Over the past few years, I’ve been keeping track of Russia’s annual launch failures. For reasons I can’t quite recall, the table I’ve used only went back to 2009.
Recently, I saw a graphic on a Russian website about launch failures, and I realized I hadn’t gone back far enough. So, I dug into the records of the last 30 years from 1988 through 2017, which covers Russia and the last four years of the Soviet Union.
And holy crap! There were a helluva lot of them. Launch failures are not a bug in the system, they’re a feature.
UPDATE: SpaceX has scrubbed for the day due to the need to replace a sensor on the second stage. The next launch window is Wednesday, Jan. 31. __________
A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch scheduled for late this afternoon will kick off a busy period of international launches that will see the inaugural launch of the Falcon Heavy and China’s sixth orbital mission of 2018. SpaceX has four flights scheduled by the middle of February. (Thanks to Spaceflight Now for the schedule.)
Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9 Payload: GovSat 1 Launch Window: 4:25-6:46 p.m. EST (2125-2346 GMT) Launch Site: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
The Orbital ATK-built satellite will provide secure communications as part of the nation’s contribution to NATO. There will be no attempt to recover the Falcon 9’s first stage.
Jan. 31/Feb. 1
Launch Vehicle: Soyuz 2-1a with Fregat upper stage Payload: Kanopus-V 3 & V4 Launch Time: 9:07:18 p.m. EST Jan. 31 (0207:18 GMT on Feb. 1) Launch Site: Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia
The twin satellites will assist Russia in mapping, forest fire detection and disaster response.
Launch Vehicle: Long March 2D Payload: CSES Launch Time: TBD Launch Site: Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China
The China Seismo-Electromagnetic Satellite will study how electromagnetic signals in Earth’s atmosphere and ionosphere to determine if they can help predict earthquakes. This joint mission with Italy will be China’s sixth launch of 2018.
Launch Vehicle: SS-520-5 Payload: TRICOM 1R CubeSat Launch Window: 12:00-12:20 a.m. EST (0500-0520 GMT) Launch Site: Uchinoura Space Center, Japan
The second launch of Japan’s upgraded sounding rocket will carry the 3U TRICOM 1R CubeSat, which has an imaging camera and store and forward communications system.
Launch Vehicle: Falcon Heavy Payload: Tesla Roadster Launch Window: 1:30-4:30 p.m. EST (1830-2130 GMT) Launch Site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
The inaugural flight of the Falcon Heavy will send a red Tesla Roadster into deep space.
Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9 Payload: Paz Launch Time: 9:22 a.m. EST; 6:22 a.m. PST (1422 GMT) Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
Built by Airbus Defense and Space, Hisdesat’s Paz satellite will provide radar imaging as well ship tracking and weather data. The flight will use a previously-flown first stage.
Russia successfully launched a Lotos electronic intelligence spy satellite aboard a Soyuz-2.1b booster on Saturday from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.
The flight came four days after the failure of a similar Soyuz-2.1b launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome. The launch from Plesetsk did not use the Fregat upper stage blamed for the failure on Tuesday.
Officials believe the Fregat upper stage was not properly programmed for a launch from Vostochny. The programming error caused the Fregat to send a Russian weather satellite and 18 secondary payloads into the Atlantic Ocean.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has bluntly declared that the Russian space industry is uncompetitive with its American counterparts except in the crucial area of rocket engine development.
The harsh comments by Rogozin, who oversees the space and defense sectors, come amid continued quality control problems that affected two recent launches and a review of Roscosmos ordered by President Vladimir Putin.
“Our space industry has fallen behind the Americans ninefold. All of our ambitious projects require us to up productivity 150 percent – and even if we manage that, we will still never catch up with them,” Rogozin originally said to Interfax Friday. (more…)
UPDATE: TASS is reporting the primary payload, Kanopus ST, failed to separate from the upper stage. Efforts to correct the problem have reportedly failed.
Russian media are reporting that one of two military satellites placed into orbit by a Soyuz 2-1v rocket has failed to separate from its Volga upper stage after launch on Saturday from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.
The Kanopus ST satellite includes sensors designed to track submarines, and the KYuA 1 secondary payload is a passive spacecraft that would be used to calibrate ground-based military radars. It’s unclear which spacecraft might still be attached to the upper stage.
This was the second launch for the Soyuz 2-1v, which successfully flew its maiden flight in December 2013. The rocket is a slimmed down version of the Soyuz 2 launcher, with the four booster rockets removed from the first stage and he NK-33 engine replacing the RD-117 motor. The launcher is capable of playing up to 2,850 kg into low Earth orbit.
TsSKB Progress, which manufactures the Soyuz 2-1v, began developing the Volga stage in 2008 as a cheaper alternative to the Fregat upper stage. The Volga is based upon a propulsion module that has been used on previous spacecraft. It successfully flew on Soyuz 2-1v first flight in 2013.
Arianespace and ESA have issued an update on the launch anomaly that stranded two Galileo navigation satellites in the wrong orbits. The statement confirms that investigators are focused on an apparent problem with the Fregat upper stage of the Russian Soyuz ST launch vehicle.
The update provides no information about the fate of the satellites other than to say they are healthy and communicating with the ground. The European Commission has not issued an update since Friday, when it celebrated what it thought was a fully successful launch.
The spectacular crash of Russia’s Proton rocket on Tuesday — with the loss of three navigation satellites — was simply the latest in a series of launch failures that have bedeviled the Russian and Ukrainian space industries over the last 30 months.
The table below shows a tale of woe that began in December 2010 and has resulted in the loss of 15 spacecraft and cost the heads of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and launch vehicle builder Khrunichev their jobs.
RUSSIAN & UKRAINIAN LAUNCH FAILURES SINCE DECEMBER 2010
Dec. 5, 2010
3 GLONASS satellites
Crashed in Pacific Ocean
Block-DM overfilled with fuel making it too heavy to send satellites into orbit
Feb. 1, 2011
Stranded in useless orbit
Failed restart of Breeze-KM
Aug. 18, 2011
Stranded in useless orbit
Breeze-M under performance
Aug. 24, 2011
Block-I (3rd stage)
Progress M-12M freighter
Burned up over Siberia
Blocked fuel line in third stage
Sept. 27, 2011
ICBM (Possibly Avangard)
Missile failed during initial test, crashed 5 miles from launch site
Failure of first stage
Nov. 9, 2011
Stranded in Earth orbit, re-entered atmosphere
Fregat upper stage failure
Dec. 23, 2011
Re-entered over Siberia
Failure of Block-1 third stage engine
Aug. 23, 2012
Telkom 3 (Indonesia), Express MD2
Satellites stranded in useless orbits; Breeze-M later exploded, creating large debris field
Dec. 8, 2012
Placed satellite in wrong orbit; satellite reached planned orbit using on-board propellant
Early shutdown of Breeze-M
Jan. 15, 2013
3 Strela 3M Rodnik satellites
One satellite reportedly lost, two others placed in orbit; controllers unable to maneuver upper stage to lower orbit for rapid re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere