New ISS Crew Prepares to Launch on 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon Landing

Expedition 60 crewmembers NASA’s Andrew Morgan of NASA, Roscosmos’Alexander Skvortsov and ESA’s Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency pose on 5 July in front of a mural bearing the insignia of the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz mission. (Credit: GCTC–Andrey Shelepin)

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (ESA PR) — The next astronauts to join the International Space Station are on their marks for their launch to Earth’s orbit on 20 July, a date that also commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, Roscomos’ Alexander Skvortsov and NASA’s Andrew Morgan arrived last week at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for an intense schedule of pre-launch activities.

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Roscosmos Moves Toward Reusable Boosters, Aims for the Moon

Roscosmos boss Dmitry Rogozin meets with Russia’s boss of bosses, President Vladimir Putin. (Credit: Russian President’s Office)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It’s been a while since we’ve checked in with Dmitry Rogozin and his team over at Roscosmos. This has been partly due to all the awesome things that are happening elsewhere that keep me busy. And partly due to the fact that Russia’s plans seem to be continuing evolving due to budget cuts to the point to where I’m never quite sure what exactly to take seriously.

The question usually is: yeah, that sounds great, but is there any money for this? I’m lacking in good sources there. And Russian media usually don’t provide enough insights into the program to allow for informed judgments.

With that caveat in mind. TASS has provided another one of its periodic bursts of updates about what Rogozin and company have been up to lately. They are making progress on reusable launch vehicles, a super-heavy booster, a spacecraft that will replace Soyuz, and plans sending cosmonauts and robots to the moon.

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The Return of Satan: Roscosmos Eyes SS-18 Missiles as Satellite Launchers Again

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Roscosmos CEO Dmitry Rogozin said the state space corporation is once again eyeing the use of converted SS-18 Satan (aka, R-36M2 Voyevoda) intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) for small satellite launches, TASS reports.

“The matter is now being discussed, first of all with the Defense Ministry, because they are the number one here,” Rogozin said on Saturday, answering to a question about the possibility of converting Voyevoda ICBMs.

He said it would be “wrong to simply scrap” this “beautiful, legendary ICBM.”

“We could easily refit it for projects related to putting small spacecraft to civilian orbits. The matter is being discussed. This tactics should be applied to all combat missiles when they are being removed from combat duty, including Sarmat,” he said.

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ISRO, Glavkosmos Sign Agreement for Training Indian Astronauts

MOSCOW (Glavkosmos PR) — On June 27, 2019, First deputy Director General of Glavkosmos (part of Roscosmos State Corporation) Natalia Lokteva and Director of Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC) of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)Dr. S.Unnikrishnan Nair signed a contract for selection support, medical examination and space training of Indian astronauts.

Glavkosmos will render to HSFC services on consulting support of selection of candidates for the Indian astronauts, providing medical examination of the candidates for access to space flight related training program and providing space flight related training for the Indian astronauts selected on the basis of the medical examination.

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ExoMars: Progress and Challenges

ExoMars 2020 parachute deployment sequence (Credit: ESA)

TURIN, Italy, 28 June 2019  (ESA PR) — The full parachute system that will help deliver the ExoMars rover and a surface science platform to the martian surface has completed a full-scale high-altitude deployment sequence test, although unexpected damage to the main parachutes occurred.

Meanwhile, the main elements of the descent module hardware, including the heat shield that will protect the lander as it enters the atmosphere of Mars, have been delivered to Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy, this week.

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Report: Soyuz Suffered Anomaly While Returning to Earth

NASA astronaut Anne McClain is assisted out of the Soyuz MS-11 that returned her and crewmates Oleg Kononenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency back to Earth on June 24, 2019, landing in a remote area near Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, after 204 days aboard the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

RussianSpaceWeb.com reports that the Soyuz returning three astronauts back from a six-months stay aboard the International Space System suffered an anomaly. The problem occurred after the Soyuz spacecraft fired its main SKD engine in a deorbit maneuver.

Moments after the completion of the braking maneuver, the emergency signal was heard inside the Descent Module and the communications between the crew and mission control discussed a failure of the first manifold in the integrated propulsion system of the Soyuz spacecraft and the switch to the second manifold. Kononenko first reported K1B (Manifold DPO-B) emergency at 05:02:54 Moscow Time and subsequently confirmed a switch to the second manifold. NASA later confirmed the problem, but did not provide any details.

Manifod DPO-B provides fuel to 12 thrusters that steer the Soyuz spacecraft. It is not clear how serious the failure was, or whether it has occurred on previous missions.

RussianSpaceWeb.com reported that the Soyuz subsequently split into the separate modules as planned. The habitation module carrying Russian Commander Oleg Kononenko, American Anne McClain and Canadian David Saint-Jacques reentered the atmosphere and touched down safely in Kazakhstan.

