The cessation of flights under the Space Shuttle program at one moment made Russia a monopolist in the field of manned cosmonautics. From now on, every state who expresses a desire to send its astronauts into orbit is forced to resolve this issue with Roscosmos. In the coming 7-10 years, there is no alternative to our "Unions" and never will. The US manned ship of the new generation, Orion, will appear no earlier than the next decade. The Chinese space program is in its infancy and is not yet able to become a serious competitor for our space industry.
The Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) works like a clock. Only in the past 2013 year from three (out of five operating) Russian cosmodromes 30 successful launches were carried out, incl. The 4 manned missions on the Soyuz-TMA spacecraft to the International Space Station.
The emblem of the mission "Soyuz TMA-10M", the launch of 26 September 2013.
The dizzying success of Roskosmos, accompanied by the apparent decline of foreign manned cosmonautics, suggests that our country, in spite of everything, is still the leading space power. Last week, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin bluntly stated this: “Having analyzed the sanctions against our cosmodrome, I suggest that the United States deliver its astronauts to the ISS using a trampoline.” Thus, emphasizing the leading role of Roscosmos in space exploration.
The mockery of NASA is a reasonable response to the threats against Russia. Nevertheless, the bold speeches of Mr. Rogozin are in clear contradiction with the statements of Gennady Padalka, a Russian cosmonaut, a member of four space missions and nine spacewalks:
“We fly on technologies 70-ies of the last century, and the astronauts do not have an emotional boost. When you see the achievements of partners, you understand that we have no progress. ”
- Press conference in Star City, September 20 2012
How does the only country in the world capable of regularly delivering people into space orbit turns out to be “lagging behind” in the space race with other powers whose astronauts fly on our own rockets? What did the Russian cosmonaut mean when he spoke of the "achievements of our partners"?
Run from the Plesetsk cosmodrome. View from the embankment in Yekaterinburg
The main intrigue lies in the cessation of the flights of American “shuttles”, the last of which flew in July 2011.
The reasons for the premature termination of the Space Shuttle program are commonly referred to as NASA budget cuts, aggravated by the overall inefficiency of the space shuttle and their safety problems (two of the five space shuttles were lost). Of course, shuttles were not ideal ships: heavy reusable designs were created for intensive work, based on the future. When you need to perform on 20 and more launches per year. The real needs of astronautics turned out to be noticeably lower: the number of launches did not exceed 4-5 per year, as a result, the cost of one launch increased to 400-500 million dollars, and the reusable system lost all meaning.
Nevertheless, it would be wrong to talk about “premature write-off”: the program “Space Shuttle” existed for 30 years and worked for all 100%. Space Shuttles performed 135 flights. How big is this figure? For comparison, the number of launches of domestic "Soyuz" of all modifications since 1967 of the year is currently 119 (the last 119 of the Soyuz-TMA-12М was launched to the ISS 26 of March 2014 of the year).
The intensive exploitation of shuttles contradicts various speculations about their damage and any shortcomings in their design. These were outstanding for their time spaceships with 7-local cabin and cargo compartment, designed for 20 tons of payload (lifting or returning cargo from orbit).
The crew of the shuttle "Columbia" serves the Hubble Space Telescope
In addition to the possibility of maneuvering in the atmosphere of the Earth, the shuttles were no less magnificent maneuverability in near-Earth space. This allowed them to carry out unique operations in outer space, associated with the launch, maintenance or repair of spacecraft. Five expeditions related to the maintenance of the Hubble orbital telescope (the launch of the telescope during the STS-31 and 4 repair missions of the STS-61, 82, 103, 109) were most famous. Astronauts had to move away from the Earth by 570 km - 1,5 times as far as the ISS orbit and spend several hours in outer space, replacing the gyroscopes and the radio-electronic "stuffing" of the telescope. Among other well-known missions of the Shuttle is the launch of the Magellan automatic interplanetary station for the study of Venus (the station was launched using the shuttle Atlantis, 4 in May of 1989).
Knowing firsthand about the “shuttle” abilities, Soviet specialists feared that the shuttles could be used to “steal” domestic spacecraft. For repulse against impudent robbers, the Almaz orbital stations were specially armed with an HP-23 automatic cannon (Shield-1 system) or space-to-space self-defense missiles (Shield-2 system).
That's what a space shuttle is! The real "fiend" of the Cold War and the consequence of unfulfilled dreams of the soonest development of outer space!
The most honored of the shuttles is Discovery. 39 member of space expeditions
So why did the secured Yankees lack the extra $ 400-500 million to continue operating these unique ships capable of carrying out any task in near-earth orbit ?!
If you are told that money is not the matter, but in principle, then it is money (F. Hubbard).
Of course, money is everything. However, despite the devastating impact of the global financial crisis, a reduction in allocations for space and the collapse of US government agencies (2013), NASA laboratories, together with their partners, continue to research and prepare for the launch of new spacecraft.
Only in the last three years (since the cessation of the flights of shuttles) into the icy blackness of space have been launched:
- Yunona automatic interplanetary station (August 2011) for the study of Jupiter. The cost of the mission over 1 billion.
- The Martian Science Lab (MSL), better known as the rover Curiosity (launch - November 2011 of the year). 899 kilograms of high-tech systems and scientific equipment crawling across the surface of the Red Planet at a speed of 140 meters per hour. Creating the largest and heaviest of Martian robots cost NASA 2,5 billion dollars;
- automatic interplanetary station MAVEN (November 2013) to study the atmosphere of Mars. A simple short mission worth $ 671 million. Almost a penny by the standards of the American space program.
