by Olga Zakutnyaya
Moscow, Russia (Voice of Russia) May 29, 2012
Successfully docking the first ever commercial spaceship to the government-funded International Space Station is not only a question of competition. Transferring the part of space obligations to private bodies might help encourage agencies to go further. However, even if Dragon helps unloading Russian space, it is still question of funds allocation.
It seems that the Dragon launch and successful docking to the ISS means much more for space flights than previously thought. On one hand, NASA might eventually have received a replacement for retired shuttles.
On the other hand, Russia seems to be gradually losing its potential customers, since the USA, as well as Europe and Japan now possess cargo ships capable of carrying necessary supplies to the ISS. Moreover, the Dragon is capable of delivering cargo back to Earth - an option that neither Progress nor ATV and HTV can boast.
However, if the ISS is not the ultimate target it would make sense to have it replaced for both Roscosmos and NASA, as this would free both agencies from having to maintain the station until 2020.
At least that was an initial aim of NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Program, which includes launches of Dragon (developed by Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or Space X) and ships built by Orbital Science Corporation.
The same might be true for Russia, as the ISS, as many critics have pointed out, requires effort and is extremely costly, thus hindering other branches of space science. With a fleet of retired shuttles, the only remaining ship to carry astronauts to the ISS is the Soyuz (with three seats), but it takes a crew of six to keep the station fully functional.
Prospectively, the Dragon will carry people to space as well, as soon more research is done. While Space X, the developer of the ship and its launcher Falcon 9, is sure that human spaceflight will happen in the next few years, the time lag might eventually be a great deal longer.
The second demonstration flight of the Dragon was delayed for a year (meanwhile, the Russian corporation Energia is building a new transportation system that should be ready for the first unmanned launch in 2015, with manned expeditions following in 2018). Nonetheless, it is most likely that first commercially-built spacecraft will berth the station before the end of the decade.
Recently, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) has offered its partners to prolong the ISS expeditions to nine months, instead of the current six-month period, which would presumably reduce the number of manned launches. According to Alexey Krasnov, the head of the human programs of the agency, this would futher promote human flights.
Earlier, the head of Roscomos, Vladimir Popovkin, speculated that it might be more effective to switch to visiting expeditions rather than keep the station constantly manned.
A review of ISS functions go along with the new Strategy of Russian Cosmonautics development which is supposed to lay the framework for the next 20 years (until 2030) and secure Russia a leading role as one of the three main space powers. The strategy will be finalized and sent to the Russian government by the middle of the year. Meanwhile, some changes are already being discussed.
The most abrupt change will most likely occur to Roscosmos itself. Dmitry Rogozin, a vice PM of the Russian government in charge of the defense industry, has just announced that the structure and functions of the agency will be reconsidered and possibly redefined by the mid-summer of 2012. The restructuring will turn the agency into a state corporation as was the case with the Russian state nuclear agency Rosatom.
This idea was promoted by Vladimir Popovkin himself, as he suggests that such change might help avoiding internal competition and, save time and money. However,some critics think that the pattern of Rosatom does not fit the space industry as the agency should act as a state body following the general strategy of space exploration.
Another point of concern is space science that has stayed behind the human space flights for more than fifty years. Even though the years to come might bring some release from the ISS burden, there are some organizational issues that make future of space science uncertain. Primarily, the lack of certainty reagarding the role of the Academy of Sciences.
As it stands, key decisions are made by Roscosmos, while scientists act mostly as consulting powers, which many make further advancement of space science technologies extremely inconvenient.
Moreover, there are no consistent plans for space science missions. According to the project of the strategy named above, up until 2030 Russia will mostly go on with the missions that have not been implemented before as a part of Federal Space Program 2006-2015, with possible extension of planetary programs.
However, the main focus of the strategy is still unclear. Apparently, being the number one world space powers requires Russia to act as a trendsetter. And that's the issue to be dealt with now.
Source: Voice of Russia
Station and More at Roscosmos
S.P. Korolev RSC Energia
Russian Space News
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Kazakhstan blocks Russian satellite launches
Moscow (AFP) May 28, 2012
Kazakhstan, which hosts Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome, is blocking three upcoming Russian satellite launches because of a dispute over the drop zone for rocket debris, reports said on Monday. The first stages of the Soyuz rockets that were scheduled to launch a total of seven satellites were due to fall down over a region of north Kazakhstan that is only occasionally used as a drop zone for d ... read more
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