Russian astronaut: ISS crack could be result of Zvezda module’s age

A Russian astronaut just returned from ISS admitted during a press conference that the recently located crack on the 20-year-old Zvezda module that was the source of the long-term slow leak could be the result of the module’s age.

“Twenty years are actually an absolute record for all space stations now. And we see now that something is changing and something requires greater [attention]. Again, if we go back to the leak, the hull is already beginning to give cracks and scratches somewhere, that is, we see the limits [of the ISS structure’s service life],” [cosmonaut Ivan Vagner] said.

The crack has been sealed temporarily, with a more permanent seal put in place after the nearby docking port is cleared and the hatches closed and out of the way.

If Russian astronauts are noticing wear and tear in Zvezda that is bad enough to cause “cracks”, this raises some very serious issues for ISS’s future, as replacing that module on ISS will be complicated and expensive, and at this point no one has even begun planning such an replacement.

ISS crew returns safely to Earth in Soyuz

After a six month mission on ISS, three astronauts have safely landed on Earth in their Soyuz capsule.

Cassidy, Ivanishin and Vagner spent 196 days in orbit, having arrived at the station on April 9. They left behind NASA’s Kate Rubins and Roscosmos’ Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, who arrived at the orbiting outpost a week ago for a six-month stay.

Cassidy, returning from his third space mission, has now spent a total of 378 days in space, the fifth highest among U.S. astronauts.

While serving as the station’s commander, Cassidy welcomed SpaceX Demo-2 crew Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, the first NASA astronauts to launch to the space station on an American spacecraft from American soil since the retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2011.

Cassidy and Behnken completed four spacewalks for a total of 23 hours and 37 minutes, becoming two of only four U.S. astronauts to complete 10 spacewalks.

The three astronauts still on board ISS now await the arrival of four astronauts on SpaceX’s Resilience capsule, scheduled for launch in early to mid-November. This will rise the crew on ISS to seven, which I think is the highest since the retirement of the shuttle in 2011.

Leak on ISS still leaking even after being temporarily sealed with tape

Even though Russian astronauts have now patched with Kapton tape the 1-inch crack where they thought the leak in the Zvezda module on ISS was located, the loss of air has continued, and even increased.

The pressure in the Zvezda module of the International Space Station (ISS) keeps lowering, although the fissure was patched with Kapton tape, and even faster than before the fix, the crew told the ground control on Tuesday, as broadcast by NASA.

They are going to add more tape to the patch and see if this seals the leak.

Meanwhile, there has been little discussion about the nature of this 1-inch crack. Was it caused by a micrometeorite, or is it a stress fracture? And where exactly is it, and does that location help explain it?

Inquiring minds need to know!

Russian astronauts repair oxygen regeneration unit

Russian astronauts on ISS have successfully repaired the oxygen regeneration unit on the Zvezda module.

From the TASS article was this additional information:

The Elektron-VM oxygen supply system developed by Russia’s Research and Design Institute of Chemical Machine-Building (NIIChimMash) has been operational aboard the space station since its creation. The system can generate from 25 to 160 liters of oxygen per hour and additionally from 50 to 320 liters of hydrogen per hour. In April 2010, it took the ISS crew several days to fix the broken system.

No word yet on any new information on the “fracture” that is causing the slow leak.

Leak on ISS traced to “fracture”

Not good news: According the Russian news source TASS, Russian astronauts have pinpointed the location of the slow leak on ISS to ” a fracture in the intersection compartment of the Russian Zvezda module.”

The astronaut also called it a “scratch,” which means the fracture is not yet confirmed. They will do more testing to find out if this is the leak source in the coming days.

If it is a fracture, the ramifications could be very serious. It appears the “intersection compartment” is the area where the aft docking port is located, which is also the area where many Progress freighters have docked in the twenty years since Zvezda was launched. Thus, this could be a stress fracture that can only get bigger with time. Its location might also preclude further dockings at this port, limiting arrivals of future Progress cargo ships.

Fun fact: They pinpointed this location using a floating tea bag.

The tea bag’s sway in zero gravity conditions towards the air leak overboard the space station was registered by cameras, the cosmonaut said. “We believe that we have really identified the probable leakage area. We have distributed a tea bag [in the Zvezda module] before closing the transfer chamber,” Ivanishin said.

The tea bag’s movement was recorded, the Russian cosmonaut said.

