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ISS NASA Space Science

Russian Rocket Fleet Grounded Again 66

Velcroman1 writes "Failed pressure chamber tests have forced Russia to postpone two manned launches to the International Space Station — echoing a 2011 situation that left the country's space transport vehicles grounded and led to speculation that scientists may be forced to abandon the orbiting space base. Six astronauts are currently aboard the ISS including two Americans: Commander Dan Burbank and Flight Engineer Don Pettit. 'There is plenty of margin for the current space station crew to stay onboard longer, if necessary, and plenty of margin in our manifest for upcoming launches,' a NASA spokeswoman said. But Soyuz issues are scary nonetheless. 'This re-entry capsule now cannot be used for manned spaceflight,' an unnamed source told Interfax."
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Russian Rocket Fleet Grounded Again

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  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @03:28PM (#38843577) Homepage Journal

    While they manned launches have gone well, the failed re-supply and the failed mars probe suggest there's some quality control issues creeping into the program.

    • Me, I'm hoping the Falcon Heavy gets certified real soon. It might be the only non-Chinese Moon-capable rocket around.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      There are. Dig a bit and you'll find it's not a healthy program.

      Glancing thumbnail - When the Soviet space agency became Russian, it ended up under a new bureaucracy. Basic scrape-the-cream style; funnel off the funds, take some glory, ignore the service. Took about ten years to get ingrained. What funds did go into space projects went into new ones for headlines, pipedreams or otherwise. The launch system got completely neglected and is old machinery run by an aging, very poorly paid, group of engineers. I

    • by tgd ( 2822 )

      While they manned launches have gone well, the failed re-supply and the failed mars probe suggest there's some quality control issues creeping into the program.

      You can only go so many months without giving your rocket scientists a paycheck ...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hairyfeet ( 841228 )

      So why don't we work on man rating Atlas or Delta? It seems like we could get that off the ground a hell of a lot quicker than that "we'll recycle old shuttle parts!" clusterfuck that was constellation. Its pretty obvious there needs to be a not only plan B but a plan C and D if we are gonna keep going out there and both atlas and Delta have been used for ages and is well tested tech.

      Personally though i think we should just wash our hands of the whole "meatbags is spaaaace!" idea until we can come up wit

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        The idea was that sending humans up would become cheap and routine with the Shuttles, but of course that never happened. None the less the Russians put people in space for far less than it cost the US to, and seemingly no less safely when you look at the numbers.

        Could develop the technology to do it cheaply if we wanted to, but no-one seems to be willing to invest the cash to get to that stage. We are not even talking very much cash, relatively speaking. I am somewhat hopeful that the new asian space race w

        • Frankly I don't know if i trust the Russians figures, at least the figures from before the fall of the USSR. after all they didn't admit the failure of their moon program main launch vehicle until after the fall and if you look up "Lost Cosmonauts" on Google you'll find some pretty interesting recordings done by some Italian teens using WWII surplus on the side of a hill in the Russians flight path. those kids were just caught up in the "Sputnik craze' and didn't have any reason to lie or fake recordings an

    • It sounds like the designs are solid (which is not surprising, given that most of those - excepting Phobos-Grunt - mostly date back to USSR), it's the execution that's lacking these days. Yet another sign that industrial and research capacity that Russia inherited from the USSR is slowly crumbling...

    • When exactly did they NOT have quality control problems in their rocket programs? Back in the 50's, 60's, 70's, and 80's the chances of anyone even hearing about a problem was nil. Since they have opened their program for international use the problems can not be kept under the radar so to speak. And the bad part is that China bought the majority of their rocket tech from Russia to get their program going and China is not really known for quality. Hopefully they can improve their quality a little with the t
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yes indeed.

        Thanks Mr Von Braun.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Oddly the re-supply launched yesterday didn't fail and puts a bit of a dent in the cries of "it's not American so it must be trash". The answer is to stop whining until the USA is at a point where it can start participating itself.
  • This (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Friday January 27, 2012 @03:35PM (#38843693) Homepage Journal

    is exactly what I as talking about when people said we could save money grounding the fleet and use Russian launch capabilities.

    We can do two wars at a time, but not two launch systems. That has always pissed me off.

    • Re:This (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @03:43PM (#38843815) Homepage

      The weird thing is that we DO have significant launch capabilities. The Atlas and Delta [] systems have excellent safety records, they haven't been human rated for some odd reason. Seems like a good time to do some paperwork?

