Russian space program in 2018
At the beginning of the year, Roskosmos, listed 23 launches in 2018 in its flight manifest, which if fulfilled, would increase the previous year's record. Still, it was likely to leave Russia in the third place after China and the United States in this key indicator of space activity. For comparison, on Jan. 4, the official Chinese press promised 35 launches of liquid-propellant Chang Zheng series of space rockets and five orbital shots of the solid-propellant Kuaizhou launchers. Back in Russia, the nation's military planned to boost its strategic arsenal with 20 Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles and to conduct 12 test launches, or twice as much as in 2017, according to the commander of Strategic Missile Forces, RVSN, Col. General Sergei Karakaev quoted by the Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper in December 2017.
The world's orbital launch attempts in 2018 (as of June 19, 2018 ):
The 2018 space launch score card (as of June 19, 2018 ):
Planned Russian orbital launch attempts in 2018:
June (?): A Rockot/Briz-KM booster to launch the Geo-IK-2 No. 13L geodesic satellite for the Russian Ministry of Defense from Pad 3 at Site 133 in Plesetsk. (As of 2016, the mission was promised in 2017. Then planned between June and December 2018.)
September: Soyuz-2 (ST-B)/Fregat rocket to launch the European MetOp-C meteorological satellite from the ELS complex in Kourou, French Guiana. Built by Astrium, the Metop-C satellite will weigh 4,250 kg at launch. It will be fitted with a dozen instruments designed to take atmospheric measurements (pressure, humidity, temperature, ozone concentration, etc.) at different altitudes, and to map temperatures and wind fields on the ocean surface. The mission was first announced on Sept. 10, 2010, with the launch then expected in the 4th quarter of 2016. It was than planned in February 2018 and by March 2018, the launch was re-scheduled for September of that year.
Oct. 11: A Soyuz-FG rocket to launch a Soyuz MS-10 (No. 740) manned transport spacecraft with a crew of three from Baikonur toward the International Space Station, ISS. The mission was scheduled for launch on Sept. 14, but by June 2018, it was re-scheduled for October 11. On March 28, RKK Energia announced that Russian cosmonauts Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babakin had participated in the so-called fitting tests of the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft, which at the time, was undergoing final assembly at the company's facility in Korolev. Along with engineers, the cosmonaut pair conducted inspection and checks of the equipment aboard the vehicle and familiarized themselves with the placement of internal cargo, which was represented with simulators, RKK Energia said.
Andrei Babkin (left) and Nikolai Tikhonov familiarize themselves with Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft during its final assembly at RKK Energia in Korolev on March 28, 2018.
Postponed from Oct. 11: A Soyuz-FG rocket to launch the Progress MS-10 cargo ship from Baikonur toward the International Space Station, ISS. (As of 2014, the launch was set for Feb. 22, 2018. By the second half of 2017, the launch was expected around August 2018 and was later postponed to Sept. 14 and Oct. 11, 2018.)
October: A Rockot to launch a trio of Gonets-M communications satellites, a pair of Blits-M experimental satellites and the Radio-2017 experimental satellite from Plesetsk. The primary payload was originally planned for launch as early as 2016 and, in case of unavailability of the Roskot, could fly on the Soyuz-2-1v rocket. (The mission postponed from the fall of 2016 and the third quarter of 2017).
Oct. 22: A Proton rocket with Block DM-03 No. 6L to launch the Elektro-L No. 3 satellite from Baikonur. The launch was previously planned in 2017, but by the middle of that year, the mission had to be postponed until the fall of 2018. As of September 2017, the launch was scheduled for Oct. 22, 2018.
