Friday, 26 February 2010

Mars-500 shortlist

Selection candidates for the 520-day Mars flight simulation have been announced (though not on the official site yet). There is one Chinese candidate (he is not on the lists at Spacefacts or Wikipedia), and no women:

Name Age Country Profession (for simulation)
Sukhrob Kamolov
Камолов, Сухроб Рустамович
32 Russia Doctor, surgeon
Mikhail Sidel’nikov
Синельников, Михаил Олегович
37 Russia Engineer-electrician
Aleksei Sitev
Ситев, Алексей Сергеевич
38 Russia Engineer
Alexander Smoleevskii
Смолеевский, Александр Егорович
33 Russia Doctor, GP
Врач общей практики
Alexander Sukhov
Сухов, Александр Викторович
32 Russia Engineer
Boris Yegorov
Егоров, Борис Афанасьевич
44 Russia Engineer
Andrei Zhirnov
Жирнов, Андрей Александрович
30 Russia Engineer
Jerome Clevers 30 Belgium Engineer
Arc’hanmael Gaillard 34 France Engineer
Diego Urbina 27 Italy Engineer
Wang Yue 27 China Tester

After the 6 finalists have been selected, the simulation is to begin in late April, consisting of a 250-day outward trip, a 30-day stay on its surface, and a 240-day return flight.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Anatolii Perminov interview

Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov Answered the Questions of Novosti Kosmonavtiki Magazine”, RK, 22/2. A reprinted interview on the Roskosmos site. As the English version which I linked to may or may not show up because of the peculiar content management system their site uses (and their HTML code is horribly mangled), I have reproduced it below.

Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov answered the questions of Novosti Kosmonavtiki magazine

Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov answered the questions of Novosti Kosmonavtiki magazine. The interview in Russian is published in the Feb. issue of the magazine.

Question: Anatoly Nikolaevich, could you please tell about the most significant achievements of the Russian space industry in 2009? How the Federal Space Program objectives were fulfilled?

A. Perminov: Currently, more than 100 states in the world deal with space exploration. However only three of them (the USA, Russia and China) have capabilities to fulfill all the objectives of this business, including human space missions.

Rate of Russian space launches increased in 2009. Totally, 32 were made. 29 national and 20 foreign spacecraft were orbited. This makes up 43% of the number of launches in the world in 2009.

13 spacecraft were launched under the Federal Space Program.

In January 2009, Coronas-Photon spacecraft was orbited under the long-term Russian program which covers solar physics and solar-earth link studies. Russian and foreign scientists carry out their research activities with the help of the data provided by Coronas-Photon.

New-generation spacecraft Meteor-M launched on September 17 provides the opportunity to enhance weather predictions significantly.

Roscosmos industry increased the number of launches for human space vehicles Soyuz TMA and cargo supply vehicles Progress twice.

Reliable navigation support became essential within the recent years. This support is provided by satellite navigation systems. The number of Russian global constellation GLONASS satellites rose. GLONASS provides full navigation coverage for Russia. GLONASS Federal Network operator with definite functions was established in 2009.

Orbital operations of the Resource-DK remote sensing spacecraft launched in 2006 successfully go on. Electro-L and Kanopus-V intended to enhance Russian hydro-meteorological and Earth remote sensing orbital constellations are under production, with most of manufacturing milestones already completed. Launch and orbital operations of these spacecraft will provide weather services with meteorological data, as well as provide prompt detection of emergencies and accidents, and forest fire timely caution and warning. Unfortunately, some problem occurred during Electro-L on-board equipment ground tests made us postpone the launch to the second quarter of 2010.

MKA-FKI small spacecraft intended for fundamental studies now is planned for launch together with Kanopus-V and a Belorussian spacecraft in 2010.

Technological lab Photon-M № 3 launched in 2007 provided the opportunity to perform 105 experiments in such fields as material science, space biology and technology, including 37 European, 2 Chinese, 59 Russian and 7 joint Russian and European experiments.

Design and production of the Express-series new-generation communication satellite are in progress. Due to Express-AM44 and Express-MD orbiting, Russian space communication and broadcasting system experience dynamical evolution. Development of the Loutch-based advanced space relay system and Gonets-M-based personal satellite communication system is in progress.

