Tag Archives: progress

Last Soyuz-U launches Progress to ISS

Russia today successfully launched a Progress freighter to ISS using its last Soyuz-U rocket.

The Soyuz-U has been launched hundreds of times since the 1970s, but has been replaced by Russia because it uses equipment made in Ukraine. The newer versions of the Soyuz rockets are completely home-built, but also have been plagued by quality control problems and corruption within Russia.

Posted in the air of the Gulf of Mexico in route to Belize.

Russians complete investigation into Progress launch failure

The news is not really good.

According to Roskosmos, the accident led to the unplanned separation between the third stage of the launch vehicle and the spacecraft. Members of the commission established that the most probable cause of the accident had been the disintegration of the oxidizer tank of the third stage as a result of the failure of the 11D55 engine, following the fire and disintegration of its oxidizer pump, Roskosmos said. The fire in the pump and its disintegration could be triggered by a possible injection of the foreign particles into the pump’s cavity or by violations during the assembly of the 11D55 engine, such as a wrong clearance between the pump’s shaft and its attachment sleeve, floating rings and impellers, leading to a possible loss of balance and vibration of the rotor.

The fault, which has a production nature, manifested itself during the flight, Roskosmos said. The State Corporation promised to prepare a plan of immediate action at enterprises of the the rocket industry to ensure the safe launch of the Progress MS-05 spacecraft, Roskosmos announced. [emphasis mine]

It appears that though they have not definitely established what went wrong (due to a lack of telemetry), they have determined that all of the possible causes are related to quality control issues.

Update into into Dec 1 Progress failure investigation

The Russian investigation into the December 1 launch failure of a Progress freighter has come up with two possible causes, both centered on the third stage of the Soyuz rocket.

According to one theory some unforeseen dynamic loads on the tank’s structure were exacerbated by low-quality welding of the tank and led to its rupture.

Another hypothesis presumed that an anomalous operation of the RD-011o engine, (as a result of higher-than-normal vibrations in its bearings or in its turbopump), could apply unforeseen loads onto the aft bulkhead of the oxidizer tank, which is located right above the engine.

Both scenarios were based on theoretical assumptions and could not be proven without doubt due to lack of telemetry.

It appears that they might be delaying any further manned launches while they evaluate the third stages of rockets intended for future flights.

Update on Progress/Soyuz launch failure

Link here It appears that the spacecraft separated from the upper stage while it was still firing, causing that stage to next collide with the spacecraft.

What is certain is that computers on Progress MS-04 interpreted the separation as nominal and initiated a sequence, which would be normally performed upon reaching orbit, including the deployment of the ship’s antennas and the preparation of the attitude control thrusters, DPO, for action. However, moments after the separation, the spacecraft appeared to be struck twice by the rocket stage, which clearly continued its powered flight. The first impact came nearly straight into the aft bulkhead of the ship, then the second hit landed moments later into the side of the vehicle.

The collision apparently caused the spacecraft’s propulsion system, SKD, to shift to the side from its normal position, the temperature inside its enclosure to plummet and the whole vehicle to tumble. The telemetry from the Progress also indicated the activation of its thermal control system, probably in response to a breach in the ship’s transfer compartment.

Why separation occurred prematurely, while the engines were firing, still remains a mystery.

Dispute in Russia over Progress failure investigation

The Russian mission control has publicly disavowed a report that cited mission control as saying that the failure of the Soyuz/Progress launch last week was due to the premature shutdown of the Soyuz rocket’s third stage.

First the source:

A source in the space and rocket industry told TASS that the emergency shutdown of the engines occurred after 382 seconds and at the same time the spacecraft’s separation occurred. After that, the flight control system started operating in automatic flight mode and began deploying antennas and solar batteries. However, the spacecraft failed to reach orbit and started falling and ended up being destroyed in the atmosphere.

Next the disavowal:

”Any version which are now being voiced by the media have nothing to do with reality, including the incorrect cyclogram data. The results of the commission’s work will be announced no earlier than December 20,” a spokesperson told RIA Novosti.

