NASA Looks to Procure More Soyuz Seats Amid Commercial Crew Uncertainty

Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft docking at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Amid uncertainty about the Commercial Crew schedule, NASA has issued a pre-solitication procurement notice to secure additional rides with the Russians for its astronauts.

“NASA is considering contracting with the State Space Corporation ‘Roscosmos’ for these services on a sole source basis for two (2) Soyuz seats and associated services to the International Space Station (ISS) on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft vehicle. This transportation would be for one crewmember in the Fall of 2019 and one crew member in the Spring of 2020,” the agency said in the Feb. 13 notice.

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Virgin Galactic Pilots Join 80.46-Kilometer (50-Mile) Club

Richard Branson with the pilots of SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic pilots Mark “Forger” Stucky and Frederick “C.J.” Sturckow, who were awarded civilian astronaut wings last week, are among 18 pilots who have flown suborbital flights.

The two pilots flew SpaceShipTwo Unity to an altitude of 51.4 miles (82.72 km) on Dec. 13, 2018. That accomplishment qualified them for civilian astronaut wings using an American definition that places the boundary of space at 50 miles (80.46 km).

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Rogozin Promises Vladimir Putin to Double Launches to 45 This Year

At the meeting with General Director of the Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: Russian President’s Office)

MOSCOW (President Putin PR) — Vladimir Putin had a meeting with General Director of the Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities Dmitry Rogozin to discuss the performance and development plans for the space industry.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Rogozin, let us discuss the space industry’s performance last year and development plans.

General Director of the Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities Dmitry Rogozin: Mr President,

We were working to improve our performance in three fields. The first had to do with the choice of our development priorities. The second concerned the reduction of non-manufacturing expenses by at least 15 percent and increasing the corporation’s revenue by adopting new competences and entering new markets, about which I would like to speak later. We also needed to dramatically improve production discipline at the corporation and all the subordinate agencies. I have introduced a system of the officials’ personal responsibility for budget execution and have taken measures to reduce the corporation’s budget.

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Medvedev: Roscosmos Needs Less Talk, More Action

RT reports that Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev sharply criticized Roscomos and its leader, Dmitry Rogozin, duiring a meeting earlier this week.

“We should stop the project-mongering, quit blabbing about where we’ll fly to in 2030, we should work, talk less and do more,” Medvedev said on Wednesday during a meeting with the top executives of the Russian state-owned space corporation Roscosmos.

The agency was also tasked with fixing its “financial discipline” within a month, and urged to use the Ministry of Defense’s experience in this area as an example. The construction of the Vostochniy Cosmodrome remains the main issue, as it’s been marred by corruption scandals and is well behind schedule. The ultimate goal is to make the Russian space industry financially viable and lucrative, as its “competitors” are already there, Medvedev stated.

The remarks appeared to personally targeted the director of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, who attended the gathering as well. The veteran politician became the chief of Roscosmos last May. Before that, he served as deputy prime minister, overseeing the defense and space industries.

Rogozin is well known for groundbreaking statements on ambitious projects that refer to the distant future. Last November, for example, he unveiled an ambitious plan to establish a permanent base on the moon, which will be staffed by a type of sophisticated “avatar robot.” Such a base is expected to go online in the early 2030s, according to Rogozin.

ISS Crew Studies Space-Caused Eye Pressure and Cultural Differences

The official Expedition crew portrait with (from left) NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and astronaut David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency. (Credit: NASA)

January 17, 2018

The Expedition 58 crew focused again today on studying head and eye pressure changes astronauts experience while living in space. The crew then went on to more science hardware and life support maintenance aboard the International Space Station.

Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques worked throughout Thursday morning researching the upward flow of fluids that occurs inside astronauts’ bodies. The duo conducted eye scans with a variety of devices to measure eye pressure changes caused by these fluid shifts in microgravity.

McClain then spent the afternoon connecting cables and installing parts on the Multi-Purpose Small Payload Rack (MSPR) that houses small experiments in the Kibo lab module. Saint-Jacques replaced electronics gear in the Kubik incubator that enables research on seeds, cells and small animals in the Columbus lab module.

