Failures Continue to Haunt the Russian Space Program

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

The Soviet & Russian space programs have traditionally had a high launch rate, which also resulted in a fair number of partial and complete failures. For the past 30 years, the program has experienced 61 incidents or an average of about two per year. The current string of annual failures stretches back to 2004.

The chart below chronicles the partial and complete failures experienced over the last three decades. (Note: Some of the incidents involve Zenit boosters produced by former Soviet factories in Ukraine. These rockets usually fly with Russian-produced upper stages. Dnepr was also a joint program with Ukraine.)

SOVIET-RUSSIAN LAUNCH FAILURES, 1988 – 2018
NO.DATE LAUNCH VEHICLE
PAYLOAD(S)
RESULTCAUSE
1January 18, 1988Proton-K Blok-DM-2Gorizont 25LFailureThird stage failure due to disintegration of propellant feed line
2February 17, 1988Proton-K Blok-DM-2Uragan #23, Uragan #24, Uragan #25Partial FailureBlok D failure caused by ingestion of debris
3July 09, 1988Soyuz-UYantar-4KS1 #10Failure
4July 27, 1988Soyuz-UResurs-F1FailureFirst stage engine failure.
5November 11, 1988Soyuz-UYantar-4KS1 #11Failure
6June 9, 1989Tsiklon-3Okean-O1 #4Failure
7April 3, 1990Soyuz-UYantar-4K2 #51Failure
8June 21, 1990Molniya-M (Blok-2BL)Kosmos 2084Partial FailurePlaced in an incorrect orbit. Satellite did not communicate with ground
9July 3, 1990Soyuz-UYantar-4K2 #53Failure
10.August 9, 1990Proton-K Blok-DM-2Ekran-M 14LFailureThird stage lost thrust due to a cleaning rag inside propellant feed system
11October 4, 1990Zenit-2Tselina-2 #8FailureFirst stage engine failure five seconds after launch.
12June 25, 1991Kosmos-3MTaifun-2 #26FailureSecond stage malfunction
13August 30, 1991Zenit-2Tselina-2 #9FailureSecond stage explosion
14February 5, 1992Zenit-2Tselina-2 #10FailureSecond stage failure
15May 27, 1993Proton-K Blok-DM-2Gorizont 39LFailureThird stage failure
16May 25, 1994Tsiklon-3Tselina-D #69FailureSoftware error prevented third stage separation
17March 28, 1995StartGurwin 1, EKV, OSCAR 29FailureFailed to orbit, crashed into the Sea of Okhotsk
18October 6, 1995Kosmos-3MKosmos 2321 (Parus #84)Partial FailureSecond stage malfunction, placed in useless orbit
19February 19, 1996Proton-K Blok-DM-2Raduga 33Partial FailureBlok-DM-2 upper stage failed to restart to circularize orbit
20May 14, 1996Soyuz-UYantar-1KFT #18FailurePayload fairing disintegrated in flight
21June 20, 1996Soyuz-UYantar-4K2 #76FailurePayload fairing disintegrated in flight
22November 16, 1996Proton-K Blok-D-2Mars ’96Partial FailureProbe re-entered atmosphere after fourth stage failure
23May 20, 1997Zenit-2Tselina-2 #19FailureFirst stage failure
24December 24, 1997Proton-K Blok-DM3AsiaSat 3Partial FailureFourth stage malfunction prevented satellite from reaching geosynchronous orbit; salvaged with lunar flyby
25June 15, 1998Tsiklon-3Strela-3 #119, Strela-3 #120, Strela-3 #121, Strela-3 #122, Strela-3 #123, Strela-3 #124Partial FailureThird stage malfunction left satellites in unintended elliptical orbit
26September 09, 1998Zenit-2Globalstar 5, Globalstar 7, Globalstar 9, Globalstar 10, Globalstar 11, Globalstar 12, Globalstar 13, Globalstar 16, Globalstar 17, Globalstar 18, Globalstar 20, Globalstar 21FailureSecond stage shut down after guidance system failed
27July 05, 1999Proton-K Briz-MRaduga (34) (Gran 45L)FailureSecond stage failure
28October 27, 1999Proton-K Blok-DM-2MEkspress-A 1FailureSecond stage failure
29December 24, 1999Rokot-KRVSN 40FailureStage-separation fired before launch
30November 20, 2000Kosmos-3MQuickBird 1 (QB 1)FailureSecond stage failed to ignite
31December 27, 2000Tsiklon-3Gonets 7, Gonets 8, Gonets 9, Strela-3 #125, Strela-3 #126, Strela-3 #127FailureThird stage failure
32October 15, 2002Soyuz-UFoton-M 1FailureFirst stage exploded seconds after launch
