Tag Archives: Soyuz

Russia delays next manned Soyuz flight

Russia has confirmed previous reports and has officially delayed the next manned Soyuz launch to ISS from June 24 to July 7.

They remain vague about the issue causing the delay, this time only saying they want more time to test software. Previous reports suggested the issue was with the capsule’s control thrusters.

Meanwhile, no word on whether they have figured out why the upper stage on the previous Soyuz rocket launch shut down prematurely.

Manned Soyuz launch delayed

More Russian quality control issues? The next manned launch to ISS has been delayed for a week because of an issue with the capsule’s control thrusters.

The article is lacking in any details, though it appears that the Soyuz capsule’s system for controlling its roll is the source of the problem. This issue, on top of the fact that the most recent Soyuz rocket launch last week had an unexplained premature engine shutdown, should make everyone a bit nervous about the reliability and safety of the Russian manned system.

First launch from Vostochny a success

The competition heats up: After more than a decade of construction and more than $6 billion, the new Russian spaceport succeeded in its first rocket launch in the early morning hours of April 28, sending three satellites into Earth orbit.

Several news stories have said that Putin was not happy about the one day launch delay due to a computer issue, as well as the one day delay of a Soyuz launch in French Guiana earlier in the week.

Meanwhile, don’t expect any further launches at Vostochny for a long time. The spaceport really isn’t ready for regular operations. This launch was merely a face-saving gesture to disguise the fact that construction is really more than a year behind schedule, not three months.

First Vostochny launch scrubbed at T-1.5

The first launch at Russia’s new Vostochny spaceport yesterday was aborted by its computers at T-1.5 minutes.

The head of Russia’s Roscosmos, Igor Komarov, said the launch was halted automatically due to the glitches of the automated control system. He said the system may be restored in a day. “As usual, the responsibility for what is happening in the space sector rests with those people who are in charge of it and head it,” Komarov added.

I love how governments and their minions always use the word “glitch” when the really haven’t the slightest idea what went wrong.

Regardless, based on their plans to try again tomorrow, I suspect that the problem was relatively simple, related to the computer sensing some parameter that was outside expected tolerances, and easily fixed.

Soyuz rocket launch scrubbed due to faulty IMU

Uh-oh: A Soyuz rocket launch from French Guiana was scrubbed an hour before launch on Sunday because of detected problems with the inertial measurement unit (IMU) in its navigational system.

Arianespace chief executive Stephane Israel tweeted Sunday that the faulty inertial measurement unit, or IMU, will be replaced overnight in time for a launch attempt Monday. The IMU is located on the Soyuz rocket’s third stage and is used to determine the heading and orientation of the vehicle in the first nine minutes of its mission, feeding critical attitude data to the launcher’s guidance computers, which transmit steering commands to the engines.

The venerable Soyuz booster flies more often than any other launcher in the world, and delays due to technical causes are rare. [emphasis mine]

This is not good news for Russia’s aerospace industry, as it suggests that the quality control problems Russia has experienced with the company that manufactures its Proton rocket are now beginning to appear with the different company that manufactures the Soyuz rocket.

If true, this is also very bad news for American astronauts, who must use this rocket to get to and from space.

Cause of Soyuz docking problems pinpointed

The failure of a Soyuz capsule to dock automatically with ISS last week is now attributed to a software problem that failed to provide the right commands to the spacecraft’s thrusters.

The problem has now been linked by the Russian press to three different causes. I wonder if they actually have any idea at all, or are simply throwing out red herrings in order to distract everyone from noticing the problem at all.

Soyuz docking issue during ISS arrival

When the manned Soyuz rendezvoused and docked with ISS yesterday, there was a problem with the automatic docking system, requiring the astronauts to take over and manually dock the spacecraft.

Initial reports suggested the failure was with the radar system having a conflict with the communications systems on the berthed Cygnus capsule. The link above instead claims the failure was caused by a malfunction in one of the Soyuz attitude thrusters. The former would be annoying but less of a concern than the latter. A thruster malfunction is somewhat rare, and would be another indication of the serious quality control problems in the Russian aerospace industry.

Russia testing upgraded Soyuz capsule

The competition heats up: Russian engineers have begun testing new equipment to be installed in an upgraded version of their manned Soyuz capsule.

The plan to test fly the new avionics on a Progress freighter before installing them in upgraded manned Soyuz, which they hope to fly in about six months.

Soyuz capsule maneuvers to avoid space junk

The manned Soyuz capsule bringing three astronauts to ISS was forced to make a maneuver this morning to avoid a collision with a fragment from a Japanese rocket launched in 1989.

While space junk is an increasing problem, for a object to threaten a manned capsule making maneuvers in low Earth orbit is extremely rare. It appears from the story however that U.S. and Russian trackers thought there was a very good chance of an actual collision and took action to avoid it.

Russia accelerating development of Soyuz replacement

The competition heats up: The head of Energia, the Russian company that builds the Soyuz capsule, said this week at a space conference near Moscow that they are going to accelerate construction of a prototype of a next generation replacement, capable of launch four astronauts.

We have agreed with the engineers…. to reduce the time for construction and production of the first copy of this spaceship. Despite the fact that we have voiced and agreed on the first launch in 2021, we have set the task to build the prototype by 2019, and I think that we will succeed, ” Solntsev told reporters at the MAKS.

