Tag Archives: Russia

Russia considering getting out of Gateway

The new colonial movement: In expressing a desire not to play a secondary role in its next space station, Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin said today that Russia might pull out of its partnership with NASA in building its Gateway lunar station.

Russia agreed last year to work with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on plans for the moon-orbiting Deep Space Gateway, which will serve as a staging post for future missions.

But the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, said Russia might exit the joint program and instead propose its own lunar orbit space station project. “The Russian Federation cannot afford to play the second fiddle role in it,” he was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency, without much further elaboration.

A spokesman for Roscosmos said later that Russia had no immediate plans to leave the project.

Russia’s problem is that they simply don’t have the cash to build their own lunar station. They could build a new station of their own in Earth orbit, and that might be what they end up doing. In fact, based on the knowledge they gained from both Mir and ISS, they might be able to design that station for short interplanetary flights, such as to the Moon and back, once built.

If I was Rogozin, that is exactly what I would do. Get out of NASA’s boondoggle, and build something in Earth orbit that will really demonstrate interplanetary travel.

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Russians considering spacewalk as part of airleak investigation

The Russians are now considering having their astronauts on ISS do a spacewalk to inspect the outside of the Soyuz capsule for evidence of sealant work at the location of the drill hole that caused the airleak.

If the spacewalk is attempted, the cosmonauts would have to get to the Habitation Module, peel off soft thermal layers blanketing the spacecraft and then cut through the meteoroid shielding bordering this section of the spacecraft at a distance of around 1.5 centimeters from its pressurized hull.

To access the area of the hole on the exterior of the Soyuz, Russian officials are developing a spacewalk scenario relying on the available Strela boom, GStM. The telescopic device can be used to carry a cosmonaut secured to a special anchor at the end of the boom to a location aboard the station otherwise inaccessible to spacewalkers due to lack of railings.

The spacewalk would take place sometime in November or December. The goal is to help confirm that the sealant work was done on the ground, as well as help pinpoint when.

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Soyuz capsule was drilled after it was fully assembled

The investigation into the drillhole leak in the Soyuz capsule docked to ISS has revealed that it had to have been done after the capsule was fully assembled.

“During the analysis of those images, traces of drilling were found on the anti-meteorite shield,” the source said, adding that “the top of the drill came through the pressure hull and hit the non-gastight outer shell.”

According to another industry source, the non-gastight anti-meteorite protection is installed right before the spacecraft is taken to the final assembly workshop. “When Soyuz MS-09 has just arrived to the final assembly workshop, it was photographed in details. No hole and no signs of drilling… were found. The spacecraft was drilled later, when it was fully assembled,” the source said. He added that the anti-meteorite shield was also photographed before being installed, and no traces on it were found as well.

The source suggested that the spacecraft could be damaged either during the very last stage of works or during its 90-day stay in the checkout stand, adding that it was highly unlikely that the damage occurred during the transportation to the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan or at the launch facility.

This narrowing of the time frame for the drilling will increase the chances that the Russians will be able to identify who did.

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NASA & Roscosmos heads to meet

After their teleconference to discuss the status of Russia’s investigation into the airleak on ISS, the heads of NASA and Roscosmos agreed to their first face-to-face meeting on October 10 at the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan.

Part of the reason for the teleconference and this announcement to try to stem the wild rumors about the leak, including the accusation that it was done by an American astronaut.

I also expect them to discuss how they can jointly lobby the American Congress to fund the Gateway boondoggle, formerly (F)LOP-G.

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Faulty concrete at Vostochny launchpad caused by contractor

The faulty and spongy concrete that the Russians have discovered at the Vostochny Soyuz launchpad was caused when the contractor hurried the job as well as improperly laid the concrete.

“It was a mistake by the contractor Spetsstroi. The process of concrete laying was violated due to rush work,” the source said. “Spetsstroi laid the concrete in winter time in utterly unsuitable conditions and used drying fans.” The source said the cavities in concrete were identified more than a year and “continued to be eliminated by the public corporation itself until the contract with Adonis was concluded.

