MANNED SPACEFLIGHT TO
Nikolai Nikolaevich SEVASTIYANOV
President and Designer General
of the S.P.Korolev
Rocket and Space Corporation Energia.
This meeting takes place against the background of the continuing restructuring in the rocket and space industry. In the making are some important decisions that will determine the outlines of the Russian space effort, both in terms of the next few years and of its strategic outlook. The Russian Federal Space Program for 2006-2015 has been recently adopted, and soon Roskosmos is to select for implementation a design for the manned spacecraft of the future. Therefore, the first few questions to the head of Energia are about the company’s future prospects in the current “time of change”.
What is your vision of RSC Energia’s role in the environment where the industry is being concentrated and large integrated associations are being set up?
Energia corporation implements large integration projects in the manned, unmanned and rocket propulsion systems. To do this, the corporation cooperates with many of this country’s companies and organizations, including those in other industries, putting to use their scientific, technical technological and production potential. The forms of the integration may vary from the usual cooperation with subcontractors to the merging of organizations. But decision-making on this subject must take into account organizational and economic usefulness.
At present the Corporation includes the Prime Design Bureau, Experimental Machine-building plant, Kosmos airlines, Volzhskoye design bureau in Samara, Razvitie investment company, orthopedic enterprise OIME, etc.
Will not the fact that the company works simultaneously in various fields of space technology result in competition inside the industry?
There needs to be a competition inside the industry for contracts to provide rocket and space products and services, any attempt to do without it would eventually result in technological regress. However, it needs to be controllable. For each type of rocket and space products there must be at least two suppliers, in some cases there must be three. If only one were left, a technological lag would set in, because in that case there would be no competition to win the contracts, and thus there would be no incentive to raise the technological level and improve the cost efficiency of the products.
A good example is the Russian breakthrough in space communications. In 1997-1998 the Russian Government made a decision to hold a state competition for communications satellites development. This international competition was won by two Russian companies: Energia (with its Yamal-200 project) and NPO of Applied Mechanics (NPO PM) with its project Troika. This mobilizing effort eventually resulted in RSC Energia developing an orbital constellation based on the new-generation communication satellites Yamal, and NPO PM developing its production capability and switching their production to the new-generation satellite model Express-AM. It is owing to this competition that today our country has in geostationary orbit a state-of-the-art constellation of civilian communications satellites, while as recently as five years ago it was still in danger of being completely lost.
What is your attitude towards the current practice of appointing prime companies for specific areas of activities and setting up holding companies where, for example, the manufacturers of some particular type of product are joined together?
Yamal communications satellite
Appointing prime companies is a form of program management. A government customer has the right to establish prime organizations for its programs. This improves accountability and reduces the government investment risks.
Pooling the assets of several space companies into one holding company may be expedient when such a merging allows improving the competitive strength of the products of these companies in the market.
And where does the market exist in space?
Today the market exists in the government, commercial and foreign sectors.
Very well developed at present is the market of launch services to put satellites in orbit, and some very active work is going on in that market now.
Another market lies in the area of space communications. Today, for example, RSC Energia builds communication satellites and offers them in the market to Gascom, to the Russian government-owned company Space Communications, to companies and countries of CIS and of the entire world. And there are competitors in this market who come both from Russia and abroad.
A market in the manned space flight has started to emerge.
The Federal Space Agency receives orders for manned space flights. Among the customers are NASA, space agencies of other countries, private companies. This is also a market. Here, Energia Corporation operates within the framework of the Roskosmos corporate structure. The agency offers flight opportunities to our partners from abroad, and Energia carries out the flight mission – manufactures the spacecraft and supports its launch, flight in space and landing. Here as well, we can soon have competitors. The Chinese are still at the trial stage, but one can already see that soon they may enter the manned space services market, just as some time ago they entered the satellite launch services market. Recently, NASA announced a program to develop a new manned transportation spacecraft CEV.
Manned spacecraft Soyuz TMA
at the final phase of pre-launch processing
Lift-off of Soyuz LV carrying
Soyuz TMA spacecraft
Russia, in her turn, is also planning to strengthen her positions in the manned space flight market by developing a new reusable spacecraft for which Roskosmos is now holding a competition. RSC Energia proposes a new reusable spacecraft Clipper, which will allow to reduce the cost of flying a cosmonaut into space by a factor of three and will significantly reduce the in-flight g-loads as compared with the Soyuz spacecraft. This will give us a significant competitive edge in the manned space flight services, which will enable the Russian manned space missions to start covering their own costs.
Reusable manned spacecraft Soyuz TMA
Manned reusable spacecraft Clipper
What space market sectors are being established for the manned space flight?
At present, in the manned space flight market four sectors are being established, which are addressed in our business plan for the Clipper.
