Saturday, September 20, 2008

Unsafe at Any Long Duration

The venerable Soyuz has, until recently, been the picture you found in the dictionary when you looked up "reliable." The Emperor, a few Congress folk, the Orlando Sentinel and others want to continue to make it our "ride" to the space station until next year's model is ready to pick up from the show room.

Of course, the Corvair was also a great car until Ralph Nader got to it.

The last two Soyuz re-entries have been close calls. The propulsion module has failed to separate cleanly from the crew capsule and hangs by a "thread" until a burn-through releases its precious cargo to an uncertain orientation, a grueling ballistic trajectory, and fortunately, so far, a landing far from the desired target zone.

The vehicle currently on orbit is likely to suffer the same fate. And so will each and every Soyuz we put American crew on during the gap that stays aloft for more than four to six months. That is until one of those vehicles finds an orientation that shadows the "thread." You can surmise what happens after that.

But, the Soyuz used to fly long duration missions to the space station flawlessly for years. So what changed in the last two flights? Some bad parts out of the same lot?

A unique confluence of circumstances being investigated appears to be at fault. The space station has grown in size considerably since those first early long duration flights that the Soyuz so flawlessly serviced. It is a bit larger now with all the new modules the Emperor has sent aloft for our friends. As such it makes quite a target for training gangly military officers on ground based radars around the world. It has also become quite a source of electromagnetic energy itself, with all the radios and such from all the international partners blasting their messages back to the homelands. And it collects plasma from the space environment.

Did you hear the recent news about cell phones in your pocket causing your little reproductive agents to slow down or become ineffective? The same thing may be at work when plasma and/or the cacophony of EMI on the space station envelops the Soyuz separation pyros and causes them to become inert.

Soyuz is unsafe and we are subjecting our astronauts to an unnecessary risk by putting them in vehicles that have been on orbit for more than a couple of weeks.

So, today's prize question goes out to those who are asking for the keys to this borrowed ride. The same guy who promised a spaceship in 2011, who is now telling you he'll have it ready to pick up in 2015, is the same guy who wants to continue to buy seats on the Soyuz...or fly the space shuttle another couple of years instead.

Who in their right mind would trust this used car salesman?


Anonymous said...

My brain does hurt.

That must be it.

Anonymous said...

Relax! The Russian invasion of Georgia, coupled with a number of their other adventures has probably already solved the problem.

Perhaps now would be a good time to have a 'short sale' on space stations. Hurry! Supplies are limited and when they are gone they are gone.

Congress is not going to approve of more Soyuz purchases. So will the last American off the station please turn out the lights?

Anonymous said...

Congress will do what Congress
always does. Punt.

They will push NASA to extend STS for a
year or two, which will make the problem
some other Congresses problem.

They will get Griffin to say "Soyuz remains safe"
and keep using soyuz, wether or not
the problem remains.

Anonymous said...

There appear to be a few options for extending Shuttle ops for a few years. Some of the missions can be replaced with expendable vehicles doing the heavy lifting coupled with a Shuttle doing the final maneuvers and delivery at ISS.

The key is that you can get a quick Orion capsule, suitable for ISS operations only, far earlier than 2014. You just have to abandon the ARES I. Getting rid of ARES allows you to completely eliminate the main propulsion in the service module and makes the launch escape system far simpler. In fact there is hardly a single system that would not be positively impacted by switching to an EELV. With plenty of excess delta V on a Delta or Atlas you can condense the time to dock with the ISS to a few hours and not a few days- which drastically simplifies the whole power and ECLSS. You also know exactly what the flight environments are NOW and can design to them- that is worth years of time. Most importantly you can fly unmanned test missions almost as soon as you can create the test hardware- operators are standing by to take your order.

Hopefully the Emperor ( and his entourage of dolts) will sink into the swamps of history and his successor will be less hidebound. Solutions for ISS access can be available by 2012 if the teams are focused and allowed to function normally. If they are kept in mental masturbation mode, as at present, they will return nothing but a lot of paper.

Because of the Emperor and his gestapo tactics you will not get wind of these options from the contractors until he is gone and not a threat. They are well conditioned to avoid even the appearance of differing from him. But do not think they have abandoned reason.

I wonder if we could tempt him to leave early by offering him a scholarship for yet another degree- something requiring long distance travel to a place without email.

Anonymous said...

A pretty intriguing theory. Wonder if this affects the pyros on the parachutes.

Anonymous said...

R&S readers will be excited to know
what's really going on
in the Orion Program.

Apparently The Emperor is personally
attending meetings with the Orion
Contractor to push his own design
for Orion and to throw out all design
work to date.

one must wonder if this is a
conspiracy by Griffin to
destroy Orion

Anonymous said...

Av week reports the russians have
come with an understanding of the
problem and at least 25 other possible
scenarios and potential fixes.

Anonymous said...

Apparently The Emperor is personally attending meetings ... Orion

Kind of late in the process for that.

Is he wearing clothes now, or is he still naked? My suggestion - give that guy another degree and get his pathetic ass out of there. Then ask around if there are any adults in the room, and if anyone raises their hand, hire him on the spot.

Anonymous said...

"What about those 221 comments against the SRD? What were they all about?"

The minion replied, "Those were just from a someone who wanted to rewrite the SRD. We rejected all of those suggestions."

"Oh. Well the board approves the SRD. Next subject."

Previous to that they were lamenting about the sudden emergence of a great number of abort conditions and what to do. One suggestion was to just pay attention to one or two because we didn't have the money or time to address them all. If they had done the up front behavior analysis, as was suggested as a part of the SRD rewrite, they would already have known what to do!

I have never seen such a calous disregard for operator safety in my life. The very idea of schedule and cost overriding a potential safety concern is beyond the pale! (Put on your management hat)

Then they all bowed their heads and said, "Amen", sealing the fate of the program. Church just let out.

Anonymous said...

Let us prey.

Anonymous said...


the worst part of Griffin's involvement
in Orion is he is pushing for major
design changes.

New Aero Shapes, New Materials,
new Escape systems.

Does he want to run NASA or does he want
to be a Project engineer.