Bad solder joints cause of Russian Proton engine defects


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The problem that has forced the Russians to recall all Proton second and third stage engines has been identified as the use of the wrong materials in solder joints.

According to specifications, the structural walls and the nozzle chamber of the gas generator had to be fused together with the help of the solder designated G70NKh, which employs nickel, chromium and manganese alloy (Ni-Cr-Mn). However the investigation revealed that due to mismanagement of the raw material usage at the Voronezh Mechanical Plant, the required alloy had been replaced with the PZhK-1000 solder comprised of palladium, nickel, chromium and silicon (Pd-Ni-Cr-Si). Because the replaced solder did not meet specifications, it could lead to structural disintegration of the nozzle head during the firing of the gas generator.

The discovery of the problem with the solder triggered inspection of other engines and revealed that all RD-0210 and RD-0212 engines from the second and third stages that had been manufactured during 2015 and 2016 had been equipped with defective gas generators. In order to re-certify these engines for flight, each of them would have to be disassembled, the gas generator would have to be removed and replaced, followed by the re-assembly and re-testing of each engine!

The article also notes that the next Angara rocket is also “unfit for flight” due to unspecified defects. It also notes widespread corruption and mismanagement throughout the Russian aerospace industry.

Sadly, the decision by the Putin administration to consolidate their industry into one huge corporation run by the government, and thus eliminate any competition, is only going to make solving this problem more difficult. What Russia needs is competition, with many different companies free to challenge each other for business. It also needs to allow companies to fail and go out of business.

Instead, everything is controlled from above, and thus no competition can happen. Rather than finding a new company to build these engines, the government is going to provide the company “economic aid” in order to modernize it. This is like putting a band-aid on a broken bone.

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4 comments

  • Kyle

    Maybe you should send Mr Putin a copy of your paper.

  • Frank

    The notion of soldering high temperature/pressure metal joints is a new on on this electrical engineer. A google search on G70NKh refers to the joining process as brazing and shows it is indeed used in this application.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Brazing is soldering. Neither process involves melting of the metal parts being joined – the defining characteristic of welding. Brazing typically involves higher temperatures and higher-melting point materials than soldering, but both involve using wicking forces to pull a molten joiner metal into the microscopic interstices between two unmelted metal components that each have higher melting points than the braze metal in use.

  • wayne

    Mike Rowe Visits The Welding School, Jacksonville, FL.
    https://youtu.be/dQ-LbUYZkcg
    (10:23)
    –oldest welding school in the US

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