The first of those sectors is catering for the needs of the state within the framework of the Russian Federal Space Program. For the Government customer, the cost of flying each cosmonaut on-board Clipper will be significantly lower than on-board Soyuz.
The second sector includes space agencies of developing countries, and, for that matter, even the agencies of the countries participating in the ISS program when they order flights from the Russia.
The third sector of the market consists of the governmental and non-governmental research organizations of various countries where scientists want to perform expensive experiments and research in space themselves but cannot go to ISS or into orbit on-board Soyuz because of the existing price levels and high requirements for the cosmonauts’ health. The Clipper will allow bringing into orbit, alongside two professional cosmonauts, four non-professionals, as well as lowering physical loads on the human being and reducing the time needed to prepare non-professional cosmonauts for the flight down to three months instead of the current eighteen months. Thanks to the Clipper, scientists will be able to frequently fly to the International Space Station in order to conduct research there.
Landing of the Clipper reentry vehicle
And, finally, space tourists. This market sector has already began to be established during flights of space tourists on-board Soyuz and must see significant growth when Clipper comes into operation.
When developing Clipper, we tried to design a system with a view to the needs of the user, that is, instead of a one-of-a-kind engineering product, we tried to offer a reusable industrial transportation system that would deliver into low-Earth orbit tens of people every year. This will enable the government to develop manned space flight by saving their costs and generating revenue from selling services to commercial customers. The reusable space transportation system Clipper will be economically viable and on a par with “ground’ projects in terms of profitability.
What, in your opinion, is the outlook for the Clipper project in the light of the fact that the ESA Ministerial Council has not yet made a decision to provide financing for joint activities in 2006? In what ways the uncertain situation with the European funding is going to affect the design – the winged configuration in particular?
In the second half of the last year 2005, a new Clipper concept was defined. Design was reviewed against the requirements of the space market users. That is why the issue of the winged configuration has nothing to do with the availability of this or that partner in the project. This is the issue of developing specifically industrial reusable cost-efficient system. The initial design configuration – the one with the lifting body – was considerably less cost-effective, albeit technically feasible.
As for our relationship with the Europeans, it is important to keep in mind that in the current Federal Space Program the project is open for investment. A certain sum invested into it by the Government is not sufficient for developing a viable industrial system. That is why the project is based on the principle of obtaining additional non-budgetary investments. Some time ago ESA approached Roscosmos with a proposal for European companies’ participation in the project with financial and organizational backing of the European Space Agency. At present, the project has such technical and economic parameters that investments can be obtained regardless of European participation. Nevertheless, we are willing to cooperate with European companies, if we are selected based on the results of the competition. We already have such experience: we have been cooperating under Yamal project and under the project to develop ATV - the European logistics spacecraft for ISS. And the Council of Ministers of the ESA participant countries has not really refused to participate in the project – a decision was made to further review the issue in the nearest future.
In what ways does RSC Energia participate in space projects of other countries?
For the manned space systems, we supply docking units, a number of systems and assemblies for the manufacturing of the European logistics vehicle ATV. Recently NASA announced a competition to deliver commercial cargo to ISS. In principle, here as well Russia can provide certain services. But under the terms of that competition, the US companies are the prime contractors, and we can only be in the role of subcontractors.
For the unmanned space systems, we participate in the joint Belarusian-Russian project BelKA. In 2006 we are to put into orbit an Earth observation spacecraft. We have held talks with Kazakhstan, they plan to establish a constellation of communications and Earth observation satellites.
For rocket systems, RSC Energia, within the framework of international launch services programs, provides its upper stage Block DM for launch vehicles Proton and Zenit-3SL and is responsible for the operation of the rocket segment of the sea-based space launcher system Sea Launch.
Most of the international activities of RSC Energia are within the framework of international activities of the Federal Space Agency.
Satellite launch from Odyssey launch platform of the Sea Launch system
How does RSC Energia participate in the work to carry our government space contracts? What is being done in the area of converting space technologies to civilian applications?
The Corporation’s government contracts under the Federal Space Program are mostly related to manned space. These include construction and operation of the ISS Russian Segment, transportation operations based on Soyuz and Progress to support and implement a program of space experiments and scientific research on-board the space station.
Some of the projects are being carried out under the Federal Space Program on an off-budget basis – such projects as the abovementioned BelKA project, Yamal-GK and Smotr projects for Gasprom, etc.
There are a number of projects related to rocket technology, including development of the new modification of the Block DM upper stage.
Our technology spin-off program includes manufacturing prosthetic and orthopedic appliances based on advanced technology. RSC Energia is one of the leaders in this market.
What is your vision of the future of ISS and manned space flight as a whole?
The International Space Station should acquire the status of the permanent artificial Earth satellite. We are trying to bring all the other participants in the project to the same point of view.
