OKA-T Free Flyer Spacecraft
During the early years of the ISS development there was an intense rivalry from the US aerospace industry and the rebuilding Russian space industry over the development of a “Free Flyer” spacecraft for material experimentation, bioastronautics experimentation in pharmaceutical and Astronomical observations similar to what NASA’s, Hubble does. It was to be man tended for recovery and replacement of works in progress and flown separate from ISS but was intended to periodically dock with ISS for servicing. The eventual joint effort never went anywhere beyond serious considerations of the hardware for the effort with not enough international support. Economic competition proved to be very rampant and self destructive for the projects prospects.
However Russia both through it Bio-satellites (recoverable Bion Satellites), materials processing satellites (recoverable Foton satellites) and Mir programs experiments brought back by Soyuz continued. Russia has never given up on the concept and continues to pursue it under the new expand space technology program development under the Russian State approved FSP 2006-2015 with the better potential economics to support its final accomplishment by going it alone if required. It is the new OKA-T spacecraft being developed by the leadership of the Central Specialized Design Bureau Progress (TsSKB-Progress) in Samara , Russia and the sub-contracted S. P. Korolev, Rocket Space Corporation Energiya, Korolev, Moscow region. Two of the spacecraft will be launched by two Soyuz-2 boosters sometime after 2012 or by 2015 or later. The OKA-T spacecraft will weigh in at 7.8 metric tons with a five year life expectancy. It will as planned dock with ISS for servicing every 3-4 months. The spacecraft is also planned to be a part of the new post ISS space station program of Russia called OPSEK.
Whether this new materials experimentation spacecraft associated with the ISS come to fruition depends in large part on the economic reality of the Russian economy to support its fulfillment in the face of the world economic crisis. At present its fate is dependent on the final Roskosmos five year plan 2011-2015 because funding has been curtailed delaying the project once again.
Military National Security Applications of Free Flyer Spacecraft
“Free Flyers” spacecraft could also serve as un-crewed, crew tended real time imaging reconnaissance platforms serviced at the Russian OPSEK station.Free Flyer Crew Tended Orbital Laboratory for ISS & Russia’s Future Space Station
The Russian, Federal Space Agency is planning to launch an 8 metric ton free flyer autonomous space orbital laboratory in 2015. It is being designed for an operational life span of not less than five years. This will be for science & technology experimentation support in the fields of material science, for producing alloys, composites and biological substances, microelectronics,
nano-electronics technologies in the microgravity environment of space.
It will occasionally dock with ISS for crew tending servicing operations including data transfers and specimen return operations as well as replacing or maintaining the sciences and technological equipment along with bring on further supplies and removing unneeded trash and finished equipment to make room for new equipment for on going operations. No doubt this autonomous space orbital laboratory will remain relatively close along side ISS’s orbit without interfering with its operations.
Several Russian companies are said to be working as a team to develop and fly this external ISS module for the Russian, Federal Space Agency. It is being headed by (TsNIM) the Russian Central Research and Development Institute of Machine Building under the Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos policy of “ Recovery and Restructuring” of the Aerospace Industrial base of Russia under the leadership of administrator Analoly Perminov and the Russian government administration leadership.
One is reminded of the former Soviet Union and it “Perestroika” policy of reorganizing the aerospace, military industrial complex base burden leading to the final collapse of the former U. S. S. R. because of its science and technology policy when seeing the terms of “Recovery and Restructuring”. So far it has only meant industrial consolidation and does not carry the same meaning or totally resemble the Soviet policy. It is reorganizing the aerospace, and military industrial base into a more manageable fundable infrastructure completing the shrinking of the vast industrial base of the former U. S. S. R..
In the past free flyer space laboratories for ISS were considered but controlled by the U.S. Aerospace industry for access so it ultimately did not happen but in today’s larger global economy it would appear that there has been a work around.
It is yet another attempt at space industrialization all be it on a smaller practical scale for continued experimentation since many of the cooperative satellite programs of the past are no longer being supported. This is apparently designed with the intent of providing a longer term facility on a much cheaper operational cost scale to allow for further cooperative developments for experimentation. The cost saving comes from the fact that experiments can be brought up and transferred to this module as a part of much larger payloads without the cost of a separate spacecraft and launch vehicle, launch operations that are economically impractical in today’s environment for most involved in such research efforts. This logistics can on a practical basis be performed by the Soyuz or Progress spacecraft or their follow-on spacecraft to carry individual experimental packages with in the larger payload operations at the much cheaper operational practical prices.
Russia has been a leading country in the material sciences through space application and has run multiple biological life sciences satellites and material experimental satellites international cooperative missions. The background for this autonomous laboratory module has been through many renditions but has until recently not been actually committed to development. Whether this is being developed with Federal Space Agency seed money or is dependent on international cooperation in part remains unclear. This whole effort is in part dependent on the hoped for extended five year life of the ISS program by all the international partners which the U.S. has yet to accede to. Russia is already planning a follow on space station once ISS leaves the scene with much directed towards commercial international cooperation development.
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