Take this with a grain of salt. Energia has proposed a number of different Soyuz replacements since 2000, none of which ever saw the light of day. At the same time, the situation in Russia has changed, and the government is now committed to financing a robust space program. Previously, Energia had to find private investment capital, which never arrived because, I think, investors did not trust the legal situation in Russia. They had no way of guaranteeing that they would own their shares. In fact, the recent take-over and consolidation of Russia’s entire aerospace industry by the government has proven those investor doubts entirely right.

At the same time, the increased competition in the launch industry and this government takeover might signal something real is finally going to happen.

OneWeb awards major launch contracts

The competition heats up: OneWeb today announced it had raised a half billion dollars in investment capital, and has also awarded two major launch contracts, one to the Arianespace/Russian Soyuz partnership and the other to Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne.

The Soyuz gets 21 launches while LauncherOne gets 39. For Virgin Galactic this contract might save the company, as their effort to fly tourists on SpaceShipOne has badly stalled. The effort to build LauncherOne, however, seems to be gaining steam.

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.

Russia completes Soyuz launchpad at Vostochny

The competition heats up: Russia has completed assembly of the Soyuz-2 launch system at Vostochny a month ahead of schedule.

I must say that this story confuses me. Just this past weekend it was reported in the Russian press that they were abandoning efforts to build a Soyuz launchpad for manned flights at Vostochny and would instead focus on Angara. Why then are they finishing this Soyuz-2 launchpad now, and ahead of schedule?

One theory: The new launchpad might be for a new upgraded Soyuz rocket to be used for unmanned missions and thus different than the manned launchpad.

Or it might be that even though the government canceled it, workers continued to work on it and finished it, unaware of the cancellation. It is not unusual in big government projects for the right hand to not know what the left hand is doing.

UPDATE: My first theory was correct. Anatoly Zak of russianspaceweb.com has confirmed to me in an email that they only cancelled manned Soyuz flights at Vostochny. This launchpad will be used for an upgraded Soyuz rocket for unmanned flights.

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.

Corruption in the Russian space industry

A slew of stories in the Russian press today illustrate again the deeply ingrained problems that country has, both in corruption and in its ability to produce a quality product.

The last story describes the overall scale of the corruption, which is not confined just to the space sector, but can be found in many industries. The aerospace industry just happens to be the most visible outside Russia, and thus the most embarrassing. Yet,
» Read more

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.

Russians cancel effort to fly humans from Vostochny by 2019

The heat of competition? In order to meet a government deadline to launch humans from their new spaceport at Vostochny, the Russians had planned, though now cancelled, a single manned launch there in 2019, using a new rocket.

Their cancelled plans had included two prior test flights of the rocket with Progress freighters.

If cargo missions were successful, the one brave crew would ride into orbit from the new spaceport, knowing that in case of a serious problem with the rocket, the descent module of the spacecraft would parachute into deep forest of the Russian Far East or somewhere in the Pacific.

After “satisfying” this political goal with a single crew, all manned Soyuz and cargo Progress missions would then revert back to Baikonur for a safe ascent trajectory. The Soyuz spacecraft would continue flying two missions annually from Baikonur, until the veteran spacecraft’s final launch in 2025. In 2021, Soyuz spacecraft missions originating from Baikonur would switch from Soyuz-FG to Soyuz-2-1a rocket.

The Russians have now decided, rather than rush this first flight on the new rocket, to hold to the slower schedule.

This story is important to the United States. I think we must definitely end our dependence on the Russians before they make the switch to the new rocket. Based on the levels of poor quality control and corruption seen recently in Russia, I have grave doubts the new rocket will fly reliably at first. It would be a mistake to buy its use to put Americans in space.

Proton launches commercial satelite

The Proton rocket which had its launch delayed several weeks in order to repair a faulty gyroscope successfully placed a commercial satellite in orbit today.

Earlier this week there were also two successful Soyuz rockets. For Russia’s aerospace industry, 2014 has definitely ended the year on an up note.

More quality control problems in Russia

The investigation into the failure of a Russian Soyuz rocket to place two European Galileo GPS satellites into the correct orbit has found that it was caused by the faulty installation of fuel lines on the Fregat upper stage.

The failure was as simple as clamping together a cold helium line with the hydrazine fuel line, causing the hydrazine to freeze long enough to upset the Fregat stage’s orientation and cause the two satellites’ release into an orbit that is both too low and in the wrong inclination, officials said. One official said the Euro-Russian board of inquiry into the failure discovered that one in four Fregat upper stages at prime contractor Moscow-based NPO Lavochkin had the same faulty installation. ,,,,

Government and officials said the commission is debating how to proceed now that it knows that, as expected, the Fregat failure was not one of design, but of assembly and quality control. [emphasis mine]

In other words, 1 in 4 Fregat upper stations were routinely assembled improperly and no one noticed. The investigation also found that this assembly problem had existed on several past launches but because of the orbital requirements it had fortunately not caused any problems.

I want to emphasize that these kind of sloppy assembly issues have been occurring at a number of different Russian factories and different Russian companies. It seems to be systemic to the entire Russian aerospace industry, and it also appears to be getting worse.

1 2 3 5