In the harsh conditions of a significant reduction in funding for the Federal Space Program (FKP) on 2016 – 2025 years, it is necessary to radically change the approach to many areas of the industry. It is not enough to simply abandon some costly items such as creating a super-heavy launch vehicle or deep-space exploration projects.
We need an innovative approach, a fresh look, and sometimes unusual ideas regarding the choice of directions. Without questioning the competence of the developers of the PCF, let us express our proposals on this subject. There is always some value in independent evaluation.
Carriage at the site
The International Space Station is the largest project of our time in space exploration, in which the United States, Europe, Canada, Japan, and Russia participate in various forms. And although the ISS is also a very expensive facility, it would be unwise not to use its capabilities for promising developments.
“The rocket range of the Navy in the village of Nenoksa is an ideal place to launch satellites along different trajectories”
The irreplaceable role of Russia in the project is the delivery of Russian and foreign cosmonauts, which for simplicity is called a space cart. Now Russia is making decent money on it. Sooner or later (by about 2020), because of the growth in the number of competitors, someone will refuse this service, but for the time being it is in demand.
Before deciding to extend the work of the ISS to 2024, it is necessary to clearly understand for yourself what the purpose is. Indeed, many experiments, including on long flights, were conducted at the Salyut and Mir stations. Of course, it is impossible to make a big pause in the manned program, but if you fly into space, it is not for the sake of statistics, but for solving new tasks aimed at the future.
One of such is the test in near-earth orbit of equipment for lunar and Martian expeditions. First of all, it is a promising manned transport ship (PPTC), the creation of which is included in the PCF, but is behind the original schedule for years. This is an unaffordable luxury in conditions when foreign competitors conduct such developments at an accelerated pace. The topic should be urgently brought to a logical ending, that is, before the launch of a domestic PPTK into orbit. Now it is a priority in the development of manned space flight.
Another major theme that fits well with the ISS is inflatable transformer modules. This is just an economical option for space. The module shell is made of durable polymeric materials. Before the start, it is in the folded state, and after it goes into orbit, it is inflated, after which the internal volume increases more than four times. The weight of such a module is several times less than the traditional metal. If earlier for its delivery to orbit, a heavy Proton class PH was required, then now Soyuz is sufficient. The price of launching the latter is almost three times lower - what is not saving?
Nothing is more distressing than the realization of the fact that long-standing possibilities have not been used for certain reasons. One such example is the pragmatic cosmos concept, which has been developed in detail and is now virtually forgotten. It is a pity that in the low-income 90-e years it was not paid serious attention at the state level. The reason, at first glance, to the banal is simple: there were no funds. Formally, this is so. Indeed, in the post-Soviet period, the financing of space exploration has sharply decreased. But the problem is not only in money.
The concept itself, called Pragmatic Cosmos, was developed by the NPO Mashinostroyenia corporation from Reutov, located near Moscow, on its own initiative. Its components in the form of models were even shown to the general public at the MAKS-99 showroom. The concept is based on the creation of low-cost, small-class satellites and the use of conversion launch vehicles for their launch into orbit. Taking into account market prospects, NPO Mashinostroyeniya specialists were the first in Russia to develop a universal platform, on the basis of which small spacecraft for various purposes would be manufactured. To put them into orbit, it was planned to use the conversion Strela LV. Such an approach made it possible for anyone at that time to master an unoccupied niche in the space services market.
The godfather of the program is a renowned designer of rocket and space technology, the former general director of the NPO of mechanical engineering Herbert Efremov. Despite the fact that the program was created primarily in the interests of Russia, it did not receive state support. However, many of its provisions are still fully relevant and competitive today. Here is what Efremov said: “We must deal with everything that works for urgent tasks, gives practical feedback. This remote sensing, topography, navigation, communications, weather satellites. " If the state showed wisdom and interest in this initiative, at the very beginning of the XXI century, at minimal cost, we would have very good results in scientific spacecraft, communications satellites and remote sensing of the Earth, as well as serious groundwork.
