Tag Archives: Russia

Sputnik full scale test model sells for $850K

A full scale engineering test model of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik satellite sold at auction yesterday for $850K.

Bonhams auctioned the “beeping” replica of the now-iconic satellite, with its polished metal sphere and four protruding antennas, for $847,500 (including the premium charged to the buyer) at its New York gallery. The winning bid, placed by an unidentified buyer on the telephone, far surpassed the pre-auction estimate and the amount paid for a similar Sputnik replica sold by Bonhams for $269,000 in 2016.

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NASA and Roscomos sign agreement to work together to build lunar orbiting station

Extending the pork: NASA and Roscosmos have signed an agreement agreeing to work together in the construction of what NASA calls a deep space gateway, a space station orbiting the Moon.

The goal here is to garner political support for getting funding to fly a third SLS/Orion mission, which would be its second manned flight. It is also to establish some long term justification for SLS/Orion, which presently has no mission and will disappear after its first manned test flight, presently scheduled for 2022. That single test flight will have taken 18 years and more than 40 billion dollars to build, an absurd timeframe and cost for a single mission that does not bode well for future SLS/Orion missions.

The Russian perspective can be found here. They claim that the station would be finished by 2024-2026, an absurd prediction based on the expected SLS launch rate of one launch every one to two years. For Russia, the hope is that they can use this project to get U.S. money, just like the big American space companies like Lockheed Martin (Orion) and Boeing (SLS).

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Soyuz launches Russian GPS satellite

A Russian Soyuz-2 rocket today successfully placed one of that country’s GPS satellites in orbit.

Russia now has the lead over SpaceX in the 2017 launch race, having completed 14 launches, one more than SpaceX. It however trails the U.S.’s total (19) by 5. That U.S. total did not rise yesterday because a scheduled Atlas 5 launch by ULA was delayed because of a battery problem. Its new launch date is tomorrow.

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Russia’s Proton rocket today successfully launched a commercial satellite

The competition heats up: Russia today successfully placed a Spanish communications satellite into orbit using its Proton rocket.

Russia remains one launch behind SpaceX, 13 to 12, for 2017, but they have three more launches scheduled for September, while SpaceX has nothing planned. Overall I think it is going to be a neck and neck race between the American private company and Russia, the former perennial leader in launches, for the final 2017 lead.

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Iran to put man in space in 8 years?

According to one Iranian aviation official, Iran plans to put a man into space within the next 8 years.

[H]ead of the Aviation Research Centre at Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology, Fat’hollah Ami, says Iran’s space programme is going on smoothly and efforts are underway to send a manned spaceship into space within the next eight years.

He said the Aviation Research Centre is now focused on its main goal to send man into the space by the next eight years. “We have had serious negotiations with Russian space centres and they are expected to give us their final reply,” he said.

The key fact revealed here is Russia. Iran isn’t going to do the flying. It is trying to purchase a seat in a Soyuz capsule from the Russians. Whether Russia will sell it to them depends on many factors, including Iran’s status in world politics and how cash desperate the Russians are.

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Russia and China both condemn North Korea’s nuclear test

Has the veil finally lifted from their eyes? The leaders of both Russia and China on Sunday agreed to work together to deal with the threat of a North Korea with nuclear weapons and ICBMs, with China strongly condemning North Korea.

It appears that these nations have suddenly realized that a North Korea with nuclear weapons and missiles capable of delivering those weapons anywhere on the globe is not merely a threat to the U.S., it also poses a threat to them. It is a shame that it took so long for this basic and obvious fact to sink in.

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Problems with 6 of 72 cubesats launched by Soyuz

Of the 72 cubesats launched by a Russian Soyuz rocket on July 14, 6 have unexpected problems.

Four of the 72 miniature satellites sent into orbit July 14 on a Russian Soyuz 2.1a rocket alongside the primary customer, the Kanopus-V-IK Russian Earth-imaging satellite, are not responding to commands from their operators and two additional cubesats are not in their intended orbits.

It appears that a variety of causes are behind the problems, not all of which are related to the Soyuz.

Posted from Torrey, Utah, just outside Capitol Reef.

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Russia and China to team up to explore Moon?

Russia and China appear ready to sign a cooperative agreement involving the joint exploration of the Moon from 2018 to 2022.

