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by Sergei MAKAROV, journalist
In August 2005 the town of Zhukovsky near Moscow was the venue of the Seventh International Aerospace Salon, one of the world's largest in the number of participants and exhibits. Put on display were the latest models of aerospace hardware. One was the MiG-29M fighter plane with a variable thrust vector that makes it supermaneuverable, that is the machine can fly at very low (even close to zero) velocities without any angle-of-attack restrictions. Well and good, but what about the vehicles still on the drawing board? Their sketch outlines may look rather odd now and then, and yet aviators say: such air- and spacecraft are to replace the present models in the next few years.
AIRCRAFT OF THE NEW CENTURY
The press-conference on the project bearing a rather symbolic name-"Main Liner of the 21st century (MS-21)"- brought together a cohort of aerospace demons: Oleg Demchenko, Director General of the OKB (Design office) named after the Soviet aircraft designer Alexander Yakovlev; Victor Livanov, Director General of the Aviation Complex named after the Soviet designer Sergei Ilyushin; Director General and Chief Designer Igor Shevchuk, of the Design Office (OKB) named after Andrei Tupolev; and Vladimir Dmitriev, head of the Central Aerohydrodynamics Institute (TsAGI) named after Nikolai Zhukovsky, the father of modern aviation. This get-together was significant in many ways: the captains of the Russian aerospace industry decided to join hands on an essentially novel airliner, though each of them heads a giant company of world fame. And yet...
Let's begin with the statistics. According to forecasts made the Research Institute of Civil Aviation, by the year 2015 this country's air traffic will have to be increased by 2 to 2.5 times to meet the demand, and the scope of air transportation will have to be upped 4.5 fold by the year 2025. Simultaneously, these years will see a wholesale withdrawal of operational planes written off due to the expiry of their service life. For instance, the pool of Tu-154 liners will be cut by half in ten years, and these aircraft will disappear altogether in twenty-one years. Oleg Demchenko: "Considering the large expanses of its territory, Russia cannot do without a fleet of airliners. Unless the country's leadership opts for home-manufactured short- and medium-range airliners, the Russian market will be seized by such world aviation giants as Airbus of Europe and Boeing of the United States, both having at their disposal a wide range of up-to-date airships." Yet another thing: aircraft of this class (capable of taking 130 - 180 on board) predominate in the world air pool accounting for 77 percent of the total number and 55 percent of turnover. Aviators of the A. S. Yakovlev OKB think that should the matter of MS-21 pan out, as many as 700 aircraft of this type could be built within 20 years - 400 liners on the domestic and 300, on the foreign market.
MS-21 designers set their sights high: in its technical parameters, operational characteristics and economic performance the airliner should surpass the best foreign
models now in service and even those due to enter the market within the next ten years. This is a breakthrough project indeed, but our aircraft manufacturers will not be able to carry it through if they stick to conventional technologies.
As confided by Vladimir Dmitriev, TsAGI's director (this research center supervises the project), comprehensive feasibility studies have already been made into the liner's characteristics. A high-tech airplane competitive on the world market can appear only with the use of breakthrough technologies, such as superelongated wings; optimized aerodynamic assembly unit allowing to up the cruising Mach number* from M = 0.78 - 08 to M = 0.85 - 0.88; high-economy engines; broad use of high-durability superstrong carbon plastics, alongside airworthy aluminum alloys, steel and titanium - the ratio
* Mach(M) number, also, mach number - a number expressing the ratio of the speed of a moving body in a given atmosphere to the speed of sound in the same atmosphere. If the speed in a given atmosphere is 700 miles per hour, an airplane traveling at the same speed is traveling at a Mach number of 1. If the airplane is flying twice the speed of sound in a given atmosphere, its Mach number is 2. (From Ernst Mach, 1838 - 1916, an Austrian physicist). - Ed.
of composite materials is to rise to 40 percent; decrease in the number of centralized hydrosystems replaced with electric-drive ones operating in an autonomous mode; innovative diagram of the flying vehicle with the updated integration of the propulsion system and the air-frame. Compared with the European A320 model, fuel consumption will be down by 29 percent, and direct operational expenses-by 15 - 20 percent. On the other hand, fuel efficiency will go up thanks to a high-economy engine of a new generation made in Russia or abroad (if the producer wishes so).
Stage-by-stage modernization is well provided for. For instance, the maiden model will have all-metal wings which subsequently will be substituted by ones made of
composites and thus weighing less. The larger fuselage diameter (compared with present-day models) will add to passengers' comfort-they will be able to walk freely in the aisle and not bump into an air hostess with her trolley. Still and all, we have a long way to go before the maiden flight, for quite a few technical problems should be solved, some never attacked in the world practice of aircraft manufacturing.
