back to article With sorry Soyuz stuffed, who's going to run NASA's space station taxi service now?

Thursday's failed Soyuz launch, carrying kit and astronauts to the International Space Station means NASA is fast running out of options for shipping stuff into orbit. Especially since its homespun solutions aren't living up to their earlier promise. The US space agency hasn't been wild about using the Russians as a delivery …

  1. JustWondering
    Happy

    No worries

    They can catch a ride with Trump's Space Force.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: No worries

      well, if ya think about it, maybe a 'space force' COULD become a nice emergency handling agency, for stranded astronauts. Kinda like a Navy. In space.

      I'm surprised we haven't already done the 'space force' thing, actually. I think the shuttle was ORIGINALLY intended to be a stepping stone to that. It just never happened.

      (a bit of google-fu seems to confirm my suspicions on this, from the sheer number of military-related STS missions to the floated idea that shuttles could replace ICBMs)

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: No worries

        "Like a Navy"?

        More like the Coast Guard as it doesn't get above LEO. A Navy is blue water, comparable with trans-Lunar space.

        1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge

          Re: No worries

          More like the Coast Guard as it doesn't get above LEO. A Navy is blue water, comparable with trans-Lunar space.

          The USCG is actually a world-wide maritime service, but has a different mission than the USN. To quote (and this pains me) Wikipedia, "while the U.S. Coast Guard is the smallest of the U.S. military service branches, in terms of size, the U.S. Coast Guard by itself is the world's 12th largest naval force."

      2. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: No worries

        "I'm surprised we haven't already done the 'space force' thing, actually."

        You have. It's called USAF Space Command.

        1. John 110
          Alien

          Re: No worries

          ""I'm surprised we haven't already done the 'space force' thing, actually."

          You have. It's called USAF Space Command."

          Yeah, but they run the Stargate program and you can't use that to get to Earth orbit unless you gate to a planet with a goa'uld mothership (and that would be bad)

          1. DavCrav Silver badge

            Re: No worries

            "Yeah, but they run the Stargate program and you can't use that to get to Earth orbit unless you gate to a planet with a goa'uld mothership (and that would be bad)"

            Don't you gate off-world, then gate back to the second gate from Antarctica, with a scavenged DHD plugged in so it becomes the default gate for Earth's address? OK, you have to get the second gate into orbit first, but that's a once-only thing.

      3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: No worries

        "I'm surprised we haven't already done the 'space force' thing"

        I'm not. Such things were banned about half a century ago. Obviously international treaties can be flouted, but as long as the other side aren't flouting them, why be the first to embark on what is likely to be very public, very expensive, militarily pointless piece of wilful disregard for legal norms?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: No worries

          "Obviously international treaties can be flouted, but as long as the other side aren't flouting them, why be the first to embark on what is likely to be very public, very expensive, militarily pointless piece of wilful disregard for legal norms?"

          There are two responses to that.

          1) Militarily, owning the "high ground" is almost always a winning strategy.

          2) Trump.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: No worries

      This IS Trump's Space Force.

      I lolled at SLS being "100% over budget".

      How is this even possible seeing how this launcher thingy is supposed to be based on "trusted & true" technologies?

      Did someone menace the Boeing project manager to compress his Gantt chart while demanding that various bells & whistles be added here & there?

      "Second, we found flaws in NASA’s evaluation of Boeing’s performance, resulting in NASA inflating

      the contractor’s scores and leading to overly generous award fees. Specifically, in the six evaluation periods since 2012 in which NASA provided ratings, Agency officials deemed Boeing’s performance “excellent” in three and “very good” in three other periods, resulting in payment of $323 million or 90

      percent of the available award and incentive fees."

      Oh. This sounds like something political.

      1. GettinSadda

        Re: No worries

        > I lolled at SLS being "100% over budget".

        > How is this even possible seeing how this launcher thingy is

        > supposed to be based on "trusted & true" technologies?

        The problem is likely to be the old "we need more votes in <State X>"... "Quick, move production of <Component Y> to <State X>" game!

      2. Andy The Hat Silver badge

        Re: No worries

        "lolled"?

