Russia Eyes Advanced Replacement for Soyuz Booster

Expedition 37 takes off for the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
Expedition 37 takes off for the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

The Russian government owned Sputnik news service reports that officials are eyeing a replacement for the venerable Soyuz launch vehicle within seven years:

The first flying prototype of the new Soyuz-5 carrier rocket could be built by 2022, Alexander Kirilin, general director of Samara-based Progress rocket and space company, said.

“The Soyuz-5.1 is a medium-class carrier rocket with a launch weight of about 270 tonnes,” Kirilin said in an interview with RIA Novosti published Tuesday.

“It could replace the Soyuz-2 carrier rockets in the future,” he added.

Russia’s future Soyuz-5 carrier rocket will be equipped with advanced new engines using ecology-friendly fuel, according to Alexander Kirilin.

“One of the distinguishing features of the Soyuz-5 is the use of liquefied natural gas as fuel,” Kirilin said in an interview with RIA Novosti published on Tuesday.

Read the full story.

Roscosmos Compensated for Progress Loss

Progress 60P on approach to ISS. (Ctedit: NASA TV)
Progress 60P on approach to ISS. (Ctedit: NASA TV)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Roscosmos has received 1.9 billion rubles [$29.8 million] in insurance compensation from Sogas and Ingosstrakh due to the destruction of Progress spacecraft. Sogaz and Ingosstrakh insurance companies have fully compensated for the damage caused by the emergency launch of Progress M-27M cargo transport spacecraft on April 28, 2015, from Baikonur Cosmodrome.

(more…)

Space Access Society Update on Station Supply, Commercial Crew & SpaceX Investigation

Progress 60P on approach to ISS. (Ctedit: NASA TV)
Progress 60P on approach to ISS. (Ctedit: NASA TV)

Space Access Update #144 7/6/15
copyright 2015 by Space Access Society
__________________________________________

Contents This Issue:

Station Supply Update

Latest From SpaceX

__________________________________________

Station Supply Update

A Russian Progress cargo ship successfully docked with Station in the early hours of Sunday morning. This adds a month to International Space Station’s supply reserves, sufficient now for roughly through November.

(more…)

SpaceX’s Philosophy: Reliability Through Continual Upgrades

falcon9_debris
Remains of a Falcon 9 rocket fall to Earth.

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

To succeed in the launch business, you need to be very, very good and more than a little bit lucky. Eventually, there comes a day when you are neither.

That is what happened to SpaceX on June 28. A string of 18 successful Falcon 9 launches was snapped as the company’s latest rocket broke up in the clear blues skies over the Atlantic Ocean. A Dragon supply ship headed for the International Space Station was lost, SpaceX’s crowded manifest was thrown into confusion, and the company’s reputation for reliability was shattered.

(more…)

Progress Resupply Ship Arrives at Space Station

Progress 60P on approach to ISS. (Ctedit: NASA TV)
Progress 60P on approach to ISS. (Ctedit: NASA TV)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Traveling about 251 miles over the south Pacific, southeast of New Zealand, the unpiloted ISS Progress 60 Russian cargo ship docked at 3:11 a.m. EDT to the Pirs Docking Compartment of the International Space Station.

The craft is delivering more than three tons of food, fuel and supplies, including 1,940 pounds of propellant, 106 pounds of oxygen, 926 pounds of water, and 3,133 pounds of spare parts, supplies and experiment hardware for the members of the Expedition 44 crew currently living and working in space. Progress 60 is scheduled to remain docked to Pirs for the next four months.

For more information about the current crew and the International Space Station, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station.

Critical Progress Resupply Mission Set for Friday Launch

progress_on_approach

UPDATE: Looks like the launch went well. Progress is in orbit, solar arrays deployed.

Russia’s preparing to launch a critical Progress resupply mission containing more than 3 tons of food, fuel, water, oxygen and other supplies to the International Space Station on Friday. The launch of Progress M-28M is set for 0455 GMT (12:55 a.m. EDT).

Progress flights usually attract little attention. However, this flight is seen a crucial following the loss of SpaceX’s Dragon freighter last summer in a launch accident. It was the third launch failure involving an ISS resupply ship in eight months.

On April 28, a Progress vehicle began tumbling out of control after it reached orbit. The mission was eventually abandoned. Last Oct. 28, an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket exploded shortly after liftoff, destroying a Cygnus cargo ship.

Russians officials have blamed a problem with the third stage of the Soyuz-2.1a rocket for the Progress failure. For this launch, they have switched to a Soyuz-U launch vehicle that is not susceptible to the same problem.

The resupply ship is scheduled to arrive on Sunday at 0713 GMT (3:13 a.m. EDT) with an automatic docking to the space station’s Pirs compartment.

