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NASA Space Science

Russia's Unmanned Capsule Misses Space Station 224

mikesd81 writes "Russia's unmanned cargo ship Progress 38 missed docking with the ISS and sailed right on by it instead of docking on autopilot. A telemetry lock between the Russian-made Progress module and the space station was lost and the module flew past at a safe distance. NASA said the crew was never in danger and that the supplies are not critical and will not affect station operations. There will be no other attempts at docking today, and the orbit of the module raises questions of any other attempts again. Packed aboard the spacecraft are 1,918 pounds of propellant for the station, 110 pounds of oxygen, 220 pounds of water and 2,667 pounds of dry cargo — which includes spare parts, science equipment and other supplies."
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Russia's Unmanned Capsule Misses Space Station

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  • Right... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ironchew ( 1069966 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:05PM (#32781682)

    the supplies are not critical

    In other words, it had everything worth living for in it. You don't *need* tasty food or new videos to survive.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Romancer ( 19668 )

      Pretty much:

      Known in Russia as Progress M-06M, the new Progress 38 spacecraft is packed with nearly 2.5 tons of fresh food, clothes, equipment and other supplies for the space station's six-person crew.

      Packed aboard the spacecraft are 1,918 pounds (nearly 870 kilograms) of propellant for the station, 110 pounds (nearly 50 kilogram) of oxygen, 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of water and 2,667 pounds (1,209 kilograms) pounds of dry cargo including spare parts, science equipment and other supplies.

      About 213 pounds (97 kilograms) of the delivery ship's cargo is earmarked as items for the station crew. Astronauts always look forward to fresh fruit and other foods that arrive on Progress spacecraft, NASA officials have said.

      Some personal treats for the station astronauts are sometimes included, but NASA officials kept mum on anything unique riding on Progress 38. "Anything that would be of interest is probably a surprise," NASA spokesperson Kelly Humphries told from the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

    • Re:Right... (Score:4, Informative)

      by blackest_k ( 761565 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:24PM (#32781890) Homepage Journal

      you really don't need video's sent into space on any physical medium either.

      Russia Today said after this first ever failure to dock that a second attempt will be made on Sunday.

      • Re:Right... (Score:5, Funny)

        by Firehed ( 942385 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:38PM (#32781998) Homepage

        No, not technically. But international data rates to the space station are a bitch. /only half-joking

        • by geekoid ( 135745 )

          Idf the unmanned capsule is reusable, you put a HD on it, and have it load the digital mead while docked. While you will have additional weight in the sup-ly ship, it's a content weight, and it doesn't add mass to the space station.

          • "digital mead" - sounds tasty.

            Also, what's a "sup-ly ship?"

            I wouldn't expect that they would need data traveled via RocketNet (haha, instead of sneakernet? har har) - they have plenty of communications gear and are in a good position to make and receive transmissions.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Klinky ( 636952 )

          Maybe the space module was using AT&T to communicate. AT&T better blast Owen Wilson into orbit to try to save face.

        • Probably a lot less than the data rate on my cell plan.

        • It is my understanding that while they do have at least a little internet access (they can send email for example), they don't have anything even close to broadband. And in my opinion, that is a serious oversight.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      This is NASA's way of pulling a USS Liberty incident on Russia's Aeronautical Space Ship (hereinafter A.S.S.)

      I bet those asstronaughts were up there saying:

      We got their automated docking source-code, so link our ISS vectoral impulse control system upto this Perl script written on my GNU/Linux OpenPandora computer because I wrote it to spoof and avoid their docking effort.

      Haha look at that shit go by us, yous Moiphies! Quick, send them an eMail that their software didn't anticipate the solar wind effecting

      • by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @09:38AM (#32785334)
        Or may be, it was just Putin's funny idea to make Obama sweat a little. Remember, considering our current restructuring/retooling efforts with NASA, the US is temporarily -- but almost-entirely dependent on Russia for resupplying the international space station. And if you're of the mind of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, what he said just a few days ago (on the 29th of June 2010), that the timing [] of the spying allegations seemed entirely too coincidental to his liking, might seem to apply in this particular case as well. May be, just may be, the timing of this first-ever Russian docking trajectory error, seems entirely too coincidental as well?
  • by mollog ( 841386 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:05PM (#32781684)
    Is there no vehicle for the people on the space station to use so that they can nip out and catch the errant missile? Jeepers, that would have been the first thing that I would deliver. Surely, they had anticipated this happening and considered what to do about it.

    It's not clear to me why we're doing this whole space station thing in such a half-assed manner. Why not think in terms of a permanent space station, and all that entails?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sir_Lewk ( 967686 )

      Ah, but then you'd need a space-tug-tug to pull your space-tug back when it fails...

