Tag: Soyuz

Years of Failures Haunt Russian Space Program

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Holy shi'ski! The rocket...it go KABOOMSKI! (Credit: Tsenki TV)

Proton rocket falls to Earth at Baikonur in July 2013. (Credit: Tsenki TV)

Sixteen botched launches in six years.

That’s the Russian space program’s sad record since May 2009. The failure of a Proton rocket earlier today with the loss of a Mexican communications satellite was yet another sign of the prolonged crisis affecting Russia’s once powerful space program.

The crash came less than three weeks after a botched launch left a Progress supply freighter spinning end over end like an extra point before it burned up in Earth atmosphere. There was also news today that another Progress cargo ship attached to the International Space Station failed to fire its engine as planned to boost the station’s orbit.

The list of Russian launch accidents over the last six years includes:

  • 13 complete failures resulting in the loss of all payloads;
  • 3 partial failures that left spacecraft in the wrong orbits;
  • complete loss of 20 spacecraft;
  • 6 Russian GLONASS navigation satellites destroyed; and,
  • an ambitious Mars mission left stranded in Earth orbit.

The table below shows the full extent of the damage.

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America’s Impenetrable Congress Does It Again

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2001_monolith_astros_moon
There’s a great scene in “2010: The Year We Make Contact,” in which Dmitri Moiseyevich (Dana Elcar) asks Heywood Floyd (Roy Scheider) what scientists had learned about the monolith brought back from the moon.

“Nothing,” Floyd replies. “It’s impenetrable. We’ve tried lasers, nuclear detonators. Nothing worked.”

I reached that same conclusion about Congress this week. The institution seems impermeable to facts, reasoned arguments, and even potential threats to the lives of America’s brave astronauts.

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Sarah Brightman Drops Out of Space Tourism Flight to ISS

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Satoshi_Takamatsu and Sarah Brightman (far right) meet the media. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Satoshi_Takamatsu and Sarah Brightman (far right) meet the media. (Credit: Roscosmos)

British soprano Sarah Brightman has dropped out of a planned trip this fall to the International Space Station citing ” for personal family reasons.” A post on the singer’s website did not elaborate on those reasons.

The announcement comes only weeks after press reports said Brightman would be replaced by her backup, Japanese businessman Satoshi Takamatsu, because she would not be ready in time for the flight. Those reports were denied at the time.

Brightman’s announcement describes the decision as a postponement, indicating that she could fly at a future time aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Because the Soyuz is the only transport system serving the six-person station, there will probably not be another opportunity until 2017 or 2018 when U.S. commercial providers Boeing and SpaceX begin transporting astronauts to ISS.

A Soyuz seat is open this year because a U.S. astronaut and Russian cosmonaut are spending almost one year aboard the station instead of returning to Earth after five to six months. Each three-seat Soyuz spacecraft must be rotated off the ISS every six months.

Partners Adjust ISS Launches in Wake of Progress Launch Failure

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iss_portrait3
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and its international partners agreed Tuesday to set a new schedule for spacecraft traffic to and from the International Space Station.

The partner agencies agreed to adjust the schedule after hearing the Russian Federal Space Agency’s (Roscosmos) preliminary findings on the recent loss of the Progress 59 cargo craft. The exact dates have not yet been established, but will be announced in the coming weeks. Roscosmos expects to provide an update about the Progress 59 investigation on Friday, May 22.

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Progress Burns Up as Russia Mulls Delay in Next Crew Launch

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Progress_vehicle_freeflightRussia’s wayward Progress cargo ship has burned up in the atmosphere over the central Pacific Ocean 10 days after a botched launch left it tumbling in orbit. The spacecrraft had been carrying supplies to astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

The Russian news agency TASS reports Roscosmos is considering a shift in the rotation of crew members aboard the orbiting laboratory.

“It is suggested that the return from orbit of the expedition which is currently there be postponed from May 14 to June, then, in late June – early July, a Progress cargo spacecraft be blasted off to the ISS, and then, in the last ten days of July, a manned Soyuz launch be made,” the source said.

He said the proposal was forwarded by a Roscosmos working group and has not been approved yet.

Preliminary evidence indicates the launch failure was caused by a problem with the Soyuz launch vehicle’s third stage. If so, engineers will need time to inspect stages scheduled for use in upcoming launches.

An investigative body is expected to report on the cause of the failure by May 13.

