Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian state space corporation Roscosmos, has said that Russia is designing a new “orbital” station where crews will build deep space probes to explore the Solar System.
One concept for Russia’s orbital station seems to centre on a crewed space station in low-Earth orbit that will assemble deep space spacecraft and then send them to the Moon, Mars, and the asteroid belt to conduct exploration and science missions.
“We plan to assemble space constructions for flights to Mars, to the Moon, to the asteroids, at the orbit, because lifting the entire construction from Earth is too difficult, too heavy – it would require a very powerful missile,” said Rogozin, quoted by the TASS news agency on 27 May 2020.
Another concept for the Russian orbital station proposed by Dmitry Rogozin appears to have it undertake the role of an orbital headquarters that would monitor and control all Russian satellites in Earth orbit.
“This will be a platform for useful load, i.e. the station itself will provide observation and other important functions for maintenance of the entire orbital group. It will become some kind of a headquarters for the entire Russian orbital group,” added Rogozin.
The proposed Russian orbital station touted by Rogozin could be a space station that will maintain Russia’s presence in Earth orbit once the International Space Station (ISS) ceases operations. At present, the ISS will stop operating in 2030 unless all partner nations agree to an extension.
While such an extension is possible, major ISS partners such as the United States will be under considerable budgetary pressure given the costs, for example, of NASA’s Artemis lunar programme. Further, there is a likely political fight for discretionary spending looming in all ISS partner nations given the economic damage that is being caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
In Russia itself, the budgetary situation is likely to be particularly acute as the Kremlin will have to contend with not only the economic disruption caused by the pandemic, but also the collapse of oil prices that are unlikely to recover to pre-Coronavirus levels anytime soon.
Apart from Rogozin’s comments on the possible roles of the Russian orbital station, Roscosmos has not released any other technical or budgetary information on the proposed programme.