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Space developments in 2015
The Russian space industry entered 2015 in a midst of a deepening economic recession, forcing the Kremlin to make a 10-percent cut in the nation's space budget. The government also fired the third head of Roskosmos in four years and launched another major restructuring of the agency. At the end of January, the newly appointed chief of the newly created Roskosmos State Corporation Igor Komarov said that despite worsening economic situation, an effort would be made to preserve all key projects and limit the effect from funding cuts only to schedules. According to Russian military officials, Russia operated more than 120 spacecraft in orbit as of 2015.
The world's orbital launch attempts in 2015 (as of October 8, 2015 ):
The 2015 space launch score card (as of October 8, 2015 ):
Oct. 16: A Proton rocket to launch Turksat-4B communications satellite from Baikonur. The 3,800-kilogram satellite was to be built by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, MELCO, of Tokyo, Japan, based on the company's standard DS2000 communications platform. (In 2015, GKNPTs Khrunichev quoted a mass of 4,900 kilograms for the satellite.)
During its projected 15-year design life, the satellite will provide telecommunication and direct TV broadcasting services throughout Turkey, as well as in Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Turksat-4B will be operated at 50 degrees east position.
The agreement for the launch of Turksat-4B was announced on April 5, 2011. In February 2014, the launch was planned in November of the same year. By December 2014, the mission was postponed until June 2015, but that launch date could not be maintained due to the Proton rocket failure with MexSat-1 satellite on May 16, 2015. By the time the Proton successfully returned to flight in August 2015, the launch of Turksat-4B was expected in October. As of mid-September, the mission was scheduled for October 13. The satellite was delivered to Baikonur on September 2, followed by the Briz-M upper stage on September 16. The assembly of the first, second and third stages of the rocket was completed in Baikonur on September 18 followed by integrated tests of the launch vehicle. In parallel, a Japanese team of the satellite manufacturer was conducting the fueling of Turksat-4B, GKNPTs Khrunichev announced.
At the beginning of October, an overhead crane, which was needed to place the fully assembled payload section onto its transporter, failed, requiring a few days for its repair and re-certification for further operations. As a result, the launch of Turksat-4B was postponed from October 13, 2015, at 23:45 Moscow Time to October 16, 2015, at 23:40 Moscow Time (4:40 p.m. EDT). According to sources in Baikonur, a controller on the crane failed and had to be replaced. Peculiarly, during the Inmarsat-5 F3 launch campaign earlier this year, a processing team working at the Proton facility experienced problems with one of two cranes, which would not come to a smooth stop when running along the length of Building 92A-50. Fortunately at the time, the problem was not serious enough to stop operations.
On the night from October 7 to October 8, a fire broke out in the East end section of the residential area of Baikonur. The blaze reportedly originated at a night club next to the Asian market on Gagarin Blvd., local sources said. The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations, MChS, was quoted as saying that it took until morning on October 8 to extinguish the fire, which had damaged a popular shopping center in Baikonur.
Nov. 7: A Rockot booster to launch the Sentinel-3A remote-sensing satellite from Plesetsk. (As of January 2014, the mission was postponed from October 2014. The launch was later planned for June 2015 and by August 2015, was planned on November 7, 2015.)
Nov. 21: A Soyuz-2-1a rocket to launch Progress MS-1 (No. 431) from Baikonur to the ISS. (This mission was previously promised in 2014. In November 2014, the launch was planned for October 26, 2015. The mission was rescheduled for November 21 after the loss of Progress M-27M.)
Middle of December: A Zenit-3SLBF/Fregat-SB to launch the Elektro-L No. 3 weather-forecasting satellite into geostationary orbit from Baikonur. By the end of September 2015, the launch had to be postponed from November 18 until at least mid-December 2015, due to political problems between Russia and Ukraine.
December: A Soyuz-2-1b/Fregat rocket to launch the Meteor-M No. 2-1 remote-sensing satellite, along with a cluster of secondary payloads, including Ionosfera-1, Ionosfera-2, Flying Laptop, Flock 2, Scout, AISSat-3, Perseus-O1, Perseus-O2.
