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- On Errors in Predictions
- Boris Chertok shown here with Metropolitan Kirill (Cyril), the Russian Orthodox bishop who is the Patriarch of Moscow and all of Russia. The picture was taken in
- The State and Space Exploration
- Geostationary Orbit
To my readers, about the future of space exploration:
The beginning of the era of practical space exploration dates back to
4 October 1957: the date that the USSR launched the world’s first artificial
satellite. In the years since then—in less than the lifetime of one generation
of humanity—a breakthrough was made into a new sphere of activity. A com-
pletely new branch of science, technology, industry, and culture was created.
The 20th century gave humankind the theory of relativity, quantum
mechanics, nuclear energy, spaceflight, unusual progress in aviation technology,
information science, the automotive industry, and many other things. What
will the 21st century bring humanity?
The most important achievements in space exploration belong to the second
half of the 20th century. Everything that is happening at present—in the first
decade of the 21st century—is, so far, based on the scientific and technical
discoveries and achievements of the 20th century.
One can predict scientific and technical developments 10 to 15 years in
advance more or less accurately, but making predictions up to the mid-21st
century is exceptionally difficult. Any prediction will be, to a certain extent,
biased and nonobjective, including predictions about space exploration. I would
like to call the reader’s attention to an interesting fact. In 1966, at a symposium
of the American Astronautical Society, U.S. scientists and specialists presented
their predictions on the development of space technology. Of greatest interest
was the general presentation by one of the theoreticians of the former German
rocket center in Peenemünde, K. A. Ehricke, “Solar Transportation.”
1. Krafft Arnold Ehricke (1917–1984) was a well-known German propulsion engineer
who worked with Walter Thiel at Peenemünde. After immigrating to the United States follow-
ing World War II, he had an illustrious career in government and private industry. In his later
years, he was a vocal advocate of industrial exploitation of the Moon.
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
envisaged the events of the next 35 years and painted a picture of real—from
the viewpoint of American scientists—achievements of space technology by
2001. None of the scientists doubted Tsiolkovskiy’s prediction, made at the
beginning of the 20th century, that humankind would not remain forever in
its cradle on Earth, but would settle the entire solar system.
“In the fall of 2000, the interplanetary flight corridors from Mercury to
Saturn are alive with manned vehicles of relatively luxurious and sophisticated
design…. On Mars, a long range program has just been started to induce in
the circumpolar regions of the northern and southern hemisphere, large scale
culture of special Mars-hardened plants….” And many other highly interest-
ing predictions and proposals, which are no less relevant today, yet still very
far from being realized.
For space exploration at the beginning of the 21st century, the cost of
sending 1 kilogram of payload into space is on the order of 10,000 dollars. I
can only echo the challenge by Elon Musk of “500 dollars per pound of pay-
load,” but for now, I do not see any real technological breakthroughs toward
achieving this in this next decade.
That which we call “common sense” allows us to assert that Tsiolkovskiy’s
proposed human colonization of the solar system will begin only through the
establishment of a lunar base.
Today’s unpiloted, automatic satellite telescopes, equipped with remote
research equipment and data transmission systems, have enriched humankind
by producing a greater number of discoveries over the last 30 years in the fields
of planetology and the workings and creation of the universe than were made
over all the preceding millennia. Dozens of modern countries that have joined
the “space club” consider it necessary to have an astronaut of their own, their
own communications satellites, and—even better—their own launch vehicles
and launch sites. And yet it is unfortunate that we do not know the names of
the scientists who use the achievements of space exploration for knowledge, for
studying the world, and for discoveries. The mass media in the countries that
2. Abridged quote taken from the book Kosmicheskaya era; prognozy na 2001 god [The
Space Age. Predictions for 2001], ed. V. S. Yemelyanov, translated from English (Moscow: Mir,
1970). The original English was published as Space Age in Fiscal Year 2001: Proceedings of the
Fourth AAS Goddard Memorial Symposium, 15–16 March 1966, Washington, DC, eds. Eugene
B. Konecci, Maxwell W. Hunter II, and Robert F. Trapp (Tarzana, CA: American Astronautical
Society Publications Office, 1967).
3. Elon Musk (1971–) is a South African–born Canadian entrepreneur who was the
cofounder of PayPal and is currently CEO of SpaceX, a private company that has been develop-
ing the Falcon series of orbital launch vehicles. On 8 December 2010, SpaceX became the first
private company to launch an object into orbit.
lead the field of science (including the United States and Russia) describe the
flights of cosmonauts and astronauts on the ISS but rarely mention the discov-
eries of scientists who work with the data from the Hubble orbital telescope
or the automatic instruments on the Cassini probe, or many other spacecraft.
Modern science and technology in the 21st century have approached a
boundary that, when overcome, will change much in the living conditions of
humanity. This boundary is direct technological intervention by people in the
structure of matter at the atomic/molecular level. We do not yet know who
thought up, devised, and created the program to combine atoms and molecules
in such a way as to create life. Romantics and fans of outer space still hold out
hope that extraterrestrial intelligence helped. We will probably not find it by
the end of the 21st century.
In the 21st century, humankind must acknowledge planet Earth’s unique-
ness in the entire observable universe in order to unite the efforts of all the
leading countries to preserve her. Homo sapiens is a completely exceptional
phenomenon, falling outside of the scope of observations by spacecraft. This
“wise man” must use the force of intellect to reliably defend the planet from
the folly of unwise Homo sapiens.
From the author’s archives.
Boris Chertok shown here with Metropolitan Kirill (Cyril), the Russian Orthodox
bishop who is the Patriarch of Moscow and all of Russia. The picture was taken in
2005 at the Bauman Moscow Higher Technical School at the Korolev Readings.
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
The State and Space Exploration
The future of space exploration can be predicted together with an analysis
of national and state sociopolitical strategy. The United States, even with all
its internal problems, by the 2030s will remain the most powerful country
in the world in military terms and the most advanced in the field of science
and technology. NATO is a reliable tool that allows the United States to use
not only its own scientific-technical potential, but Europe’s as well. Priorities
in a very broad spectrum of programs will be the space strategy for the next
20 to 30 years.
The operation of the ISS will be supported through the transport systems
of Russia and Europe. The ISS on its own is no longer particularly interesting to
the United States. In 10 to 15 years, having broken the flight record of Mir, the
ISS will be scuttled. Russia, Europe, and Japan are currently unable to support
the operation of the ISS without the economic support of the United States.
For Russia, future programs of new technologies in the rocket-space indus-
try are problems that are not just scientific and economic in nature. As a result
of liberal market reforms, the Russian defense industry was deprived of many
thousands of qualified workers and engineers. On the other hand, we provided
the United States and Europe with personnel. The “dictatorship of the prole-
tariat” is no longer possible in Russia; there is simply nobody to implement this
dictatorship. From the standpoint of democracy, today the most democratic
country in the whole world is the United States. If one compares Russian and
American democracy, of course everything falls in favor of the American version.
There is a shortage of “golden hands” of highly qualified workers and lumi-
nous brains of enthusiastic engineers; overcoming this shortage is a problem
Russia faces but the United States does not.
Russia, the United States, China, and India have approved programs for
the next 10 years. With adjustments for the global economic crisis, they will
In order to study the universe, a new space observatory will be launched to
take the place of the famous Hubble telescope, which will exist for five more
years without maintenance provided by the Space Shuttle.
spacecraft will continue research and will enrich science with a broad spec-
trum of new discoveries made on the planets of the solar system, primarily
the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. NASA’s powerful scientific apparatus will
4. The James Webb Space Telescope, an international collaboration between NASA, the
European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency, is the planned successor to the Hubble
Space Telescope. This infrared space observatory is planned for launch in 2018.
develop not only the technology, but also the strategy for future space explora-
tion. Unfortunately, Russia lacks such a state-level apparatus that has similar
Round-the-clock information from Earth remote sensing satellites provides
reliable meteorological forecasts, warnings about emergencies, monitoring of
humanmade catastrophes, violation of environmental regulations, etc. High-
resolution monitoring of strategically important regions will be carried out
by secret military spy satellites. Optical-electronic digital systems guarantee
resolution on the order of centimeters with real-time processing. The United
States will be the first to create systems that combine data from Navstar GPS
navigation satellites with low-orbit spy satellites and satellite communications
and guidance systems. Joint processing of information from satellites on three
levels—low-orbit, navigational, and geostationary—will make it possible to
guide all types of transport: ground, air, and sea.
The American government agency NASA is vested with a great deal of
authority. All federal expenditures on space exploration, with the exception
of purely military expenditures, are implemented through NASA or under its
supervision. NASA’s annual budget for 2010 exceeds Russia’s space budget by
almost tenfold. Given these initial conditions, there is no doubt that in the
next 10 to 15 years, the United States will create a new launch vehicle and
piloted spacecraft for a flight to the Moon, lunar landing module, and cargo
delivery system for a lunar base.
Over the course of the next 20 to 25 years, China will invest enormous
resources under the slogan “Catch up to and overtake America and Russia
in the field of space exploration.” China is building a socialist society with
“Chinese characteristics.” Chinese Communists were able, in a short amount
of time, to convert a backward agrarian country with partial literacy and a
population of 1.5 billion into a state that mastered all types of modern tech-
nology and mass production of competitive goods from the latest computers
to tennis shoes. China’s latest strategic tasks are to create a society based on
a “knowledge economy.” In the past 15 years, China has solved economic
and technological tasks in scopes and within timeframes that are impossible
for other states. China will become not only a secondary power capable of
achieving real “supremacy in space,” but it will strive to ideologically capture
the basic positions of world space exploration, and I think it will be successful.
One of the deciding factors guaranteeing China’s phenomenal successes is the
ideological and political unity and true, rather than rhetorical, enthusiasm in
mastering knowledge and high technologies.
Go to any Russian modern electronics shop. There is a wide selection for
any taste and any wallet. But you will not find a single one of even the simplest
electronic gadgets that was “Made in Russia.” Ninety percent were “Made in
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
China.” The Chinese strategy for creating advanced technologies is a reliable
foothold for future implementation of the principle of “supremacy in space.”
Russia still does not have a development strategy that will unite society. For
15 years of criminal reforms under the motto of the omnipotence of the free
market, Russia’s defense industry, mechanical engineering, and agriculture were
destroyed, and the Army has been thrown into disarray. Basic survival relies on
the sale of natural wealth: primarily oil, gas, and timber. The super-profits from
natural resources have created new elites, a class of super-rich and a blatantly
corrupted bureaucracy. Why should this elite care about the country’s develop-
ment of space exploration? In order for Russian space exploration to still be
at least in the top five in the future, we need radical, stringent sociopolitical
reforms. And not just for the sake of space exploration.
Proceeding from such unhappy thoughts, I believe that by 2030, Russia
must devote most of its attention to programs of unconditional space security
(satellites for all types of communications and Earth remote sensing [ERS],
including intelligence, missile-defense systems, GLONASS, and meteorologi-
Space programs for ensuring security and high defense capability for the
country must have a single general manager, who is responsible not only for
the development and data of spacecraft, but for the whole system right up to
immediate reports to the higher military-political leadership of the country
about the real results of the use of space-based intelligence data.
Modern technology makes it possible to observe tanks, artillery, armored
personnel carriers, and other equipment from space in real time.
Space exploration and rocket technology are bound by common produc-
tion organizations, testing technology, and cosmodromes. Russia’s future space
programs will, in large part, be determined by the timeframe for creating a new
heavy launch vehicle to replace the Proton that is just as reliable. One assumes
that it will be the Angara.
Ten years will be spent on this. The United States
will create a heavy and super-heavy vehicle in the next 8 to 10 years.
5. Russians typically use the abbreviation DZZ—Distantsionnoye zondirovaniye zemli
(Remote Sensing of Earth)—as a shorthand for remote sensing. GLONASS (Globalnaya
navigatsionnaya sputnikovaya sistema or Global Navigation Satellite System) is the Russian
equivalent of the Global Positioning System (GPS). The system, comprised of Uragan (Hurricane)
or 11F654 satellites, was originally conceived and developed during Soviet times. The first three
satellites in the GLONASS system were launched on 12 October 1982. The system was officially
declared operational on 24 September 1993, although a fully operational system requires a
complement of 24 satellites.
6. Angara is the name of a family of new Russian launch vehicles developed by the
M. V. Khrunichev State Space Scientific-Production Space Center.
In the 21st century there will be an intensified economic and political battle
for room for communication satellites in geostationary Earth orbit (GEO).
A spacecraft inserted into GEO has an orbital period equal to the rotational
period of Earth, and the plane of orbit is virtually coincident with the plane
of Earth’s equator. The point under the satellite has its own geographical lon-
gitude—the working point—and zero latitude.
The first spacecraft were inserted into GEO in the 1960s.
Since that time,
a total of 800 spacecraft have been inserted into GEO, and each year, on aver-
age, 20 to 25 new ones are inserted. According to data from 2008, more than
1,150 objects were in geostationary orbit. Among them were about 240 con-
trolled spacecraft, while the remainder are spent upper stages and other items.
On average, the mass of the payload carried into near-Earth orbit by the
launch vehicle makes up 3 to 4 percent of the launch mass of the vehicle. For
geostationary orbit, the mass of the spacecraft makes up only 0.3 to 0.5 percent
of the launch mass of the vehicle and the upper stage. Launching a spacecraft
into GEO, as a rule, is done using a three-stage vehicle with the subsequent
use of upper stages. Geostationary orbit, as the most advantageous location
for placing satellite communications systems, will exhaust its resources in the
next 20 years.
Strict international competition is unavoidable. One possible solution could
be the creation in GEO of a heavy multipurpose platform. With coverage of
nearly 1/3 of the surface of the planet, such a multipurpose platform will be able
to replace dozens of modern communications satellites. The platform will require
a high-capacity solar power plant. To support dozens of modern communica-
tions satellites, the platform will require a capacity of 500 to 1,000 kilowatts.
Large parabolic antennas or active phased arrays are capable of creating any
given value of equivalent isotropically radiated power (EIIM) at Earth’s surface
and receiving information from subscribers on Earth, using devices no larger
than the best modern mobile phones.
The capability of placing hundreds of
relays for various ranges on a heavy geostationary platform makes it possible
for the owners of such platforms to sell all types of communications trunks
for any region on Earth.
Heavy multipurpose platforms will be commercially advantageous and
will facilitate the global information rapprochement of peoples. Humankind
7. The first spacecraft launched into geostationary orbit was Syncom-3, which launched
on 19 August 1964.
8. EIIM—Effektivnaya izotropno izluchayemaya moshchost.
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
needs the development and creation of such geostationary systems not in the
distant future, but in the next 25 to 30 years.
The problem of creating and operating heavy geostationary platforms
can be quickly solved if there is cooperation between Russian and European
technology. However, space stations in GEO can be used for military purposes,
too, to suppress an aggressor in local conflicts and in situations such as “Star
Wars.” (More about that later.)
In the early 1990s, Russia developed a real design for the world’s first heavy
universal platform for GEO. The mass of the proposed platform, according
to the design, was 20 tons.
Insertion into orbit was slated for the Energiya
launch vehicle, which had successfully passed its flight tests. In 1989 and 1990,
RKK Energiya, with the support of the Military-Industrial Commission of
the USSR Council of Ministers, made proposals to Germany, France, and the
European Space Agency regarding cooperation and joint work to create the
universal heavy space platform in GEO. In those years, only Russia, possessing
the unique Energiya vehicle, could perform this task. The detailed development
of the platform design and the technology for insertion were of great inter-
est to the leading German and French corporations. Joint work was begun.
