VIDEO: These Are The People We Contract Manned Space Flights To

Not that NASA hasn’t had its own launch malfunctions, but…damn.

Russia has temporarily suspended upcoming launches of its Proton-M rocket in the wake of Monday’s high-profile mishap, according to media reports.

An unmanned Proton-M crashed shortly after blasting off on Monday (July 1), destroying three navigation satellites worth a total of nearly $200 million. The incident marked the fifth major Proton launch failure since December 2010.

The Proton has been grounded while a Russian governmental commission investigates the causes of the crash and attempts to determine which officials bear responsibility for it, the Russian news agency Ria Novosti reported today (July 2).

That was $200 million up in smoke. It was also Russia’s version of our Global Positioning System up in smoke, because those satellites were supposed to be part of that system.

The Russians don’t use Proton-M rockets for manned launches. They use Soyuz rockets for that. Does that make you feel better if you’re an astronaut they want to send up with the Russians?

Meanwhile, SpaceX just keeps movin’ on up

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., recently completed two milestones for NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative, which is intended to make commercial human spaceflight services available for government and commercial customers.

These were the fifth and sixth milestones for SpaceX, a partner in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). The company is on track to complete all 14 of its CCiCap milestones by mid-2014.

In a human certification plan review May 7, SpaceX outlined all the steps the company plans to take to certify its system for crewed missions, including testing, demonstrations, analyses, inspections, verifications and training events. This was a key milestone to ensure SpaceX’s integrated Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule will be safe to carry humans to and from low-Earth orbit beginning in the middle of this decade.

At its pad abort test review, SpaceX presented plans for a pad abort test, currently targeted for later this year or early next year from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida. The review successfully demonstrated the adequacy of the test plan objectives and the pad abort scenario.

“The beauty of having the pad abort test review was it allowed both NASA and SpaceX to start coalescing toward an understanding of what will be tested and how we’ll measure success,” said Ed Mango, NASA’s CCP manager. “We’re really looking forward to seeing SpaceX’s pad abort system take off from along Florida’s Space Coast.”

During the upcoming pad abort test, SpaceX will perform a recovery operation following a simulated Falcon 9 anomaly. Plans call for the company to put one of its Dragon capsules on a launch pad test stand, countdown to T-0, ignite the system’s SuperDraco abort engines and initiate a separation command. At around 5,000 feet, the spacecraft’s parachutes will deploy resulting in a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX is one of three U.S. companies participating in NASA’s CCiCap initiative. Future development and certification initiatives eventually will lead to the availability of human spaceflight services for NASA to send its astronauts to the International Space Station.


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