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Space Station Gyro Problem Dangerous? 60

mysterystevenson writes "After bringing more mass than ever before up to the ISS, one of the gyros has failed. Gyros help maintain attitude position in space; the more mass needed to be controlled, the more force that is exerted on the gyros. Now there is the danger that the Shuttle may be bringing yet more mass and starting construction while turning off another gyro, which could cause a need for thrusters to maintain attitude. The assemblies are not all constructed to be able to withstand such force and in a bad situation there could be a collapse which could affect the Shuttle and the ISS as well. Worse case could be total loss; a wise idea might be to alter the construction schedule and address the Gyro and Gyro design problems, before going forward with the introduction of more mass."
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Space Station Gyro Problem Dangerous?

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  • AAAGH (Score:5, Funny)

    by voice_of_all_reason ( 926702 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @11:02AM (#16452833)
    STOP MAKING ME HUNGRY!

    It's only 11:00, the gyro cart won't be out for another hour!
    • by jnaujok ( 804613 )
      Aargh! You have a gyro cart !!! I have to drive half an hour to get gyros! Curse you!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by PFI_Optix ( 936301 )
        And yet they seem to be quite plentiful in space.
      • New York City, man. You can get anything from a cart vendor in less than a three blocks' walk.

        Crab juice, anyone?
        • by jnaujok ( 804613 )
          Apparently there is one good thing about living in New York.

          I'll stay in Colorado though. The view/people/traffic/cost of living/clean air/clean water/cab drivers/attitude/etc. is better here. And I can get just about anything at the restaurants. Rattlesnake salad? Elk Consumme?
    • by ameline ( 771895 )
      Yes, the gyros failed due to a lack of tzatziki.

      They need to stop off at Alexandros (best take-out gyros in Toronto -- Danforth and Logan -- just behind the statue of Alexander) to pick up some tasty replacements.

      (I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. Alexandros is too far from work, and it being Monday, the Market is closed -- )

      I offer the following to NASA for information on fixing their gyros properly;

      http://www.cookingforengineers.com/recipe.php?id=1 88&title=Anghelika's+Tsatsiki+(Tzatziki) [cookingforengineers.com]
    • by dohzer ( 867770 )
      What is a gyro cart? Please enlighten an unintelligent Australian.
      • People in big cities -- usually brown middle east/southeast asians -- who get a liscence to park a small, stainless steel shack at corners and in plazas. Some have generators and are pretty fancy, others are literally just a hot plate.

        The food has a generally "unsafe" reputation. No one really gets sick on a regular basis, but I've seen the guys bring meat in like old paint tubs :) More often you just run a risk of getting an upset stomach or bad poos.

        Cheap food, usually $6 max. Lots of chicken/lamb a
  • No other backups are available, but the failed gyro currently is being refurbished.

    Shouldn't they have had more than *one* spare in the production pipeline, or placed bids or whatever for a second spare back in 2003?

    Ask any system admin: RAIG only improve reliability if the MTTR is significantly less than the MTTF.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      A while ago popular science ran an article on the ISS. From what I remember (and my memory is far from perfect) the ISS has 3 gyros and originally had 3 spares. Over time the spares have been swapped in for busted originals so now there are no spares left. I'm 90% sure that's why they don't have any spares left, though my numbers may be off, they used em up and never replaced them.
      • by arete ( 170676 )
        Maybe someone has another source I'm missing, but from this article alone this sounds like they don't have enough spares IN the space station... Did they really bring an 800 lb Gyro back down? Sounds more likely they would've tried to replace just part of it...

  • So all they have to do is to disconnect all the modules and tie them in a neat bundle at the centre instead of having all those radical sticky out bits.
  • Okay, who thought it was a good idea to put solar arrays so fragile that they can't withstand small rockets firing on a station that is equipped with those rockets? Ideally, they would just add another gyro to the December mission (which I imagine would cause the mission to be delayed for training at this late date), but apparently they don't currently have a spare. One of these gyros failed previously and the spare was installed. So someone felt that with FOUR of these gyros on the station, it was okay
    • "Okay, who thought it was a good idea to put solar arrays so fragile that they can't "withstand small rockets firing on a station" that is equipped with those rockets?"

      But if the attacking ships use phasers instead of rockets, the solar arrays can take it.
    • No kidding! I have enough spares of all my PC parts lying around to build an entire spare computer or two, and I'm just a tinkering hacker. None of my possible gadgetry falures threaten me with exposure to the cold, unforgiving vacuum of space... at least not today.. not before lunch, anyhow.
      • by hal2814 ( 725639 )
        "I have enough spares of all my PC parts lying around to build an entire spare computer or two,"

        While I do think they should've been thinking more about keeping enough spares handy, they can't exactly afford to propel an entire second space station into orbit. If you think $10 is expensive for shipping computer parts, imagine the bill for shipping into space.
    • It took them until like 2002 to discover "tying in to the next point before disconnecting from the previous point" for spacewalks...
      • by fbjon ( 692006 )
        Actually, that sounds complicated. How do you disconnect from the previous point when you're already at the next point, tying yourself in? Without wasting time going back and forth, that is.
    • by delta407 ( 518868 ) <slashdot@@@lerfjhax...com> on Monday October 16, 2006 @12:16PM (#16453841) Homepage
      Okay, who thought it was a good idea to put solar arrays so fragile that they can't withstand small rockets firing on a station that is equipped with those rockets?
      Don't believe everything you hear on Slashdot.

      ISS is not in imminent danger. First off, it can hold attitude indefinitely on two of four gyros. Second, the solar arrays can withstand the RCS thrusters firing, they just need to lock down the assemblies that rotate the solar arrays first. Therein lies the rub.

      The next shuttle mission brings up more parts and re-wires a large section of the ISS's power grid. This means bringing some systems offline for the duration of a spacewalk, reconfiguring them, and bringing them back up shortly thereafter. Naturally, during this process, the ISS will be running on less redundancy than it is now. One of the spacewalks is slated to bring down two of the gyros, on the assumption that the other two can maintain attitude, while running off the new solar arrays which must rotate in order to generate the specified amount of power. Without the other gyro, RCS firings might be necessary, which make the solar cells unhappy.

      This is a nontrivial but solvable problem. Solutions currently being proposed:
      • Bring up the failing gyro for the duration of the spacewalk. It didn't up and die one day -- it's just vibrating a lot, and might do the trick.
      • Leave the failing gyro off, and be prepared to bring it up only if the one operational gyro can't maintain attitude.
      • Lock the solar array into a suboptimal orientation, and fire the RCS thrusters as necessary.
      • Bring up a replacement gyro. They're about 800 pounds and aren't simple to install, which is a lot to be adding to a mission three weeks from launch, so this is unlikely.
      They are rocket scientists, you know.
  • by MarkusQ ( 450076 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @11:14AM (#16452989) Journal

    This seems rather alarmist. First off, why would they risk destroying the station to preserve the attitude? It seems that letting it turn somewhat for a limited amount of time would be far better than risking its destruction to preserve its orientation at all costs.

    And the time would be limited. Remember, there is conservation of angular momentum. If you are tumbling, you will need to use the thrusters to stop it in any case (gyros don't create or destroy angular momentum--if you want to get rid of some permanently, you'll need to cast off some reaction mass). But for what they do do, which is reorienting a ship by temporarily holding some angular momentum, they can be used as slowly as you want. Heck, if you weren't in a hurry you could turn the ship by hand (actually, foot) by just "walking" around the outer wall without any gyros at all.

    --MarkusQ

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It may become impossible to dock with the station depending on the axis and speed of rotation after you lose stationkeeping. Then how would you transship the replacement gyros?
      • by MarkusQ ( 450076 )

        It may become impossible to dock with the station depending on the axis and speed of rotation after you lose stationkeeping. Then how would you transship the replacement gyros?

        Again, this is a question of angular momentum (which is conserved), not of orientation (which isn't). If the station has picked up some sort of spin that is large enough to impede docking, gyros aren't going to help. They need to use some sort of thruster that ejects reaction mass, and there's really no way around it.

        --MarkusQ

        • MacGyver's not really that useful anymore. You'd really want Samantha Carter.
          • ... as portrayed in SG-1, not in Atlantis.

