NASA’s dealing with of the issues surrounding the unsuccessful docking maneuver of the Russian analysis module Nauka with the ISS counsel that errors are being repeated that led to probably the most devastating disasters in area historical past. At the very least that’s what the previous NASA engineer James Oberg thinks, who labored for the US area company for greater than 20 years and is, amongst different issues, an professional on rendezvous in area. The journalist has now summarized his harsh criticism of his former employer’s dealing with of the ISS ‘first “spaceship emergency” in a US journal.
Analysis module on an odyssey
The Russian ISS module was launched on July twenty first and reached the Worldwide House Station on July twenty ninth. The docking course of then labored with none issues, after which the management facilities returned to plain operations. However then the module instantly activated the engines once more with none warning, although it was firmly related to the ISS. Because of this, it turned the complete station greater than as soon as round its personal axis and solely mechanically activated different Russian engines braced themselves in opposition to the damaging maneuver. As a result of Nauka couldn’t be reached from the bottom, the module most likely solely stopped accelerating when the gas was exhausted.
Like Oberg now writes in IEEE Spectrum magazine, the malfunction of the module was not even acknowledged immediately on earth, as a result of Nauka was already far out of the vary of the Russian antennas. It was solely when the inaccurate alignment of the ISS was seen that the “spaceship emergency” was declared for the primary time and attainable options had been sought. Since Nauka may solely be contacted once more through Europe, there was not a lot that may very well be carried out – in response to Oberg, virtually all and even all countermeasures had been initiated mechanically. How shut the station was to a catastrophe is an unanswered query, explains the professional. His criticism now focuses totally on the reactions afterwards.
To reassure the general public, NASA instantly revealed preliminary estimates of how far the station had been rotated. Looking back, nonetheless, they turned out to be far too low. The Russian area company Roscosmos even dismissed the occasions as a standard error, which doesn’t require a proper investigation, particularly not involving NASA. Oberg criticizes this as complacency and an inadmissible hope that all the things will go effectively. Each can solely unfold in any respect as a result of all the things has apparently been regular for thus lengthy. The safety is simply assumed, however not checked. That was additionally the case each earlier than the Challenger catastrophe and the crash of the House Shuttle Columbia.
Intervening in opposition to “sloppiness”
In an effort to counteract this tradition at NASA, somebody has to intervene, calls for Oberg. The causes of the unsuccessful docking maneuver need to be investigated and verified. As well as, the decision-making course of that led to NASA permitting a module with engines to be docked to the ISS should be disclosed with out taking precautions to have the ability to shut it down immediately if essential. This apparent “sloppiness” is seemingly immediately associated to the need to take care of good relations with Russia. The brand new NASA boss Invoice Nelson should due to this fact provoke an impartial and thorough investigation from the very prime.
Oberg now reminds us that there was an analogous drawback when the very first ISS module from Russia was launched. After its launch in late 1998, the module didn’t settle for orders from the bottom to lift orbit. Whereas these accountable from NASA and Roskosmos celebrated the beginning, all the things had been tried within the floor station to get the module to right its course. It was solely on the final chance that this succeeded and the ISS undertaking was saved. The US facet hadn’t heard about it for years. NASA should now mirror on its conventional security tradition and do justice to the deceased astronauts who’ve allow them to down previously.