Russian space program in 2018
At the beginning of the year, Roskosmos, listed 23 launches in 2018 in its flight manifest, which if fulfilled, would increase the previous year's record. Still, it was likely to leave Russia in the third place after China and the United States in this key indicator of space activity. For comparison, on Jan. 4, the official Chinese press promised 35 launches of liquid-propellant Chang Zheng series of space rockets and five orbital shots of the solid-propellant Kuaizhou launchers. Back in Russia, the nation's military planned to boost its strategic arsenal with 20 Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles and to conduct 12 test launches, or twice as much as in 2017, according to the commander of Strategic Missile Forces, RVSN, Col. General Sergei Karakaev quoted by the Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper in December 2017.
The world's orbital launch attempts in 2018 (as of March 19, 2018 ):
The 2018 space launch score card (as of March 19, 2018 ):
Planned Russian orbital launch attempts in 2018:
March 21, 20:44:25 Moscow Time: A Soyuz-FG rocket to launch a Soyuz MS-08 (No. 738) manned transport spacecraft from Baikonur's Site 1. The spacecraft piloted by the Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, will also carry US astronauts Andrew Feustel and Richard Arnold to the International Space Station, ISS, to conduct long duration Expeditions 55 and 56. As of 2014, the launch was set for March 30, 2017, but by October 1 of the same year, the mission was rescheduled for March 10, 2018. On December 29, 2017, Roskosmos announced that the launch of Soyuz MS-08 was scheduled for March 15, 2018. By the middle of January 2018, the launch was postponed from March 15 to March 21.
On Feb. 15, Roskosmos team completed electric tests of the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft in Baikonur and placed the spacecraft into the 17T523M vacuum chamber for tests, which were expected to last several days.
On March 4, primary and backup crews of the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft arrived to Baikonur and next day conducted familiarization training in the flight-worthy vehicle undergoing processing at Site 254.
The cosmonauts and astronauts tried on their Sokol-KV spacesuits, and after their leak tests, they took seats inside the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft, Roskosmos said. The crews checked the communications equipment, a laser range finder, reviewed their onboard documentation, a list of deliverable cargo and the flight program.
According to Roskosmos, the primary and backup crews were also scheduled to practice manual rendezvous maneuvers, learn the operation of the new Rassvet-3BM communications system and receive instructions on the use of safety equipment and emergency operations. A special attention will be paid to the Ekon-M experiment, which involves environmental monitoring of Earth's regions, Roskosmos said.
Also on March 5, managers responsible for the pre-flight processing of the Soyuz MS-08 held a meeting, which approved the fueling of the spacecraft with propellant components and pressurized gases. The fueling operations began on March 6 and the next day, the fueled spacecraft was returned to Site 254 and installed in vertical position inside its access rig for further processing.
On March 12, 2018, specialists from RKK Energia integrated the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft with its launch vehicle adapter ring which will serve as an interface with the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle.
On March 14, RKK Energia specialists conducted the final visual inspection of Soyuz MS-08, after which the spacecraft was rolled inside payload firing which will protect it during the ascent through the atmosphere following its launch on March 21.
On March 16, members of the primary and backup crews conducted their final inspection of the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft in launch configuration, one more time familiarizing themselves with the ship's flight controls and checking various systems, RKK Energia said. Cosmonauts and astronauts also had an opportunity to inspect the Progress MS-09 cargo ship undergoing preparations for launch on July 10, 2018.
On the same day, after the inspection by the crew, the payload section with the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft was lowered into horizontal position, loaded on a railway platform and transported from Site 254 to Site 112 for integration with the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle.
On March 17, the payload section with the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft was integrated with the third stage of the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle and with the Emergency Escape System, SAS. The entire upper composite was then loaded onto the mobile transporter-erector and connected to the second stage of the Soyuz-FG rocket.
