Tag Archives: Nauka

Further launch delays for Russia’s next ISS module & space telescope

The race to be last! Russia today announced that the launch of both its next ISS module as well as a new space telescope will be delayed until 2019.

The ISS module, Nauka, is years behind schedule, and is presently being cleaned of contamination in its fuel system that was found several years ago.

“Repairs of the MLM Nauka are taking longer than expected, and the deadlines are yet unclear. This means it will not be brought to Baikonur any time soon, and the launch will be postponed until 2019,” the source said.

It was reported earlier that the mission would be delayed for six months. “The delivery of the MLM Nauka to the Baikonur cosmodrome has been moved from September to late 2018. Hence, the module’s launch to the ISS has been provisionally delayed for another six months,” the source said. The launch was scheduled for September 2018 with the possible alternative date in March 2019.

The article also notes delays for Spekr-RG high-energy space telescope until 2019. The article might also describe delays for another satellite, though the writing is unclear.

Nauka was first built in the 1990s as a backup for ISS’s first module. In the early 2000s Russia decided to reconfigure it and fly it to ISS, with its launch scheduled for 2007. This means its launch is now going to be twelve years behind schedule.

It sure does appear that Russia’s Roscosmos is competing with NASA to see which government agency can delay its missions the longest. In fact, for fun, let’s put together the standings!

  • Nauka: 12 years behind schedule (originally scheduled for 2007, now 2019)
  • James Webb Space Telescope: 9 years behind schedule (originally scheduled for 2011, now 2020)
  • SLS/Orion: 8 years behind schedule (originally scheduled for 2015, now 2023)

Stay tuned. This race to the bottom is far from over. NASA could still win, especially because it has more than one project in the running.

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Russia’s next ISS module, Nauka, delayed again

Russia is apparently going to have to delay the launch of its next ISS module, Nauka, into 2019.

Nauka was initially built in the 1990s as a back-up module for one of Russia’s first ISS first modules, Zarya. It has undergone numerous concept changes, and even more numerous delays, including the most recent and worst, where it was discovered that they had to scrub clean the module’s fueling system because they had become contaminated.

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Russia to up ISS crew back to three

In order to integrate the new Nauka module, expected to launch in 2019, the Russians plan to increase their crew size on ISS back to three in late 2018.

[L]ong before the Nauka’s arrival, the Russian crew members aboard the ISS will have their hands full with various chores preceding the docking of the 20-ton spacecraft, which will increase the size and mass of the Russian Segment by almost a third. Moreover, once the module is in place, Russian cosmonauts are expected to labor into the 2020 to fully plug all the systems of the new room into their home in orbit. The total time required to integrate Nauka is expected to reach 2,000 work hours, including 11 spacewalks!

The preparations for the addition of the long-awaited module were scheduled to begin less than a year from now on Sept. 8, 2018, with the launch of the three members of Expedition 57 crew aboard the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft. The launch will mark the first time since October 2016 that a Soyuz will lift more than one Russian cosmonaut.

Nauka is more than a decade behind schedule, which puts it in the same league as SLS and Orion. But then, Nauka, like SLS and Orion, is a government-built project, so no one should be surprised that it has taken so long. The goal isn’t the exploration of space. The goal is to create jobs, even if they don’t accomplish anything for decades.

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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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More problems for Russian ISS module

A Russian module intended for ISS, delayed for years because of technical problems, appears to have more issues that could delay it further, and might even prevent its launch entirely.

As its original 2007 launch date came and went, more and more delays pushed back the MLM’s launch. Then, in 2013, engineers discovered a leaking fueling valve as well as contamination in the propulsion system. At the time, reports said repairs and cleanup would take nearly 10 months.

Those months stretched into years. During the last four years, engineers have been working diligently replacing a jungle of pipelines, valves, and thrusters—part of Nauka’s sophisticated propulsion system—in an effort to get rid of the sawdust contamination introduced during botched upgrades. Because the spacecraft has stayed earthbound much longer than intended, parts of Nauka have also slipped out of warranty.

Fighting off political and logistical concerns surrounding the project—as well suggestions that they ground the MLM entirely until it can serve as the first module of Russia’s own space station—the tedious cleanup and repair effort entered its final phase this year, and the module finally appeared on track for launch at the end of this year or, at the very latest, the first half of 2018.

Then things went from bad to worse. In the past few weeks, engineers found the same contamination they’ve been fighting for years inside the module’s propellant tanks. The repair team tried to wash off these contaminants, but so far all efforts to cleanse the vessels have failed.

Read the whole article. The situation is not good.

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