Russia to End Rockot Launches

Rockot launch vehicle

The end of the line is coming soon for Russia’s Rockot (Rokot) launch vehicle.

The converted intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) has only two more missions on its manifest before the program ends. In the months ahead, it will launch Sentinel 5P and Sentinel 3B Earth observation satellites for ESA and the European Commission.

The Sentinel 5P launch is set for June. Tass reports the Sentinel 3B flight will likely occur late this year or early 2018.

Rockot is being phased out in favor of the newer Angara-1.2 and Soyuz-2.1v boosters, which are capable of launching lighter payloads.

Rockot is a converted SS-19 ICBM built by Khrunichev and operated by Eurockot Launch Services. Flights are conducted from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia.

The three-stage booster is capable of lifting 1,950 kg (4,299 lb) in low Earth orbit (LEO) and 1,200 kilograms (2,646 lb) into sun synchronous orbit (SSO).

Rockot has launched 30 times, with 27 successes, two failures and one partial failure.

Dnepr launch vehicle. (Credit: ISC Kosmotras)

The retirement of Rockot ends Russia’s second program that used  in converted Soviet-era ICBMs as satellite launchers. In 2015, the country ended a joint program with Ukraine to convert SS-18 missiles into Denpr launch vehicles.

Dnepr was capable of lifting 4,500 kg (9,921 lb) to LEO and 2,300 kg (5,071 lb) to SSO.

The booster was launched 22 times, with 21 successes and one failure. The last flight was on March 25, 2015.

Dnepr launches were conducted out of Yasny in Russia and Baikonur in Kazakhstan.

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Russia’s Angara Rocket Celebrates (?) 25th Birthday

Angara-1.2 launch vehicle on pad at Plesetsk. (Credit: Khrunichev)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Back in 1992, the Russian government — newly shone of the republics that made up the old Soviet Union — had a problem. Or rather, lots and lots of problems. Some of them related to space.

Many of the components for the nation’s launch vehicles and space systems were made in the newly independent Ukraine. Its main spaceport was the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the new nation of Kazakhstan. Russia’s independence in space was at risk.

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IMF: Ukraine Space Sector Possibly Suffered 80 Percent Revenue Loss

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

The International Monetary Fund estimates the Ukrainian space industry lost up to 80 percent of its revenues following the Russian invasion of the eastern part of the country.

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Russia Led in Launch Successes and Failures in 2015

Flight VS13 was the 13th Soyuz liftoff performed from French Guiana since this vehicle’s 2011 introduction at the Spaceport. (Credit: Arianespace)
Flight VS13 was the 13th Soyuz liftoff performed from French Guiana since this vehicle’s 2011 introduction at the Spaceport. (Credit: Arianespace)

Russia continued its dominance of the global satellite launch industry in 2015, conducting 29 of 86 orbital launches over the past 12 months. It also maintained its lead in botched launches, suffering two failures and one partial failure.

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Ukraine Conflict Could Cost Russia Nearly $1 Billion

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over plans for Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)
Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over plans for Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for the military conflict in eastern Ukraine are having a ripple effect on the nation’s military-industrial complex, which remains heavily dependent on imports of components from abroad.

Faced with impending EU sanctions on Russia’s defense industry, President Vladimir Putin on Monday urged the Defense Ministry to redouble its efforts to wean the defense sector off foreign suppliers, Interfax reported.

Russian firms currently make their own versions of just 58 of the 206 types of defense products that the country imports, but state development programs should add another 40 to their repertoire by 2020, said Alexander Shilov, deputy head of the Federal Space Agency, or Roscosmos.

The defense industry has already been waylaid by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s June decision to prohibit military-industrial cooperation with Russia amid the escalating crisis in Ukraine, blocking Russia from importing the Ukrainian equipment that its defense industry sorely needs.

Roscosmos, which operates several spacecraft that rely on Ukrainian components, last week estimated that Russia needs to spend about $940 million through 2018 to offset losses from the cutting of Ukrainian ties, with most of the cash to be drawn from federal investment programs in the space and defense industries.

President Putin is urging defense and space officials to wean themselves off foreign suppliers as soon as possible regardless of cost.

Read the full story.

Yuzhmash Signs Agreement with Dnepropetrovsk Regional State Government

Zenit launch
Zenit launch

Ukrainian rocket maker Yuzhmash has signed an agreement under which the Dnepropetrovsk Regional State will provide financial and organizational support to the company and protect against being taken over by Russian separatists.

