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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

Blue Origin Announces Aug. 4 for New Shepard’s Next Flight

NS-22 spaceflight participants (Credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin Mission Update

Blue Origin today announced its sixth human flight, NS-22, will lift off from Launch Site One on Thursday, August 4. The launch window opens at 8:30 AM CDT / 13:30 UTC. The webcast will start at T-30 minutes. 

(more…)

Another Guessing Game on Where and When Chinese Rocket Stage Will Reenter

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China has once again put another massive rocket stage in orbit, triggering a week-long guessing game as to where and when it will reenter the atmosphere and whether debris will rain down over a populated area.

The object in question is the core stage of a Long March 5B rocket, which entered orbit after launching the new Wentian module to the Chinese space station. The stage is 53.6-meter-tall and weighs approximately 23 metric tons.

(more…)

New Roscosmos GD Says Russia to Leave ISS Program After 2024

Russian Orbital Service Station (Credit: Roscosmos)

The new head of Roscosmos says that Russia will leave the International Space Station program after 2024. The Associated Press reports:

Yuri Borisov, appointed this month to lead the state space agency, Roscosmos, said during a meeting with President Vladimir Putin that Russia will fulfill its obligations to its partners before it leaves.

“The decision to leave the station after 2024 has been made,” Borisov said, adding: “I think that by that time we will start forming a Russian orbiting station.”

Borisov’s statement reaffirmed previous declarations by Russian space officials about Moscow’s intention to leave the space station after 2024 when the current international arrangements for its operation end.

Roscosmos previously announced that it would build the Russian Orbital Service Station (ROSS) after it leaves ISS.

Russia keeps the station supplied with crews and cargo via Soyuz and Progress spacecraft, respectively. Progress resupply ships raise the station’s orbit and maneuvers the facility to avoid space debris. The Russian section of ISS is about one quarter of the orbiting laboratory.

The United States wants to keep the station operating until 2030. It wants U.S. industry to develop private space stations later in the 2020’s on which the space agency could become a tenant.

ISS is a partnership of NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The four space agencies are partners in the NASA-led Artemis program that plans to return astronauts to the surface of the moon later in this decade.

NASA ISS Program Director Robyn Gatens said the space agency has received no formal notice about Russia withdrawing from the program during an appearance at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

Commercial Space Travelers Outnumbered Professional Astronauts in First Half of 2022

Axiom Mission 1 astronauts, left to right, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, Michael LĂłpez-AlegrĂ­a, and Eytan Stibbe. The astronauts are approved by NASA and its international partners for Axiom Space’s first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station. (Credits: Chris Gunn – Axiom Space)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The first half of 2022 saw more commercial travelers — 16 — launch into space than the 10 professional astronauts who work for government-run space agencies. However, those numbers come with an asterisk or two.

Four of the 14 astronauts who launched into orbit flew on Axiom Space’s privately funded and operated crew flight to the International Space Station (ISS). Blue Origin launched 12 individuals into space on two flights of the company’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle.

The other 10 astronauts who launched to ISS and the Tiangong space station worked fulltime for NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), China Manned Space Agency, or Russia’s Roscosmos State Space Corporation. SpaceX flew American and European astronauts to ISS on the company-owned Crew Dragon spacecraft under a NASA contract. The Russians and Chinese flew aboard government-owned and operated spacecraft.

(more…)

UAE Pilot Assigned to Crew-6 Space Station Mission

Sultan AlNeyadi (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The final crew member for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission, currently targeted to launch to the International Space Station in spring 2023, has been announced. The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) named Sultan AlNeyadi to spend approximately six months aboard the space station as part of Expeditions 68/69. Mission Specialist AlNeyadi joins NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, who will serve as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively, for the mission, and cosmonaut Andrei Fedyaev of Roscosmos.

To ensure continuous U.S. presence aboard the International Space Station, NASA signed a contract in 2021 with Axiom Space to fly a NASA astronaut on a Soyuz rotation in exchange for a seat on a future U.S. commercial spacecraft. Axiom announced an agreement on April 29, 2022, with the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center of the UAE to fly its crew member in the seat.

The UAE astronaut corps has been in training with NASA at the Johnson Space Center since 2019, including spacewalk training, onboard systems and T-38 training. AlNeyadi will continue crewmember training for the Dragon spacecraft and international partner segments.

China Launches Wentian Module in Major Space Station Expansion

Update: Wentian docked with the space station early Monday morning Beijing time after a 13-hour flight.

China launched the 23-metric ton Wentian module on Sunday as the first step in expanding the nation’s first permanent space station.

The 17.9 meter long is headed for a docking with the station’s Tianhe core module that is currently occupied by the Shenzhou-14 crew of Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe.

Wentian includes laboratory equipment for life sciences, biotechnology and variable gravity experiments. The module also has 22 external mounting devices that will allow for the attachment of unpressurized experiments. Wentian features a robotic arm that is half the size as the one mounted on the outside of the Tianhe core module.

Wentian includes three sleeping berths, a kitchen and a toilet to accommodate the expansion of the station’s full-time complement from three to six taikonauts. The module will provide additional propulsion, control and avionics to back up the Tianhe core. Wentian is powered by two solar panels.

China will launch the Mengtian laboratory module in October to complete initial assembly of the space station. Mengtian is similar in size and design to Wentian.

Space For Humanity Will Send First Egyptian to Space Aboard Blue Origin’s NS-22 Flight

Sara Sabry is selected as Space For Humanity’s second Citizen Astronaut and will fly on NS-22, making her the first Egyptian to ever visit Space. (Credit: Space for Humanity)

DENVER, July 22, 2022 (Space for Humanity PR) — Today, Space For Humanity (S4H), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, announced its selection committee has chosen Sara Sabry to become the organization’s second sponsored Citizen Astronaut. Sara will become the first Egyptian to fly to space when she flies aboard Blue Origin’s NS-22 flight.

Sara, 29, is an Egyptian mechanical and biomedical engineer and founder of Deep Space Initiative (DSI), a nonprofit which aims to increase accessibility for space research. Sara became Egypt’s first female analog astronaut in 2021, when she was selected to complete a two week analog Moon mission, which simulated the extreme conditions astronauts experience in Space. She will join five other crew members including Coby Cotton, Mario Ferreira, Vanessa O’Brien, Clint Kelly III, and Steve Young aboard New Shepard to experience the cognitive shift of the Overview Effect and incorporate that new found perspective into a social impact project with the support of S4H’s Citizen Astronaut Program (CAP).

“When we dare to dream big, we achieve things deemed impossible, we break boundaries, write history, and set new challenges for the future,” said Sabry. “I am incredibly excited that Space For Humanity has offered me this opportunity and I am honored to be representing Egypt in Space for the first time. My ancestors have always dreamt big and achieved the impossible, and I hope to bring that back. This is just the beginning.”

(more…)

First Egyptian and Portuguese Astronauts to join Dude Perfect Cofounder on New Shepard’s 22nd Flight

NS-22 spaceflight participants (Credit: Blue Origin)

SEATTLE, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — Blue Origin today announced the crew flying on its NS-22 mission will include Dude Perfect cofounder Coby Cotton, Portuguese entrepreneur Mário Ferreira, British-American mountaineer Vanessa O’Brien, technology leader Clint Kelly III, Egyptian engineer Sara Sabry, and telecommunications executive Steve Young. Sara will become the first person from Egypt to fly to space; Mário will become the first from Portugal. Vanessa will become the first woman to reach extremes on land, sea, and air, completing the Explorers’ Extreme Trifecta, a Guinness World Record.

(more…)

Virtuoso Partners with Virgin Galactic for Ticket Sales Referral Program

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo’s first flight above 50 miles on Dec. 13, 2018. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
  • Virtuoso adds spaceflight partner to its exclusive global portfolio
  • Limited number of remaining seats available to Virtuoso’s global client base

NEW YORK & TUSTIN, Calif. (Virtuoso/Virgin Galactic PR) — Virtuoso®, the leading global network specializing in luxury and experiential travel, and Virgin Galactic (NYSE: SPCE), an aerospace and space travel company, today announced a strategic partnership to make a limited number of seats for Virgin Galactic’s spaceflight experience available to Virtuoso’s global client base.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

Axiom Space and Hungary Sign MOU To Expand Relationship in Space

WASHINGTON (Axiom Space PR) — Axiom Space and the Hungarian government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to further their existing relationship in human spaceflight and to advance opportunities in space research and technology development. The agreement between Axiom and Hungary was signed on July 20, 2022,  in Washington, D.C.  

The main focus of the new agreement is to further the Hungarian to Orbit (HUNOR) program, Hungary’s astronaut program, which aims to send a Hungarian astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS) via a future Axiom Space commercial astronaut mission. Building off the first agreement between Axiom and the Hungarian government, signed on December of 2021, which formalized a partnership to return a Hungarian astronaut to space, this MOU enables a wide range of cooperation and possible joint developments between Axiom Space and Hungary. It acknowledges both the importance the company plays in helping to define the future of human space flight, including through the future Axiom Station, as well as the capacities and space heritage of the Hungarian space sector.

(more…)

NASA, Roscosmos Complete Seat Swap on Flights to ISS

The space station is viewed from the SpaceX Cargo Dragon during its automated approach before docking. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — To ensure continued safe operations of the International Space Station (station), protect the lives of astronauts, and ensure continuous U.S. presence in space, NASA will resume integrated crews on U.S. crew spacecraft and the Russian Soyuz with the Russian State Space Corporation Roscosmos.

Flying integrated crews ensures there are appropriately trained crew members on board the station for essential maintenance and spacewalks. It also protects against contingencies such as a problem with any crew spacecraft, serious crew medical issues, or an emergency aboard the station that requires a crew and the vehicle they are assigned to return to Earth sooner than planned.

(more…)

Rogozin Out as Roscosmos Chief

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

Dmitry Rogozin has been removed from his post as director general of the Roscosmos, the state corporation that runs Russia’s space program, according to press reports. Rogozin is being replaced by former Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov.

Rogozin was appointed head of Roscosmos in May 2018. He was previously deputy prime minister overseeing the military-industrial complex, which included the space and defense sectors. Borisov replaced him in that role at the time.

Rogozin has been increasingly bombastic since the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. He made threats that Russia would launch nuclear weapons at nations supporting Ukraine. Rogozin also said Russia would pull out of the International Space Station program, which is a partnership of the United States, Europe, Japan and Canada.

Rogozin got into Twitter fights with a number of former NASA astronauts, who had nothing good to say about his tenure leading Russia’s space program.

Although he is out at Roscosmos, Rogozin’s career in the Russian government doesn’t appear to be over, according to Anatoly Zak of RussianSpaceWeb.com.

“Following its tumultuous tenure as the head of Roskosmos, Rogozin was expected to move to the presidential administration and, possibly, lead it or ‘curate’ the Russian occupation of the Eastern Ukraine, the independent Meduza publication reported,” Zak wrote.