Sentences Handed Down in Massive Vostochny Embezzlement Case

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

Prison terms have been handed down for the embezzlement of more than 5 billion rubles ($88 million) during the construction of Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia media report.

Yuri Khrizman, the former head of state-run Dalspetsstroy construction firm, was sentenced to 12 years  in prison for his role in the fraud. Another employee, Vladimir Ashikhmin, was sentenced to seven years behind bars.

Khirzman’s son, Mikhail, was sent away for five-and-a-half years while a regional deputy, Viktor Chudov, was sentenced to six years in prison.

The spaceport’s construction in Russia’s Far East has been plagued by delays, corruption and unpaid workers. Vostochny is intended to reduce Russian dependence on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

SpaceX Launches Luxembourg Satellite, Russia Orbits Earth Observation Spacecraft

Falcon 9 first stage floating in the Atlantic Ocean. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX successfully launched the GovSat-1 satellite for Luxembourg on Wednesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The spacecraft will provide secure military communications for the Luxembourg government.

SpaceX did not plan to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 booster. However, it looks like the company will be able to do that after all.

“This rocket was meant to test very high retrothrust landing in water so it didn’t hurt the droneship, but amazingly it has survived. We will try to tow it back to shore,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote in a tweet that included a picture of the booster floating in the ocean..

About five hours later, Russia opened its 2018 launch campaign with a successful flight of a Soyuz booster from the Vostochny Cosmodrome. The rocket orbited the Kanopus-V 3 and 4 Earth observation satellites that will be used for mapping, disaster response and forest fire detection.

Falcon 9 Flight to Kick Off Busy Launch Period

Falcon 9 on the launch pad with Intelsat 35e satellite. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

UPDATE: SpaceX has scrubbed for the day due to the need to replace a sensor on the second stage. The next launch window is Wednesday, Jan. 31.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch scheduled for late this afternoon will kick off a busy period of international launches that will see the inaugural launch of the Falcon Heavy and China’s sixth orbital mission of 2018. SpaceX has four flights scheduled by the middle of February. (Thanks to Spaceflight Now for the schedule.)

Jan. 30

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: GovSat 1
Launch Window: 4:25-6:46 p.m. EST (2125-2346 GMT)
Launch Site: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

The Orbital ATK-built satellite will provide secure communications as part of the nation’s contribution to NATO. There will be no attempt to recover the Falcon 9’s first stage.

Jan. 31/Feb. 1

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz 2-1a with Fregat upper stage
Payload: Kanopus-V 3 & V4
Launch Time: 9:07:18 p.m. EST Jan. 31 (0207:18 GMT on Feb. 1)
Launch Site: Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia

The twin satellites will assist Russia in mapping, forest fire detection and disaster response.

Feb. 1

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2D
Payload: CSES
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China

The China Seismo-Electromagnetic Satellite will study how electromagnetic signals in Earth’s atmosphere and ionosphere to determine if they can help predict earthquakes. This joint mission with Italy will be China’s sixth launch of 2018.

Feb. 3

Launch Vehicle: SS-520-5
Payload: TRICOM 1R CubeSat
Launch Window: 12:00-12:20 a.m. EST (0500-0520 GMT)
Launch Site: Uchinoura Space Center, Japan

The second launch of Japan’s upgraded sounding rocket will carry the 3U TRICOM 1R CubeSat, which has an imaging camera and store and forward communications system.

Feb. 6

Launch Vehicle: Falcon Heavy
Payload: Tesla Roadster
Launch Window: 1:30-4:30 p.m. EST (1830-2130 GMT)
Launch Site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

The inaugural flight of the Falcon Heavy will send a red Tesla Roadster into deep space.

Feb. 10

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Paz
Launch Time: 9:22 a.m. EST; 6:22 a.m. PST (1422 GMT)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Built by Airbus Defense and Space, Hisdesat’s Paz satellite will provide radar imaging as well ship tracking and weather data. The flight will use a previously-flown first stage.

Feb. 11

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: Progress 69P
Launch Time: 3:58 a.m. EST (0858 GMT)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

Resupply mission to the International Space Station.

Feb. 14

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Hispasat 30W-6
Launch Window: TBA
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida

The Hispasat 30W-6 satellite, built by Space Systems/Loral, will provide communications services over Europe, North Africa and the Americas.

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.


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.

Does Russian Space Czar Dmitry Rogozin Know What He’s Doing?

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

Back in December 2011, Vladimir Putin appointed Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin as the special overseer of the nation’s sprawling military industrial complex. His task: clean up the inefficient, failure prone and graft riddled sector and bring it into the 21st century.