Upon the completion of the assembly, the technical management and the State Commission overseeing the testing of manned space complexes met to review the readiness of the Soyuz FG launch vehicle. The officials gave green light to the rollout of the rocket to the launch pad No. 5 at Site 1 on March 19, 2018, which took place in the early hours of the day, in line with on old tradition. After the installation of the rocket on the pad and lifting of the access gantry, the rest of March 19 was to be spent on technical work at the launch facility, general tests and the review of the telemetry, Roskosmos said.
The State Commission was scheduled to meet again on March 20 to formally approve the crew members for the mission, followed by a traditional press-conference of the primary and backup crews. The final deliverable cargo was expected to be loaded aboard Soyuz MS-08 on the day of the launch on March 21, 2018.
A Soyuz-FG launch vehicle with the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft rolls out to the launch pad on March 19, 2018, with defunct launch facilities of the Energia-Buran system at Site 110 visible on the background.
March 23-28: A Soyuz-2-1v rocket to launch a classified payload based on the experimental small-satellite platform, EMKA, from Plesetsk. The mission was planned in 2017 but by the first week of December 2017, the launch had to be postponed to the beginning of 2018. At the beginning of January, the launch was expected on February 28, but by the middle of February, the mission was postponed to a period between March 23 and 29, 2018.
Postponed from February: Soyuz-2 (ST)/Fregat rocket to launch the European MetOp-C meteorological satellite from the ELS complex in Kourou, French Guiana. The mission was first announced on Sept. 10, 2010, with the launch then expected in the last quarter of 2016. Built by Astrium, the Metop-C satellite will weigh 4,250 kg at launch. It will be fitted with a dozen instruments designed to take atmospheric measurements (pressure, humidity, temperature, ozone concentration, etc.) at different altitudes, and to map temperatures and wind fields on the ocean surface.
April 19: A Proton rocket to launch the second Blagovest military communications satellite from Baikonur. The launch was previously planned for Dec. 25, 2017, but by the beginning of November of that year, it had to be postponed until Feb. 2, 2018, at the earliest. The mission was then set for March 22. By the end of January, the mission was re-scheduled to April 4, but was expected to drift further. As of the first week of February, the shipment of the satellite to Baikonur was scheduled in the second half of that months, followed by a 45-day processing cycle at the launch site. During a mission management meeting on February 14, the launch was projected for not earlier than April 22, but by he beginning of March, the mission was set for April 19.
April 25: A Rockot booster to launch the Sentinel-3B remote-sensing satellite from Plesetsk. As of January 2014, the Rockot booster was expected to launch Sentinel-2B satellite in April 2016, however that payload was later swapped with Sentinel-3B, which was originally slated to go up on the European Vega rocket. The mission was postponed from 2017 to March 2018 and was then postponed to April 6. By mid-February, the launch was targeted for April 25. The satellite was delivered to Russia on March 16, 2018.
A container with the Sentinel-3B satellite is being unloaded from an An-124 transport plane at Talagi airport near Arkhangelsk on March 16, 2018, before a day-long trip by rail to Plesetsk.
June 6: A Soyuz rocket to launch a Soyuz MS-09 manned transport spacecraft with a crew of three from Baikonur toward the International Space Station, ISS. As of 2014, the launch was set for Sept. 30, 2018, but by Oct. 1, 2017, it was rescheduled for April 25, 2018. It was later set for June 6, 2018.
August: A Soyuz rocket to launch a Progress MS-10 cargo ship from Baikonur toward the International Space Station, ISS. (As of 2014, the launch was set for Feb. 22, 2018. By the second half of 2017, the launch was expected around August 2018.)
September: A Zenit-3SLBF/Fregat-SB rocket to launch the Spektr-RG X-ray observatory. (As of April-June 2014, the launch was postponed from March 26, 2016, to 2017. By the end of 2015, the launch was planned for Sept. 25, 2017.).
