Tag Archives: spacewalk

Astronauts replace failed unit on ISS

In a quickly planned spacewalk yesterday two astronauts successfully replaced a battery charge/discharge unit (BCDU), the failure of which had cut power on ISS by one-third.

There were dozens of stories about this spacewalk in mainstream press, including a call by Trump to the astronauts during the spacewalk, but most said little about this failed unit and the need to get it quickly replaced. Instead, our leftist and somewhat bigoted media (along with Trump) as always focused on ethnic and identity above all else, making a big deal about the fact that the two astronauts happened to both be women, the first time two women had done a spacewalk as a team.

Their sex however appears to have had little to do with their choice. The unit had to be replaced by hand, and NASA decided to switch the male lead astronaut for this spacewalk, Andrew Morgan, because his experience in this work was not as great as his replacement, Christina Koch.

With the need to manually replace the BCDU, NASA re-evaluated US EVA-58 – which was originally the third spacewalk in the P6 battery replacement sequence. During this re-evaluation, NASA decided to change the astronauts assigned to the spacewalk by removing Dr. Andrew Morgan and replacing him with Christina Koch.

Koch is tied with Morgan as the most experienced US-segment spacewalker currently aboard the International Space Station – with three EVAs to each of their credit. However, all three of Koch’s EVAs have dealt with the Station’s power and electrical distribution systems, whereas only two of Dr. Morgan’s have done so.

Replacing Dr. Morgan with Koch exemplified NASA’s commitment to putting the most qualified astronaut on a spacewalk. Dr. Morgan’s replacement with Christina Koch subsequently paired her with Dr. Jessica Meir, who was already slated to perform U.S. EVA-58 under its original plan.

Another reason for removing Dr. Morgan from this EVA is that he is slated to perform five back-to-back spacewalks in November and December with European astronaut and current Station Commander Luca Parmitano to repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer experiment.

Far more important than the sex of these astronauts is the issue of the failure of the BDCU, which is not the first to fail since NASA began a series of five spacewalks (of which two have been completed) to replace the station’s batteries. Because of these BDCU failures, NASA has put on hold the remaining three spacewalks that had been scheduled to replace batteries on the station, because of a concern the new batteries might be causing the failure. Moreover, the station only has only two spare BDCU units, so more such failures will put the station’s entire power system at significant risk.

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Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space, dies

R.I.P. Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space, passed away today at the age of 85.

Leonov also participated in the Apollo-Soyuz mission, the first joint mission between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

The obituary notes Leonov’s sense of humor. I met Leonov in 2003 when I was in Moscow interviewing cosmonauts for my book Leaving Earth and found him to be a jovial, friendly, and open person.

He told me one story that I thought was significant. He noted the American practice in the 1960s to openly discuss everything that happened in its space effort worked to enhance our achievements, while the secrecy of the Russians only devalued anything they did. As he said,

The honesty of the American press made [those space achievements] more persuasive, more influential. Every little problem was written about in great detail, so that the image of the American astronauts grew, making them heroes. It was a much more clever approach. [Leaving Earth, p. 172]

Leonov for years would accompany astronauts on the bus on their way to the launchpad, providing encouragement. When Helen Sharman flew in space as a tourist in 1991 he gave her

…a ridiculous-looking, pink, frilly jumpsuit. “I got one of the ladies at the hotel to make it up for you,” Leonov said, his sweet round face lighting up in an infectious grin. “Just for fun.” [Leaving Earth, p. 301]

She wore it the first day in space, to the silly delight of everyone.

In the long endless future of humanity in space, only beginning now, Leonov will always hold an honored place.

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Astronauts recover towel left on outside of ISS ten years ago

During a spacewalk this week Russian astronauts recovered a towel that had been left on the outside of ISS during an earlier spacewalk ten years ago.

The towel was originally meant to clean astronauts’ spacesuits during their work in outer space. It was left by a Russian cosmonaut about a decade ago. Mr Kononenko and Mr Ovchinin removed the towel from the station’s surface and placed it in a special container. It will be sent back to Earth and delivered to a group of experts for further examination.

Though unplanned, this towel will provide some good data on the ability of microorganism to survive in space. It almost certainly had such things within it when it was taken outside a decade ago, and the question now will be whether they survived or not, and their condition in either case.

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Russian astronauts complete 8 hour spacewalk

Link here. Besides doing some basic maintenance work as well as literally tossing four cubesats into independent orbit, the most intriguing work was the installation of a German/Russian antenna designed to track animals.

