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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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One comment

  • Edward

    Robert wrote: “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.

    Quality control is a difficult thing to accomplish. It has to be designed into the entire system. More than that, it has to be on everyone’s mind.

    In the last half-decade, the Russians lost a payload because the upper stage was used in a way for which it had not been designed. For its originally intended use, it did not matter how the propellant lines were routed, so it was designed with optional routing. For the new use, one of the routing methods and the delay time between engine burns allowed the propellant in that line to freeze between the first and second engine burns, but no one understood that possibility when they decided to use the upper stage in the new way. This part of quality control was not on people’s minds at the time of that decision.

    I hope that the Russians are finally getting a handle on quality control, but it takes constant effort on the part of everyone involved in the whole system, even to those who do not seem involved, such as the janitors and the secretaries.

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