Tag Archives: soyuz

Last UK Appearance for Tim Peake prior to launch for ISS

Credit: ESA
Tim Peake, first British Astronaut to go to the ISS. Credit: ESA

On 6 November, ESA’s first British astronaut, Tim Peake, will be paying his last visit to the UK before his launch to the International Space Station. He will take part in a news conference at the Science Museum London to discuss his upcoming mission.

Together with Jo Johnson, UK Minister of State for Universities and Science, Thomas Reiter, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations, and David Parker, CEO of the UK Space Agency, Tim will talk with journalists about his training, and the science and education objectives of his mission. While in space, Tim will perform more than 30 experiments for ESA and its Member States and take part in numerous others from ESA’s international partners.

Tim’s mission is ESA’s eighth long-duration mission to the Space Station. It will start aboard a Soyuz spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 15 December. Together with NASA astronaut Tim Kopra and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, Tim will embark on a six-month stay in space.

Soyua craft docked at ISS.  Credit: NASA
Soyua craft docked at ISS. Credit: NASA

The mission is named Principia, after Isaac Newton’s ground-breakingNaturalis Principia Mathematica, which describes the principal laws of motion and gravity.

ESA and the UK Space Agency are together developing many exciting educational activities aimed at sparking the interest of young children in science and space, including Rocket Science, AstroPi, Zero Robotics, Mission-X Train like an Astronaut, and amateur radio contacts in space.

Mind the Gap

The USA (NASA) has been experiencing a gap now of several years in its own domestic capability to take astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) since the decommissioning of the space-shuttle program.

Photo credit: NASA
Photo credit: NASA

Does the reliance of the Russian Soyuz matter, or has it been good for international cooperation? Is it in fact inspiring a step-change in private space companies bringing us into a better era of space exploration?

Soyuz craft dock with the International Space Station. Photo credit NASA

How did we get here?

The space shuttle program was ambitious, hugely expensive, often successful, but also included several disasters. Worryingly, it also included many near misses, and seems to have been a departure from the initial culture of the Apollo space program. Apollo 13 captured the imagination, with the idea that a creative ad-hoc solution was found during the mission in order to not lose the crew, who were in a dire situation. In contrast to that episode, the Columbia disaster may have been prevented if requests from NASA engineers had been fulfilled to carry out investigation on the damaged heat-shield tiles prior to re-entry. There were many quirks with the shuttle, even down to various software bugs, leading to astronauts having to memorise which systems were required to register as OFF in order to actually be ON.

Photo: Ben Cooper, launchphotography.com
Photo: Ben Cooper, launchphotography.com

So, since 2010, the world has been dependent on the Russian Soyuz vehicle. A craft that began it’s life during the race to the moon, which of course Soviet Russia lost. However, since that time Russia focused on space-station technology, and getting to and from orbit, and has been extremely successful at doing so. Did the Russian space program losing the space-race/cold-war, mean that it’s winning the subsequent peace? Britain’s first ESA astronaut, Tim Peake, will be travelling to the ISS on the Soyuz craft this November, and international space efforts would be sunk without Soyuz, but what will happen next – when the next generation really gets going, will we then enter a era where we can’t quite believe this pause in development was quite so long?

Development of the Orion module. Photo credit, NASA
Development of the Orion module. Photo credit, NASA

Space is hard, and the reliable Soyuz craft is the result of the continuous development of a craft begun in the 1960’s. New and exciting things take a huge amount of money, and also a long time in development. NASA’s Orion spacecraft is still in development and currently not expected to be making manned flights until 2021…that’s quite a gap.

Finally a docking at the International Space Station as Astronauts Arrive

Astronauts from Russia, the US and Japan have successfully docked at the International Space Station.

Less than six hours after take-off from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome, Kjell Lindgren from the US, Kimiya Yui of Japan and Russian Oleg Kononenko safely arrived at the orbital outpost.

The flight had been postponed after the April launch of a cargo rocket failed.

Manned flights to the ISS are currently only possible with Russia’s Soviet space technology, Soyuz.

Thursday’s mission capsule connected to the International Space Station about 250 miles (400km) above Earth at 01:45 GMT.

