After SpaceX’s Crew Dragon delivered two astronauts to the International Space Station – the first US spaceship to do so after nine years – at the end of May, US media not only praised Elon Musk’s company, but also piled scorn on the Russian space program.
It was “strange” when some in the US, including NASA officials, “started making wreaths for the ‘funeral’ of Russian Soyuz,” Rogozin wrote in an opinion piece for Forbes magazine, published Monday. While the Russian space chief’s social media rivalry with Musk and his past quotes played a role in the reaction, he made a stand for the iconic Russian spacecraft that ferried US astronauts to orbit all those years after the Space Shuttle program shut down.
Rogozin rejected the claim that the manned launches by SpaceX – which said it would charge the astronauts for seats starting from $55 million – would be so cheap that Russia would start reserving Crew Dragon seats for its cosmonauts.
The US officials repeating that claim “just got bedeviled in a mass of figures,” he said. While Russia did charge the US $90 million a seat for Soyuz launches, Rogozin maintains the Russian crewed rocket launches still remain more cost-efficient than those of SpaceX’s Falcon 9.
While SpaceX has made partial reusability of the Falcon a key marketing point, both Crew Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner – which is only expected to carry out its first mission next year – are launched to orbit by heavy rockets, while Soyuz requires a cheaper medium class booster, he said.
“Therefore, our space launches cost much less than the American ones,” making Soyuz “unparalleled” when it comes to delivering people to the ISS, Rogozin wrote.
He even compared the spaceship to the AK-47 rifle, saying that both Soviet designs were not only extremely reliable, but also continuously improved all the time. Soyuz is such a workhorse that it will continue to fly even after Russia’s next-generation Orel (Eagle) spaceship is introduced.
“It’s not our mood that Elon Musk spoiled on May 30, but that of his countrymen from Boeing, by starting flight tests ahead of them. It’s their war, not ours. Our space transport system has been operational for a long time and without interruptions.”
He did point out that SpaceX could hardly argue to be the “first private company” to launch humans into space, given that NASA had subsidized both SpaceX and Boeing to the tune of $8 billion to develop rivaling spaceships. Musk’s company was the first to complete testing and perform its launch.
Roscosmos decided to maintain cooperation with NASA even in the face of sanctions introduced by Washington against Moscow – including Rogozin personally – and continued delivering Americans to the ISS for years at the expense of Russia’s own crews, Rogozin reminded.
It’s only because of Russia that NASA “didn’t have to use a trampoline” to launch astronauts to space, Rogozin wrote, referencing his notorious joke from six years ago.
Header: Russia’s Soyuz 2.1A carrier rocket with Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft for at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. © Sputnik / Roscosmos