Russia to reduce manned missions to ISS in 2020

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.

According to a Roscosmos, Russia will halve the number of manned Soyuz missions it will fly to ISS in 2020, from the normal four per year that they have been doing since 2009 to only two.

The article provides little additional detail, other than those two flights will be in the second and fourth quarters of the year, and that there will be three Progress freighter launches as well.

In May the Russians had announced that NASA had agreed to buy two more astronaut tickets on Soyuz. Since then there have been two manned launches, one of which I think was covered by this purchase. If not, then both launches next year are to launch Americans to ISS, and that Russia will not launch otherwise.

Either way this information tells us two things. First, NASA is probably getting very close to finally approving the manned flights of Dragon and Starliner, after many delays by their safety panel.

Second, Russia’s reduction in launches suggests that they are short of funds, and can’t launch often without someone buying a ticket. It is unclear what they will do when the U.S. is no longer a customer. I suspect they will fly the minimum number of crew in the fewest flights while still allowing them to maintain their portion of the station. Periodically they will likely add a flight, when they sell a ticket to either a tourist or to another foreign country, as they are doing right now with an Soyuz-flown astronaut from the United Arab Emirates.


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  • Wodun

    Flying so infrequently can’t be good for keeping crews practiced in how do to what they do safely.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Russia’s slow recessional as a consequential space power continues apace. 2020 will be the first full year with no new NASA revenue for crew seats to ISS. 2021, with the scheduled debut of ULA’s Vulcan, will see the beginning of the end of RD-180 sales for Atlas V. By 2024 that will be entirely gone. That will leave a couple pair of RD-181’s for NGIS’s Antares each year until 2030 when ISS is decommissioned. With new satellite launches for pay already all but gone and declining prospects also for sales of oil and gas or weapons on world markets, Russia is looking at having to get along, starting now, with less than half its accustomed annual space products and services revenue with much of the remainder also to be gone by mid-next-decade and all of it to be gone by the end of the 2020’s.

    For the Russian space industry, Winter is coming. Vostochny may see completion, but will be little-used. The new Federatsiya space capsule may well never fly. Angara looks increasingly problematic to say nothing of fever dreams of a new super heavy lifter. Even the long-delayed “new” Russian ISS modules may never be launched. In the world of press releases we see continued Russian boastfulness and fabulism. In the real world we see ongoing retrenchment.

    The only thing that might stave off eventual failure even of the ability to maintain its current fleets of domestically-oriented Earth-orbiting satellites would be another complete collapse of the ruling Russian regime and promises of renewed sales to the West and other long-term aid in return for, say, the return of Georgian and Ukrainian territory previously seized, abandonment of the Kaliningrad Salient to Lithuania and/or Poland, a complete scrapping of even the current threadbare Russian strategic nuclear forces and perhaps even a complete nuclear disarmament. Achieving Russia’s end as a strategic threat in the world would be worth a reasonable on-going U.S./NATO-funded welfare program for the Russian space industry and even other industries.

    Short of any willingness to stand down as a military threat to the rest of the world, the Russians should be left to their fate as a declining power – space included – going forward.

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