Any astronaut brave enough to strap in at the top of a Russian rocket these days might very well imagine themselves sitting at the top of some sort of Schroedinger’s firework – these days no-one seems too sure if the Soyuz-2 rocket is a means of transporting humans and/or cargo into outer space, or if it’s that a very big, very expensive rocket that you save for the very last on Guy Fawkes Day to impress everyone when you let it off and it goes ‘bang!’.
The last instalment in the space-operatic tragic-comedy that was Russian space launches in 2011, saw Russia rack up its fifth launch accident within a year.
A Soyuz-2 rocket failed to reach orbit after blast-off. The launch failed because of a problem with an upper-stage engine.
According to Discovery News, the motor on the Soyuz-2 rocket is different from the one used on the rockets that fly Progress cargo and Soyuz capsules to the International Space Station. However, five in a year is troubling.
Especially so, when you listen to Vladimir Popovkin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.
“There are problems. There is ageing of many resources. We need to optimize everything. We need to modernize. It’s also ageing of human resources,” he said at a press conference at the Russian Mission Control Centre, adding that:
“Given the troubles we had in the ’90s, quite a lot of people left and nobody came to replace them.”
So that makes the Soyuz an old rocket that’s already failing, with parts getting older and older, making the rocket more and more likely to fail again, in a space program run by what sounds like ageing pensioners, many of which weren’t good enough to be snatched up by NASA, US universities or Iran, for matter, when the Warsaw Pact disintegrated?
I’m sure that’ll make the astronauts sleep better – or at least feel more empathy towards Schroedinger’s cat.