DUBAI, U.A.E. — The head of Roscosmos says he is now satisfied that SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is safe enough to carry Russian cosmonauts, clearing a major obstacle for an agreement to exchange seats between Soyuz and commercial crew vehicles.
Dmitry Rogozin, director general of the Russian space agency, said in a press conference during the 72nd International Astronautical Congress here Oct. 25 that he no longer had reservations about flying cosmonauts on Crew Dragon as that spacecraft nears the end of its second long-duration mission at the International Space Station.
“In our view, SpaceX has already acquired enough experience for us to be able to put our cosmonauts on Crew Dragon,” he said through a translator.
He said the topic would come up during a meeting with NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy scheduled for Oct. 26 during the conference. “I believe we will be in a position to discuss candidates who may be flying to the space station on board the Crew Dragon—Russian cosmonauts, and American astronauts who will be flying to the space station on Russian spacecraft.”
Rogozin and others at Roscosmos had previously said they needed more evidence that Crew Dragon was safe enough for Russian cosmonauts, even after the spacecraft successfully carried NASA astronauts on the Demo-2 mission in mid-2020 and the subsequent Crew-1 and Crew-2 missions. Crew Dragon has also flown a commercial mission, Inspiration4, with four people on board.
Rogozin’s comments were welcome news to Melroy, who was also participating in the press conference. “I think they’ve been very clear from the beginning that they feel strongly, and we understand completely, that because they don’t have as much insight as we do,” she said in an interview after the press conference, “they have an expectation that there should be several flights before they feel confident in the performance of the vehicle. At this point, we’re having that conversation.”
That confidence, though, doesn’t mean an agreement between NASA and Roscosmos to barter seats is a done deal. “The important thing is that an agreement has to work for both of us,” she said. “There are considerations that we have and they have as well.”
NASA has sought to barter seats to create “mixed crews” of at least one NASA astronaut and one Roscosmos cosmonaut on each mission. That would ensure both countries would have a presence on the station, and ability to maintain their separate systems, if either Soyuz or commercial crew vehicles are grounded for an extended period.
The earliest a Russian cosmonaut could fly on a Crew Dragon would be the Crew-5 mission in the second half of 2022. Similarly, the next time a NASA astronaut could fly on a Soyuz would be in the fall of 2022, since NASA has decided not to acquire a seat on the Soyuz MS-21 launching in March 2022.
Crew-3 ready for launch
Hours after Rogozin offered his endorsement of Crew Dragon, NASA and SpaceX managers approved plans for the next launch of the spacecraft. NASA said late Oct. 25 that the Crew-3 mission had passed its flight readiness review ahead of its launch Oct. 31 from the Kennedy Space Center.
At a briefing, NASA and SpaceX officials said they were still wrapping up some open items on the spacecraft linked to a minor issue with the waste management system on Crew Dragon during the Inspiration4 mission. A tube came disconnected in a storage tank for urine, allowing liquid to leak into a fan system, said Bill Gerstenmaier, SpaceX vice president for build and flight reliability.
He said that didn’t cause a problem during the flight itself, but during inspections after landing technicians found contamination underneath the floor of the capsule, caused by a chemical in the waste storage tank called Oxone. Inspections of the Crew-2 Crew Dragon spacecraft, currently docked to the station, also showed evidence of corrosion, but that corrosion does not grow over time based on lab tests in similar environmental conditions. Final checks to confirm there are no safety issues will be completed before the final launch readiness review Oct. 29.
While this is not a major issue, Gerstenmaier said it’s evidence of the need to avoid complacency that could result in more significant safety lapses. He said that, after finding the root cause of an improperly glued tube in a waste management system, workers not only corrected that problem but also looked at interfaces that could have similar problems.
“It’s one way of challenging people to stay hungry, stay paranoid,” he said, “and don’t ever assume you know what’s going to happen with the vehicle.”
Russia may sue NASA astronaut over claims of drilling hole in spacecraft – WION
US-Russia spat seems to have reached space now. In a new development, Russian space agency Roscosmos has threatened to sue a NASA astronaut.
The agency claims the astronaut drilled a two-mm hole in a Soyuz MS-09 vehicle, which was docked with the International Space Station (ISS) in 2018.
After completing its investigation recently, the agency deemed the action as a sabotage. It cited Serena Auñón-Chancellor, an ISS crew member during the incident, as the culprit.