The deal is expected to be signed this October and will bring significant benefits to both nations, particularly in manned and future missions to the moon….

The bilateral agreement will cover five areas including lunar and deep space exploration, developing special materials, collaboration in the area of satellite systems, Earth remote sensing, and space debris research.

No details yet. Moreover, the deal itself has not yet been signed, so this might all vanish into the ether. It does appear however that Russia’s financial problems are forcing it to partner with others, and China presently has a very sophisticated but inexperienced space program and lots of cash. Russia’s experience would be a great help to China, until they don’t need it anymore. Thus, the logic of the agreement.

Posted from the lobby of the Swiftcurrent hotel at the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park. Diane completed a 10 mile hike today early, so we have the afternoon to relax. Tomorrow we make the long drive south to Capital Reef.

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Proton successfully launches Russian military satellite

Russia today successfully used its Proton rocket to place a military communications satellite in orbit.

Though primarily a military satellite, it will also be used by civilian customers as well.

Meanwhile, in their effort to recover from last year’s engine recall that practically shut down their launch industry, the Russians are trying to up their launch rate, with additional Proton launches now set for September 9 and 28. At the moment, they and SpaceX are tied for the most launches in 2017, and I suspect it will be a neck and neck race for the rest of the year.

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Russia to launch twice from Vostochny this year

Russian Deputy Prime Minister announced today that Russia will launch satellites from its new spaceport in Vostochny twice in 2017, first on November 28 and second on December 22.

On July 3, Rogozin said Russia would conduct five launches from the Vostochny space center in 2018. On July 11, Russia’s Roscosmos State Space Corporation head Igor Komarov said the agency was determined to launch up to five carrier rockets for its foreign clients from Vostochny every year starting in 2019.

It appears that the Russian leadership decided to accelerate the launch schedule and move two of those 2018 launches to November and December, 2017. They must be feeling the competitive pressure coming from SpaceX, which has essentially stolen almost their entire share of the commercial launch market.

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More Russian launch delays

Three stories out of Russia today suggest that that country’s aerospace industry has not yet fixed all of its quality control problems.

The last two stories both refer to the launch of Germany’s Spektr-RG, which was originally supposed to launch in 2014. The most recent schedule said the astronomical observatory would be launched in September 2018. That they need an extra month in order to “integration and ground development of the Spektr-RG spacecraft” does not seem out of line. At the same time, that they do not provide any reasons for the delay raises questions.

Meanwhile, that the Proton rocket for the Amazonas-5 launch has not yet been shipped seems incredible. The September 9 launch date was announced on August 9. You would expect that by now Russian companies would know exactly how long it takes to get a rocket to the launchpad. This suggests another more fundamental problem with the rocket that they are not revealing.

I know I am being a bit harsh on the Russians here. A more positive spin (which also might be true) might be that they are finally getting a handle on their quality control issues, and the result is these few additional delays as they clean things up.

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Russia to spend $630 million to build Vostochny Angara launchpad

Despite years of construction and more than a billion dollars spent, Russia still needs to spend about $630 million more to build the Angara launchpad at its new Vostochny spaceport.

The specified sum does not include the development, manufacture and assembly of technological equipment at the launch compound, the materials say. According to the Roscosmos document, the construction completion and the commissioning of this infrastructure are scheduled for 2022.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov who visited the Vostochny spaceport in the Russian Far East in late May was informed that the construction of the launch pad for the Angara carrier rocket at this cosmodrome would cost 58 billion rubles ($968 million) and would be completed in 2023.

It appears that the Russia government is trying to reduce the overall cost and time needed to build this launchpad. I am willing to bet that this effort will fail, and the cost will raise and time to build will lengthen. And even if they meet these new targets, it is still going to take an awful lot of money and time to do it. Construction on Vostochny began in 2010. Angara’s construction began near the end of the 20th century. Overall, they are going to take decades to get this rocket off the ground. Meanwhile, SpaceX should have four launchpads in regular operation, all built for relatively little money in less than five years overall.

I don’t see anyway Russia is going to be able to compete in the global launch market, based on this information.

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Soyuz successfully launches 73 satellites

A Russian Soyuz rocket today successfully launched a government Earth observation satellite, Kanopus-V-IK, as well as 72 cubesats.