        Sadly that's the first time I've ever seen "LOL" used as a verb ... does this mean that I could use such sentences as "I FFSed when I saw LOL used as a verb as, until today, I though LOL was an annoying noun."?

        1. dkjd

          Re: No worries

          lolled = past tense of loll, to hang or lie down, the verb has been used for 100s of years :P

          1. Steve the Cynic

            Re: No worries

            lolled = past tense of loll, to hang or lie down, the verb has been used for 100s of years :P

            Indeed. When lol is used as a verb ("to laugh out loud") in the past, I've more often seen it spelled "loled" (which to me would be the past of "lole", but never mind that).

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: No worries

            "lolled = past tense of loll, to hang or lie down, the verb has been used for 100s of years :P"

            Lolled is almost as good a word as lolloping, which I try to use as often as I can :-)

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Spazturtle Silver badge

        Re: No worries

        The original budget was a joke for what they were being asked to do, but it is easier to sell to the tax payer if you only approve half the required funds first and then years down the line approve the other half and say "Who could have foreseen these budget overruns?".

        SLS is designed to be a cheap to launch super heavy lift vehicle which means that the development costs are high, so lots of things need redesigning from the Shuttle designs. For example the engines have been massively simplified from the shuttle design and can now be 3D printed (and the 3D printed ones have passed all tests).

        After the first few launches (the first few will costs more) the cost will be $500m per launch. Whether the additional development costs are worth it depends on how many times they end up using it.

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: No worries

          Spacenews says "The problem with the Space Launch System is that it is a fully expendable rocket that could cost between $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion to launch. NASA is struggling to make the SLS more affordable to operate"

          https://spacenews.com/europa-or-enceladus-if-nasa-switches-from-sls-to-falcon-heavy-it-wont-have-to-choose/

          Where did you get the half billion cost per launch from?

          Meanwhile, SpaceX is quoting costs of $62 million for the Falcon 9 Full Thrust and $90 million for the Falcon Heavy, both of which have actually flown. The ESA has a target price of 90 million euros for the upcoming Ariane 6. Meanwhile, the SLS remains expensive vapourware and by the time they actually finish it, SpaceX may well be ready with their BFR.

          Personally, I would be quite surprised if the SLS project ever actually gets used at the cost/performance it has.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No worries

            Meanwhile, the Soyuz remains the cheapest and most reliable launch system available, just 2 incidents in 35 years, and the latest might not have happened if 007 hadn't managed to get through security and sabotage it.

      4. fishman

        Re: No worries

        "Oh. This sounds like something political."

        Why do you think the SLS is called the "Senate Launch System"?

    3. JCitizen
      Angel

      Re: No worries

      Call the Thunderbirds - they'll get the job done! If not, Brains will figure it out!

      1. Robert Halloran

        Re: No worries

        or at worst case, the current ISS crew can camp out on Thunderbird 5 until the next supply run from Tracy Island... FAB

        1. BoldMan

          Re: No worries

          Or use the space elevator in the new version of Thunderbird 5

  2. 404 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Still mad about the Shuttle program...

    I don't want to talk about it... but it was the quickest I've *ever* seen the Feds do something..

    1. Palladium

      How could we be in this mess...

      when the Wall Street oligarchy told us privatizing everything solves anything.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Still mad about the Shuttle program...

      That's the first time I have someone wax melancolic over that particular dangerous self-exploding super-costly white complexophant.

      Like Excel, the Shuttle was a bad idea implemented badly.

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Still mad about the Shuttle program...

        "complexophant"

        This is my word now!

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Still mad about the Shuttle program...

        "Like Excel, the Shuttle was a bad idea implemented badly."

        No, it was a good idea implemented badly. Mainly due the the "special" requirements of the military causing huge added costs and complexity which, IIRC, was never used, ie the ability to launch, deploy and land cross range in less than one full orbit (or however they described it)

        1. MonsieurTM

          Re: Still mad about the Shuttle program...

          Although your analysis of the use-case for the large wings on the shuttle is correct: it was *still* a bad idea: It turns out to be *MUCH* cheaper and more reliable to use ICBMs over the North (or South) Pole to do this, than launch the shuttle over a pole, nuke Russia, re-enter, turn through 90 degrees (what the big wings were for) then land.

