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Space Science

ISS Orbit-Raising Attempt Fails 329

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the go-for-the-burn-baby dept.
hpulley writes "ITAR-TASS reports that the Progress cargo ship currently docked at the ISS attempted an orbit raising burn this morning but the engine failed three minutes into the firing. Further burns are cancelled until they figure out the problem and meanwhile, the station continues to lose approximately a kilometer of altitude every week, with the rate increasing as the orbit decays. At present, the schedule says the next Progress, 20P, will be launched on December 21st, nearly 9 weeks from now. Normally the shuttle would also raise the orbit of ISS but it is not scheduled to launch until May 3rd at the earliest. Nominally the ISS orbits at 358km but if it drops to 300km, it may decay in a matter of days. It was down to 340km already on October 13th."
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ISS Orbit-Raising Attempt Fails

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  • Update (Score:5, Informative)

    by hpulley (587866) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {4yelluph}> on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @11:33AM (#13827562) Homepage
    Since I submitted the article, another report has said this morning's emergency is not a problem, and they may attempt another orbit raising burn today. There is lots of time to make a correction and the orbit is OK for now.
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @11:33AM (#13827563)

    The story gives the impression that the ISS is in some sort of dire predicament, however, upon doing the math, one can see that the ISS has roughly 9 months of orbit still in front of it.

    Tempest, meet teacup.
    • by Julian Morrison (5575) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @11:37AM (#13827614)
      Nine months might sound like a long while. But consider the lead times for rockets. Can an unscheduled mission be planned, built, prepped, tested, rubberstamped and shot into orbit inside nine months?
    • by AndersOSU (873247) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @11:42AM (#13827695)
      Reading the summary makes me think either the PR firm who wrote it doesn't understand acceleration, or expects us to be unable to.

      The orbit could currently be decaying at 1km/wk, but that is less useful than saying the paperclip I just dropped is currently traveling at 15m/s.

      In order to convey the predicament of the ISS the article should mention altitude, downward velocity, and acceleration.
    • by billybob2001 (234675) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @11:46AM (#13827752)
      Why aren't the standard units being quoted

      It's a rate of 9.94193908 furlongs per fortnight

      http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=1+kilometre +per+week+in+furlongs+per+fortnight&meta= [google.co.uk]
    • "however, upon doing the math, one can see that the ISS has roughly 9 months of orbit still in front of it."

      Not really. Falling velocity is not linear with respect to distance. Remember F = G*M(a)*M(b) / r^2. Also, there will be increased drag as altitude drops and atmospheric density increases. So, that roughly 1km/day drop now will be much higher 10 weeks from now.

      If you were to graph downward velocity as a function of time (including the calculations relating to changing drag and gravitational acc
  • Tinfoil hat (Score:5, Funny)

    by squoozer (730327) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @11:35AM (#13827587)

    You'll need more than your tin foil hat if the ISS lands on you.

    • You'll need more than your tin foil hat if the ISS lands on you.

      Google earth links, pls? :D (or should that be Google decaying orbit?)
    • All you need is sufficient tin foil to stop a megatonne object travelling at a few hundred miles per hour, and you should be fine.
  • by convex_mirror (905839) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @11:35AM (#13827594)
    for building an orbiting space station without any real scientific purpose, but I built it anyway. And then its orbit decayed and it burned up upon reentry, so I built another one . . . /message for you sir
  • Heavens-above! (Score:5, Informative)

    by saskboy (600063) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @11:35AM (#13827596) Homepage Journal
    This isn't a good situation, but barring future disasters I'm confident that they'll get a ship up there to boost the ISS to a level where it can be saved for many more decades.

    If you want to see the graphical representation of the ISS's altitude, there's a nice chart at Heavens-above.com [heavens-above.com] It's a free sign-up, and the bonus is you can find out when ISS flies over your house so you can see it or even take pictures like I do sometimes.

