After the collapse of the USSR, the Russian Space Agency was created to manage the inherited unique and powerful rocket and space industry, which was transformed in 2004 into the Federal Space Agency Roscosmos. Based on the rich Soviet heritage of liberal-capitalist Russia, at first it was possible to maintain its leading position in the international market of starting services and engine building.
Until 2020, the Russian manned spacecraft Soyuz was practically the only means of delivering crews to the ISS, since in 2011 the Americans stopped the Space Shuttle launches and transferred their astronauts to Russian spacecraft.
The reason is simple. For 30 years of using the Shuttles, the Americans had only two accidents, but 14 astronauts died in them at once. And the Russians have not had human casualties since 1971. As a result, according to the NASA report, in the period 2011–2019. the Americans paid Russia almost $ 4 billion for the delivery of astronauts to the ISS and their return to earth.
Another lucrative area of Russian-American cooperation is the supply of rocket engines. The Americans had their own engines, but Russian developments were attracted by their reliability and adequate price. In turn, for the Russian space industry, supplies have become a major source of foreign exchange earnings. The first contract for the sale of 101 RD-180 engines for the first stage of the American Atlas-5 launch vehicle, worth almost $ 1 billion, was signed in 1997.
But on the whole, after the collapse of the USSR, the rocket and space industry grew decrepit before our eyes - poor funding, aging personnel and problems with the presence of a "young shift", a growing shortage of highly qualified employees, deterioration of technological equipment, theft and corruption. The habit of riding the great legacy of Soviet space has led to complacency and a gradual technological gap between Russia and its competitors in the face of the United States and China.
The result of all these problems is a high accident rate.
For the period from 2006 to 2016, almost 6% of launches ended in an accident, each of which cost the state several billion rubles.
For example, in 2010 there were 9 accidents. Two cargo ships and 12 satellites were lost. In 2011 - 5 accidents, as a result of which a cargo ship, an interplanetary station and three satellites were lost. Later it turned out that the electronics of the two satellites (after they were put into orbit) failed due to defective Taiwanese microcircuits. As a result, two more devices, already delivered to the cosmodrome, had to be returned to the manufacturer to eliminate the defect.
On July 2, 2013, the Proton-M launch vehicle, which was supposed to launch three GLONASS satellites into orbit, deviated from the course immediately after launching from the Baikonur cosmodrome, caught fire and fell near the launch complex.
The catastrophe cost the state 5 billion rubles in losses and became the last straw that overflowed the Kremlin's cup of patience. After the Commission established the cause of the accident (it turned out that the installer had installed the angular velocity sensors upside down during the assembly), it became clear that the industry urgently needed to be rescued.
Prime Minister Medvedev publicly chastised the head of Roscosmos, Vladimir Popovkin, who was soon replaced by the former commander of the Aerospace Defense Forces, Colonel General Oleg Ostapchenko.
In 2014, the United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC) was separated from Roscosmos, which included more than 40 enterprises. URKK was entrusted with the tasks of development, production, testing, operation support, repair and maintenance of rocket and space technology. Roscosmos acted as a customer and defender of the state's interests in the development and implementation of space programs.
However, this division only exacerbated the problems, since President Putin appointed Igor Komarov, who came to the space industry from the post of president of AvtoVAZ, to head the URKK.
Under his leadership, the URKK experienced a significant bias from technical personnel towards managers, lawyers, economists, and financiers. Soon between the head of Roscosmos Ostapchenko and the "effective manager" Komarov, an open confrontation begins for the ability to control financial flows. In 2015, Ostapchenko lost an apparatus war and ceded his position to Komarov.
It would seem that the conflict is over.
But Komarov, already from the position of the head of the space agency, continued to strangle the URCS. It became quite clear that the mistake was systemic - the creation of two powerful centers led to unnecessary competition. URKK was incorporated back into Roskosmos, which in turn was transformed into a state corporation and subordinated to another “effective manager”, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the military-industrial complex.
The front of work, according to Rogozin, was immense. It was necessary to consolidate the industry, introduce a unified technical policy, radically improve the reliability of equipment, get rid of duplication of work, and bring young specialists to the fore. What was needed was engine-building, instrument-making, rocket-building holdings, a structure responsible for diversifying and expanding Roskosmos's presence in the high-tech equipment markets, as well as joint design work with the aviation industry.
A new Federal Space Program for 2016–2025 was adopted at a cost of 1,5 trillion rubles. The tasks were serious: increasing the constellations of satellites in all areas of activity (from communications, communications, remote sensing of the earth to fundamental space research), expanding the program of manned flights, creating four astrophysical observatories in Earth's orbit to study the Universe, and developing new launch vehicles.
But Rogozin identified the ambitious Lunar program as the main priority of Russian space, including because it can be used to extract minerals.
As a result, the "Dunno on the Moon" strategy pushed the solution of much more pressing tasks (communication services, television, cartography) into the tail of space programs. For example, the revival of the orbital constellation of the GLONASS satellite system was carried out for a long 14 years: from 2001 to 2015. At the same time, the electronic filling of the satellites of the system contained 75-80% of foreign components, which, after breaking with the West in 2014, there was nothing to replace. Only by 2020, the share of Russian microelectronics in spacecraft was hardly brought to more or less acceptable 80%.
In the same years, a lot of work was done in relation to the Russian military and civilian spaceports, provided for by the Federal Space Program for 2016–2025.
The best was the military.
In 2014-2017, under the personal control of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the military cosmodrome Plesetsk was modernized, which made it possible to abandon the operation of the outdated Soyuz-U, Molniya-M, Cyclone-3 and Kosmos- 3M". They were replaced by the more modern space rocket complex "Soyuz-2" and "Angara" of light and heavy class. However, "Plesetsk" is more of a military cosmodrome. And it does not have the capacity to fully implement civilian space programs.
The Baikonur cosmodrome, which remained after the collapse of the USSR on the territory of Kazakhstan, has become obsolete after 60 years of operation. Russia annually spends about 10 billion rubles on it, most of which is rent to Kazakhstan. At the same time, the Kazakh authorities have repeatedly tried to withdraw the cosmodrome from Russian jurisdiction and reassign it for joint exploitation with rich Arab countries. However, it did not grow together with the Arabs, and the Kazakhs were unable to pull the cosmodrome on their own.
In 2019, the Russian Ministry of Defense decided to drastically reduce its space spending - it closed the launch site for military satellites at the Kapustin Yar training ground and completely transferred all launches of military satellites from Baikonur to Plesetsk. Also, the cost of maintaining the city of Baikonur, adjacent to the cosmodrome, in which now mainly Kazakhs who have nothing to do with space, live, were reduced.
Since 2012, the new Vostochny cosmodrome has been built to replace Baikonur. It was he who was assigned the role of the future main launch pad of the country. In this connection, he even got on a new banknote with a face value of 2000 rubles.
The idea of placing a new cosmodrome on Russian territory is undoubtedly reasonable and sensible. The construction site was chosen from three options. The sparsely populated adjacent territories, the proximity of railways and airfields were taken into account. As a result, they chose a place where it turned out to be impossible to use the capacities of the Far Eastern region. There is no railway, the construction of which is hindered by the Sikhote-Alin pass. All rocket units to the cosmodrome have to be dragged from the European part of the country - Samara and Omsk. You don't have to stutter about super-heavy rockets. They simply will not pass through the "Procrustean bed" of the Transsib.
The construction of Vostochny itself was accompanied by scandals and criminal cases typical of liberal Russia - cost overruns, embezzlement, months-long delays in the construction schedule, non-payment of wages, workers' strikes and hunger strikes, arrests of heads of construction companies. 140 criminal cases and damage worth 10 billion rubles - this is only the official price of the Vostochny cosmodrome for our country.
In the fall of 2014, the utterly irritated Putin entrusted the leadership of the commission for the construction of the cosmodrome personally to Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin, who managed to bring relative order and reduce the backlog in construction time from 28 to 4 months. Having spent a total of 84 billion rubles, one launch pad was somehow built at the cosmodrome. At the end of April 2016, the first long-awaited launch took place from it.
