Russian rocket glitch to delay satellite launch for U.S. startup…

ANOTHER glitch on Russia’s aging Soyuz rocket revealed as next launch delayed due to ‘anomaly’

  • The rocket was set to take off next month from Guiana Space Centre 
  • Would have launched first of a series of satellites into orbit that Virginia-based startup OneWeb plans to use to create a worldwide internet service
  • Tiny perforation had been found in one of the upper stage’s pipes 
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The launch of a Russian Soyuz rocket set to carry satellites into space for U.S startup OneWeb has been delayed after an anomaly was discovered on the rocket, company chairman Greg Wyler said on Thursday.

The rocket was set to take off next month from Guiana Space Centre propelling the first of a series of satellites into orbit that Virginia-based startup OneWeb plans to use to create a worldwide internet service.

It follows a string of problems with the rocket, including an aborted launch the the International Space Station last year. 

‘It’s true, there is an anomaly on the rocket which will cause us to push out the launch. Our satellites are ready to go! More to come,’ Wyler wrote on Twitter.

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The rocket was set to take off next month from Guiana Space Centre propelling the first of a series of satellites into orbit that Virginia-based startup OneWeb plans to use to create a worldwide internet service. Pictured, a 2008 launch.

In a separate statement, OneWeb confirmed it had been informed of a technical issue on the Fregat upper stage of the Soyuz launcher, but did not say the launch had been postponed.

‘Such events are not uncommon in the launch industry. OneWeb and Arianespace with their Russian partners, remain focused on launch success and launch preparation activities,’ it said in a statement.

Russia’s RIA news agency cited three sources as saying that a ‘breach’ had been discovered in the rocket’s Fregat upper stage.

A source quoted by TASS news agency said a tiny perforation had been found in one of the upper stage’s pipes and that the damage had possibly been caused during transportation.

Both reports said the problem could mean the launch is delayed.

Asked about the reports, Russian space agency Roscosmos told Reuters preparations for the flight were continuing as planned.

‘During pre-start operations, various problems can be uncovered which are resolved before a space rocket’s takeoff,’ a spokesman for Roscosmos said.

OneWeb did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

RUSSIA’S SOYUZ: DECADES OF BLASTING INTO SPACE

The Soyuz programme is an ongoing human spaceflight programme which was initiated by the Soviet Union in the early 1960s, originally part of a Moon landing project.

There have been 138 manned missions, of which 11 have failed and one astronaut has died.

Here are some of the notable failures, including one in 1967 when an astronaut was killed, one in 1975 when two astronauts hurtle to Earth.

1967: Soviet astronaut Vladimir Komarov was killed during landing due to a parachute failure

1975: Two Russian astronauts had to abort a mission to a Russian space station at an altitude of 90miles due to a rocket failure.

They hurtled towards Earth and safely landed in the Altai Mountains on the Russia-China border. 

One of the astronauts never flew to space again, never fully recovered from the accident and died aged 62 in 1990. The other made two more flights. 

1983: A rocket malfunctioned during the countdown to take off in southern Kazakhstan.

Automatic systems ejected the two Russian crew-members just seconds before the rocket exploded. The fire burned on the launch pad for 20 hours. 

2002: A Soyuz ship carrying a satellite crashed during launch in Russia when a booster suffered an engine malfunction. The ship landed near the launch pad, killing one engineer on the ground.

2011: A Soyuz-U mission carrying cargo failed to launch to the International Space Station when the upper stage experienced a problem and broke up over Siberia.

2016: Another cargo ship was lost shortly after launch, likely due to a problem with the third stage of the Soyuz-U. 

August 2018: A hole in a Soyuz capsule docked to the International Space Station caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched. 

The Russians claimed the hole was drilled deliberately in an act of sabotage either on Earth or in orbit. Another theory is that the hole was a production defect.

The startup plans to create a network of 900 satellites, most of which it wants to send into orbit via 21 Soyuz launch vehicles.

Russia’s space programme has been beset by problems in recent years, including failed cargo delivery missions into space and the aborted launch in October of a manned Soyuz mission to the International Space Station.

Earlier this month scientists said they had discovered a defect in the engines of Russia’s new flagship heavy lift space rocket.

Arianespace is majority-owned by a joint venture of Airbus and Safran.

SPACE STATION HOLE A ‘BOTCHED REPAIR JOB’ 

The commander of the International Space Station has revealed the hole drilled from the inside of the orbiting laboratory was likely caused by a botched repair job. 

It’s been more than four months since crew first discovered the hole in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, but just how it got there still remains a mystery. 

Alexander Gerst confirmed the leak was made deliberately and had the potential for ‘severe’ repercussions in an interview with the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.


The commander of the International Space Station has revealed the hole drilled from the inside of the orbiting laboratory was likely caused by a botched repair job. Space officials said the station remained safe to operate. There appear to be drill marks around the hole on the inside (pictured)

 

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