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.


Falcon 9 Launches ORBCOMM Satellites

Falcon 9 second stage engine burn.
Falcon 9 second stage engine burn.

UPDATE 2: Elon Musk Tweeted: Rocket booster reentry, landing burn & leg deploy were good, but lost hull integrity right after splashdown (aka kaboom)

UPDATE: ORBCOMM has confirmed that all six satellites have been successfully deployed. The orbit was exactly what was planned.

SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket into orbit from Cape Canaveral this morning. The rocket carries six ORBCOMM communications satellites, which at the moment are still attached to the second stage. Deployment will follow.

Also awaiting word on the success of soft-landing the first stage on the ocean. Updates as we get them.

Shotwell: Next Falcon 9 Launch Likely in Mid-July

Gwynne Shotwell
Gwynne Shotwell

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell was on The John Batchelor Show last night to explain recent Falcon 9 launch delays and the unexpected decision not to webcast a launch attempt on Saturday, which upset some of its rabid fans.

Shotwell said that the most recent delay on Sunday was caused by a problem with the first stage thrust vector control actuator. Although they could have probably launched safely with the problem, the company wanted to be “super careful” and look at the second stage thrust vector control actuator as well, she added.

The Falcon 9 rocket is set to deliver six ORBCOMM communications satellites into orbit.

SpaceX has asked the U.S. Air Force Eastern Test Range to reserve July 14 and 15 for launch attempts, Shotwell said. The range is entering a two-week maintenance period, and SpaceX couldn’t guarantee it could fly in the next few days, she added.  Air Force officials have not confirmed those dates yet.

Shotwell said the decision not to webcast the Saturday launch attempt was part of an effort to move away from the webcast format to a more high tech feel. Because the weather was iffy on Saturday, they decided to transition on that day even though they had webcast the Friday launch attempt as the company does for all its launches.  Shotwell said SpaceX had planned to live stream the launch on Sunday before the flight was scrubbed.

Shotwell didn’t explain precisely what exactly the new format is, although it could involve a live stream without commentators sitting at a desk at SpaceX headquarters.  Nor did she provide any explanation as to why the company didn’t provide a clear answer on Saturday about the transition.

“We’ve actually been ready to move away from the webcasts for awhile,” SpaceX spokeswoman Emily Shanklin wrote in an email on Saturday to Spaceflight Now. ”It takes a lot of resources but the main reason is these launches are becoming more routine and the full webcast isn’t really appropriate anymore.”
The reference to SpaceX launches becoming more routine was roundly criticized online because this is only the third launch of the year for the company with six months already gone in 2014.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Delayed Until First Week in July

Falcon 9 lifts off with the Thaicom-6 satellite. (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon 9 lifts off with the Thaicom-6 satellite. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX Launch Update

SpaceX is taking a closer look at a potential issue identified while conducting pre-flight checkouts during yesterday’s countdown. SpaceX will stand down Tuesday while our engineering teams evaluate further, which will also allow the Range to move forward with previously scheduled maintenance. We are currently targeting the first week of July and will work with the Range to confirm the next available launch opportunities.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch Rescheduled for Sunday — With a Webcast!

A Falcon 9 carries a Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA TV)
A Falcon 9 carries a Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA TV)

SpaceX has rescheduled its Falcon 9 launch for Sunday at 5:30 p.m. EDT. Heeding the social medial outcry over SpaceX’s decision not to webcast Saturday’s launch attempt, the company has reversed it decision for today.

The reversal proved two things. First, there is clearly a demand for people to spend part of their weekend watching an expendable rocket launch a cluster of commsats. Who knew? Second,nobody’s quite buying SpaceX spokeswoman Emily Shanklin’s claim that SpaceX’s launches have become so routine that they’re not worth spending the money and staff resources to webcast. Seriously? This is your third launch in six months, and this is what you consider routine?

To watch the webcast, head on over to to watch all the action. But, be forewarned: the weather is looking bad again for today’s attempt.