Fourth quarter: A Proton-M/Briz-M rocket to launch from Baikonur with a pair of satellites built by Orbital ATK: Eutelsat-5 West-B and the first Mission Extension Vehicle, MEV-1. The Eutelsat-5 West B satellite is based on Orbital ATK's GEOstar platform and carries communications payload developed at Airbus Defense and Space. During its ride to orbit on the Proton, Eutelsat-5 West-B will be stacked on top of the MEV-1 satellite. The two-launch agreement between Eutelsat and the International Launch Services, ILS, which markets Proton rockets to comercial customers, was announced on October 12, 2016. The deal also included the first order for the yet-to-be developed Proton-Medium rocket to carry an unidentified payload for Eutelsat in 2019 or 2020. The agreements for both launches were pre-arranged in a preliminary deal between ILS and Eutelsat, first announced in October of 2015.
December: A Soyuz-2-1a rocket to launch Meteor-M No. 2-2 meteorological satellite (postponed from October). The Soyuz-2-1b rocket for the mission arrived at Vostochny on June 18, 2018.
December: A Soyuz-2-1b rocket to launch Kanopus-V No. 5 and No. 6 remote-sensing satellites and a secondary payload of 12 Dove satellites from Vostochny (As of January 2018). The Soyuz-2-1b rocket for the mission arrived at Vostochny on June 18, 2018.
Uncertain launch dates
2018: A Soyuz rocket to launch Resurs-P No. 4 satellite.
After 2017: Soyuz rockets to launch SAR-Lupe-2 observation satellites. (As of September 2012)
End of 2018: Soyuz-2-1b rocket to launch an eight-ton OKA-T-MKS No. 1 (52KS) free-flyer module from Vostochny to be serviced from ISS during its five-year mission. The spacecraft would be used for research in the field of nanoelectronics, alloys, composite materials and biotechnology. (459) The launch was originally planned for 2015, however by fall 2011, it had to be postponed to 2017-2018, due to lack of potential customers. (521) In April 2013, the launch was promised at the end of 2018. (634)
Delayed from beginning of 2018: Russia to launch Kanopus-VM No. 1 satellite.
When first announced in 2006, the Lybid spacecraft was expected to fly in 2010, but it was later postponed until September 2011. In April 2010, the launch was promised in April 2012. However, according to the Yuzmash production plant in Dnipro, Ukraine, it received an order for the Zenit rocket to launch Lybid in 2011. In the meantime, the mission was delayed until the fourth quarter of 2013. In August 2014, Ukrainian space agency said that the spacecraft would be ready for launch in the fourth quarter of that year, however political problems between Russia and Ukraine kept the spacecraft on the ground.
Only in March 2017, there were first signs that the Lybid program might have a chance to get off the ground. In an interview with the Interfax-Ukraine news agency, Acting Head of Ukrainian Space Agency, GKAU, Yuri Radchenko said that before the end of that month, the Yuzhmash factory in Dnepr, Ukraine, was expected to pay Moscow-based NPO Energomash for the RD-171 engine to be installed on the fully assembled first stage of the Zenit rocket slated to launch Lybid. At the same time, industry sources said that personnel at Yuzhmash had began testing a fully assembled second stage of the Zenit for the Lybid mission.
As of September 2017, the launch of the Lybid satellite was postponed from the end of the year to the first quarter of 2018. Within a month, the launch date was narrowed down to the Jan. 1-10, 2018, period. However on Jan. 11, 2018, Yuzmash announced that it had been waiting for $8.245 million to complete the manufacturing of the Zenit rocket for the mission, which was now officially under an order from the TsENKI launch infrastructure center, a division of the Roskosmos State Corporation. By taking the formal ownership of the launcher, TsENKI, likely provided a political cover for the Lybid launch, necessary under the conditions of mutual sanctions between Moscow and Kiev. As of February 2018, it was unclear whether the satellite could be launched before the end of the year.
Postponed from 2017:
2017: Russia to launch the Kartograf-OE No. 1 remote-sensing satellite. (Before 2012, the launch was expected as early as 2014).
2017: Russia to launch Smotr-R No. 1 remote-sensing satellite.
