Posts Tagged ‘International Space Station’
In a September full of test launches (Minotaur V and Epsilon), here’s the latest offering: Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus cargo craft on the Antares rocket making its first demonstration flight to the International Space Station. With this, Orbital Sciences aims to be the second private company cleared for cargo transfers to the ISS, after SpaceX.
I like the Antares rocket launches because we get camera views of stage separation. On the first Antares launch, we got camera of the payload fairing separation as well – a relative rarity – but we didn’t get that this time.
Here’s the video of today’s launch, which occurred at 7:58 a.m. PST:
And here I thought that the KOUNOTORI4 was just a normal ISS cargo delivery launch, but no! The web is abuzz with the fact that it was delivering some extra-special cargo – namely this:
That’s Kirobo – a merry little robot designed for space that can speak Japanese – including voice and speech recognition. It is going to assist the next commander of the ISS, Koichi Wakata, in experiments to demonstrate the usefulness of robots in space. NASA has been working on a less personable but more functional robot – Robonaut-2:
I think the future probably lies somewhere between Kirobo and Robonaut-2, and soon, the whole idea of walking, talking humanoid robots won’t just be science fiction anymore (at least in low-gravity environments, where the whole walking thing is a bit easier for the robots).
Anyway, here’s the video of the rollout of the H-IIB rocket and the launch to the ISS, courtesy of SpaceVidsNet on YouTube:
I’ll post more about it once the Dragon completes its mission and we find out whether it met all the mission requirements. For now, congratulations to the SpaceX team for the quick turnaround. Here’s a picture of this morning’s launch from NASA:
If the mission is successful, we will be in a new era of space flight. Some people are already declaring the start of the new era with the launch, but that’s a bit premature – it actually has to do some work up there. As you might already know from reading my other articles, I’m skeptical about private industry’s vision and ability to think big, but any space flight is better than none.
So, crossing your finger really doesn’t work, though I guess we should do some double-blind trials just to make sure.
The launch of SpaceX‘s Falcon 9/Dragon flight to the ISS went all the way to ignition early this morning, but engine five had abnormally high chamber pressure readings on lighting, requiring a computerized abort. SpaceX confirmed that this was not the result of a sensor malfunction nor any computer glitch. The fuel valve was apparently operating normally, so we’re still waiting to find out exactly what went wrong.
SpaceX noted that while a failure of two engines during flight would not cause a failure, all nine engines have to be operational for a successful liftoff. Pressure problems have occurred in testing and during the first demonstration flight as well, though in the first test the pressure was off by a narrower margin, suggesting a different fault.
Space X’s COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) Demo Flight 2 is scheduled for Saturday. If the demonstration completes all the objectives set forth by NASA, the Falcon-9/Dragon system will be certified for regular cargo deliveries to the International Space Station. In other words, the United States will finally have a private sector replacement for the Space Shuttle‘s cargo delivery function.
While we’re all hopeful for success in this new phase in space exploration, I wonder why we couldn’t have had a proven system in place earlier, before the retirement of the Shuttle. Why are we still dependent on Russia to get our personnel to and from the station? It feels like we’ve set ourselves back, as if it’s 1959 again and we’re once again behind the Russians. I hope we can close the gap again quickly.