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With sorry Soyuz stuffed, who's going to run NASA's space station taxi service now?

I&I

Re: Lose one bloody capsule in 50 years

Average inapply if state-change.

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Re: Lose one bloody capsule in 50 years

Technically Soyuz* has a slightly worse loss rate of spacecraft than the Shuttle for a similar number of launches (Soyuz overtook the Shuttle in the last year iirc).

Although, due to the larger crew capacity, more lives have been lost on the Shuttle.

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Re: "Even if it's basically a fifty years old design"

Um, sorry, but the wheel is a thousands-of-years-old design, where's the problem ?

If it was a 50-year-old rocket, yeah, I could see the issue.

Designs do not grow old, they get replaced by better designs.

SpaceX et al are apparently in the process of doing that, but the Russkies have a design that works now. They might just have to tweak it, but with its track record, I'm not sure that's a very good idea.

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Re: Lose one bloody capsule in 50 years

I love the easy way people chuck around statements like:

At first sight this seems to be just the latest quality control problem that has occurred in the recent past.

As if a series of quality control problems is just a minor thing.

The two things that get astronauts killed are rushing to meet deadlines and complacency.

Apollo 1 and the two fatal Soyuz accidents were caused by ignoring problems in the rush to meet deadlines. The 2 Shuttle crashes were caused by complacently assuming that they'd carry on getting away with problems that hadn't caused accidents before.

There is no just when talking about regular quality control problems. And that's what Roscosmos have been getting away with for several years now. Mostly they've been in the unmanned side of things, so it might be that there's no serious problem - and there might be a simple cause for this malfunction - but it's not exactly reassuring.

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Devil

Re: Lose one bloody capsule in 50 years

>> This event was a launch booster failure and that is an astonishingly rare event with these rockets.

Russian rockets have quite a tendency of failures recently. Not to mention holes drilled at random in the sides of spacecraft.

So the problem usually is not in design or materials, but in deteriorated work ethics and skills.

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Re: Lose one bloody capsule in 50 years

Not quite one in 50 years, but definitely not a bad record.

1969 - Soyuz 5 - Separation failure on re-entry caused off-course, rough landing; no casualties

1975 - Soyuz 18a - Separation failure on launch - 1 serious injury due to 21G acceleration on abort

1976 - Soyuz 23 - Broke through ice and sank during landing; no casualties

1979 - Soyuz 33 - In-orbit engine failure forced abort and steep ballistic re-entry; no casualties

1981 - Soyuz T-10-1 - Fuel spill and fire forced abort on launch; no casualties

2003 - Soyuz TMA-1 - Capsule malfunction caused 8+ G re-entry; 1 minor injury

2008 - Soyuz TMA-11 - Separation failure on re-entry caused high G re-entry; 1 minor injury

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Re: Lose one bloody capsule in 50 years

Plus:

1967 (OK 51 years ago, but still): Soyuz 1 - 1 dead (Komarov)

1971: Soyuz 11 - decompressed on re-entry; 3 dead

https://www.rt.com/news/441005-soyuz-iss-spacecraft-history/

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If Russia’s space taxi is broken, why can’t they just get an Über?

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If anyone's got a Sub-Etha Thumb they can hitch a lift with a passing alien.

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Anonymous Coward

"If Russia’s space taxi is broken, why can’t they just get an Über?"

That would be great, but with the Soyuz out of commission, the Uber surge pricing will be unaffordable.

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Unhappy

This is great news for certain politicians.

They dream of Mars, but know that NASA is basically a one-programme-at-a-time agency (because those same politicians wouldn't dream of properly funding it)

Hence a desire to kill ISS.

Which explains the very grudging funding (usually below the requested level, while that for SLS/Orion has been above request)

Also note the progress Boeing and SX have made compared to Orion (which cannot even afford to build its own Service Module. It'll we be bought in from ESA on a barter deal for ISS access).

Funny how much progress when there's even a little bit of competition in the game, is it not?

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Re: This is great news for certain politicians.

ISS and the shared transport to and from it is an example of science rising about all the poiltical chest-beating, sanctions, threats and all the other stuff we get from the sociopaths that are attracted into politics and nation leadership.

It's the example that shows the way. Cooperation. Of course there are a lot of $$$$ changing hands but $$$$ are better than warheads and nerve agents.

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Alien

Re: This is great news for certain politicians.

"NASA is basically a one-programme-at-a-time agency"

Er, you don't seem to have noticed but NASA has programs going on all over the solar system, and has done for years.

They've got two separate rovers (hopefully, maybe only one now) and three separate orbiters going around Mars right now, all of which are separate programs. And that's just Mars.

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Unhappy

"you don't seem to have noticed..NASA has programs going on all over the solar system"

Let me amend my comment.

Where human spaceflight is concerned Marshall (the bit that designs launch vehicles) is a one-programme-at-a-time center. JPL and Goddard (who do probes and remote systems) do rather more with rather less.

