It is since the 1966 that the Soyuz sail the skies by carrying the astronauts from all over the world. A rip old age for a space capsule. Sure, during the years it had continous upgrades, but maybe it’s time to retire. It is for this reason that it’s arriving Orel, the russian capsule that will replace the Soyuz.
Orel, a 20 years long project
It’s been more than 20 years, to be honest, that the Russia is looking for a surrogate of the dear old Soyuz, that lately, like we saw, aren’t doing very well. However not even one project was never able to go over the scale model.
Let’s start from the first 2000s, when the NASA chosen the Capsule Orion to come back on the Moon with the project Constellation. This pushed the Russia to look for alternative solutions too. It started with the study of a vehicle able to bring the cosmonauts outside the low terrestrial orbit.
The first model presented was Kliper, realized by the company RKK Energia. It was a small spaceplane, re-usable, with a capacity of 6 astronauts and 500 kg of usable cargo. But the project was maybe too expensive and the Russia asked for the Europe support.
The project Kliper was so abandoned, to left the place to a new capsule, called CSTS (Crew Space Transportation System) or ACTS (Advanced Crew Transportation System).
But the Europe left the project in the 2008, by leaving alone the Russia to go on by itself. According to some rumors the reasons of the break down are about the fact that the Russia didn’t want to change its old design and that it decided to launch the spaceships not anymore from the famous site in Kazakistan, but from Vostochny, to the extreme east of the country.
The capsule PPTS, PTK NP or Federatsiya
Remained alone the Russia called the project with the name of PPTS, Perspektivnaya Pilotiruemaya Transportnaya Sistema (Advanced Ssytem of Transport with Crew).
The project was very ambitious. The new capsule was re-usable up to 10 times, suitable both for the orbital flight and for the moon one. Even the rocket chosen to launch the capsule was very advanced. It was the Rus-M, a very new rocket realized by the TsSKB Progress by Samara and of the KB Mashinostroenia.
But the project of the Rus-M was definitivelly closed in the 2011. But even the PPTS, meanwhile, had substantial changes. It wasn’t called anymore PPTS, but PTK NP (New Piloted Ship for Crew). This new spaceship was able to carry from 4 to 6 cosmonauts, to fly for 14 days, to remain attached to the ISS for 365 days and to orbit around the Moon for further 200 days.
In the 2016 in Russia was indeed a contest to give a new name to the PTK NP capsule. The winning name was Federatsiya (Federation).
But the things, even this time, didn’t went as wished. The costs were too expensive and to pay the price was the landing system. Furthermore even the times were substantially increased.
The capsule OREL
The capsule PPTS, PTK NP or Federatsiya changes its name for the fourth time in the september of the 2019, when it became OREL, in russian eagle.
This time, though, it seems to be the right one!
The economic problems were maybe solved and the landing system come back to be part of the project of the new russian capsule. Now OREL has the landing legs, even if it will still use the parachute. It will be though possible to drive the spaceship in the very last phases of the landing, by making it re-usable.
The capsule OREL already has an intense timeline. For the end of the 2020 there will be the first landing tests for the landing module. While the first flight tests without crew there will be in the 2023. For the first flight with human crew we should wait until the 2025. While for the first moon travel of the capsule OREL the Russia promises that it will be in the 2029.
This post is also available in: Italiano