In the ISS, the Russians hold the Americans by the goatee

Posted October 9, 2022


On October 6, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket left Cape Canaveral in Florida, carrying in its Crew Dragon capsule, “Endurance” (also designed and manufactured by SpaceX), four astronauts including two Americans (a female commander), a Japanese and a Russian, Anna Kikina (“mission specialist”). The docking with the International Space Station, the ISS, will take place on 7 October at 11:00.

Anna Kikina is not a tourist but a real cosmonaut, selected as such in 2012. She is also a qualified engineer licensed to work on Russian equipment integrated into the ISS. Her flight is part of the routine of a continuous and necessary Russian presence on board. It was scheduled for June 2020 and we can already say that she will have successors (and there are already two other Russians on board … who will descend before her).

This is the first time in twenty years that a Russian cosmonaut has taken off from American soil. The previous time it was an American who had left Russia on a Soyuz spacecraft. But above all, what worries a priori, given the context of the war, is that both sides find it (almost) normal, while most Western countries with modest leaders refuse to receive tourists, Russians or to welcome musicians to play. in their orchestras.

Indeed, it must be clearly understood that the ISS could not operate without Russian equipment and the continued presence of Russian personnel on board to manage it. The ISS is made up of 16 pressurized modules of which six are Russian, eight American, one Japanese and one European. The International Space Station is therefore largely an American-Russian station with marginal participation from Japan and Europe (more precisely ESA). More importantly, one of the Russian modules, “Zvezda”, is the station’s engine room. The equipment it contains and of which the Russians keep control, allows in particular to return to orbit when the Earth’s gravity inexorably drags the mass of the entire ISS towards the Earth’s surface, that is, well before, towards increasingly dense layers of the atmosphere in which a car circulating at around 28,000 km per hour would burn almost completely (but not all) after being dismantled and torn to pieces. For the record, the ISS evolves between 330 and 420 km in altitude.

In fact, when the ISS was launched in 1993, the United States, which had been planning to set up a space station since the early 1980s, did not have the experience (at least that of a truly functional station) and was very happy with it. to forge an alliance at this level with the Russians who had just imploded the USSR and which they considered to have become a second-tier power, while benefiting from much of their technology without having to develop it themselves. The Russians were at the time leading the field of orbital stations as they had successfully operated their MIR station for several years (1986 to 2001). The Americans had tried their own experiment with their Skylab in 1973/74, but this mini station (one module only) could not be held in orbit. Furthermore, before the implosion of the USSR the Russians had prepared a MIR2 station and Zvezda would be the heart of it. They could then continue their activity and especially their research in astronautics technology by experimenting with a new engine, while this would have been impossible in their internal political context of 1993.

So American-Russian cooperation continues today in this field because the Americans do not want to say that they are dependent on the Russians and because the Russians are pleased to continue working on the ISS in the context of setting up a new all-Russian station (obviously much more modern of MIR2) whose first module could be launched between 2025 and 2026. This station could be operational in 2028. It is implied that a Russian withdrawal from the ISS would spell the rapid end of the ISS in poor condition (including safety on land) since the Americans could no longer operate it and since it is unthinkable to dismantle the gigantic mechanics it ended up forming, replace the Zvezda module (to which all the others are connected) with an American module that does not exist today.

So let’s do against bad luck with a good heart, and with a smile even if a little tense!

Ultimately, Americans have an interest in demonstrating their ability to perform feats in space in terms of human spaceflight if they are to maintain their political prestige in this area. However, it is not clear that they can.

There are two possible exits, Artemis or Starship.

Artemis is the huge rocket built by the ULA under the control of NASA, which could make it possible to repeat the exploits of the Saturn V rocket of the Apollo missions that allowed the raids on the Moon in the 1960s. But we have seen that its launch has been postponed from mid-September to late September and then to early November. After a very long preparation (early 2005), it is nothing short of worrying.

The Starship, a futuristic marvel prepared by SpaceX under the direction of Elon Musk, is expected to make its first orbital flight around the Earth also in November. SpaceX has demonstrated its capabilities by flying and above all by recovering and then reusing its launchers, Falcon9 and Falcon Heavy. But with the spaceship you climb several steps of the difficulty ladder. Starship itself can fly, proof of it has been given (flight SN15) but if it has managed to make some static (ground) shots its SuperHeavy launcher that has to put it into orbit has not yet shown that it can sustain the simultaneous firing of enough engines to transport the mass of his ship, the Starship, into space. The risk of one engine failure is much less unlikely when the number increases and the consequences on others can be catastrophic.

This is what worries the Americans, much more than the fact that the Russians continue as discreetly as possible (for them) to board “their” ISS.

Connections: with-the-west-187754 #: ~: text = Russia% 20work% 206% 20% 20 in a% 20% 20 dangerous way% 20space% 20debris.

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