Main Oxygen Generator Fails on International Space Station

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halman

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backspace,<br /><br />Just for the sake of argument, let us pretend that John Kerry is an extremely intelligent person. Also, let us pretend that he has won the election. He may have wanted to talk about his plans for the space program during his campaicn, but that would not have helped him get elected, because the average ****** thinks that space is a waste of money. But anyway, he is in office. He wants very badly to revitalize the American space program, because that is where most of the jobs that he has been talking about will have to come from, seeing as there are no other industries capable of expansion in the U.S.<br /><br />Now, Mr. Kerry knows that the Moon To Mars thing is a bunch of propaganda, to get the most vocal of the space advocates, the Mars Right This Instant faction, to support some kind of program which does not require spending a couple of hundred billion dollars in the next five years. There is no chance that the space program will be able to meet the goals of MTM with the money provided. Like I said, this Kerry guy is smart, and he knows that a publicaly supported mission to the Red Planet is just not feasible at this time. But he wants to spend a lot of money on space, and in space, because that is the only field that the United States is not sucking hind tit in.<br /><br />So he scraps MTM, and instead, announces that the United States is going to begin a progarm of rebuilding, from the ground up, with new launch vehicles, new crew modules, a new space station, and all of this is going to be in support of building a base on the Moon. He knows that the business oriented, wealth-hungry Republicans will support this, because they own most of the companies which will be getting the contracts. He knows that the average Jack and Jill will not oppose such a plan, because they can SEE the Moon, and it would be kind of neat to go there some day.<br /><br />Mr. Kerry also, quietly, approaches several leading industrialists, and asks if he can count <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> The secret to peace of mind is a short attention span. </div>
 
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halman

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RadarRedux,<br /><br />As far as I know, there is every possibility that the shuttles will be flying for many years beyand 2010. I am not particularly happy at the that prospect, knowing that they are prototype vehicles, which were designed to prove cabability, not as workaday space trucks. But, they were designed well enough that if we take care of them, and don't destroy them out of MISMANAGEMENT, they could last us for many more years.<br /><br />Yes, they are expensive to fly. So is a Sikorsky Sky Crane, compared to a Bell Jet Ranger. But the shuttles can perform missions that no other vehicle, real, or proposed, can accomplish. They are an invaluable resource, which we should treat with the utmost care and respect, and not shrug off safety concerns because they interfere with management's objectives.<br /><br />There are still an amazing number of DC-3's flying in the world today. Properly maintained, they will last many more years. Sometimes they crash, but it is not because of bad design. Should they be forced out of the air just because they are old? <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> The secret to peace of mind is a short attention span. </div>
 
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earth_bound_misfit

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"A long, slow slide into decay," is the best description of what I see going on in this country I have heard in a while"<br /><br />I wonder if this could be related to the fact that most of the western people today, are getting fat and lazy. Which i put down to the fact that they're akways sitting inside playing computer games, watching TV and such (i can't speak though, cos my waist line is getter a little bigger now i have a PC <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /> . <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p> </p><p>----------------------------------------------------------------- </p><p>Wanna see this site looking like the old SDC uplink?</p><p>Go here to see how: <strong>SDC Eye saver </strong>  </p> </div>
 
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earth_bound_misfit

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"So he scraps MTM, and instead, announces that the United States is going to begin a progarm of rebuilding, from the ground up, with new launch vehicles, new crew modules, a new space station, and all of this is going to be in support of building a base on the Moon. He knows that the business oriented, wealth-hungry Republicans will support this, because they own most of the companies which will be getting the contracts. He knows that the average Jack and Jill will not oppose such a plan, because they can SEE the Moon, and it would be kind of neat to go there some day. "<br /><br />Halman, in my eyes thats spot on.<br /><br />I'm don't want to be political in this thread, but I feel that Mr Bush's speech on MTM was to try and duplicate that feeling you get when you hear JFK's "man to the moon this decade" speech. And it just doesn't work, does it.<br /><br /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p> </p><p>----------------------------------------------------------------- </p><p>Wanna see this site looking like the old SDC uplink?</p><p>Go here to see how: <strong>SDC Eye saver </strong>  </p> </div>
 
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erioladastra

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"This is pure yellow-press crap, Adrian. Do not believe in it. "<br /><br />Based on what? I work with the engineers and this report is sadly quite correct. A similar story can, and will, be said of many other Russian hardware.
 
