More space in Voronezh

A curious news took place the other day in the media - a Russian private space company is going to build a plant near Voronezh. Some sources cited interesting figures and some unexpected facts, and since the company turned out to be NSTR Space Systems, with which we already talked to the staff, I decided to ask some additional questions.

Why precisely Voronezh? What alternatives were considered and why were they rejected?

In addition to Voronezh, we considered many accommodation options in several regions of Central Russia, in particular, in Moscow and Kaluga regions.

As a result, an understanding of the indisputable advantages of the Voronezh region came: personnel (there are aerospace enterprises in the region), specialized universities (at the moment we are in active contact with the university administration), low cost of entry into the Voronezh region. The administration has shown understanding and supported the goals of our company. The experience of working with other investment projects and the professionalism of regional and local authorities were visible. Why precisely Kashirsky district? Good location, accessibility for future employees, availability of necessary infrastructure. The administration is also interested in the development of its district. All this was a decisive factor in making this decision.

If it is true that the site is located 8 km from the city, then we need a second one for the spaceport. Where will it be located?

Before launching the meteorological missiles, let alone space ones, we still have a long way to go. The plant, the test stand and the office are already being designed and will soon be built, but initially experimental LREs will be developed here, immediately they will be tested, and only after successful tests will we proceed to the creation of meteorological rocket. Then - to the creation of an ultra-light launch vehicle for space purposes. This path will take several years and will include both obtaining a license for space activities and expanding the team. At the first stage of our work, we were faced with the fact that, unfortunately, it is absolutely impossible to fully work on rented space - we have to acquire territory from the very beginning and build our own premises. The premises will begin to function as a serial plant far from tomorrow. And launches will not take place tomorrow either.

Regarding the sites for meteorological. We would not like to disclose details, but we held talks on the use of existing sites in Russia for launching meteorological rockets. We expect to start with them, according to preliminary agreements. There are sparsely populated areas, and fall zones have already been identified.

What is planned to do with the fields of the fall?

As for launch vehicles, ideally, we would like to build our own launch pad at the Vostochny cosmodrome. We made such a request to the Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. It was transferred to the management of launch vehicles, ground-based space infrastructure and Roskosmos cooperative ties. Now we are preparing an engineering note “Ground infrastructure for launching an ultra-light class launch vehicle”. As soon as she is ready, we will pass it on to the Federal Space Agency, so that at least they can understand our future needs.
Naturally, high-altitude launches will not be conducted on the densely populated territory of the Voronezh region.

What security measures are being developed for missiles?

The company very carefully approaches the safety of all phases of our work. Missile technology does not tolerate negligence. The company's management constantly insists on adhering to safety measures even at the expense of time and the need for additional funding. So, the majority of the firing tests of our first LRE were carried out in an armored vehicle. With the construction of our own test bench, we will take safety to a new level.

Is there any open information about investors? Are the project cost figures at 500 million rubles and the stated investment values ​​correct?

At the moment, most of the work is financed by LLC Avenir and personally investor Boris Zhilin. We estimate the total investment in the rocket project at the level of 500 million rubles, but the financing of the work on the space carrier is not planned to be carried out only at the expense of investors, and the phrase in the media about the investor’s readiness to invest the full amount is incorrect. We are counting on the gradual development of our production. We may be able to refinance the profits from our telescopes and meteorological satellites, attract additional investments, and make pre-sales of future launches.

The cost of creating an ultralight PH with a payload of up to 10 kg per low near-earth orbit is estimated by most experts I know to be 1-3 billion rubles, and by pessimists 5 billion. Therefore, our goal (to meet the 500 million) looks very ambitious.

Are there customers for suborbital launches? What are the approximate prices of launches, and how do they compare with competitors?

I am sure that if we succeed as a manufacturer and operator of meteorological launches, then there will be no problems with further funding. We would not like to voice the estimated price of the meteorological missiles for the time being, but we expect that it will be competitive against the Russian counterparts, and at the same time our rocket will provide less load at the start as compared to solid-fuel missiles, which is important for scientific equipment. According to the results of preliminary negotiations, both private customers and government agencies have an interest in meteorological installations.

For a space rocket, we plan to meet the price of up to $ 100,000 per kg for low earth orbit.

Did you apply for funding to the state, and, if so, what are the results?

We haven’t applied to the state for financing, but representatives of government agencies have discussed possible investments and cooperation with us. Additional money would insure us and would help to significantly accelerate the implementation of the project. But while negotiations are underway, we cannot disclose details.

Why a robotic telescope will be sunny, who will be its customers? Do you plan to build a stellar telescope?

At the first stage of the AstroNYX project, we want to build two robotic telescopes. First, we put into operation a stellar telescope. To date, work on the construction of a telescope tower in the Kursk region has been fully completed, and we have begun to install it. A closed version of the software for 20 users will be released soon. We decided that we would make a quality product and make it on our own. The development was difficult and long, but we went to a completely different level from the originally intended. All this allows us to confidently say that the AstroNYX project will make far space close for everyone.

As for the solar telescope, it is needed to expand the capabilities of our mobile application AstroNYX. It will be located on the territory of our plant, which will be built near Voronezh.

Wouldn't it be better to move the observatory to a more suitable place with the best astroclimate?

Why Kursk and Voronezh regions? The Kursk region is close to us geographically, and our astronomer chose the optimal place for a telescope in the Central Federal District precisely there, in a region quite remote from the sources of light pollution. A solar telescope will be located under Voronezh, for which the illumination is not critical, we have land there, which we will use as efficiently as possible.

We plan that the installed equipment will be used for commercial purposes, but, of course, we are considering the possibility of locating them in regions that are more suitable from the point of view of observation. Let's just say: this is a test equipment with an eye for further use.

Please tell us more about the architecture of your plant, it is somewhat unusual. Who is the architect, are there any new materials and technologies, was it cheaper to build a minimalist box?

Unusual - yes, but as a whole our enterprise and the sphere of interests are not quite trivial. In the beginning, we wanted to do with good standard options, but our company's specialist Alexander Zhigalov proposed the idea of ​​dome construction. We began to evaluate the option and it turned out that it was not only beautiful and unusual, but also cost-effective both during construction and during further operation. Great idea!

Are there any changes in the team from our last interview?

At the moment, 15 people have been involved in the space projects of the NSTR group of companies. To date, we are actively conducting interviews with potential candidates, and in the near future we are waiting for state expansion. After the announcement of the construction of the plant, we received a large number of resumes from specialists, including from the city of Voronezh.

The most important thing you managed to do? The most annoying thing that does not work yet?

We really managed to do a lot! The agreement on the construction of the plant itself is already a great achievement for a small company. We try not to make unfulfilled promises - just continue to do our work. Step by step. Unpleasant We got a little out of schedule, overestimated our capabilities, but this is not critical. We will continue!

Will there be hope for a PR level of the XXI century? Live broadcasts of engine and start tests?

Yes, indeed, we are serious about the latest trends of our time, and we are working on it. At the same time, we are still inspired by the experience of the American company Blue Origin, which almost did not report anything about its work for almost 15 years of its existence, until at last it demonstrated a magnificent, streamlined suborbital ship for tourists. This is the ideal to which we strive, because there are so many startups with great PR and the lack of technical and economic achievements. Unfortunately, so far everything is not going out in an ideal way regarding our work with the media. I hope for understanding, for us this is not a priority task. But in the future we plan to cover our work more broadly and professionally.

I express my gratitude to the staff of the NSTR Rocket Technologies Company and personally to the director Viktor Chernikov for an interesting conversation.


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