Russia Plans to Boost Launch Rate, Revenues from Space Station

Igor Komarov (Credit: Russia Forum)

Speaking a day after SpaceX successfully re-flew a previously used Falcon 9 first stage, Russian space officials sought to reassure the public about the nation’s lagging launch rate and outlined plans to increase revenues from  the International Space Station (ISS).

On Friday, Roscosmos head Igor Komarov said Russia was aiming for more than two dozen launches this year.

“We will conduct at least 30 launches from the Baikonur, Plesetsk, Vostochny and Kourou space centers this year,” Komarov said at a meeting of the Expert Council of Russia’s Military-Industrial Committee.

With one quarter of the year completed, Russia has conducted two launches.

Last year, the nation slipped to third in launches behind the United States and China, with 18 successes in 19 attempts. It was the nation’s lowest launch number in years.

In recent months, the Russian space program has been affected by defects in engines manufactured for its two main launch vehicles, the Proton and Soyuz. Proton has been ground for 10 months after a second-stage anomaly during a launch last June.

Also on Friday, General Designer of Manned Space Systems Yevgeny Mikrin said Russia will increase revenues from its use of the space station.

In his words, ways of boosting incomes are “offering services of transportation to the ISS for astronauts from partner countries, selling seats and cargo kilograms aboard spacecraft, organizing commercial experiments, and space tourism services.”

Currently, Russia is the only country flying astronauts to the space station using its Soyuz spacecraft. Boeing and SpaceX are developing crew vehicles that could be certified to carry astronauts to ISS by the end of 2018.

Once those vehicles are operating, seats would be freed up on Soyuz spacecraft that could be sold to space tourists and astronauts from other countries.

Russia will reduce the number of its own cosmonauts on the space station from three to two beginning later this year as a cost-saving measure. Some of the open seats will be filled by American astronauts under an unusual transaction.

Boeing obtained rights to five Soyuz seats as part of the settlement of a lawsuit against Russia’s RSC Energia and two Ukrainian firms over the Sea Launch joint venture. Boeing subsequently sold the seats to NASA.

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  • Kapitalist

    If he says so, it must be the true future? NOT!!!
    Russian spaceflight is in its deepest trouble ever today. Strikes at both Guiana and Vostochny. Upper stages of both Proton and Soyuz failing. Lowest launch rate ever. Angara staying in its hangar for another 10 years. Severely sabotaging corruption revealed with some top suspect top managers dying in jail before trial (as in murdering a scapegoat in order to continue the corrupt sabotage). Fantastic Moon missions, space stations, super heavy launchers, crewed spacecrafts, reusable something being announced in the empty propaganda completely without any contact with reality. It’s over 30 years ago the Russians even sent a probe to another planet, India did it a couple of years ago.

    The Russian space ship is sinking. In just a couple of years their 50+ year old launchers and engines and spacecrafts and human space flight experience might be all gone. Like their guys who revolutionized space flight too long ago now.

  • JamesG

    So IOW just another day in Russia.

  • windbourne

    I think that is great for Russian Space.
    They really should be making more use of getting private citizens or other nation’s space programs up to the ISS.
    At the same time, NASA needs to back 2 of these habitat companies (actually, the only 2), and get these attached to the ISS, and start outfitting them to handle ppl on their own.
    Ideally, NASA/ESA will ‘rent’ space on these, move the western crew into the these habitats, and then perform more experiments in the core ISS.
    And with these habitats, assuming they have the full life support that they are suppose to have, they can bring on more ppl, and create a 3-shift crew.

  • windbourne

    how odd.
    Russia is able to do ISS right now with crew. They are having issues with cargo, but the whole idea here, was to have MULTIPLE groups providing both cargo and humans so that when issues crop up, the ISS could continue.

  • Kapitalist

    Soyuz launches both cargo and crew. But Soyuz basically launched Sputnik I 60 years ago. Recent upgrades maybe don’t jive with the fundamental design philosophy any more. So far so good (surprisingly and very laudably for the Russian space program) doesn’t necessarily mean going good forward too.

    Russian space program is deteriorating. I wish it was different, but this is what is apparently happening.

