How is Russia’s manned space development? Ambitious plan, but lack of money

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Russia plans to make its first flight to the new generation of manned spacecraft “Eagle” in 2023, but funding problems It may cause the spacecraft project to continue to delay like other space projects.

On the 28th of last month, the materials of the Russian National Aerospace Group published on the Russian National Procurement website showed that the new Russian “Eagle” manned spacecraft will be able to orbit the earth for about one year, and it can orbit the moon. The flight lasts for half a year. The spacecraft is scheduled to make its maiden flight in 2023, unmanned missions in 2024, and manned flights in 2025.

How is Russia’s manned space development? Ambitious plan, but lack of money

“Eagle” manned spacecraft model.

In October this year, Russia will launch the “Soyuz” MS-19 manned spacecraft to send a new batch of astronauts to the International Space Station. This is the 150th launch of the “Soyuz” series of manned spacecraft. The number of launches and the number of improved models make it difficult for other manned spacecraft to match. Moreover, the “Soyuz” spacecraft that has been in space for 55 years will continue to serve for many years until the new generation of Russian manned spacecraft “Eagle” is on duty, which can be said to be the “old scalper” in the world’s manned spacecraft.

In November 1966, the “Soyuz” spacecraft code-named “Cosmos” 133 conducted its first test flight. The spacecraft was developed by the Korolev Design Bureau and adopts a three-cabin design, with the orbital module at the front, the return module, and the propulsion module at the end. The “Soyuz” spacecraft was actually designed for the Soviet Union’s manned moon landing, but the moon landing plan ended in failure. The “Soyuz” spacecraft turned to low-Earth orbit. Unexpectedly, the spacecraft was not only the main force of the Soviet Union’s manned flight, but the Soviet Union collapsed. After that, he continued to serve for more than 30 years. The “Soyuz” spacecraft weighs about 7.1 tons (the early model weighs 6.5 tons), has a 2.9-ton return capsule, has an internal volume of 4 cubic meters, and can carry three astronauts.

The indicators of the “Soyuz” spacecraft are not outstanding, especially the narrow reentry capsule can only accommodate 3 astronauts, and it is very crowded, but because the successor has not appeared for a long time, it can only be improved. Adapting to the changes of the times, the contemporary “Gemini” and “Apollo” spacecraft have already entered the museum, and even the space shuttle born in the late 1980s withdrew from the stage of history in 2011. The existing “Alliance” MS is improved from the “Alliance” TMA. The focus is on the use of electronic equipment, such as new electronic computers, telemetry command systems, etc., to achieve full digitization, and the degree of automation, landing accuracy and reliability have been improved. . It is worth mentioning that part of these improved technologies will be used in the development of a new generation of manned spacecraft in Russia.

Although the “Soyuz” spacecraft is currently the main tool for Russia’s manned spaceflight, this spacecraft is after all a design 50 years ago. No matter how improved it is, affected by the original design, it can no longer meet the requirements, especially The return capsule has limited space and cannot carry more astronauts, so it is not suitable for manned deep space exploration.

How is Russia’s manned space development? Ambitious plan, but lack of money(1)

There are many improvements to the “Alliance” spacecraft. Active service is the “Alliance” MS. Compared with the new generation of manned spacecraft developed by other countries, the gap is even more obvious. In fact, as early as the Soviet era, the next generation of spacecraft after the “Soyuz” manned spacecraft was on the agenda. In the 1980s, the Soviet Union began to develop the “Dawn” spacecraft. The spacecraft has a two-cabin design and can carry up to 8 astronauts. However, due to the decline in the national power of the Soviet Union during this period, coupled with the existence of the “Blizzard” space shuttle, the Soviet Union collapsed before the development work was completed, and Russia, which inherited the largest legacy of the Soviet Union, had limited financial resources and had no spare capacity to continue research and development. The “Dawn” spacecraft can only be “sewn and repaired” on the basis of the “Alliance” spacecraft.

After entering the new century, Russia, whose national strength has recovered due to the rise in oil prices, began to consider the development of a new generation of manned spacecraft. In 2006, Russia and Europe jointly carried out a research called Advanced Manned Transport System (ACTS), and the development of manned spacecraft was on track. ACTS early planned to use the service compartment of the ATV spacecraft, plus the “Alliance” manned spacecraft. Improved orbital cabin. In October 2007, the plan was changed again to the design of a large cone-shaped return cabin plus a service cabin. Later, its service cabin was also specially developed by the Energy Group.

In 2009, due to the delay of ESA’s determination, the cooperation between the two parties ended, and the ACTS spacecraft program had to be cancelled, but this laid the foundation for the development of the new generation of Russian spacecraft “Federation”. On April 6, 2009, the energy company won a contract for the development of a new spacecraft. The new spacecraft was named “Future Manned Transport System” (PPTS), which is a spacecraft that takes into account both low-Earth orbit and moon landing missions. On January 15, 2016, the Russian Space Agency officially announced the name “Federal”, which was finally renamed “Eagle”.