SpaceX Scrubs Webcast Then Launch; Plebes Are Not Amused

Falcon 9 in flight with the SES-8 satellite. (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon 9 in flight with the SES-8 satellite. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX had to scrub its scheduled launch of six ORBCOMM satellites due to lightning on Saturday, but what seemed to really annoy its many fans was the company’s decision to not webcast the proceedings from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

After webcasting a launch attempt on Friday that was scrubbed due to pressure problems in the second stage, SpaceX made a surprise decision not to show Saturday’s launch effort.

“We’ve actually been ready to move away from the webcasts for awhile,” SpaceX spokeswoman Emily Shanklin wrote in an email to Spaceflight Now. “It takes a lot of resources but the main reason is these launches are becoming more routine and the full webcast isn’t really appropriate anymore.”

Although some of the Twitterati expressed anger over the decision, I actually see it as a step in the right direction. Perhaps if Elon Musk can give some of his employees a Saturday off, he will no longer schedule launches on national holidays like it did last Thanksgiving. There are a few days of the year that should be set aside for family and friends.

There has been no immediate word on when the launch will be rescheduled.

SpaceX Plans Friday Night Launch; Weather Not Looking Good

Falcon 9 lifts off with the Thaicom-6 satellite. (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon 9 lifts off with the Thaicom-6 satellite. (Credit: SpaceX)

UPDATE #2: Launch was scrubbed due to pressure problems in the second stage. Possible new launch attempt on Saturday.

UPDATE: Launch has been delayed until 7:01 p.m. EDT due to need to look at leak check data.

SpaceX Launch Update

SpaceX is targeted to launch the ORBCOMM OG2 Mission today, Friday, June 20, 2014 at 6:08pm ET.  The launch will be broadcast live at beginning at 5:35 pm ET. Weather is currently tracking 40% favorable for launch.

The ORBCOMM OG2 mission will launch six OG2 satellites, the first six of a series of OG2 satellites launching on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 vehicle.

Falcon 9 Launch Delayed Again

Falcon 9 lifts off with the Thaicom-6 satellite. (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon 9 lifts off with the Thaicom-6 satellite. (Credit: SpaceX)

UPDATE: ORBCOMM issued the following statement indicating that more testing was needed on one of the six satellites:

All six satellites have completed additional testing and are functioning as expected. In an effort to be as cautious as possible, it was decided to perform further analysis to verify that the issue observed on one satellite during final integration has been fully addressed. The additional time to complete this analysis required us to postpone the OG2 Mission 1 Launch. We are working with SpaceX to identify the next available launch opportunity, and we will update the schedule shortly.

ORBCOMM will have to wait a little longer to get their second-generation OG2 communications satellites into orbit. SpaceX has delayed a Falcon 9 launch scheduled for Sunday that would have carried six of the spacecraft.

No reason has been given, but the rocket has been plagued by helium leaks. The Patrick Air Force Base home page lists the next launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as “TBD.”

ORBCOMM originally booked flights aboard SpaceX’s smaller Falcon 1e rocket, with the goal of beginning launches in 2010. However, SpaceX decided not to pursue development of the Falcon 1e, forcing a shift to the Falcon 9.

In October 2012, a prototype OG2 satellite was stranded in the wrong orbit when the Falcon 9 launch vehicle suffered a failure of one of its nine engines. The spacecraft re-entered the atmosphere four days after launch.

This mission has been delayed multiple times. According to’s launch schedule page, the flight has been “delayed from September, November, April 30, May 10, May 27, June 11 and June 12.”

Next Falcon 9 Launch Slips into June

OG2 satellite (Credit: SNC)
OG2 satellite (Credit: SNC)

OBCOMM says that the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch with six advanced OG2 satellites has now slipped to June 11, with a June 12 backup date.

“We will be sending the satellite launch teams from both ORBCOMM and Sierra Nevada Corporation to the Cape the first week of June for fairing encapsulation followed by a static fire test to be conducted two to three days prior to launch,” OBCOMM said in an update posted on its website on Monday.


SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch Delayed

SpaceX has delayed to the scheduled Saturday launch of its Falcon 9 rocket due to a failure to conduct a static test earlier today. Orbcomm which has six satellites aboard the launch vehicle, has issued the following statement:

“Today’s attempt to perform the static firing test was stopped while the rocket was being fueled. Both the OG2 satellites and the rocket are in safe condition and will be rotated horizontal and rolled back into the integration facility.

