ExoMars Rover Completes Environmental Tests

ExoMars rover undergoing environmental testing. (Credit: Airbus)

TOULOUSE, France (ESA PR) — The Rosalind Franklin rover of the joint ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars mission completed a series of environmental tests at the end of 2019 at Airbus, Toulouse, France. This included final thermal and vacuum tests where the Rover is heated and cooled to simulate the temperatures of its journey through space and on the surface of Mars.

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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.

Roscosmos Allocates More Funding for Oryol Spacecraft Development

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

Sputnik reports that Roscosmos will devote more than 8 billion rubles ($130.7 million) in additional funding for development of the Oryol (Eagle) beginning next year.

The contract with Energia would fund the construction of two Oryol spacecraft. They are designed to replace the Soyuz transport that has been in use since 1967 and allow cosmonauts to perform lunar and deep space missions. The spacecraft was formerly known as Federatsiya (Federation).

An Oryol mockup would be launched on the Angara A5 heavy booster in 2023, Sputnik reported. A flight test to the International Space Station is planned for 2025, followed by a lunar flyby in 2029 and a landing on the surface the following year.

The additional funding will also be used for the testing of the Yenisei super-heavy booster in 2028, Sputnik said.

China Using Space to Further Geopolitical Goals

Completing our look at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress, we examine how China is using its space program to achieve the nation’s geopolitical and economic goals. [Full Report]

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China is using its growing space program to achieve a range of geopolitical and economic goals, including attracting partners for its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), improving economic and political ties with other countries, and deepening others’ reliance on its space systems and data services.

“Beijing views its space program as key to elevating its leadership profile in international space cooperation, including through BRI, and establishing a dominant position in the commercial space industry,” according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress.

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What We Learned From the Space Station in 2019

Space station cupola view (Credit: ESA/NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Dozens of experiments are going on at any given time aboard the International Space Station. We are advancing our understanding of everything from Parkinson’s disease to combustion thanks to this research. This information is benefiting us on Earth, as well as preparing us for missions to the Moon and Mars.

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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.

Russian Weather Satellite Suffers External Impact

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — On December 18, 2019, an abnormal situation was recorded on the Meteor-M spacecraft No. 2-2 associated with an external impact (presumably a micrometeorite) on its structure. As a result, he changed the parameters of the orbit and switched to a non-oriented flight mode with high angular velocities.

In accordance with the inherent logic of operation, the device stopped fulfilling the target task and automatically switched to energy-saving mode when the on-board systems that were not involved in ensuring its functioning (including all on-board target equipment) are turned off.

After entering into the zone of the Russian ground control means with the Meteor-M spacecraft No. 2-2, communication was established and work began to restore its operability: damping angular velocities, transferring to the standard orientation, receiving telemetric and target information.

Currently, work is underway with the satellite under the program of the chief designer. Meteor-M No. 2-2 is in an oriented flight; regular control sessions are conducted with it to receive telemetric information and information from target equipment.

Russia Launches Glonass-M Navigation Satellite

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Today, December 11, 2019, at 11:54 Moscow time, the Soyuz-2.1b launch vehicle with the Fregat upper stage successfully launched a Glonass-M navigation satellite from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

Separation of the satellite from the Fregat took place normally after three firings of the main engine of the upper stage. 

Glonass-M satellites form the basis of the orbital constellation of the GLONASS system. They provide navigation information and accurate time signals to land, sea, air and space consumers.

Progress Supply Ship Arrives at Space Station

Progress M-13 cargo ship approaches International Space Station. (Credit: Roscosmos)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — On December 9, 2019, at 10:35 UTC the Progress MS-13 cargo vehicle successfully docked to the Pirs docking module of the International Space Station.

The spacecraft approach was performed according to a 72-hour scheme and was conducted automatically under control of the Chief Operating Control Group of the Russian segment of the ISS at the Mission Control Center and the Russian ISS crewmembers – Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka.

The Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket launched from launchpad No. 31 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome on December 6, 2019. The autonomous flight was controlled by the Chief Operative Group of the Russian segment of the ISS at the Korolyov-based Mission Control Center.

The Progress MS-13 spacecraft delivered about 2.5 tons of various cargo including fuel, air, equipment to support the station workability, packages and life support means for the crewmembers. The spacecraft also delivered the new belt for the BD-2 running machine meant to keep the crew’s physical fitness under the zero-g conditions

Progress Resupply Ship Launched to ISS

A Soyuz rocket launches the Progress MS-13 cargo ship to the International Space Station. (Credit: Roscosmos)

BAIKONUR COSMODROME, Kazakhstan (Roscosmos PR) — On December 6, 2019, at 09:34:11 UTC the Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket with the Progress MS-13 cargo spacecraft launched from launchpad No. 31 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Antennas and solar batteries panels’ extension went routinely.

After the cargo vehicle separation from the third stage of the carrier rocket, the Chief Operating Control Group of the Russian segment of the International Space Station at the Mission Control Center took over the flight control.

Progress MS-13 spacecraft approach to the ISS and berthing to the Pirs docking module is planned to be performed automatically under control of the Chief Operating Control Group of the Russian segment of the ISS at the Mission Control Center and the Russian ISS crewmembers – Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka. The docking is scheduled for December 9, 2019, at 10:38 UTC. The broadcast will be available in the Live Broadcast section at Roscosmos website.

The spacecraft is to deliver 700 kg of fuel and gas, as well as 1,350 kg of various equipment and cargo including resource facilities of the onboard control and life support systems, equipment to conduct scientific and research experiments, sanitary and hygiene products and medical control means, 420 kilograms of water in the Rodnik system tanks and standard food rations.