      Where exactly do you get the idea that they are doing this in a half-assed manner? Contrary to what you might think, this is rocket science.

    • Where do you get the fuel to nip out, catch the vehicle, and bring it back in?

      What to do about it? Launch another one. Either that or wait until November and have the Space Shuttle go pick it up...

      • by socz ( 1057222 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:25PM (#32781904) Journal
        So what happens when the space shuttles are all retired and we only have apollo-era capsules that we can send up with a breath-taking-fall-back-to-earth? Not dissing you, but the U.S. really bit the bag on this one. The shuttles are one of the best assets the U.S. has. Literally, no one else on earth has *anything* close to it. What a shame.
        • by NNKK ( 218503 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:38PM (#32782008) Homepage

          Because no one else on Earth _wants_ anything close to it. They cost way too much for the marginal benefits they provide.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by socz ( 1057222 )
            I don't know about it proving "marginal benefits." It was the first vehicle to produce a viable "lab in space" that was unable to be done before. It was versatile enough to do whatever you needed it to do. It has a giant robotic arm from Canada. Yes, CANADA! The place where the South Park creators are from!

            Now, the whole thing about it being safe is probably the problem. Well, was the problem. Back when the challenger had issues it really cut the program down. Unfortunately, it was a known problem (even
            • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:12PM (#32782284)

              Trey Parker and Matt Stone were both born in the USA.

              Skylab was a lab in space before the space shuttle. Salyut 1 was before that, but it had two missions that both failed. Soyuz 10 that could not board due to fire and Soyuz 11 that crew died on rentry do to a lab. Shuttles are pointless ISS could have been lifted by cheaper and safer rockets.

              You seem to be wrong on all accounts.

            • No, the problem was how EXPENSIVE it was. Largely because NASA has become a huge government bureaucracy and has forgotten everything it ever knew about making operations efficient, shuttle flights cost fully 10 times as much as had been originally planned. And that's after adjusting for inflation. That's a lot.

              The Shuttle has been called (and no doubt accurately) "the most complex machine ever devised by man". The fact that it was capable and flexible and all is wonderful, but that is offset by the huge
            • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @12:38AM (#32783308)

              I don't know about it proving "marginal benefits."

              As I see it, "marginal benefits" means what does it provide that something like a Saturn 1B couldn't. As I see it, there's a vast amount of unused capability in the Shuttle. It can repair satellites, but nobody wants to repair a satellite for the cost of a Shuttle mission. It can return vast amounts of mass to Earth (called "downmass"), but as far as I can tell, aside from the odd experiment, the only thing that ISS managers want returned is trash and that can be returned on vehicles (like the Progress, ATV and HTV) which burn up in the atmosphere. It has a bunch of flexibility in landing that really isn't that useful (landing people or downmass at an airport isn't much more useful than dropping them in the middle of the ocean, compared to the cost of a Shuttle launch).

              As far as I know, there would be no ISS if it wasn't for the SS.

              In other words, bad planning on the part of the ISS builders. None of the components were particularly massive. The Proton (or a Saturn 1B, Ariane 5, Titan IV, Delta IV Heavy, etc) could have launched all of the ISS components, if it weren't for the volume and dimensions of the pieces. By making the pieces large enough that only the Shuttle could lift them, then NASA insured that the ISS was beholden on the Shuttle in order to exist. This was, no doubt, part of an attempt to wring more funding for the Shuttle and protect NASA's supply chain from budget cuts. The drawback was that any delay to Shuttle flights, such as from the Columbia accident, insured that the ISS was pushed behind schedule. While if there had been other vehicles capable of servicing the ISS's construction needs, then NASA could have kept going with construction despite the loss of Columbia or even of the entire Shuttle program.

              To summarize, the Shuttle became a single point of failure for the ISS and contributed considerably to the overall cost of the ISS's construction and past operation which is thought (once one includes the operation of the Shuttle past 2003) to run well over 100 billion dollars in current dollar cost. My view remains that with a smarter choice of sizing of ISS components and not using the Shuttle, NASA could have dropped the cost of the ISS to 20-30 billion dollars. in my view, we could have built 3-5 ISS for the cost of the ISS we actually built.

          • by geekoid ( 135745 )

            the benefits are not marginal, they where huge.

          • by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:04PM (#32782226) Journal

            While I agree, the benefits are "marginal" until you need them.

            One advantage of the Shuttle is it is designed to be a jack-of-all-trades. It has a big cargo bay that you can fill up with stuff, including a space lab. The arm can be used to grab nearby things and put them in the cargo bay for maintenance. It allows seven astronauts to work in a shirt-sleeve environment for two weeks. It's a pretty impressive vehicle.

