Russia Has Concerns for SpaceX Safety for Docking to ISS


While a test of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft docking capabilities with the International Space Station is tentatively scheduled for December, 2011, Russia has said it will not allow a SpaceX vehicle to dock with the ISS unless its safety is fully tested. “We will not issue docking permission unless the necessary level of reliability and safety is proven,” said Alexei Krasov, head of the human spaceflight department of Roscosmos. “So far we have no proof that those spacecraft duly comply with the accepted norms of spaceflight safety.”

NASA has not yet commented on the statement by Krasov, which was reported by the Russian media.

SpaceX has requested NASA to authorize the docking in December after another test flight of the Dragon sometime this summer. As it stands now, approximately twelve cargo resupply flights are planned by SpaceX through 2015, and SpaceX CEO has said he would like to start crewed flights by 2016.

Some critics are viewing Russia’s objections as having little to do with safety and more to do with the monopoly it will have for access to the ISS once the space shuttle program concludes later this summer. Russia has raised its going rates for ferrying US astronauts to the space station on the Soyuz space craft and for bringing cargo with the Progress craft resupply ship.

Source: Space Travel

20 Replies to “Russia Has Concerns for SpaceX Safety for Docking to ISS”

  1. Yeah, I think we all know that this has nothing to do with safety. It’s intrinsically obvious that Russia is lying through its teeth here for monetary gain.

  2. Russia who’s that. Let them have the station. Bigelow is the way to go. Our new space entrepreneur’s will do there own. Musk say’s 10 years to mar’s count on it. There will be no lack off money or volunteer’s. And I’m sure Rutan will get us mobile on the Planet. Ya we may have a lot of interest in the iss but darn still stuck in LEO.

  3. I’m in essential agreement with gopher65. I agree that a successful cargo and (especially) manned Dragon would cut into their current monopoly on tourist flights to ISS, and their soon-to-be monopoly on manned access to the station, so their concerns may not be entirely based on safety…

    Oh, and whose cargo carrier was it that collided with Mir, long ago…?

    Sometimes it’s easier to try to shut down the competition, than out-compete it.

  4. What kind of proof did the ESA show when they docked the Jules Verne or did JAXA when they docked the HTV-1? Musk should not have to do anything these organizations were not required to do.

    1. You would think so, but a) ESA was a partner in ISS construction b) they likely provided lots of info along some previously well oiled means; SpaceX is new to this.

      As I understand it, the Jules Verne and HTV-1 each went through a several days program with approach (“proximity operation such as collision avoidance manoeuvre”) and berthing (“final approach”).

      I believe Space-X wanted to do all that in one go as well, to save all partners money and development time. But as I remember it this ran into scheduling problem.

      The COTS) Ultra High Frequency Communication Unit (CUCU) has been installed and checked out. And the SpaceX DragonEye docking equipment is twice tested by STSs. While IIRC the astronauts trained on berthing Dragon is not the current crew. It is most always the software/wetware bits that trip you up on complexity.

      I don’t think partner resistance was or will be a serious problem, if as Craigboy notes the berthing is against US modules – but you never know how it plays out. The Russians will certainly want to protect their current opportunities. They have problems of their own, their powerful Angara modular series rockets are delayed for funding reasons (sounds familiar) with projected first launch 2013.

      Those will give them too national launching capability back, not having to rely on Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome and likely paying exorbitant transport costs/launching fees et cetera. (What, you thought Russians were the only ones taking hide out of space programs/ISS/US?)

      And the Angara-5P is designed for manned launches. Angara-5 (and perhaps 5P too) is the requested driver for the program. Btw, the unrequested but projected Angara 7/7P would be a superheavy lifter capable of competing with SpaceX Heavy and/or allowing Moon/Mars missions. One can but hope this series will make it.

      1. “projected Angara 7/7P”. Better make that “proposed Angara 7/7P” (from the manufacturer, I believe).

  5. So test and re-test the thing. I would like to see the booster tested more too. This is the problem with commerical space programs. I think it is a stupid move to retire the space shuttle.

    1. Hi tripleclean, What is the problem with commercial space programs? I don’t think we have enough experience with them to say they have a safety problem. What are you basing this on?

    2. Why more booster tests? There have been two consecutive successful first launches, which is better than say the Apollo man-rated lifters when they started.

      In practice, at least for unmanned orbiters, the community seems reluctant on the first attempt of a new lifter, then eager. Or at least, that is what Musk have related as I understand it from the Falcon Heavy presentation.

