Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:


Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to

Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

The next Proton and Angara launches

The competition heats up: Russia has set September 28 as the next launch date for its troubled Proton rocket.

The most interesting detail gleaned from this article however is this:

The Proton-M carrier rocket previously launched on May 16 from Baikonur space center collided with communications satellite Express АМ4R and burned up in the atmosphere above China, leaving Russia without its most powerful telecommunications satellite.

Previous reports had not been very clear about the causes of the May launch failure. All they would say is that “a failed bearing in the steering engine’s turbo pump” had caused the failure about nine minutes into the flight. This report suggests that this failure occurred after separation of the payload and that it then caused the upper stage to collide with the satellite.

Russia is also about to ship its new Angara 5 rocket to the launch site for a planned December launch. This will be the first launch of the Angara configuration that is expected to replace the Proton rocket, and is expected to place a dummy payload into geosynchronous orbit.

The rocket will be equipped with four URM-1 boosters, acting as the first stage, and a single “core” URM-1, performing the role of the second stage. All five URM-1s will ignite on the ground, however, the central core will operate at lower thrust during the part of the flight. As a result, the four first-stage boosters will consume their propellant and separate first, followed by the separation of the “core” URM-1 booster. The third-stage URM-2 then will take over the powered phase of the flight, delivering its payload section to the initial Earth orbit.

According to Yuri Bakhvalov, Designer General of KB Salyut, which developed the Angara rocket, the payload section will include an upper stage (Briz-M borrowed from the Proton-M rocket), and a dummy satellite. The Briz-M will likely demonstrate a typical mission to deliver a satellite to the so-called geostationary transfer orbit from where the payload would typically transfer itself to the final geostationary orbit with the use of its own propulsion system. Such a mission profile is routinely followed by the Proton-M rocket and many other space vehicles around the world.

On July 14, the first deputy to Roskosmos head Aleksandr Ivanov confirmed in interview with Ekho Moskvy radio station that during its first mission in December, Angara-5 would deliver a mockup of payload to a geostationary orbit.

This announcement also strongly suggests that the results from the first suborbital demo mission of Angara were completely satisfactory.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • Competential

    A launched payload colliding with a satellite already in orbit?

    Come on, you do undertand that didn’t happen. Right? It’s an uneducated and uniterested journalists way of making up something which superstitious people like to read. Combining it with a potential Chinese conflict. You should erase that site from your reading list.

    Come on, please use some sense in what you cite and how you comment it. Cite this stuff if you want, but do make fun of it. Your dry comment here might fool someone to believe that this actually could’ve happened.

  • Just so there is no confusion, I gather from the news report that the upper stage collided with the satellite it had put in orbit, just after the two had separated. This is perfectly reasonable and possible.

    I was not suggesting, nor was the news article, that the satellite itself collided with another satellite already in orbit, which is what I think you think I wrote.

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *