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Spacefail: Russian Cargo Craft Burns in Atmosphere

Just weeks after the U.S. retired its Space Shuttle and began what may be a long dependence on Russia to get American astronauts into space, an unmanned Russian spacecraft burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere after failing to reach orbit.

Apparently, the “upper stage” of the rocket propelling the Progress cargo ship, which is the same size and shape as its manned-counterpart, the Soyuz capsule, failed to light causing the ship and its nearly 6,000-pounds worth of supplies meant for the International Space Station to plummet to Earth.

This no doubt leads to some long term questions about the viability of the U.S. and all other space-faring nations reliance on Russias Progress and Soyuz vehicles as the only way to access the ISS. In the short them, one also has to wonder whether the next mission to resupply the station, scheduled for Sept. 22, will happen.

From Reuters:

The Russian and U.S. space agencies said the six astronauts aboard the space station had a plentiful supply of food and water.

“We can go several months without a resupply vehicle if that becomes necessary,” NASA’s space station program manager Mike Suffredini told reporters during a conference call.

But the planned Sept. 22 launch of a new crew to the station could be affected, he added.

“Obviously, this has implications to the (space station) and the crew as well,” Suffredini said.

The cargo craft was to carry nearly three tons of supplies, including food, spare parts and fuel to the astronauts aboard the station — U.S. astronauts Ron Garan and Mike Fossum, Japan’s Satoshi Furukawa and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Volkov, Alexander Samokutyayev and mission commander Andrey Borisenko.

Good thing the Air Force has its mysterious X-37B robo-shuttles. The little space planes may be needed for more than just classified military missions.

{ 86 comments… read them below or add one }

OMEGATALON August 24, 2011 at 5:48 pm

When the last space shuttle landed, it wasn't just the end of an era; it essentially marked the US manned space program as the country doesn't give NASA the money to function properly and now we can't even get into space without the help of the Russians. The US government has treated space exploration like a joke; but the joke is on us because every day that passes without a manned space program means other countries will not just catch up, they will become the new superpower in space.

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Ben August 24, 2011 at 6:07 pm

My guess is that we won't give space development a serious look until China reaches the moon. Because, unfortunately, a lot of people think space development is too far-fetched to put their money behind, so it'll probably take some big event to spook everyone into action. By then, though, the playing field will be a whole lot more even than it is right now. We'll have lost our advantage.

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Dfens August 25, 2011 at 9:16 am

Come on, haven't you heard? There's nothing on the Moon of any value! The space shuttle program managment office told us that, right after they figured out the f'ing shuttle had doomed our manned space program to not going beyond low Earth orbit for as long as that program lasted. Who knew then it would drag on for 30 years? Funny how China doesn't seem to be buying that crap. Fortunately they only have our best interests at heart:

[Ouyang Ziyuan] reportedly told the Beijing Morning Post: "Our long-term goal is to set up a base on the Moon and mine its riches for the benefit of humanity." - (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/1997747.stm)

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Jay August 25, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Well, since Obama has made NASA;s primary mission making Muslims feed good about themselves we should have an advantage in that area. fwiw.

In terms of space flight tho, it's either China or private citizens here who will pick up the slack - and the latter only if the EPA or FTA doesn't regulate private US spaceflight out of existence.

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Thomas L. Nielsen August 26, 2011 at 7:51 am

"Well, since Obama has made NASA;s primary mission making Muslims feed good about themselves…"?

Huh?

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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ziv August 25, 2011 at 8:02 am

I think assigning contracts to Spacex based on their ability to deliver at a great price is a better plan that throwing money down a rat hole at NASA. Let Spacex make some money in the next decade and they will build spacecraft to fill a function while the design committees at NASA would ruin theirs with cludge.

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Stratege August 28, 2011 at 1:38 am

Let Spacex to build reliable and proven spacecraft in the frist place.

