Corruption Cases Far Outnumber Launches at Vostochny

Soyuz launch complex at Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)

We here at Parabolic Arc haven’t been writing too much lately about the new Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East. It’s not so much from a lack of interest, but rather a lack of actual news to report.

Since the much heralded maiden launch of a Soyuz-2 booster in April 2016 from the spaceport designed to free Russia from dependence on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, there have been no additional flights from the site in more than a year. As in none, zero, zilch, cero, nada, big goose egg.

But, that doesn’t mean nothing is happening at Vostochny. Construction crews continue to build out the spaceport, which will feature an additional launch pad for Russia’s rocket of the future, the Angara. This module family of rockets has flown only twice, most recently in December 2014.

While Vostochny has been decided short on launches, the corruption cases the facility has become notorious for — with their millions in missing rubles, unpaid workers and diamond-encrusted Mercedes — continue to pile up like cord wood.

Mikhail Kalinin, the former CEO of the state enterprise Glavnoye Voyenno-Stroitelnoye Upravleniye No. 9, is the latest to be arrested for allegedly lining his pockets at the expense of Russia’s hard-working taxpayers.

“Kalinin demanded 4 million rubles ($66,250) from a Krasnoyarsk businessman for assistance in concluding a subcontract for construction work at the Vostochny Cosmodrome,” Russia Crime reports. “The second criminal case against Mikhail Kalinin is connected with the appropriation of 10 million rubles for the construction of the spaceport.”

If my math is right, the 10 million rubles is equivalent to $165, 625, making Kalinin’s alleged haul from the two capers a cool $213,875.  Not bad work, if you can steal it.

Kalinin has pleaded not guilty, although he is willing to cooperate in the investigation.

Mid-Year Launch Report: U.S. (& SpaceX) in the Lead

Screenshot of SpaceX Falcon 9 Bulgaria 1 satellite launch. (Credit: SpaceX)

We are now halfway through 2017, so it seems like a good time to take a look at the year in orbital launches.

ORBITAL LAUNCHES THROUGH JUNE 2017
NATIONSUCCESSES
FAILURES
PARTIAL FAILURESTOTAL
United States130013
Russia8008
China6017
Europe5005
India4004
Japan3104
New Zealand0101
TOTAL392142

A total of 42 launches have been conducted thus far, with 39 successes, two failures and one partial failure. The two failures were inaugural flight tests of new boosters.

American companies have launched 13 times. Nine of those flights have been conducted by SpaceX, giving the company more launches than anyone else thus far. United Launch Alliance successfully three three Atlas V boosters and one Delta IV rocket.

Russia has conducted eight launches. Included in the total are two Russian Soyuz flights conducted from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana.

China is close behind with seven launches. Six flights were successful, but a Long March 3B booster suffered a partial failure earlier this month that left a spacecraft in a lower-than-planned orbit.

LAUNCHES BY VEHICLE THROUGH JUNE 2017
LAUNCH VEHICLENATIONSUCCESSES
FAILURES
PARTIAL FAILURESTOTAL
 Falcon 9United States9009
 Soyuz 2Russia6006
 Ariane 5 Europe4004
 Atlas VUnited States 300 3
 H-IIAJapan3003
 Long March 3BChina2013
 PSLVIndia2002
 Delta IV United States1 001
 GSLV Mk II India 1 001
 GSLV Mk III India 1 001
KT-2 China 1 001
 Kuaizhou 1 China 1 001
 Long March 2D China 1 001
 Long March 7 China 1 001
 Proton Russia 1 001
 Soyuz-2.1vRussia 1 001
 VegaEurope 1001
 Electron New Zealand0101
 S-520-4 Japan010 1
TOTAL392142

Europe follows with five successful launches, including four using the Ariane 5 booster and one using the Vega launcher.

India launched four times, with the highlight being the successful first orbital test of the new GSLV Mk. III booster. The launch vehicle — the nation’s most powerful to date — had been previously tested during a suborbital flight without an upper stage.

Japan also launched four times with three successes. The maiden flight test of Japan’s new SS-520-4 nanosat launcher failed in January, destroying some CubeSats.

New Zealand made the orbital launch list for the first time this year. The maiden flight test of Rocket Lab’s Electron booster failed to orbit an inert mass. Rocket Lab is a U.S.-New Zealand company.