Dec. 25: A Soyuz-2.1a rocket with a Volga upper stage to launch the 500-kilogram Mikhailo Lomonosov satellite, as its primary payload, along with Aist-2D and Kontakt-Nanosputnik small satellites from Site 1S in Vostochny. As of May 2012, the launch was expected around April or May 2013 from Plesetsk, with the delivery of Moscow University's instruments to a prime manufacturer, VNIIEM, by the end of August 2012. The mission was then promised in April or May 2014, until it was moved to Vostochny.
2015: Soyuz rocket to launch the Foton-M No. 5 spacecraft. The spacecraft is expected to be equipped with solar panels, modified service module, and the new liquid-propellant orbit correction engine. The orbital lifespan of the satellite to be launched into the 400-450-kilometer orbit was expected to increase to 60 days. (As of April 2009)
Around 2015: Russia to launch Kosmos-SKh satellite to monitor agricultural development from space.
2015: Russia to launch the Kartograf-OE No. 2 remote-sensing satellite.
End of 2015: Russia to launch Elektro-VO No. 1 satellite. (As of 2012.)
Delayed from fourth quarter of 2014: A Zenit-3SLB/Fregat-SB to launch a Ukrainian Lybid satellite from Baikonur. (As of April 2012. When first announced in 2006, the mission was promised to take place in 2010 and was later expected in September 2011. In April 2010, the launch was promised in April 2012. It was then delayed to the fourth quarter of 2013. In August 2014, Ukrainian space agency said that the spacecraft would be ready for launch in the fourth quater of that year).
2015: Soyuz-2-1b/Fregat-SB rocket to launch the Arkon-2M No. 1 remote-sensing satellites for all-weather radar observations of the Earth surface from a 550-600-kilometer Sun-synchronous orbit. The launch was originally promised in 2009 (299) and later in 2012-2013. In 2010, a pair of spacecraft was scheduled for launch in 2013, however by 2012, the first Arkon-2M was expected to fly in 2015 and the second in 2016. The Arkon-2M program was canceled by November 2012 to free funds for Arktika, Resurs and Obzor projects.
2014-2015: Russia to launch a solar telescope -- Koronas-4-Monitor -- to replace a failed Koronas-Foton spacecraft. (A February 2010 proposal from Astrophysics Institute at the National Nuclear Research University.) By the end of March 2010, a project to replace Koronas-Foton was identified as Solaris by the Solar System division within Space Council of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The division recommended Lebedev Physics Institute, FIAN, as a main developer of the satellite's payload. The issue of the spacecraft bus remained open at the time, with NPO Lavochkin's yet-to-be-flown Navigator platform as one of the contenders. Unlike Koronas-Foton, the new telescope was expected to be narrowly specialized in solar observations and it was to be inserted into very high orbit to minimize the shadow from Earth and the influence of the planet's radiation belt. As of April 2010, the project was yet to be approved for the inclusion into the Russian space program or to receive any funding.
2015: Russia to launch MKA FKI No. 5 ARKA orbital solar observatory. (Canceled in March 2014)
During the 2010s, four annual missions of the Soyuz spacecraft had to be conducted every year to rotate crews onboard the International Space Station, ISS. In order to fly additional commercial passengers, the so-called "fifth" or "tourist" Soyuz would be needed during each particular year.
"Tourist" Soyuz promised but continuously delayed
Published: 2008 June 12; updated: June 20, July 2; 2009 Jan. 23, May 30; 2010 June 22; 2011 Aug. 26; 2012 Aug. 27
In 2008, the head of Russian space agency first flatly denied an announcement by US businessmen about the possibility of another tourist mission to the ISS.
On June 11, 2008, a private contractor selling seats onboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft claimed that it would finance a dedicated tourist mission to the International Space Station, ISS, in 2011. The Soyuz flight, carrying one professional cosmonaut and two paid tourists, would be conducted in addition to regular launches financed by the Russian government. In the past, Russian authorities only allowed tourists to take a single seat onboard taxpayers' paid missions, to offset the cost of the cash-strapped Russian space program. However with the station construction nearly completed and its long-duration crew scheduled to increase from three to six, the regular Soyuz missions would have no seats available for paid passengers.
