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Space Science

Trouble on the International Space Station 106

lewiz writes "The BBC News website has an article that explains the International Space Station has run into troubles due to one of four gyroscopes breaking down. They say while this is a serious problem it will not have any massive effect but it will have to be replaced quickly as the gyroscopes stabilise and control the flight."
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Trouble on the International Space Station

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  • supposed to be redundant failsafe?

    fp
    • Re:redundancy (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      -1, Redundant
    • Re:redundancy (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Budgreen ( 561093 )
      I would hope they would be able to get by on at least 2 :) not a place you want a critical system to go down when a replacement is about half a year away!

      They seem to be having quite a few "critical" problems (control computers going offline and onto backup) That in the news are reported as being so bad but no real big deal.. I would like to see what the designers of ISS modules and the astronauts/cosmonauts have to say off the record about these problems.

      • I bet that if a few super models - I think two could fit into a seat, now that is redundancy!

        We could get that replacement to them in the next shuttle.

        Then again Swedish Ski Team?
      • Re:redundancy (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        "Critical" is the wrong word for any of the problems they've had so far. "Critical" implies immediate danger, and none of these problems has caused that.
        (People would be considering evacuating the station if a critical problem arose.)

        The computer problems were very time consuming and annoying, but certainly not critical. The gyro problem will make us launch a new gyro, and spend a spacewalk installing it. But, there are three more left while only three are necessary to keep orientation. The station can do just fine with none, it just consumes more propellant.

        NASA is correct to not get overly stressed about this problem.
      • From this article on Yahoo! News: Link [yahoo.com]

        "The loss of one gyro will not impact operations. In fact, the station can function with two. Even if three failed, the station can use thrusters for stability, but that means using up precious propellant that has to be flown up from Earth. The gyroscopes work on solar power.

        "To lose a CMG is a big deal; this is a major component, but from a risk perspective right now we're in good shape," flight director Paul Hill told reporters. "The next CMG we lose, there is going to be a gut check."


        I'd say they're not super-concerned at this point, but if one failed, another could fail quite easily...
    • Wheres the obligatory comment about open source?
  • Spin? (Score:5, Funny)

    by AgTiger ( 458268 ) on Sunday June 09, 2002 @09:59AM (#3668389) Homepage
    NASA tries to spin the lack of spin. There's just something wrong about this...

  • ... The future continues to fail to live up to
    the hype.

    So the ISS is still having problems. Big suprise
    there. Such a wonderful idea, a shame they've
    had so many set backs and problems.

    Where's my damn flying car already.
  • by shird ( 566377 ) on Sunday June 09, 2002 @10:02AM (#3668396) Homepage Journal
    The In Space, No One Knows You Read Vogue [slashdot.org] story, just two posts ago, had the supermodel report [salon.com] which seemed to already cover this.:

    They also reported a loud, growling noise inside the space station. It turned out to be a broken gyroscope that was commanded to spin down and then shut down. One of the bearings apparently seized up.

    NASA said the other gyroscopes were working fine and that the failure would not affect the station's navigation and control. But the bad unit will need to be replaced, and the soonest that can happen is early next year.
  • I wonder if they'll have the Russians fly up the replacement if their rockets can handle something so big and heavy. They didn't seem to indicate that they even have spares ready, but I would assume they do.
    • Dude, a navigational gyros are small. They are not the size of the docking module. Even Subs use them. THey are about the size of an iMac if I remember correctly.
    • How heavy could the gyoscope really be? Physical package yes, but a large mass?
    • by Buran ( 150348 ) on Sunday June 09, 2002 @11:07AM (#3668575)
      No. Gyros have to be carried on board the Shuttle. They are not intended to be launched on board an unmanned rocket and must be manually lifted from the shuttle's payload bay using the Canadarm (RMS) and installed on the station by spacewalking astronauts with the help of a shuttle crew.

      From http://www.spaceflightnow.com/station/sts111/02060 8cmg/ [spaceflightnow.com]:

      NASA has a spare CMG available, but it cannot be launched until early next year. That's because a CMG package - the gyro and necessary sub-assemblies - weighs some 1,100 pounds at launch and must be mounted on a special carrier beam in the shuttle's cargo bay. The next two shuttle flights, in August and October, will carry up huge sections of the station's solar array truss and don't have room for a CMG. As a result, the station may have to get by with three CMGs until early next year.

