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Science-Technology
See other Science-Technology Articles

Title: Russian editor: Our space program is entering the "Dark Ages"
Source: ArsTechnica
URL Source: https://arstechnica.com/science/201 ... ram-is-entering-the-dark-ages/
Published: Jul 9, 2018
Author: Eric Berger
Post Date: 2018-07-09 14:32:18 by Tooconservative
Keywords: None
Views: 202
Comments: 5

These are not the best of times for the Russian space industry. Due to budgetary reasons, Roscosmos has reduced the number of cosmonauts on the International Space Station from three to two. Because of technical problems with its rockets and cost pressure from SpaceX, the country's once-lucrative commercial launch industry is fading. And soon, conditions may worsen.

As soon as next year, the United States plans to stop paying hundreds of millions of dollars a year to Russia for Soyuz seats, because it is developing its own transport to the space station. And the European Space Agency has signaled that it will stop launching Russian Soyuz rockets from its French Guiana-based spaceport in the early 2020s.

Russian space editor Andrei Borisov has captured the fading zeitgeist of the Russian space program in a lengthy article on the new leader of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, and the changes he has proposed. "The 'Russian Space' Rogozin is trying to create reminds one of the Dark Ages in Europe," Borisov writes on Lenta.Ru, where he serves as editor of science and technology. "In it, there is no place for modernization, there is only the mission of survival."

Surviving

The article catalogs current Russian efforts to develop newer, competitive rockets and modern spacecraft. All of these efforts, Borisov finds, are behind schedule, outdated, or already non-competitive.

For example, the Russian space agency has been developing a "new" science and research module for the space station, "Nauka," since 1995. More than two decades later, the module still awaits a decision on whether it should actually be completed.

Borisov asserts that this is because there are concerns about post-launch problems. "No official from Russia's space industry wants to take responsibility for the laboratory module and its safety for use as part of the ISS, about which many questions have arisen," he writes. (A translation of the 3,000-word article was provided to Ars by Robinson Mitchell).

The story is similar for Russia's next-generation spacecraft, Federation. Instead of investing in this new vehicle designed for deep-space crew activities, which has been under development for a decade, Russia will likely opt to continue revising the Soyuz spacecraft, which first launched 52 years ago. This was before NASA's Apollo capsule had flown.

Rocket woes

Russia also faces difficult decisions with its rocket programs. Rogozin has already made the decision to retire the Proton booster, preferring to focus on the next-generation Angara rockets. However, Borisov suggests this line of rockets is "already obsolescent." (There have been just two test flights of the Angara rockets: a small Angara 1 in 2014 and a larger Angara 5 the same year).

One problem is that these Angara rockets were conceived and developed just before SpaceX rose to prominence and fulfilled the promise of lower-cost spaceflight. By comparison, the Angara rockets are expensive. The more bulky Angara 5 has a similar payload capacity to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, but its cost of about $100 million is considerably above Falcon 9's $62 million cost.

For this reason, Roscosmos has also proposed developing the Soyuz 5 rocket. This booster would be competitive with the Falcon 9 on cost, but it is not scheduled for its first test flight until 2024. And already, Rogozin has talked about putting the Soyuz 5 project on hold because it is not simple enough and should have a methane engine. Roscosmos "needs to build a booster of completely different quality, simple and reliable, like a Kalashnikov automatic rifle," he has said.

The bottom line is that global demand for Russian rockets is rapidly dwindling, and the great hope for the future, the Soyuz 5, remains years if not decades away. How long can Russia survive on past glories? "There are significant doubts about the future of Russian launch vehicles and spacecraft," Borisov concludes.


Poster Comment:

I liked this dancing-on-their-graves piece because I predicted some years back that SpaceX was going to kill the Russian space program. And that is what is happening. Even the Russians can't deny it any longer. Even if Vlad throws a lot of money -- that he doesn't have -- at reviving Russian spaceflight, it will be a free run for America in space for the next decade or more. The EU and China are similarly not very well positioned to challenge America's lead.

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#1. To: Tooconservative (#0)

I predicted some years back that SpaceX was going to kill the Russian space program.

And NASA's.

misterwhite  posted on  2018-07-09   14:41:31 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#2. To: misterwhite (#1)

Well NASA still has the climate change thingy going for them.

no gnu taxes  posted on  2018-07-09   14:45:34 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#3. To: Tooconservative (#0)

How long can Russia survive on past glories? "

That pretty much sums up socialism. As long as there are people to take from gifting is great but once there are not people to take from gifting dies.

Viva the SpaceX!

Justified  posted on  2018-07-09   14:53:45 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#4. To: Justified (#3)

Death to Soyuz!

And Ariane, the overpriced Euroweenie spacecraft.

And NASA, if they can't improve from their overpriced late delivery on things they've promised for years.

SpaceX has all of them very very worried. Musk is eating all their profits and all their future orders. And they are running out of customers willing to commit to a launch with them (two years in advance) when SpaceX is as reliable and 30%-40% cheaper.

SpaceX has reached the final form of the Falcon 9, the so-called Block 5 version. This is their standard rocket now, the last one of the Block 4's got launched last week.

Tooconservative  posted on  2018-07-09   16:10:46 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#5. To: no gnu taxes (#2)

Well NASA still has the climate change thingy going for them.

They tarnished their reputation for 30 pieces of silver. The FBI did the same for free.

misterwhite  posted on  2018-07-09   16:59:06 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


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