33November 25, 2002Proton-K Blok-DM3Astra 1KFailureBlok-DM3 left satellite in unusable orbit; spacecraft de-orbited 15 days after launch
34Dec. 24, 2004Tsiklon-3Sich 1M, Micron 1Partial FailureBooster failed to circularize orbit
35June 21, 2005Molniya-M Blok-MLMolniya-3KFailureThird stage failure
36June 21, 2005Volna-OCosmos 1FailureCosmos Studios/The Planetary Society solar sail satellite failed to separate from booster third stage
37August 10, 2005Rokot Briz-KMCryosatFailureSecond stage failure; crashed in Arctic Ocean north of Greenland
38February 28, 2006Proton-M Briz-MArabsat 4A (Badr 1)FailureFailed to reach usable orbit; de-orbited 24 days after launch
39July 26, 2006DneprBelKa 1, Baumanets 1, Unisat 4, PicPot, CP 1, CP 2, HAUSAT 1, ICECube 1, ICECube 2, ION, KUTESat-Pathfinder, Mea Huaka’i, MEROPE, Ncube 1, Rincon 1, SACRED SEEDS, AeroCube 1FailureEngine failure
40Sept. 5, 2007Proton-M/Briz-MJCSat 11FailureSecond stage failure; booster and payload crashed in Kazakhstan
41March 14, 2008Proton-M/Briz-MAMC 14Partial FailureBriz-M upper stage shut down 2 minutes early. Owner SES Americom declared satellite a complete loss. AMC 14 sold to US Department of Defense which manuevered into geosynchronous orbit using on-board thrusters.
42May 21, 2009Soyuz-2.1a/ FregatMeridian 2FailureSecond stage shut down early, Fregat upper stage ran out of fuel trying to compensate. Satellite left in useless orbit, declared a loss by Russian military.
43Dec. 5, 2010Proton-M/ Blok-DM-3Uragan-M #739, Uragan-M #740, Uragan-M #741FailureRocket failed to reach orbital velocity after upper stage overfilled with propellant.
44Feb. 1, 2011Rokot/Briz-KMGeo-IK-2 No. 11FailureUpper stage malfunction.
45Aug. 17, 2011Proton-M/ Briz-MEkspress AM4
FailureBriz-M upper stage suffered failure of attitude control.
46Aug. 24, 2011Soyuz-UProgress M-12FailureThird stage failure due to turbo-pump duct blockage.
47Nov. 8, 2011Zenit-2SB/ FregatPhobos-Grunt
Yinghuo-1
FailureZenit placed Phobos-Grunt in proper orbit. Spacecraft stranded in Earth orbit after Fregat failed to fire.
48Dec. 23, 2011Soyuz-2.1b/ FregatMeridian 5FailureThird stage failure.
49Aug. 6, 2012Proton-M/ Briz-MTelkom-3, Ekspress MD2FailureBriz-M upper stage failed 7 seconds into its third burn.
50Dec. 8, 2012Proton-M/ Briz-MYamal-402Partial FailureBriz-M upper stage shut down 4 minutes earlier than planned on fourth burn. Spacecraft reached intended orbit under own power.
51Jan. 15, 2013Rokot/Briz-KMKosmos 2482, Kosmos 2483, Kosmos 2484Partial FailureUpper stage failed near time of spacecraft separation; one satellite destroyed.
52Feb. 1, 2013Zenit-3SL (Sea Launch)
Intelsat 27FailureFirst stage failure.
53July 2, 2013Proton-M/DM-03Uragan-M #748, Uragan-M #749,
Uragan-M #750
FailureFirst stage failure.
54May 15, 2014Proton-M/Briz-MEkspress AM4RFailureProton third stage vernier engine failure due to turbo-pump leak.
55Aug. 14, 2014Soyuz-STB/ FregatGalileo FOC-1, Galileo FOC-2Partial FailureSatellites placed in wrong orbits due to freezing of hydrazine in Fregat upper stage. Satellites made operational as part of Europe’s Galileo navigation constellation.
56April 28, 2015Soyuz-2.1aProgress 59PFailureThird stage failure left Progress in uncontrollable tumble.
57May 16, 2015Proton/Briz-MMexSat-1FailureThird stage failure anomaly.
58December 5, 2015Soyuz-2.1v/ VolgaKanopus ST
KYuA 1
Partial FailurePrimary payload Kanopus ST remained attached to upper stage, later burned up in atmosphere. Secondary payload KYuA 1 deployed successfully.
59December 1, 2016Soyuz UProgress MS-04FailureThird stage failure. Progress supply ship burned up in atmosphere.
60November 28, 2017Soyuz 2-1bMeteor-M 2-1, 18 CubeSatsFailureFregat upper stage failure.
61October 11, 2018Soyuz FGSoyuz MS-10FailureLaunch anomaly resulted in emergency landing for two-member crew

