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ISS Loses Orbit-Boosting Options

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the sinking-feeling-that-everything-isn't-ok dept.

150

An anonymous reader writes "NewScientist reports is reporting that the International Space Station has lost some of its options when it comes to altitude-boosting due to several recent failures. From the article: 'The problems began on 19 April 2006, when the Russian Zvezda service module's main engines failed during a test. The failure may have been due to a sunshade cover that was not completely open, according to a station status report.'"

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150 comments

Bring it back... (-1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304549)

When this thing finally fails, NASA should make every attempt possible to bring the ISS back to Earth in (approximately) one piece. We really need to know why all these things keep failing out there, and hopefully learn how to make them more robust. Stuck mirrors, jammed wheels, dead solar panels, useless antennae... do we even bring back failed satellites to see what went wrong or do they all just deorbit and burn? We can't go pick up the mars rover to see what's wrong with it, but the ISS is certainly within reach.

Re:Bring it back... (2, Insightful)

EQ (28372) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304560)

Why do things fail? Well the real miracle is why do they work at all:

Space is a pretty brutal enironment. Hard vacuum, only microgravity, extremes of cold and heat, etc.

Re:Bring it back... (4, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304585)

How in the world do you plan to get 183 tonnes of mass back to Earth in one piece? The Shuttle has a maximum payload capacity of 25 tonnes. It's the ONLY option currently available for returning large objects to Earth.

It would be way cheaper and easier to send up a bunch of "experts" to figure the sucker out rather than return it to Earth.

(Sorry if I'm a bit snippy. Rough day, and all that.)

Re:Bring it back... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15304840)

Why return it to earth? Why not get the astronauts off it, and look into boosting it to a parking place, say a lagrange point, for possible future use?

Re:Bring it back... (4, Insightful)

FurryFeet (562847) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304620)

I can tell you wht things fail. Quote Alan Shepard: "I was up there looking around, and suddenly I realized I was sitting on top of a rocket built by the lowest bidder".

But bring it back for that? You have GOT to be kidding. Do you also bring your house to a plumber's shop when you have a clogged toilet?

Re:Bring it back... (2, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304863)

No, but the plumber doesn't have to reach orbital velocity to get to my toilet, either. I'm pretty sure roto-rooter would charge an awful lot to clear a drain on the ISS.

Re:Bring it back... (1)

ThreeE (786934) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304901)

The lowest bidder thing is an urban myth. Cost is one of many factors. In fact, in most NASA procurements, it's not even the most important.

Re:Bring it back... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15304628)

Yeah, sure. But, are you aware that it requires the same amount of energy to place an object in orbit as to remote if from orbit unless you use airbraking. And i seriously doubt that "one piece" part of your comment would hold if we tried to airbrake the ISS. And no, we cannot just wait for the orbit do decrease since it would approach the atmosphere with a too high speed. (Hint, the speed increases with a lower orbit)

Don't bring it back, crash it into the MOON! (1)

EntropyXP (956792) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304707)

Oh man, that'd be bad ass. Crash that bitch into the moon! BAM! Study that, bitches!

Re:Don't bring it back, crash it into the MOON! (1)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305551)

I think the fuel cost would be too much, but it'd be interesting to calculate just now much fuel you'd need, and how much it would cost. I think a better solution is to just blow it up with an Enterprise replica like in Star Wreck In the Pirkinning. http://www.starwreck.com/ [starwreck.com]

Re:Bring it back... (3, Informative)

anzev (894391) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304720)

Great thoughts! I totally agree with you! However, the only problem is this station is huge! In fact, according to the NASA Mission Page [nasa.gov] it's 404,069 pounds with a width Across Solar Arrays of 240 feet. It's 146 feet long from Destiny Lab to Zvezda; 171 feet with a Progress docked and 90 feet high!

Whilst if you take a peek at the Shuttle info page [seds.org] you'll find that the cargo bay is 60 ft long, 15 ft in diameter. so there's almost no way you could get that station anywhere inside the orbiter. The only possible way to get it down, is the same way we got it up there in the first place. Which means dismantling it ! I found a nice array of photos showing the process here [nasa.gov] .

I find [spaceprojects.com] the station has cost billions already and is a decade behind schedule. Here's a summary:
INITIAL DESIGN PAPERWORK -- $10 billion
HARDWARE -- $25 billion
SHUTTLE SERVICING COSTS -- $20 billion
MAINTENANCE -- $41 billion
YEAR 2001 COST OVERRUN (disclosed immediately AFTER the presidential election of 2000): $5 billion.


