RSC Energia Chief Questions Schedule for Elon Musk’s Moon Plan

SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)

The head of Russia’s most prominent spaceflight company questioned whether Elon Musk’s SpaceX will be able to launch people around the moon next year and said Russia plans to revive tourism flights to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2020.

“As for the state of affairs specifically at Elon Musk’s company, it would be difficult to carry out such a mission in 2018, and even in 2020,” Vladimir Solntsev, general director of RSC Energia, the primary contractor for Russia’s human spaceflight program, said in a wide-ranging Q&A with the Russian news agency TASS.

Read the rest of my Space.com story here.

GAO: Boeing & SpaceX Face Potential Further Delays in Commercial Crew Certification

Astronaut Eric Boe evaluates Boeing Starliner spacesuit in mockup of spacecraft cockpit. (Credit: Boeing)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says NASA’s commercial crew contractors face potential further delays into 2019 for certifying their vehicles to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on a commercial basis.

“Boeing has proposed moving its certification review out to the fourth quarter of 2018—at least 14 months later than initially planned,” the report states. “SpaceX has moved its certification review to the third quarter of 2018—at least 15 months later than initially planned.
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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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Russia Plans to Boost Launch Rate, Revenues from Space Station

Igor Komarov (Credit: Russia Forum)

Speaking a day after SpaceX successfully re-flew a previously used Falcon 9 first stage, Russian space officials sought to reassure the public about the nation’s lagging launch rate and outlined plans to increase revenues from  the International Space Station (ISS).

On Friday, Roscosmos head Igor Komarov said Russia was aiming for more than two dozen launches this year.

“We will conduct at least 30 launches from the Baikonur, Plesetsk, Vostochny and Kourou space centers this year,” Komarov said at a meeting of the Expert Council of Russia’s Military-Industrial Committee.

With one quarter of the year completed, Russia has conducted two launches.

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NASA Purchases Additional Soyuz Seats From Boeing

Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — A new agreement to purchase flights from Boeing to the International Space Station on a Soyuz spacecraft will allow NASA to maximize time dedicated to scientific research by increasing crew size on the U.S. segment from three to four. The additional flights will take place in 2017 and 2018. The agreement includes an option to be exercised by fall 2017 for additional seats in 2019. The 2019 seats could be used to smooth transition to U.S. commercial transportation services.

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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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The Growing Cost of Not Having Direct Access to ISS

At the Integration Facility at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 49 crewmembers Shane Kimbrough of NASA (left) and Sergey Ryzhikov (center) and Andrey Borisenko (right) of Roscosmos pose for pictures Sept. 9 in front of their Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft during a pre-launch training fit check. Kimbrough, Ryzhikov and Borisenko will launch Sept. 24, Kazakh time on the Soyuz MS-02 vehicle for a five-month mission on the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov)
Expedition 49 crewmembers Shane Kimbrough of NASA (left) and Sergey Ryzhikov (center) and Andrey Borisenko (right) of Roscosmos pose for pictures Sept. 9 in front of their Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft during a pre-launch training fit check. (Credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov)

Bloomberg Government reports that delays in fielding replacements for the retired space shuttle has forced NASA to send billions of dollars to Russia over the past six years.

NASA has spent $897 million with state-controlled Roscosmos since fiscal 2015 and $2.1 billion since the U.S. retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011, Bloomberg Government data show….

NASA must rely on Russia to transport astronauts and equipment for at least two more years. Roscosmos will receive another $950 million in 2017 and 2018 for 12 more round trips on Soyuz ISS flights, according a September report by NASA’s Office of Inspector General.

Congressional budget cuts to NASA’s Commercial Crew Program forced the agency to extend its contract with Roscosmos to keep sending American astronauts to the ISS, according to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden’s August 2015 letter to Congress.

Putin consolidated the Russian space industry into Roscosmos in 2015, placing several close advisers in senior positions, according to Senator John McCain. Among them are Chairman Dmitry Rogozin and board member Sergei Chemezov, who are listed as Specially Designated Nationals on the U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control SDN Sanctions List. Their names were added to the list following President Obama’s March 2014 emergency Executive Order 13660, issued in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Treasury denies that sanctions on Russia apply to the space industry. So while NASA isn’t in violation, it’s in an awkward position of paying billions of agency dollars directly to Russian government coffers to maintain a presence on the ISS.

The figures do not include the cost of additional Soyuz seats that NASA might end up buying for 2019 if commercial crew efforts by SpaceX and Boeing are delayed beyond 2018. NASA could purchase up to three seats through Boeing, which received them as part of a legal settlement of a lawsuit against Soyuz manufacturer RSC Energia.

Read the full story.

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NASA Looks to Purchase Additional Soyuz Seats — From Boeing!

Credit: NASA
Soyuz and Progress vehicles docked at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

After months of saying it had no plans to purchase any additional Russian Soyuz seats to take U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station, NASA is looking to do exactly that.

Only there’s a twist: NASA won’t be purchasing the seats directly from the Russians. They will be buying them from Boeing, which has obtained already purchased five seats from Soyuz manufacturer RSC Energia.

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Russia Eyes Launch of Progress Cargo Ship Replacement After 2020

Increased Capacity Cargo Transportation Spacecraft (Credit: RSC Energia)
Increased Capacity Cargo Transportation Spacecraft (Credit: RSC Energia)

MOSCOW (RSC Energia PR) — The first launch of the Increased Capacity Cargo Transportation Spacecraft (ICCTS) for logistic support of the International Space Station (ISS) is possible after 2020.

Preliminary design work on the ICCTS is to be completed in December 2016, there are no plans to develop a cargo-return version of the spacecraft.

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Sea Launch Could Be Coming Back

Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)
Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)

It looks as if the moribound Sea Launch company could have a new lease on life.

Majority owner Energia has scheduled a press conference with the S7 Group on Tuesday during the International Astronautical Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico. The invitation promises a major announcement about the future of the long troubled venture.

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Soyuz Mission to the Moon Surfaces — Again

Space Adventures vehicle for circumlunar flights. (Credit: Space Adventures)
Space Adventures vehicle for circumlunar flights. (Credit: Space Adventures)

Like the elusive Loch Ness Monster, a plan to send a cosmonaut and two tourists looping around the moon in a modified Soyuz transport has once again surfaced in the Russian media.

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Putin Signs Decree Defining Roscosmos Organization

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin

MOSCOW — On May 12, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree, “On measures for the establishment of the State Corporation for Space Activities Roskosmos”, according to which part of the state corporation will include 46 joint-stock companies and 16 of the Federal State Unitary Enterprise.

 Arrangements for the transfer of shares of companies and the Federal State Unitary Enterprise after incorporation into the ownership of the state corporation “Roscosmos” to be completed by the end of the transitional period, which according to the Federal Law of July 13, 2015 N 215-FZ “On the State Corporation for Space Activities Roskosmos” is five years.
The structure of the state corporation Roscosmos enter the United Rocket and Space Corporation (ACCD), Research Center. Keldysh, JSC RCC Progress ,Information Satellite Systems to them. Academician MF Reshetnev, JSC Corporation Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology, FSUE Center for Exploitation of Space Ground-based Infrastructure (TsENKI), FSUE TsNIImash, JSC SRC Makeyev, JSC Corporation Strategic Points of Control, NPO Energomash, OAO RSC Energia and other joint-stock companies and the Federal State Unitary Enterprise.
Complete text of the Russian Federation “On measures for the creation of the State Corporation for Space Activities” Roskosmos “Decree of the President may be on the following link: http://publication.pravo.gov.ru/Document/View/0001201605120026