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TerraN_EmpirE

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Russia’s Proton rocket grounded by poor quality control
More woes for the country's launch fleet
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2017/01/25 15:56 UTC

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Russia's most powerful operational rocket faces a new ban on all launches for at least a half a year, as the nation's space officials try to sort out egregious quality control problems within the industry. Russian media and unofficial sources in Moscow report the Roskosmos State Corporation recalled all Proton rocket engines in the wake of serious violations of their manufacturing procedures. As a result, Russia begins 2017 with practically its entire rocket fleet grounded.

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ESA / Stephane Corvaja, 2016

ExoMars 2016 launch
ExoMars 2016 lifted off on a Proton-M rocket from Baikonur, Kazakhstan at 09:31 UTC on March 14, 2016.
The Proton rocket last launched on June 9, 2016, delivering the Intelsat-31 communications satellite into the geostationary orbit. The mission was declared a success, but multiple unofficial sources and available flight data pointed at technical problems during the operation of the second stage. The Proton remained grounded for the rest of 2016, and its return to flight has been continuously delayed—first to January and then to February 2017.

In January, increasingly gloomy rumors about the state of affairs with Proton and its manufacturer, GKNPTs Khrunichev, circulated on the Internet; however, the company vehemently denied any serious problems with the rocket. On January 23, the Kazakh-based division of the Interfax news agency reported a likelihood of the unusually lengthy delay with Proton missions, which could last several months. A day later, the Kommersant newspaper reported a recent firing test had revealed technical problems with RD-0210 and RD-0212 engines, which propel the second and third stage of the Proton, rocket respectively.

The engine problems were reportedly traced to illegal replacement of precious heat-resistant alloys within the engine's components with less expensive but failure-prone materials. The report in the Kommersant echoed the results of the investigation into the 2015 Proton failure, which found that low-quality material in the turbo-pump shaft of the engine could lead to an accident.

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Anatoly Zak

Proton rocket launch statistics
On Jan. 20, 2017, Head of Roskosmos Igor Komarov chaired a meeting of top managers at the Voronezh Mechanical Plant, VMZ, which manufactures rocket engines, including those used on the third stage of the Soyuz rocket and on the second and third stages of Proton. The high-profile meeting followed a decision to return already manufactured RD-0110 engines from Soyuz rockets back to Voronezh, after the engine had been suspected to be a culprit in the loss of the Progress MS-04 cargo ship on Dec. 1, 2016, as it ascended to orbit onboard the Soyuz-U rocket.

According to Roskosmos, Ivan Koptev, Director General at VMZ, resigned due to poor quality control at the company and the January 20 meeting resulted in several decisions aimed to improve the production quality at VMZ. According to Kommersant, at the same meeting, Roskosmos also made a decision to recall dozens of Proton engines built at VMZ during past several years. It also initiated the quality control audit at VMZ conducted by a team of experts from another leading Russian rocket propulsion company: NPO Energomash in Moscow.

Under the most optimistic scenario, the Proton might not return to the launch pad earlier than June or July. As a result, Moscow now finds both of its main space transportation systems, Soyuz and Proton, plagued by quality control problems. To make matters worse, other rockets in the Russian fleet—Zenit, Dnepr and Rockot—were essentially lost due to the conflict with Ukraine. The grounding of the Russian rocket fleet comes at a time of increasing competition on the commercial launch market, making recovery measures even more urgent.

On February 27, the European consortium Arianespace plans to launch a Soyuz-ST rocket, which should restore confidence in at least one Russian-built rocket series and provide a morale boost for the beleaguered industry.

Despite major investments in the past decade, the companies comprising Roskosmos State Corporation continue suffering from brain drain, mismanagement, poor quality control and corruption. The latest high-profile problems with Proton are backdropped by many other lesser-known issues across the industry, including at GKNPTs Khrunichev. As an example, the company mismanaged the assembly of the Multi-Purpose Module, MLM, for the International Space Station, and the development of the new-generation Angara rocket. Both projects ended up nearly two decades behind schedule. After two successful launches in 2014, the Angara is nowhere to be seen and Khrunichev remains tight-lipped about its flight schedule. According to unofficial reports, the second Angara-5 rocket, which was assembled at the company's brand-new manufacturing base in Siberia, ended up being unfit for flight due to defects. In the meantime, the company's present and former employees posted a number of revealing accounts on the Internet telling tales of mismanagement and corruption behind its doors.
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bd popeye

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The 45th Space Wing supports United Launch Alliance’s successful launch of the third Space Based Infrared Systems Geosynchronous Earth Orbit spacecraft aboard an Atlas V rocket from Launch Complex 41 Jan. 20, 2017, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The launch is the first major launch operation of 2017 on the Eastern Range and kicks off what is predicted to be a busy year. (Courtesy photo/United Launch Alliance)
 

TerraN_EmpirE

Tyrant King
A soccer ball recovered from the Challenger space shuttle finally made it into space aboard the International Space Station
Image via @Twitter
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Posted Wed, Feb 8, 2017


The Challenger space shuttle disaster on January 28, 1986 was one of the darkest moments in modern American history. The tragedy stunned the nation and dealt a severe blow to the NASA space program.

Only 73 seconds after takeoff, a rocket booster exploded due to a faulty o-ring, killing all the astronauts on board. While many remember that schoolteacher Christa McCauliffe died in the accident, 7 other crew members were also killed. One of those was mission specialist Ellison Onizuka.

A recent article from
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explained that among the personal items Onizuka brought aboard the Challenger was a soccer ball in honor of his daughter who played soccer at Clear Lake High School in Texas.

Following the explosion, the soccer ball was incredibly recovered among the tons of debris from the crash.

30 years later, the ball that never reached space aboard the Challenger has finally made it.

American astronaut Shane Kimbrough, who is currently aboard the International Space Station, tweeted out a photo of Onizuka’s soccer ball floating inside the space station.

He brought the ball with him on his most recent trip to honor Onizuka and the fallen crew of the Challenger. Incredible.

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This ball was on Challenger that fateful day. Flown by Ellison Onizuka for his daughter, a soccer player
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.
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It turns out, Kimbrough’s daughter attends Clear Lake High School, the same high school Onizuka’s daughter attended at the time of the Challenger crash. He decided to take it with him to complete its trip.

Goosebumps.
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TerraN_EmpirE

Tyrant King
Dream Chaser Off To Flying Restart
Aug 30, 2017
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| Aerospace Daily & Defense Report

  • SNC

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    ’s newest International Space Station cargo provider on Wednesday resumed atmospheric flight tests of its Dream Chaser vehicle, a winged space plane originally intended to ferry astronauts to the station but reborn—with 85% the same design—as a robotic freighter.

    It was the first airborne test of
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    .’s (SNC) Dream Chaser vehicle in nearly four years.

    A
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    Chinook helicopter lifted the 30-ft. (9.1-meter) long Dream Chaser atmospheric test vehicle off the runway at
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    ’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California at 7:21 a.m. PDT (14:21 GMT). After burning down fuel to lighten its load, the helicopter headed to a drop box 12,500 ft. (3,810 meters) above the ground for practice laps that lasted until the gas tank ran dry 101 min. later.

    “Since we last flew the vehicle we’ve significantly upgraded it. We have redundant avionics onboard now. We actually have orbital vehicle avionics onboard to include the flight computers, the flight software, the radar altimeters, the GPS/INS systems [inertial navigation system] and everything,” said Steve Lindsey, a five-time shuttle astronaut who serves as SNC’s vice president of Space Exploration Systems.

    The test served multiple purposes. SNC is using the CH-47 for the first time and wanted to assess how Dream Chaser performed underneath that helicopter before a drop test later this fall.

    “We’re going to do practice laps just like we’d be doing on the drop test day so it will exercise all of the avionics in an integrated fashion, make sure everything’s working. We’re specifically going to get aerodynamic data on a what’s called our flush air data system,” Lindsey told Aviation Week before the test.

    “Last time we flew, we had a long test boom on the vehicle, that’s where we got the air speed and altitude and angle of attack and things like that,” Lindsey said. “[Now] we have a flush system, which matches our orbital vehicle system, so we’re going to test that.”

    The captive-carry test also gave SNC’s control team an opportunity to get the vehicle into the drop box and exercise procedures for an actual flight test day. Following a final tow test on Friday and another captive-carry flight later in September, SNC could be ready to support a drop test around mid-October.

    “We’ll take the data … we’ll assess it, make sure that our final flight software and all of our avionics are integrated properly and working exactly as we expect before we go on to free flight,” Lindsey said. “If all goes well, we think about mid-October or so, but it will depend on the data we get out of these tests on what day we actually go for. We’ll fly when we’re ready, bottom line.”

    Wednesday’s test also fulfilled one of the final milestones of SNC’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) Program contract with NASA. The U.S. space agency passed on Sierra Nevada’s follow-on bid to build and fly Dream Chaser under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) program. NASA instead opted for
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    ’s Crew Dragon and
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    ’s CST-100 Starliner. Those companies aim to initiate orbital human space flight services before the end of next year.

