First Commercial Flights to ISS Slide Toward 2020

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Early in the classic police comedy, The Naked Gun, Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) is at the hospital with partner Ed Hocken (George Kennedy) visiting the critically wounded Officer Nordberg (O.J. Simpson), who had been shot and left for dead by a group of heroin smuggling thugs.

“Doctors say that Nordberg has a 50/50 chance of living, though there’s only a 10 percent chance of that,” Ed tells Frank.

A similar scene played out Wednesday morning during the House Space Subcommittee’s hearing on the progress of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Only it wasn’t nearly as funny.


Commercial Crew Schedule Margins at Risk as Much Work Remains

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s uninterrupted access to the International Space Station (ISS) could be at risk due to continued schedule slips by commercial crew providers Boeing and SpaceX, the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) said last week.

“Based on the quantity, significance, and associated uncertainty of work remaining for both commercial providers, the Panel believes there is a very real possibility of future schedule slips that could easily consume all remaining margin,” ASAP said in its annual report. [Full Report]


Arianespace Prepares for Intense 2018, Looks to Future with Ariane 6 & Vega C

Ariane 5 launch on Dec. 12, 2017. (Credit: Arianespace)

EVRY, France 9 (Arianespace PR) — The past year saw Arianespace carry out 11 successful launches; sign 19 additional launch contracts, including three for Vega C and two for Ariane 6; and enter a new governance structure alongside ArianeGroup.

Building on these achievements, Arianespace is targeting a record number of launches in 2018, while actively focusing on the next decade with its Ariane 6 and Vega C launchers.

Canadian Space Agency Looks Ahead to Busy 2018

Credit: CSA

LONGUEUIL, Quebec (CSA PR) — After all of 2017’s amazing moments and space discoveries, we have another exciting year ahead of us! From mapping an asteroid to sending a Canadian to space, here are five key projects that will make 2018 a year to remember for the Canadian Space Agency.

January–December 2018 – Canadian health science experiments will be conducted aboard the International Space Station

Credit: CSA

As space agencies from around the world are preparing to send people farther into the solar system, keeping astronauts safe and healthy during long missions will be critical. Canadian science conducted aboard the International Space Station (ISS) will help us better understand and offset the harmful effects of space on the human body (e.g. radiation exposure, which is a risk factor for cataracts and cancer; bone loss; muscle shrinkage; arterial stiffness; and weaker immune system).


Will Commercial Crew Come Through in 2018?

by Douglas Messier

Managing Editor

The last time Americans flew into space from U.S. soil was nearly seven years ago in July 2011. Four astronauts flew Atlantis to the International Space Station  (ISS) on the 135th and final mission of the 30-year space shuttle program.


SpaceX Ruled Roost in 2017, Boosting U.S. to No. 1 in Global Launches

Falcon 9 carries the Dragon cargo ship into orbit. (Credit: NASA TV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX had a banner year in 2017, launching a record 18 times and helping to propel the United States to the top of the global launch table with a perfect 29-0 record. The U.S. total made up 32.2 percent of 90 orbital launches worldwide, which was an increase over the 85 flights conducted in 2016.

The 29 American launches were a leap of seven over the 22 flights conducted the previous year. This is the highest number of American orbital launches since the 31 flights undertaken in 1999. However, that year the nation’s launch providers suffered four failures whereas they were perfect in 2017.


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.


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).


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:


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.


Busy Launch Week With Flights to ISS, Electron Test

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

We’ve got a busy launch week coming up with a new three-man crew headed for the International Space Station (ISS), SpaceX launching a Dragon resupply mission to the station, and Rocket Lab attempting the second flight test of its Electron small-satellite launcher. Europe and China are also launching satellites this week.

December 10

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3B
Payload: Alcomsat 1 communications satellite (Algeria)
Launch Time: Approx. 1635 GMT (11:35 a.m. EST)
Launch Site: Xichang, China

December 10/11

Launch Vehicle: Electron
Payloads: 3 Planet and Spire CubeSats
Launch Window: 0130-0530 GMT on 11th (8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. EST on 10/11th)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand

December 12

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Dragon (CRS 13 mission)
Launch Time: 1646 GMT (11:46 a.m. EST)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Webcast: and

Launch Vehicle: Ariane 5
Payloads: Galileo 19-22 navigation satellites
Launch Time: 1836:07 GMT (1:36:07 p.m. EST)
Launch Site: ELA-3, Kourou, French Guiana

December 17

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: Soyuz spacecraft with Anton Shkaplerov (Roscosmos), Scott Tingle (NASA) and Norishige Kanai (JAXA)
Launch Time: 0720 GMT (2:20 a.m. EST)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

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.

Satellites Lost in the Soyuz Launch Failure

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

The failed launch of a Russian Soyuz rocket on Tuesday resulted in the loss of a Russian weather satellite and 18 CubeSats that were aboard as secondary payloads. The table below provides details about the lost spacecraft.

 Meteor M2-1 1Russian GovernmentFourth generation weather satellite; insured for insured for 2.5 billion rubles ($42.6 million)
Lemur-2 10Spire GlobalCommercial weather monitoring and ship tracking
Vantage 2 1 Telesat (Canada)Ka band prototype for 117 satellite constellation that will provide low-latency broadband links for planes, ships and remote locations. Twin Vantage 1 prototype scheduled for launch aboard an Indian PSLV in late December or early January.
Landmapper-BC 2Astro DigitalEarth imaging
 SEAM 1KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden)Ionospheric measurements magnetic and electric fields
 D-Star One 1German Orbital Systems & iSky Technology (Czech Republic)Amateur radio
Baumanets 2 1 Bauman Moscow State Technical UniversityEducational satellite with optical camera and communications experiment
AISSat 31
 Norwegian Space CenterShip tracking
IDEA OSG 1 1ASTROSCALESpace debris using sensors developed by JAXA. Mission sponsored by OSG Corporation, a Japanese tool maker.