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.

Boeing Suffers Setback During CST-100 Starliner Abort Test

CST-100 Starliner with Atlas V booster. (Credit: Boeing)

Media are reporting that Boeing suffered a setback recently when testing CST-100 Starliner’s emergency abort system at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Here’s an account from The Washington Post:

The spacecraft Boeing plans to use to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station suffered a significant setback when, during a test of its emergency abort system in June, officials discovered a propellant leak, the company confirmed.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Boeing said it has “been conducting a thorough investigation with assistance from our NASA and industry partners. We are confident we found the cause and are moving forward with corrective action.”

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9 Candidates Qualify for Final Stage of UAE Astronaut Programme

DUBAI (MBRSC PR) — The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) announced that 9 candidates have qualified for the final evaluation phase of the UAE Astronaut Programme.

The Programme was launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, as part of the UAE National Space Programme.

It aims to train and prepare a team of Emiratis to be sent to space for various scientific missions. This supports the intensive preparations to send the first Emirati and Arab astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS) in April 2019.

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UAE Narrows Astronaut Candidates to 9

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)

The game of musical chairs for four slots in the United Arab Emirates astronaut program continues at the Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC).

Out of 18 candidates, nine passed the one-to-one interviews in the MBRSC and are scheduled to undergo an intensive assessment in Russia by experts from Roscosmos.

Once the assessment is completed, the UAE will be choose the first Emirati astronaut corps out of four Emirati astronauts. The tests will be conducted by experts from Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, and will include intensive medical and physical tests to ensure that candidates are ready for special space-related training.

The center has book a ride to the International Space Station for its first astronaut aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft for 2019.

Mid-Year Global Launch Report: China & USA Continue to Battle for Lead

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-47 mission lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The world’s launch providers were extremely busy in the first half of 2018, with China and the United States battling for the lead.

There with 55 orbital launches through the end of June, which amounted to a launch every 3.29 days or 79 hours. The total is more than half the 90 launches attempted in 2017. With approximately 42 missions scheduled for the last six months of the year, the total could reach 97. (more…)

RSC Energia Director General Steps Down, RCC Progress Gets Interim Director

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

Roscosmos’ new boss, Dmitry Rogozin, appears to be making some changes within his domain with new leadership at two of the nation’s leading space companies.

Tass reports that Vladimir Solntsev, the head of RSC Energia, will step down from his post on Aug. 3. The publication gave no reason for Solntsev’s departure from the corporation, which is a subsidiary of Roscosmos.

Tass reports he became RSC Energia’s president in September 2014 and its director general in June 2016. Energia manufactures the Soyuz crew vehicle and other Russian spacecraft.

Officials plan to selected a new director general at an emergency shareholders’ meeting on Aug. 21. Sergei Romanov, the company’s general designer for human space systems, will become acting director after Solntsev departs.

Rocket maker RCC Progress also has new leadership. On June 26, the corporation’s board of directors appointed Dmitry Aleksandrovich Baranov as acting general director to replace R.N. Akhmetov. An announcement was made on the company’s website.

Born in June 1970 in Kuibyshev. Baranov graduated from Samara State Aerospace University with a degree in rocket engineering in 1994. He began working at RCC Progress (then known as TsSKB Progress) the year before he graduated.

From 2005 to 2011, he served as director of the Soyuz rocket program at Europe’s Guiana Space Center in South America.

UAE Astronaut Search: And Then There Were 18

The National reports that the United Arab Emirates has a short list for its astronaut corps.

With 4,022 Emiratis originally applying, a shortlist of 95 men and women was whittled down to 39. Now now the remaining 18 candidates will proceed to the final interview stage.

Four of these will form the country’s first astronaut corps and travel into space. The first UAE astronaut will lift off next April as part of the agreement reached with Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency.

As part of the crew on a Soyuz spaceship, they will spend 10 days conducting scientific research on the International Space Station (ISS) before returning to Earth.

The 39 went through a round of tests that included a range of activities to measure intelligence, aptitude, neurocognitive ability, personality, and working memory, according to the MBRSC.

First UAE Astronaut to Fly to ISS Next Year

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)

DUBAI (Dubai Media Office PR) — Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said that sending the first Emirati astronaut to space will herald the beginning of a new era for the UAE and represents another step towards achieving the country’s vision and aspirations for the space sector.

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New Crew Launches to ISS

The Soyuz MS-09 rocket is launched with Expedition 56 Soyuz Commander Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos, flight engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, and flight engineer Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), Wednesday, June 6, 2018 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Prokopyev, Auñón-Chancellor, and Gerst will spend the next six months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

BAIKONUR COSMODROME, Kazakhstan (NASA PR) — Three crew members are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 7:12 a.m. EDT Wednesday (5:12 p.m. Baikonur time).

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China Launches Remote Sensing Satellite, SpaceX Plans Early Monday Flight

SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off with a Dragon resupply ship on April 2, 2018. (Credit: NASA)

At least 10 launches are planned worldwide this month. The launches include crew and cargo missions to the International Space Station and the first commercial flight of Rocket Lab’s Electron booster. Orbital ATK’s Pegasus XL will launch NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) from the Marshall Islands on June 14.

