Putin Celebrates Gagarin Flight Anniversary, Vows Russia will Remain a Leader in Space Amid Sanctions

Vladimir Putin receives a briefing from Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin before the COVID-19 pandemic. (Credit: Office of the Russian President)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On Tuesday, Russia celebrated the 61st anniversary of the Soviet Union’s launch of the first human into space, Yuri Gagarin, with a presidential visit to a scandal-plagued spaceport, a pledge to stay the course in the face of international sanctions over the Ukraine invasion, and an initiative to fly a citizen of one of the nation’s closest allies into space.

“Everything that we’ve seen during our visit to Vostochny, all successes in space exploration achieved in recent years prove that our country retains its leadership in space industry, is one of the leaders in this area,” President Vladimir Putin said during a visit to the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East.

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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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Letter of Intent to Modernize Gagarin Launch Complex Signed in Dubai

DUBAI, UAE (Roscosmos PR) — On the second day of the Dubai Airshow 2021 Roscosmos, the UAE Space Agency and the Ministry of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan signed a joint Letter of Intent confirming the interest of the parties to implement space projects in trilateral format.

In particular, the document states the mutual intention to shortly start a detailed analysis of the tripartite project to modernize the historical Site 1 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome, from which the first human spaceflight took place.

Currently, this launch complex is not used due to the decommissioning of the Soyuz-FG carrier rocket in 2019, with the last rocket of the type launched in late September 2019.

If successfully implemented, the Gagarin’s Start project will revive the complex, allowing it to accept modern modifications of the Soyuz-2 launch vehicles. The parties plan to involve private investors into the project and to continue further joint commercial operation of the complex. According to experts, the project will enable the parties to present competitive offers on the international space launches market.

Three Chinese Astronauts Launch for First Occupation of New Space Station

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Three Chinese astronauts launched into orbit on Thursday morning local time for a three-month mission to the nation’s first permanent space station. It will be the longest human space mission in Chinese history, and the country’s first crewed fight in nearly five years.

The mission is commanded by Nie Haisheng, 56, who has logged more than 19 days in space on two previous flights. Nie, who is a major general in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, was joined by Liu Boming, 54, who will be flying to space for the second time, and rookie astronaut Tang Hongbo, 45.

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China to Launch Crew to First Permanent Space Station on Thursday

Shenzhou-12 crew members Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming. (Credit: CNSA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Three astronauts will launch on Thursday morning local time aboard the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft for a three-month long mission to China’s first permanent space station. It will be the longest human space mission in Chinese history, and the country’s first crewed fight in nearly five years.

Launch of the crew aboard a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center is scheduled for June 17 at 0122 UTC (June 16 at 9:22 p.m. EDT).

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Three Space Anniversaries: Two Triumphant, One Tragic

Yuri Gagarin

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

This week, the space community marked two triumphant achievements, and dutifully ignored a third space-related anniversary that marked the darkest depths of depravity to which human beings can sink.

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Russia Marks 60th Anniversary of Yuri Gagarin Flight

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin congratulates all the Russian rocket and space industry and related industries’ employees on Cosmonautics Day!

Russia not only looks back to the past, but also focuses on the future, while being on the verge of important changes in the space industry, Dmitry Rogozin said.

‘Today our industry is not only celebrating the anniversary and remembering the past, we also focus on the future, we are on the verge of very important changes in our industry,’ said Dmitry Rogozin.

Head of Roscosmos stressed that the Russian Federation expects transition to new rocket and space technology, the beginning of lunar research – starting with automatic stations and continued by cosmonaut crews. According to Rogozin, the space industry sees tremendous opportunities for international cooperation, while the technologies demonstrated speak in favor of the fact that ‘many people want to be friends and work with the Russian Federation’.

‘We believe in our space, in Russian space. We believe that the industry is capable of solving all the tasks set by the president and our people,’ Dmitry Rogozin added.

Head of Roscosmos also recalled that the first manned flight into space was completed despite the colossal human and material losses during the Great Patriotic War.

“This indicates that not everything is due to the circumstances, a lot depends on people, their will and professionalism, on their focus on achieving results,’ he concluded.

Roscosmos Officials, Cosmonauts Pay Tribute to Yuri Gagarin on Anniversary of Death

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Roscosmos State Corporation took part in commemorative events dedicated to the tragic death of the first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and test pilot Vladimir Seryogin on March 27, 2021. On behalf of the State Corporation, State Secretary – Deputy General Director for Exercising State Powers Sergey Dubik, representatives of the Roscosmos cosmonaut corps represented by Heroes of Russia, Roscosmos cosmonauts Yuri Malenchenko and Alexander Misurkin, test cosmonaut Mukhtar Aimakhanov and family took part in the laying of flowers at the Kremlin wall in Moscow.

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In Memory of the First Cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin

Yuri Gagarin

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Fifty-three years ago, on March 27, 1968, at 10:18 a.m. near the village of Novoselovo, Kirzhachsky District, Vladimir Region, the first cosmonaut of the planet Yuri Gagarin and military pilot Vladimir Seryogin were killed during a training flight on the MiG-15 UTI. At that time, Gagarin was 34 years old, and Seryogin was 45 years old.

Gagarin and Seryogin took off from the Chkalovsky airfield near Moscow in Shchelkovo. At the time of takeoff, visibility conditions were normal – the bottom edge of the clouds was 900 m above the ground. The mission in the aerobatic zone was supposed to take at least 20 minutes, but after four minutes (at 10:30) Gagarin announced the end of the mission, requesting permission to turn around and fly to the base. After that, communication with the aircraft was interrupted.

