Russian investigators pin down cause of Luna-25 failure

Though the investigation is not yet complete, reports out of Russia indicate that the cause of the failure of Luna-25 during an engine burn while in orbit around the Moon has been identified.

The article at the link provides the details, which involve problems with two “BIUS-L accelerometers” during the flight, which for reasons not yet understood were switching from the primary to the secondary randomly during the journey to the Moon, apparently because of some failure.

However, ahead of the fateful lunar orbit correction on August 19, both accelerometers worked correctly, but once the maneuver started, one set failed again, while the flight control system never switched to data from the second set. As a result, onboard computers were not receiving data about critical parameters required for properly completing the orbit correction, such as orientation of the spacecraft in space, velocity and altitude.

If confirmed, this crash scenario would likely implicate deficiencies in the development or testing of the flight control system and its software rather than any mechanical problem of the propulsion system, which was implied in the initial statement about the incident. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted sentence says it all. The serious quality control problems that have hampered Russia’s space efforts remain, and in fact appear systemic throughout its entire aerospace industry. In fact, this failure of a planetary probe helps explain the many difficulties Russia has been having in its war in the Ukraine, attributable to these same issues.

Russian engineers pinpoint approximate crash site of Luna-25

Russian engineers have pinpointed the approximate crash site of Luna-25 on the Moon as the 42-mile-wide crater Pontecoulant G, located at about 59 degrees south latitude, 66 east longitude.

Researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics have simulated the trajectory of the Luna-25 mission, figuring out where and when it crashed into the moon’s surface, the institute said in a statement on Telegram. “The mathematical modeling of the trajectory of the Luna-25 spacecraft, carried out by experts from the Ballistic Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics, made it possible to determine the time and place of its collision with the moon,” the statement reads.

According to the institute, the spacecraft fell into the 42-kilometer Pontecoulant G crater in the southern hemisphere of the moon at 2:58 p.m. Moscow time on August 19.

The planned landing site, in Boguslawsky Crater at 73 degrees south latitude and 43 degrees east longitude, was many miles away.

Luna-25 lost after crashing on Moon

During its last major orbital burn, Luna-25’s engines apparently fired for longer than planned so that, instead of placing it into a lower orbit, the spacecraft was de-orbited and sent crashing onto the lunar surface.

The Russian space agency noted that all measures regarding the location of the spacecraft and establishing communications with it on August 19 and 20 yielded zero results. “Preliminary analysis results suggest that a deviation between the actual and calculated parameters of the propulsion maneuver led the Luna-25 spacecraft to enter an undesignated orbit and it ceased to exist following a collision with the surface of the Moon,” Roscosmos stated.

This is a tragedy for Russia, as this mission hoped to re-establish it as one of the major players in the exploration of the solar system. Instead, we once again have a data point suggesting significant quality control problems within Russia’s aerospace industry. Its misplaced focus on providing government jobs rather than actually building and quickly flying spacecraft and rockets results too often in failure.

Luna-25 fails to enter orbit for landing on Moon

Though it is in lunar orbit, Russia’s Luna-25 lander today was unable to perform an engine burn as planned to place it in its final orbit for landing.

“Today, in accordance with the flight program of the Luna-25 probe, at 2:10 p.m. Moscow time, a command was issued to the probe to enter the pre-landing orbit. During the operation an emergency occurred on the space probe that did not allow it to perform the maneuver in accordance with the required parameters,” Roscosmos said.

Engineers are analyzing the issue, but no other information was released.

This issue could simply be the spacecraft’s computer aborted the engine burn because it sensed something not right, and that after some correction another burn can follow later. Under this circumstance the landing attempt would simply be delayed.

It is also possible something happened during that engine burn, and the spacecraft is either in an incorrect orbit, or might even be lost entirely. Stay tuned.

Luna-25 takes first image of lunar surface

Luna-25's first lunar image
Click for interactive map. Zeeman is located on the lower left.