In fact in Marshalls case it's about 1 new system every couple of decades. (Shuttle in the 70's and 80's was the last new system they worked on.

Personally I think they should be shut down, but NASA is not allowed to to make that decision (about it's own centers). I'm not sure if any of the other 22 Federal agencies have that right. I think they do.

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space station boring

Giving the spending there is very little coming out of running a space station. Not going to notice a little pause. Time to put the money back into Voyager like projects.

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Re: space station boring

From your headline I thought you were going to write about the mysterious hole plugged with epoxy.

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WTF?

Re: space station boring

Not sure what you mean by "very little coming out of running a space station". Do you think the people up there are on holiday?

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Re: space station boring

"Giving the spending there is very little coming out of running a space station. Not going to notice a little pause."

You might notice the flaming streak across the sky as it burns up in the atmosphere. It needs the constant runs to keep it up in space.

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Linux

Re: space station boring

DavCrav,

Just missread your post as "It needs the constant nuns to keep it up in space."

My brain is now full of images of space nuns. I can imagine conversations like:

MC: "This is Vatican control. You are go for EVA."

Sis1: "This is Sister 1, copy your go for EVA."

MC: "Sister 1, seal up space wimple and prepare for airlock procedure."

Sis2: "Space habit and space wimple sealed and checked. We are go for EVA."

MC: "This is Mother Superior. Depressurise airlock."

And that's before we've even mention Ken Russell...

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Dirac shield

Rumor has it that a certain group in the US *may* have made some progress but not sure how much.

Their device is based on using positrons in a Rydberg or other highly excited quantum state based on tuned lasers to generate what they are describing as a "Dirac Hole generator".

If it is able to lift a 5mm diameter silicon disk weighing about 180mg against gravity using off the shelf 22Na as they describe then to scale it up is feasible albeit somewhat expensive.

What is not clear is whether CERN's antimatter storage unit can be retrofitted with a conduit to direct the positrons into the drive which is also under vacuum, electromagnetic shielding keeping air out until at >60K feet where power can be ramped down without losing efficiency and other important aspects like radiation shielding of the crew capsule and cryogenic coolants.

It may be less of a problem however as any 511keV gamma rays would be produced upon annihilation with electrons which due to the quantum effects might be several seconds ie >1200 feet away from the craft.

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Thumb Up

Re: Dirac shield

""Dirac Hole generator"

Aha! I have one of those for my Dremel tool!

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Re: Dirac shield

" "Dirac Hole generator"

Aha! I have one of those for my Dremel tool!"

It sounds like it should have a base plate of pre-famulated amulite surmounted by a malleable logarithmic casing.

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Boffin

Re: Dirac shield

If something like that was true then it would be a direct experimental test which General Relativity fails: the first such test it has ever failed in more than a century. The same sort of thing that pople at CERN are trying to find with the antimatter-falls-which-way? experiments. GR would then be a dead theory.

Anyone who does, and publishes in such a way that it can be replicatd, such a test is going to win an automatic Nobel prize and be the most famous scientist of the 21st century.

Strange that no-one does, then.

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Re: Dirac shield

Base plate made of crystalline dilithium of course!

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Re: Dirac shield

Yes - a bit like the Podkletknov gravity shielding at Tampere in the early 1990s.

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Re: Dirac shield

Yes, exactly like that. If that thing had actually been reproducable (so if it really was an effect) then GR would be dead now and we'd all be living in a much more interesting world now, or people interested in physics would anyway.

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Re: Dirac shield

"Yes - a bit like the Podkletknov gravity shielding at Tampere in the early 1990s."

Pah, it'd be cheaper and easier just to coat the capsule in Cavorite and be done with it!

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Chz

Only a problem for crew...

"All of which leaves NASA with zero options for resupplying the ISS with crew and supplies until the Russians work out what went wrong on Thursday."

They could send a remote-controlled Soyuz up with some supplies if they don't want to leave the ISS empty. AIUI, the problem is that the current return pod on the ISS has a "use before" date on it. Normally they'd send a Progress up for resupply, but no reason they can't use a Soyuz capsule (outside of cost and smaller cargo capacity) with no crew.

Obviously, they'd prefer to finish their investigation first. But if it came to risking an unmanned flight or abandoning the ISS, I think it's quite reasonable.

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Coat

Re: Only a problem for crew...

How much does China charge?

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Re: Only a problem for crew...

http://www.spacesafetymagazine.com/spaceflight/rendezvous-docking/can-the-shienzhou-dock-to-the-iss/

It seems to be possible, and Shenzhou 12 is(was?) planned for this year anyway.

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Pint

+1 for heating due to compressing gas.

Good to see the right explanation for a change–not all university courses, let alone option pieces get it right.

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Anonymous Coward

NASA doesn't seem to be fit for purpose anymore.

