27 thoughts on “Midnight Basketball For The Russians”

  1. I tried to read the article at the link. I got about 6 paragraphs in but no point seem to be being made as I was entering a new section needing a subtitle. I could see from the subtitle and from the previous paragraphs that Russia maybe called an unreliable partner because of a software glitch or human error. My thoughts drifted to Boeing Starliner and then I remembered that Nauka made it to the Space Station on its first try. Software always does what a human wrote it to do.

  2. “Software always does what a human wrote it to do.”

    Yep, and it doesn’t know or care how stupid the command is. Shut off the cooling system of a nuclear reactor? Sure thing boss. Put the plane full of passengers in a vertical dive until you get negative altitude? Whatever you say. We gotta stop worshipping lines of code like they’re Olympian gods.

    1. Well what we really need is to stop outsourcing critical code to the lowest foreign bidder. The code is just the instructions for the tool.

      You want to go back to human control of everything fine. Get used to tuning your car every couple of weeks, back to rabbit ears, static on the radio, no internet, no ATM, well heck most modern stuff you use everyday? You’re gonna need to move to PA and join the Quakers.

      1. Right, because there’s no space in between “no ATMs” and “Google uses AI to track everything I do”.

  3. What got me was where he said the Russian’s talking about building their own station was posturing and some how different from NASA’s 2028 pipe dream. NASA doesn’t have the money either and does anybody here believe they will even have the design down by 2028?

    1. The “design” is two NEM modules attached to the backup UM module. Which makes an H-shaped space station. Not very big, but useable for its main task in an SSO. Most illustrations also show a Poisk-like module with an Oryol docked to it. The factory that makes Progress and Soyuz has also made the Mir-Shuttle adapter, Pirs, Poisk, Rassvet and Prichal. My understanding is, they’re all based on Orbital Module pieces and parts, and they’re all flown up using Progress service modules (so when Prichal goes up in the Fall, it’ll be called Progress M-UM). One of the things that keeps being forgotten in all this is, the Soyuz launch vehicles have flown thousands of times, and the Progress/Soyuz spacecraft have flown hundreds of times. If anything is cheaper than semi-reusable Falcon 9/Dragon 2, that’s it.

    1. Except they can’t. Their spacecraft can’t be launched to the Chinese station because the inclination is too low.

      1. That’s only trivially true. There’s no reason the Russians can’t modify their existing Kourou infrastructure to permit Progress and Soyuz launches from there. Then they can reach any orbit they want. In addition to CSS, it would be helpful with regard to ROSS in a high inclination orbit.

        1. They would have to put in all of the specialized ground equipment needed to inspect, test, and mount the Progress and Soyuz spacecraft at the new facility along with the people to do the work. In addition, they would need all of the facilities to prepare the cosmonauts and Progress payloads. They would also have to transport the spacecraft there. None of that is impossible but none of it is cheap or easy, and Russia doesn’t have a lot of money.

          1. That’s just throwing up false nitpicks. The Russians have been launching Soyuz STA and STB rockets (the “export” versions of 2.1a and 2.1b) for ten years. The infrastructure (identical with what’s at Vostochny 1S, also operational) is in place, as are the necessary engineering and technical staff. The rockets are dlivered by freighter. The spacecraft could come on the same boat, or by military airlift. Cosmonauts would board their spacecraft from the mobile service tower, which would also be used to service Progress, as needed. None of this is a big deal. The only real expense and need would be air-sea rescue along the ascent path. Which the Russian and French navies would do. However, the only reason to use Kourou is to reach the China Space Station. Otherwise, ROSS can be reached from Baikonur and Vostochny by switching to the Soyuz 2.1b launcher.

