Tag Archives: NanoRacks

European satellite designed to test space junk removal released from ISS

Europe’s RemoveDEBRIS satellite was released from ISS yesterday in preparation for its testing a variety of technologies for removing and deorbiting space junk.

The article at the link does a terrible job trying to describe this mission. Better to return to a news story from 2016, when Europe first announced this project. The video from that story, embedded below the fold, does an excellent job detailing the four experiments, which are mostly aimed at testing technologies that could be added to satellites that would make either their capture or deorbit easier.

Maybe the most interesting aspect of this mission however is how it got into space. It was launched as part of a SpaceX Dragon cargo mission. It was deployed by NanoRacks, using its privately developed deployment system attached to Japan’s Kibo module.

Launch from ISS means that the satellite’s deployment and orbit were far more controllable than if it had been launched directly into space as a secondary payload during a rocket launch. NanoRacks is selling this approach commercially, and this satellite is the largest deployed by them to date.
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NanoRacks outlines its private space station plans

Capitalism in space: NanoRacks, which already makes money launching private payloads to ISS, has revealed its plans for building its own private space station using converted Atlas 5 upper stages.

This project was previously called Ixion, but they have dropped that name, and will now call the first station Independence-1.

They have a contract with NASA for the initial development, and hope to convince the agency to pay them to next build a full-size test prototype. The video at the link to me was exceedingly unconvincing however. It shows a robot beginning the process of refurbishing a used upper stage while in orbit, and simplifies the process to an almost ludicrous degree. While I surely believe it can be done, it will not be simple. The difficulties should not be dismissed.

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NanoRacks successfully deploys its largest commercial smallsat from ISS

Capitalism in space: NanoRacks today successfully deployed its largest commercial smallsat yet from ISS.

NanoRacks Kaber Deployment Program allows for a larger EXPRESS class of satellites to be deployed from the International Space Station, up to 100 kilograms. NanoRacks deploys these Kaber-class satellites currently through the Japanese Experiment Module Airlock, and will shift deployments to the NanoRacks Airlock Module when the Company’s commercial Airlock becomes operational (planned for 2019).

The key here is that NanoRacks is making money providing launch services to smallsats in partnership with ISS and others. They act as the go-between between the smallsat companies and the NASA bureaucracy, thus earning money by simplifying NASA’s generally Byzantine approval and launch process for private satellite companies.

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NanoRacks and Moon Express team up for lunar missions

Capitalism in space: The private space company Moon Express has signed an agreement with NanoRacks to help manage its planned lunar commercial missions.

Under the agreement, NanoRacks, a company best known for transporting satellites and other payloads to the International Space Station, will handle sales, marketing and technical support for payloads that will fly on Moon Express’ series of lunar lander missions, starting in early 2018. “The primary goal of our alliance with NanoRacks is to ensure a great customer experience,” said Bob Richards, founder and chief executive of Moon Express, in a statement. “Our companies share a culture of customer focus, and together we will be able to provide end to end support from payload concept to mission operations.”

NanoRacks does similar work for researchers and cubesat manufacturers who want access to ISS. They act as the go-between, bundling the different projects and arranging them with NASA.

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Private company to build its own ISS airlock

Capitalism in space: The private company NanoRacks has raised the funds necessary to build its own ISS airlock and install it in 2019.

“The reason we want our own airlock is this airlock is going to be five times bigger than the current airlock, and it’s going to be far more commercial,” Manber said in a Sept. 27 presentation at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia. In addition to satellite deployments and experiments, he said the module will be commercial “real estate” on the station, with the ability to mount payloads on its exterior. “It’s getting us more into the real estate business and space station operations,” he said.

Manber said the module was on track to launch in 2019, carried to the station in the trunk of a SpaceX Dragon cargo resupply spacecraft. A formal manifesting of the payload on a resupply flight is now being finalized, he said, while the airlock itself is being manufactured.

What this suggests to me is that ISS might not go away in 2024, but instead slowly shift to private ownership and operation, all for profit. This deal appears to lay the groundwork for this shift.

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NanoRacks and Boeing to build private airlock on ISS

The competition heats up: NASA has signed an agreement with NanoRacks and Boeing to build private commercial airlock to attach to ISS in 2019 and be used for commercial operations.

Commercial opportunities through Airlock begin with cubesat and small satellite deployment from station and include a full range of additional services to meet customer needs from NASA and the growing commercial sector. Currently, cubesats and small satellites are deployed through the government-operated Japanese Kibo Airlock. Additionally, the crew on board may now assemble payloads typically flown in soft-stowage ISS Cargo Transfer Bags into larger items that currently cannot be handled by the existing Kibo Airlock. “We are very pleased to have Boeing joining with us to develop the Airlock Module,” says NanoRacks CEO Jeffrey Manber. “This is a huge step for NASA and the U.S. space program, to leverage the commercial marketplace for low-Earth orbit, on Space Station and beyond, and NanoRacks is proud to be taking the lead in this prestigious venture.”

Beyond station, the Airlock could at some future time, be detached and placed onto another on-orbit platform.

This is part of the overall transition at NASA from government-built and -run to privately-built and -run.

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Private company proposes commercial airlock for ISS

The competion heats up: The private company NanoRacks has proposed building a large airlock for ISS which could be used to launch private cubesates while also allowing NASA to eliminate spacewalks by bringing faulty equipment inside for repairs.

For commercial opportunities, NanoRacks has a small satellite launcher, and it is also designing a “haybale” system to launch as many as 192 cubesats at a time. After the airlock is configured, it would be depressurized and sealed. Then a station robotic arm could grab it, move it away from the vehicle, and deploy its payloads.

NASA is also interested in the opportunity to potentially fix large, external components of the space station. Before the space shuttle’s retirement, NASA used the sizable delivery vehicle to stash dozens of replacement pumps, storage tanks, controller boxes, batteries, and other equipment on the station, known as ORUs. When one of these components broke, astronauts would conduct a spacewalk to install a replacement unit.

However sometimes the problem with a broken unit is relatively minor, such as a problematic circuit card. With a larger airlock, damaged components could be brought inside the station, assessed, and possibly fixed, saving NASA the expense of building and delivering a new unit to the station—or losing a valuable spare. Finally, the space agency could use the airlock to dispose of trash that accumulates on station and can be difficult to get rid of.

It is exactly this kind of technology, spurred by the lure of profits, that interplanetary spaceships need if they are going to be maintainable far from home.

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Bad training of the astronauts led to the failure of the student experiments recently on ISS.

Bad training of the ISS astronauts by the company supplying the experiments was the reason the student experiments were never turned on.

“Previous crews were given on the ground review and personal interaction prior to launch,” Manber said. “For this mission, the astronaut received hardware training solely via video while on the space station. Clearly, there was a miscommunication resulting from the video instruction.”

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ISS to finally get an experimental centrifuge

At last! The ISS is to finally going to get an experimental centrifuge.

I have studied at length all the research done on all the space station ever launched, from Skylab, all the Russian Salyut stations, Mir, and now ISS, and from I could tell, only once was a centrifuge experiment put in space, by the Russians. Though the centrifuge was small and the results inconclusive, they suggested that even the addition of a truly miniscule amount of force could significantly mitigate the effects of weightlessness on plants and materials.

To finally get an experimental centrifuge on ISS is wonderful news. In order to build an interplanetary spaceship as cheaply and as efficiently as possible using centrifugal force to create artificial gravity we need to know the minimum amount of centrifugal force we need. Less energy will probably require less complex engineering, which should also require less launch weight to orbit, lowering the cost in all ways.

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