Tag Archives: Angara

New delays for Angara

Because of budget constraints Russia has been forced to delay by at least a year the construction of the launchpad facilities at Vostochny for their new Angara family of rockets.

Angara’s first test flights from Vostochny will now not happen before 2021. It seems to me that by the time they get this rocket off the ground it will already be obsolete.

Angara gets a customer

The competition heats up: Russia has signed its first international contract for its new still-underdevelopment Angara rocket.

Leading Russian rocket developer, GKNPTs Khrunichev, signed up the first foreign commercial passenger for the light version of its new-generation Angara rocket. The South-Korean Kompsat-6 remote-sensing satellite (a.k.a. Arirang) was booked for a ride on the Angara-1.2 launch vehicle from Plesetsk around 2020. Equipped with a Synthetic Aperture Radar, SAR, the 1.7 ton spacecraft should be inserted into the Sun-synchronous orbit.

More here.

Angara’s status

The competition heats up: Work on the factories that will build and assembly Russia’s new Angara rocket appear to be nearing completion.

The article is an excellent overview of the entire Angara program. It also includes a number of interesting nuggets of information that might explain events of the past as well as Russia’s future success or failure of Angara.

For example, the repeated problems with Proton’s Briz-M upper station in 2012 could have been caused by the shift of much of its production from the Khrunichev factories near Moscow to a newly absorbed company located in Siberia. The move was made to take advantage of lower costs in Siberia while letting the company sell off land in Moscow.

Beginning in 2009, PO Polyot was to take responsibility for the production of the Briz-KM upper stage for the Rockot booster, as well as Rockot’s adapter rings and the payload fairings. Also, the manufacturing of all key elements for the Angara-1.2 version of the rocket would end up in Omsk as well. Additionally, the Ust-Katav Wagon-building Plant, UKVZ, would produce components for Angara and its KVTK upper stage, along with sections of the Proton rocket and the Briz-M upper stage.

As for Angara, the article suggests that Russia is struggling to make it as inexpensive to launch as Proton:
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Russia looks to reduce Proton launch costs

The competition heats up: Russian officials are considering developing a new variant of the Proton rocket that would cost less to launch and thus make the rocket more desirable in the increasingly competitive launch market.

They have not made a decision yet. As the article notes,

[G]iven the extended length of time required for even less radical upgrades of Proton and the official Russian strategy to phase out the vehicle in favor of Angara-5, it is unclear whether it would be possible to justify the Proton-Light development effort. A number of previous proposals to change the shape and size of the Proton-M rocket were deemed too expensive more than a decade earlier in the rocket’s operational career.

More problems at Khrunichev

Construction of the second Angara rocket, built by the Russian organization Khrunichev, is behind schedule by at least three months.

[T]he reason for the lag is the delay with the supply of components, as well as the production setup in Omsk, the long period of checks and the lack of certain equipment for testing. In Moscow, the units will pass additional testing and the carrier rocket will be assembled, after which the launch vehicle will be transported to the Plesetsk cosmodrome (Arkhangelsk region) for the pre-launch preparation.

It is interesting to note the circuitous route the rocket’s parts must travel before launch. Kind of reminds me of the way Congress distributed SLS, and how ESA distributed Ariane 5, in order to spread the wealth and put pork in as many places as possible, regardless of how it increased production cost.

Meanwhile, the delay suggests again that Khrunichev’s quality control problems, seen repeatedly with launch failures of its Proton rocket, have not been solved with the new Angara rocket.

Angara at Vostochny trimmed

Due to cuts in the Russian government’s ten-year plan for aerospace, the number of Angara launchpads at the new Vostochny spaceport has been slashed in half, with construction delayed as well.

On January 20, 2016, Roskosmos officials admitted that budget cuts at the end of 2015 required to drop plans to build one of the two launch pads for Angara rockets in Vostochny. Previously, the Russian space officials claimed that a dual launch complex for the Angara was absolutely necessary to support the four-launch scenario of the lunar expeditions relying on the Angara-5V rocket. The beginning of the construction of the remaining single pad was now delayed from 2016 to 2017.

