Tag Archives: Russia

Russia to consider building reusable stages for Angara

Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency that controls that nation’s entire aerospace industry, is “considering” the idea of developing reusable rocket stages for future iterations of its new Angara rocket.

“On June 30, changes were made to the state contract on the ‘Amur’ experimental design work that envisaged upgrading and further developing this series,” the statement says. In particular, the changes envisage developing the Angara-A5M as the upgraded version of the Angara-A5 rocket and the conceptual design of the Angara-A5V increased lifting capacity vehicle (with the oxygen-hydrogen third stage).

“Also, an option will be considered to develop the Angara-A5VM carrier rocket with reusable stages,” Roscosmos specified.

I’ll believe it when I see it. For now almost twenty years the Russians have been very good at issuing bold press releases promising wonderful new rockets, spaceships, and projects, only to have none of these rockets, spaceships, or projects ever actually happen.

That they are even considering reusable first stages however does show the power of competition and freedom. They never would have if SpaceX hadn’t come along and cut costs with this idea and thus take their entire market share from them. Now they have to find a way to compete in order to get some of that business back..

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Russia to lower launch price of new Angara rocket

Capitalism in space: According to its 2019 financial report, the Russian manufacturer of that country’s new Angara rocket intends by 2024 to lower launch price from about $100 million to about $57 million.

The high cost price of the latest Angara carrier rocket before the start of its serial production is due to the need for the Khrunichev Space Center to work at two sites, the press office of the State Space Corporation Roscosmos told TASS on Monday. “Before the production process is fully moved to the site of the Polyot company in Omsk, the Khrunichev Space Center has to work at two production sites, which creates additional overhead costs,” a Roscosmos spokesman said.

As part of its trials, the Angara rocket is being produced singly instead of serially, he said. “After the serial full-cycle production is launched, the item’s cost price will decrease,” the spokesman said.

Essentially they are claiming that the cost will drop once they start full production.

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S7 now in “negotiations” to sell Sea Launch to Russian government

Nice launch platform you got here. Be a shame if something happened to it: The private Russian airline company S7 is now in “negotiations” to sell the Sea Launch floating rocket launchpad to one of the Russian government’s state corporations, because it appears the Russian government is imposing such high fees on its operation the company can’t make a profit.

The second source confirmed the information, adding that “given the condition of the platform and the commander ship following the US side’s removal of equipment, and in connection with the need to create coastal infrastructure from scratch, costs of implementing the project are estimated as high.”

“Considering financial losses sustained as a result of the pandemic, a private company simply has no money to do that,” he added.

Previously the company had suspended operations because the Russian government had suddenly increased drastically the fees it was charging the company. I said then that this was simply a power play by that corrupt government to grab control of the launch platform. It appears now that this mob-like grab is succeeding.

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Fuel leak in Russian rocket in French Guiana

According to French engineers in French Guiana, “systematic signals from the alarm system [have been detected] indicating the presence of oxidizer vapors” from the Fregat upper stage for a Russian Soyuz-2 rocket.

Russia is sending a team of its own engineers there to trouble-shoot what is essentially a fuel leak.

It also suggests that Russia’s systemic quality control problems in its aerospace industry have not been solved.

From my perspective, I don’t see how Russia can really eliminate what appears to be poor workmanship throughout their space industry without introducing competition, something they have banned with the consolidation of their entire aerospace industry into a single government-run corporation.

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Russia says it will oppose Artemis Accords

My heart be still: Roscosmos head Dmitri Rogozin declared today that Russia “will not, in any case, accept any attempts to privatize the Moon.”

“It is illegal, it runs counter to international law,” Rogozin pointed out.

The Roscosmos CEO emphasized that Russia would begin the implementation of a lunar program in 2021 by launching the Luna-25 spacecraft to the Moon. Roscosmos intends to launch the Luna-26 spacecraft in 2024. After that, the Luna-27 lander will be sent to the Moon to dig up regolith and carry out research on the lunar surface.