Postponed from 2015:
End of 2015 - end of 2016: A Soyuz or Vega rocket to launch the 200-kilogram Taranis satellite into a quasi-sun-synchronous orbit with an altitude of 700 kilometers. Developed by the French space agency, CNES, the Taranis satellite (Tool for the Analysis of RAdiation from lightNIng and Sprites) will be a secondary payload during a mission to deliver multiple spacecraft. The satellite will study magnetosphere-ionosphere-atmosphere coupling via transient processes, focusing in particular on two aspects: determining the characteristics and frequency of transient luminous events (TLE) involved in the coupling between the ionosphere and atmosphere, and characterizing the electron beams accelerated from the atmosphere to the magnetosphere. The contract for the mission between Toulouse Space Center and Arianespace was announced on July 9, 2012. The agreement also included options for the launch of two other CNES satellites, Microscope and Merlin.
Postponed from December 2015: A Soyuz-2-1b/Fregat rocket to launch the Meteor-M remote-sensing satellite, along with a cluster of secondary payloads, including Flying Laptop, Flock 2, Scout, AISSat-3, Perseus-O1, Perseus-O2.
Postponed from 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 life span of the satellite to be launched into the 400-450-kilometer orbit was expected to increase to 60 days. (As of April 2009)
Postponed from around 2015: Russia to launch Kosmos-SKh satellite to monitor agricultural development from space.
Postponed from 2015: Russia to launch the Kartograf-OE No. 2 remote-sensing satellite.
Postponed from 2016:
2016: Soyuz-2-1b/Fregat-SB rocket to launch the Arkon-2M No. 2 remote-sensing satellites for all-weather radar observations of the Earth surface from a 550-600-kilometer Sun-synchronous orbit. 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.
Canceled Russian missions
Aug. 5: A Dnepr rocket to launch a pair of GRACE-FO scientific satellites for the European Space Agency, ESA, from a silo facility 370/13 in Dombarovsky. The mission was switched to a Falcon-9 rocket.
2017: Russia to launch Arkon-2 No. 1 radar remote-sensing satellite. As of 2008, the first launch of Arkon-2 was promised in 2011 (299), however during 2010-2012 period, the mission was expected in 2017.
2017: The Baiterek launch complex in Baikonur to host its first mission of the Angara rocket. (As of end of 2010. As of 2008, the first Angara mission from Baikonur was promised in 2012; by 2009, it slipped to 2014 and by 2011 to 2017. The program was canceled in 2012).
2017-2018: A Soyuz rocket with a Fregat upper stage to launch the first pair of a quartet of satellites from Plesetsk to study plasma within the Roy ("Swarm") project. Each 200-kilogram spacecraft would be based on the Karat platform with plasma-electric engines and carry around 60 kilograms of payload. Each spacecraft would carry a single magnetometer boom and four booms for measurement of Earth's electric field.
2017: A Dnepr rocket with a Krechet upper stage to launch Ukrainian Selena mini-orbiter toward the Moon. Developed by KB Yuzhnoe, Selena would be the first spacecraft in post-Soviet Ukraine designed to go beyond the Earth orbit. (Plans as of November 2011.) Ukrainian plans for developing a lunar station had been publicized during the crisis with the Russian Phobos-Grunt spacecraft and, possibly, were timed to facilitate contacts with Russia on a potential cooperative project in deep space. Ukraine's previous plans to launch a 300-kilogram lunar orbiter on the Zenit rocket stalled due to lack of funds. However, by scaling down the project to fit into a converted ballistic missile and, possibly, joining forces with Russia, could make the proposal affordable. It could be speculated, that after the Phobos-Grunt fiasco, Russian space strategists could be under pressure to fly an inexpensive test mission into deep-space before returning to ambitious and expensive planetary missions.
Read (and see) much more about the history of the Russian space program in a richly illustrated, large-format glossy edition:
Soyuz-2-1a lifts off on February 1, 2018, with a pair of Kanopus-V satellites and nine secondary payloads. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Progress MS-08 lifts off on Feb. 13, 2018. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
A Soyuz-2-1v rocket lifts off with the EMKA satellite on March 29, 2018. Click to enlarge. Credit: Russian Ministry of Defense