Posts Tagged ‘Space Shuttle’

Astronaut Chow: Space Food over the Years

February 22, 2012

The first manned missions to outer space by both the United States and former USSR in 1961 were short trips that last no longer than two hours.  However, the former USSR went on to complete a few missions that lasted more than 24 hours before the US completed its first 24-hour space flight in 1963.  The increasing durations of the space flights by both the American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts make one thing very clear: at some point, the crew must eat.

Russian Borscht soup in a tube, consumed by cosmonauts in space | Astronaut Chow: Space Food over the Years

Russian Borscht soup in a tube. Courtesy: Aliazimi

The first food delivery systems were, of all things, tubes.  They had the look and feel of a tube of toothpaste, but what came out of these tubes was anything but minty.  The former USSR’s Yuri Gagarin, who in 1961 became both the first human to travel into space and the first to orbit the earth, dined on three 160 g toothpaste-type tubes: two servings of puréed meat and one chocolate sauce.  The combined crew of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (1975) ate tubes of borscht and caviar, along with canned beef tongue and packaged Riga bread.

Space Food during Projects Mercury and Gemini | Astronaut Chow: Space Food over the Years

Top: Project Mercury – Food cubes and tubes. Bottom: Project Gemini – Cubes and “rehydrater”.

While NASA effectively borrowed the food tube idea from the Russians, they also experimented with their own delivery system: bite-sized cubes with gelatin coatings to prevent crumbs.  During Project Mercury (1959-63) and Project Gemini (1965-66), foods were dehydrated before missions and rehydrated once in space, allowing the menu to expand over time to include the astronauts’ preferences.  Items such as shrimp cocktail, chicken and vegetables, toast squares, butterscotch pudding, and apple juice were available on the menu.  Even though rehydration methods improved during the Apollo program (1961-75), food presentation and presentation were still the same as during the previous space programs.

Skylab 2 astronauts eat space food in wardroom of Skylab trainer | Astronaut Chow: Space Food over the Years

Left to right, Scientist-Astronaut Joseph P. Kerwin, science pilot; Astronaut Paul J. Weitz, pilot; and Astronaut Charles Conrad Jr., commander

By the time the United States’ space station, Skylab, was operational in the mid 1970s, astronauts indulged in “normal” meals.  The astronauts would literally come to the table during mealtimes.  A dining room table and chairs, fastened to the floor and fitted with foot and thigh restraints, allowed for a more normal eating experience.  The trays used could warm the food, and had magnets to hold eating utensils and scissors to open food containers.  Unfortunately, a new problem came to light.  The astronauts trained on the ground with the very food they brought with them to Skylab, so they fully expected the food to taste the same.  However, they soon realized that the microgravity environment dulled their senses of taste and smell due to a head congestion from weightlessness.

Food trays from the space station, Skylab, and the Space Shuttle | Astronaut Chow: Space Food over the Years

Food trays from (top to bottom) Skylab and Space Shuttle.

The food tray developed for Skylab was apparently well-designed and deemed sufficient for the Space Shuttle program (1981-2011).  As you can see, the food trays between both space programs differ in design slightly, but the functionality, as well as mobility, of both trays allowed astronauts to take their food with them wherever they worked.

In 2009, the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” gave viewers a rare glimpse into the development of space food technology.  Andrew Zimmern, along with astronauts Michael Foreman, Leland Melvin, Michael Massimino, and Garrett Riesman, were presented with a number of food items that were flown on Space Shuttle missions and are currently available on the International Space Station.  They rated each food item and gave their thoughts and opinions of each item to the food scientists.  Andrew noted right away that a fruit punch drink was much sweeter than he anticipated, and other foods were very flavorful or spicy.  As previously discussed, past astronauts complained of dulled senses of taste and smell due to the microgravity environment.  Food scientists countered this phenomenon by preparing foods with extra flavor.

Here is a YouTube video from the Travel Channel where Andrew Zimmern samples space food:

The culmination of years of work by NASA’s food scientists can be seen below.

