back to article Ah, you know what? Keep your crappy space station, we're gonna try to make our own, Russia tells world

Russia's space agency hopes to launch its own orbiting science lab by 2030 after entering talks with NASA to pull out of the International Space Station in the coming years. On Wednesday, Roscosmos indicated it was waiting for the thumbs up from President Putin to build the new platform, which will not be constantly manned due …

  1. martinusher Silver badge

    It does have a finite life

    The ISS has a finite life though exactly how old it oculd get before it became hazardous is anyone's guess. I wouldn't want to spend time there, I suspect it would be like living in a cramped slum with poor plumbing and ventilation. We now know enough to be able to make a much better orbital platform so I would have expected that the current station would be either gradually retired or eventually abandoned and de-orbited bit by bit.

    We've learned a lot since the 1960s. One is that space travel is neither interesting nor romantic, its nothing like its been portrayed in Science Fiction. We can do so much more with machines now that it seems pointless maintaining a permanent presence out there.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: It does have a finite life

      "We can do so much more with machines now that it seems pointless maintaining a permanent presence out there."

      Incremental stuff makes a huge difference in the long term.

      My Grandfather used to tell us tales about people (himself included) saying that the new-fangled electricity was a waste of time, it was too fiddly, and was a fad that would fade away with time. In fact he himself had it run to his house, used it for about a year, and then cancelled the service for the next fifteen years! At that point, he was quite behind the neighbors, much to his wife's displeasure.

      1. slimshady76

        Re: It does have a finite life

        Your grampa was still living on this planet, surrounded by air, water, a natural protective shield against cosmic radiation, and not suffering from premature osteoporosis. Maintaining a human outpost out there is expensive, risky and does not return as much scientific knowledge as a robotic mission on the long term.

        If anything, the main contribution of 20 something years of human presence on LEO was the confirmation of how complex it is to maintain us alive in such a harsh environment.

        It's okay to quote Kennedy on why we choose to go outside our own planet, but once we proved we can do it, it's even better to keep sending probes who are able to stay longer and send data back to where we have all the necessary instruments to analyze it and gain much better insight from it. It might not be as romantic or thrilling as watching some fleshbag trotting on some extraterrestrial surface, but it still is the best way to know our cosmic neighborhood better, and ultimately decide where we should send our next manned expedition.

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: It does have a finite life

          Yes.

          However if we just gave up with manned space programmes entirely then we'd have to expensively rediscover & reinvent all of the operating procedures & equipment for humans in space every time we wanted to launch a manned expedition anywhere.

          1. Chris G Silver badge

            Re: It does have a finite life

            @Peter2

            Agreed, we also need to give thanks to all those who have spent significant portions of their lives in space, thereby enabling a huge body of knowledge regarding the effects and helping to point the way to mitigate those effects so that future generations will be able to travel in space without problems.

            Using only robotics and unmanned probes is shortsighted and is unlikely to get us off this planet.

          2. slimshady76

            Re: It does have a finite life

            I don't deny the benefits of manned exploration. However, I think we should keep them to a small portion of all the exploration efforts. The proposed future lunar outpost seems like a pretty stupid idea, more motivated by the "we have bigger balls than you" motto than by the desire to understand something else about our cosmic surroundings.

            Let's face it, the ways we have to put living matter up to (and beyond) LEO sucks. Loosely quoting Steve Buscemi in Armaggeddon, we are sending people on top of a humongous amount of heavily flammable fuel, built by the lowest bidding contractor.

            As I said before, I think we're bound to become an interplanetary society somewhere in our distant future. I still however think we can learn a lot more from unmanned exploration. Hopping up there every now and then IS valuable and desirable! However, having a bunch of people floating around for so long isn't neither practical nor acceptable from a health perspective.

            1. ThatOne Silver badge

              Re: It does have a finite life

              > The proposed future lunar outpost seems like a pretty stupid idea, more motivated by the "we have bigger balls than you" motto than by the desire to understand something else about our cosmic surroundings.

              Do you know how you become an outstanding musician (athlete)? Training, training and more training.

              The point of a lunar outpost is not to discover groundbreaking stuff (although it might happen), it is to iron out any kinks in technologies and procedures we will need when things get serious. It allows to test the equipment close to home, and improve stuff before it becomes mission critical.

              1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                Re: It does have a finite life

                >The point of a lunar outpost .... is to iron out any kinks in technologies and procedures

                So there will be no flags, no square-jawed ex-test pilots, no token female / POC crew members, no Whitehouse lawn press conference?

