Russian space program in 2020
During a traditional meeting with the Russian president on the eve of Cosmonautics Day (which was conducted in the teleconference mode in on April 10, 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic), Head of Roskosmos Dmitry Rogozin promised a total of 33 launches during the year, including 12 missions within the federal program and nine commercial launches, including three from French Guiana.
During the same event, Director General at ISS Reshetnev Nikolai Testoedov said that his company had planned to deliver a total of 10 spacecraft for launches in 2020. Two of them had already been launched (Meridian-M No. 19L and GLONASS-M No. 60), another two were at the launch site (Testoedov probably referred to Ekspress-80 and -103), while (6) others were either in storage or in manufacturing, Testoedov said. From his side, head of RKTs Progress Dmitry Baranov said that a fresh Soyuz launch vehicle would be shipped to Plesetsk in "coming days," likely for a military mission.
The world's orbital launch attempts in 2020 (as of May 30, 2020 ):
The 2020 space launch score card (as of May 30, 2020 ):
Planned Russian orbital launch attempts:
Middle of July: A Soyuz 2-1a rocket to launch a GLONASS-K satellite from Plesetsk. Before the end of 2019, the launch was expected at the end of March 2020. By February 2020, the mission was planned for May and at the beginning of April, the launch was pushed to June 27, with the planned delivery of the satellite to the launch site in the middle of May 2020, RIA Novosti reported quoting unnamed sources. However, in the first half of May, the launch was postponed from June 27 to the middle of July due to delays with the manufacturing of the satellite, RIA Novosti said.
July 23: A Soyuz 2-1a rocket (No. Ya15000-040) to launch the Progress MS-15 cargo ship from Baikonur toward the International Space Station, ISS. Before October 2019, the mission was expected to begin on July 15. By October 2019, Progress MS-15 was charged at the end of its 132-day flight to deorbit the Pirs Docking Compartment, SO1, a part of the Russian Segment since 2001. The operation would free the nadir (Earth-facing) docking port on the Zvezda Service Module, SM, for the arrival of the MLM Nauka module in December 2020. However, with the delay of the MLM launch to 2021 early in 2020, that task had to be transferred from Progress MS-15 to future cargo vehicles. On April 28, Roskosmos announced that its specialists had began unloading boosters for the Soyuz-2-1a rocket assigned to launch Progress MS-15 from railway carriers and that they had planned to begin assembling cabling network for the electric testing of the vehicle in near future. The cargo ship itself was in storage mode at the time, Roskosmos said.
Aft section of the core stage booster for the Soyuz-2-1a rocket assigned to launch Progress MS-15 is being unloaded from its rail carrier on April 28, 2020.
July 30: A Proton-M/Briz-M rocket to launch the Ekspress-80 and Ekspress-103 communications satellites. The joint launch of two satellites was originally promised in 2018, but in 2016, the mission slipped to the fourth quarter of 2019. On Jan. 31, 2018, Roskosmos announced that the payload structure module for Ekspress-80 arrived to Rome from ISS Reshetnev and was undergoing acceptance checks at Thales Alenia Space Italy by a team of engineers including specialists from Reshetnev. By 2019, the launch was delayed until 2020 and, and by the end of 2019, it was planned for March 30, 2020. According to GKNPTs Khrunichev, the Proton-M launch vehicle and the payload fairing for the mission was shipped from the assembly factory in Moscow to Baikonur during the night from December 5 to December 6, 2019. The echelon arrived at Baikonur on December 15. In January 2020, ISS Reshetnev announced that the mission was planned for April 2020, but by February, the launch was set for March 31. On February 20, 2020, Roskosmos announced that Ekspress-80 and 103 had been delivered to Baikonur.
On March 10, 2020, Roskosmos quoted Director General at GKNPTs Khrunichev Aleksei Varochko as saying that quality control procedures uncovered a mismatch in one of the checked parameters in the components of a Proton rocket. To ensure reliability, the decision was made to replace a series of components, including those on the Proton-M launch vehicle intended for the Ekspress mission at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. As a result, the launch of the Ekspress satellite was expected to be re-scheduled for the end of May 2020, Roskosmos said. However, early in April, the rocket for the mission, along with at least one more Proton vehicle, had to be shipped back to Moscow, because the repairs had to be made in factory conditions, RIA Novosti reported quoting an industry source. As a result, the mission had to be postponed until the end of July 2020.
October 1: A Soyuz ST-A/Fregat-M rocket (Mission VS24) to launch the Falcon Eye-2 reconnaissance satellite for the United Arab Emirates from Kourou, French Guiana. On March 15, 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the French space agency, CNES, operating the Guiana Space Center, ordered to stop ongoing launch campaigns at the site and all unfinished construction. The only exception were the operations to bring the launch vehicles, payloads and facilities in safe condition and their monitoring.
