Russian Moon Exploitation – Soyuz involved

by Chris Bergin

RSC Energia Chief Executive Nikolai Sevastyanov has given indications that his company will be able to provide moon exploitation options to the Russians, even before the their Kliper shuttle starts service in 2015.

A new, modified version of the Soyuz TMA vehicle, either manned or remotely controlled via a new digital system, could be used to extract the lunar reserves of He3 (Helium-3), according to Russian media agency RIA Novosti.

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While He3 holds great value to the new range of fusion nuclear power stations, it is not known why Sevastyanov would see value in an earlier target of exploitation from the lunar surface, when the new power stations are believed to be decades away from making He3 commercially viable.

RIA Novosti didn’t quote Sevastyanov’s claim for the reason they are looking towards a new Soyuz system for such a purpose, noting instead: ‘Before the new Klipper space shuttle is there to take over, we will have to master new digital control systems that we are now installing on Soyuz (craft) instead of analogue parts.’

The flamboyant – yet influential – Energia CEO is under no illusions about the 2012-2014 timeline it would take for his company to support Russia’s first manned mission to the Moon, including the mining of isotope helium-3 by 2020. Now it would seem his targets are not restricted to the introduction of the Kliper.

This was hinted at before, during a wide-ranging interview with Vedomosti magazine. ‘We could make a landing as early as 2012-2014 using the Soyuz-type technology,’ he said.

‘With a budget within $2 billion, we could land on the Moon in three missions.

‘The first would be just a lunar fly-around mission, the second would involve a circumlunar orbit injection with automatic landing of the lunar module, and the third would be the manned landing on the Moon.

‘As for the industrial transportation system to support regular missions to the Moon and lunar mining operations, we could develop it by as early as 2020.’

During that interview, Sevastyanov showed signs of his passion for being involved in a mission that he believes is critical for our planet.

‘We must do this within the lifetime of our generation, first of all because of the limited nature of energy resources,’ he added. ‘One way or the other, but we will have to go beyond our planet in the search of new environmentally friendly power sources.

‘A good candidate is isotope helium-3 to be used for nuclear power. It is available on the Moon.

‘The earth’s reserves of helium-3 are so negligible that their industrial use is absolutely out of the question. According to some estimates, our natural satellite contains no less than 1 million tons of helium-3, which can fully meet the entire Earth’s power demand for a period of more than 1000 years.’


Other news:

The Delta 2 rocket with carrying CloudSat and CALIPSO into the A-Train orbit, from US Air Force Base Vandenberg in California, was once again delayed, this time due to a suspect temperature sensor on the Delta 2’s second stage. However, this didn’t turn out to be a major problem, and another launch attempt will be made tomorrow at 11:02am UK time.

Chinese media outlet Xinhua has reported that China has successfully launched a remote sensing satellite Thursday morning. The Remote Sensing Satellite No. 1 was launched on a Long March 4-B carrier rocket from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in North China’s Shanxi Province at 6:48 am local time on Thursday.

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