All the partners in the ISS program see the need for its further development. We must construct the space station together, because this will assure the most efficient use of the investments. The objective of ISS is the permanent manned presence in space in order to conduct fundamental research and develop new space technologies in the interests of the Earth’s industry and economy.
Today this area of activities is of the greatest importance. For example: At the end of 2005 Progress M-55 delivered to the space station some Japanese hardware for an experiment to grow crystals for laser systems that will allow to increase data transmission rates by an order of magnitude. If it succeeds, it will have a tremendous effect – it will become possible to start setting up the production of such crystals in space.
Another area, which NASA currently plans to implement on-board ISS is developmental tests for future long-duration interplanetary missions and hardware for such space missions.
Future prospects for ISS growth
At present, we have also proposed a new concept for developing a transportation system for Earth-Moon-Earth missions, which will permit to significantly reduce the costs and technical risks of such expeditions. The concept is based on the use of mass-produced rockets, upper stages and spacecraft that are highly reliable.
The Russian segment of the ISS can become the production area for assembling interorbital transfer systems for lunar missions.
Since the Government made large investments in the ISS Russian Segment, our task is to make it work efficiently and on a continuous basis. To accomplish this, the new modules must be designed with the maximum of usability in mind. This will make it possible for the Russian Segment to provide services to other countries, and that, in principle, may make the financial investments recoupable and create an off-budget financial basis for developing the Russian Segment of the ISS.
At present, the ISS is the international spaceport, the fulcrum of the world’s manned space flight.
On the whole, the world’s manned space flight has great future and it has to do with solving the mankind’s pressing problems. One of the serious problems is power production. As the Earth’s civilization develops, its power requirements increase. Today, 90% of power on Earth is generated from hydrocarbons, that is, natural gas and oil. According to experts’ estimates, at the existing rate of consumption the hydrocarbon resources on this planet will last till the middle or the end of this century. Besides, the burning of hydrocarbons produces negative environmental effects as it results in generation of greenhouse gases, which leads to an increase in the Earth’s average temperature. Over the last 40 years this temperature has already grown by 0.5 degrees. According to predictions, if the planet’s temperature grows by 1.5 degrees more, some irreversible processes will set in, and huge amounts of energy will be needed to cancel the greenhouse effect.
There is a need to study possible approaches to solving this problem, which include the development of the environmentally friendly nuclear fusion power based on the Deuterium + Helium-3 reaction. Helium-3 is very scarce on our planet, but its reserves on the Moon, according to scientists’ estimates, will be sufficient to meet Earth’s needs for more than a thousand years. It’s already time we start looking into this issue with regard to space technologies for helium mining and delivery to Earth.
Let me draw a parallel with an example from the Russian history. In 1930s our country was developing polar aviation. This effort was criticized at the time. But in 1950s the polar aviation became the basic tool for prospecting in the trans-polar oil and gas fields. In 1970-80s it was the polar aviation that helped to develop the polar fields of hydrocarbon energy resources. Today, the Russian gas industry became the mainstay of this nation in terms of power generation and economy.
Development of space power resources is one of the objectives of the manned space flight of the future. There is a need to steadfastly pursue the development of cost-effective unmanned and manned space transportation systems.
Does your company experience a shortage of qualified young personnel?
Such an organization as RSC Energia always has a shortage of qualified young staff, because in order to carry out new space projects one needs to have not only deep knowledge, but also enthusiasm and energy that are typical of youth. But the availability of young personnel in itself is not a sufficient condition for being able to start a new project. The most important thing is to assure that, from project to project, the experience and systematic knowledge are transferred from the experienced specialists to the young people through their working together. The scientific and engineering level of the people currently working at the Corporation is very high. Here, at Energia, we always had strong schools of scientific and engineering thought. And recruiting young people is a continuous process, which must never stop.
Within the time since you were elected RSC Energia President, did you succeed in putting together a team of managers working towards a common goal?
I think the answer is yes. The Corporation finished 2005 without losses, and this was achieved for the first time in the last four years. Energia always had good specialists. All of them stayed after my election, and also some new ones came. And in only six months, together we managed to bring the company out of its financial crisis.
Your company holds a unique archive of historical material covering virtually all the periods in the development of our country’s space efforts, including written documents, design documentation, video and photographic materials. What measures are planned in order to preserve them and make them more accessible to the public?
I believe that there is a need to develop the media that provide information about space to the general public, in particular, it would be good to establish a TV channel dedicated to space, and the materials – both archival and current – should be made accessible to the public to the maximum extent possible. In my opinion, providing extensive information to the nation about its space programs and their results is essential for the successful development of the industry. This will also contribute to raising the intellectual level of the public.
What is your vision of the Russian manned space flight for the next 25 years?
Within the framework of the Russian manned space flight development program, the following phases are to be accomplished over this period:
- Industrialization of the near-Earth space based on the development of the ISS Russian Segment and its consumer potential,
- Development of a cost-efficient space transportation system Clipper,
- Implementation of the lunar program, which will usher in the industrialization of the Moon,
- Accomplishing a manned science mission to Mars.
