Recently in Russia Category

That was then: @DRogozin Dmitry Rogozin via Twitlonger 29 April 2014: "After analysing the sanctions against our space industry I suggest the US delivers its astronauts to the ISS with a trampoline http://t.co/8zGQhr9GVi D.Rogozin: US Lets Down Its ISS Astronauts By Sanctions Against Russian Space Programme"

This is now: Russian space chief invites Elon Musk to his home: 'I already set the teakettle on heat', CNN

"Russia's space chief was watching as billionaires Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson blasted into space aboard vehicles they helped fund -- and wishing Russian oligarchs would follow suit. "Our millionaires prefer to invest more in yachts rather than in spaceships," Dmitry Rogozin told CNN in his first interview with Western media since becoming Roscosmos' director general. "But maybe kids of current Russian millionaires will be much more wise creatures." Rogozin is impressed with the United States' burgeoning space tourism industry, including Branson's Virgin Galactic and Bezos' Blue Origin."

- Rogozin Dials Back The Rhetoric And Talks About Cooperation, earlier post
- New Head Of Roscosmos Is Under Formal U.S. Sanction, earlier post
- Rogozin Gets Scolded By Putin's No. 2, earlier post

Russian cosmonauts find new cracks in ISS module, Reuters

"Russian cosmonauts have discovered new cracks in a segment of the International Space Station that could widen, a senior space official said on Monday, the latest in a series of setbacks. "Superficial fissures have been found in some places on the Zarya module," Vladimir Solovyov, chief engineer of rocket and space corporation Energia, told RIA news agency. "This is bad and suggests that the fissures will begin to spread over time."

Kathy Lueders finally got around to tweeting "NASA astronauts, including Serena Aunon-Chancellor, are extremely well-respected, serve their country and make invaluable contributions to the agency. We stand behind Serena and her professional conduct. We do not believe there is any credibility to these accusations." and Bill Nelson retweeted this tweet and added "I whole heartedly agree with Kathy's statement. I fully support Serena and I will always stand behind our astronauts.". Why does it always seem to take 24 hours for NASA to state the obvious - after everyone else already has?

Twelve theses of American claims against Roscosmos and answers to them, TASS (auto translated)

"As for getting it a hole in orbit, some circumstances should be taken into account, my anonymous interlocutor believes. First, the illness of one of the astronauts - as it became known from scientific workabout the first case of thrombus formation in orbit, when Serina Maria Auñon-Chancellor was already on Earth, she was subjected to this misfortune. "And this could provoke an acute psychological crisis," which could lead to attempts in various ways to speed up her return to the planet, my anonymous interlocutor believes."

Keith's note: This article appears on TASS, a mouthpiece which is owned by the Government of Russia. Clearly Roscosmos PAO was busy refuting various news reports about ongoing problems within Russia's space efforts so they could pump it out as "news" on Tass. This is a typical article you see from time to time - one that is made even more disjointed by automatic web translation. But one part of this article shines through the bad translation: a cheap shot against an American astronaut accusing her of an emotional break down and sabotaging a Soyuz so that she could get home earlier. Truth be known this sounds more like one of those goofy movie plots that Russia always seems to want to film on the ISS.

It is unlikely that the crude depiction of this American astronaut's health is remotely accurate. But if there was even the slightest issue of a medical concern the last thing Roscosmos - directly or by proxy - should be doing is talking about it in public - for any reason. To do so is a gross violation of "Code of Conduct for the International Space Station Crew" signed by Russia and all ISS partners and codified as law in the U.S. as 14 CFR § 1214.403. Specifically:

"In particular, all personal medical information, whether derived from medical monitoring, investigations, or medical contingency events, shall be treated as private medical information and shall be transmitted in a private and secure fashion in accordance with procedures to be set forth by the MMOP."

Meanwhile, one would hope that NASA makes a public stance on this nonsense in support of their employee. Something tells me that NASA PAO is not up to that task. This entire TASS article, bad translation not withstanding, is childish, defensive, and not the sort of thing that a great spacefaring nation should be putting out to explain its problems. It is time to grow up Roscosmos.

Keith's note: Looks like NASA PAO quietly sent this out to a few people last night. But you had to be psychic to know to ask for it in the first place. You gotta wonder why they do not just post it on their website so as to send a clear message to Roscosmos i.e. "This ain't cool. Knock it off".

"All the International Space Station partners are dedicated to mission safety and the welfare of the crew. The International Space Station partners all participate in multiple reviews prior to every major station activity to assess and ensure the safety of all crew members. The hole that was detected in late August 2018 by the space station crew was quickly sealed, restoring air-tight pressure to the station. Russian cosmonauts conducted a spacewalk that December to gather additional engineering data for Russian specialists on Earth and to look externally at the effectiveness of the internal repair. The Soyuz spacecraft was thoroughly checked and deemed safe for the crew to return to Earth, which it did, on Dec. 20, 2018. To protect their privacy, the agency will not discuss medical information regarding crew members."

Space Station Incident Demands Independent Investigation, Jim Oberg, IEEE Spectrum

"How close the station had come to disaster is an open question, and the flight director humorously alluded to it in a later tweet that he'd never been so happy as when he saw on external TV cameras that the solar arrays and radiators were still standing straight in place. And any excessive bending stress along docking interfaces between the Russian and American segments would have demanded quick leak checks. But even if the rotation was "simple," the undeniably dramatic event has both short term and long-term significance for the future of the space station. And it has antecedents dating back to the very birth of the ISS in 1997."

Keith's note: The first person I thought of when this happened was Jim Oberg. Back in the 90s Jim and I were tag teaming coverage of things that happened on board Mir as part of the Phase 1 effort to build a joint U.S./Russian space station out of what was once Mir-2 and Space Station Freedom. NASA was not happy with what we reported. Much of what we uncovered spoke to bad communications between the U.S. and Russian teams, an underlying level of distrust, and a lot of ad hoc decision making. But the over-arching intent on both sides was to make things work - since things simply had to work - and to put forth that unified front - especially when things got rocky.

These items from 1997 come to mind:

Charlie Harlan's Thoughts on Spaceflight Safety, 29 June 1997

"When NASA originally began the Shuttle/Mir Program, no rigorous safety analysis or risk analysis was accomplished. NASA decided based on the then understood historical performance of safe Mir operations to accept that record as a given. This was done by a subjective review process unlike the systematic safety and reliability analytical techniques utilized for U.S. human spaceflight. If you remember, at that time the Russians were not always forthright about their systems failures or some of the problems they had in the past. The decision was made at the highest levels of NASA, and the formal safety analysis that was established for the Phase I Program was only for the new joint operations activities, new experiments, and new procedures. The acceptance of the existing Mir safety record was driven by management judgment, and therefore for formal and structured documented risk baseline exists for the start of the program. It should be very clear to everyone that the risk level to human safety on the Mir Station has increased somewhat since the early management decisions and agreements were made."

Better-Cheaper-Faster: The Risk of Being Open and Honest (Part 1), 16 July 1997

"Instead, PAO reverts to its least open behavior on the Shuttle/Mir program. A harbinger of things to come on ISS? Individuals who are allowed to speak for NASA are thoroughly briefed so as to know what NOT to say. Press releases are diluted and sanitized. I get all the internal NASA email, so I see what doesn't make it on TV - or the press wires. I hear all the stories from frustrated program managers who speak of PAO saying things such as "why do they need to know this" or "we'd rather not let that out right now".

Keith's note: Echoes from the past. Example: the sanitized stuff that dribbled out of NASA PAO after the Nauka event designed to minimize details as to what actually happened and to accentuate the level of cooperation between the U.S., Russia, and other ISS partners. I guess we'll have to wait for one of those one hour Aerospace Safety Advisory Committee telecon meetings at some point in the future - the sort of meeting NASA PAO never announces - where the truth will start to dribble out - as it did after Mir and other accidents.

Jim also recounts the rocky first hours of the launch of FGB-1 - aka Zarya - on 20 November 1998. It refused to obey firing commands and the U.S. was kept in the dark for a while. Flash forward to 2021 and its twin - Nauka - originally built as FGB-2 as the back up for FGB-1 (paid for by the U.S.) had similar problems once reaching space.

To be certain the International Space Station program has been a resounding success overall and future international efforts could do well to learn from it. Given the continued bad blood between the U.S. and Russia it is astonishing that the ISS has managed to exist - literally and politically - above the fray of terrestrial squabbles. Indeed, it has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize as a result - an idea I personally thing is worth pursuing. I am one of the 100,000+ people who designed and built this amazing spacecraft - one that was paid for by over a billion taxpayers. And I call it the "Undiscovered Country" since I feel its fullest potential has yet to be tapped.

But, accomplishments and potential aside, this does not mean that the picture onboard the ISS is perfect. It is not. Underneath the orbital comradery there are still problems. The ISS program just declared the first "spacecraft emergency" in its entire existence on orbit. That is big news, right? Yet NASA and Roscosmos do not want to talk about it. Why is that?

I hope Congress holds a hearing on this - just like they did after the fire and collision on Mir a quarter of a century ago. If something is broken then it needs to be fixed - even if NASA won't admit that there is a problem. And what is it they say about people and organizations who have problems? The first step is to admit that there is a problem.

Nauka Was An Accident Waiting To Happen And NASA Knew, earlier post

Keith's note: I am waiting to see if NASA or Roscosmos ever explain how much fuel is still in the lines of MLM/Nauka/FGB-2 - when they purge it given that the firings were unscheduled, the prop system had to be inhibited, and the fuel tanks are supposedly empty. Based on internal memos we've read (and I cannot post), NASA personnel in Houston and Moscow were worried about Nauka and its propulsion system - before docking even happened. Plus NASA does not have the complete insight into Nauka prop system that they'd like to have and must rely on Russians.

Two of the three levels of redundancy in the Nauka prop system were lost before docking. The friendly banter between NASA and Roscosmos about Nauka issues was not as collegial and transparent as Kathy Lueders et al described it as being yesterday. Just sayin'.

Oh yes - notice that the usually reliable NASA ISS on-orbit status reports have not been updated for a week. What's up with that? Stay tuned.

- Nauka Fired Its Thrusters For No Reason - OFT-2 Delayed, earlier post

NASA Invites Media to International Space Station Update

Audio of the teleconference will stream live online at: http://www.nasa.gov/live ... To participate in the teleconference, media must contact Kathryn Hambleton at kathryn.hambleton@nasa.gov by 4 p.m. today for dial-in information.

Keith's update: NSAA PAO mailed this media advisory at 4:09 pm EDT - 9 minutes after the deadline expired for media to participate. So much for enabling media access.

Keith's update: NASA and Boeing have delayed Friday's launch attempt for OFT-2 Starliner due tot he Nauka situation. The new launch date is still TBD.

Keith's note: Just as the hatch to Nauka was being opened Nauka started to fire its thrusters in an uncontrolled fashion putting the ISS some 45 degrees out of its preferred orientation. Progress thrusters were activated to counteract what Nauka was doing. Then the Service Module used its thrusters to counteract what Nauka was doing. Now Russia is waiting to get another pass to communicate with Nauka to see what is going on - and why. NASA is not saying much of anything other than to say that the crew is not in danger.

Nauka has had problems from the moment it reached space. Indeed it had problems in the decades it sat on the ground and had to have one system after another rebuilt and/or redesigned. It was originally FGB-2 - one of the two FGBs that NASA paid for back in the 1990s. This module was a back-up and was only called into service when Russia decided that it could not afford a much more complex laboratory module.

Nauka was unable to use its propulsion system to do orbit burns so it had to use smaller thrusters to do that. Now that it is docked onto the ISS it is supposed to be passive. As such, the random firing of its thrusters in an uncontrolled fashion such that the space station has to fight back to counter this activity is not the sign of a healthy spacecraft. Add in the fact that there were crew inside when this happend is certainly causing some people at NASA and Roscosmos to be concerned.

You have to wonder if NASA and Boeing are at all interested in launching OFT-2 given that this uncontrollable and unexplained situation exists.

Stay tuned.

Keith's note: Jim Banke just pointed out this transcript of an NBC interview with Putin wherein he talked about space and NASA quite a bit. This is a translation so it is not precise. But it does show the pattern that Russia often uses i.e. 'two steps forward, one step back'. First Rogozin goes on the attack to see how far he can push the U.S - in this case, NASA, and then Putin dials it back by 80% or so. But that still leaves Rogozin 20% to work with. Everyone in the space world is used to this by now.

Something to ponder: despite decades of whiplash from ever-changing U.S./Russian squabbles, the International Space Station has managed to survive and thrive amidst this chaos. Even when both countries engage in tit for tat sanctions - and hurl accusations - the ISS seems to be immune from this. Indeed, there is clearly a tacit acceptance by all parties that the cooperative ventures on ISS are simply too important to disrupt for petty political reasons even when things get really bad back on Earth. Yes, we lean in that direction everyone once in a while, but it is quickly dialed back once people calm down.

As I am fond of saying, perhaps living in space can teach us all some lessons on how to live and work together on Earth. China is about to launch a crew to its new space station. Russia wants to work with them and China wants to work with the U.S. I will be on CGTN at some point today and I will say that exact same thing - as I have many times before.

"VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, honestly, I don't think that Mr. Rogozin, that is the name of the head of-- Roscosmos, has threatened anyone in this regard. I've known him for many years, and I know that he is a supporter-- he is a supporter of expanding the relationship with the U.S. in this area, in space. Recently, the head of NASA spoke in the same vein. And I personally fully support this. And we have been working with great pleasure all of these years, and we're prepared to continue to work. For technical reasons though, and that's a different matter, is that the International Space Station is-- coming to an end of its service life. And maybe in this-- regard, the Roscosmos does not have plans to continue their work. However-- based on what I heard from-- our U.S. partners they, too, are looking at future cooperation in this particular segment in their certain-- in a certain way. But on the whole, the-- cooperation between our two countries in space is a great example of a situation where despite any kind of problems in political relationships in recent years, it's an area where we have been able to maintain and preserve the partnership and both parties cherish it. I think you just misunderstood the head of the-- Russian space program said. We are interested in continuing to work with the U.S. in this direction, and we will continue to do so if our U.S. partners don't refuse to-- to-- to do that. It doesn't mean that we need to work exclusively with the U.S. We-- have been working and will continue to work with China, which applies to all kinds of programs, including-- exploring deep space. And-- I think there is nothing but --positive information here. I-- frankly, I don't see any ex-- any-- contradictions here. I don't think any mutual-- exclusivity here."

Russia, Once a Space Superpower, Turns to China for Missions, NY Times

"Now, the future of the Russian space program rests with the world's new space power, China. After years of promises and some limited cooperation, Russia and China have begun to draw up ambitious plans for missions that would directly compete with those of the United States and its partners, ushering in a new era of space competition that could be as intense as the first."

Roscosmos chief sees vast prospects for ecological monitoring cooperation with US, TASS

"The CEO of Russia's Roscosmos corporation, Dmitry Rogozin, sees vast prospects for cooperation with the United States in space, in particular, in the field of ecological monitoring. Rogozin shared his ideas while commenting on space-related questions put to Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview to the US television network NBC. "We see vast prospects for cooperation with the United States in ecological monitoring from space," Rogozin wrote in his Telegram-channel."

Keith's note: Speaking today Rogozin noted that although China's space station is in an orbit with a different inclination than ISS that launches from Russia and French Guiana are possible and that Russia is discussing the sending of cosmonauts to China's space station. Rogozin said that he has spoken with Bill Nelson and that he will do so again. The issue of continued participation in the ISS program and its lifespan came up but nothing definitive was decided.

Rogozin told on what conditions the United States handed over Sea Launch to Russia, RIA Novosti (auto translation)

"The United States agreed to transfer Russian space rocket complex "Sea Launch" under the condition that it will not compete with the US company SpaceX Elon Musk , said General Director of " Roscosmos " Dmitry Rogozin. "Specific strict restrictions were introduced when signing this contract for the transfer of two Sea Launch vessels to a Russian company (S7 - ed.) - an obligation that we do not have the right to use this Sea Launch in competition with Elon Musk," he said during parliamentary hearings in the State Duma. "Okay? That is, the US government, government lawyers act as a client of, in fact, a private company (SpaceX - ed.). Or maybe it is not a private company in this case, if with the help of state sanctions we are limited to compete with SpaceX?" "- added Rogozin."

Russia's space chief threatens to leave International Space Station program unless U.S. lifts sanctions

"Russia's space chief threatened Monday to withdraw from the International Space Station program if U.S. sanctions against Moscow's space entities are "not lifted in the near future." "If the sanctions against Progress and TsNIIMash remain and are not lifted in the near future, the issue of Russia's withdrawal from the ISS will be the responsibility of the American partners," Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin said during a Russian parliament hearing on Monday, according to an NBC translation. "Either we work together, in which case the sanctions are lifted immediately, or we will not work together and we will deploy our own station," he added."

Roscosmos unable to launch some satellites due to sanctions -- Rogozin, TASS

"Russian space corporation Roscosmos will be unable to launch some satellites due to the lack of microchips that cannot be imported due to sanctions. "We have more than enough rockets, but there is nothing to put in space," Rogozin told the State Duma during hearings on Western sanctions and measures being taken to minimize their effects on the Russian economy and politics."

Issuance of a new Ukraine-related Executive Order; Ukraine-related Designations, U.S. Department of the Treasury

"ROGOZIN, Dmitry Olegovich (a.k.a. ROGOZIN, Dmitriy; a.k.a. ROGOZIN, Dmitry); DOB 21 Dec 1963; POB Moscow, Russia; Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation (individual) [UKRAINE2]."

- Can Sanctioned Roscosmos Chief Rogozin Visit The U.S.?, earlier post

NASA Administrator Statement on Meeting with Roscosmos

"NASA Administrator Bill Nelson released the following statement after an introductory call Friday with Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin: "I was pleased to speak with General Director Dimitry Rogozin this morning in a productive discussion about continued cooperation between NASA and Roscosmos."

Dmitry Rogozin held phone call with NASA head Bill Nelson, Roscosmos

"Therewith, the head of Roscosmos stated several questions that had been initiated by the US side earlier and now are substantially hindering the cooperation. First of all this is about the sanctions introduced by the American administration against the enterprises of the Russian space industry, as well as the absence of any official information in Roscosmos from the US partners on the plans to further control and operate the ISS."

