Today’s Tidbits: July 9, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: July 9, 2018

Here are’s tidbits for July 9, 2018:  fastest-ever Progress docking with ISS; but is Russia’s space program entering the “dark ages”?  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Fastest-ever Progress Docking with ISS

Russia launched the next in its long series of Progress cargo spacecraft, Progress MS-09, to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) today.  It would be just another routine launch except for the fact that it was placed on a trajectory that got it to ISS in just two orbits — roughly 3.5 hours instead of 6 hours or 2 days.

It arrived eight minutes ahead of schedule at 9:31 pm ET.  NASA calls this Progress 70 or 70P because it is the 70th Progress launched to the ISS.  Progress has a much longer history, though.  The first Progress launch was in 1978 to the Soviet space station Salyut 6.  Over those 40 years, the vast majority of Progress launches have taken 34-orbit (2-day) journeys to whatever space stations (Salyut 6, Salyut 7, Mir, or ISS) they have resupplied.

A new four-orbit (6 hour) trajectory was introduced in 2013, but the Russians have continued trying to reduce the lag between launch and arrival both for Progress and its cousin, the crew-carrying Soyuz spacecraft.  Last year, the Russians made their first try at this new two-orbit path, but that one and the next — in October 2017 and February 2018 — failed because umbilicals did not detach from the rocket at the proper time in the last few seconds of the countdown.

Today, the third try was the charm and Progress MS-09 lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on time at 5:51 am ET (July 10 local time at the launch site).

The idea is that that this super-fast route to ISS could be used in the future not only for cargo, but crew.  Soyuz is quite cramped and most astronauts would prefer to spend as little time there as possible.  Today’s proof-of-concept is a step in that direction.

Is Russia’s Space Program Entering the “Dark Ages”?

While Progress MS-09’s success is good news for the Russian space program, Ars Technica reports [] that a Russian science and technology editor is less than optimistic about the Russian space program overall.

Andrei Borisov reportedly wrote in Lenta.Ru that new Roscosmos Director Dmitri Rogozin is proposing a space program “that reminds one of the Dark Ages in Europe.”  The article lists Rogozin’s decision to retire the venerable Proton rocket in favor of the new family of Angara rockets, even though they are far from competitive with SpaceX for commercial launches, as a sign of the Russian space program’s distress.

Other worrying signs are an expected decision to use Soyuz spacecraft for future lunar flights instead of the new Federation spacecraft that has been under development for several years, and continued delays in launching a science module, Nauka, to the ISS.  All in all, a pretty dismal outlook by at least one Russian observer.

Recently Published on 

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.