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Russians Close In on Cause of Soyuz Landing Anomaly

Clues could come from a space walk next week

3 min read

15 December 2008—Russian space engineers think they are closing in on the cause of two dangerous off-course Soyuz landings in the past year, but recent activities suggest there is still a dispute about the leading theory. Top space officials have asserted that the problem—the failure of one or more explosive bolts during reentry—is already solved. But in fact, in a space walk from the International Space Station (ISS), scheduled for 23 December, astronauts will install an instrument that is supposed to confirm that theory, for which there is as yet no physical evidence.

The instrument, a small Langmuir probe, measures the electric potential of plasma flowing across the space station’s outer surface near where the Soyuz spacecraft are docked. The voltage difference between that plasma and the station’s electrical systems was an early headache for engineers, requiring the addition of two ion jets that ground the station’s electrical system to the surrounding plasma.

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Top Tech 2023: A Special Report

These two dozen technical projects should make significant advances in the coming year

2 min read
Top Tech 2023: A Special Report
Edmon DeHaro

Each January, the editors of IEEE Spectrum offer up some predictions about technical developments we expect to be in the news over the coming year. You’ll find a couple dozen of those described in the following special report. Of course, the number of things we could have written about is far higher, so we had to be selective in picking which projects to feature. And we’re not ashamed to admit, gee-whiz appeal often shaped our choices.

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