Russian cosmonautics under huge financial restraints -- Roscosmos chief, TASS

"Russian cosmonautics lacks the funds that were available during the Soviet period and thus is under huge financial restraints, Roscosmos Chief Dmitry Rogozin said at a general meeting of the Russian Academy of Sciences on Wednesday. "There is a big difference between the spending on the Soviet and Russian cosmonautics. We are under huge financial restraints," the Roscosmos chief said. This prompts the Russian space agency to set priorities and choose those that will yield a big effect. And it should not in any case engage in those 'championships and competitions' where Russia is bound to get only second or third places from the very outset, he stressed."

Russia says to launch own space station in 2025, AFP

"Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov said in recent days that Moscow was considering whether to leave the ISS programme from 2025 because of the station's age. Roscosmos said on Monday that a decision on quitting the ISS had not yet been made. "When we make a decision we will start negotiations with our partners on forms and conditions of cooperation beyond 2024," the space agency told AFP in a statement."

Russia to Quit Int'l Space Station in 2025 - Reports, Moscow Times

"We have 2024 as an agreed time limit with our partners on the work of the ISS. After that, decisions will be made based on the technical condition of the station's modules, which have mostly worn out their service life, as well as our plans to deploy a next-generation national orbital service station," Roscosmos said."

Keith's note: It is springtime and right on schedule the Russians are once again making strange noises as a prelude to renegotiating something. It happens every year. They never have enough money to do the things that they threaten to do - or not do - or both. Of course, all of the problems they allude to seem to have to do with their hardware (and lack of Soyuz seat sales). So ... what are they going to do? Give their ISS hardware to the ISS partners? Sell it? Detach it and deorbit it? FYI there is a huge lien against the entire program to deorbit ISS once it has completed its task. Is Russia going to help pay for this? As for the new Russian space station - show me the money.

- Earlier posts about Russia

Russian Film Plans Mean NASA Astronaut Could Spend an Entire Year in Space, Gizmodo

"Russian director Klim Shipenko and an actress to be named later might join the Soyuz MS-19 mission, which is scheduled for launch in October, as AP reports. .. Once filming activities are done, Shipenko and his partner, along with Novitskiy, would return home on MS-18, likely within a week. The two seats were meant for Vande Hei and Dubrov, which means the pair might have to stay on the ISS until the next return trip home, likely in the spring of 2022."

Keith's note: So ... NASA no longer has an arrangement with Russia to buy Soyuz seats. As such they have to use Axiom Space (who has some sort of undisclosed deal with Roscosmos to own/control a Soyuz seat) that they can swap for a seat on a Boeing or SpaceX flight (another TBD deal) - all for the purpose of assuring a U.S. presence on the ISS. But wait: the return seat is not guaranteed and the American flying in the Axiom Space Soyuz seat may have to stay on the ISS for a year?

I thought the whole idea behind the commercial crew thing was that SpaceX and Boeing were going to be flying to/from ISS on a regular basis and do so in a fashion that assured U.S. access - in both directions? So why is it that an American can't get a ride home when they are supposed to? This sounds like American astronauts are now flying on standby tickets. I'd ask NASA PAO - but they never answer these sort of questions.

Who negotiated this mess?

- Congress Inquires About NASA/Russia - Soyuz Deals, earlier post
- Is NASA Running A Soyuz Seat Swap Scheme?, earlier post
- NASA Wants To Buy Russian While The White House Says Buy American, earlier post

NASA Signs Contract to Fly a NASA Astronaut on April Soyuz Rotation to the International Space Station

"To ensure continuous U.S. presence aboard the International Space Station, NASA has signed a contract with a U.S. commercial company Axiom Space of Houston to fly a NASA astronaut on an upcoming Soyuz rotation on Soyuz MS-18, scheduled to launch April 9. In exchange, NASA will provide a seat on a future U.S. commercial spacecraft, expected to launch in 2023, as part of a space station crew rotation mission. The "seat" on each flight includes transportation to and from the International Space Station and comprehensive mission support, including all necessary training and preparation for launch, flight operations, landing and crew rescue services.

Because the services are determined to be of comparable value to both parties, the contract contains no exchange of funds.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei will launch aboard the Soyuz for a full expedition aboard the International Space Station. NASA will continue to work with Axiom to fly a non-NASA astronaut Axiom designates on a U.S. commercial spacecraft."

Keith's note: For starters Axiom Space does not have the ability to launch anything into space. They have to procure those services elsewhere. In this case Axiom clearly has some sort of deal with Roscosmos - one that Roscomos likes. Otherwise NASA would deal directly with Roscosmos as they have been for decades, right? So, assuming that the Russians are not stupid, is Axiom getting a special discount from Roscosmos as a marketing fee in exchange for selling a seat to NASA? Apparently so since they are certainly not doing this for free (they are in "business", yes?). So, why can't NASA get the same discount - without needing to use Axiom as a middleman?

Congress noticed the third party aspect of this: "Given the information and testimony listed above, it appears that NASA may be seeking to procure a Russian Soyuz seat from a third-party, on a noexchange-of-funds-basis, and that a formal agreement between NASA and Russia for seat exchanges may not be in place."

Letter From House Science Committee Republicans To NASA On Soyuz Flights

"NASA's recent solicitation for "International Space Station Seat Exchange," indicated that "NASA has no remaining crew seats on Soyuz." At the January 2018 Committee hearing, the NASA witness testified that "[t]he manufacturing time of a Soyuz of approximately 3 years will not allow additional Soyuz to be manufactured." Given the information and testimony listed above, it appears that NASA may be seeking to procure a Russian Soyuz seat from a third-party, on a noexchange-of-funds-basis, and that a formal agreement between NASA and Russia for seat exchanges may not be in place. In order for the Committee to better understand what NASA intends to use the aforementioned solicitation to procure, and more specifically, how it intends to procure those services, please facilitate a bipartisan briefing for Committee staff. If you have any questions related to this request, please contact Mr. Tom Hammond with the minority Committee staff."

NASA Wants To Buy Russian While The White House Says Buy American (Update), earlier post

"So ... why is it that NASA is buying a seat from Roscosmos via a third party? Axiom Space has to be making some money off of this, right? So why go through Axiom Space and pay them a fee when NASA can just go directly to Roscosmos - minus the Axiom Space reselling path - as NASA has done for decades? Wouldn't that be cheaper? Does this involve the $140 million deal that Axiom Space has with NASA to study their commercial space station module? Or ... does the use of Axiom Space (an American company) as a middle man provide a way to technically "buy American"?"

Moscow denies visa to candidate for NASA post, says U.S. has made similar move, Reuters

"Moscow said on Wednesday it had denied a visa for a candidate to head the mission of U.S. space agency NASA in Russia, in what it described as retaliation for the U.S. denial of a visa to an undisclosed Russian official. Russia did not identify the U.S. official who had been denied a visa, or provide further details of the incident for which it was retaliating. The U.S. embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment."

NASA is bargaining with a US space startup for a Soyuz seat, The Verge

"NASA is planning to buy an astronaut seat on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft through Texas-based aerospace firm Axiom Space, according to two people familiar with the plans. It was unclear how much NASA is considering paying Axiom for the single Soyuz seat or what cut Axiom would get from the deal."

Keith's update: Nice scoop by Joey Roulette. So ... why is it that NASA is buying a seat from Roscosmos via a third party? Axiom Space has to be making some money off of this, right? So why go through Axiom Space and pay them a fee when NASA can just go directly to Roscosmos - minus the Axiom Space reselling path - as NASA has done for decades? Wouldn't that be cheaper? Does this involve the $140 million deal that Axiom Space has with NASA to study their commercial space station module? Or ... does the use of Axiom Space (an American company) as a middle man provide a way to technically "buy American"?

NASA Weighs Options for Additional Crew Transportation for Spring Soyuz Mission to Space Station

"NASA now is considering obtaining a supplemental seat on the upcoming spring Soyuz crew rotation mission for a NASA astronaut to add additional capability to the agency's planning. The agency issued a public synopsis to identify all sources that potentially could provide the crew transportation service in the needed timeframe beyond the capability NASA already has in operation with the agency's Commercial Crew Program. ... Securing an additional Soyuz seat assures the back-up capability of at least one U.S. crew member aboard the International Space Station in the event of a problem with either spacecraft. NASA is considering providing in-kind services for this supplemental crew transportation service, rather than an exchange of funds."

Executive Order on Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America's Workers, 25 January 2021

"Section 1. Policy. It is the policy of my Administration that the United States Government should, consistent with applicable law, use terms and conditions of Federal financial assistance awards and Federal procurements to maximize the use of goods, products, and materials produced in, and services offered in, the United States. The United States Government should, whenever possible, procure goods, products, materials, and services from sources that will help American businesses compete in strategic industries and help America's workers thrive. Additionally, to promote an accountable and transparent procurement policy, each agency should vest waiver issuance authority in senior agency leadership, where appropriate and consistent with applicable law."

Keith's 9 Feb note: NASA has been crowing about its commercial crew capabilities with SpaceX and soon, with Boeing. The whole idea behind the commercial crew thing was to provide the U.S. with its own redundant ability to launch astronauts and to end the reliance on foreign providers. The idea behind having more than one domestic provider was that one could back up the other using dissimilar redundancy i.e. two different systems. Now, NASA apparently wants to back-up the back-up citing dissimilar redundancy as the rational. So it now wants doubly-dissimilar redundancy, it would seem. Or do they have doubts about Boeing and/or SpaceX?

With regard to NASA saying "NASA is considering providing in-kind services for this supplemental crew transportation service, rather than an exchange of funds.", the "in-kind services" that NASA is offering cost NASA something to provide. They are not provided to NASA for free. NASA is offering something that cost them money in exchange for these Soyuz seats - seats provided by an offshore source.

Meanwhile the White House issued an executive order mere days after taking office that mandates a government focus on procuring goods and service domestically. Is NASA somehow special in thinking that it can overtly ask for a foreign provider when we make nice sexy spaceships domestically? SpaceX just announced that it is launching an overtly commercial flight, and launching another for Axiom, and yet another for Tom Cruise. Is there really a lack of domestic capability? Or is NASA just falling back into old habits. Just wondering.

Commerce Department Will Publish the First Military End User List Naming More Than 100 Chinese and Russian Companies

"The MEU List informs exporters, reexporters, and transferors that a license will be required to export, reexport, or transfer (in-country) designated items to listed entities. The U.S. Government has determined that these entities represent an unacceptable risk of use in or diversion to a 'military end use' or 'military end user' in China, Russia, or Venezuela."

Dmitry Rogozin comments on trade restrictions against Russian companies, Roscosmos

"Now, it turns out that our American colleagues have their 'trampoline working' again, and the first thing they did is spit into the Samara well. Isn't it too early, colleagues, in case your 'trampoline' breaks again suddenly and you will have to satisfy your passion for space from our well again?"

- Rogozin: Russia Is Not Interested In Working With NASA on Artemis (Or Maybe They Are), earlier post
- Bellicose Roscosmos Thinks Trump Is Hysterical Over Dragon, earlier post
- other posts on Russia

Soyuz Crew Returns To Earth

Chris Cassidy, Ivan Vagner, and Anatoly Ivanishin Return To Earth

"After 196 days living and working in Earth's orbit aboard the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy returned from his third space mission Wednesday, Oct. 21, with cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. The crew departed the station at 7:32 p.m. EDT Wednesday and landed just south of the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, at 10:54 p.m. (8:54 a.m. Kazakhstan time)."

Hell Is in Space and It Belongs to Russia, Roscosmos Chief Says, Gizmmodo

"Our country was the first and only one to successfully land on Venus," Rogozin told attendees at the 2020 HeliRussia exhibition, according to Russia's state-run TASS news agency. "The [Russian] spacecraft gathered information about the planet -- it is like hell over there." "We believe that Venus is a Russian planet," Rogozin added. "Both agencies have historically struggled with funding. ... The Russian government has slashed funding for Roscosmos repeatedly in recent years, even as it's facing pressure from competitors like SpaceX who offer cheaper, reusable rockets. Rogozin has offered a lot of bluster about Roscosmos' capabilities despite the cuts, but this week he admitted that insufficient funding was taking a toll. "I don't quite understand how to work in these conditions," Rogozin said. "We are seeing that leading foreign space agencies are increasing their budgets." Going to hell just isn't as easy as it used to be."

"What if we built a bridge, between and above all nations, to jointly discover the galaxy's great unknowns?" Join us this fall as we prepare to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the International Space Station. As a global endeavor, 240 people from 19 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory, which has hosted more than 2,800 research investigations from scientists in over 100 nations."

Why the International Space Station Deserves Consideration for a Nobel Peace Prize, ISS National Laboratory

"Starting the year 2021, the Russian program": Dmitry Rogozin - about when and with whom we will fly to the moon, kp.ru (autotranlsated)

"For the United States this is now more of a political project. With the lunar project, we are witnessing the departure of our American partners from the principles of cooperation and mutual support that have developed with the ISS . They see their program not as international, but as similar to NATO. There is America, everyone else must help and pay. Honestly, we are not interested in participating in such a project. ... With the United States, with all that happens in our relations in a global sense, space remains an important bridge of interaction. I maintain my friendships with my partners in the USA. And above all, with my counterpart Jim Brandenstein, who heads NASA . I hope that this cooperation will continue and be less affected by the bad political situation, which, unfortunately, comes from Washington today."

NASA chief says Russia ties 'solid' as Moscow's space chief rejects U.S.-led moon program, Reuters

"NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said Tuesday he still expected support from Russia's space corporation in its Artemis moon program despite Moscow's space chief slamming the U.S.-led lunar effort. Bridenstine said in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday "the relationship between NASA and Roscosmos is solid" and emphasized that international partners will play a key role in NASA's plan to land humans on the lunar surface by 2024 and construct a space station orbiting the moon. "I've got a good relationship with Dmitri Rogozin, so I'm hopeful that there are opportunities for us to continue to collaborate," Bridenstine said, referring to the general director of Russia's state space corporation Roscosmos. But Rogozin called the moon program in an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda on Monday a "political project" and likened it to NATO, the Western military alliance Russia has long shunned."

- Russia Says Nyet To Artemis Accords, earlier post
- Earlier posts about Rogozin

Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says, NY Times

"American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan - including targeting American troops - amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter. ... The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House's National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options - starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said."

Russian space agency calls Trump's reaction to SpaceX launch "hysteria", Reuters

"The U.S. success will potentially deprive Roscosmos, which has suffered corruption scandals and a number of malfunctions, of the lucrative fees it charged to take U.S. astronauts to the ISS. "The hysteria raised after the successful launch of the Crew Dragon spacecraft is hard to understand," Vladimir Ustimenko, spokesman for Roscosmos, wrote on Twitter after citing Trump's statement. "What has happened should have happened long ago. Now it's not only the Russians flying to the ISS, but also the Americans. Well that's wonderful!" Moscow has said previously that it is also deeply worried about what it fears are U.S. plans to deploy weapons in space. Moscow would not be sitting idly by, Ustimenko said."

Remarks by President Trump at Kennedy Space Center

"We have created the envy of the world and will soon be landing on Mars, and will soon have the greatest weapons ever imagined in history. I've already seen designs. And even I can't believe it. The United States has regained our place of prestige as the world leader. As has often been stated, you can't be number one on Earth if you are number two in space. (Applause.) And we are not going to be number two anywhere. (Applause.) Nowhere is this more true than with our military, which we have completely rebuilt. Under my administration, we have invested two and a half trillion dollars in new planes, ships, submarines, tanks, missiles, rockets -- anything you can think of. And last year, I signed the law creating the sixth branch of that already very famous United States Armed Forces: the Space Force. (Applause.)"

Russian space agency says Trump paving way to seize other planets, Reuters

"The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, accused Donald Trump on Tuesday of creating a basis to take over other planets by signing an executive order outlining U.S. policy on commercial mining in space. The executive order, which Roscosmos said damaged the scope for international cooperation in space, was signed on Monday. It said the United States would seek to negotiate "joint statements and bilateral and multilateral arrangements with foreign states regarding safe and sustainable operations for the public and private recovery and use of space resources".

Keith's note: It is somewhat ironic to see a resurgent Russia in search of its former USSR victories in space to complain about agressive expansion into space. The poster from the USSR's heyday in space says "Glory to the conquerors of the universe!" Not exactly subtle intent on the part of USSR/Russia. Just sayin'

Delivery of Nauka module to Baikonur postponed over fuel tank adjustments, TASS

"The construction of the Nauka module began in 1995. Russia initially planned to launch the Nauka lab to the ISS as a back-up of the Zarya compartment (the station's first module that continues its flight as part of the orbital outpost) but the launch was numerously delayed. In 2013, the Nauka module was sent to the Khrunichev Space Center after metal chips were found in its fuel system. Rogozin said on December 16 that the module may be launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in early 2021 instead of late 2020 as was initially planned."

Khrunichev Delivers Multi-purpose Laboratory Module "Nauka" to Energia, 2012

Russian, Japanese companies plan to jointly design moon robot, TASS

"Russia's Android Technology Company and Japan's GITAI startup plan to create a robot to operate on the lunar surface, the Russian company's executive director, Yevgeny Dudorov, told TASS. "We will sign a cooperation agreement. Later, we will outline joint plans for 2020, 2021 and other years," Dudorov said, adding that the deal would be signed soon. Once the joint project is a success, the sides will present their developments to the national space agencies - Russia's Roscosmos and Japan's JAXA."

Keith's note: Check out the picture. I wonder which parent the Moon droid will resemble. The Japanese droid is designed to be friendly. The Russian droid shoots machine guns. Meanwhile no one talks about NASA's Robonaut any more.

- A Strange Tweet From Russian Space Droid Fedor, earlier post
- Russian Space Robot Fyodor / Robonaut/R5 Valkyrie Cage Match Cancelled, earlier post
- Hey NASA: This Is The Droid You Should Be Looking For, earlier post

Keith's note: This creepy tweet shows Fedor, the Russian space droid who recently spent some time on the ISS, looking out the window at a nuclear explosion. The weird picture is accompanied with this text (Google translation):

"You can call me anything you like - a "dumb piece of iron" or something else, but when I find out about the VADA solution, I'll still tell you this:
1) those who invented it have big problems with the processor in their heads,
2) and those who are willing to tolerate this do not have not only a rod, but also a spine. And it's even worse"

It is often hard to tell what Russian social media accounts are official or quasi-official - or something else. The account's Twitter profile says "Fedor @ FEDOR37516789 The first anthropomorphic robot to work in space, the call sign Skybot F-850, an assistant crew of the International Space Station. Here are just facts about space." It was rather active during Fedor's flight. It only follows 8 other Twitter accounts, @NASA, @SpaceX and then the major Russian space agency accounts - including the head of Roscosmos @Rogozin.

