russian space shuttle

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As the International Space Station, the project continued to come together.  While astronauts and cosmonauts engaged in joint missions aboard MIR, the ISS took on it’s final design configuration, largely divided into Russian and US segments but sharing power and resources and connected internally by a Pressurized Mating Adapter. 

The US Operating Segment would consist of 3 nodes, 1 lab, 1 habitat module, an airlock, Japanese Experiment Module, ESA Columbus lab, Centrifuge Accommodations Module, Crew Return Vehicle and the main truss.

The Russian segment would consist of the service module (taking over attitude and reboost duties from Freedom’s S2/P2 truss segment, now deleted), functional cargo block, Multipurpose Lab Module, several Mini Research Modules, airlock and docking node and Science Power Platform.

In November 1998, Roscosmos launched the Zarya Functional Cargo Block (FGB) which was then met just a few weeks later in orbit by the crew of STS-88 which brought up the first US element, Node 1 (Unity).  At long last the dream of the Space Station was physical reality.  But dark clouds loomed over the horizon for the International Space Station, with a long and arduous path to completion.

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October 2, 2015 

     At 6:28 AM, the serenity of the predawn morning was pierced as the roar of an Atlas V 421 rocket shook Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL. The deep rumble of the RD-180 engine accompanied a sharp crackle produced by two solid rocket motors ascending into the heavens. After first stage separation, a single RL-10C engine would boost the Centaur upper stage and its payload, a Morelos-3 (MexSat 2) Mexican communications satellite, to a successful geostationary orbit.

     This auspicious occasion marked United Launch Alliance’s 100th successful flight. This impressive record began on December 14, 2006, with the launch of a Delta II vehicle from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA. Although ULA celebrates a 100% success rate, the MexSat system has not been so fortunate. Today marked the second launch attempt for this payload, the first of which ended on May 16, 2015, as its Russian Proton-M launch vehicle suffered a catastrophic failure in its third stage. The payload was lost.

     The trusty Atlas V launch vehicle, having never failed to successfully deploy a payload, was chosen for this second MexSat launch attempt. However, the Atlas V’s RD-180 engine is currently a controversial political topic. This engine is of Soviet design, tracing its heritage back to the Energia Booster that once propelled the Buran Orbiter (Russian Space Shuttle). Due to current geopolitical conditions, the US Congress has deemed these Russian engines unacceptable for use with Air Force payloads. Congress will fund a replacement for this engine. The days are numbered for this RD-180 / Atlas V combination. We will not see many more of these burning over American soil.

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We all know how the americans performed atmospheric tests with the Space Shuttle. This is the Russian method.