So, multiply this by two and you get the cost of bringing it down. Are you a tax payer? If so, I'm guessing you don't want to pay that :). Hope this clears the question of why they let sattelites burn up there too ... In case it doesn't, it costs [cato.org] around 2000 USD per pound to send a sattelite to space. It costs twice as much to recover it (sending an empty shuttle, a space walk, operating the hand, bringing it down) and we're taking a serious risk here, I mean, sending it up requires no humans, so if something goes wrong, we just blew up a few millions, but hey, if a shuttle explodes -- all hell breaks lose. So I say, leave them to burn out!

Re:Bring it back... (1)

jfmiller (119037) | more than 7 years ago | (#15306046)

I am a tax payer, and I think we should end the war in Iraq 3 months early to pay for it.

JFMILLER

Sucesses? (2, Insightful)

mboverload (657893) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304554)

Can someone lay out what the ISS has actually done for us? It seems to be a crowded bunch of poorly-engineered tin cans floating above us and sucking up money in the process.

Re:Sucesses? (5, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304609)

The parent is effectively correct, even if he is a bit abrasive about it. The Space Station, just like the Space Shuttle, was a victim of politics. What was originally going to be a staging point for a moon colony became an international piece of junk that should have been scrapped as soon as its stated purpose was lost. Instead, NASA went ahead and built a station in the wrong orbit that wasn't useful for anything other than showing the flag. Construction has been long behind schedule, over budget, and the poor station has been falling apart at the seams from day 1.

Of course, I'm sure there are political reasons why they couldn't NOT build it.

Thank God for the CEV program. It may seem like a step back, but it will actually be a huge step forward for the space program. Let's just hope that Griffin gets it finished before the next political fallout.

Re:Sucesses? (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304708)

It should never have been built in the first place. Using it as a staging area for moon missions? Did anyone believe that would actually save us any money? That's the only reason why it MIGHT be worthwhile. Which it isn't.

It's also too small to be a serious staging area for anything bigger than a toaster, anyway. They'd have had to add significant amounts of storage space, much of which will have to be pressurized, further increasing the demands upon the facility. By the same token, it's too small to do much of anything in, so it's not a useful scientific platform.

The ISS was guaranteed to be a boondoggle from the beginning. It's nothing but a colossal waste of time, aside from the research involved in building the thing and putting it up there. If we were smarter we'd have just built a big spaceship up there in the first place, and sent it to Mars. Of course, we'd still be building the thing, but at least it would be useful when we were done.

Re:Sucesses? (5, Insightful)

cmowire (254489) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304937)

Well, the storage room wouldn't be so expensive if they were to use some modules like the TransHab module..... oops, canceled that.

I was very excited about the possibilities of the Centerfuge Accomidation Module. Finally they could put up some rodents or fish or other small-enough-to-work-on-the-centerfuge research animals and make them run through the entire reproductive cycle in space repeatedly at different levels of gravity, so if a few Blessed Events accidentally happen some day up there, they'll know what to do..... oops, but that got canned to.

It would be useful for on-orbit checkout of large spacecraft.... but the 51 degree inclanation orbit is going to cost you enough in payload and reduced opportunities for launch that there's no point... you might as well launch something sized like the FGB into the right orbit and you'll come out ahead.

It would be great for researching viruses and such because you can crystalize proteins in space easier than on the ground.... except that between the 1980s when they were going on about it and now, they instead developed improved analytical machines that don't require the sort of perfect large crystals that space is good for.

Oh! Right! We can test out space systems that would be useful for the real missions later on. Except that the station STILL relies on a bunch of Russian hardware that we already know is a smidge clunky.

The station makes perfect sense when you realize that it's a bunch of repackaged hardware built around assumptions from the 70s that we knew to be untrue around 85. The problem is that they didn't take a big step backwards at any point between 1985 and 2000 and really reassess things.

For example, the only time that the option of launching some of the American modules on an expendable booster was considered, they wanted to make the Shuttle-C, not just buy a quiver of Atlas or Titan rockets.

Russian Successes. (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305317)

Oh! Right! We can test out space systems that would be useful for the real missions later on. Except that the station STILL relies on a bunch of Russian hardware that we already know is a smidge clunky.
Last I checked, it was the American built modules that had most of the problems.