Under the fundamental space studies program, Russian scientists continue working with Konus-A payload on-board US spacecraft Wind, Rome-Pamela installed on Resource-DK, as well as planet atmosphere research equipment including OMEGA and SPIKA-M aboard European spacecraft Mars-Express, and SPIKA-V aboard European Venus-Express. Most of production activities with Spectr-R and Spectr-RG astrophysical observatories are completed.

Q: What about budget funding in 2009?

A.P.: Russian Federal Space Program, GLONASS Federal Special Program, as well as the other space programs were funded fully by the Government. Despite of the financial crisis, Russian leaders supported national space industry.

Last year, Russian space industry demonstrated better growth factors than the other industries.

Q: What is the progress in fulfilling the decision about construction of the Vostochny space port? What is the status? And what is going on at Baikonur?

A.P.: Vostochny construction is carried out step-wise. Let me remind, in 2008, TSNIIMAsh, in cooperation with other companies, drafted system design for the space port. In 2009, leading design bureaus of the industry developed technical specifications of the mid-class launcher with high lifting capacity, which is to become the key element for the new space port.

Currently, draft design of the new launch site (TSKB-Progress Federal Entity is the prime contractor in the project) is ongoing. Design and search activities are carried out for Vostochny. Design institute Ipromashprom has been picked as the prime designer of the future space port. These activated resulted in defining locations of the ground space infrastructure major elements. Vostochny investment justification documents are being prepared for further submission to State Expertise in 2010.

We plan to complete design and search milestone, and development of design and maintenance documents by 2011. Construction of the engineering and social infrastructure, as well as the first launch pad are to be finished by 2015. The main objects and infrastructure of the second priority are to be completed by 2018. Maiden launch from Vostochny is planned in 2015.

Concerning Baikonur, the following operations are carried out there:

  • modification of the Proton launch pads;
  • modification of the Soyuz launch pads;
  • reconstruction of the filling neutralization station is over.
  • modification of the existing engineering facilities for socio-economical and scientific spacecraft;
  • modification of the Soyuz, Proton engineering facilities, as well as upper stage engineering facilites;
  • modification of the Roscosmos’ measurement systems used to support launches;
  • development of the Baikonur object control and monitoring system;
  • establishment of the Baikonur object maintenance system, based on new principles which imply readiness for usage and assignment;
  • Baiterek project sees progress. Intergovernmental Cooperation Board of Russia and Kazakhstan determined for Russia to allocate Universal Launch Pad which served for the maiden launch of Energia in 1987, for the joint project. Baiterek construction is planned to commence in 2010.

Q: What about Angara development?

A.P.: Development of the Angara launcher and ground launch infrastructure at Plesetsk are in progress. Two firing tests of the universal rocket module for the rocket’s first stage have been completed successfully.

Angara’s launch pad and engineering facility are constructed at the space port with high insensitivity. In accordance with the General master schedule, Angara’s maiden launch from Plesetsk is to take place in 2011. However, due to lack of funding, construction of the launch facility is delayed, thus making the flight tests postponed to 2011.

Q: What is the status of the advanced space transportation system (launcher and vehicle for the new space port) project?

A.P.: In early 2009, following the contest, Russian space industry commenced draft design of the advanced crew transportation system (ACTS) which is grounded on a set of scientific, research and search efforts. The core of the system is the new-generation advanced crew vehicle (ACV) intended to use Russian technologies and industrial cooperation.

In parallel, studies of evolved systems for distant space exploration are carried out. These include definition of the system’s structure, purpose, development milestones, prime features of the new space infrastructure, launchers and ground facilities, scientific, engineering, technological, organizational, economical support of the efforts.

ACV design is to provide basis for further modifications to fly to the Moon and Mars, for automatic cargo and cargo-return vehicles, as well as orbital tugs. In addition, LLO transfer stages for crew and cargo vehicle delivery to the lunar orbits are to be developed.

Q: What is your opinion about GCTC reorganization? Will united Roscosmos Cosmonaut Corps be established, or the existing industry’s corps will remain? When will a new cosmonaut recruitment take place?

A.P.: In general, GCTC reorganization from a military structure into Federal Budget Entity Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center is positive. Sergey K. Krikalev, one of the most famous cosmonauts of Russia, was appointed GCTC Chief. GCTC got its status of a juridical entity in April. At the same time, cosmonaut training continues under the approved schedules.

