ESA Tests Largest Mars Parachute

KIRUNA, Sweden (ESA PR) — The largest parachute ever to fly on a Mars mission has been deployed in the first of a series of tests to prepare for the upcoming ExoMars mission that will deliver a rover and a surface science platform to the Red Planet.

The spacecraft that will carry them is due for launch in July 2020, with arrival at Mars in March 2021. The rover will be the first of its kind to drill below the surface and determine if evidence of life is buried underground, protected from the destructive radiation that impinges the surface today.

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Russian Launch Failures Aren’t a Bug, They’re a Feature

A Proton takes a nose dive at Baikonur. (Credit: Tsenki TV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Edior

Over the past few years, I’ve been keeping track of Russia’s annual launch failures. For reasons I can’t quite recall, the table I’ve used only went back to 2009.

Recently, I saw a graphic on a Russian website about launch failures, and I realized I hadn’t gone back far enough. So, I dug into the records of the last 30 years from 1988 through 2017, which covers Russia and the last four years of the Soviet Union.

And holy crap! There were a helluva lot of them. Launch failures are not a bug in the system, they’re a feature.

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New Crew Heads for International Space Station

The Soyuz MS-08 rocket is launched with Expedition 55 Soyuz Commander Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos and flight engineers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel of NASA, Wednesday, March 21, 2018 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Artemyev, Arnold, and Feustel will spend the next five months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

BAIKONUR COSMODROME, Kazakhstan (NASA PR) — Three crew members, including NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1:44 p.m. EDT Wednesday (11:44 p.m. Baikonur time).

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Updated Global Launch Schedule Through April

Expedition 55 crew members Ricky Arnold, Drew Feustel and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev. (Credit: NASA)

Below is the updated launch schedule through the end of April. The 17 scheduled launches include:

  • 7 USA (6 Falcon 9, 1 Atlas V)
  • 4 Russia (1 Soyuz, 1 Soyuz-2.1, 1 Proton, 1 Rockot)
  • 3 India (2 GSLV Mk.2, 1 PSLV)
  • 2 China (2 Long March 3B)
  • 1 Europe (1 Ariane 5).

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NASA Television Coverage Set for Space Station Crew Launch, Docking

Expedition 55 crew members Ricky Arnold, Drew Feustel and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Two American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut are ready for their journey to the International Space Station that begins on Wednesday, March 21. Live coverage will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

At the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, are set to launch in the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft at 1:44 p.m. EDT (11:44 p.m. Kazakhstan time) March 21.

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Russia, China Sign Lunar Cooperation Agreement

TOKYO (ROSCOSMOS PR) — On March 3, 2018, the Roscosmos State Corporation and the Chinese National Space Administration, in the framework of the International Space Development Forum (ISEF) in Tokyo, signed an agreement on intentions for cooperation in the field of exploration of the Moon and deep space, and the creation of a Data Center on lunar projects.

The sides expressed their readiness to consider the possibility of cooperation in the implementation of the Russian mission to launch the orbital spacecraft Luna-Resurs-1 (Luna-26) in 2022, as well as the planned Chinese mission for landing in the region of the south pole of the Moon in 2023. The document was signed by the general director of Roskosmos state corporation Igor Komarov and the deputy head of the Chinese national space administration Y. Yanhua.

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Russians Lose Contact With Newly Launched Satellite

UPDATE: TASS reports that controllers have re-established contact with the spacecraft and are receiving telemetry. The report offers no further details at this time.

Russian officials say they have lost contact with the Angosat-1 communications satellite, which was launched from the Baikonur  Cosmodrome on Tuesday aboard a Zenit 2SB booster.

“Contact has temporarily been lost,” the source told AFP, adding specialists were now looking into the matter.

The source said officials had stopped receiving “telemetry data” but called it a “rather common situation” and expressed the hope that contact would be re-established.

The reason for the loss of contact was not immediately clear.

The Russian space agency Roscosmos said the Zenit booster performed as planned, deploying Angola’s first communications satellite into its intended orbit. Contact was lost after the spacecraft separated from the booster’s upper stage.

The spacecraft is a joint $280 million project between Angola and Russia that was funded with credit from Russian banks. The spacecraft was built by Russia’s RSC Energia. Fifty Angolans were trained to operate and maintain Angosat-1 from a control center outside Luanda.

New Crew Arrives at International Space Station

The newly-expanded Expedition 54 crew gathers in the Zvezda service module for ceremonial congratulations from family and mission officials. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Scott Tingle, Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency joined Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos and crewmates Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA aboard the International Space Station when the hatches between the Soyuz spacecraft and the orbiting laboratory officially opened at 5:55 a.m. EST. The welcoming ceremony will begin shortly.

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New Crew Launched to International Space Station

The Soyuz MS-07 rocket is launched with Expedition 54 Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Scott Tingle of NASA, and flight engineer Norishige Kanai of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Shkaplerov, Tingle, and Kanai will spend the next five months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Three crew members representing the United States, Russia and Japan are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2:21 a.m. EST Sunday (1:21 p.m. Baikonur time).

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New Crew Set to Launch to ISS on Sunday

The Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — On Sunday, Dec. 17, Scott Tingle of NASA, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will launch at 2:21 a.m. (1:21 p.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Coverage of Expedition 54 launch and docking activities is as follows:

Sunday, Dec. 17

  • 1:15 a.m. – Soyuz MS-07 launch coverage (launch at 2:21 a.m.)