    3. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Still mad about the Shuttle program...

      Moonlanding was quicker.

      1969-06-20 (Orbit Yuri Gagarin) - 1961-04-12 (first moonlanding) is slightly over 8 years.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        1969-06-20 (Orbit Yuri Gagarin) - 1961-04-12 (first moonlanding) is slightly over 8 years.

        You forgot 1 little detail.

        Apollo?/Saturn consumed c5% of the entire USG budget while that budget was inflated due to running the Vietnam war.

        Today the NASA budget is 0.9% of USG spending. There is no clear goal for SLS or Orion (both of which have kept shifting) aside from shovelling cash and jobs into the Senators states that support it.

        Remember they chose to put big jointed solids (which cannot be shut down) on SLS after Challenger showed what happens if the joint fails.

        1. TheCoolBritExosnews

          Re: 1969-06-20 (Orbit Yuri Gagarin) - 1961-04-12 (first moonlanding) is slightly over 8 years.

          NASA current budget is 0.5%

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Unhappy

            NASA current budget is 0.5%

            I stand corrected.

            I think we can agree it's less than the DoD spends on AirCon for overseas bases (c $40Bn) or the size of the US home delivered pizza market (c $25Bn).

            All those pies do add up.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 1969-06-20 (Orbit Yuri Gagarin) - 1961-04-12 (first moonlanding) is slightly over 8 years.

          Obummer has a lot to answer for the current crap state of the NASA manned programme. Thank goodness for Putin's long sightedness, and Trump's decision to fix Obummer's mistakes.

        3. red floyd

          Re: 1969-06-20 (Orbit Yuri Gagarin) - 1961-04-12 (first moonlanding) is slightly over 8 years.

          Remember they chose to put big jointed solids (which cannot be shut down) on SLS after Challenger showed what happens if the joint fails.

          At least they did two things right about that.

          1. The crew compartment is at the top of the stack where the FSM intended it to be.

          2. There actually is a Launch Escape System

          (side note: Apollo 11 landed on 1969-07-20.

      2. DropBear Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Still mad about the Shuttle program...

        "1969-06-20 (Orbit Yuri Gagarin) - 1961-04-12 (first moonlanding)"

        Wait, Gagarin's orbit happened _after_ the moon landing...?!?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wait, Gagarin's orbit happened _after_ the moon landing...?!?

          Yes. After the *real* moon landings, but before the fake ones :-)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Still mad about the Shuttle program...

          "Wait, Gagarin's orbit happened _after_ the moon landing...?!?"

          ... US TV used "live tape delayed coverage" for the moon landings... its just like the Olympics

        3. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Danny 14 Silver badge

            Re: Still mad about the Shuttle program...

            some scripted movie was released?

      3. I&I

        Re: Still mad about the Shuttle program...

        Integrate

  3. eldakka Silver badge
    Coat

    @Iain Thomson wrote:

    SpaceX, Boeing running behind schedule, and don't get me started on SLS.

    So, what's going on with the SLS?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      > So, what's going on with the SLS?

      The 'scathing report [pdf]' link in the article. The report is summarised here:

      https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/10/theres-a-new-report-on-sls-rocket-management-and-its-pretty-brutal/

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Happy

        The report is utterly wrong though. The SLS is exactly on track, on time and on budget. It's just that the programme's objectives are secret. The real aim is simply to build the rocket so tall, that you can climb up a ladder from the launch tower straight up to the ISS. The fuel savings alone are massive...

        1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
          Coat

          The real aim is simply to build the rocket so tall, that you can climb up a ladder from the launch tower straight up to the ISS.

          Wouldn't it be easier and even cheaper for the crew of the ISS to simply lower a rope?

          The one with the "25% off at B&Q" voucher in the pocket.

          1. JustWondering

            Is Rapunzel busy?

  4. seven of five

    Lose one bloody capsule in 50 years

    and all go into full drama-mode. Honestly, chuck another Soyuz up, see what happens. As an ISS astronaut, I´d rather take the risk with a came-up-empty Soyuz than a spanking new new Boeing.