October: A Rockot to launch a trio of Gonets-M communications satellites and a pair of Blits-M experimental satellites from Plesetsk. The primary payload was originally planned for launch as early as 2016 and, in case of unavailability of the Roskot, could fly on the Soyuz-2-1v rocket.
Oct. 22: A Proton rocket with Block DM-03 No. 6L to launch the Elektro-L No. 3 satellite from Baikonur. The launch was previously planned in 2017, but by the middle of that year, the mission had to be postponed until the fall of 2018. As of September 2017, the launch was scheduled for Oct. 22, 2018.
October (?): A Soyuz rocket to launch Meteor-M No. 2-2 meteorological satellite.
Fourth quarter: A Proton-M/Briz-M rocket to launch from Baikonur with a pair of satellites built by Orbital ATK: Eutelsat-5 West-B and the first Mission Extension Vehicle, MEV-1. The Eutelsat-5 West B satellite is based on Orbital ATK's GEOstar platform and carries communications payload developed at Airbus Defense and Space. During its ride to orbit on the Proton, Eutelsat-5 West-B will be stacked on top of the MEV-1 satellite. The two-launch agreement between Eutelsat and the International Launch Services, ILS, which markets Proton rockets to comercial customers, was announced on October 12, 2016. The deal also included the first order for the yet-to-be developed Proton-Medium rocket to carry an unidentified payload for Eutelsat in 2019 or 2020. The agreements for both launches were pre-arranged in a preliminary deal between ILS and Eutelsat, first announced in October of 2015.
December: A Soyuz rocket to launch Kanopus-V No. 5 and No. 6 remote-sensing satellites and a secondary payload of 12 Dove satellites from Vostochny. (As of January 2018)
Uncertain launch dates
2018: A Soyuz rocket to launch Resurs-P No. 4 satellite.
After 2017: Soyuz rockets to launch SAR-Lupe-2 observation satellites. (As of September 2012)
End of 2018: Soyuz-2-1b rocket to launch an eight-ton OKA-T-MKS No. 1 (52KS) free-flyer module from Vostochny to be serviced from ISS during its five-year mission. The spacecraft would be used for research in the field of nanoelectronics, alloys, composite materials and biotechnology. (459) The launch was originally planned for 2015, however by fall 2011, it had to be postponed to 2017-2018, due to lack of potential customers. (521) In April 2013, the launch was promised at the end of 2018. (634)
End of 2018: A Proton-M rocket to launch the Yamal-601 satellite for Gazprom Space Systems, a division of the largest Russian oil and natural gas producer. According to original deal struck in 2014, the Yamal 601 satellite, weighing over 5,700 kilograms, was to be built by Thales Alenia Space on the flight proven Spacebus-4000 platform. The mission marked the second Russian company switching from domestic communications satellite developers to foreign suppliers. Previously, Russian Satellite Communications Company, RSCC, also gave contracts to non-Russian satellite producers.
However after the events in Crimea later that year, the contract was re-written to base the project on the platform developed at ISS Reshetnev in Russia, while leaving the communications payload to be supplied by Thales.
The satellite will be launched into geostationary transfer orbit and has an anticipated service lifetime of 15 years. Yamal 601 satellite will replace Yamal 202 and will provide fixed communications and transmission services in C-band over Europe, the Middle East, Northern Africa and South-East Asia from the orbital position at 49 degrees East longitude. This satellite is also designed for development of business in Ku- and Ka-bands in the Russian market.
The International Launch Services, ILS, a US-based company that markets the Proton rocket to commercial customers, announced the contract for the launch of Yamal-601 on Jan. 22, 2014, promising the launch in February 2016.
In July 2016, Moscow-based Sberbank provided Gazprom with five lines of credit totaling 22 billion rubles for the development of the Yamal-601 satellite, its ground infrastructure, its launch and insurance.
By April 2017, the mission slipped to the end of 2018. The launch date was confirmed in September 2017.