Astronauts arriving at the ISS
Kimiya Yui floating on board

Sushi in space

The three astronauts had been set to take off in May but Moscow was forced to delay the flight after the 28 April crash when an unmanned Soyuz cargo rocket had failed to reach the station and burned up in the atmosphere before crashing back to Earth.

“It’s certainly no fun to see several of the cargo vehicles undergo mishaps,” Mr Lindgren said. “It underscores the difficulty of this industry and how unforgiving the space environment,” he told a news conference ahead of the launch.

ISS in space
The ISS is manned by a rotating international team

For both the US astronaut and for Kimiya Yui, it is their first time in orbit.

The Japanese astronaut said he was taking some sushi along as a treat for the others.

The team has joined the existing ISS crew of Russians Gennady Padalka, Mikhail Kornienko and Scott Kelly from the US.

Aside from Russia’s Soyuz rockets that largely date back to Soviet technology, two privately owned US companies flying cargo the ISS have also lost rockets in recent launch failures.

Both Space X and Orbital ATK currently remain grounded following accidents last month and in October last year.

Oneweb launch “largest deal in history”, but can it be delivered?

Oneweb launch “largest deal in history”, but can it be delivered?

Backed by a fresh capital infusion and regulatory rights to a valued slice of satellite communications spectrum, the space-based Internet company OneWeb has contracted with Arianespace and Virgin Galactic to deploy hundreds of refrigerator-sized spacecraft around Earth.

OneWeb’s deal with Arianespace covers 21 launch orders for the Russian-made Soyuz rocket, most of which will blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Arianespace’s agreement with OneWeb also includes options for five more Soyuz flights and three launches of the next-generation Ariane 6 rocket.

Arianespace’s missions will build out OneWeb’s constellation, carrying up to 700 satellites on the initial 21 Soyuz launches. An Arianespace spokesperson said each Soyuz flight will haul between 32 and 36 satellites, depending on the craft’s final design.

The value of Arianespace’s contract is more than $1 billion, pushing the launch firm’s total backlog above $6 billion, officials said.

At least 15 of the 21 firm Soyuz launches will take off from Kazakhstan, according to Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, with the rest originating from the French-run Guiana Space Center in South America or other launch sites in Russia.

Roscosmos, Virgin Galactic and OneWeb hailed the rocket procurement the largest commercial launch purchase in history. It bests a SpaceX contract with Iridium signed in 2010 valued at nearly $500 million, a deal SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk then proclaimed as the biggest booster buy to date.

“This contract is the largest in the history of the provision of launch services,” said Igor Komarov, head of Roscosmos, in a statement. “And the choice of Soyuz is evidence of the high competitiveness of the Russian rocket and space technology.”

Artist's concept of LauncherOne. Credit: Virgin Galactic

Each OneWeb satellite will weigh less than 150 kilograms — about 330 pounds — and will ride into space on a specially-designed dispenser.

Virgin Galactic’s air-launched LauncherOne vehicle, which is still in development and could fly in 2016, was also awarded 39 launches by OneWeb to replenish the company’s satellite fleet as old satellites stop working. LauncherOne will haul up one satellite at a time, and Virgin Galactic expects to base most of the rocket’s operations at Spaceport America in New Mexico after initial tests from the company’s headquarters in Mojave, California.

The value of Virgin Galactic’s contract was not disclosed, but the company is targeting less than $10 million per LauncherOne mission.

OneWeb signed the launch contracts June 25 in conjunction with an announcement the company has raised $500 million from companies in Europe, the United States, India and Mexico.

The investment puts OneWeb on track to continue working on spacecraft and ground terminals for the global Internet network, and will propel the startup toward attracting additional funding needed to complete development of the system, officials said.

“The dream of fully bridging the digital divide is on track to be a reality in 2019,” said Greg Wyler, founder of OneWeb, in a statement accompanying the funding announcement. “Together with our committed and visionary founding shareholders we have the key elements in place: regulatory, technology, launches, satellites, as well as commercial operators in over 50 countries and territories.”