Proposals on cosmonaut recruitment shall be submitted to Roscosmos in the first quarter of 2010.

Q: Which structural changes occurred in Roscosmos companies? Is there a plan to establish an integrated state corporation?

A.P.: We studied the positive and negative experience of other state corporations, as well as the place of Roscosmos in the international space efforts, and decided to establish several large corporations (public companies with essential share package of the state) instead of one. This will help us to fulfill the tasks we have, and to keep state control of the rocket and space industry assets.

9 integrated structures functioning in the industry (status of late 2009) unite major production funds of the industry. Several integrated structures are still under formation.

The first and the most complicated milestone of the industry’s reforming is to be completed by 2011. It is featured by establishment of the core of 14 integrated structures, which will unite about 60% of the most significant rocket and space industry companies (wrt the number of companies in 2004).

Q: Anatoly Nikolaevich, could you point out the companies which achieved success in employing young specialists and keeping experienced personnel? How do they manage it?

A.P.: Russian Federal Space Agency pays significant attention to the human resource problem on the highest level: meetings of the HR chiefs and workshops are held, HR strategy is developed. Thus, positive results in this branch are achieved.

The number of personnel ran through refreshment or qualification training in the industry increase every year. More than 50 thousand (19,4% of the total number) employees of the industry graduated from professional qualification courses in 2009.

Some HR objectives of the industry are fulfilled by direct contacts with the technical universities and through professional training programs.

For example, 50 students entered “Spacecraft and upper stages, launch facilities and rocket and space launch sites” faculty in the Amur State University.

These students are trained for further work at the Vostochny space port. They will acquire basic knowledge, which is to be followed by their studies at Moscow Aviation Institute and Amur and South Ural Universities.

Major Roscosmos entities establish advanced training departments in various science, engineering, technology branches to provide training for the engineers and workers.

To keep the employees, the entities provide the opportunities to solve social problems, such as housing habitation for the singles or families, kinder gardens, other items of social packet.

At the same time, the situation if more favorable in the regions. There is a positive example Reshetnev Informational Satellite Systems public company. The number of employees under 30 is about 50% there.

Good tendencies are set up in our work with young people, which we consider the most important HR direction.

Compare to 2007, the percentage of young employees increased from 18 to 20% in 2009; the number of young managers under 30 increased by 16% within the same period.

Student and graduates of technical institutes were included into scientific and research working groups for the first time this year under Federal Special Program “Scientific and Educational Human Resources of Innovative Russia”.

In 2008, 267 young employees got real estate subsidies; this makes it 44% more than in 2007. In the first half of 2009, 12 companies provided financial subsidies to 282 young employees under 30.

These examples confirm that the objectives set up by Roscosmos Board are being accomplished.

Q: How did the crisis impact the industry?

A.P.: Despite of the world financial crisis, status indexes of the rocket and space industry and its production continued to enhance in 2009. Production volume is 12,2%, which is twice as big as the same parameter of the national production volume.

Financial stability of the industry improved in 2009. Rocket and space industry maintained accomplishment of all international space commitments, keeping high rates for the national launch services.

Nevertheless, in early 2009 the crisis became visible in the industry. Some reduction of the government-customized production volume is predicted for 2010.

It is also worth saying that about 15% of the work in the industry is carried out by the cooperative companies (~ 550 entities). These are manufacturers of the optics, RF equipment, EEE parts, rubber materials, ferrous and nonferrous materials and alloys, proof compounds, glues, etc. The crisis impacted the partner companies, thus impacted the rocket and space industry.

The crisis of the world and national financial markets slowed down consolidation of the financial and economical status of the industry, deteriorating the status of the companies. Credit opportunities are less affordable for some entities.

Increased crediting rates made negative impact on the pure profits and profitability of the industry. If the companies do not obtain governmental support in 2010, they may turn unprofitable.

Q: What are the new steps made in the frame of Roscosmos cooperation with other countries and agencies?

