As upstart SpaceX was feted this week for the successful flight and recovery of its first Dragon spacecraft, engineers on three continents were puzzling out the reasons behind three high-profile failures in space, demonstrating anew the challenges associated with the difficult field.
In Russia, officials watched as a Proton rocket sent three navigational satellites to the bottom of the Pacific off Hawaii, delaying the nation’s efforts to provide full global coverage for its GLONASS program. Japanese engineers scratched their heads over why their Akatsuki probe ended up in orbit around the sun instead of Venus. And NASA is not quite sure what happened to an experimental solar sail satellite that blasted off into space from Alaska.
Aviation Week was able to talk to press-shy NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who says that NASA is taking a slow approach to cooperation with China and a list of proposed joint projects with the Russians:
Bolden suggested space cooperation has been subsumed in larger financial issues that will be addressed when Chinese President Hu Jintao visits the U.S. in January, with the Executive Office of the President, the White House science office and the National Security Council working to coordinate a bilateral space meeting through the State Department.
Similarly, [Roscosmos Head Anatoly] Permanovâ€™s [sic] list of possible new space ventures with NASA, including development of a nuclear propulsion system, joint missions to low lunar orbit and asteroids, and a robotic landing on Mercury, is going nowhere fast. The Russian space leader presented the list at a Nov. 18 meeting of the bilateral Space Cooperation Working Group, but Bolden says the most substantive work involved protocols for future meetings. The U.S. hopes to use the list of possible bilateral projects as a way to encourage Russia to take a more active role in the multilateral working group coordinating long-term space exploration plans.
â€œIf the international partners think itâ€™s worthwhile, we the United States would be more than happy to do a bilateral effort with the Russians, but we wanted that to be international instead of just the United States and Russia deciding something off on the side.â€
The Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft will bring New Year presents to the International Space Station (ISS), commander Dmitry Kondratyev said, quoted by news media.
The Soyuz TMA-20, carrying cosmonaut Kondratyev, the U.S. and Italian flight engineers, Catherine Coleman and Paolo Nespoli, is scheduled to blast off from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan on December 15. The three astronauts will be on board the ISS for 152 days.
Roscosmos and NASA Negotiate Missions to Distant Space Roscosmos PAO
Space agencies of Russia and US, Roscosmos and NASA, discuss space missions to distant space, Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov stated at the summit of the space agency heads held under the aegis of International Academy of Astronautics in Washington.
Perminov and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who both lead Space Cooperation Working Group in the framework of the Russian-US President Commission, met in Washington to hold the third meeting of the Working Group.
According to Roscosmos Head, Russian proposals concerning future cooperation â€œhad been submitted to NASAâ€. The list includes different options, including missions to LLO and asteroids. The agenda also covered future cooperation in the Russia-initiated Mercury landing program and development of a nuclear propulsion system.
Nuclear propulsion systems are considered for large-scale human missions, not for small spacecraft which could use other type of propulsion â€“ ionic engines or solar wind energy. The system is unique, as no other propulsion in the world is made on the basis of similar principles.
Construction of new Russian space port Vostochny wonâ€™t impact Baikonurâ€™s operations, Head of Russian Federal Space Agency Anatoly Perminov said during the press conferenceÂ after the 13th meeting of the Baikonur Subcommittee of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan Intergovernmental Cooperative Board hosted by Astana on Nov. 9-10.
“Design and research efforts are ongoing currently at Vostochny. In other words, we are preparing the territory for further construction. It will continue at least for the first half of 2011,” Roscosmos Head stated.
The 11th meeting of the Russianâ€“Chinese Space Cooperation Subcommittee finalized in Beijing today, on Nov. 2.
The meeting is attended by the delegation of Federal Space Agency led by Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov. TheÂ Subcommittee deals with preparation of the Heads of the Governments.
Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov, who chairs the Subcommittee on the Russian side, appreciated Administrator of Chinese Space Administration Chen Qiufa and Chinese colleagues on organization of the Meeting on behalf of the Federal Space Agency.