Part of the blame here falls not to the contractor but to Putin. He demanded that Roscosmos complete a launch at Vostochny in 2016, and to do so all the contractors at Vostochny had to scramble to get the job done. Apparently, this particular contractor was forced to cut corners improperly.

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More aerospace problems in Russia

Two stories out of Russia today suggest that the serious quality control problems plaguing its aerospace industry have not been brought under control.

According to the second article the launch delay is because a Russian satellite manufacturer is behind schedule and might not deliver needed parts for the satellite’s assembly in time. I suspect the delay might also be related to the first article, as this satellite will launch on the brand new launchpad where they have discovered the cavities below ground.

That these cavities were not pinpointed during construction is very troublesome. One of the reasons SpaceX’s Boca Chica launchsite in Texas is taking as long as it is getting built is that the company had to make sure the soft beach property was structurally sound for rocket launches. That the Russians missed this speaks poorly again of their quality control.

Delays are common in the rocket industry, but in the context of Russia’s other space-related problems, the delay suggests a wider problem.

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Russia begins construction of Angara launchpad at Vostochny

Russia has begun the construction of the first Angara launchpad at their new Vostochny spaceport.

According to earlier reports, the Angara launch pad is to be completed by December 31, 2022. Construction costs are estimated at nearly 39 billion rubles ($565 million).

Somehow it seems to me that this construction is too expensive and is taking too long. A launchpad is essentially a specialized building on the surface. I don’t see why it should be so difficult or expensive to do.

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“Unsteady hand” drilled hole in Soyuz

According to reports in Russia today, Roscosmos head Dmitri Rogozin suggested earlier this week that an “unsteady hand” had made several attempts to drill a hole in the Soyuz capsule.

“There is another version that we are not ruling out; that this was done deliberately in space,” Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted Rogozin saying.

He indicated there were “several attempts to use a drill” by an “unsteady hand,” scraping the metal areas surrounding the hole, according to RIA Novosti. “We can cut short the idea that this was a technological mistake made by some specialist or other,” he added.

The vision that immediately came to my mind was that of a drunk technician, unhappy about pay, bad living conditions, and corruption, stumbling into the capsule, drilling the hole. Later, after he sobered up he realized the disaster he had created for himself and tried to fix it secretly.

Then again, it is dangerous to take seriously anything Dmitri Rogozin says. He could be trying to spin the situation to his advantage.

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Roscosmos re-inspecting all Progress/Soyuz capsules

The Russians are going to give all Progress and Soyuz capsules being prepared for launch a new inspection following the discovery that the airleak on the Soyuz docked with ISS had been caused by a technician on the ground prior to launch and covered up.

The consequences to Russia’s space industry because of this incident are going to be difficult to measure. It surely signals that they have still not got a handle on their quality control problems. In fact, it provides further proof that the technical work coming out of Russia is shoddy, sloppy, and filled with many forms of corruption, all circumstances that should give pause to anyone thinking of flying a product or themselves on a Russian-made product.

Worse, the centralized government-run space industry created by Putin is exactly the wrong thing for fixing these problems. Russia does not have a competitive and free aerospace industry. Everything is run by the government and based on the ability to wield political power rather the ability to demonstrate skill and quality in how you do your job.

With only five launches expected in 2019, Russia’s space program is sinking to the level of a third world country. This airleak disaster will only help it sink further.

One last note: I predicted this kind of disaster back in 2013, when the consolidation of Russia’s aerospace industry was announced by the Putin government. My prediction was not very difficult, nor especially brilliant, since disasters like this always occur from government-run top-down socialist/communist systems. One only has to be patient. It is only a matter of time before the system fails, and fails badly.

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ISS airleak an accidental drill hole on ground

The airleak last week on ISS in the orbital module of a Soyuz capsule was not caused by a micrometeorite but by an accidental drill hole made by a technician on the ground who then, rather than reporting it, sealed it and covered it up..

“The hole was made on the ground. The person responsible for the act of negligence has been identified,” the source told the news agency.

Another source said a worker apparently accidentally drilled the hole, but instead of reporting it, simply sealed it. The sealant held for at least the two months the Soyuz spacecraft spent in orbit, before finally drying up and being pushed out of the hole by air pressure.

According to a Moskovsky Komsomolets report, the hole was located near the toilet and covered by decorative fabric. The Russian crew members used an epoxy-based sealant with metallic additives to plug both the hole and a fracture in the outer hull of the Soyuz located behind it, the newspaper said.

Well, if anything is going to put an end to the resistance to using privately built American manned capsule, this should do it. This is also going to do a great deal of harm to the Russian desire to sell tourist seats on their Soyuz.

Posted from Heber, Arizona.

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Russian official predicts only 10 launches for 2019-2020

How the mighty have fallen: A Russian official yesterday predicted that they will only do a total of 10 launches for the two year period from 2019 to 2020.

“Five launches are envisaged for 2019. Five launches of manned and resupply ships, and also of a nodal module are planned for 2020,” the vice-premier said at a meeting held at the Energia Rocket and Space Corporation on the problems of piloted cosmonautics in the process of fulfilling long-term space exploration programs. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words reveal a second tidbit, namely that they apparently will not be launching the Nauka module to ISS in 2019, as previously announced.

In a related story, a Russian space official also confirmed that they will definitely cease flying American astronauts on Soyuz in April 2019, as per the NASA-Russian contract.

The second story does not mention the Soyuz flight seats that Boeing owns, obtained as part of the settlement of the Sea Launch partnership. I wonder about their status. Are the Russians going to block them? I also suspect that this second story might be a negotiating effort by the Russian government to press NASA into buying more flights, something NASA has so far not done.

Either way, the first story essentially places Russian in the bottom echelon of space-launch nations, ranking comparable to what India and Japan have been doing in recent years. Both these countries however expect to up their numbers, which makes Russia’s space future look even more dismal.

For the entire history of space, beginning with Sputnik, the Soviet Union/Russia had consistently dominated the world in annual launches. For them to have fallen so far tells us much about the failed socialist and centralized policies of the Putin government. They do not work. They never work. In fact, they cannot work.

Will someone please tell this fact to both the American Democratic Party, and the many people who continue to vote for its new socialist agenda?

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Vostochny manager accused of overbuying cables

Russian investigators have now clarified the charges against one of the Vostochny managers, accusing him of overbuying unnecessary cables, manufactured by a company his family owns, so that they could pocket an extra $1.5 million in cash.

According to the investigators, Volkodav – by abusing his power as a head of General Military Works Department №6 – overbought cables that were unnecessary in the further construction of the spaceport at Vostochny Cosmodrome. The cables were bought in a Tsvetlit company (owned by his relatives) for the purposes of its enrichment. In fact, the bought-in goods were never used and are not an object of the contract signed by the General Military Works Department and the company. The former head’s actions caused losses to the tune of 104 million rubles ($1.5 million).

Volkodav’s lawyers have also noted that the actual amount involved is really about half a million dollars, as the contractor has paid back about a million.

While this might be a lot of money in Russia, the amounts and activities correspond roughly to the typical corruption that exists throughout the Putin government. I suspect that they are prosecuting this guy not to clean up corruption but to use him as a scapegoat for the overall problems the government has had building the Vostochny spaceport, including gigantic cost overruns, worker strikers, and endless schedule delays.

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Ukraine test flies winged cruise missile

Ukraine announced today that it has successfully test flown Neptun, a new cruise missile with wings.

[Neptun] is a subsonic weapon developed to hit maritime targets, but can also be deployed against land targets, said Ukrainian defense expert Serhiy Sguretz. “The trajectory is standard for a cruise missile, the cruising flight altitude is 10 to 30 meters (33 to 100 feet), and in the final approach phase, it descends to four to five meters. The missile is equipped with a high-explosive fragmentation warhead. Guidance system details have not been published, but it is capable of hitting different targets, including enemy radar stations. When attacking maritime targets, Neptun has a range of approximately 280 km, increasing to 300 km when launched against land targets. “With a little help, it could fly up to Moscow,” added Sguretz.

The cruise missile is scheduled to be built in three different versions—sea-launched, land-launched, and air-launched—targeting sea and land objects. A picture published by the RNBO shows that the Neptun’s mobile transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) has some similarity to that of the S-300 Soviet/Russian air defense system.

Neptun could be integrated onto not only the Ukrainian air force’s Soviet/Russian aircraft but on some NATO aircraft.

Obviously, this is designed to give Russia pause about any further aggression against the Ukraine.

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Russian medics have approved UAE’s astronaut candidates

The new colonial movement: Russian medics have now narrowed the candidates for the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) first spaceflight.

Nine candidates were sent to Russia for testing. The article does not say how many candidates were given medical clearance. Further training in September will narrow the choices further, followed by a final decision by the UAE naming the one person who will fly to ISS.

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Three Russian space officials arrested for fraud

Russian investigators have arrested three officials from RKK Energia, the division in Roscosmos that builds and operates the Russian manned program, accusing them of fraud.

No further details were provided. This could indicate real fraud. It could also be the Russian way of cleaning house so new more politically favored players can be moved into position.

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Roscosmos in the news!

Three news stories from Russia, two from today and one from last week, provide us a flavor of the kind of space stories that come out of Russia almost daily, either making big promises of future great achievements, or making blustery excuses for the failure of those big promises to come true.

In the first the head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, rationalizes the failure of Russia to compete successfully with SpaceX.
» Read more

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Russian astronauts complete 8 hour spacewalk

Link here. Besides doing some basic maintenance work as well as literally tossing four cubesats into independent orbit, the most intriguing work was the installation of a German/Russian antenna designed to track animals.

Icarus is a collaborative environmental experiment between the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and Roscosmos to study the migratory patterns of small animals on Earth. It consists of an antenna and GPS hardware to track the movements of animals that have been tagged with small GPS receivers.

The experiment may provide data about how animals move from one location to another, how animal population density shifts over time, and how diseases spread.

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Russian lawmaker threatens to block sale of Russian rocket engines to ULA

In response to new U.S. sanctions, a Russian lawmaker has now threatened to block the sale of the Russian RD-180 rocket engine that ULA uses in its Atlas 5 rocket.

Russian lawmaker Sergei Ryabukhin, who heads the budget committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, responded to the new sanctions by vowing: “The United States needs to finally understand that it’s useless to fight with Russia, including with the help of sanctions.”

According to the Russian news agency RIA, Ryabukhin found a place to hit Washington where it’s soft: the rocket engine. Losing access to the RD-180 would make American access to space—something Donald Trump desires enough to create a separate military service branch devoted to it—much more complicated. The engine helps get everything from satellites to astronauts into orbit.

More details here.

If Russia does this they will be shooting themselves in the foot. ULA is their only customer for the RD-180 engine. Without those sales, they would cut themselves off from one of the few remaining international space contracts they still have, further bankrupting their dying space industry. Furthermore, the U.S. has many other options even if the Atlas 5 can no longer fly. ULA might suffer until it can get a replacement engine, but in the meantime the Falcon Heavy is now available to replace it, at less cost.

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Russian scientist accused of treason fed data to NATO

According to his lawyer the Roscosmos scientists who was arrested two weeks ago has been accused of providing classified data to one of NATO’s member states.

The lawyer did not reveal the specific nation involved. Other reports have suggested the leaked material involved Russia’s hypersonic engine research.

I still can’t help wondering what prompted the arrest, and if it is linked somehow with leaks coming out of the FBI and the Department of Justice in connection with Robert Mueller’s never-ending Russian collusion investigation.

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Russian company that builds Proton rocket faces bankruptcy and reorganization

The Russian company that builds Russia’s Proton rocket now faces bankruptcy and reorganization.

By the middle of 2018, due to the dramatically slowed down rate of Proton launches, its manufacturers fell deeper into the red and needed federal funding to stay afloat. According to the official numbers, GKNPTs Khrunichev lost 23 billion rubles in 2017 and asked for a 30-billion infusion of cash from the government.

At the end of June, the Head of Roskosmos Dmitry Rogozin acknowledged an ongoing effort to fix the financial situation at Khrunichev and announced plans to accelerate the switch of the Russian launch operations from the Proton to the Angara family. Ironically, Roskosmos exacerbated the company’s debt with its penalties for missed production deadlines, even though Russian payloads slated to ride those delayed rockets were themselves years behind schedule and GKNPTs Khrunichev had no room to store large rocket components.

In an effort to raise capital, Khrunichev planned to sell a big part of its campus, located in the hyper-valuable real estate area of Moscow, to private developers. In the process, the company would also dramatically reduce its production capacity and cut its personnel in the Russian capital, shifting key manufacturing operations to Omsk, in Western Siberia. In another cost-saving measure, around 200 people were reported to be marked for layoffs at Proton’s launch facilities in Baikonur beginning in the fall of 2018.

The Russian government, rather than allow for competition, is working to prop the company up. So, rather than having new companies appear with new and better ideas, Russia will be saddled with an old company not good at innovating.

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Treason investigation opened against Roscosmos research unit

The Russian government has arrested at least one person and opened a treason investigation against a specific Roscosmos research unit that has been focused on hypersonic technology.

Member of the Moscow Public Monitoring Commission Yevgeny Yenikeyev earlier told TASS that a Moscow court had authorized the arrest of TsNIImash’s 74-year-old staffer Viktor Kudryavtsev accused of high treason. He didn’t specify, however, which court had sanctioned the staffer’s arrest. Ustimenko confirmed to TASS that the scientist had been taken into custody but offered no details. TsNIImash declined to comment on the information on the arrest.

The Russian business daily Kommersant earlier reported that an investigative team from the Federal Security Service (FSB) had searched the officers of TsNIImash staffers, as well as the office of Director of the Roscosmos Research and Analytical Center Dmitry Paison. According to the paper, investigative measures were being carried out as part of criminal proceedings instituted on charges of high treason under Russia’s Criminal Code, and about 10 employees working in the space industry were under investigation for collaborating with Western intelligence services.

The FSB determined that Western intelligence agencies had found out about the results of the Russian space industry’s ‘top secret’ work on hypersonic technologies, the paper reported.

I cannot help wondering if the numerous leaks by anti-Trump ideologues in the FBI, the Department of Justice, and Congress, all related to their futile effort to pin Russian collusion charges against Trump, have ended up exposing these internal sources of information in Russia.

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Nine finalists for UAE’s astronaut corps of four

The new colonial movement: The United Arab Emirates has reduced its astronaut candidate pool to nine in preparation for choosing the person who will fly on a Russian Soyuz to ISS.

These finalists will now undergo training and assessment by the Russians. The actual flight is presently set for April 2019.

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The dying Russian space program, from a Russian’s perspective

Link here. I have written previously about how Russia’s space effort seems to be steadily shrinking, month-to-month. This article gives the perspective from the point of view of a Russian who writes about space, and provides some concrete further examples of the program’s bureaucratic problems:

For example, the Russian space agency has been developing a “new” science and research module for the space station, “Nauka,” since 1995. More than two decades later, the module still awaits a decision on whether it should actually be completed.

Borisov asserts that this is because there are concerns about post-launch problems. “No official from Russia’s space industry wants to take responsibility for the laboratory module and its safety for use as part of the ISS, about which many questions have arisen,” he writes. (A translation of the 3,000-word article was provided to Ars by Robinson Mitchell).

The story is similar for Russia’s next-generation spacecraft, Federation. Instead of investing in this new vehicle designed for deep-space crew activities, which has been under development for a decade, Russia will likely opt to continue revising the Soyuz spacecraft, which first launched 52 years ago. This was before NASA’s Apollo capsule had flown.

The Putin government made a decision in the past decade to consolidate their entire space industry into one giant government-run corporation. In the process they eliminated all competition, and put every new project under the control of government bureaucrats whose first concern is not innovation and risk, but covering their behinds. As such, Russia has found it impossible to produce new space technology fast enough to compete.