Threatened collision between two big pieces of space junk does not happen

Follow-up observations of the two big pieces of space junk, a Soviet-era defunct satellite and a Chinese upper stage, that had a high chance of colliding yesterday has confirmed that no collision occurred.

Shortly after the time of probable collision, the CZ-4C stage passed over the Kiwi Space radar tracking station in New Zealand. According to LeoLabs, “Shortly after [time of probable collision], we will have a direct pass of CZ-4C R/B over our Kiwi Space Radar in New Zealand. We have scheduled a search mode scan during this time to ensure we only see two objects as expected and hopefully confirm that no new debris is detected.”

This is exactly what happened, with the only observed object being the single CZ-4C stage — indicating no collision had occurred.

It is fortunate nothing happened. Though the collision point was about 360 miles higher than the orbit of ISS, the debris from a collision would have been flung in all directions, some of which might have crossed the space station’s path.

Russia oxygen regeneration system on ISS fails

Russian new sources today reported that their oxygen regeneration system on the ISS module Zvezda has failed.

A Russian cosmonaut told a specialist from the Mission Control Centre in the Moscow Region that the Electron-VM OGS installed in the Russian Zvezda module had failed.

Essentially this information was overheard by Russian sources during communications between mission control and the Russians on-board ISS.

Whether this failure is related to the rise in temperature this week in Zvezda is unknown. Also, the failed unit itself might be one that came with the station when it was launched 20 years ago, or it might be an upgraded unit launched later.

This unit is designed to recycle oxygen on board so as to reduce the need to haul up new supplies. Its failure poses no immediate threat to the station or its crew, since there is plenty of oxygen store on board and the U.S. has its own regeneration unit. However, if it isn’t repairable and can’t be replaced quickly it likely means future cargo manifests will require larger stocks of oxygen. It also might mean a reduction in total crew on ISS, which only now is returning to more than three for long periods because of the initiation of American private ferrying serves.

Meanwhile the location of the leak on Zvezda remains unknown. It needs to be pinpointed and hopefully solved, because if it is a more serious age issue ISS managers need to know.

NASA charging Estee Lauder $17,500 per hour for filming its perfume on ISS

Capitalism in space: It now appears that NASA is charging Estee Lauder $17,500 per hour for filming the perfume that was just brought to ISS on the most recent Cygnus freighter.

The cosmetics giant will pay $17,500 per hour for the astronauts to take photos of their serum in space. Coincidentally — or not — the Space Station orbits the earth at 17,500 miles per hour.

The International Space Station is an orbiting laboratory for scientific research, but it’s the photo ops and viral videos that capture the public’s imagination.

Estée Lauder will get video and photos of their out-of-this-world product in the most photographed spot on the space station — the Cupola. The photos are not to be used in print or television advertising, but instead on social media, according to NASA. The astronauts won’t be using the product or be featured in the pictures.

The article also notes that NASA is dedicating 5% of astronaut time to commercial activities. Sooner or later I think NASA is also going to have to start paying their astronauts for this work. They deserve their share of the proceeds.

Zvezda both leaking and heating up

A Russian news source today reported that the temperature in the ISS module Zvezda has been increasing even as air has been leaking slowly from it.

The article provides little additional detail, other than saying that “normal temperature should be restored” by today.

Why the module should be warming as it slowly leaks air is puzzling. Either way, as this is a module that has been in space for twenty years and is also a key component in the station’s operations, locating the leak is crucial. It might simply be caused by a micrometeorite hit, which can be easily patched. Or it could be caused by something more fundamental, caused by the module’s age, and thus more difficult, possibly even impossible, to fix. If so, the sooner engineers know the better.

Next manned Dragon launch delayed

Because of an engine issue that caused Falcon 9 launch of a military GPS satellite to abort at T-2 seconds on October 2nd, SpaceX and NASA have decided to delay the next manned Dragon launch from October 31st “to early-to-mid November.”

The one to two week delay will give the company time to analyze the issue involving an “unexpected pressure rise in the turbomachinery gas generator” that are used to drive the rocket’s Merlin engine turbopumps.

It seems unlikely that this problem is systemic to all Merlin engines, considering the number of rocket launches SpaceX has successfully completed in the last four years. Each launch has used ten engines, with no evidence of this problem appearing previously.

At the same time, no one wants a problem on a manned flight. Better to completely understand why it happened on the GPS launch first before launching four astronauts on the rocket.