Justs seems to be going backwards after closing down the shuttle programme.

Next step should have been creating space craft that take off and land like normal aircraft.

Isn't there anything they can swipe from the secret alien technology department A51 to get a more viable reusable space craft built?

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Gee, maybe you could try actually funding them instead of giving them the change from behind the sofa cushions?

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Alien

A51 tech

>>>Isn't there anything they can swipe from the secret alien technology department A51 to get a more viable reusable space craft built?<<<

That's not how it's done! The secret stuff stays secret until there is no other option than it being used publicly for a 'must do' mission.

Secret govt. money develops secret stuff - Public govt. money develops not so secret stuff.

The origin of $1,000 hammer stories is from the early days of spreading the secret costs across the entire expenditure then somebody actually giving a correct raw cost printout to legislators when asked.

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Black Helicopters

They've already used all the technology they found at area 51, it's time to move on to area 52.

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Anonymous Coward

"All of which leaves NASA with zero options for resupplying the ISS with crew and supplies"

Umm - don't other launchers also ferry _supplies_ to the ISS? Crew is an issue (for now) though.

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was always the risk

Since they retired the Shuttle without it's replacement in place...

Says a Brit who's govmt retired all the aircraft carriers well before the replacements where built, never mind operational

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Re: govmt retired all the aircraft carriers

and Harriers

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Re: was always the risk

"Says a Brit who's govmt retired all the aircraft carriers well before the replacements where built, never mind operational"

The same government who had a launch vehicle and then abandoned it too. Are we seeing a pattern developing?

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"NASA is understandably not going to rush humans into space in untested craft."

Maybe not but IIRC their boss, His Excellency of Trumpton, has no qualms about it ...

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Happy

Well it's easy then. Simply gold-plate (OK paint is maybe lighter) the rocket with the new untested capsule on top. Then tell Trump it's Trump Tower Florida, and please can he open it. Launch it while he's not looking. Test, sorted!

The first Mercury test was done with a chimp, so I don't see too much difference.

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Flame

Standardisation would have helped

The booster stage failed, but the soyuz capsule worked fine.

Imagine if they could bolt a soyuz onto a SpaceX Falcon, or whatever other combination of reliable sections... There would be no issue now. Part X fails, replace it with known-good part Z from someone else's program.

But no, they wouldn't do that because ... umm ... they want competition or something.

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Re: Standardisation would have helped

If only life were that simple. But it really isn't. And everything has to be tested with everything else.

They also don't do that because space hardware is all small batch manufactured - they only make a handful a year.

Also, we don't know if this was a Soyuz design flaw - after all it's a well-established and reliable system. Or a one-off event. But it could be that Roscosmos are having quality control issues, and this was one of them. If that's true, no part built by them at the moment can be considered safe. Until they've had a management shake-up and sorted out new and better procedures. That's the most worrying thought. How long was the Apollo program delayed for after Apollo 1? At least a year, if I remember right. And they were spending a lot more cash, in order to achieve quicker results.

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They'd have to be insane to consider using SLS

It costs the wrong side of $1bn to launch and won't be remotely ready for a manned launch until 2022 at the earliest. Better to launch an unmanned Soyuz capsule to use as a replacement for the current crew (being unmanned there's less concern over another failure).

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will a helium balloon work with a remote-controlled payload/drone (thruster/rocket-powered) attached to it?

Once it is on the fringes of SPAAAAAAAACE and the balloon pops, manoeuver said drone via remote control towards the ISS...

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There's the slight issue of accelerating the drone to roughly 7 km/sec. Altitude isn't the problem. Getting up enough speed to achieve orbit is.

There are multiple providers who can get supplies up to the ISS. Getting a new crew there is the big issue.

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Why not fly a remote control robot up in one of the supply rockets. The comms latency to LEO is tolerable and you could save on all of that power-hungry life support crap.

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Paris Hilton

"Once it is on the fringes of SPAAAAAAAACE and the balloon pops, manoeuver said drone via remote control towards the ISS..."

El Reg already tried that. Sadly they only managed to climax at 89,000ft.

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Blaming the wrong part

"the engineering requirements and the thorough testing needed means the timing of those experiments have slipped badly."

The engineering requirements and thorough testing were known about well in advance. They have nothing to do with why the timing has slipped, that's purely down to the people who knew about them not actually taking them into account when creating the original timetable. Whether that's due to incompetence or deliberate lies may be an open question, but at this point there's really no excuse for not understanding the challenges involved in getting to low-Earth orbit given that we've been regularly managing it for over 60 years.

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Re: Blaming the wrong part

Maybe, but when you're designing new technology you really can't predict timescales that easily. They were given a target that everybody knew they weren't going to achieve, but as long as they were in that ballpark it was expected to be fine. Speed could have been increased a bit by upping the budget, I'm sure.

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