RIA Novosti reports that Russia is looking to follow NASA’s lead in attracting private investment into human spaceflight as a proposal to revive a long-mothballed shuttle project is floated.
“Manned space systems have become rather expensive and private investment should be attracted more actively, like it is in the U.S.,” Roscosmos head Anatoly Perminov said.
It’s not clear whether he was referring to the six-person Soyuz replacement that Roskosmos is building or other projects that have been floating around the Russian space sector for years. One of these programs is the air-launched MAKS orbital mini-shuttle that Molnia R&D General Designer Vladimir Skorodelov has proposed reviving:
“The spacecraft was designed in 80s, and it is still in work. This is a reusable multipurpose aerospace system (MAKS) of the same size as US Ð¥-37. An airplane carrier is to be used as the first stage. So, the system is more capable and powerful than the US oneâ€.
Details are sparse on how serious this proposal is being considered. Work on MAKS was frozen in 1991 when the Soviet Union was dissolved. Previous Soviet and Russian efforts to develop space shuttles have produced little. Buran flew into orbit only once without a crew. A proposed joint venture with Virginia-based Space Adventures for a suborbital space tourism vehicle was never funded. There also have been separate proposals for a 16-person suborbital spaceship and a smaller three-person vehicle, both of which would be air launched. Neither of these projects seems to have progressed very far.