I think maybe "VADA" is "WADA" (World Anti-Doping Agency) who just banned Russia from participating in sports due to doping. Some commenters are arguing whether VADA is referring to a "piece of iron" or "an Indian bagel". Why a space droid is tweeting about doping (or Indian bagels) is weird. Looking at a nuclear explosion while doing so is even weirder.

A big salary, luxury cars, and a new dacha--Russia's space leader lives large, Ars Technica

"A leading critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Alexei Navalny, recently turned his attention toward the country's space program. In an entertaining 13-minute video not unlike those produced by "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" on HBO, Navalny tackles corruption surrounding the construction of the Vostochny Spaceport in far-eastern Russia, as well as the apparently lavish lifestyle of Roscosmos leader Dmitry Rogozin. (The video is in Russian; it was translated for Ars by Robinson Mitchell. The English-language captions are mostly accurate.) ... Evidently Rogozin's job has other perks. According to the documents, Rogozin has also purchased new vehicles: for himself, a Mercedes-Benz S560, and his wife, a Range Rover. Combined, these vehicles are valued at about $300,000. And then the Roscosmos chief also acquired an 8,600 sq. foot dacha north of Moscow worth about $3 million. And the documents appear to obscure even more gains, Navalny argues."

- Vostochny Spaceport Corruption Has Not Gone Away, earlier post
- Russia Wants To Lead In Space By Spending Less Money On It, earlier post
- Vostochny Spaceport Has A Few Criminal Issues, earlier post
- Putin Wants To Jail Spaceport Employees, earlier post
- Earlier Russia postings

Russia cracks down on spaceport mega-project mired in corruption, Guardian

"The Kremlin has launched a crackdown over a spaceport project that was supposed to be the jewel of Russia's space programme but has become mired in corruption costing more than $170m (£132m), with investigations alleging blatant theft and illegal enrichment by officials and contractors. As state investigators have opened new criminal cases, the project has also become the target of Russia's opposition, with the corruption whistleblower Alexei Navalny releasing an investigation into land and cars acquired by the head of Roscosmos, Russia's space agency. "A failed project that is still being built years after its deadline with a budget that has been doubled and during which billions [of rubles] were stolen: of course it should bear the name of Vladimir Putin," Navalny said in reference to the possibility that the spaceport could be named after the Russian president."

- Russia Wants To Lead In Space By Spending Less Money On It
- Vostochny Spaceport Has A Few Criminal Issues
- Putin Wants To Jail Spaceport Employees
- Earlier Russa postings

NASA leader vows to seek answers about space station from Russia, Houston Chronicle

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine vowed Thursday to speak to the head of the Russian space agency after reports that the cause of a hole found on the International Space Station last year would be kept secret."

Russia knows how a hole formed in the space station last year. It refuses to tell., Houston Chronicle

"Keith Cowing, editor of NASA Watch, a website devoted to space news, said Wednesday that he attributes this secrecy on Russia's part to embarrassment -- they don't want to admit when they do something wrong. They also did not handle the public relations of the entire incident well, he added. However, he doesn't feel that the hole discovered in August is a huge deal. "Nothing is perfect, all you can do is strive not to have anything happen," he said. "The problem was found, it was remedied, it was fixed in short order and no one's life was at risk."

Keith's note: I do find it odd that the Russians are so upset about a minor drilling error yet they just flew a humanoid robot to ISS and let it use a power drill. It also shot guns on Earth. Just sayin'

Roscosmos vows to keep ISS on orbit if NASA withdraws from the project, TASS

"The Roscosmos state corporation will preserve the International Space Station (ISS) on the orbit even if the American side withdraws from the project, Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin told journalists. "This is Roscosmos' proposal. We believe that we can keep the station in case the Americans decide to withdraw from this project, through other countries and partners. We have technological and technical capabilities to keep the station on the orbit and fully provide both electric energy and water there," Rogozin said."

Russian Rocket Program Sputters in New Race to Space, Bloomberg

"Russia's market share for rocket technology worldwide fell slightly in 2017, which Roscosmos blamed on sanctions, the weak ruble and increased competition, according to its annual report published on Friday. It singled out SpaceX for allegedly undercutting the market thanks to U.S. government assistance. ... The windfall funding from the U.S. hasn't always been spent wisely. Alexei Kudrin, the head of the country's Audit Chamber, told Russia's lower house of parliament in June that he found 760 billion rubles ($11.4 billion) of financial violations in Roscosmos's books. "Several billion have been spent, basically stolen, that we are currently investigating," Kudrin said in an interview aired Nov. 25 on state-run Rossiya 24 TV. "Roscosmos is the champion in terms of the scale of such violations."

Keith's note: With an ever-decreasing budget for space it will be interesting to watch Russia try and take over the ISS which costs more than its entire annual space budget to operate.

Russia's passive-aggressive reaction to SpaceX may mask a deeper truth, Ars Technica

"I would like to point out something else interesting--from one point of view this is a good thing, because we were carrying astronauts, we were getting basically for free $400 million a year at about $90 million per seat for each foreign astronaut. That is more than the entire cost of the rocket and the ship and launch operations taken together. This means as long as we had at least one foreign astronaut on board, we were launching for free. For us this wasn't just a freebie--it was a narcotic. It allowed us to do absolutely nothing and still earn money. And now, this narcotic is going to be cut off, and we will be forced to do something. Either we will pass into history along with all of our space achievements, like Portugal, with its discovery of America and the voyages of Magellan and so forth, or we will have to seriously do something."

Russian Rocket Program Sputters in New Race to Space, Bloomberg

"Russia's market share for rocket technology worldwide fell slightly in 2017, which Roscosmos blamed on sanctions, the weak ruble and increased competition, according to its annual report published on Friday. It singled out SpaceX for allegedly undercutting the market thanks to U.S. government assistance. ... The windfall funding from the U.S. hasn't always been spent wisely. Alexei Kudrin, the head of the country's Audit Chamber, told Russia's lower house of parliament in June that he found 760 billion rubles ($11.4 billion) of financial violations in Roscosmos's books. "Several billion have been spent, basically stolen, that we are currently investigating," Kudrin said in an interview aired Nov. 25 on state-run Rossiya 24 TV. "Roscosmos is the champion in terms of the scale of such violations."

- Man Driving Diamond-encrusted Mercedes Caught Embezzling Cosmodrome Funds, earlier post

"I just love all the pictures of the car this article contains. This guy was embezzling money from Putin and yet he thought it was fine to be driving around in a "diamond-encrusted Mercedes". It would seem like he was either asking to be caught - or .... that cosmodrome construction workers commonly drive around in diamond-encrusted Mercedes."

Russian space chief told to drop grandiose talk, get more done, Ars Technica

"On Wednesday, the prime minister of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, expressed his displeasure with the situation. During a meeting in Moscow with senior Roscosmos officials, Medvedev made sharply critical remarks that were reported by several Russian news organizations, including Gazeta.RU and RIA Novosti. "This is a blunt and direct assertion: We need to quit projecting future plans, stop talking about where our missions will land in 2030, get to work, talk less, and do more," Medvedev said. "We need to be more active in commercializing our space industry and increase Russia's international market share of commercial launches. ... Now Medvedev, in a public setting, has called Rogozin out for this tactic. He also expressed concern about Russia's success in attracting commercial satellite launches amid the rise of SpaceX and other international competitors."

NASA's head confirms readiness to visit Russia, TASS

"During the conversation, Dmitry Rogozin and Jim Bridenstine stressed that Roscosmos and NASA are committed to the goal of space exploration," Roscosmos said. "They agreed to continue cooperating, both on the program of the International Space Station and Moon exploration projects, and on other missions of exploring outer space. Dmitry Rogozin invited NASA's head to visit Russia and Baikonur [spaceport] in the next few months, in order to discuss all relevant issues in person. Jim Bridenstine confirmed his readiness to make a working visit to Russia," the Russian space agency added."

Russian space agency gets NASA's letter on revoking invitation for Roscosmos chief, TASS

"According to Rogozin, the heads of the two space agencies needed to discuss further interaction. NASA press secretary Megan Powers later told TASS that Bridenstine did not plan to make trips abroad, including to Russia, in the imminent future."

Keith's note: Nothing from NASA about this ...

NASA rescinds invitation to Russian space chief amid pressure from US lawmakers, RT

"Cooperation in space is one of the very few areas where the US and Russia are still able to find common ground and have mutual interests, so the idea of the Russian space chief coming to the US does not sound completely unreasonable - but peddlers of the anti-Russian narrative in the US media and an array of hawkish lawmakers have made a strong case against allowing Rogozin in."

Cancellation of Rogozin's visit could disrupt the joint mission of US and Russia to Venus, TASS

"NASA's cancellation of the visit by the head of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin to the United States could lead to the disruption of a joint Russian-American scientific mission to Venus, said Lev Zeleny, Deputy Chairman of the Council of the Russian Academy of Space and scientific director of the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences on Sunday. ... In 2017, the final report of the joint working group on the mission to Venus, published on NASA's website, reported that the launch of the Russian-American interplanetary station Venera-D could take place from late May to late June 2026."

Keith's note: These news organizations are controlled by the Russian government - so your mileage may vary. As for the Venus mission: it is a paper study. Cancellation would result in less paper.

- Waiting For Rogozin (Update), earlier post
- Earlier Russia postings

Cooperation needed in space exploration, South China Morning Post

"Quite a few countries have active space agencies, but none has been as successful as Nasa, which has, as the Star Trek saying goes, boldly gone where no man has gone before. Nasa is also freely sharing valuable data with anyone or any country that takes an interest in the mission. Such missions are laying the foundation for planetary travels. It seems only a matter of time, perhaps decades, for humans to land on Mars. Led by America, such efforts should be cooperative and show what humans could achieve when they work together. This is the kind of leadership the world can and will admire about the US."

China's lunar first unlikely to kick off a new space race, Houston Chronicle

"It's the gold standard of technological accomplishments, to be a nation to send someone or something to the moon," Cowing said. "I think there's been a general renaissance in thinking ... that space is something you should no longer be afraid of trying to do."

Culberson Optimistic Restrictions on US-China Space Cooperation Will Remain, Space Policy Online

"Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) said today that he is optimistic Congress will continue to prohibit NASA from engaging in bilateral cooperation with China unless certain conditions are met after he leaves Congress. Culberson chairs a key subcommittee and has included that restriction in each of NASA's appropriations bills since he became chairman four years ago, continuing a practice begun by his predecessor Frank Wolf. Culberson lost his reelection race, however, so will not be returning in the 116th Congress."

China's First Payload Arrives at the ISS, earlier post

"There is always a clever technical solution to overcome cumbersome political policies. People just have to want to find the solutions. Every time you do something like this, the original problem becomes less of a hindrance and is eventually replaced by new, usually unexpected, opportunities. Congratulations to everyone who made this happen. If we can calmly and professionally share a space station with the country who tried to steal our election then we can certainly share it with the country that makes our iPhones."

Keith's note: The Chinese clearly want to cooperate with the U.S. in space. There is strong sentiment within NASA and the space science community for doing so. But edicts from an earlier Congress prevent this fron happening. Given all of the rocky - often hostile - relations between the U.S. and Russia these days space is a comparatively benign and productive realm of cooperation. So if we can work with Russia in space - why can't we try and work with China in space in an equally productive fashion? With Culberson's departure and new House leadership maybe the prohibitions can be softened - or removed.

Earlier posts on China

'Wow': NASA startles with invitation to sanctioned Russian, Politico

"It absolutely sends the wrong message to lift sanctions, even temporarily, for the purpose of inviting him to speak to students at one of our nation's premier universities," said Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a leader of the committee's investigation into 2016 Russian election interference. "This is appalling," said Evelyn Farkas, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia in the Obama administration. "It's utterly inappropriate given who he is and the fact that he is on our sanctions list." More than two months after Bridenstine's original invitation, however, the details remain sparse. A Dec. 7 TASS report said that Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, is planning for Rogozin to visit in "early 2019," but neither the U.S. nor Russia has announced a specific date. The Russian embassy declined to comment on the proposed visit, and NASA spokeswoman Megan Powers said only, "Planning for a potential visit by the Director-General is still underway."

Rice University has no plans to host head of Russian space program in Houston, despite reports, Houston Chronicle

"Facing mounting speculation and criticism that it would host the head of Russia's space program, a politician known for a track record of racist and homophobic statements, Rice University affirmed Wednesday that it had no plans to bring Roscosmos CEO Dmitry Rogozin onto its campus. Rice University spokesman Doug Miller said although NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine invited Rogozin to visit Houston and the university, there is no plan for Rogozin to come to Rice."

Keith's note: Rogozin's extensive and unfavorable background certainly precedes him. He's also the head of the space agency with which the U.S. built and continues to operate the largest space vehicle in history. This cooperation is not going to change any time soon. Oddly, of all the things that the U.S. and Russia do to get back at each other, the one realm of interaction where hostilities are nearly - if not totally - absent is space. Perhaps it is fitting that this one arena of cooperation serves as something to build upon. But: if Rogozin's visit is an issue with people (and it is totally understandable why this is the case) then perhaps the U.S. should be looking to end its interactions with Russia in space too - since Rogozin runs the show over there. But we're not going to do that, are we? We're joined at the hip - literally. As such we need to interact with Rogozin. Bridenstine is trying to bridge a chasm and improve and solidify the relationship. Perhaps we should at least let Bridenstine try.

- Can Sanctioned Roscosmos Chief Rogozin Visit The U.S.?, earlier post
- NASA Has Soft Power Conversations With Sanctioned Head Of Roscosmos, earlier post

Soyuz Does Its Thing Again

Soyuz MS-11 Arrives At The International Space Station

"The Soyuz carrying Anne McClain of NASA, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, and Oleg Konenenko of Roscosmos launched at 6:31 a.m. EST (5:31 p.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. McClain, Saint-Jacques and Konenenko docked to the space station's Poisk module at 12:33 p.m. after a four-orbit, six-hour journey, and opened the hatch between the two spacecraft at 2:37 p.m."

Criminal cases opened into $150mln violations at Vostochny spaceport, TASS

"Russia's investigators have launched more than 140 criminal cases into violations during the construction of the Vostochny spaceport in Russia's Far East, and the total damage is valued at 10 bln rubles ($152.3 mln), Official Spokesman for the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office Alexander Kurennoy said. "Since 2014, more than 140 criminal cases have been opened, and the damage was assessed at 10 bln rubles," Kurennoy said in an interview with the Efir Internet channel of the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office. According to the spokesman, 50 individuals have been sentenced, and this year sentences for 27 people were announced. The prosecutors have revealed 17,000 law violations during the construction since 2014. More than 1,000 people have been held accountable, including officials. Among the violations were delayed construction, multibillion embezzlement of state funds and the administration's negligence."

Man Driving Diamond-encrusted Mercedes Caught Embezzling Cosmodrome Funds, earlier post (2015)

"Alleged to have embezzled four million roubles, video of arrest shows him driving diamond-encrusted Mercedes. A senior director suspected of embezzling funds from the construction of the new Vostochny cosmodrome has been arrested after going on the run."

Keith's note: Didn't they do this sort of thing back in the 80s when they copied the U.S. Space Shuttle?

Russian space leader issues decree against trash, "sloppy" work attitudes, Ars Technica

"Dmitry Rogozin is not having the best year. Earlier, he was essentially demoted from his position as deputy prime minister over defense and space to a position managing Roscosmos, the Russian space corporation. And since then he has had to grapple with a number of embarrassing spaceflight problems, including an errant drill hole in a Soyuz spacecraft and an emergency landing of another one after a rocket exploded mid-flight. But Rogozin is nothing if not a fighter, and he now appears to be taking steps to address the deteriorating situation at Roscosmos - and the Russian aerospace companies that build rockets and spacecraft for the country."

U.S.-Russia space partnership has had its ups and downs, but failed launch might end up helping, LA Times

"For more than 20 years, NASA's relationship with Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, has been the model of post-Cold War reconciliation between Washington and Moscow. Those ties only grew deeper in 2011, when the U.S. retired its fleet of space shuttles and Russia's Soyuz rocket, a design that dates to the 1960s, became the sole means of reaching the $100-billion space outpost. This marriage between the two space programs has weathered the atmosphere of distrust that now permeates U.S.-Russia relations. Across the field of bilateral ties between Moscow and Washington, only space exploration has succeeded in staying above the fray. But when evidence arose that the hole in Soyuz was deliberately drilled, that resilience was put to a test."

Russia to hold 2 new space launches in wake of Soyuz failure, UPI

"The quick turnaround of getting the Soyuz back to space quickly comes from the need to relieve the crew currently manning the ISS. After NASA shut down its space shuttle program in 2011, the Soyuz has been the only delivery method for astronauts going to or leaving the floating space station."

White House Temporarily Lifts Sanctions on Russia's Space Chief for U.S. Visit, Moscow Times

"The White House has temporarily lifted an entry ban imposed on the head of Russia's federal space agency to allow him to visit the United States, the head of NASA has said in an interview with Russian media. The U.S. banned entry to and froze the assets of ex-Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, along with other officials it blames for Moscow's seizure of the Crimean peninsula in March 2014. Rogozin, 54, oversaw Russia's powerful arms industry before he was appointed to head the Roscosmos state space agency earlier this year. Rogozin will now be able to travel to the U.S. under a workaround that removes the sanctions for the duration of his visit, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told the state-run TASS news agency Friday."

Issuance of a new Ukraine-related Executive Order; Ukraine-related Designations, U.S. Department of the Treasury

"ROGOZIN, Dmitry Olegovich (a.k.a. ROGOZIN, Dmitriy; a.k.a. ROGOZIN, Dmitry); DOB 21 Dec 1963; POB Moscow, Russia; Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation (individual) [UKRAINE2]."

Executive Order 13660--Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine, Federal Registry 10 March 2014

"I hereby find that the unrestricted immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens determined to meet one or more of the criteria in subsection 1(a) of this order would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of such persons."