Rogozin is doing the equivalent of a 2-year-old’s temper tantrum. Being a top-down authoritarian culture that likes to centralize power with those in charge, Russia doesn’t like Trump’s effort to regularize private enterprise and private property in space, including the administration’s new requirement that any international partner in its Artemis Moon program must agree to that effort.

Russia would rather we maintain the status quo as defined by the Outer Space Treaty, with no private property in space and everything controlled by UN bureaucrats and regulations, who are in turn controlled by the leaders from authoritarian places like Russia.

If Russia wants into Artemis, however, it looks like they will have to bend to the Trump accords. Or they will have to build their own independent space effort, competing with ours. Their problem is that their own program has been incredibly lame for the past twenty years, unable to get any new spacecraft or interplanetary mission off the ground.

Maybe the competition will help Russia, as it did in space in the 1960s. Or maybe they will simply help Biden get elected, and then all will be well! That brainless puppet will be glad to do the bidding of Russia and China, and will almost certainly dismantle Trump’s policies in favor of private enterprise.

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U.S. universities have pocketed $6 billion from hostile enemy countries

Our new fifth column: An investigation by the Department of Education has found that U.S. universities have taken $6 billion in unreported donations from hostile coutnries, all of which could be in violation of the law.

A probe by the Department of Education into colleges that accept foreign investments and donations has uncovered $6 billion in previously unreported foreign donations from US adversaries including China and Russia, a report said Friday.

House Republicans were monitoring the investigation into the schools to determine if they were violating Section 117 of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which prohibits an “Institution of Higher Learning” from failing to properly report foreign gifts of $250,000 or more, Town Hall reported.

It also appears that some of those universities are now uncooperative, apparently placing their loyalties more with their foreign backers than with their own country.

This evidence is not surprising, and is reinforced by the numerous arrests in recent months of many university professors taking money secretly and illegally from China. The culture in the American university community has been downright hostile to the United States for decades. In the past it was dressed up as their effort to not be jingoistic. That was a long time ago. For at least two decades the academic community has been an anti-American fifth column, working as much as it can with foreign powers to both indoctrinate its students against their own country, while providing aid and comfort to authoritarian countries like Russia and China.

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NASA signs deal with Russians for one Soyuz seat to ISS

Citing a need to provide some back-up in case there are more delays getting the American manned capsules being built by SpaceX and Boeing into operation, NASA yesterday announced that it has signed a deal with Roscosmos to buy one seat on the October Soyuz launch to ISS.

The statement did not disclose the value of the deal, but NASA spokesman Josh Finch told SpaceNews the agreement is valued at $90.25 million. That includes the seat on the Soyuz spacecraft and various training, pre-launch and post-landing services. In addition, Finch said that NASA will compensate Roscosmos for bumping a Russian cosmonaut off that Soyuz mission by flying an unspecified amount of Russian cargo to the station on NASA commercial cargo spacecraft.

I wonder if there are other political reasons behind this deal, besides insuring American access to ISS. $90 million is a lot of money to the Russians, and considering their impending loss of income from NASA (with us no longer buying Soyuz seats in the future) as well as their loss of most of their commercial launch business, it could be that NASA managers wanted to shore up Roscosmos’s financial situation. Remember, at NASA there are many who swear a greater loyalty to space operations from all countries, even at the expense of the United States.

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Tank in abandoned Russian upper stage explodes, producing space junk

A tank in an abandoned Russian Fregat upper stage, launched nine years ago, has exploded, producing about 65 identified pieces of space junk.

The cause remains unknown. For this to have happened so many years after launch suggests to me an external cause, possibly an impact from some other object.

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Sea Launch project crushed by Putin government

Nice launch platform you got there. Be a shame is something happened to it: S7, the Russian company that had purchased and moved the Sea Launch platform from California to Russian, now says it is suspending operations because of the high costs imposed upon it by the Russian government.

The sale of Sea Launch to S7 Group closed in April 2018, but only in recent months had the company taken steps to move the ships from Long Beach to Russia. In February, the launch platform, Odyssey, was loaded onto a cargo ship that transported it to Russia, while the command ship sailed on its own.

In the interview, Filev appeared to regret moving the ships to Russia. He said he had been told that the costs of basing the ships in Russia would be no higher than what they had been in California. Instead, he said the cost was “twice as worse” in Russia.

S7 had claimed it hoped to do as many as 70 launches over the next 15 years, but it has no launch vehicle other than ones that the Russian government controls and allows it to use. It thus appears that the Putin government is moving to push S7 out of the deal so the government can take over.

Very typical for the corrupt, mob-inspired government in Putin’s Russia. There, you do not start your own company that might compete with the powers-that-be. Instead, anything you accomplish will taken by them for their own benefit.

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Russia launches Progress freighter to ISS

Russia tonight successfully launched a new Progress freighter to ISS using its Soyuz-2 rocket.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

6 China
6 SpaceX
6 Russia

The U.S. now leads both China and Russia 10 to 6 in the national rankings. This is the first time that Russia has been able to keep up with China in launches in several years. Since China had expected to launch more times than Russia in 2020, this suggests that China’s launch rate has been reduced because of the Wuhan flu. It at least appears that many of their smaller launch rockets have suspended launches.

We have also heard nothing recently about China’s planned mid- to late-April first launch of its Long March 5B. With only six days left in the month, one wonders if this launch too has been delayed.

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Russians slash their launch prices by 39%

Capitalism in space: Having lost their entire commercial market share because of SpaceX’s lower prices, the Russians have finally decided to slash their launch prices by 39%.

As the article notes, the cost for a Proton rocket launch was once $100 million. Then SpaceX came along with a $60 million pricetag. At first the Russians poo-pooed this, and did nothing. When their customers started to vanish however they decided to finally compete, so a year ago they cut the Proton price to match SpaceX’s.

Because of SpaceX’s ability to reuse its first stages, however, that $60 million price no longer worked. SpaceX had a year earlier lowered its prices even more, to $50 million, for launches with used first stages.

This new price slash by Roscosmos probably brings their price down to about $36 million, and thus beats SpaceX.

We shall see whether it will attract new customers. It definitely is now cheaper, but it is also less reliable. Russia continues to have serious quality control problems at its manufacturing level.

That SpaceX’s arrival forced a drop in the price of a launch from $100 million to less than $40 million illustrates the beautiful value of freedom and competition. The change is even more spectacular when you consider that ULA, the dominant American launch company before SpaceX, had been charging between $200 to $400 million per launch. For decades the Russians, ULA, and Arianespace refused to compete, working instead as a cartel to keep costs high.

SpaceX has ended this corrupt practice. We now have a competitive launch industry, and the result is that the exploration of the solar system is finally becoming a real possibility.

Correction: I originally called ULA “the only American launch company before SpaceX.” This was not correct, as Orbital Sciences, now part of Northrop Grumman, was also launching satellites. It just was a very minor player, with little impact. It was also excluded from the military’s EELV program, and thus could not launch payloads for them after around 2005.

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Space Force hypes unspecified Russian anti-satellite test

Yesterday Space Force officials released a scathing press release condemning a so-called Russian anti-satellite test, calling it “a threat” while providing zero details about what the Russians actually did.

I saw the press release and realized it was nothing more than an effort by the new Space Force to justify its existence and to possibly encourage more funding from Congress. Until they release some details about the test itself, the story simply doesn’t merit coverage.

Our compliant and brainless media today however immediately jumped on the Washington swamp bandwagon with numerous stories reinforcing and supporting the Space Force lobbying effort. Here are a few examples:

All of these articles buy into the Space Force agenda, with practically no skepticism. All provide lots of quotes from a variety of Washington “experts” backing the Space Force position, insisting that the Russians are evil and have now demonstrated a new capability that requires a big U.S. response. None provide any further detail about the test itself, meaning that no further information on it was available, and that their stories were nothing more than a xerox of that empty Space Force press release.

