Tag Archives: Energia

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.

Russian rocket engines ready for shipment to U.S.

The competition heats up: An engine that Russia has developed for its Angara rocket has now been tested and is ready for shipment to the U.S. for use in the first stage of Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket.

This new engine will replace the refurbished Soviet-era engines Antares had been using previously that had caused the October launch failure. Note also that since Antares is not a military rocket, it does not fall under the Congressional ban for Russian engines that limits their use on ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket. As the article notes,

On Jan. 16, 2015, RKK Energia, parent company of NPO Energomash, announced that it had reached an agreement with the American company Orbital Sciences Corporation, OSC, on the export of RD-181 engines for the first stage of the Antares rocket, thus replacing the NK-33 engines previously used on the launcher. The contract, worth around $1 billion, was actually signed and ratified by the Russian government in December 2014. According to the document, a total of 60 RD-181 engines would be delivered to OSC beginning in June 2015.

This deal means that Antares will likely be back in business soon, though it will still be dependent on Russian-built equipment, which carries its own risks. It also means that Orbital ATK will not be able to sell Antares to the U.S. military, limiting its marketability.

The Putin government moves to take control of Energia

Vitaly Lopota, the president of Russia’s largest space company Energia, was suspended Friday by the company’s board of directors.

The move appears to be part of an effort by Russia’s government to obtain majority control over Energia, of which it owns a 38-percent share. The directors elected Igor Komarov as its new chairman of the board. Komarov is chief of the Russian United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC), the government-owned company tasked with consolidating Russia’s sprawling space sector.

The government is also conducting a criminal investigation of Lopota, which might be justified but to me nonetheless appears to be a power play designed to both eliminate him from the game as well as make sure everyone else toes the line so that URSC can take complete control.

Will Russia’s most powerful rocket engine be reborn?

The competition heats up? The original builders of the hydrogen-oxygen engine that launched the Soviet Union’s most powerful rocket, Energia, are pushing to restart production of that engine.

By 2013, the KBKhA design bureau, which developed the original RD-0120 engine, declared its restoration as one of several high-priority projects. According to a schedule developed by KBKhA in coordination with its manufacturing arm — the Voronezh Mechanical Plant — the RD-0120 could be brought back to production in six years, given adequate funding.

The final decision on the restoration of the RD-0120 would depend on the approved architecture of the super-heavy rocket, whose development was included into the latest draft of the Federal Space Program from 2016 to 2025. Plans to restore RD-0120 had its critics, who believed that a new investment into the hydrogen propulsion technology would be too costly and risky for the Russian rocket industry. A recent analysis of prospective super-heavy rocket designs by RKTs Progress, the developer of the Soyuz rocket, favored methane and solid propellants over the liquid hydrogen. At the same time, an alternative proposal from RKK Energia, the Russia’s chief manned space flight contractor, featured the RD-0120 engine on the third stage of the super-heavy Energia-KV rocket, industry sources said.

I’m not sure if it will be economically wise for Russia to focus their energies on this engine, or on a super-heavy rocket. Like NASA’s SLS, such projects look great for politicians and provide a lot of pork, but they generally are too expensive to accomplish very much.

Russian government: Nyet to tourists.

Turf war in Russia: The Russian space agency has disavowed any plans to send two tourists around the Moon in a Soyuz capsule.

Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, will not be involved in a plan to send two space tourists on a flight around the Moon and was not consulted about the project, the federal space agency said.

The mission, hatched by U.S.-based space tourism firm Space Adventures and a major Russian spacecraft manufacturer, Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, would see two space tourists travel to the Moon aboard a modified Russian Soyuz spacecraft by 2017. However, Roscosmos was kept out of the loop on the plan.

The organizers “could have consulted with us before making such loud announcements,” said Denis Lyskov, Roscosmos’s deputy chief in charge of piloted flights, Izvestia reported Monday. “We are not participating in the moon project, we are not planning to modernize the Soyuz,” Lyskov was quoted as saying.

Considering the recent power play by the Russian government to grab back full control over Russia’s aerospace industry, this disavowal does not bode well for the private effort. If the government opposes the flight, it will be very difficult for Energia to go forward.

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.

Russia has concluded its investigation into last month’s Proton launch failure and now says its next launch will be on September 15.

Russia has concluded its investigation into last month’s Proton launch failure and now says its next launch will be on September 15.

While the investigation pinpointed the problem — the installation of sensors upside down — none of the news reports about this investigation have mentioned what any corrective actions the Russians are taking. Meanwhile, at least one unnamed Russian engineer is questioning the schedule and the thoroughness of the investigation.

Sea Launch announced it plans four launches in 2014.

Sea Launch announced today it plans four launches in 2014.

The article gives a nice thumbnail summary of the history of the company, including the launch failures that put it into bankruptcy and forced Boeing, the U.S. partner, to get out, leaving the company mostly in the hands of the Russian company Energia.

According to Russian space officials, the next Soyuz tourist flight will be in 2014

According to Russian space officials today, the next Soyuz tourist flight to ISS will be in 2014.

The article above contradicts yesterday’s story where the head of the Russian space agency suggested that Russia is going to shift its focus from manned space. I suspect both stories reflect an underlying political battle going on within the Russian government.

Space Adventures and tourists to the Moon

Space Adventures and tourists to the Moon.

After consultation with Rocket Space Corporation Energia, modifications to the Soyuz TMA configuration have been agreed upon. The most important of which is the addition of a second habitation module to the Soyuz TMA lunar complex. The additional module would launch with the Block DM propulsion module and rendezvous with the Soyuz spacecraft in low-Earth orbit.

“Space Adventures will once again grace the pages of aerospace history, when the first private circumlunar mission launches. We have sold one of the two seats for this flight and anticipate that the launch will occur in 2015,” said Richard Garriott, Vice-Chairman of Space Adventures. “Having flown on the Soyuz, I can attest to how comfortable the spacecraft is, but the addition of the second habitation module will only make the flight that more enjoyable.”