                1. slimshady76
                  Coat

                  Re: It does have a finite life

                  There you have it. We should just send Rosy the Robot from The Jettisons and call the day off!

                  Mine is the one with the copy of "Destination: Void" in the inner left pocket.

              2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

                AIMission Creep ..... and You know IT Makes Greater Good Common Sense.

                Actually, now it is realised the point of a lunar outpost is not to discover groundbreaking stuff (although it might happen), it is to iron out any kinks in technologies and procedures we will need when things get serious. It allows to test the equipment close to home, and improve stuff before it becomes mission critical in future projects and derivative options with leading quantum leaping programming for programs with non-crazed lunatics.

                And as one may only be able to imagine, it and the almighty beasts that are servered and serviced for/from there, they have a severe and deadly bite and do not take kindly to even the slightest hint of spite in wilful unwarranted competition and wanton covetous opposition alike.

                The Immense Dense Bottom Line and MagnificentlyTerrifying Tale to Tell and Foretell ...... Play Real Nice or Suffer Terribly Badly.

                That surely cannot be too difficult nor too unclear for even the slowest of learners and most dim-witted of human beings on Earth to understand and accept ....... given the dire consequences to be constantly suffered by leaderships in non-compliance, the result of which they can no longer complain about with a vain and forlorn plea in defence and mitigation of their wayward action, of ignorance of dire consequences being their worthy just desserts ..... for here has it been very clearly told and foretold, and freely shared to be universally told and retold whenever it be needed to explain and/or justify a concomitant punitive action.

              3. J. Cook Silver badge

                Re: It does have a finite life

                And it's preparatory work for getting to Mars and other planets in our solar system, and eventually taking additional steps outside our solar system.

                Sadly, I don't think I'll see a manned mars outpost in my lifetime; I'm hoping a moonbase will be.

                (I also want to see if they can take some bats up to that base, if only to see how they fly in lunar gravity. Also- MOONBATS!!!)

            2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

              Re: bigger balls

              The Moon happens to be the closest big ball which isn't the big ball we're already on.

              If we want to get our balls (and lack thereof) off this big ball and onto other big balls, the Moon is by far the most convenient place to start learning how to do that.

              There's always a degree of political and/or academic willy waving in projects like this, but that doesn't undermine the fact that most of underlying project is actually damned useful.

            3. Jiggity

              Re: It does have a finite life

              > However, having a bunch of people floating around for so long isn't neither practical nor acceptable from a health perspective.

              But that's also how we learn a) what the health perspectives are, and b) how to mitigate against them for when we *do* decide to leave the planet on a more permanent basis.

              A lot of "space health" issues and mitigations are chicken/egg scenarios - you can't simulate the kind of bone density loss induced by extended micro-gravity in a 1g environment. Likewise, solutions to that bone density loss that might work in 1g *really* don't work in micro-gravity - they have to be tested in situ... and a vomit comet isn't a suitable platform to trial an hour-long exercise regime over the months required.

              We're going to need to figure those solutions out "on the float", limiting exposure of the individual test subjects to current safe boundaries (and yet always aiming to push those boundaries).

        2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Re: the main contribution of 20 something years of human presence on LEO

          The main contribution of that is immeasurable insights on how the human body works in the absence of gravity, many experiments on how materials react to being made in the absence of gravity, and a whole slew of data on growing various crops and creatures out there.

          I doubt we could have done all that with robots.

          Of course, robot exploration has its place. If we had decided to wait to get a manned mission to Mars, we would missing out on a lot of information. But there's a major difference between sending a scientific mission to another stellar body and having an orbital science station around our own planet.

          Yes, there is a health cost. But the returns are worth it and that's why there are people who accept the costs and volunteer for the missions.

          Our duty is to ensure that they can do their work safely, and come back alive and well. If we decide to skimp on that, then we definitely should put an end to it.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: the main contribution of 20 something years of human presence on LEO

            Our duty is to ensure that they can do their work safely, and come back alive and well. If we decide to skimp on that, then we definitely should put an end to it.

            Yup, which would be a shame given the rather critical importance of human factors in getting off this rock. There was the fascinating experiment with Scott Kelley spending a year on the ISS, whilst twin brother Mark stayed down here.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: the main contribution of 20 something years of human presence on LEO

              To my mind the main advantage of meatbags in space is philosophical advance. There is understanding that only comes with experience - something you learn the older you get.

