Tag: Roscosmos

Putin, Skolkovo and the Fate of Russia’s Space Program


I recent found a couple of interesting analytical pieces about the state of Russia’s struggling high tech sector and space program. Together, they paint a rather dismal picture of the prospects that Russia will be able to revive its once-proud space effort and break free of its economic reliance upon oil, gas, minerals and heavy metals.

In “The Short Life and Speedy Death of Russia’s Silicon Valley,” James Appell looks at the declining fortunes of Skolkovo, the Russian government’s $4 billion incubator outside Moscow that was designed to be the nation’s answer to America’s famous tech center. Then-President Dmitry Medvedev launched the ambitious effort in 2009 after visiting California as a way to diversify the Russian economy.

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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.

Continue reading ‘Years of Failures Haunt Russian Space Program’

Partners Adjust ISS Launches in Wake of Progress Launch Failure


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.

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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.

Roscosmos: Telemetry Interrupted Just Prior to Progress Separation


Roscosmos_logoRoscosmos has posted an update on the Progress 59 flight. It’s in Russian, but I was able to use Google Translate to understand it.

The flight was nominal until 1.5 seconds before the time at which the Progress vehicle was to have separated from its third stage booster. At that point, telemetry data from the booster was interrupted.

After separation, partial communications with the progress was restored. The data indicated that various systems were not performing normally. The ship was also rotating at about 90 degrees per second.

Docking the cargo ship at the International Space Station is impossible. The station and its crew are not at risk because they are in a much higher orbit.

A commission has been established to identify the cause of the failure. The commission’s findings are expected no later than May 13.

Russia plans to launch additional Progress resupply ships in the third and fourth quarters of this year.


Russia Roundup: Vostochny, Consolidation & Lunar Base

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

As another Russian space mission went haywire this week, there was plenty of other news about that nation’s struggle space program. Here’s a summary of major news from the past week.


  • Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that 58 million rubles (about $1 million) in back wages owed to Vostochny workers will be paid by April 30. Unhappy workers have gone on hunger strikes and appealed to President Vladimir Putin with a message written on the roofs of their dorms.


  • Efforts to consolidate the Russian space industry under Roscomos continued. Putin submitted a draft law to the State Duma that would establish a space corporation on the basis of Roscosmos and the United Rocket and Space Corporation.


  • In a meeting with Chinese officials, Rogozin proposed that the two countries work together on a permanently crewed base on the moon. Russian is aiming to establish a lunar facility around 2030.

Latest NASA Updates on Progress Anomaly

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Progress mission has failed. Scott Kelly, who is aboard the International Space Station, said in an interview with The Associated Press that Russian controllers had told the crew Progress would not dock with the station. The cargo ship will eventually enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up.

UPDATE (4/29 9:50 a.m. EDT): Docking has been called off for the Progress 59 spacecraft. Russian flight controllers are continuing to assess the vehicle and what the plan going forward will be. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.

UPDATE (4/28 11:00 p.m. EDT): Russian flight controllers are continuing attempts to communicate with and troubleshoot issues with the Russian Progress 59 cargo spacecraft as it makes additional passes tonight over Russian ground stations.

UPDATE (4/28 9:35 a.m. EDT): Russian flight controllers have continued to try and recover telemetry capability with the ISS Progress 59 cargo craft this morning. The most recent ground pass started at 9:20 a.m. EDT and flight controllers reported no change in the issues with receiving telemetry data from the unmanned craft. The Russian flight control team attempted to command the vehicle over four orbits flying over Russian ground sites with no success. The next series of ground station passes is expected to resume late Tuesday evening. Teams are standing down on the Thursday docking attempt while Russian teams continue to analyze data and develop a troubleshooting plan going forward.

UPDATE (4/28 8:15 a.m. EDT): Russian flight controllers are continuing to troubleshoot issues with the ISS Progress 59 cargo craft. The spacecraft made another pass over Russian ground stations and continued to experience telemetry problems regarding the deployment of navigational antennas and the pressurization of the manifolds in the propulsion system. Flight controllers also confirmed that the vehicle had entered into a slow spin and have issued commands to attempt to control it.

USAF Statement on Progress Anomaly


USAFVANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., April 28, 2015 (JFCC PR) — Joint Functional Component Command for Space’s Joint Space Operations Center made an initial observation of an anomaly with an International Space Station Progress resupply cargo craft at 12:04 a.m. (3:04 a.m. EDT), today.

The JSpOC immediately began tracking the event and initiated the appropriate reporting procedures.

Continue reading ‘USAF Statement on Progress Anomaly’

Progress Supply Ship Spinning Out of Control


Russia’s Progress 59 cargo ship has been spinning out of control since it was launched into orbit from Baikonur. Media reports indicate that the ship’s Kurs rendezvous antennas onboard the vehicle have failed to deploy. There are also questions about whether there has been pressurization of the Progress propulsion system.

Controllers have had difficulty in communicating with the cargo ship. They have managed to switch from a four orbit rendezvous plan to 34 orbits, which will give them time to troubleshoot the problems.