The Russian private space has not gone so far in its development as the American, but nevertheless it is actively developing. Domestic entrepreneurs successfully manufacture individual subsystems and in just five years they promise to launch a suborbital tourist shuttle (“Cosmocourse”), a private rocket (“Lin Industrial”), and also to provide the entire planet with Internet (Yaliny).
Russia moved to a market economy in 1992 year. The state-owned enterprises went into private ownership, the first individual entrepreneurs appeared, but these turbulent processes almost did not affect the space industry. Only individual enterprises (for example, RSC Energia) have moved into the form of a joint stock company, with the majority of the shares remaining under state control.
Private initiative was manifested in the creation of small groups of enthusiasts of companies that could fulfill small orders for space giants.
A typical example is NPO Lepton CJSC and its general director Oleg Kazantsev. The company began in 90-x as a manufacturer of video cameras, but then discovered that its experience allows us to manufacture star sensors for spacecraft, which it is now successfully engaged in. Is it also worth mentioning the engineering and technology center? ScanEx is a firm founded in 1989 to collect, process and sell photos from space satellites.
The noticeable initiative of those years was the participation of a group of Russian space engineers in the international competition of solar sailing ships. Back in 80, they prepared a project for a spacecraft with a solar sail, and in 90, they established the Space Regatta Consortium for commercialization of technology, suggesting to Russian gas workers, among other things, to illuminate the northern territories using a “sail” technologies. Gas workers were not interested in the mirror, but they needed communication satellites. As a result, a part of the Space Regatta team headed by Nikolai Sevastyanov (then an ordinary specialist at RSC Energia) took up communication satellites, becoming later Gazprom Space Systems company, the general designer of which is Mr. Sevastyanov.
The era of Skolkovo
In the 2000s, when there was a revival of the Russian economy and the private space was actively developing in the West, Western space start-ups began to arrive in our country. At first, MirCorp attempted to organize the first tourist flight to the Mir station. But Space Adventures managed to send the first space tourist (already on the ISS). The head of its Russian branch, Sergei Kostenko, later organized the Suborbital Corporation, which participated in the Ansari X PRIZE competition. Suborbital Corporation in conjunction with the Experimental Machine-Building Plant them. MV Myasishcheva created the project and built a mockup of the tourist shuttle (full size), which was supposed to start from the high-altitude aircraft M-55 "Geophysics" and take tourists to an altitude of about 100 kilometers. The project did not find funding and closed. In 2010, the same Sergey Kostenko created the Orbital Technologies company, which, together with the RSC Energia, developed a commercial orbital station. This project is also not developed.
In the same years, the company "Aerospace Systems" (AKS). Its founder Oleg Alexandrov in 2004 promised to organize a flight to Mars and sell the rights to broadcast the life of the crew. But already in 2005, the company focused on a more realistic project - satellites with advertising signs. CJSC AKS received a license from Roscosmos, manufactured two satellites - AKS-1 and AKS-2, but then closed, without launching them.
At the end of 2000-x - the beginning of 2010-x, the affairs of Russian space startups went more successfully. In 2009, the company Selenohod, under the leadership of Nikolay Dzis-Voynarovsky, decided to take part in the Google Lunar X PRIZE international competition to create a private lunar rover. The founders of “Selenokhod” invested their own funds in the project and began to develop. In 2011, a space cluster appeared in the Skolkovo innovation fund. Cluster resident status gave companies tax breaks and the prospect of receiving grants from the fund. “Selenohod” became one of the first residents, but did not find funding for the lunar project, withdrew from the competition and then under the name Sensepace engaged in creating systems of rendezvous and docking for small spacecraft. RoboCV, a subsidiary of Selenohod, has applied the computer vision technology proposed for building robots that carry cargo to warehouses. RoboCV is now a successful venture capital firm, and Samsung is among its clients.
At the same time, really big money came into the private sector of Russian space. Sputnix received several tens of millions of rubles, which it was able to assemble and launch in 2014 year the first all-Russian private satellite, Tabletsat-Aurora (devices manufactured by Gazprom Space Systems and RSC Energia, cannot be called such, because shareholders is the state). The ex-owner of Technosila, Mikhail Kokorich, who made a fortune in retail, founded the Dauria satellite manufacturing company in 2012 year, investments in which exceeded 30 million dollars. In 2014, Dauria launched two Perseus-M series nano-satellites and one DX-1 microsatellite on which the system for monitoring the movement of sea-going AIS ships is installed.