On March 19, a Nordwind's Boeing-777-200 evacuated 246 Russian specialists from French Guiana to Moscow. A group of 21 people stayed longer to conduct drainage of maximum possible amount of propellant from the Fregat-M stage, so it could be stored without a supervision of the Russian team. As of early April, the launch of Falcon Eye-2 was tentatively scheduled for September 15, but by the middle of May, the launch was postponed until October 1, 2020.
As of April 10, the remaining Russian personnel was scheduled for evacuation from French Guiana between April 27 and April 30, 2020. On April 25, Roskosmos confirmed that the final group of nine specialists had landed at Moscow's Sheremetievo airport at 14:30 Moscow Time on that day.
October 14: A Soyuz-2-1a rocket to launch the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft (production No. 747, ISS mission 63S) from Baikonur toward the International Space Station, ISS. The launch window should allow the mission to reach the station after a four-orbit rendezvous scenario and dock at the MIM1 Rassvet module, a part of the ISS' Russian Segment, around six hours after liftoff.
As of 2014, the Soyuz MS-17 launch was planned for September 13, 2020, but by the middle of 2019, the mission was re-scheduled for October 14. By that time, Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner were assigned to the crew and Roskosmos planned to add another cosmonaut to the mission, in order to increase the Russian crew aboard the ISS from two to three people, as planned in anticipation of the MLM Nauka module launch.
However, continuous delays with the introduction of new American crew vehicles, prompted NASA to negotiate a purchase of the third seat aboard Soyuz MS-17 for its astronaut Stephen Bowen. In case a US astronaut had to be assigned to the mission and the Nauka was ready for launch as planned in November 2020, Roskosmos would not have a large enough crew aboard the Russian Segment to receive and integrate the new module. At the same time, many other factors could require postponing Nauka's launch and, as early as the Fall of 2019, Roskosmos had already taken steps to support the module's arrival in 2021.
In early May 2020, a press-release from the Zhukovsky airport disclosed that Russian cosmonauts Sergei Ryzhikov and Sergei Kud'-Sverchkov had been selected as primary members of the Soyuz MS-17 crew, with Oleg Novitsky and Petr Dubrov as their backups.
November 6: A Soyuz-ST rocket with the Fregat upper stage to launch the CSO-2 military observation satellite for France from the ELS complex in Kourou, French Guiana. Because the Fregat upper stage originally intended for the CSO-2 launch was transferred to the preceding Falcon Eye-2 mission, the CSO-2 launch had to be postponed from April 10 to the second half of May 2020. According to the RIA Novosti news agency, the CSO-2 mission will receive the fresh Fregat upper stage originally intended for the OneWeb mission then planned at the end of 2020.
On March 15, 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the French space agency, CNES, operating the Guiana Space Center, ordered to stop ongoing launch campaigns at the site and all unfinished construction. The only exception were the operations to bring the launch vehicles, payloads and facilities in safe condition and their monitoring.
On March 19, a Nordwind Boeing-777-200 evacuated 250 Russian specialists from French Guiana to Moscow. As of early April, the launch of CSO-1 was tentatively scheduled for October 15, 2020, but by the middle of May, 2020, the launch date was shifted to November 6, 2020.
December 9: 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. By the beginning 2018, the launch was promised in 2019, but by the middle of that year, the mission was not expected to liftoff before 2020. The launch was then planned for the third or fourth quarter of 202o and early in 2020, it was set for December 9 of that year.
December 11: A Soyuz-2-1a rocket to launch the Progress MS-16 cargo ship (production No. 445, ISS mission 77P) from Baikonur's Site 31 to the International Space Station, ISS. The vehicle is expected to fly a two-day rendezvous profile and dock at the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module, SM, a part of the ISS' Russian Segment. During the planning of the ISS launch manifest in the Fall of 2019, the Progress MS-16 mission was expected to last 220 days, but its December 11, 2020, launch date also put the cargo ship into the time frame for a potential back-up role as "burial" vehicle for the Pirs Docking Compartment, SO1. The disposal operation would free the nadir (Earth-facing) docking port on the Zvezda Service Module, SM, for the arrival of the MLM Nauka module. The primary role to discard Pirs was at the time assigned to the Progress MS-15 mission, however a potential delay with the December 2020 launch of the Nauka would shift the responsibility for Pirs' disposal to Progress MS-16, because mission control wanted to keep Pirs at the station until the delivery of Nauka was imminent. To perform its disposal backup duty, Progress MS-16 would need a number of avionics for automated and manual control, which would have to be installed during its pre-launch processing in Baikonur. The exact launch date of Progress MS-16 was also subject to change depending on the status of the MLM launch (Insider Content).
End of 2020: A Soyuz rocket to launch Resurs-P No. 4 satellite. (As of beginning of 2019. Postponed from 2018. )
Soyuz-2-1b lifts off from Baikonur with 34 OneWeb satellites on February 7, 2020. Click to enlarge. Credit: Arianespace
Soyuz lifts off with 34 OneWeb satellites on March 21, 2020. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
The Arktika satellite could be based on the Elektro weather-forecasting satellite. Credit: Roskosmos