Author Topic: "Space Launch" orbital spaceport  (Read 867 times)

Offline B. Hendrickx

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"Space Launch" orbital spaceport
« on: 10/07/2016 11:11 pm »

Russia’s S7 plans to set up corporate spaceport on orbit — source

MOSCOW, September 29. /TASS/. Russia’s S7 group that acquired the Sea Launch floating spaceport is viewing an option of setting up a private spaceport on the orbit, a source close to the new management of the project told TASS on Thursday.

"An idea is considered to set up an orbital spaceport provisionally titled "Space Launch", in a similar way to the Sea Launch and the Land Launch. Examination of the idea is at the initial stage, the source said.
S7 did not comment on source’s statements. TASS has not yet received comments from the Russian federal space agency and the Rocket and Space Corporation (RKK) Energia company.

S7 Group of companies acquired the Sea Launch floating spaceport from the Sea Launch Group controlled by RKK Energia earlier this week. S7 will receive the infrastructure of the Sea Launch and the trademark. The deal is expected to be closed in approximately six months, after receiving an approval from the US authorities. Resumption of launches is scheduled to 2018.

Sergei Sopov, CEO of S7 Space Transport Systems, elaborated on these plans in a TASS interview today (only available in Russian).

The orbiting cosmodrome would orbit at an altitude of 800-900 km and be used to support international space operations on a commercial basis. Among its tasks would be:
- assembly of large space structures
- servicing and refuelling of satellites and spacecraft
- rescue of astronauts (with the help of a transport ship stationed at the orbital outpost)

Sopov says that the ideal place for such an outpost would be one of the Lagrangian points near the Moon, but that this is not technically feasible right now, which is why they're aiming for a 800-900 km orbit. It's not entirely clear what he means by that. How could an outpost at a Lagrangian point support operations in Earth orbit? Or is he talking about the use of such outposts for servicing interplanetary vehicles in the future?

He also says that his company will propose the Russian government to use the Russian ISS segment as the basis of the orbiting cosmodrome after ISS is retired in 2024, which would be cheaper than building a new station from scratch. This would mean the Russian segment would have to be separated from the ISS and then boosted from a 400 km to a 800-900 km orbit.

S7 Space Transport Systems is counting on co-operation from RKK Energiya, among other things to develop a new 12 to 16 ton cargo ship that would be launched from the Sea Launch platform to service the station. Sopov says the two companies have not yet discussed what such a vehicle should look like, but he personally thinks the vehicle could be based on the TKS Transport Supply Ships developed by the Chelomei bureau in the 1970s to service the military Almaz space stations (proposing that idea to RKK Energiya, a former competitor of the Chelomei bureau, may not be a very diplomatic move...). He is optimistic that Space Launch and the new cargo ship can be ready for use 8 to 10 years from now.

As for launching manned spacecraft, Sopov thinks Sea Launch is not an ideal platform for that, but when asked how he feels about launching Russia's new Federatsiya vehicle from the platform, he answered that this certainly could be considered if the rocket that will fly from the platform is up to the task. This may be the case if the spacecraft uses its own engines to enter orbit and if the vehicle's heat shield can perform the task of the payload fairing.

Sopov says that if the Ukrainian Yuzhmash company cannot resume production of the Zenit, his company will "take a five-year break" and develop a new rocket. The only companies capable of doing that are RKK Energiya jointly with RKTs Progress on the one hand and Khrunichev on the other hand. He personally thinks it makes little sense to use an outdated rocket like Zenit and that they should build a totally new rocket with a reusable first stage. He rules out the possibility of using the Angara A3, which needs a big servicing tower that the Sea Launch platform cannot support. He does confirm that the Sea Launch deal signed between S7 and RKK Energiya in Mexico envisages the possibility of S7 investing in the development of the Feniks (Phoenix) launch vehicle, billed as a Russian replacement for the Zenit rocket.