Unscheduled EVA touted for ISS problem

by Chris Bergin

A Russian commission is reviewing plans for an unscheduled spacewalk (EVA) to cut off the troublesome antenna from the Progress re-supply ship currently docked to the International Space Station (ISS).

Evaluations have shown the vehicle appears unable to undock in its current state without causing serious risk to the station. The unscheduled Russian EVA could take place as soon as January.

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The problem occurred during the docking of the Progress M-58 on October 26, when the 2AO-VKA failed to stow correctly. Docking was carried out successfully, but was found to be jammed underneath a handrail during a scheduled EVA on November 22.

Attempts to move it back into a stowed position – including use of a crowbar – failed. Remote signals from Russian controllers also attempted to aid the movement of the antenna, but that also failed.

No damage was observed on the Service Module.

During the EVA, Russian cosmonaut Mikhail (Misha) Tyurin took photography of the antenna, which has been the basis of the next course of action. While options include the removal of the antenna on a scheduled US EVA in February, the Russian commission are more than likely to given preference to Tyurin to carry out the work.

Multiple reasons will come into play for the preference of tasking Tyurin with the job, including his RSC Energia background, naturally making him ‘familiar’ with the vehicle, plus the shorter distance between Pirs – which is where he would leave the ISS for the work, as opposed to the Quest airlock used by US EVAs.

Progress M-58 isn’t due to be undocked until April, but without the cutting away of the antenna, several undesirable scenarios could occur.

Given the antenna is jammed underneath the Zvezda handrail, undocking could rip off the back end of the module. Another scenario could see the Progress ‘bouncing back’ into the ISS. However, the Progress could also simply free itself, which is what the Russian commission are evaluating.

NASA PAO have so far failed to answer requests for information on what they know about the Russian plans, adding to the speculation that this is being dealt with ‘in house’ by the Russian managers.

However, it has been stated that the situation with the Progress vehicle is not a constraint to STS-116, which is due to launch with Shuttle Discovery next week.

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