Tag Archives: Zenit

Russian/Ukrainian Zenit rocket puts Angola’s first satellite into orbit

A Ukrainian Zenit rocket with a Russian Fregat upper stage successfully launched Angola’s first communications satellite into orbit today. [Update: While the rocket succeeded, it appears there is a problem with the satellite, which Russia built for Angola. Engineers have lost contact with it.]

The launch occurred earlier today, but it took nine hours for the Fregat upper stage to complete several engine burns and maneuvers to place the satellite in the correct orbit. Considering that it was a Fregat upper stage that caused the launch failure of a Soyuz rocket last month, it seemed wise to wait for these maneuvers to complete successfully before announcing this launch a success.

That Russia and Ukraine worked together to make this happen is quite amazing, considering that the two countries are essentially still fighting a war against each other. It also indicates, as noted by this article, that the future of Zenit and the Ukrainian rocket industy might not be dead.

Angosat 1 was originally supposed to blast off on a Zenit rocket from Sea Launch’s commercial ocean-going platform in the Pacific Ocean. But Sea Launch flight operations ceased in 2014, and Russian officials considered launching Angosat 1 on the heavy-lift Angara 5 rocket before deciding last year to put the satellite on a fully-assembled Zenit booster already in storage at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

At the time of the last Zenit launch in December 2015, there were no more missions on the Ukrainian-made rocket’s manifest, leaving the Zenit program’s future in question.

But with the switch of Angosat 1’s launch to a Zenit rocket, and the purchase of Sea Launch infrastructure mothballed in Long Beach, California, by a commercial Russian airline company, there are plans for the resumption of Zenit missions in the future. The new Sea Launch company, called S7 Sea Launch, ordered a dozen new Zenit launch vehicles from Yuzhmash in April for ocean-based missions and flights staged from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Another Zenit rocket is slated to launch a long-delayed Ukrainian telecom satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome next year.

This launch also probably closes out the launch schedule for 2018, with the standings as follows:

29 United States (including all companies)
20 Russia
18 SpaceX
17 China

Russia, China, and SpaceX have all indicated that they are aiming for a launch rate of about 30 launches per year. If that happens in 2018, we could see the most rocket launches next year since the late 1980s.

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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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Russia considers using Ukrainian rocket

For the first time since it annexed Crimea, Russia has opened negotiations with a Ukrainian company to possibly use its Zenit rocket to launch a Russian satellite.

RKK Energia of Korolev, Russia, entered negotiations with KB Yuzhnoe of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, on a potential deal to launch a satellite for Angola on a Ukrainian-built Zenit rocket. Under the proposed plan, the Angosat-1 satellite would ride the last fully assembled Zenit rocket still remaining in Baikonur. The mission is seen by industry insiders as the first step in the resumption of Zenit missions, which if successful, will eventually shift from Baikonur to the Sea Launch ocean-going platform based in Long Beach, California.

The situation here is beyond complicated. Russia remains in many ways in a state of war with Ukraine. Yet, the Sea Launch platform, recently purchased by a Russian airline company, needs the Ukrainian Zenit rocket. It appears that this need is forcing the Russians to once again buy from the Ukraine. At the same time, Sea Launch remains parked in the U.S., and will likely not be available until Sea Launch and Russia settle the lawsuit Boeing has filed against the company. Meanwhile, the Zenit rocket in question however needs refurbishing and was originally built to launch a different satellite, which will have to agree to fly on a different launch vehicle.

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Roscomos puts the squeeze on Ukraine

Two more stories this week provide additional evidence that Roscosmos, the new Russian government-run space corporation that controls Russia’s entire space industry, intends to eliminate its dependence on any foreign contributions, even if that contribution comes from the former Soviet province of Ukraine.

In the first story, Roscosmos ends the commercial use of the Dnepr anti-ballistic missile, built originally in the Ukraine. In the second story Roscosmos makes it very clear that it will focus on using its Russia-made Angara rocket rather than depend on the Ukrainian Zenit, even though Zenit is what the Roscosmos-owned Sea Launch platform was designed to use and Angara is far from operational.

The main result of these decisions will be the bankrupt many Ukrainian space companies. Whether it will bring more business to Angara, however, remains to be seen. Angara has only had one orbital launch, and has hardly tested its many different configurations. At this stage it is highly unlikely that the commercial customers who have depended on Dnepr and Zenit will flock to it, especially since they now have other competitive options available in the west.

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A Russia/Brazil partnership for Sea Launch?

The competition heats up: Russia is negotiating a partnership with Brazil to operate Sea Launch.

The Sea Launch rocket is built by Ukraine, which presently has hostile relations with Russia, to say the least. The platform, built with Boeing money, is presently docked on the the U.S. west coast, which is also not what Russia wants. Moving it to Brazil and adapting it for use with a Brazilian rocket solves both problems, though the usability of Brazil’s rocket is at this moment quite questionable.

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Russia abandons Sea Launch

Running from competition: The Russian space agency Roskosmos has decided not to spend the money necessary to buy Sea Launch and make it part of its consolidated United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC).

Part of the reason the Russians are abandoning Sea Launch is that the rocket the ocean-going platform uses is the Ukrainian-built Zenit rocket, and Russia wants URSC to a wholly Russian operation. Rather than partner with Ukraine for profit, they will let the business die.

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Russia begins its withdrawal from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.

With the impending first test launch of its new Angara rocket and the construction of its new spaceport in Vostochny on-going, Russia has begun its withdrawal from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.

Zenit-M rocket launching complex will become Kazakhstan’s property on January 1, 2015, Tengrinews correspondent reported from yesterday’s government meeting in the lower chamber of the Parliament. The announcement was made by the Chairman of the National Space Agency KazCosmos Talgat Mussabayev. “We have already approved the list of facilities of Zenit-M launching site that will be excluded from the lease agreement with Russia, and have obtained the technical and administrative documents from Russia that Kazakhstan needs to operate Baiterek complex. Withdrawal of Zenit-M facilities from the Russian lease agreement and their transfer to Kazakhstan is scheduled for January 2015,” Musabayev said.

In order to ensure proper transfer of the facilities and continue their operation afterword, 49 Kazakh experts are undergoing a practical training in maintenance and operation of Zenit-M site facilities. Their training will be completed before the end of the year.

Originally financed and built as an Angara launchpad in a partnership between Russia and Kazakhstan, the Russians backed out, deciding instead to keep Angara launches entirely in Russia at Vostochny while ceasing its participation in the Ukrainian-built Zenit rocket. Moreover, when Angara goes into operation, both the story above as well as this story suggest they will then cease Proton launches at Baikonur as well.

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The Russians have ten launches scheduled in the next three months, using their Proton, Soyuz, Zenit, Rokot, and new Angara rockets.

The competition heats up: The Russians have ten launches scheduled in the next three months, using their Proton, Soyuz, Zenit, Rokot, and new Angara rockets.

Half of these launches are for commercial customers.

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An investigation of the Sea Launch launch failure on February 2 has pinpointed the failure to faulty parts made in the Ukraine.

An investigation of the Sea Launch launch failure on February 2 has pinpointed the failure to faulty parts made in the Ukraine.

The article is interesting in that it seems to reveal some friction between Russia and Ukraine, with the investigators making it a point to blame the Ukrainian components while specifically saying that “there was nothing wrong with the Russian-made equipment.”

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