NASA approves station visit despite outage
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA is pressing ahead with today’s planned launch of a supply ship despite a critical computer outage at the International Space Station, promising the situation is safe.
Mission managers decided Sunday to proceed with the countdown for the SpaceX capsule, Dragon, already a month late in delivering more than 2 tons of cargo.
“We’re good to go,” said NASA space station program manager Mike Suffredini.
Suffredini noted the many important supplies aboard the Dragon, including a new spacesuit and repair parts for the older spacesuits already in orbit. Much-needed food is also packed away.
“There’s a certain amount of urgency to go ahead and get these vehicles” at the space station, he told reporters. These shipments have to fit around other space station operations, like crew comings and goings.
“Things start to bunch up,” Suffredini said, “and so we’re just trying to fly as soon as we safely can, which is what we believe we’re doing.”
This backup computer, located on the outside of the space station, mysteriously failed to work when activated Friday. The main computer kept operating perfectly, and the six-man crew was never in any danger. NASA debated whether to delay the SpaceX mission and, on Sunday, determined the station has sufficient redundancy to safely support the visiting vessel.
A spacewalk will be required, meanwhile, to replace the bad computer. Engineers don’t know why it failed.
Suffredini said the spacewalk will be conducted by a pair of astronauts on April 22, using suits outfitted with new fan components to avoid the near-disaster that occurred last summer. An Italian astronaut almost drowned when his helmet flooded with water from the suit’s cooling system.
An April 22 spacewalk will give SpaceX two chances to get its unmanned Dragon capsule flying. Good weather is forecast for today’s 4:58 p.m. launch. If that doesn’t work, the next launch attempt for the California company’s Falcon rocket would come Friday.
NASA rushed material for the computer replacement job to the Cape Canaveral launch site over the weekend, for packing into the Dragon. While not essential, the gasket-like item will make the task easier for the astronauts.
For the past few years, NASA has been paying SpaceX — Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — and Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp. to keep the station well stocked. The need arose after the space shuttles — NASA’s workhorses for station shipments — were retired in 2011. Russia, Europe and Japan also make occasional deliveries.
As soon as the Dragon soars, the space station’s solar panels will be moved into the proper position for its arrival, Suffredini said. That will guard against any complications resulting from additional computer breakdowns. Luckily, the sun’s angle is favorable right now for thermal conditions at the outpost, he noted.
Global economy turns the corner, officials say
WASHINGTON (AP) — The world’s top finance officials expressed confidence Saturday that the global economy finally has turned the corner to stronger growth. This time, they may be right.
Despite challenges that include market jitters about the Federal Reserve’s bond-buying slowdown and global tensions over Ukraine, policymakers said they believe there is a foundation for sustained growth that can provide jobs for the millions of people still looking for work five years after the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
“Creating a more dynamic, sustainable, balanced and job-rich global economy remains our paramount collective goal,” the policy-setting panel of the 188-nation International Monetary Fund said in a concluding communique.
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and the finance ministers who sit on the IMF’s policy panel said they believed the world had entered a new phase with stronger growth that will begin to make in-roads into unemployment that remains painfully high in many nations.
At a closing news conference, Lagarde referred to the years 2008 through 2010 as an economic “disaster” and she said now “we are moving into a strengthening phase.”
The IMF in its latest economic forecast predicted global growth would strengthen to 3.6 percent this year and an even better 3.9 percent in 2015.
That growth is being supported by a stronger recovery in the United States, which private economists believe could grow this year at the fastest pace in five years. This strength in the world’s largest economy is helping to offset some slowing in major emerging markets such as China although emerging economies are still powering ahead at rates well ahead of developed nations.,
The finance officials acknowledged a number of threats to their forecast, ranging from periodic stock market jitters as investors worry that the Fed may mishandle its effort to gradually end the bond buying it has used to lower long-term interest rates to concerns that the political stand-off over Russia’s annexation of Crimea could undermine market confidence.