Russian Spacecraft Producer: No More Money for Soyuz

Article written: 25 Oct , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

[/caption]The Russian spacecraft producer Energiya has warned that it might only have enough money to launch the next two Soyuz flights unless funds are raised urgently.

This situation poses a difficult problem for future access to the International Space Station. The spacecraft producer requires funding in advance to pay for the construction of future Soyuz vehicles, so unless a solution is found, the launch of Expedition 19 that is expected to be carried by the Soyuz TMA-15 (around May 2009) could be the last…

Just when we thought getting access to the International Space Station (ISS) was hard enough, Energiya’s President Vitaly Lopota has announced his company has run out of money.

We have vessels and funding for them for the next two trips, but I do not know what will happen with expeditions after that,” Lopota said on Friday. “We have no funds to produce new Soyuz craft. Unless we are granted loans or advance payment in the next two or three weeks, we cannot be responsible for future Soyuz production.”

According to other sources, the announcement came as Energiya failed to receive critical government-backed loans from commercial banks.

The Soyuz TMA-12 landed safely on Friday with cosmonauts Sergei Volkov, Oleg Kononenko and US space tourist Richard Garriott after being docked on the ISS for six months. Garriott did not stay for this period however, he was launched on October 12th with the crew of Expedition 18 (onboard Soyuz TMA-13 that will return in April next year). Friday was the first nominal landing of a Soyuz vehicle since TMA-9; both TMA-10 (Oct. 21st, 2007) and TMA-11 (April 19th, 2008) suffered separation anomalies, forcing “ballistic re-entries.” It must have been a relief for Volkov, Kononenko and Garriott to touch down on target, ending the spate of bad luck for Soyuz.

Soyuz is the primary method to get to and from the ISS (as you can probably guess from the above paragraph), and when the shuttle is retired in 2010, it will be the only method for the US to access the orbital outpost. However, this is a solution to the “5-year gap” between shuttle retirement and Constellation launch (scheduled for 2015) that many find difficult to come to terms with, especially with the increasing political discord between the US and Russia.

Even after US Congress signed a Iran-North Korea-Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA) waiver earlier this month, permitting NASA to buy Soyuz flights after 2011, it looks like the problems haven’t ended for US manned access to space. The waiver will be useless if there’s no Soyuz vehicles being built!

Whether the warning from Energiya’s president should be taken seriously or not, once again US space flight is being restricted by internal problems in other countries. More initiatives like NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Program need to be considered to further stimulate private sector space flight. Wouldn’t it make more sense to purchase US rocket launches with SpaceX after 2010 rather than buying Soyuz flights? Fortunately the private sector is catching onto this idea, so hopefully we’ll have dependable means to transport cargo to the ISS — possibly even crew — after 2010…

News source: Space Daily, MSNBC


19 Responses

  1. Eduardo says

    Es penoso ver como un grupo de avariciosos, guerreristas y fanáticos han llevado a que un país, otrora líder en exploración espacial, llegue a esta lamentable situación de incertidumbre. Ojalá el pueblo de los Estados Unidos entienda que sólo mediante la transformación radical de su sistema político puede avanzar hacia una era de paz, desarrollo sustentable, armónico y de mayor felicidad para sí mismos y los demás pueblos del planeta.

  2. Robert says

    The US government has squandered our country’s future. It has been a government of treason since I can remember. National security is a joke. We depend on the Russians and the Chinese now to transport us and loan us money for our high ground. Fortunately both will betray us before long and maybe then we will put our priorities in order.

  3. Maxwell says

    What happened to the 200 billion for new space projects that Putin promised?

    I’ve got no problem buying tickets from multiple sources… But putting all our eggs on only one of their baskets (A Russian one at that) is just begging for trouble.

  4. marcellus says

    All that needs to be done is simply extend the shuttles retirement until the Ares rockets are ready to go.

    I would also recommend that funding be found somewhere to build more Soyuz spacecrafts. They have an admirable track record of longevity and dependability.

  5. Jorge says

    The problem is not the 200 billion for new space projects that Putin promised. The problem is the constant need for financing that current space projects have. Financing which can only come from the banking system, through loans, until the investment made with that financing gets paid by the customers. When the banking system stops lending money, big and expensive programs such as this one will suffer severely, unless there’s some sort of buffer in place. Apparently there’s no such buffer in Russia as yet. And that means trouble.

    Needless to say, Russia was caught by a stray bullet fired in Wall Street, New York, NY, USA. Just like the rest of the world.

  6. Will says

    Crap… All that investment to build orbital infrastructure with no method of access for 5 years.

    Seems like it is up to the private industry now.

    Unless someone decides to dump lots of cash into Energiya. Although the banks won’t make any loans anytime soon; they won’t lend me money to build a tiny round house.