            There was an episode of Atlantis where they basically had a catfight between Rodney McKay and Samantha Carter. McKay was telling Carter that he had been studying their mission logs, and that they had been ignoring countless status and warning messages that the stargate was emitting. Rather than having Carter be concerned about this legitimate (though rudely-delivered) criticism---as she would have been in SG-1---the clueless Atlantis writers instead had her get

    • It seems that letting it turn somewhat for a limited amount of time would be far better than risking its destruction to preserve its orientation at all costs.

      Most of our spacecraft are designed to turn, rotisserie style, under the sun's undiminished glare... I once read in an article that if the space shuttle didn't rotate in this manner, the astronauts would be cooked in a matter of hours...

      If that's the case for the ISS, then a risk of damage and harm seems much better than certain death...

      If not, then le
    • Heck, if you weren't in a hurry you could turn the ship by hand (actually, foot) by just "walking" around the outer wall without any gyros at all.

      Now that's real spacewalking. None of this jetpack shit.

    • by Spectre ( 1685 )
      Pity I can't moderate this post as "rational".

      And the original article as "irrational person who thinks he knows more than the rocket scientists".
    • Remember, conservation of angular momentum applies to isolated systems. In the reference frame moving with the ISS center of mass the ISS parts are subject to different torques because the Earth's attraction varies across the ISS. Since the ISS is not symmetric and friction is very very low, the ISS angular velocity may change. This is a reason why spacecrafts need to be stabilized. Fast rotating spacecrafts are more stable because in average they look symmetric.
      • by MarkusQ ( 450076 )

        I think we're talking at cross purposes. If there's a consistant net torque (e.g. tidal forces pulling the station to be perpendicular to the ground) that's something you'll have to fix with thrusters. Gyros won't do it for you, as there is a limit to how fast they can spin (and thus how much torque they can suck up). After they're "full" what are you going to do about it?

        --MarkusQ

  • We may need to get Sonic the Hedgehog here for an attitude transplant, stat!
    • Everyone knows that Shadow has way more attitude than Sonic. Then again, Sonic does have a theme song proclaiming his attitude, and the fact that he's the fastest thing alive.
    • Nonsense! My INternal Electrical Readjustment and Tuner In Attitude (INERTIA) is a far better solution that that blue pest! Just step into the tube and I'll get it started...
  • ""After bringing more mass than ever before up to the ISS, one of the gyros has failed"

    Perhaps this might be because the left the mayonnaise-laden sandwiches sitting in the back of someone's station wagon for 3 days before loading them in the shuttle.
  • Wow! Good thing there are experts like you on the scene, Mystery Stevenson, who know every single detail and design of the ISS better than the American and Russian agencies that built and launched it. You'd think after all these years that NASA would start hiring smart people instead of just grabbing random joes from the unemployment line and entrusting them with millions of dollars worth of space hardware on the first day.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Or mis-quote???

    "I canna change the laws of physics!"
  • According to Friday's update from NASA, everything on the ISS is fine and dandy. The station is operating on 3 of the gyro's which is A-OK because it can work on 2 if necessary.

    The situation is being assessed but things continue to progress. Other "minor" problems include the fact that the Russian Oxygen generator has stopped working as well.

    http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2006/oct/HQ_SS0604 4_station_status.html [nasa.gov]
  • So we won't make same (stupid?) design or operation mistakes again in future. Scientific and technological progress means being able to make completely new and unheard of mistakes... :-)
  • by dlhm ( 739554 )
    "Worst case would be a total loss" .. Really? No.. This article is based on speculation and hypothetical conditions. Just fix the Gyro...
  • Isn't such stuff usually submitted as an Ask Slashdot?
  • Gyros help maintain attitude position in space

    Let me know when it starts singing "Bicycle Built For Two."

  • I'd like to state at the beginning , that this post is not for points , a zero is fine by me , just want you to know I really mean the next sentence . I thank Slashdot for going ahead and publishing this story ; you had to know it would generate some heat, also for keeping it up when it seemed there were those that would rather it not remain. A big thumbs up for integrity.
    As for the story, there were many important parts that are being missed; the lives of the Astronauts, grante
  • by xzion ( 1014833 )
    Its good that people care about life and the safety of the ISS crew ,and without the questions then there can't be answers,YES GOOD POINT JIM.

"But what we need to know is, do people want nasally-insertable computers?"

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