From TFA:
The problems began on 19 April 2006, when the Russian Zvezda service module's main engines failed during a test. The failure may have been due to a sunshade cover that was not completely open, according to a station status report.
Gee... that sounds like a disaster. A sunshade cover wasn't fully open. That can't be fixed. Right?

Now, why does this matter at all? Because the "station software was not properly communicating with the Progress hardware". The Progress is a Russian built cargo craft, but guess who wrote the malfunctioning "station software."

Did you guess that it was an American company?
Bonus points if you said Boeing.

You can read their one of their press releases if you like
http://www.boeing.com/news/releases/2002/q3/nr_020 930s.html [boeing.com]

Re:Russian Successes. (1)

cmowire (254489) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305531)

I'm more thinking about the Elektron module's endless troubles, which is really the part that's been getting in the way and acting up so far.

Oh, and there's also the whole reaction wheel thing, that's bad on the US side.

Much of the hardware on the US side that would have been nice to use long-term in space so that future designs could rely on it hasn't been launched yet (like the US version of Elektron) or has been canceled altogther (like the US Propulsion module).

Really, the problem I see isn't that the Russian hardware is any more or less reliable than the US hardware (Remember, the Russians have a better track record with the Soyuz not being grounded than the US has with the shuttle not being grounded) but that unless NASA wants to go through the trouble of dealing with the Russian space program again, it doesn't help if the Russian hardware works just fine because that doesn't give the NASA-specified hardware suppliers much space experience.

Sure, a sunshade cover would be great. Were NASA to not have been asleep at the wheel, an astronaut would have climbed into their zero-prebreathe suit and exited the minimal-atmospheric-loss airlock, and banged on it with a NASA Standard Hammer. But, given that NASA hasn't spend much money on improved spacesuits since the Apollo days, EVAs are scarry things and require much preparations.

Re:Sucesses? (1)

mysticgoat (582871) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305980)

Agree w/ parent and GP.

IIRC, the general plan before it got modified by politicians was to place the ISS at a higher orbit and use a never-constructed Space Tug to transfer cargo from the low orbit that is all the Shuttle can manage to the ISS itself. Combined with fully recoverable/reuseable Shuttle boosters, this could have been an effective system (provided the technology of the day was up to constructing it without going too far over budget).

Too many cost overruns in the Shuttle's development, and too many careers that became too dependent on doing something that could be described as a success in some way did the whole thing in. But now that nearly everyone who made a career out of building the Shuttle and ISS is retired, maybe it will be possible to take another run at the problem and get things more nearly right.

Re: Sucesses? (1)

i am kman (972584) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304724)

Forget CEV - just go back to BDRs (Big Dumb Rockets) and screw all this people in space crap. Look at the great stuff from Hubble and Mars that's far cheaper than any shuttle or space station missions. (Yeah, yeah, hubble was launched by the shuttle...).

The space station and shuttle have paralyzed NASA for decades and have set back space exploration and space science by at least 10-15 years.

While a noble concept, the space station has devolved to symbolize the politicization and popularization of science.

And, for what??? Not much.

Re: Sucesses? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305277)

Your rant reminds of those that argued that Europeans should not explore overseas. Had they not pushed outwards, then the world would look radically different today. America (and the world) needs to push outwards.

Re: Sucesses? (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305590)

If the Europeans had had the technology to send robotic missions to the new world at 1% of the cost of sending manned missions, it would have made perfect sense for them to do so first.

Sending human explorers wasn't exactly a risk-free endeavor, either. If the situation had been a little different, and smallpox existed in the New World but not the old, European societies might have eventually ended up being wiped out and we could all be speaking Aztec today. (Of course that point doesn't apply to space exploration, but I'm just pointing out that it's not a given that exploration in blissful ignorance was going to end with the Europeans benefiting.)

Re: Sucesses? (1)

stridebird (594984) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305518)

Forget CEV - just go back to BDRs (Big Dumb Rockets) and screw all this people in space crap. Look at the great stuff from Hubble and Mars that's far cheaper than any shuttle or space station missions. (Yeah, yeah, hubble was launched by the shuttle...).

Hubble: yeah ok nice idea but superceded now by adaptive optics on earth based observatories. Very cool correction of the initial fault in the mirror of course.