All these phases are interrelated, because each earlier phase lays a technological foundation for all the later ones.
Further construction of the ISS Russian Segment is to assure that its technical and economic potential is used to the maximum extent possible. This must be done beginning with the Multi-purpose Laboratory Module (MLM), which is scheduled for launch at the end of 2008. For this purpose the module should use the state-of-the-art equipment for its on-board systems and have its layout optimized to accommodate on-board multi-purpose workstations for scientific and applied experiments. This will make it possible to obtain in the future considerable revenue from services provided to Russian, and, above all, to foreign users in support of experiments and research, which, in its turn, will allow building new modules on an off-budgetary financial basis. MLM is to be docked with the Russian Service Module of the ISS in order to assure efficient technical and economic development of the Russian Segment in the future.
This development scenario for the ISS Russian Segment is supposed to turn it into a full-fledged industrial facility in space.
Development of a cost-effective transportation system envisages two components: upgrading of Soyuz and Progress spacecraft by 2010, and concurrently developing and putting into regular operation a reusable space transportation system Clipper by 2015.
Upgrading of Soyuz and Progress spacecraft is caused by the need to switch to the use of current-technology components and to further improve the on-board digital control system. This will allow to flight-qualify the on-board systems that will be used in the Clipper project.
The reusable space system Clipper needs to be integrated into the existing ground space infrastructure of the transportation system that is currently in operation, both with respect to manufacturing aspects so as to be supported by the existing Soyuz and Progress production facilities, and with respect to logistical aspects, including the use of the launch pads for the upgraded launch vehicles Soyuz 2-3, and the future launch vehicle Angara, the existing ground control system, the landing runway for the Buran Orbiter, and the infrastructure for cosmonaut training.
It is planned to eventually build a fleet of reusable manned Clipper spacecraft, both for flights to ISS, and for free-flying missions, capable to be launched from both Baikonur and Plesetsk.
It is the Clipper project that must make the manned space flight fully capable of paying its own way.
The efficient method to implement the first phase of the manned lunar program consists in the use of Soyuz spacecraft, mass-produced launch vehicles, and upper stages of the Block DM type. In this case, the ISS Russian Segment is to be used as an assembly site for the orbital transfer space system before its flight to the Moon. The crew is to return from the Moon directly to Earth, reentering the atmosphere with escape velocity. Such an approach allows early first landings on the Moon, and makes it possible to extensively test logistics and technology involved in the lunar missions, thus significantly reducing technical and economic risks.
The first phase of the lunar program based on the Soyuz spacecraft and upper stages Block DM
The second phase of the lunar program must see the establishment of a permanent reusable lunar transportation system. This will include Clipper-derived manned spacecraft and orbital transfer tugs with liquid propulsion to transfer manned spacecraft between space stations in circumterrestrial and circumlunar orbits, as well as tugs with electric thrusters and large solar arrays for “slow” transportation of big cargoes. This phase must establish a permanent space station in circumlunar orbit as a spaceport (similar to the space station in low-Earth orbit) serving as a base for a reusable lunar ascent/descent module, which shuttles crew and cargoes between it and the lunar surface.
The next, the third phase must see the establishment of a permanent lunar base in order to start the industrial development of the lunar surface.
The manned mission to Mars consolidates technologies developed during previous phases, including long-duration orbital modules, orbital transfer tugs with electrical propulsion and Clipper spacecraft. The mission itself will be implemented in three phases. The first is developmental testing of the Martian Expedition Complex (MEC) at close range during its transit to the Moon, its insertion into a circumlunar orbit and its return to a near-Earth orbit. The second phase is a MEC mission to an orbit around Mars carrying a crew on-board, but without their landing on the planet’s surface. At this phase, MEC will send unmanned spacecraft to land on the Martian surface for a more detailed study of the planet, and to test the concept of crew return from the planet surface to MEC. During the third phase, the crew will be able to land on Mars.
Overall view of the Martian Expedition Complex
Delivery of the crew and cargoes from the Earth to MEC, and return of the people and expedition results to Earth after MEC arrives to the near-Earth orbit, will be done using the Clipper system.
Thus, RSC Energia proposes a program for further development of the manned space flight aimed at achieving cost-efficiency and industrialization of space. Besides opening up new knowledge for the Mankind, this will also give it access to the new resources on the planets of our Solar System, thus furthering development of our civilization.
The interview was conducted by
Tatiana Dragnysh, Yaroslav Nechesa, Dmitri Paison
In order to get permission for reprinting (copying) of an article or order issues of the journal, one should apply to email email@example.com in the name of V.P. Savinykh “editor-in-chief of journal” Russian Cosmos”.