The future of space flights: who will replace the Space Shuttle and the Soyuz

Table of contents:

The future of space flights: who will replace the Space Shuttle and the Soyuz
The future of space flights: who will replace the Space Shuttle and the Soyuz

While the Americans of the middle of the last century feverishly figured out how to keep up with the "evil empire", it was full of slogans: "Komsomol - on the plane", "Starry space - YES!" Today, the United States easily launches kites into spaceships, while ours only have to surf for the time being, perhaps, the Bolshoi Theater. Understood the details of Naked Science.



During the Cold War, space was one of the arenas for the struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States. The geopolitical confrontation between the superpowers was the main stimulus in those years for the development of the space industry. A huge amount of resources were thrown into the implementation of space exploration programs. In particular, for the implementation of the Apollo project, the main goal of which was to land a man on the lunar surface, the US government spent about twenty-five billion dollars. For the 70s of the last century, this amount was simply gigantic. The lunar program of the USSR, which was never destined to be realized, cost the budget of the Soviet Union 2.5 billion rubles. The development of the domestic space shuttle Buran cost sixteen billion rubles. At the same time, “Buran” was destined to make only one space flight.

Much more fortunate is its American counterpart. The Space Shuttle made one hundred and thirty-five launches. But the American shuttle did not last forever. The spacecraft, created under the state program "Space Transport System", on July 8, 2011, made its last space launch, which ended in the early morning of July 21 of the same year. During the implementation of the program, the Americans produced six "shuttles", one of which was a prototype that had never carried out space flights. Two ships crashed altogether.


From the point of view of economic feasibility, the Space Shuttle program can hardly be called successful. Single-use spacecraft turned out to be much more economical than their seemingly more technologically advanced reusable counterparts. And the safety of flights on "shuttles" was in doubt. During their operation, as a result of two disasters, fourteen astronauts became victims. But the reason for such ambiguous results of space travel of the legendary spacecraft is not in its technical imperfection, but in the complexity of the very concept of reusable spacecraft.

As a result, the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, developed back in the 60s of the last century, became the only type of spacecraft currently performing manned flights to the International Space Station (ISS). It should be noted right away that this by no means speaks of their superiority over the Space Shuttle. The Soyuz spacecraft, like the Progress unmanned space trucks, created on their basis, have a number of conceptual shortcomings. They are very limited in carrying capacity. And the use of such devices leads to the accumulation of orbital debris left after their operation. Space flights on ships of the "Soyuz" type will very soon become a part of history. At the same time, as of today, there are no real alternatives.The huge potential inherent in the concept of reusable ships often remains technically unrealizable even in our time.


New US spaceships

In July 2011, American President Barack Obama said: a flight to Mars is new and, as far as one can assume, the main goal of American astronauts for the coming decades. One of the programs carried out by NASA in the framework of the exploration of the Moon and the flight to Mars is the large-scale space program "Constellation".

It is based on the creation of a new manned spacecraft "Orion", carrier rockets "Ares-1" and "Ares-5", as well as the lunar module "Altair". Despite the fact that in 2010 the US government decided to curtail the Constellation program, NASA was given the opportunity to continue developing Orion. The first unmanned test flight of the spacecraft is planned to be implemented in 2014. It is assumed that during the flight, the device will move six thousand kilometers from the Earth. This is about fifteen times further than the ISS. After the test flight, the ship will head to Earth. The new device will be able to enter the atmosphere at a speed of 32 thousand km / h. According to this indicator, "Orion" is one and a half thousand kilometers higher than the legendary "Apollo". The first unmanned experimental flight of Orion is intended to demonstrate its potential. The test of the spacecraft should be an important step towards the implementation of its manned launch, which is scheduled for 2021.

According to NASA's plans, the Orion launch vehicles will be Delta-4 and Atlas-5. It was decided to abandon the development of "Ares". In addition, for deep space exploration, the Americans are designing a new super-heavy launch vehicle SLS.

