[amsat-bb] From The Twisted Pair (!).

John Hackett archie.hackett at hotmail.com
Tue Jul 7 06:22:42 PDT 2009

For those who don't read 'OBSERVATIONS' ... (you should !!!, it's FREE).

73 John.   <la2qaa at amsat.org>

Joint Observations                        
07 July 2009                                

The problem 
with Space Stations... and a possible Opportunity.

When the 
International Space Station is scrapped.... probably in the 2015-2018 time 
frame, a valuable space asset will be lost.  It needn't have been that way, 
and the Russians have wakened up to a new possibility, one that was sadly missed 
on the ISS.

ISS is built 
around MIR-2 hardware. The core, the Zvezda module,  is essentially 
unchanged from the old MIR design,  a tubular cylindrical living area with solar 
arrays attached to a docking 'ball' with five docking ports available.   
Once Zveda becomes  life-expired, the whole assembly is useless.  A 
more practical approach would have been to fly a 'passive' six-port docking 
ball, to which active modules can be docked. In this way, station elements could 
be detached and discarded as they reached the end of their design lives while 
the docking ball remains a 'permanent fixture' in space.

Enter 'Orbitalniy 
Pilotiruemyi Eksperimentalniy Kompleks', OPSEK, or the 'Orbital Manned 
Assembly and Experiment Complex'   This is a plan for a future space 
station unveiled by the Russians in 2007, and documented by Anatoly Zak on his 
web-pages.  It centres around the use of a passive 4 ton 'docking ball' 
with six ports, to which additional modules can be attached.   

Such a docking 
ball  in LEO would have the primary purpose of 'tying a space station 
together', by providing passive docking ports, but it could equally well serve as a 
long-lived platform for a 'parasite radio package' in the same way that the old 
RS10/11 and RS12/13  'satellites' worked. For those not old enough to know, 
these were 'parasite' transponder packages attached to spacecraft that were 
powered from the main craft.  So long as the packages antenna(s) could be 
mounted on the ball's -Z axis, it could serve as a useful radio relay 
(transponder) in LEO.  Such a package would have a fairly small physical 
footprint and would require very little driving power from the 'mother-ship' or 
solar panels (if fitted). It would obviously be desirable to derive power from 
the mother-ship in the interests of simplicity and longevity.

With launches 
becoming increasingly difficult to find on cost grounds, this would be one 
possible way to provide a future new transponder in LEO.  If the package 
was small and light enough, it could possibly be carried to the (new) space 
station by a progress cargo vehicle as freight, and attached to the docking ball 
structure during a space walk.  What is more, it could function for a long 
time, limited only by the overall life of the space complex.

Several people in 
the UK already have a track record in building space-rated hardware in addition 
to another amateur in Holland, who has built space qualified hardware including 
the backup transponder for HM-1 AKA VUSAT, as well as a new linear 
'Pico-Transponder'. They know who they are... you don't need to know, at least 
not right now :-)  The expertise already exists to supply space rated 
hardware to fly on such a mission. and we do feel that the possibility of flying 
such a mission should not be passed over.  I'm sure there are people in 
Russia (from the old RS satellite team) who would be just as keen to see this 
idea fly.  

73 AL & John


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