Roscosmos to make three unmanned launches before next manned flight, TASS

"Russia's space corporation Roscosmos will carry out three unmanned launches by the end of the year before the next manned mission will be put in space, Roscosmos's executive director for manned space programs, Sergei Krikalyov, told a news conference on Wednesday. "The Soyuz rocket will be launched only after the inquiry has identified the causes of the emergency and measures have been taken to prevent such situations in the future. Under the existing rules there must be at least one unmanned launch before the flight of a manned spacecraft. We have plans for at least three launches (before the next manned mission due in early December) from the Kourou space site, the launch of an unmanned spacecraft and of an unmanned spacecraft Progress. The confirmations will be more than enough to put the next crew in space," Krikalyov said."

NASA Statement on Soyuz MS-10 Launch Abort (With video)

"The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station at 4:40 a.m. EDT Thursday, Oct. 11 (2:40 p.m. in Baikonur) carrying American astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin. Shortly after launch, there was an anomaly with the booster and the launch ascent was aborted, resulting in a ballistic landing of the spacecraft. "Search and rescue teams were deployed to the landing site. Hague and Ovchinin are out of the capsule and are reported to be in good condition. They will be transported to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia outside of Moscow."

Statement on International Space Station Investigation, NASA

"On August 29, 2018 a small hole was discovered on the International Space Station. This resulted in a pressure leak. The hole has been identified and fixed by Space Station crew. Russian media recently reported that General Director Rogozin said the hole was not a manufacturing defect. Ruling out a manufacturing defect indicates that this is an isolated issue which does not categorically affect future production. This conclusion does not necessarily mean the hole was created intentionally or with mal-intent. NASA and Roscosmos are both investigating the incident to determine the cause. The International Space Station Program is tentatively planning a spacewalk in November to gather more information. On October 11, American Astronaut Nick Hague and Russian Cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin will launch to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Administrator Bridenstine is scheduled to attend the launch and plans to meet with Mr. Rogozin. This will be their first in-person meeting. They had a telephone call on September 12 during which they discussed the International Space Station leak."

Musk underprices space launches to squeeze Russia out of market, says Roscosmos CEO, TASS

"SpaceX CEO Elon Musk quotes knock-down prices on launches of his spacecraft at 40-60 million US dollars to squeeze Russia out of the space market, CEO of Russia's state space corporation Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, said on Monday. Russian expert slams Musk's use of booster relaunch as gimmick to show off to investors "If you compare the price Musk sells his rockets to Pentagon at and the price he quotes for them on the market, you will see that this is nothing but pure dumping. In order to drive Russia from the market he sells launches at 40 to 60 million dollars while being paid 150 million for a launch by Pentagon," he told Russia's TV Channel One."

Roskosmos Chief Says Space Station Hole Was 'Deliberate', RadioFree Europe

"Rogozin, who heads the Russian space agency Roskosmos, said in an interview on state-run television that an expert commission had wrapped up its initial findings. "The first commission has already concluded its work. It has factually reached the conclusion that rules out any manufacturing defect, which is important for finding out the truth," he said. "The version that now remains is it was a deliberate act, and a second commission will determine where this occurred," Rogozin added."

Keith's note: Russia clearly wants something. So, true to form, they make conflicting statements to the media - some versions are aimed at domestic audiences, others are aimed at external audiences. The fact that U.S. astronauts are actually living on the same space station that they supposedly sabotaged and that they'd need to ride the damaged Soyuz home shows just how silly this whole thing is.

To counter this non sequitur Roscosmos deflects attention away from the real underlying issues to the whole SpaceX conspiracy thing without noting that Russia continues to cut its own space budget and has limitations on its ability to compete in a rapidly evolving space sector. When Boeing and SpaceX start to launch U.S. crews to the ISS, a steady source of income for Soyuz flights will more or less evaporate with no obvious replacement customer in sight. But worry not, a solution to placate Russia's issues is always found. Its one of those 'two steps forward one step back' things.

Russia throws doubt on joint lunar space station with U.S.: RIA, Reuters

"Moscow may abandon a project to build a space station in lunar orbit in partnership with U.S. space agency NASA because it does not want a "second fiddle role," a Russian official said on Saturday. Russia agreed last year to work with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on plans for the moon-orbiting Deep Space Gateway, which will serve as a staging post for future missions. But the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, said Russia might exit the joint programme and instead propose its own lunar orbit space station project. "The Russian Federation cannot afford to play the second fiddle role in it," he was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency, without much further elaboration."

Keith's note: Russia's space program is broke, so its not surprising that they are admitting the obvious - in a way that makes it look like someone else is at fault. As for playing "second fiddle" Roscosmos simply does not have the funds to play first fiddle, so good luck with that Dmitry.

Ivanka Trump sent over the moon by Russian cosmonaut's message from ISS, ABC 13

"Before ending the call, NASA commander Dr. Andrew Feustel said he would be remiss if he didn't give Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev a chance to say hello. "Ivanka, I think you very kind and nice person," Artemyev said, as the crew looked on. "When I see you on TV and the news, my mood improves and rises." Trump blushed and let out a laugh. "That's very kind of you to say! Thank you!" she responded."

Keith's note: Everyone at NASA and Roscomos breathed a deep sigh of relief today when Oleg Artemyev made an overture to Ivanka Trump. The meeting between Dmitry Rogozin and Jim Bridenstine over possible Soyuz sabotage by U.S. astronauts will go much smoother now. Thanks Ivanka!

NASA, Roscosmos Statement on International Space Station Leak

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin met for the first time yesterday via teleconference to discuss the status of International Space Station (ISS) operations in response to a request from Roscosmos. "As part of their discussion, Dmitry Rogozin informed his American counterpart about Roscosmos' decision to establish a Roscosmos-led Commission to investigate the cause of the leak in the Soyuz (MS-09/55S) spacecraft currently docked to the station."

Russian theory that NASA sabotaged the space station spreading like wildfire, Ars Technica

"A growing number of Russian publications have been putting forth an absurd new theory--that a NASA astronaut deliberately caused the leak on board the station in order to force the evacuation of a sick crew member. The story has spread like wildfire during the last 24 hours, according to Robinson Mitchell, who translates Russian space stories for Ars."

Russia says space station leak could be deliberate sabotage, PhyOrg

"Space agency chief Dmitry Rogozin said the hole detected Thursday in a Russian space craft docked at the orbiting station was caused by a drill and could have been done deliberately, either back on Earth or by astronauts in space. Astronauts used tape to seal the leak after it caused a small loss of pressure that was not life-threatening. "There were several attempts at drilling," Rogozin said late Monday in televised comments. He added that the drill appeared to have been held by a "wavering hand." "What is this: a production defect or some premeditated actions?" he asked. "We are checking the Earth version. But there is another version that we do not rule out: deliberate interference in space."

Fracture on Soyuz spacecraft most likely caused by technological error -- Roscosmos CEO, TASS

"It is a matter of honor for Energia Rocket and Space Corporation to find the one responsible for that, to find out whether it was an accidental defect or a deliberate spoilage and where it was done - either on Earth or in space. Now it is essential to see the reason, to learn the name of the one responsible for that. And we will find out, without fail," he pledged."

Errant drill likely the culprit in hole in Space Station that caused air leak, Russia says, Houston Chronicle

"The hole astronauts discovered in the Soyuz spacecraft, measuring a fifth of a centimeter in diameter (the thickness of a penny), is a perfect circle followed by a trail of scuffs and scratches. The image was released in a NASA video that the space agency later deleted. The picture of the hole instantly reminded Cowing of his very poor drilling skills, so much so that he said he was surprised Russian officials didn't drop the idea of a space debris impact sooner. "Immediately, this looked like a drill bit bounced or did something wrong," he said. "A micrometeorite hit would have formed a different shape."

Soyuz Leak Repaired On The International Space Station

"The International Space Station's cabin pressure is holding steady after the Expedition 56 crew conducted repair work on one of two Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the complex. The repair was made to address a leak that had caused a minor reduction of station pressure. After a morning of investigations, the crew reported that the leak was isolated to a hole about two millimeters in diameter in the orbital compartment, or upper section, of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft attached to the Rassvet module of the Russian segment of the station."

Russian editor: Our space program is entering the "Dark Ages", Ars Technica

"As soon as next year, the United States plans to stop paying hundreds of millions of dollars a year to Russia for Soyuz seats, because it is developing its own transport to the space station. And the European Space Agency has signaled that it will stop launching Russian Soyuz rockets from its French Guiana-based spaceport in the early 2020s. A Russian space editor, Andrei Borisov, has captured the fading zeitgeist of the Russian space program in a lengthy article on the new leader of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, and the changes he has proposed. "The 'Russian Space' Rogozin is trying to create reminds one of the Dark Ages in Europe," Borisov writes on Lenta.Ru, where he serves as editor of science and technology. "In it, there is no place for modernization, there is only the mission of survival."

Earlier posts

New Head Of Roscosmos Is Under Formal U.S. Sanction, earlier post

Issuance of a new Ukraine-related Executive Order; Ukraine-related Designations, U.S. Department of the Treasury: "ROGOZIN, Dmitry Olegovich (a.k.a. ROGOZIN, Dmitriy; a.k.a. ROGOZIN, Dmitry); DOB 21 Dec 1963; POB Moscow, Russia; Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation (individual) [UKRAINE2]."

Executive Order 13660--Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine, Federal Registry 10 March 2014: "I hereby find that the unrestricted immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens determined to meet one or more of the criteria in subsection 1(a) of this order would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of such persons."

@DRogozin 29 April 2014: "After analysing the sanctions against our space industry I suggest the US delivers its astronauts to the ISS with a trampoline"

Putin says Russia needs to return its leadership in space exploration, TASS

"Russia should make many steps forward to return its leading positions in space exploration, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during his Q&A session on Thursday. "These technologies are developing and they are developing very actively and are being commercialized very actively and in this sense we must make many steps forward, including with regard to the quality of satellites and the quality of equipment. We must return and firmly keep our competence and leadership in launches," the Russian president said."

Russia's Rapidly Evaporating Space Program, earlier post

"Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev agreed to slash funding for Russia's space programme by 30 percent on Thursday, an effort to reign in state spending in the face of a deepening economic crisis."

Keith's note: China is getting ready to launch a new space station which, when complete, will be on par with Mir with many capabilities similar to those offered by the ISS. China is openly seeking governmental and commercial participation. Meanwhile they are about to land a rover on the far side of the Moon as part of a methodical plan to land humans there.

Meanwhile NASA is trying to rid itself of the ISS through various half-hearted efforts to commercialize this amazing resource that rely on smoke and mirrors and faith-based funding plans. NASA is also puffing itself up again for the third time in less than 20 years to #GoBackToTheMoon or something with budgets that do not come close to making such a thing possible. Oh by the way #JourneyToMars is still on the books.

One would think that the prudent thing would be to leverage our interests with those of China as we have done with Russia and many other nations around the world. But short-sighted legislation and targeted xenophobia currently prevents this.

Putin appoints head of Roscosmos, TASS

"Russian President Vladimir Putin has nominated former Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin to head the State Space Corporation Roscosmos. The meeting between Putin and Rogozin took place on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF-2018). "I will do everything possible and necessary to live up to your trust," Rogozin told the Russian leader."

Issuance of a new Ukraine-related Executive Order; Ukraine-related Designations, U.S. Department of the Treasury

"ROGOZIN, Dmitry Olegovich (a.k.a. ROGOZIN, Dmitriy; a.k.a. ROGOZIN, Dmitry); DOB 21 Dec 1963; POB Moscow, Russia; Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation (individual) [UKRAINE2]."

Executive Order 13660--Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine, Federal Registry 10 March 2014

"I hereby find that the unrestricted immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens determined to meet one or more of the criteria in subsection 1(a) of this order would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of such persons."

Putin Says Space Exploration With U.S. Will Go On Amid Sanctions

"Russia wants to continue international cooperation in space and won't break off programs with the U.S. in retaliation for its latest economic sanctions, President Vladimir Putin said."

Putin says Russia will not quit international space cooperation programs, TASS

""We are not going to upset anything or to quit these programs. We are determined to complete them. We have partners in the exploration of Mars and the Moon - the United States, Canada, Japan, and the European Union," Putin said during a visit to the Kosmos (Space) pavilion at the VDNKh exhibition center."

US imposes sanctions against Russian oligarchs and government officials, CNN

"The Trump administration is unleashing additional sanctions against seven Russian oligarchs with ties to President Vladimir Putin along with 12 companies they own or control. The measures announced by the Treasury Department on Friday were also aimed at 17 senior Russian government officials and the state-owned Russian weapons trading company, Rosoboronexport, which has long-standing ties to Syria and its subsidiary, Russian Financial Corporation Bank."

Russia says it will respond firmly to new US sanctions, CNBC

"Moscow said on Friday it would respond firmly to new U.S. sanctions imposed against Russian businessmen, companies and government officials. Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that no pressure could make Russian change its course and that the sanctions will only unite Russian society."

NASA And Boeing May Change Commercial Crew Flight Test Strategy

"The change includes the ability to extend Boeing's CFT from roughly two weeks to up to six months as well as the training and mission support for a third crew member. Cargo capabilities for the uncrewed and crewed flight tests were also identified."

Keith's 6 April note: The U.S. has imposed new sanctions on Russia and Russia is threatening to respond in kind. So far the oligarchs and companies sanctioned by the U.S. have not directly affected Russia's space activities. But this cannot be expected to remain the case forever since the U.S. will be seeking new pressure points to exploit on RUssia and vice versa - and there are only so many oligarchs and large companies to sanction. As we all know the only way for Americans to reach ISS is on Russian Soyuz flights. That is an obvious choke point that Russia could exploit, should it so desire. There are other things that RUssia could do as well. There are various reasons behind NASA's interest in transforming Boeing's CFT into something more than a simple visit to the ISS. Gaining a Soyuz replacement capability sooner is one of them - even if NASA won't say so.

How long is the ISS going to be able to remain an orbital, Antarctic-like, politics-free zone? On the bright side, the longer it manages to remain apart from terrestrial turmoils, the more space exploration speaks to a loftier way to transcend such ephemeral political threats. But there has to be a breaking point sooner or later. There are contingency plans, to be certain. But given the state of flux that NASA finds itself within - without an Administrator - and in the midst of yet another space policy formulation - while the future of ISS is TBD and commercial crew services are delayed - threats to the future of the ISS could not come at a worse time.

Keith's 12 April update: And then there's this additional factor that will inevitably have an impact on US/Russia cooperation in space.

- Growing Hints That Russia Might Sanction NASA?, Earlier post
- Will U.S. Sanctions On Russia Impact ISS Operations?, Earlier post
- How Long Will ISS Remain Isolated From Terrestrial Politics?, Earlier post
- Earlier posts on Russia

The former head of NASA awarded the Order of friendship, Russia News Today

"The former head of NASA, Charles Bolden awarded the Russian Order of friendship for contribution to development of cooperation of Russia and USA in space, the corresponding decree of the President of Russia Vladimir Putin published on the official Internet portal of legal information."

Order of Friendship

"The Order of Friendship (Russian: Орден Дружбы, Orden Druzhby) is a state decoration of the Russian Federation established by Boris Yeltsin by presidential decree 442 of March 2, 1994[1] to reward foreign nationals whose work, deeds and efforts have been aimed at the betterment of relations with the Russian Federation and its people."

- Rex Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of State under President Donald Trump, and former CEO of ExxonMobil.

The reason for the unsuccessful launch of "Meteor-M" was called the human factor, Interfax (Google Translate)

"The reason for the Meteor-M satellite accident after launching from the Vostochny cosmodrome in the Amurskaya region could be the human factor, a source in the rocket and space industry told Interfax. "According to preliminary data, there was an error in the flight task of the carrier rocket and the Fregat booster block, as a result of which the first impulse was issued in the wrong orientation, so the upper stage together with the satellite entered the atmosphere and fell into the Atlantic Ocean ", the source said."

Why Does Russia Have a Secret ISS Experiment?, Popular Mechanics

"Russia's seven-ton Progress MS-07 tanker will be carrying a secret, a previously unseen instrument attached to the exterior front section of the spacecraft. NASA has no idea what it is. NASA specialists spotted the unknown gizmo in official photographs of the Progress ship released during mission preparation. Since then, a number of pictures documenting the work on Progress MS-07 in Baikonur also showed the unidentified device, indicating that Russian authorities aren't really keeping it secret. But when NASA asked about the hardware, Russian officials said only that it would be a scientific payload intended for a one-time trip aboard the cargo ship. They provided no further details."

Launch of Russian Cargo Mission Scrubbed, NASA

"Launch of the Russian Progress 68 cargo craft has been scrubbed for today. The next launch attempt will be no earlier than Saturday Oct. 14 at 4:46 am EDT (2:46 p.m. local time in Baikonur)."

Keith's note: I was interviewed live on China Global Television Network last night about the 5 year agreement that China and Russia have reached over various aspects of space exploration.

Russian official on new US sanctions and NASA: "Nothing lasts forever"

"However, Russia's chief space official, Dmitry Rogozin, warned Saturday that such a situation may not be tolerable forever. "They (the United States) have an interesting approach, they try not to harm areas in which they are interested," he said in a television interview. "They say that 'space is outside politics.' We take the 'space is outside politics' slogan into account, but nothing lasts forever."

Putin orders cut of 755 personnel at U.S. missions, Washington Post

"It is not yet clear how the State Department will reduce its staff in Russia. Some of the local staff were hired to help with a significant expansion of the U.S. embassy compound in Moscow. ... The Library of Congress had two U.S. staff and two foreign staff, and NASA had eight U.S. staff and four foreign staff members."

The Kremlin is done betting on Trump and planning how to strike back against U.S. sanctions, Washington Post

"Of course it's very difficult for Russia to do anything to harm the U.S. interests unless Russia is ready to take steps which will harm ourselves," said Fyodor Lukyanov, chairman of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policies, an influential group of Russian foreign policy experts. Hawks poring over the U.S. sanctions say Moscow needs to break the rules. "It says that by no means shall sanctions apply to NASA projects," said Nikolay Platoshkin, a former Russian diplomat and professor at the Moscow University of the Humanities, referring to the bill passed by the Senate. "Here we go, a perfect tip, let them apply [to NASA], let American astronauts ride horses to the International Space Station."

H.R.3364 - Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act

"SEC. 237. EXCEPTION RELATING TO ACTIVITIES OF THE NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION.