It was originally proposed to use the Strela launch vehicle to launch satellites from the Svobodny space center (now Vostochny). For this, a project was prepared for the addition of one missile mine to the Strategic Missile Forces division disbanded there. But the former leadership of Roscosmos did not consider it necessary to invest only 10 million dollars or provide guarantees for a loan in a bank. Not allocated this money to this day. Calculations show that over the past years, the resulting profit would repeatedly recoup all costs. From the Far Eastern cosmodrome for at least a decade the carriers of the Strela could take the spacecraft to virtually any orbit, including polar and solar-synchronous ones. Moreover, the cost of launches would be minimal and not least due to the low cost of maintaining almost ready infrastructure. But the project remained on paper.
Nano in orbit
To this day, the directions of development indicated in the Pragmatic Cosmos concept remain promising. Moreover, in recent years, new projects of using small spacecraft have appeared. In particular, it is proposed to use them as rescue satellites capable of refueling large vehicles to extend their life directly in orbit, and in the long term, taking into account the development of robotics and their repair.
Let us imagine such a case: a large and expensive apparatus has entered an unplanned orbit; it cannot be used for its intended purpose. The rescue satellite is launched, which after docking leads the main satellite to the previously planned orbit. Savings are easy to count. If the price of large satellites is expressed in hundreds of millions of dollars, then the price of small devices is only in the tens. The last episode of this kind is the launch of the Soyuz 2.1В launch vehicle of two military 5 satellites in December. One was put out on a regular basis, the other was not separated from the new upper stage Volga. And instead of deciding the issue of dropping from orbit and subsequent flooding of the bundle from the upper stage and one of the satellites, it would be possible to send some repair and rescue apparatus, which is not yet available, unfortunately. Another example from the recent past. At the end of 2012, the Yamal-402 communications satellite (summed up by the upper stage) turned out to be in an unplanned orbit. He traveled to the geostationary orbit with the help of his engines, burning fuel supplies. For this reason, his appointment time has decreased. As a result, insurance companies indemnified the damage in the amount of 74 million euros.
Everyone remembers the recent accident with the Phobos-Grunt satellite. It was created for a decade and a half, decent funds were spent on it. Failure hurt both the space budget and the prestige of the industry. For the ruined money, it was possible to create five to seven small scientific devices that would give much more results than one Phobos-Grunt.
The classification of such satellites by mass is so interesting that it should be given in its entirety. So: small spacecraft - from 500 kilograms to one ton, mini - from 100 to 500 kilograms, micro - from 10 to 100 kilograms, nano - from one to 10 kilograms, pico - from 100 grams to one kilogram, femto - less than 100 grams . The main advantage of the "kids" - dramatically reduced terms of design and creation. Hence, their prices will not be high.
Russia in the creation of small and ultra-small satellites, unfortunately, is well behind its competitors. Now we have to catch up. The task is clear: to put on the conveyor the release of small devices for various purposes. The first light-class spacecraft have already been launched. I want to believe that the process has begun, and to wish every success to this undertaking.
Then light-class PHs, including conversion ones, will also be in demand. In particular, for launches it is possible to use the rocket range of the Navy, located on the shore of the White Sea, in the village of Nenoks, Arkhangelsk region. Sea ballistic missiles are being tested there, but the site is clearly not fully loaded. And the place is ideal for launches along different trajectories. Instead of utilization, combat missiles removed from nuclear submarines will launch satellites into orbit. In the United States do just that.
And I would also like to appeal to the Roskosmos Board with a proposal to resume the launch of low-cost payloads due to the fact that the previous ones were unsuccessful for technical reasons. Recall a couple of such cases.
In 2005, during the Russian-American conversion PH experiment, a small Kosmos-1 spacecraft was launched. According to the plan, the device was to go into a high earth orbit, and then deploy a solar sail made of plastic. However, he entered an unplanned orbit and the connection with him was lost. In the same year, the launch of the experimental Demonstrator apparatus, which was a brake device made in the form of a cone made of heat-resistant material, ended in failure. By the way, both launches were made from a nuclear submarine.
It seems that failure is no reason to throw the implementation of interesting ideas halfway. On the contrary, it is necessary to correct past mistakes and try again, because the development of new unique technologies is at stake, and no one is insured against possible failures.
Many, many times
Trends of the world cosmonautics suggest that it is time to actively develop reusable launch vehicles. They allow to reduce the cost of launches not by percents, but by an order. By some estimates, the reduction in price is from 5 to 10 times as compared to traditional PH.