“This will prevent us from launching this weekend. We will keep you posted on when the next launch attempt will take place but it’s likely to be later this month.”

A launch could take place on Monday. If not, then the launch will likely slip to late in May due to a couple of other launches on the schedule at Cape Canaveral.

Update from SpaceX;

A static fire test in advance of SpaceX’s ORBCOMM OG2 Mission 1 was scrubbed this morning during fueling. Both the Falcon 9 rocket and ORBCOMM satellites are in good condition but as a result of schedule constraints, launch will be postponed past this weekend with the next opportunity most likely in late May. Today’s pad visit will also be rescheduled. Additional information will be provided as available via .

SNC Completes ORBCOMM Generation 2 Satellites

OG2 satellite (Credit: SNC)
OG2 satellite (Credit: SNC)

SPARKS, Nev., April 30, 2014 – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announces the successful completion of the ORBCOMM Generation 2 (OG2) Pre-Ship Review and shipment of six satellites from the company’s Space Systems’ location in Louisville, Colorado. SNC is the prime contractor for this upgraded communication constellation leading all development and integration efforts for the ORBCOMM Mission 1 launch in May.


ORBCOMM, SpaceX Reach New Agreement on OG2 Satellite Launches

Falcon 9 launch. (Credit: Chris Thompson)
Falcon 9 launch. (Credit: Chris Thompson)

ORBCOMM and SpaceX have reached a new $42.6 million agreement on for the launch of 18 OG2 communications satellites aboard Falcon 9 rockets over the next 18 months. The satellites were originally scheduled to be launched by smaller Falcon 1e rockets, but SpaceX opted not to develop the launch vehicle.

ORBCOMM disclosed the new agreement in a regulatory filing. The deal replaces one worked out between the two companies in August 2009. The launches are scheduled to take place between the second quarter of 2013 and the second quarter of 2014.

The regulatory filing is reproduced after the break.


The Latest Lurio Report

The Lurio Report

Uwingu – Name an ExoPlanet to Fund Research/ “L2” Plan & Exploration Require End to SLS
Vol. 7, No. 13, November 16, 2012
Quick Updates
XCOR Announces Lynx Wing/Control Surfaces Contract to ATK
Lunar X Prize Value to Decrease?
Orbcomm Implies Primary Payloads Only
Dear Acquaintances,
– Uwingu Unveils First Product to Aid Research – Name an Exoplanet!
– The “L2” Mission Proposal and Beyond – Hobbled by the SLS? –

ORBCOMM’s Long, Strange Trip into Orbit with SpaceX

Debris from the rupture of a Falcon 9 engine fairing during the Oct. 7 launch.

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

On Sept. 3, 2009, upstart rocket company SpaceX announced a major deal for its new launch vehicle. The company would launch 18 ORBCOMM satellites — several at a time — aboard its Falcon 1e rocket, an upgraded version of the Falcon 1 booster that had just notched its second successful flight.

ORBCOMM would get launches for its Generation 2 (OG2) machine-to-machine communication satellites at a bargain rate of $11 million per flight. The first flight would occur “as early as the fourth quarter of 2010” with the final one in 2014, allowing the company to gradually upgrade its existing satellite constellation. Each OG2 spacecraft promised to increase subscriber capacity by up to 12 times over the first-generation satellites then in orbit.

It all sounded great. But, things didn’t go quite according to plan…


Stranded ORBCOMM Satellite Re-enters Atmosphere

Fort Lee, NJ, October 11, 2012 (ORBCOMM PR) – ORBCOMM Inc., a global satellite data communications company focused on two-way Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications, today announced that the single prototype of its second generation of satellites (OG2), launched as a secondary mission payload on the Cargo Re-Supply Services (CRS-1) mission of October 7, 2012, verified various functionality checkouts prior to its deorbit.

The OG2 prototype was deployed into a lower orbit as the result of a pre-imposed safety check required by NASA. The safety check was designed to protect the International Space Station and its crew. Had ORBCOMM been the primary payload on this mission, as planned for the upcoming launches, we believe the OG2 prototype would have reached the desired orbit.