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Astronauts attach new U.S. docking port to ISS

During a spacewalk today American astronauts installed a new docking port on ISS to serve as one of the ports for the manned capsules being built by SpaceX and Boeing.

A second port will be installed in 2018, allowing both capsules to dock at the station simultaneously.

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On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.


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  • Localfluff

    The other docking adapter was destroyed in the Falcon 9 crash last years. But I suppose it is high priority to order a second one. The destroyed Dragon also carried a space suit ($12mln) and a some life support system related equipment which was said to be hard to replace since it was a one off production item. Progress and Cygnus seem to be entrusted only with cargo like food, water, clothes.

    Off topic.
    What do you think about disbanding NASA? It has matured into an improductive bureaucracy without any priorities or leadership. The reason for their successes (mostly in the tiny part of NASA which is Planetary Science) is that they hire smart people. They would be even more productive in a working organization. DoD could take care of human space exploration. The universities of space science. The market of space technology. It might be politically very popular to get rid of the perceived expensive government space toy playroom and fill in some potholes instead.

    NASA seems to resist the huge political support for a Europa mission. They seem to think that 1.4% of their overall budget is too much to spend on icy moons. It would be a very popular mission which delivers within 8 years, THE space mission of the next administration. Together with Congress’ all out support. I don’t get it. Is NASA still a politically viable organization?

  • wayne


    Unfortunately, here in the USA, we are stuck with these (various) Agencies, until they collapse. (and collapse, they WILL.)
    [It costs $4 Billion/year to give 30 million people free cell-phones…push comes to shove, NASA gets gutted before any of those people are inconvenienced for one second. We have another 40 million people on SNAP (food-stamps) & 90 million people not in the labor-force. “Social-spending” will devour every penny, and there will be nothing left for anything else.]

    Not to be ultra-picky, but a common theme amongst you folks in Europe, is to confuse what responsibilities our Federal Government actually has under Law.
    –It’s not the responsibility of the Federal government to fill pot-holes, even on our Federal Interstate highway system. Roads are the responsibility of Local & State government, although you wouldn’t know that by how the Feds act.

  • Localfluff

    In Europe we do not understand US constitution. Sweden is a totalitarian democracy. One votes for the 7 Unity Parties, or wastes the vote on the boycotted 8th party, the socialist nationalist party. The 2 large of these 7 parties dictate what the Party Union as a whole must do. It has never happened that any of the 349 individual parliamentarians ever has raised his or her voice against their party leader. Although it would not be formally illegal for them to do so, it would be immediate career suicide. The parties are ruled by the majorities of their boards with about a dozen members each, who are nominated exactly like the Chinese communist party nominates its party leaders: secretly internally without any kind of influence from the general public or low level party members.

    It is a system of a majority of a majority of a majority until there are only two at the top (the smallest possible “majority”. And they unite without any debate or disagreement. No one is individually elected, one can only vote for party organizations who secretly internally decides who will be their parliamentarians. In all parties it just happens to be the same guys throughout their entire lives. It must be funny for you in the US to learn that no Swedish minister or party leader ever has any post-highschool education or ever had a job even for a day!

    Our totalitarian parliament then hires a prime minister, whom they can fire any day, he’s just a puppet for the two party leaders who control parliament. Parliament is of course also the lawmaker and nominates the judges in the courts. That’s right, in Sweden the judges are politicians without any legal education or experience(!). The judges in all of the ordinary criminal and civilian courts. Sweden has no constitutional court, we do not have any constitution. The parliament has totalitarian powers, anything they say is binding law. There exists no kind of regional or local self determination.

    So it is very exotic to hear about separation of powers in the US. You live in an exceptional country. And that you have a legal system sounds fantastic. None of that exists in Sweden. We never had a revolution. In 1809 Parliament declared that the (mentally ill and war losing) king has been overthrown and that they now have the same power as the totalitarian king had. That’s the only event of significance in Swedish political history.

    It is just very disappointing, and surprising, to note that IT DOESN’T MAKE MUCH DIFFERENCE IN THE END! The US is as corrupt as Sweden is anyway. A totalitarian democracy like Sweden, or an advanced republic like the US. The outcome is pretty much the same anyway. I conclude that it is the moral quality of the inhabitants, not the mumbojumbo of any law texts and rituals which determine what a society is like.

  • PeterF

    Don’t forget to mention it is not the federal government’s responsibility to do basically anything that doesn’t provide for the common defense, international agreements, or interstate commerce (a case can be made that the Interstate Highway system does all of these).

