The private Russian company S7 Space, which recently took over Sea Launch, wants to buy the blueprints and resume building the Soviet era rocket engines developed for the N1 heavy-lift rocket.
Russia’s S7 Space, part of the S7 Group, plans to build a plant in Samara to produce Soviet-designed NK-33 and NK-43 rocket engines for super heavy-lift launch vehicles and intends to purchase production capacities from the state-owned United Engine Corporation (UEC) for this purpose, S7 Space General Director Sergey Sopov said in an interview.
“We would like to buy from the state the well-known engines NK-33 and NK-43, produced earlier by the Samara-based Kuznetsov plant, as well as the documentation, equipment, technical backlog. In general, everything that has survived on this theme from the Soviet program. We intend to restore production and build our own rocket engine plant in Samara,” Sopov said in an interview to be published in the Vedomosti newspaper.
As with everything now in Russia, this company not only needs to buy the rights to these engines, it needs to get government permission to do this. Also, because it will take five to six years to get the new engine plant up and running, they plan in the interim to use the available engines left over from the 1960s. Considering the launch failure caused by one of these engines in an Orbital ATK Antares launch, I am not sure this is wise.
Overall, S7 Space has the right idea. The company wants to compete, and it wants to innovate. Whether it can do so in the top-down culture of Russia remains the unanswered question.
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