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posted by on Saturday January 28 2017, @06:17AM   Printer-friendly
from the who-would-ever-notice? dept.

In recent years, the Russian space program has had a series of problems with its flagship rockets, the heavy-lift Proton booster and the smaller Soyuz rocket used to launch crews and cargo to the International Space Station. The Proton rocket has been grounded since last summer, and the Soyuz has not flown since December, when its third stage engine failed and a Progress cargo spacecraft was lost.

Most of these problems have been traced to engines that power the second and third stages of the Proton and Soyuz rockets. The majority of these engines are built at the Voronezh Manufacturing Plant in southwestern Russia, near the Ukrainian border. Russian Space Web reports that Ivan Koptev, director general of the engine manufacturing facility, has resigned.

According to the news reports, the final straw may have come after recent tests of engines to be used by future second and third stages of the Proton rocket that resulted in more failures. "The failure of the engine was reportedly traced to illegal replacement of precious heat-resistant alloys within the engine's components with less expensive but failure-prone materials," Zak writes. The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has already recalled some of the engines to be used in the upper stage of its Soyuz rockets, and now it is also recalling dozens of Proton upper stage engines. The next Proton launch could be delayed into this summer.

Source:
https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/01/russia-recalling-dozens-of-rocket-engines-sacks-head-motor-builder/


Original Submission

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Russia's space leader blusters about Mars in the face of stiff budget cuts

The leader of Russia's civil space program appears to be increasingly disengaged from reality. In recent months Dmitry Rogozin, the chief of Roscosmos, has given a series of interviews in which he has made all manner of big promises about the supposedly bright future of Russia's space program.

For example, in an interview published just today, Rogozin made the fantastical claim that his country's space program has the technical means to reach Mars and land cosmonauts there within eight to 10 years. If Russia is ready to finance such a plan, Rogozin guaranteed that Roscosmos stands ready to deliver.

Russia, Rogozin also recently said, is ready to do reuse better than SpaceX and the United States. SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, he said, is only "semi-reusable," and Russia aspires to build a 21st-century rocket capable of 100 flights. He then reiterated that Russia would like to develop a version of its Soyuz rocket that has a methane-fueled engine.

SpaceX has flown its Falcon 9 first-stage rockets five times, and it plans to push toward reusing each booster 10 times. It is not clear what, if any, steps Russia has taken toward reuse. The reality is that Russia depends on reliable but decades-old technology to get into space. And while Rogozin talks a good game about sending his cosmonauts to the Moon or to Mars, and about competing with SpaceX on reusable rockets, this appears to be mostly bluster.

If you are still under any illusions about the state of Russia's space program, now is the time to dispel them.

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  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 28 2017, @06:59AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 28 2017, @06:59AM (#459834)

    This is why corruption is bad, it eventually comes and bites someone in the ass. Even worse when that ass is strapped to a fucking rocket!

    • (Score: 1) by fraxinus-tree on Saturday January 28 2017, @07:53AM

      by fraxinus-tree (5590) on Saturday January 28 2017, @07:53AM (#459843)

      The corruption in Russia (be it soviet or not) is more of a regulating mechanism than a social evil. Well, I don't say that the society regulated by such mechanism is good to live in, but up to now Russians did not manage to replace it. In Russian terms the fake material in rocket engines amounts to "gross negligence" rather than corruption.

      • (Score: 5, Insightful) by anubi on Saturday January 28 2017, @08:02AM

        by anubi (2828) on Saturday January 28 2017, @08:02AM (#459844) Journal

        This is yet another example of why we need "perfectionists" on the workforce.

        Seems like nearly every techie I speak to has the same story I have... the suits want it fast and cheap, and if you are taking the time to do it right, you will be replaced by someone who "sees the big picture".

        Its really painful to see a once proud organization that used to pride itself on being the best there is succumb to mediocrity at the signatures of the leadership class.

        --
        "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
        • (Score: 2) by frojack on Saturday January 28 2017, @08:58AM

          by frojack (1554) on Saturday January 28 2017, @08:58AM (#459847) Journal

          The Russian economy is teetering on the brink these days. Most Russian household have zero savings at this particular time, and the price of goods has gone through the roof of late. This is either the result or the cause of Putin putting the brakes on imports lately.

          Some would say its the result of western sanctions, but these really haven had time to kick in yet, and they only affected government officials and a few in the finance industry.

          Substitute materials might be graft, or it might be just a fixed price government contract with no cost escalation provisions. If any part of the manufacturing or the materials gets caught in Putin's edict, the manufacturer could be between a rock and a hard place.

          I don't know if the US buys any of these particular motors any more, (or if they ever did). If NASA stopped, there is another source of income lost.

          --
          No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
          • (Score: 1) by fraxinus-tree on Sunday January 29 2017, @03:51PM

            by fraxinus-tree (5590) on Sunday January 29 2017, @03:51PM (#460260)

            This particular manufacturer is government-run so there always are "cost escalation provisions".

            • (Score: 2) by frojack on Sunday January 29 2017, @05:44PM

              by frojack (1554) on Sunday January 29 2017, @05:44PM (#460315) Journal

              This particular manufacturer is government-run

              So you say, but that makes the substitution of cheap metals even less explicable.

              --
              No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 28 2017, @01:36PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 28 2017, @01:36PM (#459871)

    If they make stuff NASA Can't/Won't buy it will help our trade balance.

    Perhaps the new President does have some influence on them after all.
    If so, how do we get the influence channeled in a more positive direction?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 28 2017, @02:44PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 28 2017, @02:44PM (#459888)

      Well, USA could put in trade barriers like the Japanese have had for cars and many other goods. As I understand it, any car company from anywhere in the world has been free to export cars to Japan since shortly after WWII. However, to sell them in Japan, there are countless special regulations that have to be met, effectively death by a thousand cuts.

      Some of the history here, http://www.commercialdiplomacy.org/sample_documents/japan/background_paper_japan4.htm [commercialdiplomacy.org]

      Looks like this may have changed in recent years.

  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 28 2017, @04:30PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 28 2017, @04:30PM (#459907)

    Glad to hear it!

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by wisnoskij on Saturday January 28 2017, @06:27PM

    by wisnoskij (5149) <jonathonwisnoskiNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday January 28 2017, @06:27PM (#459926)

    When you replace the heat resistant metal in a rocket engine with cheap knockoff metal, it does not become error-prone, it becomes a very expensive bomb.