Russia’s state-run press today issued the first picture taken by Luna-25 after entering lunar orbit two days ago. That picture, to the right and cropped and reoriented to post here, shows part of Zeeman Crater at 75 degrees south latitude and 135 degrees west, on the far side of the Moon. From the TASS announcement:

“The Luna-25 spacecraft, flying in a circular orbit as the Moon’s artificial satellite, has taken pictures of the lunar surface with television cameras of the STS-L system. The image, taken today at 08:23 Moscow time, shows the southern polar crater Zeeman on the far side of the Moon. The coordinates of the crater center are 75 degrees south and 135 degrees west,” the state corporation said. Roscosmos said the Zeeman crater is of great interest to researchers. Its rim rises eight kilometers above its relatively flat floor.

The picture shows Zeeman’s southern rim to the left, with its pockmarked crater floor to the right. The crater the lander is targeting, Broguslawsky Crater, sits in the opposite hemisphere of Zeeman, slightly closer to the south pole but on the Moon’s near side.

Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram lander separates from its propulsion module; Luna-25 in lunar orbit

Click for interactive map.

The two probes aiming to land in the high southern latitudes of the Moon in the next week are now both in lunar orbit and preparing for their planned landings.

First India’s Chandrayaan-3: With its propulsion module having completed the job of getting Chandrayaan-3 from Earth to lunar orbit, the Vikram lander today separated from that module in preparation for firing its own engines on August 23, 2023 and landing on the Moon.

Vikram needs to make several orbital adjustments before that landing attempt.

Second, Russia’s Luna-25 probe entered lunar orbit yesterday, where it will spend the next few days making its own orbital adjustments before attempting its landing on August 21st.

Vikram carries a small rover, Pragyan. Luna-25 is only a lander, though it has a scoop and will do analysis of the lunar soil below it. Neither is landing “near the south pole”, as most news sources are saying. They are landing at latitudes comparable to landing in the Arctic on Earth, on the northern coast of Alaska. As such, neither will find out anything about the question of remnant ice in south pole’s permanently shadowed regions.

Chandrayaan-3 reaches final lunar orbit for landing

Click for interactive map.

India’s Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft completed its final lunar orbital engine burn today, placing it in the correct orbit to release the lander Vikram, carrying the Pragyan rover.

The release is scheduled for tomorrow, with the landing targeting August 23, 2023. This will be India’s second attempt to softland an unmanned probe on the Moon. The Vikram lander of Chandrayaan-2 failed in 2019 during its final engine burn above the surface, crashing thereafter. Engineers at India’s space agency ISRO spent several years upgrading that lander to better insure this new attempt would succeed.

The lander has been given more ability to manoeuvre during the descent, the mission allows for a bigger 4 km x 2.4 km area for landing, more sensors have been added, one of the thrusters has been removed, and the legs of the lander have been made sturdier to allow for landing even at slightly higher velocity. More solar panels have also been added to ensure that the mission can go on even if the lander does not face the sun. More tests to see the capability of the lander in different situations were carried out to make Chandrayaan-3 more resilient.

Both Vikram and Russia’s Luna-25 lander, scheduled for touchdown on August 21, will land in the high southern latitudes of the Moon, at about 70 degrees. They are not going to the Moon’s south pole, as many news reports claim.

Russia launches Luna-25 to the Moon

Click for interactive map.

After almost two decades of development, Russia today used its Soyuz-2 rocket to launch Luna-25, its first lander to the Moon since the 1970s.

The link is cued to the live stream, just prior to launch. It will take several days to get to the Moon and enter orbit, make some orbital adjustments, then land in Boguslawsky crater, as shown on the map to the right. It is likely its landing will occur before India’s Chandrayaan-3 lands on August 23rd but not certain, depending on the adjustments needed in lunar orbit. Both could even land on the same day.

The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

54 SpaceX
33 China
11 Russia
6 Rocket Lab
6 India

American private enterprise still leads China in successful launches 62 to 33, and the entire world combined 62 to 55, while SpaceX by itself now trails the entire world (excluding American companies) 54 to 55.

Russia to launch Luna-25 on August 11, 2023

Click for interactive map.

According to reports in Russia’s state run press, the new launch date for its Luna-25 lander to the Moon has now been scheduled for August 11, 2023.