Only this story from C4ISRNET described the press release properly, giving no play to these so-called “experts” because any quotes they would provide were merely a transparent lobbying effort for the Space Force. Instead, the article provided this much needed background:

Brian Weeden, director of program planning for the Secure World Foundation, said the test is likely of the Nudol, a ballistic-missile system capable of taking out satellites in low earth orbit. He warned not to overreact, as the system has been tested several times in recent years. According to the CSIS Aerospace Security Project’s Space Threat Assessment 2020, Russia conducted its seventh test of Nudol in December 2018.

As to why military leaders issued the statement, Weeden said it is “part of the DoD being more public about what’s going on in space, which is good. But it also seems the only thing they’re doing about it is using it to justify more U.S. spending on our own counterspace capabilities.” [emphasis mine]

In other words, this test is nothing unusual, and was being hyped by the Space Force in order to garner a bigger budget for the new agency.

Sadly, this is par for the course. Our entire society is presently shut down because medical “experts” in Washington and the mainstream leftist press did the same thing with COVID-19, hyping what was clearly nothing more than a new disease variation of the annual flu season so much that they convinced American public it was another Black Plague. The result: a new Great Depression, millions out of work, and the end of American freedom, all for the benefit of those Washington “experts” and that leftist press.

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Russians find serious problems with three Proton rockets

As a result of a new quality control inspection system, the Russians have discovered that three Proton rockets delivered for launch had serious issues, and have sent them back to the manufacturer.

Three Proton-M heavy-lift launch vehicles designated for launching satellites from the Baikonur Cosmodrome will be returned to the Khrunichev rocket manufacturer in Moscow so that low-quality parts can be replaced, a source in the space and rocket industry has told Sputnik.

The defective parts, believed to have been manufactured between 2015 and 2016, were said to have been discovered last month due to checks under a new quality control system introduced by Roscosmos. “Having analyzed the situation, experts came to the conclusion that the replacement of the [faulty] components on the three Proton-M rockets located at Baikonur could only be done at the factory,” the source said.

Two of the rockets have already been loaded up onto a train and sent back, with the remaining rocket to be sent back at a later date.

This is a follow-up on the March 11th story where they had discovered “mismatched” parts on a Proton. They have also had to replace an entire stage on a Soyuz due a malfunction detected prior to launch.

While it is excellent news that the Russians are now catching these issues before launch, that they continue to have such problems at the manufacturing level is not good.

Their problem is that in Russia they do not permit competition. The government works hand-in-glove with the established players to lock out new companies. Thus, no natural mechanism exists to weed out bad operations. They are trying to do it with tighter inspections, but in the end, that just adds cost and slows operations.

Meanwhile, in a related story, the manufacturer of Soyuz rockets has suspended operations because of fear of the Wuhan virus. The suspension probably makes some sense, as they have a lot of rockets (52) already built.

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Soyuz successfully launches three astronauts to ISS

The Russians early today successfully launched three astronauts into orbit, using their Soyuz-2 rocket and Soyuz capsule.

The crew, heading to ISS, is two Russians and one American, with the American the last purchased seat bought by NASA on a Soyuz. Unless they sign a new deal with Russia, the next Americans to go to ISS must fly on American capsules.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

6 China
5 SpaceX
5 Russia
2 Europe
2 ULA

The U.S. continues to lead China 9 to 6 in the national rankings.

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Russia hostile to Trump declaration to promote private enterprise in space

Russia today issued the first international response to the Trump executive order yesterday calling for private enterprise and property in space, and that response was decidedly negative.

Attempts to seize the territories of other planets are harmful to international cooperation, Deputy Director General of Roscosmos for International Cooperation Sergey Saveliev said on Tuesday. “Attempts to expropriate outer space and aggressive plans to actually seize territories of other planets hardly set the countries for fruitful cooperation,” Saveliev said.

He recalled that there were examples in history when one country decided to start seizing territories in its interests. “Everyone remembers what came of it,” Saveliev added.

