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.
Speaking a day after SpaceX successfully re-flew a previously used Falcon 9 first stage, Russian space officials sought to reassure the public about the nation’s lagging launch rate and outlined plans to increase revenues from the International Space Station (ISS).
“We will conduct at least 30 launches from the Baikonur, Plesetsk, Vostochny and Kourou space centers this year,” Komarov said at a meeting of the Expert Council of Russia’s Military-Industrial Committee.
With one quarter of the year completed, Russia has conducted two launches.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has bluntly declared that the Russian space industry is uncompetitive with its American counterparts except in the crucial area of rocket engine development.
The harsh comments by Rogozin, who oversees the space and defense sectors, come amid continued quality control problems that affected two recent launches and a review of Roscosmos ordered by President Vladimir Putin.
“Our space industry has fallen behind the Americans ninefold. All of our ambitious projects require us to up productivity 150 percent – and even if we manage that, we will still never catch up with them,” Rogozin originally said to Interfax Friday. (more…)
With President Vladimir Putin looking on, a Soyuz-2.1a rocket lifted off from Russia’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome and successfully orbited three satellites.
It was the inaugural launch for the multi-billion dollar spaceport, which has been four years and numerous arrests in the making. The launch complex, which is designed to reduce Russian dependence on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, has been plagued by reports of corruption and unpaid workers. One manager was arrested driving a diamond encrusted Mercedes.
The Soyuz rocket’s main payload was the Mikhailo Lomonosov satellite, which carries instruments to study high-energy cosmic rays, gamma rays and the Earth’s atmosphere. It also carried two smaller secondary payloads named Aist 2 and SamSat 218. Media reports indicate all three spacecraft were deployed successfully.
The launch was delayed a day due to a technical problem with the rocket.
MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The State Commission, having considered the results of comprehensive tests of the launch facility Baikonur East and preparations of the launch vehicle Soyuz 2.1a, decided on the appointment of the first launch for April 27, 2016 at 5:01 MSK.
Sttate corporation Roscosmos has begun pre-launch preparation of all Baikonur East systems, the launch vehicle (LV) and spacecraft. Moving the rocket to the launch pad is scheduled for April 23, 2016.
On March 21-25, a “dry run” with complex tests was carried out at the Vostochny cosmodrome launch complex. The impact of the IBO (mobile service tower) were carried out during the test, the test system assembly diagrams launch facility and rocket, electrical testing systems and rocket launch unit Volga. All systems worked nominally.
The assembly of the first rocket to launch from Russia’s new spaceport has begun at Vostochny, TASS reports.
If all goes well, the launch of the Soyuz-2.1a rocket with three satellites aboard will take place during the second half of April, Russian space officials said. The booster will carry Aist-2D Earth remote sensing spacecraft and two student-built satellites.
“The installation of practically all support equipment systems of the Soyuz-2 rocket and space complex has been completed at the cosmodrome. It is planned to complete tests at the launching site by March 25 if the necessary construction readiness is provided. On March 26, comprehensive tests of support equipment are due to begin,” the Center for Ground-Based Space Infrastructure Operation said in a statement.
Roscosmos General Director Igor Komarov said the first phase of the Vostochny Cosmodrome will cost the government almost 120 billion rubles ($1.46 billion), according to Interfax. Future work will include the construction of a launch pad for Russia’s new Angara family of boosters.
Russia plans to eventually transfer many of the launches it now conducts from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to Vostochny. RSC Energia is now developing a new crew vehicle named Federation to replace the Soyuz spacecraft. The new vehicle is being designed for trips to the moon.
Construction of the Vostochny spaceport has been plagued by delays, corruption and unpaid wages. On Monday, a leading engineer was charged with accepting a 50,000-ruble ($610) bribe from a subcontractor. Authorities would not reveal the man’s name.
MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — 2015 – the year of the creation of the state corporation “Roscosmos”, the year of the completion of the first civilian spaceport Russia – Vostochny cosmodrome, the year of transition to the new space programs.
Ongoing systemic reform space industry (CSC) of Russia. Each enterprise, institution, organization RKO undergoing serious structural changes. And already the first results – companies developing and producing launch vehicles and spacecraft, carrying out maintenance of ground infrastructure, training of cosmonauts and astronauts become more efficient and sustainable.
“Special attention needs to be directed in the course of [new space] programs at strengthening our positions in the spheres of manned spaceflight and in orbiting cargo, primarily in commercial launches,” Putin said at a meeting of space industry officials in Sochi on Thursday. (more…)
Vladimir for Life Putin visited Russia’s delay- and scandal-plagued Vostochny spaceport on Wednesday and officially threw in the towel on the effort to launch a rocket from the Far East cosmodrome by the end of the year.
“We do not need any drumbeating reports, we need high-quality results,” Putin said. “So let us agree: you finish the work related to water supply and wastewater disposal. It is necessary to prepare spaceships for launches. And be ready to carry out the first launches in 2016, somewhere in the spring.”
“If you do that before Cosmonautics Day, that will be fine,” the president added.
The project, designed to lessen Russian dependence on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, has been troubled by lengthy delays and embezzlement scandals. Workers have complained about not being paid for months while executives from some companies have been arrested for alleged graft.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin ha threatened to tear the heads off anyone delaying the program. No reports yet on whether he has carried out any of these threats.
Earlier this week, Russia’s Prosecutor General revealed the true extent of the theft uncovered thus far: a whopping 7.5 billion rubles ($126 million) has been stolen. That’s 4.2 percent of the $3 billion being spent on the new spaceport in Russia’s Far East.
Officials are hoping to complete work on the new facility by the end of November, with the first launched scheduled the following month.
MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The experts of Roscosmos’s contractor organizations have finished the assembly of Soyuz-2 carrier rocket launch system at Vostochny cosmodrome one month ahead of the schedule and performed the first commissioning.
In particular, they have checked the operability of the electrohydraulic equipment and metal constructions, the sensors and the terminal switches have been set up. The supporting service towers of the top chord, holding the carrier rocket before the launch, have been brought together and folded back for the first time.
The object’s commissioning was performed by the launch system developer, FSUE TsENKI division NIISK, electric equipment developer FSUE TsENKI division TsENKI North-West, hydraulic equipment developer Sigal research institute (Kovrov city), TsENKI-North, representatives of the Tyazhmash launch system manufacturer, ST-1 assembly organization, and FSUE TsENKI division NIISK operation department. The tests were carried out successfully and without irregularities.
Sixty years ago on June 2, 1955, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) issued a directive approval the organizational and staff structure of Research Test Site No 5. And with that momentous document, the famed Baikonur Cosmodrome was born.
The spaceport has seen its fair share of historic events: the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, in 1957; the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, in 1961; the first space station, Salyut 1, ten years later. Baikonur continues to hold the record for the most number of launches conducted annually. And it remains the only launch site for astronauts traveling to the International Space Station.
But, the venerable spaceport also has seen better days. The breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 left Baikonur in the newly independent nation of Kazakhstan. Russia had to sign a long-term lease on the facility in order to launch its rockets from the facility. Russia’s space industry went into long-term decline as a lack of money damaged the space program and deterred a generation of young engineers from working in the field.