Russian manned spacecraft
A manned spacecraft is designed to fly one or more people into outer space and safely return to Earth after completing a mission.
When designing this class of spacecraft, one of the main tasks is to create a safe, reliable and accurate system for returning the crew to the earth's surface in the form of a wingless descent vehicle (SA) or a spaceplane. A cosmoplane is an orbital aircraft (OS), an aerospace aircraft (VKS) is a winged aircraft of an airplane scheme that goes out or is launched into orbit of an artificial Earth satellite through a vertical or horizontal launch and returns from it after completing target tasks, making a horizontal landing at an airfield , actively using the lift of the airframe while decreasing. Combines the properties of both an airplane and a spacecraft.
An important feature of a manned spacecraft is the presence of an emergency rescue system (SAS) at the initial stage of launch by a launch vehicle (LV).
Projects of Soviet and Chinese spacecraft of the first generation did not have a full-fledged rocket SAS - instead of it, as a rule, ejection of the crew seats was used (the Voskhod spacecraft did not have this either). Winged spaceplanes are also not equipped with a special SAS, and can also have ejection crew seats. Also, the spacecraft must be equipped with a life support system (LSS) for the crew.
Creation of a manned spacecraft is a task of high complexity and cost, so only three countries have them: Russia, the USA and China. And only Russia and the United States have reusable manned spacecraft systems.
Several countries are working on the creation of their own manned spacecraft: India, Japan, Iran, North Korea, as well as ESA (European Space Agency, created in 1975 for the purpose of space exploration). ESA has 15 permanent members, sometimes Canada and Hungary join in some projects.
When Elon Musk founded his company Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, in 2002, skeptics saw no prospect. However, by 2010, his startup became the first private enterprise that managed to repeat what was until that time the diocese of the state. The Falcon 9 rocket launched the Dragon unmanned capsule into orbit.
The next step on Musk's journey into space is the development of an apparatus based on the Dragon reusable capsule capable of carrying people on board. It will be named DragonRider and is intended for flights to the ISS. Taking a pioneering approach in both design and operating principles, SpaceX claims passenger transport will cost as little as $ 20 million per passenger seat (a passenger seat in the Russian Soyuz currently costs the US $ 63 million).
The path to the manned capsule
The capsule will be equipped for a crew of seven. Already inside the unmanned version, the earth pressure is maintained, so that it will be easy to adapt it for the stay of people.
Through them, astronauts will be able to observe the process of docking with the ISS. Future modifications of the capsule - with the possibility of landing on a jet stream - will require an even wider view.
Additional engines developing 54 t thrust for emergency ascent into orbit in the event of a launch vehicle accident.
Of course, space planes have certain merit. Unlike the usual passenger capsule, which, falling through the atmosphere, can only slightly adjust the trajectory, the shuttles are able to perform maneuvers during descent and even change the destination aerodrome. In addition, they can be reused after a short service. However, the crashes of the two American shuttles showed that space planes are by no means ideal for orbital expeditions. First, it is expensive to carry cargo on the same vehicles as the crews, because using a purely cargo ship, you can save on security and life support systems.
Secondly, the attachment of the shuttle to the side of the boosters and the fuel tank increases the risk of damage from accidentally falling off elements of these structures, which caused the death of the Columbia shuttle. However, Sierra Nevada Space Systems vows that it will be able to whitewash the reputation of an orbiting space plane. To do this, she has the Dream Chaser - a winged vehicle for delivering crews to the space station. The company is already fighting for NASA contracts. The Dream Chaser has eliminated some of the major drawbacks of older space shuttles. Firstly, now they intend to carry cargo and crews separately. And secondly, now the ship will not be mounted on the side, but at the top of the Atlas V launch vehicle. All the advantages of the shuttles will be preserved.
What is this launch everyone is talking about
On Sunday, May 31, the Crew Dragon private spacecraft with people on board docked for the first time to the ISS. The launch was originally supposed to take place on May 27, but it was postponed due to weather conditions. The spacecraft launched the day before from the Florida cosmodrome on the Falcon 9, a SpaceX rocket. On board were two American astronauts - Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, whose sending to the ISS was the purpose of this test launch. Once in orbit, they named their spacecraft Endeavor (from English - "Aspiration") after the shuttle, which was the first in their careers and the last in the NASA Space Shuttle program.
Astronauts will spend approximately 110 days on the ISS, but the exact date of return to Earth is still unknown. "It is the return to Earth that is the part of the flight that excites me the most," SpaceX founder Elon Musk told Aviation Week. "It probably won't happen in the next few months."
