Soyuz Idea

Someone in comments mentioned an interesting idea for the 2-man architecture I’ve been discussing, and I wanted to see if I could solicit some further commentary.

Basically, the current iteration of the 2-man architecture I’ve been looking into has an up to 8400lb manned capsule, a 1600lb “light lander cabin”, a 2400lb drymass lander, and somewhere between 8000 and 9000lb of lander propellants (I don’t have my own spreadsheet up at the second). Someone suggested using a Soyuz capsule with the thicker reentry shield tested out during the Zond program for lunar returns. Apparently the reentry capsule part of the Soyuz is somewhere in the ~6500lb range fully loaded. But ~2000lb of that is supposedly listed as cargo (if Mark Wade has his numbers right), and about 560lb of that is astronauts, which probably shouldn’t be double counted.

Unfortunately, the Soyuz spacecraft is actually a three-piece design. There’s a propulsion/power module on the back, the capsule in the middle, and an “orbital module” on the front. The fully loaded Soyuz with all the goodies is about 15klb, which is too much. If you could drop the propulsion/power module, and not bring a bunch of cargo, you’d could probably fit the orbital module and the reentry capsule with a heavier Zond-style shield into the mass budget for the mission. And it’s a 3 person design instead of two-person one.

You might be able to get away without the propulsion module on the back. When the Soyuz is launched into orbit, it’ll be on top of the lander, which can provide RCS functionality and probably will have some onboard solar panels. When left in orbit, it’ll be attached to the Centaur with a lunar mission kit, which will also have solar power, and be able to provide some RCS functions. Maybe. Would something like this work? I’m not sure if you could add enough solar power capacity to the Centaur within the mass budget of the “lunar mission kit” to provide all the power the centaur needs. It might work, but I don’t know enough about the Soyuz personally.

If this does work, there are a couple of benefits:

  • If you can use a stock Soyuz orbital module and reentry capsule (with a Zond shield), you could potentially eliminate one of the most expensive pieces of hardware in the project.
  • The architecture becomes a 3-man architecture, since the Soyuz is designed for 14 days of occupation.
  • It might just be possible to size things such that the lander itself could take all three down to the surface, which would make it more capable than Apollo, but far more affordable.

There are also some drawbacks:

  • NASA would never do a return to the moon using Russian hardware for such a visible part of the architecture. And if you’re doing it commercially, there are probably better ways (which I’ll go into in another post) of doing things.
  • A stock Soyuz vehicle even if the power and RCS issues could be taken care of is going to be very cramped for that long of a trip.

But once again, as I said, I’m kind of out of my league on Soyuz design stuff. Does anyone here have better information on whether this is feasible or not? If it is, it makes some things with this architecture a lot easier. Paging David Anderman?

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
Jonathan Goff

About Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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13 Responses to Soyuz Idea

  1. Bill White says:

    Jon, I believe that a Soyuz mated with a Proton or Angara KVRB could reach EML-1 or EML-2 easier than it could reach low lunar orbit.

    Especially EML-2.

    KVRB is a proposed Russian version of Centaur:

    http://www.astronautix.com/stages/proonkm4.htm

    Thereafter, using an L point to “change trains” offers a number of continuing operational advantages such as the ability to re-use your lunar lander for the next mission.

    = = =

    Anyway, here is a link to my fictional Soyuz/Proton lunar return architecture:

    http://www.transterrestrial.com/archives/006534.html

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’d hate to ride Soyuz anywhere near the moon without the orbital module. The capsule is too crumped. People complain about flying from here to Australia for 12 hours. Try doing the same, for 3 to 5 days, while wearing the pressure suit and pooping under yourself. And there’s no stewardess to bring drinks.

  3. Jon Goff says:

    ザイツェヴ,
    Yeah, that’s why I was suggesting you really need the orbital module there. Even with the orbital module it’s going to be cramped, but in reality, the normal Soyuz mission spends nearly 2-3 days before rendezvous with the space station anyway, so if you could do a quick 1st day rendezvous with the lunar stack, the outbound mission actually wouldn’t be any more difficult than a standard ISS trip. It’s just the return trip that’s a lot longer.

    ~Jon

  4. Jon Goff says:

    Bill,
    Well, Angara and the KVRB flat out don’t exist yet. Centaur does, and isn’t that expensive. I think that even if you want to do Soyuz, Centaur is the right transfer stage for the job. Reactivating a russian line is going to be tougher than buying existing Russian and American hardware off the shelf.