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Failed Soviet-era Venus probe to crash to Earth between 2023-2025

A failed Soviet-era probe to Venus that never left Earth orbit is now predicted to crash to Earth sometime between 2023-2025.

The Kosmos 482 interplanetary station, which was unsuccessfully sent towards Venus in 1972 by the USSR, may crash land on Earth between 2023 and 2025, astronomer and cosmonautics historian Pavel Shubin told Sputnik. He couldn’t pinpoint the exact location of the future crash site, but noted that it would be between 52 degrees north and 52 degree south latitude.

The astronomer has studied the data on Kosmos 482 orbit as well as its deterioration and detected that it started to degrade faster due to it getting closer to Earth and experiencing increased gravitational pull.

He also expressed confidence that the station would successfully reach the surface since it was adapted for entering the much harsher atmosphere of Venus so is able to endure stress of 300g and 100 atmospheres. The astronomer is anxious to study the station after it lands in order to analyze how prolonged exposure to open space affected its materials.

It is not likely that this probe will land anywhere where it can be recovered, as most of the Earth is ocean. However, the scientist’s hopes are not unreasonable, as it is always worthwhile for future engineering designs to study how the environment of space effects materials over long periods of time.

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More launch delays from Russia

Russia has decided to delay one of three commercial Soyuz rocket launches to 2019 due to unspecified “readiness” issues.

The launch of Soyuz-ST launch vehicle with a European satellite was initially scheduled for October 6, a source in the aerospace industry told Interfax. “However, evaluating relevant conditions and the launch vehicle’s readiness, the decision was made to move the launch to November 6,” the source said.

In all, three Russian launch vehicles were expected to take off from the Kourou Space Center by the yearend. Italy’s CSG-1 satellite was scheduled to be launched in November, which was to be followed by the launch of OneWeb’s pilot mini-satellites. Due to the delay of the European weather-forecasting satellite’s launch, the launch of two more rockets from Kourou was endangered. “One of the three launches has to be postponed until next year. This is most likely to be Italy’s CSG-1 satellite. However, a lift-off of satellites under the contract with OneWeb may be adjourned,” he said.

In addition, there was this story (behind a paywall) that noted that the only Proton-M launch in 2018 will also be delayed until 2019.

While such delays in rocket launches are not unusual and are an accepted part of the business, these delays for Russia do not help them. The technical problems in recent years that have caused many launch failures, combined with these delays, will further encourage their international customers to go elsewhere.

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The dying Russian space program

Three articles today illustrate starkly the sad state of the Russian space program.

The first story describes the serious problems for Russia’s first lunar probe in decades.

Its launch was originally scheduled for 2016 but was postponed to 2019 mainly because of lack of funding. Roscosmos allocated a budget of 4.5 billion rubles to NPO Lavochkin, Luna-Glob’s builder, as recently as October 2016.

Since then, almost everything has gone according to the plan, except with a crucial instrument called BIB, the probe’s inertial measurement unit. Provided by the Russian company NPO IT – located in the city of Korolyov, not far from ISS Mission Control – the BIB should provide the onboard computer with the necessary information to ensure guidance on the path from the Earth to the Moon.

However, BIB testing at NPO IT showed unexpected results, clearly indicating it was not working properly. The designers of this system noted it won’t be ready for the 2019 launch window, which resulted in NPO Lavochkin trying to replace it with a European equivalent called ASTRIX, designed by Airbus Defence & Space.

However, sanctions against Russia – from the European Commission in the fallout of the Ukrainian crisis – strictly forbid such a deal.

A different Russian instrument could replace BIB, but it won’t be ready in time, further delaying the mission to 2021 when many of its other instruments will be past their own due dates.

The second story describes the end of Russia’s Proton rocket, first built in the mid-1960s and since the 1990s has been its commercial workhorse. Faced with numerous failures and an inability to compete with SpaceX, it has lost its market share, and will now be replaced by Russia’s new Angara rocket. The problem is that Angara itself is not ready, and will likely not be operational until 2021, at the earliest.

The third article describes some of the reasons why Angara will take so long to be operational. Vostochny, Russia’s new spaceport, doesn’t have the necessary facilities, and it appears there is a disagreement within the Russian aerospace community about how fast those facilities can be built, or even if all are needed immediately. The top management in Roscosmos seems reluctant to switch all operations from Baikonur, probably for political reasons, while the expert quoted by the article says they should do it fast.

Either way, the entire Russian space program seems mired in bad technology, overpriced products, and poor and confused management. They have lost most of their commercial international customers, are about to lose NASA as well when Dragon and Starliner begin flying American astronauts, and do not have the resources to replace this lost income. Further, the top-down centralized management by the government of the entire aerospace industry has worsened these problems by stifling competition and innovation.

Russia might recover eventually, but for the next decade expect them to play a very minor role in space.

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Obama administration ordered a “stand down” of work to stop Russian election interference

The real Russian collusion: When it was evident that the Russians were trying to use the internet to interfere with the election in August 2016, the Obama administration instead ordered a “stand down” of any work that might have stopped that interference.

Former President Barack Obama’s cybersecurity czar confirmed Wednesday that former national security adviser Susan Rice told him to “stand down” in response to Russian cyber attacks during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Michael Daniel, whose official title was “cybersecurity coordinator,” confirmed the stand-down order during a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing held to review the Obama and President Donald Trump’s administrations’ policy response to Russian election interference.

…“Don’t get ahead of us,” [Rice] told Daniel in a meeting in August 2016, according to the book.

Daniel informed his staff of the order, much to their frustration. “I was incredulous and in disbelief,” Daniel Prieto, who worked under Daniel, is quoted saying in “Russian Roulette.”

“Why the hell are we standing down? Michael, can you help us understand?” Prieto asked.

It appears that the Obama administration wanted the Russians to interfere with the election, and this desire was part of their effort at the FBI to frame the Russian collusion story on Trump. They needed the interference to justify the FBI Russian investigation, which had just been instigated in late July 2016. Stopping the Russians (and defending the American electoral process) was therefore not in their interest.

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UAE signs deal with Russia for UAE astronaut flight

The new colonial movement: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Russia signed an agreement this week to fly an UAE astronaut on a Russian Soyuz capsule to ISS in April 2019.

The mission will be a standard 10-day tourist mission, though of course they are not describing it like that. The announcement also does not state if the UAE paid Russia for this flight, but I expect so, just like any tourist flight. The price however was likely a lot less than Russia has been squeezing from the U.S. for its astronaut flights. UAE had also been discussing this with China, and the competition probably forced Russia to lower its price.

I had been hoping that one of the U.S.’s commercial capsules could have gotten this business, but because of the delays NASA has imposed on their initial launches, they haven’t yet flown, so they lost the chance to compete for this.

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S7 Space wants to build Soviet era rocket engines

The private Russian company S7 Space, which recently took over Sea Launch, wants to buy the blueprints and resume building the Soviet era rocket engines developed for the N1 heavy-lift rocket.

Russia’s S7 Space, part of the S7 Group, plans to build a plant in Samara to produce Soviet-designed NK-33 and NK-43 rocket engines for super heavy-lift launch vehicles and intends to purchase production capacities from the state-owned United Engine Corporation (UEC) for this purpose, S7 Space General Director Sergey Sopov said in an interview.

“We would like to buy from the state the well-known engines NK-33 and NK-43, produced earlier by the Samara-based Kuznetsov plant, as well as the documentation, equipment, technical backlog. In general, everything that has survived on this theme from the Soviet program. We intend to restore production and build our own rocket engine plant in Samara,” Sopov said in an interview to be published in the Vedomosti newspaper.

As with everything now in Russia, this company not only needs to buy the rights to these engines, it needs to get government permission to do this. Also, because it will take five to six years to get the new engine plant up and running, they plan in the interim to use the available engines left over from the 1960s. Considering the launch failure caused by one of these engines in an Orbital ATK Antares launch, I am not sure this is wise.

Overall, S7 Space has the right idea. The company wants to compete, and it wants to innovate. Whether it can do so in the top-down culture of Russia remains the unanswered question.

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