The objective is to launch a crewed spacecraft to lower Earth orbit. Except the perigee must be higher than 100km altitude, there is no other constrain on the orbit parameters. The emphasis is that the launch itself is not planned in advance.

If an organization that is capable of sending people into orbit (NASA, Roscosmos, CNSA, ULS, SpaceX, etc.) starts working today, how long will it take to have a launch?

  • $\begingroup$ Great question, eager to read the answers. $\endgroup$ Oct 18, 2016 at 23:24
  • $\begingroup$ Of those agencies, only Roscosmos and CNSA are currently capable of putting crewed spacecraft in orbit. $\endgroup$ Oct 18, 2016 at 23:31
  • $\begingroup$ @RussellBorogove It would be nice to know the time it takes for Space Shuttle and older systems. $\endgroup$
    – Mys_721tx
    Oct 19, 2016 at 0:47
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, I ground ruled Shuttle out because you said 'today'. $\endgroup$ Oct 19, 2016 at 3:34
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    $\begingroup$ You can read about the results of a detailed study done about launching a rescue shuttle in the answer to this question: space.stackexchange.com/questions/10546/… $\endgroup$ Oct 19, 2016 at 3:43

1 Answer 1


It depends.

I don't know anything about the chinese agency so I'll focus on Roscosmos

It takes about 2 years to build a new Soyuz (Mir era data).

However what would happen is that we'd repurpose a scheduled vehicle for the emergency mission.

Since we launch about 4 Soyuz a year, this mean that on average, a Soyuz should be ready within 45 days, at most 90 depending on the date of the next scheduled launch.

Of course, there is probably room for corner cutting and extra hard work. Especially if you are ready to send a rescue vehicle for the rescue vehicle.

If you needed to send one today (October 19 2016)... You'd be lucky since Soyuz MS-02 is already on the launchpad. Few hours to go !

The 3 months figure is really an average: next launch will be just one month from now:

  • $\begingroup$ "on average, a Soyuz should be ready within 3 months" Wouldn't the average be half the time between two consecutive launches, because on average you will be smack in the middle between two launches? So on average, a Soyuz should be ready within 45 days? Three months would be the worst case, being the case if the emergency launch is needed and that need materializes immediately after the previous launch commits. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Oct 19, 2016 at 10:56
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling You are right. I was only thinking about the "maximum average" Edited. $\endgroup$
    – Antzi
    Oct 19, 2016 at 11:00
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    $\begingroup$ "Of course, there is probably room for corner cutting.... Especially if you are ready to send a rescue vehicle for the rescue vehicle." If you already have a rescue vehicle ready for the rescue vehicle, can't you just go ahead and launch the rescue vehicle's rescue vehicle right now? $\endgroup$
    – Dan
    Oct 20, 2016 at 4:30

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