The Russians continue their recovery from the year-long pause in launches due to corruption in one of their rocket engine factories that required the recall of almost all of the upper stage engines used in the Proton and Soyuz rockets.

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Another Vostochny executive arrested for taking bribes

The Russian government has arrested another manager at Vostochny for demanding a 4 million ruble bribe from a contractor while simultaneously embezzling 10 million rubles from the project.

The arrests, of which this is one of about a half dozen, indicate both good and bad things. First, they indicate that the Russian government under Putin might actually be trying to rein in some of the corruption that permeates Russian business practices. Second, they indicate the amount of corruption that permeates Russian business practices.

What Putin is probably doing is attempting to control the bribe-taking and embezzling, not stop it. Too much of his bureaucracy and pseudo-private industry depends on this corruption to eliminate it entirely. Moreover, he doesn’t want to eliminate it because he himself benefits from it. He just simply doesn’t want it to get so out-of-hand that it prevents projects from getting completed, as it apparently almost did at Vostochny.

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Roskosmos completes investigation into deadly post launch debris fire

Russia’s space agency Roskosmos has completed its investigation into the brush fire that caused two deaths at the impact site of the first stage of Soyuz rocket on June 14.

The report reveals several interesting details. First, it appears that the impact sites for abandoned first stages of Russian rockets are considered “planned.” This is not hyperbole. If the launch proceeds as intended, it should be possible to calculate with some accuracy where the abandoned first stage will hit the ground.

Second, it appears the deaths occurred when high winds caused the flames from the impact brush fire to engulf the two workers, one of whom died immediately, with the second dying several weeks later in the hospital.

Third, the agency will do more thorough reconnaissance of impact sites, before and after impact, before sending crews there. It will also augment the equipment and crews, depending on need.

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More political problems for the private Russian company taking over Sea Launch

Link here. The Russian airline company S7 wants to resume use of the Ukrainian Zenit rockets on the Sea Launch platform. They also want to fly that rocket several times from Baikonur. The problems have been getting Russia and Ukraine to work together.

Despite good progress on the engineering front of the Angosat-1 mission, political problems continued hampering the preparations of the Russian-Ukrainian launch. As of the end of June 2017, the planned liftoff for Angosat-1 slipped to October 21, however, even that date was considered optimistic within the industry. At the time, the Ukrainian team, which had to perform a scheduled maintenance on the Zenit rocket, was still waiting for permission to travel to Baikonur from the Ukrainian authorities.

Earlier, there were disputes from Russia that delayed work.

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Russian student satellite hopes to be the brightest star in sky

A Russian student project hopes its cubesat satellite will become the brightest star in sky when it launches as a secondary payload on a Soyuz-2 rocket on July 14.

Once the small satellite is 370 miles into orbit, it will deploy a pyramid-shaped solar reflector that is designed to capture the sun’s rays and bounce them back to Earth, creating the effect of a twinkling star to Earthlings. The reflector will be 170 square feet, is reportedly 20 times thinner than human hair and is made of Mylar — a thin polymer material.

One goal is for the satellite to outshine naturally existing stars. Another is to evaluate how to brake satellites in orbit and de-orbit them. The Russian team of engineers and space enthusiasts also hope to generate interest in space exploration.

The mission was funded through a Russian crowdfunding website. While everyone is making a big deal about the satellite’s brightness, the engineering being tested to deploy the reflector, control it, and then deorbit the cubesat in a controlled manner is far more important. Up until recently most cubesats had somewhat limited capabilities, and were used almost exclusively to train students on satellite engineering. This mission joins many other recent missions in demonstrating that cubesats will soon be able to do almost anything much larger satellites do, and thus are economically more practically to launch.

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Russia successfully launches military satellite with Soyuz rocket

Russia today successfully launched a military satellite with its Soyuz-2 rocket.

This launch success, following Proton and Soyuz launches earlier this month, indicates that they might have finally gotten control of the engine problems that have dogged them for the last five years. That’s three Russian launches in just over two weeks.

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Russia offers Soyuz capsule for tourist flights, even after it is replaced

Capitalism in space: The Russian company that makes the Soyuz capsule has announced that it intends to continue flying the capsule, even after the new Federation replacement capsule is operational.

