Roscosmos officials made announcements this week that they would be suspending a joint program with Ukraine to launch Dnepr rockets and were no longer interested in buying Ukrainian Zenit boosters, deepening problems for that embattled nation’s space program and its struggling Yuzhmash factory.
Dneprs are converted SS-18 ballistic missiles that are converted into satellite launchers by Ukraine’s Yuzhmash launch vehicle manufacturer. The boosters are launched by the Moscow-based Moscow-based Kosmotras International Space Company, which is Russian-Ukrainian joint venture.
Russian media report three Dnepr launches scheduled this year will be carried out. However, The Moscow Timesreports the future of the venture remains cloudy. It is possible the program will end, or Russia will convert the missiles to satellite launchers without Ukrainian participation.
Interfax-Ukraine reports that workers at the A.M. Makarov Southern Machine-Building Plant (PA Yuzhmash) in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine held a rally to protest the lack of pay and work.
The workers build Zenit and Cyclone-4 boosters as well as the first stage of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares launch vehicle and the fourth stage for Europe’s Vega rocket. They are also involved in Dnepr, a decommissioned ballistic missile that has been converted into a satellite launcher.
The report indicates that since last July, employees have been working only three days per week and are pay $200 to $300 only once or twice per month. There’s also been a lack of new orders for their products.
The company owes about $150 million in back salaries and other payments, according to the story.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, whose country is responsible for much of Ukraine’s misery, Tweeted the following:
SpaceX Founder Elon Musk has long talked about disrupting the launch industry with low prices and technological innovations. In 2014, the impacts of those efforts were felt far and wide as competitors responded to the threat the California company posed to their livelihoods.
ULA Pivots. With SpaceX reeling off one successful launch after another, ULA pivoted on several fronts. One was to announce efforts to significantly reduce costs on its highly reliable but pricey Atlas V and Delta IV boosters. But, even that proved to be insufficient as SpaceX threatened ULA on several fronts.
It was a banner year for launches worldwide in 2014, with the total reaching a 20-year high as Russia and India debuted new launch vehicles, NASA tested its Orion crew spacecraft, China sent a capsule around the moon, and Japan launched a spacecraft to land on an asteroid.
There were a total of 92 orbital launches, the highest number since the 93 launches conducted in 1994. In addition, Russia and India conducted successful suborbital tests of new boosters.
SEATTLE (Spaceflight Inc. PR) -– Spaceflight Inc., the company reinventing the model for launching small satellites into space, announces that it has successfully deployed 11 Planet Labs Dove earth-imaging spacecraft from an International Space Company (ISC) Kosmotras-operated Dnepr launch vehicle.
“SmallSat constellations are a critical, growing piece of the space economy,” said Curt Blake, president of Spaceflight. “We are thrilled to expand our launch heritage with Planet Labs and ISC Kosmotras to enable the cost-effective and timely launch of small satellites.”
A Dnepr rocket launched a record 37 satellites into space today from the Yasny Launch Base in Russia, including 11 Dove 1c remote sensing spacecraft for the American start up company Planet Labs.
Company officials reported via Twitter that they had established contact with all 11 spacecraft on the first pass over the control center. ISC Kosmotras, the company that launches Denprs, said in a press release that all satellites were deployed into their intended orbits.
The rocket is a SS-18 ballistic missile converted into a satellite launcher with the support of Russian, Ukrainian and Kazakh companies, which are part of the ISC Kosmotras industrial team.
Ukrainian rocket maker Yuzhmash has signed an agreement under which the Dnepropetrovsk Regional State will provide financial and organizational support to the company and protect against being taken over by Russian separatists.
The announcement came in a May 8 press release. Yuzhmash produces the following launch vehicles and stages:
Zenit — used by Sea Launch and Land Launch for communications satellites
Dnepr — Joint Ukrainian-Russian program that uses converted Soviet-era ballistic missile to launch satellites
Antares — first stage structure and tanks for Orbital Sciences’s launch vehicle
Vega — fourth stage for Europe’s small satellite launch vehicle
Cyclone-4 — Joint Ukrainian-Brazilian commercial satellite launcher with inaugural flight planned from Brazil in 2015.
The full press release is reproduced after the break.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Russian Federation was left with some key installations and capabilities in newly-independent nations. Kazakhstan had authority over the main launch facility at Baikonur, while Ukraine found itself in control of ballistic missile producer Yuzhmash, the Yuzhnoye bureau that designs Yuzhmash’s rockets, and a host of other defense companies.
Today, more than 50 Ukrainian arms factories turn out technologies that are vital for the nation’s tottering economy and the Russian military that now threatens to invade it. The factories are located in the southern and eastern portions of Ukraine, where Moscow-based separatists have wrestled control away from local authorities.
With the fate of these regions and companies still very much up for grabs, the outcome is of concern far beyond eastern Ukraine. Launch providers in the United States, Europe and Brazil are looking on with great concern and trepidation.
