Years of Failures Haunt Russian Space Program

Holy shi'ski! The go KABOOMSKI! (Credit: Tsenki TV)
Proton rocket falls to Earth at Baikonur in July 2013. (Credit: Tsenki TV)

Sixteen botched launches in six years.

That’s the Russian space program’s sad record since May 2009. The failure of a Proton rocket earlier today with the loss of a Mexican communications satellite was yet another sign of the prolonged crisis affecting Russia’s once powerful space program.

The crash came less than three weeks after a botched launch left a Progress supply freighter spinning end over end like an extra point before it burned up in Earth atmosphere. There was also news today that another Progress cargo ship attached to the International Space Station failed to fire its engine as planned to boost the station’s orbit.

The list of Russian launch accidents over the last six years includes:

  • 13 complete failures resulting in the loss of all payloads;
  • 3 partial failures that left spacecraft in the wrong orbits;
  • complete loss of 20 spacecraft;
  • 6 Russian GLONASS navigation satellites destroyed; and,
  • an ambitious Mars mission left stranded in Earth orbit.

The table below shows the full extent of the damage.


Spacetainment: Stephen Colbert and Tracy Jordan Soar into Orbit

There has been funny material on television during the last week concerning space.

On Monday, Stephen Colbert ratcheted up the pressure on NASA to follow the will of the people who voted to name the space station’s Node 3 after the late-night comedian. Colbert doesn’t quite know what a node is, but he definitely wants his name on it. Watch the excerpt from the March 30th episode here.

Meanwhile, over on 30 Rock, the always spaced out Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) makes a public appeal to anyone with a space vehicle who would be willing to fly someone with an irregular heartbeat and $40 million dollars into orbit. Network suit Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), in a panic over his impending 50th birthday, has other ideas. As usual, Liz Lemon (Tiny Fey) is left to save the day. The episode, titled Apollo Apollo, is quite clever in how it ties both plots together as part of a common theme. Watch it here.