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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In Post-Soviet Russia, Rockets Fly into the Ground

Posted by on Wed, Aug 24, 2011 at 3:40 PM

An uncrewed Soyuz rocket that was supposed to carry food and supplies to astronauts on the International Space Station crashed shortly after it took off today, continuing a long late- and post-Soviet Russian tradition of technological and scientific debacles. There isn't any word yet on the technical cause of the rocket failure, but it seems, happily, that no one was harmed.

Also, the astronauts on the ISS will be fine—they have lots of food reserves on the station already—but you have to wonder if it's wise to keep populating, repairing and supplying the ISS with only one kind of outdated spacecraft (the US got out of the low-orbit "humanned" space travel game with the end of the Shuttle program—Soyuz rockets will be the sole transportation for ISS-bound astronauts and supplies).

Of course, the ISS is a money-sucking, scientifically useless garbage can that's going to fall to Earth way before it was supposed to, so one wonders why anyone keeps sending people up there. At least we're not paying for the rockets anymore.

On a somewhat related note, here is a video of rockets exploding.


Comments (13) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
It will be interesting to hear what the failure was. The Soyuz is an extremely reliable launch vehicle, quite possibly the most reliable in the world, probably because it's been produced since 1966 with only incremental changes, and it's based on the R7 family, which goes back to 1957. By aerospace standards this is a mind-bendingly conservative design.
Posted by Orv on August 24, 2011 at 4:00 PM · Report this
What a Luddite post. As @1 observes, the Soyuz is quite reliable as launch vehicles go. We can argue whether the ISS is worth the cost, but to describe it as "scientifically useless" is over the top and undercuts any point you may have been trying to make.
Posted by Don't you think he looks tired? on August 24, 2011 at 4:11 PM · Report this
Believe me, they crashed into the ground during the Soviet era too.
Posted by Westside forever on August 24, 2011 at 4:22 PM · Report this
It's also worth noting that the design of the Soyuz capsule and launcher is such that most launch vehicle failures are survivable -- the capsule has an escape system that will lift it free of the booster if something goes wrong. This has actually been put to use successfully once in the past, in 1983, when a Soyuz rocket exploded very shortly after liftoff. The booster and launchpad were destroyed but the capsule landed safely.
Posted by Orv on August 24, 2011 at 4:28 PM · Report this
Unregistered User 5

Posted by Unregistered User on August 24, 2011 at 4:35 PM · Report this
Not to mention there are at least THREE commercial companies (including Boeing) currently developing manned and unmanned transfer vehicles, all of which are designed, among other mission profiles, to service ISS. Most are 3 - 5 years off, but as others have pointed out above, the Soyuz/Progress-R7 Semyorka configuration has proven to be extremely reliable over its 45 year (and still going) lifespan, with only 22 failures out of 746 launches; that's a 97% success-rate, which for something as technologically complex as an orbital launch system is nothing short of astounding.
Posted by COMTE on August 24, 2011 at 4:44 PM · Report this
Wanna see a bad track record? Orbital Science's Taurus launch vehicle has failed three of its last four launches, destroying important earth-science payloads.

Folks at work joke that it's a conspiracy, "If congress actually wanted climate data, they'd fund a Delta or an Atlas launch." The joke isn't very funny; my project is penciled in for a Taurus launch.…

Guess what I think of the ISS.
Posted by opticsdoug on August 24, 2011 at 5:33 PM · Report this
balderdash 8
"so one wonders why anyone keeps sending people up there"

Because any space program is far, far better than no space program at all. And it's not scientifically useless, it's just... less than could be hoped for.

Also basically what @5 said. Bad intern. No pissing on science. BAD INTERN. No cookie.
Posted by balderdash on August 24, 2011 at 6:02 PM · Report this
@2, 5, 8: I love science. Science is my life. I would never piss on science. And I'm here to tell you, Unpaid Intern is 100% right -- the ISS is damn near close to useless, from a science point of view. Not just "bad-return-for-buck". Useless.
That said, I've got to ask Peter Johnson if his middle name is Richard, and if so, does he introduce himself as "Peter Dick Johnson". Because that would be all kinds of awesome. I may like science, but I also have a sixth-grade sense of humor.
Posted by Eric from Boulder on August 24, 2011 at 8:39 PM · Report this

Let me guess: you're one of the "robots can do the job much better - and cheaper - than humans" crowd.

Not that robotic probes don't have their uses. But a robot wouldn't have picked out The Genesis Rock the way Jim Irwin & Dave Scott did on the Apollo 15 mission. And sending robots into space tells us almost nothing about how human being function there; something that, at the rate we're mucking up things down here on earth, may be the key to humanity's survival as a species.
Posted by COMTE on August 24, 2011 at 10:57 PM · Report this
Simone 11
Cool rocket explosion compilation vid. Oh, and the station is going to continue to orbit the earth until at least 2020, as per Pres. Obama's plan. Bush's plan was for a 2016 deorbit.
Posted by Simone on August 24, 2011 at 11:37 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 12
See, the Stranger does embrace diversity. The brought on an anti-science idiot as an intern!
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on August 25, 2011 at 7:17 AM · Report this
Sort of like the Falcon project hypersonic vehicle launched by the U.S. about a week ago that crashed into the ocean.
Posted by Theoretical on August 25, 2011 at 9:49 AM · Report this

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