Even if present time is not easy for Russian economy, it should not be forgotten that Yuri Gagarin performed his first space flight only 16 years after World War II when Soviet economy was still in state of shock after World War II. Russian space industry had and has great potential; it still remains a one of the leading in the world so every new project developed in Russia should be considered as potential source of headache for competitors. Let’s have a closer look on new Russian "Federation" spacecraft which have just started first tests of its man-machine interface and maybe will be part of future successes of Russian space program.
RKK Energia, main contractor for "Federation" spacecraft announced on their website, that first tests of main interface of the spacecraft were already started. Tests covers mainly first selection which instruments, panels, switches and other steering equipment, which will be installed on cosmonaut’s main panel. It is crucial moment especially for future cosmonauts; due the large number of data for continuous monitoring and general complication of controlling spacecraft, it is very important to design everything ergonomically and with most possible comfort for crew. Tests will be performed with cosmonauts - objective is to test (even in most unusual conditions) if everything in capsule is in right place, if all the information displayed on LCD panels are clear and in the right place. Simulation is performed to understand how future crew members will behave during their space activity and how algorithms determined by planned activities like flight, launch or injection harmonize with man-machine interface. Mark Serov who is head of the RKK Energia Flight-Test Department put stress on present tests in further development of the "Federation":
“We carried out the first formal, documented test on this new stand in the scope of the man-machine interface development. Its essence is to evaluate the distribution of the basic information areas on displays of the cosmonaut panel”.
"Federation" spacecraft which is designed with Angara-A5 rocket as future Russian solution for delivering cosmonauts to the orbit and Moon will probably perform its maiden mission in 2024.
"Federation" was previously known as PPTS (Prospective Piloted Transport System) until changing name on 16 January 2016 for official: Pilotiruemyi Transportny Korabl Novogo Pokoleniya (PTK NP) "Federation". Origins of the spacecraft reach to early 2000 when two different projects were started in Russia. "Kliper" was conception of reusable space vehicle which would be able to be used up to 25 times and would deliver to orbit 7 crew members. It was construction similar to small space shuttle with wings and ability for gliding in atmosphere and horizontal landing on runways. Project started in 2000 and after few years of development, in 2004 Russia tried to start cooperation with ESA to finish "Kliper" as joint project. ESA seemed not to be interested in such solution (mainly because due the low presence of European space industry in "Kliper") and insisted to start new project with different conception - Roscosmos and ESA abandoned "Kliper" and started new project with more conventional design: CSTS (Crew Space Transportation System). Project started in 2006 and cooperation seemed to be satisfied for both sides. Until 2008 general conception of conical capsule combined with service module close to one used in ATV robotic resupply spacecraft was accepted. Unfortunately in November 2008 program was halted due the limited budget and after that was practically not developed. In 2009 Roscosmos decided about keeping preliminary specification and develop it under own PPTS project, while ESA after three years in 2013 decided about participation in American Orion spacecraft project (cooperation referred to service module of Orion).
"Federation" in general specification will be spacecraft with conical capsule without wings and lack of possibility of flight in atmosphere. It will provide 33 cubic meters of space for 6 crew members and 500 kg of cargo. It will be able to perform 30 days autonomous mission and remain docked to space station for 200 days. In Lunar version it will take four crew members and will be able to perform lasting 14 days flight to the Moon orbit and return to Earth. Of course it will be possible to land with “Federation” on the Moon with precision up to ten kilometer. "Federation" will also provide rescue ability in every phase of the flight. Spacecraft will be able to perform piloted or automated docking, provide capability of re-docking and perform reentry with not less than 500 kg of payload. Propulsion of the returning capsule will be environment friendly; manned version will be reusable for 10 times (with changing thermal shields after each flight) during 15 years. It is possible that spacecraft will use rocket thrusters for soft landing (which with parachutes is quite painful for crews in Soyuz spacecrafts even using rocket thrusters for final speed reducing).
Still on duty: Soyuz spacecraft during integration process.