Loss of Weather Satellite Adds to Russia’s Near Decade of Launch Failures

Another fine day for Russia’s space program. A Proton crashes with three GLONASS satellites in July 2013. (Credit: Tsenki TV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

For the second year in a row, Russia came tantalizingly close to breaking a string of launch failures extending back nearly a decade.

In three days, the nation’s space program would have gone 12 months without botching a launch. Thirty days after that, an entire calendar year would have passed without a full or partial launch failure. Last year, Russia came within four days and 30 days of those marks, respectively.

(more…)

It’s Baaack! Sea Launch to Rise From Watery Grave Again

Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)

It seems you can’t keep a mediocre rocket down.

Sea Launch is coming back. After weathering a bankruptcy and a period of involuntary hibernation, new owners are bringing the troubled launch provider back to life for the third time.

“Work is underway to end the conservation of the complex and to restore launch activities with the use of Zenit carrier rockets in the current configuration until 2023,” S7 told Sputnik International.

Since making its first launch in 1999, Sea Launch has compiled a record of 32 successes, 3 failures and 1 partial failure. The company’s most recent flight was conducted on May 26, 2014.

S7 Sea Launch Orders 12 Zenit Boosters

Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)

DNIPROPETROVSK, Ukraine (Yuzhmash PR) — On April 28 this year, the contract was signed between Yuzhmash and S7 Sea Launch Limited on the production and supply of Zenit-series launch vehicles.

In general, the contract provides for the production of 12 launch vehicles for use in the Sea Launch and Land Launch programs for the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes in the framework of international space projects.

Now in production there are 2 rockets of modifications of Zenit-3SL and Zenit-3SLB.

The signing of this contract made a big step in overcoming the deep crisis in which Yuzhmash stayed since 2013 and which resulted from a massive decline in production volumes.

Persistent three-year work of the company’s specialists brought results. Today Yuzhmash portfolio of orders for the next few years more than 350 mln. US dollars.

Yuzhmash expresses its deep gratitude to the legislative and executive branches of power for providing the unprecedented, as for our enterprise, regulatory and financial support. Without this support, it was impossible to resume production and overcome the crisis.

Yuzhmash’s withdrawal into stable operation regime will create the appropriate conditions for the corporatization of the enterprise and the search for a strategic investor. The implementation of these measures, in turn, is a prerequisite for achieving the main medium-term goal of Yuzhmash, which is to ensure the full involvement of the enterprise in international cooperation in the production of rocket and space technology.

Save

Save

Ukraine Seeking ESA Membership

The chairman of Ukraine’s space agency, Yuri Radchenko. said last week his nation is seeking membership in the European Space Agency (ESA).

“Today, we held talks with the Head of the European Space Agency on this matter,” he explained. “The strategy and the tactics on the matter have been worked out. It is required to fulfill a number of conditions to become a member of the European Space Agency.”

He said the membership could be secured within “a reasonable” timeframe.

(more…)

Another Year, Another Russian Launch Failure

The Progress 65 spacecraft is pictured at its launch pad Nov. 29 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: Roscosmos)
The Progress 65 spacecraft is pictured at its launch pad Nov. 29 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: Roscosmos)

They came so close this time.

In another four days, the Russians would have gone a full year without losing a spacecraft in a launch mishap. That’s something that hasn’t happened since 2009-10. In another 30 days, they would have gone an entire calendar year without a launch failure.

The loss of the Progress 65 cargo ship during its launch aboard a Soyuz-U rocket today marks the latest in a string of failures stretching back more than seven years. Since May 2009, Russia has suffered 13 launch failures and four partial failures involving its stable of satellite boosters. (See table below)

(more…)

S7 Group Acquires Sea Launch Assets

Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)
Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)

MOSCOW, Sept. 27, 2016 (S7 Group PR) — S7 Group today announced that it has signed an agreement with Sea Launch Group to acquire the assets of the Sea Launch complex. The contract was signed today on the sidelines of the IAC 2016, the International Astronautical Congress taking place now in Guadalajara, Mexico.

(more…)

Sea Launch Could Be Coming Back

Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)
Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)

It looks as if the moribound Sea Launch company could have a new lease on life.

Majority owner Energia has scheduled a press conference with the S7 Group on Tuesday during the International Astronautical Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico. The invitation promises a major announcement about the future of the long troubled venture.

(more…)

Boeing Say N(ot)yet on Sea Launch Sale

Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)
Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)

The news that Roscosmos has found a buyer for  Sea Launch has sparked more litigation over the troubled launch provider.

Boeing has filed suit to block the sale until it can collect a court judgment of $298 million from its Russian and Ukrainian partners. Boeing won a court case in September that involves payments that RSC Energia and Yuzhnoye owe from previous business dealings.

(more…)

Russia Says Buyer Found for Sea Launch

Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)
Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)

It looks as if Russia has found someone to take Sea Launch off its hands.

Russia’s space agency Roscosmos has found a buyer for a troubled commercial space project known as Sea Launch, the agency’s director Igor Komarov was cited by the TASS news agency as saying on Wednesday.

“I cannot tell you who the investor is, or the value of the contract, due to certain obligations. I hope that we will have something to say about it by the end of April,” Komarov said. He did, however, say that investors from the U.S., Australia, China and Europe have expressed interest in the project.

The troubled company, which uses a floating platform to launch communications satellite aboard Zenit boosters from the equator, has been on the market for several years. It is majority owned by RSC Energia.

Sea Launch’s last launch was in May 2014. The company has been troubled by launch failures and an inability to secure a significant percentage of the global launch market.

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.

(more…)

Russians Say N(ot)yet to Reusable Rockets

Roscosmos_logoIt looks as if Roscosmos will not be following Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos down the road of reusable rockets. Instead, the newly privatized company will spend the next decade developing a new medium-lift launch vehicle that will serve as the foundation of a super-heavy booster.

That’s the word on the latest draft of Russia’s incredibly shrinking space budget. With its revenues battered by low oil prices, the government has cut back planned spending for 2016-2025 from 2 trillion rubles ($24.4 billion) to 1.4 trillion rubles ($17.1 billion). The government might allocate an additional 115 billion rubles ($1.4 billion) after 2021, TASS reports.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

Boeing Wins Judgment Against Sea Launch Partners

Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)
Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)

As if the Russian government didn’t already have enough difficulty unloading its trouble Sea Launch venture, there will soon be a massive legal judgment hanging over the launch services company.

A U.S. District Court has ruled in favor of Boeing and against its Russian and Ukrainian partners in the Sea Launch commercial-launch company, saying the partners breached their contract obligations by not reimbursing Boeing their share of Sea Launch expenses.
(more…)