Russians Raise $87 Million to Upgrade Baikonur, Save Gagarin Launch Complex

Yuti Gagarin

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), a Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, in partnership with Middle East investors, GK Launch Services company and with the support of Roscosmos State Corporation, announces an investment of $87 million in upgrading the infrastructure of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The relevant documents have been signed today at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

The project intends to upgrade Launch Site 1 (Gagarin’s Start) of the Cosmodrome with its following operation for Soyuz-2 rocket launches.

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Counting the Many Ways the International Space Station Benefits Humanity

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The third edition of NASA’s “International Space Station Benefits for Humanity” book now is available. The new edition fills more than 200 pages with the many benefits of conducting research on the orbiting microgravity laboratory and includes new assessments of the economic value — as well as greater detail about the scientific value — of the International Space Station.

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Amazon Constellation Sends Number of Planned Communications Satellites Soaring Above 20,000

F6 satellite (Credit: OneWeb)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Jeff Bezos’ Amazon has jumped into a crowded field of companies seeking to provide high-speed broadband, data and other communications services to the entire globe.

Amazon’s Kuiper constellation of 3,236 satellites brings the total number of spacecraft in the 16 announced systems to 20,241 spacecraft. The competition includes SpaceX, Boeing, Telesat, SES and government-backed companies in China and Russia.

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ISS Multilateral Coordination Board Says Lunar Gateway is Next Step

Lunar Gateway concept. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The International Space Station (ISS) Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB), which oversees the management of the ISS, met on March 5th, 2019. Its members[1] acknowledged the recent 20th anniversary of the launch of the first International Space Station module and celebrated the success of the ISS partnership. This international team has not only built the space station and risen to the challenges of its day-to-day dynamic operation, but – most importantly – delivered tangible benefits to humanity.

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NASA Sets Coverage for Next Space Station Crew Launch, Docking

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Two American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut are set to join the crew aboard the International Space Station on Thursday, March 14. The trio’s arrival will return the orbiting laboratory’s population to six, including three NASA astronauts. This launch will also mark the fourth Expedition crew with two female astronauts. Live coverage will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch, and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, are set to launch aboard the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft at 3:14 p.m. EDT (12:14 a.m. March 15 Kazakhstan time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a six-hour journey to the station.

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Rogozin Has Nice Things to Say About Crew Dragon, Musk

Editor’s Note: Rogozin’s Twitter account is limited to approved followers, not the general public. The Kremlin has appointed a minder over at Roscosmos to tamp down on the general director’s public comments.

My guess is that after the dust up over Roscosmos’ tweet after Crew Dragon docked, someone (Putin?) talked to (yelled at?) Rogozin and made sure he (his political minder?) made sure something nice was tweeted for the landing.

NPO Energomash Summed Up the Results of 2018

MOSCOW (Roswcosmos PR) — NPO Energomash held a final meeting on the results of the enterprise in 2018.

In the course of the already traditional final meeting, the main areas of work were reviewed, the results were summarized, and plans for 2019 were outlined. Igor Arbuzov, Director General of NPO Energomash, in his speech noted that in manned programs Russia still maintains a monopoly on the delivery of crews to the International Space Station. Four launches of the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle in 2018 provided for a total of 20 engines of NPO Energomash JSC of the RD-107/108 family at the first and second stages. In total, in 2018, Russia carried out 22 launches of launch vehicles (including 3 launches of the Soyuz-ST PH from the spaceport in French Guiana). “24 start-ups were performed using engines developed by NPO Energomash.

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Videos of Crew Dragon Docking & Welcome Ceremony

Video Caption: SpaceX Demo-1 Crew Dragon autonomously docked to the International Space Station’s Harmony module forward International Docking Adapter (IDA) on 3 March 2019, at 10:51 UTC (05:51 EST).

Demo-1 is SpaceX’s first uncrewed test flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft on a mission to the ISS and was launched by a Falcon 9 rocket (Block 5 B1051) from the Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on 2 March 2019, at 07:49 UTC (02:49 EST). The Crew Dragon transports roughly 180 kg (400 pounds) of crew supplies and equipment, as well as an anthropomorphic test device (ATD) fitted with sensors and nicknamed Ripley.

Video Caption: NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, and Russian cosmonaut and Expedition 58 commander Oleg Kononenko welcomed SpaceX Demo-1 Crew Dragon on 3 March 2019. The spacecraft autonomously docked to the International Space Station’s Harmony module forward International Docking Adapter (IDA) on 3 March 2019, at 10:51 UTC (05:51 EST) and the hatch was opened at 13:07 UTC (08:07 EST).

Roscosmos (Kinda) Congratulates NASA (Not SpaceX) on Crew Dragon Docking

The Twitter translation of this tweet reads:

Roscosmos congratulates @NASA with successful docking of the new ship and emphasizes that the safety of flights should be irreproachable.

The State Corporation welcomes the development of mutual relations in the field of space exploration and expresses its confidence that cooperation will develop

About an hour later, Roscosmos tweeted out a somewhat nicer message, although still neglecting to mention SpaceX:

Question: is the sort of waddling movement we see in the video normal for approaching ships?