Delayed from beginning of 2018: Russia to launch Kanopus-VM No. 1 satellite.
When first announced in 2006, the Lybid spacecraft was expected to fly in 2010, but it was later postponed until September 2011. In April 2010, the launch was promised in April 2012. However, according to the Yuzmash production plant in Dnipro, Ukraine, it received an order for the Zenit rocket to launch Lybid in 2011. In the meantime, the mission was delayed until the fourth quarter of 2013. In August 2014, Ukrainian space agency said that the spacecraft would be ready for launch in the fourth quarter of that year, however political problems between Russia and Ukraine kept the spacecraft on the ground.
Only in March 2017, there were first signs that the Lybid program might have a chance to get off the ground. In an interview with the Interfax-Ukraine news agency, Acting Head of Ukrainian Space Agency, GKAU, Yuri Radchenko said that before the end of that month, the Yuzhmash factory in Dnepr, Ukraine, was expected to pay Moscow-based NPO Energomash for the RD-171 engine to be installed on the fully assembled first stage of the Zenit rocket slated to launch Lybid. At the same time, industry sources said that personnel at Yuzhmash had began testing a fully assembled second stage of the Zenit for the Lybid mission.
As of September 2017, the launch of the Lybid satellite was postponed from the end of the year to the first quarter of 2018. Within a month, the launch date was narrowed down to the Jan. 1-10, 2018, period. However on Jan. 11, 2018, Yuzmash announced that it had been waiting for $8.245 million to complete the manufacturing of the Zenit rocket for the mission, which was now officially under an order from the TsENKI launch infrastructure center, a division of the Roskosmos State Corporation. By taking the formal ownership of the launcher, TsENKI, likely provided a political cover for the Lybid launch, necessary under the conditions of mutual sanctions between Moscow and Kiev. As of February 2018, it was unclear whether the satellite could be launched before the end of the year.
Postponed from 2017:
2017: Russia to launch Geo-IK-2 No. 3 geodesic satellite for the Russian Ministry of Defense. (As of 2016.)
2017: A Soyuz-2.1b rocket to launch the 2,100-kilogram Arktika-M No. 1 remote-sensing satellite into a highly elliptical 12-hour orbit (perigee: 800-2,500 kilometers, inclination: 62.8-63.5 degrees) from Baikonur. The constellation is designed to monitor high-altitude areas of the Earth. The spacecraft is to be based on the Elektro weather-forecasting satellite. In 2008, the first pair of Arktika-M satellites was expected to fly in 2013. (299), but by December 2010, the mission slipped to 2014. (442) By 2012, the first launch was promised in 2015 and the second in 2016. In the middle of 2015, the launch was postponed from 2016 to 2017.
2017: Russia to launch the Kartograf-OE No. 1 remote-sensing satellite. (Before 2012, the launch was expected as early as 2014).
2017: Russia to launch Smotr-R No. 1 remote-sensing satellite.
Postponed from 2015:
End of 2015 - end of 2016: A Soyuz or Vega rocket to launch the 200-kilogram Taranis satellite into a quasi-sun-synchronous orbit with an altitude of 700 kilometers. Developed by the French space agency, CNES, the Taranis satellite (Tool for the Analysis of RAdiation from lightNIng and Sprites) will be a secondary payload during a mission to deliver multiple spacecraft. The satellite will study magnetosphere-ionosphere-atmosphere coupling via transient processes, focusing in particular on two aspects: determining the characteristics and frequency of transient luminous events (TLE) involved in the coupling between the ionosphere and atmosphere, and characterizing the electron beams accelerated from the atmosphere to the magnetosphere. The contract for the mission between Toulouse Space Center and Arianespace was announced on July 9, 2012. The agreement also included options for the launch of two other CNES satellites, Microscope and Merlin.