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CalliArcale

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<blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr /><p>Add to that that when they make a software change they just do it - no CM control really. <p><hr /></p></p></blockquote><br /><br />I'm a software configuration management lead for a space project, so pardon me for a minute while I go and twitch in the corner...... <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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CalliArcale

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photoneye, the reason it's improbable for the sole designer of the Soyuz to die and scupper everything is because a) it's a system in a long-established production phase, which means there have to plans available for the production team to use, and b) it's a very complex system and thus has had lots of engineers (probably hundreds) designing it.<br /><br />But the Elektron is a much smaller and less complex system, and would not need to be built on a production scale, because they only need a handful of them for the lifetime of the ISS. So it is plausible for a critical engineer to have failed to adequately document his work and then to have left (either by quitting or by shuffling off this mortal coil). There is precedent. It's even happened here in the US. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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erioladastra

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<br />"You see, such 'tales from cemetery' are definitely borrowed from cheap movies like Armageddon or Mission to Mars. "<br /><br />But it is a far cry from "be cautious and check the story" to calling it out and out BS.
 
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erioladastra

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<br />"But the Elektron is a much smaller and less complex system, and would not need to be built on a production scale, because they only need a handful of them for the lifetime of the ISS. So it is plausible for a critical engineer to have failed to adequately document his work and then to have left (either by quitting or by shuffling off this mortal coil). There is precedent. It's even happened here in the US. "<br /><br />Calli, I *hope* you are correct. <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /> I once watched them build a Progress vehicle. Doing wiring, connecting sections. Never once saw a single paper - either in the engineers hands or on a nearby table. I rally wonder who knows what there and how much is passed on. Granted there is a lot on ISS we don't have written down but I think they have very little over there.<br />
 
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najab

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It may be that it's so much of a production line and they've built so many of them, that everyone knows what they are doing - kinda a "Insert plug A into socket B,..." kinda situation.
 
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JonClarke

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It is probably dangerous to assume that the paper trail rich method evolved by NASA is the best way to do it as well. <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /> Have spoken to several Russians who work in the space business they find the US management approach very odd. Having having lived and worked in several cultures I am loath to condemn a different management practice just because it is different. If it delivers, it delivers. <br /><br /> Cheers<br /><br />Jon <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><em>Whether we become a multi-planet species with unlimited horizons, or are forever confined to Earth will be decided in the twenty-first century amid the vast plains, rugged canyons and lofty mountains of Mars</em>  Arthur Clarke</p> </div>
 
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halman

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najaB,<br /><br />Have you heard any updates on the status of the jury-rigged back-up unit, the one for which a by-pass pump had been shipped to the station recently? According to the MSNBC report linked above, the pump had been installed, but the unit had not been tested.<br /><br />This is a critical systems failure, which could imperil the entire International Space Station project. Having to supply oxygen to the station on a regular basis would be prohibitive under current support abilities. Replacement Elektron units are in production in Russia, but when they will be ready for delivery is unknown, especially if the only engineer who knew how to adjust them correctly has died.<br /><br />I sometimes have the impression that the United States does not have the technical know-how to maintain a space station, and is totally dependent on the Russians for leadership in day-to-day operations. Yet the U.S. will not fund the Russian program because of political differences. Losing the ISS would be a huge setback for all the space programs. Without the Space Shuttle or the ISS, the United States would be back where we were in 1959.<br /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> The secret to peace of mind is a short attention span. </div>
 
