Russia’s Space Agency will team up with a private company to build a reusable spacecraft, in a bid to compete with Crew Dragon, built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Estimates suggest the Russian project will be significantly cheaper.
On Friday, Roscosmos and the company ‘Reusable Transport Space Systems’ (RTSS) signed a five-year cooperation agreement with the aim of developing a spacecraft capable of carrying cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS). According to estimates, the cost of a return trip for Musk’s Crew Dragon is $ 150 million, whereas Russia intends to make it as cheap as $ 69 million.
The cargo ship, named Argo, is due to be completed by 2024, and from 2025 will complete up to three launches per year to the ISS.
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Despite frequent trips into space, Russia’s space program does not currently have a reusable cargo spacecraft. As things stand, SpaceX is the only company in the world offering this service, and, according to RTSS chairman Sergey Sopov, demand is rising due to a growing “interest in conducting experiments” in space.
Once completed, Argo will be capable of delivering 2000kg of cargo into space and bringing 1000kg back to earth.
In May, SpaceX became the first private company to launch NASA astronauts into space. Following the American success, Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin ramped up Russian plans for space exploration. In August, Roscosmos announced it wanted to replace the current Soyuz MS with a winged space shuttle, similar to the 1980s Buran spacecraft.
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