The Best Laid Plans, Moscow Edition: Ukraine Invasion Damages Russia’s Launch Business

Soyuz-2 rocket launches a military satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome. (Credit: Russian Ministry of Defense)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Ambitious launch schedules typically go awry when a rocket suffers a catastrophic failure that takes months to investigate and implement modifications to ensure the same accident doesn’t happen again. In the majority of cases, the failures involve a machine launching a machine. All that can be replaced, albeit at substantial cost.

Russia’s ambitious launch plans for 2022 fell apart due to a far more momentous and deadly action: the nation’s invasion of Ukraine. The decision ruptured cooperation with the West on virtually every space project on which it was safe to do so. The main exception was the International Space Station (ISS), a program involving astronauts and cosmonauts that would be difficult to operate safely if Russia suddenly withdrew (as it indeed threatened to do).

Due to the invasion, Western partners canceled seven launches of foreign payloads in less than a month. The cancellations put Russia even further behind the United States and China in launch totals this year.

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SpaceX Rockets U.S. Launches to New Heights in 2022

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites on June 17, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Powered by 33 flights of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, the United States leads all nations with 48 launch attempts through the first seven months of the year. The total is three short of the number of U.S. launches attempted last year, and far ahead of the 27 launches conducted by second place China through the end of July. The U.S. has conducted more launches than the 43 flights conducted by the rest of the world combined.

A number of notable flights were conducted. SpaceX launched two Crew Dragons to the International Space Station (ISS), including the first fully privately funded mission to the orbiting laboratory. United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched Boeing’s CST-100 Starship crew vehicle on an automated flight test to ISS, a crucial step before astronauts to fly on the spacecraft. Small satellite launch provider Rocket Lab conducted its first deep-space mission by sending a spacecraft the size of a microwave to the moon.

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Roscosmos Looks to Make Space Tourist Training Even Shorter

The three new residents aboard the station (front row, from left) are Russian actress Yulia Peresild, Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, and Russian Producer Klim Shipenko. In the back, are Expedition 65 crew members Shane Kimbrough, Oleg Novitskiy, Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Pyotr Dubrov, Mark Vande Hei, and Akihiko Hoshide. (Credit: NASA TV)

TASS reports that it is theoretically possible to reduce the time it takes to train a non-professional astronaut (aka, space tourists or spaceflight participants) to fly to orbit aboard the Soyuz spacecraft to under the current four months. Paying customers used to spend months in training prior to a flight.

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Record-Setting NASA Astronaut, Crewmates Return from Space Station

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is seen outside the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft after he landed with Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday, March 30, 2022. Vande Hei and Dubrov are returning to Earth after logging 355 days in space as members of Expeditions 64-66 aboard the International Space Station. For Vande Hei, his mission is the longest single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut in history. Shkaplerov is returning after 176 days in space, serving as a Flight Engineer for Expedition 65 and commander of Expedition 66. (Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — After extending the record for the longest single spaceflight in history by an American to 355 days, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returned to Earth on Wednesday, March 30, along with Roscosmos cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov.

The trio departed the International Space Station at 3:21 a.m. EDT and made a safe, parachute-assisted landing at 7:28 a.m. (5:28 p.m. Kazakhstan time) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

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Record Breaking NASA Astronaut to Return to Earth on Wednesday Aboard Russian Soyuz as Private Mission to ISS Looms

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei studies cotton genetics for the Plant Habitat-5 space agriculture experiment. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Three Expedition 66 Flight Engineers are returning to Earth in less than two days as four private astronauts prepare for their mission to the International Space Station. The crew activities haven’t stopped the ongoing space research as the orbital residents studied biology, botany, and physics on Monday.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is nearing the end of his mission as he prepares to return to Earth on Wednesday after a NASA-record breaking 355 days in space. Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov will lead Vande Hei and Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov inside the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship when they undock from the Rassvet module at 3:21 a.m. EDT on Wednesday. The trio will parachute to a landing just over four hours later.

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NASA to Provide Live Coverage of Record-Setting US Astronaut Return

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei studies cotton genetics for the Plant Habitat-5 space agriculture experiment. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and two Roscosmos cosmonauts are scheduled to end their mission aboard the International Space Station and return to Earth on Wednesday, March 30.

Vande Hei, along with Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, will close the hatch to the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft to begin the journey back to Earth. The Soyuz will undock from the Rassvet module, heading for a parachute-assisted landing Wednesday, March 30, on the steppe of Kazakhstan, southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan.

