Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Russia and EU Space Vehicle Tests Defy PETA

Last Friday Oct. 7, 2005, Russia's Inflatable Reentry and Descent Technology (IRDT) Demonstrator 2R test launched on a 30-foot, converted R-29R (SS-N-18) ICBM rocket from nuclear submarine Borisoglebsk in the Barents Sea. The IRDT disappeared after 35 minutes of suborbital flight. It separated from its rocket in a normal mode, entered the atmosphere descending on time, and was headed toward the Kura test range, as expected. Sunday, sources in Russia's Defense Ministry told Itar-Tass it had not been found and the search was ended.

The submarine launch method is relatively cheap and has not been very successful. Three previous launches failed, but this one worked, ITAR-Tass initially said. "A successful test of the device will make it possible to use it not only for the return of cargo, but also for the evacuation of the ISS (space station) crew, and for a soft landing on other planets," ITAR-Tass quoted the Lavochkin Co. as saying.

The IRDT was built on contract for the European Space Agency and the European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co., Interfax said. EADS is based in France and Germany and owns 80 percent of European aircraft-maker Airbus. IRDT is a collapsible vehicle designed to carry cargo and passengers from the low-orbital, ISS to Earth. It only weighs about 320 pounds empty.

Payload can vary from an estimated 680 pounds to 1.2 tons. The IRDT is designed to fly on a predictable trajectory without engines — making it a cheap alternative to the Soyuz spacecraft currently in use. It is said to inflate to about 8 meters during landing after surviving dense atmosphere heating.

It is doubtful that dogs or chimpanzees would not be used to test survivability before human use. Certainly, animal testing would be accomplished from an Earth launch rather than the ISS end and any trauma to animals would be as guarded as their names. Laika was the poor dog lost in Sputnik 2 (1957) to assure the safety of later cosmonauts. Now, however, there is even a PETA chapter in Moscow. No, they cannot monitor nuclear submarine launches or interview crews.

Yes, the solar sail launched last June failed, but Russians space engineers are certainly very competent. Remember who launched the first orbiting satellite? Whose Soyuz spacecraft regularly save the day when America's space shuttles cannot fly? I hope the next dog/chimp survives.


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