Monday, March 3, 2008

The Space Race... to the ISS

Sorry for not putting a post out in a while, I have been really busy, but now I am back and I will be posting everyday or every other day, so get ready. Today's main topic is about a few of the new methods of getting people and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).

The European Space Agency is scheduled to launch their Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) on March 8 this week. The ESA's ATV has been delayed for a while, but now all the lights are green for launch. Each ATV will deliver 7.5 tons of cargo to the ISS, provide reboost capability to help keep the station in its proper orbit, give 45 cubic meters extra pressurized volume, and at the end of its mission will burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere with 6.5 tons of garbage and waste on board. The ATVs will stay with the ISS for around six months. Many countries in the ESA have long wanted to have space faring capabilities, especially France, and this project is a step in the right direction. These ATV will be very helpful for the ISS, even though they can't carry people. The only possible pitfall would be if these ATV were abandoned after the first seven scheduled flights, this would cause the ESA to lose a good investment and a potential market.

Next up is Elon Musk's SpaceX and the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. SpaceX has claimed that they have met all of the COTS guidelines and already have a full-scale engineering model of the Dragon capsule that they are building for launch on their Falcon 9 rocket. The early version of the Dragon capsule is designed to carry cargo, both pressurized and unpressurized, to the ISS. The great difference between ATV and Dragon is that, from the beginning, the Dragon capsule was designed to be used to carry people into orbit. Having this already developed and nearly ready for more production and launches could give SpaceX a huge jump, and near monopoly, on the competition for government launches and of course the private market.

Last up is the Orbital Sciences Corporation and their Cygnus vehicle. Orbital won a funded COTS award last month after Rocketplane Kistler (RpK) lost their funding when they failed to meet their financing requirements. Orbital has proposed to build a Cygnus cargo carrier with similar payload capacity to the Dragon and to be launched from their new Taurus 2 rocket. This rocket, which is to launch from Wallops Island in Virginia, will use the same Russian engines (modified by Aerojet) as the first stage as RpK’s K-1. As far as we know, however, the company has no plans to turn Cygnus into a human-rated system. The Cygnus vehicle is not as developed as the ATV or the Dragon but it will certainly be and up and comer to watch for.

I read an interesting article along with a video on colonyworlds.com about why the Romanians are going to win the Google Lunar X Prize. And I know it's a little late but if you haven't seen the 43rd Carnival of Space go ahead and check it out on startswithabang.com.

Source: The Internet

Thanks for reading,

The Fool

3 comments:

Swubird said...

Fool:

I was wondering. Since the astronauts will be in the space station for a prolonged period of time, what things will they be doing to counter bone loss? I know they have routine exercises, but are there any new, innovative things for this particular program?

Have a nice day.

The Fool said...

Well Swubird I have heard of a few things that aren't too well known. One idea of course is taking drugs, the solution for everything nowadays. Another idea is giving the astronauts space boots, that, either by velcro, magnets or pneumatic means, simulate gravity. Two newer ideas are gene therapy or electric stimulation that increases the amount of protein and calcium that actually forms into muscle and bone. Along with these things and future innovations I would imagine that the effects of bone loss could be almost completely reversed.

Bob Johnson said...

The good ole ESA, they've got some cool tech, I like this ATV along with the Columbus Lab and the soon to be defunct Ulysses craft, they have contributed a lot to space exploration.