Monday, August 29, 2011

Space Station Faces Temporary De-Staffing

The International Space Station might have to be temporarily abandoned if the investigation into last week's Russian Soyuz rocket failure stretches into mid-November, a senior NASA official said today.

Two factors could prompt an unprecedented de-staffing of the outpost: the certified orbital lifetimes of the two Soyuz lifeboats now at the station, and flight rules that call for crews to return to Earth during daylight, NASA International Space Station Program Manager Mike Suffredini said.

As it stands, three station crewmates scheduled to return to Earth on Sept. 8 will remain onboard the outpost at least an extra week while the investigation into the loss of a robotic Progress space freighter continues.

A third-stage Soyuz U rocket shutdown caused the failure last Wednesday. Investigators are trying to determine the exact cause. The Soyuz FG rockets used to transport crews to and from the station has a similar third stage, so investigators want to pinpoint the cause of the failure and return the Soyuz U rocket fleet to service before launching the next crew to the station.

Two Russian cosmonauts and American astronaut Ron Garan likely will return to Earth before Sept. 19 -- the last daylight landing opportunity that month in the central steppes of Kazakhstan. The next daylight landing opportunity would not come until Oct. 27, about 10 days after the 200-day certified orbital lifetime of the Soyuz spacecraft that will provide their ride back to Earth.

The three other station crew members, including U.S. astronaut Mike Fossum, would return before Nov. 19 -- the last daylight landing opportunity that month. The certified life of their Soyuz space taxi will expire before the next daylight landing opportunity in late December.

The planned Sept. 21 launch of a new station crew that includes American astronaut Dan Burbank is being postponed indefinitely.

A joint project of the U.S., Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan, the $100 billion space station has been continuously staffed since the first expedition crew opened the outpost for business in November 2000.

ABOUT THE IMAGE: Click to enlarge the NASA image of a backlit International Space Station soaring 220 miles above the planet Earth. You can also click the enlarged image to get a bigger, more detailed view.


Ester Rose said...

Does that mean the robot will be in charge? How progressively ironic.

steele-environmental said...

So now the Russians need a ride to the ISS? Too bad we didn't keep one Shuttle flyable.

Stephen C. Smith said...

"Too bad we didn't keep one Shuttle flyable."

Yeah, too bad we didn't keep 7,000 people sitting around polishing the chrome, costing the taxpayers $3 billion a year.

Never mind the Bush administration in January 2004 decided to retire Shuttle after ISS construction was completed, because the Columbia Accident Investigation Board concluded that Shuttle is "a complex and risky system."

Yeah, never mind all that. Let's keep the gravy train rolling down the track.

dmdenzler said...

I am not surprised by Stephen Smith with his anti Republican and pro Democrat comments! Every single comment that he makes is always is anti shuttle, anti NASA, anti Republican slant on every issue!!! Makes me wonder how much SpaceX (or Obama) pays him to make comments like these!

Anonymous said...

Here's a quote from the last astronaut to leave ISS.... "You've got it HAL"

Mark Lopa said...

Stevie Smith is like a mosquito that won't go away. He's irrelevant and annoying, but you just can't get rid of him.

Retire the space shuttle when it's the safer it's ever been. Brilliant. Leave us with nothing. Even more brilliant. Rely 100% on the Russians? There you go...that's our brain trust at work. Yes, Bush cancelled the space shuttle, but Obama could have saved it and didn't. At least Bush had a replacement vehicle in place, and we know when Obama did with that. (And everything costs money, so don't give me this over budget crap.)

So Stevie boy...polish your own chrome head. I'll take the shuttle any day.

Rich said...

Thank you Florida today. I have read articles about the situation and yours was the only one that mentioned the landing in daylight restriction.

Rich said...

Also, maybe we can all agree there is plenty of blame to go around for the current state of the US space program. From GWB, that ordered the end of the program to congress that never properly funded the building of a new system, NASA management for possible mistakes in the choice of system and implementing of the program, and yes the current administration that has mired the situation even further.
Going back and forth about who did what over the past 7 years gets us nowhere.

Mark Lopa said...

Agreed, Rich...but the same person once again brought politics into it. In any case, Bush, Obama, and Congress are all to blame for where we are now.

John said...

So what if there was a Shuttle available for launch in November to take a crew up? Its time in orbit is limited and it would have to bring the crew back within two weeks. Pointless. Leaving them on-board with no means of return to Earth in an emergency isn't an option.
It would also delay the Dragon launch in November if there was nobody aboard to the ISS to dock it.