Commander Oleg Kononenko ensured the upkeep of life support gear and other station systems in the Russian segment of the orbital lab. The veteran cosmonaut of three previous Expeditions ended the day exploring how station crew members from around the world interact and learn to live together in space.

Planned Rogozin Visit to U.S. Draws Ire in Washington

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

Politico reports that plans to have Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin to visit the United States to consult with NASA officials and tour American space facilities is not going over very well with some in Washington. The trip would require the government to lift sanctions on the Russian leader, who is currently banned from visiting the United States.

Yet lawmakers from both parties and former national security officials are crying foul, saying the invitation undermines U.S. sanctions and would give a government-approved platform to an anti-American bigot.

“It absolutely sends the wrong message to lift sanctions, even temporarily, for the purpose of inviting him to speak to students at one of our nation’s premier universities,” said Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a leader of the committee’s investigation into 2016 Russian election interference.

“This is appalling,” said Evelyn Farkas, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia in the Obama administration. “It’s utterly inappropriate given who he is and the fact that he is on our sanctions list.”

In an email, [NASA spokeswoman Megan] Powers also defended Bridenstine’s invitation.

“The U.S. / Russian relationship in space dates back to the 1970s,” she wrote. “NASA has historically invited the head of the Russian space agency to visit the United States. Following this precedent, and Administrator Bridenstine’s October visit to Russia to participate in crew launch activities to the International Space Station, NASA invited the Director-General of Roscosmos to visit NASA facilities in the United States and discuss our ongoing space-related cooperation.”

Kanopus-B ERS Satellites Deployed to Operational Orbit

Soyuz launch from Vostochny Cosmodrome on Dec. 27, 2018. (Credit: Roscosmos)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Today, on 27 December 2018, at 5:07 am Moscow time, Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket with Fregat booster and Earth remote sensing (ERS) satellite vehicles №5 and №6 of the Kanopus-B series was successfully launched from the launch pad of the Vostochny Cosmodrome.

In accordance with the launch sequence, following two impulses of the service propulsion system of Fregat booster, satellite vehicle Kanopus-B №5 and satellite vehicle Kanopus-B №6 were routinely detached from the booster at 6:06 am and 6:12 am Moscow time respectively.

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Russia First to Print Living Tissue in Space

Oleg Kononenko using the 3D bio-printer aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: Roscosmos)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — INVITRO, a leading medical company, and 3D Bioprinting Solutions biotechnology laboratory announced a successful completion of the first stage of the Magnetic 3D Bioprinter space experiment. On December 3, 2018, the Organaut bioprinter was delivered to the ISS on board the Soyuz MS-11 manned spacecraft. For the first time on orbit, cosmonaut-researcher Oleg Kononenko printed human cartilage tissue and a rodent thyroid gland using a Russian bioprinter.

The Organaut was already aboard the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft on October 11, 2018, but its crew returned to Earth 20 minutes later after an emergency situation. The bioprinter landed in the habitation module and was significantly damaged by overload. The backup was prepared and the crew’s repeated training was organized in the shortest possible time.

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Russia Finished 2018 by Launching 28 Satellites From Vostochny

VOSTOCHNY COSMODROME, Russia (Roscosmos PR) — Today, on 27 December 2018, at 5:07am Moscow time, Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket with Fregat booster and Earth remote sensing (ERS) satellite vehicles №5 and №6 of the Kanopus-B series, as well as 26 hosted payload space vehicles, was successfully launched from the launch pad of the Vostochny Cosmodrome.

In accordance with the launch sequence, following two impulses of Fregat booster’s service propulsion system, satellite vehicle Kanopus-B №5 and satellite vehicle Kanopus-B №6 were routinely detached from the booster at 6:06 am and 6:12 am Moscow time respectively.