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NASA Astronaut Sets New American Space Endurance Record; Russia Promises to Bring Him Home

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei studies cotton genetics for the Plant Habitat-5 space agriculture experiment. (Credit: NASA)

Mark Vande Hei set a new American record for the most consecutive days in space on Tuesday, breaking the 340-day record set by Scott Kelly.

Vande Hei arrived at the International Space Station on April 9, 2021, and is scheduled to return to Earth on March 30, 2022 after 355 days in space.

Russia has assured NASA that Vande Hei will be returned safety to Earth despite on-going tensions and U.S. sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

“US astronaut Mark Vande Hei will travel back home in the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft together with Russia’s Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov on March 30. Roscosmos has never let anybody doubt its reliability as a partner,” the Russian space corporation said in a statement.

Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin has threatened to pull Russia out of the space station program and let the facility crash over a populated area if sanctions over the Ukraine invasion are lifted. The station is large enough that pieces will survive reentry and strike the ground. It is not clear whether Rogozin is serious or bluffing.

Vande Hei was originally scheduled to stay aboard the station for about six months. However, he ended up staying almost a year when Roscosmos decided to send up a director and actress to film a movie on the station aboard the Soyuz spacecraft that was to have brought him home. The decision also extended the stay of Dubrov.

Roscosmos Looks Back at Successful Launch Year

Soyuz rocket launches 36 OneWeb satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec. 27, 2021. (Credit: Arianespace)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — For the third year in a row, Roscosmos ensured trouble-free launches of spacecraft from the Baikonur, Plesetsk and Vostochny cosmodromes. Russia has achieved the best indicators of accident-free launches in 5 years (about 97 percent) among the leading space powers (Russia, USA, China).

As of the end of 2021, 25 launches of space rockets were carried out, including 14 launches from the Baikonur cosmodrome, 5 launches from Vostochny, 5 from Plesetsk and 1 from the Guiana Space Center.

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Updates on the Russian Challenge Mission to the Space Station

Credit: Roscosmos

Roscosmos Mission Updates

Challenge Mission Day 8
October 13

October 13, 2021, the International Space Station Russian segment is a major day: preparations for the return to Earth of the ‘Challenge’ scientific educational project crew. Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy continues preparations and training together with spaceflight participants for the upcoming landing of the Soyuz MS-18 Yuri Gagarin spacecraft.

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Cosmonaut Says “Challenge” Mission Risky, Amateur Space Travelers Need More Training

Actress Yulia Peresild, cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and film director Klim Shipenko. (Credit: Roscosmos)

RT interviewed veteran cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin about the risks involved in the commercial mission launched to the International Space Station (ISS) last week. On Oct. 5, the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft flew to the station with professional cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and two amateur cosmonauts, actress Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko, who are filming a movie titled “Challenge” there.

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Filming for Russian “Challenge” Movie Continues on Space Station

Credit: Roscosmos

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Usually Saturday and Sunday for the crew of the International Space Station are days off. 

Astronauts can do their own business at their own discretion – read books, watch films, respond to messages from subscribers on social networks or “live” letters delivered on board the International Space Station using “space” mail, communicate with family and friends by calling the Earth, play sports outside of the compulsory physical activity. 

Meanwhile, the crew of the scientific and educational project “Challenge” consisting of actress Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko continues to work – it is already the fourth shooting day of the project in near-earth orbit. 

In the evening, October 8, 2021, Dmitry Rogozin, General Director of the State Corporation Roscosmos, held a video session with the crew of the Call project on board the International Space Station. Russian doctors note the good health of the space flight participants. 

As a reminder, Roskosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, as well as space flight participants – actress Peresild and director Shipenko – went to the ISS on the Soyuz MS-19 manned transport spacecraft from the Baikonur cosmodrome on October 5, 2021. The spacecraft docked to the Dawn module of the International Space Station almost 3.5 hours after launch. The return of the crew to Earth is expected next Sunday.

