Russians Raise $87 Million to Upgrade Baikonur, Save Gagarin Launch Complex

Yuti Gagarin

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), a Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, in partnership with Middle East investors, GK Launch Services company and with the support of Roscosmos State Corporation, announces an investment of $87 million in upgrading the infrastructure of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The relevant documents have been signed today at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

The project intends to upgrade Launch Site 1 (Gagarin’s Start) of the Cosmodrome with its following operation for Soyuz-2 rocket launches.

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Counting the Many Ways the International Space Station Benefits Humanity

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The third edition of NASA’s “International Space Station Benefits for Humanity” book now is available. The new edition fills more than 200 pages with the many benefits of conducting research on the orbiting microgravity laboratory and includes new assessments of the economic value — as well as greater detail about the scientific value — of the International Space Station.

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Amazon Constellation Sends Number of Planned Communications Satellites Soaring Above 20,000

F6 satellite (Credit: OneWeb)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Jeff Bezos’ Amazon has jumped into a crowded field of companies seeking to provide high-speed broadband, data and other communications services to the entire globe.

Amazon’s Kuiper constellation of 3,236 satellites brings the total number of spacecraft in the 16 announced systems to 20,241 spacecraft. The competition includes SpaceX, Boeing, Telesat, SES and government-backed companies in China and Russia.

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ISS Multilateral Coordination Board Says Lunar Gateway is Next Step

Lunar Gateway concept. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The International Space Station (ISS) Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB), which oversees the management of the ISS, met on March 5th, 2019. Its members[1] acknowledged the recent 20th anniversary of the launch of the first International Space Station module and celebrated the success of the ISS partnership. This international team has not only built the space station and risen to the challenges of its day-to-day dynamic operation, but – most importantly – delivered tangible benefits to humanity.

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NASA Sets Coverage for Next Space Station Crew Launch, Docking

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Two American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut are set to join the crew aboard the International Space Station on Thursday, March 14. The trio’s arrival will return the orbiting laboratory’s population to six, including three NASA astronauts. This launch will also mark the fourth Expedition crew with two female astronauts. Live coverage will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch, and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, are set to launch aboard the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft at 3:14 p.m. EDT (12:14 a.m. March 15 Kazakhstan time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a six-hour journey to the station.

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Rogozin Has Nice Things to Say About Crew Dragon, Musk

Editor’s Note: Rogozin’s Twitter account is limited to approved followers, not the general public. The Kremlin has appointed a minder over at Roscosmos to tamp down on the general director’s public comments.

My guess is that after the dust up over Roscosmos’ tweet after Crew Dragon docked, someone (Putin?) talked to (yelled at?) Rogozin and made sure he (his political minder?) made sure something nice was tweeted for the landing.

NPO Energomash Summed Up the Results of 2018

MOSCOW (Roswcosmos PR) — NPO Energomash held a final meeting on the results of the enterprise in 2018.

In the course of the already traditional final meeting, the main areas of work were reviewed, the results were summarized, and plans for 2019 were outlined. Igor Arbuzov, Director General of NPO Energomash, in his speech noted that in manned programs Russia still maintains a monopoly on the delivery of crews to the International Space Station. Four launches of the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle in 2018 provided for a total of 20 engines of NPO Energomash JSC of the RD-107/108 family at the first and second stages. In total, in 2018, Russia carried out 22 launches of launch vehicles (including 3 launches of the Soyuz-ST PH from the spaceport in French Guiana). “24 start-ups were performed using engines developed by NPO Energomash.

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Videos of Crew Dragon Docking & Welcome Ceremony

Video Caption: SpaceX Demo-1 Crew Dragon autonomously docked to the International Space Station’s Harmony module forward International Docking Adapter (IDA) on 3 March 2019, at 10:51 UTC (05:51 EST).

Demo-1 is SpaceX’s first uncrewed test flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft on a mission to the ISS and was launched by a Falcon 9 rocket (Block 5 B1051) from the Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on 2 March 2019, at 07:49 UTC (02:49 EST). The Crew Dragon transports roughly 180 kg (400 pounds) of crew supplies and equipment, as well as an anthropomorphic test device (ATD) fitted with sensors and nicknamed Ripley.

Video Caption: NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, and Russian cosmonaut and Expedition 58 commander Oleg Kononenko welcomed SpaceX Demo-1 Crew Dragon on 3 March 2019. The spacecraft autonomously docked to the International Space Station’s Harmony module forward International Docking Adapter (IDA) on 3 March 2019, at 10:51 UTC (05:51 EST) and the hatch was opened at 13:07 UTC (08:07 EST).

Roscosmos (Kinda) Congratulates NASA (Not SpaceX) on Crew Dragon Docking

The Twitter translation of this tweet reads:

Roscosmos congratulates @NASA with successful docking of the new ship and emphasizes that the safety of flights should be irreproachable.

The State Corporation welcomes the development of mutual relations in the field of space exploration and expresses its confidence that cooperation will develop

About an hour later, Roscosmos tweeted out a somewhat nicer message, although still neglecting to mention SpaceX:

Question: is the sort of waddling movement we see in the video normal for approaching ships?

Roscosmos, NASA Work Out Security Protocols for Docking Crew Dragon at ISS

An instrumented mannequin sit in the Crew Dragon spacecraft for the Demo-1 mission. (Credit: SpaceX)

MOSCOW, March 1, 2019 (Roscosmos PR) — The Roscosmos State Corporation and NASA reached a consensus on ensuring the safety of the crew and the International Space Station itself (ISS) during the automatic docking of the Dragon 2 spacecraft to the US station segment. The specialists of the Mission Control Center and the operational control group of the Russian segment of the ISS will also monitor the docking process according to the protocol, in which it is established that if the proximity mode deviates from the standard one, the docking attempt will be terminated.

Experts of Roscosmos and NASA, studying possible abnormal situations when docking American commercial ships directly to the ISS (bypassing the manipulator in the American segment), came to the conclusion that the implementation of some docking scenarios increases the risk for the station and crew. As a result of painstaking work, the specialists of Roscosmos and NASA have developed options for action to reduce this risk and agreed to conduct this type of docking.

At the same time, the parties also worked out the algorithm of actions during the automatic docking. So, four hatches in the American segment where the American ship will be docked will be closed. In the event of an emergency, the crew will switch first to the Russian segment of the ISS, and then to the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft.

Translated from Russian via Google Translate.

Soyuz Launches Egyptsat-A Satellite From Baikonur

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (Roscosmos PR) — Today, February 21, 2019, from the Baikonur cosmodrome at 19:47 Moscow time, the launch vehicle Soyuz-2 with the Fregat accelerating unit (RB) and the satellite Egyptsat-A, created in the interests of the Arab Republic of Egypt, was launched.

After the separation of the head unit from the third stage of the carrier rocket RB “Frigate” continued the removal of the spacecraft. The separation of the satellite from the upper stage took place normally after two inclusions of the marching propulsion system in strict accordance with the flight sequence chart.

The Egyptsat-A spacecraft is designed to capture the earth’s surface with high spatial resolution. After the flight test program has been completed, the satellite will be transferred to the Egyptian side.

Translated from Russian using Google Translate.

Editor’s Note: There are reliable Twitter reports that the third stage of the Soyuz-2 booster under performed. The Frigate(Fregate)  stage fired longer to place the satellite into its intended orbit. It’s not clear if the anomaly will impact upcoming launches of OneWeb satellites or crews and supplies to the International Space Station.

I will update this story when more is known.

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.