Founded by Wyler and based in Britain’s Channel Islands, OneWeb plans to deploy the satellites in 20 orbital planes 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) above Earth, spreading the platforms around the world to enable global broadband Internet coverage.

Before OneWeb, Wyler launched O3b Networks, another satellite Internet company focused on backhaul services to rural areas, remote islands and other hard-to-reach regions. Google, HSBC and satellite operator SES were the big investors in O3b, which operates 12 satellites in orbit.

OneWeb announced a partnership with Airbus Defense and Space to build 900 satellites for the company’s broadband-via-satellite scheme, including ground and in-orbit spares. The basic constellation required for full service is 648 satellites, according to OneWeb.

The first satellites will be ready for launch by the end of 2017, initially going into an orbit 500 kilometers — about 300 miles — above Earth before using on-board thrusters to raise their altitude to join the OneWeb fleet.

Airbus is one of the companies OneWeb revealed as a new financial backer last week, along with Intelsat, a competitor to SES, which is a main investor in O3b. New Delhi-based Bharti Enterprises, Hughes Network Systems — a subsidiary of EchoStar Corp. — Coca-Cola and Totalplay, a company owned by Mexican billionaire Ricardo Salinas Pliego, are also behind OneWeb.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and wireless tech giant Qualcomm already revealed their participation in the OneWeb venture.

OneWeb aims to beam wifi and mobile data service around the world by 2019, reaching homes, businesses, hospitals, schools, oil rigs, ships, airplanes and trains. It works by broadcasting a signal to a hotspot that customers can install on their roofs.

“We are committed to solving one of the world’s biggest problems – enabling affordable broadband Internet access for everyone,” Wyler said in a statement. “We are excited about the next phase, which will involve working with countries, telecom operators and aid organizations to help them realize their goals of open and ubiquitous access.”

Google confirmed in February a $900 million investment in SpaceX to support innovation in space transportation, reusability and satellite manufacturing.

Armed with fresh Google funding, SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk in January announced a plan to field a 4,000-satellite constellation in low Earth orbit for global Internet service, with initial operations expected within five years.

Musk said SpaceX will build its own satellites at a new manufacturing center in Redmond, Washington, keeping with the company’s penchant for in-house hardware production.

OneWeb possesses rights to Ku-band spectrum with the International Telecommunications Union required to provide broadband Internet services from low Earth orbit. Musk’s Internet venture has placed filings with the ITU, an agency responsible for ensuring no interference between space-based radio transmitters, but has not secured rights to a frequency for Internet service.

Written by Stephen Clark originally for Spaceflight Now

Tim Peake Passes Final Soyuz Exam

British astronaut Tim Peake has passed his final Soyuz exam.

It means he is now qualified to fly in the Russian vehicle when it launches him to the International Space Station for a six-month stay in November.

It also means he can be on standby for the next crew launch at the end of May – just in case someone has to drop out.

“Major Tim”, a former army helicopter pilot, will be the first UK-born, European Space Agency astronaut to live aboard the ISS.

He will be a flight engineer as part of Expeditions 46 and 47, serving his six months alongside American astronaut Tim Kopra and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, with whom he passed the Soyuz exam.

The test involved a six-hour session in a simulator at the Star City cosmonaut training complex near Moscow.

“This exam is the culmination of many months of training on the Soyuz spacecraft, which is our means of transport to and from the International Space Station,” he told BBC News.

“Although it was a fairly long and gruelling test, it was also a very interesting and enjoyable experience.

“We conducted all phases of flight: launch, rendezvous, docking, undocking, re-entry and landing – during which time our examiners kept us busy with several emergency situations. Unfortunately, though, we can’t now relax – we have to do it all again in six months when we will be the prime crew for launch!”

The Esa astronaut’s mission to the ISS will be known as Principia, in honour of Sir Isaac Newton.

He will arrive at the station a couple of months after English soprano Sarah Brightman.

The multi-platinum-and-gold recording artist is reported to have paid more than $50m for a 10-day “holiday” on the orbiting platform.

Tim Peake will launch with Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and US astronaut Tim Kopra
Going to the ISS involves spending many hours in the Soyuz simulator to understand its systems