NASA found a solution to lift the Space Station without Russia’s help

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[EN VIDÉO] ISS: until 2030 and beyond?
The International Space Station will continue to receive astronauts from around the world for science missions until 2030. And to support space conquest missions that are supposed to take humans to the Moon and even Mars. (in English) © NASA

Relations with Russia being, and there is little chance that this will improve in the foreseeable future, NASA and its Western and Japanese partners are forced to find an alternative to the Russian Progress cargo ships used to “steer” the orbital complex.

That said, a disengagement by Russia is not on the agenda, nor is it the scenario favored by NASA at the moment. But if there is no indication that Russia can carry out the threats of Dmitri Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, NASA is obliged to take this rather uncertain situation into account.

Since the withdrawal of european ATVs (ATV for Automatic Transfer Vehicle), Progress cargo ships are the only vehicles used to lift the ISS orbit and correct its trajectory to avoid debris for example. The other two cargo ships in service, SpaceX’s Dragon and Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus and Thales Alenia Space, were not designed for this very specific task.

Apparently, only the freighter Cygnus could replace Russian Progress. Among the improvements made to Cygnus since its entry into service in 2013 is the “reboost” function. On parole because, for the time being, Cygnus has not shown that it could perform this very important maneuver. Without a regular impulse, the orbit of the international space station would fall inexorably, week after week.

A seemingly conclusive maneuver

NASA and Northrop Grumman have teamed up to test Cygnus’s ability to lift the ISS. It’s not the first time Swan is used this way. In July 2018, a Cygnus ran its engine for about fifty seconds, which raised the station’s altitude by 86 meters. A conclusive maneuver, but insufficient to qualify the freighter for this task.

This test demonstrated Cygnus’ ability to elevate the station’s orbit.

A new attempt took place on June 26. This time, the maneuver lasted longer. The Cygnus moored at the station ran its engine for 301 seconds increasing the perigee from the station about 0.8 km and its heyday about 0.2 km. This test demonstrated Cygnus’ ability to elevate the station’s orbit. The maneuver was successful. At least that’s the opinion of Steve Krein, vice president, Civil and Commercial Space, Tactical Space Systems at Northrop Grumman, who points out that ” this ISS boost using Cygnus adds an essential capability for flying the space station “.

NASA has not communicated about the maneuver. So it’s too early to say whether future Cygnus freighters could be used as an adjunct or replacement for Russian Progress. Furthermore, the future of these vehicles is quite uncertain! In fact, Antares, its designated launcher, uses the Russian RD-181 engine for its main stage, which is under the main Ukrainian contractor. However, since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, these two items are not available. However, Northrop Grumman confirmed that it had two operational Antares launchers and that it had a “contingency plan” after those two launchers, but did not elaborate. Continue then.

NASA is urgently seeking a solution to pilot the Space Station without Russia

article of Remy Decourt published on 05/03/2022

SpaceX and Northrop Grumman cargo ships, which supply the international space station, could they be used to pilot the orbital complex? Until now, NASA has never bothered to find a replacement solution in case the Russians, the only ones capable of piloting it, decide to abandon the Station to its fate. Although Russian-American space relations have always resisted storms past geopolitics, with the conflict in Ukraine, they’ve never been this close to breaking up. There is therefore a certain urgency for NASA to answer this question in the affirmative and see how.

NASA wants to be insightful. In the event that Russian-American relations reach the point of no return, Russia ” could withdraw from the International Space Station as Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, aptly put it.

Dmitri Rogozin obviously didn’t say he would design the Space Station in the United States, but he hinted that he might leave the Russian segment abandoned.

However, while the American side provides electricity and life support to the entire orbital complex, the Russians are responsible for propulsion, keeping the ISS at an altitude of around 400 kilometers and attitude control and course corrections.

Without Progress to fly it, the Station’s orbit would fall inexorably, week after week.

For this, they use Progress freighters, one of which is permanently moored to the Zvezda module. Without Progress to fly it, the Station’s orbit would fall inexorably, week after week. It would also be unable to correct its trajectory to avoid debris for example.

It is in this very uncertain context, and although Russia is still cooperating with NASA for the proper functioning of the Space Station, that NASA has decided to study emergency solutions to pilot it. In case the Russians decide to abandon him overnight.

American freighters maneuvering to pilot the station?

Northrop Grumman, which supplies the station with the Cygnus freighter (whose module is built by Thales Alenia Space) and SpaceX, which does the same with its dragon freighter, proposed to NASA to “do the work”. However, if the two industrialists’ freighters can be converted and adapted for a “reboot” mission from the ISS to raise its orbit, it should be known that the American freighters’ docking ports are actually very poorly located to carry out this task. !

they tie through the doors PMDs Unity and Harmony Modules (Pressurized coupling adapters) equipped with an active CBM system for cargo capture. This is also why theEuropean Space Agency ATV moored in the same place as the Russian Progress freighters to ascend the Station’s orbit.

It will be interesting to see the solutions proposed by Northrop Grumman and especially those by SpaceX when we know thatElon Musk always have very original and daring ideas!

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