Aug. 13, 2021

Software Failure Blamed for Loss of Space Station Control

The Astronomy, Technology, and Space Science News Podcast.
SpaceTime Series 24 Episode 93
*Software failure blamed for loss of space station control
The Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos has blamed software issues for the sudden thruster burn...

The Astronomy, Technology, and Space Science News Podcast.
SpaceTime Series 24 Episode 93
*Software failure blamed for loss of space station control
The Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos has blamed software issues for the sudden thruster burn aboard Russia’s new Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module which sent the space station out of control for 47 minutes.
*Neutron Star Mountains
New models of neutron stars show that their tallest mountains may be only fractions of millimetres high, due to the huge gravity on the ultra-dense objects.
*First reconfigurable commercial satellite launched
The European Space Agency has launched one of its last Ariane 5 flights successfully placing two satellites into geostationary orbit.
*The Science Report
Self-isolation not enough to protect the most vulnerable from COVID.
New study warns COVID-19 infection might result in memory trouble.
Combining pesticides and herbicides pose a greater threat to bees than previously thought.
A new study shows that Australian women are having babies later in life.
Skeptic's guide to Australia’s most haunted road.

For more SpaceTime and show links:

Your support is needed...
SpaceTime is an independently produced podcast (we are not funded by any government grants, big organisations or companies), and we’re working towards becoming a completely listener supported show...meaning we can do away with the commercials and sponsors. We figure the time can be much better spent on researching and producing stories for you, rather than having to chase sponsors to help us pay the bills.
That's where you come us reach our first 1,000 that level the show becomes financially viable and bills can be paid without us breaking into a sweat every month. Every little bit helps...even if you could contribute just $1 per month. It all adds up.
By signing up and becoming a supporter at the $5 or more level, you get immediate access to over 230 commercial-free, double, and triple episode editions of SpaceTime plus extended interview bonus content. You also receive all new episodes on a Monday rather than having to wait the week out. Subscribe via Patreon or Supercast....and share in the rewards. Details at Patreon or Supercast -
Details at or

Sponsor Details:
This episode is brought to you with the support of NameCheap…cheap domain names is just the beginning of your own online presence. We use them and we love them. Get our special deal…just visit: and help support the show.

The Astronomy, Space, Technology & Science News Podcast.


[00:00:00] This is space time series 24 episode 93, 4 broadcast on the 13th of August, 2021. Coming up on space-time software failure. Blame for the loss of space station control a muddled show that mountains on neutron stars may only be a fraction of a millimeter high and the launch of the first reconfigurable commercial satellite.

Oh that a mall coming up on space time.

Welcome to space time with Stuart Gary.

The Russian federal space agency had cosmos as blamed software issues for this sudden thrust the burner board Russia's new Naoko multi-purpose module, which sent the international space station out of control for [00:01:00] 47 minutes. Control is lost about three hours after the arrival of the new module. When its thrusters suddenly ignited, pushing the space station 45 degrees out of oval alignment.

As the huge array flew at some 28,000 kilometers, an hour, 400 kilometers above the earth surface when they realized what had happened. Russian controllers in Moscow use thrusters the board, the adjacent Zvezda module to try and stabilize the orbiting out outburst. But that only led to a tug of war between the two modules trying to counteract H.

Eventually the thrust is a border dock progress cargo ship Rosser fired up by Moscow to provide the additional thrust needed to bring the space station back under control until Naoki has thrusters. Funnily rad propellant, the 2010 Naoko had been launched the border of Russian proton rocket from the, and Cosmodrome in the central Asian Republic of Kazakhstan eight days earlier, docking under the earth facing port of this Vista service.

The uncontrolled thrust. The burn was the latest in a quarter of a century long string [00:02:00] of problems with a 13 meter module C Mackow first began building out or get back in 1995. It was initially meant to be a backup for the Russian Saria control module. And it was then expected to ultimately replace the piers docking port module, which joined the space station in 2001 as a temporary addition.

But ongoing delays with Naoko and Pierce ended up being permanent remaining orbit for some two decades. The Russians only jettisoning the piers docking port to make room for Naoko once it arrived in orbit now, okay. Should have launched in 2007, but was repeatedly delayed by ongoing technical issues.

Then in 2013, metal contamination was discovered in its field. That resulted in a long and expensive clean-out, which took so long, some of its components past their use by dates and that forced Russia to build an entirely new fuel system from scratch further delaying the launch. Then there were even more technical issues, repairs and [00:03:00] upgrades, further slowing construction.

