Capitalism in space? The Russian company S7 Space announced today that plans to soon begin tests of the fuel tanks of its proposed reusable smallsat rocket, and is in the process of deciding what Russian facility to use.
“We plan to test the rocket’s elements, namely fuel tanks of a smaller size, with a diameter of 1.5 meters. The trials are aimed at proving that the structure is durable. A concrete laboratory is yet to be selected for the purpose. In other words, there has been no firm contract for trials so far,” [explained the head of the company’s technological research department, Arseny Kisarev.]
The official expressed hope that the trials would be carried out by TsNIIMash (Central Research Institute of Machine Building), a main research institution of Russia’s state-run space corporation Roscosmos.
“However, choosing another lab is also possible, if it corresponds to our requirements of the testing procedure,” he said.
This rocket was first announced in 2019. Development was suspended in 2020, however, when the Putin government imposed new much higher fees on the company for storing the ocean launch platform Sea Launch, fees so high that the company was soon negotiating to sell the platform to a Russian state-run corporation.
It is not clear whether that sale ever occurred, but the company itself appears only now to be resuming some operations. Though today’s story suggests it is operating independent of the control of Roscosmos and the Russian government, this is quite doubtful. Russia today functions much like the various Mafia mobs in the U.S. The various different government agencies divide up the work into “territories” that belong to each company. No other independent company can enter that territory and compete for business. Since S7 Space wants to build its own rocket, that makes it a direct competitor with Roscosmos and the government design bureaus within it that build the various Russian rockets.
More likely Roscosmos wants S7 Space to survive, but under its control and only for the purpose of building a smallsat rocket for Roscosmos. S7 Space appears to be struggling to stay independent, with this announcement likely part of that struggle.
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