Russia gains edge in space race as US shuttle bows out

July 3, 2011 by Maria Antonova

As the United States winds down its shuttle programme in a symbolic twist in a long-running space rivalry, Russia will gain complete control of access to the International Space Station.

The plays down any triumphalism, but US astronauts will remain dependent on Russia for access to the ISS at least until 2015 and will have to pay for seats in its Soyuz capsules.

"We cannot say that we have won the space race, but simply that we have reached the end of a certain stage," the deputy head of the Russian space agency, Vitaly Davydov, said in an interview.

On July 8, four US astronauts will board the Atlantis shuttle for its last flight, wrapping up a three-decade-long programme in which the United States took turns to ferry supplies and crews to the ISS with Russia's Proton and Soyuz rockets.

Henceforth, Washington will have to pay $51 million per seat in Russia's space capsules until a new crew vehicle can be built by private companies, which US space agency NASA has estimated could be between 2015 and 2020.

Davydov of the Roskosmos rejected any talk of rivalry, however, emphasizing that the ISS was primarily a story of successful international cooperation.

"I cannot think today of another international space project that is so effective in its scale, its significance and its results as the ISS," he said.

While Russia gains a symbolic victory, it will be a costly one, with the obligation to build more space ships to go back and forth to the ISS eating up a budget that could be spent on other projects.

Unlike the reusable NASA shuttles, the space capsules are single-use, except for the section in which spacemen return to Earth.

The situation is "not very convenient because it lays a heavy burden on Roskosmos's production capacities," expert Igor Marinin told AFP.

Roskosmos this year declared its budget as $3 billion, a fraction of NASA's massive $18.5 billion budget.

And it has faced embarrassing setbacks, including the failure of several satellite launches that led to the sacking of the long-serving space chief Anatoly Perminov in April.

The country's space industry has also drawn smirks with a clunky experiment simulating a trip to Mars, in which volunteers are spending more than a year confined at a Moscow research institute and "landed" in a specially designed sand pit.

To recoup its costs, Roskosmos hopes to build a stronger presence in the commercial space market, such as satellite launches, its newly appointed chief Vladimir Popovkin said at the Saint Petersburg Economic Forum last month.

"The goal is to take up a suitable position in the commercial market: about 10 to 12 percent" of a market worth $300 billion per year, Popovkin said.

"This is one of the few things in our country that is competitive on the international level."

While Russia holds 40 percent of the world's space launches and constructs 20 percent of its space craft, currently "its share in the space business is unfairly small, not more than three percent," Popovkin said

Russia also faces new rivals, notably China, which in 2003 became the third country in the world after the Soviet Union and the United States to send a man into space in its own ship.

In ambitious plans, China hopes to put a robot on the Moon in 2013 and to build its own space station due to enter service in 2015.

Davydov acknowledged that China had become a rival, albeit still far behind, but said Russia did not feel threatened.

"There is a place for everyone in space," he said.

"In a certain sense, (China) is our competitor... but that is absolutely normal and we have not been afraid of the market for a long time now."

Ironically, the new commercial realities of the Russian space programme, with reduced budgets and the need to cooperate on large-scale projects, make some Soviet space veterans yearn for the competitive edge of the Cold War.

"It's strange that during the Cold War, when we cosmonauts and constructors dreamt of cooperation, there were a lot of new launches, but then cooperation came and now we are mostly repeating ourselves," lamented retired cosmonaut Georgy Grechko, 80.

The US space shuttle programme's goal of making launches less expensive was not ultimately reached, he said, and its end sees a return to single-use "sausage-like" rockets little different to those used 50 years ago.

"Mankind has lost its stimulus to go into space using more complicated machines," he complained.

