Russia plans to send crews to Moon regularly starting in 2025
Russia plans to send cosmonauts to the Moon on a regular basis as soon as 2025, the Roscosmos State Corporation has recently revealed. According to Russian authorities, the country could carry out one or two launches yearly of its crewed spacecraft called “Federation”—currently in development—in order to transport people to lunar orbit.
This ambitious plan envisages the Federation spacecraft orbiting the Moon as well as humans landing on the lunar surface. Moreover, the project includes sending cosmonauts on a trip beyond the Moon’s orbit to the so-called Lagrangian points.
The planned missions would be launched into space by Angara-A5P rockets. These 700-metric-ton boosters are currently being designed to launch Russian-crewed endeavors beyond Earth’s orbit. The Angara-A5P rocket would be a powerful launcher, capable of lifting up to 18 metric tons into low-Earth orbit (LEO).
Before Russia starts sending regular missions to Earth’s nearest celestial neighbor, it will need to conduct three test flights of the Federation spacecraft first. In 2021, an uncrewed launch from the new Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Far Eastern Amur region is planned to take place. Two years later, one uncrewed mission, as well as one crewed test mission, will be carried out.
The Federation spacecraft, which is being developed by RKK Energia, is expected to be finished in 2021. The company has just started the first tests of the vehicle as the spacecraft’s crew-machine interface elements were successfully examined on a unique ergonomic simulator in May of this year (2016). Launch, insertion, autonomous flight, and docking processes were checked out during these tests. The engineers also examined the flight phase toward an orbiting space station as well as circumlunar trajectories.
The results of the initial tests will now be verified and RKK Energia will make further decisions regarding the development of the spacecraft. The company will decide on implementing one or another of the interface elements.
Federation is expected to be Russia’s next-generation reusable spacecraft and is meant replace the country’s flagship Soyuz vessel. It should be capable of delivering people and cargo to the Moon and to space stations positioned in LEO. The name of the spacecraft was chosen in January 2016 through a public naming contest.
When complete, the vehicle will measure 20 feet (6.1 meters) in length and have a mass of approximately 14.4 metric tons when in flight to the International Space Station (ISS). The lunar version would have a mass of nearly five metric tons more.
The spacecraft should be capable of sending up to four cosmonauts to space as well as to be able to operate autonomously for up to 30 days, with the possibility of staying attached to the ISS for up to one year. The start of the construction of the vehicle is planned for this summer. It will cost Russia an estimated $734 million over the next six years.
Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.