November 26, 2022

Test maneuvering of the International Space Station with the Cygnus spacecraft did not go as planned

Test maneuvering of the International Space Station with the Cygnus spacecraft did not go as planned

The Cygnus spacecraft approaches the International Space Station on February 21, 2022.

The Cygnus spacecraft approaches the International Space Station on February 21, 2022.
picture: NASA

NASA is currently evaluating the ability of the moored Cygnus spacecraft to serve as boosters for the International Space Station, but the latest test of the concept was soon halted for reasons that are not yet clear.

The launch of the engine for Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus NG CRS-17 spacecraft began at 11:20 a.m. ET on Monday, June 20 and was supposed to last exactly 5 minutes and 1 second, but NASA stopped the whole thing after just 5 seconds. According to an agency press release. “The cause of the miscarriage is understood and under review,” Cygnus officials said“NASA” added, but without providing any other details. In an email to Gizmodo, a NASA spokesperson told the agency will provide more Its updates space station blog later this week.

The purpose of the test was to evaluate the ability of the moored Cygnus spacecraft to serve as functional boosters for the International Space Station. The space station is equipped with its own propulsion system, but it is often not enough to make significant modifications to the site. The International Space Station, which orbits 260 miles (418 km) above the surface, sometimes needs to move, whether for operational reasons or when having to dodge other satellites or Potentially dangerous space debris.

ISS configuration as seen June 3, showing the position of Cygnus-17 and Progress 81.

ISS configuration as seen June 3, showing the position of Cygnus-17 and Progress 81.
picture: NASA

This was the case just a few days ago. On June 16, the moored Russian Progress 81 spacecraft launched its thrusts for 4 minutes and 34 seconds, in a procedure that provided an additional distance from the expected path of space debris, that is, part of the former Russian satellite Kosmos 1408, which Russia was deliberately destroyed earlier this year In a shameless test of anti-satellite weapons. Obviously, the crew was never in danger, but without the orbital adjustment, “the segment would have been expected to have passed about a half-mile from the station,” according to NASA. press release.

With so many satellites now orbiting the Earth, and with so much junk and useless debris out there, these maneuvers are now commonplace. the problem is, Russia threatened to leave the International Space Station (Probably as early as 2025), and given that Progress vehicles are commonly used as boosters for the International Space Station, that presents a small problem for NASA. Hence the test with Cygnus.

A failed test with Cygnus doesn’t mean the spacecraft isn’t up to the task, but it would be nice to know what went wrong. However, NASA plans to restart work on Saturday, June 25, at which time the agency will once again launch the Cygnus engines. If the test is successful, it would mark the first time a commercial spacecraft has been used to boost the International Space Station (at least to my knowledge). Aside, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has behold That his Dragon Company should also be able to perform reinforcement missions if asked to do so.

This scheduled retest process remains unofficial, as NASA needs to discuss the new plan with its partners on the International Space Station, according to the press release. Assuming all goes well, the spent Cygnus craft will leave its garbage payload on June 28 and burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.

Related: The International Space Station got out of control after the failure of the Russian module, new details revealed.