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Russian Lunar Landing Programs and Plans

In 2016 Roscosmos reported that the landing of Russian astronauts on the moon was planned for 2030. The theses of the Federal Space Program (PCF) for 2016–2025 stated that “the program provides for the creation of the necessary groundwork for a full-scale exploration of the moon after 2025 and the landing of a man on the moon by 2030”.

Discussion of the integrated concept of the general program of the Moon research took place on November 28, 2018. Then the terms of the program of mastering a celestial body, which is calculated until 2040, were designated. It involves the creation of a super-heavy launch vehicle by 2028. Russia is also going to deploy a habitable base and build an observatory. This proposal was addressed to the Roskosmos state corporation and the Russian Academy of Sciences by the Lavochkin NPO.

Russia’s current plans include the first mission to explore the lunar south pole, where frozen water lies under the surface and where the country intends to build a base. Its Luna-27 probe is set to depart for the pole in 2020, with European equipment on board. That same year, Russia wants to start sending parts of the Russian segment of the ISS to the Moon; these will be used to build a lunar orbital base in the following decade, where regular flights aboard new spacecraft will be made.

Roscosmos has denied information from the Russian Academy of Sciences about moving the launch of the Luna-25 station to 2022-2024, RIA Novosti reports. It is expected that, as planned, the launch will take place in 2021. The launch of one of the Russian vehicles, the Luna-25, scheduled for 2019, had to be postponed for two years. It was due to make the first-ever landing at the lunar south pole (right where the frozen water is), but the RAS decided that preliminary tests were “not sufficiently positive.” As a result, Russia has already lost one partner, Sweden, which used a Chinese rocket to carry its device for studying the exosphere. There are concerns that more disruptions will follow.

“Developments are forever being aborted. We still haven’t built the new Federation spaceship [in development for 10 years]. It’s rumored that the project will be shut down and we’ll modernize the Soyuz instead. And we still can’t launch the Angara A-5 heavy-lift vehicle,” Sukhoi former constructor Vadim Lukashevich said in February 2019.

It is likely that the International Space Station (ISS) will cease to exist in its current form in 2024. About half of its operating costs are presently covered by the U.S. (approximately $2.5 billion annually), and the contract expires in 2024. The Trump administration does not want the U.S. to continue maintaining the station. NASA already had plans to relocate to a near-Moon orbit and to the Moon itself, while the ISS will be handed over to private companies for commercial use.

Roscosmos promised to unveil its lunar exploration plans by spring 2019. The last time Russian instruments landed on the Moon’s surface was way back in Soviet-tinged 1976. Russia wants to start sending parts of the Russian segment of the ISS to the Moon; these will be used to build a lunar orbital base in the following decade, where regular flights aboard new spacecraft will be made.

As the general director of Roskosmos Dmitry Rogozin reported, in 2021 a landing station Luna-25 will be sent to the Moon, in 2023 the Luna-26 orbiter will be sent, and a year later the landing station Luna-27 will be sent. Luna-25 will search for water ice at the south pole of the Earth satellite, and will also test soft landing technologies. The Luna-26 orbiter, in turn, must map and remotely study the surface of the Earth’s satellite, and the Luna-27 landing station will take soil samples at the south pole of the Moon to study. In 2027, the Luna-28 station is planned to be sent to the Moon to return cryogenic soil samples from the south pole of the Earth’s natural satellite to Earth, and Luna-29 with a moon rover in 2028.

As of February 2019 Russia planned in the years 2031-2035 to deliver to the Moon four automatic spacecraft.

  1. the Luna-30 landing station will deliver a reusable lunar ship to the lunar surface to support manned missions.
  2. the Luna-31 landing station will bring a heavy lunar rover weighing up to five tons and equipped with the necessary resources to develop lunar resources to the moon.
  3. the Luna-32 landing station will deliver heavy modules weighing up to six tons to the Earth’s satellite for the construction of the lunar test site
  4. the Luna-33 orbiter will provide communication and navigation

The first manned flight to the moon of Russian cosmonauts will take place in 2031, reports RIA Novosti, referring to the document of the TsNIImash, the leading scientific institute of the Roscosmos state corporation, which came to its disposal. After that, such flights are planned to be carried out annually. During the first expedition, the crew will be engaged in “carrying out work on the tasks of the RAS”, explained in the document.

