Recently in Russia Category

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."

Iranian Cosmonauts?

Russia to train Iranian cosmonauts, build recon sats - report, Russia Today

"Russia and Iran have reportedly signed a secret deal on wide cooperation in space exploration, ranging from training Iranian cosmonauts in Russia to possible production of Earth observation and telecommunication satellites for Iran. ... Ironically, if Russia does train Iranians to go to space, it would be done at the same site where NASA astronauts are trained before taking a trip to the International Space Station in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, the newspaper notes. Putting Iranians and Americans with access to sensitive information in the same room could be a security challenge."

As NASA seeks next mission, Russia holds the trump card, Houston Chronicle

"Such is today's space Realpolitik that, while the United States paid for most of the $140 billion space station, launched nearly all of it into orbit, and controls most of its day-to-day operations from Houston, Russia still holds the trump card: access. "They have us right where they want us," said three-time NASA astronaut Mike Coats. The mounting Ukraine crisis has highlighted the space agency's vulnerability, but this state of affairs is not new. Russia began embracing NASA in a bear hug right after the space shuttle retired in 2011."

NASA: Space station can work without Russia, AP

"There is no single partner that can terminate the international space station," Bolden told reporters in Berlin, where he was attending the city's annual air show. Bolden said that the cooperation between NASA and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, on the International Space Station hadn't changed "one iota" in recent years. The project has withstood the increasingly frosty atmosphere between Washington and Moscow that saw the U.S. impose sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine. Still, Bolden indicated that if for one reason or other a country should drop out of the project, the others would seek to continue.

Amid Attacks, ULA Outlines Some EELV Pricing, Aviation Week

"ULA is battling to keep its Atlas V alive amid multiple attacks. Due to tensions over the Crimean annexation, Russia has said it will halt deliveries of the RD-180 first-stage engine for Atlas V to the U.S.; this would leave ULA with a current stockpile of 16 already in the U.S. Political pressure from the SpaceX lawsuit is also prompting some to question whether the Atlas V can be replaced by the Falcon 9v1.1. Gass said neither Russian manufacturer NPO Energomash or ULA have been formally notified of a halt in deliveries; five RD-180s have been ordered for delivery in 2014. Gass said the move announced by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was a hypothetical what-if, but not yet enacted."

Keith's note: "a hypothetical what-if, but not yet enacted"? Yea, that is how Putin does things before he sends in the troops. The majority owner of NPO Energomash is the Russian government. Rogozin works for Putin. Sounds like a plan.

Feud between SpaceX and ULA over space contract grows more intense, Washington Post

"This week, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said he would prohibit the export of Russian-made engines used in many U.S. rocket launches. That could eventually cause a disruption in how the Pentagon sends military satellites into orbit. And it plays into the hands of Musk, who is arguing that the nation's security interests in space shouldn't be dependent on the Russians."

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Questions Stability of U.S.-Russia Space Partnership

"As we move forward, it is important that we fully understand our nation's independent capabilities with regard to ISS operations," the letter states. "While this new development is not related to access to the ISS for our astronauts in the next few years, it certainly pertains to the strength of our partnership with Russia. If Mr. Rogozin's statement proves to be accurate, we will have to take a step back and evaluate the costs and benefits of maintaining ISS beyond 2020 without our Russian partners."

Letter

Expedition 39 Crew Returns to Earth

"The Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft carrying Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency and Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA landed in the steppe of Kazakhstan southeast of Dzhezkazgan at 9:58 p.m. (7:58 a.m. Wednesday, Kazakh time). Helicopters carrying the Russian recovery teams and NASA personnel reached the landing site shortly afterward to assist the crew and conduct medical examinations."

NASA Puts One Space Station Propulsion Vehicle on Ice While Moving Ahead with Another, (2000)

"Meanwhile, the U.S. Propulsion Module (USPM) activity continues to move ahead. The USPM is a long term solution designed to provide reboost capability independent of that provided by the Russian Service Module. Unlike the ICM which was not designed to be refueled in orbit, the USPM would have all of the capabilities currently provided by the Service Module - without the pressurized living volume."

US Propulsion Module Why, What, When?

Alternate means for ISS GN&C/Propulsion system functions are required for potential loss of Russian partnership (Risk of unfriendly break-up)

NASA's 1999 Plan To Splash ISS

"NASA has always been required to have a way to bring the ISS back to Earth once its mission is completed. This briefing first appeared online at NASAWatch.com in April 1999. The Propulsion Module mentioned in this proposal was never built. It was being considered when Russia's delays on delivering the Service Module to orbit began to mount."

Keith's note: Yes, yes, the U.S. paid for FGB and we own it - but then there's Crimea.

Russia to Halt Export of RD-180 Engines for MilSat Launches and Questions ISS Future, SpaceRef Business

"The escalating war of words between Russia and U.S. just hit home hard for the Air Force and United Launch Alliance (ULA) with the news today that Russia would no longer supply RD-180 engines for export to the U.S. if used by the Pentagon."

Moscow to ban US from using Russian rocket engines for military launches, Russia Today

"Moscow is banning Washington from using Russian-made rocket engines, which the US has used to deliver its military satellites into orbit, said Russia's Deputy PM, Dmitry Rogozin, who is in charge of space and defense industries. According to Rogozin, Russia is also halting the operation of all American GPS stations on its territory from June 1. Russia currently hosts 11 ground-based GPS stations, the Deputy PM said."

United Launch Alliance Statement on Russian Statements

"ULA and our NPO Energomash supplier in Russia are not aware of any restrictions. However, if recent news reports are accurate, it affirms that SpaceX's irresponsible actions have created unnecessary distractions, threatened U.S. military satellite operations, and undermined our future relationship with the International Space Station."

NASA Statement on News Reports Regarding Russian Space Statements

"Space cooperation has been a hallmark of US-Russia relations, including during the height of the Cold War, and most notably, in the past 13 consecutive years of continuous human presence on board the International Space Station. Ongoing operations on the ISS continue on a normal basis with a planned return of crew tonight (at 9:58 p.m. EDT) and expected launch of a new crew in two weeks. We have not received any official notification from the Government of Russia on any changes in our space cooperation at this point."

Court Lifts NPO Energomash Injunction, SpaceX Back at Square One, SpaceRef Business

"Commenting to SpaceRef on the ruling a SpaceX spokesperson said: The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has taken steps toward understanding whether United Launch Alliance's current sole-source contract violates U.S. sanctions by sending taxpayer money to Russia for the RD-180 engine. That question, combined with the others specifically raised in the SpaceX Complaint, relating to the risks posed by dependence on Russian-made engines and the need to open competition for the Air Force space launch program - are timely and appropriate."

Court lifts injunction barring payments for Russian engine

"A federal judge Thursday lifted an injunction barring United Launch Alliance from buying Russian engines for the company's Atlas 5 rocket, concluding such transactions do not violate U.S. sanctions imposed in the wake of Russia's actions in Ukraine. A temporary injunction was granted April 30, two days after a complaint by ULA rival Space Explorations Technologies -- SpaceX -- that challenged the legitimacy of a sole-source "block buy" Air Force contract that was awarded to United Launch Alliance last December for 27 Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets."

Preliminary Injunction Lifted - ULA Purchase of RD-180 Engines Complies with Sanctions

"Sadly, SpaceX's frivolous lawsuit caused unnecessary distraction of the executive and judicial branch and increased tensions with Russia during a sensitive national security crisis. "SpaceX's actions are self-serving, irresponsible and have threatened the U.S.'s involvement with the International Space Station and other companies and projects working with Russian State entities."

- Russian Engine Drama Continues, earlier post
- SpaceX Gets Injunction Against Russian Rocket Engines, earlier post

U.S. Government Files for Dissolution of Injunction Against Payments to Russia, SpacePolicyOnline

"The United States Government filed a request with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims late yesterday asking the court to dissolve its injunction against the government or United Launch Alliance (ULA) from making payments to Russia because it might violate sanctions imposed by President Obama against Russian Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin. The court enjoined the Air Force and ULA from making payments to the Russian entity NPO Energomash for RD-180 engines, used for ULA's Atlas V rocket, on April 30."

- SpaceX Gets Injunction Against Russian Rocket Engines, earlier post
- Congressional Concerns Over Use of Russian Engines, earlier post
- Earlier posts

Preliminary Injunction Issued Prohibits Further Purchases From NPO Energomash, SpaceRef Business

"A preliminary injunction was issued late yesterday in the matter of SpaceX vs The United States with one respect to the complaint. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has prohibited the Air Force and United Launch Alliance (ULA) from "making any purchases from or payment of money to NPO Energomash" effectively blocking any further purchases of RD-180 engines used by ULA on the Atlas V."

ULA statement from Kevin G. MacCary, United Launch Alliance General Counsel, in response to Preliminary Injunction Related to National Security

"ULA is deeply concerned with this ruling and we will work closely with the Department of Justice to resolve the injunction expeditiously. In the meantime, ULA will continue to demonstrate our commitment to our National Security on the launch pad by assuring the safe delivery of the missions we are honored to support." 

Elon Musk's SpaceX granted injunction in rocket launch suit against Lockheed-Boeing, Washington Post

"A U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge issued an injunction late Wednesday prohibiting a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing from proceeding with plans to buy Russian-made rocket engines. Judge Susan G. Braden's ruling came after SpaceX, a California-based rocket company, sued the federal government Monday, protesting the Air Force's award of a lucrative space contract, saying it should have been competitively bid."

Injunction Order text

- Congressional Concerns Over Use of Russian Engines, earlier post
- Building All-American Rocket Engines, earlier post

Russia Gives Green Light to Super-Heavy Rocket Project

"A project to build a new super-heavy carrier rocket was included into the draft new Federal Space Program (FSP) Roscosmos chief Oleg Ostapenko said on Thursday. "A [super] heavy carrier rocket was included into the new FSP. Work is still under way, with the first stage envisaging the construction of a rocket capable of lifting from 70 to 80 metric tons," Ostapenko said, adding that such rockets would be enough for projects scheduled for the next 20 or 30 years. The second stage of the project is to build a carrier rocket capable of lifting from 100 to 120 metric tons of payload into the low-earth orbit."

Lawmakers seek end to U.S. reliance on Russian rocket engine, Reuters

"U.S. reliance on Russian engines has been a long-time concern for lawmakers, but those worries have been heightened by Russian actions Washington believes are destabilizing Ukraine. Senators also raised concerns about U.S. dependence on Russian rocket engines at a hearing Wednesday and said they would press for work on an alternate engine. Chief Pentagon arms buyer Frank Kendall told the Senate Armed Services Committee the United States has a license to build the Russian engines itself and could do that if necessary. But he said it would require some technical work first and that the license only goes through about 2022."

Effort To Exempt Satellites from Russia Sanctions Complicated by Latest from U.S. State Dept., SpaceNews

"The U.S. State Department on April 28 said it would deny requests to export defense hardware and services -- categories that under the U.S. Munitions List include satellites and satellite components -- to Russia as part of expanded U.S. sanctions aimed at reversing Russia's incursion into Ukraine if the exports "contribute to Russia's military capabilities." The new policy would appear to complicate a major lobbying effort that U.S. companies had been preparing to exclude at least some civil and commercial satellites from being denied a launch on Russian rockets."

Keith's note: This is getting very, very close to the things that NASA ships to the ISS on Progress and Soyuz.

Ukraine crisis: EU sanctions target separatists and Russian spies, Telegraph

"Following the announcement, ]Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian deputy prime minister] said that fresh US sanctions against Moscow could compromise US astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). If their aim is to deliver a blow to Russia's rocket-building sector, then by default, they would be exposing their astronauts on the ISS," the Interfax news agency quoted Mr Rogozin as saying in Crimea."

US wants to drive Russia out of space launch market by sanctions - Russia's Deputy PM, Voice of Russia

"If they [the US] want to make an economic blow to the Russian rocket building industry, then they should consider using a trampoline to deliver their astronauts to the International Space Station," [Russia's Deputy Prime Minister in charge of space and defense industry] Dmitry Rogozin said."

U.S. high-tech export curbs threaten space work with Russia, Reuters

"The United States introduced sanctions against our space industry... We warned them, we will reply to statements with statements, to actions with actions," he wrote on Twitter."

Keith's update: This doesn't help. "Trampolines" are not listed on the GSA schedule.

Despite sanctions, Russia is getting a $457.9M check from NASA, Washington Post

"Despite ongoing sanctions, Russia is about to get a big infusion of cash from the U.S. government. NASA recently renewed a contract that allows Russia to ferry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station. The U.S. is, essentially, cutting Russia a $457.9 million check for its services -- six seats on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, training and launch prep, landing and crew rescue and limited cargo delivery to and from the International Space Station. This contract also adds additional support at the Russian launch site. NASA has announced it is cutting some contacts with Russia after the country annexed Crimea, including meetings and teleconferences."

The Time for a New, All-American Advanced Liquid Rocket Engine Is Now, Mark Albrecht and Don Kerr, Roll Call

"We do not suggest that space cooperation with Russia is bad or that it should be totally curtailed or discouraged, but simply that there are elements of U.S. infrastructure that cannot be outsourced indefinitely. We must revitalize America's space infrastructure, and the right place to start is with an advanced-hydrocarbon-fueled booster engine -- an engine critical to U.S. leadership in rocket propulsion for access to space."