              My father once expressed the same view, that manned missions were an unnecessary, politicized waste. He also railed against celebrating the Millennium on January 1st 2000 rather than 2001. As I told him: what we were celebrating was seeing that 1st digit move. Pretty obvious, really - and amply demonstrates how highly-intelligent people can miss stuff until its pointed out to them.

              There are insights into the human condition we either won't get until we have people doing what we haven't done before, or those who do have them won't be listened to when they're just some Earth-based scientist or philosopher. And seeing as how, in the 21st century, with the social media revolution, we're actually regressing philosophically...

    2. druck Silver badge

      Re: It does have a finite life

      The ISS has a finite life though exactly how old it could get before it became hazardous is anyone's guess.

      Unfortunately the Russian contribution was original two modules the ISS is built around, and are MIR era technology, and that station didn't age too well.

      1. John Jennings Silver badge

        Re: It does have a finite life

        That is a bit harsh

        Fact is that Russia kept the station going for more than a 13 years -when no other country could put anything up with people in it. (first time was the first shuttle accident, second with the end of that program)

        The basic design was Russian - and the first modules were also - they have been up now for years, and proven themselves to work far and away beyond their design parameters.

        Pretty much all of the ISS is operating this way - from batteries, solar panels, and internal spaces. Sure we could do better now - but - we have it now and have had it for 20 years.

        Think of the thousands of thermal cycles alone that the aluminimum and glass has to go through...

        The ISS has been one of the greatest achievements anyone has achieved. We should work for a replacement - but it should not be decommissioned before a replacement is actually in place.

        It is unfortunately the case that current US paranoia has reached the point where joint efforts for its replacement will be pretty much limited to ESA and NASA. It makes it a lot less likely that either station will be as great as a proper collaboration could have been.

        Lets hope the russions dont want their modules back - they provide a physical hub, one of the global life support/water recycling & half the docking ports.

        1. Keith Langmead

          Re: It does have a finite life

          "The ISS has been one of the greatest achievements anyone has achieved. We should work for a replacement - but it should not be decommissioned before a replacement is actually in place."

          Or perhaps design the replacement such that it's initially an extension of the ISS rather than starting entirely from scratch in a separate location. Use the ISS as basecamp until you've built enough of the new structure to allow that to take over, essentially treating the ISS as a building site porta cabin, with the aim to ensure the new extension can eventually run entirely independently from the ISS. Then one day once it's completed the deconstruction of the old ISS can happen and the two separated from each other.

          1. Kibble 2

            Re: It does have a finite life

            @ Keith...

            Saying all that one wonders if Bigelow Aerospace might have a presence there during the building of a new space station.

    3. HereIAmJH

      Re: It does have a finite life

      Maybe now is the time for the US to start work on a new station. In addition to updating technology, they could also build it in an orbit more convenient to our launch facilities.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: It does have a finite life

        >they could also build it in an orbit more convenient to our launch facilities.

        Closer to Florida ? No thanks

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: It does have a finite life

      " I suspect it would be like living in a cramped slum with poor plumbing and ventilation."

      Yeah, but the view is to die for!

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: It does have a finite life

        Location Location Location

    5. Qumefox

      Re: It does have a finite life

      The ISS's modules indeed have a finite life. However people seem to forget that it's..well.. modular. It comes apart. So the life of ISS itself could be infinite. There is absolutely nothing stopping anyone, at least from a technological standpoint, from building and launching new modules to replace aging ones. Hell they're already in the middle of replacing all the solar panels. The only thing that could kill the ISS is if no one had any use for it anymore.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Keep your crappy space station, we're gonna try to make our own

    .. with blackjack and hookers!

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Keep your crappy space station, we're gonna try to make our own

      And vodka. Don't forget the vodka. Which NASA frowns on ... hmmm, I wonder ... Nah. Couldn't be.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Keep your crappy space station, we're gonna try to make our own

      Just be careful where you drill the holes. OK?

    3. Keith Langmead

      Re: Keep your crappy space station, we're gonna try to make our own

      ... in fact, forget the space station!

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Re: in fact, forget the space station!

        ...and the blackjack!

        1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
          Pint

          Re: in fact, forget the space station!

          ...but keep the hookers?

  3. jake Silver badge

    Don't let the ...

    ... door hit you in the arse on the way out, ingrates.

  4. FF22

    Don't believe it for a second!

    Russia simply can not afford to build a space station of its own, and it wouldn't make any sense either. This is just one of Putin's empty promises whose only purpose is to stop the further tanking of his popularity. It's his version of building a wall at the Mexican border.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Don't believe it for a second!

