Russia’s Energia Rocket and Space Corporation is showcasing here aat MAKS 2013 air show a mock-up of the descent module for the prospective New Generation Piloted Transport Ship (abbreviated to PTK-NP in Russian). The exhibit premiered at the Paris Air Show in June. "This is the first full-scale mock-up we are working with," says Energia CEO and general designer Vitaly Lopota.
Energia completed conceptual design work on PTK-NP in late 2012. The design is currently under assessment at specialised industry institutes; if successful, it will be used for the development of blueprints for the manufacture of the first prototype. Lopota says PTK-NP was designed with the use of "digital technology", and that, given sufficient funding, flight tests may commence in 2017. Earlier, Energia named 2015 as the likely year for the launch of the test program.
The current iteration of the descent module design differs somewhat from the original 2007-2008 concept, which called for a breakthrough fully rocket-assisted landing system utilising solid-propellant soft-landing engines and deployable landing gear. It was believed at the time that such a design would allow for a landing accuracy of 1 km or less. Parachute recovery was envisaged only as an emergency escape system for the crew compartment.
In the 2009-2010 preliminary design, the soft-landing engines got replaced with a set of solid-fuel gas generators and variable throat nozzles. However, in the course of the design evaluation in late 2010, Central Research Institute of Machine Building (TsNIImash) criticized this solution as being insufficiently reliable. As a result, Energia amended the conceptual design with a combined parachute/rocket-assisted landing system, which will ensure a landing precision of around 3 km.
The original concept called for the development of several PTK-NP variants: for Earth orbit, lunar, rescue, and cargo resupply/resupply and return missions. The conceptual design envisaged only two of the versions: the PTK-S version for ISS resupply and the PTK-Z for autonomous orbital missions. Later, however, the lunar variant was assigned higher priority.