      The “move” as you call it to retire the shuttle was for economical reasons, and the commercial program responds to that beautifully. If you take lifting personnel to LEO alone, not ISS construction, the mission costs may plunge from 1.5 GUSD for an STS launch to something like 0.2 or less.

      The Falcon-9 will cost you ~ 60 MUSD for launch tops (Space-X quote). NASA pays 1.6 GUSD for 12 unmanned Dragon ISS flights, probably with the 3 test trials in the contract. So an unmanned Dragon launch costs something like ~ 130 MUSD.

      The manned Dragon, taking 7 astronauts as the STS, will need seats and a launch rescue system; I believe the unmanned Dragon has the required environmental system already. Likely that will be a minor additional cost after development is recouped, and that is doable (and now partly done) under CCDev.

      If you measure the STS retirement against the reason to do it, it is highly successful at an order of magnitude less costs/resources wasted. Good for the Reagan/Obama administrations that started respectively went through with it and good for US that will benefit from it, I think. Ultimately the STS was needed for Hubble launch & service/ISS construction, nothing more (no Moon missions).

      Now you may have other reasons for keeping the STS; it was the most reliable manned launcher ever IIRC the statistics, it was the most productive on results if not ROI (most mass and persons lifted), it was high tech, and it was a beautiful orbiter (on a terrible, ugly and ultimately not-designed-for-safety low tech war remnant booster :-/).

      1. “the Reagan/Obama administrations” – the Bush/Obama administrations.

        [What did that one come from? I didn’t even _remember_ Reagan. Maybe I don’t want to remember Bush more…]

        On the STS cost, it strike me that I probably _did_ compare ISS resupply launches, taking cost from memory. (Since SpaceX is much more upfront than gov’s.]

        Strictly speaking you may need 2 Dragons for that (personnel + tonnage). Oh well.

  6. Might be a mistranslation but Dragon Cargo will be berthing to the station, not docking. Anyway I’m not sure they care so much, its being berthed to the American Node 2 (Harmony).

  7. It has to be said …

    Come on guys we should listen to them. After all, no-one knows more about crashing into space stations than the Russians.


  8. I knew it was a really BAD agreement to let the Russians be included in the small assembly of the ISS. The next thing you know,is that they will be launching so called Chinese tourist too the ISS ,who are really Chinese Military and so called enginereers to rob ideas for their own space station in the future…
    I say,cut-off the Russia side of the ISS,build a replacement of what is needed and launch it,and tell the Russions too take a hike!

    1. Yeah! Take a hike Russia with your part of the space station. Take it TO THE MOON! (ALICE!) Link several Progress modules and a Soyuz to your segment, add a lunar lander and GO FOR IT! A Lunar Space Station!

  9. Wow. Russia obviously isn’t worried about the dock, and worried about their potential monopoly on manned space flight. Perpaps they are afraid of a free market enterprise being successful as opposed to government owned transports. If SpaceX is a success, then other companies may be next, and that wouldn’t be good for the Motherland.

  10. You all take it for granted that the Russians are doing this solely to get more money. I’m Finnish and this reminds me of a meat and dairy scandal some time ago: Russia said that our meat and dairy exports couldn’t continue if we didn’t inspect the goods better. Our government then embarked on a long session of whining in public about how the Russians just want profit. Then in the end they actually looked at the Russian requirements and implemented them. It was pretty trivial and I believe our exports haven’t stopped since.

    Now ask yourself, which nation has the longest experience with spaceflight, manned spaceflight and space stations? Also ask yourself if you actually know anyhing of the specifics of Russian requirements here – is there anything that actually suggests that it was more than what it says: a request for information on the docking equipment?

    The only thing pointing towards the Russians being sneaky here is the fact that they have an *opportunity* for greed. If you think every opportunity for greed will be used always then you should adjust your moral compass and get more information before blaming others. It’s certainly possible that the Russians are being greedy here but none of you know this.

    1. I agree with this.
      The US have the Russians the opportunity for greed.

      But if the SpaceX capsule is safe to dock then what prevents them to show them the test results and perform more tests to show that it is safe?

      Also the question is why does SpaceX wants to dock with ISS at this moment? Is this some promotional stunt to attract more investors? They should show that their stuff works in space through extensive testing first.

  11. Maybe my moral compass needs adjusting, but it has gotten to it’s current alignment through experience.

    I predicted a while back that Russia would be taking advantage of the shuttle retirement, and so far, they look to be doing just that.

    Even if their intentions are good, the perception is still there.

Comments are closed.