      I'm old enough to recognize that faint smell of cold war.

      Seems the good times of general pretending to not be a jerk (on all sides) are well behind us...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ThatOne - Re: Don't believe it for a second!

        It was a cold war all the time, it never ended. It was just more or less cold.

        Where our opinions diverge is the characterization of the smell. To me it is not faint at all, it is more of a strong stench. For about a half of my life I lived under a communist regime (no, not Russia) and we were educated to distrust and fear the Western world so we must always be ready to defend ourselves (this is how I got to experience that stench). Now that I am far away from those times and places I can sadly see they were not entirely wrong, it still stinks.

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Don't believe it for a second! Almighty Schema are already long ago afoot and well heeled

      Russia simply can not afford to build a space station of its own, and it wouldn't make any sense either. This is just one of Putin's empty promises whose only purpose is to stop the further tanking of his popularity. It's his version of building a wall at the Mexican border. .... FF22

      I'm guilty of downvoting you for those pieces of disinformation, FF22, for they take no notice of, nor make any provision for possible Sino-Soviet and Exotic Erotic Eastern contributions relating to future supply of novel operations which you appear to completely unaware of, and which, if you are a regular visitor to various certain pages here on El Reg, you most definitely wouldn't/shouldn't be.

      It is possible that you have missed the foundational genesis of the following very current development displayed elsewhere and which renders your comment misleading ....

      GrahamC [2104220909] .... testing out the veracity of a novel commitment voiced on https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2021/4/22/introducing-the-emerging-technologies-institute

      A more than just interesting article and development, Dr. Mark J. Lewis [Executive Director of NDIA's Emerging Technologies Institute], especially in light of the following revelations unveiled for both critical forensic peer review and ignorantly misguided misinforming public ridicule alike, also earlier today elsewhere for both foreign and domestic and alien audience consideration alike. It is/was in reply to an article entitled ..... "US Strategic Command Issues Random Warning Over Nuclear Strike..... available for viewing on a ZeroHedge web page.

      You may like to consider that the novel destructive and almightily disruptive force of the source of such as has advanced and developed into much more of an Extremely Sophisticated ElectroMagneticPulse weapon rather than to have remained as just a Simply Mindless Explosive Kinetic Energy attack vehicle, and is very sensibly and quite rightly to be wisely feared, has been typed wrong as conventionally nuclear. As such, it misleads and does not prepare one at all well for what can be launched to reign and rain down on all from the heavens above whenever revealed and recognised and classified a NEUKlearer Munition for both Underground Covert and Overground Clandestine Cloak and Dagger Regime Change Use, which can be Abused Experimentally resulting in Ultimate Systems Misuse Penalties which deliver Immediate Asset Termination and Portfolio Liquidation and Programs and Projects Sequestrations/Seizures for such has proven itself to be a most Effective ACTive Defence against such as manifests itself so clearly in both the Applications of Madness and Idiocy.

      I trust that is not just as so much Double Dutch and Chinese, or Russian and Japanese, to those practising and understanding English in the West, because the chances of the English speaking Westerner understanding it shared in those other mother tongues would be certainly less than and no more than zero. The same though certainly cannot be said of the reverse, and of those able to speak and understand Dutch and Chinese, Russian and Japanese ...... and that renders to them an extraordinarily convenient and wonderfully stealthy advantage over their Wild Wacky Western neighbours.

      And it is impossible not to realise, given all of the sentiments and avid proposals voiced in your introduction of NDIA's Emerging Technologies Institute here today, it is a worthy reply to air here too in this welcoming beta testing reply in support of all of the admirably stated future noble efforts most likely to be fielded and encountered in theatres of HyperRadioProACTive IT Engagement and CyberIntelAIgent Exercise of Freely Available Future Augmented Virtualised Reality Options with AIdDerivatives for Experimental AIdDVentures in/with NEUKlearer Energy and SMARTR Technologies.

      .... which returned the not very enamouring [Thank you. Your comment will be displayed soon after reviewing.]*

      And please, let's not be having any of those ... "Let's be having a blast of whatever that is for smoking" It doesn't bode well for your understanding of present precarious situations. Thank You.

      * That decision, which may or may not result in a universal sharing, tells one all one needs to know about virtually everything and/or practically nothing too. :-)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @FF22 - Re: Don't believe it for a second!