    1. Rupert Fiennes Silver badge

      Re: Lose one bloody capsule in 50 years

      Well, actually they lost 4 in 50 years. But yes, it's very reliable: really not an issue to run a quick investigation and resume flight.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: Lose one bloody capsule in 50 years

        @ seven of five, totally agree, They didn't lose the capsule, that part worked perfectly and the crew walked away after a normal landing.

        This event was a launch booster failure and that is an astonishingly rare event with these rockets.

        The Soyuz rocket assembly is a nailed down example of a good simple design being improved in small incremental steps and achieving excellent results on several hundred flights over many decades.

        At first sight this seems to be just the latest quality control problem that has occurred in the recent past. I'm expecting the investigations to be very detailed as this is 'National Pride' territory.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Lose one bloody capsule in 50 years

          I love the easy way people chuck around statements like:

          At first sight this seems to be just the latest quality control problem that has occurred in the recent past.

          As if a series of quality control problems is just a minor thing.

          The two things that get astronauts killed are rushing to meet deadlines and complacency.

          Apollo 1 and the two fatal Soyuz accidents were caused by ignoring problems in the rush to meet deadlines. The 2 Shuttle crashes were caused by complacently assuming that they'd carry on getting away with problems that hadn't caused accidents before.

          There is no just when talking about regular quality control problems. And that's what Roscosmos have been getting away with for several years now. Mostly they've been in the unmanned side of things, so it might be that there's no serious problem - and there might be a simple cause for this malfunction - but it's not exactly reassuring.

        2. iromko
          Devil

          Re: Lose one bloody capsule in 50 years

          >> This event was a launch booster failure and that is an astonishingly rare event with these rockets.

          Russian rockets have quite a tendency of failures recently. Not to mention holes drilled at random in the sides of spacecraft.

          So the problem usually is not in design or materials, but in deteriorated work ethics and skills.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lose one bloody capsule in 50 years

      Even if it's basically a fifty years old design, it has been tweaked and production is not made the same way, changes have been applied along the way.

      They still have to assert what went wrong and why - it could be a one-off issue, it could be an issue that could repeat - losing a rocket is expensive, even when the crew survives.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: "Even if it's basically a fifty years old design"

        Um, sorry, but the wheel is a thousands-of-years-old design, where's the problem ?

        If it was a 50-year-old rocket, yeah, I could see the issue.

        Designs do not grow old, they get replaced by better designs.

        SpaceX et al are apparently in the process of doing that, but the Russkies have a design that works now. They might just have to tweak it, but with its track record, I'm not sure that's a very good idea.

    3. I&I

      Re: Lose one bloody capsule in 50 years

      Average inapply if state-change.

    4. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Lose one bloody capsule in 50 years

      Technically Soyuz* has a slightly worse loss rate of spacecraft than the Shuttle for a similar number of launches (Soyuz overtook the Shuttle in the last year iirc).

      Although, due to the larger crew capacity, more lives have been lost on the Shuttle.

    5. Jaybus

      Re: Lose one bloody capsule in 50 years

      Not quite one in 50 years, but definitely not a bad record.

      1969 - Soyuz 5 - Separation failure on re-entry caused off-course, rough landing; no casualties

      1975 - Soyuz 18a - Separation failure on launch - 1 serious injury due to 21G acceleration on abort

      1976 - Soyuz 23 - Broke through ice and sank during landing; no casualties

      1979 - Soyuz 33 - In-orbit engine failure forced abort and steep ballistic re-entry; no casualties

      1981 - Soyuz T-10-1 - Fuel spill and fire forced abort on launch; no casualties

      2003 - Soyuz TMA-1 - Capsule malfunction caused 8+ G re-entry; 1 minor injury

      2008 - Soyuz TMA-11 - Separation failure on re-entry caused high G re-entry; 1 minor injury

      1. Fred Dibnah Silver badge

        Re: Lose one bloody capsule in 50 years

        Plus:

        1967 (OK 51 years ago, but still): Soyuz 1 - 1 dead (Komarov)

        1971: Soyuz 11 - decompressed on re-entry; 3 dead

        https://www.rt.com/news/441005-soyuz-iss-spacecraft-history/

  5. 45RPM

    If Russia’s space taxi is broken, why can’t they just get an Über?