Orion is a partially reusable spacecraft and is conceptually closer to the Soyuz spacecraft than to the space shuttle. Most of the promising spacecraft are partially reusable. This concept assumes that after landing on the Earth's surface, the spacecraft's living capsule can be reused for launching into outer space. This makes it possible to combine the functional practicality of reusable spacecraft with the economical operation of spacecraft of the Soyuz or Apollo type. This decision is a transitional stage. Probably, in the distant future, all spacecraft will become reusable. So the American Space Shuttle and the Soviet Buran were, in a sense, ahead of their time.


It seems that the words "practicality" and "foresight" characterize the Americans as well as possible. The US government has decided not to place all of its space ambitions on the shoulders of Orion alone. Currently, several private companies commissioned by NASA are developing their own spacecraft designed to replace the vehicles used today. As part of the Commercial Manned Spacecraft Development Program (CCDev), Boeing is developing the partially reusable CST-100 manned spacecraft. The device is designed to make short trips to near-earth orbit. Its main task will be to deliver the crew and cargo to the ISS.

The ship's crew can be up to seven people. At the same time, during the design of the CST-100, special attention was paid to the comfort of the astronauts. The living space of the device is much more extensive than the ships of the previous generation. It will probably be launched using Atlas, Delta or Falcon launch vehicles. At the same time, "Atlas-5" is the most suitable option. The landing of the ship will be carried out using a parachute and air cushions. According to Boeing's plans, a series of test launches awaits the CST-100 in 2015. The first two flights will be unmanned. Their main task is to launch the vehicle into orbit and test safety systems. During the third flight, a manned docking with the ISS is planned.If the tests are successful, the CST-100 will very soon be able to replace the Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft, which monopolize manned flights to the International Space Station.


Another private spacecraft that will carry out the delivery of cargo and crew to the ISS will be a device developed by SpaceX, a member of the Sierra Nevada Corporation. The partially reusable one-piece spacecraft Dragon was developed under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation (COTS) program. It is planned to build three modifications of it: manned, cargo and autonomous. The crew of a manned spacecraft, as in the case of the CST-100, can be seven people. In the cargo modification, the ship will take on board four people and two and a half tons of cargo.

And in the future, they want to use the "Dragon" for flights to the Red Planet. Why will a special version of the ship - "Red Dragon" be developed. According to the plans of the American space management, the unmanned flight of the device to Mars will take place in 2018, and the first manned test flight of the US spacecraft is expected to be carried out in a few years.

One of the features of the "Dragon" is its reusability. After the flight, part of the energy systems and fuel tanks will descend to Earth together with the spacecraft's living capsule and can be used again for space flights. This constructive ability distinguishes the new ship from most of the promising developments. In the near future, "Dragon" and CST-100 will complement each other and act as a "safety net". In the event that one type of ship, for some reason, cannot fulfill the tasks assigned to it, the other will take over part of its work.


"Dragon" was launched into orbit for the first time in 2010. The unmanned test flight was completed successfully, and after a few years, namely on May 25, 2012, the device docked to the ISS. At that time, the ship did not have an automatic docking system, and to implement it, the space station manipulator had to be used.

This flight was seen as the first ever docking of a private spacecraft to the International Space Station. Let's make a reservation right away: the Dragon and a number of other spaceships developed by private companies can hardly be called private in the full sense of the word. For example, NASA allocated 1.5 billion dollars for the development of the Dragon. Other private projects also receive financial support from NASA. Therefore, we are talking not so much about the commercialization of space, but about a new strategy for the development of the space industry, based on cooperation between the state and private capital. The once secret space technologies, previously available only to the state, are now the property of a number of private companies involved in the field of astronautics. This circumstance is in itself a powerful incentive for the growth of technological capabilities of private companies. In addition, this approach made it possible to employ a large number of specialists in the space industry who were previously dismissed by the state in connection with the closure of the Space Shuttle program in the private sphere.

When it comes to a private spacecraft development program, the Dream Chaser project by SpaceDev is perhaps the most interesting. Twelve partners of the company, three American universities and seven NASA centers also took part in its development.


This ship is very different from all other promising space developments. The reusable Dream Chaser looks like a miniature Space Shuttle and is capable of landing like an ordinary plane. And all the same, the main tasks of the ship are similar to those of the "Dragon" and the CST-100. The device will serve to deliver cargo and crew (up to the same seven people) to low-earth orbit, where it will be launched using the Atlas-5 launch vehicle.This year, the spacecraft is to carry out its first unmanned flight, and by 2015 it is planned to prepare its manned version for launch. Another important detail. The Dream Chaser project is based on the American development of the 1990s - the HL-20 orbital aircraft. The project of the latter became an analogue of the Soviet Spiral orbital system. All three devices have a similar appearance and intended functionality. This leads to a completely natural question. Was it worth the Soviet Union to wind up the half-finished Spiral aerospace system?

What do we have?

In 2000, RSC Energia began designing the Clipper multipurpose space complex. This reusable spacecraft, outwardly somewhat reminiscent of a reduced in size "shuttle", was supposed to be used to solve a wide variety of tasks: cargo delivery, evacuation of the space station crew, space tourism, flights to other planets. Certain hopes were pinned on the project. As always, good intentions were covered with a copper basin of lack of funding. In 2006, the project was closed. At the same time, the technologies developed within the Clipper project are supposed to be used for the design of the Advanced Manned Transport System (PTS), also known as the Rus project.


It is PTS (of course, this is still only a “working” name of the project), as Russian experts believe, that will be destined to become a domestic space system of a new generation, capable of replacing the rapidly aging Soyuz and Progress. As in the case of the Clipper, RSC Energia is developing the spacecraft. The basic modification of the complex will be the "Manned Transport Ship of the New Generation" (PTK NK). Its main task, again, will be the delivery of cargo and crew to the ISS. In the distant future, the development of modifications capable of flying to the moon and performing long-term research missions. The ship itself promises to be partially reusable. The living capsule can be reused after landing. Engine compartment - no. An interesting feature of the ship is the ability to land without using a parachute. For braking and soft landing on the surface of the Earth, a reactive system will be used.

Unlike the Soyuz, which take off from the territory of the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the new ships will be launched from the new Vostochny cosmodrome, which is being built on the territory of the Amur Region. The crew will be six people. The manned vehicle is also capable of taking a load - five hundred kilograms. In the unmanned version, the spacecraft will be able to deliver more impressive "goodies" - weighing two tons to the near-earth orbit.

One of the main problems of the PPTS project is the lack of launch vehicles with the required characteristics. Today, the main technical aspects of the spacecraft have been worked out, but the absence of a launch vehicle puts its developers in a very difficult position. It is assumed that the new launch vehicle will be technologically close to the Angara, developed back in the 1990s.


Oddly enough, but another serious problem is the very purpose of designing a PPTS (read: Russian reality). Russia will hardly be able to afford the implementation of programs for the exploration of the Moon and Mars, similar in scale to those that are being implemented by the United States. Even if the development of the space complex is successful, most likely, its only real task will be the delivery of cargo and crew to the ISS. But the start of flight tests of the PPTS was postponed until 2018. By this time, promising American vehicles will most likely already be able to take over the functions that are now performed by the Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft.

Foggy prospects

The modern world is devoid of the romance of space flights - this is a fact.Of course, we are not talking about satellite launches and space tourism. There is no need to worry about these spheres of astronautics. Flights to the International Space Station are of paramount importance to the space industry, but the ISS has a limited time in orbit. The station is planned to be liquidated in 2020. A modern manned spacecraft is, first of all, an integral part of a specific program. It makes no sense to develop a new ship without knowing the tasks of its operation. New US spacecraft are being designed not only to deliver cargo and crews to the ISS, but also to fly to Mars and the Moon. However, these tasks are so far removed from everyday earthly concerns that in the coming years we can hardly expect any significant breakthroughs in the field of astronautics.

Popular by topic