Ukraine And Space

Thoughts on the implications of the invasion, from Bob Zimmerman.

[Friday-morning update]

The repercussions of this for the space industry could be broad and unforeseeable.

It was always a mistake to make ourselves so reliable on Russian/Ukrainian hardware.

[Afternoon update]

Ukrainian invasions have affected our own space policies in the past.

As Jeff notes, if the Russians pull out of ISS, their human spaceflight program wouldn’t have much to do.

[Mid-afternoon update]


[Saturday-morning update]

Eric Berger runs through the potential implications for space.

32 thoughts on “Ukraine And Space”

  1. I don’t think anything will happen, but if it did, the US just sent up a Cygnus capable of handling USOS propulsion needs for the next 3 months. There’s another Cygnus in the pipeline, and another couple of Antares prepped. After that, they could go up on Falcon 9.

    Meanwhile, in a couple of weeks, Russia is raising the crew of ROS to 3. If they wanted to separate, the US would have to cooperate by turning off the power feed, then the cosmonauts would have to go outside to unplug the cabling, after which they could undock the Russian segment from PMA#1 and wander off.

    Probably a smart time to get started on a Cygnus-based propulsion module that could last for a few years.

  2. My guess is that perhaps it would be a good idea to dust off the replacement for the Russian service module that we actually built and have in storage; the Interim Control Module. I do not know what would be required to make it flight ready, so what follows is based on the assumption that it’s possible to do so in time to matter.

    It wouldn’t help replace the life support functions of the Russian module, but the question in my mind is, do we actually need those? The ECLSS installed in the US destiny module to allow the increase in ISS capacity to 6 crew (instead of 3) would, by my guess, be capable of sustaining 3 crew.

    So, Cygnus or similar for the short term, until the Interim Control Module could be launched.

    Caveat: I can’t find dimensions or mass on the Interim Control Module, and I know it was intended for Shuttle launch (however, what it’s derived from was intended for a Titan launch). So, could it be launched on a F9 or FH? My guess is the issue might be the payload fairing and support mounts. The diameter isn’t an issue (F9’s fairing diameter is 17 feet, Shuttle’s payload bay was 15 feet). Length, though, is another matter. Shuttle’s cargo bay was about 60ft. F9’s payload fairing has a length of 43 feet (and some of that, of course, is at a reduced diameter at the top).

    If length is the issue, could SpaceX stretch the F9 fairing? I think it’s possible, because their 2021 users guide says the below;
    “SpaceX can also provide an extended fairing as a nonstandard service
    . The extended fairing has the same diameter as the standard faring (5.2 m, 17.2 ft) and an overall height of 18.7m (61.25 ft). ”

    That leaves supporting the Interim Control Module inside the fairing. Given the extra diameter available, would it be all that difficult to make a framework to allow the use of Shuttle-style attach points?

    And, finally, mass. Can an F9 loft it to LEO at ISS inclination? I can’t find mass figures for the Interim Control Module, so I have no clue. I can only say that as it was designed to be shuttle launched, it has to be within Shuttle’s capacity for ISS orbit (35k pounds). Can F9 do that, and do it to ISS inclination with a stretched payload fairing plus possible internal support structures? Looks like it can, but only in expendable mode.

    1. Wikipedia’s got an old rendering of the ICM. It’s a stubby little thing a fraction of the length of Zarya. Also, the article says it was estimated at the time they mothballed it that it would take two to two and a half years to get it ready to launch.

  3. Uh. I really really hope the Biden administration doesn’t feel the need to do something aggressive against the Russian space program. We really really do not want Putin deciding that Russia has no future in space and so it doesn’t matter if anyone else does either.

    1. Fortunately, Russia showed us what they would do a few weeks ago. That means we can act accordingly, except our leadership are working for foreign interests.

      There are people who still think the Space Force was a mistake.

      1. It is currently way too easy to destroy things in space, and we are far from being able to clear them up. We could do nothing if Russia decided to fill space with shattered satellites.