    1. Christoph Silver badge

      If anyone's got a Sub-Etha Thumb they can hitch a lift with a passing alien.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "If Russia’s space taxi is broken, why can’t they just get an Über?"

      That would be great, but with the Soyuz out of commission, the Uber surge pricing will be unaffordable.

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    This is great news for certain politicians.

    They dream of Mars, but know that NASA is basically a one-programme-at-a-time agency (because those same politicians wouldn't dream of properly funding it)

    Hence a desire to kill ISS.

    Which explains the very grudging funding (usually below the requested level, while that for SLS/Orion has been above request)

    Also note the progress Boeing and SX have made compared to Orion (which cannot even afford to build its own Service Module. It'll we be bought in from ESA on a barter deal for ISS access).

    Funny how much progress when there's even a little bit of competition in the game, is it not?

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: This is great news for certain politicians.

      ISS and the shared transport to and from it is an example of science rising about all the poiltical chest-beating, sanctions, threats and all the other stuff we get from the sociopaths that are attracted into politics and nation leadership.

      It's the example that shows the way. Cooperation. Of course there are a lot of $$$$ changing hands but $$$$ are better than warheads and nerve agents.

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: This is great news for certain politicians.

      "NASA is basically a one-programme-at-a-time agency"

      Er, you don't seem to have noticed but NASA has programs going on all over the solar system, and has done for years.

      They've got two separate rovers (hopefully, maybe only one now) and three separate orbiters going around Mars right now, all of which are separate programs. And that's just Mars.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "you don't seem to have noticed..NASA has programs going on all over the solar system"

        Let me amend my comment.

        Where human spaceflight is concerned Marshall (the bit that designs launch vehicles) is a one-programme-at-a-time center. JPL and Goddard (who do probes and remote systems) do rather more with rather less.

        In fact in Marshalls case it's about 1 new system every couple of decades. (Shuttle in the 70's and 80's was the last new system they worked on.

        Personally I think they should be shut down, but NASA is not allowed to to make that decision (about it's own centers). I'm not sure if any of the other 22 Federal agencies have that right. I think they do.

  7. sean.fr

    space station boring

    Giving the spending there is very little coming out of running a space station. Not going to notice a little pause. Time to put the money back into Voyager like projects.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: space station boring

      From your headline I thought you were going to write about the mysterious hole plugged with epoxy.

    2. Lusty
      WTF?

      Re: space station boring

      Not sure what you mean by "very little coming out of running a space station". Do you think the people up there are on holiday?

    3. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: space station boring

      "Giving the spending there is very little coming out of running a space station. Not going to notice a little pause."

      You might notice the flaming streak across the sky as it burns up in the atmosphere. It needs the constant runs to keep it up in space.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Linux

        Re: space station boring

        DavCrav,

        Just missread your post as "It needs the constant nuns to keep it up in space."

        My brain is now full of images of space nuns. I can imagine conversations like:

        MC: "This is Vatican control. You are go for EVA."

        Sis1: "This is Sister 1, copy your go for EVA."

        MC: "Sister 1, seal up space wimple and prepare for airlock procedure."

        Sis2: "Space habit and space wimple sealed and checked. We are go for EVA."

        MC: "This is Mother Superior. Depressurise airlock."

        And that's before we've even mention Ken Russell...

  8. Conundrum1885 Bronze badge

    Dirac shield

    Rumor has it that a certain group in the US *may* have made some progress but not sure how much.

    Their device is based on using positrons in a Rydberg or other highly excited quantum state based on tuned lasers to generate what they are describing as a "Dirac Hole generator".

    If it is able to lift a 5mm diameter silicon disk weighing about 180mg against gravity using off the shelf 22Na as they describe then to scale it up is feasible albeit somewhat expensive.

    What is not clear is whether CERN's antimatter storage unit can be retrofitted with a conduit to direct the positrons into the drive which is also under vacuum, electromagnetic shielding keeping air out until at >60K feet where power can be ramped down without losing efficiency and other important aspects like radiation shielding of the crew capsule and cryogenic coolants.