      However, what the Slashdot story failed to note is that redundancy: only two control moment gyros are required for full control. One failed, leaving the station with three. No need to panic yet -- and even if the last one fails, the Russian modules attached to the station (which seem to be forgotten now, since all the activity is on the US side) are capable of using conventional rocket thrusters to control the station.
      • "No. Gyros have to be carried on board the Shuttle. They are not intended to be launched on board an unmanned rocket and must be manually lifted from the shuttle's payload bay using the Canadarm (RMS) and installed on the station by spacewalking astronauts with the help of a shuttle crew."


        Oh... you mean the GNU/Canadarm?

        T

  • So it looks like Mir wasn't so bad after all. How long before the solar panels get knocked ou ;-)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 09, 2002 @10:15AM (#3668426)
    We know that it took them 5 tries to build the Babylon space station, so really, still being on the first one here is pretty good. As long as the first few aren't sabotaged, and the fourth one isn't taken back in time, we're all good.

    Of course, maybe it would help if we had some of that fancy Vorlon technology, but I suppose Canadians are kinda mysterious and frozen like them, so that's close enough.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    someone set up us the failed gyroscopes

    we get signal

    you are on your way to destruction

    you have no chance to survive make your time

  • More Information.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Planetes ( 6649 ) on Sunday June 09, 2002 @10:33AM (#3668472)
    As usual, spaceflightnow.com [spaceflightnow.com] and space.com [space.com] have better articles with more detail. These sites usually have space/shuttle/station information up very quickly so I tend to rely on them more.
    • But they don't let you view the Quicktimes anymore. I used to use them for catching launch replays and other things I couldn't catch due to time, forgetting, or being at work. Now they're locked behind a password, and I refuse to be nickel and dimed.

      Anyone know why spaceref.tv quit posting movies in a timely manner? Or, if they still post them, where they went?
  • This was actually already posted today [salon.com] in the supermodels in space bit. Please guys, at least try to read the articles.
  • Hmm.. (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by Heem ( 448667 )
    I love this part

    What to bring:
    # Plenty of cash - exhibitors might not accept credit cards on site

    So a bunch of skinny, weak computer geeks running around with plenty of cash in their pockets... Anyone want to go pickpocketing? ;-)
  • failing gyroscope
    nasa transmits dance lessons
    breakdancing spacemen spin

  • It failed 1-2 moths after the warranty has ended?
  • &lt evil grin &gt
    This could mean the end of Lance Bass and the Back Street Boys.
    MUh ha ha ha ha!!
  • Backups? (Score:1, Redundant)

    by brunes69 ( 86786 )
    Surely mission-critical systems such as the stabalizing gyroscopes should each have at least one failsafe? If not I can't see this being very good planning.
    • Yes, it has two backups, according to this space.com [space.com] article. It has four gyroscopes but only needs two to maintain attitude.

      But it wouldn't be very interesting to report this story factually, since it literally has no effect on the station's operation, except requiring that another gyroscope be installed before not the next one, but the one after that fails.

  • design a space station using the doughnut shape? That way, they could kill two birds with one stone; spin the station to create artificial gravity and achieve gyroscopic stability. (That way, you don't really need discreet gyros)

    It's a nice staion but should be used to build a better station. Put manufacturing capabilities on it and let's move forward.
    • (* design a space station using [spinning] doughnut shape[.] That way, they could kill two birds with one stone; spin the station to create artificial gravity and achieve gyroscopic stability. *)

      I thot the purpose of a space station is to do anti-gravity research. If you spin it to make gravity, then you only have an expensive Earth emulator.

      I suppose you could have part of it spinning, and part of it not spinning, but that creates mechanical risks at the joint, and we are right back to the gyro-like problems again.
      • They could make a rotating doughnut shaped station with a non-rotating doughnut-hole for experimenting and docking.