Part of the goal of Trump’s order was to try to garner international support for the idea of allowing private property in space. The Russian response today suggests that they will not go along, and instead will use the words of the Outer Space Treaty to block such rights.

As I have been saying for years, the real solution is to pull out of the treaty. It forbids us from establishing our laws anywhere in space, which means future space-farers will be second class citizens, with their only rights determined by the UN, not the Bill of Rights.

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Russia confirms launch delay to 2021 of Nauka module to ISS

Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s space agency Roscomos, confirmed yesterday that the launch of its Nauka module for ISS will not occur in 2020.

In January they had hinted that the mission would be delayed to early 2021.

Construction of Nauka had begun in 1995, twenty-five years ago, which in a sense puts it in the lead for the most dismal government space project, beating out the James Webb Space Telescope (about 21 years since first proposed) and the Space Launch System (16 years since Bush proposed it). All three now say they will launch in 2021 but no one should be criticized if they doubt this.

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NASA selects full crew for first operational Dragon mission

Even though SpaceX’s first demonstration manned mission to ISS has not yet occurred, NASA yesterday announced the selection of the full four person crew for the second flight, set for later this year and intended as the first operational mission to ISS, lasting six months.

This announcement tells us several things, all good. First, it appears NASA has now definitely decided that the demo mission, presently scheduled for mid-May, will be a short-term mission. They had considered making it a six-month mission, but it now appears they have concluded doing so will delay the demo launch too much.

Second, that NASA is solidifying its plans for that operational flight, the second for Dragon, including a tentative launch date later in 2020, is further evidence that they intend to go through with the demo mission in mid-May.

Finally, it appears that NASA has decided that it will not buy more seats on Russian Soyuz capsules, something that they had previously hinted they needed to do because the agency was worried the American capsules would not be ready this year. The article describes the negotiations on-going with the Russians about the use of Dragon, as well as the future use by Americans of Soyuz. NASA wishes to have astronauts from both countries fly on both spacecraft (Starliner too, once operational), but Russia is as yet reluctant to fly its astronauts on Dragon. They want to see that spacecraft complete more missions successfully.

Regardless, future flights of Americans on Soyuz will cost NASA nothing, as the agency wishes to trade the seats on the U.S. capsules one-for-one for the seats on Soyuz. It also means that NASA has decided it doesn’t need to buy Soyuz flights anymore, as it now expects Dragon to become operational this year.

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OneWeb files for bankruptcy

Capitalism in space: OneWeb yesterday made official the rumors from the past week by filing for bankruptcy in the United States.

It appears that those rumors were essentially true, that one of the company’s biggest investors, Softbank, was having financial trouble due to the stock market crash caused by the Wuhan flu panic, and was not able to continue its investment in OneWeb. The result was that OneWeb could not pay its creditors, the biggest of which was Arianespace, which was managing the launch of most of the company’s satellites, using Russian Soyuz rockets from either French Guiana or Kazakhstan.

With about 18% of its constellation already in orbit and the rest pretty much ready for launch this year, the company has valuable assets that in bankruptcy will have value. It will likely be sold and continue operations under new management.

In the meantime this filing will hurt the bottom line of Arianespace and Russia.

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OneWeb faces bankruptcy, even as it is about to launch more satellites

According to reports today, OneWeb, one of two companies presently building a constellation of satellites for providing worldwide internet access, is facing a serious cash crunch and might have to file for bankruptcy.

The main investor, Softbank, apparently is short of cash due to bad investments, worsened further by the stock market crash due to the Wuhan virus panic this week. Furthermore, the panic has caused Arianespace, which is launching many of OneWeb’s satellites, to suspend all launches from its French Guiana spaceport.

OneWeb has already launched 74 satellites, with a Soyuz launch of 34 more from Russia tomorrow. While fewer than the 360 that its main competitor SpaceX has launched of its Starlink constellation, OneWeb doesn’t need as many based on constellation’s design to become operational. After tomorrow’s launch, OneWeb will have launched about 18% needed, compared to SpaceX’s 24%.