    NASA did decide to add the sleek Dream Chaser, a modern version of its own 90’s-era HL-20, to open a third U.S. supply line to the station. Dream Chaser will join SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon and Orbital ATK’s Cygnus fleet in resupplying the orbital outpost through 2024 and possibly beyond. Dream Chaser’s first flight to the station is expected around 2020.
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bd popeye

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Airmen and testers from the 418th Flight Test Squadron, Army and NASA personnel, prepare a mockup of a NASA Orion spacecraft aboard a C-17 Globemaster on loan from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Dec. 15. The spacecraft was airdropped over the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona as part of a test of the craft’s parachute landing system. NASA is continuing contingency tests of the Capsule Parachute Assembly System, or CPAS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher A. Okula)
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A mockup of an Orion spacecraft is released from a C-17 Globemaster III Dec. 15 over the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. Airmen and testers from the 418th Flight Test Squadron joined Army, NASA and contractor personnel to participate in the test of the Orion’s parachute landing system. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher A. Okula)
 

bd popeye

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PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 18, 2018) Sailors attached to the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23) help NASA engineers guide back the Orion test article into the ship, Jan. 18. Anchorage is underway to support NASA’s Orion spacecraft Underway Recovery Test 6 (URT-6). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Natalie Byers)
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PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 18, 2018) Sailors assist with Orion test article recovery operations in the well deck aboard the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23), Jan. 18. Anchorage is underway to support NASA’s Orion spacecraft Underway Recovery Test 6 (URT-6). (U.S. Navy photo by Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Matthew Jones)
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PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 18, 2018) Seaman Noah McDonell watches as the NASA’s Orion Boilerplate Test Article (BTA) is pulled into the well deck of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23), Jan. 18. Anchorage is underway to support NASA’s Orion spacecraft Underway Recovery Test 6 (URT-6). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carrel Regis)
 

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SAN DIEGO (Jan. 25, 2018) Capt. Dennis Jacko, commanding officer of San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23), talks to local media during a press conference on Naval Base San Diego. Anchorage recently conducted an underway recovery test as part of a U.S. government interagency effort to safely practice and evaluate recovery processes, procedures, hardware and personnel in an open ocean environment that will be used to recover the Orion spacecraft upon its return to Earth. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse Monford/Released)
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PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 21, 2018) U.S. Navy divers from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 3 detach a harness from NASA's Orion test vehicle to the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23. Anchorage is underway to support NASA's Orion spacecraft Underway Recovery Test 6 (URT-6). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Natalie M. Byers/Released)
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PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 21, 2018) U.S. Navy Divers assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 3 in a Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRC) attach a stabilization collar to NASA's Orion test article during testing with the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23), Jan. 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Natalie M. Byers)
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PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 22, 2018) NASA's Orion test article is pulled into the well deck of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23) using NASA's line load attenuation mechanism assembly. (U.S. Navy by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carrel Regis/Released)
 

Dolcevita

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Normally reliable Ariane 5 rocket undershoots dropping off SES-14 and Al Yah 3 in wrong transfer orbit
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| Jan 26, 2018
The Ariane 5 rocket has had its first actual launch failure – or rather partial failure – after 82 successful flights performed over 15 years. Following its apparently successful lift off from its Kourou launch site at 1920 GMT on 25 January 2017, the Ariane 5 ECA flight VA241 carrying the SES-14 and Al-Yah 3 communications satellites had an apparent launch anomaly when contact was lost seconds into the firing of its upper stage. Despite no signal from the launch vehicle (second tracking station located in Natal, Brazil could not pick this up), the first and heaviest of the satellite pair SES-14 was later confirmed as having separated as planned, as was the Al-Yah 3 spacecraft which had been due to be released some eight minutes later.

However SES-14’s owner and operator SES later confirmed that the satellite had been undershot into a lower transfer orbit than planned. In fact the launch was originally headed for a “super-synchronous” elliptical transfer orbit (45,234 x 250km orbit at 3 degrees inclination) whose apogee was over 9,000km higher than the 36,000km of a “normal” elliptical geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). This higher apogee is more efficient orbital inclination removal and more fuel efficient overall despite the fact that this apogee has to be lowered back to 36,000km (in addition to the perigee being raised), in order to reached the circular 36,000km geostationary Earth orbit (GEO).

The fact that Arianespace was “aiming high” for this flight(super-synchronous transfer orbits are rarely used by Arianespace) might have made the result of the launch undershoot/inaccuracy less damaging than it otherwise might have been the case – especially given the inclination error. Unofficial reports indicate that the spacecraft were left in orbits circa 43,200 x 232km which is only slightly lower than planned, but with inclination of 20 degrees – dramatically different from that expected. This would seem to indicate a major guidance or software error during the flight. A misdirected launch might account for the loss of signal if the upper stage was heading in an unexpected direction.