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Russian Rocket Engines Exempted from Sanctions Bill

RD-180 test firing. (Credit: NASA)

Officials at Orbital ATK and ULA breathed sighs of relief on Thursday as the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to exempt rocket engines from a sanctions bill targeting Iran and Russia.

The amendment to the sanctions measure exempted RD-180 engines used by ULA in the first stage of its Atlas V booster and the RD-181 engines Orbital ATK uses in the first stage of its Antares launch vehicle. Both engines are produced by NPO Energomash of Russia.

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Man Dies in Fire at Soyuz Drop Zone

Soyuz launches Progress supply ship on June 14, 2017. (Credit: Roscosmos)

TASS reports some sad news: a truck driver died while trying to extinguish a Kazakh steppe fire at the drop zone for the stages of a Russian Soyuz-2.1a rocket that launched a Progress supply ship to the International Space Station on Wednesday.

“According to the available information, the Kamaz truck driver, an employee of JSC NPO Mashinostroyenia, has died while extinguishing the fire. JSC NPO Mashinostroyenia (not affiliated to Roscosmos) oversees maintenance of the drop zones. The fire engulfed the Kamaz vehicle after a particularly strong gust of wind,” TASS reports, citing a report from Roscosmos.

Russians Launch Progress Supply Freighter to Space Station

Soyuz launches Progress supply ship on June 14, 2017. (Credit: Roscosmos)

BAIKONUR SPACE CENTER, Kazakhstan, June 14, 2017 (Roscosmos PR) — The launch vehicle (LV) Soyuz-2.1a with cargo spacecraft Progress МS-06 successfully lifted off from Baikonur Space Center at 12:20 MT.

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Proton Back in Action Thursday After Being Grounded for 1 Year

Proton on launch pad (Credit: ILS)

Russia’s Proton booster will begin launching again on Thursday, June 8, which will be one day short of a year after its most recent flight.

Proton Breeze M will launch the EchoStar XXI communications satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 03:45:47 UMT (23:45:47 Wednesday, June 7).

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GAO: Boeing & SpaceX Face Potential Further Delays in Commercial Crew Certification

Astronaut Eric Boe evaluates Boeing Starliner spacesuit in mockup of spacecraft cockpit. (Credit: Boeing)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says NASA’s commercial crew contractors face potential further delays into 2019 for certifying their vehicles to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on a commercial basis.

“Boeing has proposed moving its certification review out to the fourth quarter of 2018—at least 14 months later than initially planned,” the report states. “SpaceX has moved its certification review to the third quarter of 2018—at least 15 months later than initially planned.
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Two New Crew Members Arrive at International Space Station

The Soyuz MS-04 rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan April 20, 2017, carrying Expedition 51 Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA into orbit to begin their four and a half month mission on the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — After a six-hour flight, NASA astronaut Jack Fischer and cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos arrived at the International Space Station at 9:18 a.m. EDT Thursday where they will continue important scientific research.

The two launched aboard a Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:13 a.m. (1:13 p.m. Baikonur time), orbited Earth four times, and docked at the space station.

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Russia Continues Slow Shift of Launches to Vostochny

Soyuz launch complex at Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Tass reports that Roscosmos plans to conduct two satellite launches in December from Russia’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome as the space agency continues a slow shift away from dependence on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazahkstan.

The two Soyuz-2 launches will come about 20 months after the inaugural launch from the new spaceport in April 2016.

Roscomos head Igor Komarov outlined plans to gradually ramp up the number of launches from the facility, which has only one launch pad.

The state corporation expects that up to ten launches, including commercial ones, will be held annually at Vostochny, which is still under construction.

First commercial launches from Russia’s new Vostochny space center in the Far Eastern Amur Region are to begin in 2018, the head of Russia’s Roscosmos space corporation said. The space center’s commercial launch plan includes those for the OneWeb project aimed at creating a constellation of microsatellites to blanket the entire earth surface for broadband internet access all over the world.

“Two or three commercial launches are scheduled for 2018, six or seven – for 2019,” the Roscosmos chief said….

Vostochny’s construction began in 2012. The infrastructure for the first unmanned Angara carrier rocket launch is due to be ready by 2021, and for the first manned Angara mission by 2023.
Read the full story.

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ISS Crew Lands Safely in Kazahkstan

The Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft carrying three Expedition 50 crew members is pictured they very moment it landed in Kazakhstan. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA is among three crew members from the International Space Station (ISS) who returned to Earth Monday, after 173 days in space, landing in Kazakhstan at approximately 7:20 a.m. EDT (5:20 p.m. Kazakhstan time).

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Russia Plans to Send Cosmonauts to the Moon

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

RSC Energia has launched the development of a new human spacecraft named Federatsiya (Federation) that will replace the 40-year-old Soyuz vehicles and enable Russia to send cosmonauts to the moon, Tass reports.

Federation will be capable of carrying crews of four into Earth orbit and deep space on missions of up to 30 days. The spacecraft could stay in space up to a year if docked with a space station, which is double the duration of the Soyuz spacecraft.

The new spacecraft could be a key element in what appears to be an emerging plan to place a space station in lunar orbit. NASA is exploring such a facility to test technologies required for sending astronauts to Mars.

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Russia Plans to Boost Launch Rate, Revenues from Space Station

Igor Komarov (Credit: Russia Forum)

Speaking a day after SpaceX successfully re-flew a previously used Falcon 9 first stage, Russian space officials sought to reassure the public about the nation’s lagging launch rate and outlined plans to increase revenues from  the International Space Station (ISS).

On Friday, Roscosmos head Igor Komarov said Russia was aiming for more than two dozen launches this year.

“We will conduct at least 30 launches from the Baikonur, Plesetsk, Vostochny and Kourou space centers this year,” Komarov said at a meeting of the Expert Council of Russia’s Military-Industrial Committee.

With one quarter of the year completed, Russia has conducted two launches.

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Khrunichev’s Proton Woes Continue

Proton on launch pad (Credit: ILS)

Khrunichev’s Proton rocket, which has been grounded since an in-flight anomaly last June, continues to experience serious problems with quality control, Russian media reported last week.

An investigation into quality control issues in the Russian space industry has discovered that nearly every engine currently stockpiled for use in Proton rockets is defective, the RIA Novosti news agency reported March 30, citing Igor Arbuzov, head of state rocket engine manufacturer Energomash.

71 engines, mostly used to power the second and third stages of the Proton rocket, require complete overhauls to remove defects. Arbuzov did not specify what was wrong with the engines….

“Most of the work will be done in 2017, but we understand that some portion will inevitably slip into 2018,” Arbuzov said. “Our main goal is to avoid disrupting the government space program’s launch schedule, or the schedules of the Defense Ministry and commercial customers.”

In January, Russian officials said they were investigating quality control problems at the Voronezh Mechanical Plant where engines for the Proton and Soyuz boosters are manufactured. Specifically, they believed a less heat resistant metal had been used in second- and third-stage engines.

Officials ordered the recall of all second- and third-stage engines built for the Proton launch vehicles. Third-stage engines for the Soyuz-U and Soyuz-FG boosters were also replaced.

Russian media reported last week that Progress Space Rocket Center, which manufacturers Soyuz boosters, had received four tested third-stage engines from the Voronezh Mechanical Factory.

Last June, a Proton rocket suffered a second-stage anomaly while launching the Intelsat 31 communications satellite. The third stage compensated for the under performance of the second stage, delivering the spacecraft to its intended orbit.

In December, a Progress freighter bound for the International Space Station was lost after a Soyuz rocket malfunctioned.

Proton and Soyuz are the mainstays of the Russian booster fleet. Due to the on-going problems, Russia has only launched only twice during the first quarter of a year during which officials have promised to launch at least 30 times.

Last year, Russia conducted 18 successful launches in 19 attempts. It was the country’s lowest launch figure in years, leaving the nation in third place behind the United States and China.

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A Look at Launches in 2016

Atlas V launches the NROL-61 satellite. (Credit: ULA)

Excerpt from

The Annual Compendium of
Commercial Space Transportation: 2017
Federal Aviation Administration
Office of Commercial Space
Transportation (FAA AST)

January 2017

2016 Launch Events

Space launch activity worldwide is carried out by the civil, military, and commercial sectors. This section summarizes U.S. and international orbital launch activities for calendar year 2016, including launches licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST). Countries and jurisdictions worldwide that possess functional and operating indigenous launch industries are the United States, Russia, China, European Union, India, Japan, Israel, Iran, North Korea, and South Korea. Several other countries, including Argentina, Brazil, and Indonesia, are developing launch vehicle technologies.

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