        This could be very cool stuff!
        • (* They could make a rotating doughnut shaped station with a non-rotating doughnut-hole for experimenting and docking.*)

          But then you have the problem of going from the spinning section to the non-spinning section. If it is done with motors, then you have the problems already mentioned. If they are separate units, then you have to do time-consuming and risky thru-space transfers of people and materials.

    • "design a space station using the doughnut shape? That way, they could kill two birds with one stone; spin the station to create artificial gravity and achieve gyroscopic stability"

      Ah, but then when the Russian oxygen generator catches fire, the artificial gravity will keep the toxic fumes from smothering the flames.
    • Your idea of a doughnut shaped space station intrigues me Homer...

    • I think the word you were looking for is "discrete", not "discreet".

      Discrete: Consisting of unconnected distinct parts.
      As in: "Amazon shipped my books in discrete boxes."

      Discreet: Marked by, exercising, or showing prudence and wise self-restraint in speech and behavior; circumspect.
      As in: "Discreet Escort Services."

      Chip H.
  • Lack of planning? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Shriek ( 261178 )
    I understand hardware will fail which is fine if wasn't due to negligence; what isn't fine though is the apparent lack of preparedness in handling the resolution of this situation.
    First, why did such a critical device fail so soon on the space station? I only ask that because it just seems like the more expensive a device is for the space shuttle or the space station the more easily it will fail. Does the level of criticality coincide with the level of fragility?
    Second, doesn't it bother anyone else that it may take up to a year to replace the one failed gyroscope? NASA has to make room on a future space shuttle mission in order to fly the replacement gyroscope up, fine I say, but I don't think that's the whole story as to why I will take so long to replace. NASA shouldn't be using the excuse that it would delay experiments or completion of the space station. The safety of the ISS crew is more important than getting some experiements completed.
    I think the issue should be why is NASA classifying this problem as low priority? Maybe NASA has done its risk analysis on the problem which would be fine except that there seems to be no oversight of the decision process.
    • Re:Lack of planning? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by NateTech ( 50881 )
      If there's one thing NASA knows how to do, it's to plan things. This post and the tons of others like it shows what sheep people will be when reading a /. article. It also shows a complete lack of understanding of their process, procedures, and the fact that numerous others have posted: There's multiple redundant gyro systems on board. This whole article is FUD.
      Various books for reference to NASA's typical procedures exist. I enjoyed "Failure is Not An Option" by Gene Kranz (Flight Director), and "This New Ocean".
      It's Monday, I'm grumpy and I'm not putting links in -- find 'em yourself and learn something.
  • by GTM ( 4337 ) on Sunday June 09, 2002 @01:43PM (#3669053)
    When I was an intern in a company building satellites and rockets, local gurus told me that gyroscopes, with all their complex pieces moving fast, are the most failure-prone part of most satellites, and that's the reason why they usually have 4 gyros while only 3 are needed for normal operation, and 2 are enough for "degraded mode".
    Now one gyroscope of the ISS is out: granted, it's a bit early, but it is also a bit early to worry about the ISS's future. Remember Hubble: at the beginning, it sounded like the mission would be a complete failure... In the end, Hubble could be repaired, and it is now considered a complete success. Don't be too hasty when bashing space missions: this IS rocket science after all.
    • What's the failure curve like for a gyroscope?

      Is it like the "bathtub curve" for hard drives, where you get some infant mortality, but then the system is good for months and months, until it reaches end-of-life and the number of failures approach 100%?

      Chip H.
  • They also reported a loud, growling noise inside the space station. It turned out to be a broken gyroscope that was commanded to spin down and then shut down. One of the bearings apparently seized up.

    I wonder if they use FDBs like they do in modern HDDs, it seems to me that they wouldn't freeze up that easily.
  • Arrite, which idiot uploaded Cyc onto their systems?? :-P

    "I'm sorry Dave, but I can't let you do that."

    --pi
  • Why can't the astronauts just wind a string around the pole in the middle of the gyroscope and pull on it really fast? That always did the trick when my gyroscope stopped working when I was a kid.

There's no sense in being precise when you don't even know what you're talking about. -- John von Neumann

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