Mars robotic missions...the way forward. And the web really helps selling the mission to joe public. It is awesome to look at the pictures and contemplate the data that's coming back.

More robotic missions, and rather than sending antiseptic vehicles, we should load them up with a choice set of microbes and see if we can kick-start life in other places. We owe this to life itself, and it's a much more intelligent form of space travel. Don't send humans, send simple, tough life-forms and see what comes back a million or a 100 million years hence. From our planet a cloud of spores, little spaceships loaded of virii and bacteria, should burst forth travelling out on trajectories to collide with other heavenly bodies, just to see what grows there.

Re:Sucesses? (1)

ThreeE (786934) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304876)

The ISS was never sold as a staging point for a moon colony. It was sold for a lot of things that it hasn't delivered on, but that isn't one of them.

Re:Sucesses? (1)

cmowire (254489) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304971)

Um.

The CEV's going to be just as much of a clusterfuck as the shuttle. All of the same contractors are going to do to it the same thing they managed to do with the shuttle.

Look at the proposal. The SRB first stage on the CEV's booster.... so that Thikol doesn't complain to their congresscritter. The cargo vehicle with the external tank so that you don't lose that factory. No effort to make the CEV work on anybody else's launcher, like the EELV Atlas and Deltas or maybe let SpaceX try to undercut things. The CEV proposals being geared towards the big aerospace contractors. Etc.

Nope, the only thing NASA is doing right is the COTS program. And you can bet that if it starts to look really good, it'll get canned, sidelined, or otherwise disrupted so as to not end up working out.

Re:Sucesses? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305263)

While the CEV may turn into a cluster F***, it does not matter. We need a large cargo rocket and we need a small cheap rocket for humans. That is what we are getting. In addition, we are funding alternatives. I would rather fund 2-4 of them rather the one that we will probably do. But even then, getting competitive systems off the ground will pay back down the road.

Re:Sucesses? (2, Insightful)

cmowire (254489) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305500)

Um.

There aren't any alternatives funded for the CEV. It's about as competitive as the shuttle's procurement was. NASA was going to make the two leading teams do a fly-off, but that was removed from the plan. So, one CEV booster that's intended to last us all the way to the Mars shot, and no alternatives.

We don't need two new boosters. We don't even need two boosters at all. It would have been far cheaper to just source either Delta or Atlas EELV stages. (and leave open the option for SpaceX to sell a Falcon 9 when they get that one ready) Or, if they had wanted to build a new booster that bad, to make something that was somewhat bigger than the CEV's booster stage and then distribute the pieces of any lunar exploration missions into a series of launches. But, instead, NASA builds *two* new boosters at the same time and gets to deal with two sets of development problems with increasing amounts of divergence between the two designs.

That NASA still cannot just source lift capability on the open market demonstrates just how they haven't learned their lessons.

Re:Sucesses? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15304640)

The true use of the space station is that is shows that a long term spaceship can't be built in small sections over a long period of time without the whole assembly obsoleting itself or wearing out before it starts its main mission.

For the sake of argument, presume that the spacestation had been designed to travel to mars. By adding high thrust ion engines and power plants, this could have been done. However an assembly as large as the space station and typical for the requirement, loses over a mile of altitude a day in earth orbit and will burn up in the atmosphere within 1 year of ceasing to re-adjust its orbit higher.

What has been really learned is that complex space ships of conventional design will age too soon to be of much use other than to learn how fast things wear out and wear down in a space environment.

Based on that, which had to be learned, the space station has served its intended purposes well.

Re:Sucesses? (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305347)

The true use of the space station is that is shows that a long term spaceship can't be built in small sections over a long period of time without the whole assembly obsoleting itself or wearing out before it starts its main mission.
Uh, you are aware that they didn't plan such a long construction period. Not having a working shuttle has kind of screwed up the schedule.

MOD PARENT UP! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15304648)

mod parent up, it's not a troll.

Re:MOD PARENT UP! (1, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305241)

Yes it is. Mboverload has spoken out against ISS on a number of occaisions. Basically, his question is a pure troll.

As to the standard answer (including my own), is that it allowed us to develop in space. We have learned a great deal about how to develop equipment and how to stay there for a long period of time. We have made choices that were related to working with Russia (such as a low orbit), but overall, the ISS has been more of a win rather than a lose. Just as we had a high failure rate when getting to orbit, and then landing on a planet (moon, venus, mars, etc), staying in space is a hard thing to do. Now, we have learned how to survive close, we are ready to move on. It is time to go to the moon, or better to Mars. Only this time, with a station.