  4. What happened with Nauka was easy enough to understand. ISS was yawed 180deg and pitched up 90deg, via CMG, so Nauka’s horizon sensors could orient the module with the correct side facing Rassvet, where some additional parts (airlock, radiator, and ERA spare parts) are stored. The conflicting info is, the translator said Novitsky switched on TORU and flew the last 10 meters manually, but you can plainly see on the navigation screen that Kurs is still engaged. The human error is, no one switched off Kurs after the docking was complete. So when the CMGs began to reverse the pitch and yaw, Kurs thought it was being forced off course dangerously and took action. The bad thing is, Kurs can’t be operated unless ISS is within range of Russian ground stations. The good thing is, US controllers put the CMGs into free drift promptly.

    As far as ROSS goes, the pieces and parts more or less already exist. A backup Uzlovoy Module, far newer than Prichal, is already fabricated. NEM-1 and NEM-2 would simply be switched from ISS to ROSS (before being lauched, of course). These are sunk costs as far as the Russians are concerned (since they never got the memo about it being a fallacy). Soyuz/Progress factory is already manufacturing same at the rate of 6 a year. All that needs to happen for ROSS to work out is switching from the Soyuz 2.1a LV to Soyuz 2.1b. Not a big deal on any level. The idea that the Russian space program will evaporate is a OldSpace pipe dream.

    As for getting rid of ISS Russian Orbital Segment, it’s not out of the question. In fact, that would be a better use for PPE+HALO than Gateway. That’d give ISS a refuelable propulsion module with a 50kw ion drive. And it’s already under cosntruction, scheduled for launch in 2024. Someone tell Berger. Maybe he can convince Biden’s handlers.

      1. My thoughts on Nauka were confirmed by Sergei Krikalev during a Russian TV interview. Someone on the ground neglected to shut down the Kurs system. Whether TORU was used by Novitsky is still not confirmed. But I can’t think of why the simultaneous interpreter would have said it, if she didn’t hear it.

    1. The idea that the Russian space program will evaporate is a OldSpace pipe dream.

      Well, it is evaporating slowly. Consider your previous sentence:

      Soyuz/Progress factory is already manufacturing same at the rate of 6 a year.

      What are they going to do with those pieces?

      1. I think you are just holding onto that OldSpace pipe dream. The answers to your question are not only readily available, they’re more or less self-evident.

        1. They are currently launching regular Progress and Soyuz flights to ISS, where they intend to remain for at least 4 more years (so that accounts for a minimum of 24 “pieces”). Probably more when push comes to shove.

        2. They seem to have no trouble selling tourists seats on Soyuz, as witness Soyuz 19 & 20 later this year. My understanding is Soyuz 23 will carry 2 tourists as well, one of whom has paid to go on an EVA. Those are additional “pieces,” representing income that largely replaces the lost NASA income. (Note that NASA purchased Vande Hai’s seat from Space Adventures, not Roskosmos.)

        3. There’s a new Progress/Soyuz variant, Soyuz GVK coming over the horizon (Russian Time is like Elon Time, eh?). I don’t know if this will supplant one or two Progress flights a year.

        4. Since the pieces and parts of ROSS are under construction, supposed to be delivered in 2024-2025, that will be the deciding factor on Russian participation in ISS (for which they were originally intended).

        5. In addition to the Progress/Soyuz spacecraft and small modules (Pirs, Poisk, Rassvet and Prichal types), Russia continues to manufacture the R-7 based launchers, currently available in 3 variants, a, b, and v. That’s not going to stop. It also looks like the Angara types are finally going into regular service as Proton is retred. I’ll believe in Yenesei and Irtysh if and when they fly.

        6. As noted previously, Progress and Soyuz can fly out of Kourou if need be. Or they can launch to ROSS on a 2.1b rocket. Neither is a gigantic change. Kourou allows launch to the China Space Station.

        7. Oryol? Probably, but when is open to question. Oryol can reach ROSS from Vostochny atop Angara 5vm, but not CSS, and will never launch from Kourou. Orlyonok to the Moon? Chthulhu knows.

    2. In fact, that would be a better use for PPE+HALO than Gateway. That’d give ISS a refuelable propulsion module with a 50kw ion drive. And it’s already under cosntruction, scheduled for launch in 2024. Someone tell Berger. Maybe he can convince Biden’s handlers.
      Maybe they should build two? One for delivery to ISS in 2028?