A year later, a heavy controlled lunar rover is planned to be delivered to the Earth’s satellite, with which astronauts will be able to move along the surface. In the same year of 2032, it is planned to hold a second manned expedition, in the framework of which the Russian crew will be engaged in conducting tests of a manned lunar rover.

During the expedition of 2033, it is planned to conduct long-distance trips on a heavy lunar rover, as well as to conduct tests of certain robotic complexes, details of which have not yet been reported. In 2034 it is planned to begin, and in 2035 - to continue the construction of the Russian lunar base. The working title of the expeditions is M1, M2, M3, M4 and M5.

Before the start of the manned expedition, in 2028 and 2029 it is planned to launch two test launches of the new Yenisei super-heavy launch vehicle that will be used for flights to the Moon. Its design should be completed by November of this year. The most likely final appearance of the rocket implies the use of six side accelerators based on the RD-171MV engines, as well as the central unit with the RD-180 engine. During the first test launch in 2028, it is planned to conduct testing of the landing complex. In 2029, it is planned to fly around the moon with the help of the layout of the manned ship "Federation". Already in the framework of the actual manned expeditions to the Moon, it is planned to carry out double launches of a new super-heavy launch vehicle. So, one of the missiles will launch a manned spacecraft into orbit, the second will carry out a landing complex for landing and subsequent take-off from the lunar surface, as well as other scientific and technical equipment, to the Earth’s satellite.

In a conversation with TASS journalists 09 February 2019, adviser to the general director of Roscosmos on science, Alexander Blouchenko, said that the program to create the Yenisei rocket has not yet been approved by the Russian government. Accordingly, the Ministry of Finance did not allocate money for the project, so the question of a roadmap for the exploration of the moon is still open. “There are no approved missions or a specific date for the first manned flight,” explained Blouchenko.

The scientific adviser added that, according to a decree by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the first launch of the Yenisei launch vehicle would take place by 2028. However, "without an understanding of the scope and rate of funding for the program, it is impossible to develop a concept of flights and exploration of the moon." In the end, the Moon is supposed to launch not only manned expeditions. Before the possibility of carrying out such projects will require the development and launching of descent vehicles, the launch of satellite repeaters, moon rovers for the movement of Russian expedition crews, automatic reconnaissance vehicles. Nobody allocated money for all this. “We would like to ask to refrain from speculating on this issue. As soon as all the necessary decisions have been made, we will be happy to officially present our vision of the scenario for the exploration of the moon, ”summed up Bloshenko.

In November 2018, it became known that Roskosmos and the Russian Academy of Sciences will form the lunar program of Russia for three months and present it to the president and the government. The plans of the Moon exploration department were also announced. As explained by the Acting Director General of the Central Scientific Research Institute of Mechanical Engineering Nikolay Sevastyanov, until 2040, three phases of the implementation of the program for the exploration of the moon are planned. At the first, the base module of the near-moon station will be created, and the Earth satellite itself will be investigated using automatic stations. The second stage will take ten years, until 2035. During this period, the first astronauts should go to the moon. In addition, the first elements of a full-fledged base will be created there, which will be completed by 2040. At the third stage, a unified system of manned means of mastering the Moon will also be created.

The first landing of Russian astronauts on the moon is scheduled for the beginning of the 2030s. Already in the late 2020s, it is planned to start building a Russian lunar base. The dates are indicated in the “roadmap” of the Lunar Program of the Russian Federation, presented on Monday at the presentation of RSC Energia’s General Designer Evgeny Mikrin at a press conference 19 November 2018 dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the ISS. According to Interfax , in the framework of the lunar program of Russia in the late 2020s, it is planned to land the lunar module in an unmanned version. At the same time, the first elements of the lunar base can be placed on the moon. At the beginning of the 2030s, the first landing on the moon of Russian cosmonauts is scheduled. The duration of the Russian lunar mission will be 14 days. For its implementation, a near-moon station can be involved. The chairman of the Scientific and Technical Council of Roscosmos Yuri Koptev said 21 November 2018 that “One of the tasks of the discussions about which I spoke is to paint this entire holistic program so that it is clear why we are doing all this with our rather serious economic situation”. The head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin said 24 November 2018 that now it is impossible for any state to implement the lunar program alone. He said he hoped for cooperation with the Americans in the study of the moon.

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