Re:MOD PARENT UP! (1)

mboverload (657893) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305465)

> Mboverload has spoken out against ISS on a number of occaisions

um...what? I dissed the space shuttle once?

Re:Sucesses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15304655)

The ISS is more or less a prototype of a manned Mars spacecraft, without the propulsion system. Not a very good prototype (and not even designed for that purpose), but a prototype nonetheless. And who knows, maybe this prototype will be more expensive than the first manned Mars spacecraft. It will at least be close.

Re:Sucesses? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304691)

That's an interesting post hoc justification for one of the largest wastes of cash the US and its international partners have thus far created. It's a floating garbage can, meant to make contractors money. It has never justified its existence, and never will, and the best thing to do at this point is to crash it and begin doing something truly useful for science and for the future exploration of the solar system by building something on the Moon.

Re:Sucesses? (1, Insightful)

ScottLindner (954299) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304895)

It's a floating garbage can, meant to make contractors money.

Boy.. aren't we the objective ones today. Did you believe in this conspiracy before the problems, or only after?

My take is that working on a massive internation project like this is very challenging. With all other joint international projects one nation owns the entire thing and accepts funding for new requirements from the others. ISS is completely different and it's teaching all nations a very good lesson. As a global society we need to learn how to do things like this. It's best for us all.

Re:Sucesses? (1)

cmowire (254489) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304985)

Not really.

An effective prototype would be able to survive for several years between resupply missions.

Remember, the only "on orbit repair" work that's been done is swapping out parts. If the crew was able to take soldering iron and diagonal cutters to the hardware and fix things, or actually put on a spacesuit and check out why a thruster wasn't firing properly, then it would be a realistic prototype for a Mars mission.

Re:Sucesses? (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304671)

Can someone lay out what the ISS has actually done for us?

It got rid of a bunch of poorly engineered tin cans?

KFG

Re:Sucesses? (1)

dugjohnson (920519) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304716)

This is an experiment in waste management. It is a replacement for the garbage scow going down the Hudson.

Re:Sucesses? (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304738)

It is a replacement for the garbage scow going down the Hudson.

But I like to take my scow down the Hudson. That's what I built it for.

Oh, wait, you mean . . . nevermind.

KFG

Re:Sucesses? (1)

edxwelch (600979) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304672)

I heard they do very interesting experiments on the effects of zero gravity on bees. What more do you want?

Re:Sucesses? (1)

LiquidEdge (774076) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304714)

I thought there was no such thing as zero gravity? Everything has some gravitational pull on it. Effects on bees in freefall though may someday cure...something. Vertigo?

I can name a few... (1)

gummyb34r (899393) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305167)

1) Americans: at least some money was spent on peaceful activities 2) Russians: understood that betting on US poorly-engineered tin cans not floating at all (shuttles) is not a good idea, as it hurts planned deliveries of spare parts to the station, Russia will continue with China to explore the space. The US government seems liking the idea of nuking the shit out of this planet with Iran more than space exploration. I hope they do not seriously think of fleeding to Mars (with India) in order to avoid the effects of the nuclear winter.

Not really any danger... (4, Interesting)

ZSpade (812879) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304557)

As the article itself states, they move the ISS when there is a 1 in 10,000 chance something will hit it, and they know well in advance if that's the case. The ISS is getting so old that I think it's starting to get ridiculous to report all of it's little breakdowns here and there. Personally I think at this point it's a money hole that's outlived it's usefulness.

Re:Not really any danger... (1)

CharlieHedlin (102121) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304831)

If that is the case it was never usefull. The ISS is still relatively young and only partly constructed. It is way over budget and way behind schedule so you may be right.

Simply put, it is like saying your house is too old when it was a 1 year old and only half built.

Re:Not really any danger... (3, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305057)

No it's like saying my parents house was too old and out of date when it was 5 years old, and still not finished. (note they never did finish it even though we lived in it for almost 20 years)

The ISS can't be finished. it needs the shuttle to finish it and the shuttle will be phased out long before the ISS is finished.