    ~Jon

  5. Gaetano Marano says:

    .

    as explained in my last year article [ http://www.gaetanomarano.it/LSAMshenzhou/lsamshenzhou.html ] and in my comments here, I suggest to use the Shenzhou because (while waiting for the new Digital-Soyuz) it’s built with to-day’s technology and has 15% more internal space than Soyuz

    also, I suggest to launch it with TWO astronauts to be more comfortable in the long moon trip and to have space for moon samples (in the place and weight of the third astronaut)

    the best solution is to launch TWO Shenzhou with TWO astronauts each and a FOUR seats LSAM to have a full ESAS-like exploration and an second chance if one of the Shenzhou will not work (with the four astronauts that will come back in a single capsule, but without moon samples)

    about the drawbacks you quote… the Shenzhou (or Soyuz) can simply be built in America under licence from NASA contractors or private companies

    .

  6. Gaetano Marano says:

    .

    just to add a note… the expected Ares_I payload will be sufficient to launch ONE Orion or… TWO enhanced Soyuz/Shenzhou…

    .

  7. Karl Hallowell says:

    Out of curiousity, are any of the Soyuz-derivative spacecraft designs public domain?

  8. Robert says:

    Yesterday I sent NASA an email, here is the email I sent.

    __________________________________________________

    Dear Sirs

    While I am in favor of going back to the Moon, I’m against NASA’s current proposal. When NASA’s first came out with their proposal, it would cost 104 billion dollars, now it has gone up to 125 billion dollars.
    My proposal would have NASA to offer larger prizes of up to 10 billion dollars, purchase launch flights to the ISS, and to the Moon, and also rent base facilities on the Moon. First about prizes.

    The first company to build a Single Stage to Orbit spacecraft, should receive a prize of 5 billion dollars, the spacecraft would have to carry 2.5 tons to 10 tons to low Earth orbit, and perform 50 to 100 flights a year.

    The first company to land 3 people on the Moon, and have them stay for two weeks, and repeat the mission within six months, should receive a prize of 10 billion dollars.

    Once a company has established a base on the Moon, then NASA would rent facilities on the Moon, NASA would also be required to purchase launch flights to the Moon.

    This will save NASA money which NASA can then use for other purposes.

    Here are some links that will tell you more.

    A company called SpaceDev, came out with a proposal, that will cost a company less than 10 billion dollars to go to the Moon.
    http://spacedev.com/newsite/templates/subpage_article.php?pid=543

    http://space.com/news/051121_spacedev.html

  9. Gaetano Marano says:

    .

    to Robert

    your proposal has two main problems:

    1. so far, that jobs are too complex for privates without NASA experience

    2. only complex plans can assure NASA to survive in the next years, if NASA will “rent” private’s LEO/moon/mars vehicles may quickly lose it’s role and will disappear in a few months…

    .

  10. Anonymous says:

    You might be able to get away without the propulsion module on the back.

    How do you plan to perform midcourse corrections during the trans-Earth coast?

  11. Jon Goff says:

    Anonymous,
    Well, the midcourse burn might be doable using the Centaur stage’s RCS equipment. This is part of why I wanted to bring this up. Soyuz might work in this application, but a purpose designed system would work. It’d just cost a whole lot more.

    I’m not sure if the Delta-V budget for the RCS systems on the Soyuz capsule itself and the Centaur combined are enough for that or not.

    If anyone actually has more detailed info, that’d be welcome

    ~Jon

  12. Jim Muncy says:

    Jon,

    Check out the Lunar Express ™ mission architecture at http://www.constellationservices.com

    You will see that even for a lunar orbiting mission folks need more space — and more supplies — than what the Soyuz itself can do.

    – Jim

  13. Igor says:

    G’day

    Russia Moon return architecture according to Khrunichev Space Center proposals is based on Moon Orbital Station based on 1000 km moon orbit.

    Russian crew transport vehicle in this proposal has the following features:
    – Appollo-like service module with enough fuel for a return trip from Moon orbit to Earth;
    – scaled up version of Souyz RV (SA) capsule with base diameter
    up to 4.1 m;
    – Active/Passive docking device.

    Most likely lunar Soyuz would be launched by a Soyuz 3 LV (in development) and after docking with
    scaled up version of KRVB (with cryogenic oxygen-hydrogen engine) will be launch for TLI trajectory.

    Soyuz spacecraft SM will be responsible for an entering the Moon orbit.

    Photo from Russian Novosti Kosmonavtiki forum is here:
    http://www.buran.ru/images/jpg/IMG_0455.jpg

    Please note that KVRB is UNABLE to send even current version of Soyuz (Soyuz TMA with mass of 7,220 kg) to the moon – according to ILS Proton M user manual KVRB could send only 3,600 kg to GSO orbit (TLI manuver required more delta V than GSO transfer).

    Regards,
    Igor Rozenberg
    Melbourne, Australia

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