Keith's note: The authors dismissial of SpaceX progress and their 100% indigenous American engines is odd. The engines exist and are operational NOW. They also seem to be unaware of the much much larger, American-made engines that SpaceX (and undoubtedly Blue Origin) are developing. That said, the authors do make a good point about having non-Russian engines that other American launch vehicles could use. Alas, the authors decline to say who should pay for these new engines.

Reader note:"This screen capture from today's Space Station Live shows the ISS crew during this morning's call by Vladimir Putin to the ISS. Only Mastracchio & Swanson don't wear audio headsets. Is it some kind of sanction against Russia?"

Marc's note: The answer is no. There are only four places to plug in comm sets in the service module. Thanks to an astute reader for reminding us and everyone about this.

Keith's note: But NASA PAO has still not responded to our inquiry on this.

Keith's note: An internal NASA memo is circulating that bans all employee contact with Russia except for ISS operations. Stay tuned.

Keith's 2:22 pm EDT update: NASA Internal Memo: Suspension of NASA contact with Russian entities

"Given Russia's ongoing violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, until further notice, the U.S. Government has determined that all NASA contacts with Russian Government representatives are suspended, unless the activity has been specifically excepted. This suspension includes NASA travel to Russia and visits by Russian Government representatives to NASA facilities, bilateral meetings, email, and teleconferences or videoconferences. At the present time, only operational International Space Station activities have been excepted. In addition, multilateral meetings held outside of Russia that may include Russian participation are not precluded under the present guidance."

Keith's 7:44 pm EDT update:

Statement regarding suspension of some NASA activities with Russian Government representatives

"Given Russia's ongoing violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, NASA is suspending the majority of its ongoing engagements with the Russian Federation. NASA and Roscosmos will, however, continue to work together to maintain safe and continuous operation of the International Space Station. NASA is laser focused on a plan to return human spaceflight launches to American soil, and end our reliance on Russia to get into space. This has been a top priority of the Obama Administration's for the past five years, and had our plan been fully funded, we would have returned American human spaceflight launches - and the jobs they support - back to the United States next year. With the reduced level of funding approved by Congress, we're now looking at launching from U.S. soil in 2017. The choice here is between fully funding the plan to bring space launches back to America or continuing to send millions of dollars to the Russians. It's that simple. The Obama Administration chooses to invest in America - and we are hopeful that Congress will do the same."

US-Russia chill won't spread to cooperation in space, Bolden says, Physics Today

"On Thursday NASA administrator Charles Bolden reassured lawmakers that Russia won't stop providing access for US astronauts to the International Space Station, despite the current tensions between the two countries over Russia's recent invasion of Crimea."

GOP lawmaker, NASA chief spar on funding and Russia, MSNBC

"Several legislators expressed concern that the diplomatic breakdown between Washington and Moscow over Russia's incursion into Ukraine's Crimean peninsula could derail cooperation between NASA and Roscosmos."

Expedition 39/40 Trio's Arrival at Space Station Delayed

"The next trio of crew members destined for the International Space Station is now looking forward to a Thursday arrival at the orbiting laboratory after their Soyuz spacecraft was unable to complete its third thruster burn to fine-tune its approach."

New Crew Launches to Space Station

"Three crew members representing the United States and Russia are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:17 p.m. EDT Tuesday (3:17 a.m. on March 26 in Baikonur)."

Marc's Update: The first additional burns have been completed successfully for the 34 orbit rendezvous. According to Space Station Mission Operations Integration Manager Kenny Todd "everything looks real good".

A Win-Win Sanction - It's past time for the nation that won the space race to get back in the business, National Review Online

"Russia may retaliate by cutting off our supply of RD-180 engines. Imported Russian RD-180s power the first stage of the American Atlas V rocket; the Atlas V launches our military satellites. If Putin does threaten our rocket shipments, we can dip into the two-year store that has been stockpiled for just such an occasion -- and two weeks ago, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk testified to Congress that his American-made Falcon rockets are ready to take over (for about $300 million less per flight than an Atlas launch costs taxpayers now)."

Orbital Drops Antitrust Lawsuit Against ULA, Space News

"Orbital is considering the RD-180 as a replacement for the AJ-26 engines that power the main stage of the company's Antares medium-lift rocket. Each Antares rocket uses two AJ-26 engines, which are actually Soviet-vintage NK-33 engines refurbished by Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, Calif. Orbital has secured only enough AJ-26 engines for the eight cargo-delivery missions to the international space station the company owes NASA through 2016 under a $1.89 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract signed in 2008."

Keith's note: Wouldn't it be prudent to start building Americanized versions of these engines - or develop home grown designs?

Human Exploration Drives Space Launch System, Aviation Week

"It doesn't seem likely that NASA and it's congressional backers will trust human lives anytime soon to a 27-engine vehicle that bears an unfortunate resemblance to the ill-fated Soviet N-1 Moon rocket, which had 30".

Keith's note: Odd comment from Aviation Week given that NASA has been putting American astronauts on Soyuz launchers for a long time and they use 20 engines just to leave the pad. Oh yes, his rocket actually is a Soviet design.

Head of China's space science reaches out, Nature

"Some think that the Chang'e-3 mission provides an opportunity for China and NASA to collaborate. How has that been going? It is indeed a wonderful opportunity. The landing of the Change'e-3 spacecraft on the Moon kicked up a lot of dust over a landscape that had already been carefully surveyed by NASA's two Moon orbiters, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer. This is a perfect controlled experiment -- by coincidence rather than by design -- to study the composition of lunar dust and atmosphere, but it will require data exchange between the two countries. China is eager to collaborate, but nothing has come through from the US side because of the 2011 spending bill."

Keith's note: Our Congress goes out of its way to not cooperate with China in space because they do not like China's internal and foreign policies. Russia invades Ukraine, the U.S. howls in protest, and yet we still operate the ISS together with Russia. Consistency? Of course not.

Ukraine crisis could end U.S. space reliance on Russia, Politico

"In previous budgets, Congress hasn't fully funded commercial crew requests as a way of finding savings, to the chagrin of its advocates. "The president has been requesting approximately $800 million every year since his FY12 budget submission to fund the development of American vehicles to provide access to the ISS, only to have Congress, led primarily by the GOP but not exclusively, dramatically undercut that funding," said Dale Ketcham, chief of strategic alliances for Space Florida, the state's spaceport authority and aerospace development organization. But Russia's incursion into Crimean region of Ukraine has put the spotlight on the U.S. and Russia's codependence in space, and could provide the political capital necessary for the program to get full funding this time around."

Why Ukraine crisis won't affect Russia, U.S. space collaboration, CNN

"We do not expect the current Russia-Ukraine situation to have any impact on our civil space cooperation with Russia, including our partnership on the International Space Station program," said Allard Beutel, a NASA spokesman."

Russia Preparing Response to U.S. and EU Sanctions, Moscow Times

"The Federation Council is drawing up a bill that would allow the government to confiscate the property of U.S. and European companies in the event of Western sanctions, though political analysts dismiss both actions as intimidating rhetoric unlikely turn into action. Further decreasing the possibility of asset confiscation is its violation of Russian and international laws, a legal expert said."

U.S. prepared to place unilateral sanctions on Russian officials, businesses, Washington Post

"The Obama administration is prepared to take unilateral steps to sanction Russian individuals and business entities it holds responsible for corrupt and illegal behavior in Ukraine while it moves to persuade its European partners, some more reluctant than others, to consider more substantive sanctions to directly affect the Russian economy, according to senior administration officials."

Russia Crisis Raises Space Station, NBC

"The United States and Russia are not just "joined at the hip" on the space station. Numerous other rocket projects rely on either Russian or Ukrainian space hardware and services. Even U.S. national security satellites are powered into orbit on an American rocket with a Russian-built rocket engine. What if the Soyuz spacecraft suddenly became unavailable for use by American astronauts, contract or no contract? Would it be the end of U.S. human spaceflight? Would it kick off a new round of extortionary price-gouging, both fiscal and diplomatic?"

US says it is suspending trade talks and all military-to-military engagements with Russia over Ukraine, Fox

"The U.S. announced late Monday it was suspending trade and investment talks with Russia as well as all "military-to-military engagements" as penalties for its actions in Ukraine."

Oleg Kotov (ISS Expedition 28 Commander) WIkipedia

Oleg Valeriyevich Kotov was born on October 27, 1965, in Simferopol, Crimean oblast in the Ukrainian SSR.

NASA May Order More Soyuz Rides to Station Despite Commercial Crew Advancements, Space News

"Companies working on commercial crew transportation services to and from the international space station reported milestones in their efforts even as a NASA official warned that the agency likely will have to order more Russian Soyuz crew capsules to keep the orbital outpost fully occupied. Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA headquarters, told an advisory panel Dec. 9 that the agency may have to order another batch of Soyuz crew capsules from Russia unless Congress funds NASA's Commercial Crew Program at the $800 million-plus level sought by the White House."

Progress 53 Launched To The ISS (video)

"The Russian Progress 53 cargo craft blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Nov. 25, hauling almost three tons of food, fuel, supplies and holiday gifts to the International Space Station's Expedition 38 crew. The unpiloted spacecraft will test upgraded automated rendezvous equipment at a distance of a mile from the complex on Nov. 27 before docking to the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module on Nov. 29."

A Russian GPS Using U.S. Soil Stirs Spy Fears, NY Times

"In recent months, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon have been quietly waging a campaign to stop the State Department from allowing Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, to build about half a dozen of these structures, known as monitor stations, on United States soil, several American officials said. They fear that these structures could help Russia spy on the United States and improve the precision of Russian weaponry, the officials said. These monitor stations, the Russians contend, would significantly improve the accuracy and reliability of Moscow's version of the Global Positioning System, the American satellite network that steers guided missiles to their targets and thirsty smartphone users to the nearest Starbucks."

Charles Bolden: Launching American Astronauts from U.S. Soil

"Three years ago, the Administration put forward a public-private partnership plan, the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), to ensure that American companies would be launching our astronauts from U.S. soil by 2015. It's a plan that supports the U.S. human spaceflight program, boosts our economy, and helps create good-paying American jobs. If NASA had received the President's requested funding for this plan, we would not have been forced to recently sign a new contract with Roscosmos for Soyuz transportation flights. Because the funding for the President's plan has been significantly reduced, we now won't be able to support American launches until 2017."

NASA Extends Crew Flight Contract With Russian Space Agency

Progress 51 Cargo Craft Docks to Space Station

"The ISS Progress 51 cargo craft completed a two-day journey to the International Space Station when it was captured at the Zvezda service module on Friday at 8:25 a.m. EDT, the cargo craft completed a hard mate when the docking hooks were deployed at 8:34 a.m."

Umanned Russian spaceship suffers mishap on way to ISS, AFP

"An unmanned Progress spaceship racing to the International Space Station with 2.5 tonnes of cargo on board failed Wednesday to deploy a key antenna that helps it dock with the orbiting lab in the latest hitch in Russia's space programme."

Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Releases Annual Report

"This report is based on the panel's 2012 fact-finding and quarterly public meetings; center visits and meetings; direct observations of NASA operations and decision-making; discussions with NASA management, employees, and contractors; and the panel members' past experiences. The report highlights issues that could have an impact on safety."

2012 ASAP Report

"In FY13, we predict this planning-funding disconnect will again drive a change to acquisition strategy, schedule, and/or safety risk. The ASAP is concerned that some will champion an approach that is a current option contained in the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement. There is risk this optional, orbital flight-test demonstration with a non-NASA crew could yield two standards of safety--one reflecting NASA requirements, and one with a higher risk set of commercial requirements. It also raises questions of who acts as certification authority and what differentiates public from private accountability. Separating the level of safety demanded in the system from the unique and hard-earned knowledge that NASA possesses introduces new risks and unique challenges to the normal precepts of public safety and mission responsibility. We are concerned that NASA's CCiCap 2014 "Option" prematurely signals tacit acceptance of this commercial requirements approach absent serious consideration by all the stakeholders on whether this higher level of risk is in fact in concert with national objectives."

Keith's note: It is exceptionally odd that the ASAP gets all hot and bothered about certifying American-produced commercial crew spacecraft when the ASAP all too willingly said it was OK to fly Americans on Russian Soyuz spacecraft - spacecraft which have never been given the same level of formal safety certification by NASA - i.e. the certification that the ASAP apparently wants for domestically produced commercial spacecraft. A number of years ago, at a time when Americans living on Mir were exposed to repeated accidents, I asked (then) NASA Deputy Administrator Fred Gregory in a public setting if Russian spacecraft meet or exceed NASA safety requirements. Gregry said "clearly they do not". This question and response was subsequently referenced in a congressional hearing.

It is also a bit odd that the ASAP was perfectly happy with NASA's plan to fly crews on Orion/Ares 1 flight after only one unmanned test. The same (apparently) goes for the current plan for Orion/SLS. The ASAP's credibility suffers when they pursue contradictory and inconsistent paths such as this.

Soyuz TMA-05M Lands in Kazakhstan

"The Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft carrying Expedition 33 Commander Suni Williams and Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko and Aki Hoshide landed in the steppe of Kazakhstan northeast of the remote town of Arkalyk at 8:56 p.m. EST (7:56 a.m. Monday, Kazakhstan time). A Russian recovery team and NASA personnel reached the landing site by helicopter shortly afterward to assist the crew and conduct health assessments."

