US twin astronaut, Russian to spend year in orbit

Updated 30 November 2012

US twin astronaut, Russian to spend year in orbit

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: A former space shuttle commander whose twin brother is married to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will attempt the longest spaceflight ever by an American.
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will spend an entire year aboard the International Space Station beginning in 2015.
Both countries’ space agencies announced the names of the two veteran spacefliers on Monday. The extended mission was approved almost two months ago to provide a medical foundation for future missions around the moon, as well as far-flung trips to asteroids and Mars.
Both men already have lived aboard the space station for six months. NASA wanted experienced space station astronauts to streamline the amount of training necessary for a one-year stint. Officials had said the list of candidates was very short. They will begin training next year.
“Their skills and previous experience aboard the space station align with the mission’s requirements,” Bill Gerstenmaier, head of human exploration for NASA, said in a statement. “The one-year increment will expand the bounds of how we live and work in space and will increase our knowledge regarding the effects of microgravity on humans as we prepare for future missions beyond low-Earth orbit.”
Kelly’s identical twin brother, Mark Kelly, retired from the astronaut corps last year and moved to Tucson, Arizona, his wife’s hometown. The former congresswoman was critically wounded in an assassination attempt in January 2011, while Scott Kelly was living aboard the space station.
NASA said neither crew member was available Monday to comment and that news conferences would be held next week to outline the mission.
Astronauts normally spend about four to six months aboard the space station. The longest an American lived there was seven months, several years back.
Russia, though, will continue to hold the world space endurance record.
Four cosmonauts spent at least a year aboard the old Mir space station. A Russian physician, Valery Polyakov, logged nearly 15 continuous months there in the mid-1990s.
Boris Morukov, head of the Moscow-based Institute for Medical and Biological Problems, Russia’s main space medicine research center, told the Interfax news agency that communications and food rations for Kelly and Kornienko may be limited during their yearlong mission to better simulate interplanetary travel.
Kelly and Kornienko will launch aboard a Russian rocket from Kazakhstan. Americans must buy seats on Russian spacecraft now that NASA’s shuttles have retired to museums, until private US companies have vessels capable of carrying human passengers. That’s still four or five years off.
Kelly is a 48-year-old, divorced Navy captain with two daughters. Kornienko, 52, a rocket engineer, is married with a daughter.
“We have chosen the most responsible, skilled and enthusiastic crew members to expand space exploration, and we have full confidence in them,” Russian Space Agency chief Vladimir Popovkin said in the announcement.
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AP writer Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.
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Online:
NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html


Mystery Russian projectile raises fears of arms race in space

Updated 25 July 2020

Mystery Russian projectile raises fears of arms race in space

WASHINGTON: The United States this week accused Russia of having tested an anti-satellite weapon in space, a charge Moscow has denied, saying the device was a “special instrument” for inspecting orbiting Russian equipment.
Whatever it was, the incident marks for Washington a rare military escalation in space.
The ability of one satellite to attack another was until now merely theoretical.
The United States, Russia, China and, since 2019, India, have been able to target satellites with Earth-launched projectiles, but these explosions create millions of pieces of debris in orbit, prompting the world powers to refrain from such tests.
This week’s incident may be seen as a message to Washington, which under President Donald Trump is building up a new “Space Force” wing of its military.
Space Force’s commander, General Jay Raymond, on Friday reiterated that “space is a warfighting domain just like air, land and sea.”
In November 2019, Russia launched a satellite named Cosmos 2542. A week later, that satellite surprised observers when it released a sub-satellite, Cosmos 2543, capable of maneuvering in orbit to observe, inspect or spy on other satellites.
This sub-satellite moved close to a US spy satellite, USA-245, and to another Russian satellite. A game of cat and mouse began in orbit, easily observable from Earth by astronomers and the US military, which publicly expressed its concern.
On July 15 at around 0750 GMT, Cosmos 2543 (the sub-satellite with a surface area of less than a square meter, according to the US military), released an object at a high relative speed, around 200 meters per second, said astronomer Jonathan McDowell.
Dubbed “Object E” by the United States, it is still in orbit and appears not to have hit anything. Its size, shape and purpose remain a mystery, but that does nothing to diminish the threat it may pose.
In orbit, satellites speed through the void at tens of thousands of miles per hour. The smallest contact with another object risks smashing a hole in its solar panels or damaging or even destroying it, depending on the size of whatever it may hit.
In space, the difference between a satellite and a weapon is therefore theoretical: whatever its function, “Object E” is a de facto “projectile” and therefore a “weapon,” the US says.
It is the equivalent of a “bullet” in space, said Christopher Ford, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation.
“There’s no such thing as a fender bender up there.”
Moscow has implicitly admitted as much by accusing Washington and London of having satellite inspection or repair programs that can be used as “counter-satellite weapons.”
The United States has maneuverable military satellites in orbit which can launch smaller satellites.
But it’s unclear if the US has the capability to launch high-speed projectiles as the Russians have just done, said Brian Weeden, a space security expert at the Secure World Foundation in Washington.
“But they probably could if they wanted to,” he told AFP.
“Russia may be trying to send a strategic message about the vulnerability of US systems,” Weeden said. Spy satellites are enormous, extremely costly and rare.
Russia is far less dependent upon satellites than the United States, and its satellites are much less expensive, he said.
That was echoed by the Space Force commander on Friday, who noted that ever since the Gulf War in the early 1990s, the entire US military, from war planes to infantry, depend on space-based technology for navigation, communications and intelligence.
“There’s nothing we do... that doesn’t have space enabled in it every step of the way,” the general said.
The United States and Russia will have the chance to hold direct talks next week in Vienna, during their first meeting on space security since 2013.