Rocket projects of Roscosmos


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Rocket projects of Roscosmos

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Since early September, Roscosmos announced several new launch vehicles at once, the development of which should either begin, or should not. Now it's time to explore the entire proposed zoo breeding facilities.

By 2019, two missiles remained from the Angara launch vehicle family: Angara-A1.1 and Angara-A5. The first is supposed to replace light conversion missiles, and the second is designed to replace the Proton-M, whose operation ends in 2025. The disadvantages of the Angara include a high price: due to its modularity, the Angara-A5 can never become competitive. The reliability of the rocket has not yet been confirmed. In addition, in its current form, it does not meet the requirements of the technical specifications. Only the upgraded Angara-A5M with boosted engines will be able to achieve the declared carrying capacity.

Roscosmos does not plan to abandon the Angara. The development of the basic version of the rocket has long been completed. The flight tests of the heavy Angara should resume at the end of this or the beginning of next year, and in the second half of the 2020s it will remain the only Russian heavy class missile.

Soyuz-5 (Irtysh, Sunkar) is a promising middle-class launch vehicle that has been developed under the current Federal Space Program for several years. Last year, work on the preliminary design was completed, and the flights of Soyuz-5 should begin in 2023 from Baikonur.

At the first stage of the rocket, the RD-171MV engines will be used – a modernized version of the RD-171 engines used at the Ukrainian Zenith (representatives of Roscosmos sometimes call these engines the most powerful rocket engines in the world, but this does not correspond to reality). The Soyuz 5’s carrying capacity will be 17 tons. This missile is an attempt to recreate the Zenith in Russian production, but, of course, with adaptation to its own capabilities.

A few weeks ago, Roscosmos announced that the Angara-A5P rocket, rather than Soyuz-5, would be used to begin flight tests of a promising manned spacecraft (PTK NP). The Russian military refused to use Baikonur, and therefore there are no other government orders for the rocket. Now it’s not very clear how Soyuz-5 will be able to compete for commercial orders on the international market. Previously, S7 Space, which owns the Sea Launch floating spaceport, called Soyuz-5 uncompetitive.

The surprise was the announcement on September 6 of yet another middle-class missile, the Soyuz-6 (Amur). It will use RD-180 engines, which are now purchased by the American company ULA, and the Soyuz-6 carrying capacity will be about 9 tons when launched into a low orbit, 5.5 tons in a sun-synchronous orbit or 2.3 tons in GPO. Judging by the July and February statements by the head of the state corporation Dmitry Rogozin, in the future this missile will have to replace (or partially replace) the Soyuz-2, which is used to launch Soyuz-MS manned spacecraft, Progress-MS cargo spacecraft, satellites Earth remote sensing, communications and navigation. Roscosmos intends to build a launch for Soyuz-6 on Baikonur, that is, unlike Soyuz-2, this missile will not be used to launch military vehicles. The first start is scheduled for 2025.

It is unclear what caused the intention to replace Soyuz-2 in addition to the desire to attach RD-180 engines. There is no doubt that the Soyuz-6 will be significantly more expensive, since the RD-180 itself is extremely expensive.

On September 6, Roscosmos also announced the creation of an ultralight partially reusable rocket for developing methane engines. Probably, this is the Krylo-SV project, which was previously supported by the Advanced Research Foundation. The system is designed to launch spacecraft weighing up to 600 kg into the sun-synchronous orbit. The rocket’s operation scheme provides for the separation of the first stage of the launch vehicle at an altitude of 59-66 kilometers and its return to the launch area with landing on the runway. The developers hope to start flying some "demonstrators" in 2022.

Finally, on September 18, speaking to the students of the BSTU Voenmekh, Dmitry Rogozin showed another rocket – a 9-ton methane analogue of Soyuz-6. Initially, such a rocket was proactively developed by the RCC Progress under the name Soyuz-5. After the name went to Roscosmos for the analogue of Zenith, the methane monoblock was renamed to Soyuz-7. Now the rocket does not have an official name. There is also no information about which enterprise will develop the engines, as well as about the place and timing of the start of flight tests. Tasks for the rocket, which will duplicate the existing Soyuz-2 and being developed by Soyuz-6, are also unclear.

The Federal Space Program for 2016-2025 provides funding only for Angara and Soyuz-5. However, every year, Roskosmos is moving further away from this program, canceling the work declared in it and initiating others in return. Obviously, an official review of the PCF or a complete rejection of it will sooner or later become inevitable – especially in the light of the government’s desire to cancel the federal target programs altogether.

Obviously, Roscosmos will not receive funding for all announced missile projects, and it will have to choose. Given how many questions have accumulated in the justification of the proposed missiles, one can expect that Roskosmos will not be able to clearly explain the criteria for choosing missiles for financing. He is hampered by the lack of strategic planning for a development program for development of launch vehicles and a lack of understanding of the goals of astronautics in general. After all the missile initiatives this fall, there is a feeling that Roscosmos sees the meaning of its existence in the development and launch of missiles. I would like to remind the industry leadership that this is not so. Cosmonautics is an activity related to the operation of automatic and manned spacecraft. Rockets are just a means of delivering satellites into outer space. And attention should be paid to them accordingly: meaningful, but not the main one.

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