Архив метки: space systems

“When you look down to earth you don’t see the borders”. German astronaut Dr. Reinhold Ewald visited Skoltech

IMG_1862Cosmonauts day is celebrated in Skoltech’s Space Center in an appropriate manner – with a lecture from an astronaut. Prof. Rupert Gerzer invited his friend and colleague Dr. Reinhold Ewald to tell his students about international space stations, and to share from his personal knowledge and experience, which includes facing the thing that no astronaut want to encounter.

Ewald received a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from the University of Cologne in 1977 and has a Master of Science in Experimental Physics in 1983. He graduated in 1986 with a PhD in Physics and a minor degree in human physiology. In 1990, he was selected to the German astronaut team, training for the Mir ’92 mission, and In February 1997 he flew to the space station Mir with Soyuz TM-25, spending 20 days in space. During his time in Mir, Ewald was part of the crew that confronted one of the worst case scenarios in space – fire in the spacecraft (Watch the televised report below). Currently Ewald promotes the scientific achievements of the ESA research program on the International Space Station, working at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany. On 1 September 2015 he was appointed as Professor for Astronautics and Space Stations at the Institute of Spaceflight System at University of Stuttgart on secondment from ESA.

Ewald’s lecture was titled “The making of ISS”. He started his lecture with description of different types of space vehicles, their advantages and disadvantages. For example, the soyuz was very reliable but it crash-landed. The shuttles, on the other hand, have a short operational time, but they give a much more pleasant landing experience.

After that he turned to speak about the International Space Station (ISS), mentioning that its building followed the principals of gradually adding the different modules, as presented by the Russian building of the MIR space station. He stressed that space station maintenance is not possible without international cooperation, and showed the contribution of Russia, USA, Europe, Canada and Japan to the station.

An interesting demonstration of the power of international cooperation was the story of the American space shuttle program. After the Columbia tragedy the shuttle program was suspended, and Ewald said that this was a good example of the power of international cooperation – if one side is unable to perform, the other side steps in. Eventually NASA returned the shuttles to service, for the sole purpose of completing the ISS construction.

Dr. Reinhold Ewald on the left, with Skoltech Prof. Rupert Gerzer.

Dr. Reinhold Ewald on the left, with Skoltech Prof. Rupert Gerzer.

Toward the end, Ewald talked about the crew operations on board of the ISS. The first inhabitant of ISS was on October 2000, he mentioned, and ever since there’s human presence in space. Scientific researches on board it were possible since 2001. He described the way a mission is planned many months in advance and how the crew communicates with the ground crew. As a guest of Prof. Gerzer, who is an expert in aerospace medicine, the guest talked about the astronauts’ fitness, and how nowadays exercise on board is so advanced, that it counteracts the effects of weightlessness. One of the students asked how important is the human part, and the answer was “Have you seen the movie “Gravity”? No one watched it to see the robots operating, but to see Sandra Bullock and George Clooney operating. Humans are an essential element at the station”.

More interestingly, he told about his unique experience of dealing with fire on-board. When asked about the crew’s reaction to the fire he replied: “Every person has his task, and suddenly there is the hierarchy. The commander will give the order, and every member will do his part. For me it was reassuring that the others were doing their part and not panicking”.

IMG_1871After the lecture Ewald stayed to speak with students and answer some more questions. When asked about comradery between astronauts he replied: “I’m part of an organization called “the association of space explorers” and the idea is that the look down on earth unites us all, whether it’s a Saudi prince or Belgian guy, or Russian. When you look down to earth you don’t see the borders. The association was formed to spread this message. By now three quarters of the astronauts in the world, cosmonauts and even the Chinese taikonaut, are members of the association. So, there is something that ties us together. It’s not an elitist organization. We go out to schools and universities and explain them this point of view”.

To the Students of Skoltech Space Center he gives the next advice: “it’s good to do practical things, to see how space flight is done, the whole chain. In order to not end up in surprise, you really need to see how powerful space flight can be, what forces are there. Launching this rocket into space takes brute force. I know, I’ve seen it from the side and I sat on it”.

Skoltech Space Race: The Rise, Fall and Recovery of Stratospheric Balloons

Skoltech space mission - the view from above

Skoltech space mission – the view from above

This could be story about adventure.

At dawn, the muddy field between the tiny villages of Dureevskaya and Fedeevskaya some 200 km south east of Moscow, was far from welcoming. Little frozen pools and slushy patches greeted Italian-born Skoltech professor Alessandro Golkar, his research assistants and 18 Skoltech space students. The sky showered  the group with frozen rain and wet snow. The half awake scientists traveled for 6 hours from the Russian capital to this particular spot. Here, aerospace authorities and nature converged to create an opportunity. Here they will be allowed to conduct an experiment that will render all air traffic in the area impossible. Here they hoped that their sophisticated engineering creations would not end up in a lake or a river. Their goal: launch stratospheric balloons carrying experiments and HD cameras, reach the edge of space and safely collect the platforms after they land back on Earth.

This could also be an account of numbers, telemetry and data.

Of careful engineering, design and construction and a once in a lifetime educational experience.

4 stratospheric balloons filled with lighter-than-air helium were launched. One of the balloons reached an altitude of 33 km. Some traveled for more than 2 hours and over a distance of 200 km. Then, as temperature fell to -50°C and pressure reached below 0.1 atmosphere,  the balloons diameter expanded to over 9 meters. They could no longer carry their payloads. The bloated white creatures imploded and began falling back to the ground.

