The Best Laid Plans, Moscow Edition: Ukraine Invasion Damages Russia’s Launch Business

Soyuz-2 rocket launches a military satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome. (Credit: Russian Ministry of Defense)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Ambitious launch schedules typically go awry when a rocket suffers a catastrophic failure that takes months to investigate and implement modifications to ensure the same accident doesn’t happen again. In the majority of cases, the failures involve a machine launching a machine. All that can be replaced, albeit at substantial cost.

Russia’s ambitious launch plans for 2022 fell apart due to a far more momentous and deadly action: the nation’s invasion of Ukraine. The decision ruptured cooperation with the West on virtually every space project on which it was safe to do so. The main exception was the International Space Station (ISS), a program involving astronauts and cosmonauts that would be difficult to operate safely if Russia suddenly withdrew (as it indeed threatened to do).

Due to the invasion, Western partners canceled seven launches of foreign payloads in less than a month. The cancellations put Russia even further behind the United States and China in launch totals this year.

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SpaceX Rockets U.S. Launches to New Heights in 2022

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites on June 17, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Powered by 33 flights of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, the United States leads all nations with 48 launch attempts through the first seven months of the year. The total is three short of the number of U.S. launches attempted last year, and far ahead of the 27 launches conducted by second place China through the end of July. The U.S. has conducted more launches than the 43 flights conducted by the rest of the world combined.

A number of notable flights were conducted. SpaceX launched two Crew Dragons to the International Space Station (ISS), including the first fully privately funded mission to the orbiting laboratory. United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched Boeing’s CST-100 Starship crew vehicle on an automated flight test to ISS, a crucial step before astronauts to fly on the spacecraft. Small satellite launch provider Rocket Lab conducted its first deep-space mission by sending a spacecraft the size of a microwave to the moon.

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ISS National Lab and Estée Lauder Announce Two Winning Concepts of the Sustainability Challenge: Beyond Plastics

Funded by exclusive partner Estée Lauder, the winning projects will have the opportunity to conduct research on the International Space Station

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2022 (CASIS PR) – On July 28, 2022, the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory announced two winning concepts from its Sustainability Challenge: Beyond Plastics. The winning concepts will receive funding for their research proposals from the exclusive challenge partner, global prestige beauty brand Estée Lauder, and will have the opportunity to launch their research to the orbiting laboratory.

The challenge, put forth by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc., manager of the ISS National Lab, in partnership with Estée Lauder, sought project concepts to advance sustainability research on the space station that address the worldwide plastic waste dilemma. The selected projects were announced at the 11th annual ISS Research and Development Conference in Washington, D.C.

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Entering the Decade of Results: International Space Station Benefits for Humanity Publication Released

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The 2022 edition of the International Space Station Benefits for Humanity publication is now available. This updated edition is packed with numerous benefits of the microgravity laboratory highlighting groundbreaking discoveries helping society, technologies tested for future space exploration, new scientific breakthroughs, and contributions to the growing low-Earth orbit (LEO) economy.

Over more than two decades, the International Space Station has evolved into an advanced microgravity laboratory for human space operations and science. The space station offers researchers worldwide the opportunity to utilize the unique environmental conditions of LEO, supporting hundreds of experiments across every major scientific field at any given time. With over 20 years of research and 3,300 experiments hosted aboard the station, now more than ever discoveries and developments are taking shape. The station’s ability to foster research has aided in the growing commercial space economy allowing new players to enter the space marketplace and launching flourishing businesses back on Earth.

“This edition focuses on new areas of scientific study that are resulting from the last two decades of ISS research, future technologies for the exploration of the Moon and Mars, lifesaving discoveries, and the companies and economic benefits enabled by this research.” said Dr. Kirt Costello, chief scientist for the space station at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Reaches Space Station

ROME (ASI PR) — The samples of Italian extra virgin olive oil have reached the International Space Station, thanks to a project included in the framework of the agreement between the Italian Space Agency and CREA, in collaboration with Coldiretti and Unaprol-Consorzio Olivicolo Italiano.

As part of its role as National Agency, ASI promoted the project and, in the context of its institutional relations with other Space Agencies and as a country participating in the ISS program, made available the opportunity to fly and coordination with ESA necessary for the implementation of the experiment.

The collaboration with Coldiretti and Unaprol-Consorzio Olivicolo Italiano aims to underline the importance of the Italian agri-food heritage and to enhance and sensitize an asset for the country’s exports, as well as to promote the principles of proper nutrition.