The Russian president personally flew in to watch the launch, but at the very last moment the matter turned into a new shame - the Soyuz-2.1b rocket did not take off. The launch had to be postponed for a day, after which the rocket nevertheless safely went into space.
This daily delay spoiled the whole effect of the first launch. Dmitry Rogozin and the head of Roscosmos Igor Komarov received a reprimand. Director General of NPO Automatics Leonid Shalimov "voluntarily" resigned. As a punishment for all the rest, the proceedings were intensified in cases of embezzlement during the construction of Vostochny. The President instructed Defense Minister Shoigu to personally supervise the further progress of the construction of facilities at the cosmodrome, and later, by his decree, eliminated the thoroughly corrupt Spetsstroy, which had failed all the deadlines.
So far, Vostochny has not become the country's main launch pad. The cosmodrome readiness level is estimated at only 25%. There is only one launch pad for Soyuz-2 missiles in a relatively working condition. Four launches were carried out from it in 2016–2018 (one of them was unsuccessful).
Now a launch pad is being built at the cosmodrome for heavy rockets, the launch of which is planned to be postponed from Baikonur in 2025. In the meantime, more and more flaws in the previous emergency construction are being revealed, which turn the cosmodrome into a monument to corruption and "sawing off". In 2019, President Putin and the head of the Accounts Chamber Kudrin were forced to admit that theft continued at the cosmodrome, and that it was flourishing at Roskosmos at an accelerated pace.
Having put in order its spaceports, Russia began to gradually build up its orbital grouping. In 2012–2017, 55 military spacecraft were launched. Among them are the assassin satellites (as they were christened in the West).
History with them began in 2013, when the Americans suddenly discovered movements in orbit of an object, which, due to its small size, was considered space debris. However, upon closer examination, the "trash" turned out to be the Russian satellite "Kosmos-2491". Soon Kosmos-2499 and Kosmos-2504 were launched into orbit. Both satellites moved, approaching not only their satellites and upper stages, but also Chinese spacecraft. One of them even slightly "kissed" the upper stage, slightly changing its trajectory either as a result of a control error, or so it was conceived according to the test scenario.
In the summer of 2017, another satellite, Cosmos-2519, tested communication facilities, new software and carried out a series of engine launches that changed its orbit. Soon another satellite, Kosmos-2521, separated from it. The Russian Defense Ministry announced that this pair is a platform and an inspector satellite. The launch was announced as a test one, to investigate the possibility of a survey satellite-inspector of its carrier. Soon one more "crumb" - "Cosmos-2523" was separated from the inspector. The Russian military refused to explain his appointment.
The Americans were also alarmed that the Russian satellites "Kosmos-2542" and "Kosmos-2543" behave like combat space drones. US Air Force Command named their maneuvers
"Unusual and disturbing"
Considering the enormous dependence of the US military command and control agencies on the performance of their satellites, the appearance of Russian assassin satellites in space caused a certain tension among American experts and the military.
Since we have touched on the topic of anti-satellite warfare, it is worth noting that Russia has other means at its disposal to destroy enemy satellites. The A-135 Amur and A-235 Nudol silo-based missiles are capable of intercepting satellites at an altitude of 600 and 750 km, respectively. The promising S-500 missile defense system is also capable of striking enemy satellites, but in lower orbits.
There is also the MiG-31BM fighter-interceptor. It is planned to be armed with a missile known as "product 293" and 14A045. To intercept enemy spacecraft, not a traditional warhead is used, but a special maneuvering satellite of a small size. This product, called "Burevestnik-M" or "Burevestnik-KA-M", using the 14A045 rocket should maneuver between orbits, approach the target and hit it. The principle of defeat is unknown: foreign sources mention the possibility of kinetic interception or the presence of a high-explosive or nuclear warhead.
Also in Russia, work is underway to create a mobile strike anti-satellite complex "Rudolph". Another promising development is the Triada-2S radio-electronic complex, which is designed to suppress and disable communication satellites.
