One does not want to think much about worldliness on New Year’s Eve. The Year of the Rat is going away under the banner of the struggle against the coronavirus infection, and this is a highly worldly matter. Russia has launched the Sputnik V vaccine, which has every chance of triumphantly defeat the disease on the entire planet. Does Russia have any chances to extend its influence beyond planet Earth? The Soviet Union used to be the leader in space exploration. Unfortunately, today’s Russia cannot boast of the same. At the same time, NASA has taken a long way ahead with the help of public and private partnership. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has pushed many players on the market with the help of Falcon launch vehicles and Dragon cargo ships.The flight of the manned spacecraft Crew Dragon to the ISS became an unprecedented challenge to Roscosmos in 2020. For comparison, the design of the new Russian spaceship “Oryol” (“Eagle”) started back in 2009, and there is still no light at the end of the tunnel. It is expected, though, that the test launch of the Oryol spaceship on the Angara-A5 carrier rocket from the Vostochny cosmodrome is to take place in late 2023. If successful, the first unmanned flight to the ISS will take place next year, and a manned one – in 2025.The Angara is a whole family of space rockets: from the light Angara-1.1 version to the super-heavy Angara-A5B. Their development began in the 1990s to replace the Soviet Protons. The advantage of the Angara rocket lies in the use of less toxic fuel (kerosene and liquefied oxygen). The new rocket also boasts adjustable carrying capacity as universal rocket modules can be added to its design.Can we consider the recent successful launch (the second one after a long break) of the Angara-A5 heavy rocket from the Plesetsk cosmodrome a worthy response to Elon Musk and NASA? It can hardly be called a breakthrough, but, nevertheless, this is another step towards the intended goal.
Artemis eyes the Moon
Russia will be able to claim leadership positions in the field of civil space exploration if the country switches to the new rocket and space technology of the Angara rocket family in the coming years. In addition, Russia also needs to develop a new manned spacecraft, the head of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin believes. Four years ago, while serving as Deputy Prime Minister, he announced an ambitious and interesting goal – the creation of a permanent Russian scientific station on the Moon until 2030. According to Rogozin, this would open up “great technological opportunities in space” for Russia.To achieve it, one needs to do the following:
to make a technological breakthrough;
build a super-heavy rocket;
build an orbital module in lunar orbit;
build a reusable descent vehicle, etc.
However, it appears that the United States is much closer to the designated goal with its Artemis program.A NASA project with the participation of US private companies, the European Space Agency, the UK, Canada, Australia, Japan and other countries envisages a manned mission to the Moon in 2024, the construction of Gateway lunar station and the creation of the lunar infrastructure.