Roscosmos Moves Toward Reusable Boosters, Aims for the Moon

Roscosmos boss Dmitry Rogozin meets with Russia’s boss of bosses, President Vladimir Putin. (Credit: Russian President’s Office)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It’s been a while since we’ve checked in with Dmitry Rogozin and his team over at Roscosmos. This has been partly due to all the awesome things that are happening elsewhere that keep me busy. And partly due to the fact that Russia’s plans seem to be continuing evolving due to budget cuts to the point to where I’m never quite sure what exactly to take seriously.

The question usually is: yeah, that sounds great, but is there any money for this? I’m lacking in good sources there. And Russian media usually don’t provide enough insights into the program to allow for informed judgments.

With that caveat in mind. TASS has provided another one of its periodic bursts of updates about what Rogozin and company have been up to lately. They are making progress on reusable launch vehicles, a super-heavy booster, a spacecraft that will replace Soyuz, and plans sending cosmonauts and robots to the moon.

The Russian news agency reports that Rogozin has ordered the creation of an experimental design bureau at the Central Research Institute of Machine-Building (TsNIImash) to focus on reusable rockets.

“According to the Roscosmos head’s decree, an experimental design bureau named after [Italian-born Soviet aircraft designer Robert] Bartini is being created. Its first task will be to design light-class reusable rockets,” the source said.

He added that the project would be based on the preliminary design of the Krylo-SV (Wing) project to create a recoverable rocket stage, earlier prepared by the Prospective Research Fund (FPI).

Meanwhile, Roscosmos Deputy CEO for International Cooperation Sergei Savelyev said that foreign partners will not be involved in the development of Russia’s new Yenisei super-heavy booster. TASS reports the decision is a reversal of what Savelyev said in 2016.

RSC Energia is working on a conceptual design for the super-heavy booster under a contract worth 1.6 billion rubles ($25 million), the news agency said. Work on the project is set for completion on Oct. 31, 2019. The first launch is scheduled for 2028.

Under the designers’ plans, the rocket is intended to deliver more than 70 tonnes of cargo into the low near-Earth orbit at the first stage….

Russia intends to use the new rocket for missions to the Moon, including the landing of Russian cosmonauts on the surface of the Earth’s natural satellite. In Roscosmos’ estimates, the Yenisei will be able to deliver a 27-tonne payload to the Moon’s orbit.

TASS reports that Rogozin has decreed that Russia’s new reusable Federatsiya (Federation) crewed spacecraft will be getting a new name, although he declined to elaborate. Presumably, it will be shorter and easier to remember and spell.

The vehicle, which RSC Energia is building for Earth orbit and lunar missions, is designed to carry a crew of up to four, operate for up to 30 days on its own, and spend a year on the International Space Station.

Roscosmos plans to conduct a flight test without a crew in 2022. Cosmonauts would fly two years later.

In preparation for the flights, the Central Research and Development Institute for Robotics and Technical Cybernetics is developing photonic measuring equipment need for the spacecraft’s descent, Institute Director and Chief Designer Alexander Lopota told TASS.

“There are plans for 2019-2020 to manufacture and hold trials of the prototypes and assign the status ‘O’ to the design documentation [ it is assigned at the stage of adjusting design documentation after manufacturing and holding preliminary trials of a prototype or a batch],” the institute’s head said.

The plans for 2020 envisage “delivering the prototypes for equipping the reusable Federatsiya spacecraft and holding inter-agency trials,” Lopota said.

TASS reports that Russia is looking to work on lunar exploration with its partners on the International Space Station (ISS) as long as it is not a junior partner in the venture. The ISS partners include the United States, Europe, Japan and Canada.

The state corporation stressed that the program can be implemented jointly with partners only if national interests are respected and on a parity basis. The concept will emand attracting significant and productive resources, it noted.

TASS said that Russia is looking to land cosmonauts there by 2030. The landing would begin a series of short duration stays on the lunar surface.

The corporation is eyeing the use of additive manufacturing (3D printing) to create a permanent base on the moon by 2040 as part of the third stage of exploration.

This stage also envisages “furnishing scientific and industrial objects with equipment,” creating production capabilities and life maintenance infrastructure.

After the third stage, Roscomos plans to create all conditions for long-term lunar missions.

TASS reports it won’t be just cosmonauts exploring the lunar surface. Robotic systems with artificial intelligence will be right there alongside them.

“The participation of humans in this program is harmoniously combined with the use of automatic space vehicles and robotics with the elements of artificial intelligence,” Roscosmos said.

Robotized systems will be maximally used in the Moon’s exploration to reduce “possible risks for the health of humans and the cost of the program as a whole,” the Roscosmos press office said.

The Central Research Institute of Machine-Building, which is Roscosmos’ head research organization, envisages “exploring, developing and using” the Earth’s natural satellite as part of a lunar program concept being worked out.

Sources:

Roscosmos to Create New Design Bureau Tasked with Reusable Rockets https://tass.com/science/1066823

Russia to Create Super-heavy Carrier Rocket Without Foreign Partners https://tass.com/science/1064402

Russia to Create Prototype Instruments for New Spacecraft’s Descent Capsule by 2020
https://tass.com/science/1065254

Roscosmos: Russia Seeks Cooperation with ISS Partners in Moon Exploration
https://tass.com/science/1067183

Russia Plans to Use 3D Printing, Lunar Dust to Create Moon Base – Roscosmos https://tass.com/science/1067421

Russian Space Agency to use Artificial Intelligence in Moon’s exploration https://tass.com/science/1066675