Icarus is a collaborative environmental experiment between the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and Roscosmos to study the migratory patterns of small animals on Earth. It consists of an antenna and GPS hardware to track the movements of animals that have been tagged with small GPS receivers.

The experiment may provide data about how animals move from one location to another, how animal population density shifts over time, and how diseases spread.

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Spacewalkers successfully replace failed unit on ISS

In a a short spacewalk just under three hours two astronauts today successfully replaced the failed MDM data relay unit on the outside of ISS.

Some additional details about this unit:

The MDM that failed and an identical unit are part of the tier 2 command architecture and relay commands to a variety of critical station systems, including the station’s guidance, navigation and control system, the lab’s stabilizing gyros, the environmental control system, the station’s cooling system and others.

Both tier 2 computers were installed during spacewalks March 30 and March 24 respectively, replacing two older units with models featuring upgraded data processing cards. It is not yet known whether the problem with MDM-1 involved the upgraded components or some other circuitry or software

I suspect this upgraded but failed unit is going to be looked at very carefully.

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Emergency spacewalk on ISS to replace electronics relay box

Astronauts will perform an emergency spacewalk on May 23 to replace the failed MDM electronics relay box that failed on Saturday.

So, they have a spare on board, which is good. The article does note, however, that the unit that failed had only been installed less than two months ago, on March 30. This is not good. These units should last longer than two months, especially considering how critical they appear to be.

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Second spacewalk in ISS reconfiguration completed

On Wednesday astronauts successfully completed the second spacewalk in NASA’s long term reconfiguration of ISS to accomodate two privately-built commercial manned spacecraft.

The reconfiguration will continue on Sunday with the third EVA for this crew.

The spacewalk had one minor issue that could be a cause for concern for future American spacewalks: The suit of one of the astronauts had a small water leak within it. While this problem was minor and not a threat to the astronaut, it is reminiscent of the more serious spacesuit leak that occurred in 2013 that almost drowned an Italian astronaut. Finding the cause of that leak took almost a year to track down, and though solved even now raises concerns. To have another water leak inside a suit, even a minor one, suggests that the design of the American suit has a design flaw that they are having difficulty correcting.

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Spacewalk to begin the reconfiguration of ISS successful

Saturday’s first spacewalk in a yearlong project to reconfigure ISS so that it can accomodate two commercial cargo capsules and two commercial ferries, all at the same time, completed all tasks with no problems.

The article also provides a very clear explanation of the entire planned reconfiguration of ISS, including the reasons why these changes are necessary.

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Successful American spacewalk today on ISS

Two American astronauts today successfully completed the first American spacewalk this year on ISS.

The spacewalk, known as US EVA-27, was originally slated to occur in August, but was postponed due to concerns with the batteries in the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuits, which necessitated a delay while new Long Life Batteries (LLBs) were launched to the ISS aboard the recent CRS-4 Dragon and the Soyuz TMA-14M/40S on September 25, and subsequently installed into the suits.

The work done was mostly clean-up in preparation for a series of future spacewalks to reconfigure the American sections of ISS so that it can allow docking of two private manned capsules as well as two private cargo freighters.

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An investigation into the dangerous leak of water into a spacesuit during a spacesuit last July has found that NASA engineers had missed an earlier failure of the same suit.

An investigation into the dangerous leak of water into a spacesuit during a spacesuit last July has found that NASA engineers had missed an earlier failure of the same suit.

The leak had first happened in a spacewalk a week earlier, and engineers misdiagnosed the problem. In addition, it appears they didn’t look closely enough at it.

Meanwhile, the investigation has pinpointed the cause of the leak as a clogged filter, but still could not trace what caused that clog.

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R.I.P. astronaut Dale Gardner.

Dale Gardner spacewalking astronaut with for-sale sign

R.I.P. astronaut Dale Gardner.

Gardner was a astronaut during the early eighties during the heyday of the shuttle’s commercial satellite operation. He was part of the 1984 shuttle mission where he and Joe Allen each flew out to a stranded commercial satellite and took control so that the shuttle’s robot arm could grapple them. Both satellites were brought back to Earth, refurbished, and launched back into space again.

Gardner’s most remembered moment might be when, at the end of his spacewalk, he held up a “For Sale” sign (on right), referring to the commercial availability of both recovered satellites.