Astronaut Suni Williams on the Space Station Talks With SpaceRef's Keith Cowing (Video and transcript)

Singer Sarah Brightman Outbids NASA for Space Tourist's Seat, ABC

"ABC News has learned that singer Sarah Brightman, of "Phantom of the Opera" fame, will be the next tourist in space, sometime in 2014 or 2015. To get her seat she had to pay the Russian space agency more than the $51 million NASA budgets on average to send its astronauts to the station. To maintain its presence in orbit when Soyuz seats are limited, NASA had to agree to commit at least one of its astronauts to spend a year in space, instead of the six months they currently stay. Brightman's trip will be announced in Moscow on Oct. 10."

Keith's note: In case you were wondering, for $51 million, according to a per-person cost of $2.58 from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, you could vaccinate 19,767,442 people (yea 19+ MILLION) in developing nations with "5-in-1 vaccine" or "pentavalent" vaccine which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and hepatitis B. You could also buy 275,675 OLPC XO-1.75 laptops for students in a developing country at $185 each.

Of course, its her money so she can spend it as she wishes. But I wonder what Sarah Brightman is going to do in conjunction with her flight that compares with the impact that this $51 million could have elsewhere. I certainly hope that she talks with Anousheh Ansari, Richard Garriott, Guy Laliberte, and Mark Shuttleworth.

Here's a thought. She's a stunning vocalist. Take a cue from "First Orbit" and "Fragile Oasis" - and the record sent on the Voyager probes. As she flies over the hundreds of ethnic and national borders on our planet, sing a song - in every language she flies over - in real time. Make a recording - donate all proceeds to a non-profit organization. That would be cool.

I'd ask her this question, except, based on past experience, Space Adventures would simply never allow me access to her in a media opportunity.

No astronauts were 'bumped' in the making of this space tourist, Fox

"An ABC News report by producer Gina Sunseri claimed opera singer Sarah Brightman outbid NASA for a seat aboard a Soyuz rocket -- and an astronaut was consequently bumped from the rocket ride. Nonsense, the space agency said. "Crews for International Space Station expeditions have been assigned through 2013," NASA spokesman Joshua Buck told FoxNews.com. "None of those astronauts has been 'booted' from his or her respective mission."

Super-heavy carrier rocket could be created jointly with Ukraine, Kazakhstan - Energia, Interfax

"The Energia-Buran project includes the launch system, which is still viable. At least it can be brought back to life. It also includes the "A" rocket units, used in the Zenit carrier rocket, and also engines made today. We proposed using oxygen-kerosene engines instead of the hydrogen central part, and make the first and second stages of five units," he said. "Concerning the carrying capacity, it's difficult to speculate, but it could be up to 70 tonnes, which is sufficient to circle the Moon," Lopota said." "If ambitions and political will are there, this project could be accomplished in a few years without falling behind our American colleagues," [Energia President and General Designer Vitaly] Lopota added.

Super-heavy carrier rocket could be created jointly with Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Voice of Russia

"The Energia-Buran project was suspended in the 1990s, when five rocket frames at various degrees of readiness were available at the Baikonur cosmodrome and at the Energia corporation assembly premises. They were destroyed. The RD-170 rocket engine, developed for the Energia project, has been upgraded and is used in Zenit Russian-Ukrainian carrier rockets as RD-171, and in American Atlas 5 launch systems as RD-180."

Russian space industry laden with failures, ITAR-TASS

"For the last few years the space industry has not been reformed yet. The corruption is reigning in it. The prices are growing, but the quality is falling. There is no tough control over the quality of component parts, which are delivered by the subcontractors, which had mushroomed around the enterprises of the space industry. The transparency of pricing lacks that resulted in multibillion budgetary injections to be wasted," head of the international security centre in the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexei Arbatov stated."

Medvedev says space failures cost Russia prestige and cash, Reuters

"Moscow is losing prestige and money due to botched space projects, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday after Russia junked two satellites in the latest launch failure to dog the once-pioneering industry."

Latest Crew Blasts Off For International Space Station (With video)

"Three new crew members are on their way to the International Space Station. NASA Flight Engineer Sunita Williams, Russian Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 10:40 p.m. EDT Saturday, July 14 (8:40 a.m. Baikonur time July 15)."

Satellite to burn in atmosphere above Pacific, Russia Today

"Satellite's propulsive unit was turned on at 14:33 MSK to give the 5,775-kilogram vehicle a de-orbital burn and the craft's debris is expected to reach the surface at 17:32 MSK to the north of the Hawaiian Islands. The impact area will be closed for ships and planes for two hours."

- Antarctic Researchers Cite Benefits of Repurposing Express-AM4, previous post
- Express-AM4: Repurposing Space Assets For Exploration, previous post
- Saving Express-AM4 and Using it to Serve Antarctic Research, previous post

Russia to finally send man to the Moon, Telegraph

"A spacecraft will "conduct a demonstrative manned circumlunar test flight with the subsequent landing of cosmonauts on [the Moon's] surface and their return to Earth" by 2030, according to a leaked strategy document from Russia's space agency, Roskosmos. ... Yury Karash, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics, said that prestige would not be restored with a symbolic flight to the Moon. "Back in the 1960s the Soviet Union was competing head-to-head with the United States," he said."

Sen. Hutchison challenges NASA spending on commercial spacecraft, Houston Chronicle

"I'm frankly floored as you know from our conversation that it would be so blatant to take it right out of Orion and (the space launch system) and put it into commercial crew rather than trying to accomplish the joint goals that we have of putting forward both and making sure that we didn't take away from the timetables for the future to shore up commercial crew," Hutchison told Bolden.

NASA chief defends 2013 budget in Congress, space.com via MSNBC

"I don't doubt your sincerity in shared goals, but what I'm very concerned about is the implementation that is reflected in the numbers of the budget that the president released," Hutchison said."

NASA may need to use Russian flights longer, Wall Street Journal via Fox

"NASA is drafting backup plans to prolong the use of Russian spacecraft for ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station, even as agency officials play down those options and express hope that private rockets and capsules will be available for such trips within five years."'

Russia Space Agency chief Popovkin hospitalised

"Head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) Vladimir Popovkin has been taken to the Burdenko Hospital in connection with his health deterioration, the agency's press service told Itar-Tass."

iPads Would Be Great in Space, Astronaut Says, TechNews Daily

"NASA astronaut Dan Burbank, who commands the space station, said that while he doesn't own a new iPad -- or any other tablet -- he definitely could use one in space. "I don't have an iPad yet, and I most certainly don't have one up here on the space station," Burbank said today while answering a question from a student in San Jose, Calif., via a video link. "At some point I think that would be a really good tool to have up here because it would be a lot easier to have a single tablet, a single screen, to take with you to do procedures and science experiments instead of having a big laptop with you."

The iPad and an Angry Bird Head to Space, iPad News (28 Oct 2011)

"The next unmanned resupply vehicle headed for the International Space Station next month will be loaded with much needed propellant, oxygen, water, thousands of pounds of crew equipment and 2 iPads all ready to entertain the Russians who will receive them."

Keith's note: So I guess the Russians won't let their American crew mates use their iPads.

Russia orders Soyuz delays in wake of test mishap, Spaceflight Now

"Outside experts have questioned Russian quality control, but Suffredini said the problems appeared to be unrelated and he expressed confidence his counterparts will get to the bottom of the latest incident, implement corrective actions and move on."

NASA confident in Russia despite space accidents, Reuters

"The latest accident involved a Soyuz capsule being prepared to fly a new crew to the $100 billion orbiting research laboratory on March 29. The spacecraft was inadvertently over-pressurized during testing, rendering it unsuitable for flight."

Russia blames 'cosmic rays' for Mars probe failure, AFP

"Carrying out such a large-scale, lengthy job, they should have taken into consideration the effect of outer space on the equipment of an interplanetary station." He also blamed sub-standard or fake foreign-made microchips used in the probe, saying more than 60 percent were not designed for use in space. "This is imported equipment and of course this is probably a reason," he said. Russia had previously speculated that radiation from US radar could have put the probe out of action."

Earlier posts

Russia to postpone next manned space launch, AFP

"Krasnov said that delays came after the re-entry capsule of the Soyuz TMA-04M space ship to be used in the mission was shown in testing not to be hermetically sealed and could not be used for safety reasons. That means the next mission will have to replace it with the re-entry capsule intended for the following mission scheduled May 30, which in turn will be delayed."

Did U.S. radar fry Russian Mars probe?, Washington Post

"Russian space officials are speculating that American radar may have zapped the failed Mars moon probe that fell into the ocean Sunday, a prominent Russian newspaper said Tuesday. In Washington, NASA rejected the theory. NASA scientists were not using the Marshall Islands radar on Nov. 9 to track an asteroid, as suggested by Russian space officials, said Bob Jacobs, a NASA spokesman. Instead, the agency employed radar stations only in California and Puerto Rico, he said."

Russian Probe Crash Sparks New Controversy, Jim Oberg, IEEE Spectrum

"Sadly, this knee-jerk blame shifting in the space industry has ramped up in recent years. The real danger in the Russian nonsense about finding the United States at fault for the crash isn't just the blow to diplomacy and public attitudes. Also important is how such claims prevent a proper investigation and get in the way of implementing a reliable "fix."

Russians Strongly Hint At American Cause for Phobos-Grunt Failure, earlier post

Russian Phobos-Grunt Mars probe falls in Pacific Ocean, RIA Novosti

"Phobos-Grunt fragments have crashed down in the Pacific Ocean," Russia's Defense Ministry official Alexei Zolotukhin told RIA Novosti, adding that the fragments fell in 1,250 kilometers to the west of the island of Wellington. The spacecraft fell at about 21:45 on Sunday Moscow time [17:45 GMT]."

Shady side of Earth: Western trace in space probe's failure?, Russia Today

"In an interview to the Russian newspaper Izvestia, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Vladimir Popovkin, said that intended influence on the probe cannot be completely excluded. "I do not want to blame anyone, but these days there are very powerful means to influence space vehicles," he told the newspaper, adding that it is still unclear why the probe's engine failed to start in the first place. ... We do not understand frequent failures of our space vehicles when they fly over the shadow, for Russia, part of the Earth," Popovkin said. "Right there we are unable to see the vehicle and to receive its telemetry."

Did US 'climate weapon' knock-out Russian probe?, Russia Today

"Meanwhile, a retired Russian general believes that the glitch which prevented Phobos-Grunt from carrying out its space mission was caused by American radar sites in Alaska. General-Lieutenant Nikolay Rodionov, who used to command the country's ballistic missile early warning system, told Interfax that "the powerful electromagnetic radiation of those sites may have affected the control system of the interplanetary probe."

Russia's Space Chief Says Failures May Be Sabotage, AP

"James Oberg, a NASA veteran who has written books on the Russian space program and now works as a space consultant, said Popovkin's comments were a sad example of the Russian cultural instinct to 'blame foreigners.' "It's a feature of space launch trajectories that orbital adjustments must be made halfway around the first orbit to circularize and stabilize subsequent orbits," Oberg said in e-mailed comments. "The Russians must know that simple geography -- not evildoers lurking in shadows -- dictate where their communications 'blind spots' are. But the urge to shift blame seems strong," he said."

The U.S. Didn't Shoot Down Russia's Mars Probe. But It Could Have, Slate

"Popovkin's speculation is almost certainly incorrect--and, I suspect, was likely a bit of deliberate nationalist pandering, perhaps not meant to be taken seriously. But there are two reasons it's worrisome. The first is that it's hard to prove he's wrong, so when the next, more militarily useful, spacecraft fails, the accusation can resurface. The other is that Popovkin, and the Sputniks he controls, are the only way to get American astronauts to the International Space Station."

Don't pass the buck, Roskosmos!, RIA Novosti

"Vague insinuations of sabotage are a dogwhistle for those who are more than eager to write off any such failure on the work of Russia's enemies abroad. Unfortunately for Popovkin, any thinking person will immediately see his words for what they are - without a concrete theory as to how and why Phobos-Grunt may have been sabotaged, this looks to be a classic means of passing the buck."

Underfunding doomed Russian Mars probe, lawyer says, USA Today

"Russia's Phobos-Grunt ("grunt" is Russian for ground or soil) mission aimed for a first landing of a probe on the Martian moon Phobos. Launched Nov. 8, the spacecraft reached Earth orbit but failed to fire the rocket that would send it on an eight-month interplanetary trip to Mars. It's likely to fall to Earth around Jan. 15, the Russian Defense Ministry concluded, the victim of a steadily dropping orbit. "Way too ambitious and way too underfunded to reach its goal," space law attorney Michael Listner says."

Russia's Phobos-Grunt probe heads for fiery finale, USA Today

"... the 29,100-pound spacecraft, stuffed with 8.3 tons of hydrazine fuel, will likely come down around Jan. 15, the Russian Defense Ministry has concluded."

ILS Announces Proton Launch Delay of SES-4 Satellite

"ILS has informed SES that the launch of the Proton launch vehicle with the SES-4 satellite was postponed for approximately 25 days for technical reasons with the avionics system of the launch vehicle's Breeze M upper stage. The additional time is needed due to the destacking and replacement of the affected avionics unit. The satellite was built by Space Systems/Loral."

Powerful communications satellite feared lost in space, Spaceflight now (Aug 2011)

"Four of the five Breeze M burns were performed within the prescribed timeframes," Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, said in a press release. "In the time interval between the fourth and fifth burns there occurred irregularities in telemetry data downlinking and reception of signals from both the Breeze M and the [spacecraft]."