(a) In General.--This Act and the amendments made by this Act shall not apply with respect to activities of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

(b) Rule Of Construction.--Nothing in this Act or the amendments made by this Act shall be construed to authorize the imposition of any sanction or other condition, limitation, restriction, or prohibition, that directly or indirectly impedes the supply by any entity of the Russian Federation of any product or service, or the procurement of such product or service by any contractor or subcontractor of the United States or any other entity, relating to or in connection with any space launch conducted for--

(1) the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; or

(2) any other non-Department of Defense customer.

SEC. 238. RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.

Nothing in this part or the amendments made by this part shall be construed--

(1) to supersede the limitations or exceptions on the use of rocket engines for national security purposes under section 1608 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. "Buck" McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (Public Law 113-291; 128 Stat. 3626; 10 U.S.C. 2271 note), as amended by section 1607 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (Public Law 114-92; 129 Stat. 1100) and section 1602 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (Public Law 114-328; 130 Stat. 2582); or

(2) to prohibit a contractor or subcontractor of the Department of Defense from acquiring components referred to in such section 1608."

Keith's note: H.R.3364 was passed by the House, then the Senate, and has now been sent to the President who has said that he will sign it into law. According to the bill NASA and space activities are specifically exempted from being part of any sanctions that the U.S. might impose upon Russia. Yet the people quoted by the Washington Post suggest that by saying that these things are exempt from our sanctions, we're actually saying that these things are vital and that upsetting them would damage our interests. Russia is now talking about the actions that they will take in response to the impending implementation of this legislation. Has the United States given Russia a roadmap of things they can focus their responses at - even if it results in damage to Russia itself?

How long is the ISS going to be able to remain an orbital, Antarctic-like, politics-free zone? The longer it manages to remain apart from terrestrial turmoils, the more space exploration speaks to a way to transcend such things. But there has to be a breaking point sooner or later.

- How Long Will ISS Remain Isolated From Terrestrial Politics?, earlier post
- Will U.S. Sanctions On Russia Impact ISS Operations?, earlier post
- Cold War Echoes On Earth And In Space, earlier post
- Watching Turmoil On Earth From Serene Vantage of Space, earlier post
- Russia, earlier posts

Amendment may keep Iran-Russia sanctions bill from stopping ISS launches from Wallops, Daily Press

"An Iran-Russia sanctions bill threatened to torpedo Orbital ATK's commercial resupply missions for NASA from Virginia to the International Space Station until an amendment cleared the U.S. Senate Thursday to remove the bill's unintended consequences to civilian agencies. Senators voted overwhelmingly -- 94 to 6 -- to approve the amendment after several members, including Virginia's Mark Warner, described the "unintentional harm" the original bill could inflict on "crucial science, civil and commercial space missions" that support NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research."

Anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's historic spaceflight marked in Russia and worldwide, TASS

"As far as the competition in the space industry is concerned, it has intensified sharply in recent months. The re-launch of a booster by (Elon) Musk and plans to replace our RD-180 rocket engines with those made in the US by the Blue Origin demonstrate that we are entering difficult times and that the reserves of the Soviet space program are now about to be depleted," said Alexander Zheleznyakov of Russia's Tsiolkovsky Academy of Cosmonautics. "If the Roscosmos leadership is aware of this, there is still a chance that we will succeed, but if we continue to rest on our laurels, we will lose this struggle for competitiveness," he said, adding that although projects for reusable boosters are explored by Russian space industry researches as well, they are far from completion. "While we are trying to catch up, our rivals will increase the gap in the development of space technologies. If we want to catch up with them, we will have to be proactive. If we simply mirror the achievements and technological ideas of others, we will always stay behind," the expert said."

Man Driving Diamond-encrusted Mercedes Caught Embezzling Cosmodrome Funds, earlier post

Previous posts on Russia

No, Russia isn't sending a Terminator robot to the space station, Ars Technica

"The reports this weekend were breathless. Mashable said Russia was sending a "death dealing" robot with the power to shoot guns to the International Space Station. Pravda reported that the Russian cyborg, Fyodor, had frightened the West. It was like the Terminator, only in space, and only for reals. In reality, probably not. The stories were written after the Russian deputy prime minister overseeing military and space activities, Dmitry Rogozin, posted on Facebook and Twitter about the country's humanoid robot, Fyodor."

Russian space robot bound for ISS given power to shoot handguns, for some reason, Mashable

"Just in time for the rise in global military tensions, Russian officials have released video that's sure to calm fears all around: a death dealing humanoid robot that shoots handguns. Posted to Twitter on Friday by Russia's deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Rogozin, the video shows the country's space robot FEDOR (Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research) accurately shooting twin pistols in a scene chillingly similar to images from The Terminator."

Earlier Robonaut and R5 postings

Space Station Crew Including NASA Astronaut Shane Kimbrough Return to Earth

"Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA is among three crew members from the International Space Station (ISS) who returned to Earth Monday, after 173 days in space, landing in Kazakhstan at approximately 7:20 a.m. EDT (5:20 p.m. Kazakhstan time). Also returning were Flight Engineers Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. The three touched down southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan."

Russia may abandon International Space Station to join forces with China, Pravda

"The Russian segment of the International Space Station may separate from the station. Russia's Federal Space Agency Roscosmos is also currently looking into the need for the presence of people in orbit. Do people still have to live on board the ISS or is it possible to entrust space exploration to robots? These issues were put on the agenda of the meeting of the Military Industrial Commission for the development of Roscosmos until 2030."

Russia open to extending international space station partnership: agency chief, Reuters

"Moscow has an alternative if relations with the United States sour. Russia last year unveiled a plan to detach some of its modules and use them to create a new, independent outpost in orbit. "We adjusted and made some minor changes in our programs ... but it doesn't mean that we don't want to continue our cooperation," Komarov said. "We just want to be on the safe side and make sure we can continue our research." The United States is dependent on Russia's propellant module to keep the station in orbit."

The Next Economic Revolution Just (re)Launched: Congratulate SpaceX, Thank NASA, OpEd, Greg Autry, Forbes

"Our global competitors in Russia, China and even Europe remain wedded to an antiquated socialist vision of space development. Their space "programs" are run by state-owned enterprises and quasi-governmental national champions. While they flirt with very small commercial endeavors and rebrand their government bureaucracies as "companies", the political leaders of these nations are very unlikely to truly let go of a strategic national industry with military implications. The current trend already suggest that it is time to put a fork in China's Great Wall Industry Corp, Russia's TsSKB Progress and Europe's Arianespace. In 2011, the U.S. had surrendered the entire mid-sized commercial space launch business to subsidized global competition. Just four years later, SpaceX had recaptured half of that market. SpaceX's success has motivated ULA to aggressively pursue commercial launches as well. Reuse and new competitors will restore 80% or more of this business to America over the next few years."

Defects Found in Almost Every Russian Proton Rocket Engine, Moscow Times

"An investigation into quality control issues in the Russian space industry has discovered that nearly every engine currently stockpiled for use in Proton rockets is defective, the RIA Novosti news agency reported March 30, citing Igor Arbuzov, head of state rocket engine manufacturer Energomash. ... But over the past decade, Proton's reliability and that of the Russian space industry as a whole has been thrown into sharp question amid a series of spectacular launch failures. The problem goes beyond engines, pointing to a general quality control crisis across multiple factories and rocket designs."

Russia's Space Program Is Struggling Mightily, Slate

"Yet, despite maintaining a presence in space, Roscosmos has been beset with corruption, mismanagement, and crony capitalism that is the hallmark of the larger post-Soviet economy. In a tech sector that needs to meet very high standards, these problems have led the workforce on the ground to cut corners. In the past six years, the Russian space program has seen an abysmal 15 rocket failures. ... On top of the onslaught of failures, the sanctions and the precipitous plunge in oil and gas prices have hobbled the Russian economy. In response, the government slashed space spending for the next 10-year cycle by more than half, from $64 billion to $21 billion. As a point of comparison, NASA is expected to spend about $18.8 billion in 2017 alone. The European Space Agency; Japan; and, of course, China spend much more on space annually than the Russians, while the Indians are catching up."

- Russia Begins To Reduce ISS Participation, earlier post
- Russian Space Follies, earlier post
-ULA Gets A Russian Christmas Gift From Sen. Shelby, earlier post

US astronaut's spaceflight to be financed by Russian corporation as debt repayment, TASS

"U.S. astronaut Joseph M. Acaba will fly to the International Space Stations (ISS) as a third crew member of the Soyuz MS-06 spaceship. His flight will be financed by Russia's Rocket and Space Corporation Energia as debt repayment to US' Boeing under the joint project Sea Launch, a source in the Russian space industry told TASS on Monday. ... According to earlier reports, under an amicable agreement reached by Energia and Boeing as part of debt repayment under the Sea Launch project, the Russian corporation will give the American side five seats aboard Soyuz spacecraft, in particular one seat in 2017, one seat in 2018, and an option on three seats in 2019. Energia's debt to Boeing was 330 million US dollars, as was ruled by a California court in 2015. In the summer of 2015, the sides reached an amicable agreement where Energia undertook to repay its debt by means of works and new projects."

NASA Uses Bait and Switch Tactics To Buy Soyuz Seats, earlier post

Keith's note: How sneaky. Neither SpaceX or Boeing are going to have their crew services ready in time to replace Soyuz in the near term. So NASA uses Boeing to buy more Soyuz seats. Its not the first time that they have bought Soyuz seats. But NASA omits mention of the word "Soyuz" in the title of the presolicitation notice. No one will notice, right NASA? But wait - there's more - RSC Energia gave Boeing 5 Soyuz seats to settle a business deal gone sour (Sea Launch) - and Boeing can charge NASA whatever whatever they want for these seats. And if CST-100 flights are delayed further and more Soyuz seats are needed then Boeing can sell extra seats to NASA. Boeing makes money from NASA one way - or the other - unless SpaceX gets into space with their crewed Dragon.

Procurement of Crew Transportation and Rescue Services From Boeing, NASA

"NASA is considering contracting with The Boeing Company (Boeing) for crew transportation services to and from the International Space Station (ISS) on the Russian Soyuz vehicle. This transportation would be for one crewmember in the Fall of 2017 and one crewmember in the Spring of 2018. NASA is considering purchasing these services from Boeing, without competition, because no other vehicles are currently capable of providing these services in Fall 2017 or Spring 2018. NASA has contracts with two U.S. commercial companies for crew transportation to the ISS. However, these vehicles are still in the developmental stage, and not expected to begin fully operational flights to the ISS until 2019. NASA also is considering an option to acquire crew transportation from Boeing for three crewmembers on the Soyuz in 2019, to ensure the availability of back-up transportation capability in the event the U.S. commercial contractor vehicles are delayed or to augment future ISS operations and research."

"Russia recently announced its plans to decrement the Russian crew count onboard ISS from three to two, beginning in CY 2017. As a result of Russia reducing its crew count by one crewmember, there is now an available Soyuz seat in the 2017-2018 timeframe on each of the two planned spacecraft that would have otherwise had two Russian crew aboard. Of the 24 total Soyuz seats available in 2017-2018, the three seats resulting from the Russian crew decrement are the only available means of transporting additional US crewmembers to ISS during this period."

"An agreement was recently reached between the Boeing Company and S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Public Corporation, Energia ("RSC Energia"), who is the manufacturer of the Soyuz spacecraft and has the legal rights to sell the seats and associated services. As a part of this agreement, Energia agreed to provide to Boeing two specifically identified seats on the Soyuz spacecraft for long-duration travel to and from the ISS, one on a flight to occur in the Fall 2017 timeframe and another on a flight to occur in the Spring 2018 timeframe. Additionally, Energia provided Boeing three additional specifically identified seats in the Spring 2019 timeframe on two Soyuz spacecraft. Finally, Boeing and RSC Energia agreed that each of these five seats will include a launch of an individual to and from the ISS, including all services normally provided during launches to ISS. Boeing and RSC Energia have represented that Boeing has the full rights to these seats and can sell them to any third party."

Keith's note: How sneaky. Neither SpaceX or Boeing are going to have their crew services ready in time to replace Soyuz in the near term. So NASA uses Boeing to buy more Soyuz seats. Its not the first time that they have bought Soyuz seats. But NASA omits mention of the word "Soyuz" in the title of the presolicitation notice. No one will notice, right NASA? But wait - there's more - RSC Energia gave Boeing 5 Soyuz seats to settle a business deal gone sour (Sea Launch) - and Boeing can charge NASA whatever whatever they want for these seats. And if CST-100 flights are delayed further and more Soyuz seats are needed then Boeing can sell extra seats to NASA. Boeing makes money from NASA one way - or the other - unless SpaceX gets into space with their crewed Dragon.

As leadership departs, NASA quietly moves to buy more Soyuz seats, Ars Technica

"Last September, based upon anonymous sources, Ars reported that NASA had begun considering buying additional seats in 2019 as a hedge against further delays with the commercial crew program. Both NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and the agency's head of human spaceflight, Bill Gerstenmaier, subsequently denied this report."

NASA considering Boeing offer for additional Soyuz seats, SpaceNews

"NASA officials previous indicated that there were no plans by the agency to purchase additional Soyuz seats directly from Roscosmos. William Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said in an October interview that the deadline had passed for NASA to purchase additional Soyuz seats from Roscosmos for 2019 missions."

Keith's note: Have a look at the board of directors of RSC Energia. Five of the Eleven members work for Roscosmos including Yuri Vlasov "deputy general director for rocket and space industry of State Corporation for space activities Roscosmos". RSC Energia is owned by the Russian government. Buying Soyuz seats from RSC Energia instead of Roscosmos is a distinction without a difference. Boeing has not disclosed what the value of these seats are or what they will charge NASA for them.

Obama orders Russia expulsions, sanctions for interference in 2016 election, Reuters

"President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and sanctioned Russian intelligence officials who Washington believes were involved in hacking U.S. political groups in the 2016 presidential election. The measures, taken during the last days of Obama's presidency, mark a new low in U.S.-Russian relations which have deteriorated over serious differences on Ukraine and Syria. "These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior," Obama said in a statement from vacation in Hawaii."

Joint DHS, ODNI, FBI Statement on Russian Malicious Cyber Activity, FBI

"This activity by Russian intelligence services is part of a decade-long campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. government and its citizens. These cyber operations have included spearphishing, campaigns targeting government organizations, critical infrastructure, think tanks, universities, political organizations, and corporations; theft of information from these organizations; and the recent public release of some of this stolen information."

- Cold War Echoes On Earth And In Space, Earlier post
- How Long Will ISS Remain Isolated From Terrestrial Politics?, Earlier post

Sources: Russia tests anti-satellite weapon, CNN

"Russia has recently tested what is believed to be an anti-satellite weapon, US sources with knowledge of the test told CNN. The US tracked the weapon and it did not create debris, indicating it did not destroy a target, the source said. The Russian test, coming as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to enter the White House next month, could be seen as a provocative demonstration of Moscow's capability in space."

Kremlin says almost all dialogue with U.S. is frozen, Reuters

"The Kremlin said on Wednesday almost all communications channels between Russia and the United States have been frozen but the U.S. State Department disputed the statement."

NASA International Space Station On-Orbit Status 20 December 2016

"The six Expedition 50 crew members from France, Russia and the United States are heading into the final holidays of the year with a muscle study and Earth observations today. The astronauts also checked out fluids and combustion science gear and practiced an emergency escape drill."

How Long Will ISS Remain Isolated From Terrestrial Politics?, Earlier post

Progress Launch Fails

Problem Occurs During Launch of Progress 65 Resupply Mission to the ISS - Vehicle Burns up in Atmosphere (with video)

"A launch that seemingly was going perfect, quickly became a concern to Russian mission controllers when the third stage of the Soyuz rocket apparently shut down early, possibly leaving the Progress resupply spacecraft in a improper orbit. To make matters worse mission controllers have been unable to confirm at this point if the solar arrays are fully deployed. Contact was lost at T+ 6:23 just before it was supposed to achieve orbit."




Russia is developing a mega-rocket that will transport supplies to build a base on the MOON, Deputy PM reveals, Daily Mail

"Russia is developing a mega-rocket that will transport supplies to build a base on the moon, the country's Deputy Prime Minister has revealed. President Vladimir Putin wants work to begin on the new 'super-heavy' rocket which will 'pave the way' for a lunar research station. It will enable the construction of a Russian base that will be both 'visitable and inhabitable', according to Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. ... In 2029, a new spacecraft named Federation will fly to the moon's orbit, he added. 'In the 2030s, we set the task of a manned flight to the moon and in 2031 we plan landing on the moon,' Mr Solntsev told TASS. Russia is inviting Esa and Nasa to jointly develop a module for landing on the moon, Mr Solntsev said."

U.S. Govt. Hackers Ready to Hit Back If Russia Tries to Disrupt Election, NBC

"U.S. military hackers have penetrated Russia's electric grid, telecommunications networks and the Kremlin's command systems, making them vulnerable to attack by secret American cyber weapons should the U.S. deem it necessary, according to a senior intelligence official and top-secret documents reviewed by NBC News."

The Curious Geopolitical Immunity of the International Space Station, earlier Post

"Interestingly, every time the bad relationship between the U.S. and Russia gets worse there is no mention of altering U.S./Russian cooperation in space. Indeed, when U.S./China tensions are mentioned, you hear increased talk of cooperation between the U.S. and China in space. Oh wait: the Chinese are going to visit their new space station in a few weeks. Why is space seen as a venture that seemingly transcends terrestrial politics - indeed, one where peaceful collaboration regularly prevails over less desirable behavior? There is a precedent: Antarctica."

Keith's note: How long is the ISS going to be able to remain an orbital, Antarctic-like, politics-free zone? The longer it manages to remain apart from terrestrial turmoils, the more space exploration speaks to a way to transcend such things. But there has to be a breaking point sooner or later.

Expedition 49 Is Back On Earth (with video)

"NASA astronaut and Expedition 49 crew member Kate Rubins, who became the first person to sequence DNA in space, returned to Earth Saturday after a successful mission aboard the International Space Station. Rubins and her crewmates Anatoly Ivanishin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, touched down in their Soyuz MS-01 at 11:58 p.m. EDT (9:58 a.m. Oct. 30, Kazakhstan time) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan."