    I had noticed just a few days ago that the orbit was at its lowest point, and was getting concerned about what they were going to do about it.
  • Details on Re-Boost (Score:5, Informative)

    by twiddlingbits (707452) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @11:37AM (#13827617)
    The first burn will be performed at 5:09pm for 705 seconds, the second at 6:33pm for 700 sec, both with 2.94 m/s delta-V each. Main purpose of the reboost is to set up proper orbit phasing for Progress 20 launch. [The burns will be performed by eight DPO-BT thrusters of Progress 19, from the #1 manifold and will be controlled in attitude by Service Module MNFD thrusters from both manifolds. The 19P burns are steered by the SM motion control & navigation system (SUDN) via the US-21 matching unit (installed in 19P on 9/13). The propulsion systems were tested successfully on 9/15.]

    They got 170 seconds out of 1405 seconds or about 12% of a burn. MOSCOW, October 19 (Itar-Tass) --A cargo ship docked at the International Space Station (ISS) fired its engine Wednesday to raise the space research platform into a higher orbit but in about three minutes the engine failed and the operation was canceled.

    The correction was to boost the space station more than 10 kilometers further from Earth into an orbit that was to reach 356.8 kilometers on the average.

    Normally, ISS goes down by 100-150 meters daily. That's about 3-5KM a month.

    Also, there are no Shuttles ready that could boost the orbit either, so the Russians are the ONLY method right now. I'm not sure how fast the Russians can send up another Progess if the one currently docked can't get the job done. This IS a serious risk to the station and crew, but it's not panic time.


    • Also, there are no Shuttles ready that could boost the orbit either, so the Russians are the ONLY method right now. I'm not sure how fast the Russians can send up another Progess if the one currently docked can't get the job done. This IS a serious risk to the station and crew, but it's not panic time.


      Using the Progress is only one way to do it, they could always fire the engines on the Zvezda [russianspaceweb.com] Service Module [boeing.com]

      There is an obvious problem with the Progress, but I think they only use the Progress reboost becau
  • by Tachikoma (878191) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @11:37AM (#13827621)
    and landed in kansas...would it make a sound?
  • The sky is falling. (Score:5, Informative)

    by pavon (30274) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @11:38AM (#13827634)
    That sucks, but I think someone is being a bit sensational. They have almost a year to correct this. They have a mission planned in two months, by that time it will still be at least 330km up. They have been that low before. Also, by your own link, it takes at least three weeks for the orbit to decay from 300km, I have seen others that say up to 3 months. Neither of those are "a matter of days".
  • by The Madd Rapper (886657) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @11:39AM (#13827646)
    This isn't rocket science.
  • by squoozer (730327) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @11:40AM (#13827656)

    Fed up with watching others make impact craters on Mars the international consortium building the ISS have decided to up the ante by making a crater on Earth. Since the only thing they have in space is the ISS it was odds on that they would chose this to crash into Earth. Reports say that it should be a spectacular show especially for the people it hits.

    • by IIH (33751) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @12:17PM (#13828097)
      Since the only thing they have in space is the ISS it was odds on that they would chose this to crash into Earth. Reports say that it should be a spectacular show especially for the people it hits.

      The last time a space station crashed, several people had a mir death experience!

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @11:40AM (#13827662)
    These Russians have years of experience in the field. Heck, they had MIR for 15 years. That is, 3 times the time it was intendd to last. Sad that we as Americans can only sit and observe at least for now. Even aftr pumping billions into our space program, I will not be suuprised if things just do not work for us.
  • Skylab (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OrangeTide (124937) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @11:41AM (#13827670) Homepage Journal
    Will the same thing happen to ISS that happened to Skylab [wikipedia.org]? A series of incidents (generally involving funding) that results in the space station sinking below a level that it could be lifted out.

