Could the SpaceX and Northrop Grumman cargo ships, which supply the International Space Station, be used to pilot the orbital complex? Until now, NASA had never bothered to find a replacement solution in case the Russians, the only ones capable of piloting it, decided to abandon the Station to its fate. Although Russian-American space relations have always weathered past geopolitical storms, with the conflict in Ukraine they have never been closer to breaking up. There is therefore a certain urgency for NASA to answer this question in the affirmative and to see how.
NASA wants to be far-sighted. In the event that Russian-American relations reach a point of no return, Russia “ could withdraw from the International Space Station as Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, aptly put it.
Dmitri Rogozin obviously did not say that he would project the Space Station on the United States, but implied that he could leave the Russian segment abandoned.
However, if the American side provides electricity and life support to the entirethe Russians are responsible for the propulsion of keeping the ISS at an altitude of about 400 kilometers and for attitude control and course corrections.
Without Progress to pilot it, the Station’s orbit would drop inexorably, week after week.
For this, they use Progress freighters, one of which is permanently moored to the Zvezda module. Without Progress to pilot it, the Station’s orbit would drop inexorably, week after week. It would also be unable to correct its trajectory tofor example.
It is in this very uncertain context, and although Russia is still cooperating with NASA for the smooth running of the Space Station, that NASA has decided to study emergency solutions to pilot it. In case the Russians decide to abandon him to his fate overnight.
American freighters maneuvering to pilot the station?
Northrop Grumman, which supplies the station with the Cygnus cargo ship (whose module is built by Thales Alenia Space) and SpaceX which does the same with its, proposed to NASA to “do the job”. However, if the freighters of the two industrialists can be converted and adapted to a “reboost” mission of the ISS to raise its orbit, it should be known that the ports of docking of the American freighters are really very badly located to carry out this task. !
They moor via the portsdes modules Unity et Harmony (Pressurised Mating Adapters) equipped with an active CBM system to catch cargo. This is also why the docked in the same place as the Russian Progress freighters to ascend the Station’s orbit.
It will be interesting to see the solutions proposed by Northrop Grumman and especially those of SpaceX when we know thatalways has very original and daring ideas!