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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The Best Laid Plans: Europe’s Ambitious Launch Year Goes Awry Due to International Tensions, Schedule Delays

The James Webb Space Telescope lifted off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, at 13:20 CET on 25 December 2021 on its exciting mission to unlock the secrets of the Universe. (Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On Christmas Day 2021, an European Ariane 5 rocket roared off its launch pad in French Guiana with the most expensive payload the booster had ever carried, the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope. The launcher performed perfectly, sending the most powerful space telescope on a journey to its final destination 1.5 million km (900 million miles) from Earth. The launch was so accurate that Webb should have sufficient propellant to perform science operations for much longer than its planned 10-year lifetime.

There was a collective sigh of relief among the European, American and Canadian scientists and engineers involved in the long-delayed program. It was a superb Christmas gift to a world suffering through the second year of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

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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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Roscosmos Looks Back at Successful Launch Year

Soyuz rocket launches 36 OneWeb satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec. 27, 2021. (Credit: Arianespace)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — For the third year in a row, Roscosmos ensured trouble-free launches of spacecraft from the Baikonur, Plesetsk and Vostochny cosmodromes. Russia has achieved the best indicators of accident-free launches in 5 years (about 97 percent) among the leading space powers (Russia, USA, China).

As of the end of 2021, 25 launches of space rockets were carried out, including 14 launches from the Baikonur cosmodrome, 5 launches from Vostochny, 5 from Plesetsk and 1 from the Guiana Space Center.

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Soyuz Places Two Galileo Navigation Satellites into Orbit

Soyuz rocket lifts off with the Galileo 27 and 28 satellites. (Credit: Arianespace webcast)

KOUROU, French Guiana (Roscosmos PR) — In accordance with the flight program, two new European Galileo FOC M9 satellites have successfully separated from the Fregat upper stage. Navigation spacecraft are in target orbit and are taken over by the customer. The launch vehicles of the State Corporation Roscosmos – the Soyuz-ST-B launch vehicle and the Fregat upper stage – worked without comment.

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Upcoming Launches Include Space Tourism Flight

Spaceflight participant Yozo Hiro, Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin and spaceflight participant Yusaku Maezawa. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Dates and times subject to change without notice. And remember: no wagering.

December 1

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payloads: 53 Starlink broadband satellites
Location: Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
Time: 6:20 p.m. EST (2320 GMT)
Webcast: www.spacex.com

December 1/2

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz ST-B/Fregat-MT
Payloads: Galileo 27 & 28 navigation satellites
Location: Guiana Space Center
Time: 7:31 p.m. EST (0031 GMT on Dec. 2)
Webcast: https://www.youtube.com/c/arianespace

December 5

Launch Vehicle: Atlas V
Payloads: U.S. Space Force LDPE-1 space tug; STPSat-6 technology demonstrator with NASA Laser Communications Relay Demonstration payload
Location: Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
Time: 4:04-6:04 a.m. EST (0904-1104 GMT)
Webcast: https://www.ulalaunch.com

December 8

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz-2.1a
Payload: Soyuz MS-20 crewed vehicle
Location: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazahkstan
Time: 2:38 a.m. EST (07:38 GMT)
Webcast: www.roscosmos.ru

Cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin and space tourists Yusaku Maezawa and Yozo Hirano will lift off on a 12-day mission to the International Space Station.

December 9

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer
Location: Kennedy Space Center
Time: 1:00-2:30 a.m. EST (0600-0730 GMT)
Webcast: www.spacex.com