Soyuz TMA-03M Leaves Earth

Trio Heads For Holiday Reunion With Space Station Residents

"NASA Flight Engineer Don Pettit, Russian Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko and European Space Agency Flight Engineer Andre Kuipers of the Netherlands launched to the International Space Station aboard their Soyuz TMA-03M craft at 7:16 a.m. CST Wednesday, Dec. 21 (7:16 p.m. local time), from Kazakhstan. Pettit, Kononenko and Kuipers are scheduled to dock to the Rassvet module of the station at 9:22 a.m. Friday, Dec. 23."

Medvedev suggests prosecution for Russia space failure, Reuters

"Recent failures are a strong blow to our competitiveness. It does not mean that something fatal has happened, it means that we need to carry out a detailed review and punish those guilty," Medvedev told reporters in televised comments. "I am not suggesting putting them up against the wall like under Josef Vissarionovich (Stalin), but seriously punish either financially or, if the fault is obvious, it could be a disciplinary or even criminal punishment," he said."

Keith's note: I am sure there is a translation issue involved. Otherwise it would seem that Russia's leader just said that Soviet space program workers were executed by firing squads - or joked about that previous management practices that included such punishment. Either way this sounds rather creepy, Dmitry. Curiously. just a few months ago, before things stopped working, y'all were rather giddy about your space prowess.

Rejoice Comrades! Glorious Era of Soyuz Begins (Update), earlier post

ESA station unable to establish new link with Phobos-Grunt

"After establishing contact with Russia's Phobos-Grunt Mars mission earlier this week, ESA's tracking station in Australia received no signal from the spacecraft last night. ESA engineers are investigating the cause in close collaboration with Russian mission controllers. Despite listening intently during four scheduled communication passes during the night of 24-25 November, ESA's 15 m-diameter dish antenna at Perth, Australia, did not receive any signals."

ESA station keeps contact with Russian Mars mission Phobos-Grunt, ESA

"Following the first successful contact on Tuesday, ESA's tracking station in Australia again established two-way communication with Russia's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft on 23 November. The data received from the spacecraft have been sent to the Russian mission control centre for analysis. Telemetry typically includes information on the status and health of a spacecraft's systems. "The signals received from Phobos-Grunt were much stronger than those initially received on 22 November, in part due to having better knowledge of the spacecraft's orbital position."

ESA tracking station receives signal from Russia's Phobos Mars mission, ESA

"On Tuesday, 22 November at 20:25 UT, ESA's tracking station at Perth, Australia, established contact with Russia's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft. This was the first signal received on Earth since the Mars mission was launched on 8 November. ESA teams are working closely with engineers in Russia to determine how best to maintain communications with the spacecraft."

Soyuz Lands Safely

Space Station Trio Lands Safely in Kazakhstan

"Expedition 29 Commander Mike Fossum, Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Sergei Volkov of the Russian Federal Space Agency landed their Soyuz spacecraft in frigid conditions on the central steppe of Kazakhstan at 8:26 p.m. CST Nov. 21 (8:26 a.m. Kazakhstan time, Nov. 22). The trio arrived at the station on June 9. They spent 167 days in space and 165 days on the complex. Volkov, a two-time station crew member, now has accumulated 366 days in space."

Russia's Mars Mission May Be In Trouble, Discovery News

"We had a difficult night," Russian space agency head Vladimir Popovkin told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, RussianSpaceWeb.com reports. "We could not locate the spacecraft for a very long time. Now we know its coordinates."

Russian Mars mission halted by glitch in low Earth orbit, SpaceflightNow

"A subsequent story in Novosti late Tuesday night said such a problem could be due to software or hardware issues. If it was a software glitch, the odds of recovery are good, while a hardware anomaly could have more dire consequences for the mission, the report said."

Opportunity and Risk Ahead for Canada's Space Industry, SpaceRef Canada

"Maclean noted that Canada had signed two major treaties recently. The first in 2009 with United States and most recently a 10 year extension with the European Space Agency. He also mentioned that the Canadian Space Agency very recently got cabinet approval to go ahead and negotiate a treaty with Russia and that it should be signed shortly. This will facilitate Canadian industry access to Russia. He also said that Canada has begun talks about a treaty with China and hopes in the future to sign an agreement. No timetable for a signed treaty has been released though."

Photo: Progress Reentry As Seen From The International Space Station

@astro_aggie (Mike Fossum) "Enjoy this picture I took #fromspace of the Progress cargo ship burning up after undock on Saturday."

Successful Progress Launch Sets Stage for Soyuz Flight

"The following is a statement from Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington, on Sunday's launch of the Progress 45 spacecraft to the International Space Station. The rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:11 a.m. EDT (4:11 p.m. Baikonur local time). ..."

Breaking The Soyuz Habit

NASA: Pay the Americans now ... or pay the Russians later, MSNBC

"If NASA can't provide as much support for U.S. spaceship-builders as it's hoping for, it'll have to keep paying the Russians $450 million for every year of delay, the space agency's No. 2 official said today. NASA's deputy administrator, Lori Garver, laid out that "pay now or pay later" message at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in Las Cruces, N.M."

Back space taxis or pay more for Russian rides, Reuters

"The Obama Administration is requesting $850 million for the [commercial] program for the fiscal year that began Oct 1. Bills pending in the House and Senate cut that to $312 million and $500 million, respectively. Without full funding in 2012, the United States' ability to stop buying rides from Russia in 2016 is at risk, NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver said at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight, under way in Las Cruces, New Mexico, this week."

NASA may extend Russian contract to fly to space station, Orlando Sentinel

"Top NASA officials are quietly working to extend a contract with Moscow that would continue using Russian rockets to fly U.S. astronauts into space until 2016 and beyond -- a move that underscores how much the U.S. now relies on its former Cold War adversary. Already, NASA is committed to pay Russia $1.5 billion during the next five years to transport its astronauts to and from the International Space Station, a necessary arrangement because the U.S. no longer flies a human-rated spacecraft since NASA retired the space shuttle last summer."

Soyuz flight VS01 Lifts Off From French Guiana (with video)

"Soyuz lifts off for the first time from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana, carrying the first two Galileo In-Orbit Validation satellites. Following the liftoff join ESA live webstreaming for the separation phase, expected at around 16:20 CEST. Streaming recommences at 15:40 CEST."

Russian Federation unwilling to allow Space X demonstration, Examiner.com

"Vladimir Solovyov, head of the Russian segment of the ISS mission control center made a statement on Friday that Space X will not be granted docking permission to dock its Dragon spacecraft at the International Space Station (ISS) during a planned test flight on or around November 30, 2011."

@NASA: "Sorry, despite @ria_novosti reports, a decision has yet to be made regarding the upcoming @SpaceXer test flight to ISS. Incorrect story."

Keith's note: I suspect that this is yet another case of bad translation from Russian to English and/orRussian bluffing and/or a negotiating tactic for more money. They have done this before.

Space Station Trio Lands Safely In Kazakhstan

"NASA's Ron Garan, Expedition 28 commander Andrey Borisenko and flight engineer Alexander Samokutyaev, both of the Russian Federal Space Agency, landed their Soyuz spacecraft in Kazakhstan at midnight EDT (10 a.m. in Kazakhstan). The trio, which arrived at the station on April 6, had been scheduled to land on Sept. 8, but that was postponed because of the Aug. 24 loss of the Progress 44 cargo ship."

Soyuz Launch Dates Announced

Russia Announces Next Manned Space Flights

"Russia has announced the dates of its next manned space flights, after delaying previously scheduled missions following the crash of an unmanned Soyuz rocket carrying cargo to the International Space Station. In a statement Tuesday, Russia's space agency Roskosmos said the next manned space flights are now set for November 12 and December 20. The Soyuz crash last month prompted Russia to cancel all manned flights pending an investigation into the accident."

Russia may curtail permanently inhabited orbital stations program - Roscosmos deputy chief (Part 2), Interfax

"The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) could phase out its program of building orbiting stations permanently inhabited by crews in favor of unmanned stations regularly visited by crews, Roscosmos Deputy Chief Vitaly Davydov told journalists."

Human flight to Mars could be accomplished beyond 2040 - Roscosmos

"A flight to Mars is the strategic goal of Russia's space exploration programs, but the journey to Mars lies through the moon, Nikolai Panichkin, the first deputy director of the Central Research Institute of Machine-Building, told journalists on Wednesday."

Russia may put space program under state defense order, RIA Novosti

"The Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said on Wednesday it is considering returning the federal space program to the framework of the state defense order to ensure steady financing and reduce the number of accidents with space launches. "It would be beneficial to return the federal space program and the Glonass program to the framework of the state defense order," said Vitaly Davydov, deputy head of Roscosmos."

Keith's note: One Russian news service (Interfax) quotes Davydov from Roscomos as saying that there may be a shift from manned to unmanned programs while Panichkin from Central Research Institute of Machine-Building talks about sending humans to Mars. Then RIA Novosti, another Russian news service quotes Davydov as saying that their space program may be shifted to a new agency. And people think U.S. space policy is confusing ...

Space Failures Raise Uneasy Questions, Moscow Times

"The Progress failure triggered a wave of talk about how far the space program has fallen since legendary Soviet days. But Igor Lisov, an expert with the Novosti Kosmonavtiki magazine, said that despite the setbacks, "it's too early to speak about the degradation" of Russia's space industry. "Every accident has its cause, and they shouldn't be generalized," Lisov said in a telephone interview. Within the industry, spacecraft accidents are considered unavoidable, with one out of every 100 launches expected to fail. But in Russia, the statistics might be augmented due to human factor."

Russia wastes billions in space, Pravda

"The crash of Progress space freighter is not the first breakdown that has occurred to Russian spacecraft. The previous incident took place in the middle of this August. Express AM4 communication satellite went off radar screens before it reached orbit. The cost of the lost satellite made up 7.5 billion rubles. A Proton booster rocket with three Glonass-M satellites on board crashed into the Pacific Ocean in December 2010. The crash resulted in the loss of 4 billion rubles. Geo-IK-2 global positioning satellite burnt in space in February this year. The breakdown halted the Russian space GPS program. Konstantin Kreidenko, an expert with Glonass Herald magazine, believes that the Russian space industry is outdated."

Rejoice Comrades! Glorious Era of Soyuz Begins (Update), Earlier Post

Space station could be at risk if crews are forced to leave temporarily, USA Today

"NASA International Space Station Program Manager Mike Suffred says evacuation is a distinct possibility in mid-November if Russian Soyuz rockets are not flying, writes Florida Today's Todd Halvorson. Past NASA risk assessment shows a one in 10 chance of losing the station within six months if there is no crew aboard to handle critical system failures. That soars to a 50% proability if it remains crewless for a year, the newspaper says."

Upcoming flights to and from space station face delays, CNET

"It's not a trivial thing," Suffredini said. "If you look at...risk assessments, some of the numbers are not insignificant. There is a greater risk of losing the ISS when it is unmanned than if it were manned. That's why, when we made our decision after the Columbia accident to keep the station manned, that is exactly why, because the risk increase is not insignificant."

Space station could be abandoned in November, SpaceflightNow

"I suspect that if we get close to Nov. 16 and we haven't flown a Soyuz yet, and by then we will have stepped down to three crew, we'll probably de-man the ISS and go to unmanned operations," Suffredini said. Russia is expected to present a recovery plan this week outlining tentative dates for launching the Soyuz rocket again. One scenario under consideration would see at least two Soyuz rockets with the RD-0110 third stage fly before the next manned launch."

Rohrabacher Reacts to Russian Soyuz Launch Failure; Calls for Emergency Funding of Commercial Crew Systems

"I am calling on General Bolden, the NASA Administrator, to propose an emergency transfer of funding from unobligated balances in other programs, including the Space Launch System, to NASA's commercial crew initiative. Funding should be used to speed up the efforts of the four current industry partners to develop their systems and potentially expand the recent awards to include the best applicants for launch vehicle development. NASA could potentially transfer several hundred million dollars from this long term development concept, since the SLS project has not even started, to the more urgently needed systems that can launch astronauts to ISS, reliably and affordably. This transfer will boost the development of American controlled technology and greatly reduce our dependence on the Russians."

Russian space freighter fails to reach designated orbit, RIA Novosti

"Russian space agency Roskosmos said the Progress M-12M space freighter failed to reach the designated orbit on Wednesday due to a rocket engine failure. A source in the Russian space industry earlier said the spacecraft had sent a breakdown report while separating from the Soyuz-U carrier rocket on Wednesday. The Mission Control was unable to receive any telemetry data from the spacecraft so far."

Rocket failure dooms space station cargo freighter launch, Spaceflight Now

"Separation of the Progress 44P was expected at 9:09 a.m. EDT (1309 GMT) to start its two-day automated chase to rendezvous with the station for docking Friday. Instead, the malfunction sent the rocket falling back to Earth. The Interfax news agency reported the spacecraft re-entered the atmosphere over eastern Russia. All 43 previous Progress flights for the International Space Station over the past 11 years had occurred successfully."

Russian space cargo ship fails to reach orbit, CBC

"But the state news agency RIA Novosti quoted Alexander Borisov, head of a the Choisky region in Russia's Altai province, as saying pieces of the craft fell in his area some 1,500 kilometres northeast of the launch site. "The explosion was so strong that for 100 kilometres glass almost flew out of the windows," he was quoted as saying."