International Space Station will celebrate one more record in its orbital life on November 2, 2010 â€“ 10 years of human space mission. Soyuz TM-31 docked to the stationâ€™s Zvezda module on Nov. 2, 2000. Since then, the crews have been constantly working in the orbital outpost.
ISS-1, with station commander William Shepherd, Soyuz commander Yury Gidzenko and flight engineer Sergey Krikalev flew from Baikonur on Oct. 31, and arrived at the station two days later. Their main task was to prepare the ISS for future crew operations.
There was no official proposal from the Chinese party on their partnership in the International Space Station program, Head of Roscosmos Human Spaceflight Directorate, ISS Program Manager Alexey Krasnov stated during the press conference devoted to the 10th anniversary of the International Space Stationâ€™s human space mission today, on Nov. 1.
The conference hosted by Bauman Moscow State Technical University was also attended by Roscosmos Press Secretary Alexander Vorobiev, ISS-1 crew member, GCTC Chief Sergey Krikalev, ISS RS Flight Director Vladimir Soloviev, cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, NASA Representative in Russia Patric Buzzard, NASA Human Spaceflight Program Director in Russia Joel Montalbano Moscow office.
Roscosmos PAO reports that Ukraine could be the next country to visit the International Space Station:
Russia and Ukraine have agreed that they may send a Ukrainian cosmonaut on a Russian spaceship to participate in long-term operations on the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS), Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov told news media.
According to him, it was Ukrainian proposal which implies training of national cosmonauts in Roscosmosâ€™ Gagarin Training Center. However, the â€˜costlyâ€™ initiative still has to be discussed with the ISS international partners, Perminov stated.
The Ukrainian National Space Agency will also work through all the aspects of the project, which haven’t been specified at the current stage.
On Oct. 22, during the party devoted to the 50th anniversary of Mission Control Center, Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov answered several questions by news media.
About construction of the Vostochny space port:
By now, the Vostochny concept and program had been coordinated with all authorities, including the Ministry of Finance. The concept has been submitted to the Russian Government. In other words, on our level the concept is completed.
On Oct. 12, Interagency Board chaired by Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov qualified Oleg Artemiev as test cosmonaut of RSC-Energia.Â The Board also recommended to appoint Alexey Khomenchuk (GCTC), Denis Matveev (GCTC), Sergey Prokopiev (Aviation Corps) as cosmonaut candidates, and ordered GCTC to arrange their spaceflight training as test cosmonauts. RSC-Energiaâ€™s Sviatoslav Morozov and Ivan Vagner are also planned to go through the training as cosmonaut candidates.
The attempts to improve parameters of the existing rocket propulsion systems are unreasonable, Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov stated, questioned by news media during the International Astronautical Congress in Prague.
“No matter, how many experts in the world, and no matter how much they work, they would provide maximum improvement of any existing propulsion which is measured in a fraction of percent only. The most has been made of the available propulsions â€“ liquid or solid-propellant. Any attempt to improve the thrust or momentum is hopeless,” the Head of the Russian Federal Space Agency said.
On the other hand, he believes, nuclear propulsion is able to improve these parameters significantly:
China would not be in position to become one of the partners in the International Space Station program, Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov stated, questioned by news media during the International Astronautical Congress in Prague.
“Iâ€™m not against Chinaâ€™s involvement in the ISS program a partner,” Roscosmos Head stated. “However in the view of their economical evolution, and their ambitions in the human space exploration, I donâ€™t think that China would do it.”
Roscosmos initiates an international asteroid protection project, Head of the Russian Federal Space Agency told news media during International Astronautical Congress in Prague, right after the meeting of the International Public Committee on IGMAS project (international global natural and industrial emergency aerospace monitoring system).
“This project — development of anti-asteroid protection — is rather expensive. Asteroids threat to the mankind, so the project shall get international status,” Perminov said. “We have already negotiated it with ESA and European Union, however these were just talks.”