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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Commercial Space Travelers Outnumbered Professional Astronauts in First Half of 2022

Axiom Mission 1 astronauts, left to right, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, Michael López-Alegría, and Eytan Stibbe. The astronauts are approved by NASA and its international partners for Axiom Space’s first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station. (Credits: Chris Gunn – Axiom Space)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The first half of 2022 saw more commercial travelers — 16 — launch into space than the 10 professional astronauts who work for government-run space agencies. However, those numbers come with an asterisk or two.

Four of the 14 astronauts who launched into orbit flew on Axiom Space’s privately funded and operated crew flight to the International Space Station (ISS). Blue Origin launched 12 individuals into space on two flights of the company’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle.

The other 10 astronauts who launched to ISS and the Tiangong space station worked fulltime for NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), China Manned Space Agency, or Russia’s Roscosmos State Space Corporation. SpaceX flew American and European astronauts to ISS on the company-owned Crew Dragon spacecraft under a NASA contract. The Russians and Chinese flew aboard government-owned and operated spacecraft.

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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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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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Interview with Oleg Novitsky After His Spaceflight

Oleg Novitsky (Credit: Roscosmos)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Two months ago, Oleg Novitsky returned from his third space flight to the ISS. The commander of the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft shared with the readers of the State Corporation Roscosmos magazine – Russian Space – his impressions of the expedition. It cannot be called boring in any way: three spacewalks, the meeting and integration of the new Science module and, of course, an amazing week and a half spent side by side with the world’s first film crew.

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Work Continues on Russian “Challenge” ISS Movie Project

Credit: Roscosmos

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The working meeting on the implementation of the scientific and educational project “Challenge” was held today, December 24, 2021, at the CPC under the leadership of Maxim Ovchinnikov, First Deputy General Director of the State Corporation “Roscosmos”.

The issues of further work on the project were discussed, which includes documentary, scientific and educational, information programs, as well as the feature film “Challenge”. Representatives of the leadership of Roscosmos, CTC and Channel One discussed a number of organizational issues.

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Last Week in the Dmitrys: Roscosmos, Glavkosmos Bosses Talk SpaceX, Tourism and More

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The International Astronautical Congress wrapped up last week in Dubai. Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin and Glavkosmos boss Dmitry Loskutov held forth during the conference on SpaceX, space tourism and other topics.

Roscosmos is the state-owned corporation that runs Russia’s space program. Glavkosmos is Roscosmos’ commercial arm.

Cosmonauts to fly on Crew Dragon: Rogozin said SpaceX’s Crew Dragon now has enough flights under its belt for Russian cosmonauts to fly aboard it. Crew Dragon has flown three crews to the International Space Station (ISS) and a group of amateur astronauts on a three-day orbital flight. Roscosmos and NASA will pursue a barter agreement that will allow U.S. astronauts to fly on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Before Crew Dragon began flights, NASA was paying Roscosmos $90 million per seat to fly its astronauts to ISS.

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Oleg Novitsky, Klim Shipenko and Yulia Peresild Recount Expedition to ISS

Actress Yulia Peresild, cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky and film director Klim Shipenko discuss their stays aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: Roscosmos)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, film director Klim Shipenko and actress Yulia Peresild returned to Earth on October 17, 2021 on the “Yu.A. Gagarin” (Soyuz MS-18). Now they are undergoing post-flight rehabilitation at the Cosmonaut Training Center, where one of the sites for an online press conference was organized.

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Russian Soyuz Vehicle Causes Another Loss of Attitude Control on Space Station

The Soyuz MS-18 crew ship, pictured, will relocate from the Russian Rassvet module to the Nauka module on Sept. 28. (Credits: NASA)

A Russian Soyuz crew vehicle set to return to Earth tomorrow caused the International Space Station to lose its attitude control on Friday morning when its thrusters fired longer than planned. It was the second such incident on the station involving a Russian vehicle this year.

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Soyuz Crew Prepares to Return Home

ISS crew (Credit: Roscosmos)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — In accordance with the Russian flight program of the International Space Station, on October 17, 2021, it is planned to return the crew of the Yu.A. Gagarin “(Soyuz MS-18). Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky and space flight participants – director Klim Shipenko and actress Yulia Peresild will return to Earth.

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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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NASA Sets Landing Coverage for Russian Cosmonaut, Actress, Producer

Actress Yulia, Peresild, cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, director Klim Shipenko and and backup crew member Alena Mordovina. (Credit: Roscosmos)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA will provide complete coverage as three space travelers living aboard the International Space Station, including a Russian actress and her producer-director, return to Earth just after midnight on Sunday, Oct. 17.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos will be at the controls of the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft, flanked by Russian actress Yulia Peresild and Russian producer-director Klim Shipenko, for the spacecraft’s undocking from the station’s Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module Saturday, Oct. 16. The trio will make a parachute-assisted landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan a little more than three hours later, at 12:36 a.m. EDT (10:36 a.m. Kazakhstan time) Sunday, Oct. 17.

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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.