    I agreed with Rick Perry when it comes to shutting federal departments and agencies. If he hadn’t had a senior moment and then compounded it with “oops” during that primary debate we might have had a much smaller population of leaches in DC by now (of course they would have all just relocated to the state capitols).

    But I digress…
    I have been wondering if some type of “universal” docking adapter is possible. I recently suffered through the movie “Event Horizon”. (Imagine an Ion drive capable of 30Gs thrust. You could hover in the sun’s atmosphere!) (but I digress again-sorry)

    To dock they had to anchor by clamping on to (and damaging) a convenient “non load-bearing antenna mast”. and then traversing the gap in a spacesuit (stupid clumsy suits where you couldn’t see your hands).
    I would expect that by the time we are routinely traveling between the inner system planets there will be an interplanetary agreement for docking systems design. (why couldn’t they have just used their “artificial gravity” to pull the other ship into contact with a sealing ring on the roof?)
    (and don’t get me started on that ridiculous critically acclaimed movie “Gravity”) (the shuttle was never able to visit the ISS after a trip to the Hubble, NO WAY could could an MMU match orbits)

    sorry again,
    In regards to docking adapters, perhaps we will have “adaptable” adapters? i.e. “a docking port that will reconfigure to meet current requirements”. On demand 3D printing? Nanotech? Tire slime and magnets?

    No matter what the system, the lesson to be learned is that any time you transfer between spacecraft, you should wear some type of life support system. A suit like a nylon body-suit that conforms to your skin topography? (no more volumetric change problems)

  • PeterF

    “It must be funny for you in the US to learn that no Swedish minister or party leader ever has any post-highschool education or ever had a job even for a day!”

    That basically describes every US national politician with the exception that the new US politician have a Harvard degree. (which is now the equivalent of a 1950’s High School degree).

  • wayne

    interesting stuff, with your usual flair & understatement!
    Our Interstate System has an interesting history–
    (As does our political-history; there’s a good reason we don’t have a Parliamentary System.)

    Good stuff as well. (on topic & otherwise)
    My G-father was a Civil Engineer & I’m fairly partial to “roads,” in general, despite my libertarian leaning’s.
    There is however, a lot of cronyism & political wheeling-n-dealing, attached to government-funded civil-engineering, and I don’t like how the Interstate System was or is currently funded.
    (and we could do with the “Federal Highway Administration.” (Money laundering & make work.)

    but I digress… please continue with the new Docking Port….

  • wayne

    that should be;
    “and we could do without the “Federal Highway Administration.” (as in de-funded it all, the Feds make more off gasoline taxes, than oil companies make refining it.)

  • PeterF

    The greatest problem with the interstate highway system is the use of “high tensile strength”, and “steel reinforced prestressed” (rebar) concrete. I remember how “wonderful” and “strong” the bridges were when they were first built.

    question: How many bridges did you drive over or pass beneath in the last week? Ten? Twelve? (Try 300 or so) The average American’s answer is often off by a factor of around 100. Try counting the expansion joints that you almost never notice while driving down the highway. And then thinking about the concrete span between ever pair that is being “exploded” by the corroding rebar embedded within it. The allies could barely damage the NAZI bunkers at Normandy on D-day with direct artillery fire. but now they are crumbling into dust because of the corrosion of the embedded rebar. (And the (weaker) cement structures built by the Romans continue to age gracefully.

  • wayne-
    I don’t have a problem with the federal government being funded with a gasoline tax. I do have a problem with an ever increasing tax created by the “political class” that can never get enough of the income of the “proletariat” (no I am NOT a communist) .

  • Rusty

    Maybe I’m just a high school grad but seems to me you ALL went off topic. But hey like I said I’m just a high school grad.
    Thanks for the Sweden info though. Most of my friends LOVE the way that country works. Personally I hate it. Love the people hate the government.

  • ken anthony

    A “universal” docking adapter is not possible because you have non universal requirements starting with size of objects to transfer; however, in principle you only need a two simple things for a ‘universal’ port. It must be able to mate and seal. Which means you can eliminate most of the bizarre tech currently being used.

    A ring with matching holes for bolts and and a compressible seal is all you need.

    The airlock is not required to be part of the port. Each vehicle could use any unique airlock design they like. Umbilicals are also not part of the port. They do have to mate, but their design is a separate issue; however, making them a standard part of the port probably would simplify things (although it could easily make things worse.)

  • Edward

    Welcome to Behind the Black, where we occasionally get off topic — and thank you for your opinion, too. Sometimes our tangents are just too hard to curve back to the original point of interest. Feel free to give it a try, as PeterF and ken anthony have done, because it is exciting that the ISS is now set up to receive privately operated manned spacecraft.

    Oh, no! I’m getting sucked into the black hole of this thread’s off topic tangent. Drat this stupid clumsy space suit, in which I can’t see my hands to grab onto something for safety. AAAAH … !

    Localfluff wrote: “note that IT DOESN’T MAKE MUCH DIFFERENCE IN THE END! The US is as corrupt as Sweden is anyway.”

    For 216 years, the US was ruled by freedom-loving elected officials, but that changed when the Democratic Party realized that they could rule by convincing people to vote for them by distributing, to those who vote for Democrats, the hard-earned money of the working American people. It is the Democratic Party that is corrupt and that has corrupted the United States, much like the power hungry Swedish Parliament.

    Now the Democrat Party has infiltrated the opposition party and placed liberal Democrats into positions of power, including one as the presidential candidate. The Democrats now have two candidates on the presidential ballot. The worst part is that there are members of the opposition party who are eager to vote for that liberal Democrat in their party. With an opposition party like that, who needs the Democrat Party?

    A major problem with socialism is that it makes the population dependent upon government, as in “to each according to his need.” Those who determine need and what is distributed to whom are the corrupt people in the government. If you are a friend, you magically have more need. If you are a foe, then you have less need. Both of the Democratic candidates have demonstrated that they will rule that way.

    Wayne wrote: “the Feds make more off gasoline taxes, than oil companies make refining it.”
    PeterF, this response is for you, too:

    This is a case in point of the greed of government. It is similar to the Robin Hood and Zorro stories, in which those in power abuse the productivity of their people, the peons. Oh, it is all legal (when you are in power, you make sure your corruption is deemed legal), but what hurts society is the taking of more than is necessary to run the government’s basic functions – and the corrupt bureaucrats and politicians turn out to be better off than the peons.

    This is now happening in the US, with government workers not only earning much more than the equivalent workers in the general population AND get better retirement benefits, but the elected officials now leave office much better off than when they arrived.

    It used to be, in America, that public service – the former version of government employment – was a temporary sacrifice in that the earnings were not quite as good as in the public sector, but the retirement benefits were the attraction, especially since “retirement” came after a couple of decades, early enough to allow for some time in a high-paid job in the public sector before actual retirement.

    Yesterday, I was talking to a friend who is doing it the other way around. She just took a job at a state university, and if she stays long enough, then she will get a very nice retirement package. She previously enjoyed a nice salary in the public sector, because she did that before government wages exceeded private wages, and now that her children are out of college, she could take what once was the lower-paying job with the nice retirement benefits.

    It looks like she is a double winner, on this one. She got high pay early in her career, now she gets both a high pay and better retirement benefits.

  • wayne

    I have to weigh in on the Sweden thing, even though they aren’t directly participating in the docking port installation….

    Sweden is always touted as some “democratic-esque socialist utopia,” but to the extent it’s socialist ways work at all,( and that is highly debatable) that’s a tribute to the homogeneity & tininess of Sweden, and not some inherent correctness of socialism.
    – It’s a giant nanny-state, populated (until recently) exclusively by the stereotypical, homogenous, blond-haired, blue-eyed Swede, with cradle-to-grave identity papers and a Defense budget that is a rounding error in our system.

  • Localfluff

    @ken anthony
    Isn’t there a need for an “umbilical” docking standard too? To transfer fuel, electric power and communication. I think fuel transfer between two docked space crafts has only been tested and never made use of. The only(?) major failure during a docking attempt I think is Progress’ collision with MIR in 1997. The hull was breached and to close it off they had to cut the main power cable in order to close the hatch to the leaking module, leaving MIR without power. In my home, electric cables are inside the walls, making it possible to close the door between two rooms without cutting power.



    Concerning off topic, Sweden has the same population and GDP as the state of Georgia, for your reference. When the people is corrupt, it doesn’t matter what is written on any papers. Liberia has pretty much the same constitution as the US. It was the people of America which made the US great.

    When Gorbachev discussed how to reform Soviet economy with perestroika, his top economic adviser always nagged about following the Swedish example. Finally Gorbachev lost his temper and asked: “How? Where are all the Swedes?” I cannot understand why Sweden has so high GDP per capita, in spite of huge bureaucracy, world’s highest taxes, 5-7 weeks vacation, large scale deindustrialization, collapsing school results and no culture of doing shrewd business or working too hard. Maybe just because Swedes in general spontaneously individually take responsibility for making things work in the small scale, whatever they work with.

    Yuri Maltsev, the last defector from the Soviet Union, is an entertaining speaker and he gives great everyday economic insight in how the cold war ended:

    “- The only thing people dared talk about, from what was written in Pravda, was the weather. Here in the US, I cannot even talk about the weather now because it is the most politicized topic of all!”

