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An unmanned Descent Module of the PTK NP spacecraft would be mated with a Block DM upper stage for a high-speed reentry test of the capsule's heat shield. Copyright © 2013 Anatoly Zak


PTK NP spacecraft depicted in the low Earth orbit as of 2013. Credit: RKK Energia

Block D docking

To accomplish a circumlunar test mission, the PTK NP spacecraft would dock with Block DM upper stage. Both vehicles could be launched on Proton rockets. Copyright © 2013 Anatoly Zak


Interior of the PTK NP descent module, VA. Copyright © 2013 Anatoly Zak


Previous chapter: PTK NP development during 2013

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Russia charts Moon-bound missions for Soyuz replacement

A schedule for the next-generation spacecraft culminates with a manned mission around the Moon


By 2013, various sources enabled to compile an emerging picture of the flight test program aimed to validate the PTK NP spacecraft for manned missions. According to official statements, up to three launches of the Zenit rocket beginning as early as the middle of 2018, would carry unmanned prototype of the spacecraft into low Earth orbit, possibly, culminating with a docking at the International Space Station.

At least one launch on a Proton rocket, or (if the mass of the vehicle could be dramatically reduced -- on a Zenit rocket), would accelerate PTK NP's crew capsule to match the velocity of a mission returning from the Moon. The flight would test the capability of PTK NP's heat shield to withstand the atmospheric reentry. A dual mission launched by a pair of Proton rockets would see a docking between the unmanned PTK NP spacecraft and a Block-DM space tug capable of sending the spacecraft to fly by the Moon.

All these initial test flights were expected to originate in Baikonur. It is logical to assume that the switch of the PTK NP spacecraft to the Angara-5-derived launch vehicle based in Vostochny would require additional unmanned launches into low Earth orbit. Finally, with the appearance of a heavy-lifting launch vehicle, two unmanned versions of the PTK NP spacecraft were expected to fly test missions into lunar orbit, paving the way to a manned circumlunar flight by 2030. (642) At the time, Russian space officials predicted the first launch of the Yenisei-5 heavy-lifting launch vehicle from Vostochny Cosmodrome around 2028.


Flight test program for the PTK NP spacecraft as of spring 2013*:

Launch vehicle
Launch site
Launch date*
Unmanned mission to the low Earth orbit (rendezvous with ISS (?))
No. 1
Zenit (?)
2017 (?) - 2018
Unmanned mission to the low Earth orbit and to the ISS
No. 1
Zenit (?)
2018 April
Unmanned mission to simulate return from the Moon
No. 1
Proton or Zenit (?)
2018 (?)
Unmanned flight around the Moon launched by a "prospective launcher"
No. 2
2019 (?)
Unmanned flight around the Moon launched by a "prospective launcher"
No. 2
2020 April
Manned flight around the Moon (?)
2027 (?)

*By the fall of 2013, the launch dates were postponed by a year.


Next chapter: PTK NP test mission around the Moon

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The article, graphics, animation and artwork by Anatoly Zak

Last update: October 5, 2013

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