Cosmic touches of the outgoing year

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Cosmic touches of the outgoing year

Now that there are only a few hours left before the New Year, it is logical to look back and see what 2019 turned out to be. This material does not claim to be a full and comprehensive review, rather, some bright touches of the outgoing year.


Soyuz launch vehicle assembly, photo by Roscosmos

Against the background of counting the number of launches, it seems to me that the fact that for the first time in 16 years Roscosmos did not have a single emergency launch was not sufficiently noticed. The last time this was already in 2003. And after all, not to say that there were absolutely no incidents.

On February 21, the Soyuz-2.1b launch vehicle with the EgyptSat-A satellite launched from Baikonur. The satellite was successfully launched, but a few days later it turned out that about six seconds before the Frigate booster block was separated from the third stage, the engine turned off accidentally on it. The link between the upper stage and the satellite was located on a suborbital trajectory with a pericenter 57 km lower than the calculated one. Fortunately, the Frigate control system decided that it could launch the satellite despite a lower initial orbit, and successfully coped with the task. The investigation showed that the reason for turning off the engine was an error in the documentation – the volumes of fuel and oxidizer were mixed up, one filled more than necessary, the second less.

The struggle for quality is not an easy thing, and it is usually noticeable only by failure, so the importance of the first trouble-free year for a long time should be emphasized in every way. And, of course, look at what will happen next – whether the year 2019 was a fortuitous accident, or whether one can hope for a trend.

In a peculiar irony of fate, an accident occurred in the same year with a loss of payload at the European Space Agency, which, on the contrary, had a serious accident once every several years. The Vega launch vehicle with the UAE reconnaissance satellite was lost in the second minute of the flight almost immediately after switching on the second stage.


Broadcast frame

The disappearance of the exhaust flame and the transition to a ballistic trajectory, visible from the broadcast, suggested a complete failure of the second-stage solid-fuel engine. The investigation found that after 14 seconds of operation, the second stage collapsed in the upper part, breaking the rocket in half. It was the fifteenth launch of the Vega launch vehicle and its first accident.

In general, the outgoing year has repeatedly and clearly demonstrated the complexity of astronautics – there were more than enough falls and explosions. It seems that the simple and close Moon "showed its teeth" – after a successful landing on the back of the Chinese probe, Israeli and Indian crashed on our satellite. But just a few years ago, India became the first country to successfully deliver the device to the orbit of Mars on the first try.


Trace from the fall of "Bereshita"

The Israeli Bereshit probe, which initially showed itself brilliantly in a complex and lengthy flight, could not cope with the main task of landing. The gyro failure and the command sent to the probe started a chain of events, as a result of which the device at the most critical time of braking fell with the engine turned off and eventually crashed. The Indian Vikram apparatus successfully dropped to an altitude of 7.4 km and a speed of 146 m / s, but then the engines extinguished the speed faster than required, and the probe approached the stage of precise braking and landing with flight parameters, based on which the control system could not provide soft fit. The broadcast showed a deviation from the planned trajectory, then a tumbling model of the probe against a background of decreasing height, and then the connection disappeared. The device crashed on the moon.

Two spectacular incidents happened at SpaceX. In April, a Crew Dragon exploded during ground tests (leakage of the non-return valve led to a portion of the oxidizer moving before the boost gas was pressurized, destroying the leaked valve and causing a fire with an explosion).

And in November, when testing the Starship prototype, it burst beautifully, unable to withstand the pressure.

More recently, the Boeing Starliner unmanned test flight only partially completed successfully – due to incorrect timer settings, the ship wasted fuel for docking with the ISS and was forced to return to Earth ahead of schedule. In general, it is worth noting that in 2019, not only astronauts on Crew Dragon and Starliner did not fly, but also tourists on the suborbital New Shepard and SpaceShipTwo did not get to space – for both ships, the terms all continue to shift to the right. True, in February Virgin Galactic drove a tourist to almost 90 km, making her an astronaut according to the US classification (above 50 miles / 80 km), but they did not reach the Karman line at 100 km, and there were no more flights.

But Iran, probably, was not lucky most of all – two launches in 2019 were unsuccessful, and in August a third rocket exploded right on the launch pad.


Photo Maxar Technologies

Ending, beginning, renewing and continuing

At the beginning of 2019, the mission of the Opportunity Martian rover was officially declared completed – he never got in touch, turning off during a record dust storm on Mars in 2018. For fifteen earth years, the device traveled 45 kilometers and almost 60 times the estimated time service. But soon, three rovers should leave for Mars to join the company remaining Curiosity alone: ​​American, Chinese and European with a Russian landing platform.

Having exceeded almost three times the warranty period, the mission of the Russian Specter-R apparatus ended. The unique telescope, a thousand times more vigilant than the Hubble (oh, if the images looked just as beautiful in its range!), Fortunately, almost waited for the change – in the same year the second telescope from the Spectrum program went into orbit – "Spectrum-RG."

The trans-Neptune object (486958) 2014 MU69, past which the New Horizons flew in January, received the official name. Instead of “Ultima Thule” (the legendary island in northern Europe), he was called Arrokot (“sky” in the Pohatan language). The New Horizons does not yet have a definite new goal, but it may well appear.

And just recently, last week, the Chinese Great Voyage-5 heavy carrier rocket, on which many space programs depend on the lunar Chang'e-5, the Martian apparatus, and the modules of the new orbital station, returned to flight. In 2017, the second launch ended unsuccessfully – due to the destruction of the turbopump, the rocket and payload were lost.

Well, I want to end with a reminder about, in my opinion, the most extravagant mission of the year – the Japanese probe “Hayabusa-2” shot at an asteroid and bombed it. In November, the mission of the device with the asteroid Ryugu ended, and after an engine test in early December, he returned home.

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