieces of the space freighter have not been found because they probably burned after an explosion of the third stage of the Soyuz-U carrie ... read more
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