Cygnus freighter arrives at ISS

Capitalism in space: Northrop Grumann’s Cygnus freighter yesterday arrived at ISS, bringing with it four tons of supplies plus a new toilet.

The unpiloted cargo ship was loaded with four tons of supplies and equipment, including crew food and clothing, experiment hardware and material, the virtual reality camera, the new toilet and even samples of Estée Lauder skin cream that will be used in a commercial photo shoot for the company’s social media platforms.

The $23 million toilet, or “universal waste management system,” is smaller and more sophisticated than the station’s current potty and includes modifications to make it easier for female astronauts to use.

Next up for ISS are two manned missions later this month, first a Soyuz bringing a crew of three, followed by the second SpaceX Dragon manned mission, bringing a crew of four. In between the present crew of three will return to Earth.

Leak search on ISS narrows further

Further work on ISS by the astronauts has now narrowed the location of the station’s long-term slow leak to the aft area of the Russian Zvezda module.

As of Monday, the station crew had not located the precise site of the leak, but officials believe they have traced it to a transfer compartment at the rear section of the Zvezda module, near an aft docking port where a Russian Progress resupply freighter is attached.

The rate of leak continues to be slow and thus not any danger to the crew. It is also a concern, as it could become a safety issue should it increase. They want to find it and patch it. Furthermore, Zvezda is ISS’s second oldest module, launched in 2000. If this leak is a sign of that age is even more essential to know.

Crew for next Dragon manned flight name capsule “Resilience”

Capitalism in space: The crew for next Dragon manned flight, scheduled now for October 31st, have given the capsule the name “Resilience.”

Before arriving at Resilience, Hopkins and his crewmates filled a whiteboard with a long list of “good ideas” for their spacecraft’s name and then narrowed down their choices, he said.

“We wanted to make sure that the name fit,” Hopkins said in an interview with collectSPACE, following Tuesday’s press conference. “We got it down to two or three names and they were all very close in terms of that we liked them and could have been really happy with them, [but] at the end of the day, it was the one that just felt right.”

The crew of the first Dragon manned capsule named it Endeavour, to honor the shuttle spacecraft they had both flown in. The names of these capsules is not merely symbolic. Both capsules will be reused, like the shuttles, and thus deserve names to mark them when they fly again.

What is not clear yet is exactly how many capsules SpaceX will build, nor exactly how many times each capsule will be reused. The latter will of course help determine the former. It will take a few years and multiple flights to find out. Eventually however SpaceX will have its own fleet of manned spaceships, available not only to NASA but to private customers.

Changes in engineering and procedures for next manned Dragon flight

SpaceX is making several engineering and operational changes involving flights of its manned Dragon capsule, based on the company’s experience during the first manned flight several months ago.

First, they are reinforcing the heat shield in one area.

After a successful test flight that ended when NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico on Aug. 2, the company noticed “a little more erosion than we wanted to see” in a few areas of the capsule’s heat shield, Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX’s vice president of build and flight reliability, said during a press call this week. He said there “was nothing to be concerned with at all times. The astronauts were safe, and the vehicle was working perfectly.”

Second, they are revising the software used to determine the altitude when the capsule’s drogue parachute is released.

Koenigsmann said the company is refining how it measures the capsule’s altitude as it returns to Earth. During the August test flight, the drogue parachutes deployed at a slightly lower altitude than the company expected, but still well within safety parameters, he said.

Finally, they are going to more strictly enforce a 10-mile “keep-out zone” in the ocean where the capsule splashes down. They do not want to see another crowd of recreational boats swarming the landing zone, as happened when the capsule returned to Earth in August.

Leak on ISS located?

According to Business Insider article , engineers have finally narrowed the location of the slow leak on ISS to the Russian Zvezda module.

NASA and Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, had already narrowed down the likely location of the leak to several modules on the station’s Russian side.

So astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner tested those modules by shutting the hatches between each one and using an ultrasonic leak detector to collect data through the night. The tool measures noise caused by airflow too quiet for humans to hear.

By Tuesday morning, they’d figured out that the leak is in the Zvezda Service Module, the main module on the station’s Russian side. Zvezda provides that half of the station with oxygen and drinkable water, and it’s also equipped with a machine that scrubs carbon dioxide from the air. The module contains the section’s sleeping quarters, dining room, refrigerator, freezer, and bathroom.

They don’t yet know where in the module the leak is located, but at least they know at last where to look.

