Showing posts with label Moon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Moon. Show all posts

Monday, 21 September 2009

Modules named

Via Anik at, the modules have been officially named, listed in launch order:

  1. МИМ-2/MIM-2/MRM-2 – «Поиск»/Poisk/“Search” (launch 15/8/2009)
  2. МИМ-1/MIM-1/MRM-1 – «Рассвет»/Rassvet/“Dawn” (8/4/2010)
  3. МЛМ/MLM/MLM – «Наука»/Nauka/“Science” (December 2011)

“Russia celebrates half a century since touching the moon”, Energiya/RT, 14/9. It is 50 years since an unmanned Soviet spacecraft, Luna-2, landed on the lunar surface.

Crunch time for Russia Mars probe”, BBC News, 14/9. Roskosmos was to decide whether the Phobos-Grunt probe should be delayed until the 2011 launch window; it confirmed this on the 16th as the flight control systems need more testing to confirm reliability. Disappointing, but better safe than sorry.

A PDF document, “ISS Program International Cooperation, Paris, June 17, 2009” (500 KB), can be downloaded from NASA; it is a Russian Powerpoint plan of future developments, reproduced below:

Head of Russian Federal Space Agency – ISS Program International Cooperation – Paris, June 17, 2009

1. Roscosmos View On NASA Current Plan For Human Space Flight

  • Critical to the ISS program implementation are the issues of technical and transportation support (crew rotation, crew rescue, cargo delivery, etc.).
  • Roscosmos welcomes NASA endeavor to speed up the development of the new piloted transportation system “Orion” and the new launch vehicle “ARES-1”.
  • Successful implementation of Commercial Orbital Transportation Services for the ISS would allow to streamline technical and transportation support of the station and to make it more systematic and stable.
  • NASA human space flight program looks quite balanced and promising to us.

2. Cooperation with NASA in ISS Program

  • Roscosmos-NASA cooperation over recent years has provided the following results:
    • After Columbia accident in 2003 the permanent crew presence on the ISS was ensured and maintained;
    • The ISS international crews rotation has been conducted including rescue capability in case of contingency situations; the ISS cargo delivery and utilization has been ensured taking into account the planned Space Shuttle retirement in 2010;
    • ISS US Segment deployment has been completed;
    • The launch of Soyuz TMA in May 2009 increased the ISS crew up to six persons.
  • Cooperation experience accumulated by Roscosmos and NASA allows us to proceed to the next stage of ISS utilization: a full-scale implementation of the national programs of scientific experiments in space and ISS utilization as an international space laboratory.

3. Desirability of ISS Operation Beyond 2016

  • Completion of the ISS US segment deployment as well as Roscosmos plans to additionally equip the ISS Russian segment in the nearest future will significantly increase the ISS scientific potential.
  • By 2015 the ISS will have the unique capabilities for scientific research in space, engineering development and implementation of humanitarian, educational and commercial projects.
  • Taking into account these circumstances, as well as recommendations approved at June 2008 meeting of Heads of Agencies Roscosmos considers it expedient to prolong the ISS utilization term up to 2020 at the minimum.

4. Russia Future Plans For Human Space Flight Program

  • The prospective plans for the Russian human space flight are determined by the Federal Space Program of Russia for the period from 2006 to 2015, the Concept of Russian Human Space Flight Development till 2020 and a number of other documents.
  • The main objectives of the future human space flights are:
    • Exploration and efficient utilization of the near Earth space.
    • Study and exploration of the Moon, Mars and deep space in order to resolve global problems on the Earth and in space and to generate new knowledge for the benefit of the humankind.
  • In order to achieve the above mentioned goals we expect to make the following steps in the timeframe till 2020:
    • Complete the assembly of the ISS Russian Segment and to continue its utilization in full configuration;
    • Provide the creation of the prospective crew transportation system based on a new generation piloted spacecraft;
    • Build and prepare for operation the first elements of the orbital assembly experimental piloted space complex by the end the ISS life cycle;
    • Develop elements, technologies and key systems of prospective interplanetary complexes for missions to the Moon and Mars, and develop new means and methods of biomedical support to ensure long-term human space flights, including the interplanetary flights, and so on.

5. Future Interaction With NASA In Space Exploration

  • The experience gained by Russia, US and Europe in the area of piloted space complexes and their long-term utilization, including the ISS activities, allows us to proceed to the implementation of the larger-scale projects, in particular, the development of piloted spacecraft for missions to the Moon and Mars.
  • Roscosmos supports the necessity of involving technical and scientific potential of other countries for such large-scale projects implementation.
  • Russia finds acceptable those projects which ensure equal rights of partners who will share the obtained results and also Russia’s participation in the development of critical elements (launch vehicles, power propulsion systems, technologies and experience of long-term crew life support in space).
  • In this connection Roscosmos considers it expedient to establish the international joint expert group to conduct comprehensive analysis of integration feasibility in the sphere of space exploration.

6. What has Roscosmos learned from the ISS partnership?

  • Apparently, the ISS lessons show that any critical element in the project should have a backup (should be redundant). As a rule, such elements include launch vehicles, crew and cargo transportation spacecraft and Mission Control Centers.
  • During the utilization phase the redundancy should be provided by various modules and project elements for the specific functions such as habitation, power supply and, partly, the payload complexes and systems.
  • The ISS could serve as a unique test stand for developing advanced technologies. This process has already started and will expand as we accumulate more experience and capabilities for autonomous stay on the ISS.
  • The ISS lessons show that educational and public outreach activities are very important for attracting the young people’s interest to space.
  • The ISS international management structure has already demonstrated its success. It would make sense to apply this experience to other big international projects.

7. How would you characterize the Russian obligations and that of the US to the ISS in terms of its operational life?

  • The main tasks of Russia and the US at this point are as follows:
    • maintenance of operation of the ISS Russian and US Segments for implementation of the national programs of space experiments and research;
    • fulfillment of mutual obligations under existing international arrangements;
    • maintenance of ground infrastructure for the ISS nominal operation;
    • transportation and technical provision of the ISS according to the agreements achieved with NASA in view of the Shuttle retirement in 2010;
    • participation in managing the ISS program (the ISS coordination boards and groups);
    • provision of the ISS efficient utilization.
  • We believe that the Unites States, as the main coordinator of the project, will promote stable and planned implementation of the ISS program, including the transportation and technical provision of the station, the required conditions for the crew presence onboard, improvement of the station control structure, etc.

8. How does ISS and its extension past 2015 connect to Russia's future plans for human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit?

  • By the end of the ISS life cycle Roscosmos plans to develop and prepare for operation the first elements of the orbital assembly experimental piloted space complex which will become a basis for engineering development for future human missions to Mars beyond 2030.
  • It is impossible to create such a complex without a preliminary testing of its elements in space and verification of engineering solutions and technologies.
  • The ISS operation experience demonstrates that the station utilization allows to solve the unique tasks of extending the life of both the station elements and the automatic space instruments (space telescopes, etc) in autonomous flight. This adds another good argument in favor of the ISS program extension till 2020 and beyond.

Accompanying diagrams:

MIM-2 module MIM-1 module MLM module ISS with MLM module ISS RS Stage 2 CSTS

Sunday, 26 July 2009

What never was

From NK №796. Reminisces by Academican Mikhail Marov on why the USSR’s manned lunar program was unsuccessful, and of watching the Moon landing from TsUP.

21/07/2009/20:53 – The Soviet machines did as much science as the American “Apollo” – scientist

The Soviet program for the exploration of the Moon using robotic missions brought about the same amount of basic science knowledge as the U.S. “Apollo” manned missions, but were much cheaper, said Academician Mikhail Marov, who was one of the developers for the Soviet lunar program.

“I can say that we have got equivalent results, because we have sampled a substance, we investigated, and it was a major task. Moreover, we received very meaningful results from the automatic lunar rover or mobile devices, they worked on the surface for many months,” said the Agency representative.

However, he stressed that he does not want to minimize the scientific value of these flights. Marov recalled that one of the members of the Apollo expedition – Harrison Schmitt – a professional geologist: “And he walked on the moon with hammers, and, of course, he, being a professional, garnered much important geological information.”

“Man is a very important component, because he is much more able to multi-task, he is able to adapt to the challenges he poses for himself. But this in no way underestimates the role of machines as well,” said the Agency representative.

21/07/2009/20:53 – The Soviet moon landing program was prevented by the death of Korolyov – opinion

That the Soviet program of manned flights to the Moon did not take place is largely due to the sudden death of Chief Designer Sergei Korolyov, and also because of problems with the carrier – the N-1 rocket, said one of the participants of the Soviet lunar program, Academician Mikhail Marov.

Korolyov had always dreamed about exploring the Moon and, of course, it is surprising that less than two years after launching the first satellite we were able to implement the first launches to it, said Marov.

He recalled that the Soviet probe Luna-2 in September 1959 was the first one in the world to land on the lunar surface. Then this program was successfully developed, but in 1961, following the flight of Gagarin, the “Moon race” started – U.S. President John Kennedy's message to Congress set a target of within 10 years to plant people to the moon, and thus negate the achievements of Soviet space exploration.

“We could not surpass this, and our efforts at the Design Bureau Korolyov start the program to grow. But there were many difficulties, and the main difficulty was the development of the heavy vehicle N-1 – the equivalent of the American Saturn-5, with the help of which were carried out expeditions to the Moon,” said Marov. The N-1 heavy vehicle, which was to bring the Soviet L3 lunar spacecraft to the Moon, had suffered setbacks since the first launch in February 1969. All four test launches ended in disaster. The American lunar vehicle Saturn-5 first launched in November 1967.

“If you now look at the situation in retrospect, I believe that our failure to a very high degree was associated with the sudden death of Korolyov in January 1966, and this, of course, had very, very harmful consequences,” said the Academician. Korolyov died in January 1966, several days after a routine operation.

21/07/2009/20:53 – Soviet-era TsUP met the landing of Americans on the Moon with silence – Academician

The Soviet military, engineers and scientists, observing the disembarkation of American astronauts on the moon in the Mission Control Center near Moscow, responded to this event with silence, remembers one of the participants of the Soviet lunar program, academician Mikhail Marov.

Exactly 40 years ago, on 20 July 1969, American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left the landing module Eagle and became the first humans to set foot on the lunar surface. “I watched this in the mission control center, Korolyov, Moscow. This information was not broadcast on normal television, but was broadcast on the big screen in TsUP. We observed all phases of flight carefully, but the culmination, of course, was the landing,” said Marov, who already in those years was one of the leading researchers of the Institute of Applied Mathematics, Keldysh, which was developed by the Soviet lunar program of study.

He remembers that he experienced contradictory feelings, which in his opinion, did not differ from those of colleagues.

“First – this is certainly admirable – I saw such a landmark event, which was a few years ago and the dream it was not easy. And, of course, I was delighted that this was realized in the lifetime of my generation when I could witness it,” said the scientist. “And the second feeling was, but why have we not done this. We are also able to do it.”

However, those assembled in TsUP did not express their emotions. “For the most part they were silent. At the time, space was controlled by the military to a very strong degree. There were a lot of military generals, conservative, tough-minded people. They were silent. There was admiration, applause,” remembers Marov. According to him, the professionals assembled understood what a colossal achievement this was, and how this was a great engineering achievement.

“Although later it became clear that Americans on several occasions were literally on the verge of breakdown, including the first flight, but they did have great flexibility in system management, and had superbly trained crew to ensure perfect execution of the program,” said the Academician.

Russia getting humans first to Mars would make up for the disappointment of missing out on the Moon.

Unraveling Russia’s moon riddles”, James Oberg,, 24/7. Many Soviet-era space artifacts ended up being auctioned off in the West, rather sadly, because those in the space program at the time needed money more.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Moon melancholy

The 40th anniversary of the first Apollo Moon landing is coming up, so there is a lot of blather and angst in the media and on various forums. No Russian cosmonaut has yet been out of low Earth orbit – one wonders if they ever will. The anniversary has inevitably brought out the Paranoid Patriots, as evidenced in these quotes:

Now potential rivals such as China seek to challenge US dominance in space, and some see the new space race as once again a battle between ideologies.