Bags of International Space Station food and utensils on a tray | Astronaut Chow: Space Food over the Years

Bags of International Space Station food and utensils on a tray. Courtesy: NASA

Assorted bags of snack food and dehydrated food, as served on the ISS | Astronaut Chow: Space Food over the Years

Assorted bags of snack food and dehydrated food, as served on the ISS. Courtesy: NASA

What does the future hold for space food?  Apparently, we do not have to wait long for an answer to that question.  According to Mashable:

“[NASA] is looking for applicants to eat astronaut food for four months during a simulated trip to the Red Planet. Participants will try instant foods, and ones with shelf-stable ingredients, and scientists will record their reactions. The goal of the experiment is to discover what foods people like to consume consistently.”

If you want to shape the future of space food, NASA is giving you a chance to do so.

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Francis Unson

NASA’s Manned Missions: Past and Present

May 24, 2011

Since 1959, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has successfully launched over 100 manned flights into space.  The most successful space programs have been the following:

Project Mercury (1959-1963) – The first US-crewed program started in 1959, successfully completing six crewed missions.  Watch the first part of NASA’s documentary on Project Mercury below, as well as part two and part three.

Project Gemini (1963-1966) – NASA used this program to practice space rendezvous and EVAs, completing a run of ten crewed missions.  Part one of NASA’s documentary on Project Gemini (Gemini IV), below, along with part two and part three.

Apollo Program (1961-1975) – Even though there were a total of eleven crewed missions, Apollo 11 featured Man’s very first lunar landing.  Watch part one of NASA’s documentary, Apollo 11: For All Mankind, below, as well as part two, part three, and part four.

Skylab (1973-1974) – The first American space station featured three crewed missions, which took place in 1973 and 1974.  NASA’s documentary is in two parts: part one is below.

Apollo-Soyuz (1975) – A joint program with the Soviet Union, only one crewed mission took place, but it was historic, nonetheless.  Here are parts one (below), two, and three of NASA’s documentary.

Space Shuttle Program | Space Transportation System (STS) (1981-2011) – The longest running program has gone through 133 crewed missions and was the first to make use of reusable spacecrafts.  Watch parts one (below), two, and three of NASA’s documentary covering STS-1, Space Shuttle Columbia’s and, indeed, the entire Space Shuttle program’s, maiden flight.

Shuttle-Mir Program (1994-1998) – The result of a Russian partnership, this program completed eleven crewed missions.

International Space Station (ISS) (1998-present) – This is an ongoing collaboration with Russia, Canada, ESA, and JAXA along with co-operators, ASI and AEB.  27 expeditions have maintained a human presence in outer space since 1998, and 34 Space Shuttle missions played a critical role in the construction and delivery of supplies to the ISS.  The video below highlights STS-88, the first Space Shuttle mission to the ISS.

There have been many successes with NASA’s space programs.  Since 1959, there have only been three failures which resulted in the death of the crew, such as Apollo 1 in 1967, STS-51-L (the Challenger disaster) in 1986, and STS-107 (the Columbia disaster) in 2003.  Nonetheless, the purpose of the “Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans” is to examine ongoing and planned National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) development activities, as well as potential alternatives, and present options for advancing a safe, innovative, affordable, and sustainable human space flight program in the years following Space Shuttle retirement.  I hope that, within the next few years, we continue to make many historic advances in our ongoing mission to uncover the secrets of outer space with today’s budding scientist and engineers in tomorrow’s fleet of spacecrafts.

With the retirement of NASA's Space Shuttle program in 2011, let's look back at NASA's past human spaceflight programs; at first, in a Space Race with the former U.S.S.R. and, later on, in cooperation with them and other space agencies from the international community.

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Joie Montoya

Skylab: The United States’ First Space Station

May 13, 2011

Skylab was the United States’ first space station.  Launched on May 14, 1973, NASA felt it needed to establish a separate space station from the International Space Station (ISS) for crew members to live in outer space.  Skylab orbited Earth 2,476 times during the 171 days and 13 hours of its occupation during the three manned Skylab missions.  Some of the solar experiments conducted on these missions included photographing eight solar flares and determining the existence of the Sun’s coronal holes.

