NASA has found a solution to lift the space station without the help of Russian cargo ships

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[EN VIDÉO] ISS: until 2030, and then?
The International Space Station will continue to welcome astronauts from around the world to scientific missions until 2030. And to support space conquest missions that will take humans to the Moon and even to Mars. (in English) © NASA

The relationship is what they are with Russia and there is little chance that this will improve in the near future Nasa and its Western and Japanese partners are forced to find an alternative to the Russian Progress cargo ships used to “pilot” orbital complex.

That said, a withdrawal from Russia is not on the agenda, nor is it the scenario that NASA currently prefers. But if there is no indication that Russia could carry out the threats posed by Dmitri Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, NASA is obliged to take this rather precarious situation into account.

Since the withdrawal of European ATVs (Automatic Transmission Vehicle ATV), the Progress cargo ships are the only vehicles used to raise the ISS ‘orbit and straighten its trajectory. avoid waste e.g. The other two cargo ships in operation, the Dragon from SpaceX and the Cygnus from Northrop Grumman and Thales Alenia Space, were not designed for this very specific task.

Apparently, only the Cygnus cargo ship could replace Russian progress. Among the improvements made to Cygnus since it went live in 2013 is the “reboost” feature. In it conditioned therefore because Cygnus has not at present demonstrated that it could perform this oh so important maneuver. Without a regular boost, the circuit of the International Space Station would fall relentlessly, week after week.

A seemingly crucial maneuver

NASA and Northrop Grumman have teamed up to test Cygnus’ ability to lift the ISS. This is not the first time Cygnus used in this way. In July 2018, a Cygnus ignited its engine for about fifty seconds, raising the station’s height by 86 meters. A crucial maneuver, but insufficient to qualify the cargo ship for this task.

This test demonstrated Cygnus’ ability to raise the station’s circuit

A new attempt took place on 26 June. This time the maneuver lasted longer. The Cygnus moored at the station turned on its engine for 301 seconds, which increased perigee from the station about 0.8 km and its apogee almost 0.2 km. This test demonstrated Cygnus’ ability to raise the station’s circuit. The maneuver was successful. At least that is the opinion of Steve Krein, Vice President, Civil and Commercial Space, Tactical Space Systems at Northrop Grumman, who points out that ” this ISS boost using Cygnus adds a significant ability to fly the space station “.

NASA did not communicate about the maneuver. It is therefore too early to say whether the future Cygnus cargo ships can be used as a supplement or substitute for Russian progress. In addition, the future of these vehicles is quite uncertain! In fact, Antares, their designated launch vehicle, uses the Russian RD-181 engine for its main stage, which is under Ukrainian main contractor. But since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, these two items are not available. Northrop Grumman, however, confirmed that it had two operational Antares missiles and that it had a “contingency plan” after those two launchers, but did not provide further details. Continue then.

NASA is looking for a solution as soon as possible to pilot the space station without Russia

Article by Remy Decourt published on 05/03/2022

Could the SpaceX and Northrop Grumman cargo ships, which supply the International Space Station, be used to control the orbital complex? Until now, NASA had never bothered to find a replacement solution if the Russians, the only ones able to control it, decided to leave the station to its fate. Although Russian-American space connections have always resisted storms past geopolitics, with the conflict in Ukraine, they have never been so close to breaking up. It is therefore urgent that NASA answers this question in the affirmative and sees how.

NASA wants to be foresighted. In the event that Russian-American relations reach a point of no return, Russia will ” could withdraw from the International Space Station as Dmitry Rogozin, the leader of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, aptly put it.

Of course, Dmitri Rogozin did not say he would project the space station on the United States, but suggested he could leave the Russian segment.

But while the US side provides electricity and life support to the entire orbital complex, the Russians are responsible for propulsion, keeping the ISS at an altitude of about 400 kilometers and attitude control and course corrections.

Without progress to control it, the station’s circuit would fall relentlessly, week after week.

For this they use Progress cargo ships, one of which is permanently moored to the Zvezda module. Without progress to control it, the station’s circuit would fall relentlessly, week after week. Nor would it be able to straighten its path avoid waste e.g.

It is in this very uncertain context, and although Russia is still cooperating with NASA to make the space station work smoothly, NASA has decided to investigate emergency solutions to pilot it. In case the Russians decide to leave him to his fate overnight.

American cargo ships maneuvering to steer the station?

Northrop Grumman, which supplies the station with the cargo ship Cygnus (whose module is built by Thales Alenia Space) and SpaceX, which does the same with its dragon cargo ship, NASA proposed to “do the job”. But if the cargo ships of the two industrialists can be converted and adapted to a “reboost” mission of the ISS to raise its orbit, it should be known that the docking ports of the American cargo ships are really very poorly placed to do this. task.!

They moor via the ports LDCs Unity and Harmony modules (Pressurized pairing adapters) equipped with an active CBM system for capturing cargo. That is also whyEuropean Space Agency ATV docked at the same place as the Russian Progress cargo ships to ascend the station’s circuit.

It will be interesting to see the solutions proposed by Northrop Grumman and especially those from SpaceX when we know itElon Musk always have very original and daring ideas!

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