However, the liberal market reforms of the 1990s destroyed the organization
and deprived the Energiya vehicle’s manufacturers of any state support. After
the loss of the launch vehicle, the proposal for work on the heavy space plat-
form became pointless.
Because of Russia’s geographical situation, apart from using geostationary
orbit, which does not provide communications to Arctic regions, it is neces-
sary to create a group of three satellites in geosynchronous elliptical orbits
such as the Molniya, which provide coverage of 100 percent of the territory,
including the Arctic.
Russia’s inventory of scientific and technical developments will still ensure
the capability to implement a multifunctional space-based communication
system for any point in the country. The prerequisite is the creation of a new
launch vehicle and transport system for the creation in GEO of the multi-
In the hot days of the Cold War, in the second half of the 20th century,
American propaganda for “supremacy in space” introduced the term “Star
9. The in-orbit mass of these Globis communications satellites would have been 13.8 tons
(phase I) and 17.8 tons (phase II).
Wars.” This concept had nothing to do with actual stars. Various media outlets
used the term “Star Wars” to describe the missile-defense program, the fight
against space-based military systems, and any other actions using outer space
for military purposes. The overt and classified programs of “Star Wars” were
limited to near-Earth space and (in the future) to creating military bases on
The use of weapons based on new physics principles was proposed as the
main means of waging the battle to achieve military supremacy in space and
to destroy the nuclear-missile potential of the enemy. The achievements in
physics in the 20th century made it possible to claim that the hyperboloid of
Engineer Garin could truly move from the pages of Aleksey Tolstoy’s excellent
novel to become a real “Star Wars” weapon.
Almost 100 years were necessary
to turn a charming fantasy into reality.
Yet another effective means of blinding and defeating ground-based air-
defense systems, missile-defense systems, and various radio-electronic troop
command and control systems would be the use of powerful super-broadband
emitters. Powerful generators of directed electromagnetic energy could be
installed on geostationary space platforms and, in the future, could also be
installed at a lunar military base.
Practically all types of modern-day weapons, systems for controlling air
traffic, oceanic ships, and ground-based combat equipment, and all types of
data transmission and processing, use microelectronic devices. By the end of
the 21st century, electronics will be based on semiconductors operating with
a low level of voltage and current. The absolute value of currents and voltages,
as microminiaturization progresses, will reach very small amounts. With the
use of nanotechnology in information technology, the values for currents and
voltages will only get smaller.
The effect of ultra-broadband electromagnetic pulses produces induced
currents of comparatively high voltage in all electronic devices and, in practical
terms, causes them to fail. It is well known that powerful electromagnetic pulses
are created by the explosion of nuclear warheads. Therefore, the electrical lines
for controlling communications and all the electronics of modern-day mis-
sile launchers are appropriately hardened against a retaliatory strike. Powerful
unidirectional electromagnetic strikes could be made from space without the
use of nuclear weapons. It is practically impossible to protect the entire mass
of communications and control electronics from this.
10. This is a reference to Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy’s 1927 novel Giperboloid inzhenera
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
The formation of artificial radiation belts around Earth could be a “Star
Wars” weapon. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the U.S. and USSR con-
ducted experimental nuclear explosions in near-Earth space (at altitudes of
100 to 400 kilometers).
Studies conducted by the United States and Soviet Union showed that
one nuclear device detonated at an altitude of 125 to 300 kilometers with a
yield of approximately 10 kilotonnes is enough to disable all forms of radio
communication, in all ranges, thousands of kilometers from the explosion
site, for many hours. A nuclear explosion in near-Earth space will lead to the
creation of such highly concentrated plasmas that for several hours, all forms
of radar and radio communication are ruled out. For several hours, the use of
conventional weapons will be paralyzed.
Judging by the experience of the 20th century, one can also assert that people
in the 21st century will create new types of space-based weaponry that we cannot
even imagine today, just as the people of the early 20th century were incapable of
creating systems like GPS and GLONASS. However, the creation of ray, beam,
and electromagnetic types of weapons is fully realizable in the coming decades.
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