Tuesday, Dec. 19

  • 3 a.m. – Docking coverage (docking scheduled for 3:42 a.m.)
  • 5 a.m. – Hatch opening and welcome coverage

NASA TV will air a full complement of video of the crew’s pre-launch activities in Baikonur in the days preceding launch.

The six crew members of Expedition 54 will continue work on the hundreds of experiments conducted off the Earth, for the Earth. This crew continues the long-term increase in U.S. crew size from three to four, allowing NASA to maximize time dedicated to research on the space station.

Get breaking news, images and features from the station on Instagram and Twitter at:

https://instagram.com/iss

and

https://www.twitter.com/Space_Station 

NASA Astronaut Bresnik & Crew Mates Return to Earth From Space Station

NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik is helped out of the Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft just minutes after he, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Paolo Nespoli, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy, landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Three crew members who have been living and working aboard the International Space Station returned to Earth on Thursday, landing in Kazakhstan after opening a new chapter in the scientific capability of humanity’s premier microgravity laboratory.

Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA and Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos landed at 3:37 a.m. EST (2:37 p.m. Kazakhstan time) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

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You’ll Never Guess Who Space Adventures Planned to Send Around the Moon

Space Adventures vehicle for circumlunar flights. (Credit: Space Adventures)

by Douglas Messier
Local Blogger

It’s been one of the most intriguing on-the-books-but-never-executed space missions of the 21st century: two tourists paying $150 million each would fly around the moon in a modified Russian Soyuz spacecraft before landing back on Earth. It would be humanity’s first trip to the moon since Apollo 17, which landed there 45 years ago this month.

Space Adventures said it had signed two wealthy tourists to go years ago. There was much speculation about the identities of these individuals.  Was it Google Founder Sergey Brin? Titanic director James Cameron? Brin and Cameron? Cameron and a seat full of camera equipment?

The answer is none of the above. One prospective lunar tourist is someone few people have ever heard of. The other is a well known figure in the space community who was hiding in plain sight. The reason they didn’t fly to the moon together might surprise you.

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UAE Launches Call for Astronaut Candidates

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has launched a call for astronauts candidates which it says will fly to the International Space Station (ISS) within the next five years.

The astronauts will visit the ISS “to carry out vital experiments and work that will contribute to the scientific community’s understanding of human space flight to meet future challenges, such as a manned mission to Mars,” according to the astronaut application website.

Astronaut candidates will go through basic training in 2019 and 2020 and then proceed to advanced training in 2020 to 2021 followed by assignment to a spaceflight.

UAE and the Russian space agency Roscosmos are negotiating to send UAE astronauts to the space station aboard Soyuz spacecraft, a Russian official recently confirmed. It is not clear whether the UAE has approached or will approach Boeing and SpaceX about flying astronauts on the companies’ commercial crew vehicles.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) is managing the astronaut selection process.

The UAE has increased investment in space in recent years. The nation is launching an orbiter to Mars and is planning to build a simulated Mars city in the desert where scientific work and experiments can be carried out.

Russia Launches Soyuz Booster from Plesetsk

Russia successfully launched a Lotos electronic intelligence spy satellite aboard a Soyuz-2.1b booster on Saturday from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

The flight came four days after the failure of a similar Soyuz-2.1b launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome. The launch from Plesetsk did not use the Fregat upper stage blamed for the failure on Tuesday.

Officials believe the Fregat upper stage was not properly programmed for a launch from Vostochny. The programming error caused the Fregat to send a Russian weather satellite and 18 secondary payloads into the Atlantic Ocean.

Russian Rocket Mishap: The Gang That Can’t Launch Straight?

Soyuz rocket blasts off from Vostochny on Nov. 28, 2017. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Anatoly Zak has some intel on what investigators think might have caused the failure of a Soyuz launch on Tuesday. And it is just unfraking believable if it’s true.

Although the information is still preliminary, it is increasingly clear that all the hardware aboard the Fregat upper stage performed as planned. But, almost unbelievably, the flight control system on the Fregat did not have the correct settings for the mission originating from the new launch site in Vostochny, as apposed to routine launches from Baikonur and Plesetsk.

As a result, as soon as Fregat and its cargo separated from the third stage of the launch vehicle, its flight control system began commanding a change of orientation of the stack to compensate for what the computer had perceived as a deviation from the correct attitude, which was considerable. As a result, when the Fregat began its first preprogrammed main engine firing, the vehicle was apparently still changing its attitude, which led to a maneuvering in a wrong direction.

Again, it must be stressed: it’s still early in the investigation, so there might be a less unbelievable explanation for this accident, which destroyed a Russian weather satellite and 18 smaller secondary payloads.

In the string of Russian launch failures dating back to 2009, there have been some real forehead slapping mistakes made. Like the time the Proton rocket arched back toward the spaceport immediately after launch because orientation sensors had been installed upside down. And when an upper stage was filled with too much fuel, resulting in three satellites being launched into the Pacific instead of Earth orbit. This one, if true, might be even worse than those two mistakes.

Roscosmos has appointed a commission to investigate the accident headed by Oleg Skorobogatov, deputy general director of FSUE TsNIIMash. The deputy head of the commission is Alexander Medvedev, who is deputy general director of FSUE TsNIIMash. The commission plans to wrap up its work by Dec. 15.

Russia has four more launches set for the rest of the year, two of which use the Fregat upper stage. It’s not clear how the failure will affect the schedule.