After the creation of the Skolkovo space cluster, it turned out that there are more than a dozen space startups in Russia. And besides the numerous companies that develop individual subsystems (such as, say, SpectraLaser, which develops laser ignition for a rocket engine), there are truly ambitious projects. For example, the Kosmokurs company, a former employee of the Khrunichev Center and the Angara rocket developer Pavel Pushkin, is building a ship for suborbital tourism with the money of a large Russian industrial investor.
Will the Russian SpaceX take place?
Another large-scale Skolkovo project is being implemented by the private company Lin Industrial, founded by entrepreneur Alexei Kaltushkin and Alexander Ilyin (co-owner and general designer who previously worked at the Khrunichev Center and Selenohod). The company designs ultralight rockets that will be able to put satellites weighing up to 180 kilograms into orbit. Lin Industrial managed to attract investments from big business: the creators of the World of Tanks computer game were invested in it.
Recall that the flagship of the world of private space, SpaceX, also began with the creation of a small rocket. The carrying capacity of the Falcon 1 carrier to a low near-earth orbit was theoretically 670 kilograms, but in real flights the payload mass did not exceed 180 kilograms.
The relevance of the development of ultralight rocket is dictated by the following. At present, small small satellites can only be launched by a large rocket together with the corresponding satellite or with a sufficient number of the same “kids”. That is, customers have to wait, either when a large satellite is ready, or so that small satellites are accumulated for a whole rocket. Moreover, if the customer needs a specific orbit, the waiting for a suitable “ride” is further delayed. As a result, it may take one or two years to go into orbit.
Such launches can be compared with a trip by bus or minibus. Sending a satellite to the Taimyr carrier in this case is a taxi. Nano- (mass 1 – 10 kg) or microsatellite (10 – 100 kg) is delivered to the desired orbit individually and with a guarantee of high efficiency - no more than three months before the start.
Already in 2015, the company plans to test a liquid-propellant rocket engine. In July, she successfully launched an experienced 1,6 meter-long rocket to test the future control system of Taimyr.
The first flight of the "Taimyr" is scheduled for 2020 year.
In the future, it will become the ancestor of a whole family of rockets of various payloads, which will help to satisfy all the requests of small spacecraft manufacturers:
- “Taimyr-1A” - a one-piece, three-stage launch vehicle with a launch mass of about 2600 kilograms, which will be able to output a payload (PN) with a mass up to 11 kilograms to a low near-earth orbit;
- “Taimyr-1B” - is similar in design and characteristics, but displays up to 13 kilograms, and at its first stage, instead of nine engines with a thrust, according to 400 kilograms, there is one big ton with 3,5 tonnes, which will ensure the efficiency of commercial operation
- “Taimyr-5” - a three-stage rocket of the packet scheme (four side blocks) for launching into space Mon to 100 kilograms;
- “Taimyr-7” - a three-stage rocket of the packet scheme (six side blocks) for launching into space Mon to 180 kilograms.
The main question is - will there be a job for all these missiles?
In "Lin Industrial" believe that the market is not just there, but growing. The development of mini- (100 – 500 kg), micro- (10 – 100 kg) and nanosatellite (1 – 10 kg) platforms is observed worldwide. At the same time, both private and state-owned companies and educational institutions are involved in the creation of apparatuses of such classes.
According to the forecast of O2Consulting, the number of spacecraft weighing up to 500 kilograms launched into space will increase from 154 in 2014 to 195 in 2020. Spaceworks, an analytical company, makes even more optimistic conclusions by predicting the launch of 543 1 – 50 kilograms in 2020.
Thus, Russia is moving in line with global trends.
Private firms Dauria and Sputnix create micro-and nano-satellites. Sputnix launched the first Russian private satellite Tabletsat-Aurora (26 kg), Dauria - two Perseus-M (5 kg) and one DX-1 (15 kg), Russian Space Systems OJSC for technology testing sent to space TNS-0 No. 1 (5 kg).
Universities are not far behind. Several satellites of the Mozhaisk Academy operate in orbit. The last - "Mozhaets-5" weighed 73 kilograms. Moscow State University launched Tatyana-1 (32 kg) and Tatyana-2 (90 kg), Ufa State aviation Technical University - USATU-SAT (40 kg), MAI - MAK-1 and MAK-2 (20 kg each), and also, together with South-West State University, participated in the creation of the Radioskaf series devices (up to 100 kg).