The launch of an automatic space probe to the Moon, the Luna-25, is scheduled for August 11 this year, the tour operator RocketTrip has said on its website. “August 11 is the launch date,” the website says in the section devoted to the tour to the Vostochny spaceport for the launch of the Luna-25.

The launch had been scheduled for July. The one month delay was announced last week, with no explanation.

The map shows landing locations of three landers that are all scheduled for launch in the next four months. All are targeting spots near the Moon’s south pole (the white cross).

Russia delays launch of its Luna-25 mission one month to August

Click for interactive map.

Russia today announced that it is delaying the July launch of its Luna-25 mission to August.

No reason for the delay was revealed. The mission itself has been under development for almost a quarter century, with numerous delays. It will be the first lunar probe by Russia since the 1970s.

The lunar mission will be launched atop a Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket with a Fregat booster from the Vostochny space center in the Russian Far East. Under the lunar project, the Luna-25 automatic station will be launched for studies in the area of the lunar south pole. The lander is set to touch down in the area of the Boguslawsky crater.

The green dot on the map shows this crater, with the white cross the Moon’s south pole. The other two missions are also targeting launches this summer, with Chandrayaan-3 set for a July launch and Nova-C in late September.

Russia’s Luna-25 unmanned lunar lander to be delivered to Vostochny in early June

Click for interactive map.

According to Russia’s state-run press, its Luna-25 unmanned lunar lander will finally be delivered to its launchsite in Vostochny in the first ten days of June 2023, after many years of delays.

The press announcement made no mention of a launch date after delivery, though according to an earlier report Roscosmos is aiming for a July 13, 2023 launch date.

The landing site on the Moon is Boguslawsky crater, as indicated by the green dot on the map to the right. If it occurs as planned, it will join three other landers now targeting 2023 lunar landings, Ispace’s Hakuto-R1, Intuitive Machines Nova-C, and India’s Chandrayaan-3, with three of four landing in the Moon’s south pole regions. The white cross marks the location of the south pole itself, on the rim of Shackleton Crater.

February 23, 2023 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay.





  • Russia now targets a July 13, 2023 launch date for its Luna-25 Moon lander
  • Though this mission has been delayed endlessly, and Russia has also been forced to delay its later planned unmanned lunar probes due to its lack of certain components formerly obtained from the west before its invasion of the Ukraine, I now expect this launch to happen on that date or reasonable close to it.

The landing sites for two upcoming lunar landers

Map of Moon's south pole
Click for interactive map.

The approximate landing sites for two different lunar landers have now been revealed.

The map to the right, with the south pole indicated by the white cross, shows both, plus the planned landing site for Russia’s Luna-25 lander, presently targeting a summer ’23 launch. The green dot marks Luna-25’s landing site, inside Boguslawsky Crater.

The red dot marks the landing site in for India’s Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander/rover, now tentatively scheduled for launch by the end of ’23. This mission will put a small rover on the surface, and is essentially a redo of the failed Chandrayaan-2 mission from 2019.

The yellow dot in Malapert-A crater is now the likely landing site for Intuitive Machines Nova-C lander. This site is a change from the spacecraft’s original landing site in Oceanus Procellarum (where Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander is now going). In making this change, the launch of Nova-C also slipped to late June 2023, from the previously announced launch date of early 2023.

Russia confirms Luna-25 delayed till next year

The landing area for Luna-25
The landing zone for Luna-25 at Boguslawsky Crater

The head of Roscosmos, Yury Borisov, confirmed yesterday that the launch of Russia’s first lunar science probe since the 1970s has been delayed until 2023.

The Doppler speed and distance sensor made by the Vega Concern owned by the Rostech State Corporation, that could guarantee a soft landing, underperformed in terms of measurement precision, a source in the space industry told TASS in July. The launch will likely be postponed until 2023, the source added.

Russian sources had indicated in July that this delay was likely. Yesterday’s announcement merely made it certain.

This project has been under development for almost a quarter of century, which appears to be the average development time for government-run projects, whether in Russia or in the U.S. Just long enough to provide an almost entire career for bureaucrats.