At the beginning of 2018, Russia successfully completed work on the creation of an airborne laser gun, which, depending on the emitted power, should either blind the optoelectronic equipment of satellites or disable electronics. True, she has no carrier yet. It was decided that it would not be an outdated Il-76, but a new aircraft. But it has yet to be created.
Peaceful space problems
Let's return to peaceful space, the problems of which became especially acute after 2014, when sanctions were imposed on Russia. This deprived the space industry of many American components, materials and electronics, which it "got hooked" on during the period of "friendship" with the United States.
Then the liberal government of Medvedev sharply cut funding for the entire Federal Space Program. As of 2018, in monetary terms, it shrank three times from the initial level. The government's treacherous trip has strangely coincided with increased competition in the international commercial launch market.
Having found itself on a starvation diet, Roscosmos was forced to curtail 29 research programs, to cut the costs of operating the ISS to the limit. It came to the point that crews of two people began to be put into the Soyuz orbital trucks, and not three, as it should be. The place of the third crew member was occupied by a container with cargo. The funding cuts have led to a further decrease in the overall motivation of wage earners and a new increase in accidents.
In 2015, there were 4 accidents. On December 1, 2016 at the Baikonur cosmodrome, after the launch, the Soyuz-U launch vehicle with the Progress MS-04 cargo vehicle was lost. The damage exceeded 4 billion rubles. The cause of the accident was again the notorious human factor - the ingress of foreign particles into the oxidizer pump during the assembly. The Angolan telecommunications satellite launched into space, manufactured by RSC Energia, quietly died somewhere in orbit. Earlier, the spacecraft for Egypt and Israel, created in Russia, stopped working. The Indonesian satellite did not make it to orbit either.
In 2017, Roscosmos was forced to recall 71 engines on the second and third stages of the Proton launch vehicles for inspections. The reason is that the Voronezh Mechanical Plant, which produces them, violated technical requirements during production.
On November 28, 2017, another disaster - the Soyuz-2.1b launch vehicle, launched from the Vostochny cosmodrome, sent 19 satellites into the Atlantic Ocean at once, 17 of which were foreign. Customers from the USA, Canada, Germany, Japan, Norway and Sweden have lost their devices.
On October 11, 2018, Russia's reputation as a leading space power was dealt the final blow. For the first time in 35 years, the Soyuz MS-10 manned spacecraft launched to the ISS did not enter orbit due to the accident of the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle. The case almost ended with the death of cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Nick Haig, whose lives were saved by a timely emergency rescue system. For the first time, Russia was unable to fulfill its obligations to deliver the crew to the ISS.
Meanwhile, China burst into the international market of launch services and began to rapidly crowd out the space superpowers of the United States and Russia. If in 2013 the Russians were the undisputed leaders and made 32 launches (almost the same as the Chinese and Americans combined), then since 2016, first the Americans, and then the Chinese, took the lead. In 2018, the Americans have already conducted 31 launches, the Chinese - 39, the Russians - 17. Taking into account history, the smaller number of launches of Russian rockets was only at the dawn of cosmonautics from 1957 to 1961 - from two to nine annually.
Against the background of accidents, cuts in funding, technical backwardness and loss of human resources, Roscosmos continues futile attempts to create a new manned spacecraft and a launch vehicle for it to replace the endlessly modernized but long outdated Soyuz.
The first Russian multipurpose manned reusable spacecraft Clipper was built only as a model. And it was closed as a project back in 2006. It was to be replaced in 2015 by "Federation" (later renamed "Eagle"). However, the most difficult systemic and financial problems of the space industry have postponed this project indefinitely. In 2018, almost the entire development team headed by the chief designer resigned from the Energia corporation, which created the Federation. In the spring of 2020, Evgeny Mikrin, General Designer of the Energia manned programs, passed away. Therefore, Russia has not yet been able to bring to mind anything new in terms of manned vehicles.
The same story is observed in the development of a new heavy carrier rocket "Angara-A5" with a payload of 35 tons, which was seen as the main replacement for the completely reliable "Proton". Why it was necessary to develop the "Angara", when the USSR had the "Energy" project embodied in metal with a carrying capacity of 100 tons, on which it was only necessary to update the electronics, is not clear.