Most likely, the number of nano- and microsatellites being created in Russia will continue to grow, and at an accelerated pace. Among the promising projects of private companies (in addition to the ongoing work in higher education institutions on the next “Radioskafs”, “Baumanets-2”, etc.), the following can be noted:
scientific experiment "Cluster-T" for the registration of gamma-ray bursts of cosmic and terrestrial origin ("Dauria" + IKI RAS) - 3 – 4 microsatellite;
microsatellite group of monitoring of emergency situations (Sputnix and ScanEx for EMERCOM of Russia) - 18 microsatellites;
Yaliny - 135 microsatellites + 9 backup all-planet cheap Internet.
If the American SpaceX plans to colonize Mars in the distant future, then in the Russian “Lin Industrial” they are sure that it is necessary to begin large-scale space exploration from the Moon.
Lin Industrial developed a plan to create a lunar base of the first stage for two crew members and the second for four people. According to preliminary estimates, the cost of the project called “Moon Seven” will be 550 billion rubles, while Roskosmos and the Russian Academy of Sciences are requesting two trillion rubles from the budget before 2025 for research and development of our natural satellite.
The highlight of the project is the use of already existing rocket and space technology and facilities, the creation of which is possible in the next five years. An upgraded heavy Angara-A5 is offered as a carrier. This will eliminate the long and costly development and construction of super-heavy media.
The piloted ship is planned to be made on the basis of the buildings of the descent capsule and the domestic compartment, which are now being used to deliver cosmonauts to the International Space Station using Soyuz spacecraft. The landing lunar module can be made on the basis of the Fregat upper stage.
To launch to the moon and build a base on its surface, 13 heavy rocket launches must be launched. In total, 37 start-ups for five years are necessary to maintain the base's vital activity.
The place to deploy the first lunar settlement is Mount Malapert, located near the south pole of the moon. This is a fairly flat plateau with a direct view of the Earth, which creates good conditions for communication and is convenient for landing. The mountain is almost constantly illuminated by the sun, and the duration of the night, which occurs only a few times a year, does not exceed three to six days. In addition, nearby are shaded craters, where deposits of water ice are likely under a layer of lunar soil.
The project implementation period is ten years from the beginning of the decision, five of them will be spent on the deployment of the base and the work of the crews.
"Moon seven" - the dream of not only private owners. Some proposals related to this project were included in the Federal Space Program (PCF) for the 2016 – 2025 years, approved in the spring. In particular, the FKP declared a refusal to build a super-heavy rocket in the near future, but the direction for the exploration of the Moon was preserved and the modernization of the Angara-A5 was added.
As for promising space undertakings not related to Skolkovo or state-owned enterprises, four of them are worth highlighting.
First, the amateur group Multipurpose Rocket Platforms developed and tested a hybrid rocket engine (SRD) in 2012 with about 20 kilograms and a rocket with it. In the same year, tested "hybrid" 500 kilograms. This is a great achievement if we recall that the world's first hybrid engine was built in the Soviet Union, with the last time the rockets on the GRD in our country flew in the 1934. The only functioning GRD in Russia (except for “Multipurpose jet platforms”) is owned by the State Center Keldysh. At the same time, in the USA, GRD is the basis of many private projects. So, the famous American private suborbital shuttle SpaceShip One flew precisely on the GRD. Unfortunately, “Multipurpose jet platforms”, having predicted an insufficient demand for their products and not having received support from Skolkovo and investors, eventually reassigned to the manufacture of composite structures.
Secondly, Alexander Galitsky, a well-known Russian entrepreneur and venture investor, chose not to invest in domestic space projects, but to make a sponsorship contribution to the private non-commercial foundation B612 with its headquarters in the USA, which is engaged in protecting the Earth from asteroids.
Thirdly, a group of enthusiasts called “Your Sector of the Cosmos”, which is headed by MAMI teacher Alexander Shaenko (Ph.D., in the past - lead engineer of “Dauria”), creates the satellite “Mayak”. It should deploy an inflatable metallized reflector in orbit in the fall of 2016, and for several months become the brightest object of the night sky. "Your sector of space" collects donations to pay for the launch of the Dnepr rocket.
Fourth, entrepreneurs Vadim Teplyakov and Nikita Sherman opened Yaliny in Hong Kong, whose team consists mainly of Russian specialists. The initial investment amounted to about two million dollars. Yaliny is going to provide the Earth with the satellite-based Internet, that is, to compete with the similar OneWeb project by Richard Branson and the worldwide Internet from Google / Fidelity / SpaceX.