Picnic on the side of the space

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Picnic on the side of the space
Picnic on the side of the space

In the previous article on the topic of our prospects in space exploration and near-earth orbit. So how, can we repeat? I confess I was somewhat optimistic. More precisely, I would very much like it to happen.

However, during the time that has passed since the publication of the article, the situation has changed somewhat. And, as usual, not for the better.

It is worth starting with the news that on April 29, the Chinese launch vehicle Changzhen-5B launched into orbit the first segment of the future new Chinese orbital station, the Tianhe base module.

Picnic on the side of the space
Picnic on the side of the space

And then the Chinese plan to launch the Tianzhou-2 cargo ship with the equipment for working in orbit to the Tianhe with the Changzheng-7 rocket. After the docking of the module and the truck, a manned spacecraft "Shenzhou-12" with three cosmonauts (taikonauts, if in Chinese) will be launched. And now, in orbit, a Chinese orbital station of constant presence is obtained.


Does anyone have any doubts that the Chinese will do this?

Personally, I don't. China and India are two who want to take their (worthy) place in space and claim their piece of the cosmic pie. By "pie" I mean the possible upcoming division of the same lunar interior. And what, the Americans have already “staked out” and are selling concessions for the extraction of rare elements. Why are the Chinese and Indians worse?

Moreover, China really made a breakthrough into space, almost independently.

If anyone does not know, back in the nineties, when the ISS project was just taking shape, the United States banned the Chinese space agency from participating in the ISS program "for security reasons." Allegedly, the Chinese can "borrow" American and European technologies.

And in 2011, the US Congress banned any cooperation on space programs between the United States and China.

And now China has shown that it is able to cope on its own. Without outside help.

However, the successes of Chinese engineers are of secondary interest to us. More important is what we have. And with us everything is very ambiguous. On the one hand, there seems to be a prospect, on the other hand, we are not exactly losing what we won in Soviet times - we have actually lost everything.

However, judge for yourself. Let's start by asking ourselves the question: What place does Russia occupy today in space exploration? Only honestly, and without references to the Soviet past.

If you look at manned space exploration, we share the second or third place with China. Or have already missed China. But it is clear that the United States has gone very far ahead with its new Musk ships, but what about ours - just below.

Planetary exploration is a separate topic. And it's hard for me to say where we are, because it is not even the last. The last is when at least something is done. And we have a complete zero. The Japanese, meanwhile, brought soil samples from asteroids. European spacecraft investigated the Churyumov-Geramimenko comet. American spacecraft are already beyond Pluto and on Mars. The Chinese landed their craft on the far side of the moon.

Yes, we were also going to launch the Luna-25 AMS this year, but our words are too different from our deeds. However, it is possible with the prefix "as usual".

For more than 20 years, Russian cosmonautics happily played the role of a cab to the ISS, calmly digesting the millions of dollars that we were paid to bring astronauts into orbit. Now that the freebie is over, it's very easy to predict how things will turn out.

The Chinese ship of the new generation has been tested. The Mask ships fly successfully. And where is our federal "Eagle"? And it still exists at the level of sketches, drawings and plans. And for some reason, the Hero of the Soviet Union and Hero of the Russian Federation believe in pilot-cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, executive director for manned space programs of the State Corporation Roscosmos, who said that the Eagle would never fly at such a pace.

The next beautiful headlines on the website of the same Roscosmos say that "The first ship" Eagle "can fly to the Russian station." The key word here is “Maybe”. It may or may not fly. 50-50, as they say.

And, of course, one cannot do without a quote from Rogozin.

And if we don't expand? It turns out that everything is very difficult with the basic module. As well as with a launch vehicle for heavy launches.

The Chinese, by the way, have their heavy booster rocket flying with a hydrogen stage. Yes, we had “Energy”, but here the key word was “was”. Now there is no. It is also difficult to say when the Angara-5V will fly.

As well as it is difficult to draw at least some perspectives there.