The announcement came in a May 8 press release. Yuzhmash produces the following launch vehicles and stages:

  • Zenit — used by Sea Launch and Land Launch for communications satellites
  • Dnepr — Joint Ukrainian-Russian program that uses converted Soviet-era ballistic missile to launch satellites
  • Antares — first stage structure and tanks for Orbital Sciences’s launch vehicle
  • Vega — fourth stage for Europe’s small satellite launch vehicle
  • Cyclone-4 — Joint Ukrainian-Brazilian commercial satellite launcher with inaugural flight planned from Brazil in 2015.

The full press release is reproduced after the break.

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ULA Speeds Up Engine Deliveries as House Mulls Ban on Russian Motor Use

Capitol Building
As tensions over Ukraine continue to simmer, United Launch Alliance has taken steps to speed up the delivery of Russian RD-180 engines that power its Atlas V launch vehicle. Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, draft legislation being circulated in the House would prohibit the company from using those engines to launch any of the Defense Department’s crucial payloads.

These moves come as SpaceX is filing an appeal to a U.S. Air Force decision to award ULA a contract for 36 rocket cores for its Atlas V and Delta IV boosters. The company, which is seeking to open certain launches to competitive bidding, has attacked the sole-source deal as unfair, and criticized continued U.S. reliance on Russian rocket engines for the launch of defense spacecraft.

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Ukraine’s 2013 Year in Space Review

zenit_launch
Zenit launch from Baikonur

Ukraine had a mixed record in space in 2013. While the Dnepr rocket returned to service with a pair of successful launches after a two-year gap, one of two Zenit boosters ended up in a watery grave after it failed shortly after launch.

Ukrainian companies had better luck as a components supplier. Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares — which boasts a Ukrainian-supplied first stage — racked up two flawless flights. Meanwhile, the European Vega booster made a second successful flight with a Ukrainian fourth stage on board.

Meanwhile, a joint partnership with Brazil to launch the Cylcone-4 rocket from South America made progress even as it suffered additional schedule delays that have pushed back the maiden flight into 2015.

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Ukraine Looks to Extend Space Cooperation with U.S., China

Ukraine_logoSpace News has an extensive Q&A with Yuriy Boyko, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister for Ecology, Natural Resources, Energy and Space. The interview primarily focuses on the nation’s space program, its joint Cyclone 4 launch vehicle program with Brazil, and its efforts to increase cooperation with the United States and China.

Some of the highlights:

  • Ukraine’s main launch vehicles include Zenit (Sea Launch, Land Launch), Dnepr (joint program with Russia), Cyclone 4 (joint program with Brazil), and the first stage structure for Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares.
  • Ukraine spends between $400 million and $500 million on its space program mostly for science work, but receives about $600 million annually in revenues from commercial work;
  • Brazil and Ukraine have committed $1.5 million (split equally) over a three-year period to Cyclone 4, which should have its first test flight from the Alcantara Launch Center by early 2015;
  • The partners hope that South American countries with satellite programs will flock to the Alcantara facility on Brazil’s Atlantic coast;
  • The upper stage developed for the Cyclone 4 could be a good fit for the Antares rocket;
  • Boyko recently completed consultations with NASA and U.S. commercial space companies concerning cooperative programs, with the two governments establishing a framework for further cooperation;
  • There are no specific cooperative programs to announce yet between Ukraine and American government and private entities;
  • Ukraine would like to become involved in the International Space Station program;
  • Boyko says that Ukrainian specialists have extensive experience with radiation shielding technology, which could help the United States with human Mars and deep space missions;
  • Ukraine is consulting with China, which is very interested in developing large propulsion systems.

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Busy Launch Week Begins on Monday with MAVEN Flight

Launch of Atlas V NRO satellite on June 20, 2012. (Credit: ULA)
Launch of Atlas V NRO satellite on June 20, 2012. (Credit: ULA)

The numbers are impressive.

  • 6 launches
  • 6 launch vehicles
  • ~ 40 satellites
  • 5 spaceports
  • 4 nations
  • 7 days.

That is the week in rocketry that will begin on Monday. The highlights include:

  • NASA’s MAVEN orbiter will study Mars’ atmosphere and climate (Monday, Nov. 18 at 1:28 p.m. EST — Cape Canaveral, Florida );
  • Minotaur I will set a new record for the number of satellites launched into space with by sending the military’s STPSat 3 and 29 CubeSats into orbit (Tuesday, Nov. 19 from 7:30 to 9:15 pm EST — Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, Virginia);
  • SpaceX will attempt to put its first communications satellite into geosynchronous orbit using its upgraded Falcon 9 rocket (Monday, Nov. 25 at 5:37 pm EST — Cape Canaveral, Florida).

