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SPACE FLIGHT 2003 -- Russian Space Activities

With financial support by a slowly improving national economy only slightly increasing over previous years, Russia in 2003 showed relatively unchanged activity in space operations from 2002. Its total of 21 successful launches (out of 21 attempts) was three less than the previous year's 24 (out of 26 attempts): Four Soyuz-U (one crewed), four Soyuz-FG (one crewed), five Protons, two Rockots (first launch 1994), three Zenit-3SL (sea launch, counted under U.S. Activities), two Molniya, three Kosmos-3M, and one Strela (launcher test with dummy payload). The upgraded Soyuz-FG rocket's new fuel injection system provides a five percent increase in thrust over the Soyuz-U, enhancing its lift capability by 200 kg and enabling it to carry the new Soyuz-TMA spacecraft, which is heavier than the Soyuz-TM ship used previously to ferry crews to the ISS. Soyuz-TMA was flown for the first time on October 30, 2002, as ISS mission 5S. It was followed in 2003 by Soyuz TMA-2 (6S) and TMA-3 (7S) (see International Space Station).

Commercial space activities. The Russian space program's major push to enter into the world's commercial arena by promoting its space products on the external market, driven by the need to survive in an era of severe reductions of public financing, leveled off in 2003. First launched in July 1965, the Proton heavy lifter, originally intended as a ballistic missile (UR500), by end-2003 had flown 223 times since 1980, with 14 failures (reliability: 0.937). Its launch rate in recent years has been as high as 13 per year. Of the five Protons launched in 2003 (2002: 9), three were for commercial customers (AMC-9/SES, Yamal-201 & -202, Ekspress AM-22), the others for the state, including military (early warning, navigation). Between 1985-2003, 171 Proton and 396 Soyuz rockets were launched, with ten failures of the Proton and ten of the Soyuz, giving a combined reliability index of 0.965. Until a launch failure on October 15, 2002, the Soyuz rocket had flown 74 consecutive successful missions, including 12 with human crews on board; meanwhile, another eight successful flights were added, including two carrying five humans.