Russia’s Soyuz Replacement Delayed to 2018

Vladimir Putin inside of a full-size mockup of Russia’s six-passenger “Rus” spacecraft. (Credit: RSC Energia)

Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin says that Russia’s new six-person Soyuz replacement will not fly until 2018, a delay from the previous 2015-16 time frame:

“We are thinking of higher [compared to the International Space Station] orbits, and flights to the moon, and developing the technology to fly to Mars,” he said. “So we are developing a future system, first of all of course the pressurized, launchable module,” he said.

Popovkin said a new six-seat ship could be adapted for a variety of missions – “maybe just long automated missions, or moon missions, or to a space station between Earth and the moon, or beyind the moon,” he said. It would, however, “not immediately be a reusable system,” he noted….

If a heavy rocket launch from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur Region, due to be complete by 2015, is not ready in time, initial flight trials could be completed with a pilotless version on a Zenit rocket from the existing Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan, he said.

Russia’s RKK Energia space corporation won a tender in 2009 for development of the future piloted spacecraft, capable of being built in several variants, and capable of flying Earth and near-moon orbits, as well as picking up discarded satellites and large fragments of space junk.

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UPDATE:  Space.com is reporting they will fly this vehicle on the heavy-lift Angara A5.  The spacecraft was originally set to be launched aboard the Rus-M rocket, which Popovkin canceled last year as unnecessary. Angara is a modular family of rockets that has been under development since the mid-1990s. A light version, Angara A1.2, is set to make its maiden flight in the second quarter of 2013 from Plesetsk. The first launch of the Angara A5 is scheduled for late next year from the same launch complex.

Angara rockets will eventually fly from Plesetsk, Baikonur and Vostochny. The presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan recently agreed to work out differences concerning the completion of the Angara launch complex at Baikonur, which has been repeatedly delayed due to funding disputes between the two nations.