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Ben August 24, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Hopefully the private space industry takes off so we won't have to rely on Russia for our manned space lift ops. It seems like their craft are crashing and burning every time I check the news!

Though the more I hear, the more I doubt the decision to gut NASA and bolster commercial spaceflight. It better pay off.

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JRL August 24, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Guess you'd better check again. The Soyuz/Progress vehicle system has a far safer track record than the Space Shuttle vehicle system. with its 40% catastrophic failure rate.

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Ben August 24, 2011 at 7:15 pm

There have only been 2 Space Shuttle disasters out of 135 launches. I don't know what constitutes a "catastrophic failure" but I chalk that up to a little over 1% failure rate.

But otherwise I was talking about space lift operations in general (manned AND unmanned, not just the Soyuz/Progress). Russian rockets seem to be malfunctioning left and right. I don't care what the numbers are, it's not very comforting.

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JRL August 25, 2011 at 6:27 am

Note that I said "Space Shuttle** vehicle system** with its 40% catastrophic failure rate.". I did not say that the Shuttle had a **mission** failure rate of 40%.

Five operational Shuttles were built, and two were destroyed with the loss of all hands, That's 40% of all the Shuttles built.

Note also that 'Space Shuttle' is the entire launch vehicle system. The Orbiter is not the Shuttle.

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jumper August 25, 2011 at 8:54 am

Nice try… apples and oranges. The Orbiter is reusable, Soyuz is not. By your line of reasoning EVERY Soyuz has failed. They've never made the trip back up to space again after a single flight so that's a 100% failure rate.

jumper August 24, 2011 at 10:24 pm

40% huh? 2 divided by 135 = .40? Weird… I get .014 or a 1.4%

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IKnowIT August 24, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Stupid comparison. I am not a shuttle fan, but it's apples and oranges

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observer August 25, 2011 at 5:33 am

". It seems like their craft are crashing and burning every time I check the news!"

Yes, for sure….
IT was a first Progress's failure since 1973!

Remember the latest Space Shuttle crash (2003)

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FormerDirtDart August 25, 2011 at 9:37 am

The Soyuz-U launch vehicle, which carries the Progress's to space, have a 2.8% failure rate. 21 failures out of 745 launches
That is almost double the failure rate of space shuttle launches

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Clay August 24, 2011 at 6:04 pm

I'm sure the Russians will be sending the bill to Obama.

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Zee August 24, 2011 at 7:07 pm

1.Russia is cheaper.
2.Russia is good enough
3.reach beated us in putting a machine in space.

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Alex August 25, 2011 at 8:31 am

That went:beep….beep…beep…etc'

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joe August 31, 2011 at 4:43 am

It did indeed. But nevertheless, it got there first. For all their financial woes, Russia has the one space agency that can call themselves a genuine peer to NASA.

Mir is another one. Yes, it was a catalogue of system failures towards the end - but it nevertheless lasted some twelve and a half years - rather longer than originally planned - and a lot of that experience went into the ISS.

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Jayday80 August 24, 2011 at 7:23 pm

There needs to be a goal for manned space flight. The ISS isnt enough to justify a new shuttle program. If we can get by on Russian equipment, fine.
I think we should have a space program I just think we need to be thinking about getting to the moon again and using that as a stepping stone to Mars. We've learned enough about the effects of putting a person in orbit, we need to explore or help private industry build labs in orbit… maybe I'm rambling…

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Ben August 24, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Exactly. The only problem with private industry is that they'll be geared more towards the commercial aspect of space travel and less on exploration (space hotels, tours and such)

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Will August 24, 2011 at 8:26 pm

In case you haven't noticed, public support for space exploration is greatly outnumbered by calls to cut "wasteful" government spending + there's a party full of politicians trying to get elected by making fun of science they don't bother to try to understand. The private sector can make exploration affordable by investigating multiple solutions to the problem of the high cost of lifting mass into space.