Space Access Update: Falcon 9 Failure

falcon9_debris
Space Access Update #143 7/2/15

copyright 2015 by Space Access Society
__________________________________________

Sunday’s Commercial Cargo Mission Loss

Background

Sunday’s (6/28/15) SpaceX cargo resupply launch to Station failed, breaking up a little over two minutes into the flight. (More here and here.) This was SpaceX’s eighth such flight; their initial test mission then six commercial-contract cargo flights had essentially gone as planned. This was SpaceX’s nineteenth launch of the Falcon 9 booster; the first eighteen F9 launches all reached orbit successfully.
(more…)

A Look at the ISS Flight Manifest

Credit: NASA
Credit: NASA

There was a lot of discussion on Sunday about the impact of the loss of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft on the International Space Station. NASA officials said the ISS crew was in no danger from a supply standpoint, and they said they would stick to the existing schedule for crew rotation but might change the cargo manifest.

(more…)

NASA Says ISS Supply Situation Good, Crew in No Danger

Some notes from the NASA press conference covering the loss of Falcon 9 and the Dragon resupply ship on Sunday morning.

Cause of the Accident & Investigation

The cause is as yet undetermined. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who was not at the press conference, Tweeted that there was an overpressure event in the second stage liquid oxygen (LOX) tank prior to the launch vehicle breaking up. “Data suggests counterintuitive cause,” he wrote. Video of the accident appears to show the breakup of the vehicle beginning there.

(more…)

Russia Identifies “Design Peculiarity” as Cause of Progress Launch Failure

Progress_vehicle_freeflight
Roscosmos says it has identified the cause of the launch failure involving a Progress resupply ship last month:

The loss of a Russian Progress spacecraft that started spinning out of control shortly after its April 28 launch is being blamed on an unexpected interaction between the spacecraft and the upper stage of its Soyuz rocket, the Russian space agency Roscosmos said June 1.

In a statement, Rocosmos said a “design peculiarity” between the Progress M-27M spacecraft and the upper stage of its Soyuz-2.1a rocket led to the accident. The statement did not discuss in detail how that design issue caused the accident other than citing the “frequency-dynamic characteristics of the linkage” between the spacecraft and upper stage.

The launch of the Progress started off normally, with the spacecraft appearing to separate into its planned orbit and on a trajectory to dock with the International Space Station six hours later. However, shortly after reaching orbit, the spacecraft went into a slow roll. Roscosmos deferred the docking to April 30, then canceled it entirely.

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.

(more…)

America’s Impenetrable Congress Does It Again

2001_monolith_astros_moon
There’s a great scene in “2010: The Year We Make Contact,” in which Dmitri Moiseyevich (Dana Elcar) asks Heywood Floyd (Roy Scheider) what scientists had learned about the monolith brought back from the moon.

“Nothing,” Floyd replies. “It’s impenetrable. We’ve tried lasers, nuclear detonators. Nothing worked.”

I reached that same conclusion about Congress this week. The institution seems impermeable to facts, reasoned arguments, and even potential threats to the lives of America’s brave astronauts.

(more…)

Partners Adjust ISS Launches in Wake of Progress Launch Failure

iss_portrait3
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and its international partners agreed Tuesday to set a new schedule for spacecraft traffic to and from the International Space Station.

The partner agencies agreed to adjust the schedule after hearing the Russian Federal Space Agency’s (Roscosmos) preliminary findings on the recent loss of the Progress 59 cargo craft. The exact dates have not yet been established, but will be announced in the coming weeks. Roscosmos expects to provide an update about the Progress 59 investigation on Friday, May 22.

(more…)

Progress Burns Up as Russia Mulls Delay in Next Crew Launch

Progress_vehicle_freeflightRussia’s wayward Progress cargo ship has burned up in the atmosphere over the central Pacific Ocean 10 days after a botched launch left it tumbling in orbit. The spacecrraft had been carrying supplies to astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

The Russian news agency TASS reports Roscosmos is considering a shift in the rotation of crew members aboard the orbiting laboratory.

“It is suggested that the return from orbit of the expedition which is currently there be postponed from May 14 to June, then, in late June – early July, a Progress cargo spacecraft be blasted off to the ISS, and then, in the last ten days of July, a manned Soyuz launch be made,” the source said.

He said the proposal was forwarded by a Roscosmos working group and has not been approved yet.

Preliminary evidence indicates the launch failure was caused by a problem with the Soyuz launch vehicle’s third stage. If so, engineers will need time to inspect stages scheduled for use in upcoming launches.

An investigative body is expected to report on the cause of the failure by May 13.

Look Out Below! Russian Progress to Crash Back to Earth

Russia’s wayward Progress cargo ship is expected to crash back to Earth on Friday after spinning out of control in orbit for 11 days.

The Russian space agency Roscosmos said there is little to worry about. Most of the ship will burn up in the atmosphere, with only a handful of parts reaching Earth.

The spacecraft, which was carrying supplies to the International Space Station, suffered a mishap after launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Controllers were unable to pull the ship out of its spin.

An investigation board is attempting to determine the cause of the accident.