If OneWeb goes out of business, it will do great harm to both Russia’s launch industry as well as Europe’s Arianespace, both of which have contracts for launching most of OneWeb’s satellites. In fact, for Russia, OneWeb is pretty much the only commercial customer they have. If they lose that it will be a serious financial blow.

Similarly, Arianespace’s next generation rocket, Ariane 6, has had problems garnering contracts. Losing the OneWeb launches will also hurt their bottom line.

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Sea Launch arrives in Russia

The floating launch platform, built privately by an international partnership in the late 1990s and now owned by a Russian airline company, has arrived in Russia after a one month sea voyage from California.

Though supposedly owned now by S7, Sea Launch is really controlled by the Russian government and Roscosmos. They hope to use it as launch platform for their new Soyuz-5 rocket, intended as a family of rockets that would replace their venerable the Soyuz rocket originally developed in the 1960s.

Having a floating launch platform will also give Russia the ability for the first time to place satellites in low inclination orbits. The high latitudes of most of Russia means that any launches from any of their spaceports, including the one in Kazakhstan, will have a high inclination as well.

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Russia successfully launches GPS-type Glonass satellite

Russia on March 16 successfully launched a GPS-type Glonass satellite, using a Soyuz-2 rocket launched from a launchpad at they Plesetsk spaceport that had not been used in seventeen years.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

5 China
4 SpaceX
3 Russia
2 Arianespace (Europe)

The national ranking remains unchanged, with the U.S. leading China 7 to 5.

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Russia delays first 2020 Proton launch due to “component mismatch”

Russian officials yesterday announced that they are delaying the first Proton launch in 2020 from March to May in order to replace components that during tests were found to be “mismatched.”

According to [Khrunichev Space Center Director General Alexei] Varochko, quality control tests revealed mismatch of one of the components’ parameters. “In order to ensure proper serviceability and guarantee the implementation of the Khrunichev Center’s liabilities, it was decided to replace the components set, including in the Proton-M carrier rocket, which is kept at the Baikonur space center, to put Express satellites into orbit,” he said.

Nor are they having issues only with their Proton rocket. Two days ago they announced a one month delay of a Soyuz rocket, set for launch for Arianespace, because of “an off-nominal malfunction … on a circuit board” in the Freget-M upper stage. Rather than replace the component, they have decided to replace the entire stage

Proton is built by the Khrunichev facility. Freget-M is built by the Lavochkin facility. For both to have issues like this suggests once again that Russia’s aerospace industry continues to have serious quality control problems in its manufacturing processes. The one bright spot is that they are at least finding out about the problems prior to launch.

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Russia and China launch satellites

Today both China and Russia successfully placed satellites into orbit. China’s Long March 2D rocket placed four “technology test” satellites into orbit, while Russia used its Soyuz-2 rocket to launch a military communications satellite.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

4 China
3 SpaceX
2 Arianespace (Europe)
2 Russia

The U.S. continues to lead China 6 to 4 in the national rankings.

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Russian Soyuz launches 34 OneWeb satellites

Capitalism in space: Russia’s Soyuz rocket, launching from Russia, today successfully placed 34 OneWeb satellites into orbit.

This is the first of 20 launches over the next two years to build OneWeb’s satellite constellation. A previous Soyuz launch put up six demonstration satellites.

This was also Russia’s first launch in 2020. The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

3 China
2 SpaceX
1 Arianespace (Europe)
1 Rocket Lab
1 Russia

China leads the U.S. 3 to 2 in the national rankings.

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Russian satellite rendezvouses with U.S. military satellite

A Russian military satellite, dubbed Inspector and supposedly designed to “monitor other [Russian] satellites in orbit”, has rendezvoused with a U.S. military satellite satellite, and is maintain a distance of about 200 miles.

With such a close range, it allows Cosmos 2542 to take numerous photographs of USA 245. “The relative orbit is actually pretty cleverly designed,” Thompson wrote. “Cosmos 2542 can observe one side of the KH-11 when both satellites first come into sunlight, and by the time they enter eclipse, it has migrated to the other side.”