Soyuz Landing Missions, NASA

"More injuries have been occurring on Soyuz landings than anticipated. Most injuries are minor in nature, but are unexpected due to the low energetics of the landing. This may be an indication that Soyuz landings are harder than previously thought, or that spaceflight deconditioning reduces human tolerance to impacts, or a combination of both. ... 37.5% of US crew members experienced an injury"

White House says U.S. will retaliate against Russia for hacking, Politico

"White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest promised on Tuesday that the U.S. would deliver a "proportional" response to Russia's alleged hacking of American computer systems. In addition to pledging that the U.S. "will ensure that our response is proportional," Earnest told reporters flying on Air Force One that "it is unlikely that our response would be announced in advance."

China, Russia consider joint defense response to U.S. missile shield

"Amid escalating U.S.-Russia tensions, the Russian military said Tuesday it will cooperate with China on efforts to fend off a threat posed by the U.S. missile defense program. Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir of the Russian military's General Staff accused the Pentagon of developing the shield as part of planning for a possible first nuclear strike. "The missile defense system considerably shifts the balance of offensive weapons, allowing the planning of a more efficient pre-emptive strike," he said at a security conference in China."

Keith's note: Interestingly, every time the bad relationship between the U.S. and Russia gets worse there is no mention of altering U.S./Russian cooperation in space. Indeed, when U.S./China tensions are mentioned, you hear increased talk of cooperation between the U.S. and China in space. Oh wait: the Chinese are going to visit their new space station in a few weeks. Why is space seen as a venture that seemingly transcends terrestrial politics - indeed, one where peaceful collaboration regularly prevails over less desirable behavior? There is a precedent: Antarctica.

Larger image

ILS Offers Proton Variants For Smaller Payloads, ILS

"International Launch Services (ILS) announces a product line extension of the Proton Breeze M commercial launch vehicle designed to expand the addressable GEO market for cost effective launch solutions in the small and medium satellite class range (3 to 5 metric tons). Designated as "Proton Variants," these two additional vehicles will be optimized 2-stage versions of the time tested and flight proven Proton Breeze M launch system for exclusive commercial use by ILS."

Roscosmos plans to reduce Russian ISS crew to two, TASS

"Russia's state space corporation Roscosmos plans to reduce Russia's crew at the International Space Station (ISS) from three to two cosmonauts, the Izvestia newspaper writes on Thursday, citing Roscosmos manned programs director Sergei Krikalev. "Plans to reduce the crew stem from the fact that less cargo ships are sent to the ISS and from the necessity to boost the efficiency of the program," the newspaper quotes Krikalev. Apart from that, it will make it possible to lower expenses on the space station's maintenance."

Space station crew may drop to five because of Russia, Ars Technica

"In a statement on Monday, NASA confirmed that Russia is considering dropping back to two crew members. However, the agency did not provide any additional information. According to NASA: "Any questions about the near-term Russian Space budget or Russian ISS expedition size should be directed to the Roscosmos press office. Roscosmos has joined NASA and other International Space Station partners in extending support for the orbiting laboratory to at least 2024, and the current level of research of both NASA and the international partners on ISS is at an all-time high."

Ruexit For ISS?

Russia's Plan To Spin Off a New Space Station From the ISS, Popular Mechanics

"According to RKK Energia, the prime Russian contractor on the ISS, the new outpost would begin with the separation of the Nauka from the rest of the old station in mid-2020s. By that time, Nauka should have two even newer modules in tow. One would be the so-called Node Module, a tinker-toy-like component that could connect to six other modules, crew ships, cargo tankers, structural elements, you name it. The Node Module is already in RKK Energia's garage and ready to go within a few months after the Nauka. Next would be the new Science and Power Module (NEM) which, as it name implies, will finally give cosmonauts a state-of-the-art science lab and a pair of large solar arrays, making the Russian segment fully independent from the rest of the ISS in terms of power, communications, and other resources."

Launch of new series manned spacecraft rescheduled due to risk of docking disruption, TASS

"The launch has been rescheduled for July 7," he said. "The crew is expected to come to Baikonur (the Russian space center located is Kazakhstan TASS) on June 24." "Experts have established the ship will be rolling as it docks the ISS and they are unable to stop this rolling motion so far," the source said.

National Security Space Launch at a Crossroads, Congressional Research Service

"Transitioning away from the RD-180 to a domestic U.S. alternative would likely involve technical, program, and schedule risk. A combination of factors over the next several years, as a worst-case scenario, could leave the United States in a situation where some of its national security space payloads would not have a certified launcher available. Even with a smooth, on- schedule transition away from the RD-180 to an alternative engine or launch vehicle, the performance and reliability record achieved with the RD-180 to date would not likely be replicated until well beyond 2030 because the RD-180 has had 68 consecutive successful civil, commercial, and NSS launches since 2000."

Previous RD-180 posts

NASA to pay Russia $88 mln to deliver astronauts to world's sole orbiter in 2018-2019, TASS

"Russia has signed a contract with the United States to deliver six NASA astronauts aboard Russian-made Soyuz MS spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2018-2019, according to a quarterly report released by Energiya Rocket and Space Corporation on Monday. Energiya Corporation is the producer of Russian spacecraft. According to the document, NASA will pay Russia 5.7 billion rubles ($88 million) for the delivery of NASA astronauts to the ISS and their return to the Earth. The deal was signed on January 27."

Boeing's first crewed Starliner launch slips to 2018, Ars Technica

"NASA has pinpointed next year as the time when its dependence upon Russia to fly its astronauts to the International Space Station will finally end. However, one of the two companies now slated to provide that service, Boeing, has said it will not be able to launch a crewed mission of its Starliner spacecraft until 2018 at the earliest."

Keith's note: That's $88 million per American astronaut.

Senate Armed Services Committee Sticks to Its Guns on RD-180 Rocket Engines, Space Policy Online

"U.S. national space transportation policy requires that at least two independent launch systems be available for national security launches. If one suffers a failure, access to space is assured by the other. For more than a decade, those two have been Atlas V and Delta IV, both ULA rockets. SpaceX argues that now the two can be its Falcon plus ULA's Delta IV. ULA and its supporters insist, however, that the Delta IV is prohibitively expensive compared to Atlas V and the best choice for the taxpayers is to keep Atlas V available until the early 2020s when ULA's new Vulcan rocket -- with a U.S. engine -- will be able to compete with SpaceX on price. SASC insists that a new U.S. engine can be ready by 2019 and only nine more RD-180s are needed until that time. That is the number set by the FY2015 and FY2016 NDAAs. However, the Senate Appropriations Committee undermined that authorization language in the FY2016 appropriations bill, essentially removing all limits."

- ULA Begs Congress To Let Them Kill Delta Rockets, earlier post
- Earlier RD-180 posts

Humiliated Putin warns Russia's botched spaceport officials they will be JAILED, Daily Mail

"Russian president Vladimir Putin has warned workers at the country's botched spaceport they will be jailed after he flew thousands of miles to watch the inaugural rocket launch for it to be cancelled at the last minute."

After failed launch, Putin demands answers on billion-dollar spaceport negligence, Russia Today

"Russia's President Vladimir Putin says those responsible for crimes during the construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome won't escape responsibility if their guilt is proven, and will swap house arrest for prison bunks. "Six criminal cases had to be launched, in which four people were arrested. Two of them, however, are under house arrest, while the other two are in pre-trial detention," Putin is cited as saying by Interfax."

- Previous Russia news items



SASC Chairman John McCain Urges Air Force Secretary to Address Russia's Role in National Security Space Program

"Contrary to the estimates you provided to me in private, I am left to conclude that your decision to publicly cite a figure as high as $5 billion was done so to obfuscate efforts to responsibly transition off of the RD-180 before the end of the decade," writes Chairman McCain. "I invite you to clarify the record in the context of proposals actually being considered by the committee While you chose to selectively omit the [Department of Defense Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE)] assessment in your response, we have since been briefed by the CAPE and have been provided with compelling analysis demonstrating cost implications that are starkly different from what you stated in your testimony. In fact, according to CAPE, the cost of meeting assured access to space requirements without the use of Russian rocket engines could be similar to what we pay today."

Earlier RD-180 posts

Russia vs. Elon Musk: U.S. Startup Threatens Moscow's Role in Space, Moscow Times

"There are two other means by which SpaceX poses an imminent threat to Roscosmos. The first is the impact it is having on United Launch Alliance (ULA), the immediate U.S. competitor to SpaceX. ULA currently buys Russian-made engines for its Atlas V rocket, but SpaceX's success may cause it to rethink. Without sales to ULA, Roscosmos' engine-making subsidiary, Energomash, will lose its main customer. An even greater impact is expected when SpaceX begins flying NASA astronauts to the International Space Station in the next two to three years. Since the U.S. space shuttles were retired in 2011, Roscosmos charged NASA $70 million for each seat. Musk promises to undercut that significantly, charging around $20 million on his "Dragon" spacecraft. Considering that Roscosmos is expecting an annual budget of $2 billion over the next decade, the loss of an $500 million annual subsidy is significant."

United Launch Alliance to lay off up to 875 by end of 2017: CEO, Reuters

"United Launch Alliance plans to cut up to 875 jobs, or about one-quarter of its workforce, before the end of 2017 to better compete against rivals bankrolled by billionaire entrepreneurs including Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, ULA's chief executive said on Thursday. ULA, a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, expects a first round of 375 job cuts to be accomplished this year, mostly through voluntary layoffs. In an interview with Reuters, ULA CEO Tory Bruno said another 400 to 500 employees would be cut by the end of 2017. "We're in the process of transforming our company," Bruno said."

Did the New Russia-Europe Mars Mission Narrowly Escape a Launch Disaster?, Popular Mechanics

"After the launch reached the initial parking orbit around the Earth, the Proton's fourth stage (known as Briz-M, Russian for "breeze") acted as a space tug, boosting the space probe on a path to Mars with four engine firings. What happened next was a close call that could have ended the mission catastrophically. And ExoMars still isn't out of the woods ... What is especially worrying about the latest accident is that Briz-M apparently exploded after just 10.5 hours in space, when its ExoMars cargo was still in the vicinity. The good news is that ExoMars appears to be undamaged by whatever happened to its space tug, but the mission is not out of the woods yet."

New Crew Leaves Earth For The Space Station (with video)

"NASA astronaut Jeff Williams is now the first American to become a three-time, long-term resident of the International Space Station. He arrived at the orbiting laboratory at 11:09 p.m. EDT Friday, with cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. The trio launched aboard a Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:26 p.m. (3:26 a.m. Saturday, March 19, Baikonur time), orbited Earth four times, and docked at the station. The hatches between the spacecraft and station opened at 12:55 a.m. Saturday, March 19."

Russia slashes space funding by 30 pct as crisis weighs, Reuters

"Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev agreed to slash funding for Russia's space programme by 30 percent on Thursday, an effort to reign in state spending in the face of a deepening economic crisis. Approving a plan submitted by Russian space agency Roscosmos in January, Medvedev ordered Russia's space programme budget for 2016-2025 to be cut from 2 trillion roubles ($29.24 billion) to 1.4 trillion roubles."

- Large Budget Cuts To Russia's Space Program, earlier post
- Russian Space Follies, earlier post
- Earlier Russia news

Opening Statement by Sen. McCain: Hearing on USAF Posture

"Similarly, ending the use of Russian rocket engines remains a top priority for this committee. Department leaders have correctly drawn attention to Russia's growing development of military capabilities to threaten U.S. national security in space. And yet, the greatest risk in this regard is that Vladimir Putin continues to hold our national security space launch capability in the palm of his hand through the Department's continued dependence on Russian rocket engines. .. And yet, the Treasury Department remains unwilling to sanction Roscosmos, the Russian parent company of the manufacturer of the RD-180, which is controlled by two sanctioned cronies of Vladimir Putin."

McCain, James Trade Barbs Over RD-180 Engines, Space Policy Online

"[Secretary of the Air Force (SecAF) Deborah Lee] James insisted she does not know who makes money from RD-180 sales and the Treasury Department determined that purchasing them does not violate the sanctions. In her opening statement, she said the sooner an RD-180 prohibition comes into effect, the more disruptive it will be and the more it will cost -- $1.5 to $5 billion -- and none of those costs are included in the Air Force's FY2017 budget request."

Soyuz Crew Arrives Back on Earth

"NASA astronaut and Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kornienko returned to Earth Tuesday after a historic 340-day mission aboard the International Space Station. They landed in Kazakhstan at 11:26 p.m. EST (10:26 a.m. March 2 Kazakhstan time). Joining their return trip aboard a Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft was Sergey Volkov, also of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, who arrived on the station Sept. 4, 2015. The crew touched down southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan."

Scott Kelly's giant step for mankind: James Lovell, USA Today

"Even an old astronaut like me can still marvel at the power of President Kennedy's declaration more than a half-century ago that space was the "new ocean" and one we must "sail on." Sailed we have. For more than 50 years, we have explored those dangerous and unknown waters to become a leader in space: Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, the space shuttle, the Hubble Space Telescope, the Mars rovers and the International Space Station an orbiting base occupied for the past 15 years by an international crew. Now we have another American achievement and milestone in our space program: One of our countrymen has spent nearly a year off of our planet. Astronaut Scott Kelly has orbited our planet more than 5,000 times, traveling well over 100 million miles aboard the International Space Station."

Russia's new spaceport will have only one launch pad for Angara rockets due to budget cuts, TASS

"Only one launch pad for Angara carrier rockets will be built at the Vostochny spaceport, deputy head of the Center for Operation of Space Ground-Based Infrastructure Andrey Okhlopkov said on Wednesday. "There will be one universal [launch pad]," Okhlopkov said adding that it will be capable of servicing all types of Angara rocket, including Angara-A5V. The decision was made after federal target programs for developing cosmodromes were cut."

Russian space agency scales back plans as crisis shrinks budget, Reuters

"Russia will spend 30 percent less on its space programme in the next decade and scale back a slew of projects to save money in the face of tanking oil prices and a falling rouble, a plan presented by the country's space agency showed on Wednesday, According to the blueprint, presented to Russian media by Igor Komarov, head of space agency Roscosmos, the space programme budget for 2016-2025 will be cut to 1.4 trillion roubles ($17.36 billion), down from 2 trillion roubles."

- Russian Space Follies, earlier post
- Putin's Favorite Paramilitary Biker Gang Flies Flag in Space, earlier post
- Russia Built Its New Cosmodrome Wrong, earlier post
- Russian Sanctions Are Affecting Space Projects, earlier post
- Earlier Russia posts

Russian Space Follies

Vladimir Putin dissolved Roscosmos, Russia's federal space agency, Engadget

"With the flourish of a pen earlier today, Russian president Vladimir Putin officially put an end to Roscosmos, the country's federal space agency. That decree capped off over a year's worth of organizational despair as the agency saw its ten-year budget cut (again), the loss of a handful of spacecraft and the misuse of over 92 billion rubles (or $1.8 billion) in part thanks to a pervasive culture of corruption. Don't worry about the country's spacebound ambitions, though Roscosmos will be reborn as a state-run corporation on January 1."

Russia Postpones Plans on Extensive Moon Exploration Until 2025

"According to the FSP for years 2016-2025, the Russian space industry will refrain from creating a lunar landing complex, a lunar orbital station, a lunar space suit and the system of robotic software for Moon flights, the newspaper said."

Russia Plans Permanent Moon Base, KTRH (7 Dec)

"The plan sounds ambitious--too ambitious for space experts here in America, like Keith Cowing with NASA Watch. He tells KTRH the Russians are talking big, but don't have nearly the funding nor the ability to pull something like this off. "They don't have the money to do a lot of the things they've already pledged to do, and when you push for the details you find out the translator said we are not going to actually do this, we are thinking of planning to do it," says Cowing. "(The Russians) are masters in the art of lofting trial balloons, and like the old saying 'show me the money'... I don't see it."

Keith's note: Three weeks ago I was interviewed about some story out of Russia about big plans for the Moon. I was ... suspicious. Now Russia has changed its mind (again). Meanwhile, Putin just nuked Roscosmos and is going to create some company to replace it - as if that will dampen the efforts of the kleptocracy. Meanwhile their new cosmodrome is simply not happening - indeed, employees are so comfortable with the rampant graft that one guy drove to work in a diamond-covered Mercedes.

There is another issue of sorts that no one seems to be paying attention to: if Roscosmos has been dissolved, are the agreements (unilateral and multilateral) with other countries - including the U.S. - still valid? If Roscosmos no longer exists how can it have agreements?

- Man Driving Diamond-encrusted Mercedes Caught Embezzling Cosmodrome Funds earlier post
- Russia Built Its New Cosmodrome Wrong, earlier post
- Putin's Favorite Paramilitary Biker Gang Flies Flag in Space, earlier post
- earlier posts about Russia

ULA Orders RD-180 Engines to Serve Civil, Commercial Contracts, ULA

"ULA has ordered additional Atlas engines to serve our existing and potential civil and commercial launch customers until a new American-made engine can be developed and certified. While ULA strongly believes now is the right time to move to an American engine solution for the future, it is also critical to ensure a smooth transition to that engine and to preserve healthy competition in the launch industry."

Rocket security for the Rocket City - thanks to Senator Shelby, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Huntsville Times

"We thank Senator Shelby for his leadership in the Senate, for securing our nation's defense, ensuring America stays on the technological forefront in space, and for keeping important, valuable jobs in North Alabama."

- Sen. Shelby: The King Of Political Cronyism and Hypocrisy, earlier post
- Congress Blinks on RD-180s, earlier post
- DoD Denies RD-180 Waiver For ULA, earlier post
- Rep. Rogers Hates Everything Russian - Except Russian Rocket Engines, earlier post
- Earlier RD-180 posts

Soyuz Lands With ISS Crew

Space Station Crew Returns to Earth

"Expedition 45 Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren of NASA is among three crew members who returned to Earth Friday after a 141-day mission aboard the International Space Station, landing in Kazakhstan at approximately 8:12 a.m. EST (7:12 p.m. Kazakhstan time). Also returning were Flight Engineers Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos (Russian Federal Space Agency) and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The crew touched down northeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan, marking the first crew landing to occur after sunset and only the sixth nighttime Soyuz spacecraft return from the space station."

