Russians Go 12 Months Without Launch Failure

A Proton takes a nose dive at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. (Credit: Tsenki TV)

It’s been a long road, getting from there to here….

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Russian space program reached a milestone last week: for the first time in nearly a decade, it went a full 12 months — 365 days — without a single partial or complete launch failure.

On Oct. 11 the program passed the one-year anniversary of the Soyuz MS-10 in-flight abort that sent NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin on a wild ballistic ride. Neither one was injured; both later flew to the International Space Station.

The last time Russia went more than one year between launch failures was a 14-month stretch between March 14, 2008 and May 21, 2009.

The last calendar year in which the Russian space program had a clean sheet was in 2003. They have 76 days left in 2019 to equal that feat.

The table below shows the program’s 22 failures and six partial failure over the past 15 years.

RUSSIAN LAUNCH FAILURES, 2004 – 2019
NO.DATE LAUNCH VEHICLE
PAYLOAD(S)
RESULTCAUSE
1Dec. 24, 2004Tsiklon-3Sich 1M, Micron 1Partial FailureBooster failed to circularize orbit
2June 21, 2005Molniya-M Blok-MLMolniya-3KFailureThird stage failure
3June 21, 2005Volna-OCosmos 1FailureCosmos Studios/The Planetary Society solar sail satellite failed to separate from booster third stage
4August 10, 2005Rokot Briz-KMCryosatFailureSecond stage failure; crashed in Arctic Ocean north of Greenland
5February 28, 2006Proton-M Briz-MArabsat 4A (Badr 1)FailureFailed to reach usable orbit; de-orbited 24 days after launch
6July 26, 2006DneprBelKa 1, Baumanets 1, Unisat 4, PicPot, CP 1, CP 2, HAUSAT 1, ICECube 1, ICECube 2, ION, KUTESat-Pathfinder, Mea Huaka’i, MEROPE, Ncube 1, Rincon 1, SACRED SEEDS, AeroCube 1FailureEngine failure
7Sept. 5, 2007Proton-M/Briz-MJCSat 11FailureSecond stage failure; booster and payload crashed in Kazakhstan
8March 14, 2008Proton-M/Briz-MAMC 14Partial FailureBriz-M upper stage shut down 2 minutes early. Owner SES Americom declared satellite a complete loss. AMC 14 sold to US Department of Defense which manuevered into geosynchronous orbit using on-board thrusters.
9May 21, 2009Soyuz-2.1a/ FregatMeridian 2FailureSecond stage shut down early, Fregat upper stage ran out of fuel trying to compensate. Satellite left in useless orbit, declared a loss by Russian military.
10Dec. 5, 2010Proton-M/ Blok-DM-3Uragan-M #739, Uragan-M #740, Uragan-M #741FailureRocket failed to reach orbital velocity after upper stage overfilled with propellant.
11Feb. 1, 2011Rokot/Briz-KMGeo-IK-2 No. 11FailureUpper stage malfunction.
12Aug. 17, 2011Proton-M/ Briz-MEkspress AM4
FailureBriz-M upper stage suffered failure of attitude control.
13Aug. 24, 2011Soyuz-UProgress M-12FailureThird stage failure due to turbo-pump duct blockage.
14Nov. 8, 2011Zenit-2SB/ FregatPhobos-Grunt
Yinghuo-1
FailureZenit placed Phobos-Grunt in proper orbit. Spacecraft stranded in Earth orbit after Fregat failed to fire.
15Dec. 23, 2011Soyuz-2.1b/ FregatMeridian 5FailureThird stage failure.
16Aug. 6, 2012Proton-M/ Briz-MTelkom-3, Ekspress MD2FailureBriz-M upper stage failed 7 seconds into its third burn.
17Dec. 8, 2012Proton-M/ Briz-MYamal-402Partial FailureBriz-M upper stage shut down 4 minutes earlier than planned on fourth burn. Spacecraft reached intended orbit under own power.
18Jan. 15, 2013Rokot/Briz-KMKosmos 2482, Kosmos 2483, Kosmos 2484Partial FailureUpper stage failed near time of spacecraft separation; one satellite destroyed.
19Feb. 1, 2013Zenit-3SL (Sea Launch)
Intelsat 27FailureFirst stage failure.
20July 2, 2013Proton-M/DM-03Uragan-M #748, Uragan-M #749,
Uragan-M #750
FailureFirst stage failure.
21May 15, 2014Proton-M/Briz-MEkspress AM4RFailureProton third stage vernier engine failure due to turbo-pump leak.
22Aug. 14, 2014Soyuz-STB/ FregatGalileo FOC-1, Galileo FOC-2Partial FailureSatellites placed in wrong orbits due to freezing of hydrazine in Fregat upper stage. Satellites made operational as part of Europe’s Galileo navigation constellation.
23April 28, 2015Soyuz-2.1aProgress 59PFailureThird stage failure left Progress in uncontrollable tumble.
24May 16, 2015Proton/Briz-MMexSat-1FailureThird stage failure anomaly.
25December 5, 2015Soyuz-2.1v/ VolgaKanopus ST
KYuA 1
Partial FailurePrimary payload Kanopus ST remained attached to upper stage, later burned up in atmosphere. Secondary payload KYuA 1 deployed successfully.
26December 1, 2016Soyuz UProgress MS-04FailureThird stage failure. Progress supply ship burned up in atmosphere.
27November 28, 2017Soyuz 2-1bMeteor-M 2-1, 18 CubeSatsFailureFregat upper stage failure.
28October 11,  2018Soyuz FGSoyuz MS-10FailureLaunch anomaly resulted in emergency landing for two-member crew