Almost exactly a month ago, I wrote about the faulty NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD) on the International Space Station (ISS–don’t forget to read the update–there’s some more accurate information there). It essentially launched very small satellites when it shouldn’t have and didn’t launch when it was expected to. According to this SpaceNews.com article posted last week, NanoRacks has figured out what the problem is: screws.
Mind you, it’s not that screws are loose on the NRCSD. It’s more like they’re too tight on the deployer’s dispenser system. NanoRacks will fix the problem by delivering a new batch of dispensers to the ISS. They’ve received the approvals required to do so. While it might be tempting for the astronauts to just throw the glitchy dispensers away, they will actually ship them back down from the ISS for NanoRacks for examination.
NanoRacks has said that they will absolutely ensure that the screws will be screwed in to a calibrated requirement. They are also calling upon the US government’s Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) mission assurance go-to, Aerospace Corp., to oversee NanoRacks’ review of the incident. Whether this action was strongly suggested by the US government wasn’t clear in the post.
NanoRacks is also investigating different options that allow for more control of the NRCSD, such as adding latches to the dispenser’s covers to keep satellites from being accidentally launched. The upshot of all of this is that NanoRacks seems to be sparing no expense to ensure their deployer will be more reliable than it currently seems to be.