The total build time, eventually reaching 26 years from start to launch. It'll take several months and marble space walks to fully integrate the new module with the rest of the space station. However it stay as part of the ISS may not be long. Moscow is now building a new module, which will be the basis of a new Russian national space station.

Roscosmos says a review of the Russian section of the international space station is highlighted a considerable amount of old and worn equipment must go. Originally said he was leaving the space station in 2023 of originally that's been pushed back to 20, 24. And while a final departure date, isn't certain it's now likely to happen sooner rather than later.

That's of course, assuming they can build the new module more quickly than the 26 years it took to build. And I okay. This is space time still the cam new models of neutron stars show. They have mountains, but those mountains may only be fractions of a millimeter high and the [00:04:00] European space agency launches the first reconfigurable, commercial, satellite, all that and more stored account.

Um, space time.

New models of neutron stars shows that their tallest mountains may only be fractions of a millimeter high due to the huge amounts of gravity. Crushing down on these altered dance objects. When Stan has reached the end of their lives, having fused most of the hydrogen in their coroner, helium the balancing act between gravity crashing his star down towards its center and nuclear energy pushing outwards ends and gravity wins causing the stellar core to collapse inwards under the stars earned immense weight.

All this additional mass crushing down on the core causes a dramatic increase in pressure and temperature. Eventually triggering a [00:05:00] helium flash, making it hot enough for the quarter. Begin fusing helium into carbon and oxygen. Eventually stars like our sun fees. Most of their core helium into carbon and oxygen, but because they don't have enough mass to fuse carbon and oxygen to heavier elements, the fusion process.

The stars out of gaseous envelope, detaches and floats away as a planetary Nebula, leaving the Stila core, exposed as a white dwarf, which will then slowly cool over the eons. However, stars far more massive than the sun face a very different face. Because they're so massive with higher temperatures and pressures, they ended up choosing hydrogen into helium through a different process and they then go on to fuse progressively heavier and heavier elements, carbon nitrogen, oxygen, neon, magnesium, Silicon, sulfur, Nicol, and eventually.

But no matter how massive a star is, it's not big enough to fuse iron into heavier elements. And so ultimately the balancing act between gravity crushing down on a star and nuclear energy [00:06:00] pushing outwards does reach a final conclusion with gravity. Again, being the winner, causing the static collapse in a spectacular explosion, known as a core collapse supernova what's usually left behind is an intense, dense object.

A neutron star. Although only a dozen or so kilometers wide uterine stars are the densest objects in the known universe other than black holes. In fact, just a sugar cube size of neutron star material would weigh a hundred million Tom's neutron stars, a thought typic imposed of a solid rigid outer crust or shell composed of ions and electrons.

Directly below. This is a fluid in a crust meetup of electrons, neutrons, and atomic nuclei. And you try and proton Thermi float an electron Fermi gas article and an InterCall composed of quite glue on plasma because of their immense density, which is equivalent to that, or the nucleus of an atom uterine stars have an enormous gravitational pull around a billion times stronger than that, of the earth, [00:07:00] this immense gravity squashes, every feature on the surface of a neutron star down to minuscule dimension.

And that means these stellar remnants are almost perfect spheres, but not quiet whilst they're billions of times smaller than on earth. The surface defamation is on the perfect sphere. And nevertheless, notice mountains. The studies authors use computational modeling to build a realistic uterine star simulation and then subjected to a range of mathematical forces to identify just how mountains on neutron stars are created.

They also started the role of the ultra dense nuclear matter in supporting the mountains and found that the largest mountains produced were only a fraction of a millimeter tall, a hundred times smaller than previous estimates. The study's lead author, Fabian Gittens from the university of south Hampton says for the past two decades, there's been a lot of interest in trying to understand just how large these mountains could be before the crust of the nutrient star breaks.

And the mountains can no longer be supported. Previous work suggested that neutron stars [00:08:00] could sustain deviations from a perfect sphere up to a few parts per million, implying that the mountains could be as large as a few centimeters. These calculations assumed that the neutron star was strained in such a way that the cross was close to breaking at every point.

However, the new models indicate that such conditions simply aren't physically realistic. Getting says the new results also suggest that observing gravitational waves from rotating neutron stars may be more challenging than previously thought. Although they're single objects due to their immense gravity spinning neutron stars with slight deformations on their surface, should theoretically produce ripples in the fabric of space-time gravitational waves, gravitational waves from the rotations of a single neutron star have yet to be observed.