India Plans First Human Spaceflight for December 2021

Escape tower fires (Credit: ISRO)

NEW DELHI (Department of Space PR) — The Human Space Mission: Gaganyaan is targeted for December 2021. The Gaganyaan Programme has been approved by the Government of India. The design and configuration of major subsystem are finalized. The procurement and system/ subsystem realisation for tests and flight has commenced.

The crew selection and training process for Gaganyaan mission is progressing well including the training in Russia under Gaganyaan Mission.

GSLV Mk III launcher which is ISRO’s heavy lift launcher is identified for Gaganyaan mission. It has requisite payload carrying capacity for Orbital module in desired elliptical orbit. Process for human rating of GSLV Mk-III is progressing well.

ISRO has wide experience in technological areas with respect to Launch vehicle, spacecraft management, ground infrastructure etc. ISRO has taken steps for human rating of existing systems to ensure crew safety.

In certain areas where ISRO lacks experience such as Human centric systems, crew training, crew recovery etc., ISRO is planning to collaborate with national and international agencies. MoUs in this regard have already been signed with DRDO labs, Indian Air Force and Russian space agency.

This information was provided by the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Development of North-Eastern Region (DoNER), MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh in written reply to a question in Lok Sabha today.

Russia to Launch Progress Cargo Ship on Friday

Progress MS-12 approaches the International Space Station. Credit: Roscosmos)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — TsNIIMash Mission Control Center has completed the planned activities to prepare for the Progress MS-13 cargo vehicle flight. The Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket is scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on December 6, 2019, at 09:34:11 UTC [4:34:11 a.m. EST].

The Chief Operating Control Group of the Russian segment of the International Space Station at the Mission Control Center will take over the flight control after its separation from the third stage of the carrier rocket. The estimated orbit insertion time is 09:42:59 UTC [4:42:59 a.m. EST].

Progress MS-13 spacecraft approach to the ISS and berthing to the Pirs docking module is planned to be performed automatically under control of the Chief Operating Control Group of the Russian segment of the ISS at the Mission Control Center and the Russian ISS crewmembers.

The Progress MS-13 spacecraft is to deliver about 2.5 tons of various cargo including fuel, air, equipment to support the station workability, packages and life support means for the crewmembers. The cosmonauts will also get the new belt for the BD-2 running machine meant to keep the crew’s physical fitness under the zero-g conditions.

The launch broadcast will be available in the Live Broadcast section starting from 08:45 UTC [3:45 a.m. EST] on December 6.

SpaceX Launches Dragon Resupply Ship to International Space Station

Falcon 9 launches the CRS-19 mission. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched a Dragon resupply ship with approximately 5,700 pounds of cargo for astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS).

The booster lifted off at 12:29 EST from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Dragon separated from the second stage and deployed its solar arrays to begin a 2.5 day trip to space station.

This is SpaceX’s nineteenth Commercial Resupply Services mission under a contract with NASA. The Dragon spacecraft has previously flown on two previous resupply missions to ISS.

Falcon 9’s first stage successfully landed on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship. The landing marked the 46th successful recovery of a Falcon first stage.

The launch was the first of two resupply missions in less than 24 hours. Roscosmos will launch the Progress 74 cargo ship on Friday.

NASA TV’s coverage of the two missions is below.

Upcoming NASA TV Live Events (All Times Eastern)

Friday, Dec. 6, 4:15 a.m.: NASA TV coverage of Russian Progress 74 cargo spacecraft launch to International Space Station. Launch is scheduled for 4:34 a.m. from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Sunday, Dec. 8: SpaceX CRS-19 Dragon cargo spacecraft rendezvous, grapple and attaching to the International Space Station.

Sunday, Dec. 8: SpaceX CRS-19 Dragon cargo spacecraft installation to the International Space Station. Dragon will be installed to the nadir port of the Harmony module of the station.

Monday, Dec. 9, 4:45 a.m.: NASA TV coverage of Russian Progress 74 cargo spacecraft docking to International Space Station. The spacecraft is expected to dock to the Pirs compartment on the station’s Russian segment at 5:38 a.m.

Dmitry Rogozin Briefs Vladimir Putin on Vostochny Progress

Vladimir Putin

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Roscosmos CEO Dmitry Rogozin briefed the President on the progress in the construction of the second stage of Vostochny Space Centre.

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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Rogozin, we met at Vostochny fairly recently, although several months have already passed, and discussed the issues of the industry’s development and the construction of the space centre. What has been done in the past period, which issues remain unresolved, and what is progressing as we agreed?

Roscosmos CEO Dmitry Rogozin: Mr President,

I would like to report on the construction of the second stage of Vostochny Space Centre. As you know, the first stage comprised the creation of the launch pad and a technical complex with infrastructure for the Soyuz 2 rocket. The second stage is for the Angara, a heavy load rocket. In accordance with your executive order, we are planning to have the first launch in 2023.

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NASA IG: Decide Future of the International Space Station Soon

The International Space Station as it appears in 2018. Zarya is visible at the center of the complex, identifiable by its partially retracted solar arrays. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The sooner NASA can decide the future of the International Space Station (ISS), the easier it will be for the space agency to pursue its Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon by 2020, according to a new report from its Office of Inspector General (OIG).

“Whether NASA decides to extend, increase commercialization of, or retire the ISS, the timing of each of these decisions has a cascading effect on the funding available to support space flight operations in low Earth orbit, ambitions for establishing a permanent presence on the Moon, and ultimately sending humans to Mars,” the report stated.

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