      With all the love from US, Russia has no choice. They might not succeed but they have no alternative although if they join their forces with China (another country US is contantly and royally pissing off) something might come out. This is not about promises, this is about defense. What would you do in their place ? Do you really think kneeling down and bowing their heads on the lawn in front of the US Capitol would change something ?

      1. Brad Ackerman
        Flame

        Re: @FF22 - Don't believe it for a second!

        Between budgetary constraints and corruption (probably more the latter), Russia can't even build an aircraft carrier that is capable of spending more time out of drydock than in—and speaking of drydocks, they managed to sink one. At least they haven't managed to pick a fight with an unarmed civilian cruise ship and lose in record time, unlike some countries I could name.

        If the Russian government cares more about defense than lining their pockets (spoiler: they don't), they'll focus on objectives that they can actually achieve.

    4. Tail Up

      Re: Don't believe it for a second!

      Pfft, you don't mind that!

      A little more expensive vodka and tickets to United States, and, in a year or so, RU has its own station. If petrol rises, than - yes, blackjack will come as a bonus. Et cetera, my friend, et cetera.

  5. Andre Carneiro

    Egads, looks like the 60s all over again.... The Cold War rhetoric is back.

    Mind you, I do wonder whether two superpowers (let's just call them that and leave it there) competing for progress will make more advancements than two superpowers collaborating.

    Not being intentionally inflammatory here, by the way, I do genuinely wonder if much of the ungodly technological advancement of the 60s was done so that the Russians wouldn't get there first...

    1. Keith Langmead

      I think you're right. Competition even when friendly can be a good thing. I also think moving away from the current "all our eggs in one basket" situation might not be such a bad thing either.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        The Space Race

        The Soviets got there first for a satellite in orbit (Sputnik) and the first human to orbit the Earth and return safe and sound (Yuri Gagarin). The Americans caught up with John Glenn's orbital flight. The Space Race was a lot about researching how to build ICBMs to transport nuclear bombs as a deterrent for the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) policy to prevent a nuclear war. John F Kennedy's speech when he committed the USA to sending a man to the Moon and returning him safely to Earth was partly to get public funding for militarily useful research (Congress voted for a tax increase to pay for NASA), and partly to challenge the economic resources of the then Soviet Union.

        Remember that the Soviets got the first pictures from the surface of the Moon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exploration_of_the_Moon) and from the surface of Venus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observations_and_explorations_of_Venus).

        1. sgp Bronze badge

          Re: The Space Race

          They also had the first space station.

          1. Danny Boyd Bronze badge

            Re: The Space Race

            And the first space-walk (Alexei Leonov).

  6. TeeCee Gold badge

    The King of Swamp Space Station.

    "The third time I built a Russian space station, it collided with another spacecraft, caught fire and fell out of orbit. But the fourth one will stay up and that's what you're going to get."

    1. genghis_uk Silver badge

      Re: The King of Swamp Space Station.

      What? The curtains?

  7. Torben Mogensen

    Unmanned space station == satellite?

    An unmanned orbital space station is just a satellite by another name. "Not permanently manned" could mean anything from short-term maintenance crews every five years to almost always manned, but given that it is stated that the reason for not having permanent manning is radiation, my guess is that it is closer to the first. Higher radiation probably means inside the inner Van Allen belt, which is lower than ISS. This would lower the cost, but require more frequent boosting to maintain orbit.

    1. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: Unmanned space station == satellite?

      "Not permanently manned" Very likely means like Skylab in the 1970s. When you have enough worthy experiments collected to justify the trip, you send a crew up for a few weeks or months to occupy it, run the experiments, and shut it down again. That actually might be cheaper than paying the ongoing costs of a permanent presence in space on the ISS.

      Radiation? I dunno. I suspect the problem comes from the Russian's probably entirely reasonable desire to be able to observe the northern portions of their country from space. The ISS 51 degree inclination orbit wouldn't allow that. Their own space station probably would. I don't fully understand the mechanics of how the Earth's magnetic field protects against radiation but my very crude mental image suggests that radiation protection might be a problem at high geomagnetic latitudes -- which would presumably be where they would like to visit?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Unmanned space station == satellite?

        It's roughly exponential with latitude (strictly magnetic latitude) with around a factor of 10x from equator to 45deg probably doubling by 60deg. It can also get several times higher in 'interesting' Solar cycles

  8. rg287 Silver badge

    I'll believe it when it flies.

    Roscosmos supremo Rogozin is in full Soviet-propaganda mode and (as to be expected from a friend of Putin) busy lining his own pockets.