Rubicon - year 2024

Yes, a full-fledged Rubicon. It is 2024 that will show who is good for what. This is the year when work on the ISS will come to an end, everyone who built the station will shake hands with each other (or will not) and each go to his own sandbox.

And this is where our problems begin. The Chinese already have a module in orbit around which an orbital station will be built further. On the model and likeness of our "Mir": a living module, two laboratory units, a transport ship and a manned ship. A great bunch to start with.

What can foreigners build? Anything. Both Europe and Japan felt the taste. I don't even want to talk about the United States.


In the previous article, I was happy to say that we still have something left. And on this it is quite possible to build your own station. And so it was reported that all the talk about the NEM, the scientific and energy module, which could become the heart of the new station, is just talk and nothing more.

There is no module. There are two patterns made in metal. One is just a model for studying options for laying commutations, electrical harnesses and cables, pipelines. The second model is for static tests, strength, vibration … That's all.

These two "barrels" were manufactured and transferred to RSC Energia for testing and testing. Rogozin posted a video at the beginning of April showing how this same NEM is being assembled.

However, the video does not capture the assembly of the module itself, but its layout. For hermetic tests. This happened on April 8, 2021. And on April 20, Rogozin announced that the NEM, intended for the ISS, would become the first module of the new Russian orbital station ROSS. But for this, the module will need to be reworked.

Rogozin was supported by Vladimir Soloviev, First Deputy General Designer of RSC Energia. He announced the timeframe: it takes 1.5-2 years to redesign NEM for the needs of ROSS. The module must be equipped with two cabins for cosmonauts, the docking unit will be replaced from active to passive, since in fact it will already be a station, traffic control systems and navigation systems will be installed. In addition, additional solar panels, telemetry, communication, ventilation and regeneration systems.

Here it becomes clear that the module that will operate on the ISS as one of the constituent components and the basis of the future ROSS (Russian Orbital Service Station) orbital station are slightly different things.

The question arises: will these four years be enough for such a rework, given the fact that since the beginning of work on the NEM, and this, let me remind you, the end of 2012, the matter has not progressed beyond two layouts at all.

In general, NEM was originally planned to be launched into orbit in 2016. Not withdrawn only because "there is no money."Despite the fact that money from commercial launches and space transportation flowed to Roskosmos like a river, the NEM cart remained in the same place. And now Rogozin is trying to convince everyone that in 2025 we will have a new station in orbit.

To which the new ship "Eagle" will fly …

In order to only adapt the NEM to the new conditions, Soloviev demanded 2 years. That is, the assembly of the NEM takes only 2 years. Do you believe? Personally, I am not. As things are going "quickly" with us, it will take about 5 years to build the module. With all the finishing touches, tests and "shifts to the right" - 8-10 years minimum. That is, it is no longer 2025, but 2030. Best case scenario.

However, Rogozin quickly recovered and soon announced the year 2030.

And such another nuance, important. Money. Which did not exist when we were monopolists in terms of space transportation, and will not exist now. True, Rogozin voiced several figures from which one can push off.

One of them is that the new station will cost a trillion rubles. Decent figure. But where to get a trillion in the Roscosmos budget, which consists of holes and criminal cases of embezzlement? Rogozin also said that the new station will have about the same costs as our contribution to the ISS. That is, $ 360 million a year.

A trillion rubles is almost thirteen and a half billion dollars. 38 years of ISS maintenance.

What am I doing? This means that our refusal to work on the ISS will not free up so much money that we could easily build our own station and maintain it. That is, you will have to build exclusively for your own. And about the fact that all this will pay off, you can not even dream. The ROSS station, unlike the ISS, will not be constantly operating. This is a temporary visit station, like the Chinese.

But the Chinese are now going through a stage that they went through in the Soviet Union in the seventies and eighties of the last century. And they walk by leaps and bounds.

