Sunday, June 5, 2016

Russia to Send Humans to the Moon on a Regular Basis Starting in 2025

Russia's Federation spacecraft at the moon. Image Credit: Roscosmos

Russia plans to regularly send cosmonauts to the moon as soon as 2025, the Roscosmos State Corporation has recently revealed. According to the Russian authorities, the country could carry out one or two launches yearly of its manned spacecraft called “Federation” in order to transport crews to the lunar orbit.

This ambitious plan envisages the Federation spacecraft orbiting the moon as well as human landing on the lunar surface. Moreover, the project includes sending cosmonauts on a trip beyond the moon’s orbit – to the so-called Lagrangian points.

The planned missions would be launched into space by Angara-A5P rockets. These 700-metric-ton boosters are currently being designed to launch Russian manned endeavors beyond Earth’s orbit. The Angara-A5P rocket would be a powerful launcher, capable of lifting off up to 18 metric tons into a low-Earth orbit (LEO). 

Before Russia will start sending regular missions to the moon, it will conduct three test flights of the Federation spacecraft. In 2021, an unmanned launch from the new Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Far Eastern Amur region is planned to take place. Two years later, one unmanned as well as one manned test mission will be carried out.

Federation, being developed by RKK Energia, is expected to be finished in 2021. The company has just started the first tests of the vehicle as the spacecraft’s man-machine interface elements were successfully examined on a unique ergonomic simulator in May 2016. Launch, insertion, autonomous flight, and docking processes were checked during these tests. The engineers also examine the flight phase toward an orbiting space station as well as circumlunar trajectories.

The results of the initial tests will now be verified and RKK Energia will make further decisions regarding the development of the spacecraft. The company will decide on implementing one or another of the interface elements.

Federation is expected to be Russia’s next-generation reusable spacecraft that will replace the country’s flagship Soyuz vessel. It should be capable of delivering people and cargo to the Moon and to space stations positioned in LEO. The name of the spacecraft was chosen in January of 2016 after a public naming contest.

The vehicle will measure 20 feet (6.1 m) in length and have a mass of approximately 14.4 metric tons when in flight to the International Space Station (ISS). The lunar version would have a mass of nearly five metric tons more.

The spacecraft should be capable of sending up to four cosmonauts to space as well as to be able to operate autonomously for up to 30 days, with the possibility of staying attached to the ISS for up to one year. The start of the construction of the vehicle is planned for this summer. It will cost Russia about $734 million over the next six years.

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