ESA Completes Inquiry into ExoMars Schiaparelli Failure

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imaged the ExoMars Schiaparelli module’s landing site on 25 October 2016, following the module’s arrival at Mars on 19 October. The zoomed insets provide close-up views of what are thought to be several different hardware components associated with the module’s descent to the martian surface. These are interpreted as the front heatshield, the parachute and the rear heatshield to which the parachute is still attached, and the impact site of the module itself. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

PARIS (ESA PR) — The inquiry into the crash-landing of the ExoMars Schiaparelli module has concluded that conflicting information in the onboard computer caused the descent sequence to end prematurely.

The Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator module separated from its mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter, as planned on 16 October last year, and coasted towards Mars for three days.

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Not Many Cosmonaut Applications So Far

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko marked their 300th consecutive day aboard the International Space Station on Jan. 21, 2016. The pair will land March 1 after spending a total of 340 days in space. (Credits: NASA)

Russia’s open call for prospective cosmonauts has produced only 200 applications since the process began on March 14, Tass reports.

Russia’s state corporation Roscosmos and the cosmonauts training center declared a contest for admission to the team of space explorers on March 14. Each applicant is expected to present a voluminous package of documents, including questionnaires, identification papers, a copy of the work record booklet, a certificate of good conduct confirming there is no history of a criminal record, a security clearance certificate allowing access to state secrets and a pile of medical certificates.

Given the volume of documents required, officials expect many of the applications will be filed during the last month of the call. The deadline for applications is July 14. Six to eight new cosmonauts will be selected.

Last year, NASA received more than 18,300 applications in its call for astronaut candidates. Canada received 3,772 applications for its selection process.

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Two New Crew Members Arrive at International Space Station

The Soyuz MS-04 rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan April 20, 2017, carrying Expedition 51 Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA into orbit to begin their four and a half month mission on the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — After a six-hour flight, NASA astronaut Jack Fischer and cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos arrived at the International Space Station at 9:18 a.m. EDT Thursday where they will continue important scientific research.

The two launched aboard a Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:13 a.m. (1:13 p.m. Baikonur time), orbited Earth four times, and docked at the space station.

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Forensics Expert: Ex-Roscosmos Official’s Wounds Not Self Inflicted

A forensics expert has said that stab wounds found on the body of a former top Roscosmos official who was awaiting trial on embezzlement charges were not self-inflicted, according to a Russian media report.

Vladimir Yevdokimov was found stabbed to death in a detention cell he shared with 11 other inmates on March 18. Law enforcement officials have been investigating the death as a murder, but had earlier not ruled out suicide.

Yuri Pigolkin, head of the forensics department at the First Moscow State Medical University, said he reached the conclusion after examining photos of the deceased.

The head of the department noted that Evdokimov could not have wounded himself in the chest area with such force. “These two blows. They probably get to the spine. Apparently, damage from these wounds can be seen from the opposite side of the chest. In addition, the wounds are deep and wide: the entire blade has probably been shipped,” the expert noted.

Yevdokimov, who formerly headed up Roscosmos’ quality control and reliability efforts, was arrested in December on charges of embezzling 200 million rubles ($3.5 million) from the MIG Russian Aircraft Corporation.

Yevdokimov and an alleged accomplice denied the charge. However, Russian media have speculated Yevdokimov might have been murdered to keep him from exposing other embezzlers in the Russian aerospace industry.

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Russia Continues Slow Shift of Launches to Vostochny

Soyuz launch complex at Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Tass reports that Roscosmos plans to conduct two satellite launches in December from Russia’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome as the space agency continues a slow shift away from dependence on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazahkstan.

The two Soyuz-2 launches will come about 20 months after the inaugural launch from the new spaceport in April 2016.

Roscomos head Igor Komarov outlined plans to gradually ramp up the number of launches from the facility, which has only one launch pad.

The state corporation expects that up to ten launches, including commercial ones, will be held annually at Vostochny, which is still under construction.

First commercial launches from Russia’s new Vostochny space center in the Far Eastern Amur Region are to begin in 2018, the head of Russia’s Roscosmos space corporation said. The space center’s commercial launch plan includes those for the OneWeb project aimed at creating a constellation of microsatellites to blanket the entire earth surface for broadband internet access all over the world.

“Two or three commercial launches are scheduled for 2018, six or seven – for 2019,” the Roscosmos chief said….

Vostochny’s construction began in 2012. The infrastructure for the first unmanned Angara carrier rocket launch is due to be ready by 2021, and for the first manned Angara mission by 2023.
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Roscosmos: No Immediate Plans to Send Tourists to ISS

Dennis Tito

A top Russian space official has warned not to expect a resumption of space tourist flights to the International Space Station any time soon.

Russia’s Roscosmos state corporation has no plans to send space tourists to the country’s segment of the International Space Station (ISS) before 2020, Roscosmos deputy director general for international cooperation told Sputnik in an interview.

