In 2011, NASA announced a bold new program to leverage partnerships between the government and the commercial space sector to restore domestic launch capability. As part of the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX to develop next-generation crew-rated capsules that would transport astronauts and payloads to International Space Station (ISS) and other locations in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO).
While SpaceX has managed to meet all the requirements of the CCP with their Crew Dragon module, Boeing’s Starliner has experienced technical problems and several delays. With the latest delay (caused by the ISS being temporarily pushed out of its orbit), NASA has decided to reassign the astronauts that were scheduled to take the Starliner on its maiden crewed flight (Starliner-1) to the next crewed flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the ISS (Crew-5).
Continue reading “The Astronauts who Would Have Tested Starliner Have Been Reassigned to an Upcoming SpaceX Crew Dragon Launch”
On July 28th, the International Space Station (ISS) suffered a mishap after a new Russian module (named Nauka) fired its thrusters just hours after arriving. As a result, the entire station was temporarily pushed out of position, forcibly delaying the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission. This would have been Boeing’s CT-100 Starliner’s second attempt to rendezvous with the ISS as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).
The ISS managed to correct its orbit shortly thereafter, while the OFT-2 launch was delayed until the next available opportunity (Wednesday, Aug. 4th). Unfortunately, the mission was delayed again due to an issue with one of the valves on the spacecraft’s propulsion system. This prompted the ground crews to move the Starliner and Atlas V launch vehicle back into Vertical Integration Facility (VIF), so they can look for the source of the problem more closely.
Continue reading “Russia’s new Module Kicks the Station out of Position, Causes a Delay for Starliner”
It’s not easy living and working in space for extended periods of time. As NASA’s Twins Study illustrated, microgravity takes a toll on human physiology, which is followed by a painful transition back to normal gravity (just ask Scott Kelly!) Aside from muscle and bone degeneration, there’s diminished organ function, effects on cardiovascular health, the central nervous system, and “subtle changes” on the genetic level.
Until now, the biggest unanswered question was what the underlying cause of these physical impacts was. But after reviewing all of the data accumulated from decades of research aboard the International Space Station (ISS) – which included the Twins Study and DNA samples taken from dozens of astronauts – an international team of researchers came to the conclusion that mitochondria might be the driving force for these changes.
Continue reading “Health Issues From Spaceflight Might Originate in the Mitochondria”
Earlier this evening (Sunday, November 15th, 2020), NASA and SpaceX achieved another historical milestone. Six months after successfully sending astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the ISS with the Demo-2 mission, the US demonstrated the restoration of domestic launch capability by sending the fully-crewed Crew Dragon spacecraft (Resilience) on an operational mission to the ISS.
Continue reading “SpaceX’s Resilience Spacecraft has Lifted Off and is Headed for the ISS!”
On the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 21st, the crew of Expedition 63 finally returned to Earth after spending 196 days in space. It all began when NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy (commander) and Russian cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin (both flight engineers) departed the International Space Station (ISS) aboard their Soyuz spacecraft at 07:32 PM EDT (04:32 PM PDT) and landed in Kazakhstan by 10:54 PM EDT (07:54 PM PDT).
Continue reading “ISS Crew Return Safely to Earth”
When human beings start living in space for extended periods of time they will need to be as self-sufficient as possible. The same holds true for settlements built on the Moon, on Mars, and other bodies in the Solar System. To avoid being entirely dependent on resupply missions from Earth (which is costly and time-consuming) the inhabitants will need to harvest resources locally – aka. In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU).
This means they’ll have to procure their own sources of water, building materials, and grow their own food. While the ISS has allowed for all kinds of experiments involving hydroponics in space, little has been done to see how soil fares in microgravity (or lower gravity). To address this, Morgan Irons – Chief Science Officer of the Virginia-based startup Deep Space Ecology (DSE) – recently sent her Soil Health in Space experiment to the ISS.
Continue reading “What Martian Settlers Need to Know About Soil Can Teach us How to Grow Better on Earth”
On Tuesday, Sept. 29th, the Russian State Space Corporation (Roscosmos) announced that astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) had found the source of a suspected leak. The crew of Expedition 63 – NASA astronaut and Commander Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner – had been searching for this leak since August, and determined that it was “beyond expected levels.”
Roscosmos also said in a statement that “it was established that the spot is located in the Zvezda (star) service module, which contains scientific equipment.” They also emphasized that the leak “is not dangerous for the life and health of the ISS crew and does not prevent the ISS continuing manned flight.” Nevertheless, the amount of atmosphere lost may require additional oxygen to be pumped into the station.
Continue reading “The Air Leak on the International Space Station is Worse Than Previously Believed”
On May 30th, SpaceX and NASA made history when a Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying two astronauts (Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley) launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket and rendezvoused with the International Space Station (ISS). With this one flight, NASA and SpaceX demonstrated that the US once again has domestic launch capability, something they have not enjoyed since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011.
In one week, Sunday, August 2nd, Robert and Douglas will be returning to Earth using the same Crew Dragon spacecraft (named Endeavour) that took them to the ISS. This is the most crucial part of Demo-2 flight, where the spacecraft is tasked with bringing the astronauts home, safe and sound. As you can imagine, there are a lot of people who are understandably nervous, not the least of which is SpaceX founder Elon Musk.
Continue reading “Astronauts Come Back to Earth on August 2nd, Completing the Full Crew Dragon Test”
If humanity is going to become a spare-faring and interplanetary species, one of the most important things will be the ability of astronauts to see to their needs independently. Relying on regular shipments of supplies from Earth is not only inelegant; it’s also impractical and very expensive. For this reason, scientists are working to create technologies that would allow astronauts to provide for their own food, water, and breathable air.
To this end, a team of researchers from Tomsk Polytechnic University in central Russia – along with scientists from other universities and research institutes in the region – recently developed a prototype for an orbital greenhouse. Known as the Orbital Biological Automatic Module, this device allows plants to be grown and cultivated in space and could be heading to the International Space Station (ISS) in the coming years.
Continue reading “Future Astronauts Could Enjoy Fresh Vegetables From an Autonomous Orbital Greenhouse”
Robotic helpers are becoming an increasingly important element aboard the International Space Station. It is here where robots like the Robonaut, CIMON, FEDOR, Canadarm2, Dextre, and CIMON 2 (which is currently on its way to the ISS) were tested and validated for space operations. In recent years, the Robotic External Leak Locators (RELL) also proved their worth by conducting extra-vehicular activities (EVAs) and finding leaks.
Unfortunately, sending these robots out to do their tasks has been a long and complicated process. For this reason, NASA has created a new housing unit called the Robotic Tool Stowage (RiTS). Developed by the Satellite Servicing Projects Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (with support from the Johnson Space Center), this “robot hotel” launched yesterday (Dec. 4th) and will soon be integrated with the station.
Continue reading “Astronauts are Going to Attach a “Robot Hotel” to the Outside of the International Space Station”