On May 30, the first manned flight with the participation of a private company took place, as well as the first flight of a manned American spacecraft since 2011. Then NASA closed the Space Shuttle program and turned to two private companies - SpaceX and Boeing - to create a spacecraft that could be rented like a car. It would be much cheaper than developing and building it yourself: NASA would simply “buy a ticket” on board to bring their astronauts to the ISS, as they did with the help of the Russian Soyuz. Both companies received money and started working.
Boeing's manned spacecraft is called the Starliner and last flew on December 20, 2019. Then he successfully took off, but was unable to enter the planned orbit. NASA said that the spacecraft mistakenly used more fuel than planned, so it was decided to abandon the approach to the ISS. In order, like SpaceX, to conduct a test launch with astronauts on board, Starliner will have to repeat the previous flight.
But SpaceX did not go well either. The company, like Boeing, was significantly behind schedule: according to NASA's plans, their shuttles were supposed to fly in 2017. The flight with astronauts on board was scheduled to take place in November 2019, but was postponed again due to the explosion of the Dragon Crew during testing. Nevertheless, by that time, the shuttle had already been tested: it flew to the ISS, but without passengers.
Axiom Space is actively seeking applications from engineers in all stages of their careers, working toward successful launch & integration of the first Axiom modules to @Space_Station in the middle of the decade.
At the moment, the ISS has been extended until 2024. After the completion of the mission, NASA does not exclude the transfer of the station to private hands, but so far they are only studying the possibility of using it in the innovation and tourism sectors. The latter is also being considered at SpaceX. For example, a few months ago, the company, together with Axiom Space, which is working on the creation of the first commercial modules of the ISS for space tourists, said that by the end of 2021 it plans to send three tourists to the ISS on a 10-day journey. The ticket will cost $ 55 million and, according to Axiom, one seat has already been booked. “This flight will be another step towards universal access to space,” said Axiom CEO Michael Suffredini.
One of the main features of the Falcon 9 that Dragon Crew delivers is the ability to use the first stage of the rocket multiple times and save on new launches. After completing the last flight, the first stage has already returned to Earth and landed on a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX tested the ability to land rockets on floating platforms for a year and a half - it took six unsuccessful attempts before the rocket landed and did not explode.
In addition, SpaceX's rockets, unlike Boeing, are built from scratch in Los Angeles, which saves on supply chain costs. Over the past three years, the company has launched more rockets than France's Arianespace, one of the world's largest spacecraft launch manufacturers. Launching Falcon 9, according to expert Phil Smith of the University of North Dakota, costs about half the cost of launching Ariane 5 rocket from Arianespace.
As a result, SpaceX launches more and more rockets every year. The number of launches grew from zero in 2011 to twenty in 2018 (for comparison, Russia then performed only 17 launches). 13 launches are planned for the current year, 8 of which have already taken place.
Astronomers recently announced strong evidence that the Earth-like planet near Proxima Centauri, the star closest to our Sun, is the closest exoplanet to us found to date.
Although this star system is our cosmic neighbor, it is 4.2 light years or 40 trillion kilometers from Earth. Given such vast distances, could we ever visit a newly discovered planet?
It would take tens of thousands of years to fly even to the closest stars using conventional spacecraft such as the robotic probes that are now exploring the solar system.
These spaceships are propelled by a combination of low-thrust chemical and ion thrusters and gravitational trajectories, including so-called "slingshot maneuvers" around the Sun or planets, which give them large speed gains.
But if we're going to travel outside our solar system, we'll need something a little faster, perhaps something like the giant Daedalus launch vehicle shown here at scale with the Saturn V rocket in illustration ... Here are seven ways automata, or even human explorers, can visit the Proxima Centauri system or other planetary systems.
Project Daedalus is a conceptual design for an interstellar craft developed in the 1970s by a group of technical specialists for the British Interplanetary Society.
The target of the flight was Barnard's Star, a red dwarf 6 light-years away, much like Proxima Centauri, where astronomers report signs of a potentially habitable planet.
When Project Daedalus was conceived, some astronomers believed that planets might orbit around Barnard's Star, but no planets have been found in the star system since.
Five years of work resulted in the design of the Daedalus spacecraft, a two-stage nuclear rocket that would accelerate a 400-ton robotic probe to about 12 percent the speed of light. This would allow the ship to travel 6 light years to Barnard's Star in about 50 years.
The Daedalus spacecraft is to be propelled by nuclear fusion, using electron beams to detonate a stream of fuel pellets such as helium-3 that can be mined from the lunar surface.
On May 30 at 22.2 Moscow time Crew Dragon with two astronauts on board set off on its first manned flight.This, he interrupted a nine-year pause in the American manned space program - a period when the only way to orbit for American astronauts was through Baikonur. Crew Dragon is now en route to the ISS. Let's figure out what this means for the world cosmonautics and Russia.
