Monday, April 11, 2011

Extending the ISS

A top view of the International Space Station. (Or bottom view, depending on your perspective.)

Florida Today reports the federal Government Accountability Office has concluded that NASA is properly managing the ISS so that its use can be extended to at least 2020.

Their findings:

Finding 1

• NASA is using analytical techniques, physical tests, and inspections to assess primary structures and functional systems, to the extent possible, and determine sparing needed to support safe functioning and full scientific utilization of the ISS through 2020. NASA is confident that it can execute necessary functioning and utilization; however, the supporting assessments for primary structures and functional systems are ongoing and
all results are not yet available.

Finding 2

• NASA’s assessment of the essential spares necessary to assure continued operations through 2020 appears to be supported by sufficient, accurate, and relevant underlying data. We found, however, that estimates of essential spares are sensitive to NASA’s assumptions about ORU reliability.

Click here to read the entire report. Adobe Acrobat Reader required.

In ISS-related news, Aviation Week reports that the ISS may be used to simulate a long-duration mission to Mars.

Front-line International Space Station (ISS) managers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) are inserting a week-long partial simulation of a deep-space exploration mission into regular station planning for next summer, using the orbiting laboratory as an analog for a long-distance spaceship.

Under a program called ISS as a Testbed for Analog Research (Istar), the exploration, space station and mission operations organizations at JSC are using some in-house programs to see how well the station will work as a stand-in for a long-duration vehicle en route to Mars or an asteroid.

Exploration planners have submitted a list of five early experiments, in preparation for more extensive simulations later on that might even include a sealed-off module where a subset of a six-member station crew might be isolated for more realistic tests. But to start, the planners believe they can allocate about 35 hr. in a normal week of station operations for analog work, with the rest of the time going to routine maintenance and other activities that might interfere.

According to Pete Hasbrook, an ISS increment manager at JSC, planners are already working the requirements for a simulated communications delay that would begin to reveal how a distant exploration crew would communicate with Earth. Details are just emerging, but it would probably involve a 10-min. lag.

You might also enjoy this February 2011 presentation by ISS program scientist Julie Robinson to the Outreach Seminar on the ISS at the United Nations in February 2011. It includes several significant discoveries already made thanks due to ISS research, so when someone falsely claims the ISS hasn't accomplished anything, you can use this report as refutation.

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