Although popular Western press hailed the latest claims about the dedicated tourist space mission as a new breakthrough in orbital commerce, the head of the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, Anatoly Perminov said he had no information on such plans. In the official statement published on the agency's web site, Perminov said that "there is simply no seats for space tourists." Possibly, he referred to already scheduled missions, rather than a dedicated commercial flight. As of June 12, RKK Energia, a Russian company, which builds and operates the Soyuz spacecraft, neither confirmed or denied claims made by its US-based salesmen. At the very least, the situation indicated a breakdown of communications between the Russian space agency, its main contractor and its overseas sales representatives.
Even if such mission does take place, skeptics believe that "private investors" would still use Russian taxpayers' money to pay for the full infrastructure of the manned space flight, including the spacecraft, its rocket booster, the network of ground control stations and other services. Observers also point out a potential minefield "commercial" missions present for relations between space station partners. Even though Russia does not publicly disclose amounts it charges its private clients for joy rides in space, these rates are apparently lower than those paid by NASA and other space station partners for transporting their crew members to the ISS.
In 2011, Russia plans to conduct four manned missions of the Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS to support permanent occupation of the outpost by rotating international crews. The additional tourist mission would mean five manned launches that year. Currently, Russia conducts two manned missions annually, however in 1980, six piloted Soyuz spacecraft lifted off to support Salyut-6 orbital station.
Commenting on the situation, Yuri Makushenko, Director of Business Development at RKK Energia told RussianSpaceWeb.com that "the door to the fifth (additional) Soyuz launch in 2011 or 2012 is not closed provided necessary funding." Makushenko said that such option was evaluated at RKK Energia, however the project was at the very initial stage and no actual production work on the Soyuz ship for the fifth mission in 2011 had taken place. He explained the contradictory statements by Roskosmos as a possible misunderstanding.
Only on July 2, 2008, Roskosmos finally confirmed that an agreement with an unnamed private investor had been reached to start funding the construction of a dedicated spacecraft for a possible tourist mission in 2011. Terms of the agreement with the investor envisioned further tourists flights beyond 2011, the agency said. However in the January 2009 interview, (321) head of Roskosmos Anatoly Perminov, yet again, reiterated that Russian "tourist missions" to the ISS would end in 2009. And yet again, Perminov failed to mention any dedicated private Soyuz missions.
At the May 29, 2009, press-conference at the mission control in Korolev, the head of manned space flight of Roskosmos Aleksei Krasnov said that the construction of the "fifth" Soyuz spacecraft to be launched during a single year, in addition to four scheduled ships for the ISS program, was still under consideration, however it could take place in 2013, as the earliest. In June 2010, Krasnov elaborated that the first funding for the construction of the "fifth" ship would be advanced to RKK Energia before the end of the year. He mentioned commercial missions ordered by the Canadian space agency, as one of the potential customers of the additional spacecraft. In April 2011, Perminov confirmed that the "fifth" annual Soyuz could fly for the first time in 2013, adding that Russia could launch five manned missions once every two-three years. However behind the scene Roskosmos officials said that they had been unwilling to spend any federal money on the production of the "tourist" Soyuz and private investors had yet to fund the mission. Still in August 2011, the head of RKK Energia, Vitaly Lopota, told the Interfax new agency that the production of the "fifth" Soyuz had been in the initial stage and it could conduct a tourist mission in 2014. However in August 2012, Lopota said that only if the approval and funding for the mission was granted before the end of the year, the tourist flight could take place at the end of 2015.
This page is compiled by Anatoly Zak
Last update: October 8, 2015
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A new-generation Bars-M satellite was launched on Feb. 27, 2015.
Proton rocket returns to flight with Inmarsat-5 F3 satellite on August 28, following a launch accident on May 16. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Soyuz-ST-B/Fregat-MT rocket lifts off on Sept. 10, 2015, with a pair of Galileo FOC-M3 satellites. Click to enlarge. Credit: Arianespace
Artist rendering depicting separation of between Ekspress-AM8 and Block-DM03. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2015 Anatoly Zak
First engine firing of the Briz-KM stage during the delivery of the Rodnik trio. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2015 Anatoly Zak
Kosmos-SKh satellite. Copyright © 2011 Anatoly Zak
As of 2014, a Pion-NKS spacecraft for radar and radio surveillance was promised to enter orbit in 2015. Credit: Arsenal