Well, the future advances in extremely sensitive detectors, such as advanced LIGO and Virgo may hold the key to probing these unique objects. To find out more. And you're dangly speaking with astronomer [00:09:00] professor Fred, we've talked about neutron stars, and I guess we should probably revisit what a neutron star is before we talk about the mountain ranges that exist on neutron stars.

Now, um, I, as I read through this, it got more and more extraordinary. When you talk mountain, you're thinking huge. All ballistics of, of stone. And that wouldn't be the case on a neutron star, but they do have mountain, um, features just really not quite big ones.

It's bizarre. It is, isn't it. And I think, I think this is a great story.

Once again, it shows. The power of the theoretical physics that goes into understanding things like neutron stars. So if what's a neutron star, uh, it's in some ways it's related to black holes because when a massive star gets to the end of its life, if it's massive enough, it's big enough, it will explode in a supernova it's Colwell collapse.

And if that core is big enough, it will overcome. Every known force of [00:10:00] nature and collapsed to become a black hole, but there's a kind of intermediate stage for smaller, less massive stars, maybe 10, 20 times the mass of the sun when they start their core collapses. And if it's less than, I think it's 2.2 times the mass of the sun, the mass of the core.

If it's less than that, it will collapse until. Pressure of neutrons. The outward pressure of neutrons actually stops it collapsing any further. So it's, it's on its way to being a black hole, but not quite big enough to do that. And that's how we think neutron stars are formed. There are many, many of them known once again, they have very strong magnetism and beam out radiation from that poles, like the sort of thing we've just been talking about, but if they're rotating these beings of radiation sweep through the universe, And if the earth happens to be in line of one of those, you get this effect, just like a lighthouse rotating and we call them pulse zones.

That's what a call sign is. It's a rotating nutrient stone. So not much is all known. We know they exist because they were discovered back in 1967 by [00:11:00] Jocelyn bell, Burnell who I'm delighted to say. Friend and former colleague of mine up in the UK, we used to work together at the Royal observatory in Edinburgh.

It was actually Jocelyn's work that not only proved that neutron stars exist, but also led to people believing that black holes could exist because until then they were perfect for theoretical. Anyway, that is all the backstory. What's the front story. It is that researchers have looked at the structure of neutron stars and neutron stars.

Having magnetism sounds a bit weird because neutrons are electromagnetically neutral so that we know that there is a mixture in that which includes proteins, which are electrically charged. And in fact, I think some of the thinking is that these neutron stars have a crust of different sort of material around the edge, quite a thin cross, but relatively rigid.

And didn't explain. By the way that a new Trump star is typically 10 to 20 kilometers in diameter and contains the massive a star up to 2.2 times, the mass of the sun. So the density is in the region of a billion tons per [00:12:00] teaspoon, full production sort of density. Yeah. It's crazy stuff. And that means that the gravitational pool on the surface of one of these things is about a billion times.

What we experienced here. So, so you'd be quite small. If you went there, you would be quite small as are the mountains. That's the critical part. It's that gravitation that stops this crust, having bumps in it bigger than a few tenths of a millimeter. Wow. It's madness. Isn't it. So you've got this ball 10 kilometers in diameter and little dimples on it that you can barely see because they're so small.

And so what it means is that neutron stars, I think it's probably the case that they have seized the record, theoretically, at least as the most perfectly spherical bodies in nature, that record has previously been held by. And again, Oh, gosh,


black holes. That's a good guess. Actually, you might be right too.

Uh, but it's not the one [00:13:00] I'm thinking of is the sun. The song is I knew that incredibly simple. Perfectly spherical. Yes. Sorry. No, I, I I'd

heard that before and it just, you know, usually my brain doesn't let me down like that.

Mine always lets me down. Yeah. So the sum for all X one is at 1.3, 9 million kilometers.

I think that's right in diameter. The biggest departure from a sphere is 10 kilometers, which is just amazing. You know, that's one part in a hundred thousand or something it's just. Phenomenal

compared to the earth because we both got out of rotation.

Yeah. And the spin of the sun is quite slow. That's probably why it's.

So it's very cool. It's 25 days on the equator. It's different than the poles because it's not a solid body. Yeah. So it looks as though neutron stars take the biscuit in terms of being perfectly safari, maybe perfectly smooth. There's a better way of putting it because I guess they could still bulge it.