What the ISS has taught us and no one has figured out is that we need a vaible method for getting small things up to orbit easily. Progress shuttles from Russia don't count. those haven't changed a lot since the 70's. And all the budgets for such craft keep getting cancled.

Re:Not really any danger... (1)

CanSpice (300894) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304868)

At this point? The ISS has been a money hole since before it was put up in orbit.

Re:Not really any danger... (1)

fyndor (895340) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304989)

If I remember right I heard a few months ago the reason they are doing this is because it has reached an altitude (due to earths gravity) that they need to start pushing it up again. It will always slowly fall, then have to be taken back up to a higher altitude. Because of physics the closer it comes to earth the faster it falls so they are trying to get it lifted back up before it reaches a point where they can't save it. It may or may not be worth the money to have it up there right now but we have put enough money in to it i dont think they should just let it fall to earth. It is a stepping stone to further space exploration. I guess if you don't believe we should be exploring space then you can say they should take it down, but otherwise I can see its usefullness.

Re:Not really any danger... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305228)

guess if you don't believe we should be exploring space then you can say they should take it down, but otherwise I can see its usefullness.

Actually, if I wanted to deliberately obstruct space exploration, I would encourage expensive and pointless projects like the Shuttle or the ISS. Given that the ISS is now in space, it may be that it is worth saving for some purpose. But I fail to see why the ISS is supposed to be a stepping stone to space. We are closer to having a real presence in space, but that is due to technology developed on Earth, not due to the very expensive hobbies that most government space agencies engage in.

Re:Not really any danger... (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305326)

How can it be old? They haven't finished building the damn thing yet!

Re:Not really any danger... (1)

helioquake (841463) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305633)

I don't know if the artcile mentions it or not (DRFA), but a collision isn't a major issue in the short or long term.

But, in the long term, the ISS is now unable to push itself up to a higher orbit. Its orbit decays very slowly. So every so often when a space shuttle parked at it, the shuttle used its thruster to push the ISS to a higher orbit. It hasn't been able to do that, unfortunately.

Luck would have it, the solar maximum phase is behind us. At this point the atmosphere is fairly thin at the ISS's altitude. But in a few years when the Sun becomes active again, the perpetual mechanicam problem in a thruster like this would become a more serious problem.

IN SOVIET RUSSIA (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15304558)

They build shitty space modules.

I propose renaming the station ... (4, Funny)

Luscious868 (679143) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304589)

Let's rename the station to something more appropriate: ICF: International Cluster Fuck

Re:I propose renaming the station ... (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305970)

You mean American foreign policy, that is what it is called around here.

Coke bottle hell..... (2, Insightful)

Roskolnikov (68772) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304598)

1 in 10,000 something will hit it? what about it hitting something?

Does anyone remember... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15304630)

Anyone remember the Taco Bell bulls-eye and the MIR? Maybe they will have another contest and I can try and win some free tacos.

and not a 30-year old Taco at that....

Re:Does anyone remember... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15304752)

Sending a shipment of Taco Bell taco's and a rear mounted spark plug might allow a 'green' method of orbit lifting thrust......

no worries (3, Funny)

ezwip (974076) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304607)

Don't worry they have a procedure for getting these things down. It's called cross your fingers and aim it at an underdeveloped country. ;)

Aim it at Iran ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15304637)

...and kill two birds with one stone :-)

Re:no worries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15305021)

It should be aimed at an important government building in China...

Re:no worries (1)

ezwip (974076) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305846)

I was watching the history channel or something last week and they showed all these new reports from when Sputnick came down. It wasn't anywhere near as large as thing thing but nobody had any clue where it would fall. They were selling Sputnik helmets to protect people and stuff. When this thing comes down it should be pretty enteresting. Sputnik did not land in the water. ;)

YOU FAIL IT (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15304646)

hot 0n the heels of Every dayu...Like

But the real question is.... (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15304673)

Will it still have Laser and Speed Up?

Re:But the real question is.... (0, Offtopic)

karnal (22275) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304817)

Awesome.

Just when I get done reading about the collection (1-4 and gaiden) coming over to the PSP, I see this comment.

Well done. Well done.

Re:But the real question is.... (0, Offtopic)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304969)

Same thoughts here, ..brain tickle...

!!! OMG Gradius !!!

That was a good post. AND you have just given me a reason to buy a PSP. cool Gradius on a PSP.