Russia may delay its Luna-25 lander again

The landing area for Luna-25
The landing zone for Luna-25 at Boguslawsky Crater

According to Russia’s state run media, Roscosmos is considering delaying its Luna-25 lander again from September ’22 to sometime next year because of recently discovered issues with its landing system.

The launch of Russia’s lunar mission Luna 25 will most likely be pushed back to 2023 at the earliest because recent tests of its soft-landing device showed it failed to meet requirements, two sources in the space industry told TASS.

The Doppler speed and distance sensor made by the Vega Concern, part of the Rostech State Corporation, was tested in May and June and underperformed in terms of measurement precision, the sources said. The current precision would give 80% probability of a successful landing while the desired specifications call for a higher probability, which means either the device or the landing plan will have to be reworked.

The launch of this lunar lander has been delayed repeatedly, though the recently deposed head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, had said as recently as late May that the September launch date was firm. It could very well be that with his removal the new head, Yuri Borisov, took another look and decided this new delay was necessary.

Rogozin: Russia’s first lunar lander in decades to launch by end of September

The landing area for Luna-25

The new colonial movement: Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s Roscosmos space corporation, revealed yesterday that it is now targeting the end of September for the launch of Luna-25, the first Russian lunar lander to the Moon since Luna-24 in 1976.

The Russians hope to land the rover near 60-mile-wide Boguslawsky crater, located about 550 miles from the Moon’s south pole. The map to the right, figure 1 from a 2018 paper, provides the reasoning for picking this location.

The Luna–Glob mission [the title for the entire Russian program of future lunar probes] is designed for investigations in the polar regions of the Moon and targeted primarily on testing a new generation of technologies for landing a descent module. In this regard, the choice of scientific tasks of this mission is rather subordinate. Further realization of our lunar program, inclusive of the Luna–Resource mission with an extended complex of scientific tasks, and subsequently, a new generation of lunar rovers and modules for lunar subsurface sampling and return to the Earth, depends on the results of the present mission [Luna-25]. …The detailed photo geological analysis of the surface in the Luna–Glob mission landing sector (70°–85° S, 0°–60° E) using high-resolution images and topographic data made it possible to select the definite landing site. This site (the eastern landing ellipse, 73.9° S, 43.9° E) on the Boguslawsky floor represents a higher scientific priority and also provides relatively safe landing conditions.

The Russians have been attempting to launch this Luna-Glob program for almost a quarter of a century. Hopefully the first launch will finally happen this year.

Rogozin: Expect delays for future Russian lunar probes

China/Russian Lunar base roadmap
The so-called Chinese-Russian partnership to explore
the Moon.

According to a statement by Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, yesterday in the Russian state-run press, the launch of two unmanned probes to the Moon, Luna-26 and Luna-27, are likely to be postponed due to “the current circumstances.”

“As for the Luna-26 lunar orbiter and the Luna-27 heavy lander mission, possibly, it will be adjusted taking into account that in the current situation we will be spending the main financial and industrial resources on increasing the orbital group. Now it is more important,” the space chief emphasized.

The Roscosmos CEO also asked for understanding if the mission is postponed. “Science is very important but now we are talking about the viability of Russia’s orbital group, about bringing it to a new level, its work as a group of double and military designation. Yet we are not postponing the lunar missions for long,” he added.

Rogozin added that Luna-25, scheduled for launch this year, has not been postponed.

Apparently the more than $1 billion of income that Roscosmos has lost by its refusal to launch OneWeb’s satellites is forcing it to make choices. For the government, the priority has to be launching communications, weather, navigation, and military surveillance satellites. Being tight on cash, Rogozin thus has no recourse but to favor those launches over any purely science missions.

This decision also demonstrates that Russia’s so-called partnership with China to explore the Moon, as shown in the graphic to the right that was released by China and Russia in June 2021, is pure hogwash. as I noted then:

Of the three Russian missions, Luna 25 is scheduled to launch later this year, making it the first all-Russian-built planetary mission in years and the first back to the Moon since the 1970s. The other two Russian probes [Luna-26 and Luna-27] are supposedly under development, but based on Russia’s recent track record in the past two decades for promised space projects, we have no guarantee they will fly as scheduled, or even fly at all.

