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Russia Amps up Space Program

10. November 2009 by James 0 Comments

It has been eight years since Russia has contributed to the construction of the International Space Station (ISS) but if all goes well on the evening of November 10, the Poisk (Quest) Mini-Research Module will roar into the heavens from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.


ISS Construction

The last Russian piece added to the ISS was the Pirs Docking Compartment in September 2001. Due to economic problems, Russia had to scaled back its contributions to the project but now it looks as if Russia will ramp up ISS construction.

 

Over the next three years Russia plans to add three major components to the ISS. Currently, the Mini-Research Module -1 (MIM-1) is being under going final pre-flight checks near Moscow before being shipped to Cape Canaveral. The MIM-1 is scheduled to be launched as part of a May 2010 shuttle mission.


Soyuz Workhorse

NASA plans to retire the shuttle fleet by 2012 and with no clear date on when the Orion spacecraft will be ready, Russia’s Soyuz will be the only means of transit into space. Last year the crew capacity of the ISS was increased from three to six. That means the number of Soyuz supply flights will increase from two per year to four per year. In addition, at least two three-seat Soyuz capsule “lifeboats” will have to be docked at the station for emergencies.

 

Beyond 2012

Even in a world-wide recession, the Russian economy is stable thanks to Russia’s massive natural resources. So Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency, has planned for two new modules that would be added to the ISS or in the event that the ISS was scrapped, could be used as the core of a new space station.

 

Both the European Space Agency (ESA) and Rocomos share a vision of using either the ISS or a new station as a platform for deep space expeditions. Russia, the ESA and NASA plan to meet at the end of next year to decide on how long the ISS will remain operational and share each organizations plan for the future.  Once that date has been set, the plan for international manned flight and exploration of the cosmos for the next century will be discussed. The agencies will also hear from private space companies about their commercial plans for space.

 

Whatever the next giant leap for mankind will be in space, Russia will be a major part of it.