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JonClarke

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How can this be considered a critical systems failure when there are two independent back up systems (gaseous O2 tanks and chemical generators) and the baulky unit seems repairable? Elektrons have been about for 10 years at least have failed before and been brought back on line. This seems to be yet another case of the the chicken little syndrome - the ISS is falling, the ISS is falling every time something breaks. Things will always break on a space station, some of them serious. People fix them. Provided the crew and spacecraft are not in any immediate danger why panic? the same will happen on long term missions to the Moon and Mars. Leaning that not every problem is terminal is an essential precurssor to going beyond LEO. The RSA has learned it, NASA is leaning it. The media hasn't yet. Remember the panic over the miniscule leak earliere this year?<br /><br />Jon <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><em>Whether we become a multi-planet species with unlimited horizons, or are forever confined to Earth will be decided in the twenty-first century amid the vast plains, rugged canyons and lofty mountains of Mars</em>  Arthur Clarke</p> </div>
 
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nacnud

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The only difference now is that only progress can be used to re-supply the ISS. Having to deliver gaseous oxygen rather that using the electron, which only require electricity, places increasing demands on this re-supply system that can only support two people when everything else is working properly.
 
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Swampcat

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<blockquote><p align="left"><font color="orange">Space station goes to Plan B for oxygen<br /><br />Crew not in imminent danger, but safety margin narrows<br /><br />By James Oberg<br />NBC News space analyst<br />Special to MSNBC<br />Updated: 10:01 p.m. ET Sept. 17, 2004<br /><br />HOUSTON - Crew members on the international space station have ended their 10-day effort to repair a failed oxygen-generating unit, and in its place they have installed a jury-rigged unit that previously failed.<br /><br />If it also fails, the station would have only 90 days of stored oxygen on board and the outpost might have to be shut down. New hardware won't be available until the spring of 2005.</font></p></blockquote><br /><br />The rest of the story.<br /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <font size="3" color="#ff9900"><p><font size="1" color="#993300"><strong><em>------------------------------------------------------------------- </em></strong></font></p><p><font size="1" color="#993300"><strong><em>"I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions, indeed, generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government."</em></strong></font></p><p><font size="1" color="#993300"><strong>Thomas Jefferson</strong></font></p></font> </div>
 
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JonClarke

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So they have one patched up unit, one non functioning unit, 90 days reserve of gaseous oxygen, an unknown reserve of chemical generators. How this can be considered a critical situation?<br /><br />It is only critical if over the next three-four months the patched up elektron does not work, the main one cannot be repaired with materials to hand or brought up on Soyuz TMA-5 and the Progress, and no additional alternate oxygen supplies arrive. if things aren't resolved until December then it will be critical.<br /><br />Jon <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><em>Whether we become a multi-planet species with unlimited horizons, or are forever confined to Earth will be decided in the twenty-first century amid the vast plains, rugged canyons and lofty mountains of Mars</em>  Arthur Clarke</p> </div>
 
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najab

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><i>...an unknown reserve of chemical generators...</i><p>The number 83 days sticks in my mind for some reason.<p>><i> How this can be considered a critical situation?</i><p>Well, there is now no redundancy on the Elektron generators, that is a serious situation. <b>And</b> the single unit is known bad. If this had happened at the beginning of an expedition it would be bad, but coming as it does just a few weeks before a crew exchange it means they are going to have to think long and hard about if they are going to go ahead with the exchange. It's not an emergency, but it is a critical failure.</p></p></p>
 
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halman

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JonClarke,<br /><br />According to the MSNBC story, 28 kilograms of oxygen stored on the Progress module will last the two crewmembers 16 days. The oxygen candles are considered an emergency back up, I believe. Another Progress supply module is scheduled for November, but the Expedition 10 crew will be using oxygen candles before that.<br /><br />Supplying the International Space Station with oxygen will require 150 kilograms of oxygen every 90 days. I don't remember the payload capacity of the Progress, but I believe that dedicating that much weight to oxygen will reduce the amount of other necessary consumables which are sent on a regular basis.<br /><br />If the failure of the Elektron unit results in abandoning the station, even temporarily, then I consider it to be critical. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> The secret to peace of mind is a short attention span. </div>
 