The “Eagle” spacecraft also adopted the concept of re-use of the return cabin. It adopts a two-chamber design and can accommodate 4 people for low-Earth orbit or deep-space flight. In order to take into account both low-Earth orbit and deep-space missions, the “Eagle” manned spacecraft uses service compartments of different sizes, with a weight of 14 tons and 20 tons in two classes. The “Eagle” manned spacecraft is launched by the Angara-A5 carrier rocket being developed by Russia. It will replace the current Soyuz spacecraft to perform low-Earth orbit missions. It can also be used for manned moon landings and even fire missions in the future. The “Eagle” spacecraft was originally planned to be launched in 2015, but due to technical and financial reasons, the development progress has been significantly behind the original plan, and it has been postponed to 2023.

Associated with the continuously postponed “Angara” rocket, “Moon”-25 and other major Russian space projects, the first flight of the “Eagle” spacecraft may continue to be delayed, and the “Soyuz” spacecraft “this “The old scalper” will continue to fight for many years.

How is Russia’s manned space development? Ambitious plan, but lack of money(2)

Return cabin model of the “Eagle” spacecraft .

Is it reliable to restart the space shuttle?

In recent years, reports that Russia is considering restarting the space shuttle have appeared from time to time, but it has always been “only the sound of the stairs is heard, no people come down.”

In March of this year, Ivan Moiseyev, director of the Russian Space Policy Research Institute, told the media that the space shuttle Russia is developing can be used for military missions in the future. Sokolova, general manager of the Russian “Lightning” scientific research and production consortium, said that as an institution that has developed the “Blizzard” space shuttle, the “Lightning” scientific research and production consortium will build a new civil aerospace shuttle and a new aerospace complex.” Space flight will be realized in the last five years.” According to the October 2020 document of the Russian Aerospace Corporation, the group plans to invest 239 million rubles by September 2022 to demonstrate the necessity of building a reusable winged space shuttle.

On July 21, 2011, the US Space Shuttle Atlantis slowly separated from the International Space Station. All three active US space shuttles, including the Atlantis, were all Retired. The U.S. retired space shuttle not only announced the end of the American space shuttle era, but also the end of the world’s space shuttle era.

The space shuttle is a product of the U.S.-Soviet race to catch up with the space shuttle. Because the U.S. space shuttle was the first to successfully launch, many people think that the United States was the first country to develop a space shuttle. In fact, on the contrary, the Soviet Union started the development of the space shuttle earlier than the United States. It just got up early and caught up to the late episode.

In the 1960s, in order for the Soviet Union to further overwhelm the United States in the field of space, scientists from the Soviet MiG Design Bureau proposed the famous “Spiral” space shuttle program, and the U.S. space shuttle development program was launched in the early 1970s. It was officially launched. The Soviet Union launched the development plan of the “Blizzard” space shuttle in 1976, and launched its first launch in 1988. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the subsequent development of the “Blizzard” space shuttle came to an abrupt halt, and Russia was even more embarrassed. Unable to support the space shuttle, the gold swallowing behemoth, became the first object to be abandoned on the road of Russian space development.

How is Russia’s manned space development? Ambitious plan, but lack of money(3)

The fate of the space shuttle “Blizzard” is very Tragically, it has now become a graffiti platform for street performers, which is embarrassing. As the economy improves, Russia has begun to consider restarting the space shuttle. One of the more famous projects is the MRKS space shuttle. The space shuttle is similar in appearance to the “Blizzard”. The entire space shuttle system is composed of an orbiter and a booster rocket. The rocket adopts a reusable and modular design, and the recovery method is all flyback. The rocket can be used for the next launch after being overhauled and refueled.

The aerodynamic layout and internal design of the MRKS space shuttle are basically the same as the “Blizzard” space shuttle. It is mainly composed of three sections, the front section, the middle section and the rear section. The front section structure can be divided into two parts, the nose cone and the crew compartment. , Has a good aerodynamic shape and heat protection system. The middle section of the space shuttle is mainly the payload bay. Various satellites, space stations, etc. can be loaded in the cabin. Multiple engines are installed in the tail section to provide power for the space shuttle to orbit and de-orbit. It is reported that the MRKS space shuttle can send a load of 35 tons into low-Earth orbit and has a very strong carrying capacity.

The ideal is full, the reality is very skinny. The MRKS space shuttle project has not made much progress so far. Like other major Russian space projects, money is the biggest problem. The cost of each MRKS space shuttle may not be less than 180 million US dollars, which does not include the cost of research and development. The U.S. space shuttle R&D costs are evenly shared to about 2 billion U.S. dollars per aircraft, and Russia’s annual space budget in recent years has been around 5 billion U.S. dollars. In recent years, the Russian economy has not been good. In addition, the Angara rocket, the lunar exploration program, etc. The project occupies a lot of space funds, and the large space shuttle burns too much money and it is difficult to get support.

For Russia, it is a more realistic choice to develop a small unmanned space shuttle similar to the US X-37B. It can be launched using an active carrier rocket, and its development and operating costs are also higher than that of “Blizzard”. Large space shuttles are much less and can meet military needs.