They require to hold on. Bulls of space. Yeah. Yep. It's funny how we all think a [00:14:00] billion buttons, but that's basically, it that's very smooth. I don't know why I think of that as well. Yeah.

Funny. I was just looking at your head, sorry.

Um, that's actually quite smooth to two of them. One button, a thousand probably.

You could have,

you could have neutron star properties, their fruit, I think perfectly roundness,

uh, actually the main Newt neutron star properties that isn't very dense inside. Don't be dense. No one can accuse you of being tense. I've been called worse. Tell me haven't we all, ah,

glad those days are gone.

Okay. So, uh, mountain ranges on neutron stars. Minuscule the minuscule we'll call them that. So you won't trip over them, but then again, if you do ever travel to a neutron star, you will end up being smaller than the mountains. I would, I would imagine.

Yeah. Do you get to the gravitation suspect as you got near it you'd be spaghetti fired.

Like you would wear the black hole because the [00:15:00] gravitational potential selling intense. That's

Dr. Fred Watson and astronomy with department of science speaking with Andrew Dunkley on our sister program space. And this is space time still to come. The European space agency launches the first reconfigurable commercial satellite, and later in the science report.

And you study warns that COVID-19 infection could result in memory, trouble, all that, and more store to card. Um, space time.

European space agency has launched one of its last area in five missions successfully placing two satellites in the geostationary orbit, including the first reconfigurable commercial satellite. The flight from the European space agencies, cruise, spaceport, and French Guiana delivered the star one D two [00:16:00] and util set quantum spacecraft into their respective geostationary transfer orbits.


if you read that. Thanks dude,

the 6,190 kilograms star one D two. Satellite was released 28 minutes after launch built by max our technology technologies in Palo Alto, California star one D two is a high-capacity multi-mission satellite equipped with K U K a C and X-band transponders. They're designed to enable it to expand broadband coverage to new regions in central and south America.

And to add an updated X-band payload for Brazilian government use over the Atlantic, the util set quantum satellite was deployed 36 minutes after launch. The revolutionary [00:17:00] 3,460 white kilogram spacecraft was developed by the European space agency and Airbus defense and space. It's the first universal satellite designed to be repeatedly reconfigured to meet changing requirements.

Unlike conventional spacecraft, which is designed and hardwired on earth. And really can't be repurposed. Once they're in orbit, the util set quantum is equipped with flexible software and electronically steerable receiving antenna operating in Kau band together with eight independently reconfigurable beams, allowing it to change footprints and consequently mission profiles, making it the first of its kind.

This is space time.

And Tom, that'll take another brief. Look at some of the other stories, making use insights this week with a science report and you study is found that simply isolating the most vulnerable in our community. Isn't enough to [00:18:00] protect them from COVID-19. The findings published in the journal. Scientific reports are based on data from 1.3 million patients around Glasgow between March and May, 2020 of this group, 27,747 were considered to be at high risk and were told to self isolate for extended periods of time while a further 350 3085 were considered to be at moderate risk.

And we're not told to so far. The authors found that compared to low risk individuals, people who have been advised to self isolate were still eight times more likely to have confirmed infections and five times more likely to die. Following a confirmed COVID infection. Moderate risk individuals were four times more likely to have a confirmed infection than the low risk group and five times more likely to die.

Following a confirmed COVID infection. The data shows that self isolating only a high-risk groups isn't enough to protect them and other population-wide measures natively implemented at the same time, such as social distancing, [00:19:00] face masks and hand hygiene. Meanwhile, a new study has suggested that COVID-19 infection might result in memory.

A report in the journal of the American medical association found that 11% of participants reported memory problems eight months after a positive COVID-19 tests get better only 4% of people with negative COVID-19 test results. The study included some 13,000 participants from Norway, uh, completed an online questionnaire during their COVID-19 test.

And again, eight months later, The world health organization says more than 8 million people have been killed by the COVID-19 coronavirus with over 4.4 million confirmed fatalities and more than 205 million people infected since the deadly disease was first spread from Houlihan China, a new study has shown that combining different types of pesticides and herbicides used in farm chemicals poses a greater risk to bees than previously thought.

A report in the [00:20:00] journal nature shows that agrochemicals were found to be influencing baby behavior in a synergistic manner, meaning that the combined effect of the chemicals interacting together was greater than the sum of the individual respective effect. Scientists say that current B protections don't take into account the synergistic effect of agrochemicals and therefore underestimate the level of danger that intensive farming environments pose to the pollinators.

