Late last month, Russia held the MAKS 2013 air and space show at the Ramenskoye airfield near Moscow. The biannual event, which traces its roots to the end of the Cold War, has become the largest and most important public exhibition for the nation’s aviation and space industry.
This year, organizers shifted the show's timing by a week to the end of August, in an effort to attract families returning from summer vacation. But MAKS 2013 was missing its most important visitor, Russian president Vladimir Putin, who broke a tradition of opening the show, reportedly out of dissatisfaction with its organizers. MAKS officials still claimed record-breaking crowds, despite a rainy last weekend.
Following another tradition, the six-day show began with a spectacular display by the Russian Knights (Russkie Vityazi) aerobatic team flying Su-27 fighter jets (pictured).
For more scenes from the show, see the gallery below.
The opening act was followed by an even bigger and riskier extravaganza with nine airplanes—four MiG-29s from the Swifts (Strizhi) aerobatic team and five Su-27s piloted by the Russian Knights.
This scaled prototype of a fly-back booster developed by the Khrunichev space center for the MRKS-1 program represents the country’s latest effort to develop a partially reusable space transportation system. The prototype is used for aerodynamic research.
The state-of-the-art S-350E anti-aircraft system made its first public appearance at MAKS 2013. Given recent developments in Syria, a major customer for Russia’s most sophisticated weapons, the S-350E missiles attracted considerable attention at the show.
Another highlight of MAKS 2013 was the appearance of three of Sukhoi's T-50 new-generation stealth fighters. Only four aircraft of this type have been built so far, with the fifth jet due to come online soon. The T-50's test flight program started around three years ago.
A leading developer of planetary spacecraft, NPO Lavochkin, showed a scale model of its unmanned Luna-Glob lander, which is due to re-start the Russian lunar exploration program in the second half of this decade. Following the embarrassing failure of a Russian mission to the Martian moon Phobos in 2011, the company promised to do more thorough testing of the new spacecraft, and possibly to involve the European Space Agency in the project.
An even more ambitious space project was demonstrated with this scale model from the Keldysh center in Moscow of a nuclear-powered, electrically propelled space tug. Such a vehicle would deliver large cargo and even manned vehicles to the Moon, Mars and outer planets. At MAKS 2013, the Keldysh center announced that it had completed its preliminary design for the revolutionary vehicle on schedule, after almost four years of development work.
The centerpiece of the Russian space exhibit was a prototype of the nation’s next-generation spacecraft, which goes by the Russian acronym PTK NP. Designed to parallel development of NASA’s Orion manned vehicle, the full-scale prototype was shown in public for the first time. Cosmonaut trainee Mark Serov was on hand to guide reporters though the ship’s fully furnished interior. PTK NP is designed to carry four cosmonauts to lunar orbit and the Lagrange points in the vicinity of Earth and the moon.
On the sidelines of the show, students from the Moscow Aviation Institute, MAI, proved that Superman is as popular in Russia as he is in the U.S., despite a new chill in Russian-American relations.