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Despite a snowy morning, the Soyuz TMA-22 launches successfully  (Source: msnbc.msn.com)
The Soyuz TMA-22 launch also marks the first flight of a NASA astronaut since the retirement of the 30-year space shuttle program, which ended in July

A Russian Soyuz capsule launched successfully into orbit Monday on a mission to the International Space Station.

The Soyuz TMA-22 is carrying a three-man crew, consisting of Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin as well as NASA astronaut Dan Burbank.

The successful launch from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan was a relief after a recent failure had postponed the launch for two months. On August 24, an unmanned Progress cargo ship crashed on its way to the International Space Station. The failed rocket was the same type used on the Soyuz, and it forced the Russians to take another look at the safety of the Soyuz rocket model used for manned missions.

Russia's space agency determined that the Soyuz rocket failure was an isolated incident and not a major problem with the model. According to the space agency, a fuel pipe blockage caused the crash.

But that isn't the only space-related failure Russia has had to deal with lately. On November 8, the $165 million Phobos-Grunt probe, which launched from Baikonur and was to make its way to the Martian moon Phobos, got stuck in Earth's orbit. It is expected to burn up by November 26 unless it can be reactivated.

Despite these above-mentioned troubles and snowy weather conditions, the Soyuz TMA-22 made a successful launch. It is expected to with the International Space Station on November 16. The three current ISS crewmembers, which include station commander Mike Fossum of NASA, Russia's Sergei Volkov, and Japan's Satoshi Furukawa, will return home on another Soyuz craft on November 22.

The Soyuz TMA-22 launch also marks the first flight of a NASA astronaut since the retirement of the 30-year space shuttle program, which ended in July. This has left Russia in charge of ferrying crews to the International Space Station. But NASA is looking to obtain $850 million to help private companies create new spacecraft before the end of 2016.

While Russia may have a monopoly on the ferrying of astronauts for now, The Guardian has said that the country's space program is "struggling" and that the combination of obsolete technology and equipment purchased from other countries is the source of the problem.

Sources: The Guardian, MSNBC



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To add to this...
By maven81 on 11/14/2011 10:48:37 AM , Rating: 2
It should be noted that while this is the first manned souyz launch since the mishap, there had been an unmanned flight back in October, Progress M-13M. They aren't crazy enough to launch a crew without launching a cargo ship first.

As for purchased "obsolete technology", I think they are referring specifically to electronics here. There was a story related to the phobos-grunt launch where they were basically complaining that the soviet semiconductor industry (which was never great to begin with) was left to rot in the 90s. This meant that rather then producing chips themselves they had to source them elsewhere. The US apparently wouldn't sell them as they wanted Mil-spec parts. This meant that in some cases they wound up sourcing off the shelf parts which aren't nearly as reliable. I hear they are starting to make an effort to get back into foundry manufacturing, but seems the newest process they have is 90nm.




RE: To add to this...
By Amiga500 on 11/14/2011 11:29:10 AM , Rating: 2
Didn't they buy an awful lot of AMD's old 90nm tools?


RE: To add to this...
By maven81 on 11/14/2011 11:41:40 AM , Rating: 2
I think you're right about that. But doing some digging it looks like they've been investing into some joint ventures recently that might net them 65nm as well. Looks like they've invested almost 6 billion into this, so I guess we'll see.


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