Russia 2013 Space Year in Review

Expedition 37 takes off for the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
Expedition 37 takes off for the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Russia once again led the world in orbital launches in 2013, keeping the International Space Station supplied with a study stream of crew members and cargo while earning hard currency with commercial satellite launches.

Although the vast majority of Russia’s launches were successful, the spectacular failure in July of a Proton rocket — which nosedived into the ground shortly after liftoff — accelerated efforts to reform the nation’s failure-prone space program. By the end of the year, the Russian space agency Roscosmos had a new leader and a major effort was underway to consolidate a large part of the bloated and inefficient space sector under a single government-owned company.

During 2013, Russia introduced a new variant of its venerable Soyuz rocket while also making progress on constructing a new spaceport in the Far East and developing a larger human spacecraft to replace the Soyuz transport and a heavy-lift booster to facilitate deep space exploration.

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A Busy Week for Launches in India, Russia and China

An Indian PSLV rocket launched 10 – count ’em 10 – satellites into orbit on Monday. The cargo included the Cartosat-2A remote sensing satellite, an Indian mini-sat, and eight foreign nano-sats. The Times of India has details.

Meanwhile, the folks at Sea Launch are celebrating their first successful takeoff from terra firma. A Land Launch Zenit-3SLB blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday carrying an Israeli communications satellite. The company is a joint venture between Sea Launch and Russia’s Space International Services. More details here.

In other news, the ever reliable Soyuz rocket orbited the second demonstration satellite for Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system on Sunday. And a Chinese Long March rocket launched a data relay satellite on Friday that will support China’s human spaceflight program.