Another Russian rocket, the Proton this time, has underperformed

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For reasons that are not yet clear, either the first or the second stage of Russia’s Proton, launched today, underperformed, requiring the Breeze-M upper stage to compensate in order to get the commercial satellite into the proper orbit.

This is the same thing that happened on the last Soyuz rocket launch, with no explanation as yet either.


  • Alex

    The anomaly of the second stage of Proton is described here in detail:

    Yes, it seems Russian have some “small” quality problems, however, I am quire sure, Mr. Zimmerman, if a similar event would happened to a Falcon 9 launcher we could listen to loud exultations in this blog about Falcon”s flexibility and robust design.

  • Heh. I readily admit to being a fan of SpaceX. I also have no problems pointing out when someone does something wrong, no matter who they are or where they come from. For example, you might want to read my book, Leaving Earth. Almost all of it is about the Russian space station effort, beginning with Salyut 1, and continuing through ISS. You might find after reading it that my bias is not with any particular company or nation, but with the ideas of freedom, competition, and the human urge to explore. When an effort either encourages those ideas, or demonstrates their undeniable viability, I laud it. When an effort squelches human freedom, or works counter to the ability of people to follow their dreams, I express my opposition.

    Right now, the Russians under Putin have sadly chosen, once again, to go with a top-down, centralized government controlled system. It won’t work, and a sign of that failure is the corruption in Vostochny and the quality control problems they have had for the past five years throughout their aerospace industry. They have eliminated competition, and because of this the only incentive the leadership has for avoiding mistakes by their employees and engineers is to instill fear in those employees: Make a mistake or screw up and we will either get you fired, or possibly even arrested. Under these conditions, they might be able to clean up the quality control problems, for awhile, but don’t expect Russia to come up with any new and creative ideas in the rocket industry under this atmosphere.

    Note also my comments about Proton at this link. I admire the achievements of the Russian space industry. I just wish those brilliant engineers had the freedom to create, as all humans should.

  • Alex

    Hello Mr. Zimmerman, I think many people in European based or derived western societies (including USA) make the error to judge or compare societies, which developed in completely different way over the course of last 1,000 years or so, and cannot be compared in a proper manner by applying Western standards as “to should be” to Russia or China. Doing so is the wrong attitude and typical for country as USA, which cannot trace back itself to a long tradition (besides its European origin) as Russia, France or Germany for example.

    You cannot press an alien political and economic system on Russia, which does not fit to Russian people mentality and their traditions. It is sad, that there is such a large lack of understanding of these differences in USA and its political elite (incl. its puppet-states’ elites), which is source of so many conflicts in the world.

    If we consider Russia’s way (incl. Soviet Union) since 1917 and leave all Western ideology behind us, we have to state that Mr. Putin is the best Russian president up to now since. You have not been in Russia for 15 years, much has happened since this time (and developed) to better, which does not set free Putin allow more freedom to private companies.

    However, it is not possible to copy the economic structure of Germany for example, which success is based mainly on hundred thousands of small and mid-sized private owned companies and developed over the course of centuries since Middle-ages to Russia in a few decades. You have to respect local traditions as I emphasized already above.

    USA should stop its stupid aggressive behavior towards Russia immediately and respect Russia own needs of safety.

  • wayne

    I really enjoy you input on Space & Science, but when it comes to politics, I must object and will attack your Country and it’s poor excuse for an ideology. (And I highly resent having to put up with your Countries crap-o-la, most of my adult life. “We will Bury You,” yeah– in some commie dreamland you WILL attempt to do so, but you will fail.)

    Putin is KGB.
    How he gets away with cozying up to the Russian Orthodox Church is beyond me– you communists systematically killed & exterminated as many Believers as you could locate in 70 years. (The rest you sent to the Gulag.)
    You guys killed more of your own people than Hitler could have dreamed of doing.
    Holy cow– the soviet union was a totalitarian-nightmare that put Orwell and 1984 to shame, you just didn’t have the electronics to spy on every single citizen, but it wasn’t from a lack of desire to do so.
    Germany was utterly destroyed in WW-2 (your own troops annihilated Berlin & raped a huge portion of the woman.) Their economic success originated post-war, not from centuries of “development.” The contrast between communist controlled east-Germany & west Germany was amazing, and lets not forget the Wall you guys built to keep your enslaved-citizens in. (Stazi, — run by communists and “x” nazi security forces.)