Even a giant design office cannot cope with the job of designing and manufacturing an aircraft of a new generation (recall that the supermodern jumbo plane A380 is the product of four European countries). So joint venture is a must on which the nation's best OKBs should pool efforts. Apart from TsAGI, our project involves the All-Russia Institute of Aviation Materials, the B. I. Baranov Central Institute of Aeroengine Engineering, research centers of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and many manufacturing plants. Since quite a number of problems concern the materials science, metal and chemical industries should also take part. There will be no paperwork at all-all design plans and specifications will be logged in a digital mode, and therefore a wide use of computer hard- and software will be necessary at all stages of the gestation and manufacturing work, and for MS-21 maintenance. Manufacturing and testing facilities will have to be streamlined in a short space of time, for in six years, that is in 2012, MS-21 should appear on the market. The A.S. Yakovlev OKB, as the winner of the tender for short and medium-range liners, has made a good decision by inviting the country's best aircraft designers and manufacturers to get busy with the MS-21 project.
"CLIPPER" MEANS "FAST"
A life-size dummy of the reusable spaceship Clipper mounted next to the pavilion of the Federal Aerospace Agency (Roskosmos) was the cynosure of the exhibition-guests lined up to come closer and step in. Who knows, perhaps someone from among the hosts or guests would have good luck to board it and fly... to the moon. Why not? This is no pipe-dreaming. A word from Nikolai Sevastyanov, President of the Energia Aerospace Corporation (named after Sergei Korolyov, our Number One space designer).
Needless to say, the normal work of the International Space Station (ISS) is impossible without periodic replacement of crews. This job is done with the aid of the US Space Shuttle or the Russian Soyuz vehicles. But as much as twenty-five years have passed since the first Shuttle, and 38 years since the first Soyuz. Be that as it may, our shuttle has demonstrated high reliability, and it will keep on as a good aid for the ISS, though the launching mass of this vehicle isn't great, about 7 tons, and it can continue, docked to the station, not longer than six months. Besides, a larger crew than two (as today) should be on board for the space station's effective performance. Our Soyuz, however, can take only three.
The Energia Corporation has got down to building a new piloted space shuttle. With different models on the drawing boards, one dubbed "Clipper" was displayed in the aviation show at Zhukovsky. What is it like, this model, a probable "workhorse" in the coming twenty-five years and perhaps even longer?
Cutting costs of piloted flights is one of the requirements. Likewise important is to minimize overloads for cosmonauts during descent from the orbit. Launchup expenses will be down drastically, to l/30th of what is spent on each launching of the US Space Shuttle. Lower overloads will make it possible to liberalize medical standards for would-be spacemen and thus expand size-ably their number. Our Clipper is in fact a space plane. It will have a crew of 6, with two of them as air pilots-one in charge of orbital flying and docking with the ISS, and the other responsible for descent into the atmosphere and landing.
The Clipper's launching mass is twice as high as that of the Soyuz, or about 13 tons; the shuttle will be capable of
making 25 flights to and from orbit within the service life of ten years. It includes a recoverable block with the fuselage and flight compartment as well as a "disposable" compartment for the propulsion unit, beds for the crew, and fuel and food supplies. The flight compartment (cockpit) is large enough, 20 cubic meters, it can accommodate six seats. The life support system can sustain a crew of six for five days and a crew of two for fifteen.
The Clipper will be put into orbit by a carrier rocket, such as Soyuz-3, Zenith and Angara later on. Most of the launchings are planned to be made from the Baikonur* spacedrome; however, if the European Space Agency takes part in the project, the Kuru spacedrome in French Guyana could also be used for the purpose. Unlike its predecessor Buran, which was attached to the booster rocket's side, the Clipper will be placed in the nose compartment of the rocket. Like the Buran, the Clipper will be supplied heat insulation shieldings, absolutely necessary when the space vehicle descends into the dense layers of the atmosphere at skin temperature above 1,000°C. The wing structure will allow to bring down overloads during descent and, if need be, to make a side maneuver in the atmosphere up to 2,000 km. Consequently, the Clipper will be able to land from any turn of the flight trajectory to cosmodromes Baikonur, Kuru and others. And in emergency situations it will be able to touch down even on conventional aerodromes. The mass of cargoes taken into and out of orbit will be up to 500 kg.
As space experts see it, this project, if implemented, will give a boost to Russia-Europe cooperation in space research. The Russian Roskosmos Agency hopes that other countries, Canada and Japan in particular, will also joint up. The first launchup of the reusable Clippershuttle is planned in 2012.
In a more distant future the Clipper may find uses other than ISS servicing or space tourist flights-it could be employed in lunar and Martian expeditions as well. This does not seem far-fetched now.
* See: Yu. Markov, "Baikonur: 50 Years of Serving Mankind", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2005. - Ed.
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