NASA astronauts conducted three manned missions aboard Skylab, the United States' first space station. Before NASA had a chance to refurbish the space station, it came crashing to Earth in 1979.

Courtesy: NASA

Although Skylab was successful, it was abandoned after the end of the SL-4 mission in February 1974.  NASA had planned Space Shuttle missions to reuse Skylab.

  1. An early Shuttle flight would boost Skylab to a higher orbit, adding five years to Skylab’s operational lifespan.  While the shuttle might have pushed or towed the station into orbit, attaching a booster—the Teleoperated Retrieval System (TRS)—to the station was more likely, based on astronauts’ training for the task.  Martin Marietta won the contract for the $26 million TRS, which contained about three tons of propellant, and began work in April 1978.
  2. In two shuttle flights, Skylab would be refurbished.  In January 1982, the first mission would attach a docking adapter and conduct repairs.  In August 1983, a second crew would replace several system components.
  3. In March 1984, shuttle crews would attach a solar-powered Power Expansion Package, refurbish scientific equipment, and conduct 30- to 90-day missions using the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM) and the earth resources experiments.
  4. Over five years, Skylab would be expanded to accommodate six to eight astronauts, with a new large docking/interface module, additional logistics modules, Spacelab modules and pallets, and an orbital vehicle space dock using the shuttle’s external tank.

The first three phases would have required about $60 million in 1980s dollars, not including launch costs.  However, due to delays in preparing the Space Shuttles by about two years, NASA decided to abandon all plans for boosting the station, and allowed it to reenter Earth’s atmosphere.  As of today, NASA continues to look for alternatives to Skylab.

NASA produced a documentary about Skylab.  Here is the first part:

Here is the second part:

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Joie Montoya

Through the Troposphere, Stratosphere, Thermosphere and into Outer Space!

January 27, 2011

When someone brings up the topic of aerospace, what usually comes to mind?  It is not a commonly discussed subject for most people.  It’s understandable because, over the years, aerospace has waxed and waned in popularity.  Aerospace was a frequent topic of discussion as I was growing up since my father, president of Spacetron Metal Bellows, was in the Aerospace Industry.  Hearing about the shuttle launches, new launch vehicle ideas, and satellite landings were not out of the ordinary for me.  I find aerospace very interesting but misunderstood in its importance.  Many people think that investing time or money in aerospace is unnecessary.  They don’t see the benefits that result from years of research and development that scientists and engineers have put into it.  The truth is, there are many short- and long-term benefits that result from learning about aerospace.  For example, the people who have been able to obtain jobs in this field have conducted experiments such as growing vegetation in space or testing different vaccines.  They also discovered a new outlook on travel.

The popularity of and support for aerospace has waxed and waned over the years due to the economy and administration in the White House.  The discoveries made by going into space won't end with the Space Shuttle's final flight.Space travel has expanded greatly over the years.  It started off as a simple dream to, one day, fly into the open sky.  Before long, we pushed our limits and sought to go as high as possible.  Finally, we went past the sky and entered into a whole new world: outer space.  We achieved spaceflight by breaking it down into different phases.  Starting with spaceports, engineers were able to test space vehicles and come to conclusions about how they would be launched.  With the space vehicles completed, launch pads were prepared next.  After everything was ready, it was time for lift-off.  The space vehicle launched into the air, achieving very high velocities, and broke through the atmosphere.  With the development of a fleet of Space Shuttles, we were fortunate enough to go into space quite frequently.  According to the Associated Press article by Seth Borenstein, the 135th and last shuttle flight will take place this year.  Although it may be the last time the Space Shuttle takes flight, it doesn’t mean that space flight ends here.  Advances in technology will allow us to travel to space faster and cheaper than before, as well as make new discoveries, so get ready.  You could be the next one visiting outer space!

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Joie Montoya

Spacetron Metal Bellows – “Aerospace Welding Apprentice Program”

July 3, 2010

Rick Montoya, President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Spacetron Metal Bellows in Santa Clarita, California, wants to pass on the knowledge of welding to a new generation of welders who may very well design, construct, and launch hardware destined for outer space.  With that in mind, Rick created the “Aerospace Welding Apprentice Program“.