I must admit that the source’s suggested cause for the failure, that the rocket engine shut prematurely and the spacecraft then simply separated and began its deployment before it had reached orbital velocity and thus fell back to Earth, sounds good at first glance. However, this explanation does not explain why all communications with the spacecraft suddenly ceased.

Either way, it does appear that there is an effort within Roscosmos to spin the events in the press, prior to the completion of the investigation. This in itself is not a good sign, as it suggests that there are people there who are trying to cover their asses rather than honestly trying to find out the cause of the failure.

Russian authorities locate Progress debris

Russian authorities in Siberia have located and identified several bits of wreckage from the Soyuz-U rocket and Progress freighter that failed to reach orbit last week.

Two pieces, including a large spherical object, were found by herders over the weekend, while another was discovered in the courtyard of a residential house on Monday, said the region’s head Sholban Karaa-ool, warning people not to touch any metal debris.

Regional sanitation officials “inspected the spot where two pieces of the spacecraft were found in the Ulug-Khem district, on the side of the mountain and near a yurt,” Kara-ool said on his official website. “Another small piece was found in the yard of a house in the Eilig-Khem village,” he said.

Whether this debris can help them pinpoint the cause of the failure remains unknown.

Cause of Progress failure unlikely to be found

Not good: Sources in the Russian press say that it will likely be impossible to pinpoint precisely the cause of the Progress failure this week because of a lack of telemetry or data.

The causes of Thursday’s loss of the Progress cargo spacecraft are unlikely to be established, because neither telemetry data nor debris of the Soyuz-U rocket that was taking the cargo vehicle in orbit are available. “Telemetry transmission from the rocket was disrupted instantly, so it is practically impossible to establish the sequence of events to identify the causes of the emergency. As for material evidence, such as debris of the rocket’s third stage that might provide some clues, it is not available, either,” the source said.

They are still searching for debris but have so far come up empty.

Lacking data, they are now beginning to use computer modeling to try to figure out what happened. The prime suspect is the third stage engine.

Russia completes preliminary design for Progress replacement

The competition heats up: Russian engineers have completed their preliminary design for a proposed Progress replacement, first revealed August 22.

The main rationale for the development of the new cargo ship was the urgent need to reduce the number of cargo launches to the ISS from four to three annually, while still supporting three crew members on the Russian segment of the station.

The preliminary design for the new cargo ship was originally to be completed in December 2016, but the work was apparently sped up to be completed in August of the same year. Still, even if the go ahead for the full-scale development of the project was given immediately, the new cargo ship was not expected to fly before 2020. In the meantime, the Russian crew onboard the ISS could be reduced from three to two people beginning in March 2017 onward, with the exception of a time period in 2018, when Russian cosmonauts would have to conduct spacewalks to outfit the newly arrived MLM module.

The new design, radically different from Russia’s present Soyuz and Progress capsules, would be able to place 8.2 tons in orbit, one ton more than Progress. That the Russians accelerated the design process suggests to me that they are putting a high priority on this project, and that they will build it.

Progress successfully launched into orbit

Supplies for ISS! The Russians today successfully launched a Progress freighter into orbit to bring cargo to ISS.

After three failures since October from three different cargo systems (Cygnus, Progress, and Dragon), this success is somewhat of a relief for both the astronauts on board ISS and the managers of the station. It gives everyone some breathing room until both Cygnus and Dragon fly again.

Russia announces revised launch schedule for ISS

As promised, the Russians today revealed their revised schedule of launches for ISS for the next few months.

The next manned launch will be on July 3, and though it will use a Soyuz rocket, it will not use the upgraded rocket version that had a conflict with its Progress freighter during the April launch. They have still not described what that conflict was, or how they plan to fix it on future launches.

Meanwhile, a Soyuz capsule docked to ISS suddenly fired its thrusters unexpectedly during testing of the station’s radio system. The burn changed the station’s orientation, which required other thrusters to compensate.