Some news reports have suggested this might be a precursor to an attempt to destroy the U.S. satellite, but that is silly hype. The Russians have apparently decided to use their long ago developed technology for unmanned rendezvous (with Progress freighters to manned space stations) for military surveillance in space. There is nothing illegal about them doing this.

From the U.S. military perspective, this Russian action however once again points out the need to not depend on large big and expensive satellites that are launched rarely and are difficult to replace. They are too vulnerable. Better to put up many small and cheap satellites that are easy to replace and also act to provide redundancy.

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Russia again delays launch of Nauka module for ISS

Russia yesterday announced that it will once again delay the launch of its Nauka module for ISS due to “additional adjustments that should be carried out due to the use of original propellant tanks.”

The TASS article did not explain what those adjustments will be, though it did outline some of the sad history of Nauka, which Russia had begun construction in 1995, a quarter of a century ago.

Earlier, Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozi said the research module’s original propellant tanks, manufactured about 18 years ago, could be replaced with those from the Fregat booster. However, later it was decided to send the module to the ISS with its original tanks.

The construction of the Nauka module began in 1995. Russia initially planned to launch the Nauka lab to the ISS as a back-up of the Zarya compartment (the station’s first module that continues its flight as part of the orbital outpost) but the launch was numerously delayed. In 2013, the Nauka module was sent to the Khrunichev Space Center after metal chips were found in its fuel system.

Right now they are saying it will probably launch early in 2021, not late in 2020 as previously announced.

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Investigation forces retraction of 800+ Russian science papers

An investigation by Russia’s Academy of Sciences has forced the retraction of more than 800 Russian science papers, many for plagiarism.

The RAS commission’s preliminary report documenting the problems and journals’ responses to them is “a bombshell,” says Gerson Sher, a former staffer at the U.S. National Science Foundation and the author of a recent book on U.S.-Russia science cooperation. The report, released yesterday, “will reinforce the suspicions and fears of many—that their country is not going down the right path in science and that it’s damaging its own reputation,” says Sher, who applauds RAS for commissioning the investigation.

Russia’s roughly 6000 academic journals, the vast majority published in Russian, are popular among the country’s academics. A 2019 study found that Russian authors publish far more in domestic journals than, for instance, their counterparts in Poland, Germany, or Indonesia. But standards are often low. In March 2018, for instance, Dissernet, a network aimed at cleaning up the Russian literature, identified more than 4000 cases of plagiarism and questionable authorship among 150,000 papers in about 1500 journals.

And Russian authors frequently republish their own work, says Yury Chekhovich, CEO of Antiplagiat, a plagiarism detection company. In September 2019, after sifting through 4.3 million Russian-language studies, Antiplagiat found that more than 70,000 were published at least twice; a few were published as many as 17 times. Chekhovich believes most instances are due to self-plagiarism. Meanwhile, the website 123mi.u claims to have brokered authorships for more than 10,000 researchers by selling slots on manuscripts written by others that were already accepted by journals.

In many ways this report reflects the overall corruption that appears to permeate the upper echelons of Russian culture. Rather than do real science and report it to the world, Russian scientists publish in Russian in ways that get them in-house promotions but do little to advance science.

That this investigation was conducted by the Russian Academy of Sciences however is a positive sign. It indicates a desire to clean things up.

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The state of the global rocket industry in 2019

With 2019 ending, it is time once again (as I did for 2016, 2017, and 2018) to review the trends in the global launch industry for the past year.

Below is my updated graph, showing the launch numbers for 2019 as well as for every year going back to 1990, just before the fall of the Soviet Union. That range I think covers all recent trends, while also giving some perspective on what happened in 2019.

The graph is worth reviewing at length, as it not only gives a sense of recent trends, it also summarizes well the history of the entire global space industry during the past thirty years. For example, it shows the transition in the U.S. in the past two decades from government-owned launchers to private rockets, a change that has revitalized the American space industry in more ways than be counted.
» Read more

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