In total, 1995 billion rubles were spent on the program for 2015–160, and as a result they received an expensive and difficult-to-manufacture heavy launch vehicle "Angara-A5". The projects of the light class "Angara 1.1" and "Angara 1.2", the medium "Soyuz-5" (aka "Irtysh" or "Phoenix") and the super-heavy "Angara-A5V" have not yet been brought to mind. There are many reasons for this. The demand for all these missiles in the commercial launch market is questionable. Light versions of the Angara rocket, in general, turned out to be superfluous, having entered into competition with the carriers of the Soyuz line. The US sanctions also played a significant role, influencing the preferences of foreign customers.
Angara's direct foreign competitor, the Falcon-9 heavy rocket, is already most in demand all over the world, having given the start of a real
It is more modern, simpler and half the cost of launching the Angara, has a reversible first stage and is the one trusted by commercial customers, including the US Department of Defense.
Russia, on the other hand, has hopelessly lagged behind - the creation of a reusable rocket requires not only a political decision: it needs technology, funding, years of trial and error, as well as a clear understanding of which market segment can be claimed. There is none of this. Nevertheless, in the summer of 2018, Moscow decided to produce the number of "Protons" necessary to fulfill the already concluded contracts and by 2025 to finally close this commercially successful project, moving to the more expensive and unfinished "Angara".
Implementing this decision, "effective managers" immediately rushed to destroy the only enterprise producing "Protons" - the Khrunichev State Space Research and Production Center.
In its best years, only on commercial launches, the State Scientific and Production Center brought in a profit of 600-700 million dollars a year. Then the "effective managers" decided to create a holding company on the basis of the center, adding to it a number of problematic space enterprises. They pulled the Khrunichev Center to the bottom. In 2015, in exchange for a loan, the company was forced to transfer the rights to use most of its production facilities. Then it was corporatized, and when by 2019 the center's debts had grown to 110 billion rubles, they were simply thrown out of the prestigious district of Moscow into Omsk, completely unadapted for this, at the facilities of the Polet Production Association.
Having lost the capital's salaries, many valuable specialists left the unique labor collective. Others were fired for disagreeing with the current policy. Due to constant scandals and relocations, the company has become the most problematic in the industry. And this means that when the production of "Proton" is curtailed, Russia, in general, is deprived of a heavy launch vehicle. Establishment of production of "Angara" in Omsk is painfully slow, its serial production is scheduled not earlier than 2023. But this rocket still needs to be taught to fly from a new cosmodrome, having accumulated positive launch statistics for further commercial use.
Summing up the results of the last five-year plan (2013–2018), the Russian leadership inevitably came to the obvious and disappointing conclusion - the situation in the space industry still leaves much to be desired. The accident rate of launches increased from 5,8 to 7,3%. For comparison: for Americans it was only 2,5% for a much longer period of 2007-2017.
The reappointment of Dmitry Rogozin from deputy prime ministers to the head of Roscosmos instead of Komarov's “effective manager” does not change the situation. Again, concealment of the real state of affairs in the space industry, a bunch of fantastic plans for the exploration of the Moon, demands for money and writing off all failures to the "previous management". Roscosmos grabs on to various projects, assimilates money for them, and then switches to new "projects", without really bringing anything to the end. Now there are talks about the closure of the unsuccessful project "Angara" (under which the Vostochny cosmodrome was actually built) and the transition to a new carrier rocket "Soyuz-5". That is, hundreds of billions of rubles were simply thrown into the wind and no one was punished for this.
Meanwhile, funding for the space industry has been cut by three times. Money from the export of services is also drying up, as Roscosmos is already strongly associated all over the world with holes in the skin, falling missiles and general incompetence at all levels. Russia has lost the status of a great space power, having received in return the reputation of a state that sometimes, with some luck, can launch something into orbit. To be lucky more often, the government turned to the ROC with a request to consecrate all missiles. But since this measure was clearly not enough, a particle of the relics of Seraphim of Sarov was also sent into space.
