Russian Space Station Module Runs into Trouble in Orbit

Russia’s new ISS science module Nauka ran into trouble after launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Wednesday. A number of anomalies have popped up; the most serious issue at the moment appears to be with the Nauka‘s engine, which is needed to maneuver the module for a docking with the International Space Station.

Roscosmos has been of no help in sorting out the reports. The Russian corporation in charge of the country’s space program has issued no updates since reporting a successful launch aboard a Proton booster.

Nauka is designed to replace the Pirs module, which the ISS crew planned to jettison. Below is a list of Nauka‘s functions.

  • Provision of docking of Progress MS transport cargo ships, Soyuz MS manned transport spacecraft and the Prichal nodal module;
  • roll control of the International Space Station;
  • receiving fuel from the Progress MS cargo spacecraft, storing it and transferring it to the tanks of the Zvezda module for performing dynamic operations – correcting the orbit, attitude and stabilization of the ISS;
  • storage of cargo delivered in the interests of the Russian segment of the ISS;
  • ensuring the functioning of the European manipulator ERA;
  • functioning of a complex of target loads for the implementation of the program of scientific and applied research in conditions of increased comfort of the crew;
  • oxygen production to meet the needs of a crew of up to six people;
  • the functioning of the airlock to work with target loads, including the use of the European Robotic Arm robotic arm;
  • functioning of the on-board workshop and a cabin for the third crew member of the Russian segment of the ISS, as well as ensuring the operation of a sewage and sanitary device with a system for regenerating water from urine.

Russia Launches Nauka Space Station Module into Orbit

BAIKONUR COSMODROME, Kazakhstan (Roscosmos PR) — On July 21, 2021 at 17: 58: 24.938  Moscow time, the launch vehicle “Proton-M” with the multipurpose laboratory module “Nauka” was launched from the launcher No. 39 of the launch pad No. 200 of the Baikonur cosmodrome. According to the received telemetric information, all stages of the launch vehicle flight (separation of stages and dumping of the nose fairing flaps) passed in the normal mode.

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European Robotic Arm to Handle the Space Station

The European Robotic Arm is the first robot that can ‘walk’ around the Russian part of the International Space Station. (Credit: ESA)

BAIKONUR COSMODROME, Kazakhstan (ESA PR) — The European Robotic Arm (ERA) is set for launch on a Proton rocket to the International Space Station on 21 July at 16:58 CEST. The first robot that can ‘walk’ around the Russian part of the orbital complex will be launched with the new Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan.

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Launch 2020: Russian Missions Improved in Quality, Declined in Numbers

Soyuz-2 rocket lifts off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome with 36 OneWeb satellites. (Credit: Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

For Russia, 2020 was a mixed year in terms of launch. Once the world’s leader in sending payloads into space, the nation finished a distant third behind the United States and China with only 17 orbital flights. That figure was eight below the 25 launches in 2019, and Russia’s lowest number of the 21st century. The U.S. and China finished with 44 and 39 launch attempts, respectively.

On the bright side, 2020 was the second year in a row in which Russia did not experience a launch failure. That streak came after more a decade during which the Russian launch industry was plagued with multiple fmishaps.

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Launch 2020: A Busy Year Filled with Firsts in the Face of COVID-19 Pandemic

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

SpaceX dominated, China surged and Russia had another clean sheet as American astronauts flew from U.S. soil again in a year of firsts.

First in a series

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very busy launch year with a number of firsts in both human and robotic exploration. A total of 114 orbital launches were attempted, with 104 successes and 10 failures. It was the same number of launches that were conducted in 2018, with that year seeing 111 successes, two failures and one partial failure.

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Fun with Figures: The Rise and Fall of the Commercial Proton Booster

Proton on launch pad (Credit: ILS)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Russia recently marked the 25th anniversary of the entry of the Proton rocket into the international commercial marketplace. On April 8, 1996, a Proton-K booster with a DM3 upper stage launched the Astra 1F geosynchronous communications satellite built by U.S.-based Hughes for Luxembourg’s SES from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

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Russia’s Changing Story on ISS and its New Space Station

The International Space Station, photographed by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli following the undocking of his Soyuz-TMA on 23 May 2011. (Credit: ESA/NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Well, this is interesting. And by interest, I mean what cynics had been predicting all along.

In the space of a couple of weeks, Russia’s plan for the future of the International Space Station (ISS) shifted from full withdrawal in 2025, to gradual withdrawal and the launch of a new Russian-only station beginning in 2025, to we’re fine with extending ISS to 2028 and we’ll start launching our new station then.

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Russia’s Angara Rocket Prepares for Mass Production

The central core of an Angara launcher. (Credit: Roscosmos)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The new production facilities of the Khrunichev Center (part of the Roscosmos State Corporation) will make it possible to produce up to ten missiles of the Angara family per year. In two cities of Russia, large-scale preparations are underway for the start of the serial production of missiles of this family. More details about the strategy and principles of organizing production, delimiting areas of responsibility between sites, the near and medium-term prospects of the heavy and light version of Angara.

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Russian Progress Cargo Craft Docks to Station

Progress 77 approaches the International Space Station. (Credit: Roscosmos website)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — An uncrewed Russian Progress 77 spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station’s Pirs docking compartment on the station’s Russian segment at 1:27 a.m. EST, two days after lifting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Sunday, Feb. 14 at 11:45 p.m. EST (9:45 a.m. Monday, Feb. 15, Baikonur time). The spacecraft were flying over Argentina at the time of docking.