In our country, both Rogozin and Deputy Prime Minister Borisov said that a permanently operating station in orbit on the model of the "Mir" is simply not affordable. The station will hang out at the top in automatic mode and there will be temporary visiting expeditions.

The idea with the ROSS station is somewhat reminiscent of the Aurus car. Yes, prestigious. Go out a couple of times a year and demonstrate to everyone. What to demonstrate is another matter.

Today, there are no tasks for a person in near-earth orbit that can justify the very stay of a person in orbit.

Therefore, the gaze of all cosmic powers is directed, if not to the Moon, then to other cosmic bodies. And the prospects for work in near-earth orbit are now minimal. Satellites can easily cope with the sounded observation of the Northern Sea Route. A person is definitely not needed for this.

China has launched its third orbital station. What for? Then, in order to solve the problems that the USSR solved 40 years ago. Human life in zero gravity, life support, food and so on. For China, this makes sense, the Chinese also want to go to the moon. And the Indians want to. It matters to them too.

What's the point for us? None. This is a complete degradation and regression - a temporary visiting orbital station. And humiliation to watch the Americans fly to the moon again. And they will fly.

Why didn't we fly? There was no rocket. Why will the Americans fly? Because there is a rocket. What the Americans are planning to fly is the SLS rocket, a single-launch scheme for landing on the moon. As was the case with "Saturn" (good if it was), as it was planned for us with N-1.


We do not have such a rocket. The Angara-A5 project is a multi-launch system. This means that first you need to put into orbit in four launches, dock and assemble a lunar ship and fly on it.

Of course, in order to collect all this, the station would be very useful in orbit. A sort of building house, yes.

Unfortunately, we do not have a super-heavy rocket capable of launching a load of 100 tons into orbit to provide a single-launch flight to the Moon. And Rogozin and the others stubbornly not even remember about "Energy". It is much better to "work" with the "Angara", which at best can provide a four-launch complex.


In general, Rubicon 2024 will show everything. If we left the ISS in 2024 and moved to our station in 2025, it would be nice. Doubtful, really. Now the year 2030 seems more likely.

The question then is where the Chinese and the Americans will be in 10 years. The Chinese will already be finalizing the resource of their station, what NASA will come up with is not yet known.

By the way, the American helicopter is already flying on Mars, the rovers are already studying the surface. The Chinese are next in line to Mars. Tianwen 1 is already in orbit …


The most disgusting thing is that no one needs us anymore. Not as carriers of space technologies (perhaps space toilets), nor as cabs. Everybody has boosters. The United States and China have ships. Europeans and Japanese have excellent interplanetary robotic stations.

We have nothing that could interest anyone. Perhaps the Hindus, who are at the very beginning of their journey into space. But we all know perfectly well how to work with this country. It’s very difficult.

For 6-7 years we may be left without any manned flights at all. There will simply be nowhere to fly, and there is no need to. It is obvious that Roskosmos, led by our remarkable in many respects Dmitry Rogozin, is unlikely to be able to quickly turn the tide.

Hence the very ugly conclusion:

- in the near future we will not have an orbital station.

- in the near future we will not have lunar flights.

- in the near future, we will not have exploration of other planets.

- in the near future, Russia will lose all attractiveness as a partner in space for other countries.

It remains to be hoped that the still lagging Chinese can agree to the participation of the Russian side in their projects. However, it is worth remembering that when the Chinese side takes over all that is missing in technology, we will again be left with a broken space trough.

A kind of picnic on the side of the space road. With the observation of how others fly to planets, asteroids and comets, launch rovers and helicopters, take the first steps on the surface of the planets of our system.


And we will only have to look after this, consoling ourselves with the fact that "we were once the first." And to be surprised that everyone else is not interested at all.

Probably because the key word here is "Were."

To our great regret, what Roscosmos is doing today is a return to the technologies and tasks of the USSR in the seventies. Although, perhaps, there are no specific tasks. Everything has already been completed once.

So it turns out that in words we will fly anywhere. In fact, our destiny is a cosmic roadside.

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