Communication With Progress 44 Lost After Launch, NASA

"Mission Control Moscow reported that communication with the Progress 44 cargo craft was lost 5 minutes, 20 seconds after its launch at 9 a.m. EDT today. Preliminary data from the Russian Federal Space Agency indicate there was a problem with the propulsion system, and that the vehicle did not reach its desired orbit."

Russia likely to suspend space deliveries over loss of Progress freighter, RIA Novosti

"The scheduled launches of the [Soyuz] rockets are likely to be suspended because of the space freighter accident... until the reasons [of the accident] are established," the source said. This means that members of the International Space Station's crew are likely to stay at the station longer than planned and that the new crew will not be able to replace them on schedule, he said."

Russians lose supply spacecraft, could cause issues for NASA, Houston Chronicle

"It's interesting to note that the launch comes about one month after the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, issued the following triumphant statement: "From today, the era of the Soyuz has started in manned space flight, the era of reliability."

Keith's note: ISS Program Manager Mike Suffredini will hold a press briefing on NASA TV at noon EDT to discuss the Progress mission failure. One would assume that this will affect Soyuz crew flights due to the commonality in launch systems.

Suffredini: Shortly after third stage ignition the spacecraft shut the engine down. The third stage and Progress subsequently crashed. Soyuz-FG (crew) and Soyuz-U (cargo) have similar third stage designs so this will have impact on the planned 22 September crew launch. We can go several months without a resupply vehicle if that becomes necessary. We have a 40-50 days of contingency beyond normal crew stay time. Eventually the Soyuz vehicle on orbit will 'time out' and have to come home. If the anomaly is solved the Progress flight in October could fly sooner.

Manned space flights no longer priority for Russia, Reuters

"Russia holds a monopoly on flights to and from the 16-nation station. Soyuz launches from its Baikonur cosmodrome are now the only way to space since the United States retired its 30-year shuttle programme in July. NASA pays it more than $50 million per flight to send its astronauts to the space outpost. Roskosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin said Russia was spending almost half of its space budget on manned flights and needed to shift focus to more technology-oriented projects. He added however it would stand by its station commitments."

Keith's note: I guess Russia is only interested in human spaceflight - but only so long as the U.S. writes them checks. So, when they say that they are "spending half its space budget on manned flights" I wonder how much of their budget actually came from the U.S. to begin with ....

Russia Plans to Sink the International Space Station in 2020, Fox

"Russia's space agency announced Wednesday that the International Space Station -- a space base the world's scientists and billions of U.S. tax dollars helped build and maintain some 200 miles above the surface of the Earth -- will be de-orbited and allowed to sink into the Pacific Ocean in 2020, just like its Russian predecessor, Mir. "We will be forced to sink the ISS. We cannot leave it in orbit as it is a very complicated and a heavy object," Roscosmos' deputy head Vitaly Davydov said in an interview posted on the agency's website."

NASA and International Partners Discuss New Uses for Space Station

"The Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB) for the International Space Station partner agencies met Tuesday, July 26, to discuss how to use the space station as a test bed for technologies that will enable missions beyond low Earth orbit."

Keith's note: So, I guess that's it then. Russia gets to make the decision to scrap something we paid the lion's share to build and operate - after paying to keep Russia's space program aloft for a decade prior to that. Who makes all of these "deals" for the U.S. anyway? We seem to be getting the short end of the stick each and every time. Why have these MCB meetings about other uses for the ISS when Russia simply plans to scrap it anyway?

NASA Needs To Go To Priceline.com, earlier post

Space station sinking? Not so fast, MSNBC

"The interview from "Good Morning Russia" ("Utro Rossii") caused a stir when a Russian-language transcript turned up on the space agency's website, but don't panic: If anything, the International Space Station will be in operation well after 2020. Russia, NASA and the other partners in the 16-nation venture are looking into extending the station's lifetime to 2028 -- that is, if they can verify that its components will still be in working order until then."

Why Is NASA Caving to the Russians On ISS?, OpEd, Jim Oberg, Txchnologist

"With the retirement of the Space Shuttle Atlantis last week, American astronauts are now totally dependent on Russian vehicles for access to space. The question in front of us is how best to negotiate for fair compromises in the US-Russian space alliance. Some of NASA's recent agreements are not encouraging. The US needs to realize that it holds some high cards. True, the Russians have, in the Soyuz, the only vehicle that can carry passengers. But the destination - the International Space Station, which is more than 80 percent funded by the U.S. - provides many critical space services without which getting into orbit is pretty pointless for the Russians. Chief among them is electrical power and space-to-Earth communications, most of which comes via American equipment."

Russia declares 'era of Soyuz' after shuttle, AFP

"Mankind acknowledges the role of American space ships in exploring the cosmos," it added. But Roskosmos also used the occasion to tout the virtues of the Soyuz (Union) spacecraft, which unlike the shuttle lands on Earth vertically with the aid of parachutes after leaving orbit. It said that there was a simple answer to why the Soyuz was still flying after the shuttles retired -- "reliability and not to mention cost efficiency."

Keith's note: How nice of our friends at Roskosmos to rub our noses in their monopoly today. Oh well, we created this situation through both deliberate intent and bumbling over the past decade. Well played, comrades. Enjoy it while it lasts. By overcharging in the obscene, escalating fashion that you have done during our periods of need, you are sowing the seeds of your own demise by spurring lower cost alternatives. All too soon, American spacecraft will do everything Soyuz does - and more - and will do so much better - and cheaper.

Keith's update: Yea, in case you had not noticed, I am really pi**ed off by this whole situation and how the Russians (whose space program we overtly subsidized since the 1990s) are dancing in response to our bad decisions and crappy predicament. Oh well, it will be fun to watch Russia wiggle as China flies the real Soyuz upgrades - and then as SpaceX et al beat Russia and China on both price and performance.

New Expedition 28 Crew Members Arrive at International Space Station

"The Expedition 28 crew has expanded to six members with the arrival of Flight Engineers Mike Fossum, Sergei Volkov and Satoshi Furukawa. The new trio docked to the International Space Station in the Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft Thursday at 5:18 p.m. EDT. The new crew members entered the station's Rassvet module to begin their stay when the hatches were opened at 8:34 p.m."

Expedition 27 Crew And Capsule Land Safely In Kazakhstan

"Expedition 27 Commander Dmitry Kondratyev and Flight Engineers Cady Coleman and Paolo Nespoli safely landed their Soyuz spacecraft on the Kazakhstan steppe Monday, wrapping up a five-month stay aboard the International Space Station. The trio landed at 10:27 p.m. (8:27 a.m. on May 24 local time) at a site southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan. Kondratyev, the Soyuz commander, was at the controls of the spacecraft as it undocked at 5:35 p.m. EDT from the station's Rassvet module. Once the Soyuz was 600 feet away, Nespoli took the first still images and video of a space shuttle docked to the station. The orbiting laboratory had to rotate 130 degrees to provide an ideal view for the historic imagery."

Video: Animation of Monday's Soyuz Flyaround of the ISS

"The Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft undocks and flies around the International Space Station in this computer-generated animation shown during the May 20, 2011 STS-134 Mission Status Briefing."

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 22 May 2011

"05/23/11 -- Soyuz TMA-20/25S undock - 5:32pm EDT (End of Increment 27)
ISS Photography Flyabout - 5:57pm
ISS in photography attitude - 6:13pm
Soyuz TMA-20/25S deorbit burn - 9:36pm
05/23/11 -- Soyuz TMA-20/25S landing - 10:27pm (8:27am local on 5/24)"

Monopolizing ISS Access

Russian space agency won't let private US spacecraft dock with ISS until reliability proven, AP

"Russian news agencies are quoting a top space official as saying Russia won't permit a U.S. commercial spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station until it is satisfied the ship conforms to safety standards. The California-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has asked NASA for permission to send an unmanned cargo capsule to the space station later this year. The hookup also would need Russian clearance."

Keith's note: What a great way to continue a monopoly on access to the ISS. Curiously, the "digital" Soyuz was allowed to dock despite its ongoing problems.

Yuri's Night On Orbit

Photo: Space Station Crew Celebrates Yuri's Night On Orbit

"On Orbit Expedition 27 crew members pose for a photo near the galley in the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station in honor of the 50th anniversary of the spaceflight of Yuri Gagarin, the first human launched in space on April 12, 1961. A portrait of Gagarin is at center. Pictured are Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev (bottom center), commander; NASA astronaut Cady Coleman, Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev (center) and Andrey Borisenko (top left), NASA astronaut Ron Garan and European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli (right), all flight engineers."

NASA Retargets Space Shuttle Endeavour's Launch For April 29

"Following discussions among the International Space Station partners on Sunday, NASA has targeted the launch of space shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission for 3:47 p.m. EDT on Friday, April 29. The delay removes a scheduling conflict with a Russian Progress supply vehicle scheduled to launch April 27 and arrive at the station April 29."

Expedition 26 Crew And Capsule Land Safely In Kazakhstan

"Expedition 26 Commander Scott Kelly and Russian Flight Engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka safely landed their Soyuz spacecraft on the Kazakhstan steppe Wednesday, wrapping up a five-month stay aboard the International Space Station. Kaleri, the Soyuz commander, was at the controls of the spacecraft as it undocked at 12:27 a.m. EDT from the station's Poisk module. The trio landed at 3:54 a.m. (1:54 p.m. local time) at a site northeast of the town of Arkalyk."

NASA Extends Crew Flight Contract With Russian Space Agency

"NASA has signed a $753 million modification to the current International Space Station contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency for crew transportation, rescue and related services from 2014 through June 2016. The firm-fixed price modification covers comprehensive Soyuz support, including all necessary training and preparation for launch, flight operations, landing and crew rescue of long-duration missions for 12 individual space station crew members."

Keith's note: $753 million/12 astronauts = $62.75 million/astronaut.

No NASA Discount For Soyuz Seats, 2010, earlier post

"NASA has signed a deal worth 306 million dollars (224 million euros) with Roskomos for six rides to the ISS in 2012 and 2013, or a charge of 51 million dollars per US astronaut."

NASA Extends Contract with Russian Federal Space Agency, 2008, earlier post

"NASA has signed a $141 million modification to the current International Space Station contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency for crew transportation services planned through the spring of 2012."

- NASA JSC Solicitation: Procurement of Crew Transportation and Rescue Services From Roscosmos
- Soyuz Procurement That Falls Short of NASA's Own Commercial Crew Requirements
- NASA Extends Contract with Russian Federal Space Agency (2012-2013), earlier post

Digital Soyuz Return Could Be Rocky, Jim Oberg, IEEE Spectrum

"The new "digital" version of the Soyuz spacecraft is having some decidedly analog problems on its maiden voyage. Astronauts will test on-orbit repairs done to its troubled control systems ahead of a scheduled landing next Wednesday. The tests will determine whether the Soyuz can perform a gentle guided descent or instead must rely on a backup emergency "ballistic" landing, involving a much rougher deceleration and landing several hundred kilometers short of the main recovery zone. ... NASA quietly disclosed the situation Thursday on its website in a routine and little read daily "On-Orbit Status Report" for the International Space Station."

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 10 March 2011

Roscosmos: Soyuz TMA-21 Launch Delayed Due to "Glitch"

"Roscosmos Board held a meeting today to discuss the report by Technical Management on Human Space System Flight Testing. The report mentioned an incompliance in operation of the Kvant-V equipment in Soyuz TMA-21 detected during launch campaign at Baikonur. Taking into account the necessity to run additional analysis of the glitch, Soyuz TMa-21 launch is postponed. Failure of a condenser is blamed for the glitch in Kvant-V."

Soyuz TMA-M ballistic return possible, Interfax

"The first modernized manned spaceship Soyuz TMA-M may have a ballistic landing on Wednesday, NASA said. Soyuz TMA-M commander Alexander Kaleri will test angular speed sensors after the ship undocks from the International Space Station (ISS). The other crewmembers of Soyuz TMA-M are Oleg Skripochka and Scott Kelly. If a problem occurs, the astronauts may experience G8 to G10 in the ballistic return, NASA said. Astronauts experience G3 to G4 in the case of a regular return. NASA explained the planned check of angular speed sensors with the failure of the landing capsule's analog signal processing system, which happened on October 9, 2010, on the second day of Soyuz TMA-M's flight to the ISS. As a result, data from angular speed sensors stopped being displayed on the Neptun-ME console."

Space Adventures Concludes Agreement to Offer Commercial Spaceflight Opportunities to the International Space Station

"Space Adventures, the only company that has provided human space mission opportunities to the world marketplace, announced today the conclusion of an agreement with the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation (FSA) and Rocket Space Corporation Energia (RSC Energia) to commercially offer three seats on the Soyuz spacecraft bound for the International Space Station (ISS), beginning in 2013. These seats will be made available through the increase of Soyuz production, from four to five spacecraft per year. Each flight will be short duration, approximately 10 days, and will contribute to the increase of launch capacity to the ISS."

CertifyingSoyuz, Wayne Hale

"So as new human certification ratings are proposed, they rely heavily on new standards and specifications, requirements for analysis, engineering calculation, computer simulation, piece-part testing and just a little bit on flight demonstration. Of course, the Shuttle and the Soyuz don't comply with those standards; they were built in different times with more primitive standards. But they demonstrate a level of reliability or safety that is apparently acceptable. If someone were to build their own spacecraft and/or launch vehicle; fly it successfully many times, demonstrate its capabilities in actual flight; then I suspect the new human rating requirements would be tossed aside in favor of demonstrated actual flight performance."