And you study is found that Australian women are having babies later in life. The research by the Australian Institute of health and welfare shows that one in four women giving birth in Australia with 35 years or older, that's an increase of 7,000 babies born to mothers, 35 and older in 2019 compared to 2009.

Well, mothers aged 40 or more did have a higher risk of some complications. The Institute says the risk factors for women aged 35 to 39. We're still comparable with that of younger mothers. All the mothers were less likely to smoke, [00:21:00] less likely to live in low socioeconomic areas and more likely to live in cities.

Well, it's hard to believe, but it seems Sydney's wakers Parkway could be Australia's most haunted road. The Parkway winds its way through a national park behind Sydney's Northern beaches. For more than half a century. Now, the road's been linked with sightings of an eerie female apparition looking like a nun or wearing a faded wedding dress.

The ghost known as Kelly, who was apparently a slain hitchhiker or so the story goes suddenly appears in the middle of the road after midnight hovering just above the ground, only to mysteriously disappear as terrified Medearis swerve to avoid it. Others claimed or driven past the gray silhouette of a female late at night only to then suddenly find a sitting in the backseat of their car before just as suddenly disappearing.

Again, it's worth pointing out that these stories have only come to light as filmmakers put together a documentary about alleged ghost sightings in the area, the [00:22:00] documentary is being made with the help of no less than three psychics. So obviously very creditable and well-researched. The 14.6 kilometer long wakest Parkway does have some history that runs from Narrabeen to Seaforth as been the site of one horrific murder and dismemberment the location where a decaying body was found that it either been strangled or suffocated and were discarded items, belonging to a murdered school.

Boy were located, although no in hitchhikers, as far as we know. Tim Mendham from Australian skeptics says a pair of guest hunters investigating the paranormal are also claiming to have encountered Kelly spirit while wandering the road later. The whiteness Parkway in Sydney runs from mainly area in the Northern beaches around in the big circle, up further, up in the inland a bit, and then comes back around suggested it's the most haunted road in Australia.

Not from my experience. But then perhaps because I've only ever driven along one section of it, which I must have done it at least a couple of thousand times. The other section is, is a bit spooky because it goes through Bush [00:23:00] land, heavy Bush land package, heavy Bush land, and they're supposed to be hitchhikers and all sorts of things out there that suddenly appear in the back of your car or in front of the car or whatever

it's described by. This ride is known for falling into near total darkness at night, which is better than doing it in the daytime. I guess. I don't know. That necessarily means you're going to have,

that's not the sort of place you get a lot of pedestrian traffic in my experience, daytime or nighttime, because there's no flip flops. And if you're going to walk along, it you're really going out of your way. And there's probably a better way to get to where you want to go to the stories could be anything quite frankly.

I mean, you know, people misinterpret stuff all the time and tell, I know someone who's sort of a chance acquaintance. So somebody, a friend of a friend who actually does claim to have seen that.

That's Tim Mendham from Australian skeptics.[00:24:00]

that's the show for now? The space-time is available every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday through apple podcasts, iTunes, Stitcher, Google podcast, pocket cash. Spotify a cast, Amazon music, SoundCloud, YouTube, your favorite podcast, download provider and from space-time with Stewart, space times also broadcast through the national science foundation on science own radio and on both iHeart, radio and tune in radio.

And you can help to support our show by visiting the space time store for a range of promotional merchandising. Or by becoming a space-time patron, which gives you access to triple episode commercial-free versions of the show, as well as lots of burners audio content, which doesn't go to where access to our exclusive Facebook group and [00:25:00] other rewards.

Just go to space time with Stuart, for full details. And if you want more space time, please check out our blog where you'll find all the stuff we couldn't fit in the show, as well as heaps of images, new stories, loads, videos, and things on the web. I find interesting or amusing, just go to space with

That's all one word and that's tumbler without the year. You can also follow us through at Stuart Gary on Twitter at space-time with Stuart Gary on Instagram. Through a space-time YouTube channel and on Facebook, just go to forward slash space time with Stuart, Gary and space-time is brought to you in collaboration with Australian sky and telescope magazine.

Your window on the universe.

You've been listening to space-time with Stuart Gary this has been another quality podcast production from

Tim MendhamProfile Photo

Tim Mendham


Editor with Australian Skeptics