    Of course there are people in ISS, so it's perhaps a bit too early to wonder if funding would be delayed long enough for ISS to fall to Earth.
  • Solution? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by waterlogged (210759) <crussey.hotmail@com> on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @11:44AM (#13827720)
    So why haven't they put that tether experiment on the ISS that the shuttle ran a number of years ago. Basically it was able to turn orbital motion into electricity or electicity to motion. Next trip take them up a tether and a bunch of solar cell and Fagetaboutit.
  • Easy answer (Score:4, Funny)

    by The name is Dave. Ja (845139) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @11:59AM (#13827882) Homepage Journal
    Finally, all that spam provides the answer:

    Problems keeping it up?
    Get v1ag.ra, x4na.x etc. mailed direct to your ISS and end your low-orbit problems with the ladies forever.

    OK, jokes over.

    --
    __________

      Pre|ension is in the eye of the beholder
  • "Isn't that the satellite that's raining debris all over Europe?"
  • "Carter, I can see my house from here!"
  • by joeslugg (8092) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @12:05PM (#13827957)
    IANARocketScientist, and for those other readers who aren't can someone please explain:

    Why don't they have ISS in a higher orbit that won't decay as fast/often? And again, pardon my ignorance, but my (un)common sense tells me if they are at a high enough orbit, it shouldn't decay as readily - too high and you have the opposite problem of drifting farther away from Earth.

    In other words, rather than having to make orbit adjustments so often, isn't it possible to push it to a high enough orbit that won't require a tweak for a longer period of time?

    TIA for n00b-enlightenment.
    • Basically the reason is that as is, it's about as high as is practical for the shuttle to reach. Any higher and the effective cargo lift to it would be 0.
    • by pclminion (145572) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @12:18PM (#13828116)
      Why don't they have ISS in a higher orbit that won't decay as fast/often?

      Because then it would be in a higher orbit :-) Harder to reach, takes more fuel to carry heavy stuff up there, more interaction with the moon, etc. You typically want a human-occupied space station to be closer to the planet.

    • If it's in a higher orbit, it takes more time and fuel to get there. (Think about climbing one flight of stairs compared to climbing two.)

      If it's in a lower orbit, there is more atmospheric drag, so the orbit tends to decay faster.

      So they need to balance these two things.

      By the way, being "too high" won't make you drift away from Earth until you're *really* high, where the gravity of other objects (the moon, other planets, the sun, etc.) start playing a big role. You'd get into a stable orbit above any ap
    • by Anonymous Coward
      ISS orbit is at a compromise altitude and angle that barely allows both the Shuttle and the Soyuz to arrive with cargo. In addition the maximum altitude is limited to about 500 km due to thats the lower limit of the Van Allen radiation belts. Loss of altitude is due to the drag effects of atomic oxygen at the that altitude.

      Frankly the station is a great candidate for the addition of ion thruster engines to help maintain altitude.

      Every additional item of structure added to the station ( solar panels, etc) ca
      • Boosters on the ISS (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Nick Driver (238034)
        Frankly the station is a great candidate for the addition of ion thruster engines to help maintain altitude.

        Not only ion thrusters, but perhaps also 3 or 4 small conventional oxygen/hydrogen rocket engines strategically placed in case the station ever needs some higher amounts of thrust or steering manuvering capability for unforseen emergencies. The extra oxygen and hydrogen stored on board for those engines could also be diverted to fuel cells for emergency power needs and the oxygen for life support. (Sc
  • Perhaps the thing will tumble from the sky into the middle of the ocean. That would accomplish what a lot of people would like to see done. (A government conspiracy to end it at work here? hmmmmmm.) There are many arguments on either side of this coin that are valid, but I for one am going with the school of thought that says that our commitment to this station is something that is impeding the progress of our space mission. I would hate to see all of the effort and money that has thus far been expended go
  • Avion flu? (Score:5, Funny)

    by dbleoslow (650429) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @12:14PM (#13828059)
    A chicken ran by me today yelling, "The sky is falling!!!" I thought he was just delirious from the flu.
  • Much like how the ISS is slowly decaying orbit over the next NINE months - which will end in atmospheric burnout, my life equally will slip into decay as my next nine months play out, and BAM! Fiery burnout!

