In recent months, the Russian space industry has been talking well about its plans to develop new rockets to compete on the international stage.
One of the country’s legendary rocket engine manufacturers, NPO Energomash, announced it was working on developing a large methane-fired rocket engine called the RD-0177. This engine was part of an overall plan for a “new generation” of missiles. The work comes as three US rocket companies, SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin, build their next-generation rockets around methane engines.
In addition, Russian officials have continued to discuss the development of the Soyuz 5 rocket – a medium-height rocket that should provide affordable access to space. This booster is linked to Sea Launch’s floating spaceport and to human launches in the mid-1920s.
However, Ivan Moiseev, the head of the Russian Space Policy Institute, said these projects are best thought of as “paper rockets,” without the funding to become actual hardware.
“In fact, we do not have a clear and understandable strategy for space travel, and huge problems have piled up in the Russian space industry,” he said in an interview with the online newspaper Vzglyad (a translation of this article was provided by Robinson Mitchell) “On this At the moment Roscosmos is coming up with all kinds of new rocket projects on paper, but only those that will stay on paper and never come to fruition.”
These announcements of futuristic missile projects are likely playing well domestically and adding to Russia’s image as a superpower. But the real future of the Russian missile program seems less rosy.
Waiting for Angara
To launch large payloads into space and compete for international launch contracts, Russia relied primarily on the Proton rocket for decades. This booster, which debuted in the 1960s, had a base price of about $65 million, which could compete with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster. But it has had reliability issues lately, and about 15 years ago, the Russian government decided to develop the “Angara 5” missile to replace the Proton missile.
The Angara 5 rocket flew once, in 2014, putting a 2-tonne simulator into geosynchronous orbit. But due to a number of factors, including cost, production issues and a lack of demand, the Angara 5 rocket has not flown since. Nevertheless, it is planned that the Angara 5 rocket will take the place of the more modestly priced Proton rocket in the coming years.
Russia’s state news agency, TASS, reported Monday that efforts are underway to lower the price of the Angara 5 rocket from more than $100 million per launch to $57 million by 2024. These cost savings would be matched by series production of the rocket in Russia. instead of single production.
But Russian industry observers continue to distrust these official statements. “Angara has no chance of successful competition,” said Andrey Ionin, a member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonauts. About Russia’s plan to cut the cost of the Angara 5 rocket, Ionin said: “This is an attempt to bombard real facts with informational nonsense. He does not believe the rocket can ever compete with the Falcon 9 reusable rocket.
The reality seems to be that Russia’s The next rocket costs significantly more than the rocket it replaces, the Proton. This comes at a time when international price competition, led by SpaceX but joined by Japan’s H3 and Europe’s Ariane 6 boosters, is fiercer than ever.