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New Russian spacecraft designed for lunar missions to be run by fail-safe computer

Humans, however, won’t be excluded from the spaceship's control system just yet

MOSCOW, March 28. /TASS/. Russia’s new spacecraft 'Federation' intended for near-Earth flights and lunar missions will be controlled by an onboard digital computer network whose failure is ruled out, Head of the Flight Test Center at Energiya Space Rocket Corporation Mark Serov told TASS.

Energiya Space Rocket Corporation is the developer of the new spacecraft Federation.

"Federation’s onboard computer system has profound redundancy and therefore the computer network’s failure is something unthinkable. There will be just few push buttons aboard (following the tradition inherited from Soyuz spacecraft, we call them the buttons of ‘especially important commands’) to activate backup power supply and restore the work of onboard computers," Serov said.

Humans won’t be excluded from the control system because otherwise they won’t be able to take charge of it when necessary, he said.

‘We support the ideology of an ‘active operator:’ the automated control process proceeds under the crew’s control and the system informs persons about all developments and makes requests for the fulfillment of tasks. The manual control mode in this spacecraft is largely envisaged for accomplishing tasks unstipulated in the automated system’s algorithms rather than for the scenario of the failure of algorithms," Serov said.

US specialists working on the Orion spacecraft are confronted with the same problems as their Russian counterparts, he noted.

"To my mind, the working space in the Federatsiya spacecraft is organized better and features modern means of reflecting information. Our colleagues have started the development of their spacecraft earlier and that is why they cannot, for example, use sensor panels in Orion because the space vehicle’s control board has already been created. We, however, started later and believe that the use of sensor technologies is a long-term trend," he said.

In his opinion, the US Orion spacecraft is the sole space vehicle that can be compared with the Federation spaceship because it is also designed for flights to the Moon. 

"All comparisons with the Dragon [the spacecraft of the private company SpaceX], Starliner [a spaceship being developed by Boeing] and other space vehicles are wrongful as they are intended for the low near-Earth orbit. The statements by Elon Musk [the head of SpaceX] that he intends to deliver astronauts to the ISS [the International Space Station] and carry tourists around the Moon aboard the same spacecraft cause big doubts, for example. This is physically impossible as serious changes in the spaceship are needed for the second cosmic speed," Serov said.