Thursday, January 29, 2009

Shakey Shakey, Breaky Breaky?

As if we need another reminder as to how tenuous our low earth orbit outpost is, another reminder came our way recently. And just so we can use another word twice, we'll explain how our tenuous atmosphere, some excitable structures, and the Russians could end up nearly in a story about the day the space station almost broke.

As you know, the top edges of the air around us leaks away from the home planet every day. Some of those friendly molecules, on occasion, find their way way up into low earth orbit. If they happen to run into anything, they slow the very thing down. For those of you familiar with the mechanics of orbit, you know that if something slows down, its orbit decays.

That, of course, is a continuing story for the space station, locked in a silent circular treadmill above mother earth. As runaway air runs into it, the international complex reels from the blow and drops back towards the water below. To avoid an untoward demise, rockets are occasionally fired to speed the whole thing up, raising its altitude once again. Up and down and round and round she goes.

This time the Russians were called upon to fire the rockets on Mr. Putin's side of the fence. Pulsing away, the thrust came on up for the rising. But then things started to go really really (really) bad as the pulsing matched the tinker toy's resonant frequency almost shaking the tinker, and the astronauts onboard, out of the toy. This went on until, at just shy of the breaking point, the burn was terminated.

Putin's potentates apparently put a little too much special sauce in the burn calculations. Having worked the recipe so many times before, it makes you wonder how steady their hands are on things that count, like the keys to those silos we heard about 50 years ago that gave us reason to go to the moon in the first place(they got Putin, we got Spudis, who do you think is right?).

So now the achy, almost but not quite, breaky spaceship whizzing now apparently not so interminably above our heads, is under watchful scrutiny to see if any stress or distress was introduced into its many assembled pieces.

And maybe 2016 will be a lucky year to make it to after all.


Anonymous said...

Good thing we have reboost from the European ATV which has demonstrated that it won't break the ISS.

Anonymous said...

And some would like to see international "cooperation" on other programs. No thanks.

Anonymous said...

how much deferred maintenaance is in the ISS?

The station design was originally for 2.5 men per year
working on maintenance.

during the Columbia Down period, this was underdone
while ISS struggled with 2 resident crewmembers.

Is ISS finally caught up now that they have
3 crew members, or is there still lots of
deferred work?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

some damn serious shaking ...

Anonymous said...

Once again RM, you scooped the papers and blogs. Keep the light shining! Looks like everyone else is playig catch-up again.

Anonymous said...

"Looks like everyone else is playig catch-up again."

Not everyone although I missed it first time there as it was so understated ...

Anonymous said...

the video is amazing
i am surprised they didn't cancel the burn