Chair Force Engineer

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Manned Spaceflight Milestone

Ben Cooper sends me this interesting tidbit, unreported in the mass media, about the launch of Soyuz TMA-7:

...with the launch of Expedition 12 aboard TMA-7, was completed the 100th manned Russian space launch in history, and the 250th time in world history that human beings have soared past the 100km mark.

Soyuz (the rocket and the capsule) has earned an impressive reputation for its reliability over the years. Aside from the tragic losses of Soyuz 1 & 11 (and several nearly-fatal accidents, like two aborted launches,) the system has been the most reliable orbital spacecraft in recent history. Several of the non-fatal Soyuz mishaps (like the ballistic reentry of Soyuz TMA-1) have demonstrated how robust the system is in getting its crews back safely.

EDIT (3 Oct 05): Some of the more astute readers may have asked how the 100th Russian mission and 250th manned spaceflight were counted. I will elaborate:

100 manned Russian space launches includes Soyuz 18-1, which aborted at an altitude of 192 km. It does not include Soyuz T-10-1, which was aborted when the booster caught fire on the pad.

The figure of 250 manned space flights above 100 km (the internationally-accepted boundary of space) includes Soyuz 18-1 and excludes Soyuz T-10-1. It includes China's sole spaceflight. It also includes the two suborbital Mercury missions, three flights of SpaceShipOne, and two X-15 missions (both with Joe Walker at the controls.) It does not include Challenger's final mission, STS-51L.