12 thoughts on “A Space Station Gap?”

  1. Typical sciency-talk. They discuss the leaks in terms of mass which is reasonable in terms of getting more but doesn’t tell the layman much about magnitude of the leaks.

    Am I correct to estimate the reported max leakage (3 lb/day) as about 40 standard cubic feet / day normal leakage (0.6 lb/day) as 8 scfd and remaining leakage rate at 16 scfd?

    Those numbers mean a lot more to me as I am used to that type of measure.

    1. That looks about right. 0.6 lbs of air would be 272.7 grams, which is 9.413 moles (the ISS uses Earth normal mix), which would be 210.95 liters at STP or 7.45 standard cubic feet.

      So the conversion factor is 12.416 cubic feet STP per pound mass.

  2. The core problem with the report is the application of the commercial crew timeline to the commercial space station programs. This simply ignores that Axiom hired Thales (which built the 4 STS MPLM cargo modules, Columbus lab, Node 2 and Node 3, and which converted one of the MPLMs into a new ISS module, and which built all of the Cynus pressurized compartments to date, to build its 4 new modules, including converting a second MPLM to a lab module. The only issue standing in the way of getting the Axiom segment ready by 2024 is money. While the commercial crew program suffered from Congress-generated funding shortages, Axiom is also raising money by selling 12 seats on its four contracted Dragon flights (of which 4 are known to be sold, so far). NASA is talking about buying 6 of the remaining seats. At $25mln profit per seat (guesswork), that’s enough to fund the two habs, the new cupola, and the conversion of an MPLM. That leaves scraping together the funds for the airlock/power tower by 2028. It’s as close to a done deal as we’ll ever see.

  3. Barton and Richard M are right. The Axiom station is pretty much a done deal. Thales Alenia has been bending metal for the first Axiom module for the last three months. Delivery is scheduled for next year and then work starts on the second module. Meanwhile, Axiom will spend a year and a half or so fitting out the first module and will then launch it in 2024.

    The other three station projects that just received NASA funding are all less certain than Axiom at this point, but the Voyager/Nanoracks/LockMart entry looks like a good bet because it’s fairly small.

    Orbital Reef also looks to be a good bet because Blue Origin needs to do something besides file lawsuits to get its former reputation back and Sierra Space has been honing to move to the front rank of space players for quite awhile now. Orbital Reef looks like their ticket to ride.

    The NorGrum/Dynetics project looks iffiest. The only real plus for them is that Thales Alenia will also be building quite a bit of what has been proposed.

  4. I think all of them are dependent on USG funding more than anyone wants to say. Especially anything involving Blue Origin. Another issue with these litte space stations is in the context of Starship. I think Starliner and Dragon are LTO, unless USG steps in. After that, what? Soyuz and Gaganyaan?

    Btw, it looks like Roskosmos is moving toward Orlyonok (Eaglet), the cutdown version of Oryol (Eagle), for crewed LEO operations post 2025, flying on Soyuz-5 (the replacement for Zenit, using the same engine but new tankage).

    I think Progress/Soyuz will continue flying on Soyuz-2 so long as the Russians can sell them for hard currency, and they’re far cheaper and more reliable than anything else. I wonder if Antares and Cyclone will survive the conquest and ingestion of Ukraine, and simple become all-Russian products. I’ve said before, Antares core with an Improved Blok I upper stage could launch Soyuz and Progress out of existing infrastructure at Wallops, as well as Soyuz-STA launching same out of Kourou. Cyclone 4M is too small, but the planned launch infrastructure could easily be adapted for Antares-Ru (Ru for Russian). That’d be hilarious.

    1. NASA has already made it plain that none of these station projects will get more than 40% of its capital from the U.S. government. I would prefer that number to be zero, which NASA likely could have managed if it had simply guaranteed that it would buy continuous presence by four of its mission specialists in LEO with no more than two of those on any one station. Oh well, one essays the commercialization of space with the NASA one has, not the NASA one wishes one had.

      The “go it alone” question – in the context of Congress providing less money than NASA needs to cover these new contracts – was raised by Anthony Colanagelo on his most recent Main Engine Cut-Off podcast in which he interviewed Marshall Smith, a former NASA near-lifer who recently went to work for Nanoracks as their space station honcho. Nanoracks, Smith said, intends to pursue its Starlab project – and also its non-NASA-funded Outpost project to repurpose spent upper stages as station hab space – regardless of what NASA funding levels and timelines turn out to be. That’s why I assigned the Starlab consortium the next-highest probability of success after Axiom.

      Oryol has been stuck at the mock-up stage for years. If there is a notional smaller version now in the works, I don’t see it progressing any faster than its “parent” and certainly not reaching even a testing phase in the current decade. Far more likely is that it will never be built and flown at all.

      Casual assumptions of inevitability anent Russia’s designs on Ukraine seem wildly overblown. Ukraine’s military capability vs. that of present day Russia is much better than, to cite a particularly relevant case, that of Finland vs. the USSR in 1939.

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