Roscosmos Plans to Fly One Cosmonaut & Two Tourists on Soyuz Flights

Surrounded by medical personnel, seated from left to right are spaceflight participant Guy Laliberte, Expedition 20 Commander Gennady Padalka and Expedition 20 Flight Engineer Michael Barratt.They had landed minutes before at 12:32 a.m. EDT aboard the Soyuz capsule near the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009.

Editor’s Note: With the success of the SpaceX Crew Dragon mission, Russia will soon no longer be able to charge the United States more than $90 million per seat to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

To make up for the lost revenues, Roscosmos will resume flying tourists to ISS, a program that was suspended on 2009. Instead of flying two professionals and one tourist as it did during the 2000’s, Roscosmos wants to fly one cosmonaut and two tourists. The press release below, translated from Russian, describes the efforts to fly the missions safely.

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — In special classes with the participation of cosmonauts from Roskosmos, instructors of the Yu.A. Gagarin and representatives of the Rocket and Space Corporation Energia named after S.P. Korolev (part of the Roscosmos State Corporation), studies were carried out to identify the features that are possible during the implementation of the training program for the control of a manned spacecraft “Soyuz” by one cosmonaut. Subsequently, based on all comments and suggestions, a conclusion will be drawn up to organize the process of this preparation.

During training sessions on control of the Soyuz MS spacecraft, one professional cosmonaut occupies, respectively, one commander’s seat. The operator carries out the sections of the flight program on the spacecraft: preparation for the upcoming launch, insertion into low-earth orbit, rendezvous, docking and undocking with the International Space Station and descent to Earth. In case of emergencies – a fire on a ship or station, atmospheric pollution on the ISS, depressurization of the Soyuz – a rapid descent.

Currently, Roskosmos cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Sergei Prokopyev have completed 14 sessions, 7 of which were carried out according to the standard flight program, including the consideration of serious emergency situations, such as depressurization and fire, and the execution of an algorithm for getting out of them. 

In the remaining seven trainings, attention was paid to repeating the same operations according to the flight program, but taking into account various emergency situations in the operation of the ship’s systems. According to instructors and astronauts, it is possible to operate the spacecraft alone.

“But in case of emergency situations, when one is superimposed on another and the operator is responsible for performing operations manually, and the controls are out of the commander’s reach, an additional load appears,” says Dmitry Vovk, a leading cosmonaut training specialist .

An important feature of flying on a spacecraft with one professional cosmonaut is the inability to reach all controls while in the commander’s seat. The commander cannot do what the flight engineer on the left or right usually does. 

There are two ways to solve this problem: either for the astronaut to free himself from the tethered system and be able to reach the desired valve, or to assign this function to the participant in the space flight (tourist). 

In addition, it is more difficult for the operator who controls the ship alone to monitor the operation of the ship’s systems, information on the screens, than to perform these actions together with the flight engineer.

“It is necessary that the warning system works with greater efficiency in the spacecraft with one professional cosmonaut and two space flight participants, and the information arrives to the commander in advance without wasting time searching for it,” explained Vovk, instructor in charge of training on the Soyuz spacecraft .

Misurkin and Prokopyev took an active part in the discussion of the program for preparing for a flight on a spacecraft operated by one professional cosmonaut. They made a number of suggestions on organizing the training process, on changing the Soyuz onboard documentation and, in order to minimize the time spent on performing certain operations by the operator, explained the comments on the operation of the ship’s information system, in particular the necessary adjustments in the algorithm of its operation.