Russia plans replacement for Soyuz rocket

January 14, 2013
This file photo shows Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft blasting off from the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, on October 23, 2012. Russia's struggling space agency has unveiled a new programme that will see the creation of a replacement for the ageing Soyuz rocket by 2020.

Russia's struggling space agency has unveiled a new multi-billion-dollar plan that will see the development of a replacement for the ageing Soyuz rocket by 2020.

The $70-billion plan published over the weekend on the website of the Russian Agency (Roscosmos) also envisions the launch of new unmanned missions to the Moon and beyond.

But one of the biggest priorities is finding a replacement for the Soyuz—the backbone of Russian space travel since its development by pioneering Soviet scientists in the 1960s.

Both the rocket and its eponymous space capsule for manned missions have served as humans' main link to the International Space Station (ISS) since the scientific orbiter's launch in 1998.

But an accident with an unmanned Soyuz cargo ship in August 2011 caused delays to subsequent missions and renewed fears about the safety of space travel.

The Soyuz became the world's only manned link to the ISS following last year's retirement of the US space shuttle programme.

Roscosmos did not disclose many details about its post-Soyuz plans or give a specific date by when the vessel might take flight.

The agency's outline only called for the introduction of an "energy transportation module with a promising propulsion installation that will be ready for testing by 2018."

But Russia will be keen to preserve its status as a vital player in international manned endeavours. Several private US firms are already working on their own smaller-scale shuttle replacements.

The Russian agency said it also intended to "deploy a programme for detailed study of the Moon" and launch a series of unmanned missions for studying its soil samples.

The plan further called for "the development of an entirely new class of interplanetary travel technology and technology (enabling) human activity on the planets."

Roscosmos has been beset by problems in recent years that saw its satellites fail to reach orbit and a high-profile Mars mission crash back down to Earth.

Experts point to a continuing brain drain from the underfunded agency and a reliance on a vast but ultimately inefficient network of state subcontractors as two factors explaining why Russia is increasingly lagging behind NASA.

Yet Roscosmos sounded upbeat in its assessment.

"In 2011, the Russian space industry held a 10.7 percent share of the world space technology market," the Roscosmos report said.

"The state programme presumes further growth (of that share) to 14 percent in 2015 and to 16 percent in 2020."

It intends to do this by keeping control of the Baikonur space centre that Roscosmos leases from Kazakhstan and currently uses for its primary ISS launches.

The Central Asian republic has voiced plans to limit Russia's access to the site and end the lease because of environmental concerns and contract disputes.

Roscosmos said the 2.1-trillion-ruble ($69 billion) programme will receive both state and private funding that it failed to identify.

Explore further: Russia sets sights on Moon, Mars and beyond

Related Stories

Russia sets sights on Moon, Mars and beyond

March 13, 2012

Russia's crisis-hit space agency intends to send its first manned mission to the Moon and deploy research stations on Mars under an ambitious plan presented to the government this month.

Russia delays commercial space launches after crash

September 13, 2011

Russia will have to delay the upcoming launch of six US satellites and two commercial European craft due to last month's Soyuz carrier rocket mishap, Russian industry sources said Tuesday.

Russia's Soyuz: historic symbol of space reliability

August 25, 2011

Russia's Soyuz rocket, which failed to put a Russian supply ship into orbit, is descended from launch vehicles of the early days of the space race but until now has been a byword for reliability.

Russia delays next manned space flight

August 29, 2011

Russia on Monday delayed its next manned mission to the International Space Station (ISS) by at least a month after an unmanned cargo vessel crashed into Siberia instead of reaching orbit.

Russia postpones next manned launch to ISS

September 16, 2011

Russia on Friday said the next manned launch taking astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) would take place two days later than previously announced, on November 14.

Recommended for you

The moving Martian bow shock

August 22, 2017

As the energetic particles of the solar wind speed across interplanetary space, their motion is modified by objects in their path. A study, based on data from ESA's Mars Express orbiter, has thrown new light on a surprising ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jan 14, 2013
"The $70-billion plan"

Doesn't that seem more than a tad high? That's like 3 years of NASA's entire budget to develop a single rocket.

Wikipedia says about the new Space Launch System: "During the joint Senate-NASA presentation in September 2011, it was stated that the SLS program has a projected development cost of $18 billion through 2017, with $10B for the SLS rocket, $6B for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and $2B for upgrades to the launch pad and other facilities at Kennedy Space Center.[27] These costs and schedule are considered optimistic ..." https://en.wikipe...am_costs
not rated yet Jan 14, 2013
i'd say elon musk could be the unidentified private backer, think of it, russians like big heavy stuff, there could be synergy in common development of the heavy launcher platform.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 14, 2013
Ophelia... I don't read anywhere in this article that they're developing a new rocket.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 14, 2013
Wait... isn't Russia the only country that can fly human beings to the space station? Is this the account of a 'failing' space agency?
Stupid article.
Put some depth into this subject.
not rated yet Jan 15, 2013
70 Billion for a three year or five year plan?
1 / 5 (1) Jan 15, 2013
Yep. From the sneering attitude of past articles re Russian's space (mis)fortunes, I have to wonder about what NASA and the like actually think about their astronauts' lives..."^%$k! Just get on the bloody Russkie death trap, do your duty for your country! We want the world to know we are still active in space...!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.