“From the point of view of the future of the western world and its Asian allies it’s imperative that the US, Europe, Japan, Australia, Canada and other like-minded countries be competitive in deep space,” Moonwalker and geologist Harrison Schmitt told AFP.

Schmitt said he believed that “non-democratic nations of the world, China, Russia and maybe others, fully intend to be dominant in space…[and] gain that kind of prestige, that kind of advantage in technology and education and other fields that come with being the dominant space power.

“With the Apollo program we taught them how,” said Schmitt, who was the last astronaut to step out of a lunar craft and onto the moon surface in 1972.

– “Space, man’s greatest challenge, 40 years after Moon walk”, Space Daily, 12/7/2009

STS-127 Atlantis is still trying to launch; it has had 4 scrubs so far! Originally to have launched on 13 June, the first delay was due to a hydrogen gas vent leak; the second because of a work light knob embedded between the pressure pane on Atlantis’ pilot window and the dashboard panel, and the last two because of thunderstorms. The next attempt is in a few hours. A very frustrating process for all involved, as the orange External Tank has to be drained and refueled each time, and the Shuttle crew has to prepare themselves, only to be disappointed. (Maybe they should try sacrificing a goat.) The Soyuz manned rocket launches are, in contrast, rarely delayed (I don’t know if any have been).

Posters at the Novosti Kosmonavtiki forum are not too impressed with the proposed names (6/7/2009 entry) for the next 3 Russian ISS modules, describing them as “utilitarian”, lacking in romanticism, difficult to pronounce (i.e. too long) and imitating NASA’s pointedly symbolic names. Some proposed are: «Спектр», Spektr (Spectrum), «Природа» Priroda (Nature), «Радуга», Raduga (Rainbow), «Горизонт», Gorizont (Horizon). The names are “recycled” (used on previous projects, such as the Mir space station) but are nicer than the officially-proposed ones.

Progress M-02M successfully performed a re-rendezvous test today to verify the new passive KURS-P system antennas and TORU target installation accuracy at the SM PkhO (Service Module Transfer Compartment) zenith port. There was some nervousness about this as a similar 1997 Progress (M-34) rendezvous with Mir bumped into the space station.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Grumpy Old Moonwalker

As reported at NASA Watch, former Moonwalker Harrison “Jack” Schmitt resigned from the Planetary Society, apparently miffed over the direction their goals have taken (as stated in this press release): namely, focus on a manned mission to Mars first (rather than the Moon) as a goal, and strive for international co-operation. These are laudable goals in my opinion (the Moon has been landed on and is rather boring anyway – unless there happen to be mysterious alien monoliths to be discovered!), but it’s brought out the Cranky Conservatives in the comments, who are paranoid and insular, and are horrified at the prospect of co-operating with “them foreigners”. I posted a somewhat irate comment:

He’s a cranky old conservative with outdated, insular views (like some of the posters above :-P ). I’d love to see an INTERNATIONAL Mars mission!! [From an exasperated 38-year-old female :-)]

He also thinks global warming a hoax, which doesn’t say much for his scientific credibility.

One would think that the humbling experience of seeing the Earth from the Moon would have broadened his views, but apparently not.

I would, in fact, rather have seen an international Mars mission launched, rather than the ISS project, but too late for that now.

40 Years Later, It’s Moon Race 2.0”, TIME magazine, 13/11. The media seems obsessed to a tedious degree with the prospect of a “space race”. Nations new to spaceflight are sending out space probes, namely India (who landed a probe last week from the Chandrayaan-1 Moon satellite) , China and Japan. Russia barely gets a mention except as providers of the Soyuz taxi service to the ISS; a sad contrast to the Soviet era.

Russian ISS spacecraft producer Energia gets $106 mln loan”, RIAN, 17/11. Energiya managed to get bank credit to allow them to construct more Soyuz and Progress spacecraft (2.9 billion rubles for a period of up to 12 November 2010).

A Russian resurgence? (part two)”, The Space Review, 17/11.

I neglected to mention that this blog is now just over 2 years old! Not that it is hugely popular…

My Firefox browser is currently reporting the Russian Federal Space Agency site as an attack site, possibly through third-party applications (a reason not to use these):

Malicious software is hosted on 3 domain(s), including,, 2 domain(s) appear to be functioning as intermediaries for distributing malware to visitors of this site, including,

Hope they fix that soon! Considering it’s an official government site, it is rather poor!

