17 thoughts on “Russia’s Space Program”

    1. Not a good sign when Russia takes all the Baikonur rent money and blows it on a casino run to Ukraine. Too bad there isn’t an Imperialism Anonymous meeting in the neighborhood. But maybe Russia won’t scruple to go until it hits rock bottom. In that case, I don’t think we have all that long to wait.

  1. Jim Oberg and Jim Van Laak both told me about the Russian space program during its decline, and both noted that it was an inevitable consequence of “old” timers’ holding on to job security by not passing on cultural or tribal knowledge to young engineers – who eventually stopped showing up – then dying and taking their knowledge with them. Oberg described the common practice of engineers keeping detailed notes on their knowledge in little notebooks that they carried with them constantly…and were written in a personal code that no one else could decipher. It’s really a shame, because they did have a lot of practical knowledge about living in space.

    1. Perhaps the amusing side-note to that is that if the engineers wanted money, they should’ve been waiters or taxi cab drivers, who made far more than an engineer ever could.

      Given how deep a budgetary hole Putin has dug, I don’t see much hope for Russia’s continued manned space program. They’re going to prioritize military spending on tanks and artillery and other common military kit, and whatever funding they allocate towards rocketry is all going to go to weaponry or anti-satellite capabilities.

      That is compounded with SpaceX dominating the commercial launch market for years, customers fleeing Russian launch providers due to the war and Russian hyper-nationalist insanity, and Russia’s pull-out from the ISS (and thus any per-seat ticket sales). Since the military is unlikely to fund amusement rides for cosmonauts, I don’t think Roscomos will have a large enough revenue stream to maintain their workforce. The skilled employees will evaporate, the supply of specialty hardware will dry up, and that will be that. Maybe the Chinese will buy up some of the remnants, but China certainly won’t be throwing their program any lifelines.

      Russian aerospace will probably switch to teasing brand new Power-Point vehicles, seeking Western partnerships, which will be about as successful as Russian supersonic business jet start-ups.

      1. George I disagree with you only a little bit. I agree that their civilian space program will likely dry up but if you have a robust anti-sat capability, as Rand fears, you don’t need to spend the equivalent of billions on Space. Just enough to provide a capable anti-sat ability to deny LEO to others. Then holding them (the rest of us) at ransom to provide their nation with prestigious opportunities in space in the name of Russia’s essential contribution to “scientific progress” in Space…. Or else.

        1. I agree but also wonder about the quality of current and future ASAT weapons. The mishaps Russia has suffered over the last five to ten years don’t look great for their ability to make reliable launchers.

        2. Russia has likely only built several dozen systems with anti-satellite capability, as they seem to be really expensive ($600 million each). I have no idea what each missile costs, but the math is against them when SpaceX can put up 50 satellites with one Falcon 9 re-usable launch, while it takes 50 separate ASAT launches to take them down.

          1. George, you might want to rethink that math. Just a couple of ASAT attacks could block entire orbital shells with debris.

          2. So far as I know, Russia’s last ASAT test didn’t result in the loss of any satellites. That implies that the multiplier effect is less than one. Given the disparity in production and launch capabilities, I think Musk could knock down every Russian satellite in response, and basically deny them the use of space.

          3. Eric, in case you aren’t familiar, you might want to read about the Soviet Union’s coorbital ASAT system from the 1980s. They tested it many times, creating a mess, but space didn’t become usable.

      2. ” I don’t see much hope for Russia’s continued manned space program”

        Russia could benefit from western advances and still accomplish a lot in space if they were to focus on doing things in space and not fixate on how to get to space. All it would take is a shift in mindset. But even countries without Russia’s pathologies have a hard time changing mindset.

  2. More likely is that the Chinese will be leading the East’s space program. Russian knowledge may supplement that, assuming they will translate the engineer notebooks into Chinese.

  3. The civilian space program is in trouble. The military space program appears to be doing just fine.

  4. The “foreclosure” only pertains to the Baitarek project, which is restricted to the derelict Zenit pad at Baikonur. Baitarek refers to the Soyuz 5 Irtysh LV, which is intended to use “existing” Zenit infrastructure (i.e., the Baikonur pad, as the Plesetsk pad was commandeered for Angara, and Sea Launch is defunct).

    The Ukrainians have offered an inducement that they can resurrect Zenit using the now useless Antares tooling and an “indigenous” Ukrainian engine. The viability of the can be judged by NorGrum’s decisions about Antares 330.

    The actions also dovetails with the fuss between the Soyuz and Angara designers. If Soyuz 5 exists, Angara is history. If Soyuz 5 Don ever flies, it will outperform every LV but Starship. whereas Angara 5 is the end of the line.

    There’s also another ghost in the works. Soyuz 2.1v is supposed to be reengined with RD-193 when the NK-33 supplies run out. If that works, new strap-ons can be added to create the Soyuz 2.3, which could fly off the 5 existing Soyuz 2 pads, and should, theoretically, put 20mT in LEO, also sending Angara to the crappy rocket graveyard.

    If I were Energiya, I’d support Soyuz, but Russian politics is what it is…

    1. PS: RD-193 is not a new engine, it’s an RD-191 with the gimbaling hardware removes (as not needed). 2.1v exists and is flying (with NK-33). The “new” strap-ons for 2.3 would just be shorter 2.1v cores (shorter so the arms of the launch pad could reach their attach points).

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