            The "problem" is ISS can do most of the science stuff that the Shuttle did better than the Shuttle could (because it stays up longer). So as a science vehicle, it's not really that useful anymore. The Satellites you might want to maintain are outside the Shuttle's reach. While satellites like the Hubble Space Telescope are within the Shuttle's range, HST was designed to be maintained by the Shuttle and, in fact, has to do some crazy stuff to target stars while whizzing around the Earth within the Shuttle's range. So at this point, the Shuttle's only mission is to carry astronauts from Earth to ISS. This is akin to using a big honkin' four-wheel-drive SUV to pick up groceries at the corner store--sure it will work but it's kind of a wasteful way to do it.

            Using the Shuttle to capture the Progress Drone could probably be done. But it's kind of silly to spend $60,000,000 to launch a Shuttle to rescue a Progress drone that probably cost $10,000,000 to launch. Just launch another Progress and be done with it.

            I won't bag on the Space Shuttle--it's a great machine. But we really don't need it anymore. Let NASA get on to the next big thing (whatever that may be) and let private industry take over supplying ISS with people and supplies.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ShooterNeo ( 555040 )
          The Soviets made an exact copy of the shuttle that flew and is completely automated. []
      • Indeed. The only failure I can see is that the space station fuel is either not compatible or not mingled with the supply pod fuel. If it were, at least there'd be a chance of salvaging something, (sans the wasted fuel, of course.) a few orbits down the line.

    • by Cylix ( 55374 ) * on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:21PM (#32781856) Homepage Journal


      Everything is going completely as planned.

      There were no supplies on the vessel and the pod was purposely sent off course. This was a very thoroughly planned tactical decision in order to acquire the funds for the supplies via the insurance payoff.

      We would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for those meddling kids and their dog!

    • by jdigriz ( 676802 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:23PM (#32781868)
      The space tug was one of the first things that was cancelled in the space station program [] We're doing this whole space station thing in such a half-assed manner because approximately half of the people in Congress would dearly like to see the entire thing cancelled (and this is not a vote along party lines). They try at every chance to kill the thing outright but it's always so far been saved at the last moment (with subtantial cuts) in a political compromise. And the thing about a compromise is that it's a solution that no one is happy with, ie, half-assed. That's the main reason. The other reason is that the station is in LEO, and thus is subject to significant atmospheric drag via the attenuated atmostphere. It's not a permanent orbit. Within a few years at most, without periodic reboosts (which cost fuel), the station would reenter the atmosphere and burn up. The primary reason that the station is in such a low orbit relates to the quality of the launchers we had to launch it. Without a Saturn V class, we had no real capability to project more mass than a telecom satellite to a significantly higher orbit. The Clarke orbit is filled with junk from dead comsats, so it's unsuitable for permanent habitation even if we could reach it with so much mass. And the area between LEO and GEO is mostly unreachable by the supply and personnel rockets we had with significant payload. So basically, the reason this station program is so half-assed can be laid at the feet of the people who killed the Saturn V. Skylab was launched in 1 launch. The ISS took dozens to be mostly complete.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dkleinsc ( 563838 )

        We're doing this whole space station thing in such a half-assed manner because approximately half of the people in Congress would dearly like to see the entire thing cancelled (and this is not a vote along party lines).

        Out of curiousity, do you have a roll-call vote we can refer to that might give us some idea who to vote out of office if we don't like them half-assing it? I for one would like to know names.

      • Both groups are at fault. The anti's, for keeping it from its full potential, and the pro's, for not realizing that sometimes a thing half-done might not be worth doing at all.

        But the pro's are worse, because they never offered a compelling argument as to why it should be done with public money, which every man is compelled to contribute regardless of his will.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Also, the radiation higher up than LEO is a bitch.

    • by Kilrah_il ( 1692978 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:28PM (#32781918)

      Although the space program had (has) it's share of fuck-ups, I would be hesitant to jump up and yell aloud: "Everyone is stupid, I just had a great idea no one else thought of before". I mean, what you say sounds reasonable, but if hundreds of scientist didn't provide for some sort of space tug, they probably had some reason, other than plain stupidity. Some possible reasons I can think of from the top of my head (at 3:00AM; disclaimer - IANAS*):
      1) The frequency of such missed dockings is too low to justify the cost.
      2) It is cheaper to send another probe than to have a space tug ready at all times - Remember that mass is money in space, and also you have maintenance to consider.
      3) The technology for the space tug is not safe enough - it could be unpleasant if one of the astronauts gets marooned on the space tug.
      Please don't try to refute the above points. I am not saying this are the reasons, those were just examples.

      You may be right and nobody thought about some sort of contingency plan for such a scenario, but I would check it before marching around and talking about "half-assed manner".

