Russia Plans Ambitious Year in Space

Soyuz rocket

Speaking to media editors-in-chief today, Roscosmos Head Antaoly Perminov laid out plans for a very busy year in space that includes four dozen launches, Russia’s first interplanetary probe in 15 years, a greater role in the International Space Station, and the development of new rockets and infrastructure.

During an appearance at the Club of the Leading Russian Media Editors-in-Chief in Itar-Tass, Perminov discussed the country’s space plans, which include:

  • 48 launches, an increase from 31 last year
  • October launch for Phobos-Grunt, an ambitious mission to return samples from the Martian moon Phobos
  • assumption of the sole role in transporting crews to and from the International Space Station once the American space shuttle retires
  • construction of roads, railways and worker housing for Russia’s new Vostochny spaceport in the Amur Region
  • completion of the GLONASS navigational satellite constellation
  • debut of the Soyuz launcher in French Guiana
  • development work on the Angara and Rus-M launchers
  • launch of the Resource-P remote sensing spacecraft, which will have  0.4-0.6 meter resolution
  • operation of the Electro-L satellite launched earlier this year
  • design work on the Arctica space system.

Russia’s 31 launches last year accounted for 41 percent of the world’s total. “We are called ‘space cabbies’ and we are proud of that,” the Roscosmos chief said. “This is quite an achievement to win in tough competition.”

Perminov also talked about the increased space station role that Roscosmos will play once the Americans fly their final space shuttle mission:

“This is a huge responsibility, and this is also very dangerous,” Perminov holds, since alongside launching of old analogs of the Soyuz and Progress ships new elements are tried out, the new digital control system and other systems are worked out, to be installed on ships of the new generation.

“A well-tested digital system will work in an automatic regime on board a future manned ship,” he said.

The Phobos-Grunt mission, which includes a sample return and a Chinese sub-satellite, marks a return of Russia to interplanetary exploration. The country’s last mission to the Red Planet was launched in 1996. The spacecraft burned up in Earth’s atmosphere due to a booster failure.

Russia is continuing to make progress on rocket development. The Soyuz booster is set to make its debut at the European spaceport at Kourou later this year. The Russians are also working on two new rockets, Rus-M and Angara, that will be used for civilian and military payloads, respectively. Angara is set for its first test launch in 2012; Rus-M will fly in the middle of the decade.

Meanwhile, production plans are being finalized for Angara:

On Jan. 31, Chairman of the Russian Government Vladimir Putin held a meeting with the Governor of Omsk region Leonid Polezhaev. Among others, Polezhaev reported Prime Minister about implementation of space programs in the region.

“Khrunichev Space Center and Salut company are transferring production of the Angara launcher to Polyot of Omsk. Polyot will also manufacture components for Proton upper composite,” the Governor said.

Development of Angara heavy-lift launcher is a high-priority national objective. The launcher is ordered by Roscosmos and Ministry of Defense. KhSC bears responsibility for design and production of the space system. Polyot is a KhSC’s subsidiary.

Note: The above report was compiled from posts on the Roscosmos website.