This module was the second module launched to ISS, launching in 2000. Thus, the leak could not have come from any construction workers from the ground. More likely its age has resulted in something changing. This needs to be fixed, but at the moment the situation is not critical.

NASA & SpaceX set Oct 31st for next manned Dragon mission

Capitalism in space: NASA and SpaceX have now scheduled Oct 31st as the target launch date for the first operational manned Dragon mission to ISS, the second manned Dragon mission overall.

This new date delays the launch a week from the previous announced schedule, and was done to give some space between its launch and the launch of a manned Soyuz on October 14th and the return of a different Soyuz with the present ISS crew on October 21st.

ISS air leak still unlocated

The small air leak that was found on ISS a year ago has still not been located, despite a second weekend where the crew isolated themselves in one module and closed the hatches on all other modules so that ground engineers could track any air supply changes.

At a Sept. 28 briefing about the upcoming Northrop Grumman NG-14 Cygnus cargo mission to the station, a NASA official said that the weekend isolation in the Zvezda module failed to immediately locate the source of the leak. “As of this morning, there was no clear indication of where the leak is,” said Greg Dorth, manager of the ISS Program External Integration Office at NASA. “The teams are still looking at the data and evaluating it.”

This was the second time the ISS crew confined themselves to Zvezda in an effort to track down the leak. A month earlier, the three also spent a weekend in Zvezda with the other modules sealed off in an effort to locate the leak. “After the three days, there was no indication of where the leak was coming from,” Dorth said.

This latest test, he said, featured some “slightly different configurations” in both the U.S. and Russian segments, although he did not elaborate on the differences between the two tests. In addition, Cassidy used an ultrasonic leak detector to see if the leak was coming from Zvezda itself.

These tests were possible since mid-August because there were only three people on station, allowing them to be confined to one module for a period of time. Moreover, during this time no other spacecraft have arrived or left. It is suspected that the leak is most likely coming from the connection point between two modules, and adding or removing a Soyuz, Dragon, or freighter to the station shifts its center of gravity, changing the stress points at those connections.

Leak hunt continues on ISS

Two stories today indicate that the search for the elusive source of the slow leak on ISS is continuing.

The problem is that the two stories appear to have no overlap, making it hard to figure out what is planned and why.

The first story describes how engineers, based on the first isolation test, now think the leak must be coming from one of two modules:

…the ones the crew didn’t test because they were inside them while monitoring the rest of the station. One is the Zvezda Service Module, which provides life support for the station’s Russian side. The other is the Poisk Mini-Research Module 2, which serves as a port for docking spaceships and a place where crew members prepare for spacewalks.

The second story, from the Russian press, does not mention this detail. All it says is that the astronauts are going to once again isolate themselves in “the Russian segment” so the rest of the station can be tested for leaks. Since the two modules in question are both in that Russian segment, it is unclear where the astronauts will be isolated, especially since Zvezda is also where the Soyuz descent capsule is docked and if sealed from astronaut access it also seals them from their lifeboat.

It could be that the plan is to do another test of the American side of the station, then do these two Russian modules after the arrival of the next manned Dragon mission in a little less than a month. Dragon can then replace Soyuz as a lifeboat, allowing a test of Zvezda.

Regardless, the leak is a slow one, and is not yet life-threatening. That the leak rate has recently increased however requires action to find and fix it.

Axiom, SpaceX, and NASA finalizing first wholly private manned mission

Capitalism in space: Axiom, SpaceX, and NASA are close to finalizing the deal for the first wholly private manned mission to ISS, tentatively set for October 2021.

One of the topics Axiom is negotiating with NASA involves how much insight the space agency will have into the private astronaut mission. While the Axiom missions will be managed by commercial companies, the AX-1 flight will fly with a reusable Crew Dragon spacecraft that will carry NASA astronauts on other missions. “There’s a certain amount of insight (NASA) would like on our flight, on a commercial flight,” [Axiom official] Suffredini said Friday. “So that is one aspect of that process. We’re using a vehicle that is going to be re-flown, and NASA will certify the re-flights because they want to do re-flights.”

Axiom and SpaceX will also have to confirm a schedule with NASA for the AX-1 mission to dock with the space station. The orbiting research complex has a busy schedule of arriving and departing crew and cargo vehicles, and managers also have slot in spacecraft dockings amid spacewalks, experiments, and other critical operations.

NASA also oversees safety of the space station with the program’s international partners.

