July 6, 2013
Russia To Launch Progress Cargo Vessel Despite Recent Proton Rocket Failure
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe OnlineProgress M-20M space freighter on July 28 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where the Proton rocket carrying three GLONASS navigational satellites exploded on Tuesday. The Progress vessel will deliver supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).
"Preparations for the Progress launch are running according to schedule. It is still planned for July 28," Vladimir Popovkin, a senior official with Russia space agency, told RIA Novosti after a meeting of the state commission on reforming the space industry.
Popovkin also said a Russian lab module due for launch aboard a Proton-M rocket to the ISS in December will not be affected by the recent rocket failure.
"We will certainly sort this thing out by December. What's important is that the module is ready by December," he said.
Popovkin noted that officials have narrowed down the cause of Tuesday's accident to three possible scenarios: malfunctioning launch equipment, faulty control systems or problems with the first stage rocket engine.
He said that the investigation should be completed by the end of July, but could not set a firm deadline.
Russia has suffered a series of launch failures over the last few years, including the failure of its Progress 44 cargo vessel in August 2011, which crashed back to Earth shortly after launch.
Russian officials noted then that the loss of the Progress 44 cargo ship, which was carrying more than three tons of food and supplies for the ISS crew, would not affect astronauts aboard the orbiting lab as they still had plenty of supplies.
And earlier this year, Russia's Progress 51 cargo ship had an antenna malfunction that nearly severed ties between the craft and ground control. Russia was able to regain control and successfully dock the vessel with the ISS.
Russia's space industry also suffered a huge setback in its Mars moon program after its ambitious Phobos-Grunt satellite was lost after its launch in late 2011. That loss was added to the string of launch failures in the agency's attempts to visit the Red Planet since the 1970s.
While Russia is busy investigating launch failures, NASA is busy celebrating their launch successes.
On July 7, NASA will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the successful launch of its Opportunity rover, which has now been on a 'Martian Marathon' on the Red Planet for the last nine years.
RedOrbit's Lee Rannals reported on July 3 that opportunity is now more than half way to its next destination, Solander Point, where it will investigate a wealth of geological layering in the search for past life on the desolate planet.