Based on all the different reports I’ve read, they have also eliminated in the 10-year plan all lunar missions and the construction of a new space station. Essentially, their budget can only barely sustain what they are already doing. Like NASA, they have too large a labor force — jobs maintained for pork barrel reasons rather than actually accomplishing anything — that makes it impossible for them to afford anything new.

Russia considers building heavy-lift rocket like SLS

The competition heats up: Sources in Roscosmos, Russia’s government agency in charge of their entire aerospace industry, today revealed that the agency is considering building a heavy-lift rocket, as powerful as NASA’s SLS rocket but more similar to Energia, the heavy-lift rocket built by the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

The cost would be $12.2 billion, or 1 trillion rubles, and would take 7-8 years to complete. If approved, the work would also not begin until after 2025 so that the development of Angara’s full family of rockets is completed first.

Meanwhile, a GAO audit today noted that NASA has little margin for completing SLS on time and on budget.

Big, inefficient, and costly rockets: This is what governments do. Their goal? To provide jobs and pork. Even if the rocket never flies it matters not, as long as that pork keeps flowing.

Manned flights from Vostochny delayed

In order to save construction costs at its new spaceport at Vostochny, Russia has decided to delay its first manned flight there until 2023.

They originally were going prepare a launchpad for Soyuz rockets so that they could do a manned launch at Vostochny as early as 2019, but had already admitted this was inefficient and had abandoned the plan. Now they have admitted that it will take until 2023 for them to get Vostochny and Angara ready for manned flights.

That it will still take almost 8 years to prepare a launchpad and get Angara ready to launch manned capsules, however, seems an ungodly long period of time. It should not take that long.

Angara to launch commercial payload on next launch

The competition heats up: Russia has decided to accelerate use of its heavy Angara rocket by launching a commercial payload on its next launch in 2016.

They had initially planned to do more test flights. The technical problems with Proton, combined with increased competition from SpaceX and others, is forcing them to move at a less leisurely pace.

In the meantime, they have concluded their investigation into the Progress/Soyuz rocket failure, issuing an incredibly vague press release that only stated the following:

The damage to the ship during its abnormal separation from the third stage of the Soyuz-2-1a launch vehicle resulted from a particular property of the joint use of the cargo spacecraft and the launch vehicle. This design property was related to frequency and dynamic characteristics of joint vehicles. This design property was not fully accounted for during the development of the rocket and spacecraft complex.

Limitations on further flights of the Soyuz-2-1a rocket with other spacecraft had not been found.

It sounds to me as if they don’t know exactly what caused the abnormal separation between the rocket and the spacecraft, and that they have decided to move on regardless.

I think it would be very wise for the U.S. to get its own manned spacecraft operational as fast as possible.

Russians delay next Angara launch to replace Briz upper stage

The competition heats up? The Russians have delayed until late 2016 the first test flight of the heavy-lift version of their new Angara rocket so that they can fly it with its own new upper stage, rather than using the trouble-plagued Briz upper stage used on Proton.

In other words, they want to dump all the components of the Proton as soon as possible. Whether this will solve the quality control problems that seem to be systemic to their aerospace industry however remains questionable. If I was a commercial satellite company I would have as little faith in Angara, until it has proven itself through a number of launches.

Russia slashes spending on space

In the heat of competition: Economic hard times have forced the Russian government to cut spending on its space program by more than a third.

The cuts have mainly come from abandoning their effort to build a heavy lift rocket to compete with SLS. They might not realize it, but I think this will be a blessing in disguise, as they will no longer be wasting money building a giant rocket that will have little value in the competitive launch market. Instead, they will focus their investment on Angara, which has the possibility of earning them a profit.