Soyuz rocket to launch this week

In the heat of competition: Despite releasing very vague conclusions to its Soyuz rocket failure investigation, the Russians are going to resume Soyuz launches, beginning this week.

Update: The launch on Friday was successful.

I imagine that NASA will insist on more details before the next manned flight, including how they have solved the flaw that caused the Soyuz/Progress failure. At least, that is what a private company would do. What a government agency will do is sometimes beyond my understanding.

Angara to launch commercial payload on next launch

The competition heats up: Russia has decided to accelerate use of its heavy Angara rocket by launching a commercial payload on its next launch in 2016.

They had initially planned to do more test flights. The technical problems with Proton, combined with increased competition from SpaceX and others, is forcing them to move at a less leisurely pace.

In the meantime, they have concluded their investigation into the Progress/Soyuz rocket failure, issuing an incredibly vague press release that only stated the following:

The damage to the ship during its abnormal separation from the third stage of the Soyuz-2-1a launch vehicle resulted from a particular property of the joint use of the cargo spacecraft and the launch vehicle. This design property was related to frequency and dynamic characteristics of joint vehicles. This design property was not fully accounted for during the development of the rocket and spacecraft complex.

Limitations on further flights of the Soyuz-2-1a rocket with other spacecraft had not been found.

It sounds to me as if they don’t know exactly what caused the abnormal separation between the rocket and the spacecraft, and that they have decided to move on regardless.

I think it would be very wise for the U.S. to get its own manned spacecraft operational as fast as possible.

The Russian investigation into Progress failure stalled?

Internal disagreements appear to be hampering the investigation into the Progress launch failure in late April.

The investigation had been leaning to pinning the failure on the disintegration of the Soyuz third stage oxygen tank. Others, however, are now claiming that the disintegration itself was caused by an improper separation of Progress from the rocket. The result is that the investigation has delayed the release of its findings.

What caused the failed separation of the Soyuz and Progress?

A good translation of this week’s press release from the investigation into the April 28 Progress failure indicates that the failure occurred because of an abnormal separation of the freighter from the upper stage.

After reviewing all the materials, members of the State Commission came to a preliminary conclusion that a version of the abnormal separation had been objectively confirmed, which includes two subsequent events related to the depressurization (disintegration after the cutoff of the third-stage engine) first of the oxidizer tank and then of the fuel tank, Roskosmos said.

In other words, the separation was so abnormal it put both the freighter and the upper stages in the wrong orbits, with the Progress tumbling and damaged, and with the upper stage almost immediately disintegrating.

They are now studying the data to try to figure out what caused the bad separation so they can inspect other Soyuz upper stages for the same problem and fix them before launch.

Russians confirm flip of Progress and Soyuz launches

It’s official: The launch of the next crew to ISS will be delayed until late July to allow both a Progress freighter to launch first as well as give investigators more time to figure out what went wrong with the Soyuz upper stage during last month’s Progress launch.

In addition, the crew that had been slated to return to Earth this week will remain on board for another month to reduce the amount of time the station is manned with only 3 astronauts.

It appears that investigation is zeroing in on the upper stage of the Soyuz rocket, whose tanks apparently depressurized prematurely, causing the freighter to separate early and end up in an incorrect orbit.

Russian sources confirm their plan to flip launches to ISS

Though not yet officially decided, managers in the Russian space agency are definitely considering switching the launch dates of the next Soyuz and Progress missions to ISS, so that the unmanned cargo flight flies first.

Both spacecraft use the Soyuz rocket, and it now appears that the cause of last week’s Progress failure was a problem in the Soyuz third stage. They want to check out all Soyuz third stages before they put any humans on one. Switching the flights gives them time to do it. It also gets needed cargo to ISS sooner.

Progress failure causes delay in next manned mission to ISS

Russian sources suggest that they will postpone the next manned mission to ISS from May 26 to June 11 as they investigate the failure of the Progress freighter last week.

This article also suggests that the Russians might flip the next Progress and Soyuz flights to have the Progress go first. (This schedule change is something I suggested might happen last week, right after the launch failure.)

Progress freighter declared lost

The Russians have declared lost the Progress freighter that had been launched to ISS yesterday.

They never could regain control of the craft, plus it was in an incorrect orbit. Moreover, the U.S. Air Force has detected debris nearby, suggesting a significant failure of some kind.

The Russians are now considering delaying the next manned launch, scheduled for May 26, while they investigate this failure. Both Soyuz and Progress use some of the same systems, including the radar system that failed on Progress, and they want to make sure the problem won’t pop up on the manned mission.

At the same time, they are also considering advancing the launch date of the next Progress to ISS from August 6.

Based on these reports, I think they might swap the launch dates for the two flights. A Dragon is scheduled to go to ISS in between these missions, though that schedule could be changed as well to accommodate the Russian plans.

Progress freighter in big trouble

A Progress freighter launched by Russia to ISS on Tuesday was placed in the wrong orbit, has not deployed its radar antennas needed for rendezvous, and is not responding properly to commands on the ground.

Whether it is in the wrong orbit might be an incorrect report, but other sources demonstrate clearly that the spacecraft is tumbling out of control. Based on all these reports, it does not look good for this vehicle. The crew on ISS, including the two astronauts on a year-long mission there, might have to do without these supplies.

Meanwhile Russia is proceeding with its plans to consolidate control of all aspects of its aerospace industry under the banner of a single government “super-corporation” run by Roscosmos. Considering the number of technical failures they have had with spacecraft and rockets in the past five years, it seems to me that this is the worst approach for solving these problems. Then again, Russian culture strongly favors a top-down authoritarian approach, so it might work better under this Soviet-style approach.

I don’t believe it, but we are going to find out in the coming decades.

A Progress freighter, launched yesterday, will not dock with ISS for four days in order to test upgrades to its rendezvou radar system.

A Progress freighter, launched yesterday, will not dock with ISS for four days in order to test upgrades to its rendezvou radar system.

Unlike recent Progress vehicles that used the 2AO-VKA and AKR-VKA antennas of Kurs-A system, M-21M is sporting a AO-753A antenna of the Kurs-NA system instead. Once the Progress reaches its preliminary orbit, it will conduct a series of automated engine burns to put it on track to fly within one mile of the station on Wednesday, allowing for the test of the lighter, more-efficient Kurs automated rendezvous system hardware for upgraded Soyuz and Progress vehicles.

After it finishes its flyby, the Progress will loop above and behind the station, returning Friday for a docking.

NASA is trying get some spare spacesuit parts onto a Russian Progress freighter, scheduled to launch Saturday, in its effort to fix its American spacesuits on ISS.

NASA is trying get some spare spacesuit parts onto a Russian Progress freighter, scheduled to launch Saturday, in its effort to fix its American spacesuits on ISS.

It must be emphasized that NASA still doesn’t know exactly what caused the water leak into that spacesuit during a spacewalk last week.

The European Space Agency is investigating the possibility that the Progress docking to ISS on April 26 might have damaged equipment needed by their ATV cargo ship.

The European Space Agency is investigating the possibility that the Progress docking to ISS on April 26 might have damaged equipment needed by their ATV cargo ship.

The damage, caused by the undeployed Progress antenna, appears to have involved a navigational aid needed for ATV-4 … the Laser Radar Reflector (LRR) target. The LRR is needed for the automatic docking of the European ATV during the last part of the rendezvous operations. If the damage is confirmed, the device, recently replaced during an EVA by the Russian crew due to contamination of the optical section, will need to be replaced again. In this event, the European cargo ship could potentially be delayed for several months. ATV-4, named Albert Einstein, has been already delayed from April to June because of a glitch in an avionics box.

It appears the Progress freighter has successfully docked with ISS.

It appears the Progress freighter has successfully docked with ISS.

The story is not entirely clear on whether this was a successful hard dock, or only a soft dock. However, I’ve done a search on the web and it sounds like the docking was good. This story says the astronauts on ISS will conducting leak tests (a normal procedure) and then begin unloading, which suggests that all is well.

A hard docking is confirmed.

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