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Explained: Why is SpaceX-NASA’s Crew-1 mission launch significant? – The Indian Express

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By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |

Updated: November 19, 2020 11:33:43 am

The Crew Dragon crew ready for the launch. (Photo: Twitter/@SpaceX)

As part of NASA’s first commercial human spacecraft system in history, a crew of four astronauts is now en route to the International Space Station (ISS) on a 27-hour flight, onboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft called Resilience.

The mission was to launch on November 14 initially, but was impeded by unfavourable weather conditions. Crew-1 is the first operational flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket to the ISS and is also the first of the three such flights scheduled over the course of 2020-21.

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What is the Crew-1 mission?

It is the first of six crewed missions that NASA and SpaceX will operate as part of the Commercial Crew Program, whose objective is to make access to space easier in terms of its cost, so that cargo and crew can be easily transported to and from the ISS, enabling greater scientific research. The programme is a way to reduce the cost of going to space for agencies such as NASA and also makes it possible for any individual to buy a ticket on a commercial rocket. Therefore, the launch is being seen as the beginning of a new era in space travel.

“This partnership is changing the arc of human spaceflight history by opening access to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station to more people, more science, and more commercial opportunities,” NASA has said.

Boeing and SpaceX were selected by NASA in September 2014 to develop transportation systems meant to transfer crew from the US to the ISS. “These integrated spacecraft, rockets and associated systems will carry up to four astronauts on NASA missions, maintaining a space station crew of seven to maximise time dedicated to scientific research on the orbiting laboratory,” the NASA website says.

In May, NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight lifted off for the ISS, becoming the first crewed flight to launch from American soil since the conclusion of the space shuttle era in 2011. NASA certified SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and the Falcon 9 rocket last week, making it the first spacecraft certification provided by the space agency.

The Crew-1 mission launched the agency’s astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission specialist Soichi Noguchi from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center for a six-month-long mission aboard the ISS, where they will join the members of Expedition 64, the space station crew currently at residence there.

Hopkins, who is the commander of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the Crew-1 mission is responsible for all phases of the space flight, from launch to re-entry. Glover is the pilot of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, while Walker and Noguchi are the mission specialists. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

Why is the mission significant?

The Crew-1 mission marks many firsts for NASA and SpaceX including it being the first flight of the NASA-certified commercial system, the first international crew of four to launch on an American commercial spacecraft, the first time the space station’s long-duration expedition crew size will increase from six to seven crew members, which will add to the crew time available for research and the first time the Federal Aviation Administration has licensed a human orbital spaceflight launch.

While the Crew Dragon spacecraft is capable of staying in orbit for a period of 210 days, it will return in spring 2021, making it the longest human space mission launched from the US. The spacecraft will also deliver over 500 pounds of cargo, science hardware and experiments to the ISS.

Once the mission is over, Crew-1 astronauts will board Crew Dragon, which will autonomously undock and depart the space station after which it will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere.

Also in Explained | What is the Leonid meteor shower, when can Indians best watch it?

What will members of Crew-1 do at the ISS?

The goals of the mission are the same as that of Expedition 1 that lifted off 20 years ago. NASA has called both of these ISS missions, “historic”. At the ISS, the Crew-1 team will join members of Expedition 64 and conduct microgravity studies.

Some of the research that the crew is carrying with themselves includes materials to investigate food physiology, which will study the effects of dietary improvements on immune function and the gut microbiome and how those improvements can help crews adapt to spaceflight. Once in orbit, NASA astronaut Glover will collect samples to provide data to scientists back on Earth so that they can continue to study how dietary changes affect his body.

Another experiment aboard the Crew Dragon is a student-designed experiment titled, “Genes in Space-7” that aims to understand how spaceflight affects brain function. Other experiments include research that will enable scientists to understand the physical interactions on liquid, rocks and microorganisms, another experiment on the role of microgravity on human health and how microgravity affects heart tissue.

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NASA, Boeing Starliner mission to ISS delayed again, launch uncertain – CNET

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Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft sits atop a ULA Atlas V rocket in July 2021.


Boeing/John Grant

Boeing is hoping to launch its Starliner crew capsule for a second time in an attempt to dock with the International Space Station. Boeing’s first try way back in December 2019 failed to reach the correct orbit but gave it valuable data. The company seemed ready to try again, but its launch attempt was scrubbed Tuesday — the second delay in less than a week.

Engineers “detected unexpected valve position indications in the propulsion system” during a health check of the spacecraft after Monday’s electrical storms in the region, Boeing said Tuesday. It’s uncertain if the storms were responsible for the technical issue.

The company and NASA considered Wednesday as a possible target for a new launch time, but the valve issue continues to haunt the mission. “Engineering teams have ruled out a number of potential causes, including software, but additional time is needed to complete the assessment,” NASA said Tuesday night. There is no new launch date at this time. 

The mission was originally scheduled to take off Friday, but that was delayed due to an issue Thursday with a Russian ISS module firing its thrusters shortly after docking with the station. That knocked the space station around and forced teams to evaluate the station’s status.

“The International Space Station team will use the time to continue working checkouts of the newly arrived Roscosmos Nauka multipurpose laboratory module (MLM) and to ensure the station will be ready for Starliner’s arrival,” NASA said in a July 29 statement.

NASA will livestream the launch when it eventually happens.

When Starliner does finally launch, it will lift off on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. The capsule will be packed with around 400 pounds of crew supplies and cargo. If all goes well, it’ll dock with the space station about 24 hours later. Docking will also be covered live by NASA TV.

