Sometimes in life you invite a guy to party, and you tell all your other friends that the guy you invited is really cool and everyone will love him. Four hours later you find yourself telling everyone the guy was just having a bad night and they have to get to know him.
That’s sort of how I feel right now after Russia botched their last two launches.
I’ve campaigned pretty hard for people to let go of the shuttle and rely more on our foreign partners. Now that this has finally happened “Mother Russia” just dropped the ball on what should have been a pair of easy missions.
But just because they’ve had a couple of bad months, I don’t think we need to reconsider putting our fate in Russian hands.
First, the Soyuz still has the best safety record of any transportation system out there. If I had to choose how I was getting into space, I would pick Soyuz.
Second, the two recent failures have had what appear to be two different root causes and two different systems. A premature engine shutdown caused the capsule to not make orbit. This is the first time a failure like this has occurred. The earlier incident was on a proton rocket and the satellite was in an improper orbit.
My guess is that both of these issues are going to be resolved sooner rather than later. Russia has been working hard on its image as an expert in commercial launch. With American companies like SpaceX getting ready to launch their own capsules to the ISS, Russia needs to show this was an anomaly. The question right now is: “Will the next manned launch on 22 Sept. Still happen?”
My guess is: Yes
Russia can’t afford a tarnished record in the face of their stiff new foreign competition. This could actually help kick of a new space race where safety, not destination, is the goal.