    It may be less of a problem however as any 511keV gamma rays would be produced upon annihilation with electrons which due to the quantum effects might be several seconds ie >1200 feet away from the craft.

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Dirac shield

      ""Dirac Hole generator"

      Aha! I have one of those for my Dremel tool!

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: Dirac shield

        " "Dirac Hole generator"

        Aha! I have one of those for my Dremel tool!"

        It sounds like it should have a base plate of pre-famulated amulite surmounted by a malleable logarithmic casing.

        1. Steve K Silver badge

          Re: Dirac shield

          Base plate made of crystalline dilithium of course!

    2. tfb Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Dirac shield

      If something like that was true then it would be a direct experimental test which General Relativity fails: the first such test it has ever failed in more than a century. The same sort of thing that pople at CERN are trying to find with the antimatter-falls-which-way? experiments. GR would then be a dead theory.

      Anyone who does, and publishes in such a way that it can be replicatd, such a test is going to win an automatic Nobel prize and be the most famous scientist of the 21st century.

      Strange that no-one does, then.

      1. Steve K Silver badge

        Re: Dirac shield

        Yes - a bit like the Podkletknov gravity shielding at Tampere in the early 1990s.

        1. tfb Silver badge

          Re: Dirac shield

          Yes, exactly like that. If that thing had actually been reproducable (so if it really was an effect) then GR would be dead now and we'd all be living in a much more interesting world now, or people interested in physics would anyway.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Dirac shield

          "Yes - a bit like the Podkletknov gravity shielding at Tampere in the early 1990s."

          Pah, it'd be cheaper and easier just to coat the capsule in Cavorite and be done with it!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Dirac shield

            Actually the latest idea is that Evgene accidentally discovered that cigarette smoke was weakly diamagnetic due to graphene present in the fumes and repelled upwards in the "magnetic beam" now known to emanate from spinning superconductors but may not have been understood at the time (aka London moment)

            Either that or the effect was a combination of LN2 buoyancy, other equipment in the lab interfering in some way, an actual one in a million chance impurity in the materials which couldn't be replicated and led to some sort of unexpected Higgs field interaction etc.

            I believe that they tried this on "Mythbusters" along with a few other experiments but the only effect they could see was ion wind.

  9. Chz

    Only a problem for crew...

    "All of which leaves NASA with zero options for resupplying the ISS with crew and supplies until the Russians work out what went wrong on Thursday."

    They could send a remote-controlled Soyuz up with some supplies if they don't want to leave the ISS empty. AIUI, the problem is that the current return pod on the ISS has a "use before" date on it. Normally they'd send a Progress up for resupply, but no reason they can't use a Soyuz capsule (outside of cost and smaller cargo capacity) with no crew.

    Obviously, they'd prefer to finish their investigation first. But if it came to risking an unmanned flight or abandoning the ISS, I think it's quite reasonable.

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Only a problem for crew...

      How much does China charge?

      1. S4qFBxkFFg

        Re: Only a problem for crew...

        http://www.spacesafetymagazine.com/spaceflight/rendezvous-docking/can-the-shienzhou-dock-to-the-iss/

        It seems to be possible, and Shenzhou 12 is(was?) planned for this year anyway.

  10. phy445
    Pint

    +1 for heating due to compressing gas.

    Good to see the right explanation for a change–not all university courses, let alone option pieces get it right.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NASA doesn't seem to be fit for purpose anymore.

    Justs seems to be going backwards after closing down the shuttle programme.

    Next step should have been creating space craft that take off and land like normal aircraft.

    Isn't there anything they can swipe from the secret alien technology department A51 to get a more viable reusable space craft built?

    1. BigSLitleP Silver badge

      Gee, maybe you could try actually funding them instead of giving them the change from behind the sofa cushions?

    2. Wellyboot Silver badge
      Alien

      A51 tech

      >>>Isn't there anything they can swipe from the secret alien technology department A51 to get a more viable reusable space craft built?<<<

      That's not how it's done! The secret stuff stays secret until there is no other option than it being used publicly for a 'must do' mission.

      Secret govt. money develops secret stuff - Public govt. money develops not so secret stuff.