“As for sending tourists to the Russian segment of the ISS, Roscosmos has no plans to implement such flights before 2020 because of the absence of the relevant capabilities,” Sergey Savelyev said.

He added that space tourism was not limited by ISS-related projects and Russia’s corporation was interested in attracting tourists.

Seven space tourists made eight visits to ISS during the 2000’s, beginning with Dennis Tito in 2001 and ending with Guy Laliberte in 2009. The most recent attempt to send a tourist to the station fell through when British singer Sarah Brightman pulled out of a planned trip in 2015.

Russia Open to ISS Extension

International Space Station (Credit: NASA)

The head of Roscosmos said at a press conference this week operation of the  International Space Stations could be extended an additional four years.

Russia is open to extending its partnership in the International Space Station with the United States, Europe, Japan and Canada beyond the currently planned end of the program in 2024, the head of the Russian space agency said on Tuesday.

“We are ready to discuss it,” Igor Komarov, general director of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, told reporters at the U.S. Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, when asked if his country would consider a four-year extension….

Komarov said many medical and technological issues remain to be resolved before humans travel beyond the station’s orbit.

“I think that we need to prolong our cooperation in low-Earth orbit because we haven’t resolved all the issues and problems that we face now,” Komarov said.

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Russia Responds to Musk & His Reusable Boosters

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over plans for Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)

The age of reusable liquid boosters arrived with the launch last week of a previously flown Falcon 9 first stage, which landed on a barge ship after its fuel was exhausted. In Russia, the long anticipated milestone resulted in a flood of statements — official and otherwise — about what the long-term leader in space boosters is doing in response.

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Russia Plans to Send Cosmonauts to the Moon

Ergonomic testing has been conducted for the new Federation spacecraft. (Credit: RSC Energia)

RSC Energia has launched the development of a new human spacecraft named Federatsiya (Federation) that will replace the 40-year-old Soyuz vehicles and enable Russia to send cosmonauts to the moon, Tass reports.

Federation will be capable of carrying crews of four into Earth orbit and deep space on missions of up to 30 days. The spacecraft could stay in space up to a year if docked with a space station, which is double the duration of the Soyuz spacecraft.

The new spacecraft could be a key element in what appears to be an emerging plan to place a space station in lunar orbit. NASA is exploring such a facility to test technologies required for sending astronauts to Mars.

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Former Roscosmos Official Stabbed to Death in Jail

Law enforcement officials in Moscow are investigating the stabbing death in jail of a former top Roscosmos official who was awaiting trial on charges of embezzlement, Tass reports.

Vladimir Yevdokimov was found dead in a cell he shared with 11 other inmates from two stab wounds in the heart and one in the neck. Officials say they are investigating the death as a murder, but they have not ruled out suicide.

Yevdokimov formerly headed up the space agency’s quality and reliability control efforts. He was arrested in December on charges of embezzling 200 million rubles ($3.5 million) from the MIG Russian Aircraft Corporation.

Yevdokimov and an alleged accomplice denied the charge.

Progress Resupply Ship Launched to ISS

Launch of Progress 66.

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The unpiloted Russian Progress 66 launched at 12:58 a.m. Wednesday (11:58 a.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It is now orbiting the planet on course for the International Space Station

The vehicle will deliver almost three tons of food, fuel and supplies to the Expedition 50 crew.

The spacecraft is set to dock to the Pirs docking compartment at 3:34 a.m. Friday, Feb. 24. NASA TV coverage of rendezvous and docking will begin at 2:45 a.m. Progress 66 will remain docked at the station for almost four months before departing in June for its deorbit into Earth’s atmosphere.

This was the first launch of a Progress cargo ship from Baikonur since the Progress 65 supply craft was lost Dec. 1, 2016.

RSC Energia Plans to Launch CubeSats From Progress Cargo Ships

Rocket and Space Corporation (RSC) Energia (a part of Roscosmos) has plans to involve the leading Russian scientific centers and universities into a project to launch small Cubesat satellites using cargo transportation spacecraft Progress MS.

The project calls for installation of special containers for insertion of small spacecraft into their target orbit on the outer surface of a cargo spacecraft. These might be commercial, educational or applied satellites with the size of up to 6U. Cargo spacecraft Progress MS are launched on a regular basis three times a year within the framework of logistics support for the International Space Station (ISS).

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As Russian Space Industry Tumbles, the Kremlin Steps In — Again

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

Last year was not a particularly good one for the Russian space program.

The country fell behind China and the United States in launches. Its 19 attempts were the lowest in years. The Proton rocket flew only three times before being ground for more than half a year due to a launch anomaly. In December, a Soyuz malfunction sent a Progress cargo ship crashing back into Earth’s atmosphere — the latest in a long string of failures going back to 2009.

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