Constellations, Launch, New Space and more…

Russia Achieves Clean Launch Record for Second Year in Row

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
January 3, 2021
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Soyuz-2 rocket lifts off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome with 36 OneWeb satellites. (Credit: Arianespace)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The outgoing year 2020 has become a difficult test for the entire world marked by the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Many world economic players have encountered objective difficulties in the implementation of previously outlined plans.

Unfortunately, Roscosmos also had to correct a number of plans, including those related to launch activities. Nevertheless, Roscosmos management put the quality of production and the safety of personnel working at the Russian rocket and space industry enterprises and cosmodromes at the forefront.

For the second year in a row, Roscosmos launch campaign was 100% accident-free, which in turn increased the average five-year success rate of space rocket launches to 97%. This corresponds to the benchmark level established by the State Corporation Development Strategy until 2025.

The Russian orbital constellation for socio-economic, scientific and navigation purposes amounted to 99 spacecraft, while the active life of domestic spacecraft increased by more than 3% which is also in line with the numbers established by the Strategy.

Angara-A5 rocket launched on a flight test from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on Dec. 14, 2020. (Credit: Roscosmos)

In 2020, the next stage of Angara-A5 heavy-class launch vehicle flight tests was carried out with a successful launch from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on December 14. A weight-and-dimensional mockup of about 2.4 tons was launched into geostationary orbit (36 thousand kilometers).

In total, in the outgoing year, 17 launches of space rockets were carried out with about 120 satellites were launched into various orbits. Among them there are 104 devices of the OneWeb satellite communication system, two navigation satellites (GLONASS-M and GLONASS-K), two crewed and two cargo spacecraft of the Soyuz MS and Progress MS series, two telecommunication satellites of the Express series, six Gonets communication satellites, payload on behalf of Russia’s Ministry of Defense and other countries.

The launches were carried out using launch vehicles and upper stages produced by Roscosmos subsidiaries – the Progress Rocket Space Center (Samara), Khrunichev Center (Moscow) and NPO Lavochkin (Khimki, Moscow region). Roscosmos management would like to thank all the personnel involved in the 2020 launch activities for their smooth and well-coordinated work!

(Front row from left) Expedition 64 crew members Kate Rubins, Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov join Expedition 63 crew members (back row from left) Ivan Vagner, Anatoly Ivanishin and Chris Cassidy inside the space station’s Zvezda service module. (Credit: NASA)

In the period from January 2020 to December 2020, Russian spacecraft delivered four crews under the International Space Station (ISS) program: ISS-60/61, ISS-61/62, ISS-63 and ISS-64, as well as returning three crews to Earth: ISS-60/61; ISS-61/62 and ISS-63. Within the existing international agreements, all the obligations on material and food supply of the station were fulfilled. In total, 5,295 kg of cargo were delivered to the ISS during the year.

2020 became a jubilee year for the ISS crewed flight, and Russia celebrated this anniversary by setting a new record in the world cosmonautics: the Soyuz MS-17 crewed transport spacecraft took the crew of Sergey Ryzhikov, Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Kathleen Rubins to the International space station in 3 hours and 3 minutes making it another achievement of Russian technologies!

At Vostochny, the second stage of the cosmodrome construction pace remains stable. The heavy components of the launchpad of the Amur space rocket complex were delivered to the construction site. The installation of the main part of the technological equipment of the complex has been completed, and in 2021 Roscosmos will start testing it.

In general, all work is being carried out slightly ahead of the previously approved schedule. The next stage of testing the heavy Angara rocket with the Oryol new generation crewed spacecraft is scheduled for 2023.

Nauka module undergoing vacuum testing. (Credit: Roscosmos)

The Nauka laboratory module is undergoing final tests at Baikonur. As of the end of the year, more than half of the 754 checks have been completed. All tests are carried out in accordance with the daily factory control test inspection schedule. The new module is scheduled for launch in 2021.

The Baiterek project, implemented by Russia and Kazakhstan, has entered the stage of practical implementation: in November, it passed the main preparatory stages to modernize sites No. 42 and No. 45 of the Zenit-M complex, intended for launches of the Soyuz-5 perspective launch vehicle.

The Sfera subprogram, developed by the Roscosmos, is entering a new stage of development. The draft resolution of the Government of the Russian Federation on its inclusion in the state space program of the Russian Federation has been submitted to the Government of the Russian Federation.

It implies creating new spacecraft with various functionalities. In case of timely funding the first launches can be carried out as early as 2024. As previously reported, the main goal of the subprogram is to ensure high quality space services in the Russian Federation, to create new domestic space technologies, systems and products for effective digital transformation of the Russian economy.

Development work continues on the Luna-Glob project, in which NPO Lavochkin is creating the Luna-25 spacecraft. In July-September 2020, thermal vacuum tests of the Luna-25 thermal model were carried out. The device was exposed to the vacuum of space, cold (‘black’) space, solar radiation reflected from the planets, and solar radiation itself. Simulation of heat loads during the launch, flight, the stage of artificial satellite of the Moon, the landing, as well as work on the Moon with imitation of a lunar day.

The data obtained will allow the developers in the near future to completely analyze of the correctness of the calculation of the thermal mathematical model of the Luna-25 spacecraft. Luna-25 automatic interplanetary station tests will be completed next summer, the mission is scheduled to launch in autumn 2021.

Trace Gas Orbiter, Schiaparelli and the ExoMars rover at Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

The ExoMars project, previously postponed due to the pandemic restrictions until 2022, has passed further testing. This year, the device underwent a series of tests, first in Italy (Turin), and then in France (Cannes): from readiness checks to assembly, maintenance, checking data and power transmission between the landing platform and the rover to a backup rover practicing a complex set of sequences and manipulations (exiting the landing platform and related operations).

After completion of testing in Cannes, the vehicle will return to Thales Alenia Space’s cleanrooms in Turin, Italy for further functional tests before being sent to the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

As part of the development of serial production of the Angara launch vehicle, the operability of the units and assemblies of the RD-191 engine manufactured by Proton-PM (Perm) was confirmed during the year. A turbo pump unit, a booster pump unit (oxidizer and fuel), a pipeline with an ejector, an oxidizer filter and valve and other nomenclature assigned to the Perm enterprise in the cooperation scheme to create the Angara engine were successfully tested as part of the development engine.

According to NPO Energomash specialists (the head organization of the integrated engine-building structure of Roscosmos), the next important stage will be the introduction of the improved RD-191 into serial production.

The development of the new Soyuz-5 launch vehicle is progressing well. Experimental work was carried out within the creation of the RD-0124MS four-chamber engine to be used in the second stage of the rocket. Two firing tests of the first power unit with a shortened nozzle were a success. The tests have confirmed the combustion chamber stability at reduced pressure.

NPO Energomash also carried out the first fire tests of the RD-171MV engine, proving the validity of the decisions that were implemented in the process of engine modernization. In addition, RSC Progress as the manufacturing enterprise continues intensive preparations to install the production equipment for the main rocket structure components.

The outgoing year turned out to be difficult in terms of restrictions and new challenges, but in 2021 Roscosmos and Russia’s rocket and space industry enterprises should accelerate their adaptation to new market conditions and security requirements in the context of fighting the pandemic, while continuing to increase efficiency. Roscosmos management is confident that all the tasks of the coming year will be completed.

Roscosmos Press Service, in turn, thanks the media representatives for the objective coverage of our events and our 2.2 million followers in social networks: VKontakteFacebookTelegramTwitterInstagramYouTubeFlickr and Odnoklassniki, as well as the users of our Android and iOS mobile application for the unflagging interest in Russian space exploration!