  4. I think the old Interim Control Module was put into long-term storage. and is still a thing. Can it be fitted to a current booster and used?

  5. The problem is, as Pete Harding of NASA Space Flight pointed out on Twitter today, it would be hugely difficult to detach the Russian segment from ISS, even if the Russians were willing. It’s been attached for over 20 years; the materials of the berthing ports and cables might no longer be so easy to separate without damage.

    ISS was, by design, a highly interdependent architecture, in more ways than one. We may need to face the probability that terminating it as a cooperative venture with Russia may require just splashing the whole thing early.

    At the least, however, this should be a goad to Congress to more aggressively fund commercial LEO stations.

  6. The ISS could be replaced very quick if it was important for us to do so. Russia has taken advantage of us for too long and it is time for us to treat them as they deserve.

    We need to take space much more serious because it is so important to us and while people are worried about Ukraine, we need to address some of our weaknesses so that when things like this happen, we have the tools to respond without taking such huge risks.

    Would the UN already have troops in Ukraine if Russia didn’t have ASAT technology?

      1. They don’t need to go through the indignity of vetoing a resolution against them, just as they won’t go through the indignity of the USA using its military against them. They don’t even have to worry about NATO.

  7. The only thing certain about Ukrain is that the Dems, the Deep State and Soros will have to find some other corrupt country to launder funds. Anybody claims otherwise is fake news. Nobody knows what the truth is now, maybe we will in a few weeks.

  8. I had hoped the Russians would take over Yuzhnoye, but I guess not, so that’s the end of Antares and Cyclone 4M, as well as any pipe dreams about the revival of Zenit. The Russians don’t need any of it, since Soyuz-5 will replace Zenit (same first stage engine, then 2x RD-0124 from Soyuz-2 Block I on the second stage). Falcon 9 is the only US LV currently being manufactured (all remaining Atlases and Deltas are spoken for), but there’s plenty of time to set up for Falcon launches.

    Separating ROS and USOS is not as big a deal as claimed, though it does require cooperation. The US has to cut the power feed, then someone has to go outside and unplug the cables. Then shut the hatches (which were tested last year) and undock Zarya from PMA1. It doesn’t matter if the old APAS adapter never works again. Move PMA1 from Node-1 aft to a storage point on the Z1 truss, and mount a Cyngus or PPE to the Node 1 berthing port, and that’s that. Probably a custom Cygnus until a PPE is manufactured.

  9. “It was always a mistake to make ourselves so reliable on Russian/Ukrainian hardware.”

    The same people pushing these relationships also say China isn’t a threat either.

    Antares always had a finite lifespan. It was born in uncertainty. It was only ever intended to last until the contract was up. Antares showed the former owners were capable of Frankensteining a rocket together with complicated logistics. It was an amazing accomplishment that isn’t quite as cool as landing a rocket, so they don’t get much credit.

    Assuming Cygnus can use other launch providers, they should get on that. Doing things in space is more important than how you get there. NASA should have thought of redundancy before going with the Antares. Time to revisit launch contracts.

    NG should be ready to deal with this, even if it means moving onto their next thing.

    Looks like Russia’s military modernization with Ratnik and combined arms practice in Syria is working out well for them. Maybe this means people will be less dismissive about the capabilities of other countries.

        1. Go down to Decatur Alabama, and you’ll see shops that can turn out an Atlas effortlessly, at competitive prices, and of superior quality.

          We have the capability here. It hasn’t been lost.

          1. I wondered what the heck you were talking about. What good does an engineless Atlas V do anyone? Atlas, like Antares, uses Russian engines. The only US made rocket in serial production is Falcon 9, and the only large kerolox engine in serial production is the Merlin 1D, which is only about half the size of an RD-180. It’d take years to redisgn Atlas to have 4 engines. It’d take even more years to bring the AR-1 engine from where it is now to flight readiness. There is no RD-180 stockpile. I suppose you could go back to using the NK-33 enginess Aerojet has stockpiled, but you’d still have to modify the Atlas for them, more years. So, no nobody can build an Antares equivalent in the US. We do not have the capability, it has been discarded. So best launch Cygni on Falcon 9 while waiting for Vulcan (only a couple of years, we hope).