    Last year they promised a family of new, reusable rockets with new engines (which are the hard bit). No work has started, no funds allocated - and they won't be, because we've heard it all before from Rogozin.

    They did post some pictures of cosmonauts doing a rehearsal for egressing a mock-up of an Oryol capsule after an emergency water landing. Oryol has been in development forever, isn't real and the photos turned out to be seven years old.

    They also promised that Angara would take over from Proton. Angara has flown. Once. In 2014. And the only launch pad for it is Plesetsk, which is high-latitude. Until they build a pad for it at Baikonur or Vostochniy, it's basically useless for most commercial launches. And they're belatedly realising that it's probably too expensive to compete with the Americans (read: SpaceX) anyway. Although they're in good company there since ESA are now panicking having concluded that Ariane 6 is likely not going to be cost-effective, having confidently pressed forward with another generation of disposable booster.

    At this point Roscosmos is borderline dead in the water. Even if the management weren't lining their pockets, they're not getting funded properly by the Russian State, they've haemorraged income from commercial launches to SpaceX along with income from NASA to launch astronauts. All they've got left is a trickle of funding from commercial launches and selling Soyuz rockets to the ESA for launch from Kourou. There's also a modest income stream from the Energomash subsidiary providing RD-180 engines for ULA's Atlas V vehicle, which is also going to dry up as soon as Vulcan launches with all-American BE-4 engines in 2021/22.

    They can't get new rockets or capsules developed. The idea they're going to develop, build and launch a new space station is laughable.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "And the only launch pad for it is Plesetsk, which is high-latitude. Until they build a pad for it at Baikonur or Vostochniy, it's basically useless for most commercial launches."

      TFA mentions monitoring Arctic waters. High latitude is no problem for polar orbits.

      1. rg287 Silver badge

        High latitude is no problem for polar orbits.

        It's not, but it means your next generation rocket can launch commercial payloads to polar orbits and only polar orbits. Plesetsk is 62oN for heaven's sake. Fine as a secondary site, but you need somewhere further south as well.

        That is not the way to build a meaningful revenue stream - there's a reason they don't launch all their Soyuz rockets from Plesetsk - because there's a military, government and commercial requirement to reach flatter orbits!

        Angara as a commercial proposition is dead without a lower-latitude launch site. In principle, that shouldn't be too hard to arrange. But Vostochny has been beset by delays and setbacks, mostly thanks to inept management and Rogozin firing half the senior engineers at Roscosmos whilst buying himself a very nice dacha. They're not going to get a southern Angara complex up and running any time soon.

        This station is one of the few things they could do from Plesetsk, if they launch to Molniya orbits, which may be the intent for this "lab", if it's supposed to have a long dwell time over the arctic.

        The lab is intended to get a good view of potential Arctic shipping routes for the Kremlin.

        It remains to be seen whether they can afford to actually design and build the thing though.

        It does very much point to Roscosmos being increasingly able to serve only Russia's own private projects, being either too expensive or not having the capability to serve other launch profiles - a lot like Atlas/Delta. Everyone launched commercial payloads on Ariane, Proton or Soyuz until SpaceX came along. The US had priced themselves out of the commercial sector.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          There may also be the possibility of it becoming another ISS, only this time without the US. So maybe a joint Russia/China project, or adding India and other nations. Obviously that would increase both the budget, and options for launch sites.

          1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

            Other nations ...

            The UK could chip in by buying another batch of Soyuz launches,

            (The new Russian space station will launch in 2025 - just like Nauka will launch in 2007.)

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            "So maybe a joint Russia/China project, or adding India and other nations."

            Doubtful. The Chinese rarely co-operate on stuff like that and are probably the only nation on Earth who can comfortably afford to go it alone at the moment.

            Then there's the cheapness of SpaceX launches which means the US, with the will, could probably afford it too, although would almost certainly go with "partners" if and when it comes to an ISS replacement.

        2. Mike Richards Silver badge

          Angara

          Has now flown twice in the A5 configurations - both test missions. The A1 has flown once on a test mission and might launch again later this year.

          But as you say, it is a dead duck for the commercial market - even if Western companies were still willing to trust Russia, it's too bloody expensive. Two government missions are pencilled in for this year, but I wouldn't hold your breath to see them fly any time soon.

          Shame, because it certainly looks awesome in that super-chunky Energia way.

          Presumably the myriad problems with Angara is why Roskosmos is talking about the reusable methalox Amur rocket. But like methane, that seems to be vapour.

