It seems that plans to leave Baikonur and switching to Vostochny Cosmodrome will not be as fast and easy as Roscosmos would like to. According to TASS, first launches of Federation spacecraft will be performed from legendary complex in Kazakhstan, not from the latest cosmodrome in eastern Russia.
“Federation” spacecraft which was designed as successor of Soyuz vehicles still remains along with Vostochny Cosmodrome, Angara and Fenix rockets one of the main projects of Roscosmos. It was considered as potential vehicle able not only deliver cosmonauts to International Space Station, but also to make possible first space journey to the Moon orbit. Roscosmos claimed even in the 2016, that “Federation” will be launched in its first mission in 2021 from Vostochny Cosmodrome on the top of the Angara rocket.
According to TASS first flight will not be performed as it was planned in 2021 from Vostochny, but 12 months later from Baikonur. What is more surprising, Roscosmos decided to change launch vehicle – from Angara to Fenix medium rocket. As Angara was already launched two times in 2014 and another test flight was scheduled for the end of 2017, Fenix rocket remains in very early phase of design process and even has not scheduled date of maiden flight. Main difference is that Angara is in fact whole family of different rockets able to deliver up to 40 t to LEO orbit and Fenix, which was announced in March 2016 remains medium sized vehicle able to deliver to LEO 17 t. Angara A5P, designated as launch vehicle for “Federation” with its potential of delivering 40 t to LEO could also serve as launch vehicle for Moon mission Switching to not existing rocket which could deliver to LEO orbit only lighter variant of “Federation” (to remind Moon variant weight s planned for 24 t) with mass of 17 t shows, that Roscosmos probably decided to change plans and move mission to Lunar orbit for another couple years to 2030s.
Roscosmos claims, that due the delay with finishing all necessary infrastructure and launch site for Angara at Vostochny and also because of lack of advanced work on A5P variant of Angara, it is better to start flights to LEO earlier with Fenix rocket from Baikonur. This could have sense only in following case: leaving Soyuz in 2022 would gave RKK Energia (manufacturer and designer of “Federation” ) necessary time for refining construction of vehicle, training crew and finishing work on enhanced variant of the spacecraft. During this years Roscosmos could also finish construction of Vostochny and start first manned flights on the top of the Angara A5P in 2025. But Roscosmos is not going to perform manned flight with “Federation”, only aims to test flights without crew. This in fact stands in the opposition to all previous statements, where Roscosmos and RKK Energia repeatedly emphasized, that first manned flights will start in the first half of 2020s.
This change could be explained with plan of starting flights with “Federation” without life support systems and with reduced number of subsystems. First flights could be performed to test vehicle and RKK Energia could continue developing life support systems and man-to-machine interface, crucial for controlling vehicle by crew members.