Russia Plans to Send Cosmonauts to the Moon

Ergonomic testing has been conducted for the new Federation spacecraft. (Credit: RSC Energia)

RSC Energia has launched the development of a new human spacecraft named Federatsiya (Federation) that will replace the 40-year-old Soyuz vehicles and enable Russia to send cosmonauts to the moon, Tass reports.

Federation will be capable of carrying crews of four into Earth orbit and deep space on missions of up to 30 days. The spacecraft could stay in space up to a year if docked with a space station, which is double the duration of the Soyuz spacecraft.

The new spacecraft could be a key element in what appears to be an emerging plan to place a space station in lunar orbit. NASA is exploring such a facility to test technologies required for sending astronauts to Mars.

An automated test of Federation in Earth orbit is scheduled for 2021; a flight test with a crew aboard would follow in late 2023. The Angara-A5B and Angara-A5P boosters will launch Federation into space.

Energia CEO Vladimir Solntsev told Tass

“It is in the active stage of work. Actually all design documentation has been issued and we are now producing separate assembly units,” he said.

The Federatsiya spacecraft will be 80% made of composite materials and the descent vehicle of aluminum, he said.

“The question is what the descent vehicle should be made of. Today we are working with aluminum but simultaneously it is important not only to produce the spacecraft but also to make it competitive,” Solntsev said.

Mark Serov, who is head of the Flight Test Center for Energia Space Rocket Corporation, said Federation would have a number of advanced features, including a fail-safe computer that will be superior to the system used on the American Orion spacecraft.

Federation’s onboard computer system has profound redundancy and therefore the computer network’s failure is something unthinkable. There will be just few push buttons aboard (following the tradition inherited from Soyuz spacecraft, we call them the buttons of ‘especially important commands’) to activate backup power supply and restore the work of onboard computers,” Serov said.

Humans won’t be excluded from the control system because otherwise they won’t be able to take charge of it when necessary, he said.

‘We support the ideology of an ‘active operator:’ the automated control process proceeds under the crew’s control and the system informs persons about all developments and makes requests for the fulfillment of tasks. The manual control mode in this spacecraft is largely envisaged for accomplishing tasks unstipulated in the automated system’s algorithms rather than for the scenario of the failure of algorithms,” Serov said.

“To my mind, the working space in the Federatsiya spacecraft is organized better and features modern means of reflecting information. Our colleagues have started the development of their spacecraft earlier and that is why they cannot, for example, use sensor panels in Orion because the space vehicle’s control board has already been created. We, however, started later and believe that the use of sensor technologies is a long-term trend,” he said.

Serov said Federation would have three touch screen computer monitors for cosmonauts to use.

“Initially, we planned to install five monitors – one main screen, two for the commander and two for the second crew member. Later we decided that there should be one screen for each of the crew members and one main screen to be used by them jointly. All of them will be based on the touch screen technology,” said Mark Serov, the head of the flight test department at the Energiya Space Rocket Corporation.

He added that RSC Energia’s technology will enable the crew to operate while wearing spacesuits and gloves.

“Any kind of gloves are suitable for our screens, there’s even no need to sew in special elements on digits. These screens were designed to operate in the conditions of vacuum and differential pressure, including in a spacewalk,” Serov said.

In addition, a control handle will be placed between the seats of the commander and the second crew member for manual control.

Serov added that Federation‘s toilet will be located in a full-sized cabin isolated from the rest of the ship to provide cosmonauts with privacy.

“We are to create an area that guarantees true privacy, something which a curtain is unable to provide. Joking aside: comfort in space is essential. In comfortable conditions crew members work more effectively, and effective work is crucial to flight safety. For the toilet cabin we will use a new design concept and proper materials. Currently we are in the mock-up design and 3D modelling phase,” he said.

Last month, Roscosmos launched an open call for a new group of cosmonauts to fly lunar missions in Federation spacecraft. Roscosmos First Deputy CEO Aleksandr Ivanov made the announcement during a press conference.

“The selection begins today and it will last till the end of the year. The results will be summarized at the end of December. A group of six to eight trainees is to be selected,” he said.

“The purpose is to select the best specialists who already have certain knacks of operating space or air technologies. They will be the first pilots of Russia’s future spacecraft Federatsiya. All will be trained under the International Space Program and will be the first Russians to fly to the Moon,” the Roscosmos press-service said.

The applicants will have to undergo several selection stages – testing for education and professional aptitude, medical examination, psychological qualities and physical fitness tests. Applications will be accepted from Russians no older than 35 years who have higher education in engineering, research or other flight specialties and a previous work record.

“Those with experience in the aircraft-building and space rocket industry of the Russian Federation will enjoy priority,” the press-service said.

Roscosmos head Igor Komarov said international cooperation and private investors will be necessary to provide the required funding to sustain human exploration of the moon and Mars.

True, this looks a promising undertaking. True, apparently we will lack the funds to make it a development priority for the coming years. Sources will have to be identified through cooperation and by inviting private investors. Plans should begin to be made now,” he said.

Roscosmos is discussing creating an international station in the Moon’s orbit, Komarov said.

“It is necessary to proceed from the low near-Earth orbit to lunar and Martian programs. An issue is under discussion to create an international station in the Moon’s orbit,” the chief executive said at an academic conference on cosmonautics.

It emerged in the spring of 2016 that the Russian Rocket and Space Corporation Energiya and the US Boeing were developing a joint project of a lunar orbital station in two versions: either two small living modules or one big module.

NASA is exploring the development of a space station in lunar orbit to test technologies required for sending astronauts to Mars. The space agency has provided funding for studies on deep-space habitats.

On Monday, Boeing unveiled concepts for a deep-space gateway and transport systems to support it.

ESA Director General Johann-Dietrich Woerner has promoted the idea of an international lunar village on the moon’s surface to which individual nations could contribute various elements.

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