Rogozin Accuses Musk of Price Dumping

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

Although praising Elon Musk as “a talented engineer and an outstanding promoter,” Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin last week accused the American billionaire of selling launch vehicles at below-market prices in order to squeeze out Russian providers.

“If you compare the price Musk sells his rockets to Pentagon at and the price he quotes for them on the market, you will see that this is nothing but pure dumping. In order to drive Russia from the market he sells launches at 40 to 60 million dollars while being paid 150 million for a launch by Pentagon,” he told Russia’s TV Channel One.

SpaceX officials have said that U.S. government launches require additional tasks that drive up the cost.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Glavkosmos Launch Services announced last week that it charges $48.5 million for a Soyuz 2.1 booster with a Fregat upper stage. A launch without the Fregat is priced at $35 million.

Both prices are below the amount SpaceX charges for satellite launches. The Falcon 9 is capable of orbiting larger payloads than the Soyuz 2.

Russia Expresses Lunar Gateway Doubts, Ponders Joint Lunar Surface Base with China

The space station formerly known as the Deep Space Gateway (Credit: NASA)

Russian officials are expressing doubts about the American-led Lunar Gateway — which would orbit the moon — while deepening cooperation with China on deep-space exploration projects that could include a crewed base on the surface of Earth’s closest neighbor.

SpaceNews reports that Dmitri Loskutov, head of Roscosmos’ international cooperation department, laid out a series of concerns during a panel discussion last week at the International Astronautical Congress in Bremen, Germany.

“For the moment, it looks like it is an American program with international participation,” he said. “How will this cooperation be managed? Will there be some sort of international administrative body? Will its principles remain those that are now valid for the International Space Station, in terms of consensus in decision-making?”

“For the moment, all the decisions are made by NASA. It seems U.S. standards will be imposed,” he said. “For Roscosmos and the Russian Federation, limited participation is not that interesting.”

Loskutov’s boss, Roscosmos CEO Dmitry Rogozin, was in China the week before for joint discussions on a range of cooperative projects.

“As a result of the meeting, a Protocol was signed, according to which the Parties will take further steps to bring their positions closer within the framework of implementing joint projects on launch vehicles and rocket engines, on exploration of the Moon and deep space, remote sensing of the Earth, satellite navigation, creation of an electronic component base for space purposes, low-orbit mobile communication system and space debris monitoring,” according to a Roscosmos press release.

Tass quoted Rogozin as saying the project could include a base on the lunar surface.

“China is a serious partner. I don’t rule out that as soon as we agree the outlines of our lunar program with the Americans, it is our manned lunar program, the formation of a research station on Moon’s surface is likely to be carried out with our Chinese partners. They can be equal partners already in the coming years,” he told Russia’s TV Channel One.

Space Station Crew Returns Safely to Earth

Three members of the Expedition 56 crew, NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, returned to Earth after months abroad the International Space Station and landed safely at 7:44 a.m. EDT (5:44 p.m. in Kazakhstan) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan. (Credits: NASA)

DZHEZKAZGAN, Kazakhstan. (NASA PR) — Three members of the Expedition 56 crew returned safely to Earth Thursday from the International Space Station, where they spent months providing hands-on support for scientific research in low-Earth orbit, working to keep the orbiting laboratory fully operational, and performing three spacewalks.

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NASA Statement on International Space Station Leak Investigation

International Space Station (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Below is NASA’s statement about the International Space Station Leak Investigation:

On Aug. 29, 2018 a small hole was discovered on the International Space Station. This resulted in a pressure leak. The hole has been identified and fixed by space station crew.

Russian media recently reported that General Director Rogozin said the hole was not a manufacturing defect. Ruling out a manufacturing defect indicates that this is an isolated issue which does not categorically affect future production.