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New Roscosmos GD Says Russia to Leave ISS Program After 2024

Russian Orbital Service Station (Credit: Roscosmos)

The new head of Roscosmos says that Russia will leave the International Space Station program after 2024. The Associated Press reports:

Yuri Borisov, appointed this month to lead the state space agency, Roscosmos, said during a meeting with President Vladimir Putin that Russia will fulfill its obligations to its partners before it leaves.

“The decision to leave the station after 2024 has been made,” Borisov said, adding: “I think that by that time we will start forming a Russian orbiting station.”

Borisov’s statement reaffirmed previous declarations by Russian space officials about Moscow’s intention to leave the space station after 2024 when the current international arrangements for its operation end.

Roscosmos previously announced that it would build the Russian Orbital Service Station (ROSS) after it leaves ISS.

Russia keeps the station supplied with crews and cargo via Soyuz and Progress spacecraft, respectively. Progress resupply ships raise the station’s orbit and maneuvers the facility to avoid space debris. The Russian section of ISS is about one quarter of the orbiting laboratory.

The United States wants to keep the station operating until 2030. It wants U.S. industry to develop private space stations later in the 2020’s on which the space agency could become a tenant.

ISS is a partnership of NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The four space agencies are partners in the NASA-led Artemis program that plans to return astronauts to the surface of the moon later in this decade.

NASA ISS Program Director Robyn Gatens said the space agency has received no formal notice about Russia withdrawing from the program during an appearance at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

Commercial Space Travelers Outnumbered Professional Astronauts in First Half of 2022

Axiom Mission 1 astronauts, left to right, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, Michael López-Alegría, and Eytan Stibbe. The astronauts are approved by NASA and its international partners for Axiom Space’s first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station. (Credits: Chris Gunn – Axiom Space)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The first half of 2022 saw more commercial travelers — 16 — launch into space than the 10 professional astronauts who work for government-run space agencies. However, those numbers come with an asterisk or two.

Four of the 14 astronauts who launched into orbit flew on Axiom Space’s privately funded and operated crew flight to the International Space Station (ISS). Blue Origin launched 12 individuals into space on two flights of the company’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle.

The other 10 astronauts who launched to ISS and the Tiangong space station worked fulltime for NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), China Manned Space Agency, or Russia’s Roscosmos State Space Corporation. SpaceX flew American and European astronauts to ISS on the company-owned Crew Dragon spacecraft under a NASA contract. The Russians and Chinese flew aboard government-owned and operated spacecraft.

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China Launches Wentian Module in Major Space Station Expansion

Update: Wentian docked with the space station early Monday morning Beijing time after a 13-hour flight.

China launched the 23-metric ton Wentian module on Sunday as the first step in expanding the nation’s first permanent space station.

The 17.9 meter long is headed for a docking with the station’s Tianhe core module that is currently occupied by the Shenzhou-14 crew of Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe.

Wentian includes laboratory equipment for life sciences, biotechnology and variable gravity experiments. The module also has 22 external mounting devices that will allow for the attachment of unpressurized experiments. Wentian features a robotic arm that is half the size as the one mounted on the outside of the Tianhe core module.

Wentian includes three sleeping berths, a kitchen and a toilet to accommodate the expansion of the station’s full-time complement from three to six taikonauts. The module will provide additional propulsion, control and avionics to back up the Tianhe core. Wentian is powered by two solar panels.

China will launch the Mengtian laboratory module in October to complete initial assembly of the space station. Mengtian is similar in size and design to Wentian.

77 Launches Conducted During First Half of 2022 as Access to Orbit Expanded

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites while the Dragon that will carry Crew-4 to the International space Station awaits its turn. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a busy first half of 2022 that saw 77 orbital launches with 74 successes and three failures through the 182nd day of the year on July 1. At a rate of one launch every 2 days 8 hours 44 minutes, the world is on track to exceed the 146 launches conducted in 2021.

A number of significant missions were launched during a period that saw more than 1,000 satellite launched. SpaceX flew the first fully commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Boeing conducted an orbital flight test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, China prepared to complete assembly of its space station, South Korea launched its first domestically manufactured rocket, and Rocket Lab sent a NASA mission to the moon.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

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Dragon Docks Delivering Science Benefitting Humans

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship approaches the space station during an orbital sunrise above the Pacific Ocean. (Credit: NASA TV)

NASA Mission Update

While the International Space Station was traveling more than 267 miles over the South Atlantic Ocean, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft autonomously docked to the forward-facing port of the station’s Harmony module at 11:21 a.m. EDT today, with NASA astronauts Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins monitoring operations from the station.

The Dragon launched on SpaceX’s 25th contracted commercial resupply mission for NASA at 8:44 p.m., Thursday, July 14, from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After Dragon spends about one month attached to the space station, the spacecraft will return to Earth with cargo and research.

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NASA, Roscosmos Complete Seat Swap on Flights to ISS

The space station is viewed from the SpaceX Cargo Dragon during its automated approach before docking. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — To ensure continued safe operations of the International Space Station (station), protect the lives of astronauts, and ensure continuous U.S. presence in space, NASA will resume integrated crews on U.S. crew spacecraft and the Russian Soyuz with the Russian State Space Corporation Roscosmos.

Flying integrated crews ensures there are appropriately trained crew members on board the station for essential maintenance and spacewalks. It also protects against contingencies such as a problem with any crew spacecraft, serious crew medical issues, or an emergency aboard the station that requires a crew and the vehicle they are assigned to return to Earth sooner than planned.

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Rogozin Out as Roscosmos Chief

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

Dmitry Rogozin has been removed from his post as director general of the Roscosmos, the state corporation that runs Russia’s space program, according to press reports. Rogozin is being replaced by former Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov.

Rogozin was appointed head of Roscosmos in May 2018. He was previously deputy prime minister overseeing the military-industrial complex, which included the space and defense sectors. Borisov replaced him in that role at the time.

Rogozin has been increasingly bombastic since the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. He made threats that Russia would launch nuclear weapons at nations supporting Ukraine. Rogozin also said Russia would pull out of the International Space Station program, which is a partnership of the United States, Europe, Japan and Canada.

Rogozin got into Twitter fights with a number of former NASA astronauts, who had nothing good to say about his tenure leading Russia’s space program.

Although he is out at Roscosmos, Rogozin’s career in the Russian government doesn’t appear to be over, according to Anatoly Zak of RussianSpaceWeb.com.

“Following its tumultuous tenure as the head of Roskosmos, Rogozin was expected to move to the presidential administration and, possibly, lead it or ‘curate’ the Russian occupation of the Eastern Ukraine, the independent Meduza publication reported,” Zak wrote.

NASA, SpaceX Launch Climate Science Research, More to Space Station

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 14, 2022, with a Cargo Dragon spacecraft aboard for SpaceX’s 25th resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA TV)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — A SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft carrying more than 5,800 pounds of science experiments, crew supplies, and other cargo is on its way to the International Space Station after launching at 8:44 p.m. EDT Thursday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The spacecraft launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy for the company’s 25th commercial resupply services mission for NASA. It is scheduled to autonomously dock at the space station about 11:20 a.m. Saturday, July 16, and remain there for about a month. Coverage of arrival will begin at 10 a.m. on NASA Television, the agency’s website, and the NASA app.

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KBR to Support $3.5B Next-Generation Spacesuit Development for Return to the Moon and Beyond

HOUSTON (KBR Inc. PR) — KBR (NYSE: KBR) is pleased to announce it is a major partner to Axiom Space, which NASA selected as one of two companies eligible to support the development of NASA’s next-generation spacesuit and spacewalk systems through the Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services (xEVAS) contract. This comprehensive contract includes a full range of services, including design, testing, and verification of manufacturing and processing of the new spacesuits. KBR will co-locate with Axiom Space in their facilities.

The xEVAS contract, which advances extravehicular activity capability for low-Earth orbit, on the lunar surface, and future human missions to Mars, is managed out of NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) through the Extravehicular Activity (EVA) and Human Surface Mobility Program. The milestone-based contract’s period of performance continues through 2034 with a potential total value of $3.5 billion across the life of the program.

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Nanoracks and GITAI Partner for Second In-Space Demonstration of Robotic System on the ISS

DENVER (Voyager Space Holdings PR) — Nanoracks, powered by Voyager Space, today announced its second Bishop Airlock mission with GITAI, a Japanese space robotics startup. The project, marking the two companies’ second collaboration, will involve demonstrating “S2,” GITAI’s 1.5 meter-class dexterous robotic system, on the Bishop Airlock – the first permanent, commercial platform added to the International Space Station.

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