Indian Ocean Storm

A pre-winter storm off the Australian coast on 29 march 2014. Click for larger. Image: International Space Station.

This was a “pre-winter” storm off the coast of southwestern Australia was photographed from the International Space Station while over the southeastern Indian Ocean (at about 45.6 deg south and 108.9 deg west) on March 29th. The clockwise cloud pattern is opposite for storms in the north. I don’t know what the scale of the image is but the strom looks pretty large.

You should go to the NASA page featuring this image and grab a copy for your desktop it looks AMAZING!

Cygnus Leaves the ISS

The Cygnus cargo ship just after being released from the ISS robotic arm. Click for larger. Credit: NASA TV

Orbital Sciences Corporation is putting the final touches on the first its first operational resupply of the International Space Station with the Cygnus cargo ship.

Cygnus left the the ISS this morning at 11:41 UTC when it was released the robot arm 260 miles above the South Atlantic east of Argentina. Once released Cygnus “set sail” so to speak by firing thrusters for a minute and a half to get it out of a safety zone maintained around the ISS.

On Wednesday (19 February) a couple of braking manuvers will slow the Cygnus enough to cause it to fall out of orbit in a controlled fashion.

Cygnus was launched a little over a month ago and on 12 January after a three day journey from Wallops Island Virginia, it arrived at the ISS with almost 2,800 pounds of supplies.

After the supplies were removed from Cygnus it was refilled with trash from the station. No recycling here, the Cygnus and its contents will burn up during the re-entry interface with the atmosphere. The re-entry if we can call it that, will occur at around 18:20 UTC tomorrow, Wednesday 19 February over the Atlantic between South America and New Zealand.

Spacewalk Ahead

A beautiful image of the Soyuz in the foreground and Cuba in the background taken by an unnamed member of Expedition 38.

There will be a spacewalk by Expedition 38 Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy tomorrow (27 January).

The spacewalk will be to reinstall a pair of cameras after a 27 December attempt to install them were not completely successful. In that EVA, the longest Russian spacewalk ever, the cameras would not deliver a signal to flight controllers. Troubleshooting on several cable connectors was performed by the crew and hopefully the issue has been solved.

Coverage from NASA TV will begin tomorrow at 13:30 UTC / 08:30 EST and the hatch opening at 14:10 UTC / 09:10 EST. You should be able to watch from the link in the banner and certainally from the NASA TV link.

 

Supercritical Water

Fire and water do mix? Crew members aboard the ISS are conducting experiments that use water to help start a fire. I never would have guessed, but my water knowledge is more in the super-saturated dissolved gas realm.

There is an application too: “this fundamental physics investigation could have down-to-Earth benefits such as clean-burning municipal waste disposal and improved saltwater purification.”

Science@NASA

Cygnus Delay for ISS Fix

The raising of the Antares rocket on 16-Dec.  Atop the Antares is the Cyguns cargo ship with supplies destined for the International Space Station (ISS).  Image: Orbital Sciences/NASA

The raising of the Antares rocket on 16-Dec. Atop the Antares is the Cyguns cargo ship with supplies destined for the International Space Station (ISS). Image: Orbital Sciences/NASA

The Antares was raised upright in anticipation of a launch later today, 19-Dec. However due to the cooling control valve problem on the space station the launch was postponed until mid-January.

We sort of knew the delay was coming, so it’s not a big surprise. As for the cooling valve, the fix will be accomplished by a series of spacewalks by (NASA) astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins to replace the pump module.

The spacewalks will occur on December 21, 23 and 25. The replacement pump module is one they have “on the shelf” on the external stowage platform. The offending control valve is mounted on this pump module in case you were wondering.



Live streaming video by Ustream

I hope to be watching as coverage is going to be on NASA-TV and a link here if one is available and usually NASA is very good about such things. I am very interested in how the pump module is interfaced, always open to new ideas you see. The spacewalks are going to take six and a half hours EACH. Wow! Hope the suits work well and there is not water in the helmet issues. TV coverage (and hence the linked video) will begin at 06:15 EST / 11:15 UTC.

As for the raised Antares rocket, they will lower it and put it in “storage” out of the elements.

Cygnus Launch Delay

Orbital's Cygnus Cargo spacecraft attached to the ISS.  Credit: NASA

Orbital’s Cygnus Cargo spacecraft attached to the ISS. Credit: NASA

Late word has it the launch of Orbital’s Cygnus resupply spacecraft is being delayed due to the cooling problem in the ISS.

Orbital was to launch Cygnus on Tuesday (17-Dec) now are looking at launching no earlier than Thursday (19-Dec) to give ISS experts more time to look at the the problem flow-control valve in the ISS cooling system. Currently engineers are trying to stabilize the cooling loop using another valve to help regulate temperatures in a steady fashion. To that end the engineers are operating a Radiator Return Valve, putting it in various position and checking the results. This is a perfectly reasonable approach and although the precision of control would suffer, it could work just fine in a pinch; in the meantime cooling is provided by Cooling Loop B.

The “second-valve” approach would probably not be something they would want to count on in the long run so repairs are still being evaluated and space suits are being checked for leaks in case the crew are needed to conduct a spacewalk to replace the faulty pump module.

The possibility of the Cygnus launch being delayed until after the first of the year is not at all out of the question.

ISS Troubles

A look at Europe at night (London and Paris) from the ISS.  Credit: Rick Mastracchio ‏@AstroRM via Twitter

A look at Europe at night (London and Paris) from the ISS. Credit: Rick Mastracchio ‏@AstroRM via Twitter

There’s a bit of a problem on the ISS involving a cooling pump system. Sounds like from the latest update below (as of this morning) it could be a valve issue. Mission control people are diagnosing the problem.

We should hear later today if the “fix” will involve a spacewalk in the immediate future. If the repair cannot be made with a spacewalk a replacement may be necessary. I don’t know if they have a spare on the shelf, and they could have, or whether a replacement will be need to be flown up.

The ISS will be getting a resupply flight from a Orbital 1 Commercial Resupply Services flight scheduled to launch on 18 December. Will the mission change to include a replacement pump if necessary if that is possible?

We will find out shortly.

This from the NASA website:

Earlier Wednesday, the pump module on one of the space station’s two external cooling loops automatically shut down when it reached pre-set temperature limits. These loops circulate ammonia outside the station to keep both internal and external equipment cool. The flight control teams worked to get the cooling loop back up and running, and they suspect a flow control valve actually inside the pump module itself might not be functioning correctly.

 

At no time was the crew or the station itself in any danger, but the ground teams did work to move certain electrical systems over to the second loop. Some non-critical systems have been powered down inside the Harmony node, the Kibo laboratory and the Columbus laboratory while the teams work to figure out what caused the valve to not function correctly and how to fix it. The crew is safe and preparing to begin a normal sleep shift while experts on the ground collect more data and consider what troubleshooting activities may be necessary.

15 Years of the ISS

15 years of building the ISS in two and a half minutes.

With the launch of Zarya module on 20 November 1998, the International Space Station was born. The ISS has been with us for 15-years this week thanks to the dedication and corporation of different space agencies from around the world.

The video above was put together by the Canadian Space Agency. One of the Canadian contributions is the robotic arm called Canadarm 2 featured in the video. The Canadarm continues to be instrumental in the success of the station and something Canadians everywhere are rightfully proud of – yeah, you go Canada!

Video