Russia’s Modular Space Station to have a Simple Core for 50-Year Mission

Russian Orbital Space Station Promises Unprecedented Views and Scientific Discoveries.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

The central module, also known as the “core” of the Russian Orbital Space Station (ROSS), will be simplified to the greatest extent. As per the Rocket and Space Corporation (RSC) “Energia”, it will enable changing the linked segments without updating the “core.” The new station will have a lifespan of fifty years. During this period, three generations of station modules may be replaced.

 Russia’s Chief Designer for Manned Systems and Complexes, Vladimir Solovyov, Deputy General Director of “Energia, told Ria Novosti this week that when creating the nodal module – the ‘core’ of the ROS – appropriate schematic and structural solutions were used to extend the authorised service life, such as simplicity of design, minimisation of the number of service systems, and assuring maximum repairability.

In response to the question of how frequently the station’s “core” will need to be replaced, he stressed that it is premature to speculate because the decision is dependent on the complicated circumstances that arise during the process of the station’s intended use.

The ROSS is planned to have a foundation module – the “core” – to which all other modules will dock, allowing for their replacement. According to the developers’ plans, the station will enable testing of critical technologies required for missions to other planets, notably Mars.

Yuri Borisov, the Director-General of “Roscosmos,” put the cost at 609 billion rubles (USD 8.4 billion), of which 150 billion (USD 2.1 billion) will be required in 2024-2026. The station’s first module is scheduled to launch in 2027, with the others following within the next five years.

Russian ROSS

As animosity increased between International Space Station members in 2014, the first reports of Russia constructing a space station began to surface in the news. The official tasked with designing Russia’s manned programmes, Yevgeny Mikrin, discussed the possibility of a Russian station near the moon at a meeting held in 2018 to commemorate the ISS’s two-decade anniversary. On April 12, 2021, Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, announced that the country had decided to leave the ISS and build a new space station. It was anticipated that the basic design of the station would be finalised by the summer of 2023, with the construction of the ROS station commencing in 2024.

As previously stated, the Russian orbital service station comprises several modules. The Scientific-Energetic Module (NEM) is the first and main module. It was modified for ROSS and launched into orbit in 2028 after being originally meant to dock with the ISS. Launching NEMs will signify the initiation of the ROSS launch procedure. Furthermore, the gateway, node, and foundational modules will all be in orbit. These modules are intended to power the station, sustain cosmonauts, and facilitate specific experiments. When NEM reaches orbit, the first crew arrives, turns on the station, and commences the operations. In the second phase, the target and production modules will be introduced. More complex biotechnology and space experiments will be carried out with data analysis. 

The replacement of modules will occur when their defined service life (which must not be less than 15 years) has elapsed, when the module has become morally obsolete and more modern technical equipment is required, or when an emergency occurs that renders the module incapable of performing its intended function as a component of the station. 

At the outset, there were no official declarations regarding intentions regarding foreign collaboration in the station’s construction or the engagement of foreign experts to assist in its operations. However, on June 30, 2023, it was disclosed that Russia had granted Algeria and Egypt permission to join the ROS by constructing their own national modules.

With a 96.8º inclination and a distance of 372 kilometres from Earth, ROS will be in a sun-synchronous orbit that permits it to pass over the Arctic. ROSS will have a view over Russia’s entire territory due to this inclination, which is impossible with the ISS, which orbits at 51.6 degrees. This also allows the station to conduct similar experiments on the ISS. The amount of radiation will vary in this instance due to the station’s varying tilt. 

Furthermore, in a high-latitude orbit, the station will be more vulnerable to the effects of cosmic radiation, which must also be studied for deep-space travel. According to Anatoly Petrukovich, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Space Research (IKI), the conditions in ROS orbit will be as similar to interplanetary conditions on a low Earth orbit as possible.

Phantoms, which are space particles and radiation-equipped representations of the human body, can quantify the amount of radiation. They can be found in crew cabins and individual task modules. Following the configuration of the phantoms, radiation dose monitors will be used to collect data and read radiation dose monitor readings on various organs. The NEM laboratory will be outfitted for this purpose.

More studies will be carried out, and extra detectors will be incorporated into the phantom equipment. Within the context of the actual world, the findings of this research will contribute to the crew’s safety. During this experiment, the station will be visited rather than inhabited to cut costs and determine the maximum radiation dose cosmonauts can receive. This information has the potential to be taken into consideration for interplanetary trips.

Commercial Module

The station’s modular architecture makes it possible to create nearly limitless modules that may be customised to meet the needs of diverse users and mission objectives. This entails directly integrating with the station’s main structure and developing an independent, serviceable flying module.

The commercial module might provide workplaces with crew support amenities for prolonged space missions, crew accommodations in cabins, panoramic windows providing a wide view, a crew recreation area, and a zone for preparing and consuming food. More storage capacity for beneficial goods may also be added to the module.

The onboard systems that carry out the module’s service functions are intended to be housed in the service compartment. The freely floating module offers more autonomy and the opportunity to experience circumstances similar to deep space—such as vacuum, low gravity, and the absence of extra noise and vibrations.

Military Application

Notwithstanding the station’s initial peaceful goals, Dmitry Rogozin, the director general of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, warned in 2022 that, given the anti-Russian sanctions, ROSS might be used for military purposes. He said it is difficult to define, but the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and the 1972 Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects strongly restrict the militarisation of space. He added that failure to uphold international commitments may trigger a dangerous and unpredictable process known as a space arms race.

ROSS Launchpad

ROSS is expected to be launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome. It is also possible that it may be launched on the Soyuz 7 (or Amur) launch vehicle, which will run on a methane-oxygen mixture, which is also being built at Vostochny. Methane was chosen since it is affordable and has widespread use and processing. Methane is an environmentally benign fuel with little waste, making it ideal for reusable launches. It is important to emphasise that Amur is a reusable launch rocket. 

The Soyuz-2.1b rocket was supposed to send ROSS modules into space, and Amur is supposed to replace Soyuz-2 class rockets. The Amur Gas Processing Plant is also being built 50 km from Vostochny.

NASA’s Plan

In the years ahead, NASA also intends to launch the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G), an orbiting lunar station that will transport men to and from Mars. Initially, LOP-G would be used for lunar and deep space research. The project also involves Japan, the EU, and Canada. In 2021, Roscosmos declined to collaborate due to the unfulfilled demand for equal involvement with the United States.


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