Roscosmos Not Keen on Space Adventures’ Moon Flight

Space Adventures vehicle for circumlunar flights. (Credit: Space Adventures)
Space Adventures vehicle for circumlunar flights. (Credit: Space Adventures)

Roscosmos is not amused by a plan by RSC Energia and Space Adventures to spent two tourists on a trip around the moon in a modified Soyuz spacecraft:

Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, will not be involved in a plan to send two space tourists on a flight around the Moon and was not consulted about the project, the federal space agency said.

The mission, hatched by U.S.-based space tourism firm Space Adventures and a major Russian spacecraft manufacturer, Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, would see two space tourists travel to the Moon aboard a modified Russian Soyuz spacecraft by 2017. However, Roscosmos was kept out of the loop on the plan.

The organizers “could have consulted with us before making such loud announcements,” said Denis Lyskov, Roscosmos’s deputy chief in charge of piloted flights, Izvestia reported Monday.

“We are not participating in the moon project, we are not planning to modernize the Soyuz,” Lyskov was quoted as saying.

Despite the government owning a 38-percent stake in Energia, the company has a history of asserting its independence from the space agency, which purchases its hardware from the company for use in the government’s space agenda.

The fate of the flight could hinge on how long Energia remains an independent company. Igor Komarov, who heads up the newly created United Rocket and Space Company (URSC), has said the government plans to obtain a 51 percent share in Energia. The state-owned USRC is consolidating much of the Russian space industry under its control.

It’s not clear when the Russian government will obtain a majority share of Energia. It’s also uncertain whether Energia would continue to honor any commitments it made to Space Adventures prior to such a move.

  • Michael J. Listner

    This all sounds good, but as suspected the Russian government was probably not behind it. Chances are they will not allow this to proceed; they can shut them down and probably will. Moreover, it doesn’t matter what ownership interest the Russian government has in Energia. The Russian Federation will be the launching State under the OST, and long as flights originate from their territory they retain jurisdiction and the ability to prevent any launches.

  • Matthew Bodner
  • windbourne

    Actually, I hope that this is stopped by Roscosmos and then BA approaches Space Adventure.
    Fact is, I suspect (hope?) that BA can do the trip MUCH cheaper and in greater comfort and safety. In addition, this would be ideal for getting us to the moon on a regular basis.
    And to make this happen, not only will BA need to put their BA-330, but a decent tug will need to be built, and SpaceX will need their FH along with the Dragon Rider up and running.

    But that is all possible.
    And I suspect that if BA/SpaceX does 1 trip to the moon, then others will want to go as well.

  • Tonya

    It does fit with my thoughts when this was reported on earlier this month. It doesn’t make any sense for Russia to upgrade the Soyuz for lunar missions, when it’s due to be replaced in the 2020’s with a new vehicle designed for exactly that type of mission.

    And even without a majority stake in Energia, I believe the legal position is fairly straightforward. They need the Government’s approval to launch as Russia has signed the Outer Space Treaty.

  • kentercat

    When a government official is upset because they were not consulted, this is when the world “consulted” actually translates as “bribed”. Space Adventures dealt with Russia because they used to be the bargain basement of spaceflight. Now, they are the rapidly-declining monopolists trying to get as much milk out of the cosmic cow as possible before it dies of old age.
    To Windbourne’s point, A Falcon Heavy/DragonRider could easily do the same mission with a single launch for half the price. Elon Musk has said that they plan to do a Dragon flight like that and another for a moon landing, though he A) did not qualify either of those as crewed or robotic, and B) he was quick to say “not that I’m particularly interested in the moon, but it’s a good milestone.” I think transporting university, organizational, corporate, or NASA rovers to the moon via a “silver Dragon” variation of Red Dragon would be ideal as an intermediate step for commercialization as well. A smart DARPA, NASA, Google, or low-end national space program (India, various ESA member nations, etc.) would be well advised to use this as a STEM magnet. Space-X could easily sell one silver dragon flight per year to the highest bidder or combination of bidders, and keep the difference. They would basically get their beyond LEO/GEO flight test program paid for (and then some) prior to Mars missions.

  • Michael J. Listner

    The Falcon Heavy is still a paper rocket and thus its premature to speculate on its fitness for this type of venture.

  • windbourne

    Personally, I would not want to be only in the dragon by myself, let alone 3-5 others for a week long trip. Far better to have a rider, followed by a BA and then a tug.

    And dragon makes little sense for landing AND takeoff. Instead, it needs specialized equipment for that.

  • windbourne

    Yeah, technically, it is a paper to rocket. BUT do u really think that it will remain one? I have no doubt that it will launch in less than a year.

  • Tonya

    It’s a little unkind to refer to the FH as still a paper rocket, which is a term more correctly used for something that’s only a design.

    It’s much further along than that in it’s development, as is the SLS. Proposals such as Ariane 6 and Soyuz 5 are the paper rockets of our time. We need a new term.

  • Tonya

    I guess this all comes down to the customers. As a business proposition it rests on a tiny number of individuals, and the intent to purchase needs to be real for the considerable capital investment to happen.

  • Hug Doug

    you can borrow a term from the film industry: it’s in development hell.

  • Michael J. Listner

    You sound like a lawyer.

  • mzungu

    Haha, really? As much as I like to see that happening….

    It’s not going to happen for another 2-3 years. When SpaceX can only launch 2 Falcon 9s 6 months into a year that suppose to have 12 launches, it’s time to reevaluate your confidences on their Press Releases. 😀

    The Heavies are not going to be tested till they have a paying customer for it. Aside from the Pentagon, no one is building any sort of big payloads that needs a Heavy in a sustainable manner pass the testing phase. Typical Sat needs a 2-3 years of build time, so even if it have a customer, it’ll be 2-3 years.

    SpaceX is more likely to be getting their reusability refined before moving to the 9H, when you can recycle all 3 cores.

  • mzungu

    It’s just another PR stunt, it’ll die of natural death as PR goes, specially when it involves Russians business.

  • windbourne

    Not likely.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_orbital_launch_systems

    Today’s current largest systems are Delta IV (22.9), followed by Proton (21.5) and then Ariane (21).
    However, you will notice that China is up and coming with their LM-5 at 25. And that is within 1 year.
    Then you have Russia’s Angara A5(24.5) and A7 (41) in the next year.

    Basically, SpaceX has no real choice but to launch it sooner, not later.
    And they can launch it similar to Delta IV, that is with just 3 cores. At 100 million for launching 43 tonnes to LEO, they will be able to put 2 large sats, or even 1 massive payload such as BA-330, into LEO.

    As to the re-usability, that is about making it easier and more profitable for themselves. Right now, F9 and FH are far cheaper than anything in their class. As such, it benefits SpaceX to get FH up and running.

  • windbourne

    Exactly. However, the fact that SA has at least 2 customers, means that more are likely. And if Roscomos turns it down, then private space can jump in there and have it funded.

  • windbourne

    lol.
    I would love to hear how much it is in hell. Are there issues that are blocking it?
    I just thought that they were working out some kinks in the plumbing, but all else was good.
    No?

  • delphinus100

    Bigelow will likely want to prove themselves with a few leased units in LEO, before reaching that far…

  • Michael J. Listner

    It all comes down whether the Russian Federation will allow it to launch or not. My guess it won’t.

  • mzungu

    You are looking at the wrong place for your argument, The only big payload up to LEO are govn systems, so 9H will only be competing with Delta Heavies, which average only 1 launches a year with Pentagon contracts all locked for the next few years.

    9H may have a chance competing for the GEO com sats by ways of dual launches. It’s too big and wasteful for single launches 5T+ market. And last time I check Ariane is backing away from that 2x launch practice, because customer don’t like it.

    There is a projected market for 5T+ satellites that F9 cannot reach right now that might be tempting for SpaceX to capture, but industrial trends suggest that 5T+ sats might get lighter due to them new solar electric propulsion that Boeing is pioneering…. So, 9H might end up without customers for a few years to come. and the F9, might just be enough for the sweetspot.

  • savuporo

    Need a fresh breath of helium ?

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    Not quite. 2 of the 3 cores are in operational use, the engines are in operational use, most of the flight software is operational, the upper stage is in operational use. So lots of this rocket already exist and is used in real flights.
    Cheers.

  • su27k

    The ship Space Adventure plan to use is a paper ship, so what’s your point?

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    Couple of issues with your post.
    Firstly there’s no such designation as a 9H. The SpaceX heavy is designated FH. Please use the correct nomenclature.
    SpaceX has a customer launch manifested that exceeds 5T actually it’s about 5.3mt for GEO on F9. The figure of 4.850mt on their website is based on reusability. Without that its about 10-15% more payload which gets it to over 5.3mt.
    FH will be able to dual manifest however the major selling point for the vehicle is price not payload capacity per se.
    Cheers

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    I would. Where can I sign up. 🙂

  • su27k

    They already got a DoD contract and a commercial contract, so it’s happening. They’re already building the cores for the 1st test flight, it’s not a really a paper rocket anymore.

    And yes, FH is about reusability. Very few customer would use the 40 to 50 tons to LEO (or 20 tons to GTO) capability, FH is built with so much capability because reuse will eat a lot of it. Once you’ve taken reusability into the equation, it’s only about 7 tons to GTO, which fits the market very well.

  • Hug Doug

    well, given that it was originally supposed to launch back in 2012 and now it’s slipped to 2015, it seems like it is in development hell :p we know for sure it’s gone through two design versions at least!

  • mzungu

    If F9 have that much capability, doesn’t that points to one less reason not to use FH?

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    Not necessarily.
    SpaceX are on a learning curve. First small rockets, now medium launchers, next heavy and then MCT which is a Raptor methalox powered super heavy. Informed sources discuss this as being capable of putting 150 – 200mt into leo. Anywhere between 10m and 15m diameter core, possibly tri-core.
    SpaceX isn’t building that for any launch market except Mars – at this point anyway.

    It’s also not just about payload but cost and re-usability. SpaceX may want to fly most of their F9 missions in reusable mode with lower payloads and that may open the door for more FH. FH with an overall higher payload may allow for those including re-usability. Guess the mix will depend on success of re-usability and relative costs for both vehicles which I believe is their aim along with second stages as well.

    So the mix is interesting as will be the future, if SpaceX succeed in getting the flight rate up. I’m pretty sure they’ll sort their issues out although it may take a few more launches to fully explore these and then once they start flying a reusable first stage, they’ll probably have a few more to sort.

    Cheers.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    “SpaceX is more likely to be getting their reusability refined before moving to the 9H, when you can recycle all 3 cores.”

    I like this argument. It may or may not be true, bit I like it.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Musk has guestimated that return of all three cores yields 6-7 ton(ne?)s to GTO. Expending the centre core doubles that.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Gotta correct you on the reusability figure – Musk has said about 3,500 kg with first stage recovery. The actual limit of F9 to GTO is a bit fuzzy, though it largely depends on the propulsion capability of the satellite.

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    Nope, you’d better check again. The SpaceX website lists the payload assuming re-usability and that’s 13,150 kg to leo and 4,850 kg to gto. Leo without re-usability is over 16 mt. If you point out the source I’ll stand corrected however this has been discussed many times on NasaSpaceFlight.com L2 and public forum where actual SpaceX employees post.
    Cheers.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    “It’s also not just about payload but cost and re-usability. … FH with an overall higher payload may allow for those including re-usability.”
    Yep, this makes most sense to me.

    However, one other important point: With all the noise regarding “government” launches, I think it would greatly benefit them politically by displaying the capability to replace Delta IV Heavy.

  • Stuart

    If they went for the big station Bigelow would leap frog everyone and totally blow the Russian and the Chinese out of the water.

    My only question is…. is Bigelow willing to gamble on Falcon Heavy..?

  • Tonya

    Good term! From the tech industry, we can also send Excalibur Almaz a vaporware award.

  • Tonya

    Oh my, that is unfortunate!

  • windbourne

    Considering that all of their launches slipped 3 years due to F1 taking longer than expected, I am not sure that FH is in hell.
    In fact, I keep wondering about the louder than normal testing that is being done. I would guess that they are testing their FH.

  • windbourne

    Look how tight that is. As much as I want to go, I will say that if I had 150 million to go, I would not go in just the dragon. I would want to have something like a BA unit so that I had a number of windows, and the ability to enjoy the trip.

  • windbourne

    and more importantly, willing to gamble with just the dragon rider?

    I think that FH is not a gamble for BA. The reason is that BA-330 is capable of being launched by Delta IV. Of course, that is at a costs of 250-300 M, which is more than 1/2 of what Bigelow said that he would spend on everything.

  • Hug Doug

    not “hell” but “development hell”

    it just means that a movie (or in this case, a rocket) is taking much longer to come together than anticipated, in some cases, in spite of a lot of hype.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Development_hell

    i’m sure they are testing the FH, at the very least i know there’s a dedicated test stand at McGregor for it. still, this is years later than everyone thought.

  • Michael J. Listner

    Lol, you should be worried. 😀

  • Michael J. Listner

    There is no such thing as “cheap” when it comes to rockets. They may be less expensive, but they are by no means cheap. Also, being the lowest bidder is not always desirable either. It remains to be seen whether F9 and FH are less expensive. Arianespace is lowering their prices, and it’s already nabbed them some customers.

  • James

    You have a broad definition of what a lawyer sounds like.

  • windbourne

    My understanding is that the issue is the funneling of fuel/LOX to the center engines.

  • windbourne

    Yes, he wants mars.
    However, he also needs funding. As such, he pays close attention to the general market and makes sure that he can outdo them.
    I have little doubt that they will fly the FH shortly and use that to allow for either multiple sats, or very large sats.

  • windbourne

    F9 and FH are already the cheapest launch system out there. If the WORST thing that ppl can say is that they are still growing and launches are taking awile, I would say that is a good thing.
    Note that right now, they are somewhat bound by launch pads and facilities. They are in the process of building our another pad/facility so that they can launch from 2 different locations and have 3-4 rockets in process, vs. 1 pad and 1 facility that they have now.
    And that does not even include Texas.

  • windbourne

    thanx. I have often wondered what the real loads are.
    Now, it makes sense why there was so much confusion.
    13 tonnes to LEO with first stage re-usability ( or is that FULL re-usability ?) will make a huge impact.

    Thanx again.