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "The lab is intended to get a good view of potential Arctic shipping routes for the Kremlin."

          And that doesn't a space station, permanently crewed or not. There are many options of cheap satellites which can do that job for a fraction of the cost of an orbiting lab.

    2. S4qFBxkFFg

      "Angara has flown. Once. In 2014."

      It's flown more than that: twice in 2014 (if you count the single core suborbital flight earlier in the year) and once in December last year.

      Payloads appear comparable to Proton, even launching from Plesetsk.

      You're right to question its viability, I have no idea how they're going to price it, but it will get some government work; there are probably military payloads that can't fit on Soyuz that will launch whether paid for or not.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        You're right to question its viability, I have no idea how they're going to price it, but it will get some government work; there are probably military payloads that can't fit on Soyuz that will launch whether paid for or not.

        That seems to be the problem with spaceflight. It's an expensive hobby, so unless you have both the world's richest men willing to bankroll it, it's really expensive. Which is also wasteful in an alpha-CEO way by competing rather than collaborating. And then there's all the subsidisation and MIC wanting it's own pork.

        And then there's politics, like the US buying RD-180s until that became politically unacceptable, leaving the US sort of without a decent motor. And Russia may still have some RD-170's kicking about, or designs for bigger/louder/faster versions. That could come in handy, if you want to build a space station or lunar base.. Which is then back to the '60s, and who can put boots on the Moon first again. But of all the 'super heavy' spaceships still around, Energia's the only one that's really flown, and the US and Chinese versions are still pretty much vaporware.

        I'm also really curious what the economics of super-heavy spaceflight are, ie what the market is for >100t payloads to LEO, especially given the costs.. And I really don't believe Musk's claims wrt launch costs. If you're launching at below costs, it's one way to win market share, but only sustainable while you can afford to keep doing that.

  9. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Joke

    Britain

    Communications/GNSS Satellite system - check.

    ISS Module - no

    Britain's own ISS module? May be Roscosmos would accept £500 million?

  10. Pseu Donyme
    Unhappy

    For a while it looked like Russia might become if not another western liberal democracy or at least something close enough to be worked with on the same basis as other 'normal', more or less allied or at least not adversarial countries. Instead there has been a gradual move back towards the cold-war of old; instead of 'working with' (as in mutually beneficial trade and other co-operation) 'working against' such as the western countries (in Europe, in particular) having to beef up their military which adds to the waste* from loss of co-operation and makes the world a crappier place in general.

    * the best outcome with military spending is that was not needed in the end so was waste (in a sense; it probably helped prevent the much worse outcome of outright war though)

  11. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "We mustn't let that happen"

    Therefor, we are going to abandon our participation and let it die while we pretend to build our own.

    Yeah, that sounds perfectly reasonable. You just need to start by building a launcher, because all your leftover ICBM launchers are going to run out some day.

    Do that and you'll start having some credibility.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vanity projects..

    It's an expensive experiment with very small returns.

    This is if course why it can't be operated commercially, it just doesn't produce anything.

    1. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: Vanity projects..

      Not commercially viable? The same could be said of the ISS dontcha think? BTW, a significant part of the ISS is owned and operated by Russia. How much? It's surprisingly hard to find a number. The best I could find is Wikipedia $12B from Russia from a total cost that might (or might not) be around $150B. (2015 numbers?) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Space_Station#Cost

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Vanity projects..

        I meant the ISS. The Russian proposal is also of course.

        I'm not sure how the huge cost of it explains that it's commercially viable, the opposite really.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Vanity projects..

      >It's an expensive experiment with very small returns.

      I thought it was a way of funding Boeing during the arms cuts at the end of the cold war and a way of keeping Soviet rocket scientists employed so they didn't all move to the middle east and begin design rockets there.

  13. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Hmmmm

    Based on recent announcements from Russia, this is going to be a space station, a space plane, a new heavy lift rocket, a replacement to Soyuz, a Moon mission with the Chinese, unmanned probes to the Moon and Venus - (not to mention a ludicrously expensive military modernisation) - all on a GDP smaller than Australia's?

    Has anyone worked out how Russia has still not collapsed? A tiny uncompetitive economy supporting superpower ambitions and a kleptocracy that makes the end of the Roman Empire look like an amateur dramatics production.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Hmmmm ..... It is somewhat mysterious indeed whenever help surely be so close to hand

      Has anyone worked out how Russia has still not collapsed? A tiny uncompetitive economy supporting superpower ambitions and a kleptocracy that makes the end of the Roman Empire look like an amateur dramatics production. ...... Mike Richards

      Quite simply, what else could it be, Mike, other than their having ready access to a much greater advanced intelligence and an innate ability to exercise and take full advantage of it? For nothing else is needed.

      One does have to wonder though, why the West does not avail themselves also of the facility and its utilities with so many remarkable capabilities?

      Quite simply, what else could it be, Mike, other than the fact that they are nowhere near as smart and/or suffer from learning difficulties requiring special needs and feeds?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Hmmmm ..... It is somewhat mysterious indeed whenever help surely be so close to hand

        >Has anyone worked out how Russia has still not collapsed?

        >A tiny uncompetitive economy supporting superpower ambitions and a kleptocracy that makes the end of the Roman Empire look like an amateur dramatics production.

        How very different, from the home life of our own dear Queen!

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Hmmmm

      "Has anyone worked out how Russia has still not collapsed?"

      I think if you were living there you'd be confused by that question. Life expectancy is shit. Living standards for the majority are harsh. The regime lingers on solely because so many crooks would be first up against the wall when the revolution comes that there are enough crooks to terrorise the rest. You could ask the same question of N Korea and get the same answer -- at almost any time in the last 60 years. The same probably applied to the last days/centuries of the Roman Empire. In that case, the missing ingredient was Something Better, which was eventually supplied by invaders.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: Hmmmm

        I heard a Russia 'watcher' on the BBC a few days ago saying that 'the West' really did not want Russia to descend into chaos, pointing out that the prospect of it becoming a failed state like the former Yugoslavia and suffering the terrible consequences of ethnic break-up and internal warfare, with nuclear arsenals would be quite terrifying.

        The transition from kleptocracy to 'open, healthy democracy' is not a course easily charted, let alone followed. And anyone who thinks they'd be left alone to just get on with it and sort it out themselves has not been watching Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Afghanistan, Georgia, Grozny etc. Currently 'the West' has a vested interest in a politically stable Russia. However much they might dislike Putin and his regime, the alternative of nuclear-armed anarchy is much more scary.

  14. Ribfeast

    Strap an engine to it, and turn the ISS into a space ship instead. Or even pop it in orbit around the moon or mars or something. Could even just fill it with supplies, or fuel, for easy access to them while building a moon base etc.

    I'm guessing radiation shielding and serviceability then start to become issues if it remains inhabited away from the earth's magnetic field.

  15. Waseef

    BBC reported that Russia plans its own space station in 2025. The report says that the deal between Russia's Roscosmos space agency and foreign partners expires in 2024, according to Roscosmos. The state of the ISS's technological systems, which have "reached the end of their operating life," and Russia's plans for its own orbital space station will then be used to make a decision on the station's future. Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, claimed that "the first core module of the new Russian orbital station is in the works," with the goal of making it ready for launch in 2025.

  16. Plonquer

    Need to put this in context. The current ISS is in a deteriorating orbit and will be unsafe in 2028. There is a very good chance the Russians will take the ISS modules they built - which are MUCH higher quality than those built by the USA - boost them into a more sustainable orbit and continue to develop them without the assistance of the USA. Meanwhile the USA have made no announcement about their ISS modules and are widely expected to let them burn up in the atmosphere as they have neither the technology nor the capital to do much else.

    Meanwhile Russia and China have signed an MOU to build a second Space Station in orbit around the moon.

    Meanwhile China is the only country to have landed on the moon in 40 years and will have a groundstation on Mars in May or June.

    All of this is a consequence of the US Congress banning China from the ISS. If, instead of warmongering, the USA had cooperated they'd be in good shape today. As it is they are falling into 3rd place behind Russia and China. And Elon Musk has rented an apartment in Beijing.

    1. Boothy Silver badge

      Quote: " ...current ISS is in a deteriorating orbit and will be unsafe in 2028"

      What are you talking about?

      The ISS orbit does deteriorate over time, but that's always been factored in, hence why it has engines which can adjust the orbit as desired.

      The ISS is actually higher up these days that it was originally, ~400km up now, rather than ~350km that it used to fly at. It even used to adjust height down to make it easier for the shuttle to reach it, to dock with larger payloads. These days as there is no shuttle, it keeps the higher orbit at all times.

      As long as it has power and fuel, it will maintain orbit.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You know, it’s

    something that stuck on the wall. It worked. It has been totally worth it. Far from perfect. It will always be a cool film set or elite retreat.

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