A.P.: In July 2009, the Presidents of Russia and US approved establishment of the bilateral presidential commission, which consists of 13 cooperation working groups. Working group “Cooperation in space” is chaired by Roscosmos and NASA Heads. New NASA Administrator Charles Bolden visited Baikonur for the first time during the launch of Soyuz TMA-16. Then, we held working meetings in MCC. We discussed space policy, ISS cooperation, as well as prospectives in life science research, etc.

Russia and China signed Space Cooperation Program for 2010-2012. It implies joint work under 53 topics. In particular, it is planned to develop space communication system for the countries of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, joint acquisition of the remote sensing spacecraft data via the network of stations located in Russia and China, cooperation under Russian GLONASS and Chinese Beidou programs. Exploration of the Moon and other planets of the Solar system is another very important branch of the joint program.

Mounting and assembly operations at the Soyuz launch facility in Guiana Space Center are close to completion; next milestone will cover autonomous and integrated tests.

Maiden launch of South-Korean rocket KSLV-1 took place in August 2009. The launch is considered partially successful. The first stage with the RD-191 engine produced in Russia displayed proper functioning during the launch.

Fruitful cooperation with Kazakhstan which covers not only Baikonur, but overall cooperation in space, is enhancing.

Well, there are dozens of examples to illustrate our international cooperation.

The collaboration is developing in different branches: joint research, development and experiments; spacecraft production; launch, transport and other services; data and experience exchange; joint utilization of the space assets and technologies. More than 50 countries are our partners in space programs. Understanding of the fact that no single state can afford maintaining large-scale space exploration, Russia is enhancing space cooperation with all interested world centers. Future full-scale space exploration is feasible only by international cooperation. Due to this approach, space projects and programs of all interested parties and organizations gradually become more and more integrated into the joint space business; due to mutual dependence and complementarity, international collaboration turns into key and strategically significant feature for evolution of the world space exploration initiative.

Q: Coming back to internal Russian business. What are the priorities of the civil space exploration in 2010?

A.P.: Space exploration in Russia enter its new evolution stage, which is featured by full-scale integration of space assets and technologies into national science and economy.

The following priorities of space exploration in Russia have been defined under support of the Russian President and Russian Government:

  • maximum satisfaction of the social, economical and scientific needs in space outcome by deploying and effective utilization of the national space satellite constellations for various purposes;
  • complete accomplishment of the Russian commitments under various international space projects, including the ISS, as well as deployment of the ISS Russian segment and enhancement of RS utilization effectiveness;
  • exploration of planets and bodies of the Solar system aimed at acquiring fundamental knowledge about the world around us, extra-terrestrial resource utilization, study of the Earth climate change mechanism, search of life in outer space, prepare and carry out large-scale lunar and martian projects, including human space missions, etc.

We initiated development of advanced space systems for various purposes.

I’d like to draw your attention first to the International Space Station (ISS)- the most outstanding space habitation ever built by the mankind. Russia improves its segment and performs space experiments, and maintains ISS transport and supply support by Soyuz TMA and Progress vehicles in parallel. Russia also provides Soyuz TMA crew rescue opportunities in case of emergency.

Due to upcoming Shuttle retirement, NASA and Roscosmos signed a contract which covers transportation / return of the US astronauts to the ISS by Russian crew vehicles.

ISS RS evolution plan is being implemented. New Russian Mini Research Module MRM-2. MRM-1 will join ISS RS in 2010, and Multipurpose Laboratory Module will come in 2011. Both modules undergo intensive preparatory operations.

With these modules, Russia will enhance research and experimental program onboard the ISS, improve conditions for the crew inside the station and on its outer surface.

Concerning priorities of the human spaceflight program, these are the following:

  • fulfillment of the national research and experimental program onboard the ISS RS;
  • ISS RS operations, including transport and cargo supply support, mission control, maintenance, etc.;
  • fulfillment of the international commitments wrt ISS partners on cargo delivery and crew transportation, station 6 crew rescue;
  • design and development of the advanced crew transportation system;
  • development and construction of the Vostochny space port.

Currently, there is a positive tendency of GLONASS qualitative enhancement. A set of measures aimed at achievement of the competitive status for the national Global Navigation System is being carried out. Russian navigation user equipment and technologies are developed and introduced.

Q: A bit untraditional question: what are your dreams?

