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SPACE FLIGHT 2007 - The Year in Review

Russian Space Activities

With financial support by a slowly improving national economy continuing to grow slightly over previous years (about 6% annually), Russia in 2007 showed increased activity in space operations from 2006, launching 7 different carrier rockets (2006: 12; 2005: 7).  Out of 68 launch attempts worldwide in 2007, 26 space launches were attempted by Russia, again placing it in the lead of spacefaring countries including the US.  Its total of 26 launch attempts, of which 25 were successful, was one more than its previous year’s 25 attempts (23 successful, same as in 2005 & 2004):  Six Soyuz-U, five Soyuz-FG (two crewed), three Proton-K, four Proton-M (one failed on September 6, carrying the Japanese comsat JCSat-11), one Zenit-2, one Zenit-3SL (failed sea launch, counted above under U.S. Activities), one Molniya-M, three Kosmos-3M, and three Dnepr-1.  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 in earlier years 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),  in 2004 by TMA-4 (8S) and TMA-5 (9S), in 2005 by TMA-6 (10S) and TMA-7 (11S), in 2006 by TMA-8 (12S) and TMA-9 (13S), and in 2007 by TMA-10 (14S) and TMA-11 (15S) (see International Space Station).

Russia is currently using three launch sites: Baikonur in Kazakhstan (45.6N, 63.4E), Plesetsk (62.9N;40.8E), and Yasny Cosmodrome in the Orenburg region (51.0N; 58.0E).

Russian cosmonauts continue to hold the worldwide lead in spaceflight endurance, headed by Sergei Krikalev with 803 days on six Mir/Shuttle/ISS missions.  In second place is Sergei Avdeyev with 748 days (three Mir missions), followed by physician Valery Polyakov with 679 days (two Mir missions), Anatoly Solovyev (652d on five Mir missions) and Alexander Kaleri (611d on 4 Mir/ISS missions).  The US astronaut with the longest space duration, holding the U.S. record for men is Michael Foale (374d on six Mir/ISS missions), for women Sunita Williams (194d 19h on ISS Expedition 14/15).

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 restricted public financing, continued in 2007.  First launched in July 1965, the Proton heavy lifter, originally intended as a ballistic missile (UR500), by end-2007 had flown 251 times since 1980, with 16 failures (reliability: 0.936).  Its launch rate in recent years has been as high as 13 per year.  Of the seven Protons launched in 2007 (2006: 6; 2005: 7; 2004: 8), four were for commercial customers: Canada’s Anik-F, the huge U.S. DirecTV-10, Japan’s JCSat-11 (failed), and the Swedish/Danish/Teracom Sirius-4, plus three for the state/military carrying six GLONASS-M navsats (the Russian equivalent of GPS) and the Raduga-1 #8 comsat.  From 1985-2007, 199 Proton and 433 Soyuz rockets were launched, with 12 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 45 successful flights were added, including ten carrying 29 humans. 

Besides the four commercial Proton launch attempts, there were three Dnepr-1 missions, one on April 17 from Baikonur with 16 civil microsats, the second on June 15 with the German civil TerraSAR-X from Baikonur, and the third on June 28 from the ISC Kosmotras Yasny Cosmodrome in southern Russia with the commercial Genesis-2 Pathfinder payload, a successful technology demonstration for the inflatable Nautilus space station structure promoted by the commercial firm Bigelow Aerospace.  After Genesis-2, two Guardian spacecraft will follow (Genesis is a one-third scale model of the Nautilus module, Guardian a 45% scale model).