Pentagon denies ULA waiver on Russian engines, Washington Post

"The Pentagon announced Friday that it would not grant the United Launch Alliance a waiver allowing it to bypass a congressional ban on Russian-made engines that the company has said it desperately needs to compete in the multibillion-dollar national security launch market. ULA, the joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing that had a monopoly on national security satellite launches for a decade, had pleaded with the Pentagon for a waiver that would allow it to use more RD-180 engines to power its Atlas V rocket. The company has four of the engines in its inventory that it could use for national security launches, ULA chief executive Tory Bruno recently told reporters. But he said ULA needs at least 14 to compete to launch national security payloads, such as spy and communications satellites, before it is able to use a new, American-made engine it is developing with Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)"

SpaceX raps ULA bid to get U.S. waiver for Russian engines, Reuters

"Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, has slammed a bid by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, to get a waiver from a U.S. ban on Russian rocket engines for military use. Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of Tesla Motors and chief executive of SpaceX, told Defense Secretary Ash Carter that federal law already allowed ULA to use "a substantial number" of engines. ULA's threat to skip an upcoming Air Force competition to launch a GSP satellite unless it got a waiver was "nothing less than deceptive brinkmanship for the sole purpose of thwarting the will of Congress," he wrote in a letter dated Oct. 5. A copy was obtained by Reuters on Thursday."

Previous RD-180 posts

Russia's New Rocket Won't Fit in Its New Cosmodrome, Moscow Times

"Work at Russia's new $ 3 billion spaceport in the Far East has ground to a halt after a critical piece of infrastructure was discovered to have been built to the wrong dimensions, and would not fit the latest version of the country's Soyuz rocket, a news report said."

- Russia's Vostochny Cosmodrome Has Big Problems, earlier post
- More Negative Progress at Vostochny Cosmodrome, earlier post
- Vostochny Cosmodrome First Launch Slips 3 Years, earlier post
- Man Driving Diamond-encrusted Mercedes Caught Embezzling Cosmodrome Funds, earlier post

ULA needs relief on Russian engines before GPS launch bid -CEO, Reuters

"United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, on Friday said it cannot bid in a U.S. Air Force competition to launch a GPS satellite unless it gets some relief from a ban on use of Russian rocket engines. ULA Chief Executive Officer Tory Bruno told reporters in Cape Canaveral, Florida, that the company was seeking a partial waiver on trade sanctions enacted last year that ban U.S. military use of the Russian RD-180 engine that powers ULA's primary workhorse Atlas 5 rocket. The issue is now in the hands of Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Bruno said. Without the waiver, he said, ULA could not compete for that launch or any other new national security launches until a new American-built engine is ready in 2019."That's not a viable business model," he told reporters."

United Launch Alliance under pressure from Elon Musk's SpaceX upstart and Congress, Washington Post

"ULA is facing a challenge from SpaceX, the hard-charging upstart founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, which just won certification by the Air Force that would allow it to compete against ULA for the next Pentagon launch contract. And ULA faces an even bigger problem: the Russian-made rocket engine it relies on has been entangled in a messy political fight that could threaten its ability to compete at all."

Europe helps Russia get banned US electronics for ExoMars project, TASS

"Russia has run into difficulties as regards the obtaining US-made component parts for its research equipment to be used in the ExoMars inter-planetary project, the launch of which has been scheduled for 2016, Oleg Korablyov, a Deputy Director General of the Space Research Institute in charge of materiel for ExoMars told reporters on Wednesday. "The sanctions have had a strong impact on us, since we didn't manage to buy some component parts (of US manufacture) for ExoMars," he said, admitting along with it that the Russian side had bought the bulk of the elements needed during the 2016 mission in advance."

Keith's note: Russia (USSR) did this 4 times decades ago. Its all listed here on Wikipedia.

Expedition 45 Is In Orbit

Expedition 45 With Visiting Crew Launch to the International Space Station (with video)

"Expedition 45 Soyuz Commander Sergey Volkov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and visiting crew members Andreas Mogensen of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Aidyn Aimbetov of the Kazakh Space Agency (Kazcosmos) launched on the Russian Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft on Sept. 2, Kazakh time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan bound for the International Space Station."

NASA JSC Solicitation: Purchase of Two Vehicles for the Human Space Flight Program-Russia

"Delivered to US Embassy Moscow, Russia The contractor must provide with the bid proposal a schematic drawing showing vehicle design and dimension specifications in the form of the sample drawing. Standard manufacturer's pamphlet with the specific vehicle model being offered clearly identified and accompanied by a written statement in English by the manufacturer certifying that all solicitation specifications are met for the vehicle model being offered."

Congress, Don't Make Us Hitch Rides With Russia. Love, NASA, Charlie Bolden via Wired

"Saturday will mark 1,500 days since the Space Shuttle touched down for the final time. Grounding human spaceflights was always supposed to be temporary as we made the necessary transition to a new generation of spacecraft, operated by American commercial carriers. Likewise, paying for seats on Russian spacecraft to send our astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) was always intended to be a stopgap. Had Congress adequately funded President Obama's Commercial Crew proposal, we could have been making final preparations this year to once again launch American astronauts to space from American soil aboard American spacecraft. Instead we are faced with uncertaintyand we will continue to be so long as Congress resists fully investing in Commercial Crew."

- Why Is Congress Stalling NASA's Commercial Crew Program?, earlier post
- NASA Buys More Soyuz Flights Since Congress Constantly Cuts Commercial Crew, earlier post
- Mikulski Tries Unsuccessfully To Prevent Commercial Crew Funding Decrease, earlier post

Blow for new cosmodrome as officials say first manned launch is still a decade away, Siberian Times

"A 2007 presidential decree had set 2018 as this target date for manned launched and it was echoed in repeated statements from officials until recently. It was reported that Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and the head of the Russian Space Agency Igor Komarov managed to persuade Vladimir Putin to adjust the date of manned launches. The reasons were not spelled out, and it was unclear if financial considerations were behind the delay. Space agency spokesman Mikhail Fadeyev made clear the change of plan in stating: 'The first manned flight from the Vostochny Cosmodrome is scheduled for 2025 with an Angara-AV5 rocket, according to the federal space programme.' The move reflected the 'founding principle of Vostochny as an innovative cosmodrome', he claimed. Under the plan, the first test flight of the Angara-A5B is scheduled for 2023, while the rocket's first unmanned flight is slated for 2024."

- More Negative Progress at Vostochny Cosmodrome, earlier post
- Vostochny Cosmodrome First Launch Slips 3 Years, earlier post
- Man Driving Diamond-encrusted Mercedes Caught Embezzling Cosmodrome Funds, earlier post

NASA Notifies Congress about Space Station Contract Modification with Russia

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden sent a letter to Congress Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015 informing members that, due to continued reductions in the president's funding requests for the agency's Commercial Crew Program over the past several years, NASA was forced to extend its existing contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) to transport American astronauts to the International Space Station. This contract modification is valued at about $490 million dollars. The letter was delivered to the leadership of the congressional committees that oversee NASA. The full text of the letter follows:"

NASA signing $490M contract with Russia, The Hill

"The new contract extension is required because Congress has not fully funded the administration's budget requests since 2010. For fiscal year 2011, for example, Obama asked Congress for $500 million for NASA's Commercial Crew Program. Congress only gave it $321 million. The next year, Obama asked for $850 million and Congress only allocated $400 million. Due to those low funding levels for five consecutive years, NASA had to ask Congress for more than $1 billion for next year. A spokeswoman for NASA said if Obama's request is fully funded, and if NASA can fully pay its contracts, the U.S. commercial vehicles could still be ready by the 2017 date."

$126 Million Stolen From Russian Vostochny Cosmodrome Project Prosecutor General, The Moscow Times

"Russia's Prosecutor General said Monday that 7.5 billion rubles ($126 million) had been stolen during construction of a new spaceport in Russia's Far East, news agency RIA Novosti reported. Investigators conducted a massive investigation into corruption and mismanagement at the site of the Vostochny Cosmodrome, a $3 billion project seen in Moscow as vital to secure Russia's independent access to space. President Vladimir Putin on a visit to the construction site last year warned contractors that law enforcement agencies were monitoring the use of state funds and that charges would be brought for malpractice. Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said that a probe of 250 organizations working on the project had discovered "theft that caused 7.5 billion rubles in damages," RIA Novosti reported."

- Vostochny Cosmodrome First Launch Slips 3 Years, earlier post
- Man Driving Diamond-encrusted Mercedes Caught Embezzling Cosmodrome Funds, earlier post

Soyuz Launches Expedition 44 Crew to the International Space Station

"The Soyuz TMA-17M launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station at 5:02 p.m. EDT (3:02 a.m. on July 23 Baikonur time). Soyuz TMA-17M is carrying Expedition 44 Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren of NASA, and Flight Engineer Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) into orbit to begin their five month mission on the Station."

Keith's note: On board was a mini-R2D2 who's purpose on this mission is not exactly clear ... yet. Maybe he'll fix the un-deployed solar array.

Shelton Versus McCain on Import of SpaceX Failure, SpacePolicyOnline

"Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), and Gen. William Shelton (Ret.) view the June 28 SpaceX launch failure very differently. In a McCain statement and a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Shelton, the two take opposite positions on what should be learned from the failure in terms of national security space launches and how long Russian RD-180 engines are needed by the U.S. military to have assured access to space. The congressional push to end reliance on RD-180s began while Shelton was still on active duty and Commander of Air Force Space Command and he and McCain differed on these issues all along. At the last congressional hearing on the topic during Shelton's tenure, in July 2014, they were fully were on display. Apparently nothing has changed."

Tory Bruno, ULA
Rob Meyerson, Blue Origin
Julie Van Kleeck, Aerojet Rocketdyne
Frank Culbertson, Orbital ATK
Katrina McFarland, DoD
John Hyten, USAF Space Command
Jeffrey Thornburg, SpaceX
Samuel Greaves, USAF Space and Missiles Systems Center
Michael Griffin, himself

Hearing: Assuring National Security Space: Investing in American industry to end reliance on Russian rocket engines

Keith's note: The House Armed Services Committee is holding a hearing Friday with quite a cast of characters - Tory Bruno, Rob Meyerson, Julie Van Kleeck, Frank Culbertson, Jeff Thornburg, Katrina McFarland, John Hyten, Samuel Greaves, and, to round out the fun, Mike Griffin. This hearing ought to be a classic example of the old Washington adage "where you stand depends on where you sit".

You can catch the live tweeting stream from this morning's hearing that was posted on Twitter by @NASAWatch by following tweets with the #RD180 hashtag

SpaceX Prepared Testimony by Jeffrey Thornburg

"Continued reliance by U.S. launch providers on risky foreign supply chains for major subsystemsincluding propulsionhas materially weakened the U.S. industrial base. Now, however, private industry is investing internal funds to restore America's leading edge in rocket technology. As a matter of industrial policy, it makes little sense to extend reliance on foreign sources of key subsystems when American technology can step in today."

United Launch Alliance Discusses Future Innovations While Maintaining Industry Leading Reliability and Capability

"To end use of the RD-180 engine and make commercial investments in a new engine and system that will meet our national launch requirements, ULA needs the ability to compete into the next decade," said Bruno. "The House has correctly addressed concern over the RD-180 engine by allowing ULA to use engines already on contract while prohibiting additional purchases, which reflects the original intent of the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act."

Senate Passes FY2016 Defense Authorization, But Blocked on Defense Appropriations, Space Policy Online

"The Air Force is trying to convince Congress to give it a few more years to make the transition, arguing that it needs more time to develop, test and certify a new launch system (of which an engine is part). It wants an extension to 2022. The House-passed FY2016 NDAA provides that flexibility, but the Senate bill insists on 2019. The RD-180 and launch competition issues have become entwined. ULA has been a monopoly provider of launch services to the Air Force and intelligence community since it was created in 2006, but now a competitor, SpaceX, has emerged. DOD, the Air Force and ULA assert that they embrace the drive for competition, but want to make certain SpaceX does not itself become a monopoly provider in the 2019-2022 time frame when Atlas V's no longer can be launched (because RD-180s are prohibited), but a ULA alternative is not ready. These issues not only split the House and Senate authorizing committees, but the Senate authorizing and appropriations committees. McCain's Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) is the one holding DOD's feet to the fire on 2019, while the other three are siding with DOD."

Knights Templar Inspired Business Moves at ULA, earlier post

Russian Official Proposes International Investigation Into U.S. Moon Landings, Moscow Times

"Venting his frustration with what he viewed as "U.S. prosecutors having declared themselves the supreme arbiters of international football affairs," [Russia's Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir] Markin proposed that international investigators could likewise examine some of the murkier elements of America's past. An international investigation could help solve the mystery of the disappearance of film footage from the original moon landing in 1969, or explain where the nearly 400 kilograms of lunar rock reportedly obtained during several such missions between 1969 and 1972 have been spirited away to, Markin suggested."

Russian official wants to investigate whether U.S. moon landings actually happened, Washington post

"The op-ed is unlikely to raise worries among NASA officials. In 2009, NASA itself admitted that it had erased the original video recordings of the first moon landing among 200,000 other tapes in order to save money, according to Reuters."

Get Putin Out of Our Rockets, Roll Call

"But ULA isn't happy with these restrictions and has been using its influence in Congress to push back. Indeed, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., whose district houses a major ULA factory has introduced a bill rolling back the limits on Russian engines. At the same time, ULA has decided to limit production of its American-made Delta IV launcher in an effort to strong arm the U.S. military into purchasing the RD-180 until at least 2020. This underhanded tactic might benefit ULA, but it'll endanger U.S. security while enriching Russia. ULA is able to execute such a ploy because of its long monopoly on rockets for national-security launches. America's interests would be far better served if we leveraged our existing, homegrown alternatives and encouraged U.S. technology and engineering companies to re-join the global space race."

Keith's note: Sen. John McCain raised the issue of continued purchase of Russian RD-180 engines on the Senate floor yesterday.

Transcript below (edited for typos)

Expedition 43 Crew Returns to Earth (with video)

"Three crew members of the International Space Station (ISS) returned to Earth Thursday after a 199-day mission. Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts of NASA, Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) touched down at 9:44 a.m. EDT (7:44 p.m., Kazakh time), southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan."

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 9 June 2015

"Today at 10:27 a.m. Central time during the routine testing of communications systems between the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft and the International Space Station (ISS), Soyuz thrusters activated inadvertently which led to a slight change in the orientation of the ISS. Actions were immediately taken to reorient the ISS. There was no threat to the crew or the station itself, and the issue will have no impact to a nominal return to Earth of the Soyuz TMA-15M on Thursday. Roscosmos specialists are determining the cause of the incident. Once more information is known, additional information will be provided."

Keith's note: Hmmm ... rocket engines on a spacecraft just fire for some unknown reason, alter the ISS orientation such that contingency measures need to be taken and ... that's it: stay tuned? When I worked at NASA something like this in a safety review would have justifiably been a cosmic issue of epic proportions. Not any more, it would seem. I guess there will be some telecons and some Powerpoint slides.

- Soyuz Engines Fire When They're Not Supposed To, earlier post

Unexpected Soyuz engine start shifts orbital position of ISS, Aperture

"A glitch at the International Space Station on Tuesday caused its position in orbit to change, but the crew was not in danger, the Russian space agency said. Roscosmos said the engines of a Soyuz spacecraft docked at the station unexpectedly started during testing of the radio system that controls the docking procedure. Steps were taken to stabilize the station and specialists were now working to determine what caused the engines to start, the agency said."

Keith's note: A Proton launch fails, a Progress launch fails, a planned Progress reboost burn fails, and now a Soyuz fires its engines at a time when they are not supposed to be firing. Meanwhile Russia's new cosmodrome is going to be delayed 3 years while an employees embezzles funds and drives around in a diamond-encrusted Mercedes. So ... what does Congress want to do? They want to cut the commercial crew program that will eliminate U.S. crew launching dependence on this increasingly unreliable space partner.

- Design Problems Are Causing Russian Launch Failures, earlier post
- A Bad Day for Russia, earlier post
- Man Driving Diamond-encrusted Mercedes Caught Embezzling Cosmodrome Funds, earlier post
Vostochny Cosmodrome First Launch Slips 3 Years, earlier post

Russia Delays First Manned Launch From New Spaceport to 2023, Moscow Times

"The first launch of a manned spacecraft from Russia's troubled new Vostochny Cosmodrome is slated for 2023, at least three years later than originally planned, the head of the Roscosmos federal space agency, Igor Komarov, said Friday, news agency RIA Novosti reported. Vostochny is a $3 billion spaceport under construction in the Amur region of Russia's Far East. The project is intended to ensure Russia's independent access to space by easing reliance on the Soviet-built Baikonur complex in Kazakhstan, but has been plagued by corruption allegations as construction deadlines have slipped."

Man Driving Diamond-encrusted Mercedes Caught Embezzling Cosmodrome Funds, earlier post

"Alleged to have embezzled four million roubles, video of arrest shows him driving diamond-encrusted Mercedes. A senior director suspected of embezzling funds from the construction of the new Vostochny cosmodrome has been arrested after going on the run."

Don't Back Down on Russian Sanctions, editorial, New York Times

"... But in recent years, Mr. Putin has become increasingly at odds with the United States. Meanwhile, United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of the defense giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing also known as ULA, has become the Pentagon's primary rocket maker and gets its engines from NPO Energomash, a Russian company that reportedly has close ties to Mr. Putin. Senator John McCain, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, says NPO Energomash could gain $300 million on engine sales that are to end under the law. The Pentagon, backed by ULA and American intelligence agencies, is pushing to change the law, arguing that additional Russian engines will be needed for at least a few more years."

- USAF Admits The Obvious on RD-180 Engines, earlier post
- Breaking The RD-180 Addiction, earlier post

Got him! Director accused of fraud at new spaceport is detained in Belarus, The Siberian Times

"Alleged to have embezzled four million roubles, video of arrest shows him driving diamond-encrusted Mercedes. A senior director suspected of embezzling funds from the construction of the new Vostochny cosmodrome has been arrested after going on the run. The 45-year-old Georgian national, whose name has not been disclosed, had fled Russia after being accused of taking four million roubles ($75,000). But he has finally been caught and detained in Belarus, and will now face the allegations and a potential prison sentence if found guilty. It is alleged his company was given the money as an advance payment for contract work at the spaceport but the work did not start and he took the funds for his own needs. .. Police in the Amur region put the shamed director on the international wanted list and he was located in Minsk, where he drove a luxury Mercedes car decorated with Swarovski diamonds. According to local media, it cost $300,000 (16 million roubles) to have the vehicle covered."

