Tag: Galileo

Years of Failures Haunt Russian Space Program

Holy shi'ski! The rocket...it 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.

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Investigation Begins into Launch Anomaly; Prognosis for Galileo Satellites Grim

Europe's Galileo constellation. Credits: ESA-J. Huart

Europe’s Galileo constellation. Credits: ESA-J. Huart

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.

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Oops! Soyuz Places 2 Galileo Satellites in Wrong Orbits

Soyuz launches two Galileo satellites (Credit: ESA)

Soyuz launches two Galileo satellites (Credit: ESA)

After much celebratory rhetoric on Friday over the launch of two Galileo navigation satellites from Kourou, European officials realized the spacecraft were placed in the wrong orbits.

Arianespace, which managed the launch of the Russian Soyuz booster, made a terse announcement:

Complementary observations gathered after separation of the Galileo FOC M1 satellites on Soyuz Flight VS09 have highlighted a discrepancy between targeted and reached orbit.

Investigations are underway. More information will be provided after a first flight data analysis to be completed on August 23, 2014.

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Awesome Find: Data Point to Great Lake on Europa


Europa's "Great Lake." Researchers predict many more such lakes are scattered throughout the moon's icy shell. Credit: Britney Schmidt/Dead Pixel VFX/Univ. of Texas at Austin.

NASA PR — Data from a NASA planetary mission have provided scientists evidence of what appears to be a body of liquid water, equal in volume to the North American Great Lakes, beneath the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

The data suggest there is significant exchange between Europa’s icy shell and the ocean beneath. This information could bolster arguments that Europa’s global subsurface ocean represents a potential habitat for life elsewhere in our solar system. The findings are published in the scientific journal Nature.

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ESA Signs First Three Galileo Contracts



January 27, 2010

Yesterday, Mr René Oosterlinck, ESA’s Director of the Galileo Programme and Navigation-related Activities, signed the first three contracts for the Galileo full operational capability phase. This event marks the start of building the Galileo operational infrastructure.

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EC Awards Contracts for Galileo Navigation System



The European Commission announced today the award of three of the six contracts for the procurement of Galileo’s initial operational capability. The contract for the system support services is awarded to ThalesAleniaSpace of Italy , that for a first order of 14 satellites to OHB System AG of Germany and that for the launch services to Arianespace of France. This will allow the initial deployment and service provision of Europe’s satellite navigation system as of early 2014.

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Waking the Dead — and for What?


Well, I was having a great birthday today. But, I just made the mistake of looking at the news which, aside from Obama’s inauguration, I had been avoiding due to its deeply depressing content. And man, did this news item bring me down.

It seems that some eggheads have decided to dig up the body of Galileo. Why would they do that, you ask? Great question. I wish there was a good answer.

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A Busy Week for Launches in India, Russia and China


An Indian PSLV rocket launched 10 – count ‘em 10 – satellites into orbit on Monday. The cargo included the Cartosat-2A remote sensing satellite, an Indian mini-sat, and eight foreign nano-sats. The Times of India has details.

Meanwhile, the folks at Sea Launch are celebrating their first successful takeoff from terra firma. A Land Launch Zenit-3SLB blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday carrying an Israeli communications satellite. The company is a joint venture between Sea Launch and Russia’s Space International Services. More details here.

In other news, the ever reliable Soyuz rocket orbited the second demonstration satellite for Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system on Sunday. And a Chinese Long March rocket launched a data relay satellite on Friday that will support China’s human spaceflight program.