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blight August 24, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Private sector might not even be up to the challenge. We're only here because Elon Musk has a crapton of money from Paypal and an eagerness to take risks that no /sane/ investment firm would make. You'd get better immediate profit on bizarro Wall Street trickery than investing in spaceflight.

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STemplar August 25, 2011 at 3:31 am

Elon Musk wasn't even a billionaire when he launched Space X.

"The total company expenditures since being founded in 2002 through the 2010 fiscal year were less than $800 million, which includes all the development costs for the Falcon 1, Falcon 9 and Dragon. Included in this $800 million are the costs of building launch sites at Vandenberg, Cape Canaveral and Kwajalein, as well as the corporate manufacturing facility that can support up to 12 Falcon 9 and Dragon missions per year. This total also includes the cost of five flights of Falcon 1, two flights of Falcon 9, and one up and back flight of Dragon."

Fortune favors the bold.

Ben August 24, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Political jabs are unnecessary. Besides, I recall Bush wanting to put a man on Mars by sometime around 2020 if I remember correctly? I don't think political affiliation has anything to to with it.

They'll drive the cost down for sure, but I can't imagine it revolutionizing space lift. We'll need a carbon nano tube-based space elevator in order to make any significant breakthroughs ;) But again, too many people lack the motivation or balls to suggest it.

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Stephen N Russell August 24, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Have more Soyuz cargo rockets lose orbit, then see Pvt Manned Space move BIG Time on Spaceplane or new better ELV modes for ISS.
Huge demand alone for Pvt Manned Space for ISS.
Then let NASA go to Mars.

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jsallison August 24, 2011 at 10:24 pm

The issue is that no one knows how to make a buck once they are in space. Figuring out how to make money sucking off the government teat to 'get' to space is one thing, but what about once you're there? Orbital hotels? Great, but gonna be too rich for my blood short of a lottery win for the foreseeable future, more's the pity. And if I win the big one, I am *so* there…

Obviously government and the public doesn't care about space access, as such, except as a source of pork (j'accuse NASATV for making space boring), otherwise a couple of dozen casualties would be nothing more than the cost of doing business for a global population numbered in the billions. How many died listening to Greeley's 'Go west, young man'? How many Portugese died exploring the 'round the Horn route?

The movie Armageddon missed the point. They shouldn't have been trying to fend off Lucifer's Hammer. They should've been trying to get it to go into orbit around Earth as a new source of raw material that wouldn't have to be lifted up from the surface.

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Jeff m August 25, 2011 at 12:46 am

Nobody really WANTS to live in space, it will irradiate you good and there is nothing life sustaining out there. Manned space exploration is just luxury yachts. Man evolved on earth. Space is for robots. There is nothing out there inspace that robots dont do better. I want to see the NEXT next generation space telescope.

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Matrix_3692 August 25, 2011 at 1:05 am

well, we will be reaching the earth's limit within this or next century and we can't push the limits for long, for humanity to continue to thrive, we need to leave our "mother"'s cradle and begin our first step into the "world" outside with a slow but steady pace. we sure wouldn't be seeing interstellar travel within our lives or ever our grandchildren's live time, but there's an old chinese saying: "a journey of thousand miles starts beneathyour foot," what we need to do is to start moving our foot and pass the steps to our descendants to continue.

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Thomas L. Nielsen August 28, 2011 at 10:47 am

"Nobody really WANTS to live in space"…."

Speak for yourself, boy-o.

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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joe August 31, 2011 at 4:52 am

Agreed. Geographos, for example, is a tapered cylinder about five kilometres long by two kilometres across that is pretty much composed of what's not far off stainless steel. I imagine that's got to be a fairly useful resource.

The problem is, there is no inherent money to be made in orbit because there can be no realistic 'trade' up and down a gravity well with current technology. Make a space elevator and fair enough, but right now we can't.

A long-term self sustainable presence is a good idea, but for that you need big investment that people understand is going to be written off in the long term; it's essentially a financed exodus (like the pilgrim fathers) rather than a profit making entity (like the east india company).

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IKnowIT August 24, 2011 at 10:44 pm

We've come a long way since Apollo. Good going Obama. What a f-ing disgrace that we are going to ride these Russian sh!t wagons.

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Cheesed August 25, 2011 at 1:51 pm

What did Obama have to do with it?

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Matt August 26, 2011 at 11:43 am

Defunding NASA/ending Shuttle mission…

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Cheesed August 26, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Obama did that in 2005? If the above poster is gonna kneejerk, he's gotta get the timing better.
http://www.spacedaily.com/news/rocketscience-05o….

P.S.: That took 0.24 seconds for Google to figure out.

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observer August 25, 2011 at 5:30 am

"Russian **** wagons" ??? Cheap talks.

Russian rockets and spacecrafts are the most reliable space machines in the world (look at their failures to launches ratio)

Russia is the worlds leader in manned/unmanned and commercial space launches (based on number of launches and manned missions)

Russian space launches are the most numerous

S**t happens !

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Epimadirious August 25, 2011 at 8:11 am

Real bad commercial for United States because today everybody knows all this "rare" comftable things like Norweigian kills and timed plunders happend under western grime syndicates, wich by the need are allways also religion based, survilance. Learn the morallaws before the last of the babylonian come and figure.. :) :)

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Alex August 25, 2011 at 8:36 am
Matrix_3692 August 25, 2011 at 10:27 am

?!?+1

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Thomas L. Nielsen August 25, 2011 at 9:30 am

Does anyone know how to upgrade Google Translate with a "Troll" setting?

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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Treshombres August 26, 2011 at 7:50 am

Rasta Troll be jammin' mon dat be some good ganja mon

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joe August 31, 2011 at 4:53 am

Oh Gods. The Warcraft III trolls have learned to use the internet.

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Alex August 25, 2011 at 8:50 am

Space exploration is easy, provided you get past this one nasty detail: the gravity well.
What we need is a new earth to orbit dilivery truck, *read* shuttle, NOT spacecraft, a space craft doesn't land on planets, the Space Shuttle was for all intents and purposes a glorified pick-up truck. Those spacex guys have some good ideas going, now they just need to make one that can be put on an asembly line. Once we get a *realitivly* cheap shuttle going to get us out of the gravity well space exploration will take care of itself. Its just a (insert swear word of choice) cliff after all. Sorry for the rant.

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Thomas L. Nielsen August 25, 2011 at 9:33 am

Two words for you: Space Elevator!

I mean, what kind of self-respecting space cadet wants to ride into orbit on top of a self-desintegrating totem pole?

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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Alex August 25, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Problem: How are you going to build it? and what about places away from your lift, like say a third world country that can't afford to use your elevator. also economics, might be cheaper to glid cargo to local airport.

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Thomas L. Nielsen August 26, 2011 at 2:05 am

"How are you going to build it": Duct-tape! Seriously though, the main obstacle to building a practical space elevator is a material with sufficient tensile strength. We aren't quite there yet, but give it another 20 years (which is probably the timeframe for a practical SSTO launch system as well).

"and what about places away from your lift, like say a third world country that can't afford to use your elevator.": Those who can't afford to use a space elevator (use - not build) can't afford an SSTO either. Besides, a space elevator has to be on the equator, so almost everyone will need to transport their stuff to the "downstairs" terminal. But even including the cost of that, the actual operating cost of the Space Elevator will be very low compared to possible alternatives.

But who says it has to be either-or? I believe there's a place for both elevators and SSTO's (in some form).

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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Dfens August 25, 2011 at 10:18 am

I graphed 25 years of space launch data as collected by NASA: (http://i30.tinypic.com/2dcfh95.gif). Rockets are unreliable. They've been around for 75 years and have never, I repeat, NEVER been reliable. It is stupid to rely on Russian rockets. It is stupid to rely on any rockets. We need to move to new technologies. We need to find better ways to get to space. It is that simple.

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cthel August 25, 2011 at 7:11 pm

It's hardly surprising that rocketry is unreliable - when your propulsion system basically consists of sitting atop a slow-motion explosion, it's easy to see how a small technical fault can lead to a spectacular failure. Add to that the fairly limited amount of experience that the designers and engineers have had time to accummulate (compare the total number of rockets that have been launched in the history of Rocketry, including V2s and ballistic missiles, with the number of personal cars that have been built, and the reliability looks extremely good)

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Dfens August 25, 2011 at 11:07 pm

There you go, if we just keep doing the same thing over and over, each time hoping for a better result, things are sure to get better. Or we could look for other ways to get to space.

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Thomas L. Nielsen August 26, 2011 at 2:06 am

Please see above re. Space Elevator.

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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Thomas L. Nielsen August 26, 2011 at 3:43 am

Or, if the Space Elevator ("First floor: Atmospheric research; second floor: astronomical observatory; third floor: LEO; fourth floor: Geostationary orbit") is a bit too outre, there's also JP Aerospace's Airship to Orbit approach:
http://www.jpaerospace.com/

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

Dfens August 26, 2011 at 8:56 am

It is worthy of consideration, but there are techologies that are possible now that are being overlooked so we can build more rockets. Railguns, air breathing first stages, light gas guns, maser or laser beamed power, or some combination of these technologies is all possible right now. The fact that NASA is ignoring these to build another 1950's style rocket is criminal. They should be on the leading edge of technology helping businesses like SpaceX, not competing with them.

cthel August 26, 2011 at 3:29 am

Practice makes perfect

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Dfens August 26, 2011 at 8:48 am

Well, I'm not going to say you couldn't possibly be right, but what I saw when I was working on rockets was an attitude by most who worked on the rockets that their equipment (or whatever their piece of the rocket was) only had to work for 180 seconds. This lead to people taking a lot of foolish chances they'd never have taken with airplane hardware, where the chance of their poor judgement would be much more likely to be exposed. Plus, you forgot about the fact that rockets live very high on the reliability bathtub curve because they have to work perfectly the first time, every time. Even with acceptance testing of equipment, I doubt rocket design will ever get to 3 - 9's of reliability. The data certainly makes my point, and this is international data, so there's more than one approach to rocket design being reflected in that data.

Morty August 25, 2011 at 10:44 am

their right think of all the mistakes that have happened because something on the rocket malfunctioned.

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Musson August 25, 2011 at 10:51 am

SpaceX baby. SpaceX!

SpaceX is gearing up to be the largest producer of rocket engines in the world. And, they are engineer driven and don't give a frack about outreach to Moslems or whatever NASA has decided is their top priority these days.

Elon Musk makes me proud to use my PayPal account!

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Dfens August 25, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Capitalism never fails. SpaceX's rocket costs half what the Russians charge to get men to the space station, and it's got to be about 1/20th of the cost of the shuttle. A billion per launch and it only took 40,000lbs to low earth orbit. The only boundary that piece of crap pushed was the credibility boundary.

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Thomas L. Nielsen August 26, 2011 at 6:05 am

"SpaceX's rocket costs half what the Russians charge to get men to the space station, and it's got to be about 1/20th of the cost of the shuttle."

Please get back to me once they've actually had their system man-rated and have actually managed to launch a person into orbit and get her/him back safe & sound.

I want SpaceX to succeed, really, since I firmly believe that the future of space exporation and colonization lies (at least at this stage) with commercial space ventures. But I am, alas, not holding my breath…..

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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STemplar August 26, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Given that they have accomplished everything laid out, done it for less money than anyone else can, I see no reason to be overly concerned the Dragon capsule will have any problems. It's 2010 launch was more or less flawless and its upcoming test flight NASA has already decided to let it combine what it was going to test on two flights into a single flight since it is progressing so smoothly.

