Russia to Launch New Soyuz Rocket Variant Next Year

Russian Soyuz-1 booster. Credit: Pavel Kolotilov

Russia plans to launch the inaugural flight of the new Soyuz-1 booster from Plesetsk next April, ITAR-TASS reports. The vehicle will launch a pair of university satellites into low Earth orbit.

The Soyuz-1 is a stripped down version of the Soyuz-2.1b rocket with its booster rockets removed and its first stage refitted with NK-33 engines originally built for the Soviet lunar program. The second stage remains the same as the Soyuz-2.1b.

The new medium-class rocket will be capable of lifting payloads of 2,800 kilograms (6,160 lbs) to low Earth orbit from Plesetsk and 2,850 kilograms (6,270 lbs) to LEO from Baikonur. Russia will also launch the rocket from the new Vostochny Cosmodrome once it becomes operational later in this decade.

The Soyuz-1 is similar in capacity to Orbital Sciences Corporation’s new Taurus II booster, which is set to make its inaugural flight later this year. The Taurus II uses the AJ-26 engine, which is an overhauled version of the NK-33 engine that Soyuz-1 will use in its first stage.

Ukraine Sees Space as Ticket to Developed Nation Status, Eyes Closer Ties With Russia

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (Credit: SSAU)

“I see our space achievements as a driving force of the country’s development. Participation in space programs indicates technological capabilities, economic prospects and the level of national security of a state,” Viktor Yanukovych stressed.

“This is our ticket to a prestigious club of developed countries,” he said.

Ukraine and Russia have good potential for the development of joint projects in rocket-space industry, President Yanukovych has said today in Yenakiyeve, adding that the issue of joint development of our countries’ rocket-space systems had been discussed during his meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.


Russians Honor Space Heroes on 50th Anniversary of Gagarin’s Flight

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev with Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. (Credit: Russian government)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev awarded state decorations to cosmonauts, employees and veterans at a ceremony in Moscow to mark the 50th anniversary of the first human spaceflight by Yuri Gagarin.

The ceremony was attended by Yury Gagarin’s widow Valentina Gagarina and his two daughters, as well as several members of the first group of cosmonauts, including the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova. U.S. space station commander Scott Kelly and former astronaut Tom Stafford, who commanded the U.S. side of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975, received the Medal for Merits in Space Exploration from the Russian president.

A transcript of Medvedev’s remarks and additional photos follow.


Roscosmos, ISA Sign Space Cooperation Agreement

ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER PR — This morning in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, a framework agreement was signed on cooperation between the Russian Federal Space Agency and the Israel Space Agency.

The agreement, which was signed in the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, enhances cooperation between the Israeli and Russian space agencies in the fields of space research, observation, navigation, medicine and biology in space, research in advanced materials and launchings.


Russia’s Global Disaster Monitoring System Would Cost $22 Billion

The San Francisco Mission District burning in the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

I’ve found a bit more information about Russia’s IGMASS system, which is an international network designed to help with disaster predicting, monitoring and response.The first bit of news is the eye-popping $22 billion cost of building the full global network. That’s expensive, but relatively cheap compared to the cost of disaster relief and recovery.

The Voice of Russia describes the plan:

The project suggests that satellites, special airplanes, ground sensors and navigators will be transmitting all data concerning ongoing or expected natural disasters such as earthquakes, forest fires, tsunami, or even asteroid fall to regional and international crisis centers. The proposed global aerospace monitoring system suggests the use of Russian GLONASS and American GPS navigation, as well as ground quake and tsunami alarm systems that include more than 20,000 devices.


Medvedev Signs Russia-Ukraine Space Cooperation Agreement

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (Credit:

President of Russia PAO — Dmitry Medvedev signed the Federal Law On Ratification of the Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on the Protection of Technology in Connection with Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses and Research of Outer Space and in Building and Operating Rockets and Rocket and Space Technology.

The purpose of the agreement is to ensure the conditions required for developing cooperation with Ukraine in the space and rocket industries in accordance with the need to ensure legal and physical protection of controlled goods and related technology destined for export on the importer country’s territory, including prevention of unauthorized transfer of the said goods and technology or their use for other purposes by foreign end users.

The agreement was concluded in Moscow on June 11, 2009.

Russian Space Research Gasping for Breath

As Moscow gears up for the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic spaceflight on April 12 amid a number of ambitious new space initiatives, some in the space research community are feeling left out:

The modernisation pushed by President Dmitry Medvedev has prompted a flurry of investment into the Skolkovo Innovation Centre, and cutting-edge industries such as nanotechnology are benefiting from high level backing.

But efforts to recreate the commercial successes of Silicon Valley in Russia risk leaving many space programmes earthbound due to lack of funding.


Medvedev Wants Vigorous Deep Space Exploration Program, But Where Are the Rubles?

Russia should have its own deep space program – Medvedev

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev believes that Russia should develop its own program for the exploration of deep space in general and the Moon in particular. “I think this is a very important topic, even in terms of our scientific ambitions. If we fail to address it at all, we shall degrade and will be pushed to the sidelines,” the president said at a meeting with young scientists on Tuesday.

Medvedev admitted that he could not promise such a program would be ready in one year’s time, “which would let us catch up with the Americans.”


Russia Plans Angara Launches in 2012, Works on Answer to X-37

Angara rocket engine test

A couple of brief updates from Russia:

The long-delayed Angara rocket will be ready for testing next year. “We plan that it will be fully prepared for launch in 2012. Everything is going according to plan,” said Space Troops chief Oleg Ostapenko.

Angara is a modular family of rockets designed to be the mainstay for Russia’s strategic launches, replacing several existing rockets. It will be capable of launching between 2 and 40.5 tons of cargo into low Earth orbit. Development of the rocket has been delayed several years due to financial shortfalls.

Ostapenko also told reporters that Russia is developing a spacecraft similar to the U.S. X-37 Orbital Test Vehicle that flew last year.

“Something has been done along these lines, but as to whether we will use it, only time will tell,” Ostapenko said.

Read the full stories here and here.

Russian President Medvedev Sees Deeper Cooperation With India in Space

The Russian President’s website has the transcript of an interview that Dmitry Medvedev recently gave to The Times of India. He talks about deepening Russo-Indian cooperation in a broad range of areas, including space.  Cooperating in space will take the form of lunar exploration, space science, human spaceflight, and the GLONASS satellite navigation system.

An excerpt from the interview follows after the break.


Country Report: Prospects for Ukraine’s Space Effort Looking Up

The first stage of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Taurus II vehicle is shipped out from Yuzhnoye design bureau in Ukraine. (Credt: Yuzhnoye)

After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, newly independent Ukraine was left with some significant space assets from which to build  a national program. Ukrainian companies build the Zenit, Cyclone and Dnepr launch vehicles that are used for satellite delivery. The nation also recently shipped the first stage for Orbital Sciences Corporation’s new Taurus II rocket.  Ukrainian companies contribute to the construction of Russian Soyuz and Progress vehicles, which ferry crews and supplies to the International Space Station. Ukraine also has the capability of building satellites and defense systems and has ground receiving stations.

The National Space Agency of Ukraine under Dr. Yuriy Alekseyev oversees the country’s space efforts.  Although overshadowed by its larger Russian counterpart, Roscosmos,  the NSAU is building on its Soviet-era foundation in an effort to become a force in international space.  The agency has continued to move forward despite funding difficulties, a global recession, and the bankruptcy of the Sea Launch consortium that uses the Zenit rocket. The nation, whose commercial space industry totaled $254 million in 2009, remains heavily dependent upon the Russian market although it is making major efforts at increasing its international cooperation and standing.


Russians May Launch Ukrainian to ISS

International Space Station

Roscosmos PAO reports that Ukraine could be the next country to visit the International Space Station:

Russia and Ukraine have agreed that they may send a Ukrainian cosmonaut on a Russian spaceship to participate in long-term operations on the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS), Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov told news media.

According to him, it was Ukrainian proposal which implies training of national cosmonauts in Roscosmos’ Gagarin Training Center. However, the ‘costly’ initiative still has to be discussed with the ISS international partners, Perminov stated.

The Ukrainian National Space Agency will also work through all the aspects of the project, which haven’t been specified at the current stage.


Putin: New Spaceport Will Make Russia Independent, More Competitive in Space

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin tours RSC Energia in July. (Credit: Russian Federation Government)

The Roscosmos website has a fascinating transcript of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s visit to Uglegorsk, which is adjacent to the nation’s future Vostochny National Space Port. Putin gave formal remarks, engaged in a discussion with Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov, and spoke with villagers. The transcript, reproduced at this end of this post, brings to light a great deal of information about the new Russian facility.