An antenna used to orient a Progress freighter during docking, launched today to ISS, has failed to deploy.


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An antenna used to orient a Progress freighter during docking, launched today to ISS, has failed to deploy.

Though astronauts can manually dock the spacecraft, they still need proper radar data to gauge its location, spin, orientation, speed, and distance. If the remaining four antennas cannot provide all this information, it will be very dangerous to try a docking.

A problem like this has not happened on a Progress freighter in literally decades. When I consider the spate of other recent failures experienced by the Russian space industry, I can’t help wondering whether they have developed an overall quality control problem.

Update: Russian mission control said today that even if they cannot solve the deployment failure and get the antenna working it will not prevent a docking with ISS on Friday.

I tend to believe them. With four other antennas plus additional radar equipment on ISS it does seems reasonable that there is sufficient redundancy to allow the docking to proceed. Also, considering the Russians past problems with collisions on Mir, I would expect them to be very careful about proceeding if they had any doubts.

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4 comments

  • Dick Eagleson

    I’m going to go way out on a limb, here, and give that question an answer of Yes!

    Lets hope the rot is restricted to Russia. If the contagion spreads to Ukraine, our friends at Sea Launch and Orbital can look forward to a bleak future of iffy major subsystems and too-frequent losses of mission. Not a pleasant prospect.

  • We’ve seen what happens when space station personnel try to dock freighters manually without proper guidance. I wouldn’t want to be around anyone trying to do so.

  • It’s funny that we’re still in the era of single point failure spaceflight.

  • The average automobile has many single-failure points, and we’ve been building them far longer. Engineering is the art of balancing probabilities.

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