A.P.: Speaking about my work and the state, I only dream and wish our state to modify, become entirely civilized. I wish our industry to accomplish the objectives set up by the government of our country.

Q: What are your wishes to the readers of Novosti Kosmonavtiki in 2010?

A.P.: I wish them anything they want: happiness, good health, optimism, confidence in the future.

The Hydrolaboratory (Gidrolaboratoriya, Гидролаборатория) where cosmonauts and astronauts train for EVAs at Star City marked 30 years of operations on 18/2. I have a page about it on my website.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Into the sunset

One of the ISS-22 crew took a striking photo of STS-130 Endeavour silhouetted against an orbital sunset (the photo is a bit blurry). It seems pointedly symbolic! There are just 4 more flights after this, in 2010 (if the schedule holds): STS-131, -132, -134, -133.

Cranky curmudgeonly Apollo astronaut Jack Schmitt (who has featured here before) wrote another opinion piece on the U.S. space program changes, “New Space Policy Cedes Moon To China, Space Station To Russia, And Liberty To The Ages”, full of the usual “paranoid patriot” hysteria about the loss of America’s dominance in space. Mate, there’s plenty of room out there for everyone! The article seems to have been removed from the site where I originally read it, but there is a copy on another blog. Some extracts below and my trite commentary (there should be a “drinking game” for everytime the words “leadership” and “freedom/liberty” are mentioned for these types of articles).

The Administration finally has announced its formal retreat on American Space Policy after a year of morale destroying clouds of uncertainty. The lengthy delay, the abandonment of human exploration, and the wimpy, un-American thrust of the proposed budget indicates that the Administration does not understand, or want to acknowledge, the essential role space plays in the future of the United States and liberty. This continuation of other apologies and retreats in the global arena would cede the Moon to China, the American Space Station to Russia, and assign liberty to the ages.

Just a bit histronic. “Wimpy, un-American thrust”?? That sounds…suggestive.

Histories of nations tell us that an aggressive program to return Americans permanently to deep space must form an essential component of national policy. Americans would find it unacceptable, as well as devastating to liberty, if we abandon leadership in space to the Chinese, Europe, or any other nation or group of nations. Potentially equally devastating to billions of people would be loss of freedom’s access to the energy resources of the Moon as fossil fuels diminish and populations and demand increase.

Again the obsession with leadership. Diminishing resources will be better coped with by learning to live more sustainably and decreasing population growth, rather than hold out a nebulous hope of magically solving these problems by exploiting the Solar System’s resources (not with current spaceship technology we won’t!).

Returning to the Moon and to deep space constitutes the right and continuing space policy choice for the Congress of the United States. It compares in significance to Jefferson’s dispatch of Lewis and Clark to explore the Louisiana Purchase. The lasting significance to American growth and survival of Jefferson’s decision cannot be questioned. Human exploration of space embodies the same basic instincts as the exploration of the West – the exercise of freedom, betterment of one’s conditions, and curiosity about nature. Such instincts lie at the very core of America’s unique and special society of immigrants.

The frontier myth cited yet again *groan*. The exploration of the West came at the cost of the original inhabitants (Native Americans).

With a permanent resumption of the exploration of deep space, one thing is certain: our efforts will be as significant as those of our ancestors as they migrated out of Africa and into a global habitat. Further, a permanent human presence away from Earth provides another opportunity for the expansion of free institutions, with all their attendant rewards, as humans face new situations and new individual and societal challenges.

Outer space = Libertarian paradise? He’s been reading too much Heinlein.

Returning to the Moon first and as soon as possible meets the requirements for an American space policy that maintains deep space leadership, as well as providing major new scientific returns. Properly conceived and implemented, returning to the Moon prepares the way to go to and land on Mars. This also can provide a policy in which freedom-loving peoples throughout the world can participate as active partners.

Moon’s been done. It’s boring! Go to Mars.

Again, if we abandon leadership in deep space to any other nation or group of nations, particularly a non-democratic regime, the ability for the United States and its allies to protect themselves and liberty will be at great risk and potentially impossible. To others would accrue the benefits – psychological, political, economic, and scientific – that the United States harvested as a consequence of Apollo’s success 40 years ago. This lesson has not been lost on our ideological and economic competitors.