      The origin of $1,000 hammer stories is from the early days of spreading the secret costs across the entire expenditure then somebody actually giving a correct raw cost printout to legislators when asked.

    3. MonkeyBob
      Black Helicopters

      They've already used all the technology they found at area 51, it's time to move on to area 52.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "All of which leaves NASA with zero options for resupplying the ISS with crew and supplies"

    Umm - don't other launchers also ferry _supplies_ to the ISS? Crew is an issue (for now) though.

  13. Martin hepworth

    was always the risk

    Since they retired the Shuttle without it's replacement in place...

    Says a Brit who's govmt retired all the aircraft carriers well before the replacements where built, never mind operational

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: govmt retired all the aircraft carriers

      and Harriers

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: was always the risk

      "Says a Brit who's govmt retired all the aircraft carriers well before the replacements where built, never mind operational"

      The same government who had a launch vehicle and then abandoned it too. Are we seeing a pattern developing?

  14. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    "NASA is understandably not going to rush humans into space in untested craft."

    Maybe not but IIRC their boss, His Excellency of Trumpton, has no qualms about it ...

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Well it's easy then. Simply gold-plate (OK paint is maybe lighter) the rocket with the new untested capsule on top. Then tell Trump it's Trump Tower Florida, and please can he open it. Launch it while he's not looking. Test, sorted!

      The first Mercury test was done with a chimp, so I don't see too much difference.

  15. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Flame

    Standardisation would have helped

    The booster stage failed, but the soyuz capsule worked fine.

    Imagine if they could bolt a soyuz onto a SpaceX Falcon, or whatever other combination of reliable sections... There would be no issue now. Part X fails, replace it with known-good part Z from someone else's program.

    But no, they wouldn't do that because ... umm ... they want competition or something.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Standardisation would have helped

      If only life were that simple. But it really isn't. And everything has to be tested with everything else.

      They also don't do that because space hardware is all small batch manufactured - they only make a handful a year.

      Also, we don't know if this was a Soyuz design flaw - after all it's a well-established and reliable system. Or a one-off event. But it could be that Roscosmos are having quality control issues, and this was one of them. If that's true, no part built by them at the moment can be considered safe. Until they've had a management shake-up and sorted out new and better procedures. That's the most worrying thought. How long was the Apollo program delayed for after Apollo 1? At least a year, if I remember right. And they were spending a lot more cash, in order to achieve quicker results.

  16. Steve Todd

    They'd have to be insane to consider using SLS

    It costs the wrong side of $1bn to launch and won't be remotely ready for a manned launch until 2022 at the earliest. Better to launch an unmanned Soyuz capsule to use as a replacement for the current crew (being unmanned there's less concern over another failure).

  17. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    will a helium balloon work with a remote-controlled payload/drone (thruster/rocket-powered) attached to it?

    Once it is on the fringes of SPAAAAAAAACE and the balloon pops, manoeuver said drone via remote control towards the ISS...

    1. Steve Todd

      There's the slight issue of accelerating the drone to roughly 7 km/sec. Altitude isn't the problem. Getting up enough speed to achieve orbit is.

      There are multiple providers who can get supplies up to the ISS. Getting a new crew there is the big issue.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Why not fly a remote control robot up in one of the supply rockets. The comms latency to LEO is tolerable and you could save on all of that power-hungry life support crap.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      "Once it is on the fringes of SPAAAAAAAACE and the balloon pops, manoeuver said drone via remote control towards the ISS..."

      El Reg already tried that. Sadly they only managed to climax at 89,000ft.

  18. Cuddles Silver badge

    Blaming the wrong part

    "the engineering requirements and the thorough testing needed means the timing of those experiments have slipped badly."

    The engineering requirements and thorough testing were known about well in advance. They have nothing to do with why the timing has slipped, that's purely down to the people who knew about them not actually taking them into account when creating the original timetable. Whether that's due to incompetence or deliberate lies may be an open question, but at this point there's really no excuse for not understanding the challenges involved in getting to low-Earth orbit given that we've been regularly managing it for over 60 years.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Blaming the wrong part

      Maybe, but when you're designing new technology you really can't predict timescales that easily. They were given a target that everybody knew they weren't going to achieve, but as long as they were in that ballpark it was expected to be fine. Speed could have been increased a bit by upping the budget, I'm sure.

    2. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Blaming the wrong part

      "Whether that's due to incompetence or deliberate lies may be an open question, but at this point there's really no excuse for not understanding the challenges involved in getting to low-Earth orbit given that we've been regularly managing it for over 60 years."

      Yeah, they must be incompetent. It's hardly rocket science is it? Oh no, wait, it literally is rocket science.

      My guess is that you have never built anything in your life, and certainly not anything even moderately difficult.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Viop phone

    good post!

  20. Adrian Midgley 1

    Groceries less of a problem....

    1. Not many people up there.

    2. Dragon, even if not crewed Crew Dragon, is capable at deliveries. As is the Nipponese craft, and a succession of ESA ones.

    3. Progress!

    4. A good Soyuz test would be groceries.

    Crew, well, yes.

  21. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    If this were a movie and not real life we would have a scene where two NASA bigwigs (I'm thinking Clint Eastwood as the old duffer in a sinecure job and Dulé Hill as the new-broom director) would be strolling through a certain Kennedy Spaceport attraction while discussing the shortfall in vehicular inventory when one would say, well there *is* an option (and the other would say what, no, you're crazy! and so forth) as the camera swung round to show the men (or perhaps one is a woman - swap Clint Eastwood for Cloris Leachman) standing in front of Atlantis in all its glory as the music swells.

    Later, a rag-tag team of former Thiokol employees cobble together a working rocket on which the Old Girl can hitch a lift into LEO carrying an if anything even more rag and quite a bit more tag pair of astronauts, maybe two who washed out of the shuttle program years before or, no! Who were due to fly but got shitcanned when he shuttle was pulled from service. One of these should be Jack Black because he's in everything and the other could be any hot property du jour.

    Tension mounts when it turns out that the special rescue module (mothballed at Boeing years before but easily pressed into service by the Boeing CEO who should be like Jason Bourne or the last James Bond) has a stowaway - none other than the treacherous Doctor Smith!

    A fight ensues in the shuttle just before docking and it turns out that Doctor Smith is an android with Elmers white glue for blood when his head gets pulled off by the astro who isn't Jack Black! Dr Smith's headless body goes berserk and smashes the shuttle controls, forcing the team to pilot her in on manual controls.

    They rescue everyone on the ISS, but cannot undock because the door latch doesn't work! Jack Black, who it is revealed is some sort of electronic genius works with one of the astros from the ISS - maybe a Russian, NO! A Ukranian! - to improvise a conversion of Dr Smith's body into a telepresence Waldo, allowing everyone to escape in the nick of time.

    We cut to some exciting CGI of the shuttle re-entering and some stock crises so the actors can shout at each other and work all those switches and levers, all the while an anxious CAPCOM played by that Idris Elbow limey actor tries to establish radio contact.

    We cut to a picture of the shuttle breaking through the clouds and a cheer goes up. Montage of the astros returning home followed by a twilight shot of Cloris Leachman (or Clint Eastwood) on the stairs up to Atlantis' door patting the skin of the shuttle and saying "That'll do, girl, that'll do".

    END CREDITS

    BLOOPER REEL.

    1. JCitizen
      Devil

      Re: Bah!

      OKay, now just admit it - you are a Hollywood writer in your day job aren't you!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...however, the engineering requirements..."

    DOORS, and the associated Requirements Traceability, >>>AS IMPLEMENTED<<< by the usual PMP suspects, has set back humanity by about ten years per decade.

    We'd have been on Mars by now if they'd restrict such onerous processes to *only* those >>>relatively<<< few requirements that are directly tied to Safety (perhaps 5% of the usual Requirements Traceability loadng).

    If the spacecraft had curtains, the mindless PMP-imposed Requirements Management of the colour of the curtains would cost $10M. They'd demand formal testing to ensure the colour precisely matched the unnecessary overly-precise specification. There would be a 40-page report. They'd have to redo it because the calibration of the lighting was calibrated by an unapproved lab. They'd delay the launch for a year to recheck the colour of the curtains.

    If you disagree, then you're just wrong. You've not seen it first hand.

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