Russian Launch Failures Aren’t a Bug, They’re a Feature

A Proton takes a nose dive at Baikonur. (Credit: Tsenki TV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Edior

Over the past few years, I’ve been keeping track of Russia’s annual launch failures. For reasons I can’t quite recall, the table I’ve used only went back to 2009.

Recently, I saw a graphic on a Russian website about launch failures, and I realized I hadn’t gone back far enough. So, I dug into the records of the last 30 years from 1988 through 2017, which covers Russia and the last four years of the Soviet Union.

And holy crap! There were a helluva lot of them. Launch failures are not a bug in the system, they’re a feature.

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Space Florida Eyes More Launches as Agency Receives $48 Million DOD Contract

The first Minotaur IV Lite launch vehicle roars into the skies above California carrying DARPA's Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Andrew Lee)
The first Minotaur IV Lite launch vehicle roars into the skies above California carrying DARPA's Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 on April 22, 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Andrew Lee)

Florida will be able to compete with spaceports across the country to launch satellites aboard ICBMs that will be decommissioned under the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between the United States and Russia. The Department of Defense has also given a $48 million contract to Space Florida to support Minotaur launches from Cape Canaveral.

Pat McCarthy, Space Florida’s Director of Spaceport Operations, said that the DOD has agreed to designate Cape Canaveral as one of the sites where converted ICBMs can be launched. Other sites include: Vandenberg AFB, California; Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia; Kodiak Launch Complex, Alaska; and the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the U.S. Marshall Islands.

McCarthy writes on the Space Florida blog:

Our work to inform the Department of Defense of the benefit of designating the Cape as a “space launch facility” has also paid off. The Department of Defense agreed, through SDTW’s pre-qualification as part of Spaceports 3, the Cape should receive consideration as a space launch facility. We will now work with the USAF 45th Space Wing and the USN’s Naval Ordnance Test Unit (NOTU) here at the Cape to get Complex 46 officially designated as a “space launch facility” under New START.

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