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JonClarke

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So they have 90 + 83 days - essentially 6 months to fix the problem plus several resupply missions in that period to fix the problem. <br /><br />Jon <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><em>Whether we become a multi-planet species with unlimited horizons, or are forever confined to Earth will be decided in the twenty-first century amid the vast plains, rugged canyons and lofty mountains of Mars</em>  Arthur Clarke</p> </div>
 
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najab

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><i>So they have 90 + 83 days - essentially 6 months to fix the problem plus several resupply missions in that period to fix the problem.</i><p>Thinking about it some more, I think that was person-days, so it's actually only 41 days of oxygen candles. The point remains that the reserve oxygen is exactly that - emergency reserve. If you are using it, then you've had a critical failure. If the current Elektron packs in before the crew exchange then there is a real possibility that ISS will be put in uncrewed mode until the replacement Elektron has been built and tested.</p>
 
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radarredux

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According to two articles I have read (Houston Chronicle and Universe Today) the oxygen generator is working again!<br /><br />I had the following question, which in light of a potential fix, may be only hypothetical: If ISS is having troubles with the oxygen generators, how does this affect the plan to use ISS as a "safe haven" if there is a shuttle problem?
 
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najab

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><i>... how does this affect the plan to use ISS as a "safe haven" if there is a shuttle problem?</i><p>Well hopefully someone inside the program will comment, but from an outsider's point of view it would seem that a failure of the Elektron would kill any ideas they had about using ISS as a safe haven.</p>
 
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JonClarke

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http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/spacenews/reports/issreports/2004/iss04-52.html<br /><br />The phrase "I told you so" springs to mind <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /><br /><br />Jon <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><em>Whether we become a multi-planet species with unlimited horizons, or are forever confined to Earth will be decided in the twenty-first century amid the vast plains, rugged canyons and lofty mountains of Mars</em>  Arthur Clarke</p> </div>
 
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halman

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JonClarke,<br /><br />The Elektron unit was operational for a few hours before it was shut down while the crew was sleeping. These units have experienced numerous failures, and a few hours of operation does not mean that the unit will be reliable for any length of time. Replacement units are not likely to be ready until March ar April of next year.<br /><br />Meanwhile, the American program to build a similiar device is being accelerated to have them ready in four YEARS.<br /><br />Considering how much we are relying upon the Russians, I find it rather shameful that we refuse to provide them with funding to not only develop new spacecraft, but to simply keep their program alive. In view of how desperate the Russians are for hard currancy, a few million dollars there is like several billion in the United States.<br /><br />See the thread on the Klipper spacecraft now in development in Russia, which could satisfy all the requirements of the Crew Exploration Vehicle, and be ready to fly in a couple of years. Rather than co-operating with the Russians, we seem intent on competing with them. We could be on the Moon in ten years if we were to work with the most experienced space faring nation on the planet. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> The secret to peace of mind is a short attention span. </div>
 
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nacnud

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Going a bit off topic here but I think that there is a chance here for a major coup by ESA if it helps fund development of the Clipper project. There was a lot of co-operation between ESA and NASA on the X38 but although they supplied lots of material in return for the results of the tests the tests were never carried out. I think that they should try again with the Russian space agency (what is the Russian space agency called anyway?) having a European manned access to the station is really the only thing missing from European capabilities at the moment. As an even further aside the majority of the habitable space in the ISS has actually been built in Europe so come on ESA pull you finger out and take the opportunity while it’s available. If American doesn’t want the white elephant they’ve built I’m sure that we can borrow it and turn it into something useful.
 
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