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!


Fresh Faces Arrive at Space Station

Three fresh faces arrived at the International Space Station Thursday morning: Richard Mastracchio (NASA), Russia’s Mikhail Tyurin (Russia) and Koichi Wakata (Japan) arrived at the International Space Station early Thursday morning.

One of the special items they brought was the Olympic torch to be used to light the Olympic flame in Sochi Russia.

Russia being Russia and the wonderful sports competitors they are, plus hosts of the Winter games in February 2014 even decorated the Soyuz TMA-11M rocket in Olympic regalia. Very nice.

ATV-4 ‘Einstein’ Leaves the ISS

ESA’s cargo ship ATV-4 or “Einstein” launched on 5 June from Kourou Japan and has been at the station since it delivered seven tons of cargo on 15 June. It ended its mission and left the ISS on 28 October but not before  it was loaded with trash and liquid waste products from the ISS.  As you can see in the video the separation was very smooth.

Einstein will slowly spiral down until it ends its mission on 02 November (Saturday). The cargo ship will be positioned so cameras on the ISS can record the fiery end of Einstein over the South Pacific as it interfaces with the atmosphere at 1200 UTC.

In the meantime, mindful of Einstein being the size of a double decker bus, I thought it might be visible on a good pass with binoculars. So I looked at predictions at Heavens Above and sure enough there was a pretty good one. Out I went and it was a very nice pass but didn’t see Einstein, tonight’s pass will be a good deal brighter so If skies are as good as they were last night I’ll be looking. Einstein is pretty small, but I am bound to try. I’ll set up a telescope stationary along the path and watch the field of view as the ISS goes by.

NOTE:  Comet ISON is now a binocular target !

I had beautiful skies this morning and spotted ISON even with the moon close by and just using a cheap pair of binoculars.  A check of the magnitude has it at 7.7 and will be improving quickly. Get outside before daylight and have a look if you can.  Look a little east of east of Mars and “lower” in the sky.  How much (and it’s not that far) depends on your viewing-aid with the cheaper binoculars Mars was on the edge of the field of view.

Here’s a video of the ATV 4 / ISS separation from NASA TV:

Expedition 37

The Expedition 37 crew aboard the ISS. Image credit: NASA

The Expedition 37 crew aboard the ISS. Image credit: NASA

I’ve been remiss in not including enough about the ISS in my posts. So to start and change that, here is one of the ISS crew of Expedition 37.

They are posed in the Kibo laboratory.

Pictured (clockwise from lower left) are Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, commander; Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryazanskiy, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano and NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins, all flight engineers.

The image was taken the day before the Einstein cargo-ship docked on 14 Oct.

Visit the source page for larger version. Should you desire a wallpaper version, you can get that there too.

Enceladus Plus

Enceladus in "Saturnshine" by Cassini.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Enceladus in “Saturnshine” by Cassini. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Here’s a picture of Enceladus from Cassini. The image was taken from a distance of 832,000 km (517,000 miles). The Sun and the camera are on opposite sides of the moon. The light provided to be able to see the moon and the now famous jets of water is “Saturnshine”, light reflected off Saturn.

Plus this:

You might have seen the news of Curiosity finding water on Mars. The soil sample contained two percent water. This is the first direct measurement as far as I know. There have been estimates of soil water detected by the HEND instrument on the Mars Odyssey. I managed to find the reference. Further findings will be very interesting, I’d look in one of the “gullies”, then again I’d be doing all sorts of things that might be fun for me but not for the mission.

Two percent is quite a lot I would think considering. Seems like there are a few variables too, like soil particle size. I’m assuming, and I say that because I don’t know nor have I been able to find out for sure, is this hygroscopic water (i.e. beyond capillary water)? I would think it would sublimate when exposed, continuing to look at that. Here’s the story. If anybody knows leave a comment.

Cygnus :

There will be an attempt a docking tomorrow morning (Sunday, 29 Sept.). Coverage starts at 08:30 UTC (04:30 EDT). I’ll put a video link here before hand.

Capture was successful.  Nice and smooth as far as I could see.   I noted about a four second delay between the streamed version and the television.  Had a little bit of a time getting the right feed and then my computer decided to spaz out for a few minutes.  Not a disease or anything but ever since a couple updates ago, we seem to have these little “fits”.  LOL.

Cygnus is now attached!

Space X

There will be yet another launch tomorrow too. Space X is scheduled to launch the Falcon 9 with Canadian research satellite (and the Canadian Space Agency) and MDA Corp.

The launch window opens at 16:00 UTC. I’ll have more on that launch tomorrow morning.

Cygnus Docking Delayed

An Orbital Science Slide from a press briefing on 4 September Showing some of the test points for objectives that must be met before docking. Click for larger. Credit: Orbital Science.

An Orbital Science Slide from a press briefing on 4 September Showing some of the test points for objectives that must be met before docking. Click for larger. Credit: Orbital Science.

Orbital’s Cygnus cargo ship docking to the ISS has been delayed due to an unspecified software problem.

The Cygnus had established direct data communications with the International Space Station at which time some of the data values received by Cygnus had unexpected values. Those unexpected values caused Cygnus to reject the data and an interruption of the approach sequence was necessary.

The cause of the data problem has been discovered by Orbital and they have a developed a fix.

The next docking attempt will occur no earlier than September 28th due to Wednesday’s launch of a Soyuz from the Baikonur Cosmodrome bringing Michael Hopkins of NASA and Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy of the Russian Federal Space Agency to the ISS.  More about that Wednesday.

When docking time does come, Cygnus being a new cargo craft it must as any new cargo craft that is to dock with the ISS must pass a series of objectives in order to prove it is capable. At each of the test points used to measure the objectives a go or no-go order is given by mission controllers before it can proceed to the next point (see image above). There are three more test points between 250 meters and capture. It is only after all of those tests or objectives are met it can then be captured or docked.


See all of the images from the press briefing where the above image came from.