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In a spacewalk earlier this week, two Russian astronauts on ISS successfully installed the commercial UrtheCast cameras.

In a spacewalk earlier this week, two Russian astronauts on ISS successfully installed the commercial UrtheCast cameras.

The cameras cost $17-million and are capable of beaming down images and high-definition video from the Russian part of the ISS to UrtheCast, a small Vancouver company that struck a deal with the Russian space agency to have its devices blasted into space on a Soyuz rocket and installed in exchange for imagery captured over Russia.

There had been a problem installing these cameras on an earlier spacewalk last month, so this was the second attempt.

Once operational, these cameras will also provide a continuous and free live feed of the Earth for anyone who wishes to view it.

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Yesterday’s spacewalk on ISS, though successful, was cut short because of spacesuit discomfort issues unrelated to the earlier water leak problems.

Yesterday’s spacewalk on ISS, though successful, was cut short because of spacesuit discomfort issues unrelated to the earlier water leak problems.

No story on the spacewalk is entirely clear on the issues. Astronaut Rick Mastracchio was cold, but it seems he also had other problems that have not been outlined clearly. Interestingly he was not using the spacesuit that flooded in July. Michael Hopkins was using that suit and apparently had no problems.

In order to resize the spare suit on the station for Mastracchio they have delayed the next spacesuit for one day.

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Fixing the coolant pump on ISS: A close look at what will happen during the upcoming spacewalks.

Fixing the coolant pump on ISS: A close look at what will happen during the upcoming spacewalks.

According to this report, one astronaut will be wearing the spacesuit that leaked water in July. This fact contradicts a previous story that said there were two other suits on the station and that the suspect suit need not be used.

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It appears that NASA is planning to go ahead with at least one spacewalk to replace ISS’s faulty coolant system pump.

It appears that NASA is planning to go ahead with at least one spacewalk to replace ISS’s faulty coolant system pump.

After attempts from the inside to restart the malfunctioning cooling loop on the International Space Station failed last night, NASA mission managers have decided a spacewalk will be required to fix the problem, a source privy to NASA operations told TV20 News. NASA mission managers have scheduled the first spacewalk for Dec. 19th, according to the source, with two other spacewalks, also known as EVAs, likely to follow a few days after.

This story is not yet confirmed, but this AP article suggests it might be true.

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If a US spacewalk on ISS is necessary to repair its cooling system, the spare parts are there, but the spacesuits are not.

If a US spacewalk on ISS is necessary to repair its cooling system, the spare parts are there, but the spacesuits are not.

Prior to retiring the shuttle NASA, aware that cargo supply would be limited once the shuttle was gone, shipped up to the station as many spare parts as possible. Thus, there are three spare pump modules on ISS that could be installed during a spacewalk to replace the module that has the valve problem.

However, because of the water leak problem that occurred in one American spacesuit during a July spacewalk, NASA has halted all American spacewalks until replacement suits can be shipped up to the station.

Since then, NASA has been conducting extensive investigations into the water leak issue, with… “the crew performed a series of tests on EMU 3011 [the faulty spacesuit] as part of an ongoing effort for returning the suit back to service. The tests included water leak checks, communication checks, and suit pressure leak checks. EMU 3011 passed all tests.”

However, NASA had been planning to wait to return another EMU, serial number 3015, to Earth aboard a SpaceX Dragon vehicle and deliver a new EMU in its place before clearing EVAs to resume. However the next Dragon vehicle is not scheduled to arrive at the ISS until at least late February next year.

The Russians might be able to do this spacewalk, but they are going to demand payment for the work. And they won’t come cheap, considering the circumstances.

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A detailed update on the status of spacesuit repairs on ISS, following the July water leak during a spacewalk.

A detailed update on the status of spacesuit repairs on ISS, following the July water leak during a spacewalk.

After additional tools and parts were sent up on both Progress and Cygnus freighters, astronauts on ISS pinpointed the problem and replaced the failed the “fan/pump/separator”. The faulty unit was brought back to Earth for further analysis in the manned Soyuz craft yesterday.

Of the four U.S. spacesuits on ISS, one is still considered faulty and needs to be replaced, which will happen with the next Dragon flight expected sometime in February 2014.

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During a five hour EVA that had lots of difficulties, two Russian cosmonauts took the Olympic torch on a spacewalk

During a five hour EVA yesterday that had lots of minor technical difficulties, two Russian cosmonauts took the Olympic torch on a spacewalk.

