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Russians Go 12 Months Without Launch Failure

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
October 16, 2019
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A Proton takes a nose dive at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. (Credit: Tsenki TV)

It’s been a long road, getting from there to here….

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Russian space program reached a milestone last week: for the first time in nearly a decade, it went a full 12 months — 365 days — without a single partial or complete launch failure.

On Oct. 11 the program passed the one-year anniversary of the Soyuz MS-10 in-flight abort that sent NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin on a wild ballistic ride. Neither one was injured; both later flew to the International Space Station.

The last time Russia went more than one year between launch failures was a 14-month stretch between March 14, 2008 and May 21, 2009.

The last calendar year in which the Russian space program had a clean sheet was in 2003. They have 76 days left in 2019 to equal that feat.

The table below shows the program’s 22 failures and six partial failure over the past 15 years.

1 Dec. 24, 2004 Tsiklon-3 Sich 1M, Micron 1 Partial Failure Booster failed to circularize orbit
2 June 21, 2005 Molniya-M Blok-ML Molniya-3K Failure Third stage failure
3 June 21, 2005 Volna-O Cosmos 1 Failure Cosmos Studios/The Planetary Society solar sail satellite failed to separate from booster third stage
4 August 10, 2005 Rokot Briz-KM Cryosat Failure Second stage failure; crashed in Arctic Ocean north of Greenland
5 February 28, 2006 Proton-M Briz-M Arabsat 4A (Badr 1) Failure Failed to reach usable orbit; de-orbited 24 days after launch
6 July 26, 2006 Dnepr BelKa 1, Baumanets 1, Unisat 4, PicPot, CP 1, CP 2, HAUSAT 1, ICECube 1, ICECube 2, ION, KUTESat-Pathfinder, Mea Huaka’i, MEROPE, Ncube 1, Rincon 1, SACRED SEEDS, AeroCube 1 Failure Engine failure
7 Sept. 5, 2007 Proton-M/Briz-M JCSat 11 Failure Second stage failure; booster and payload crashed in Kazakhstan
8 March 14, 2008 Proton-M/Briz-M AMC 14 Partial Failure Briz-M upper stage shut down 2 minutes early. Owner SES Americom declared satellite a complete loss. AMC 14 sold to US Department of Defense which manuevered into geosynchronous orbit using on-board thrusters.
9 May 21, 2009 Soyuz-2.1a/ Fregat Meridian 2 Failure Second stage shut down early, Fregat upper stage ran out of fuel trying to compensate. Satellite left in useless orbit, declared a loss by Russian military.
10 Dec. 5, 2010 Proton-M/ Blok-DM-3 Uragan-M #739, Uragan-M #740, Uragan-M #741 Failure Rocket failed to reach orbital velocity after upper stage overfilled with propellant.
11 Feb. 1, 2011 Rokot/Briz-KM Geo-IK-2 No. 11 Failure Upper stage malfunction.
12 Aug. 17, 2011 Proton-M/ Briz-M Ekspress AM4
Failure Briz-M upper stage suffered failure of attitude control.
13 Aug. 24, 2011 Soyuz-U Progress M-12 Failure Third stage failure due to turbo-pump duct blockage.
14 Nov. 8, 2011 Zenit-2SB/ Fregat Phobos-Grunt
Failure Zenit placed Phobos-Grunt in proper orbit. Spacecraft stranded in Earth orbit after Fregat failed to fire.
15 Dec. 23, 2011 Soyuz-2.1b/ Fregat Meridian 5 Failure Third stage failure.
16 Aug. 6, 2012 Proton-M/ Briz-M Telkom-3, Ekspress MD2 Failure Briz-M upper stage failed 7 seconds into its third burn.
17 Dec. 8, 2012 Proton-M/ Briz-M Yamal-402 Partial Failure Briz-M upper stage shut down 4 minutes earlier than planned on fourth burn. Spacecraft reached intended orbit under own power.
18 Jan. 15, 2013 Rokot/Briz-KM Kosmos 2482, Kosmos 2483, Kosmos 2484 Partial Failure Upper stage failed near time of spacecraft separation; one satellite destroyed.
19 Feb. 1, 2013 Zenit-3SL (Sea Launch)
Intelsat 27 Failure First stage failure.
20 July 2, 2013 Proton-M/DM-03 Uragan-M #748, Uragan-M #749,
Uragan-M #750
Failure First stage failure.
21 May 15, 2014 Proton-M/Briz-M Ekspress AM4R Failure Proton third stage vernier engine failure due to turbo-pump leak.
22 Aug. 14, 2014 Soyuz-STB/ Fregat Galileo FOC-1, Galileo FOC-2 Partial Failure Satellites placed in wrong orbits due to freezing of hydrazine in Fregat upper stage. Satellites made operational as part of Europe’s Galileo navigation constellation.
23 April 28, 2015 Soyuz-2.1a Progress 59P Failure Third stage failure left Progress in uncontrollable tumble.
24 May 16, 2015 Proton/Briz-M MexSat-1 Failure Third stage failure anomaly.
25 December 5, 2015 Soyuz-2.1v/ Volga Kanopus ST
KYuA 1
Partial Failure Primary payload Kanopus ST remained attached to upper stage, later burned up in atmosphere. Secondary payload KYuA 1 deployed successfully.
26 December 1, 2016 Soyuz U Progress MS-04 Failure Third stage failure. Progress supply ship burned up in atmosphere.
27 November 28, 2017 Soyuz 2-1b Meteor-M 2-1, 18 CubeSats Failure Fregat upper stage failure.
28 October 11,  2018 Soyuz FG Soyuz MS-10 Failure Launch anomaly resulted in emergency landing for two-member crew