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not rated yet Jul 03, 2011
Maria, you may find it of interest to read the updates section of the SpaceX website.
"Last year, SpaceX became the first private company, in partnership with NASA, to successfully orbit and recover a spacecraft. The spacecraft and the Falcon 9 rocket that carried it were designed, manufactured and launched by American workers for an American company. The Falcon 9/Dragon system, with the addition of a launch escape system, seats and upgraded life support, can carry seven astronauts to orbit, more than double the capacity of the Russian Soyuz, but at less than a third of the price per seat.

The average price of a full-up NASA Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station is $133 million including inflation, or roughly $115m in todays dollars, and we have a firm, fixed price contract with NASA for 12 missions."

With launch sites at Vandenberg, Cape Canaveral and Kwajalein, US astronauts will not have to travel to Russia.
1 / 5 (7) Jul 03, 2011
Nasa was offered the Technology of the Flying Saucer in 1980.
Unfortunately, after the Second Space Disaster some people who were not qualified in electronics, experimented with the circuitry and caused another disaster. Nasa discarded it. For the want of a horse( they could have contacted the inventor) a Kingdom (Nasa) was lost. The Shuttles could have been flown for many more years at very low cost, as the power would have been tapped out of the aether, like a Flying Saucer does (and Tesla did for his Pierce Arrow in 1931).
Whoever rules Space, rules the Earth.
1 / 5 (3) Jul 03, 2011
Russia gains edge in space race

The arrival of this bitter end to American domination of the space race was probably hastened by hiding and manipulating experimental observations that would have long ago overthrown the dogma of a hydrogen-filled Sun as Earth's heat source [1-5].

1. "Isotopic ratios in Jupiter confirm intra-solar diffusion", MPS 33, A97, 5011 (1998).

2. "The Sun's origin, composition and source of energy", 32nd LPSC 1041 (2001)

3. "Super-fluidity in the solar interior: Implications for solar eruptions and climate", Journal of Fusion Energy 21, 193-198 (2002)

4. "The Sun is a plasma diffuser that sorts atoms by mass," Yadernaya Fizika 69 (Russian, 2006) [Physics of Atomic Nuclei 69, 1847-1856 (English, 2006)]

5. "Earth's heat source - The Sun," Energy & Environ 20 131-144 (2009)
1 / 5 (1) Jul 03, 2011
I suppose the concept of a "Space Race" is good for maintaining citizen support, and of course, tax moneys flowing.
However, we are not racing anyone. We put most of the space station into orbit. The Russians are still launching hardware that was designed in the 60's on rockets of the same era.
not rated yet Jul 03, 2011
The Russians are still launching hardware that was designed in the 60's on rockets of the same era.

Incidentally, the Shuttle is also a 60's design. It only took NASA over 20 years to actually build one starting from the initial plans.

5 / 5 (3) Jul 04, 2011
Russia gains edge in space race

The arrival of this bitter end to American domination of the space race was probably hastened by hiding and manipulating experimental observations that would have long ago overthrown the dogma of a hydrogen-filled Sun as Earth's heat source

The Russians and all of the other competing countries also believe in a hydrogen-filled sun, so you have failed to explain exactly why this would be a disadvantage to one and not to the others.
1 / 5 (4) Jul 04, 2011
You speak for all Russians? Ref. #6 (above) was first presented in Dubna.

On this 235th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, read the document that kept the USA a leader in science:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Oliver K. Manuel
1 / 5 (2) Jul 06, 2011
Sub:Space Wisdom council-cosmology world Peace
Necessity-Demand-curiosity-Sustain the Spirit of Excellence
need to develop cooperative spirit and identify new avenues for Growth.Cosmology Vedas help-East West Interaction
Dr Vidyardhi Nanduri promotes the Unity in Science and Philosophy
through Cosmology Vedas Interlinks
1. The Science of Philosophy: Divinity, Vedas, Upanishads, Temples &Cosmos Yoga
2. Philosophy of Science : Plasmas, Electro-magnetic fields and
3. Resource : Reflectors,3-Tier Consciousness, Source, Fields and Flows
4. Noble Cause : Human-Being, Environment, Divine Nature and Harmony
Vidyardhi Nanduri

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