          2. When my wife worked at Northrop-Grumman (formerly TRW), she ran an IR&D program that built a 600,000 lbf LOX/LH2 engine in an effort to compete with the Rocketdyne RS-68. It used the TRW pintle injector, and would run on LOX/LH2 or just about any other fuel.

            She tested it at Marshall Spaceflight Center – her and three NGC technicians. The Rocketdyne crew, which consisted of scores of people, would sometimes ask her when the rest of her test team was going to show up. She would shrug, and reply “This is it.” And it was.

            The engine was inexpensive (obviously, as an IR&D effort), and developed in very short order. It worked like a charm, too. Though NGC has shed its propulsion capability, my wife knows where all of the people are, and could put the band back together in short order.

            Blue has hamstrung itself by loading up on traditional aerospace management, and have lost key propulsion engineers who know what they’re doing. Aerojet-Rocketdyne has lost all of its capability, but would be willing to put it back together for a long, long term cost plus effort (beginning – and probably ending – with a lengthy risk reduction phase), with delivery scheduled about the same time as fusion power becomes the dominant electricity source.

            Putting together a suitable engine can actually be done, because it has been. It just takes the right people.

          3. You’re talking about the TR-106, which was headed by Tom Mueller, who left TRW to become chief propulsion lead for SpaceX, from which he recently retired. I guess nowadays it’s possible you’re married to Tom Mueller… (sorry, I am just being funnyish).

    1. I wonder how the commie space nerds would react to severing space based ties with Russia. The cognitive dissonance of Russia rigged a US election and must be demonized and punished at every turn matched with Russia and China are not threats, never have been, communism is actually pretty cool, and you are a racist for suggesting that Russia and China aren’t really that cool.

  10. Btw, I am more or less reliably informed (the source is a Boeing employee) that Zarya, PMA1, and Node 1 were permanently attached to one another with non-retractable bolts, and that the wiring and mechanical mechanisms to do so were disassembled and removed from ISS long ago. I wonder whose bright idea *that* was?

    So the only practical way to remove ROS from ISS is to undock Zvezda from Zarya (which is US property anyway, since we paid for it). If the Russians wanted to keep Rassvet (which is fairly new) they could move it to Prichal with the ERA (if it’s operational, which I doubt) or use a Progress to transfer it. Rassvet was originally launched on a Shuttle and installed by a Canadarm.

    Then USOS would have to move PMA2 to Node 2 Nadir, put a Cygnus on Node 2 Foreward, then turn ISS around and fly Zarya-first in orbit. I guess Zarya could be used for storage (like PMM), which is about all the Russians use it for anyway. That’d leave an open Russian Progress/Soyuz port open on Zarya nadir if needed someday.

  11. The Hill: Russian space chief threatens International Space Station over sanctions

    Russia’s space agency chief said that the sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies over Russia’s invasion into Ukraine could potentially destroy cooperation on the International Space Station (ISS).

    After President Biden announced Thursday that the U.S. would sanction major Russian banks and impose export controls on Russia to curtail high-tech imports, Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin tweeted that the ISS’s current location is under Russian control.

    “If you block cooperation with us, who will save the International Space Station (ISS) from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States or…Europe?” Rogozin said in one of his tweets. “There is also the possibility of a 500-ton structure falling on India and China. Do you want to threaten them with such a prospect? The ISS does not fly over Russia, therefore all the risks are yours. Are you ready for them?”

    And thus Russia shows why we should not be partnered with them in space. Go Starship. Go SpaceX.

    1. Where do we send the thankyou card? Solve some more problems for us Russia.

      Its an empty threat though. Can’t Cygnus boost ISS?

      The media I read spun this as a threat to destroy the ISS but it is a much milder threat of destruction through neglect over a relatively long period of time.

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