China got June off to a successful start on Saturday with the launch of the Gaofen-6 remote sensing satellite aboard a Long March 2D rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

SpaceX is up next, with an early morning launch on Monday morning. A Falcon 9 is set to launch the SES 12 communications satellite from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The four-hour launch window opens at 12:29 a.m. EDT (0429 GMT). The company has no plans to recover the previously used first stage.

The current launch schedule is below. View updates here.

JUNE 2018

June 2

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2D
Payload: Gaofen 6 remote sensing satellite
Launch Site: Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China
Outcome: Success

June 4

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: SES 12 communications satellite
Launch Window: 12:29-1:27 a.m. EDT (0429-0527 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Webcast: www.spacex.com

June 6

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: ISS 55S Crew flight
Launch Time: 7:11 a.m. EDT (1111 GMT)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Webcast: www.nasa.gov

June 11

Launch Vehicle: H-2A
Payload: IGS Radar 6 reconnaissance satellite
Launch Window: 12:00-2:00 a.m. EDT (0400-0600 GMT)
Launch Site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan

June 14

Launch Vehicle: Pegasus XL
Payload: NASA Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: L-1011, Kwajalein, Marshall Islands
Webcast: www.nasa.gov

June 22/23

Launch Vehicle: Electron
Payloads: 2 Spire & 1 GeoOptics satellites
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand

First commercial flight of Electron.

June 28

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Dragon ISS resupply (CRS-15)
Launch Time: 6:03 a.m. EDT (1003 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida
Webcast: www.spacex.com and www.nasa.gov

June TBD

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2C
Payload: PRSS 1 remote sensing satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Taiyuan, China

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3A
Payload: Fengyun 2H geostationary weather satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Xichang, China

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Telstar 19V communications satellite
Launch Window: TBD
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida
Webcast: www.spacex.com

NASA Astronaut, Crewmates Safely Return to Earth from Space Station

After 168 days of living and working in low-Earth orbit, three members of the International Space Station Expedition 55 crew – NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and astronaut Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency – return to Earth Sunday, June 3, 2018, landing at 8:39 a.m. EDT (6:39 p.m. in Kazakhstan) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan. (Credit: NASA Television)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Three members of the International Space Station Expedition 55 crew, including NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, returned to Earth Sunday after 168 days of living and working in low-Earth orbit.

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Four Moon Walkers Remain From the Apollo Program

Astronaut John Young salutes the flag on the moon during the Apollo 16 mission. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The passing of Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean on Saturday leaves the United States with four of the 12 men to walk on the moon remaining as NASA’s Apollo program prepares to mark a series of 50th anniversary celebrations.

Bean, who passed away at 86, walked on the moon’s Ocean of Storms with Pete Conrad in November 1969. They were the third and fourth men to walk on the lunar surface after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin of Apollo 11.

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Putin Appoints Mr. Trampoline Man to Head Roscosmos

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

Well, it’s official.

Dmitry Rogozin, who presided over a sharp decline in Russia’s space program for seven years as deputy prime minister, has been named as head state corporation Roscomos.

Putin said Rogozin knows the industry and would strengthen the space company’s leadership. The Russian president also said the new Roscosmos head would have the opportunity to implement a number of good ideas and reforms.

Others, however, see potential trouble ahead.

“Everything he says is silly from a technical point of view,” independent space expert Vadim Lukashevich told AFP.

Lukashevich said Rogozin, 54, was an outsider and lacked the necessary education and expertise to head the space agency.

“He is the head of the industry’s burial party.”

Another independent space expert, Vitaly Yegorov, said he was concerned about the prospects for international cooperation.

Space exploration is one of the few areas where cooperation between Russia and the United States has not been wrecked by tensions over Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere.

Putin appointed Rogozin to oversee the space program in 2011 amid a series of launch failures. (He also oversaw the defense sector.) The failures continued throughout his tenure as the number of Russian launches declined in the face of competition from SpaceX.

In 2014, the United States placed Rogozin under sanctions as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. In response, he suggested American astronauts reach the International Space Station using a trampoline instead of Soyuz Russian spacecraft.

Three Launches Scheduled Over Two Days Next Week

ISS with Soyuz and Progress spacecraft docked to it. (Credit: NASA)

There are a dozen orbital launches planned around the world through the end of June.

China will lead off on Sunday as it launches its Chang’e-4 lunar relay satellite from Xichang. A lunar lander and rover targeted for the far side of the moon is scheduled for launch at the end of the year.

Orbital ATK will follow with the launch of a Cygnus resupply ship bound for the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday from Wallops Island. On Tuesday, SpaceX is scheduled to launch 5 Iridium Next satellites and a pair of scientific spacecraft for NASA.

Other notable missions scheduled through June include a Soyuz crew mission and a SpaceX Dragon resupply flight. Rocket Lab is probably going to launch the first commercial flight of its Electron booster from New Zealand. However, the company has not published a launch window for the flight.

The current global schedule is below. Be sure to check Space Flight Now’s launch schedule for updates.

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