Russia Roundup: Vostochny, Consolidation & Lunar Base

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Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

As another Russian space mission went haywire this week, there was plenty of other news about that nation’s struggle space program. Here’s a summary of major news from the past week.

VOSTOCHNY

  • Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that 58 million rubles (about $1 million) in back wages owed to Vostochny workers will be paid by April 30. Unhappy workers have gone on hunger strikes and appealed to President Vladimir Putin with a message written on the roofs of their dorms.

INDUSTRY CONSOLIDATION

  • Efforts to consolidate the Russian space industry under Roscomos continued. Putin submitted a draft law to the State Duma that would establish a space corporation on the basis of Roscosmos and the United Rocket and Space Corporation.

LONG RANGE PLANS

  • In a meeting with Chinese officials, Rogozin proposed that the two countries work together on a permanently crewed base on the moon. Russian is aiming to establish a lunar facility around 2030.

Crew Arrives at ISS for 1-Year Mission

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Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka joined their Expedition 43 crewmates Terry Virts, Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti in the Zvezda service module for a crew greeting ceremony. (Credit: NASA)

Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka joined their Expedition 43 crewmates Terry Virts, Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti in the Zvezda service module for a crew greeting ceremony. (Credit: NASA)

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (NASA PR) — Three crew members representing the United States and Russia have arrived at the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:42 p.m. EDT Friday (1:42 a.m., March 28 in Baikonur).

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will spend about a year living and working aboard the space station to help scientists better understand how the human body reacts and adapts to the harsh environment of space.

 “Scott Kelly’s mission is critical to advancing the administration’s plan to send humans on a journey to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We’ll gain new, detailed insights on the ways long-duration spaceflight affects the human body.”

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Arianespace Snags 4 Launch Contracts

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Arianespace_logoConferences are great places to announce business deals. Satellite 2015 in Washington, D.C., was no exception for Arianspace. The European company announced the following launch deals this week:

  • a block of high resolution imaging satellites for Skybox Imaging aboard a Vega launch vehicle in 2016;
  • one Airbus EDRS-C satellite as part of the SpaceDataHighway system aboard an Ariane 5 booster in the first quarter in 2017; and,
  • two Airbus Falcon Eye satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO), using two Vega (or Soyuz) launchers in 2018 and 2019.

“We are extremely proud to play a part in deploying Skybox’s satellite imaging constellation.” said Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël. “The Vega launch system has already achieved four flawless flights for commercial and government customers. This new contract with Skybox marks our first U.S. customer of the Vega and adds to Vega’s order book of nine small satellites to be launched in the coming three years.”

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Sarah Brightman to Sing Her Way Round the World

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Sarah Brightman

Sarah Brightman

Soprano Sarah Brightman has teamed up with ex-husband Andrew Lloyd Webber in an effort to develop  a song she can sing during her 10-day stay aboard the International Space Station in September.

“I have been working on various things,” she said.

“Finding a song that suits the idea of space and something that’s incredibly simple.

“To sing in microgravity is very, very different thing to singing down here. Here, you are grounded, you have the air around you. This is going to be very different.

“I’m trying to find a piece that’s beautiful and simple in its message, and not too complicated to sing.

“I don’t want to say too much because of the complexities, but I’d like to connect with the choir or orchestra on earth.”

Brightman spoke during a press conference in London on Tuesday. She was taking a break from spaceflight training she is undertaking at Star City in Russia.

Brightman will become the eighth tourist to visit the ISS since space tourism began in 2001. One tourist, Charles Simonyi, flew twice. The trips are arranged through U.S.-based Space Adventures.

Lucky Russian Students Spend Winter in Balmy Vostochny

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Vladimir Putin reviews a map showing the plan for the Vostochny spaceport. (Credit: Presidential Press and Information Office)

Vladimir Putin reviews a map showing the plan for the Vostochny spaceport. (Credit: Presidential Press and Information Office)

RussianSpaceWeb.com says 200 lucky students had a chance to spend their winter break in Russia’s frigid Far East, where they are taking a course in Screwed Up Construction Projects 101.

In an unusual step, the Russian government organized 200-strong “winter student brigade” to provide low-skilled labor in Vostochny beginning on February 1, even though normally such groups would only be available during summer. Official press releases did not elaborate whether members of the brigade would have to skip a semester. As many as 1,200 students were promised in Vostochny during the summer of 2015, Roskosmos said.

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