Orbital Human Space Launch
Russian Human Space Launch
Russia remained the only nation to launch humans to orbit during 2017, using its Soyuz launch vehicle and capsule. The continued depression of Russian launch activity during…
Russia continued to be the only nation ferrying humans to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2016 with its…
In 2015, Russia continued to be the only nation flying humans into space since June 2013. The Russian Soyuz capsule was conceived, designed, and first launched nearly five decades prior to 2015. The Soyuz space launch vehicle that boosted the Soyuz capsule into space has an even longer heritage. The first of its family launched as the world’s first intercontinental ballistic missile, and a succeeding generation launched Sputnik, the world’s first satellite. Capsule and launch vehicle continued to be modified over the years, enabling them to remain in service.
In 2014, Russia operated the only crewed vehicle currently serving the ISS, and it is expected to retain that monopoly through 2017, when the first flights of the new NASA-supported commercially developed vehicles are slated to begin. Russia’s current crewed spacecraft is the Soyuz, a vehicle that made its first flight in 1967 and has been upgraded several times in the ensuing decades. Advances in construction techniques and computer technology have resulted in a craft that is more maneuverable, lighter, and has a greater carrying capacity than earlier versions.
Russia operates the only crewed vehicle currently serving the ISS, and is expected to retain that monopoly through 2018, when the first flights of the new NASA-supported commercially developed vehicles are slated to begin. Russia’s current crewed spacecraft is the Soyuz, a vehicle that made its first flight in 1967 and has been upgraded several times in the ensuing 45 years. Advances in construction techniques and computer technology have resulted in a craft that is more maneuverable, lighter, and has a greater carrying capacity than earlier versions.
Russia has retained the ability to send cosmonauts into orbit since the launch of Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, in 1961. Currently, Russia is the only nation ferrying people to and from the ISS. In addition to using its Soyuz spacecraft for ISS transportation, Russia also sells or barters transportation services to individuals and other ISS partner nations.
Russia’s ambitious plans to develop a new human-rated rocket system to eventually replace the Soyuz came to an official halt in October when Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, announced its decision to cancel the development of the Rus-M rocket. Originally planned to have its first flight in 2015, the rocket was to launch primarily from the new Russian launch facility of Vostochny in eastern Siberia. Launching from Vostochny would have relieved Russia of the need to rely on its Baikonur spaceport, which is leased to Russia by Kazakhstan and currently provides the only launch facilities for crewed Soyuz rockets.
Russia increased in its human spaceflight operations significantly in 2009 by doubling the launch rate of its Soyuz spacecraft. Russia had been launching Soyuz missions twice a year, roughly six months apart, to support three-person crews on the ISS. In 2009, Russia launched four Soyuz missions, each carrying three people. This increased flight rate reflects the transition to six-person ISS crews now that the station can accommodate its full crew complement. Once the Space Shuttle is retired, Soyuz will be the sole provider of ISS crew transfers until an alternative system is in place. The four Soyuz flights in 2009 also carried two private spaceflight participants on trips arranged by U.S. company Space Adventures.
Russia’s Soyuz is the most frequently launched human-rated vehicle. The Soyuz typically performs five to six missions per year at regular intervals to ferry crew and cargo to the ISS. In the period between retirement of the Space Shuttle and introduction of a new U.S. human-rated launch system, the Soyuz is expected to be the only vehicle able to transport crew members to the space station. Since 2001, the Soyuz has also been used six times to transport private spaceflight participants to and from the ISS under a partnership with the space exploration company, Space Adventures.
The Clipper (Kliper) vehicle, under design by Russia’s Energia, has not yet found a customer. Clipper may become a follow-on to the Soyuz vehicle, and has attracted interest from the European Space Agency (ESA) for ISS access. In 2006, Anatoly Perminov, the director of Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), said the agency planned to start construction of the vehicle in 2012.