Keith's note: I just love all the pictures of the car this article contains. This guy was embezzling money from Putin and yet he thought it was fine to be driving around in a "diamond-encrusted Mercedes". It would seem like he was either asking to be caught - or .... that cosmodrome construction workers commonly drive around in diamond-encrusted Mercedes.

Air Force Releases Rocket Propulsion System Prototypes RFP

"Today the Space and Missile Systems Center released a formal solicitation seeking proposals for shared public-private investments in rocket propulsion system prototypes. This solicitation is part of a comprehensive Air Force plan to transition off the Russian supplied RD-180 propulsion system used on the Atlas V rocket by investing in industry launch solutions with the ultimate goal to competitively procure launch services in a robust domestic launch market."

Breaking The RD-180 Addiction, earlier post

Progress M-27M Failure Caused by "Design Peculiarity", Space Policy Online

'Russia's space agency Roscosmos today revealed the results of its investigation into the April 28, 2015 Progress M-27M cargo ship launch failure. A "design peculiarity" related to frequency-dynamic characteristics between the Soyuz-2.1a rocket's third stage and the Progress spacecraft was to blame, it said."

Proton-M Failure Due to Same Design Flaw that Doomed 1988 Mission, Space Policy Online

"Russian authorities investigating the May 16, 2015 Proton-M rocket failure have determined that the root cause was a design flaw in the turbopump for the third stage steering engine and concluded it was the same root cause of a prior crash in 1988. Igor Komarov, head of Russia's Roscosmos space agency, said today that the Proton-M third stage failed on May 16 because of excessive vibration in the turbopump."

Lockheed-Boeing rocket venture needs commercial orders to survive, Reuters

"Bruno last week announced a 30-percent cut in management as part of the restructuring. On Thursday he said Boeing and Lockheed were still approving investment in the new Vulcan rocket only one quarter at a time given uncertainty about how Russian engines the company can use to compete for national security launches. He said the Air Force had a strong argument to request a Pentagon waiver if Congress continues to block use of Russian engines ordered but not paid for before the Crimea invasion. Barring a waiver or change in the current law, ULA would only be able to compete for five Air Force launches between 2019 and 2022, when the new rocket is expected to be certified. ULA says its other rocket, the Delta 4, costs too much to compete. "We must have access to the Atlas as a competitive platform until we have the replacement rocket engine. There really is no Plan B," he said."

America Plays Russian Rocket Roulette, Wall Street Journal

"But recent allegations that Mr. Putin's cronies gain big rewards from the RD-180s (by inflating delivered engine costs and taking other markups via various middlemen) are damaging to the pro-Russian-rocket side. After a November 2014 Reuters report on the purchases of rockets with RD-180 engines, Sen. John McCain said in a statement that he had long been concerned that U.S. taxpayers "are paying millions of dollars to companies that may have done no work but merely served as a 'pass-through' to enrich corrupt Russian businessmen connected with Vladimir Putin." Let's be clear: No one should play down the significance of the Air Force's concern about ensuring reliable access to space. And despite some bluster in Moscow about holding up shipments of RD-180 engines, no reports have surfaced of delivery delays. Moscow desperately needs the hard currency."

Putin-backed RD-180 Markup Scheme Unveiled, earlier post

There is a markup session tomorrow at 12:00 pm EDT with the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Markup. It certainly looks like Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) is trying to slip in language that would allow more Russian-built RD-180 engines to be purchased using tax dollars at the same time when Rogers is (otherwise) actively promoting policies that would punish the exact same sector of Russia's economy for actions in Ukraine and Iran, treaty violations, and other bad behavior.

Scenic Descent For Expedition 42

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 11 March 2015

"Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore of NASA, and Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova of the Russian Federal Space Agency landed their Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft in Kazakhstan at approximately 10:07 p.m. EDT. Russian recovery teams are helping the crew exit the Soyuz vehicle and adjust to gravity after their stay in space."

Russia Will Spin-Off ISS Parts for New Space Station, Discovery News

"The Russian space agency Roscosmos says it will support U.S. plans to keep the International Space Station (ISS) operating through 2024, but then wants to split off three still-to-be launched modules to form a new, independent orbital outpost. The announcement this week by a senior planning board reverses previous statements by Russian officials that Russia would end involvement in the 15-nation program in 2020 when current agreements expire. Despite occasional rhetoric, the Russian-U.S. space marriage has been largely left out of growing economic and political tensions stemming from Russia's invasion of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula last year."

Keith's note: This is not a bad thing. And I am not talking about no longer having to deal with Russia since we'll certainly find a way to find ourselves in a political spat with someone else on Earth after they leave the ISS. Rather, it shows how assets in space can be repurposed, refurbished -- re-imagined. Instead of throwing things away in orbit (Skylab, Salyuts, Mir) we can now build upon these assets and move them around like Lego bricks to form new things as we need them - and then do this again and again. When the government is done with their hardware, it can be used by someone else - just like old military bases can become movie studios and shopping malls. The more orbital capacity that is available, the more customers it can collectively and individually serve. The more valuable these on-orbit assets become for government and non-government uses, the more everyone will want to safeguard that growing capacity (and isolate it from terrestrial squabbles) as has been the case with ISS recently.

Russia Launches Angara 5

Russia Launches Angara 5 on Maiden Test Flight [With Video], SpaceRef Business

"Russia today successfully launched the Angara 5 rocket on its first test flight. The rocket carried a dummy payload. The Angara 5 flew with five first stage cores strapped together and a Breeze M upper stage.

The Angara 5 is meant to replace Russia's heavy-lift Proton rocket and would become the workhorse of the Russian fleet tasked with primarily launching military payloads. A future super heavy-lift Angara 7 is also planned, if needed."

Angara best response to Western sanctions - deputy PM, ITAR TASS

"The Angara launch is a proper response to the Western sanctions and confirmation of Russia's ability to make new achievements, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said."

Russia launches new heavy-class Angara space rocket, Xinhua

"Russia successfully carried out the first test launch of a newest heavy-class Angara A5 rocket on Tuesday. The rocket was launched at Plesetsk cosmodrome in Russia's northern Arkhangelsk region at 08:57 a.m. Moscow Time (0557 GMT), according to the Defense Ministry press service."

RD-180 Bad; RD-181 Good

Antares Upgrade Will Use RD-181s In Direct Buy From Energomash, Aviation Week

"Congressional concern about Russian aggression in the Crimean peninsula led to a ban in the new National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on using RD-180s purchased after Russia occupied the Ukrainian territory on Feb. 1. Grabe said that legislation will not affect the deal to buy RD-181s from Energomash. "We've coordinated with all relevant congressional committee staffs to keep them informed of our decision," Grabe said."

In murky Pentagon deal with Russia, big profit for a tiny Florida firm, reuters

"For months, a powerful U.S. senator has been pushing for details of a murky deal under which a Russian manufacturer supplies the rocket engines used to launch America's spy satellites into space. At issue: how much the U.S. Air Force pays for the engines, how much the Russians receive, and whether members of the elite in President Vladimir Putin's Russia are secretly profiting by inflating the price. Now, documents uncovered by Reuters provide some answers. A tiny Florida-based company, acting as a middleman in the deal, is marking up the price by millions of dollars per engine. That five-person company, RD Amross, is a joint venture of Russian engine maker NPO Energomash and a U.S. partner, aerospace giant United Technologies. According to internal company documents that lay out the contract, Amross stands to collect $93 million in cost mark-ups under its current multi-year deal to supply the RD-180 rocket engine."

Expedition 42 Launches on Time to International Space Station

"The Soyuz TMA-15M launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station at 4:01 p.m. EST (3:01 a.m. on Nov. 24 Baikonur time). Terry Virts of NASA, Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency now are safely in orbit."

Russians may visit China's orbital module, TASS

"Russian cosmonauts may in the future visit the Chinese orbiting module Tiangong-1, and their Chinese colleagues may visit the International Space Station (ISS), head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) Oleg Ostapenko said on Wednesday. "As for the possible manned flight program projects, China has such an interest and they have expressed it in the negotiations we held today," Ostapenko said, answering reporters' questions at the Airshow China 2014 International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition."

Expedition 41 Has Returned

Expedition 41 Returns to Earth

"Expedition 41 Commander Max Suraev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Flight Engineers Reid Wiseman of NASA and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency touched down northeast of the remote town of Arkalyk in Kazakhstan at 10:58 p.m. EST (9:58 a.m., Nov. 10, Kazakh time). While in space, they traveled more than 70 million miles."

Crimea Catch-22: Russia Space Training May Put NASA in a Bind, NBC

"Here's the kicker: Shifting the survival training to Russian-occupied Crimea will require foreign cosmonauts to accept travel there without Ukrainian visas, an explicit acquiescence to the new diplomatic status of the province. Refusal to attend survival training is equivalent to failing the training, which by existing training regulations is an automatic disqualification for flight certification. No Crimea trip, no space trip. Lonchakov hinted that Crimea might be used for more than sea survival training. "We are also planning, if it works out, to hold sea and mountain survival training," he told the Itar-Tass news agency. He has also said a post-flight rehabilitation center for cosmonauts could be reopened near Yevpatoria, a Crimean coastal resort."

Earlier posts on Russia

Russia may carry on ISS project after 2020 - newspaper, Interfax

"If we take a look at the relevant section of the federal space program, we will see that the Russian Academy of Sciences is the ISS project customer. Our American partners have said many times they wished to continue the ISS operations after 2020. When they heard our leaders saying that Russia wanted to close down the project in 2020, they fostered the interaction with scientists and made interesting propositions of works in the period after 2020. A yearlong mission of a U.S. astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut to the ISS is scheduled for 2015," the Roscosmos source told Izvestia. He said the Americans had offered the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences to arrange another yearlong mission experiment. "Meanwhile, Roscosmos is not very interested in halting the ISS works right now: the federal space program of 2006-2015 allots 186.6 billion rubles for the station. If we stop building new modules of the station, considerable funds will be written off and some enterprises will have to start massive dismissals," he added."

- Russia Shuts Off RD-180 & GPS Stations; Cancels ISS post-2020, earlier post
- Who Is Actually In Charge of the Space Station?, earlier post

Sea creatures are discovered living on the exterior of the ISS, Daily Mail

"Traces of plankton and other microorganisms have been found living on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS), according to Russian space officials. They claim the plankton were not carried there at launch - but are thought to have been blown there by air currents on Earth. Incredibly, the tiny organisms were found to be able to survive in the vacuum of space despite the freezing temperatures, lack of oxygen and cosmic radiation. The discovery was made during a routine spacewalk by Russian cosmonauts Olek Artemyev and Alexander Skvortsov, who were launching nanosatellites into space.
They used wipes to polish the surface of windows - also known as illuminators - on the Russian segment of the ISS and later found the presence of plankton and other microorganisms using 'high-precision equipment'.

Keith's note: I'm certain that were I to ask CASIS or the ISS National Laboratory folks for a peer-reviewed publication for these results that they'd be more than happy to comply, right? And if this news story is not true, I should expect an equally swift statement to that effect, right? Astrobiologists ought to be jumping up and down about this - if it is true, that is.

NASA, Russia Squabble Over International Space Station Sea Plankton Claim, Forbes

"As far as we're concerned, we haven't heard any official reports from our Roscosmos (Russia's space agency) colleagues that they've found sea plankton," NASA spokesman Dan Huot told Space.com. "What they're actually looking for is residues that can build up on the visually sensitive elements, like windows, as well as just the hull of the ship itself that will build up whenever they do thruster firings for things like re-boosts. That's what they were taking samples for. I don't know where all the sea plankton talk is coming from."

Recent History Suggests Tougher Russia Sanctions Are Needed, WS Journal

"The U.S. and Europe made good this week on their threats to start penalizing broader sections of Russia's economy in a bid to force President Vladimir Putin to end his support for separatist rebels in Ukraine. But recent history of the use of financial sanctions by Washington and Brussels--including against Iran, North Korea and Syria--suggests that significantly more pervasive penalties, particularly against Moscow's energy sector, would be needed to change the Kremlin's calculations, said current and former U.S. officials and sanctions experts."

NASA PAO statement from Bob Jacobs: "We don't anticipate Tuesday's actions will have any direct impact on NASA's activities with Russia. For specific questions on sanctions I would refer you to the Departments of Treasury and Commerce."

Keith's note: I am not sure how anyone in the U.S. government can "anticipate" what Putin/Russia are going to do next - especially after they invaded Ukraine, annexed Crimea, and killed hundreds of innocent people on an airliner. Fiddling with space stuff would be easy by comparison.

Hartman: U.S. and Russian Crews to Fly Both Soyuz and U.S. Commercial Vehicles, Space Policy Online

"Hartman's point was that in an emergency, it might not make sense to have all the Russians leave on one spacecraft and the Americans and others on a separate spacecraft because a mixture of experience may be needed to conduct operations. "When you have these rescue vehicles on orbit and you have to leave the station...it doesn't make much sense for three Russians to leave and expect the four Americans onboard to operate the Russian segment [of the ISS] and vice versa, right?" Hartman said."

Former NASA Boss: Russia Has US Space Program in 'Hostage Situation', ABC

"We're in a hostage situation," former NASA administrator Michael Griffin told ABC News. "Russia can decide that no more U.S. astronauts will launch to the International Space Station and that's not a position that I want our nation to be in." But there is a new sort of space race happening now to help reestablish U.S. autonomy. Three private companies -- Boeing, Space-Ex and Sierra Nevada -- are currently competing for billions of dollars in NASA funding to build the next ride to space for American astronauts."

Keith's note: Funny thing: at least one of these commercial ventures will crews fly sooner than Mike Griffin's Ares/Orion would ever have flown under even the most optimistic of scenarios.

Senators vow to reassert America's rocket power, The Hill

"The United States must now respond decisively and provide our own domestic capacity to launch our crew and cargo into space," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said. "We simply cannot rely on the vicissitudes of foreign suppliers in a foreign nation for our national security." The full costs of replacing the engine could be much higher than Congress is willing to commit to right now. It is, quite literally, rocket science to fit a new engine into existing rockets. Aside from building the engine itself, engineers will also need to make sure every other component works with the new machinery, kind of like switching out a car's hybrid engine with a V8. That could take five to eight years and cost up to $2 billion, predicted the Pentagon's acquisition and technology chief, Alan Estevez."

Assured Access to Space - Prepared testimony and video, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Launch Enterprise: Acquisition Best Practices Can Benefit Future Efforts, GAO

Keith's note: We went from having only tiny rockets to the Saturn V (and its massive engines) in 8 years. Here we are in the 21st century and it is going to take us the same amount of time to reverse engineer a 50 year old Russian engine design? Am I missing something?

Russia Shakes Off Glitches to Successfully Launch Angara Rocket, Moscow Times

"The launch was originally scheduled for June 27, but the rocket's flight computer automatically aborted the attempt seconds before liftoff. A drop in oxidizer pressure caused by a leaky valve was responsible for the shutdown. Breaking a decades-old tradition of conducting new rocket tests away from the public gaze, the Russian media televised the first attempt. A few minutes before the launch was meant to go ahead, state media outlets cut to President Vladimir Putin watching the proceedings, or lack of them, from the Kremlin. However, reverting to Soviet form, Wednesday's launch was not televised."

Russian Angara 1.2PP Rocket set for Launch Friday [With Video], SpaceRef Business

"This Friday after years of delay, Russia is set to launch the Angara 1.2 Pervy Polyot (First Flight) rocket on its maiden voyage, a suborbital demonstration flight. The Angara project started in 1993 with the goal to develop a new national space launch system.

The Angara 1 light class of small launchers is intended to replace the Kosmos-3M, Tsyklon and Rockot launchers. The Angara 3, a medium-lift launcher is meant to eventually replace the Zenit and the and Angara 5 is meant to replace the heavy-lift Proton. The Angara 5 would become the workhorse of the Russian fleet tasked with launch military payloads."

Roscosmos Disavows Plan to Send Space Tourists to Moon, Moscow Times

"Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, will not be involved in a plan to send two space tourists on a flight around the Moon and was not consulted about the project, the federal space agency said. The mission, hatched by U.S.-based space tourism firm Space Adventures and a major Russian spacecraft manufacturer, Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, would see two space tourists travel to the Moon aboard a modified Russian Soyuz spacecraft by 2017. However, Roscosmos was kept out of the loop on the plan. The organizers "could have consulted with us before making such loud announcements," said Denis Lyskov, Roscosmos's deputy chief in charge of piloted flights, Izvestia reported Monday."

A private expedition to the Moon, Space Adventures

"Using flight proven Russian spacecraft we will fly two private citizens and one professional cosmonaut on a free return trajectory around the far side of the moon. They will come within 100km of the Moon's surface. If you chose to join this mission you will see the illuminated far-side of the Moon, and then witness the amazing sight of the Earth rising above the surface of the Moon. We expect our first mission to launch by 2017."

ULA RD-180 Update

Russia Bans U.S. From International Space Station: America Strikes Back, Motley Fool

"On Monday, ULA confirmed that it has signed contracts with "multiple" American rocket companies to begin working up "next-generation liquid oxygen/hydrocarbon first stage propulsion concepts" that could replace the RD-180 (the RD-180 uses liquid oxygen and kerosene as its fuel sources). Working at a breakneck pace, ULA said it expects to select a new design before the end of this year. Then, pushing the envelope on the usual five- to eight-year timeline usually needed to develop such engines, ULA said it will have a new rocket ready to fly by 2019. (In the meantime, ULA will try to string Russia's Energomash along, negotiating to keep the RD-180s coming until they're no longer needed.)"

ULA signs multiple contracts to pursue RD-180 engine replacement, Denver Post

"While the RD-180 has been a remarkable success, we believe now is the right time for American investment in a domestic engine," ULA's CEO Michael Gass said in a statement. "At the same time, given that ULA is the only certified launch provider of our nation's most important satellites, it is critical that America preserve current capabilities and options while simultaneously pursuing this new engine." ULA's announcement comes a week after the U.S. House Appropriations Committee asked for $220 million in the 2015 defense budget to go toward developing an alternative to the RD-180."

Sen. McCain Raises Concerns About Lack of Transparency on USAF RD-180 Procurement

"I am, in particular, interested in learning more about a company called RD Amross, the company from which United Launch Alliance (ULA) actually buys the RD-180 for use in EELV missions. It appears that RD Amross is a joint venture between P&W Power Generation Inc. and International Space Engines, Inc., a Delaware-registered subsidiary of the engine's Russian manufacturer NPO Energomash."


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