    These “Western Standards” you speak of– you mean the Enlightenment, correct?

    Not following your, “You cannot press an alien political and economic system on Russia,” thought-track.
    So– Russia was inherently Communist from year one? Seems to me, Lenin imposed an alien political/economic system onto Russia, and Stalin ran with it.
    (By the way, where IS that phony-baloney wax body of Stalin?)

    I sorely miss Ronald Reagan— he knew how to deal with the Russian/Soviet threat.
    Your projecting your own threat onto us. You guys are paranoid precisely because you are expansionistic and want to dominate all of eastern Europe and strangle Western Europe with your energy exports.

    I only hope I live long enough to see Red Square in Moscow, subjected to 6 psi of overpressure, multiple times.

  • Alexey

    Just for comparison. Cost of new Russian spaceport is $2.2 billion in the Middle of Nowhere. Cost VA hospital in Denver CO, $1.7 and counting. What’s corruption?

  • Hey, both Vostochny and the VA are the children of big government, which is why I am not surprised that both are corrupt. And if you think I don’t have equal contempt for both you haven’t been reading my website very closely.

  • BSJ

    Then why do so many Russians do so well when the immigrate to the US and embrace our Capitalistic society? You’d think they would be incapable of coping with all this Freedom and stuff…

  • Alex

    Hello Wayne, you are following the completely wrong path. I am not Russian. However, I (as an anti-communist) was a victim of communist suppression and fled before it many decades ago. However, today we found the Western system also failed due liberal decadence, which has resulted in loss of values and ability to devide between the own people and the threating alien people.

  • Edward

    Please note that when SpaceX *did* have a major malfunction, this is what was written here:

    By the way, here is what was said when a Progress successfully launched supplies to the ISS, a few days later:

    I think that there could very well be a reason to use results to judge or compare societies. It hardly matters how they got that way, what matters is results. I am not impressed with the Russian lackadaisical attitude toward safety. It got a Progress to almost crash into the MIR, another Progress to actually crash into MIR, a fire onboard MIR, a meltdown at a nuclear power plant, and a demolished hydroelectric dam.

    The two Progress incidents and Chernobyl were the result of incentives to perform tests even when safety conditions deteriorate. Rather than postpone or stop testing, the head experimenters had financial incentives to continue on, despite unsafe conditions. The tradition of financial incentive was not changed after Chernobyl and continued on through two MIR incidents. I can only hope that this practice has finally ended (though I cannot see that MIR would be more reason to end it than Chernobyl was).

    Considering that Russia was an agrarian country in 1917, the industrial traditions of that country are somewhat younger than those in the US, not older.

    The US tends to take safety very seriously, and the populace gets very upset when safety equipment is ignored by equipment operators, as happened with the Three Mile Island incident. The US populace greatly desires safety, which is why it has been so long since a major US airline has had a major accident: we have worked hard to prevent accidents.

    A free society, one in which the government reacts to We the People rather than the other way around, is one in which the populace can influence the results — quality, safety, availability, cost, etc. When government is in control, the people lose this influence. This is the tragedy that is occurring in the United States, right now. The government even tells us how to spend our own money. (What other tyranny in all of history did that? This is not a rhetorical question, I really want to know.) I prefer the free society, having lived in one, to the oppressive government-controlled society, now that I live in one.

  • wayne

    Good deal on not being a Russian Putin apologist & I apologize for making that assumption. (have great-grandparents who were Ukrainian.)
    You do however, apologize for Putin a bit too much & that is perplexing. He was a dedicated commie before he morphed into an oligarchical-gangster.

    Anyway… I do enjoy your rocket & science tidbit’s, just not on board with Putin. (we have our own oligarchical-gangsters & foreign invaders to deal with, in the Western hemisphere.)