Software defects and a communications link problem led to a premature end to the original Boeing test flight in 2019, though the CST-100 Starliner capsule landed safely back on Earth. The upcoming Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission is a chance for Boeing to thoroughly vet its hardware and software before a crew of three American astronauts would fly on Starliner.

Both Boeing and SpaceX are part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which is all about sending astronauts to the ISS from American soil. SpaceX has now delivered 10 astronauts to the ISS, and Boeing would like to catch up. But first, it’ll need to show that its Starliner can safely reach the ISS and return to Earth.

Starliner will spend between five and 10 days at the ISS before bringing research samples back to Earth. Boeing will aim to bring the spacecraft back for a parachute landing in the desert of New Mexico.

“OFT-2 will provide valuable data that will help NASA certify Boeing’s crew transportation system to carry astronauts to and from the space station,” NASA said in a statement July 22 after concluding a flight readiness review.

The mission is a key step for NASA’s plans to run regular crewed launches from the US, ending its reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Boeing is also looking ahead at its first crewed mission, Boe-CFT, which it had been hoping to launch within the next six months. The delays with OFT-2 could mean a longer wait before people fly on Starliner.

Follow CNET’s 2021 Space Calendar to stay up to date with all the latest space news this year. You can even add it to your own Google Calendar.    

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Impact of space station spin requires study, official says – CTV News

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MOSCOW —
Space engineers will analyze whether a glitch that caused the International Space Station to spin out of its normal orientation could have impacted any of its systems, a Russian space official said Wednesday.

Sergei Krikalev, the director of crewed space programs at the Russian space corporation Roscosmos, emphasized that last week’s incident did not inflict any observable damage to the space station but he said that experts would need to study its potential implications.

“It appears there is no damage,” Krikalev said in an interview broadcast by Russian state television. “But it’s up to specialists to assess how we have stressed the station and what the consequences are.”

NASA emphasized Wednesday that the station was operating normally and noted that the spin was within safety limits for its systems.

Thrusters on Russia’s Nauka laboratory module fired shortly after the module arrived at the International Space Station on Thursday, making the orbiting outpost slowly spin about one-and-a-half revolutions. Russia’s mission controllers fired thrusters on another Russian module and a Russian cargo ship attached to the space station to stop rotation and then push the station back to its normal position.

Both U.S. and Russian space officials said the station’s seven-person crew wasn’t in danger during the incident.

The station needs to be properly aligned to get the maximum power from solar panels and to maintain communications with space support teams back on Earth. The space station’s communications with ground controllers blipped out twice for a few minutes on Thursday.

NASA said in a tweet Tuesday that the station was 45 degrees out of alignment when Nauka’s thrusters were still firing and the loss of control was discussed with the crew. “Further analysis showed total attitude change before regaining normal attitude control was (tilde)540 degrees,” NASA said.

On Wednesday, NASA noted that “continued analysis following last week’s event with unplanned thruster firings on Nauka has shown the space station remains in good shape with systems performing normally.”

“Most importantly, the maximum rate and acceleration of the attitude change did not approach safety limits for station systems and normal operations resumed once attitude control was regained,” it said.

Roscosmos’ Krikalev, a veteran of six space missions who spent a total of 803 days in orbit, noted Wednesday that firing orientation engines created a dynamic load on the station’s components, making a thorough analysis of whether some of them could be overstressed necessary.

“The station is a rather delicate structure, and both the Russian and the U.S. segments are built as light as possible,” he said. “An additional load stresses the drivers of solar batteries and the frames they are mounted on. Specialists will analyze the consequences. It is too early to talk about how serious it was, but it was an unforeseen situation that requires a detailed study.”

Krikalev said Nauka’s engines fired because a glitch in the control system mistakenly assumed that the lab module hadn’t yet docked at the station and activated the thrusters to pull it away.

The launch of the 22-ton (20-metric-ton) module has been repeatedly delayed by technical problems. It was initially scheduled to go up in 2007, but funding problems pushed the launch back, and in 2013 experts found contamination in its fuel system, resulting in a long and costly replacement. Other Nauka systems also underwent modernization or repairs.

Nauka is the first new compartment for the Russian segment of the International Space Station since 2010, offering more space for scientific experiments and room for the crew. Russian crew members will have to conduct up to 11 spacewalks beginning in early September to prepare it for operation.

The space station is currently operated by NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur; Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos; Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

In 1998, Russia launched the station’s first compartment, Zarya, which was followed in 2000 by another big piece, Zvezda, and three smaller modules in the following years. The last of them, Rassvet, arrived at the station in 2010.

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Perseid Shower season | 96.1 Renfrew Today – renfrewtoday.ca

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If you’ve been looking to the night skies on clear occasions of late, you may have been seeing quite the show.

Backyard Astronomer Gary Boyle says it’s Perseid (Per-say-id) Meteor Shower Season.

The natural phenomenon began July 14th, and is on-going.

Boyle says two nights next week (this week) will provide optimal viewing opportunities.


The event is great for the naked eye, but it’s an impossible challenge for cellphones- you’ll need a 35mm camera, and best, one with a time-lapse feature.

The Backyard Astronomer says that this year, the crescent moon sets within a couple of hours after sunset leaving us with a dark sky.

By contrast, next year’s Perseids takes place under a full moon, drastically reducing the hourly rate.

The Perseid Meteor Shower activity comes to an end August 24th.

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