- Soyuz Procurement That Falls Short of NASA's Own Commercial Crew Requirements, earlier post
- NASA Releases LEO Commercial Crew Certification Requirements, earlier post

Excalibur Almaz Space Stations Arrive on Isle of Man

"Excalibur Almaz Limited (EA), the international commercial space exploration company, is exporting two partially completed Almaz space stations from Russia to the IOM today. The stations and Excalibur Almaz' reusable return vehicles were developed by EA's Russian associate, JSC MIC NPO Mashinostroyenia. The stations will be initially stored, followed by research, testing and possibly completion and launch to orbit. EA's initial flights to orbit will be in the flight tested Excalibur Almaz Reusable Return Vehicles joined to and supported by service module living and working habitats. The space stations themselves are part of EA's long-term business plan."

NASA JSC Solicitation: Procurement of Crew Transportation and Rescue Services from Roscosmos

"NASA/JSC has a requirement for crew transportation services including launch, return, and rescue of US or US-designated astronauts and associated services which include the following requirements for primary and ancillary services: ..."

Keith's note: Another commercial procurement of Russian Soyuz crew transport services. Alas, NASA allows these procurements to proceed even though the Soyuz does not (and probably never will) meet the requirements that NASA intends to levy upon domestic commercial space companies.

NASA Releases LEO Commercial Crew Certification Requirements, earlier post

Keith's earlier note: I did a search of this document for the word "Soyuz". The only time the word is used is in connection with accidents or problems with Soyuz. I wonder if Soyuz meets the requirements in this document - I certainly cannot find any evidence that it does. It certainly should meet these requirements since the U.S. has been buying seats on Soyuz for more than a decade - the very same seats you can buy commercially - the same seats NASA will be buying for years to come. Will NASA certify Soyuz according to the requirements in this document?

If Soyuz does not meet these certification requirements, then one has to ask why NASA is willing to waive requirements for a foreign crew transport system - with Americans on board - but levy more stringent requirements on American commercial systems - carrying Americans. It would also be interesting to see if the Ares-1/Orion configuration would have met these requirements as well.

Russian space officials fired over satellite crash, Reuters

"The GLONASS satellites, intended for Russia's rival to the American GPS system, a project dear to the Kremlin, were lost because the Proton M rocket carrying them into orbit was loaded with too much fuel, a investigating commission found."

Russia's first GLONASS phone an 'iPhone 4 competitor,' except not really (video), Engadget

"As the story goes, Russia-based AFK Sistema's subsidiary Sitronics (along with US' Qualcomm and China's ZTE) have developed the first smartphone to use GLONASS -- specifically one with a 90nm GPS-GLONASS chip. It's been called, in so many words, the "Russian answer to the iPhone 4" by the Powers That Be ..."

Keith's note: Watch the video. Looks like Putin et al really want one of these iPhoneskis. Look how he fondles it. Small wonder the guys in the Kremlin were so mad when that Proton sent 3 GLONASS satellites into the ocean ...

Anna Chapman waves off space rocket in Kazakhstan, Guardian

"The already improbable Anna Chapman saga took another surprising twist today when the 28-year-old former Russian spy resurfaced in Kazakhstan to wave off a space rocket. Chapman, who was one of 10 Russian agents to be deported from the US in July, became a tabloid sensation after sultry pictures of her were published in newspapers around the world. Early today, however, Chapman arrived at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to see off a US astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts bound for the International Space Station. She appeared at the farewell ceremony for the space crew and was quickly moved to a guest house near the launch pad accompanied by a guard who blocked reporters. She made no public comment."

Anna Chapman, glamorous Russian spy, bids farewell to astronauts, Christian Science Monitor

"Clad in a hot red jacket and tight-fitting black slacks, Ms. Chapman was today spotted smiling and waving at the former Soviet space launch center Baikonur, in Kazakhstan, as she attended an exclusive farewell ceremony for Russian cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka and American astronaut Scott Kelly."

Glamorous spy sees Russian rocket blast off for ISS, AFP

"Russian media reports said she has been working as an advisor for a bank that is involved in the Russian space programme but officials at Russia's space agency Roskosmos were quick to deny it was involved in her visit. "Roskosmos has nothing to do with Anna Chapman's visit. As far as we know, she came here as a private individual on the invitation of an executive of a commercial bank," a Roskosmos official said. "Miss Chapman neither met with the Roskosmos leadership nor with members of the Soyuz crew," the official told the Interfax news agency."

Container with Soyuz spaceship sustains damage, The Voice of Russia

"The container with the "Soyuz TMA-20" spacecraft was damaged in transit, apparently because of sloppiness on the part of the train driver on the Kazakh section of the railway, a source at Baikonur said, sounding concern that the ship could have sustained damage too."

Russian Soyuz spacecraft damaged: engineer, AFP

"A source in the space industry told Interfax that the damage to the Soyuz container could require the ship to be sent back to the Energiya factory in the Moscow region. "According to the results of the initial inspection of the damage, it cannot be ruled out that the ship will have to be returned to the factory," the source said. "A final decision will be taken in the next few days."

The Ultimate Soyuz

A Digital Soyuz, IEEE Spectrum, Jim Oberg

"For almost 40 years, the Soyuz series of spacecraft has carried cosmonauts into orbit and back safely, if not always comfortably. The workhorse human transport vehicle has undergone a series of upgrades during that period, and it is now about to undergo its latest--and probably final--revision. At long last, Soyuz is all digital. The next Soyuz launch, scheduled for 8 October, marks the culmination of a series of overhauls that will allow the launch rate of Soyuz crafts to double--a rate needed to maintain a crew of six aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in the absence of the retiring U.S. space shuttle fleet."

International Space Station Expedition 24 Crew Lands Safely

"Expedition 24 Commander Alexander Skvortsov and Flight Engineers Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Mikhail Kornienko landed their Soyuz TMA-18 spacecraft in Kazakhstan on Saturday, Sept. 25, wrapping up a six-month stay aboard the International Space Station. Skvortsov, the Soyuz commander, was at the controls of the spacecraft as it undocked at 10:02 p.m. EDT Friday from the Poisk module's docking port on the station's Zvezda module. The undocking and landing occurred a day later than planned because of a hatch sensor problem Thursday night. That problem prevented hooks on the Poisk side of the docking mechanism from opening. Station crew members installed a series of jumper cables, bypassing the sensor, and the Poisk module hooks retracted."

More Details on Space Discussions during the International Economical Forum in St. Petersburg, Roscosmos

"International Space Station partners have not received any response from China on a proposal to join the ISS program, Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov stated during the International Economical Forum in St. Petersburg. Speaking about Russian role in the program, Perminov reminded that US shuttles are to be retired soon, leaving Soyuz to maintain crew transportation services solely for the ISS, Interfax informs. "This is rather dangerous, any expert recognizes that. There must a backup for the Soyuz. We wish some country would have it, and we contacted China with its human spaceflight program mature enough to maintain crew transportation in the program, asking to join the ISS partnership. However there was no response", Perminov said."

Keith's note: The Roscosmos website is designed a little weird - you can't directly link to some things. To see the original source for this article, go to this page and then go to "all news" and click on "More Details on Space Discussions during the International Economical Forum in St. Petersburg"

Keith's 25 Jun update: According to NASA PAO, NASA issued the following statement this morning: "NASA has confirmed with the director of the Russian Federal Space Agency's human space flight program that Russia has not issued an invitation to China to join the International Space Station program."

Roscosmos: Chinese Space Vehicles Could Fly to the ISS, Roscosmos

"09.07.2010: Chinese space vehicles meet all safety requirements to provide redundancy for Soyuzes and Progresses during missions to the International Space Station, Anatoly Perminov, Roscosmos Head told RIA Novosti. According to him, the Chinese can support the program after shuttle retirement in 2011, when Russia remains the only country to maintain ISS crew rotation. "This is rather tough, so Russia is interested in backup Chinese vehicles", Perminov said. Five ISS partners have not received any answer from China for the proposal to join the program. "Administrator of the Chinese Space Administration has quit, and the new one has not been appointed yet. So, the issue is still open", Perminov concluded."

Keith's 8 Jul update: This story appeared on the Roscosmos website (again it is hard to link directly to their translated articles) dated 9 July 2010. Is this just more bad translation, a game the Russians like to play, or is there actually some truth to this?

International Space Station Expedition 23 Crew Lands Safely

"Expedition 23 Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineers T.J. Creamer and Soichi Noguchi landed their Soyuz-17 spacecraft in Kazakhstan Tuesday, June 1, wrapping up a five-and-a-half-month stay aboard the International Space Station. Kotov, the Soyuz commander, was at the controls of the spacecraft as it undocked at 8:04 p.m. EDT from the aft port on the station's Zvezda module. The crew landed at 11:25 p.m., east of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan."

Russia wants to charge more for rides to space: report, AFP

"NASA has signed a deal worth 306 million dollars (224 million euros) with Roskomos for six rides to the ISS in 2012 and 2013, or a charge of 51 million dollars per US astronaut. But with space now limited aboard the Soyuz rocket, Russia looks set to curb its lucrative space tourism service, for which it had charged cosmos-crazed tycoons 35 million dollars (28 million euros) for the ultimate adventure."

NASA JSC Solicitation: Procurement of Crew Transportation and Rescue Services From Roscosmos

"NASA/JSC intends to contract with Roscosmos for these services on a sole source basis for 6 Soyuz seats with associated services in CY 2013 with rescue/return services extending through spring 2014. These services are being procured through Roscosmos because the Soyuz is the only other proven crew transportation and rescue vehicle, other than the Space Shuttle which is scheduled to retire in 2010. These services are serving as a bridge between the Space Shuttle and the availability of a commercial vehicle. Until a commercial vehicle is available, continued access to Russian Crew launch, return, and rescue services is essential for planned ISS operations and utilization by all ISS partners."

"International Space Station Expedition 20 Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Michael Barratt landed their Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft on the steppes of Kazakhstan Sunday, wrapping up a six-month stay. Joining them was spaceflight participant Guy Laliberte, who spent 11 days in space. Padalka, the Soyuz commander, guided the spacecraft to a parachute-assisted landing at 12:32 a.m. EDT at a site northeast of the town of Arkalyk." Larger image

Soyuz Landing Caps Historic Space Station Increment

"International Space Station Expedition 20 Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Michael Barratt landed their Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft on the steppes of Kazakhstan Sunday, wrapping up a six-month stay. Joining them was spaceflight participant Guy Laliberte, who spent 11 days in space. Padalka and Barratt spent 199 days in space and 197 days on the station after their March 26 launch. Laliberte launched with the Expedition 21 crew on a Soyuz vehicle Sept. 30 and returned after nine days on the station."

Poetic Social Mission Complete, Lalibert Returns to Earth, SpaceRef Canada (With video)

"Lalibert will hold a press conference on Tuesday to discuss his mission which was highlighted by his Poetic Social Mission, an event that spanned the globe during a two hour broadcast on Friday, October 9th."

South Korea Launches Satellite, NY Times

"South Korea launched the first rocket from its own territory on Tuesday, putting a satellite into orbit one week after its initial attempt was scrubbed at the last minute because of a technical malfunction. The Naro-1, measuring 33 meters, or 108 feet, was built jointly with the Khrunichev space production center in Russia at a cost of $400 million. It blasted off around 5 p.m. from the Naro Space Center, located in Goheung, a county in southern South Korea. Officials cheered and clapped when the command center announced that the rocket was aloft."

Russia says U.S. shuttle delays create a burden, Reuters

"A senior Russian space official said delays in U.S. shuttle launches to the International Space Station (ISS) meant extra work for Russian rocket crews without any financial compensation, RIA news agency reported. Russia and the United States are the main contributors to the 16-nation $100 billion ISS project, but Russia has borne the brunt of sending crews and cargo there since the U.S. Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated in 2003, killing seven astronauts. "We are most concerned by the unpredictability of shuttle launches," RIA quoted Russian mission control flight coordinator Valdimir Solovyov as saying."

Keith's note: This is hilarious coming from Russia. Remember the fuss they caused for the U.S. when the Service Moduel was delayed again and again i.e. their "unpredictability"? Once again the U.S. is financing a large chunk of Russia's space program and they complain about when the checks arrive.


The Soyuz Launch Site Receives its Muscle, Arianespace (Photo Report)

"The launch infrastructure at Soyuz' new operating base in French Guiana has literally risen from the pad as the system of two umbilical masts and four primary support arms has now been installed.

This marks another key step in preparations of the world's newest launch facility for the medium-lift Soyuz, which will join Arianespaces heavy-lift Ariane 5 and the future lightweight Vega in operations at the Spaceport."

Wow, What a Photo

Picture Perfect Soyuz Landing in Kazakhstan

"Two members of the 18th crew to live and work aboard the International Space Station and a spaceflight participant returned to Earth at 2:16 a.m. CDT Wednesday. NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov and spaceflight participant Charles Simonyi safely landed their Soyuz spacecraft in the steppes of southern Kazakhstan."

Editor's note: This is today's Image of the day at NASA.gov. Bill Ingalls has out done himself this time.