The first studies on this topic under the cover of secrecy were conducted back in 60-s. But the real boom occurred at the start of 90's. Many domestic enterprises related to space, due to a sharp reduction in the state order, literally spilled their reusable LV projects onto the market. Naturally, they sought to get some commercial orders to preserve the main production, and this is what came of it.
GKB them. Makeeva came out with a proposal to use his naval strategic missiles to launch satellites. It was developed in several versions of the RMS "Calm". So, “Calm-3” from a ground launch could have thrown a payload of 410 kilograms into low orbit, and with an aviation launch using an aircraft carrier, the weight increased to 950 kilograms. The difference is obvious. The aircraft in this case served as the first stage of the launch vehicle. But in the end, there were only two successful space launches of the Stihn rocket launcher. But how it was spectacular: starts from the board of a nuclear submarine.
In 1991, Raduga ICB developed the innovative project of the Burlak launch vehicle for the rapid launch of various satellites into orbit, including the military. RN was suspended under the plane Tu-160. The system rose almost to the stratosphere, where at a supersonic speed the PH separated from the carrier aircraft. The maximum payload weight put into orbit was 1100 kilograms. A little later, the project was joined by financial partners from Germany, and the project was named “Diana-Burlak”. A full-scale mock-up of the PH was made along with the Tu-160, which was demonstrated at a number of air shows. Everyone was hoping that things were moving steadily, but ... the money ran out.
Compared to the rest, the long-suffering Air Launch project looked very worthy, which was refined several times, but was never brought to the final stage. Its main element was a specially refitted An-124 aircraft, from which, at an altitude of about 10 kilometers, the RN was launched, its rocket engines were launched and further space flight was launched. The system was designed to bring up to three tons of cargo into low orbit. However, the lack of real orders for launches and this development left on paper.
NPO Molniya proposed the project MAKS (Multipurpose Aerospace System), which turned out to be a real technical masterpiece and was well ahead of its time. As the carrier aircraft it was planned to use the An-225 - the most powerful aircraft in the world. With him was to start a space plane in a manned or unmanned version. The cost of delivery to orbit of one kilogram of cargo was reduced tenfold. But even before this project, the hands have not yet reached.
At the end of the 90-ies the Center. Khrunichev as a development of the Angara launch system offered his project of a reusable carrier. Its key element was to be the first-stage accelerator “Baikal”, which, after launching and separating from the second stage, spread its wings and landed like an airplane on the nearest airfield. So far, it has only reached the creation of an exhibition layout on the scale of 1: 1 and its purging in the wind tunnel TsAGI. Nevertheless, I want to believe that Baikal has a future. However, like other Russian reusable systems.
Cost effective retargeting
The time has come to recall what potential for the development of space research existed during Soviet times and what remained of it. This refers to the dismantled combat missiles that were in service and later, potentially capable of launching spacecraft into orbit. One glance at the numbers is enough to experience a real shock. The number of Soviet missiles is amazing. In 1991, the USSR was armed with 2354 strategic sea-and land-based missiles. And this is without regard to those stored in the arsenals. Today, on duty, remained miserable. The total number of strategic missiles of all types, removed from combat duty in the post-Soviet period and later utilized, exceeds two thousand units.
For example, the Strela launch vehicle and the Rokot launch vehicle were based on the RS-18 strategic rocket, reliable and durable. After the collapse of the USSR, 170 of such missiles remained on combat duty in Russia. More 19 missiles were later transferred to us by Ukraine on account of the debt for gas. Theoretically, such a stock of launch vehicles would be enough for at least twenty years, or even thirty. But only three conversion LV Strela and 25 PH Rokot were launched. A dozen more missiles were used to check the reliability and extend the life of the service. Pure arithmetic says that today we should have about 150 units in stock (on duty and in storage in the arsenal).
The price of a conversion pH for a state is, conditionally speaking, zero. Of course, the alteration of a combat missile into a carrier and its launch into space implies certain financial costs, but still it is beneficial, because instead of the costs of recycling, you can earn. A range of domestic conversion PH is quite rich - any customer can find a suitable option for themselves. Russia, on the other hand, is able to launch into conversion orbit almost any satellite weighing from one to 4500 kilograms.