Most of the press is focusing on the PR stunt with the Olympic torch, but I think these issues are more interesting:

Working around the Service Module, Kotov and Ryazanski worked on cables at the RK21 site before attempting to fold up the panels on the hardware into its original configuration. The EVA tasks were mainly related to the preparations on the Urthecast pointing platform for installation of the HD camera in December. However, only the removal of the launch restraint from VRM EVA workstation and the disconnection of the RK-21 experiment were completed. The duo struggled with the relocation of the Yakor foot restraint – which they opted to take back to the airlock instead – while also failing to fold and lock RK-21 experiment antenna panels. While the spacewalkers managed to take a large quantity of photos for engineers on the ground to examine, the spacewalk was concluded after the failure to fold up the RK-21 panels, resulting in outstanding tasks for the next EVA.

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The investigation into the spacesuit leak in July is now awaiting the return of equipment from ISS.

The investigation into the spacesuit leak in July is now awaiting the return of equipment from ISS.

The station astronauts removed a cooling system pump and small contaminants found in the garment’s Primary Life Support System plumbing. The old fan pump separator and the preserved contaminants, including a 1-cm. piece of plastic, will return to Earth aboard Russia’s TMA-09M crew transport late Nov. 10 with Parmitano, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg and ISS Russian commander Fyodor Yurchikhin. The hardware and contaminants will then be flown by NASA transport from the Kazakh landing site to Johnson Space Center, where a Mishap Investigation Board (MIB) hopes to quickly complete its probe of the worrisome incident.

Though it appears they have narrowed the problem to a small number of components, the need to return these components to Earth illustrates an overall design flaw with the space spacesuit. When the shuttle was flying regularly these components were easy to return to Earth, which is why NASA designed its suit for maintenance on the ground. Now that the shuttle is gone, however, it is difficult to get components returned, which makes spacesuit maintenance difficult if not impossible.

Spacesuits need to be repairable in space. If you are orbiting Mars and one fails, you can’t call in a repairman from Earth to fix it.

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Despite the astronauts’ success on ISS in recreating the spacesuit water leak, NASA engineers still do not know its cause.

Despite the astronauts’ success on ISS in recreating the spacesuit water leak, NASA engineers still do not know its cause.

What is unstated about this problem is that, because we used to have a big space shuttle with lots of cargo capacity, the American spacesuit was designed to be maintained and repaired on the ground. In the past the next space shuttle flight would have brought a new spacesuit to the station while taking this defective suit back to Earth for analysis and repair. Now that we don’t have a big space shuttle, our complex spacesuits are far more difficult to troubleshoot.

The solution? First, keep it simple. The Russians, limited by the capacity of their Progress and Soyuz capsules, made their Orlan spacesuit very simple and easy to use.

Second, get as many redundant replacements of the shuttle operating as soon as possible.

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The Russians have begun a six-hour spacewalk today on ISS to prepare the station for the arrival of a new Russian module.

The Russians have begun a six-hour spacewalk today on ISS to prepare the station for the arrival of a new Russian module.

The article also outlines the continuing investigation into the American spacesuit problem from the last American spacewalk, where an astronaut’s suit began to fill with water from an unknown source. It appears they have pinpointed the most likely cause of the leak, but appear to be having problems recreating the failure.

Update: The Russian spacewalk is over, all tasks completed.

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NASA has initiated a second investigation board looking into last week’s spacesuit incident on ISS.

NASA has initiated a second investigation board looking into last week’s spacesuit incident on ISS.

The investigations will run concurrently, with the second having a broader purpose, looking into “maintenance, quality assurance, and any operations that could have had a role.”

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NASA is trying get some spare spacesuit parts onto a Russian Progress freighter, scheduled to launch Saturday, in its effort to fix its American spacesuits on ISS.

NASA is trying get some spare spacesuit parts onto a Russian Progress freighter, scheduled to launch Saturday, in its effort to fix its American spacesuits on ISS.

It must be emphasized that NASA still doesn’t know exactly what caused the water leak into that spacesuit during a spacewalk last week.

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Engineers continue to struggle to find the cause of the spacesuit water leak during a spacewalk last week.

Engineers continue to struggle to find the cause of the spacesuit water leak during a spacewalk last week.

They have eliminated many possible causes, but have not found any clear culprit. The consequence right now? No EVAs with an American spacesuit can occur until they solve the problem.

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