Then again, there is the tale of the search and rescue operation.

The platforms, a final project for the Space Systems Engineering course, plummeted down to Earth. Payloads and experiments such a lithium-ion battery, a composite material,  a small satellite reactor, and a stabilizer hurtled towards Earth. A small wooden fox, the Skoltech Space lab newly anointed mascot, also joined the plunge. Their descent was slowed by parachutes.  And then the nerve wrecking and gratifying mission of locating the precious experiments before the woods get too dark and impassable. A blue globe, white pyramid and green box have been recovered within 24 hours. The fourth component of the university’s space mission was even more stubborn.

“If you had told me three years ago that I’d be wading through icy puddles in Russia in search of a box full of instruments that we launched to space I’d have probably said that you’re joking”, Golkar, who recently won a prestigious international award and had studied at MIT before relocating to Moscow, grinned. “Yet this is very serious work. And fun.”

But perhaps images are best suited to tell the story of this journey.

Photographer Alexei Kalabin took photos throughout a night and a day, from launch through search to recovery. Here is the story of the first Skoltech Space Race.

Technical support: Denis Efremov nearspace.ru

 

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Space Systems Researcher Wins Prestigious International Award

The Luigi G Napolitano, awarded this year to Skoltech space researcher Professor Alessandro Golkar

The Luigi G Napolitano, awarded this year to Skoltech space researcher Professor Alessandro Golkar

“I am quite surprised, but thank you!” Seven words. That was all that Alessandro Golkar could utter when he was invited on stage at the Toronto Convention Center to receive the 2014 Luigi G. Napolitano Award. The audience at the International Astronautical Congress was not affronted by the lack of verbosity. After all, the 29 year Skoltech professor and space scientist from Italy had just won a prestigious prize for a young scientist (under 30).  It makes sense that words do not come easy when an award committee says that your paper “presents a fundamentally new, and potentially highly useful approach to the operations of space systems in the future.” Kudos.

A few hours later Golkar, whose paper was titled ‘Design Margin Utilization in Commercial Satellite Cloud Computing Systems’, felt more more articulate. He emphasized that his innovative concept of Federated Satellite Systems is embedded in the Skoltech framework, with its focus on cross-cutting and applicable research.

“I am trying to conduct research that has short term commercial potential. But it also signifies a fundamental paradigm shift in space systems design. It really does”, he commented. “We propose to develop federations for collaboration between different companies and countries. Individual space missions could share resources that they do not use. Utilizing margins will result in creating a network similar to the Internet, but in space. It is really a cloud computing implementation for space systems. I believe this research will benefit satellite operators and space agencies willing to listen, in many, many ways.”

Professor Alessandro Golkar, Skoltech. Photo Susan Young

Professor Alessandro Golkar, Skoltech. Photo Susan Young

The award is named after Golkar’s compatriot, Prof Luigi Napolitano, who made significant contributions to microgravity research and to the international space station. Another Italian researcher, Professor Paolo Gaudenzi, taught Golkar at earlier stages of the Skoltech professor’s career.

“Giving people the chance to grow. That is really what being university professors is all about,” said the ostensibly proud Gaudenzi. “Scientific outcomes are a consequence. Human capital is the core asset of a university. This is very clear in Skoltech. Now Alessandro has to push forward and continue in the same direction.”

Another mentor of Golkar’s was Edward Crawley. The two met at MIT, where Crawley taught and conducted research. The American engineering professor was impressed by the young Italian and brought him to Skoltech, where Crawley now serves as president. “We are all proud of Alessandro”, the rector commented, “and we view this as internnational recognition of the quality of faculty we are assembling here at Skoltech.”

The upside of clinching an award is a boost of confidence, for him and his team of students, says the assistant professor who was the first non-managerial faculty member at Skoltech. “I consider this a team award. I told my students that it is theirs too. We were first in proposing this concept to the international community. We underpinned the fundamental theory and developed analysis both from a technical and economic perspective. In the future we will also develop a prototype of a payload to enable such federated satellite operations in space. I can also foresee a startup to commercialize parts of our work as a Skoltech spinoff.

The university’s unique approach has a significant part in winning this prize. It provides researchers the means to find students, hire postdocs worldwide, and present works at international conferences. Without such support nothing would happen. So I am glad to have brought this award for the first time to a Russian institution. I feel very lucky and humbled. Optimistic, too.”

* The Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) is a private graduate research university in Skolkovo, Russia, a suburb of Moscow. Established in 2011 in collaboration with MIT, Skoltech educates global leaders in innovation, advance scientific knowledge, and foster new technologies to address critical issues facing Russia and the world. Applying international research and educational models, the university integrates the best Russian scientific traditions with twenty-first century entrepreneurship and innovation.

 

Federated Satellite Systems is Prof Golkar's trademark research project. the International Astronautical Congress award committee wrote it “presents a fundamentally new, and potentially highly useful approach to the operations of space systems in the future.” Photo courtesy of NASA

Federated Satellite Systems is Prof Golkar’s trademark research project. the International Astronautical Congress award committee wrote it “presents a fundamentally new, and potentially highly useful approach to the operations of space systems in the future.” Photo courtesy of NASA

 

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