      • Re:This (Score:5, Informative)

        by robot256 ( 1635039 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @03:49PM (#38843891)

        Already in the works, these articles from last summer, and at least two companies planning to use the man-rated Atlas 5 rocket

      • Because NASA wants to be the only way for humans to get into space from the United States and they were all about Shuttle. From 1986 on, NASA was recommended to move away from Shuttle or find a replacement and despite Congressional and industry they never did.

        Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites have had to fight tooth and nail with the FAA for clearances because NASA has been lobbying the FAA to lock them down.

        • Re:This (Score:4, Informative)

          by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Friday January 27, 2012 @03:58PM (#38843995) Homepage Journal

          Nope. Sorry, I know far too many people at NASA for that to remotely ring true.

          However, Space flight is very dangerous, requires high label of engineering and maintenance, and is risky not jsut to the crew, but to everyone who wants to get to space. So there are a lot of details and NASA, being the experts, know what companies need to do. Companies OTOH get all pissy when they find out going to space is in no way like flying a plane and need to be held to a high standard, just like NASA.

          NASA has nothing to gain by limiting private companies. Being able to rational remove themselves from low orbit bus trips is something they would like see happen.

          Congress did NOTHING to help them move to a new launch vehicle. NASA originally didn't want a shuttle, they wanted specialized ships. One for people, and one for Cargo. Had congress allowed for that, we would have a more robust commercial launch system...probably.

          • You know people at NASA or you've followed NASA leadership and their two decades of indecision and failure to replace Shuttle?

            Shuttle C, DC-XA, Venture Star, the last 26 years are littered with failed programs because NASA couldn't decide what it wanted.

            • The X-37B program is currently an unmanned orbital shuttle that is much more dependable and capable than the old shuttle program. The old shuttle and the ISS are just R&D platforms that occassionally perform jobs like satelite repair but for the most part it was a gigantic and very expensive science project. A manned X-37B version has also been in the works for a few years. The X-37B program itself has actually carried out orbital missions under the control of the US Air Force command.
            • Re:This (Score:4, Interesting)

              by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Friday January 27, 2012 @05:34PM (#38845259) Journal
              I don't know about him but I'm friends with one of the engineers that designed the shuttle mockups (really cool stuff, he has a great shot of him pushing a 25+ ton model all by himself because it was so perfectly balanced, also got to hold some of the actual blueprints for the shuttle interior cargo hold he rescued from the trash) and he sadi too many politicians were involved and i for one believe him. you look at the map of where the shuttle parts were being built and it looked like a shotgun blast on the map of the USA because so many politicians wanted a piece of the action so him saying that nothing got approved that would hurt Congressman Porkus from bringing home the bacon rings true to me. After all look at how many bridges to nowhere and other completely pointless projects we've had over the years because it brought money in to the right senator's or congressman's district. Sadly that is the problem with large government projects, suddenly all the congressmen are squealing like little piggies and fighting for a spot at the trough, nobody gives a crap about the good of the country, just the good it'll do their re-election campaign.
      • Re:This (Score:4, Informative)

        by bobcat7677 ( 561727 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @04:46PM (#38844635) Homepage
        Atlas is in the process of being human rated...but they are taking quite a while to do it. Not projected to have it's rating till 2015. The Delta rockets have the right payload rating for Soyuz, but I am sure integrating the systems would be a problem. Even Space X's Dragon probably won't be human rated till 2015 even though it starts delivering cargo to the ISS in March...though there is an effort underway at SpaceX to try and speed up that process I think.
        • Even Space X's Dragon probably won't be human rated till 2015 even though it starts delivering cargo to the ISS in March.

          Not having kept up on ISS crew rotation schedules, but one of the reasons the latest Dragon flight was delayed was that there was a requirement that two of the ISS crew be trained in operation of the Dragon-control link used for docking to ISS.

          Unless there are two such guys up there right now, they won't be able to do the Dragon resupply-mission....

      • NASA's "We choose to go to the Moon, in this decade" mission was accomplished by hiring an army of personnel, and giving them almost limitless funding. The problem with this is that once the mission is accomplished, you have an army of personnel ^H^H^H^H^H voters sitting around twiddling their thumbs. So, to get elected, or to stay elected, you have to feed that army of voters. That means jobs. Okay Apollo-Soyuz. Then what? Space shuttle. Fine, but what's the shuttle going to do? International spac
      • Good luck.

        it's all about weight weight weight.... retrofitting with human environmental systems will reduce the already maxxed out payload capacity and could weaken the structure. These rockets are optimized for their payloads...

    • Re:This (Score:4, Informative)

      by notany ( 528696 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @04:25PM (#38844349) Journal

      But we can save money. Soyuz program is the most successful launch platform by wide margin. It's safe, cheap, reliable and can launch frequently. Soyuz has over 1700 successful launches. It's the closest thing to "space truck" that there is.