  • windbourne

    Their space program is deteriorating because they have no cash.
    This could raise some money for them.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    The Russians have to show they have something in common with Space X. If they can’t land rockets on ships at sea, let alone on land, the least they can do is make launch rate projections they can’t keep. At least on that front they can equal Space X 🙂 Always love the Russians, if they only knew how much like clowns they are.

  • Vladislaw

    It also goes to where the talent is heading.. it is no longer the heady days of Russian and American “firsts” every other month. I read they are having trouble recruiting talent.

  • Kapitalist

    It is deteriorating because each employee goes to work everyday wondering:
    “- What can I steal today?”
    Both management and staff are obviously still suffering from desperate survivability trauma of the socialist Union. There’s cash, but in the improductive pockets, so it never grows in the form of good investments. Not even strong man Putin is able to do anything about it. One would’ve thought that space was important to him, but pocket cash and appointing people too inept to rival him, seems to be more important. The captain of Titanic. Bye bye Russian space program!

  • mlc449

    No cash, along with an economic model that’s riddled with corruption and chronic nepotism/cronyism. The US would do well to learn the lessons of placing incompetent family and friends into key government positions without any requisite experience.

  • JamesG

    You mean that the Soyuz was a fundamentally excellent design?

  • Paul_Scutts

    It seems they have already, mic449, they’ve come up trumps. 🙂 Regards, Paul.

  • duheagle

    Design isn’t the issue. That has changed barely at all over 60 years. The problem is the Russians simply can’t reliably build to spec anymore. As the financial services commercials say, “past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

  • duheagle

    It was a good enough design for along time. In the age of SpaceX, it isn’t an adequate design any longer. But the real problem is that the Russians have simply lost the knack of building the thing to a consistent standard.

  • mlc449

    I’m by no means sympathetic towards the USSR and communism but it is undisputed that the Soviets had a very accomplished space program. It’s not a question of capitalism vs communism; Russia being communist for decades has no bearing on their present state of affairs. Rather it’s proof of what happens when an economy is so poorly mismanaged and space sciences aren’t properly funded and maintained to the level they were at previously.

    The very same thing would happen in the US and Europe if both NASA and ESA received the same sharp funding cuts that occurred in Russia after 1991.

  • Lee

    You don’t understand! Typical westerner. Just ask them and they will tell you that the “don’t have much money and are surrounded by enemies”.

    Russians have always been paranoid that they are getting ripped off and are one step away from the next invasion by all the enemies that surround them. Until that mentality changes, they’re not going to be very good at anything.

  • duheagle

    “I’m by no means sympathetic towards the USSR and communism but…”

    Followed by praise for how well things went back in the Commie days compared to how poorly things are going now that the Russians have abandoned their “revolution.”

    Sheesh.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Russians have good reason to be paranoid given their history. Their main malfunction is they make so much of that history that makes them paranoid. After Russia mobilized their army in Aug 1914, what choice did Germany really have to do the same? After signing a deal with Nazi Germany to divide Poland, how could the Russians have not guessed they were next given what happened to the rest of Europe? After subjugating the nations of the Warsaw Pact to the point of public uprisings, how could they not expect NATO to wash up right on their border, and to penetrate into Soviet territory itself? Yes, Russia has problems, largely of her own making. She should be the richest nation of the world, only 110 million people and all that oil, gas, timber, arable land, iron, bauxite, titanium, and a skilled educated population. That country is like Mexico, poor by its own design in spite of very other reason not to be.

  • duheagle

    You are correct that Russia is surrounded by enemies. Ceaseless aggression over a period of centuries tends to make neighbors properly wary and mistrustful.

    As for the Russian population, nobody really knows what it is anymore, probably including the Kremlin. It is known to be declining every year, but from what base and on exactly what negative slope seems a matter of some doubt. Russia still claims a population of ca. 140 million, but that seems doubtful given Russia’s recent return to Soviet-style bluster and exaggeration anent pretty much everything. Russia probably isn’t down as far as 110 million yet, but another two or three decades, at most, will certainly see them there or even lower. By the time of the bicentennial of Octobraya Revolutsiya the Russian population will likely have dwindled to below that of present-day Germany.