Space news #20: Is Russia trying too hard?
After months of nearly non-stop Russian space-achievement-propaganda, the Russian space industry has now experienced a string of temporary setbacks.
Last week, a Soyuz carrying a Progress delivery run to the International Space Station failed when the launch vehicle suffered a fuel leak in its third stage. Engineers were able to make brief contact with the Progress, but were unable to correct its spin. A couple of days later it fell back to Earth over South Africa.
Just this morning, a second Russian rocket launch failed. This time a Proton M carrying a communication satellite. Launching from Khazikstan, the rocket experienced launcher deja-vu when a fuel leak in its third stage caused it to break up before reaching orbit.
Russian spacecraft are generally know for being reliable, at least in the recent past. Despite this, as a result of the Soyuz incident, Sarah Brightman, who had booked passage on a Soyuz bound for the International Space Station, has changed her tune on the off chance that her scheduled flight might be her swan-song.
Although these incidents tarnish Russia’s launch reputation a little, they could actually be symptoms of a larger problem. Commercial space companies such as Space X and Blue Origin have launch systems that are going to cheaper than the Russian launchers. These failures could be a sign that Russia is trying too hard to cut costs to stay competitive in the new space race.
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