Three additional launches will take place from Russia and Kazakhstan over that 7-day period. A table with all scheduled launches is below along with a map showing East Coast residents how they can view Minotaur I’s night launch on Tuesday.

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Russia Makes Progress on New Rockets, Human Spacecraft

Inside a mockup of a proposed Russian deep space spacecraft. (Credit: Energia)
Inside a mockup of a proposed Russian deep space spacecraft. (Credit: Energia)

Despite all the energies focused on a shakeup at the top of the Russian space industry and the impending consolidation of many companies, Roscosmos has been quietly progress on a series of initiatives designed to upgrade the space agency’s capabilities and facilities.

Anatoly Zak at RussianSpaceWeb.com reports that Roscosmos released two tenders on Oct. 23, one involving a new human spacecraft and the other for a launch complex at the nation’s newest spaceport. Officials are also moving forward on the development of a new super heavy launch vehicle.

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Cyclone-4 Project Gets Funding Infusions From Brazil, Ukraine

Ukraine's Cyclone rocket
Ukraine’s Cyclone rocket

ACS PRs — The Brazilian Government has made a planned contribution of R$33,333,333 [$14,671,361] to the ACS capital. Transfer of these funds was authorized by the Presidential Decree dated 23.08.2013 and published on 26.08.2013 in the Diário Oficial da União, the official newspaper.

The Decree also mentioned the equivalent contribution of the Ukrainian Party realized by means of intergovernmental transfer.

The Ukrainian Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) has approved the State Scientific and Technical Space Program of Ukraine for the period of 2013-2017 and accepted for consideration the Draft Law on Financial Support of the Cyclone-4 Project Implementation.

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Failure Prone Zenit Launch Vehicle Successfully Returns to Flight

zenit3slb
Land Launch Zenit booster

The problem-plagued Zenit launch vehicle returned to flight on Saturday with the successful launch of the Israeli Amos-4 communications satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The 3.5-ton satellite, which was built by Israel Aerospace Industries for Israeli operator Spacecom, will deliver Ka- and Ka-band communications to the portions of the Middle East, Russia and south and east Asia.

This is the first successful flight of the rocket since the failure of a Sea Launch Zenit-3SL on Feb. 1. The launch vehicle crashed into the Pacific Ocean shortly after take-off when its first stage failed, taking the Intelsat 27 satellite down with it.

The Zenit launch vehicle, which has a success rate of just over 85 percent, was originally intended for multiple uses. Four Zenits were attached to the core of the giant Energia launch system designed to lift the Buran space shuttle into orbit. Zenits were also designed to fly separately as a replacement for the Soyuz booster for manned flights and as a satellite launcher.

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Brazil’s Cyclone-4 Project Hits Another Snag as Workers Laid Off

Ukraine's Cyclone rocket
Ukraine’s Cyclone rocket

Brazil’s decade-long quest to bring Ukraine’s Cyclone-4 rocket to the Alcantara Launch Center is reported to have hit another snag, this time due to financial problems at the Alcantara Cyclone Space (ACS) company. The Jorno do Brasil reports (via Google Translate):

According to sources close to the Alcantara Space Base, where the program is developed in the country, about two thousand [workers] contracted by ACS were discharged in the last two months. The scenery in this place is abandoned, as shown in photos uploaded to the Official Brazil. Most equipment has been rented and returned those remaining on the base are abandoned in the open air without any maintenance, according to the same sources….

Complaints received by the Journal of Brazil also relate to the subject of the work stoppage. According to the sources, to dismiss officials, heads of departments claimed that “it [layoffs] is happening because the company [ACS] has not paid the contractors.”

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Ukraine to Brazil: Come Up With More Money for Cyclone-4 Program

Ukraine's Cyclone rocket
Ukraine’s Cyclone rocket

A press release from the Ukrainian government:

Ukraine has called on Brazil to find financing in order to continue realization of the Cyclone-4 project.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov announced during a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brazil Antonio Patriota.

“An objectively successful project of our cooperation appears the Cyclone-4 Alcantara. The reliable realization of this project will contribute to increasing the authority of both your and our countries. In this complex situation the Government of Ukraine has approved a decision: for realization of this project to draw credit resources. We hope that the Brazilian side would use every opportunity to continue financing of their part of the project,” he said.

The release provides no details on precisely how much more Ukraine expects Brazil to put into the joint project, which began in 2002 with an expected first flight in 2006. The program has not launched a single rocket while suffering numerous delays and financial shortfalls. The maiden flight is now scheduled for sometime in 2014.

The launch vehicle is an enhanced version of the Soviet-era Cyclone-3 launch vehicle. It is designed to launch from Brazil’s Alcantara Space Center, which is located near the equator.

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