Meanwhile, however, they still have to deal with the quality control problems and corruption that appears to permeate Russia`s entire aerospace industry: Russian defense rocket fails and crashes immediately after launch. I have posted the video of the crash below the fold. It appears that the rocket was successfuly propelled from its launch silo, but then its rocket engines never ignited.
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Russia delays first manned launch from Vostochny

The Russian government has decided to delay from 2018 to 2020 the first manned launch from its new spaceport at Vostochny because an earlier launch would require them to use equipment they expect to retire anyway.

While the construction problems at Vostochny might be a factory in this decision, I also believe there is truth to the claim above. If they launch in 2018, they will probably have to use the Soyuz rocket to launch crews into space. By 2020 they plan to have Angara completely operational, and will be ready to retire Soyuz. Why build the infrastructure for Soyuz when you plan to retire it in only a couple of years anyway?

The delay however indicates a more fundamental problem with the Russian top-down authoritarian culture. It shouldn’t take them this long to get Angara operational. The rocket was conceived shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. They’ve had almost a quarter century to build it. Even though they’ve only just done the first two test flights, there is no justification for it to take another five years to get all the configurations of the rocket flying.

If they want to compete on the world market, they are going to have to work faster than this. A competitive private company, rather than delaying the launch, would have pushed Angara to be ready sooner so that the the launch could happen on time, with Angara. That the Russians seem unable to do this indicates that they will not be very competitive in the coming decades.

Russia abandons super-rocket designed to compete with SLS

The competition heats up: Russia has decided to abandon an expensive attempt to build an SLS-like super-rocket and will instead focus on incremental development of its smaller but less costly Angara rocket.

Facing significant budgetary pressures, the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has indefinitely postponed its ambitious effort to develop a super-heavy rocket to rival NASA’s next-generation Space Launch System, SLS. Instead, Russia will focus on radical upgrades of its brand-new but smaller Angara-5 rocket which had its inaugural flight in Dec. 2014, the agency’s Scientific and Technical Council, NTS, decided on Thursday, Mar. 12.

For Russia’s space industry, it appears that these budgetary pressures have been a blessing in disguise. Rather than waste billions on an inefficient rocket for which there is no commercial demand — as NASA is doing with SLS (under orders from a wasteful Congress) — they will instead work on further upgrades of Angara, much like SpaceX has done with its Falcon family of rockets. This will cost far less, is very efficient, and provides them a better chance to compete for commercial launches that can help pay for it all. And best of all, it offers them the least costly path to future interplanetary missions, which means they might actually be able to make those missions happen. To quote the article again:

By switching upper stages of the existing Angara from kerosene to the more potent hydrogen fuel, engineers might be able to boost the rocket’s payload from current 25 tons to 35 tons for missions to the low Earth orbit. According to Roscosmos, Angara-A5V could be used for piloted missions to the vicinity of the Moon and to its surface.

In a sense, the race is now on between Angara-A5V and Falcon Heavy. It shall be quite exciting to watch this competition unfold between big government and private enterprise over the next few decades.

Next Angara launch delayed

The competition heats up? Industry sources in Russia noted today that the next launch of Angara will be delayed until 2016.

Previously the next Angara launch was scheduled for late 2015. This delay is not a disaster for Russia, as Angara is designed to work in conjunction with the country’s new spaceport in Vostochny, and that facility won’t really be operational until 2016 either.

Roscomos puts the squeeze on Ukraine

Two more stories this week provide additional evidence that Roscosmos, the new Russian government-run space corporation that controls Russia’s entire space industry, intends to eliminate its dependence on any foreign contributions, even if that contribution comes from the former Soviet province of Ukraine.

In the first story, Roscosmos ends the commercial use of the Dnepr anti-ballistic missile, built originally in the Ukraine. In the second story Roscosmos makes it very clear that it will focus on using its Russia-made Angara rocket rather than depend on the Ukrainian Zenit, even though Zenit is what the Roscosmos-owned Sea Launch platform was designed to use and Angara is far from operational.