Rick Montoya, President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Spacetron Metal Bellows, created the "Aerospace Welding Apprentice Program", designed to take apprentices through a rigorous, one-year program, working on actual aerospace hardware.Spacetron Metal Bellows’ program is designed to take apprentices through a rigorous, one-year program, working on actual aerospace hardware and learning the techniques for welding groups 1-4 and 6.  Part of the apprentice’s training includes learn the techniques of titanium structures, welding bellows, tubing, ducting, hose assemblies, tanks, pressure vessels, piping and machined parts.  While the program turns apprentices into high-quality welders, companies that hire this newly forged lot benefit in many ways:

  • Allows your company to maintain its production schedule without reallocating welders/welding operators and/or QA Staff for training purposes.
  • Having the apprentice observe, learn, and prepare for the welding of the Aerospace hardware to be performed by a certified aerospace welder, Spacetron Metal Bellows.
  • Being able to meet production schedules and ship hardware to your customers, meeting all your company and NADCAP Welding requirements while the apprentice is going through the on-the-job apprentice program.
  • Able to increase new programs by adding new certified aerospace welders and/or welding operators to your company team.
  • After the completed Apprentice Program, you will have a certified aerospace welder and/or welding operators ready to join your team with the experience needed to work on your aerospace products, with the freshness to be molded into your company’s operating philosophy.

If you feel that you are ready to take on the challenges of aerospace welding, or if you’d like your employees to undergo additional training, please contact Rick Montoya.

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Francis M. Unson

Spacetron Metal Bellows

July 1, 2010

You may have noticed that for three weeks in June, I did not write a new blog entry.  I spent those three weeks designing a new website for Spacetron Metal Bellows from the ground up.  The previous web “design”, ill-conceived and put together on-the-fly, no longer served the needs of the company.  The new web design has fewer HTML pages but displays more pictures, information, and even a new social media interface with Flower Blossoms.

Rick Montoya: co-founder of Flower Blossoms, President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Spacetron Metal Bellows

Rick Montoya, President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Spacetron Metal Bellows

Even though I updated Spacetron Metal Bellows’ website to conform with current web design principles and practices, the purpose of Spacetron Metal Bellows has remained the same since the company’s founding in 1982.  Rick Montoya, President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Spacetron Metal Bellows (as well as co-founder of Flower Blossoms), founded the Santa Clarita company

“[T]o serve the aerospace industry in the process of gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), specializing in titanium assemblies, bellow assemblies, and vacuum chambers.”

The company’s work, during the first ten years of business, focused on hardware for the B-1 Bomber and NASA’s Space Shuttle programs.  Subsequently, Rockwell International awarded the company with two contracts:

Spacetron Metal Bellows has served a long list of aerospace clients, designing and building Spacetron Vacuum Chambers to the client’s specifications, fabricating and welding titanium structures, and providing many complex assemblies.

The company’s website provides an abridged list of projects involving Rick Montoya and Spacetron Metal Bellows.  Trust me; compiling an unabridged list is itself a project .  Nonetheless, very small snippet of projects that Rick has worked on includes NASA’s Hyper-X, the B-1 Bomber, MX missile, Space Shuttle, Airborne Laser (ABL), F-35, and NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program with Rocketplane Kistler (RPK).  Even though he specialized in welding nuclear piping assemblies, he has expanded his capabilities in welding materials such as titanium, Inconel, stainless steel, aluminum, and bellows assemblies.  28 years in business has allowed him to build an extensive supplier network and take on challenging projects with confidence.  If your company has a welding project that requires additional consulting, contact Rick Montoya.  The added value he provides may save your company hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars.

Spacetron Metal Bellows was founded in 1982 to serve the aerospace industry in the process of gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), specializing in titanium assemblies, bellow assemblies, and vacuum chambers. Rick Montoya serves as President and Chief Operating Officer (COO).

Rick Montoya, President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Spacetron Metal Bellows
Corporate Office
25136 Anza Dr.
Valencia, CA 91355

Ph (Direct): 661.312.2193
Ph (Office): 661.294.9018
rick [AT] spacetronmetalbellows [DOT] com

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Francis M. Unson