This conclusion does not necessarily mean the hole was created intentionally or with mal-intent. NASA and Roscosmos are both investigating the incident to determine the cause. The International Space Station Program is tentatively planning a spacewalk in November to gather more information.

On October 11, American Astronaut Nick Hague and Russian Cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin will launch to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Administrator Bridenstine is scheduled to attend the launch and plans to meet with Mr. Rogozin. This will be their first in-person meeting. They had a telephone call on September 12 during which they discussed the International Space Station leak.

For more information about the ISS, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/station

Russia, India Negotiate on Human Spaceflight Cooperation

Translated from Russian using Google Translate

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — On September 25, 2018, the delegation of the Roskosmos State Corporation headed by Dmitry Rogozin met with representatives of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

The main topics of negotiations between the two space organizations were: joint work within the framework of manned space programs, where the Russian side is ready to offer its significant achievements and partnership, as well as possible joint initiatives in the areas of satellite navigation.

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Rogozin: Russia Won’t Play Second Fiddle on Lunar Gateway

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

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin does not appear to be a fan of the planned Lunar Gateway.

During his meeting with young people, Rogozin said that a lunar program was the peak of the world space powers’ scientific efforts.

“The United States is developing their program called Deep Space Gateway. They have been suggesting our participation in that program, but believe it is theirs,” Rogozin said. “It is such a great American national program but everybody must take part in it.”

Rogozin said he did not like the idea “very much”, since “Russia simply cannot afford to take a back seat in foreign projects” and added that Russia was developing “its own transport system.”

The remarks caused some consternation that Russia was going to pull out of the NASA-led international venture. Roscosmos Spokesman Vladimir Ustimenko denied the report, saying talks remain underway on Russia’s participation in the project.

ExoMars Highlights Radiation Risk for Mars Astronauts

ExoMars orbiter and rover (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

BERLIN, Germany (ESA PR) — Astronauts on a mission to Mars would be exposed to at least 60% of the total radiation dose limit recommended for their career during the journey itself to and from the Red Planet, according to data from the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter being presented at the European Planetary Science Congress, EPSC, in Berlin, Germany, this week.

The orbiter’s camera team are also presenting new images of Mars during the meeting. They will also highlight the challenges faced from the recent dust storm that engulfed the entire planet, preventing high-quality imaging of the surface.
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Robotic Systems to Help Astronauts

Testing of Russian space robot. (Credit: Roscomos)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Interplanetary expeditions of the near future put forward new requirements to the safety and effectiveness of the participants in space flights. That is why the use of robotic systems (RTS) both on board spacecraft and when carrying out “on-plan” activity of crews is among the promising areas of manned programs.

Testing of Russian space robot. (Credit: Roscomos)

From 10 to 19 September 2018 on the basis of the scientific management of the Cosmonaut Training Center. Yu.A. Gagarin passed the acceptance tests of the universal computer stand (UCS) of robotic systems with the participation of specialists from the CPC and JSC “NPO” Androidnaya Tekhnika “.

UTS RTS, created on the basis of a single set of software and hardware tools for modeling and visualizing virtual interactive 3D robot models and their external environment, is successfully mastered by the Center’s specialists for further application in training cosmonauts. The stand will be used for carrying out ergonomic studies and working out the interaction of participants of long expeditions with various RTS space applications.

Testing of Russian space robot. (Credit: Roscomos)

In the implementation of promising interplanetary flight programs associated with the colonization of the Moon and Mars, anthropomorphic robotic systems will become reliable assistants to cosmonauts.

Report: Hole in Soyuz Spacecraft Caused by Drill, Not Debris Strike

Soyuz TM spacecraft in orbit

A story in the normally authoritative RIA Novosti website says that the leak in the orbital module of a Soyuz transport docked to the International Space Station was caused by a worker who mistakenly drilled a hole through the hull during production, not by a debris strike as originally believed.

The story says the worker patched the hole with glue. However, the glue was apparently sucked out into the vacuum of space, causing a small leak that lowered the atmospheric pressure on the space station that houses six people.

Astronauts aboard the station have patched the leak. The astronauts were never in any danger from the slow leak.

Russian officials have vowed to find the RSC Energia worker responsible for the mistake.

ISS Crew Repairs Small Pressure Leak in Soyuz

Soyuz TM spacecraft in orbit

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The International Space Station’s cabin pressure is holding steady after the Expedition 56 crew conducted repair work on one of two Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the complex. The repair was made to address a leak that had caused a minor reduction of station pressure.

