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In Soviet Russia, space travels you

The U.S. may have given up on a fresh Moon shot for now, but its former Cold War-era space race rival has fresh hopes to finally achieve what it could not do in the Soviet-era -- set foot on the moon.

Corporate president Vitaly Lopota, head of one of Russia's largest commercial space companies -- Space Corp. Energia -- announced that it had fulfilled a its design objectives it took on when it won an April 2009 contract to design a new multi-purpose rocket.

Comments Mr. Lopota, "We have completed the technical design project taking into account the fact that the new spaceship is to fly to the Moon, among other places."

In addition to a potential Moon shot, the rocket will be tasked with ferrying cargo and passengers to and from the International Space Station (ISS).  Federal Space Agency Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin announced earlier in the year that the rocket would be constructed and operational by 2018; the news from Energia shows that target may indeed by reached.

Energia heavy lift vehicle
Energia's heavy lift rocket is moving ahead towards a 2018 launch.
[Image Source: RCS Energia]

Russia seemingly is in a bit stronger position than the U.S., in that it still maintains domestic capability to launch humans into space (aboard the seasoned Soyuz capsule craft).  However, the program is under pressure after a string of failed and/or delayed commercial launches.  Most recently a suspected failure in the Briz-M booster scuttled a Proton rocket launch from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan.  The expensive August 2011 failure destroyed two commercial satellites.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gave the Russian space agency and its private partners until the end of the summer to work out a plan to fix the deterioriating situation.  

While the design side of the equation appears to be rolling forward, the business plan to remedy the recent issues is still very much up in the air.  Chief Popovkin had proposed creating a holding company that would tie together top commercial space firms -- such as Khrunichev and TsSKB Progress.  The plan then involved creating a sub-holding company inside the greater holding pool to specifically pull in the smaller engine producers, including Energomash, the Khimavtomatiki design bureau, the Voronezh mechanical works, Proton PM, and others.

However, Mr. Lopota blasted that plan, calling it a non-market measure.  Some opponents feel that shareholders in the corporate space firms will be short-changed if the government combines them, and further feel that it's a return to Russia's communist past -- a controversial topic in modern Russia.

Source: Space Travel

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RE: go for it!
By jaysan on 1/1/2013 11:20:05 PM , Rating: 2
Helium3 is aneutronic, and therefore much easier to harvest than D-T. Therefore more of the energy produced can be harvested.

RE: go for it!
By m51 on 1/2/2013 9:59:05 AM , Rating: 2
Although the D-He3 reaction is aneutronic, the D-D side reactions are not. So the system as a whole is not aneutronic, it just has a reduced neutron flux.

It also requires much higher reaction temperatures than D-T and has a much lower reaction rate, so losses, particularly Bremsstrahlung losses may reduce the system Q to less than is needed to make a viable energy production system. It's unlikely that He3 will be a viable fuel in any thermalized fusion device such as a Tokamak in the near future.

Unfortunately it seems a long shot that any fusion approach will yield an economically viable power supply in the near future. There are a number of unsolved problems such as the First Wall problem that have still not been resolved even after 60 years of research. Not that we shouldn't keep trying, but it would be imprudent to make any economic bets based on an expectation of a working fusion energy system.

He3 seems to be primarily an economic excuse to justify space budgets by space enthusiasts.

I'm fully in support of increased space budgets for other reasons but He3 does not seem to be a legitimate reason.

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