Recently in Russia Category

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

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

National Security Space Launch at a Crossroads, Congressional Research Service

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

Previous RD-180 posts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Previous Russia news items



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

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

Earlier RD-180 posts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opening Statement by Sen. McCain: Hearing on USAF Posture

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

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

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

Soyuz Crew Arrives Back on Earth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russian Space Follies

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

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

Russia Postpones Plans on Extensive Moon Exploration Until 2025

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

Russia Plans Permanent Moon Base, KTRH (7 Dec)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soyuz Lands With ISS Crew

Space Station Crew Returns to Earth

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

Night Wolves Biker Gang Flag Flown In Russian Segment of Space Station, Moscow Times

"President Vladimir Putin's favorite nationalist biker gang, the Night Wolves, flew their flag aboard the International Space Station a $150 billion project co-managed by the U.S. and Russian space agencies. A photo of the group's flag appeared on Twitter on Wednesday, when it was posted by an unverified account apparently owned by the gang's controversial figurehead, Alexander Zaldostanov known to his friends, and even Putin himself, as "the Surgeon."

Night Wolves, Wikipedia

"Members of the Night Wolves have fought on the side of pro-Russian militants during the Crimean Crisis and war in Donbass. They have blockaded the main routes into Sevastopol and participated in attacks on a natural gas facility and the naval headquarters in the city. In April 2015, Agence France-Presse stated that Alexei Vereshchyagin had fought against Ukrainian government forces in Luhansk."

Pentagon denies ULA waiver on Russian engines, Washington Post

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

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

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

Previous RD-180 posts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expedition 45 Is In Orbit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NASA Notifies Congress about Space Station Contract Modification with Russia

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

NASA signing $490M contract with Russia, The Hill

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

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

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

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

Soyuz Launches Expedition 44 Crew to the International Space Station

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

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

Shelton Versus McCain on Import of SpaceX Failure, SpacePolicyOnline

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

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

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

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

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

SpaceX Prepared Testimony by Jeffrey Thornburg

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

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

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

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

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

Knights Templar Inspired Business Moves at ULA, earlier post

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

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

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

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

Get Putin Out of Our Rockets, Roll Call

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

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

Transcript below (edited for typos)

Expedition 43 Crew Returns to Earth (with video)

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

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 9 June 2015

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

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

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

Unexpected Soyuz engine start shifts orbital position of ISS, Aperture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Air Force Releases Rocket Propulsion System Prototypes RFP

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

Breaking The RD-180 Addiction, earlier post

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

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

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

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

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

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

America Plays Russian Rocket Roulette, Wall Street Journal

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

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

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

Scenic Descent For Expedition 42

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 11 March 2015

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

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

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

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

Russia Launches Angara 5

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

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

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

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

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

Russia launches new heavy-class Angara space rocket, Xinhua

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

RD-180 Bad; RD-181 Good

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

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

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

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

Expedition 42 Launches on Time to International Space Station

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

Russians may visit China's orbital module, TASS

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

Expedition 41 Has Returned

Expedition 41 Returns to Earth

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

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

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

Earlier posts on Russia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recent History Suggests Tougher Russia Sanctions Are Needed, WS Journal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A private expedition to the Moon, Space Adventures

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

ULA RD-180 Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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."


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