Vostochny Construction Accelerated: Work on Russia’s new Vostochny spaceport will now be done on a 24-hour basis with the addition of more workers. “The number of workers will be increased manifold at the spaceport regardless natural and weather conditions,” Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. The goal is to conduct the first rocket launch from Vostochny in 2015 and the first human mission in 2018. (ITAR-TASS: http://en.itar-tass.com/russia/728230)
Angara Launch Scheduled: After 19 years in development, the first launch of Russia’s new Angara 1.2 rocket will take place between June 25 and 30 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. Angara is a family of modular launch vehicles designed to lift light to heavy payloads and to replace the Proton, Zenit, Rockot and Dnepr boosters. (ITAR-TASS: http://en.itar-tass.com/non-political/728637)
Russia Nears Decision on Super-Heavy Booster. Roscosmos chief Oleg Ostapenko says the agency is nearing a decision on a design for a new super-heavy launch vehicle. The initial version of the launch vehicle would launch 80 metric tons to low-Earth orbit (LEO) with future variants lofting 160 tons or more to LEO. (ITAR-TASS: http://en.itar-tass.com/russia/717993)
Rogozin Wants Asteroid Defense. During a visit to Chelyabinsk, Deputy Prime Minster Dmitry Rogozin called for Russia’s best minds to develop anti-asteroid technologies to protect Earth. “This is a dangerous phenomenon. Those who think that we know everything about the far reaches of deep space and that no catastrophe will happen are seriously wrong,” Rogozin said. In February 2013, a meteorite exploded over Chelyabinsk, causing extensive damage and injuries. (ITAR-TASS: http://en.itar-tass.com/russia/727565)
Russia once again led the world in orbital launches in 2013, keeping the International Space Station supplied with a study stream of crew members and cargo while earning hard currency with commercial satellite launches.
Although the vast majority of Russia’s launches were successful, the spectacular failure in July of a Proton rocket — which nosedived into the ground shortly after liftoff — accelerated efforts to reform the nation’s failure-prone space program. By the end of the year, the Russian space agency Roscosmos had a new leader and a major effort was underway to consolidate a large part of the bloated and inefficient space sector under a single government-owned company.
During 2013, Russia introduced a new variant of its venerable Soyuz rocket while also making progress on constructing a new spaceport in the Far East and developing a larger human spacecraft to replace the Soyuz transport and a heavy-lift booster to facilitate deep space exploration.
Ukraine had a mixed record in space in 2013. While the Dnepr rocket returned to service with a pair of successful launches after a two-year gap, one of two Zenit boosters ended up in a watery grave after it failed shortly after launch.
Ukrainian companies had better luck as a components supplier. Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares — which boasts a Ukrainian-supplied first stage — racked up two flawless flights. Meanwhile, the European Vega booster made a second successful flight with a Ukrainian fourth stage on board.
Meanwhile, a joint partnership with Brazil to launch the Cylcone-4 rocket from South America made progress even as it suffered additional schedule delays that have pushed back the maiden flight into 2015.
Space News has an extensive Q&A with Yuriy Boyko, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister for Ecology, Natural Resources, Energy and Space. The interview primarily focuses on the nation’s space program, its joint Cyclone 4 launch vehicle program with Brazil, and its efforts to increase cooperation with the United States and China.
Some of the highlights:
Ukraine’s main launch vehicles include Zenit (Sea Launch, Land Launch), Dnepr (joint program with Russia), Cyclone 4 (joint program with Brazil), and the first stage structure for Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares.
Ukraine spends between $400 million and $500 million on its space program mostly for science work, but receives about $600 million annually in revenues from commercial work;
Brazil and Ukraine have committed $1.5 million (split equally) over a three-year period to Cyclone 4, which should have its first test flight from the Alcantara Launch Center by early 2015;
The partners hope that South American countries with satellite programs will flock to the Alcantara facility on Brazil’s Atlantic coast;
The upper stage developed for the Cyclone 4 could be a good fit for the Antares rocket;
Boyko recently completed consultations with NASA and U.S. commercial space companies concerning cooperative programs, with the two governments establishing a framework for further cooperation;
There are no specific cooperative programs to announce yet between Ukraine and American government and private entities;
Ukraine would like to become involved in the International Space Station program;
Boyko says that Ukrainian specialists have extensive experience with radiation shielding technology, which could help the United States with human Mars and deep space missions;
Ukraine is consulting with China, which is very interested in developing large propulsion systems.
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Seattle, WA (Spaceflight, Inc. PR) — Spaceflight, Inc. – The Space Logistics Company – announced today that it successfully deployed the Dove 3 earth imaging spacecraft from an International Space Company (ISC) Kosmotras operated Dnepr launch vehicle for commercial customer Planet Labs, Inc..
After launching Dove 1 and 2 in April 2013, Spaceflight arranged for the launch of Dove 3 as a secondary payload through Spaceflight’s launch and integration partner Innovative Space Logistics (ISL), an Innovative Solutions in Space (ISIS) subsidiary. Using its expertise in navigating ITAR and export law, Spaceflight arranged for the United States payload to be exported to Russia for launch integration.
Two Planet Labs satellites — Dove 3 and Dove 4 — were sent aboard a Ukrainian-Russian Dnepr in the second record-breaking launch of the week.
The American start-up company’s two Earth imaging satellites were among 32 spacecraft successfully deployed into orbit. This breaks the record of 29 satellites launched by a U.S. Air Force Minotaur I rocket on Tuesday evening.
That is the week in rocketry that will begin on Monday. The highlights include:
NASA’s MAVEN orbiter will study Mars’ atmosphere and climate (Monday, Nov. 18 at 1:28 p.m. EST — Cape Canaveral, Florida );
Minotaur I will set a new record for the number of satellites launched into space with by sending the military’s STPSat 3 and 29 CubeSats into orbit (Tuesday, Nov. 19 from 7:30 to 9:15 pm EST — Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, Virginia);
SpaceX will attempt to put its first communications satellite into geosynchronous orbit using its upgraded Falcon 9 rocket (Monday, Nov. 25 at 5:37 pm EST — Cape Canaveral, Florida).
Three additional launches will take place from Russia and Kazakhstan over that 7-day period. A table with all scheduled launches is below along with a map showing East Coast residents how they can view Minotaur I’s night launch on Tuesday.