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  ISS: Proposed Soyuz flyabout photo opportunity (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   ISS: Proposed Soyuz flyabout photo opportunity
Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-11-2011 09:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space shuttle managers are considering the possibility of staging what might be considered the ultimate photo op during Discovery's STS-133 mission, CBS News' Bill Harwood reports.
The idea is to have a Russian Soyuz spacecraft undock so its three-man crew can photograph the station from a distance, showing the completed lab complex with the shuttle attached, along with Russian, European and Japanese cargo ships and crew capsules. Discovery's mission represents the last time a shuttle and all current types of visiting spacecraft will be present at the station before the shuttle fleet is retired later this year.

But the plan would require Russian approval and cooperation and it's not yet known if they will go along.


Credit: NASA/CBS News

It is not a trivial undertaking. Anytime a manned spacecraft undocks, there is the possibility of a malfunction that could prevent a re-docking. In that case, the Soyuz and its three-man crew -- Soyuz TMA-01M commander Alexander Kaleri, Oleg Skripochka and Expedition 26 commander Scott Kelly -- would be forced to return directly to Earth, reducing the station's crew from six to three.

"This only hit people's radar at the end of last week," said one NASA manager. While video and still photos showing the completed space station with a shuttle attached would no doubt be spectacular, at least some agency insiders believe the risks outweigh the benefits. Others, seeing a chance to capture a defining image of the shuttle-station complex, are hopeful the Russians will approve.


Click on image to enlarge. Credit: NASA

Above: Computer-generated artist's rendering of the International Space Station as of March 2011, during which space shuttle Discovery (STS-133/ULF5) delivers the ExPRESS Logistics Carrier 4 (ELC4) and Permanent Multi-Purpose Module (PMM). European Space Agency's "Johannes Kepler" Automated Transfer Vehicle-2 (ATV2) is docked to the Zvezda Service Module's aft port. The Japanese Kounotori2 H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV2) is linked to the Harmony node's zenith port.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-11-2011 10:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A similar Soyuz photo op was staged with the space station Mir during space shuttle Atlantis's STS-71 mission on July 4, 1995.


Credit: NASA

As the CBS News article points out, that photo op did not proceed without issue.

Just after Atlantis undocked, however, Mir's central computer shut down, apparently misinterpreting the jarring caused by the shuttle's separation as a fault. The cosmonauts successfully redocked and eventually rebooted the computer. Whether that experience might affect how the Russians view the current proposal remains to be seen.

issman1
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posted 02-11-2011 01:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great idea. There should be some photographic record for the sake of posterity.

Jay Chladek
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posted 02-11-2011 01:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, the main difference here is three people would still be onboard the ISS during undocked Soyuz ops while Mir was unoccupied after shuttle left.

Still, there is always a risk and of course it would likely mean two days out of normal ISS ops to prepare for this and pack as if the crew of three were coming home in case something does happen. Considering the mission plans during shuttle docked days are packed, considerations would also need to be made there as well.

Fezman92
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posted 02-11-2011 02:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fezman92   Click Here to Email Fezman92     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It could be a good PR chance for them.

328KF
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posted 02-11-2011 04:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was always hopeful that someone in the program would propose this. I think it would be a shame to close out the shuttle program without photos of it joined to the ISS.

It always appeared to me that the Shuttle/ Mir photo op was somewhat improvised and the quality of the pictures not that great. I think a thoroughly planned excursion to get these images with the right cameras, both stills and video, would yield spectacular results. Maybe they can maneuver around to get some different angles as well.

Unfortunately, as far a PR opportunity, I doubt it would last much longer than the evening news in the memory of the general public.

spaced out
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posted 02-12-2011 04:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Whilst I like the idea of the images that could result from this I have to say that doing an unnecessary (an inherently dangerous) manoeuvre just for that purpose is probably unwise.

I can't help but think of General Electric's photo-op flight that brought down the XB-70 and took the lives of Al White and Carl Cross.

Simply not worth the risk, no matter how unlikely a serious incident might seem.

328KF
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posted 02-12-2011 05:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I know I'm opening a can of worms here, but I wonder how quickly NASA could put together a small photo device that could fly out and transmit digital photos without the risks involved?

Here come the $1,000,000 space toilet jokes...