      • Soyuz program is the most successful launch platform by wide margin. It's safe, cheap, reliable and can launch frequently.

        Not really It's reliability is statistically indistinguishable from that of the Shuttle. (They differ by something like .1% or so.) It may be cheap, but it's also pretty low performance. (I.E. a subcompact is cheaper than a full size pickup truck, but only a fool would confuse them.)

        Soyuz has over 1700 successful launches.

        It also have a couple of hundred failed launches too.

    • Manrating a rocket takes a lot of cash - both up front for the "paperwork", if you like, to prove that the basic design is safe, and for every single rocket built to that design afterwards. The latter covers both the quality assurance work to make sure that that one particular rocket is safe, that all the bits and pieces that goes into it is safe and to pay for the made-to-a-higher-spec parts that goes into it.
      Manrating also adds to the time to build each rocket. I guess the US was too busy making sure the
  • Vladimir Popovkin, is this also the fault of HAARP?

  • Year of the Dragon (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @03:43PM (#38843809)

    From Space X's website : "Today marks the start of the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar, and this year, SpaceX's Dragon will become the first privately developed spacecraft to visit the International Space Station."

    I hope so, or we may eventually have to rely on Chinese launch capabilities.

  • So, by "failed pressure tests" they mean "Were found to be infested by mischievous bloggers who just walked casually past the crumbling walls of the launch site and were busy taking pictures inside"...
  • by ChrisCampbell47 ( 181542 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @04:05PM (#38844073)

    Alexei Krasnov, chief of piloted programs:

    "The malfunction was found in the service elements of the descent capsule....but no decision was taken to delay a forthcoming launch.

    Krasnov acknowledged that several days ago some problems really emerged....but the problems are related to a service element, rather than the descent capsule,

    Krasnov did not rule out that “the schedule of piloted missions will be revised,” but he sees no tragedy in this. “There are program reserves to deal with the emerged problem,” he underlined.

    “It is very good that upon the results of the tests we received critical remarks before the spaceship was brought to the Baikonur spaceport, because we have some time and possibilities to examine everything in detail,” Krasnov concluded. []

  • It would be great if Slashdot could link to ANY news media outlet other than Fox News. With them you always have to do defensive reading.

    • Well, you could always try RT: []

      (for those who don't get the joke -- RT is Russia Today, an English language news program which tends to bash the U.S. in general, and be borderline Russian propoganda. ... and right now, they don't have anything on this incident, but they'd probably have an interesting spin if/when they put it up.)

      Of course, anyone who really cared about other coverage can just put 'Soyuz' into Google News: []

      • by Clsid ( 564627 )

        That's my point, it's like getting a link to RT. Media that you know it's going to be heavily biased.

  • Title is misleading (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mercano ( 826132 ) <> on Friday January 27, 2012 @04:22PM (#38844291)

    The title of this story is misleading. It isn't the rockets that are grounded, its the spacecraft that sits on top of them.

    Also, for what it's worth, the shuttle wouldn't have been help matters much if the Russian's can't fly a Soyuz. While the shuttle is fine for swapping crews (in fact, the shuttle's runway landings are gentler than the Soyuz's parachute landings, a good thing for people who have spent the last six months in 0g), the shuttle can only fly a two week mission, meaning without a Soyuz attached to the station, we'd have to leave people in orbit without an immediate way home, a risk that neither NASA nor Roscomos is willing to take. The Soyuz itself is only rated for six months in orbit, giving them a limited window to fix the problems before we have to talk about unmanning the station.

  • this is all going to get real interesting. People screaming we should have kept flying the Shuttle, or we need Elon to rescue us, Fox News this or that, Newt's call for a moon colony. I can imagine the discussion that will be going on Alrighty folks, this thread is just begging for a car analogy and/or "In Soviet Russia..." (sorry I have no imagination so I'm depended on others to come up with a CA and ISA jokes).
  • Will this affect the upcoming SpaceX launch? IIRC it was already delayed for a couple of months last year when they had Soyuz troubles.

  • I love my Murdoch Block plugin. Here's a non-Fox News source [], which includes a back-link to their recent accident history.

  • Does it make sense to call rockets a "fleet", when they are just a single use disposable vehicle ?

  • Can we at least pretend this is an international space station? If we're going to list the crew, why list only the US members? The current crew aboard the ISS are: Dan Burbank (US), Oleg Kononenko (Russian), Anton Shkaplerov (Russian), Anatoly Ivanishin (Russian), Andre Kuipers (Dutch) and Don Pettit (US).

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong