Russian Poison From The Sky

This time, it’s the Russian’s turn to randomly drop a spacecraft to Earth from orbit, only this one is loaded up with ten tons of highly toxic chemicals. When you duck, don’t forget your umbrella.

Toxic Russian Mars Probe Heads Back to Earth

It’s hard to believe that only last week we were getting excited for Russia’s first interplanetary mission in 15 years to launch. By now, we should be happy in the knowledge that the ambitious — and awesome — mission is powering through space, toward the Martian moon Phobos.

The reality is that we are now discussing uncontrolled reentry scenarios.

As if that wasn’t enough bad news, we are looking at an uncontrolled toxic reentry scenario. Phobos-Grunt — correctly written “Fobos-Grunt,” meaning “Phobos-Soil” or “Phobos-Ground” — is fully-laden with unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide; that’s ten tons of fuel and oxidizer. The probe itself weighs-in at only three tons.

The majority of the fuel will likely vaporize during reentry, but everyone will be hoping for a splash-down in an ocean (which covers two-thirds of Earth, fortunately), as the wreckage will still be hazardous. There’s also a small quantity of radioactive cobalt-57 in one of the science missions housed in the probe — a fact that will most likely cause a media frenzy.

It is for these reasons that the Russian media is dubbing Phobos-Grunt “Most toxic falling satellite ever.”

See also:
Russia’s Phobos-Grunt Spacecraft Goes AWOL
Russian Mars Probe Will Likely Come Crashing Back to Earth
Toxic Russian Mars Probe Likely Heading Back to Earth
Mood grim over Mars probe faultRussia Running Out Of Time, As Mars Mission Seems Destined To Fail
Report: Russians Believe Martian Moon Probe is ‘Lost’
Source: Russian Space Probe Unlikely to be Saved
Phobos-Grunt Mars probe remains silent in Earth orbit
Now Russians can’t even contact their busted Mars probe
Contact with Russian Mars probe ‘unlikely’ – expert
Failed Russian space mission shows difficulty of exploring Mars
Salvaging Science from Stricken Mars Moon Probe: A Scientist’s View
Phobos-Grunt mission
Fobos-Grunt

Man, the Russians just can’t catch a break. This is their fourth launch failure just this year and now they’re 0 for 18 at Mars missions.

/and we trust the Russians with our U.S. astronauts, it makes me nervous

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Back In The Soyuz Again?

The good news is that we probably won’t have to abandon the International Space Station after all. The bad news is that we’re still dependent on the Russians to get our astronauts there.

NASA Confirms Russian Soyuz Failure Findings

An independent NASA panel reviewing data related to the Aug. 24 failure of the Russian Soyuz rocket transporting cargo to the International Space Station has confirmed that the Russian space agency correctly identified the cause of the problem and is taking appropriate steps to resolve it before the rocket’s next launch scheduled for Oct. 30, said William H. Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, determined that the most likely cause of the failure was contamination in the rocket’s fuel lines or stabilizer valve, which caused low fuel supply to the gas generator, Gerstenmaier told lawmakers Oct. 12 during a hearing of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s space and aeronautics panel.

See also:
NASA review clears way for manned Soyuz flights
Russian Soyuz Recovery Strategy Endorsed
NASA ‘confident’ Russia’s Soyuz rocket safe
NASA says Soyuz rockets safe for American astronauts
Russian Rocket Failure Shouldn’t Force Space Station Evacuation, NASA Tells Lawmakers
NASA Gives Blessing for Soyuz Rocket, Which is Ready for Takeoff [PHOTOS]
August’s Russian rocket failure is unlikely to force evacuation of the International Space Station
NASA Says Russian Soyuz Flight Risk Low
NASA offers Congress assurances over space station

Hopefully, the Russians have come to the correct conclusion as to what the glitch was on last August’s failed resupply flight and have taken the proper actions to fix the problem.

/although I’d feel a whole lot better if the next Soyuz flight, the first since the August crash, wasn’t manned, just in case the Russians still have it wrong

Yeti Yeti Oxen Free

It’s like a snipe hunt, in the snow.

Russian and US Scientists Gather to Hunt Down Yeti

Scientists from several countries, including Russia and the U.S., will gather in the Kemerova region of Siberia to hunt down the Yeti, after alleged sightings of the legendary creatures increased threefold in the area over the past 20 years.

Scientists from Russia, the U.S., Canada, Sweden, Estonia, Mongolia and China were invited to evaluate evidence of the creatures — the existence of which has never been proven — at a conference later this week, according to Russian radio station the Voice of Russia.

Alleged sightings of Yetis in Kemerovo and the neighboring Altai region, about 1,988 miles (3,200 kilometers) east of Moscow, are up three times compared to 20 years ago, with scientists estimating that there is a current population of at least several dozen in the area.

See also:
W Siberia Yeti country?
Search is on for Yeti, Russian Researchers Say
U.S. and Russian Yeti Scientists Team-Up to Find 30-strong Siberian Tribe
Bigfoot quest: Siberia drafts in the pros
International Team of Scientists will Hunt for the Yeti
Bigfoot Experts Gather in Siberia to Hunt for Hominids
Scientists set off on yeti hunt
Hunters to track down elusive yeti
Scientists set off to find the abominable snowman
Scientists Prepare to Find Yeti The Abominable Snowman
Yeti Search: BREAKING BIGFOOT NEWS – Sasquatch Hunt is On!

You know, if yetis existed, you’d think someone would have found at least a dead yeti body/skeleton or produced a clear photograph of one, especially since the advent of ubiquitous remote scouting/trail cameras.

/if you ask me, this “conference” is just an excuse for these scientists to get together for a few days, party, and get drunk

Progress Fails To Make Progress

It’s been a really bad week for the Russians with two rocket failures in the last seven days and four failures total in less than a year.

Russian Progress space freighter lost

An unmanned freighter launched to the International Space Station (ISS) has been lost.

The Russian space agency said the Progress M-12M cargo ship was not placed in the correct orbit by its rocket and fell back to Earth.

The vessel was carrying three tonnes of supplies for the ISS astronauts.

. . .

It appears the Soyuz rocket’s third and final propulsion stage shut down early. As a result, the Russian federal space agency (Roskosmos) said, the Progress vessel “was not placed in the correct orbit”.

. . .

Officials reported the ship coming down in Russia’s Altai province, some 1,500km northeast of the launch site. A loud explosion was heard in the region and there were reports of windows being blown out, but it is not thought there were any injuries on the ground as a result of wreckage coming out of the sky.

See also:
Russia’s Progress M-12M launches toward ISS – fails to achieve orbit
Russian supply spacecraft crashes after launch
Russian cargo rocket lost in rare launch mishap
Technology.ISS supplies strained as Russian Progress freighter crashes to Earth
Space station manager: We can weather the Russian crash
Rocket headed for space station crashes
Russian Progress unmanned ISS resupply vehicle lost during launch
Russian Progress space truck crashes in Siberia
Unmanned Russian Supply Ship for Space Station Crashes
Search Underway for Remains of Russian Spacecraft
Debris from Russian space freighter falls in south Siberia
Spaceship crash ‘exposes Russia’s systemic failures’
Russia likely to suspend space deliveries over loss of Progress freighter
Roscosmos to tighten control of space industry after rocket lost
Russia grounds rocket, orders probe
Russian spacecraft lost to apparent engine failure uninsured
Will cargo crash leave ISS crew high and dry?

It’s not that I was a big fan of the space shuttle, but if the Russians can’t get these recurrent rocket failure problems under control, there’s a possibility that the International Space Station might eventually have to be abandoned, because there’s currently no available alternative to supply the ISS. The ISS managers are putting on a brave face that they can manage the cargo loss, but losing three tons of scheduled resupply has just got to hurt.

/what is it they say about putting all your eggs in one basket?

The Russian Raptor

Gee, does this aircraft look, um, familiar?

Russia Unveils Its First Stealth Fighter

Russia on Tuesday unveiled its first stealth fighter to the public, lifting the curtain on a secret project designed to flood the market with cheaper versions of better-known US jets.

The Sukhoi Tu-50, being developed jointly by Russia and India, made its maiden flight at a Far East airbase in January 2010 and was rolled out for public viewing at the MAKS international airshow outside Moscow.

Two of the sleek silver prototypes are due to perform air stunts Wednesday under the watchful eye of Russia’s powerful prime minister, Vladimir Putin, in a show of Russian military confidence in the much-delayed project.

“The T-50 jet will provide the backbone not only of the Russian air force but also that of India,” said Mikhail Pogosyan, president of United Aircraft Corporation, the state aviation holding company.

See also:
T-50 Fighter to Be Unveiled at MAKS
Russian Next Generation Stealth Fighter Unveiled at Air Show
Russian stealth and euro efficiency at MAKS airshow
Russia Set To Show Off Its First Stealth Fighter
Introducing The T-50: The Russian Stealth Fighter That Will Be Unveiled This Week
Indo-Russia T-50 stealth fighter to make its international debut
Russia sees orders for fifth generation jet from 2015
Russia set to show off its first stealth fighter
What does Russia’s fighter debut mean for the U.S.?
MAKS 2011
MAKS Airshow
Sukhoi Company (JSC)
Sukhoi PAK FA

So, Russia and India are going to mass produce the Sukhoi Tu-50 and “flood the market”. Meanwhile, we/ve stopped producing the F-22 Raptor and have funneled all or resources into the technologically inferior, ridiculously expensive, cost overruns from hell, F-35 Lightning II program, a program that’s now grounded while still only in the testing phase because it sucks so bad!

/what’s wrong with this picture?

Russian Rocket Roulette

Less than two months after losing three satellites in the ocean, Russia’s apparently lost yet another one.

Russian satellite feared stranded by rocket mishap

Russia is struggling to contact a military research satellite believed stranded in a low orbit by a rocket failure, according to Russian media reports.

The spacecraft lifted off on a Rockot launch vehicle at 1400 GMT (9 a.m. EST) Tuesday from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome about 500 miles north of Moscow.

The two-stage Rockot, a converted ballistic missile, flew north from Plesetsk toward space. A Breeze KM upper stage was supposed to fire twice to propel Russia’s GEO-IK 2 satellite to an orbital altitude of 1,000 kilometers, or more than 600 miles, about 90 minutes after blastoff.

But U.S. military tracking data indicate the rocket is still in an elliptical transfer orbit with a peak altitude of about 650 miles and a low point of 200 miles. Such an orbit might indicate the hydrazine-fueled Breeze KM engine did not ignite for a second time as planned.

Russia’s Novosti news agency quoted Oleg Ostapenko, commander of Russian space troops, as saying the satellite was placed in a bad orbit. Russian controllers are attempting to establish control of the craft, which did not radio back to Earth following launch.

See also:
Russia loses new military satellite
Russians Lose Spy Satellite Hours After Launch
Russian Dual Purpose Geodesic Satellite Lost
Russia loses control of new military satellite
Russia Reportedly Loses Military Satellite
Russia loses contact with newly launched satellite: report
Military Sources: Russia Lost Satellite
Russia loses new satellite in space: Interfax
Anyone Seen a Russian Military Satellite?

And this comes shortly after India lost a satellite last Christmas, when a Russian designed rocket exploded shortly after launch.

/is it just me, or does there seem to be an inordinate number of problems with Russian rocket quality lately?

International Man Of Misery Goes To Manhattan

Viktor Bout, the so called “Merchant of Death”, is now in U.S. custody and, if the Russians weren’t already angry enough, now they’re really pissed off.

Accused international arms dealer pleads not guilty

An accused international arms dealer, now in U.S. custody for allegedly agreeing to sell millions of dollars of weapons to a Colombian narco-terrorist organization, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in a U.S. courtroom to four counts of terror-related crimes.

Viktor Bout, the alleged dealer, could face life in prison if found guilty, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney said.

The charges he faces are conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals; conspiracy to kill U.S. officers or employees; conspiracy to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile; and conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization. In this case, that would be the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC.

And why might the Russians be upset by this?

Viktor Bout: Whose Secrets Does the Alleged Arms Dealer Know?

According to one defense adviser to the Russian government who served in the upper ranks of the KGB throughout the 1980s, Bout knows at least enough to embarrass, if not incriminate, a lot of Russia’s political brass. “Bout’s background is in military intelligence, so he can explain who does what in those structures,” the defense adviser says, asking to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of what he calls “this dirty business.” But such revelations, he adds, would not make for very exciting news, at least not for the CIA. “The much more worrying factor is [Bout’s] knowledge of the arms trade, which is a very gray area. He knows about military stockpiles, and he can explain which of our brother-nations are given access to what kinds of weapons, what kinds of bribes are given for access to these weapons, how international rules are skirted, and so on. On top of that, he has a lot of associates he can name, because you don’t conduct a business like this on your own. Of course this is all very messy.”

See also:
Arms Secret Dealer
Feds: Russian arms suspect not beyond law’s reach
‘Merchant of Death’ wanted clients who killed Americans: feds
Viktor Bout: Capturing “The Merchant of Death”
Russian weapons accused in court
Russia insists Bout given fair trial – FM
Russia demands fair trial for Bout
Bout Has ‘No Secrets’ To ShareRussia: Arms suspect has ‘no military secrets’
Russia: Arms suspect has ‘no military secrets’
Bout told Moscow ‘tried to assassinate him’ – spouse (update 1)
US captors of alleged arms dealer Bout detail Thailand sting
Thai government ordered Bout’s extradition in advance – source
Russia says U.S. offers deal to arms suspect Bout
Accused arms dealer claims U.S. tried to force a confession
Merchant of Death ‘not for sale’

It’s pretty obvious that Bout knows quite a lot about trafficking in Russian/Soviet arms and, given his track record, he’s a very bad actor and life in prison is too lenient a punishment for what he’s done. The Russians should be plenty nervous about what he might say and who he might incriminate. After all, Viktor was trying to sell anti-aircraft missiles, you don’t get those just anywhere, you need serious military and political connections.

But we need to be careful with this prosecution and be ready for blowback.

/There is a heavy price to pay for dealing with Lord of War