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Dragon freighter docks with ISS

ISS as of November 28, 2022

Capitalism in space: An unmanned Dragon freighter successfully docked with ISS yesterday, bring with it 7,700 pounds of cargo, including two new solar arrays for the station.

Two International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Arrays, or iROSAs, launched aboard SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply mission for the agency and were installed in 2021. These solar panels, which roll out using stored kinetic energy, expand the energy-production capabilities of the space station. The second set launching in the Dragon’s trunk once installed, will be a part of the overall plan to provide a 20% to 30% increase in power for space station research and operations.

These arrays, the second of three packages, will complete the upgrade of half the station’s power channels.

The graphic to the right shows the station as of today, with six different spacecraft docked to six different ports. No wonder there is a significant limit to the number of private missions that can fly to ISS. The needs of the station, as dictated by the international partnership of governments that run it, too often fill those ports.

This limitation will begin changing when Axiom launches its first module for ISS in about two years, followed soon thereafter by the launch of a number of other private independent stations by different American companies.

Genesis cover

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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  • Steve White

    Apparently the ISS will be deorbited in ~2030 ( Apparently it needs to be reboosted frequently due to atmospheric drag; it’s way too much mass to move to a significantly higher orbit, and if you did that anyway missions to the ISS would become much more expensive. Why would Axiom (or anyone else) design and launch a module for ISS when the station has a remaining lifespan of 7 years?

  • Steve White: You should do a search on this website for “Axiom.” Axiom’s module will be attached to ISS only temporarily. Their plan is to add to it until it can function independently, and then detach it to create their own independent station. ISS than can go the way of all buggy whips as private enterprise takes over.

  • pzatchok

    I would give it a final boost into a higher orbit and use it for parts.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Possible line of business evolution for SpaceX.
    For $100 million you get:
    (1) SSLS (Single Launch Space Station) based on Starship, with no heat shield or fins, but front air lock, solar cells and radiators allowing barbecue roll operation. Delivered to LEO. Minimal interior.
    (2) Dragon capsules
    (2) F9 boosters
    (4) F9 second stages, with options for more

    Knock yerself out!

  • Andi

    “Stored kinetic energy”? Unless that’s something mechanical like a spinning flywheel, wouldn’t that be “potential energy”?

  • Kyle

    Its kind of ironic that our ports are even backed up in space.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Interesting question, Andi. I have always heard of potential energy as being related to a position with respect to a gravitational field, but it could be with respect to a position, say of the free end of a coiled spring with respect to the end of the uncoiled spring. So you may be correct, if some form of a spring is the deployment mechanism.

  • Andi

    Hi Ray,

    The article linked to by the linked article reveals that “Instead of a rigid solar panel, ROSA was crafted from a composite carbon fiber containing an array of solar cells that can be deployed and retracted similar to a tape measure, using stored strain energy of the material.”

    So it is potential energy after all, stored in the spring tension of the “tape measure”

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