      1. Yeah.

        I vaguely remember something from a while back about building multiples or companies competing for the contract to build prototypes?

        Doesn’t NASA want to exit operating stations in LEO? Might not make much sense for them but if Axiom, or one of their competitors, could produce something similar, it might bridge the gap.

      2. That would be my preference, but would require coming up with another $2-3bln. Last year I outlined a way to extend ISS out to 2050, based largely on this idea, but refurbishing the 3 main USOS labs as well. I think my end budget guesstimate was around $9bln, for an added 20 years of ISS use. Then again, I also think we could disassemble ISS, bring the pieces down with Starship, and set up a grand display in an enormous glass hangar as Udvar-Hazy. That’d probably cost more, but what a sight!

  5. “Russian segment of the space station, as well as a Progress supply vehicle attached to the laboratory. These combined actions prevented the station from tumbling too violently until Nauka exhausted its primary fuel supply.”

    Can Nauka de-orbit?

    1. I think that capability is lost, since they fired the pyro valves to isolate the fuel tanks, so it can no longer act as a free flyer. On the other hand, a Progress could tow it away. It’s bigger than Pirs was, but Progress is a capable truck and will be used to deorbit the entire ISS if it comes to that.

  6. Another capability coming over the horizon in the next year or so (Vulcan dependant) is the Shooting Star module, which basically has a berthing port on one end and a docking port on the other. I can think of all kinds of uses for it.

    One idea that I had was to get the Rafaello MPLM out of storage, upgrade it to PMM status, weld a Shooting Star to the “blank” end, then outfit that as a service module/airlock/docking adaptor. Give it a Canadarm and you have a crew-capable free flyer that can self-berth to ISS, as well as dock to IDA equipped spacecraft.

    And I do think its high time to implement the full IDA protocal, so any US spacecraft can dock to any other US spacecraft at any time.

  7. Another moneymaker the Russians could try is to sell Soyuz spacecraft to NG and Rocket Lab, for launch on Antares and Neutron rockets. Think of it, a Ukrainian rocket with Russian engines and a US upper stage launching a Russian spacecraft full of Americans from Wallops Island, Virginia. And they could sell complete Fregat stages with it, a big improvement for the Antares. And as a big bonus, Wallops Island is at 37deg N, so it could reach the China Space Station…

  8. Will any of this matter once SN25 or whichever has a couple dozen test flights under its belt? It’s time for somebody commercial to start thinking bigger, at least on paper.

    1. Bigger than a booster/second stage combo taller than the Saturn 5 with twice the power? You aren’t likely to find a rocket bigger than that this side of a Thunderbirds episode.

    2. The idea that the Military-Industrial Complex that’s consumed half the US budget for 75 years will evaporate if SuperHeavy/Starship works is the NewSpace version of the same pipedream. My guess is the US pork-fueled space program will take 20 years to die, even if Elon is giving them the finger from Mars in 5 years. Even just Artemis: there are 9 flights already funded, with 9 more coming up for review. The only way that’s going to end suddenly is if Artemis 1 explodes on the launch pad. What Starship gives the US in the short term is a replacement (and much better) Space Shuttle (no refueling necessary for LEO only). In the longer term, who knows?

      As for the rest of it, Russia, China, India, and Europe will do what they do. Maybe ULA will evaporate, but I doubt it. NG is buying AR, so even if BO fails completely (meaning no Vulcan), AR-1 engines could wind up being used for Atlas V and Antares, and those two will get DoD and NASA contracts, even if SpaceX gets literally everything else. It’s much more about politics than it is magic spaceships (and if it wasn’t then SuperHeavy would already have knocked off SLS).

      The reason commercial entities aren’t thinking bigger is because the pork trough is still open for business. Think about Axiom. Who runs it? Where did they used to work? No big surprises there. I’d bet on Sierra Space for the next ones out the gate on bigger and better space infrastructure.

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