All news

Roscosmos to make 2 extra spaceships to deliver NASA astronauts to orbital outpost

Roscosmos chief gave instructions to allocate funds for making two additional Soyuz MS manned spaceships
Roscosmos Chief Dmitry Rogozin Valery Sharifulin/TASS
Roscosmos Chief Dmitry Rogozin
© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, October 31. /TASS/. Head of Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin gave instructions to allocate funds for making two additional Soyuz MS manned spaceships, including due to the need to deliver NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

"I gave a command to Roscosmos yesterday to allocate extra funds to make two more [Soyuz] spaceships. The production capacities of our factory [the Energia Space Rocket Corporation] allow producing four spaceships a year but it is possible to produce five spacecraft. There are such possibilities and we will make use of them. Apart from our plans under the federal space program, we are now placing extra orders for two new spaceships," the Roscosmos chief said.

Russia will build one spacecraft for a flight by space tourists in 2021 while the other Soyuz will be needed to deliver expeditions to the International Space Station (ISS), Rogozin said.

Roscosmos will help NASA with the delivery of astronauts to the orbital outpost and for this purpose it will make Russian crews more compact, Rogozin said.

As the Roscosmos chief said, this will affect Russia’s plans for conducting scientific experiments in the space station’s Russian segment.

The Roscosmos chief said he had received "a warm" letter by its form and content from NASA Head Jim Bridenstine, in which the American side informed Roscosmos about a delay in starting US commercial spacecraft flights for the independent delivery of astronauts to the orbital outpost and that additional tests would be required for rec-checking the emergency rescue system.

"Therefore, the US side may need additional seats [aboard Soyuz manned spacecraft] in 2020-2021," the Roscosmos chief said.

‘We proceed from the principles of partnership and will decide how to meet these requests. Back at the Baikonur spaceport [in September 2019], I expressed some complaints to our American partners because we warned them beforehand about what would happen if their triumphant reports that they would fly in the spring of 2020 would be broken against the rock of real problems associated with the tests of these spaceships and that they should have ordered seats aboard Soyuz spacecraft in advance because it takes at least two years to make such a spacecraft by the Energia Space Rocket Corporation," Rogozin said.

The Roscosmos inter-agency commission approved the crews for upcoming flights to the space station, "considering that we earlier wanted to form them [the crews] to consist solely of Russian cosmonauts and flight engineers," he said.

"Now we understand that we will have to talk not about selling seats but actually about providing the flight capability, which is a much more serious issue and it is associated precisely with this critical situation when Americans may find themselves without their astronauts aboard the ISS, which may paralyze their segment," the Roscosmos chief said.

The Roscosmos press office earlier told TASS that candidates for space tourists to travel aboard a Soyuz spacecraft under a contract signed between the Russian space agency and the US Space Adventures had not yet been selected. A manned Soyuz spacecraft will be ready for this purpose in the second half of 2021. Therefore, the flight will take place no sooner than the end of 2021. Also, space tourists will be able to get acquainted with the spacecraft during their training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, Roscosmos specified.

Manned space flights

NASA halted its crewed flights in 2011 after completing its Space Shuttle program. Since then, US astronauts have been travelling to the International Space Station aboard Russian-made Soyuz spacecraft. The contract between Roscosmos and NASA expires in late 2019. Currently, several US companies are developing new spaceships for NASA’s crewed flights.

Boeing is developing a CST-100 Starliner spacecraft expected to be orbited by an Atlas V rocket.

Starliner’s rival, the Crew Dragon derived from the space freighter Dragon, already delivers cargoes to the ISS. The spacecraft has been developed by SpaceX owned by US entrepreneur and investor Elon Musk and has similar features. The spacecraft is expected to be orbited by Falcon-9 launch vehicles produced by SpaceX.

The start of US spaceships’ crewed flights has been numerously delayed.