Preparations for the launch of the automatic interplanetary station MAVEN
Among the less loud projects are known:
- Ebb and Flow probes for the study of the gravitational field of the moon (GRAIL program, launch - September 2011);
- automatic station LADEE to study the properties of lunar dust and the rudiments of the atmosphere of the moon (September 2013).
This is despite the fact that the MESSENGER probe is still roasting in the orbit of Mercury. The orbital reconnaissance LRO rounds the moon. On the surface of Mars and in its vicinity there are three of the previously launched stations and rovers. Near the rings of Saturn already 10 years is the station "Cassini". In the black gap between the orbits of Neptune and Pluto, warmed by the flame of two plutonium generators, the probe "New Horizons" is carried. In the summer of 2015 of the year, after 9 of years of wandering, he must fly past Pluto. And somewhere outside the solar system at a distance of 19 of light hours from the Sun, Voyager-1 and Voyager-2 probes, launched in the distant 1977 year, fly to infinity.
All of these devices are "hanging on the balance sheet" at NASA. Communication with each is maintained, regularly received telemetry and scientific data are analyzed, search and solution of emerging technical problems is conducted.
Space telescope "James Webb" (project)
Of course, a lot of money is allocated! The official NASA budget for 2014 is 17,7 billion dollars a year. However, no daring projects are yet planned - no flights to Neptune or drilling the ice shell of one of Jupiter’s satellites. In the coming years, NASA’s flagship program has become the Webb space infrared telescope worth 8,7 billion. NASA's management has delayed the schedule for 4, and now has to urgently finish the project. However, the complexity of the project is extremely high: the 6,5 ton telescope must be delivered at a distance of 1,5 million km from Earth (4 times the moon's orbit) and work there for 5-10 years. The launch of Webb is scheduled for 2018 year.
Of the “small” projects for the near future, only the next Martian station InSight and the landing on the asteroid with the help of the OSIRIS-Rex probe remained.
As you have already noticed, there is not a single manned mission here - everything is solved with the help of automatic devices.
“Both we and the Americans spent a lot of money and effort on manned flights and manned stations. But the main achievements are not connected with them at all, but with the Hubble telescope, which really brought a huge amount of fundamentally new information. The future is for automatic stations. The manned cosmonautics has no applied significance, neither in the present nor in the foreseeable future. ”
- Konstantin Petrovich Feoktistov, pilot-cosmonaut of the USSR, designer, leading developer of the Soyuz spacecraft, Salyut and Mir orbital stations.
This is what cosmonaut G. Padalka had in mind when he spoke about the absence of domestic projects and technologies comparable to the technologies of our “partners”. It is precisely this that is confirmed by the words of the leading Russian cosmonautics Konstantin Feoktistov.
The hitch lies in the fact that our "partners" deliberately abandoned manned flights in the coming decade due to the absence of any intelligible meaning and tasks for astronauts in space. The idea of the “Shuttle” has completely exhausted itself. To preserve the skills and maintain the American segment of the ISS, it is enough to send a couple of astronauts a year as part of international crews aboard the Russian Soyuz-TMA.
All the necessary data on the effects of long-term space flight on the human body were obtained many years ago. At the present stage of technical development, the presence of a person in orbit is just an expensive walk without much practical meaning. Arguments about the greater reliability of the system with the participation of a person in it (if something breaks - fix it) are untenable. Opportunity Mars rover has worked on the surface of Mars over 10 Earth years and still continues to delve into the cool red dust of its creators for the joy of its creators. If suicidal fans could raise enough funds and make their dream come true by building a base on Mars, they could hardly have been able to stretch half that time. With that, the Opportunity Mars rover was created using 15 technologies a year ago.
Opportunity Mars rover prepares for flight
Of course, no one thinks to oppose manned spacecraft to soulless robots. Sooner or later the need will arise for the presence of man in space. In this case, the Yankees create a new generation Orion 25-ton spacecraft with an estimated autonomy of 210 days. In accordance with the conclusions of the Ognastin Commission (“Flexible Path”), “Orion” will be needed to fly to the Moon, to the Lagrange points and the asteroids nearest to the Earth. And in the future - for overflights of Venus and Mars.
The first flight of "Orion" in unmanned mode is scheduled for 2014 year. First manned launch - on 2021.
"Orion" is being tested
Space veterans or “cosmic taxi drivers”?
To the shame and disgrace of the Americans, they did not manage to build their own analogue of the “Union” - a simple and cheap “minibus” for delivering a couple of people to space orbit. But the domestic astronautics looks on this background is not the best way. The last major success is the Buran unmanned flight in the 1988 ...
The words of Dmitry Rogozin about the “space trampoline for Americans” will sound much more convincing if Roskosmos carries out the planned interplanetary expeditions “Luna-Glob” (2015) and “Luna-Resource” (2016), will repeat (this time successfully!) The mission “Phobos “Ground-2” (2018) and will be able to land the vehicle on the surface of the satellite of Jupiter (project “Laplace-P”). And from the Svobodny cosmodrome in 2018, the launches of Russian manned spacecraft of the new generation Rus-M will begin.
Without all this, Mr. Rogozin’s joke does not sound funny. Otherwise we can jump on the trampolines ...