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An indispensable ally: Russia’s Soyus rockets continue to provision Scott Kennedy


On Sunday morning the Falcon 9 rocket (a Space X and NASA project) exploded a few minutes after takeoff. It was carrying approximately 2,477 kg of food, clothing, equipment and science experiments for the station. Business Insider offers a video of the launch and explosion, here.

Space X and NASA assure the public that the ISS crew has plenty of supplies for four months. Scott Kelly, an astronaut on the space station, tweets:

astronaut tweet

The International Space Station is a joint project of five space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA and CSA and – despite US-led sanctions – Soyuz rockets continue to be the only reliable providers of transport for astronauts at the International Space Station. Since the retirement of The US Space Shuttle in 2011, all human space flights and reprovisioning voyages to and from the International Space Station have been carried out using Soyuz.

Hubris – ‘Mars One’

Despite this failure, NASA’s website informs us that the agency is developing the capabilities needed to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s – see the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and U.S. National Space Policy, also issued in 2010.

Time to make up boys

space debris- depictionWhen an agency that cannot even service its existing space programme it is time to think of halting and spending the money saved on humane and constructive purposes, including the clearing up of ‘space junk’ circulating the earth (left, one of many similar depictions). The problem is said to be most serious in low orbits hundreds of kilometres above Earth. Though media headlines focus on large pieces of space debris falling from the sky, Scientific American gives the six major reasons for concern here.

The Financial Times focussed on this problem last week. Flight controllers recently had to move the International Space Station out of the way of a fragment of an American Minotaur launcher and conspiracy theorists allege that germ warfare capsules are amongst the detritus and even that experiments are being conducted on the ISS. We fervently hope they are wrong but the hovering ghosts of Hiroshima and napalmed Vietnamese remove all certainties.

The FT reminds us that in 2009 NASA reported that a defunct Russian Kosmos satellite destroyed a functioning US Iridium communications satellite — adding more than 2,000 pieces of trackable debris to the inventory of space junk.

Esa’s Clean Space Initiative

Many proposals have been made to address the space debris problem, and the most advanced is a project called e.Deorbit, which the European Space Agency (Esa) is working up into a design to put to ministers of its member countries for approval next year.

“We are getting collision warnings almost every week for some of our satellites,” says Robin Biesbroek, project manager. “We really need to do something.”

Like return to sanity?