Report: Hole in Soyuz Spacecraft Caused by Drill, Not Debris Strike

Soyuz TM spacecraft in orbit

A story in the normally authoritative RIA Novosti website says that the leak in the orbital module of a Soyuz transport docked to the International Space Station was caused by a worker who mistakenly drilled a hole through the hull during production, not by a debris strike as originally believed.

The story says the worker patched the hole with glue. However, the glue was apparently sucked out into the vacuum of space, causing a small leak that lowered the atmospheric pressure on the space station that houses six people.

Astronauts aboard the station have patched the leak. The astronauts were never in any danger from the slow leak.

Russian officials have vowed to find the RSC Energia worker responsible for the mistake.

Russians to Launch Long-Delayed Module to Space Station Next Year

Multifunctional Laboratory Module (Credit: Khrunichev)

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin has announced a new launch date — November 2019 — for the launch of its long-delayed Nauka multi-functional module to the International Space Station. Whether this new date will hold is anyone’s guess; the module’s launch will be a dozen years behind schedule by that point.

Nauka will serve as a scientific laboratory as well as a rest area for Russian astronauts aboard the space station. The module will include an airlock for experiments, crew quarters, a galley and a toilet. Nauka also includes a docking port for Soyuz and Progress spacecraft and a European-supplied robotic arm.

Construction of the Nauka module began in 1995. It was originally a backup for the Zarya module, which was the first element of space station launched in November 1998.

With Nauka no longer needed to back up Zarya, plans were made to convert it to a multi-purpose module with a launch scheduled for 2007. However, technical problems repeatedly delayed the launch.

In 2013, RSC Energia engineers found a leaking valve and contamination in Nauka’s fuel system.  The module was shipped back to Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center for repairs and cleaning.

The following year, Russian officials announced that Nauka would be further delayed because it needed a new propulsion system. The propulsion unit installed on the module had exceeded its warranty.

Three RSC Energia Officials Charged With Corruption

Russian authorities say they have arrested RSC Energia Deputy Director Aleksey Beloborodov with marked bills worth 500,000 rubles ($7,400) as well as $28,000 euros and dollars as part of a bribery investigation, according to CrimeRussia.com.

Beloborodov and two specialists in RSC Energia’s Department of Control and Auditing Activities — Oleg Pylnov and Ilya Shenderey — are charged with extorting a bribe from one of the company’s contractors that wanted to compete for a contract.

The online news site said that marked money was allegedly transferred to Pylnov and Shenderey, who then gave it to their boss. The pair decided to cooperate with the investigation after they were detained by authorities, the website said.

Russian to Spend Decade, $25 Billion on Super Heavy Launch Vehicle

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

Russia is moving ahead with a decade-long, $25 billion (1.6 trillion ruble) program to create new super-heavy launch vehicles capable of lifting up to 100 metric tons into low Earth orbit (LEO), Tass reports.

The new boosters, known as Energia-3 and Energia-5, will incorporate technologies and elements of the Soyuz-5 medium-class rocket, which is now under development.

Soyuz-5 is designed to launch Russia’s new crewed spacecraft, Federatsiya (Federation), into Earth orbit. The Energia rockets will be used for lunar missions.

RSC Energia, which is developing the boosters, plans to test the Soyuz-5 rocket from 2022-25. The super-heavy booster would then be tested from 2028-2035 from the Vostochny Cosmodrome.

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RSC Energia Director General Steps Down, RCC Progress Gets Interim Director

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

Roscosmos’ new boss, Dmitry Rogozin, appears to be making some changes within his domain with new leadership at two of the nation’s leading space companies.

Tass reports that Vladimir Solntsev, the head of RSC Energia, will step down from his post on Aug. 3. The publication gave no reason for Solntsev’s departure from the corporation, which is a subsidiary of Roscosmos.

Tass reports he became RSC Energia’s president in September 2014 and its director general in June 2016. Energia manufactures the Soyuz crew vehicle and other Russian spacecraft.

Officials plan to selected a new director general at an emergency shareholders’ meeting on Aug. 21. Sergei Romanov, the company’s general designer for human space systems, will become acting director after Solntsev departs.

Rocket maker RCC Progress also has new leadership. On June 26, the corporation’s board of directors appointed Dmitry Aleksandrovich Baranov as acting general director to replace R.N. Akhmetov. An announcement was made on the company’s website.

Born in June 1970 in Kuibyshev. Baranov graduated from Samara State Aerospace University with a degree in rocket engineering in 1994. He began working at RCC Progress (then known as TsSKB Progress) the year before he graduated.

From 2005 to 2011, he served as director of the Soyuz rocket program at Europe’s Guiana Space Center in South America.

You’ll Never Guess Who Space Adventures Planned to Send Around the Moon

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

by Douglas Messier
Local Blogger

It’s been one of the most intriguing on-the-books-but-never-executed space missions of the 21st century: two tourists paying $150 million each would fly around the moon in a modified Russian Soyuz spacecraft before landing back on Earth. It would be humanity’s first trip to the moon since Apollo 17, which landed there 45 years ago this month.

Space Adventures said it had signed two wealthy tourists to go years ago. There was much speculation about the identities of these individuals.  Was it Google Founder Sergey Brin? Titanic director James Cameron? Brin and Cameron? Cameron and a seat full of camera equipment?

The answer is none of the above. One prospective lunar tourist is someone few people have ever heard of. The other is a well known figure in the space community who was hiding in plain sight. The reason they didn’t fly to the moon together might surprise you.

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RSC Energia Begins Work on New Soyuz-5 Booster

MOSCOW (RSC Energia PR) — Work is performed in compliance with the Order of the Government of the Russian Federation where RSC Energia is identified as the prime contractor of space rocket complex (SRC).

The following enterprises of State Corporation ROSCOSMOS: RSC Progress, FSUE TsENKI, etc. are the work co-executors.

Flight tests of new Russian launch vehicle (LV) Soyuz-5 are planned to be conducted for 2022 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

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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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