The main result of these decisions will be the bankrupt many Ukrainian space companies. Whether it will bring more business to Angara, however, remains to be seen. Angara has only had one orbital launch, and has hardly tested its many different configurations. At this stage it is highly unlikely that the commercial customers who have depended on Dnepr and Zenit will flock to it, especially since they now have other competitive options available in the west.

Angara A5 rocket launches successfully

The competition heats up: Russia successfully completed the first test launch of the heavy-lift version of its Angara rocket today.

More background here.

At this moment the dummy payload is in a preliminary orbit and requires additional engine burns by the Briz-M upper stage to reach its planned geosynchronous orbit. Briz-M however is well tested and has been in use for years already on the Proton rocket. Therefore, for Angara this flight has now been a complete success, even if the Briz-M stage fails.

Russia rolls Angara 5 to the launchpad

The competition heats up: Angara 5, the most powerful member of the Angara family of rockets, has arrived at the launchpad for its inaugural December test flight.

Russia’s eventually goal is to replace Proton with this rocket. Angara is also designed to be cheaper to launch, which makes it more competitive with SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

Next Angara test flight in December

The competition heats up: According to one Russian official, the next test flight of Russia’s new Angara rocket will take place before the end of December.

Another Russian news story says that the Angara test program will involve ten flights and that the target cost for the rocket’s most powerful configuration will be around $100 million. Depending on how much payload this configuration can put in orbit, this price makes it very competitive with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.

Russia to match SpaceX launch prices

The competition heats up: The head of Russia’s United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC), which now controls that country’s entire space industry, said today that they intend to compete with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 much cheaper launch prices.

They intend to do it with both the Proton rocket as well as their new family of Angara rockets. The heavy version of Angara will allow them to compete with SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, and in fact might even put more payload into orbit for less.

The next Proton and Angara launches

The competition heats up: Russia has set September 28 as the next launch date for its troubled Proton rocket.

The most interesting detail gleaned from this article however is this:

The Proton-M carrier rocket previously launched on May 16 from Baikonur space center collided with communications satellite Express АМ4R and burned up in the atmosphere above China, leaving Russia without its most powerful telecommunications satellite.

Previous reports had not been very clear about the causes of the May launch failure. All they would say is that “a failed bearing in the steering engine’s turbo pump” had caused the failure about nine minutes into the flight. This report suggests that this failure occurred after separation of the payload and that it then caused the upper stage to collide with the satellite.

Russia is also about to ship its new Angara 5 rocket to the launch site for a planned December launch. This will be the first launch of the Angara configuration that is expected to replace the Proton rocket, and is expected to place a dummy payload into geosynchronous orbit.
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Angara launches

The competition heats up: The first test launch today of Russia’s new Angara rocket was a success, according to Russian reports.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the first stage of the rocket separated four minutes after the liftoff, while the vehicle was flying in the projected area over the southern Barents Sea and in the range of the Russian ground control network. The main engine of the second stage was shut down as planned at 16:08 Moscow Time and the stage along with a payload mockup fell in the projected area of the Kura impact range on the Kamchatka Peninsula 5,700 kilometers from the launch site, 21 minutes after liftoff.

Russia will obviously have to conduct further test launches, including the first orbital test, before it declares Angara operational. Nonetheless, this success gets them closer to replacing the Proton and Zenit rockets and allowing them to decrease their reliance on rockets, spaceports, and components under the control of independent countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union.

More details about the Angara rocket family can also be found here.

Angara to fly July 9?

The first test flight of Russia’s new Angara rocket is now tentatively scheduled for July 9.

The story confirms that the problem was a faulty valve, which it appears they can replace at the spaceport, rather than return the rocket to the manufacturer. The story also had this line, which tells us that Russia is still struggling with quality control problems: “The valve’s malfunctioning was a result of sloppy assembly.”

First test flight of Angara is officially postponed

It’s official: The first flight of Angara has been postponed for at least a week or more.

“The rocket will be removed from the launchpad and transferred to a technical stand for comprehensive analysis,” RIA quoted the Khrunichev center as saying, adding the new launch time would only be decided after the checks.

