Space Adventures goal of a private Energia Soyuz TMA spacecraft flight in 2013 cannot be achieved, according to the Russian federal space agency's head of human space missions directorate, Alexey Krasnov.
Speaking to Flightglobal at the International Astronautical Congress, Krasnov explained that enabling a private Soyuz flight would take four or five years because the vehicle's operations have to change and the pilot's training regime has to be altered. This is because there would be one pilot and two tourists and not one other cosmonaut and one passenger. Another problem is that the annual Soyuz production rate has to be increased to five spacecraft from today's four, however Krasnov thought this was possible. All four Soyuz are needed to serve the International Space Station's six crew.
Space Adventures, which has transported seven tourists, also known as spaceflight participants, to the International Space Station, announced in June 2008 an intention to fly two future customers to the ISS in 2011. This has since been put back to 2013.
Krasnov's comments mean that even this latest timetable is impossible. He explained that the four- to five-year wait was because these vehicle operations alterations would also be incorporated into Russia's Advanced Crew Transportation System, the replacement for the Soyuz.
Krasnov says: "This [private flight] configuration [of one pilot, two tourists] is not available today."
He emphasised the challenging phases of vehicle operations involving crew and ground control interaction, describing ISS rendezvous and docking as "complex processes".
Krasnov added that he did not like the term "all-private" because the mission operations would not be turned over to a commercial company and he pointed out that while Energia would have substantial involvement it is part-owned by the Russian government.
Source: Flight International