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me3 August 25, 2011 at 12:16 pm

didnt we learn anything from the cold war??? DO NOT TRUST the Russians we cant rely on those people….this makes me sick

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Cheesed August 25, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Xenophobia must be the new black.

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crackedlenses August 28, 2011 at 8:50 am

Not when an ex-KGB, aka Putin, is keeping his hand in Russia's political pie….

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Lance August 25, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Its a good recycling program the Russians have shoot a ton of garbage into space and call it a space craft. LOL

We killed our own space program as well as military new programs we spent our money into oblivion and now we are in BIG trouble as this tells us.

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JRL August 25, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Roscosmos (Russian federal space agency) is postponing future Soyuz launches until they figure out what happened .
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-146…

JL

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observer August 25, 2011 at 4:31 pm

These American private manned space vehicles still need to be proven for reliability. It's long, hard and expensive way.

Soyuz spaceship is a damn old design (despite it got upgrades, minor and big fixes etc), After more than hundred of manned missions, Russians improved Soyuz almost in every aspect, so it's nearly perfect design in terms of reliability

I am really don't understand why people bitching about "sh**y Russian vagons" while Russia's space rockets and ships has great safety record.

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observer August 26, 2011 at 1:44 am

These American private manned space vehicles still need to be proven for reliability. It's long, hard and expensive way!
In other hand, Soyuz is proven, very reliable spacecraft (it was perfected after more than hundred of mission!)

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Ben August 29, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Russians find find faults in their rockets when they fail catastrophically, and any rockets already constructed are launched anyways while the fix is being added to the production line.
This is fast as long as the rocket is simple, then it is fairly cheap as long as the rocket is small and disposable.
When the rocket is more complex or large, then the russian method becomes Long, Hard, and Expensive. being perfected AFTER hundreds of missions.

The American method is to waste vast amounts of time and effort on designing and testing the spacecraft before launch, and then if you find a fault, you stop launching for more designing and testing.
The end result being that the resulting design is perfected long BEFORE hundreds of missions.

SpaceX is currently 2 for 2, and the falcon9 vehicle is over engineered to the point where when faced with a damaged rocket motor before launch, they sent an engineer with a pair of shears and had him literally cut the problem area off by hand.
And while the dragon capsule has so far only flown with a cargo of cheese, (yes there was a wheel of cheese onboard), if a crew had been launched they would have been quite comfortable, which is more than can be said about the first launch of Soyuz.

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mwfair August 26, 2011 at 1:23 pm

The spacecraft did not burn up in the atmosphere. It was the sudden deceleration due to impacting the dirt in Siberia that destroyed it.

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Lawrence August 30, 2011 at 2:59 pm

In November if the ISS is abandoned, the Chicoms can board it and claim right of space salvage of a derelict space station. Then $100 Billion in work, material and 14 shuttle astronaut lives will be all for naught.

Whatever happened to the Japanese Orbiter that was a smaller version of the US space
shuttle? It was supposed to have been operational by now.

Our independent civilian industry low Earth orbit cargo/human capabilities (Falcon 9/Dragon) will be too little, too late.

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Mike August 31, 2011 at 9:42 pm

No one thinks we needed or now need a space program.
Most all today's modern technology is contributed either from NASA or war needing that new edge to do the next impossible thing
I would rather spend money on space than war.
What would we do with microwave ovens, Cell phones, Satellite TV and all modern Cable and broadcast relies on satellite also, Radar, modern air travel.

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Ben August 24, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Lol, I don't pride myself on my math skills. In any case, it's a whole lot smaller than JRL's "40%" is what I was getting at.

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FormerDirtDart August 24, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Nah, I need to check my math. It's a 1.48% rate. And, the comment was to JRL not you.

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blight August 25, 2011 at 7:58 am

You'd be better off risking your money in pharma. The revenue potential is in the short run limited to space tourism and taking up very lightweight satellites.

He's in it for his own reasons, and if he stands to make money on it he can spit on the investment firms.

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JRL August 25, 2011 at 9:06 am

Pffft…The Soyuz capsules successfully performed the task that they were designed to do. Take a crew and/or cargo into orbit and return.

Two out of five Shuttles, OTOH, very obviously did not.

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crackedlenses August 25, 2011 at 9:29 am

Anyone can build a space canister that burns up after you use it. I dare you to build a reusable space vehicle that can carry a reasonable payload….

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JRL August 25, 2011 at 9:49 am

Why bother if it costs twice as much per ton/passenger as using one-shot launch systems?

I don't know the costs per ton for Soyuz/Progress flights, but I would very surprised it it were even half of what it cost to send the same tonnage up on the Shuttle.

There is nothing inherently superior about reusable systems.

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STemplar August 25, 2011 at 1:41 pm

The Falcon Heavy will be the biggest launch vehicle in the world, which is going to enter service shortly.

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Cheesed August 25, 2011 at 1:50 pm

When "reusable" translates to "an ability to return a sizable payload to the earth," then there most certainly is. But if some hypothetical disposable system could give us bringback, then I might agree.

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blight August 25, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Whats interesting is that Falcon can only bring 1/5th of what Saturn V could to LEO, and Saturn V's billion/launch included development costs to build the CM capable of reaching the moon and the LEM to land on it, and then return.

Falcon Heavy's Price is given on the low end as 80M, which is pretty impressive.

As for Elon Musk, he owned 12% of paypal at the time of the 1.5B buyout, so that would've been somewhat under 200 million.

Anybody note the irony that SpaceX is /still/ dependent on the government for business? NASA's supply contracts are going to be his breadwinners, even as we talk about defunding NASA in general because government is the devil.

Would SpaceX survive if the US and Russia abandoned their interest in ISS? The only business left would be commercial satellites, as the military will always fund its own rocket-launch capability.

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STemplar August 26, 2011 at 5:31 am

Which is all irrelevant since there are no Saturn V2 anymore. Elon Musk was worth, had, about $750 billion at the time he founded Space X.

Space travel is still primarily driven by the government. until there is large scale commercialization that's pretty much the only game. Whether Space Xs primary business is re-supplying the ISS is irrelevant because it in no way diminishes the fact that a private entrepreneur turned the launch business price per ton on its head, and essentially did it all for less than a billion dollars.

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STemplar August 26, 2011 at 5:52 pm

meant million.

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blight August 26, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Then it's time for Lockheed et al to lobby Congress to break the contracts with SpaceX and favor the big guys. It works with the military.

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cthel August 26, 2011 at 8:03 pm

I agree - producing a complex system that, due to it's "one-use only" nature, precludes comprehensive shake down testing, is a daunting engineering challenge; more so when the usual solution to the problem - redundency and overengineering - are anathema to the functioning of your product. However, it must also be remembered that most rocket systems are designed and built with technology that is at best a decade old (and in the case of the Soyuz system, is basically a 50 year old design).

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Thomas L. Nielsen August 29, 2011 at 1:53 am

There's a BIG difference between "we have the level of technology required to build this" and "we'll have one flyingt tomorrow".

Considering the kind of development time needed for a launch system involving "railguns, air breathing first stages, light gas guns, maser or laser beamed power…." I question whether any of those would reach operational service significantly before a hypothetical space elevator (the vast majority of the technology required for one of those is also available now).

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

PS: And why either-or? I can see a justification for an "all-of-the-above" solution.

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Thomas L. Nielsen August 29, 2011 at 2:18 am

Also, virtually all modern launch vehicles are based on military ICBM technology, and as such are designed for maximum performance.

For a civilian launch vehicle, performance is more or less a secondary consideration. What you want is minimum cost and maximum reliability. And if you make those your design goals, you end up with some rather different design solutions.

See e.g.: http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/searagon.htm

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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