“I think that the Soyuz has the right to continue its life. As long as there exists a space tourism market and this spacecraft enjoys confidence, this all should be used as essential components,” the CEO said. Energiya is also considering the possibility to upgrade the Soyuz for circumlunar missions. “If we manage to do it faster, we will have a chance to perfect important systems on it, that will be further used on the Federation,” Solntsev noted.

Energiya is now part of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and is controlled by the government. Thus, for it to do this will still require government approval. Will the Russian government allow the old capsule to exist when the new one begins flying? That would be a form of competition, something Russia hasn’t really encouraged since the fall of the Soviet Union. We shall see.

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Russia moves to capture the smallsat launch market

Glavkosmos, a division in Roscosmos, Russia’s nationalized aerospace industry, is working to capture a large part of the new smallsat launch industry.

Glavkosmos, a subsidiary of Russian state space corporation Roscosmos, said June 14 that it will launch 72 small satellites as secondary payloads on the Soyuz-2.1a launch of the Kanopus-V-IK remote sensing satellite, scheduled for July 14 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Vsevolod Kryukovskiy, launch program director at Glavkosmos, said in a June 19 interview that the smallsat customers for that launch come from the United States, Germany, Japan, Canada, Norway and Russia. He declined to identify specific customers, although he said they include both companies and universities. The spacecraft range in size from single-unit cubesats up to a 120-kilogram microsatellite. “We’ll do the most technically challenging cluster mission ever,” he said. The satellites will be deployed into three separate orbits, after which the rocket’s upper stage will perform a deorbit maneuver.

Kryukovskiy said Glavkosmos is also arranging the launch of secondary payloads on two Soyuz launches planned for December from the new Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East region. “We’ll have about 40 microsats that we’ll launch from Vostochny, and that will be the first international launch from this new Russian cosmodrome,” he said.

These numbers are in the same range as when India launched 103 smallsats on a single rocket, and suggest that Russia is trying to grab the market share that the new small rocket companies are aiming at.

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Truck driver killed in fire related to crash of Soyuz stage in Kazakhstan

A truck driver has died in an effort to extinguish a fire related to the crash in Kazakhstan of the stages from the Soyuz rocket that earlier this week launched a Progress freighter to ISS.

This story does not indicate any failure on Russia’s part during the launch. What it does highlight is the problematic location of their Baikonur spaceport, which requires expendable first stages to crash on land. In fact, this incident also suggests it wise for the Russians, and the Kazakhstans, to consider developing recoverable first stages that can land in a controlled manner, as SpaceX has, in order to make this spaceport more useful and safer.

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Russians successfully launch Progress to ISS

A Russian Soyuz rocket successfully launched a Progress freighter to ISS early today.

That’s the second Russian launch in less than a week, after a very long pause caused by the discovery of corruption in one of their major engine factories. Though the Russians presently only have two launches scheduled for July, and none scheduled for August, I suspect that this will change in their effort to clear their launch backlog.

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Russia lowers its Proton launch plans for 2017

Though they are about to resume Proton launches, Russia today revealed that they only intend to launch the rocket five times in 2017, not seven as announced earlier.

Russia plans five Proton-M carrier rocket launches this year, including three commercial launches, Khrunichev Space Center CEO Andrei Kalinovsky told TASS on Wednesday. “Our plans for this year also additionally include four Proton-M carrier rocket launches. These are two commercial launches with Amazonas 5 and AsiaSat 9 satellites, and also two federal launches,” the chief executive said.

Even more interesting, the article notes that Russia only has contracts to launch 15 commercial satellites through 2023. That’s a launch rate of only about 2.5 to 3 commercial Proton launches per year, a rate that seems much less than in the past. Moreover, while they say they haven’t lost any customers in the past year, it also appears they haven’t gotten any either.

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Proton rolled to launchpad for June 8 launch

After a pause in launches lasting one day short of a full year, Russia has rolled its Proton rocket to the launchpad for a hoped-for June 8 launch of a commercial communications satellite.

The article provides a nice overview of Russia’s struggles during the past year, attempting to track down the reasons why their rockets were having problems (corruption at the rocket engine factory) and their repeated attempts to get this rocket off the ground.

They hope, if all goes well, to complete seven Proton launches through the end of 2017 in order to clean up their backlog while also demonstrating that they have solved their quality control problems.

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