Popovkin Talks Brightman Flight, State of Russian Space Industry

Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin. (Credit: Roscosmos)
Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Izvestia has published a lengthy interview with Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin, who touched upon issues that included singer Sarah Brightman’s planned space tourism flight, upcoming Angara flight tests, American interest in purchasing a new rocket engine, Russia’s launch record in 2012, and the general state of the industry.

Key excerpts, courtesy of Google Translate, are reproduced below. All the sections involve translated quotes except for the one on Angara flights.

On Sarah Brightman’s Planned Space Tourism Flight

“We are not opposed to training, but so far we have no contract to that effect has been signed. By agreement between Roscosmos and NASA planned extremely long expedition to the ISS crew of two in 2015, people will spend at the station for a year. At the same time, the warranty term of the spacecraft Soyuz in orbit – no more than six months. That is, during the extremely long expedition ship docked to the ISS needs to be changed. Question – how to do it? You can put it in two tourists and 10 days to return back. The second option – to do some expedition. But the 10-day expedition is impractical – in fact it will be hidden in the performance of tourism trained astronauts. You can extend the life of the expedition up to 40 days, but then on the ISS will not be six and nine. All this pulls the start of another cargo ship ‘Progress,’ and this is serious money we are unlikely to find, as the program up to 2015 is already laid out. Therefore, we have not decided who to put in two free seats. Send our trained astronaut to have it on 10 days to fly there in fact a tourist by the state – perhaps it is not entirely justified. Moreover, our European colleagues have told us that they would like to purchase a vacant chair for her astronaut. Now we weigh all the ‘pros’ and ‘cons.’ Plan to take a decision in the I quarter of next year.”

On Angara Flight Tests

The rocket is ready to go, but there are some delays in preparing the ground facilities. Workers are aiming to eliminate the backlogs by March, at which time a launch date will be set. Popovkin is confident Angara will be tested in 2013.

On the Future of the RD-193 Engine

“Americans buy RD-180 Energomash production and are now talks with us about the possibility of acquiring promising RD-193.

“Q: How they want to use the RD-193?

“To develop their carriers. They were convinced that the Russian company makes a quality product. Best liquid rocket engines in the world. And it is easier to buy than to catch up in this area. That is why we are extremely important to maintain the NGO ‘Energomash’ work and ensure its development.”

On the Construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome
“A very important result was the launch of full-scale work on the creation cosmodrome Vostochny in the Amur region. The starting complex and technical segment is made zero cycle: elevated foundation, actively works on creation of supporting infrastructure – power grids, roads and railways. There is no reason to say that we do not have time in 2015 (in the presidential decree on the establishment of the Baikonur East 2015 is designated as the date of the first run with the new spaceport. – “News”). If we can maintain the current momentum – to meet the deadline.”
On the 2012 Launch Campaign
“On December 19, we completed the launch campaign for this year. Performed 28 launches and placed 35 satellites in orbit. Unfortunately, due to malfunction of the upper stage Briz-M,  the Express-MD2 and “Telkom-3 spacecraft did not go into their proper orbits. In another launch, the Breeze [upper stage] shut off a few minutes early, but the Yamal-402 satellite will be delivered on schedule on January 8 and placed under the control of OAO Gazprom Space Systems. Detailed assessment of the state of the satellite will be done when the Yamal take its position, but it is certain  it will be able to work for at least 11 years.”

On the Russian Space Industry


Preliminary results show an increase in the volume of production in the aerospace industry by 14.9% in 2012 compared to the previous year. This growth is largely due to the state armaments program and increased funding under the Federal Space Program.

“Average wage of the industry this year amounted to 33 thousand rubles [$1,087 per month], which is 10% higher than last year.”