  • Alex

    Hello Edward, the safety issue that you mentioned with its application differences as in Russia or USA for example, shows exactly what I meant. It is about different mentality and culture, deep routed properties which have grown over very time periods (many centuries or even longer). It existed already long before communism had risen in Russia and can be seen as its precondition. There are significant differences in regard to judge about value of single life and personal freedom. Russians take typical more risks (there seems a different awareness of risks as such) and they are more though to themselves as typical Western man. Those differences may result from the influence of former dominant rulers as the Vikings about 1100 years ago, which formed Russia as a state on base of ruling and merging different Slavic tribes and furthermore the Mongols regime in Russia, which had endured several centuries in Middle ages, from about 1200 to 1500. What I try to say is the following: You have to accept that there are such differences, which have to be respected.

  • Alexey

    As a procurement ‘engineer’ I’m dealing with US vendors daily. Two complains-views persist. Russians hates us, because they ask for translation of every document. No. Most just do not know English. And, Russians like Americans, just speak funny. No, 200+ years of free enterprise can not be compared with 20. Readers must understand that evolutionary way taking RF gov for transforming economy is better than revolutinary Robert expected. This country had enough of those. Revolution in RF would be bad for everybody.

  • Edward

    Alex wrote: “Russians take typical more risks (there seems a different awareness of risks as such) … You have to accept that there are such differences, which have to be respected.”

    No, I don’t, and no they don’t.

    The entire problem with a lackadaisical attitude toward safety — and an attitude that the attitude is acceptable — is that safety issues can harm me and disrupt my right to pursue happiness. Unsafely operated nuclear equipment can contaminate thousands of square kilometers of land, including my property. Collisions in space can cause debris that may destroy my space-based equipment/property. And some “small quality problems” on Russian rockets can affect people’s jobs, when they depend upon a satellite that does not get to orbit.

    I worked on a satellite that had a design problem on some parts (same part used many places). Our customer had hired people to install household antennas and TV decoder boxes, but the delay while the vendor fixed the problem caused our customer to fire all those people until the problem could be fixed and tested (the first repair did not fix the problem). Poor performance of one company in one country can affect many people in another company in another country.

    It is the responsibility of the launch provider to provide a good launch every time. If he has difficulty in doing so, as happened this time, then it is reasonable for us to be concerned about the quality of their product. We may think twice before buying a ride on one of their rockets.

    ULA had a similar event, earlier this year, but ULA has been a very reliable launch provider, and most people believe that its launch difficulty was unusual and are confident that the fix will solve the problem. Many people still have confidence in ULA.

    Confidence in Proton is waning:
    “the most likely outcome is higher rates for Proton rockets—the Russian-made rocket that destroyed the Mexican satellite [in 2015] and has had an unimpressive track record lately.”

    I do not accept poor performance, whether it is sloppy engineering or a society whose culture accepts carelessness, and I do not respect a culture of carelessness. I do not expect revolution, but I — like many others — expect quality and value for my money, and I expect that other people’s actions will not harm me.

    If people are not responsible for their own actions, then the victims of those actions pay the price of the negligence.

    If you are concerned about economic transformation, you may want to examine Poland’s model, as they seem to have transformed their economy relatively quickly and relatively seamlessly. India, China, and Russia seem to be taking longer and having more confusion about the transformation.

    As for dealing with people with accents, we Americans handle this nicely every day. There are so many immigrants from so many different places that we do not mind that someone has an accent, and we will try very hard to understand a heavy accent and unusual grammar.

  • Alexey

    It’s a good post. US is the most tolerant nation, second to none. If there are suckers willing to pay for satellite receiver without actual satellite, then they should be taken for a ride. Poland is a good example. Poland gets $20 billion from EU annually. So all 28 EU nations should ask the same amount from ECB, it can print half trillion at no time.

  • Edward

    I am somewhat confused by your comment. Who is paying for receivers without a satellite? What is Poland receiving money to do (or in exchange for what)?

    You mentioned puppet states. Could you please list them and explain why you believe each is a puppet state?

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