Tag Archives: MLM

How Russia’s next ISS module got contaminated

Russia’s next module for ISS, MLM or Nauka, has been delayed years because of the discovery of sawdust sized metal particles throughout the module’s propulsion system. This article describes how this happened, showing the incredibly incompetence and bad quality control that caused it.

At the time, workers at Khrunichev were cutting pipelines and removing other components of the module’s propulsion system, in order to reconfigure it from its original role as a backup to the Zarya FGB module into the MLM. For example, a set of six tanks, which would be used for refueling of the ISS during the FGB mission, were removed from the exterior of the spacecraft in order to make room for scientific instruments and for the attachment of the European Robotic Arm, ERA.

The official conclusion of the probe said that the contamination had stemmed from the “lack of methodological and technological support for the operations of cutting pipeline connections in the pneumatic and hydraulic system, PGS, which was needed to guarantee the meeting of requirements for ensuring the sterility of the internal cavities in the pipelines and system hardware.” It is essentially bureaucratic speak for letting metallic dust formed during sawing off the lines pour into the interior of the remaining components.

According to one legend circulating at GKNPTs Khrunichev, the workers who were sawing off pipelines from the module thought they were dismantling the entire spacecraft for scrap. That story would sound completely unbelievable if not for other almost as incredible incidents of carelessness, poor quality control and incompetence within the industry in recent years, such as the installing navigation sensors on a Proton rocket in the upside down position or loading a Block DM-03 space tug on another Proton with too much propellant.

Read the whole story. It is most revealing of the overall systematic problems within Russia’s aerospace industry.

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Office politics delays Russian ISS module

It appears that the reason work has stalled once again on Russia’s long delayed next module for ISS, the Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM), is literally because of office politics between government officials.

According to industry sources, the management at the military certification authority apparently ran into worsening relations with the leadership of the space industry.

In other words, there was some spat between the military guy and the space guy, and in revenge the military guy used his authority to stop all work.

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More delays for Russia’s next ISS module

Work has stalled again on Russia’s Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM), threatening its presently scheduled launch to ISS by the end of 2017.

According to industry sources, most of replacement components for the MLM’s faulty propulsion system had already been manufactured, except for the pipelines, which would have to be bent based on their particular situation on the module. Still, military quality control officers, who now certify all space industry manufacturing operations, refused to give the green light for the final assembly of the propulsion system for the MLM.

Work on MLM began in 2008, and has been delayed repeatedly in the past eight years.

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More delays seen in the completion of a new and critical module to the Russian portion of ISS.

More delays seen in the completion of a new and critical module to the Russian portion of ISS.

The delays have nothing to do with the Ukraine and everything to do with poor quality control in the Russian company building the module.

This quote stood out however:

With its central position in the architecture of the Russian segment, the MLM’s troubles also stall the launch of all subsequent Russian components of the station, including the Node Module, UM, (already under construction) and the NEM laboratory and power supply module, whose full-scale development started in 2012.

Given such a prolonged delay, combined with worsening political relations between Russia and its partners in the ISS project, the questions were raised whether the MLM module and the successive components of the Russian segment could be grounded until the assembly of the new all-Russian station in the post-ISS era. Under such a scenario, the troubled spacecraft could play a role of an early hub for the future orbital outpost.

If the Russians get enough modules built to launch their own station, I expect them to do it and cut their ties with ISS.

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