Russians Ask, What Are the Next Steps, After the International Space Station?
October 3, 2012 • 9:22AM

The occasion of the annual International Astronautical Congress, being held this week in Naples, Italy, gave Russia's top space experts the opportunity to present a variety of challenging proposals for the future of space exploration. Alexander Derechin, Deputy Director of the Energia Space Corporation, formerly the Design Bureau established by Soviet space pioneer, S.P. Korolov, presented an array of possibilities for the development of space infrastructure, including unmanned and manned capabilities at the Lagrange points between the Earth and the Moon. At these locations, the gravitational balance between the two bodies is such that almost no energy is required to keep a spacecraft in orbit. From these gravitational balance points, a minimal amount of energy is needed to go anywhere else.

Derechin proposed that the next-generation space infrastructure should include a space station smaller than the ISS, needed especially for human space physiology and medical experiments, but that there should be a "cloud" of smaller stations, manned only periodically for maintenance and upgrading, and optimized for a specific function, such as astronomy, geophysics studies, materials research, etc.

At the Lagrange point, Derechin said, man-tended infrastructure would create the basis for future manned missions, regardless of the destination that is chosen. In general, he stressed, the goal should be to create infrastructure that is "adaptable to any scenario."