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The competition heats up: Roscosmos is studying proposals for building a reusable first stage that will use wings to return to the launchpad for later reuse.
The project draft has been created as part of Russia’s 2016-2025 space program. According to Izestia, Russia could spend over 12 billion rubles (around $180 million) on the creation of the reusable first stage before 2025. The newspaper cites space experts as saying that satellite launches could become much cheaper with the use of renewable launchers as they would allow to save millions of dollars on engines installed on the first stage of the rocket. The cost of the engines used on the current expendable launch vehicles is $10-70 million.
I’m not sure how seriously we should take this. The Russians consider lots of proposals, many times leaking the proposals to the press for any number of reasons. Most of those proposals never come to fruition.
Nonetheless, SpaceX’s effort to make its Falcon 9 first stage reusable, thus making it far less expensive than anyone else’s, is clearly influencing the Russians, as it has ULA and the Europeans. They are feeling competitive pressure, and are thus compelled to respond.