Russia’s new “space yachts”

A number of private companies are currently working on the unmanned spacecraft dubbed Selena Space Yacht. The works are conducted with the support of the National Technology Initiative’s (NTI) AeroNet and SpaceNet working groups.

Background

Space tourism is space travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. There are several different types of space tourism, including orbital, suborbital and lunar space tourism. To date, orbital space tourism has been performed only by the Russian Space Agency. Work also continues towards developing suborbital space tourism vehicles.

Russia halted orbital space tourism in 2010 due to the increase in the International Space Station crew size, using the seats for expedition crews that would previously have been sold to paying spaceflight participants. Orbital tourist flights were set to resume in 2015 but the one planned was postponed indefinitely and none have occurred since 2009.

Analysis

Private space tourism is taking off in Russia with plans to send tourists to near-Earth orbit in spacecraft capable of launching from ordinary airfields, chief designer of NPO Aviation and Space Technologies Aleksandr Begak said.

He explained that three “space yachts” will be produced, with six passenger seats and one pilot seat each. Though the spacecraft will be unmanned, a pilot will be present for the convenience of passengers, he said.

The vehicle will enter space at a maximum speed of 2,685 miles per hour to a height of 75 to 87 miles (120-140 kilometres).

Earlier, the co-leader of the working group of the National AeroNet Technology Initiative, Sergey Zhukov, said that Russia could see the start of private space tourism in around five years. Participants will be flying for several minutes to a height of 100km before descending by parachute or engine-powered aircraft, he said.

Assessment

Our assessment is that the new space yachts will help the Russian space agency in competing with the less experienced private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin. We believe that Russia’s vast experience in sending manned space vehicles into orbits will give it a competitive edge for the space tourism industry.