Though no information was released that describes the cause of the scrub, that they are going to give the rocket a major look-over suggests that at least one of the problems reported by Anthony Zak at Russianspaceweb are likely true. To quote him again:

According to a veteran of Baikonur Cosmodrome and the Russian space historian Vladimir Antipov, the scrub at that moment could indicate a failure in the pneumatic and hydraulic system activating the rocket’s propulsion system. A screenshot of the launch countdown clock, which had surfaced on the Internet, indicated a scrub at T-1 minute 19.7 seconds. It then transpired that the loss of pressure in a flexible gas line of the propulsion system caused the delay.

It could take as long as a week to fix the problem, industry sources said on the Novosti Kosmonavtiki web forum. GKNPTs Khrunichev, the Angara’s manufacturer then posted a one-line press-release saying that the date of the next launch attempt would be announced later.

According to other sources, a valve on the oxidizer line failed, which could require to return the rocket to the assembly building, to cut out the device and weld in the new valve. Due to a built-in nature of the valve, the return of the rocket to the manufacturing plant in Moscow could also be required, likely postponing the mission for weeks.

Angara launch scrubbed.

Only moments prior to launch computers aborted the first flight of Angara, Russia’s first new rocket since the Soviet-era.

More information here. According to a Russian web forum, the problem is probably a leaky valve or the loss of pressure in the propulsion system and that it might take a week to be fixed.

The quote below from the first story above is interesting in that it once again illustrates how Putin is trying to exert his authority over the space industry to re-establish the Soviet-era top down way of doing things:

Putin, who had been poised to watch the rocket’s inaugural flight from the northern military Plesetsk cosmodrome via video link from the Kremlin, ordered his generals to report on the cause of the delay within an hour.

Russia begins its withdrawal from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.

With the impending first test launch of its new Angara rocket and the construction of its new spaceport in Vostochny on-going, Russia has begun its withdrawal from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.

Zenit-M rocket launching complex will become Kazakhstan’s property on January 1, 2015, Tengrinews correspondent reported from yesterday’s government meeting in the lower chamber of the Parliament. The announcement was made by the Chairman of the National Space Agency KazCosmos Talgat Mussabayev. “We have already approved the list of facilities of Zenit-M launching site that will be excluded from the lease agreement with Russia, and have obtained the technical and administrative documents from Russia that Kazakhstan needs to operate Baiterek complex. Withdrawal of Zenit-M facilities from the Russian lease agreement and their transfer to Kazakhstan is scheduled for January 2015,” Musabayev said.

In order to ensure proper transfer of the facilities and continue their operation afterword, 49 Kazakh experts are undergoing a practical training in maintenance and operation of Zenit-M site facilities. Their training will be completed before the end of the year.

Originally financed and built as an Angara launchpad in a partnership between Russia and Kazakhstan, the Russians backed out, deciding instead to keep Angara launches entirely in Russia at Vostochny while ceasing its participation in the Ukrainian-built Zenit rocket. Moreover, when Angara goes into operation, both the story above as well as this story suggest they will then cease Proton launches at Baikonur as well.

The history of Russia’s new Angara rocket.

The history and origin of Russia’s new Angara rocket.

A fascinating read, as it gives some of the office politics and back-fighting that surrounded the decision to pick the builder of this new rocket. For example, when the government picked the company Khrunichev to build the rocket,

[C]ritics charged that traditional Russian nepotism had played a role — at the time, a daughter and the son and law of the Russian president Boris Yeltsin worked for Khrunichev. As a consolation prize, RKK Energia was awarded the development of the second stage for the Angara rocket.

Later, in a move reminiscent to the space shuttle’s history (where the winning contractor eventually ended up using the basic design of their losing competitor), Khrunichev dumped the design they had used to win the contract and switched over to something almost identical to what Energia had proposed. And in the process, they cut Energia out of the deal entirely.

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