|IS GOLDEN AGE OF RUSSIAN SPACE SCIENCE
MOSCOW. (Lev Zeleny, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of
Sciences (RAS), and Director of the RAS Institute of Space Research, for
Despite the troubled times in the 1990s, Russia is still a great space
power. It is enough to mention that it is the leader in the number of
space launches, accounting for 40% of the world’s carrier missile
launches in the 2001-2005 period. Regrettably, the majority of them were
commercial launches of foreign space vehicles, as well as Soyuz and
Progress spaceships for supporting the International Space Station.
In the last 15 years, Russia has put into orbit only three research
satellites. In the past, space researchers used to send two or more
vehicles into space every year. They were put into near-earth orbits, or
sent to the Moon, Mars, and Venus. The VEGA project (Venus¬–Halley’s
comet) was the culmination of research.
Upon the completion of the Venus part of the mission, when for the first
time experiments in its atmosphere were conducted with balloons, the
Vega-1 and Vega-2 space vehicles were sent to Halley’s comet, and went
through its coma one by one. They received the images of the nucleus and
the dust of the coma, measured its plasma, dust flows, and the composition
of its dust and gas components. Today, Russian scientists are mainly
focusing on space plasma and solar-terrestrial relationships, using
domestic Interball and Coronas-F spacecraft.
The launch of the automatic station Mars-96 in November 1997 was
frustrated by the failure of its carrier’s upper stage. Since this black
day in the history of Russian planetary studies, Russian scientists have
been taking a modest part in the studies of Mars and Venus. They are using
excellent spacecraft – Marx-Express, Venus-Express, and Mars-Odyssey –
on board of European and American spaceships. As for other planets of the
solar system, they had to forget about them altogether.
The implementation of the Relikt, Astron, Kvant, and Granat projects in
the late 1980s-1990s allowed Russia to be more or less on the same level
of astrophysical research with Western countries. But it failed to carry
out a series of Spektr projects, which had been planned in the Soviet
times to study virtually the entire range of electromagnetic radiation. If
this program had been implemented in the 1990s as scheduled, Russian
science would have been ahead of the world in the field of extra
atmospheric astronomy. The situation is somewhat improved by the European
Integral Space Observatory, placed into orbit by a Russian carrier, which
entitles Russian researchers to 27% of its monitoring time.
The RIM-PAMELA (RIM is the acronym for the Russian-Italian Mission)
project is another example of this form of international cooperation,
involving also researchers from Germany, Sweden, and the United States.
The project deals with fundamental cosmology problems, such as the nature
of the dark matter, generation and dissemination of galactic space rays,
solar processes and space rays, and high energy particles in the earth’s
magnetosphere. Research is being conducted by the Pamela precision
magnetic spectrometer, a fruit of Russian-Italian cooperation, which is
installed on board of the Russian Resurs DK1 E0 (earth observation)
Unfortunately, these are single examples of Russian participation in
recent space experiments. Many projects, some of them unique, were not
carried out because new Russia had slashed the funding for space research.
Today, the situation is changing for the better in many respects. By
2010-2012 Russia is expected to have from eight to ten space vehicles.
Russian researchers are planning to launch in 2007 the RadioAstron
observatory with powerful space information ability, and a 12-meter
antenna with a deployable parabolic reflector. A global network of
ground-based facilities will support the performance of the space-based
telescope. In resolution capacity, these ground-space systems or
interferometers have the power of a radio telescope with an antenna
diameter, which is equal to the distance between ground and space
hardware. At an altitude of 350,000 km, the resolution capacity of the
RadioAstron interferometer will equal hundreds of thousands’ fractions
of an angle second.
This orbit is very suitable for an almost permanent monitoring of
interplanetary parameters, such as solar wind plasma, magnetic field, and
energy particle flows, at huge distances from the Earth. Importantly, it
has a very high time resolution, which is important for space weather
forecasting. In this context, scientists from the Institute of Space
Research have suggested that the RadioAstron project (of which the
Astronomical Center of the RAS Physical Institute is in charge) should be
supplemented with the Plasma-F magneto plasma experiment.
In 2010, Russia is planning to put into high-elliptical orbit its
Spektr-UF extra-atmospheric observatory to monitor the electromagnetic
spectrum in the ultraviolet range. The Hubble space telescope is
considered to be the most powerful and expensive (with a price tag of six
billion dollars) research instrument in this field. But it works in
near-earth orbit, thus losing about 50% of the observation time. The
Russian telescope will be placed into a very outstretched orbit with the
apogee of 300,000 km, or even better, in the area of the libration point
of the Sun-Earth system, which is about 1.5 million km from our planet.
Location of the observatory at this point will reduce terrestrial and
lunar influence to the minimum. The Russian telescope will be able to
receive the images of comparable quality spectrums, which are 20 times
weaker than those observed by the Hubble.
Roskosmos (Russian Space Agency) and its European counterpart have decided
to coordinate their space programs for X-ray space studies. With this aim
in view, the Spektr-Rentgen-Gamma project was transformed into the
Spectrum-RG/eRosita/Lobster program. They are considering putting the
observatory into an ideal equatorial orbit (in terms of minimal background
radiation) at an altitude of 580-600 km, that is, below the Earth’s
radiation belt with a zero angle achieved by the launch from the space
center in Kourou in French Guiana by the Russian Soyuz-2 booster.
