Another Year, Another Russian Launch Failure

The Progress 65 spacecraft is pictured at its launch pad Nov. 29 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: Roscosmos)
The Progress 65 spacecraft is pictured at its launch pad Nov. 29 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: Roscosmos)

They came so close this time.

In another four days, the Russians would have gone a full year without losing a spacecraft in a launch mishap. That’s something that hasn’t happened since 2009-10. In another 30 days, they would have gone an entire calendar year without a launch failure.

The loss of the Progress 65 cargo ship during its launch aboard a Soyuz-U rocket today marks the latest in a string of failures stretching back more than seven years. Since May 2009, Russia has suffered 13 launch failures and four partial failures involving its stable of satellite boosters. (See table below)

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ILS Announces 2 Launches Under Eutelsat Agreement

Proton rocket
Proton rocket

RESTON, Va. (ILS PR) — International Launch Services (ILS) announces its first commercial shared launch using a Proton Breeze M with the EUTELSAT 5 West B satellite and MEV-1, the first Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) developed by Orbital ATK. In addition, ILS is pleased to announce the first commercial contract incorporating the use of the newly announced Proton Medium launch vehicle. Both launches are for Eutelsat Communications, one of the world’s leading satellite operators, headquartered in Paris, France.

The shared launch on Proton Breeze M will carry the EUTELSAT 5 West B satellite, built on Orbital ATK’s GEOStar ™ satellite platform, with an Airbus Defence and Space-built payload stacked on top of Orbital ATK’s MEV-1 spacecraft for launch in the last quarter of 2018. The second mission is baselined with the Proton Medium launch vehicle with launch to be conducted in the 2019-2020 timeframe. Both missions will be launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

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ILS Introduces Two New Proton Variants

Proton variants (Credit: ILS)
Proton variants (Credit: ILS)

RESTON, Va. (ILS PR) — International Launch Services (ILS) announces a product line extension of the Proton Breeze M commercial launch vehicle designed to expand the addressable GEO market for cost effective launch solutions in the small and medium satellite class range (3 to 5 metric tons). Designated as “Proton Variants,” these two additional vehicles will be optimized 2-stage versions of the time tested and flight proven Proton Breeze M launch system for exclusive commercial use by ILS.

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Commission Approves Airbus Safran Launchers Acquisition of Arianespace

Ariane 6 variants (Credit: Airbus Defense and Space)
Ariane 6 variants (Credit: Airbus Defense and Space)

BRUSSELS (EU PR) — Following an in-depth review, the European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of Arianespace by Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL), a joint venture between Airbus and Safran. This approval is subject to conditions.

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Roscosmos Denies Anomaly With Proton Upper Stage

Artist’s impression depicting the separation of the ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli, from the Trace Gas Orbiter, and heading for Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab)
Artist’s impression depicting the separation of the ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli, from the Trace Gas Orbiter, and heading for Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab)

Roscosmos has denied that the Breeze-M upper stage used to send ESA’s ExoMars mission to Mars malfunctioned.

Briefing reporters in Moscow, Igor A. Komarov reiterated statements made by Proton prime contractor Khrunichev Space Center of Moscow, saying the Breeze-M upper stage separated ExoMars without incident and then proceeded with the standard passivation and collision-avoidance maneuvers.

Komarov said he had seen photos taken from a Brazilian ground telescope that appeared to show small objects in the vicinity of the Breeze-M stage and ExoMars.

“I do have these pictures, provided by the Brazilian observatory, showing the ExoMars spacecraft surrounded by some dimly illuminated objects reportedly related to the upper stage,” Komarov said.

“Telemetry and other objectively verifiable data available to us, covering the entire time from the separation and the contamination and collision avoidance maneuvers to the passivation of the upper stage, show that all these steps have been performed successfully, without any anomalies,” Komarov said. “There is absolutely no indication of an upper-stage explosion or breakup.”

Read the full story.

ESA: ExoMars Performing Flawlessly

Artist conception of ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (Image Credit: ESA)
Artist conception of ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (Image Credit: ESA)

PARIS, 23 March 2016 (ESA PR) — Following a spectacular liftoff, ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is performing flawlessly en route to the Red Planet.

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Did Russian Roulette Nearly Claim ExoMars?

Artist’s impression depicting the separation of the ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli, from the Trace Gas Orbiter, and heading for Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab)
Artist’s impression depicting the separation of the ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli, from the Trace Gas Orbiter, and heading for Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab)

The Russian roulette that is that nation’s launch industry nearly claimed Europe’s most ambitious planetary mission earlier this month.

That’s according to a report from in Popular Mechanics. Zak says there is evidence of an anomaly that sent pieces of the Proton launcher’s Briz-M upper stage into interplanetary space along with ESA’s ExoMars spacecraft.

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Watch ExoMars Launch Live on Monday

Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli mated to Breeze upper stage. (Credit: ESA - B. Bethge)
Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli mated to Breeze upper stage. (Credit: ESA – B. Bethge)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Livestreaming of the ExoMars launch will begin on 14 March at 08:30 GMT (09:30 CET). Regular text updates will be provided here.