Replacing Soyuz

Russia to unveil spaceship plans, BBC

"Roscosmos should name the ship's prime developer, which has competed to win government funds for the project. The proposed new spacecraft should enter into service sometime towards the end of the next decade. It will replace the venerable three-seat Soyuz capsule, which has carried Russian cosmonauts into orbit for more than four decades. Although Roscosmos has remained tight-lipped about the upcoming presentation, the agency has quietly released its requirements for a future manned transport system to the Russian space industry. In doing so, the agency has shed some light on the ship's likely design and its possible missions. The spacecraft, currently known only by the Russian abbreviation PPTS, for Prospective Piloted Transport System, would be able to reach low-Earth orbit or to enter orbit around the Moon."

Kazakhstan bans foreigners from Baikonur, other areas, Novosti

"The Kazakh government issued a decree on Friday banning foreigners from visiting four areas of the country, including the city of Baikonur, which services the eponymous space center. Baikonur, the town of Gvardeysk near the former capital, Almaty, and two regions in the Kyzylorda province have been closed to foreigners until 2015."

Editor's note: Gee, that is certainly going to make it rather difficult non-residents of Kazakhstan to ride Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS - or return home, isn't it? The "Gap" just became a void.

NASA Extends Contract with Russian Federal Space Agency

"NASA has signed a $141 million modification to the current International Space Station contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency for crew transportation services planned through the spring of 2012. The firm-fixed price extension covers comprehensive Soyuz support, including all necessary training and preparation for launch, crew rescue, and landing of a long-duration mission for three station crew members. The crew members will launch on two Soyuz vehicles in the fall of 2011."

Editor's note: That's $47 million per crew member flown up and down. That is much more than the $30 million that Richard Garriott paid for his flight and all of the ancillary training and support services that went with it. I wonder what SpaceX would charge? The Transition Team seems to be interested as well.

Expedition 17 Crew Lands in Kazakhstan

"Commander Sergei Volkov and Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko of the 17th International Space Station crew landed on the steppes of Kazakhstan at 11:37 p.m. EDT Thursday after more than six months days in space. All three people aboard the Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft were reported to be in good condition after their re-entry and landing. A Russian recovery team and NASA personnel reached the landing site by helicopter shortly after the Soyuz touched down. They helped the crew members into reclining chairs for medical tests and set up a medical tent nearby."

NASA Solicitation: Procurement of Crew Transportation and Rescue Services From Roscosmos

"NASA/JSC intends to contract with Roscosmos for these services on a sole source basis for a period up to 4 years and 6 months, through June 30, 2016. NASA/JSC intends to issue a modification to add Firm-Fixed-Price Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) provisions to order these services on an as-needed basis (until alternative providers reach full operational capability). These services are being procured through Roscosmos because the Soyuz is the only proven crew transportation and rescue vehicle (other than the Space Shuttle which is scheduled for retirement in September 2010) currently compatible and able to dock to the International Space Station and capable of providing the needed services. The Government does not intend to acquire a commercial item using FAR Part 12. See Note 26."

Selective Amnesia

Russia set to invest heavily in space industry, Reuters

"It is obvious that this status of a reliable international partner should be constantly upheld," Putin told the special meeting in Krasnoyarsk region in Siberia. U.S. space agency NASA plans to mothball its entire Space Shuttle fleet by 2011. "Evidently ... between 2011 and 2016 the United States will not possess a new spaceship to replace the Space Shuttle," news agencies quoted Anatoly Perminov, the head of Russia's space agency Roskosmos, as telling Putin. "So Russian spacecraft will bear the brunt of transportation and maintenance works, as well as replacing (ISS) crews and launching European and Japanese cargo ships from time to time."

Editor's note: Gee, and when their space program was collapsing in the 1990s who propped it up, wrote big checks, etc.? Thanks a whole heap, tovarich.

Soyuz and ISS Update

Photo Report: Soyuz TM-13 Moved to Launch Site

Russian space chief reassures US partners, AP

"The ongoing global economic turmoil and increasingly strained ties between Moscow and Washington will not stand in the way of further space exploration, Russia's space agency chief said Saturday."

Space station crew might not be expanded, UPI

"I doubt that the ISS crew will be increased to six people from next year because the final decision has not been taken yet," Roscosmos head Anatoly Perminov said. "All countries participating in the ISS program have to decide it."

Russian space chief doubts expansion of ISS crew in 2009

"Plans to increase the crew of the International Space Station from three to six astronauts in 2009 may be delayed, the head of the Russian space agency said Saturday."

Hitchhiking to Orbit

U.S. to rely on Russia for manned spaceflight, NY Times/IHT

"The United States has had periods in which its astronauts could not reach space: between the end of the Apollo program and the beginning of shuttle flights in 1981, and after the loss of the shuttles Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003. But the coming interval could become the longest of all if the rollout of NASA's new rockets is significantly delayed."

NASA's Exploration Systems Architecture Study -- Final Report, Nov. 2005, Executive Summary, section 1.1.1

"Dr. Michael Griffin was named the new NASA Administrator in April 2005. With concurrence from Congress, he immediately set out to restructure NASA's Exploration Program by making its priority to accelerate the development of the CEV to reduce or eliminate the planned gap in U.S. human access to space. He established a goal for the CEV to begin operation in 2011 and to be capable of ferrying crew and cargo to and from the ISS."

NASA Gets Its Waiver

Statement by the President on H.R. 2638, the "Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009"

"Today I have signed into law H.R. 2638, the "Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009." The Act, consisting of five divisions, consolidates into a single Act several appropriations bills. It provides through emergency supplemental appropriations additional Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 resources needed for relief and recovery from hurricanes, floods, and other disasters, and other supplemental appropriations."

Spending Bill Would Resolve a Pressing NASA Concern, NY Times

"A little-noticed provision of a stopgap spending bill passed by the House on Wednesday could resolve one of the most pressing issues for the United States space program. The $630 billion measure, which is known as a continuing resolution, will put off major spending and energy decisions into next year if it is passed by the Senate. It keeps government agencies functioning at current funding levels, and includes additional appropriations for the Pentagon, hurricane relief, veterans health care and other projects."

Editor's note: Much of the lobbying process to get the CR passed was actually done so as to get votes lined up for the $700 billion bailout package. Members were allowed ot insert things with the understanding that they'd be favorable inclined toward the bailout package. So, if the NASA waiver was included in the CR then it was apparently important enough (politically) for at least one member to get it included so as to get their vote on the bail out in exchange. This demonstrates some level of real political importance for space. The question is: who got it inserted into the CR language?

House Extends INKSNA Waiver

House Extends INKSNA Waiver

"Today, as part of the Continuing Resolution (CR), the U.S. House of Representatives extended the waiver to the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act from January 1, 2012 to July 1, 2016, which will allow NASA to continue to purchase needed ISS-related goods and services from the Russians and ensure that U.S. astronauts will continue to have access to the ISS after the current waiver expires.

The House passed the CR by a vote of 370 to 58."

Soyuz Waiver Update

NASA clears hurdle on Soyuz, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin on Tuesday won the approval of a key Senate committee in his battle to buy Russian spacecraft as a four-year replacement for the space shuttle. But the fight is far from over. And Griffin has less than two weeks to persuade the rest of Congress to allow the use of Soyuz spacecraft to take U.S. astronauts to the international space station after the space shuttle's planned retirement in 2010."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008, Business Meeting

S.3103: A bill to amend the Iran, North Korea, and Syria nonproliferation Act to allow certain extraordinary payments in connection with the International Space Station.

Obama On NASA Options

Obama Calls on Senate and House Leadership to Renew America's Commitment to NASA

"As Dr. Michael Griffin, the NASA administrator, said recently, "In a rational world, (NASA) would have been allowed to pick a Shuttle retirement date to be consistent with Ares/Orion availability, (NASA) would have been asked to deploy Ares/Orion as early as possible (rather than "not later than 2014") and we would have been provided the necessary budget to make it so" [NASA e-mail, 8/18/08]. Regrettably, the current administration has not behaved rationally and, with the Russian invasion of Georgia, NASA is now left with more limited options, all of them much worse than if the administration and their Republican allies in Congress had thought through the strategic consequences of these decisions five years ago."

Once More Unto the Breach

Senate to consider NASA request to buy Soyuz, Orlando Sentinel

"On Tuesday, Griffin faces a moment of truth. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is due to weigh his request against sentiment in Congress that Moscow, because of its recent invasion of the neighboring country of Georgia, cannot be trusted. It is very difficult for Congress to understand why we should continue a practice of depending upon agreements with the Russians when they are busy invading another country, Griffin conceded last week after a luncheon on Capitol Hill."

Senate Foreign Relations Committee

"Chairman: Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr."

Obama: Buy Soyuz if necessary but look at flying shuttle longer, Orlando Sentinel

"Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama is now considering stopping NASA from retiring the shuttle in 2010 as well as looking to see if commercial companies can build new rockets to keep America in space independent of foreign countries. ... Obamas Republican rival, Sen. John McCain last month called on the White House to stop NASA from closing any more shuttle contracts just in case the next administration decided it wanted to fly more shuttle missions. Neither candidate appears to like the idea of buying more Soyuz from Moscow and depending on Russia for American access to the international space station."

My Word: America can do better than relying on Russia for our space program (Dave Weldon), Orlando Sentinel

"Sen. Bill Nelson, the Bush Administration, the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board and most in Congress are ready to do business as usual with the Russians, claiming we have no choice. I don't buy that argument, and I take strong issue when the Sentinel Editorial Board suggests I am not a supporter of the space program because I don't go along. The real difference is I believe America can do better and that the workers at KSC deserve better during this transition."

NASA chief says Congress must act to get Russian craft, USA Today

"The development of the shuttle's successor could be delayed if Congress, as expected, passes stopgap funding legislation for part of 2009 rather than a formal budget, Griffin said. The members of Congress he has spoken to understand the need, he said, but "I cannot predict an outcome." Congress will be in session for less than two weeks before adjourning in advance of the fall elections."

This Certainly Won't Help

Russia ratchets up US tensions with arms sales to Iran and Venezuela, Times Online

"Russia snubbed its nose at the United States today by announcing plans to sell military equipment to both Iran and Venezuela. The head of the state arms exporter said that Russia was negotiating to sell new anti-aircraft systems to Iran despite American objections."

We think: Rep. Weldon is hurting the space program by fighting the use of Russian spacecraft, editorial, Orlando Sentinel

"Mr. Weldon will retire from Congress this year after seven terms. Cutting off U.S. access to the space station would be an unfortunate legacy for him."

The ISS: Who needs it?, Moscow News

"The United States, which has been skeptical about it, has suddenly developed an interest, especially in how its crews are to be taken to the station after its Space Shuttle program winds up in 2010. Unfortunately, the renewed American interest in the ISS is neither because of concern for the station's future, nor because of the coming anniversary. The cause was provided by the Caucasian crisis. And had it not happened, American participation in the program would have ended quietly, despite all assurances to the contrary."

Weldon Says Russian Waiver Means Pink Slips for KSC

"Today, Congressman Dave Weldon (FL-15) denounced the efforts by Senator Bill Nelson and others to obtain a waiver of the Iran Nonproliferation Act for NASA. This waiver would allow the U.S. to purchase the Russian-made Soyuz spacecraft and force the U.S. to rely on Russia over the next five to seven years to transport American astronauts in space to reach the U.S.-led International Space Station."

Why NASA Needs Soyuz

NASA Talking Points: The Urgency of NASA's Need for Legislation to Continue to Purchase Soyuz Crew Vehicles From Russia (Courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel)

"NASA needs Congress to provide legislative extension allowing purchase of Russian Soyuz crew vehicles to support astronauts on the International Space Station by October 2008 or else NASA will have no choice but to de-crew all U.S. astronauts from the International Space Station in 2012. ...

... If Congress does not extend NASA's legislative exemption to allow the purchase of Russian Soyuz crew services, the result will be to damage the United States' collaboration with our international partners on the International Space Station, effectively ceding control of this $50 Billion investment (cost through 2010) to Russia..."

NASA: Shuttle won't solve space station problem, Russia will, Orlando Sentinel

"Even before NASA finishes its study into the possibility of flying the space shuttle beyond its scheduled retirement in 2010, top agency officials have concluded that extending the life of the orbiter fleet wont solve the problem of keeping the international space station operable for U.S. astronauts."

Griffin claims there is a 'jihad' against the Space Shuttle, Nature

"In other words: stopping flying the Shuttle before its replacement is ready is a bonehead move. Griffin even goes on to claim that "retiring the Shuttle is a jihad rather than an engineering and program management decision" for the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget. If he was that angry before the email leaked he must be apoplectic now his private thoughts are all over the internet..."

Nelson, Griffin to huddle Thursday, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin is set to pow-wow with one of his biggest congressional allies on Thursday, but U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., likely has little good news to share. Griffin and NASA need Congress to pass two measures this fall to help the agency, but Congress likely does not have the time to aid NASA -- as congressional leaders do not expect to be in session longer than a few weeks so that members can return to the campaign trail."

NASA chief says he backs 2010 shuttle retirement, Houston Chornicle

"In a brief statement on Sunday, Griffin did not refute the newspaper's account, and chief NASA spokesman David Mould authenticated the e-mail. However, Griffin complained the reporting failed to "provide the contextual framework for my remarks," which was an internal agency discussion over the implications of the Russian military's invasion of neighboring Georgia."

Editor's note: Some of you may recall my posting on 11 March 2005 that Mike Griffin was going to be the next Administrator of NASA. In that posting I recalled an action taken by Griffin during the Space Station Freedom redesign activity - one I described as having "demonstrated personal integrity - and did so in a public way that was rather career adverse." At the time, a common NASA phrase for such an action was to say that someone "fell on their sword".