The Phobos-Ground mission has received priority in planetary studies. It
is one of the world’s biggest recent projects with multiple objectives.
Under the project, a spacecraft will fly to Mars, land on its Phobos
satellite, take a probe of the ground, and return it to Earth. A long-life
station will remain on Mars for automatic monitoring of its climate, and
the near-Mars space. The launch is scheduled for 2009.
Experience accumulated in the implementation of this project will make it
possible to go over to the next stage of planetary studies – delivery of
Martian ground to Earth. In addition, there are plans to deploy a number
of small research stations on the surface of Mars in 2009-2011.
Researchers are discussing such planetary projects as the construction of
a module for deployment on Mercury, and development of a long-life Venus-9
The Russian federal space program for 2006-2015 provides for the Luna-Glob
project initiated by the RAS GEOHI geochemistry institute after a more
than 30 year long break in space lunar research. The main aim of the
mission is to study the internal structure of the Moon, find signs of
water ice in the cold trap on the lunar pole, and establish whether the
Moon has a nucleus, and of what size.
The nearest project in space plasma physics and solar-terrestrial
relationships is the Coronas-Photon magnetosphere mission. Its objective
is to continue monitoring the processes on the Sun, and its activities. In
the past, this task was carried out by the Coronas-I and Coronas-F
spacecraft. All three are part of the long-term program of comprehensive
orbital near-earth observation of solar activities (CORONAS), which has
been implemented since 1994. The aim of the mission is to study the
structure of the Sun, and its atmosphere, the nature and mechanisms of
solar activities, such as the origin and acceleration of the solar wind,
which has a direct influence on the Earth and near-Earth space; mechanisms
of transforming different types of solar energy within the magnetosphere
and ionosphere, and their influence on terrestrial processes.
Apart from solar studies, one of the major elements of space weather
forecasting is continuous monitoring of the solar wind on its journey from
the Sun to the Earth. Russian researchers are developing this multi-level
Researchers will conduct observations in the low orbit ionosphere with the
help of the Chibis micro satellites designed by the Institute of Space
Studies. They will be put into orbit from the International Space Station.
Resonans space vehicles will do the monitoring in the internal
magnetosphere and the radiation belts. They are scheduled for launch in
2012 as the key element of the would-be system. For the first time ever,
they will allow scientists to study magnetospheric cyclotron resonance
masers, which play a major role in the magnetosphere of the Earth and
other planets with a magnetic field. Maser mechanisms determine a whole
series of solar and stellar processes. But the terrestrial magnetosphere
is not very far from us, and this is why researchers can take detailed
measurements of it, and then extrapolate the results of studies to remote
It is important to study magnetospheric masers because they regulate the
composition of the terrestrial radiation belts, and researchers will
obtain information on the number of energy particles in the belts,
forecast their status, and study the dynamics of perturbation.
In order to continue Plasma-F project, Russian researchers are planning to
deploy, at the top of Radioastron (mentioned earlier) satellite system for
forecasting solar activities and their aftermath, a group of Klipper micro
satellites with a solar sail at a distance of three to four million
kilometers from the Earth. The sail will make it possible to stabilize the
satellites in a definite point in space, or move them closer to the Sun by
handling the reflecting sail.
Finally, there is a solar research project entitled Intergeliozond.
Researchers are planning to send a spacecraft to the Sun, using the
Venus’s gravitational slingshot, and put it into an orbit which would be
42 million km away from the Sun (60 solar radiuses). Subsequent
gravitational maneuvers may lower the orbit to 21 million km, and then
further to 10-12 solar radiuses. Low power engines can change the angle of
the orbit in a way that will allow scientists to see the Sun’s polar
zones, which are invisible from the Earth.
Other promising Russian projects – a small solar Strannik spacecraft for
precision measurements in those fields of the magnetosphere which are
crucial for the formation of space weather (it should become part of the
international space system in 2014-2020), and the polar-ecliptical probe
for total observation of the Sun with the same purpose – are still in
the cradle stage. It is not yet possible to move them into the designing
stage for shortage of funding, among other reasons.
The Russian space budget for 2005 was one third bigger than in 2004. In
2006, it should grow by another quarter, and is expected to continue going
up every year. Nevertheless, these allocations are too small to extricate
Russian space research from the deplorable condition of the last 10 to 15
years. It would be great to be able to launch the Resonans spacecraft in
2009-2010 instead of 2012, but financial restrictions make it wishful
As in all previous years, half of the funds earmarked for space will be
spent on the International Space Station (ISS), where Russia was acting as
a space taxi until recently. All money is channeled into its functioning
and upgrading. By the time its construction is completed, it will be
almost as old as the Mir before it was sunk with all the ensuing
Although the Federal Space Program for 2006-2015 is aimed at bringing
closer the interests of fundamental research and piloted space flights,
they will still be locked in fierce competition, and in different weight
In the United States, the space program consists of Exploration and
Research. Exploration deals with discovering new areas, which also
includes certain research, whereas Research proper means strictly research
in the interests of fundamental science. The first section has a clear
political meaning, and receives much more money than the second one. This
is probably how it should be. The main point is that the two budgets do
not get mixed, and it is clear within a certain balance how much was spent
on pure research.
There is no such division in Russia. Maybe, all the setbacks of domestic
space research stem from the approach to the funding of fundamental
science on the national scale as a whole, which barely allows it to float
between life and death.