  • Edward

    Nice documentary snippet. That snippet mentions the previous manual docking test, which also went wrong. The collision is the only “major failure” during a docking attempt, but the previous test was a minor failure, coming frighteningly close to a collision. Several Soviet/Russian manned spacecraft also failed to correctly dock, which would also be minor failures, although sometimes subsequent failed attempts at docking, during the same mission, ended with running too low on fuel before a successful docking was made, resulting in cancelled missions and reentry of the failed spacecraft. Other times, second or third attempts to dock were successful, resulting in continuation of the mission as though there had been no docking problem.

    The only docking problem that I recall in the US space program was not so much a docking as it was a failure of the Space Shuttle’s arm to successfully grapple a satellite. This was due to incorrect drawings of the grappling point on the satellite; apparently the documents did not correctly document the satellite’s as-built configuration.

    As for the “umbillical” pass-throughs, on the ISS they do not require wires, tubing, or other items to block the hatches between the modules, except for the Russian modules. It seems that NASA learned from the MIR incident, but the early Russian modules were already under construction and nearing completion, when the MIR collision happened (some of the Russian modules had originally been intended to dock with MIR or to be used on a replacement Russian space station). Notice, in this tour of ISS, that most of the hatches between modules are free of anything that would delay the closing of the hatches, but the Russian modules seem to have something that looks like quick-disconnects on the feed-through hoses at the hatches between modules (but not at the Soyuz spacecraft hatches): (1/2 hour)

    I expect that once the commercial crew missions begin, crew rotations and science experiments will increase for the better.

  • Localfluff

    I now see that the IDA docking adapter does allow for communication and electric power to be transferred. The funniest thing with that MIR docking disaster is that they deliberately shut the radar off! Maybe they thought: “It’s just a test anyway”.

    Look, I managed to make a completely on topic post in this thread! If I hadn’t mentioned Sweden’s stupid stupid king who at the Olympics in Rio, when the ladies soccer team qualified to the final, the greatest accomplishment is Swedish sports history!!!, said on a press conference that he doesn’t like soccer. That some of the girls haven’t done very well. That they got there just by luck and don’t have a chance to win. Besides, he said, the queen was cheering for Brazil in the semi final and for Germany in the final.

    Imagine your president saying that!
    The queen’s father was a nazi who escaped from Germany to Brazil after the factory he stole from some expelled jew, and converted it to an arms factory, had been bombed and he risked trial as the war ended. I say, the king of Sweden can stay at home in Brazil together with his chosen nazi relatives. Disgusting stupid guy. He’s got the easiest job in the world, to cheer for Swedish national symbols, but he can’t even do that.

  • Edward

    You wrote: “The funniest thing with that MIR docking disaster is that they deliberately shut the radar off! Maybe they thought: ‘It’s just a test anyway’.”

    A brief sentence at the in the documentary video explained that they turned off the radar because they thought that it was interfering with the video ( ). They thought that distance and speed measurements made by the other cosmonaut from a window could be sufficient for a successful docking, but the other cosmonaut had serious difficulty in finding the Progress spacecraft from any window in order to make the needed measurements.

    Approaches to the ISS are done very differently. Approaching craft pull up underneath of the space station (Earth side) and perform a maneuver called “R-Bar.” “R” means radius from Earth’s center of gravity, and Bar means “Change” in some engineering and mathematical circles. Thus, the docking/berthing maneuver approaches slowly from below the ISS.

    When I took my Orbital Mechanics class, we learned that rendezvous maneuvers matched orbits directly, and that the Russians approached fast but the Americans approached more slowly — or more accurately, less quickly. Either way, to match orbits for final approach, the spacecraft would have to fire thrusters in the direction of the target vehicle. By using the slow R-Bar maneuver,

    1) the danger of collision is greatly reduced, because the (fast) approach is aimed several meters away from the target, thus if anything goes wrong the approaching craft is almost certain to miss the ISS, and
    2) less propellant impinges the ISS, leaving less contamination and less damage (hydrazine can be corrosive) on surfaces, experiments and optical instruments, thermal blankets and other thermal surfaces, and solar arrays.

    Localfluff wrote: “Imagine your president saying that!”

    My president has said a lot worse, a little of it in 2009, while talking the IOC out of choosing Chicago for this year’s Olympic Games.

    Localfluff wrote: “Disgusting stupid guy. He’s got the easiest job in the world, to cheer for Swedish national symbols, but he can’t even do that.”

    Reminds me of the often used phrase: “You had one job to do!” (1/2 minute)

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