A close look at Russia’s next generation space station modules

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The competiton heats up: Anthony Zak’s a detailed report of the design and development of the next generation space station modules Russia intends to dock at ISS has this interesting tidbit:

In addition to expanding the ISS, Russian developers viewed the NEM module as the basis for future Russian efforts to send humans beyond the Earth orbit. Thanks to its multi-function design, life support and power-supply capability, one or a whole cluster of such vehicles could provide habitation quarters and laboratories for a station at the so-called Lagrange points, which were considered as a staging ground for the exploration of the Moon, asteroids and Mars.

In case of an international agreement on the construction of a manned outpost in the Lagrange point, the NEM-based laboratory could constitute the Russian contribution into the effort. The NEM-based outpost could be serviced and staffed by the crews of US-European Orion spacecraft and by Russia’s next-generation spacecraft, PTK NP. Simularly, the NEM module, possibly in combination with other hardware, could serve as an outpost in the orbit around the Moon. Also in 2014, plans were hatched to make the NEM-based laboratory a part of the post-ISS Russian space station, VShOS, in the high-inclination orbit.

The Russians have always understood that a space station is nothing more than a prototype of an interplanetary spaceship. They are therefore simply carrying through with the same engineering research they did on their earlier Salyut and Mir stations, developing a vessel that can keep humans alive on long trips to other planets.

This approach makes a lot more sense that NASA’s SLS/Orion project, which does not give us what we need to make long interplanetary voyages, and costs a lot more.



  • mpthompson

    I would think that the environment at the Lagrange points would be different enough that a module meant for low Earth orbit wouldn’t be well suited for deep space. Some items off the top of my head: much more radiation shielding would be needed, operational/storage changes to handle much less frequent supply deliveries as well as disposal of waste that would otherwise just drift in proximity to the the station (no atmospheric drag do draw waste back to Earth).

    I would love to see such issues tackled, but I don’t put much stock into claims that ISS modules are easily repurposed without major redesign to fit a much different mission profile.

  • You really should read my book Leaving Earth. The Russians have been very aware of these issues for decades. Every module they have built has been built with interplanetary engineering in mind. They haven’t gotten it right all the time, but then, these have all been treated as prototypes where they can test their engineering.

    For example, they have labored very hard to create closed systems, partly because you need them to travel to other worlds, but also because their ability to bring cargo up to orbit has never been great. The result is that any module they build will have a greater capacity to function with less supply from Earth.

  • mpthompson

    Thanks, I’ll look up the book.

  • If you decide to buy it buy it from me and you get it autographed! :)

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