Launch is scheduled for 09:31 GMT (10:31 CET) on 14 March with first acquisition of signal expected at around 21:29 GMT (22:29 CET).

Follow @ESA_ExoMars, @esaoperations and @esascience on twitter for additional #ExoMars coverage. Once mission controllers have established contact with TGO following acquisition of signal, the @ESA_TGO Twitter account will become active.

Provisional schedule

08:30 GMT / 09:30 CET Morning programme, including live launch coverage

11:00 GMT / 12:00 CET Afternoon programme, including regular live updates on the status of the mission, a series of dedicated presentations on the scientific goals and operational challenges and milestones of the ExoMars missions, and informal question and answer sessions

21:10 GMT / 22:10 CET Evening programme, including confirmation of spacecraft separation, solar array deployment and first acquisition of signal

21:45 GMT /22:45 CET End of event

Times subject to change.

ExoMars Flight Animation

Video Caption: Animation visualising milestones during the launch of the ExoMars 2016 mission and its cruise to Mars. The mission comprises the Trace Gas Orbiter and an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, which are scheduled to be launched on a four-stage Proton-M/Breeze-M rocket from Baikonur during the 14–25 March 2016 window. About ten-and-a-half hours after launch, the spacecraft will separate from the rocket and deploy its solar wings. Two weeks later, its high-gain antenna will be deployed. After a seven-month cruise to Mars, Schiaparelli will separate from TGO on 16 October. Three days later it will enter the martian atmosphere, while TGO begins its entry into Mars orbit.

FAA Releases Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation

faa_compendium_2016The Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation: 2016

Executive Summary

The size of the global space industry, which combines satellite services and ground equipment, government space budgets, and global navigation satellite services (GNSS) equipment, is estimated to be about $324 billion. At $95 billion in revenues, or about 29 percent, satellite television represents the largest segment of activity. Following this is government space budgets at $76 billion, or 24 percent, and services enabled by GNSS represent, about $76 billion in revenues. Commercial satellite remote sensing companies generated on $1.6 billion in revenues, but the value added services enabled by these companies is believed to be magnitudes larger. Because remote sensing value added services includes imagery and data analytics from other sources beyond space-based platforms, only the satellite remote sensing component is included in the global space industry total.

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Russians Doubt Reusable Boosters, Look to Phase Out Rockot Launches

Falcon 9 launch and landing. (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon 9 launch and landing. (Credit: SpaceX)

Russia doesn’t seem overly impressed by the recent progress by SpaceX and Blue Origin in developing reusable launch vehicles. At according to TsNIIMash, which is the company’s main research institute.

“The economic feasibility of reusable launch systems is not obvious. First and foremost it will depend on how often launches will be made. At the moment it is hard to forecast which way the market of launch services will go when reusable space rockets become available. The designers are still to demonstrate the real costs of production and of making reusable stages for re-launching,” a TsNIIMash spokesman said.

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ESA EDRS Launched as First Node of Space Data Highway

Relaying data via laser (Credit: ESA)
Relaying data via laser (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — The European Data Relay System’s first laser terminal has reached space aboard its host satellite and is now under way to its final operating position.

EDRS-A was launched on 29 January as part of the Eutelsat-9B telecom satellite at 22:20 GMT (23:20 CET, 04:20 30 January local time) atop a Proton rocket from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

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Russia Led in Launch Successes and Failures in 2015

Flight VS13 was the 13th Soyuz liftoff performed from French Guiana since this vehicle’s 2011 introduction at the Spaceport. (Credit: Arianespace)
Flight VS13 was the 13th Soyuz liftoff performed from French Guiana since this vehicle’s 2011 introduction at the Spaceport. (Credit: Arianespace)

Russia continued its dominance of the global satellite launch industry in 2015, conducting 29 of 86 orbital launches over the past 12 months. It also maintained its lead in botched launches, suffering two failures and one partial failure.

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ESA Laser Communications Payload Ready to Fly

EDRS-A ready for shipping. (Credit: Airbus Defence and Space)
EDRS-A ready for shipping. (Credit: Airbus Defence and Space)

TOULOUSE, France (ESA PR) — After a year-long wait in storage for a Proton rocket to become available, the EDRS-A laser communications payload and its Eutelsat host satellite are finally at the Baikonur cosmodrome and being prepared for launch in late January.

EDRS-A is the first element of the European Data Relay System, which will collect information from low-orbiting satellites via laser and send it down to Earth in near-real time. It was packed into an Antonov plane by Airbus Toulouse, France and flown to Kazakhstan in November.

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ILS Appoints New General Counsel, Vice President

ILS_logoRESTON, Va. (ILS PR) — International Launch Services (ILS) has appointed Ralph Bauer as Vice President and General Counsel. Bauer’s appointment follows the departure of Tom Tshudy, who served as ILS Senior Vice President and General Counsel since 2012 and ILS General Counsel since 1998.

Bauer, as ILS Vice President and General Counsel, will oversee the ILS legal, contracts and export control departments. Bauer joined ILS in October 2007 as ILS’ Partnership Manager, serving as the primary interface with Khrunichev on all economic and contractual matters.

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