  7. Dan Tillmanns says

    Interesting RR picture. The Russian track gauge is 5 feet. The same as that in the Confederacy before all southern railroads were retracked after the Civil War.
    Remember Whistler’s Mother? That was painted in St Petersburg. Why there? Whistler’s Father was building the Tsar’s first railroad using the track gauge used in the south.
    These things get stuck in time. The best way out of the current problem is for the USA to pay that Russian company for a couple more Soyuz capsules.

  8. Dan Tillmanns says

    On dealing with Putin, the best bet is for VP elect Biden to go visit and calm ruffled feelings.

  9. Silver Thread says

    I agree with Eduardo’s Sentiments and I would add that Space Exploration can no longer be the province of individual Countries or Governments. Yes a reevaluation of National Priorities is in Order, but it must also happen on the behalf of the international community and in a time when it seems everything is at a crisis level finding the considerable funding necessary to support such a venture is unlikely.

    When you consider the monumental amount of effort that must go into construction of these large scale projects, it simply isn’t realistic to Go it Alone. Either we hang together or we hang separately.

  10. Dominion says

    Okay…this may come across as a dumb question. Perhaps I missed something somewhere. Why does the space shuttle have to be retired? Yes, I know they are a little old but the design is rather a good one, isn’t it? Couldn’t we have Rockwell International build a new one? If anyone knows why the shuttle should be retired I would really like to know the reason.

  11. Maxwell says

    In the wake of the Columbia disaster it became clear something had to be done besides renewing the promise to fix the shuttle.
    …but space folks love the shuttles.

    So what you have is a very Bush like plan.
    Promise the moon (literally) and kill the shuttle while we’re all starry eyed about moon and mars bases.

    If it works He goes down as the Republicans Kennedy, and if it don’t… By the time this thing comes to fruition Bush will be long gone.

  12. pneuman says

    Even if NASA is able to extend the Shuttle, the ISS really needs Soyuz — it’s the only spacecraft we have that can stay docked to the ISS for months at a time as a lifeboat. Even if Dragon gets off the ground, I’m not sure it’s designed with that role in mind either.

    As some others have suggested, it doesn’t sound like an issue with money as such, but an issue with credit to cover the production costs until the eventual payments come through. Here’s hoping they can sort something out.

  13. Maxwell says

    The ISS needs three things:
    A people mover, a cargo ship, and a life boat.

    Soyuz is convenient and its good to have Russian involvement in an international project like this (just as it would be good to have Chinese and EU more involved). But there is no reason we can’t fast track our own capsule design to take over these jobs.

    I think if your going to throw money at a problem, solve it with your own people and spend the money here.
    Extending credit to Energia gets us out of a jam for now… but thats only a temporary solution.

  14. Steve says

    So NASA = broke, Soyuz = broke, global economy = crumbling, in turn funding for new and existing missions = nxt to nothing. Anyone else see a problem here when both the world leading space fairing nations can’t afford to launch anything. Here’s hoping that both nations work something out. Perhaps its time to combine forces between the EU, NASA, Soyuz and the Chinese / Indian space program to make it a completely global program

  15. pantzov says

    let’s try to keep the russia-bashing down to a minimum. they have not “betrayed” us, lol. they need money to build the soyuz, since they are themselves financially suffering like everyone else at the moment and have not reached a deal/agreement regarding financing.

    russian and NASA scientists have worked together for years and have developed good working relationships.

    NASA, by it’s nature, is tied to the military. becuase of this it is extra sensitive to political disagreements between goverments and militaries. let’s try to keep the rhetoric down on our side and hopefully they will too. otherwise we risk handicapping future cooperative research potential.

  16. Jorge says

    just as it would be good to have Chinese and EU more involved

    The EU, or, rather, ESA (not exactly the same thing; not all EU members are ESA members and vice-versa) is fully commited with the ISS. There are European modules up there, there have been regularly European astronauts making visits, etc. The problem, in the current situation, is that ESA does not have its own crewed vehicle, having followed a strategy of relying on Russian and American ships, which seemed to cover the needs pretty well, while focusing on other stuff. At the light of what has happened recently, this might have been the wrong choice, but the fact is that not many of the bad news we’ve seen recently were clearly in the making a few years ago.

    Still, the current dire straits might make ESA jump to the next level, probably adapting the automatic transfer vehicle design to crewed flights, the (lemme check) STCS (hate-hate-hate these abbreviations! Hate ’em!). That, however, would always be several years in the future.

  17. Bravehart says

    Bring everyone home, it will be a long 10 years before there will be funding available!
    The last 2 trips should be used to shut the ISS down! We all have to come to term, that we have been suckert into believing that we could pay for all this. But now the bill must be paid! Anyone have an ideal who is going to
    pay? No it will not be the government, it is YOU! This recession will be worst than the 1920’s you will find that out soon!

  18. btw says

    Russia’s steam engines must be as reliable as the Soyuz. Perhaps that’s a very specific engine on a very specific length of track.

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