      * IANAS - I am not a scientist.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ColdWetDog ( 752185 )

      Why not think in terms of a permanent space station, and all that entails?

      If you've got the money, honey, they've got the time. Remember, the ISS is anything but permanent. It's going to be deorbited in a couple of years unless the various agencies find a whole lot of money to keep it up.

      It's not clear to me why we're doing this whole space station thing in such a half-assed manner.

      See above. This, folks, is why we need the ISS as half assed as it is. We have to learn how to solve all of these little

    • No, that this much harder to do than you imagine.

      And think of the value for money - the development cost and launch cost of such a rescue vehicle versus the cost of a single Progress mission. Unless accidents like this happened really frequently, the cost of a rescue vehicle would vastly outweigh the advantages.

    • Repeat after me - Changing orbital planes requires very large amounts of propellant.

      Mostly because Congress is more concerned with funding the military industrial complex than scientific advancement that doesn't include more efficient ways to kill people.

  • by socz ( 1057222 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:16PM (#32781798) Journal
    So, next up on the agenda: the ISS.


    So while trying to resupply it, the 'RUSSIAN' components failed to deliver its payload. It's now a possible danger to our gov't/mil satellites.


    What do you propose we do?


    Well, the public isn't going to like this. Can't we use our own rockets for this? Oh, so the Russians have superior rockets. How much money are we spending on this? Oh, that's not good. Didn't we already cut the Space Shuttle program out? Oh, so we can't even get our own people or supplies up to the ISS? Well WTF CAN WE DO!???????????


    get me Bruce Willis and Steve Buschemi!
  • pendantry (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Packed aboard the spacecraft are 1,918 pounds of propellant for the station, 110 pounds of oxygen, 220 pounds of water and 2,667 pounds of dry cargo

    More like 0 pounds. Surely slugs would be a more useful measurement in a weightless environment. Or better yet: kilograms.

  • Even Hollywood had this one figured out.

    Manual override.

    Why didn't they have some sort of override for the Astronauts/Cosmonauts on board the station to correct trajectory in the last few moments? After all, they are the only ones that actually have a real eye on the situation and can react the fastest.

    That must have been frustrating watching Mom's chocolate chip cookies and the latest issue of "High Times" go sailing past and not be able to do anything about it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BZWingZero ( 1119881 )
      They have manual control available for once the Progress gets to the parking orbit. The issue is Progress 38 didn't go to the parking orbit, it just went straight on past.
      • "They have manual control available for once the Progress gets to the parking orbit. The issue is Progress 38 didn't go to the parking orbit, it just went straight on past."

        Ok, new plan.

        Train Proboscis Monkeys (extra digit for controls) to pilot Progress in for the last docking maneuver and solve the "Fresh Food" issue at the same time.

    • You better get on the phone and tell the rocket scientists about this right now!
    • Manual override requires some sort of communication link between Progress and ISS. In order to fly an unmanned craft by wire, there has to be a wire in the first place. The summary says that they "lost a telemetry lock", I'm guessing that's what happened.
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      The is a point where there is no return. It just has to keep going. depending on the failure, you can just 'change' could end up going to fast, or arc to a not quite the right position and destroy the station.

      OTOH, would could just send up flying transforming robots. I mean, Hollywood has that figured out to, right?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Russians, "We are 15 centimeters from docking".

    Nasa, "15 meters, rodger".

    Russians, "No! 15 centimeters!"

    Nasa, "How many feet is ...."


    Nasa, "Never mind".

  • Vger (Score:5, Funny)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:43PM (#32782048)
    In a few thousand years, a craft from some distant advanced civilization will arrive in our solar system loaded with their interpretation of Russian porn.
  • Progress? (Score:5, Funny)

    by The Grim Reefer2 ( 1195989 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:44PM (#32782052)

    This is what passes for "Progress" in space these days?

  • ...folks on /. like to say "Who needs airline pilots? Those planes fly themselves."


  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:48PM (#32782088)

    And with that, the space salvage industry was born in a rush to be the first to recover this massive payload.

    Carmack - go get 'em!

  • 220 lbs of water? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ckhorne ( 940312 )

    That's 27 gallons / 100 liters. I don't know how the water recycling works on the IIS, but I find it interesting that they send up a seemingly small amount...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tommis ( 1328303 ) []

      The ISS has two water recovery systems. Zvezda contains a water recovery system that processes waste water from showers, sinks, and other crew systems and water vapor from the atmosphere that could be used for drinking in an emergency but is normally fed to the Elektron system to produce oxygen. The American segment has a Water Recovery System installed during STS-126 in Destiny that can process water vapour collected from the atmosphere, waste water from showers, sinks

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake