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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Commercial Space Travelers Outnumbered Professional Astronauts in First Half of 2022

Axiom Mission 1 astronauts, left to right, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, Michael López-Alegría, 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.

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Video: Vice President Kamala Harris Congratulates Mark Vande Hei on Record-setting Spaceflight

Video Caption: Vice President Kamala Harris recently spoke to astronaut Mark Vande Hei after he returned home from spending 355 days in space — the longest single spaceflight for a NASA astronaut.

Mark’s mission and research in space helps us better understand the effects of long-duration human spaceflight as we prepare for the Artemis missions to the Moon. As head of the National Space Council, VP Harris is working on our priorities in space, including building up America’s STEM workforce, addressing the climate crisis, and promoting rules and norms that govern space.

Learn more about Celestial Immunity, space station research that may help us treat diseases: https://go.nasa.gov/3END1kY

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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NASA to Release Draft RFP for Second Human Lunar Lander

Artist concept of the SpaceX Starship on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA plans to release a draft request for proposal (RFP) by the end of the month for a second crewed lunar lander to join the Human Landing System (HLS) being developed by SpaceX, officials announced during a media conference on Wednesday.

“Competition is the key to our success,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in describing the Sustaining Lunar Development contract.

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Record-Breaking NASA Astronaut Mark Vande Hei’s Contributions to Human Research Studies

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 arrived at the International Space Station on April 9, 2021, and is expected to return home March 30, 2022, after spending 355 days in low-Earth orbit. This duration breaks the previous record, held by retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, by 15 days.

Vande Hei will return in a Soyuz spacecraft as scheduled alongside cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov.

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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.

NASA Astronaut Sets New American Space Endurance Record; Russia Promises to Bring Him Home

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

Mark Vande Hei set a new American record for the most consecutive days in space on Tuesday, breaking the 340-day record set by Scott Kelly.

Vande Hei arrived at the International Space Station on April 9, 2021, and is scheduled to return to Earth on March 30, 2022 after 355 days in space.

Russia has assured NASA that Vande Hei will be returned safety to Earth despite on-going tensions and U.S. sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

“US astronaut Mark Vande Hei will travel back home in the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft together with Russia’s Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov on March 30. Roscosmos has never let anybody doubt its reliability as a partner,” the Russian space corporation said in a statement.

Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin has threatened to pull Russia out of the space station program and let the facility crash over a populated area if sanctions over the Ukraine invasion are lifted. The station is large enough that pieces will survive reentry and strike the ground. It is not clear whether Rogozin is serious or bluffing.

Vande Hei was originally scheduled to stay aboard the station for about six months. However, he ended up staying almost a year when Roscosmos decided to send up a director and actress to film a movie on the station aboard the Soyuz spacecraft that was to have brought him home. The decision also extended the stay of Dubrov.

Astronaut Hits 300 Days in Space, On Way to Break NASA Record

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 has lived in space continuously for 300 days since launching and docking to the orbiting lab on April 9, 2021. He is on his way to surpassing Christina Koch’s 328-day mission on March 3 and Scott Kelly’s 340 days on March 15. Vande Hei will return to Earth on March 30 with a NASA astronaut record-breaking 355 consecutive days in Earth orbit.

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Scientific Hardware, Experiments Return to Earth on SpaceX CRS-24 Dragon

Cargo Dragon docked at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

Editor’s Note: Do to adverse weather in the recovery zone, SpaceX and NASA are now targeting 10:40 a.m. EST on Sunday, Jan. 23 for undocking from the International Space Station of a SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft filled with more than 4,900 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo. NASA Television and the agency’s website will broadcast its departure live beginning at 10:15 a.m. EST.

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — A retired microscope and samples from studies on colloids and cellular signaling are among the cargo returning from the International Space Station aboard the 24th SpaceX commercial resupply services mission. The Dragon craft, which arrived at the station Dec. 22, 2021, is scheduled to undock Jan. 22 with splashdown the next afternoon off the coast of Florida.

These quick return flights allow scientists to make additional observations and analyses of their experiments at Kennedy Space Center, minimizing the effects of gravity on samples. Investigators then can conduct more in-depth analyses back at their home labs.

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NASA’s 2021 Achievements Included Mars Landing, First Flight, Artemis, More

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2021, NASA completed its busiest year of development yet in low-Earth orbit, made history on Mars, continued to make progress on its Artemis plans for the Moon, tested new technologies for a supersonic aircraft, finalized launch preparations for the next-generation space telescope, and much more – all while safely operating during a pandemic and welcoming new leadership under the Biden-Harris Administration.

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Interview with Oleg Novitsky After His Spaceflight

Oleg Novitsky (Credit: Roscosmos)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Two months ago, Oleg Novitsky returned from his third space flight to the ISS. The commander of the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft shared with the readers of the State Corporation Roscosmos magazine – Russian Space – his impressions of the expedition. It cannot be called boring in any way: three spacewalks, the meeting and integration of the new Science module and, of course, an amazing week and a half spent side by side with the world’s first film crew.

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