After a morning of investigations, the crew reported that the leak was isolated to a hole about two millimeters in diameter in the orbital compartment, or upper section, of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft attached to the Rassvet module of the Russian segment of the station.

Flight controllers at their respective Mission Control centers in Houston and Moscow worked together with the crew to effect a repair option in which Soyuz commander Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos used epoxy on a gauze wipe to plug the hole identified as the leak source. As the teams were discussing options, flight controllers in Moscow performed a partial increase of the station’s atmosphere using the ISS Progress 70 cargo ship’s oxygen supply. Flight controllers in Houston are continuing to monitor station’s cabin pressure in the wake of the repair.

Meanwhile, Roscosmos has convened a commission to conduct further analysis of the possible cause of the leak.

Throughout the day, the crew was never in any danger, and was told no further action was contemplated for the remainder of the day. Flight controllers will monitor the pressure trends overnight.

All station systems are stable and the crew is planning to return to its regular schedule of work on Friday.

Russians to Launch Long-Delayed Module to Space Station Next Year

Multifunctional Laboratory Module (Credit: Khrunichev)

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin has announced a new launch date — November 2019 — for the launch of its long-delayed Nauka multi-functional module to the International Space Station. Whether this new date will hold is anyone’s guess; the module’s launch will be a dozen years behind schedule by that point.

Nauka will serve as a scientific laboratory as well as a rest area for Russian astronauts aboard the space station. The module will include an airlock for experiments, crew quarters, a galley and a toilet. Nauka also includes a docking port for Soyuz and Progress spacecraft and a European-supplied robotic arm.

Construction of the Nauka module began in 1995. It was originally a backup for the Zarya module, which was the first element of space station launched in November 1998.

With Nauka no longer needed to back up Zarya, plans were made to convert it to a multi-purpose module with a launch scheduled for 2007. However, technical problems repeatedly delayed the launch.

In 2013, RSC Energia engineers found a leaking valve and contamination in Nauka’s fuel system.  The module was shipped back to Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center for repairs and cleaning.

The following year, Russian officials announced that Nauka would be further delayed because it needed a new propulsion system. The propulsion unit installed on the module had exceeded its warranty.

Russian to Spend Decade, $25 Billion on Super Heavy Launch Vehicle

Ergonomic testing has been conducted for the new Federation spacecraft. (Credit: RSC Energia)

Russia is moving ahead with a decade-long, $25 billion (1.6 trillion ruble) program to create new super-heavy launch vehicles capable of lifting up to 100 metric tons into low Earth orbit (LEO), Tass reports.

The new boosters, known as Energia-3 and Energia-5, will incorporate technologies and elements of the Soyuz-5 medium-class rocket, which is now under development.

Soyuz-5 is designed to launch Russia’s new crewed spacecraft, Federatsiya (Federation), into Earth orbit. The Energia rockets will be used for lunar missions.

RSC Energia, which is developing the boosters, plans to test the Soyuz-5 rocket from 2022-25. The super-heavy booster would then be tested from 2028-2035 from the Vostochny Cosmodrome.

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Rogozin Accuses Musk of Dumping Below-Cost Boosters on Market

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin says Russia is working on a reusable launch vehicle that would land back on the runway and accused the U.S. government of letting Elon Musk’s SpaceX of dumping below-cost boosters on the international market to kill competition.

The new heavy Soyuz-5 rocket, currently developed by Russia, must become more powerful yet remain cheaper than the products supplied by the competitors, the recently-elected head of the Russian space corporation told TASS in an extensive interview on Thursday.

While Moscow is looking into adding reusable elements to the Soyuz-5 to further lower launch costs, reusability is not a universal solution to achieve this goal, Rogozin believes. Musk’s SpaceX, which is currently the only company to have launched reusable rockets commercially, manages to cut the costs by other means, the Russian space boss pointed out.

“Musk’s advantage is not the reusability but that the US government gives him opportunities for dumping [prices] on the market. Musk sells his launches twofold to the Pentagon, covering his losses on the commercial market and killing competitors, who lack such a generous state behind them,” Rogozin said.

Due to its geography, Russia is largely unable to make Falcon-style reusable boosters that would make vertical powered descent to a movable platform at sea, and so it has to follow an alternate path sticking to horizontal landings or relying on parachutes, he said.