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NASA TV to Air International Space Station Crew Landing

The three Expedition 57 crew members are gathered inside the cupola, the International Space Station’s “window to the world,” for a portrait wearing t-shirts displaying their home in space. From left are Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos, Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA and Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency). The space station was orbiting nearly 253 miles above the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Three residents of the International Space Station, including one NASA astronaut, are scheduled to wrap up their stay aboard the orbital laboratory Wednesday, Dec. 19. Live coverage of their return to Earth will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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India Approves Cooperation with Russia on Human Spaceflight

Capsule descending under parachute (Credit: ISRO)

India’s union cabinet last week approved a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that covers cooperation on human spaceflight with Russia.

India and Russia will strengthen cooperation in space programmes, including manned space missions, under a memorandum of understanding signed between the two countries in October.

The MoU will provide an impetus for development of technologies and advanced systems required for the human space flight programmes, such as radiation shielding, life support systems, crew module, rendezvous and docking systems, space suit, training for astronauts etc.

The MoU will lead to a joint activity in the field of application of space technologies for the benefit of humanity. It will also help in the setting up of a joint working group, which will further work out the plan of action, including the time-frame and the means of implementing the provisions of the agreement.

International Space Station Construction Began 20 Years Ago

Left: Launch of the Zarya Functional Cargo Block from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Right: Launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour from the Kennedy Space Center on the STS-88 mission to deliver the Unity Node 1 module. (Credit: NASA, Roscosmos)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The largest and most complex international construction project in space began on the steppes of Kazakhstan 20 years ago today. Atop its Proton rocket, on Nov. 20, 1998, the Zarya Functional Cargo Block (FGB) thundered off its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome into cold wintry skies. Zarya was built by the Khrunichev in Moscow and served as a temporary control module for the nascent ISS.

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Progress & Cygnus Supply Ships Arrive at Space Station

Cygnus berthed at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA & Roscomos PRs) — Traveling about 252 miles over Algeria, the unpiloted Russian Progress MS-10 cargo ship docked on Sunday at 2:28 p.m. EST to the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module on the Russian segment of the International Space Station.

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Russia to Deliver Magnetic 3-D Bioprinter to Space Station

Russia plans to deliver a magnetic 3-D bioprinter capable of growing living tissues and eventually organs.to the International Space Station (ISS) next month, TASS reports.

The Organ-Avt bioprinter, built by 3D Bioprinting Solutions, is a copy of one that was lost in the abort of the Soyuz MS-10 mission on Oct. 11. Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Nick Hague parachuted to safety after a malfunction of their Soyuz-FG booster.

The bioprinter, which also can be used to used to study the effects on living organisms during long-duration spaceflights. will be carried to ISS aboard the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft. The spacecraft is set to lift off from the Baiknour Cosmodrome on Dec. 3 with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, American astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques aboard.

“Mutually Respectful Cooperation” Needed for Human Moon Missions, Rogozin Says

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

Roscomos State Space Corporation Director General Dmitry Rogozin said an international effort based on parity and “mutually respectful cooperation is needed to send humans back to the moon, TASS reports.

If the United States is unable to work on that basis, Russia will cooperate with other international partners, he added.

Rogozin added that Russia should be able to develop a system for human lunar flights by 2024.

“Today the Russian Federation has the sole space transport system so far. We have carrier rockets and manned spacecraft. Ballistics specialists of the Energia Rocket and Space Corporation have made calculations of our possibilities. In about 6-7 years, we will be able, using already the Angara-A5 rocket, in case that it blasts off from the Vostochny spaceport beginning from 2023-2024, we will be able, even using the current manned spacecraft, to ensure the permanently operating transport system capable of reaching the Moon and working in the lunar orbit,” the Roscosmos chief said.

Russian cosmonaut Sergei Ryazansky says that human missions to Mars should be undertaken as an international effort as well, TASS reports.

“Mars should become a global task. We should strive for it. The youth will join the effort, investments will come and, most importantly, the flight can be implemented, in principle. Another thing is that other technologies should be developed to make the flight quicker and safer and all of them will recoup investments in the Martian project because they will be in demand on Earth,” said Ryazansky, who called the moon an “intermediate step” toward the Red Planet.