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Soyuz MS-03 and the 50th ISS expedition

Publié le par JS Seytre

International Flight No. 306 crew: Peggy Whitson (Flight Engineer) / Oleg Novitskiy (Commander) / Thomas Pesquet (Flight Engineer)


On November 19th 2016, the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft has successfully docked to the ISS (International Space Station). Subsequently, the hatch between the spacecraft and the space station was opened at around 2:40 a.m. Paris Time on the next day, allowing the 3 crew members to get on-board the station. A total of 6 cosmonauts, astronauts and spationauts will cohabit for approximately 3 weeks until the crew of the previous mission departs for Earth in the Soyuz MS-02 stayed docked on the station for the duration of the 49th expedition.

The Soyuz MS-03 mission operations, from the rocket ignition followed by launch, to the completion of the docking operations and lasted about 50 hours: an 8 min and 48 sec rocket flight to the 200 km average altitude orbit, followed a so called “2 days rendezvous” approach.

The missions to the ISS alternate human flights in Soyuz spacecraft and unmanned space cargo (European ATV, russian Progress, Japanese HTV or US Cygnus and Dragon etc.). In average, there is a little more the 1 flight to and from the ISS every month.

About Soyuz spacecraft and rocket:

The current Soyuz MS version used for human transportation (3 persons) to the ISS weights 7 metric tons and is launched on-top a 270 tons Soyuz FG rocket. This is the ultimate evolution in the Soyuz program initiated in the early 60s to provide a manned spacecraft to the USSR; with the goal to later assemble them as a “space train” in orbit. The first test flights started in 1966 and were launched on rockets directly derived from the R-7 Semiorka, by then renamed Soyuz. Although the first missions were not successful (with particularly the death of cosmonaut V. Komarov in 1967 during the Earth atmosphere re-entry phase), the Soyuz rocket and spacecraft tandem is now particularly reliable with 82 successful missions since Soyuz T-10-1 last failure in September 1983. The achieved success rate of the actual FG rocket version developed for the Soyuz spacecraft is 100%. Nearly 1800 orbital launches have been executed by all versions of the Soyuz rockets today.


Source: Russian Spaceweb



Soyuz MS-03 and the 50th ISS expeditionSoyuz MS-03 and the 50th ISS expedition

Combined Russian military manoeuvres threats western strategic communication network (Eng.)

Publié le par JS Seytre

Credit: Russian Navy
Credit: Russian Navy

By the end of October 2015, US defence and intelligence have expressed concern on increasing Russian Navy activities that have been deemed “aggressive”. This statement refers to manoeuvres both close to the US cost and around underwater communication lines - data flux and transfers are more than ever key assets to take advantage in a modern warfare scenario.

Drawing of Luch / Express 1000A platform by manufacturer (ISS-Reshetnev)
Drawing of Luch / Express 1000A platform by manufacturer (ISS-Reshetnev)

Considering in addition that the Russian military satellite Luch Olymp has been recently moved to an orbital position between Intelsat 7 and 901 (18.2 and 18 degrees west respectively), the exercises of the Russian forces can indeed be seen as a rehearsal to inhibit the major NATO communication means in case of the uprising of a major crisis with Russia. “Luch” (ray) is the designation used for Russian geostationary satellites known to relay and track communications to and from spacecraft in lower orbits. The Luch Olymp has been ordered by the Russian Ministry of Defence, and as such little is known about its specific payload and mission. However, it seems that it is operated by the FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation) for “electronic intelligence”, which could mean spying information uplinked for others satellites, or even jamming downlinks with improper data. Moreover, the reason why the Luch relocation can be seen as intrusive, technically resides in the fact that the separation between the Russian satellite and the 2 geostationary Intelsat satellites is now only of 0.1 deg of orbital location. This would be very close for 2 platforms belonging to the same satellite operator, and even more for satellites being controlled by 2 different control centres in close coordination… and finally worrying knowing that the Russian government has not advised Intelsat prior drifting its satellites to 18.1°W nor has answered to any tentative of contact set by the US operator. Mrs. Kay Sears, president of Intelsat General, has strongly expressed discontent over such hazardous satellite operation putting Intelsat assets at risk.

More generally, the rise in Russian submarine patrols is an echo to the PVO strategic bombers flights, pushing ever further south close to the British and French airspaces. Nuclear submarines and bombers have been the key elements of the USSR dissuasion force during the cold war. Those events illustrate a little bit more Putin’s strategy to regain power and influence lost after the end of the soviet era.

Cubesat survived explosive launcher failure

Publié le par JS Seytre

Nouvel échec pour une fusée Proton-M

Publié le

Hier, un tir d'une fusée Proton depuis le Cosmodrome de Baïkonour s'est une nouvelle fois soldé par un échec. Le lanceur était entre autre chargé de mettre en orbite géostationnaire le satellite Express AM-4R (un Eurostar 3000 d'Astrium) qui devait replacer Express AM-4 (de même type), qui lui-même n'avait pas pu atteindre son orbite suite à une défaillance du ré allumage du 3ieme étage Briz M d'une autre Proton.

L'analyse du précédent échec (2 Juillet 2013) de la fusée russe avait déjà mis en lumière un gros problème de qualité au-delà même de la fiabilité. En effet, suite à la défaillance d'un des boosters (correctement arrêté par le système de contrôle), la trajectoire n'avait pu être corrigée parce des capteurs d'attitude avaient été monté à l'envers.

Bien que les lancements avec Proton restent imbattable niveau prix, cette série d'accidents va certainement profiter à Ariane Espace, dont la fiabilité de l'Ariane 5 n'est plus à démonter, et qui développe actuellement le successeur Ariane 6.