Cosmonauts Prepare Soyuz for Return to Earth

The three new residents aboard the station (front row, from left) are Russian actress Yulia Peresild, Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, and Russian Producer Klim Shipenko. In the back, are Expedition 65 crew members Shane Kimbrough, Oleg Novitskiy, Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Pyotr Dubrov, Mark Vande Hei, and Akihiko Hoshide. (Credit: NASA TV)

MOSCOW, October 7, 2021 (Roscosmos PR) — Russian crewmembers of the 65th long-term expedition to the International Space Station work in accordance with the flight task. Today, October 7, 2021, in preparation for the upcoming landing, the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft crew is swapping the Soyuz MS-19 and Soyuz MS-18 seat liners. Return to Earth is scheduled for October 17, 2021.

The crew also continues to work on filming the scientific and educational project ‘Challenge’. The health condition of the cosmonauts and spaceflight participants is good.

The seat liners act as shock absorbers evenly distributing the loads to protect the crew during the landing. Each seat liner is made individually for each cosmonaut as part Kazbek-UM chair shock-absorbing chair of Soyuz MS spacecraft, where the cosmonaut (or spaceflight participant) stays during the flight.

Three times in the history of Russian cosmonautics the seat liners saved the lives of the crews returning from Earth orbit in 1969 (Boris Volynov), in 1980 (Valery Kubasov and Bertalan Farkash), in 1997 (Vasily Tsibliev, Alexander Lazutkin). The impact on the ground was so strong that the astronauts survived largely thanks to the seat liners.

The spaceflight participants Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko, who flew to the International Space Station as part of the scientific and educational project ‘Challenge’ will return to Earth on October 17 on the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft together with Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, who has been at the ISS since April. Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov will spend another 174 days at the station.

According to preliminary data from the TsNIImash Mission Control Center (part of Roscosmos), the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft is scheduled to undock at 01:12 UTC on October 17, 2021. The descent capsule is expected to land at 04:36 UTC of the same day, 147 km from the city of Zhezkazgan.

Russian Cosmonaut, Actress & Director Arrive at ISS to Shoot a Movie

The three new residents aboard the station (front row, from left) are Russian actress Yulia Peresild, Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, and Russian Producer Klim Shipenko. In the back, are Expedition 65 crew members Shane Kimbrough, Oleg Novitskiy, Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Pyotr Dubrov, Mark Vande Hei, and Akihiko Hoshide. (Credit: NASA TV)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The crew members of the Soyuz MS-19 manned transport spacecraft docked on October 5, 2021 to the Rassvet Small Research Module of the Russian Segment of the International Space Station, opened the passageways and boarded the ISS. Then the first communication session of the crew of the 65th long-term expedition with the Baikonur cosmodrome and the TsNIIMash Mission Control Center (part of the Roscosmos State Corporation) took place.

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Crews of the Soyuz MS-19 Mission Continue Training for Oct. 5 Flight to ISS

Actress Yulia Peresild, cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and film director Klim Shipenko. (Credit: Roscosmos)

BAIKONUR COSMODROME, Kazakhstan (Roscosmos PR) — At the Test Training Complex of the Yu.A. Gagarin of the Baikonur cosmodrome, training of the main and backup crews of the Soyuz MS-19 manned transport vehicle continues . Its launch to the International Space Station is scheduled for October 5, 2021.

Recall that the main crew of the ISS-66 expedition: Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, film director Klim Shipenko, actress Yulia Peresild. Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, cameraman Alexei Dudin, actress Alena Mordovina, respectively, became their stunt doubles.

On Friday, October 1, 2021, as part of the preparatory program with cosmonauts and space flight participants, classes on onboard documentation and ballistics of the upcoming flight on the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft were held, as well as practical exercises on working with photographic equipment. In addition, the crews studied the flight program of the 66th long-term expedition to the ISS.

The program also included a training session on interaction between the ship’s crew and the Search and Rescue Service. Traditionally, the main and backup crews were engaged in preparation for space flight factors and underwent daily medical examinations.

NASA TV Coverage Set for Russian Film Production Launch

The Soyuz MS-18 rocket is launched with Expedition 65 NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, Roscosmos cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy, Friday, April 9, 2021, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA will provide coverage of a Tuesday, Oct. 5 launch that will carry a Russian cosmonaut, actress, and film producer to the International Space Station, where they will film segments for a movie. The launch will mark the expansion of commercial space opportunities to include feature filmmaking.

Making his fourth flight into space, Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov will join actress Yulia Peresild and producer Klim Shipenko for the launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:55 a.m. EDT Oct. 5 (1:55 p.m. Baikonur time). Their Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft will make a fast-track, two-orbit journey to dock to the station’s Rassvet module.

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