Captain Apollo
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posted 02-12-2011 07:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Captain Apollo   Click Here to Email Captain Apollo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Can the Soyuz manoeuvre much?

dabolton
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posted 02-12-2011 09:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dabolton   Click Here to Email dabolton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What about the aercam?

Go4Launch
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posted 02-12-2011 09:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Go4Launch   Click Here to Email Go4Launch     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Solution: bring back SPAS!

chappy
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posted 02-13-2011 03:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for chappy   Click Here to Email chappy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The only idea I could suggests is if NASA will launch the mission STS-135, why not train one of the astronauts to fly one of the MMUs to record live docking and take photos of the station with shuttle docked with it.

I'm sure it will be spectacular if this does happens...

Jay Chladek
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posted 02-13-2011 01:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
MMUs were retired after STS-51L because it was determined that for shuttle missions, an RMS or an astronaut on an RMS could do what an MMU could. The flight units are in museums or in storage now.

Blackarrow
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posted 02-13-2011 01:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you look closely at the above photo showing Atlantis and Mir there is a thin black line between the shuttle's docking ring and Mir's docking structure. Have the two vehicles already separated by a few inches when the picture was taken, or is the black line just part of the connected structure?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-13-2011 02:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The shuttle's docking adapter had a dark/black colored ring, as can be seen in this photo, which was taken after the two vehicles separated.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-18-2011 08:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA and its space station partners will make the decision whether to conduct the photo op after space shuttle Discovery has launched. From the space agency's Twitter feed:
All partners will have a vehicle docked to ISS during STS-133 - decision for Soyuz fly about for pics will be made during flight.

Jay Chladek
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posted 02-18-2011 01:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Reading between the lines, it sounds to me like they may do this if they are far enough along in the docked day timeline to do it (transfers of equipment, joint operations etc...). Of course there are probably other factors at work, but that would be my guess anyway.

Fezman92
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posted 02-26-2011 01:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fezman92   Click Here to Email Fezman92     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I know it is early, but any word on if they are considering this?

KSCartist
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posted 02-26-2011 01:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KSCartist   Click Here to Email KSCartist     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As Bill Gerstenmaier explained during the post launch press conference, yes they are considering this for a number of reasons:
  1. post shuttle Soyuz vehicles will be performing flyarounds to inspect the ISS this would be a "practice run" to gain experience.

  2. this proposed fly around would provide views not seen from the shuttle flyarounds to inspect other areas for possible micrometeorid damage.

  3. PR - this will be the last (and/or only time) all partner vehicles are docked to ISS at one time.
So I hope they decide on Flight Day 6 to do this.

328KF
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posted 02-26-2011 10:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Reverse the order of those reasons and I think we're closer to the truth.

Why can't NASA just say "Because it's gonna look so cool!"?

MarylandSpace
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posted 02-26-2011 10:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MarylandSpace   Click Here to Email MarylandSpace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hoot Gibson takes great photos. So does Neil Armstrong.

I hope the space agencies don't miss this photo op.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-26-2011 11:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 328KF:
Reverse the order of those reasons and I think we're closer to the truth.
Gerstenmaier didn't rank the reasons when he provided those, rather he was asked specifically if there were engineering benefits to be gained from the flyabout or was it only for historic purposes. No one at NASA who has spoken about this potential photo op has shied away from admitting it is a photo op, but that doesn't mean they cannot learn from it also.

brianjbradley
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posted 02-27-2011 09:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for brianjbradley   Click Here to Email brianjbradley     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Spaceflight is all about risk. Props to NASA for not saying they will go ahead with the flyaround/photo opportunity just for a photo opp. Holding off and assessing the engineering benefits is good safety management to me and after losing two orbiters, good safety management is how it should be.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-27-2011 09:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The approval for the flyabout is not hinged on weighing the engineering benefits, as they are a spinoff of the photo op. The decision is pending a review of the procedures for conducting the activity safely and prioritizing the STS-133 mission goals.

Managers are protecting the extra docked day for Discovery's crew should they need it to complete their work before it can be dedicated to the flyabout, a bonus activity.

Fezman92
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posted 03-01-2011 10:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fezman92   Click Here to Email Fezman92     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
They just announced that the fly-around is a "no-go."