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Russian Space Facilities Director Fired in Continued Shakeup Related to Vostochny

Ruslan Mukhamedzhanov (Credit: Roscomsos)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The previously reprimanded head of the Russian company that oversees Russia’s ground-based space infrastructure has been fired in a continuing shakeup related to schedule delays and alleged corruption at the Vostochny Cosmodrome.

The Board of Directors of the Center for Operation of Ground-Based Space Infrastructure Facilities (TsENKI) voted to relieve General Director Andrei Okhlopkov from his post beginning on Nov. 27. A month earlier, Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin had reprimanded him during a visit to Vostochmy.

Okhlopkov had been the head of TsENKI since June 2018. The board replaced him with Ruslan Mukhamedzhanov, a 20-year TsENKI employee who most recently headed up the company’s Barmin Research Institute of Launch Complexes.

TsENKI is responsible for the creation of ground space infrastructure and manages Russian cosmodromes. The company, which is part of Roscosmos, employs more than 12,000 people.

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Officials Arrested in Alleged Vostochny Embezzlement, Bribery Scheme

Work on expanding Vostochny Cosmodrome has commenced. (Credit: Roscosmos)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Russian government says corruption has resurfaced at the Vostochny Cosmodrome despite years of efforts to get the problem under control.

Two government officials have been arrested for their alleged involvement in an embezzlement and bribery scheme at the spaceport in the country’s Far East. Russia Today reports:

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Proton Launches 2 Communications Satellites

Proton rocket lifts off on July 31, 2020. (Credit: Roscosmos)

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (Roscosmos PR) — Proton-M carrier rocket with the Briz-M booster successfully launched from pad No. 39 of Site No. 200 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

The rocket carried two Russian telecommunication satellites Ekspress-80 and Ekspress-103 built by ISS Reshetnev company (part of Roscosmos). The launch and flight of the carrier rocket went nominally.

According to the flight sequence, 587 seconds after the liftoff the space head unit (booster and two spacecraft assembly) nominally separated from the third stage of the carrier rocket.

Further injection into orbit will be ensured by the booster service propulsion system. The total injection time from the liftoff and second satellite separation will reach 18 hours, 16 minutes and 40 seconds.

Proton-M carrier rocket is manufactured by Khrunichev Center (part of Roscosmos) and has been used to inject payloads into target orbits and departure trajectories as part of federal and commercial programs since 2001.

Throughout its operation, the rocket has undergone four deep modernizations allowing substantial improvement of its thrust to weight ratio and ecological characteristics while injecting heavy single and dual payloads.

ILS Names New President, Launch Opportunities

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 11, 2020 (ILS PR) — Today ILS International Launch Services, Inc. (ILS) announces the appointment of Tiphaine Louradour as President.

Tiphaine joins ILS with over two decades of Space Industry and management experience, most recently as President of Global Commercial Sales at United Launch Alliance (ULA). Prior to this role, Tiphaine held a number of positions of increasing responsibility in finance, risk management, strategy, commercial sales and marketing and also gained international business experience while serving as a consultant to international consulting firms in the US and Europe.

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Roscosmos Lays Out Plans to Transition to Angara Boosters

Inaugural Angara A5 launch (Credit: Khrunichev)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The management of the State Corporation “Roscosmos” considers the launch of production of the Angara launch vehicles at the Omsk “POLET” Production Association (a branch of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center and a part of Roscosmos) is a priority task for the Corporation.

Tight control is exercised over this year’s production of the first batch of the Angara LVs, as well as over their transfer to the customer – the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. Until the reconstruction of the POLET plant is completed, the Khrunichev Center plans to produce two Angara-A5 heavy launch vehicles and one Angara-1.2 light LV per year.

In view of that, during the transition period, payload orbiting will be executed using partially the Proton-M launch vehicle, and partially the new Angara LVs. The target production capacity of Angara LVs will be eight heavy LVs and two light LVs per year.

Proton Launches Weather Satellite

Electro–L No. 3 satellite (Credit: Roscosmos)

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (Roscosmos PR) — On December 24, 2019 at 15:03:02 Moscow time, the Proton-M launch vehicle with the DM-03 booster block and the Electro-L Russian hydro-meteorological spacecraft No. 3 was launched from launch pad No. 81 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome . All stages of the flight of the launch vehicle performed normally.

Elektro–L satellites design and manufacturing are conducted in accordance with Russia’s Federal Space Program. The spacecraft are a part of Elektro geostationary meteorological space system and are meant to provide the Federal Service for Hydro-meteorology and Environmental Monitoring of Russia, as well as other agencies with on-line hydro-meteorological information.

The first hydro-meteorological spacecraft Elektro–L No. 1 was injected into geostationary orbit in 2011. The second spacecraft equipped with a modernized hydro-meteorological scanner was launched in December 2015, now the Elektro–L No. 2 satellite is functioning at 76 deg. east longitude.

The Proton-M launch vehicle is mass-produced at the MV Center.  Khrunichev (part of Roscosmos State Corporation) and has been used to derive payloads on given orbits and take-off trajectories as part of federal and commercial programs since 2001. Over the years of operation, the Proton-M rocket has undergone four phases of deep modernization, which has significantly improved its energy-mass and environmental characteristics during the removal of heavy single and paired payloads.