The Best Laid Plans, Moscow Edition: Ukraine Invasion Damages Russia’s Launch Business

Soyuz-2 rocket launches a military satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome. (Credit: Russian Ministry of Defense)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Ambitious launch schedules typically go awry when a rocket suffers a catastrophic failure that takes months to investigate and implement modifications to ensure the same accident doesn’t happen again. In the majority of cases, the failures involve a machine launching a machine. All that can be replaced, albeit at substantial cost.

Russia’s ambitious launch plans for 2022 fell apart due to a far more momentous and deadly action: the nation’s invasion of Ukraine. The decision ruptured cooperation with the West on virtually every space project on which it was safe to do so. The main exception was the International Space Station (ISS), a program involving astronauts and cosmonauts that would be difficult to operate safely if Russia suddenly withdrew (as it indeed threatened to do).

Due to the invasion, Western partners canceled seven launches of foreign payloads in less than a month. The cancellations put Russia even further behind the United States and China in launch totals this year.

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SpaceX Rockets U.S. Launches to New Heights in 2022

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites on June 17, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Powered by 33 flights of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, the United States leads all nations with 48 launch attempts through the first seven months of the year. The total is three short of the number of U.S. launches attempted last year, and far ahead of the 27 launches conducted by second place China through the end of July. The U.S. has conducted more launches than the 43 flights conducted by the rest of the world combined.

A number of notable flights were conducted. SpaceX launched two Crew Dragons to the International Space Station (ISS), including the first fully privately funded mission to the orbiting laboratory. United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched Boeing’s CST-100 Starship crew vehicle on an automated flight test to ISS, a crucial step before astronauts to fly on the spacecraft. Small satellite launch provider Rocket Lab conducted its first deep-space mission by sending a spacecraft the size of a microwave to the moon.

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77 Launches Conducted During First Half of 2022 as Access to Orbit Expanded

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites while the Dragon that will carry Crew-4 to the International space Station awaits its turn. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a busy first half of 2022 that saw 77 orbital launches with 74 successes and three failures through the 182nd day of the year on July 1. At a rate of one launch every 2 days 8 hours 44 minutes, the world is on track to exceed the 146 launches conducted in 2021.

A number of significant missions were launched during a period that saw more than 1,000 satellite launched. SpaceX flew the first fully commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Boeing conducted an orbital flight test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, China prepared to complete assembly of its space station, South Korea launched its first domestically manufactured rocket, and Rocket Lab sent a NASA mission to the moon.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

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NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 Astronauts Launch to International Space Station

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, Jessica Watkins, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti onboard, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credits: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

NASA Mission Update

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts are in orbit following their launch to the International Space Station at 3:52 a.m. EDT Wednesday, April 27, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The international crew of astronauts will serve as the fourth commercial crew rotation mission aboard the space station.

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Axiom Mission 1 Undock Postponed to Sunday, Space Station Reboosts

The 11-person crew aboard the station comprises of (clockwise from bottom right) Expedition 67 Commander Tom Marshburn with Flight Engineers Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, Sergey Korsakov, Raja Chari, Kayla Barron, and Matthias Maurer; and Axiom Mission 1 astronauts (center row from left) Mark Pathy, Eytan Stibbe, Larry Conner, and Michael Lopez-Alegria. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — At the conclusion of a weather briefing ahead of today’s planned undocking, NASA, Axiom Space, and SpaceX teams elected to wave off today’s undocking attempt due to a diurnal low wind trough which has been causing marginally high winds at the splashdown sites. The Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) crew is now targeting to undock from the International Space Station 8:55 p.m. EDT Sunday, April 24.

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Ax-1 Crew Departure Delayed to Saturday, Crew-4 Launch Delayed to NET Tuesday

The 11-person crew aboard the station comprises of (clockwise from bottom right) Expedition 67 Commander Tom Marshburn with Flight Engineers Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, Sergey Korsakov, Raja Chari, Kayla Barron, and Matthias Maurer; and Axiom Mission 1 astronauts (center row from left) Mark Pathy, Eytan Stibbe, Larry Conner, and Michael Lopez-Alegria. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The integrated NASA, Axiom Space, and SpaceX teams have agreed on a plan for the Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) crew to undock from the International Space Station at 8:35 p.m. EDT Saturday, April 23, for a splashdown off the coast of Florida about 1:46 p.m. Sunday, April 24. The decision was made based on the best weather for splashdown of the first private astronaut mission to visit the International Space Station and the return trajectory required to bring the crew and the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour spacecraft back to Earth safely.

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NASA Sets Coverage for Russian Spacewalks Outside Space Station

Oleg Novitsky during a spacewalk. (Credit: Roscosmos)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA will provide coverage of spacewalks Monday, April 18, and Thursday, April 28, as Russian cosmonauts venture outside the International Space Station to activate a new robotic arm attached to the Nauka module.

Coverage for both spacewalks will begin at 10 a.m. EDT each day on NASA Television, the NASA app, and agency’s  website. Each spacewalk is scheduled to begin around 10:25 a.m.

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NASA Coverage Set for Axiom Mission 1 Departure from Space Station

The 11-person crew aboard the station comprises of (clockwise from bottom right) Expedition 67 Commander Tom Marshburn with Flight Engineers Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, Sergey Korsakov, Raja Chari, Kayla Barron, and Matthias Maurer; and Axiom Mission 1 astronauts (center row from left) Mark Pathy, Eytan Stibbe, Larry Conner, and Michael Lopez-Alegria. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA will provide live coverage of the undocking and departure of the Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) prior to its return to Earth from the International Space Station.

The four-member private astronaut crew is scheduled to undock at 10:35 a.m. Tuesday, April 19, to begin the journey home with splashdown off the coast of Florida no earlier than 7:19 a.m. EDT Wednesday, April 20. Teams will monitor weather at the splashdown sites prior to undocking to ensure conditions are acceptable for a safe recovery of the Dragon spacecraft and Ax-1 astronauts. If needed for any reason, there are additional opportunities for the crew’s departure from the space station on Tuesday, April 19 and Wednesday, April 20.

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Ax-1 Private Astronaut Mission Arrives at International Space Station

Space station crew welcomes the Ax-1 astronauts to the ISS. (Credit: Axiom Space)

HOUSTON (Axiom Space PR) — The historic Ax-1 crew has arrived at the International Space Station. Commander  Michael López-Alegría, Pilot Larry Connor, Mission Specialist Eytan Stibbe, and Mission Specialist Mark Pathy entered the space station shortly after the hatch opened at 10:13 a.m. EDT on Saturday, April 9.   

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Record-Setting NASA Astronaut, Crewmates Return from Space Station

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is seen outside the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft after he landed with Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday, March 30, 2022. Vande Hei and Dubrov are returning to Earth after logging 355 days in space as members of Expeditions 64-66 aboard the International Space Station. For Vande Hei, his mission is the longest single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut in history. Shkaplerov is returning after 176 days in space, serving as a Flight Engineer for Expedition 65 and commander of Expedition 66. (Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — After extending the record for the longest single spaceflight in history by an American to 355 days, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returned to Earth on Wednesday, March 30, along with Roscosmos cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov.

The trio departed the International Space Station at 3:21 a.m. EDT and made a safe, parachute-assisted landing at 7:28 a.m. (5:28 p.m. Kazakhstan time) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

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Record Breaking NASA Astronaut to Return to Earth on Wednesday Aboard Russian Soyuz as Private Mission to ISS Looms

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei studies cotton genetics for the Plant Habitat-5 space agriculture experiment. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Three Expedition 66 Flight Engineers are returning to Earth in less than two days as four private astronauts prepare for their mission to the International Space Station. The crew activities haven’t stopped the ongoing space research as the orbital residents studied biology, botany, and physics on Monday.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is nearing the end of his mission as he prepares to return to Earth on Wednesday after a NASA-record breaking 355 days in space. Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov will lead Vande Hei and Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov inside the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship when they undock from the Rassvet module at 3:21 a.m. EDT on Wednesday. The trio will parachute to a landing just over four hours later.

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NASA to Provide Live Coverage of Record-Setting US Astronaut Return

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei studies cotton genetics for the Plant Habitat-5 space agriculture experiment. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and two Roscosmos cosmonauts are scheduled to end their mission aboard the International Space Station and return to Earth on Wednesday, March 30.

Vande Hei, along with Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, will close the hatch to the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft to begin the journey back to Earth. The Soyuz will undock from the Rassvet module, heading for a parachute-assisted landing Wednesday, March 30, on the steppe of Kazakhstan, southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan.

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Russian Cosmonauts Enter Space Station Wearing Flight Suits with Colors Similar to Ukraine Flag

Soyuz MS-21 crew members aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: Roscosmos webcast)

A three man crew of Russian cosmonauts entered the International Space station today wearing bright yellow flight suits with blue trim — colors very similar to those used on the flag of Ukraine, which Russia invaded last month.

Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, and Sergey Korsakov arrived at the station on the Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft at 3:12 p.m. EDT. They were launched aboard a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

It’s possible they are protesting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine. In which case, they are extremely brave. Or it might just be a giant coincidence. They might have chosen these colors — which have been used on the station before — months earlier.

The cosmonauts joined Expedition 66 Commander Anton Shkaplerov and cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos, NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, and European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer.

On March 30, a Soyuz spacecraft will return as scheduled carrying hkaplerov, Dubrov and Vande Hei back to Earth. Upon their return, Vande Hei will hold the American record for the longest single human spaceflight mission of 355 days.