Tag Archives: RD-0120

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.