31 thoughts on “The Aging ISS”

  1. “We are very fortunate the cracks are at the end. We shut down that compartment, thus losing one docking port, which narrows our opportunities somewhat. The crack is very insignificant, though,”

    Er, yeah…unless whatever caused that to crack is also affecting the atmo sections….After all, Soviet Quality Control!

    1. . ..Russia has not built a new space station module in decades. Their new ISS module, Nauka, was built in the 1990s.
      Loss of technological know-how as well. Consider what it would take for the US or UK to build a battleship with thick rolled steel turrets after decades of inactivity — how many of the trained workers are even alive?

      1. The NEM modules, originally intended for ISS, now headed for ROSS, are new. I think they’re a joint project with China, which is sending up it’s own version of NEM modules to CSS next year. The Chinese also apparently built two new DOS modules (same as Zarya at ISS), and you can see some Chinese equipment is labeled in Russian. So I think the only true endpoint is Nauka was the last leftover FGB module.

        1. I keep mixing up the modules PAO names with their hardware names. Zarya (Dawn) is an FGB. Zvezda (Star) is a DOS. And PAO is a public affairs officer. It finally dawned on me that Rassvet means “first light,” referring to the morning twilight of Dawn (Zarya) to which it’s attached. One of my sisters is native-speaker fluent in Russian.

  2. O/T, but…Speaking of aging, I’m surprised Rand hasn’t posted anything on William Shatner’s upcoming flight on New Shepard. At 90, Shatner will become the oldest person to ever fly into space.

    1. Yes, but we could start a pool on what will happen.

      Alien entity takes over the flight computer.
      Capsule gets sucked into a rift in space-time.
      Engines get over stressed and shut down.
      One of the other passengers goes nuts and takes over the ship.
      They catch a new of Hanta virus after they step out of the capsule.

      1. I figured it will go around the sun and return some time later to repopulate the Earth with Dodo birds

        1. You (sort of) beat me to the number one safety rule for Shatner’s flight: Don’t wear a red shirt.

    2. Speaking of the Space Age[d], as seen on the Internets:

      “At age 90, the record for the oldest person in Space is about to be Shatnered”

      I can’t wait for the call from the Dragon-2 crew capsule:
      Full Ahead: Maneuvering Thrusters Only” -or-
      “Ahead, Warp Factor: .0000256556”

  3. It’s kind of a myth that ISS required the ROS to work. A single Maxar PPE unit would replace and enhance the services provided bvy ROS to the rest of ISS. Less than $400mln.

    My recommendation has been to buy a duplicate Gateway (at least PPE + HALO), dump ROS (including FGB, which the US owns) and simply dock it to PMA#1. This would happen no later than 2025 (depending on Axiom Node#1 arrival it could be earlier, but probably not before 2024). Total cost (including PPE, $2bln [we know this from the Gateway initial procetag]). Thanks to iROSA) USOS is good until at least 2035. There’s no reason it couldn’t be refurbished and used until 2050.

    There’sa fantasy that ISS should be “splashed” and its budget redirected. I am of the opinion said budget would be redirected out of NASA, either to DoD of HHS (more likely the latter). ISS makes a good training ground for astronauts, and with cheaper infrastructure provided by SpaceX, budget can be redirected internally (and kept in NASA). The refurbishment project would be good techical practice for operations soon to be required for deep space exploration hopefully to come.

    Stop thinking like this is 1978.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. This make tremendous sense. So it likely won’t happen. The political mind seems hell bent onto accidentally dropping parts of ISS onto New Zealand….

      1. I’m not so sure its the political mind, per se, so much as the OldSpace mind. I haven’t forgotten Griffin and conpany showing charts about how they would metamophose the ISS budget into the Constellation budget, back in the day. Funny how that worked out.

      1. In principle, I agree with you; in practice. not so much. Partly, in this instance, I was in a hurry (and some element of laziness, of course), but also, what to expect from denizens of a technically oriented blog comments section? These abbreviations are what the things themselves are actually called, not the poetic names devised for the nudnik press, and they’re easily looked up on the Internet.

        Another part of the problem is, the abbreviations are short for Russian phrases that are mysterious even when correctly translated into English, which they often are not. For example, FGB is usually rendered “functional cargo block.” What does that even mean? It helps to know that the Russian word “blok” is used the way we use “stage,” and what FGB *is* is a “pressurized cargo stage.”There are two of them on ISS, “Zarya” (dawn) and “Nauka” (science). It goes on like that, all wrapped up in the hsitory of the Soviet/Russian space program, with all its technical words and metaphors.


        ROS = Russian Orbital Segment
        ROSS = Russian Orbital Service Station
        DOS = Durable Orbital Station
        FGB = Functional Cargo Block
        NEM = Science-Energy Module

        That’s some of the Russian ones. Do people really not know what the English acronyms and abbreviatios mean? ISS? And nudnik is Yiddish. I can’t be the only half-mischling here…

  4. I posted this at behindtheblack.
    When the time comes to retire the ISS, don’t let it burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. Send it to the Earth-Moon L1 liberation point. Then put a large cage around it. Later on, there would be a pressurized tube around it. From inside the tube, tourist could see the ISS, old spacecraft, and old satellites. All of that would be in the metal cage.

    With Spacex Starship, it will cost about $20,000.00 to go to the Moon, and back. The spacecraft could make a stop at L1, and the passengers could then see the ISS.

    1. I have in the past been far less romantic. Rather than a museum exhibit, I’ve proposed sending it to L4/L5 where station keeping isn’t needed. Purge it of all consumables/gasses/fluids whatnot, and just have it available for parts in a place where it could be most useful to have those nearby.

      Regardless of whether the ISS is there or not, it would be well worth a Starship mission to these places just to explore the environment and see close up what’s already trapped there.

      1. I still think whether ISS is extended to 2035 or 2050, when it’s done it can be carefully disassembled, brought down on Starships, and set up in a giant hangar at Udvar-Hazy. Which is a whole lot more doable than a giant cage somewhere beyond the Moon… (Which sounds like some old song.)

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