New Russian Crew Spacecraft to Make First Flight in 2015

New Russian Crew Spacecraft to Make First Flight in 2015

The President of the Russian company building a successor to the venerable Soyuz spacecraft said today that the new vehicle will make its first test flight in 2015, according to Anatoly Zak at Dubbed PTK NP, the new spacecraft is being designed for launch on a new rocket, Rus-M, from a new Russian launch site, Vostochny.

PTK NP is being built by RKK Energia. The remarks of Energia’s President, Vitaly Lopota, at the Bauman Technical University in Moscow today were reported by Zak.

Some Russian space watchers wonder if Russia will devote the necessary funds to build a new spacecraft, new rocket, and new launch site in the next five years. Lopota’s remarks suggested that the dates may be hard to meet, saying the 2015 test flight (without a crew) would take place from the Baikonur cosmodrome if Vostochny is not completed. Zak notes that development of the Rus-M began only in 2009 and is being designed specifically to support PTK NP from Vostochny, so if the launch instead is from Baikonur, an existing vehicle like the Zenit might be needed instead.

All Soviet/Russian human spaceflight launches have taken place from Baikonur (referred to as Tyuratam during the Cold War), which is in Kazakhstan. Once part of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan became an independent republic after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Russia has had to lease Baikonur from Kazakhstan since that time. Some Russian space officials have called for establishment of a launch site within Russia’s borders capable of supporting the geostationary and comparatively low inclination launches traditionally conducted at Baikonur for both military and civilian space actvities. Vostochny (“Eastern”), in Russia’s Amur Region in the far east, is intended to be that site. Russia’s other operating space launch site is Plesetsk near the Arctic Circle. It is used for satellites headed to high inclination orbits such as polar orbits.

Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft has been in service since 1967, though it has been upgraded several times over the years. Its launch vehicle, also called Soyuz (previously “A-2”), is used for many space missions in addition to human spaceflight. The new Rus-M would be able to place heavier payloads into low Earth orbit.

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