    Damn you defective condom, damn you! *shaking fist at sky* We should have put a condom on the shuttles!


  • Will tourism to the ISS go down because of the "impending doom" scenario, or will it go up because of the "let's see it before it's gone" mentality?

  • Why Bother (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Prototerm (762512) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @12:32PM (#13828291)
    It's not like the ISS is of use to anyone, thanks to it being in its current orbit. Like the Shuttle itself, it was a bad idea poorly implemented. You don't design and implement a space station just so a gaggle of nations can proudly say they have a presence in space, and you don't build a shuttle just because a bunch of Air Force pilots insist on flying a space ship home like an airplane. You do both to accomplish a purpose in space. What is our current mission in space? Besides lining the pockets of the Aerospace Industry, that is. Form follows function. If you don't have a concrete goal to accomplish, you'll never reach it. We have no business being in space without such a goal.

    My suggestion: decommission the space station and shuttle, close down NASA, and give the money we currently spend on it to private individuals and companies to do something (tourism, manufacturing, mining, whatever) worthwhile with it. That is the only way mankind will reach the "new frontier", the same way we reached the old one: monitize it.
    • Re:Why Bother (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)
      "and give the money we currently spend on it to private individuals and companies to do something (tourism, manufacturing, mining, whatever)"

      Don't compare space with the discovery of the Americas.

      All the goods that made moving from Europe to the America's where here, and in general people already new how to utilize them. i.e. we could build houses out of the goods, and governments knew there where things of immediate tangible value just waiting to be caught, mined, or milled.

      If Mars was a completely habitab
  • SM has Engines too! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Z-Knight (862716)
    There is no problems...even with a Progress engine failure there are several backups, one of which is the Service Module engines that can be fired after the Progress is undocked.
  • I never thought I would play Russian Roulette. Meteors do make good bullets but have missed so far. I've been hit by the odd car. All the same, I've never bagged a deer [imdb.com] and I would like to experience this element of culture in case fate is against me.

    Click.

    Click. Click. Click.

  • As they spiral in, one of the ISS crew locks himself in the engine room. The other crew cut through the bulkheads in time but in order to keep from crashing into the planet they have do a cold restart of the warp engines. This of course will launch them back in time. Oh wait! That's a Star Trek episode I watched. Never mind.
  • ION Power! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MythoBeast (54294) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @01:12PM (#13828727) Homepage Journal
    It occurs to me that station-keeping engines would be an excellent application for ion engines. They don't have the power to push the thing into orbit, but certainly they could be built with enough thrust to counter the atmospheric drag at those altitudes. While it would take a bit of effort to bring the engines up on the rockets, it would probably be more than compensated by being able to shuttle up a small load of xenon every now and then instead of all of the fuel necessary to boost it back into its original orbit.

    Maybe it's just convenient to have it ride lower every now and again, but I can't imagine that the fuel saved by the lower orbit compensates for having to push it back up there again. I haven't done the math, but it's possible that ion engines would allow it to stay at a lower altitude indefinitely, since there's no danger of decay.

    And while we're at it, maybe we could design these things with just a tad bit of aerodynamic considerations. Ok, I'm truly talking out my backside right now, but it's fun to think about how to avoid this kind of thing.
    • Re:ION Power! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hernick (63550)
      With Ion engines, the weight is neither in the engine nor in the reaction mass; it's in the solar panels. Ion engines require lots of power to operate, since the xenon is only a reaction mass. The ISS has a pretty tight power budget, and there is no way enough power can be diverted to Ion engines.

      So, installing Ion stationkeeping engines on the ISS would also require installation of large new solar panels. The current system with Progress ships boosting the station is actually quite nice because the Progres
  • Splash ISS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kitzilla (266382) <paperfrog@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @01:26PM (#13828870) Homepage Journal
    ISS dropping out of orbit wouldn't be a bad thing. It's a giant money hole in the sky, producing little science while sucking up funds better used back on earth or through more productive projects.

    We obviously want the station properly decommissioned. But it needs to come down. What a waste.

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