For the first time on NASA Watch, here is the letter that Griffin wrote that more or less encapsulated that action - and also sank his immediate future at NASA at the same time.

To his credit, Mike Griffin has taken rather bold and blunt stances before. Motives aside, is he doing that again? And if so, isn't it curious that both actions were due to threats to the space station - something that is not Mike Griffin's favorite NASA project?

Editor's note: Alas, the gathering consensus amongst the cyberpundits (with absolutely no data whatsoever to base this on, mind you) is that Mike Griffin either leaked this memo - or (much more likely) looked the other way as it "found" its way to a much broader, more receptive distribution. The thought being that he knows that his days at NASA may well be numbered and that he has nothing to lose except his own credibility and that he needs to look out for the agency's future.

There is a bit of logic to this gossip. Look at the initial distribution list of this memo. Everyone on that list is a solid professional and they are pretty tight with Mike Griffin. As such, I really doubt that something so easily traceable back to such a very small group would get out - unless Griffin wanted it to.

If this is indeed what is going on (again, I have zero proof) then it is a bit of a departure for Griffin since he tends to try and keep things like this inside the family. Given that Griffin self-described himself as "Spock" early in his tenure, I started wondering about his motives now. What will Spock do? Hmmm ... what would Jim Kirk do? Have a look at this iconic video [below] from "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan".

Is Mike Griffin trying to change the rules?

Statement of NASA Administrator Michael Griffin on Aug. 18 Email

Internal NASA email from NASA Administrator Griffin regarding Space Shuttle, ISS, Russia, Ares, Orion, OSTP, OMB and Budgetary Issues

"Exactly as I predicted, events have unfolded in a way that makes it clear how unwise it was for he US to adopt a policy of deliberate dependance upon another power for access to ISS. In a rational world, we would have been allowed to pick a Shuttle retirement date to be consistent with Ares/Orion availability, we would have been asked to deploy Ares/Orion as early as possible (rather than "not later than 2014") and we would have been provided the necessary budget to make it so. I realize that no one on this distribution disagrees with me on this point, I'm just saying it again, that's all.

The rational approach didn't happen, primarily because for OSTP and OMB, retiring the Shuttle is a jihad rather than an engineering and program management decision. Further, they actively do not want the ISS to be sustained, and have done everything possible to ensure that it would not be. They were always "okay" with buying Soyuz/Progress, and if it didn't happen, well, that was okay too. You will recall they didn't want us to brink up the need for another INKSNA exemption during budget hearings this year. I disobeyed their wishes in doing so, because we knew that we needed to get this on the table in '08."

Griffin not optimistic about new deal to buy Soyuz rides, Spaceflightnow

"My own guess is at this point we're going to have some period in 2012 where there's no American or international partner crew on station, that there's only the Russians there," he said. "That period always ends three years from when we have a contract with the Russians. So if we can get through all this by June of next year and have a contract with the Russians, then in the latter part of 2012 we can fly a Soyuz flight and restore things to normal."

NASA's Exploration Systems Architecture Study -- Final Report, Nov. 2005, Executive Summary, section 1.1.1

"Dr. Michael Griffin was named the new NASA Administrator in April 2005. With concurrence from Congress, he immediately set out to restructure NASA's Exploration Program by making its priority to accelerate the development of the CEV to reduce or eliminate the planned gap in U.S. human access to space. He established a goal for the CEV to begin operation in 2011 and to be capable of ferrying crew and cargo to and from the ISS."

Shuttle Vs Soyuz OpEds Appear

We think: Congress needs to maintain U.S. access to the international space station, editorial, Orlando Sentinel

"Lawmakers have little choice but to hold their noses and grant the waiver, so the United States can maintain its access to the space station and protect its huge investment. They need to look for other, better ways to underscore their anger with Russia. Lawmakers also need to find the $2 billion, called for in House-passed legislation, that could speed up the development of NASA's next vehicle by a couple of years. That would make the period that the U.S. astronauts are forced to depend on Mr. Putin's taxi service as short as possible."

Shuttle Extension Update

NASA requests shuttle options, Huntsville Times

"It's not really a formal study, though," Yembrick said, "but an informal request. As an agency we realize we want to be prepared and look at our options across the program." Yembrick said the options would be part of briefings and testimony to White House officials, Congress and other decision makers NASA has to speak to about the subject, and it should take about a month to complete. Informal requests are often cloaked studies, said Keith Cowing, who runs the online site NASAWatch.com. "Whenever NASA gets caught in a study, but doesn't want anybody to know it is a study, then they try to call it something else," said Cowing."

Russia Update

US reviewing 'entire relationship' with Russia: White House, AFP

"The United States is reviewing its "entire relationship" with Russia, the White House said Monday, charging that Moscow was still violating a ceasefire deal for the Georgia conflict. "We're reviewing our entire relationship with Russia, both for the medium term and the long term," said spokesman Tony Fratto, who charged there is "no question that Russia has not lived up to the ceasefire agreement."

US-Russia chill threatens NASA space program, AFP

"In an election year, it was going to be very difficult to get that waiver to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to an increasingly aggressive Russia," Nelson said. "Now, I'd say it's almost impossible."

When the shuttles retire, Baltimore Sun

"Congress should approve the waiver NASA needs to keep sending astronauts to the space station as planned, and it ought to be prepared to do more if Russia proves uncooperative. America must remain a leader in space. The U.S. space program is at a crucial juncture, and the country can't afford to let it be held hostage to dust-ups abroad with Russia or to partisan bickering at home."

Cosmonaut Photographed South Ossetia From ISS, Aviation Week

"On Aug. 9 Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko used a digital camera equipped with an 800mm telephoto lens and a video camera to photograph "after-effects of border conflict operations in the Caucasus," according to the ISS status report for that day published by NASA on its website."

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 9 August 2008

"Also working from the discretionary task list, Oleg Kononenko conducted another session of the Russian GFI-8 "Uragan" (hurricane) earth-imaging program, using the D2X digital camera with the F800 telephoto lens and the HVR-Z1J SONY video camera. Uplinked target areas were glaciers on the north slope of the main Caucasus Ridge, the Dombai region, after-effects of border conflict operations in the Caucasus ..."

Concerns Over Russia Grow

Discord With Russia a Worry for NASA, Washington Post

"[NASA Administrator Michael] Griffin made clear that he did not consider NASA's near-total reliance on the Russians in the future to be a good or prudent thing -- he called it "unseemly" -- but he said the agency lacked the funds to build a shuttle replacement more quickly. The waiver (which was first passed in 2005) has been endorsed by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, but the Senate has taken no action on it."

Russia-Georgia clash prompts space station worries, AP

"Sen. Barbara Mikulski says the possible impact of the Russia-Georgia military conflict on the International Space Station is a "critical issue" that must be resolved. Mikulski, chairwoman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NASA, issued a statement today saying the Bush administration must work with Congress to find a bipartisan solution."

Russia-Georgia conflict could affect NASA funding, Houston Chronicle

"Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, who voted for the measure in the Foreign Affairs Committee, said NASA should now consider using the shuttle fleet past its retirement date. "We should look at whether there is any possibility of revisiting the space shuttle extension even for short period of time while we are in the middle of this political and diplomatic and military nightmare," she said. "It is difficult to engage in a nation when you have a sizable amount of disagreements."

Washington, we have a problem..., New Scientist

"The price might also be more than money. There's already a non-monetary problem on the US side: the Iran Non-Proliferation Act bars buying from the Russians unless the Russians stop helping Iran with its nuclear programme, and Congress is balking at giving NASA another exemption from this. Two can play that game. What if the Russian government's price for more Soyuz rides is that the US concede Russian control of parts of Georgia?"

Could the Russia-Georgia conflict jeopardize U.S. space plans?, Scientific American

"So what's the backup plan? That's the problem, experts said: There isn't one. Getting Orion ready faster isn't in the cards. NASA this week confirmed a report leaked last month when it announced that flat budgets and technical problems would delay testing of Orion until late 2014."

Experts: Reliance on Russia makes NASA weak, CNN

"Election-year politics combined with increasing concerns about Iran and the ongoing crisis in Georgia all but guarantee that lawmakers will not vote for the exemption, said Nelson. That means NASA could lose access to the $100 billion space station unless it continues to fly the shuttle or strikes some sort of deal with another space agency willing to put forward money for additional Soyuz seats, the Senator explained to CNN. "It is a lose-lose situation," said Nelson. "If our relationship with Russia is strained who knows if Russia will give us rides in the future?" Nelson continued. "Or if they give us rides will they charge such an exorbitant price that it becomes blackmail?"

US, allies weigh punishment for Russia, AP

"Scrambling to find ways to punish Russia for its invasion of pro-Western Georgia, the United States and its allies are considering expelling Moscow from an exclusive club of wealthy nations and canceling an upcoming joint NATO-Russia military exercise, Bush administration officials said Tuesday."

Russia May Turn Focus to Pro-U.S. Ukraine After Beating Georgia, Bloomberg

"Now that Russia has humiliated Georgia with a punishing military offensive, it may shift its attention to reining in pro-Western Ukraine, another American ally in the former Soviet Union."

Russian invasion threatens the Space Station, Orlando Sentinel

"U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., acknowledged Tuesday that Russias five-day invasion of the Georgian province of South Ossetia makes it extremely unlikely that Congress will vote to exempt the Russian-built Soyuz capsule from a law that bans trade with nations that sell nuclear material to Iran. NASA had been counting on the waiver to enable it to continue carrying people and cargo to the space station after the space shuttle is retired in 2010. The Soyuz is NASAs only proven alternative to get to the station."

Editor's note: Right now Russians outnumber Americans on ISS - but wait, one of the "Russians" (the ISS Commander) was actually born in the Ukraine ... things could get complicated if Ukraine continues to openly side with Georgia and all of the political tension spills into how the ISS program is run ...

Bush says violence in Georgia is unacceptable, AP

"On Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney told Georgia's pro-American president that "Russian aggression must not go unanswered, and that its continuation would have serious consequences for its relations with the United States," Cheney's office reported."

Editor's note: Oh great - and these are the same Russians that the U.S. will have to rely upon for 5 or mre years to provide Americans with exclusive access to the ISS.

Russia's CEV

Manned spaceship design unveiled, BBC

"It is designed to replace the Soyuz vehicle currently in use by Russia and will allow Europe to participate directly in crew transportation. The reusable ship was conceived to carry four people towards the Moon, rivalling the US Ares/Orion system. Unlike previous crewed vehicles, it will use thrusters to make a soft landing when it returns to Earth."

Editor's note: Soyuz vehicles have been using braking rockets for decades.

Let's Steal the Soyuz, Discovery Space Diary

"Well not "steal" it exactly, just do what Japan has done to our automobile industry, China to textiles and India to tech support. Import it, then re-label 'Made in America.' It'd be a neat way around the prohibition against buying Soyuz from the Russians, who are being punished -- not really -- for providing technology and dangerous ideas widely available on the internet to Iran, which is next door to Iraq and probably what the Bush Administration was really aiming for when they got us embroiled in the bruhaha over there."

ILS Goes Russian

Khrunichev Purchases Majority Interest in International Launch Services

"ILS International Launch Services Inc., a world leader in launch services for commercial satellites, announced today that Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center acquired the shares of ILS owned by majority shareholder, Space Transport Inc. Financial details were not disclosed. The transaction was completed today. Vladimir Nesterov, General Director of Khrunichev, said: "Building on our strong working relationship with the ILS team, this transaction will cement ILS's leadership role in the commercial launch services industry."

Space station crew may face another bumpy re-entry, Reuters

"The space industry source, who did not want to be identified, told Reuters faulty bolts were suspected of causing the last two "ballistic landings" and they are also fitted on the re-entry capsule now docked at the ISS. "There are explosive bolts which keep two modules attached to Soyuz capsules," the source said. "They are supposed to go off right before the entry into the Earth's atmosphere." "For some reason this didn't work (on the previous two re-entries), although the unseparated modules fell off eventually. What is bad is that another Soyuz-TMA is believed to have this faulty device and is docked at the ISS for the return trip," he said."

Mir: The Movie

Mathieu Kassovitz heads into space, after war, Hollyood Reporter

"MNP," the name of both the first space station and Kassovitz's indie shingle with co-producer Benoit Jaubert, will feature two U.S. stars and eight actors from around the world. The technologically heavy "end of the world" project will utilize special planes that are able to simulate a zero gravity environment for 25 seconds. MNP will work closely with space stations and aeronautical organizations to prepare for the complex project that is set to start shooting in 2011. "This is my ultimate movie. Everything we've done until now has been preparing us to be able make this movie," Kassovitz said."

Editor's note: Question for Jim Oberg: what is the mean time between puff news stories about filming a "major motion picture" in weightlessness (space), with some Russian space station as the location of the story, with "major American stars", etc? This strikes me as the 4th attempt that I can recall. They seem to pop up every 3-5 years - and then vanish.

Oh yes - if it is titled "MNP" (I assume they mean "Mir") which definition of the word are they after? "world"? "peace"? or that crashed space station which is now a coral reef? Personally I think the portrayal of Mir was done perfectly in "Armageddon" - leaky hoses and all. Wouldn't this all be a lot easier to do inside of Mir II i.e. the Service Module?


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