As the allegations were handed over to law enforcement of the Russia, Roscosmos announced the possibility of criminal charges.
With the hope of returning home early, Auñón-Chancellor purposefully made the hole, reported the Izvestia newspaper while citing sources on Friday.
Auñón-Chancellor seems to have wanted to leave due to a blood clot or a fight with her boyfriend onboard the ISS, Russian news outlet said citing sources.
When Auñón-Chancellor was in space, she got married to Jeff Chancellor. The couple is still married to this day. It is unclear who is the ‘boyfriend’ as stated by sources.
After a pressure drop was identified due to an air leak, the hole was spotted on August 30, 2018.
(With inputs from agencies)
NASA aims to replace ISS with a commercial space station by 2030 – The Tribune
Washington, Dec 1
The US space agency is planning to replace the International Space Station (ISS) with one or more commercial space stations by 2030.
NASA’s auditing body, the Office of Audits, has produced a report detailing the agency’s commitment to replace the orbiting lab with commercial space stations.
Astronauts have lived and worked onboard the ISS orbiting roughly 250 miles above the Earth’s surface for more than 20 years.
“The ISS costs about $3 billion a year, roughly a third of NASA’s annual human space flight budget, and while current plans call for the Station’s retirement in 2024, an extension to 2030 is likely,” the US space agency said in the audit report.
Anticipating its retirement, NASA has committed to replacing the ISS with one or more commercially owned and operated space destinations.
“In the fiscal year (FY) that ended September 30, 2021, Congress authorised $17 million to that end — a fraction of the $150 million the Agency said it needed. NASA’s plans for long-term, deep space human exploration missions depend on continuous access to a research laboratory in low-Earth orbit,” it added.
The Artemis mission, aimed at returning humans to the Moon and ultimately landing astronauts on Mars, is not feasible without continued human health research and technology demonstrations being conducted on the ISS and its eventual replacement.
“As long as humans intend to travel in space, NASA expects research and testing will be needed in the microgravity environment of low-Earth orbit,” the audio report mentioned.
While overall ISS operations and maintenance costs remained steady at about $1.1 billion a year from FY2016 through FY2020, systems maintenance and upgrade costs trended upward 35 per cent in the same 5-year period, rising to approximately $169 million in FY2020 due primarily to upgrades.
Meanwhile, NASA and Roscosmos are investigating the cause and long-term impacts of cracks and leaks that were recently discovered in the Station’s Service Module Transfer Tunnel, which connects the Service Module to one of eight docking ports on the Station.
“Causes being explored include structural fatigue, internal damage, external damage, and material defects. Notably, based on the models NASA used to assess the structure, the cracks should not have occurred, suggesting the possibility of an earlier-than-projected obsolescence for at least one element of the Station,” the US space agency noted. IANS
Arctic rainfall could dominate snowfall earlier than expected: study – Global Times
A view of Arctic Photo: VCG
Rainfall could start replacing snowfall in the Arctic decades sooner than previously thought, a study found Tuesday, warning the change caused by global warming could have effects beyond the region.
The Arctic is warming much faster than the rest of the planet, melting sea ice and adding moisture to the air that is likely to increase precipitation.
Comparing the latest projections to previous climate models, the study published in the scientific journal Nature Communications estimates the switch from snowfall-dominated annual precipitation to one dominated by rain will come about “one or two decades earlier.”
“Changes are going to be more severe and occur much earlier than projected and so will have huge implications for life in and beyond the Arctic,” the study’s main author Michelle McCrystall told AFP.
“In autumn, for example, when the greatest changes occur, the central Arctic may transition around 2070 in the latest set of models compared to 2090 in the previous set,” added McCrystall, a researcher at Canada’s University of Manitoba.
But everything depends on the degree of global warming.
At the current rate of warming rain could dominate snow in the Arctic before the end of the century, the study says. But it says limiting warming to 1.5 C could mean the Arctic stays dominated by snow.
Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said the results “imply that the worst impacts can be avoided if countries match their stated intentions to cut emissions in line with the Paris agreement.”
But Schmidt added that he felt the study did not prove the change would come sooner than expected.
Whenever it comes, the switch from snow to rain is likely to have major effects on the Arctic ecosystem.
More rainfall on top of current snow cover could lead to increased surface ice that would make it impossible for caribou and reindeer to forage for food.
Less snow cover also means the Arctic will lose some of its capacity to deflect solar heat and light away from the Earth’s surface and thus contribute to warming.
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