Do you know if Gradius 4 has 'removed' the original perfect combo of weapons? I was playing a PS2 version of the game somewhere (rented a system) and noticed that all the best stuff had been greyed-out and not available.

Re:But the real question is.... (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305217)

I haven't ever played Gradius 4 except on the PS2, so I'm not sure what the perfect combo stuff was - care to enlighten me?

Oh yea, Gradius Gaiden is still my all-time favorite (got a japan copy, modded my ps1 just to play that game). Gradius 5 is a close second, with life force (not truly gradius, I know, but got me hooked) a 3rd.

Re:But the real question is.... (0, Offtopic)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305260)

You select custom
Powerups:
1 Speedup (of course)
2 two-way
3 tailgun (never really used it)
4 Laser
5 Option (the ones that follow you, not the ones that fly in formation)
6 smaller

1 in 10,000 (1)

SIGFPE (97527) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304773)

It is done whenever there is a 1 in 10,000 chance of an object hitting the station

Does this mean that every time they see an object that might hit they're prepared to gamble the entire ISS with 10,000 to 1 odds. So if they see 100 distinct objects with a less than 1 in 10,000 chance of hitting, over the ISS lifetime, there's a roughly 1% chance of one of them hitting? Are these reasonable odds when we're talking about something that cost of the order of $100,000,000,000 to build and carries people.

Re:1 in 10,000 (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304850)


>Does this mean that every time they see an object that might hit they're prepared to
>gamble the entire ISS with 10,000 to 1 odds.

It's not as though every collision is expected to do catastrophic damage, and you're treating it like it's 10,000:1 odds against assurd destruction.

Re:1 in 10,000 (4, Informative)

Antony T Curtis (89990) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304879)


Probabilities of independent events are not cumulative... ...otherwise, a very large number of individuals who commute by car would have accumulated a probability of having an accident far in excess of 100% every year.

Concider this:

What is the probability that the next coin-flip comes up heads? 50%...
After I flip heads, what is the next probability for getting heads? It is still 50%.
The next coin flip getting heads? 50% again.

Now, the probability of three consequtive coin flips getting all heads is 12.5%

Re:1 in 10,000 (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305060)

But you're neglecting something.

My odds of being in a car crash go up with time. Meaning, if I have a .01% chance of being in a wreck per day I commute to work, my chances of being in a car wreck at some point in the year are something on the order of 2.00%. (Yes, those numbers are totally fabricated) No, the chances of getting in a car wreck today are not impacted by whether I got in a car wreck yesterday, but my chances of having a wreck absolutely do increase the more times I get in the car.

The more times you flip a coin, your probability of getting at least one "Heads" flip does indeed approach 100%. Pretty quickly, actually.

Re:1 in 10,000 (2)

Antony T Curtis (89990) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305163)


But computing the probability of being involved in an accident over a period of time is fiendishly difficult as the number of influencing factors increase expotentially.

You must agree that there is a limit as time increases as to the maximum probability of being involved in an automobile accident over the course of a lifetime (or as time --> infinity) and that probability cannot possibily equal or exceed 100%.
On the other end of the scale, there is a minimum probability that in any instant in time that you may be actively involved in an accident, which conversely, must be greater than 0% - but would be a very small figure.

Then the probability of being in an accident generally lies between these two extremes and would depend upon what time of day you drive, what kind of car... and did you have breakfast this morning.

But in no way is it a simple task of adding up the probabilities to reach a number. It is a falsehood to say that "I drive less frequently than my neighbour therefore he will be in an accident before me." as it is omitting a huge number of variables.

And it is perfectly reasonable to do 100 coin flips on a fair coin, each time coming up heads. It is just an extraordinary combination of events, of which each individually has a 50:50 chance of occurring.

Re:1 in 10,000 (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305599)

"But computing the probability of being involved in an accident over a period of time is fiendishly difficult as the number of influencing factors increase expotentially."

Well, of course. I was making a huge number of simplifications. However, your bald assertion that the probabilities are not cumulative is misleading. Yes, it's more complicated than just adding up the probabilities, but it's certainly true that your chances of event A happening increase with exposure to opportunities when A may occur.

""I drive less frequently than my neighbour therefore he will be in an accident before me." "

Of course. That's just a variation on the gambler's fallacy. However, holding all other factors equal, the person who drives more has a higher probability of getting in an accident. It's not a difficult thing to understand.