Although 2019 (for the first time in the last 10 years!) Passed without accidents, the general degradation of the industry is evident. So, for the intended purpose, only 21 GLONASS satellites are used, while for guaranteed global coverage it is necessary to have 24 operating satellites. In addition, more than half of the GLONASS spacecraft are already operating outside the warranty period (we have it only 7 years, while the Americans have 15). In practice, this means that you can expect anything other than high reliability from them. In 2019–2020, the program for updating military satellites was disrupted, and three Proton-M launch vehicles had to be returned from Baikonur for repairs at once.
Meanwhile, the Americans, Europeans and Chinese are gradually phasing out their cooperation with Russia and are adopting their own ambitious space programs, developing manned spacecraft and planning to conduct their test launches in the coming years.
The space industry in China is experiencing the most rapid development, which became the leader in 2019 in terms of the number of launches and introduced its own satellite navigation system BeiDou, which supplemented the American GPS, Russian GLONASS and European Galileo. At the same time, the Chinese are developing a project for their national near-earth orbital station, to which Roscosmos is now trying to join. The Chinese Chang'e-5 spacecraft delivered soil samples from the lunar surface to Earth. This is the first delivery of lunar soil to Earth in 45 years, since the Soviet mission "Luna-24", which took place in 1976.
The United States is also developing rapidly. This was achieved by attracting private companies, whose ambitions and approach to work made it possible in a short time to create launch vehicles that significantly advanced Russia in the space transportation market. In 2014, SpaceX submitted a Dragon-2 manned spacecraft to the competition, while Boeing submitted a CST-100. After that, both companies received a total of $ 6,8 billion from NASA. Projects are developing successfully. And in 2020, the private ultra-modern spacecraft "Crew Dragon" with two American astronauts on board made the first independent flight to the ISS.
In the future, the Americans plan to put up their part of the ISS for auction, in connection with the creation of the Space Forces and the resumption of the Lunar program. The goal of the project is to create a habitable base on the surface of the satellite and turn the moon into a springboard for sending expeditions to other planets. One after another, we receive messages about the new successes of our competitors. In 2021, an entire space fleet arrived at Mars, consisting of the United Arab Emirates orbital probe and rovers from China and the United States. On January 24, 2021, the Falcon-9 reusable heavy launch vehicle was successfully launched in Florida, which launched 143 satellites into low-earth orbit.
At the same time, preparations for the deployment of missile defense systems in space and the preparation of a research mission to the outskirts of the solar system are under way in the United States. Also in 2020, the Americans completed the formation of the AEHF (Advanced Extremely High Frequency) satellite system, which is responsible for providing secure and interference-resistant communications between the American command (including the president and the Joint Chiefs of Staff) with deployed military units and units.
Russia in the conditions of a liberal dictatorship and financial oppression can only watch these processes from the outside. Beggarly salaries threw almost all highly qualified personnel out of the space industry, and Soviet achievements have long become history. Russia has been excluded from the program for creating a lunar station, and it is no longer needed as a space cab after 2020 - its share in the launch services market has dropped to 1%. But Roscosmos continues to gush with new projects - a flight to Mars, a lunar program, its own orbital station.
In one of the Czech publications, the columnist Karel Zvonik expressed a well-founded opinion that
“Russia, which cannot be denied ingenuity, has recently lost a clear and understandable goal.
Judging by the inexhaustible stream of statements by Russian leaders, the country under the leadership of Vladimir Putin wants to achieve practically everything in astronautics, but cannot bring anything to its logical conclusion. "
Judging by the inexhaustible stream of statements by Russian leaders, the country under the leadership of Vladimir Putin wants to achieve practically everything in astronautics, but cannot bring anything to its logical conclusion. "
To rehabilitate the space industry, it is necessary to restructure its entire corrupt structure under the maximum control of the state and supervisory authorities, eliminate the layer of "effective managers", increase salaries for workers and specialists, revive the engineering staff, stable funding and the transition to Soviet standards of control and quality. Without this, Russia will not be able to either regain its leading position in space, nor ensure its own security.
The further fate of Russian space under liberal rule is obvious - the privatization of astronautics, the destruction of everything that does not bring instant profit, and the struggle for Chinese and Arab investments.