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Russia Names Next Soyuz Transport After Yuri Gagarin as 60th Anniversary of History Flight Approaches

Yuri Gagarin

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The Soyuz MS-18 manned transport spacecraft, which is currently undergoing prelaunch preparation under the program for the delivery of members of the 65th main expedition to the International Space Station, received its own name Yuri A. Gagarin.

In accordance with the work schedule, the launch of the Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle with the Soyuz MS-18 manned spacecraft is scheduled for April 9, 2021, three days before the 60th anniversary of the first manned flight into space. According to the established tradition, the space mission closest to this significant date is dedicated to the first cosmonaut of the planet Yuri Alekseevich Gagarin, whose name already adorns the surface of the screen-vacuum thermal insulation of the ship’s household compartment. In addition, the official symbols of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight in space will be placed on the launch vehicle’s nose cone.

The previous launch of the Yuri Gagarin spacecraft of the Soyuz-TMA series, which took place on April 5, 2011, was timed to coincide with the half-century anniversary of the beginning of the practical development of manned astronautics.

Space Biology on Station Ahead of Cargo and Crew Ship Activities

The International Space Station as it appears in 2018. Zarya is visible at the center of the complex, identifiable by its partially retracted solar arrays. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The Expedition 62 crew wrapped up the workweek with more space biology research to understand what living in space does to the human body. The International Space Station is also getting ready to send off a U.S. cargo craft and swap crews.

A 3D bioprinter inside the station’s Columbus laboratory module is being deactivated and stowed today after a week of test runs without using human cells. NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir packed up the device that seeks to demonstrate manufacturing human organs to help patients on Earth. The Bio-Fabrication Facility may even lead to future crews printing their own food and medicines on missions farther away from Earth.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan checked out hardware for an experiment exploring how to create heart cells on the orbiting lab. The investigation may lead to advanced treatments for cardiac conditions on Earth and in space.

Morgan and Meir are also getting the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship ready for its departure on April 6. The duo gathered U.S. spacesuit components and packed them inside Dragon for engineering analysis on the ground.

During the morning, Commander Oleg Skripochka continued servicing a variety of laptop computers in the station’s Russian segment. After lunchtime, the veteran cosmonaut serviced hardware for a pair of experiments, one looking at the Earth’s upper atmosphere and the other to understand the degradation of station gear.

Back on Earth at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, three new Expedition 63 crewmembers are in final preparations for their April 9 launch to the station. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner stepped out of the Cosmonaut Hotel today for pre-launch activities celebrating spaceflight heroes such as Yuri Gagarin.

The Rocket Age and the Space Age

V-2 and Sputnik

The V-2 rocket and a model of Sputnik 1.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The first successful launch of Germany’s A-4 ballistic missile and the orbiting of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik-1, took place 15 years and one day apart. The two achievements are related in more ways than their proximity on the calendar.

On Oct. 3, 1942, an A-4 developed by Wernher von Braun and his German Army team reached an altitude of 85 to 90 km (52.8 to 55.9 miles) after launch from Peenemunde on the Baltic Coast.

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Spaceport America and Virgin Galactic: The Numbers Never Added Up

Richard Branson and his children hang out with Project Bandaloop dancers during the dedication of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space facility. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Fourteen years ago, Virgin Galactic and New Mexico promised “tens of thousands” of tourists would fly to space from Spaceport America by 2019. Total thus far: 0.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

When they announced in December 2005 that Virgin Galactic would locate its space tourism business in New Mexico, Virgin Founder Richard Branson and Gov. Bill Richardson made a number of eye-popping claims about why taxpayers should back a plan to build the Southwest Regional Spaceport to serve as the space tourism company’s home base:

  • $331 million in total construction revenues in 2007;
  • 2,460 construction-related jobs;
  • $1 billion in total spending, payroll of $300 million and 2,300 jobs by the fifth year of operation; and,
  • $750 million in total revenues and more than 3,500 jobs by 2020.

Virgin Galactic would sign a 20-year lease as anchor tenant and pay fees based on the number of launches it conducted. New Mexico would use the spaceport, Virgin’s presence and the funds generated to develop a large aerospace cluster.

Surprisingly, New Mexico would spend more money, $225 million, to develop a facility now known as Spaceport America than the $108 million that Branson planned to spend on developing a fleet of five SpaceShipTwos and WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.

Among all the big numbers in the announcement, there was a truly astounding one that was deemed so important it was mentioned twice. (Emphasis added)

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Russians Raise $87 Million to Upgrade Baikonur, Save Gagarin Launch Complex

Yuti Gagarin

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), a Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, in partnership with Middle East investors, GK Launch Services company and with the support of Roscosmos State Corporation, announces an investment of $87 million in upgrading the infrastructure of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The relevant documents have been signed today at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

The project intends to upgrade Launch Site 1 (Gagarin’s Start) of the Cosmodrome with its following operation for Soyuz-2 rocket launches.

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Hey Las Cruces, Get Ready for Spacestock!

Las Cruces is throwing itself a space party this year, the Las Cruces Sun-News reports.

Organizers say the first edition of the Las Cruces Space Festival, to be held April 12 and 14, will be a small affair and they hope it will grow over the years. The idea is to showcase the region’s aerospace industry, show people what has been accomplished in southern New Mexico and encourage new generations of Las Crucens to enter the growing aerospace field.

The date, April 12, was selected to coincide with the anniversary of human space flight, when the USSR launched Yuri Gagarin into a single orbit around the earth in 1961.

“The intent of the festival is to celebrate what we already do in space, not worry about what’s coming,” said Pat Hynes, director of the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium at New Mexico State University.

Hynes said plans are still developing, but events will allow the public to learn about space-related activity in the region. On Saturday, April 14, various activities will be set up around the Plaza de Las Cruces which may include informational booths, a possible space-related movie at the Rio Grande Theatre and other activities.