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-01-2011 10:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
At 11:14 a.m., International Space Station capcom Stan Love told space station commander Scott Kelly and Discovery commander Steve Lindsey that the station mission management team decided there will be no Soyuz flyabout during the STS-133 mission.

MrSpace86
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posted 03-01-2011 10:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MrSpace86   Click Here to Email MrSpace86     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow, what a missed opportunity. Highly disappointing.

issman1
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posted 03-01-2011 10:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Was it Russian objection? Because it seemed that NASA was in favour, otherwise it would never have been suggested.

A pity. As someone pondered, why wasn't Aercam considered for this task?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-01-2011 11:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Roscosmos recommended against the flyabout for engineering reasons. They had been in favor of doing it if the engineering studies supported its safe execution.

The Soyuz to perform the flyabout (TMA-01M) is a new model making its maiden flight. The flyabout, which was proposed after the Soyuz had launched, was not included in its original flight plan for this first flight. Roscosmos was unable to get comfortable with diverging from its plan in the time given to consider this flyabout.

The other, older model Soyuz (TMA-20) docked at the station was not available due to the configuration of another visiting vehicle (Discovery). It was also the more recent Soyuz to arrive and was it not able to re-dock for any reason, then both it and its more recently arrived crew would have had no choice but to return to Earth.

issman1
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posted 03-01-2011 11:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Why doesn't NASA have Bowen or Drew use SAFER to move a short distance from the station, during the second EVA, and snap a few pictures?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-01-2011 11:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Because SAFER is designed only for emergency use and the distance they would need to back away from the station would exceed SAFER's ability.

issman1
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posted 03-01-2011 11:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If one of the spacewalkers perched on the space station's big arm and was hoisted as high as it can possibly go, a few unique images could still be captured.

I fully appreciate the Russian concerns, but unless STS-135 is delayed till early 2012 this was the only realistic chance.

dabolton
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posted 03-01-2011 11:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dabolton   Click Here to Email dabolton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What about pointing some spy satellite at the entire complex?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-01-2011 12:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Our STS-133 Flight Day Journal entry, Space station "family photo" is a "no go" includes more on the reasons behind the flyabout being canceled.

tegwilym
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posted 03-01-2011 03:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Toss Robonaut out there with a camera. Tie him on a kite string, take a few photos and pull him back inside!

328KF
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posted 03-01-2011 04:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That's okay...the Russians have plenty of photos of their spacecraft docked to the ISS. Hopefully NASA can get something together themselves over the coming final flight(s) to produce a well-deserved tribute to the machine that gave birth to the space station.

Too bad for the other partners as well. Why have we become so risk averse?

Cliff Lentz
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posted 03-02-2011 08:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Cliff Lentz   Click Here to Email Cliff Lentz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I wasn't a big fan of this idea even though it's good PR. The flyaround with the shuttle should answer any engineering questions.

I have to tell you the first thought I had when hearing the no-go at the press conference is "Oh those cS'ers are going to have a field day with Photoshop now!"

tegwilym
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posted 03-02-2011 04:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 328KF:
Too bad for the other partners as well. Why have we become so risk averse?
So the Soyuz is on it's first flight. Apollo 8 was on it's first manned flight... and they took a risk and went to the moon and back. First time out with the Saturn V manned!

I miss the old days when humanity took a chance and learned from it.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-02-2011 04:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by tegwilym:
Apollo 8 was on it's first manned flight... and they took a risk and went to the moon and back.
NASA didn't put Apollo 8 through a flight plan that the space agency hadn't already significantly considered prior to launch and studied to the best of its ability.

Barring an emergency situation, there is very little chance that NASA would have approved a major change to the Apollo 8 mission once it was in-flight -- especially one based on a scenario that it had not previously considered.

328KF
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posted 03-02-2011 10:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My guess, and it is only a guess, is that the public story of this being an engineering decision is probably not entirely true. The Russians have a history of putting a price on just about anything, and I am picturing a negotiation going on not just about technical risk, but how much would be charged for the flyaround.

The program of course would not put this out and cast the partnership in a bad light (remember the Dennis Tito power struggle?) but maybe someday someone close to the program will write a book and tell the whole story.


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