Many are still not ready to accept the observed reality and therefore say: “Launching Crew Dragon, the United States is hardly repeating the same thing that Russia and China have been doing all these years, sending people into orbit. They simply launch the capsule into the station and then parachute it back down. What's so sensational? ”
But this point of view is extremely far from the truth. To understand "what's wrong with that", you first need to remember what the Crew Dragon spacecraft really is - and why this is truly a revolution in comparison with Soyuz.
First of all: Soyuz has practically not changed in terms of volume since its first flight, which took place 53 years ago. At that time, there were no large orbital stations, there was no point in transporting more people into orbit either. Therefore, the sealed volume of this ship is 10.45 m³, and the space available to the crew is 6.5 m³. Moreover, the descent is carried out in a detachable descent capsule, with a volume accessible to people of only 2.5 m³. Therefore, it is unrealistic to put more than three people in a spacesuit there (0.83 cubic meters per person). And although technically the Soyuz can fly with a crew for 17.7 days, in practice, after one such experiment, no one is eager to repeat it. Even when the crew was cut to two people (one person per 1.25 cubic meters), the spacecraft was so cramped that it was not possible to establish normal training for the cosmonauts, and after descending to Earth, they could not even walk to the bus with their feet - such was muscle detraining in zero gravity.
Crew Dragon returns to Earth in its entirety, the volume of its sealed living space is 9.3 m³, and all this volume is available to the crew. Therefore, seven crew members can be seated there. And they will still account for 1.33 cubic meters per person - more than at Soyuz. The passenger capacity of this spacecraft is so great that NASA alone simply cannot fully use it: the agency plans to send only four people each, since the ISS has a limited volume and it is difficult to maintain a too large crew on it, and the costs of the station would then increase. However, there are rarely "surpluses" in space. Almost certainly the "extra" space will eventually be occupied by representatives of other countries wishing to enter orbit, or space tourists. The extra space is useful in another respect: there is a toilet on board this ship, while on board the Soyuz (as well as earlier shuttles), the departure of natural needs was somewhat more exotic.
In addition, the new American spacecraft has a payload delivered to the station, in addition to astronauts, may be several quintals. So far, it is purely theoretical, since the needs of the station are satisfied by individual cargo "Dragons", but in the future the situation may change.
"Unions" are taking people to the station - you can add a hundred kilograms of cargo, but no more. Since two of the three compartments of the Russian spacecraft, which was created during the reign of Korolev, do not return to Earth, there is no special place for cargo: the Soyuz will not return more than 100 kilograms from the ISS. And this is sometimes necessary: samples of space experiments, spacesuits that require repair, and other property must be periodically returned to the planet. Crew Dragon can safely return many quintals of load with it.
The characteristics of the Crew Dragon are very close to the considered promising Russian Federation, which was recently renamed Eagle. Its useful living volume is the same - 9.3 m³, the crew is limited to four cosmonauts, and there is also the possibility of returning centners of cargo from orbit. But with the formal proximity of their parameters, one nuance is important: "Eagle" will not even complete the first, unmanned test flight before 2023, and the first manned one - before 2025. Crew Dragon, SpaceX's manned spacecraft, flew into orbit in an unmanned form in 2019, and in the spring of 2020 got there with a crew on board. In other words, while SpaceX is ahead of Roskosmos in creating a new spacecraft by at least four years. In reality, this figure may even increase.
The achievement of Elon Musk's company is especially impressive if we remember that it was founded in 2002 - just then, Rokosmos refused to sell two of its missiles to the American, demanding too high a price. On the way back on the plane, Musk figured out how much it would cost to make a rocket himself - in theory. After that, he told the satellites that it is quite possible to reduce the prices for space flights tenfold. In other words, Musk had zero experience in designing rockets and spaceships, founded a company from scratch, where he still remains the chief engineer, and despite this was able to build a promising manned spacecraft faster than Roskosmos - although the latter began to develop the Federation even a little earlier than SpaceX's Crew Dragon. Could it be that SpaceX got more money? But a careful analysis of the company's expenses does not reveal this either. The American company created the first version of the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon cargo spacecraft (the current Crew Dragon is a very deep modernization) for just $ 0.4 billion. For comparison, Russia spent more than $ 4 billion, or ten times more, on the Angara missile alone. All SpaceX spending on R&D in its entire history is approximately equal to spending on R&D for one "Angara".
Despite this, Angara has not yet started regular flights, but Falcon 9 has been doing this for ten years already - and cargo Dragons have been flying to the ISS for eight years in a row.
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