The private companies however will in the end be responsible for the flight.

There have been rumors that the passengers on this flight will be Tom Cruise and his film director, though this is not confirmed. Also, these same arrangements will be used for the tentative 2023 private flight of the winner of a proposed reality television show dubbed Space Hero.

UAE to train astronauts at NASA

The United Arab Emirates has signed an agreement with NASA to train its two future astronauts to ISS.

UAE astronauts Hazzaa AlMansoori and Sultan AlNeyadi have already begun their training at Nasa’s Johnson Space Center in Houston starting Monday, Salem AlMarri, head of the UAE Astronaut Programme, at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), said during a media briefing. AlMansoori and AlNeyadi had earlier trained at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Moscow, in September 2018 as part of their preparation for their launch to the ISS.

The two men will be launched to ISS by Russia using its Soyuz rocket and capsule. However, the UAE is smart to get them training in the U.S., as they need to work with U.S. mission control and U.S. systems on ISS. Moreover, I expect the UAE might wish to buy tickets eventually on either Dragon or Starliner, and this training lays the groundwork for that possibility.

Reality show to fly contestant to ISS

Capitalism in space: A new reality show, dubbed Space Hero, will have audiences watch contestants compete to be a passenger on a private capsule, likely SpaceX’s Dragon, and fly to ISS for ten days.

The selected group of contestants will undergo extensive training and face challenges testing their physical, mental and emotional strength, qualities that are essential for an astronaut in space. I hear the idea is for the culmination of the competition to be in a an episode broadcast live around the world where viewers from different countries can vote for the contestant they want to see going to space. The show will then chronicle the winner’s takeoff; their stay at the ISS for 10 days alongside professional astronauts traveling at 17,000 mph, orbiting the Earth 16 times a day; and end with their return to Earth. The Space Hero company is currently in discussions with NASA for a potential partnership on STEM initiatives onboard the ISS.

The trip of the Space Hero winner is expected be on a SpaceX Dragon rocket though a launch provider is yet to be officially selected. Space Hero, billed as the first space media company, is working with Axiom Space, manufacturer of the world’s first privately funded commercial space station — a module for the ISS where the private astronauts can stay — and full-service human spaceflight mission provider.

The project seems more viable and realistic than previous such attempts, aided by the fact that tickets can now be purchased on a private and operational manned capsule.

NASA/Boeing set summer ’21 for first manned Starliner mission

Capitalism in space: NASA and Boeing have tentatively scheduled the launch of the first manned Starliner mission to ISS for the summer of 2021.

Boeing Co said on Tuesday it aims to redo its unmanned Starliner crew capsule flight test to the International Space Station (ISS) in December or January, depending on when it completes software and test hardware production development.

If the test mission is successful, Boeing and NASA will fly Starliner’s first crewed mission in summer 2021, with a post-certification mission roughly scheduled for the following winter, the company added.

Everything of course depends on the success of the unmanned demo flight. If the capsule has any further problems, as it did on its first unmanned demo flight, the manned flight will likely be delayed again.

Tests this weekend to pinpoint slow leak on ISS

The astronauts this weekend will shut all the hatches between different modules on ISS so that ground controllers can try to pinpoint the location of a long term slow air leak.

This leak was first spotted in September 2019, when there were “indications of a slight increase above the standard air leak rate,” NASA said in the statement. “Because of routine station operations like spacewalks and spacecraft arrivals and departures, it took time to gather enough data to characterize those measurements. That rate has slightly increased, so the teams are working a plan to isolate, identify and potentially repair the source.”

While the leak rate is higher than usual, it is still within specifications for the station and poses no immediate danger to the crew, NASA officials emphasized. Astronauts also deal with leak simulations during training for their stays on the space station, which typically are about six months long.

The weekend test will allow them to identify where the leak is located. They will then be better able to find it, and mitigate it.

Nauka finally arrives at launch site, thirteen years late

Russia’s Nauka module for ISS has finally arrived at its launch site at Baikonur, Kazakhstan, to be prepared for its launch, now scheduled for April 2021.

After its arrival and fitting-out, Nauka will become the primary laboratory module on the Russian segment. Currently, Russia has two small laboratory modules – Rassvet and Poisk – both of which will be dwarfed by Nauka. Additionally, Nauka will take the title of the heaviest Russian module on the Station, at 24.2 tons. Zvezda currently holds this honor, at 20.3 tons.

