Russia to Build Robotic Mini Shuttle

  • The creation of a new Russian space station includes the lunar program with the new Orel spacecraft and super-heavy carrier, and other inspiring initiatives.
  • The main purpose of the new shuttle would be to test new intelligence equipment and have an active involvement in the actual reconnaissance missions.
  • Roscosmos has begun the initial development of the concept, research and development of the draft design of a multi-purpose reusable space aircraft (MMKS).

An announcement pertaining to robotic mini shuttle development was made as part of a presentation of a new 10 year Russian Space Agenda. This includes the creation of a new Russian space station, the lunar program with the new Orel spacecraft, a super-heavy carrier, and other inspiring initiatives.

Orel is a project by Roscosmos to develop a new-generation, partially reusable crewed spacecraft. The goal of the project is to develop a next-generation spacecraft to replace the Soyuz spacecraft developed by the former Soviet Union to support low Earth orbit and lunar operations.

The program’s final draft is expected to be approved at the end of this year. It should be noted that NASA released a report on the Space Exploration Agenda earlier this year. The process for new projects is underway.

There is information that was leaked on the preliminary design of a reusable, unmanned spaceplane, similar to the currently existing projects. This refers to the American military X-37, the US Dream Chaser.

The Dream Chaser Cargo System is an American reusable lifting body spaceplane being developed by Sierra Nevada Corporation Space Systems. It is expected to be completed by 2021.

These analogues have a starting weight of 5 to 12 tons, with the ability to launch a payload of 1 to 5 tons into low orbit. It is highly likely that the Russian mini-shuttle will be within these limits.

Most likely, it is limited by the capabilities of the Soyuz 2 launch vehicle. Soyuz-2 is a modernised version of the Russian Soyuz rocket. In its basic form, it is a three-stage launch vehicle for placing payloads into low Earth orbit.

Moreover, the main purpose of the new shuttle would be to test new intelligence equipment and have an active involvement in the  actual reconnaissance missions. Such shuttles are also capable of the removal of military payloads and satellite inspection (through the delivery of special inspection satellites).

The Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities (ROSCOSMOS) is a state corporation responsible for the wide range and types of space flights and cosmonautics programs for the Russian Federation.

A cargo compartment with a manipulator for working with the payload is possible. Based on the statements of Dimitry Rogozin, the General Director of Roscosmos, it is also possible to deliver and return cargo from the orbital station.

A manned version in limited mass-dimensional parameters looks unlikely. Unless that is in the next model, with a larger mass and size. Commercial activity is also possible (this is unlikely).

According to the verified information, Roscosmos has begun the initial development of the concept, research and development of the draft design of a multi-purpose reusable space aircraft (MMKS).  The design should be completed by 2022.

There is a budget that has been allocated for the project. The project full value is not disclosed, but it is expected to be in the millions of dollars. Additionally, an official release of the project is only expected upon the project design completion.

The development of such technology will continue. China is also working on similar technology. However, in the case of China, it would be a copycat design.

It is clear the Cold War will evolve into the Space War. Hence, it is imperative to have such developments.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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