Rogozin also said yesterday that he plans further talks with China in May to further their partnership concerning lunar exploration and building a lunar base. Let me translate: “We need cash to launch anything, and hope the Chinese will provide some.”

Europe removes its science instruments from future Russian lunar missions

The Europe Space Agency (ESA) yesterday announced that because of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine it will no longer fly any science instruments on three upcoming Russian unmanned lunar probes.

ESA will discontinue cooperative activities with Russia on Luna-25, -26 and -27. As with ExoMars, the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the resulting sanctions put in place represent a fundamental change of circumstances and make it impossible for ESA to implement the planned lunar cooperation. However, ESA’s science and technology for these missions remains of vital importance. A second flight opportunity has already been secured on board a NASA-led Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) mission for the PROSPECT lunar drill and volatile analysis package (originally planned for Luna-27). An alternative flight opportunity to test the ESA navigation camera known as PILOT-D (originally planned for Luna-25) is already being procured from a commercial service provider.

In other words, Europe is switching to the many private American companies that are developing lunar landers for NASA science instruments. It has also signed onto a Japanese lunar mission. All have payload space, and all are willing to take the cash of a new customer.

Meanwhile, this is how Dmitry Rogozin responded to this decision:

“Good riddance! One less European dame off our backs, so Russia should go far with a lighter load,”

To sum this all up, when it comes to space, the Ukraine invasion has been Russia’s loss, and everyone else’s gain. Even if the invasion were to end today, it will take at least a decade to re-establish Russia’s business ties with the west.

Unfortunately, the invasion will cost the Ukraine as well. In making the above announcement ESA officials also said that it is looking for alternatives to the Ukrainian rocket engines used in its Vega-C upper stage.

At the news conference, ESA also discussed the future of its small Vega rocket, which relies on Ukraine-built engines in its upper stage. The engines are manufactured by the Ukrainian company Yuzhmash, which is based in the tech city of Dnipro. Although Dnipro has been under heavy bombardment, there have been no official reports so far about damage to Yuzhmash. It is, however, clear that ESA doesn’t expect to continue its partnership with the company in the future. “We now have sufficient engines for 2022 and 2023,” Aschbacher said. “We are working on options for 2024 and onwards based on different technologies.”

Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA’s director of space transportation, added: “We are working on engine opportunities within Europe and outside of Europe, which are either tested or, even better, already existing and fully qualified.”

Whether ESA completely breaks off its partnership with the Ukraine however is not certain. Should the war continue to favor the Ukraine, then it could be that partnership will continue. Only time will tell. Right now, it is simply prudent for ESA to look for more stable alternatives.

Russia schedules July 23rd for launch of its first unmanned lunar lander in decades

The new colonial movement: The Russia design bureau that is building Luna-25, Russia’s first unmanned lunar lander since the 1970s, has announced that it is targeting July 23, 2022 for launch.

The lunar mission will be launched atop a Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket with a Fregat booster from the Vostochny spaceport in the Russian Far East. Under the lunar project, the Luna-25 automatic station will be launched for studies in the area of the lunar south pole. The lander is set to touch down in the area of the Boguslawsky crater.

Boguslawsky crater is about 125 miles from the nearest known permanently shadowed craters, and about 250 miles north of the south pole. It is thus not landing in what is presently thought to be the most valuable real estate on the Moon because of the possible presence of water ice, though there might be other resources at Boguslawsky that interest the Russians.

Russia delays launch of next unmanned lunar probe

According to a story in Russia’s state-run press, Roscosmos has decided to delay the launch of its Luna-25 lander from October 2021 to May 2022.

The story gave no reason for the delay.

Luna-25 would be the first Russian lunar probe since the 1970s, and is supposed to be that country’s first probe in a partnership with China to establish a manned lunar base by the 2030s.

Want to bet the Russian contribute to this project will be repeatedly delayed, and will also likely be disappointing? That has been the track record of Roscosmos for the past two decades (like all 21st century government projects). This first delay signals many more to come.

I am not saying Russia will fail to launch anything. What I am saying is that everyone should reserve a large store of skepticism about any promises Russia’s makes.