The module is thirteen years later than first planned and has been under construction for more than a quarter century.

NASA targets October 23rd for next manned Dragon flight

Capitalism in space: NASA and SpaceX yesterday announced that they have now set October 23rd as the earliest launch date for next manned Dragon flight.

The mission will carry Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover, and mission specialist Shannon Walker, all of NASA, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission specialist Soichi Noguchi for a six-month science mission aboard the orbiting laboratory following launch from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

They had previously said they were aiming for a late September launch, but this extra delay allows them to better coordinate with other traffic to and from ISS, while also giving them an extra month to review the data from the first manned flight, just completed.

Endeavour at Cape, being prepped for next flight

Capitalism in space: Endeavour, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule that was the first to fly two astronauts to ISS, has now arrived at the company’s facility at Cape Canaveral, where it will be inspected, refurbished, and prepped for its next manned flight in the the spring of 2021.

SpaceX teams at Cape Canaveral will remove the exterior panels from the Crew Dragon spacecraft, and begin inspections to assess how the spacecraft weathered its 64-day space mission, according to Benji Reed, SpaceX’s director of crew mission management. “We want to make sure that we kind of dig deep and understand everything that’s gone on with this vehicle, make sure we’re really ready to go, and then do some of the aspects of the refurbishment,” Reed said. “There are some things that we will replace, some things that are standardly replaced, some things that we want to upgrade based on lessons learned, or that were already planned in work.”

SpaceX will still need to build a new trunk for each Crew Dragon mission. The trunk is an unpressurized module mounted to the rear of the Crew Dragon capsule, providing electrical power with solar arrays, and radiators to maintain steady temperatures inside the spaceship.

I guarantee the company will use what it learns in this inspection to improve later Dragon manned capsules. Right now they plan on from 5 to 10 flights per capsule. Since their contract right now only calls for six flights, that likely means the company only needs to build at most three to cover this NASA contract. However, NASA is certain to extend that contract, since six flights will only cover about two to three years, and ISS will be manned longer than that. Moreover, SpaceX has at least two tourist flights booked, so that calls for additional capsules as well.

Either way, we must shift our thinking. These might only be Dragon capsules, but they each get a name because each will fly more than once. It is thus appropriate to use that name instead of just calling them Dragon.

Russia to ship Nauka to Baikonur launch site August 10

Russia now plans to ship its Nauka ISS module to Baikonur on August 10th, three days later than previously planned, where it will begin the final nine months of preparations for launch.

“The stage of electrical tests takes about six months together with preparations because there is a large number of systems. Scheduled operational measures take another three months from this moment to the launch. This involves direct preparations for the launch together with the provision of microbiological protection, fueling and other operations,” he explained.

Nauka will provide the Russians a second toilet on ISS, plus produce oxygen and water (from urine) for six astronauts. It will also become the cabin for a third Russian-flown astronaut, either tourist or professional.

Nauka is a quarter century in the making, its construction having started in 1995. As a government-run project, that pace matches well with SLS, Orion, the James Webb Space Telescope, and many other big government projects not related to space. The goal isn’t to accomplish anything really but to create the justification for fake jobs that can last a lifetime.

Endeavour safely splashes down

Splashdown of Endeavour

Capitalism in space: SpaceX’s Endeavour Dragon capsule has successfully splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico, returning two humans back to Earth safely after completing the first two month long manned commercial space mission.

If you go to the live stream to watch recovery operations, note that the boats and ships and persons involved are all property and employees of SpaceX. This is entirely an operation of the private company. The government is not involved, other than NASA’s justified monitoring as SpaceX’s customer.

One cool tidbit for the future. Endeavour is scheduled to fly again, in the spring of 2021. On that flight will be Megan McArthur, the wife of astronaut Bob Behnken, and she will likely sit in the same place he did on his flight.

Russians sign deal to fly two tourists to ISS

Capitalism in space: Now that their Soyuz capsule is no longer required to fly NASA astronauts to ISS, the Russians have spare seats, and have now signed a deal with Space Adventures to fly two tourists to ISS in late 2021.

They will announce the tourist’s names later this year.

Space Adventures also has a deal with SpaceX to fly two tourists on a Dragon capsule on a week-plus long orbital mission (not docking with ISS). SpaceX also has a deal with the space station company Axiom to fly tourists to ISS. Next year could thus see two or three tourist flights to space.

Isn’t competition wonderful?

1 2 3 35