"And it is perfectly reasonable to do 100 coin flips on a fair coin, each time coming up heads. It is just an extraordinary combination of events, of which each individually has a 50:50 chance of occurring."

Well, again, of course. It's perfectly "reasonable", but it's extremely unlikely.

Re:1 in 10,000 (1)

SIGFPE (97527) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305117)


Probabilities of independent events are not cumulative...

Woah! I can't wait to hook up with you at Vegas. I hope you have lots of money to burn.

Correct....but still wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15305245)

You are right that the probabilities are not cumulative, but the probability each individual event is so small that the total probability is nearly cumulative. The number of impacts per year is given by the binomial distribution, so if there are 100 potential impactors each with a probability of impacting of 1/10,000 the probability of at least one impact is 0.009951, close to 1% == 100 * 1/10,000

Re:1 in 10,000 (4, Informative)

ScottLindner (954299) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304944)

That's how probability works. You *cannot* guarantee an accident will not happen. You can only reduce the odds. You can only get close to 100% guarantee, but not actually achieve 100% guarantee. As you get closer to 100% the costs go up enormously. If you wanted to knock it down to 1:100,000 odds you will pay more than 10x the cost. And then.. it's still only a probability, and not a frequency. You interpretted it as a frequency of problems, and not a probability.

Even with this low probability, the ISS could get whacked once every day.. and the probably would still be 1:10000 with the procedure they are using today. Assuming they are modelling probability properly.

Re:1 in 10,000 (1)

SIGFPE (97527) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305132)


And then.. it's still only a probability, and not a frequency.

What do you think the difference is?

Re:1 in 10,000 (3, Insightful)

solitas (916005) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305079)

and carries people

And carries volunteers - they all know what they may be in for when they sign up.

Can we aim it? (-1, Flamebait)

nizo (81281) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304787)

It would be a convenient shame if it fell on Iran's nuclear facilities for example.

Outsource ISS to India (0, Flamebait)

fh8510 (967845) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304794)

Since NASA and India have signed the space tech agreement, it's only natural to outsource ISS to India. Think of the cost saving!

The real problem... (2, Interesting)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304796)

is that there is so much space junk. And 99.9% of it is from humans. We need some sort of space junk collection device to be deployed.

Re:The real problem... (2, Interesting)

Sordid Euphemism (974100) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305425)

The problem with trying to reduce space-junk is that any ablative system will simply create -more- space-junk. Aerogel may be a semisolution for the smaller pieces, but the larget bits of junk will demolish most platforms put up for restraint. Let's put it this way: The easiest way to utterly destroy access to space is to put up a few satellites full of 1-2cm steel ball bearings, and have them explode. Say goodbye to space exploration, even through telescope, for a few decades.

I didn't really RTFA (0, Troll)

Enrique1218 (603187) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304953)

So, is this thing going to fall on my house or what? If not, thanks for yet another story that doesn't matter.

Re:I didn't really RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15305015)

That depends - do you live near an Iranian nuclear facility by any chance?

It's a good thing we are at solar minimum (1)

kabloie (4638) | more than 7 years ago | (#15304987)

But, these good times won't last long. If we don't get some help soon... the reentry show is going to make Mir look like a mere meteor.

Progress control (2, Interesting)

Tango42 (662363) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305030)

If the ISS can't control the Progress rockets, but Russian ground control can, it sounds like the problem is simply with the ISS, so why can't they just go through the airlock and control it from inside the Progress craft? I know Progress is an unmanned craft, so probably doesn't have a pilot's seat, but it shouldn't be too hard to rig something up, just in case. They're meant to have some of the best engineers around, surely one of them knows how to splice an extra interface into the system...

There are always alternatives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15305049)

Get out and push. Worked with my old Chevy.

Much better coverage (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305092)

TFA is somewhat out of date - and misses the point mostly.

Much better coverage can be found in Jim Oberg's essay [thespacereview.com] at The Space Review.

Chart of ISS Height (2, Informative)

sam5550 (841429) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305233)

A chart of the height of the ISS:

Getting lower... [heavens-above.com]

Re:Chart of ISS Height (1)

ScottLindner (954299) | more than 7 years ago | (#15305394)

Great link. that's scary stuff to see it like that.

Now why can't they give it a nudge up again? I'm not a space or orbit engineer, why don't they boost it higher so it doesn't decay so rapidly?
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