Friday, 25 January 2008

30 years of Progress

Energiya press release: 20 January 2008 marked 30 years since the launch of the first Progress cargo ship. The Progress ships have served the Russian space program reliably (and mostly been ignored in the media). ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle cargo ship uses Russian propellant and tanks in its design, and the first launch is currently set for 22 February. It will dock to the aft of the Zvezda Service Module.

(Tass newspaper frontpage via Novosti Kosmonavtiki)

From Novosti Kosmonavtiki news №679:

20/01/2008/08:35 – Russian scientists will conduct a series of experiments to investigate the Moon, including the use of Japanese instruments

The project “Luna-Glob” (Luna-Globe) is planned to solve complex research tasks for the Study of Earth satellite, said Lev Zelenyi, the director of the Institute for Space Research at the Russian Academy of Sciences. The project “was broadened. It includes several phases, including the dumping on the surface of the Moon of so-called penetrators to study our satellite,” said Lev Zelenyi.

He explained that penetratory (impact penetrating probes) are planned to be fired from the automatic spacecraft, which will be placed in the Moon’s orbit. The probes under the action of lunar gravity will drive away also at a high speed and enter into the soil of the Moon at the depth of several meters. The on-board sensors, which operate from autonomous power supplies, can transmit information about the composition and the properties of lunar soil, and the seismic characteristics of Earth’s natural satellite. “It was decided to use penetrators of Japanese production, since the Russian technologies in this region can be considered lost,” reported L. Zelenyi.

Besides the use of impact probes, the “Luna -Glob” project provides for the launch of lunar orbital apparatuses, and over the long term and the creation of a rover landing station, which will travel across the lunar surface.

The equipment installed on the orbital devices, in the words of L. Zelenyi, in particular, will have to investigate the exosphere of the Moon, the space around it, and also magnetic and gravity anomalies whose nature is not yet clear.

Furthermore, on the orbital lunar apparatus will be established the instrument “LORD”, designed to study ultra-high-energy cosmic rays. The device would capture elementary particles with enormous speed and energy. Under normal circumstances, such a particle can not be caught by any devices, since they can easily pass through layers of any substance. The “LORD” instrument will recover those particles of superhigh energies, which “after piercing” the Moon, will be slowed down, said L. Zelenyi.

The China gambit”, The Space Review, 21/1. Article by Dwayne Day on how the USA could involve China in its space program (mainly the ISS) and use such involvement as leverage against Russia should the latter country become hostile and deny astronauts access to space via Soyuz flights once the Shuttle program is shut down. A pragmatic plan I guess, though it comes across as somewhat patronizing; of the dominant country “managing” others. Equally, Russia and China could team up to “manage” the USA! So it’s a 3-way game.

Manber’s proposal is clever and thought-provoking. He has not simply proposed cooperation with China for its own sake, or even for the benefit of improving relations with China, but to use such cooperation as a lever against the Russians. This is not the first time that someone has proposed that encouraging China in space could have strategic benefits for the United States—four years ago I wrote about the benefits of a cooperative/competitive space race with China (see “The benefits of a new space race”, The Space Review, April 26, 2004), suggesting that we encourage them to spend money on human spacecraft instead of missiles. But Manber is apparently the first to suggest that we use China to moderate the Russians, something that Nixon gained as a side benefit of his China rapprochement nearly four decades ago.

“Russia To Raise Space Funding, Build New Space Center”, 22/1, RIAN/Space Daily. Space funding is to be raised by 13% (doesn’t say the actual amount).

Russian space center to launch boosters”, Space Daily, 23/1. The new Vostochnii space center will be built near Uglegorsk in the Amur region of eastern Russia. Manned flights are expected to begin by 2018.

Ivanov Says Russia Must Not Turn Into Space Cabman”, Space Daily, 24/1. Russia shouldn’t rely on revenue from launches of foreign satellites for most of its space funding, and should focus on creating the new space center, Vostochnii, to ensure the country’s access to space (rather than risk being blackmailed by Kazakhstan, which leases out Baikonur to Russia).