Russia Wins The Space Race? Get Serious

Posted: July 8, 2011 in Songs of Space and Nuclear War
Tags: , , ,

The Daily Beast writes Russians Win The Space Race.  That’s not true at any level but a more accurate headline that says Russians Possess Launch Vehicles Which Have Endured The Shuttle Era ain’t gonna create a lot of page views. 

But that’s just what the Russians have done: come to possess launch vehicles which have survived the space shuttle era.  Why have the Russian vehicles survived?  There are three main reasons: they’re cheaper, faster, and better than the shuttle.

Cheaper in the fact a shuttle launch represents an amortized cost of about $1.5 billion per launch while the Russians are charging about $50 million per astronaut.  And although that fee will go up, it won’t ever approximate shuttle costs.  Where do the savings come from?  Low pay is certainly part of the equation; the Beastly article mentions $1000/month for an astro engineer.  Interns at Loral make more than that.

Faster in that the Russians can support a rapid launch ops tempo.  They are planning up to 24 launches to the ISS each year; four manned and twenty unmanned.  While that may be a success-oriented plan, if the shuttle is running four missions per year, the team is running as fast as they can.  And don’t forget the two year return-to-flight break following the most recent shuttle failure.

Finally, better in that the Russian vehicles have not suffered the sort of catastrophic loss of life that plagued the shuttle program.  They have simple, reliable configurations that are well-proven.

What the Beastly article misses in total is that unmanned space is really where it’s at.  In that regard, Russian space programs don’t have anything that compares favorably to our GPS, communications, missile warning, intelligence, or scientific space programs.  The coin of the realm in space is information and while space launch provides the necessary access to space, once satellites are in orbit, the information that comes off U.S. systems is superior.

Manned space?  It’s a sort of Cold War vestigial stunt.

(Image Wikipedia Commons)

 

 

 

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Comments
  1. antgraf says:

    “There are three main reasons: they’re cheaper, faster, and better than the shuttle.”
    Doesn’t this mean “they won”.

  2. […] Russia Wins The Space Race? Get Serious (nationalspacestudiescenter.wordpress.com) […]

  3. Gosha says:

    +++In that regard, Russian space programs don’t have anything that compares favorably to our GPS, communications, missile warning, intelligence, or scientific space programs+++

    Russia has GLONASS, the best system of missle warning, exellent intelegence and very ambichious space programm.

    OK, I understand, you see very good Explorer TV programs about US space tecknologies, but it seems you know nothing about Russian ones.

    That’s why American faulture in space surprise most american people.

  4. Kovan says:

    I’m agree with Gosha. Unfortunately americans don’t like to know that there are a lot of other civilized countries abroad of US. American TV shapes lying outlooks within american society. White lie. If americans don’t change their world view it may turn out that their last hope to catch up the 21th century will be the next loss.

  5. Eclipse says:

    Russian technology always was and still is superior to US technology. Russia built the most advanced space shuttle, fully robotic, called BURAN
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buran_%28spacecraft%29). The Russian Shuttle only made one flight, which was enough to get Reagan to abandon Star Wars. The technology used in this project is still beyond American capabilities, 30 years later.

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