May has been a busy month for aerospace. Poor Russia is having terrible luck with its space program. A second space mission for Roscosmos in less than a month ended in disaster on Saturday. This time, it was a Mexican satellite that met its doom.
The Proton-M carrier rocket experienced a malfunction just eight minutes into the flight. Officials aren’t sure what the cause was and have launched an investigation. Pieces of the rocket and satellite may have hit land in southeastern Siberia, but most of it burned up in the atmosphere.
Roscosmos rocket sitting on launch pad
Two accidents in less than a month isn’t good. Confidence in Russia’s space program is taking a hit. Commercial satellite operations have to be thinking about other options for getting their satellites in space. There are plenty of options today with multiple private space companies vying for contracts. SpaceX is just one of the players.
The Proton-M rocket is no stranger to failures. One year ago, another Proton-M rocket and its satellite were destroyed after officials lost contact with it.
Saturday’s failure came just a couple of weeks after a Russian cargo ship heading towards the International Space Station (ISS) went off course. The Soyuz cargo ship eventually burned up when it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere.
That failure led to officials delaying the return of three astronauts aboard the ISS.
You know NASA will be glad once Boeing and SpaceX are ferrying astronauts to the ISS versus Russian rockets.
NASA Gives SpaceX Greenlight For Science Missions
Last week, SpaceX received NASA certification to launch most of NASA’s science missions. SpaceX will get right to work with the July launch of a U.S.-French oceanography satellite.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 lifting off
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is now certified as “Category 2” by NASA. The only missions it can’t launch are “multibillion-dollar interplanetary flagship missions,” according to SpaceFlightNow. It will need Category 3 certification for that.
The Air Force’s Mysterious Space Plane Is Going Back Up
If all systems are ‘go,’ the Air Force’s mysterious X-37B will head back into space on Wednesday. This time, we know a little bit about what it will be doing. NASA test materials will be aboard the space plane. Nearly 100 different materials will catch a ride to space aboard the X-37B for more than 200 days.
Post-flight inspection of X-37B
“By exposing materials to space and returning the samples to Earth, we gain valuable data about how the materials hold up in the environment in which they will have to operate,” said Miria Finckenor, the co-investigator on the MISSE experiment and principal investigator for METIS at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “Spacecraft designers can use this information to choose the best material for specific applications, such as thermal protection or antennas or any other space hardware.”
SpaceFlightNow talks a bit about a new propulsion experiment that will take place during this mission.
We have a few tidbits of info about the X-37B, but there is still a lot of mystery surrounding the Air Force’s space plane.