The appointment came in the midst of an embarrassing string of launch failures that had infuriated Putin and damaged the nation’s reputation as a reliable launch provider. Fixing the space industry’s quality control problems was one of Rogozin’s top priorities.

Despite his strenuous efforts, launch failures continued to occur regularly in the six years since Rogozin’s appointment. On Tuesday, a Soyuz-2.1b launch failed with a weather satellite and 18 CubeSats aboard.

The continued failures have raised questions about the effectiveness of Rogozin’s efforts. His actions following the launch on Tuesday did nothing to dispel the impression that he may not know what he’s doing.


ULA, SpaceX Reschedule Launches

SpaceX launched its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:31 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA Television)

UPDATE: SpaceX issued a statement late this afternoon: “We have decided to stand down and take a closer look at data from recent fairing testing for another customer. Though we have preserved the range opportunity for tomorrow, we will take the time we need to complete the data review and will then confirm a new launch date.”

SpaceX has rescheduled the launch of the mysterious Zuma payload for Friday, Nov. 17. The Falcon 9’s two-hour launch window opens at 10 p.m. EST at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

ULA has rescheduled the launch of the JPSS-1 weather satellite aboard a Delta II booster for Saturday, Nov. 18.  The launch time is 1:47 a.m. PST (4:47 EST) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Below is the launch schedule for the rest of November.

November 21

Launch Vehicle: Long March 6
Payloads: 3 Jilin 1 Earth observation microsats
Launch Site: Taiyuan, China
Launch Time: Unknown

November 28

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payloads: Meteor M2-1 weather satellite; Spire weather CubeSats; Telesat experimental communications satellite
Launch Site: Vostochny
Launch Time: 0541:46 GMT (12:41:46 a.m. EST)

The Vostochny Follies: Another Year, Another Hunger Strike

As Russia unveiled a fancy new 2,000 ruble banknotes featuring the Vostochny Cosmodrome this week, some of the construction workers at the spaceport were dealing with all-too-familiar problem: not getting any banknotes at all.

Construction workers at Russia’s Far East spaceport are staging a hunger strike for the third year in a row demanding salaries that they haven’t received in six months….

RSC Energia Begins Work on New Soyuz-5 Booster

MOSCOW (RSC Energia PR) — Work is performed in compliance with the Order of the Government of the Russian Federation where RSC Energia is identified as the prime contractor of space rocket complex (SRC).

The following enterprises of State Corporation ROSCOSMOS: RSC Progress, FSUE TsENKI, etc. are the work co-executors.

Flight tests of new Russian launch vehicle (LV) Soyuz-5 are planned to be conducted for 2022 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.


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.

Russia’s Angara Rocket Celebrates (?) 25th Birthday

Angara-1.2 launch vehicle on pad at Plesetsk. (Credit: Khrunichev)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Back in 1992, the Russian government — newly shone of the republics that made up the old Soviet Union — had a problem. Or rather, lots and lots of problems. Some of them related to space.

Many of the components for the nation’s launch vehicles and space systems were made in the newly independent Ukraine. Its main spaceport was the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the new nation of Kazakhstan. Russia’s independence in space was at risk.


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.


Orbital Launch Statistics for 2016

The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ryzhikov, Kimbrough, and Borisenko will spend the next four months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)
The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Part 2 of 2

There were 85 orbital launches in 2016, not including the Falcon 9 that exploded on launch pad prior to a pre-flight engine test. The launches break down as follow:

  • United States: 22 (22-0)
  • China: 22 (20-1-1)
  • Russia: 19 (18-1)
  • Europe: 9 (9-0)
  • India: 7 (7-0)
  • Japan: 4 (4-0)
  • Israel: 1 (1-0)
  • North Korea: 1 (1-0)

For a more detailed description of these launches, please read US, China Led World in Launches in 2016.

Let’s look at launches by booster and spaceport and the flights that were required for human spaceflight.

USA, China Led World in Launches in 2016

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

Part 1 of 2

The United States and China led the world in orbital launch attempts in 2016 with 22 apiece. The combined 44 launches made up more than half of the 85 flights conducted around the world.


Putin Holds Meeting on Roscosmos Strategy Development

Meeting on the development strategy for Roscosmos State Corporation. (Credit: Russian government)
Meeting on the development strategy for Roscosmos State Corporation. (Credit: Russian government)

SOCHI, Russia (President of Russia PR) — Vladimir Putin held a meeting to discuss the strategy for the development of Roscosmos State Corporation through 2025 and for the period ending in 2030.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,

As we agreed, today we will discuss the strategy for the development of Roscosmos State Corporation until 2030.