How about trying co-operation rather than competition? Space colonization is too big and expensive for any one country to do it alone.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Mars-500 spacesuits tested

From NK №836, rough computer translations of two Mars-related news items. First, a manned Mars mission is not in current Russian plans, disappointingly. I would like to see one happen before 2020! Hopefully before China or other countries send a mission there.

11/02/2010/00:05 – A piloted flight to Mars is not yet included in Russian Space Department plans

A piloted flight to Mars is not included in the upcoming plans of the Russian Space Department and is not included in the space program of Russia, the head of department Anatoly Perminov said Wednesday on air at the radio station “Voice of Russia”.

“In the foreseeable future no flights to Mars are planned. New modern or future systems of power impellent installations are for this purpose necessary; as well as these, there may also be nuclear installations developed,” Perminov noted.

For a performance of such flight, he considers it necessary at first to solve a number of scientific problems. “The ground experiment Mars-500 will soon begin, and a number of the European countries are actively participating in it.”

For a flight to the Red planet, according to Perminov, new power impellent installations will be required.

“Perhaps, these will be nuclear installations. Are we working on this? Yes. There are no secrets. Because the president of our country has set us this task. In one of programs there is development of power impellent nuclear installation. With its help it will be already possible in the future to reach Mars in under a year and and a half, and in the shortest possible time,” Perminov stated.

The head of the Russian Space Department has also confirmed the readiness of the Russian Space Department to co-operate from NASA in developing such systems. “It would be desirable, that such large-scale projects were international, with faster results, and lessening costs. We are ready to co -operate. If for some reasons it does not turn out, we will develop in parallel,” Perminov said.

The spacesuits for Mars-500 are modified/recycled Orlan-DMA suits, an older version of the current Orlan-MK used in orbit on the ISS. They were successfully tested. There is a gallery at the Mars-500 site from early last year of a spacesuit being tested.

12/02/2010/00:05 – “Marsonauts” from experiment “Mars-500” will work on the surface of the Red Planet using Russian lunar tools

In the research-and-production enterprise NPP Zvezda situated near Moscow on Wednesday has passed a control “run” of a new spacesuit which will be involved in the “Mars-500” experiment, simulating a piloted flight to Mars.

Two testers for NPP Zvezda worked for hours in spacesuits on a surface imitating that of the Red Planet, carrying out various manipulations with special tools. One of the “marsonauts” broke up large chunks of rock, and then using the probe would pick up wooden blocks, simulating pieces of Martian soil, and put them in a pouch hanging from her utility belt. Another “pioneer” scooped up sand with a small shovel (the sand imitating loose soil) and dumped it in a special container.

“These tools were developed in the 60 years of the last century for a national lunar program,” explained one of the leaders of the Soviet lunar program from RSC Energiya, Oleg Tsygankov. After the program was canceled, the miraculously preserved instruments can now be used in the experiments on the preparation of manned flights to other planets, he said.

After collecting rocks, the space travelers imitated Michael Jackson’s famous moonwalk in their spacesuits and dropped to one knee, like a knight offering his hands and heart to his lady.

“The spacesuits are based on the old Orlan-DMA Russian suit,” which is different from the new Orlans which the ISS crews wear in space,” the chief of department NPP Zvezda, Gennadii Shchavelev, said. First of all, they are smaller in size: length and chest. As well, they weigh only 30 kg – four times less than the zero-g Orlans – as the testers on Earth are not helped by weightlessness. One more difference: the Orlans have a self-contained life-support system, while in the “Martian” spacesuits, air for cosmonauts moves through long hoses from special compressors.

The colour of the new “suits” is unusual also - unlike the white Orlans, their “Martian” colleagues are made of a brilliant peach-coloured fabric. “We could not decide on a color for the new spacesuits,” designer Galina Borisova said. “We looked at many fabrics – blue, steel, dark blue – but eventually settled on this color that is harmonious with the reddish Martian surface.”

“The spacesuits behaved impeccably, all systems functioned normally, no improvements are not required,” Shchavelev summed up the test run.

After drying, the “Martian” spacesuits will go to the warehouse, and then, after a fitting with the selected Mars-500 crew, the suits will be transferred to the “Martian spacecraft”, situated in the Institute of Biomedical Problems of RAS, which in April will begin the 520-day experiment.