SES later reassured its clients and insurers that the spacecraft was still expected to reach its final position in GEO using its electric thruster propulsion, albeit some four weeks later than planned. The spacecraft was insured for US$350 million although no claim is expected.


Ariane 5 ECA launch carrying Al Yah 3 and SES-14. Courtesy: Arianespace



There was no word from Yahsat, the owners of Al-Yah 3, except to note that it was on its way to its GEO position. It carries both conventional bi-propellant chemical apogee motor propulsion for orbital circularisation and inclination removal, but has electric thrusters for small orbital manoeuvres. These might yet be pressed into service during the recovery. As such, any recovery may well incur a significant life loss and hence may generate an insurance claim. That spacecraft was insured under two main policies – one covering the satellite to a value of US$195.8 million for launch plus one year in orbit, which in addition had a further policy covering the satellite to an extra US$30 million for total loss only.

A full investigation into the cause of the partial failure is now underway. All future Ariane 5 flights are expected to be suspended until the results of this are evaluated.
 
Can't believe no one posted anything on SpaceX's launch and landing yesterday.

Here’s what’s next for SpaceX after Falcon Heavy’s first flight
More launches, bigger rockets, and deeper challenges await
By Sean O'[email protected] Feb 7, 2018, 10:31am EST
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The first launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket was mostly a success for SpaceX. The middle rocket core broke apart when it crashed into the water next to the company’s autonomous drone ship, and the Tesla payload overshot its target. But the launch was an otherwise excellent showcase of what the Falcon Heavy is supposed to be all about: big-time power to propel big-time payloads.

So what comes next for the private spaceflight company? The answer has three parts: one for each of SpaceX’s current and future rockets. There is, of course, the Falcon Heavy itself. But it’s partially made up of Falcon 9s, reliable rockets in their own right, and the current money-makers for SpaceX. Also, last year, Elon Musk announced the Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR. The company’s immediate future will be all about finding a balance between the first two until the BFR is ready to fly.

FALCON HEAVY
The next launch of the Falcon Heavy won't be for another “three to six months,” according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. The cadence for Falcon Heavy flights depends on two things, Musk said: the rate at which the company can produce the center section of the rocket, and customer demand. The outer boosters are easy to produce because they’re just Falcon 9 boosters with nose cones attached. The Falcon Heavy’s center core uses the same engines as a Falcon 9 booster, but the rest of the metal tube, known as the rocket’s airframe, has to be upgraded for each flight.

So, Musk says, the rate of Falcon Heavy flights is “is really [dependent on] production rate of the airframe of the center core.” Since that’s the main difference, he says, “we can really produce Falcon Heavies at a pretty rapid rate. Whatever the demand is, we’ll be able to meet it.”

THE FALCON HEAVY “CAN LAUNCH THINGS DIRECT TO PLUTO AND BEYOND. NO STOP NEEDED.”
That demand is hard to parse at the moment. There are a few launches scheduled for 2018, such as a large Saudi Arabian communications satellite and a test payload for the US military. But Musk envisions “several” Falcon Heavy launches a year, a point he reiterated this week.

“The great thing about Falcon heavy is that it opens up a new class of payload,” he said. “It could launch one more than twice as much payload as any other rocket in the world, so it’s up to customers what they might want to launch. But it can launch things direct to Pluto and beyond. No stop needed.”


In the meantime, the company will also be working on fixing the problem that doomed the central core’s landing. Musk has said the plan with the Falcon Heavy is to recover “at least two of the three cores” on each flight, though recovering all three would be ideal. And SpaceX has a good idea of what went wrong with the third landing. The rocket needs three of the nine engines to land, and only one lit up. So that’s where they’ll start.

The next Falcon Heavy won’t reuse any of the major pieces that survived this flight. The two side boosters that went up this week, which had already flown on their own Falcon 9 missions, are being retired. They are older versions of the Falcon 9 architecture, and the company only wants to refly the newest versions of Falcon 9 rockets from now on, Musk said in a post-flight press conference. So, the next Falcon Heavy launch, whenever it is, will be powered by a brand-new center core and two other side boosters.

The company might, however, reuse the cross-hatched pieces of metal at the top of each rocket that help guide it safely to the ground, which are called grid fins. Musk mused in the post-launch press conference about how happy he was to have recovered them. They take a long time to produce, he said, especially since the company began making them out of titanium. “Those frickin’ grid fins, they’re super expensive,” he said. “That was the most important thing to recover.”
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