Postponed from December 2015: A Soyuz-2-1b/Fregat rocket to launch the Meteor-M remote-sensing satellite, along with a cluster of secondary payloads, including Flying Laptop, Flock 2, Scout, AISSat-3, Perseus-O1, Perseus-O2.
Postponed from 2015: Soyuz rocket to launch the Foton-M No. 5 spacecraft. The spacecraft is expected to be equipped with solar panels, modified service module, and the new liquid-propellant orbit correction engine. The orbital life span of the satellite to be launched into the 400-450-kilometer orbit was expected to increase to 60 days. (As of April 2009)
Postponed from around 2015: Russia to launch Kosmos-SKh satellite to monitor agricultural development from space.
Postponed from 2015: Russia to launch the Kartograf-OE No. 2 remote-sensing satellite.
Postponed from 2016:
A Soyuz-2.1b rocket to launch the Arktika-R No. 1 satellite into the polar orbit for radar observations of the polar areas. Originally a pair of Arktika-R satellites was planned for launch in 2014, by the end of 2010, the introduction of the system slipped to 2015. (442) By 2012, the second Arktika-R satellite was postponed to 2016.
2016: Soyuz-2-1b/Fregat-SB rocket to launch the Arkon-2M No. 2 remote-sensing satellites for all-weather radar observations of the Earth surface from a 550-600-kilometer Sun-synchronous orbit. In 2010, a pair of spacecraft was scheduled for launch in 2013, however by 2012, the first Arkon-2M was expected to fly in 2015 and the second in 2016. The Arkon-2M program was canceled by November 2012.
Canceled Russian missions
Aug. 5: A Dnepr rocket to launch a pair of GRACE-FO scientific satellites for the European Space Agency, ESA, from a silo facility 370/13 in Dombarovsky. The mission was switched to a Falcon-9 rocket.
2017: Russia to launch Arkon-2 No. 1 radar remote-sensing satellite. As of 2008, the first launch of Arkon-2 was promised in 2011 (299), however during 2010-2012 period, the mission was expected in 2017.
2017: The Baiterek launch complex in Baikonur to host its first mission of the Angara rocket. (As of end of 2010. As of 2008, the first Angara mission from Baikonur was promised in 2012; by 2009, it slipped to 2014 and by 2011 to 2017. The program was canceled in 2012).
2017-2018: A Soyuz rocket with a Fregat upper stage to launch the first pair of a quartet of satellites from Plesetsk to study plasma within the Roy ("Swarm") project. Each 200-kilogram spacecraft would be based on the Karat platform with plasma-electric engines and carry around 60 kilograms of payload. Each spacecraft would carry a single magnetometer boom and four booms for measurement of Earth's electric field.
2017: A Dnepr rocket with a Krechet upper stage to launch Ukrainian Selena mini-orbiter toward the Moon. Developed by KB Yuzhnoe, Selena would be the first spacecraft in post-Soviet Ukraine designed to go beyond the Earth orbit. (Plans as of November 2011.) Ukrainian plans for developing a lunar station had been publicized during the crisis with the Russian Phobos-Grunt spacecraft and, possibly, were timed to facilitate contacts with Russia on a potential cooperative project in deep space. Ukraine's previous plans to launch a 300-kilogram lunar orbiter on the Zenit rocket stalled due to lack of funds. However, by scaling down the project to fit into a converted ballistic missile and, possibly, joining forces with Russia, could make the proposal affordable. It could be speculated, that after the Phobos-Grunt fiasco, Russian space strategists could be under pressure to fly an inexpensive test mission into deep-space before returning to ambitious and expensive planetary missions.
Read (and see) much more about the history of the Russian space program in a richly illustrated, large-format glossy edition:
This page is compiled by Anatoly Zak; Last update: March 19, 2018
Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: April 30, 2011
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Soyuz-2-1a lifts off on February 1, 2018, with a pair of Kanopus-V satellites and nine secondary payloads. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Progress MS-08 lifts off on Feb. 13, 2018. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos