Russian Design Bureau Nears Verification on New Soyuz Engine

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Soyuz rocket

Russia’s Chemical Automatics Design Bureau (KBKhA) “have almost completed validation and verification of the RD-0124 engine to be used on Soyuz-2-1b carrier,” according to a story on the Roscosmos website. “Governmental acceptance of the engine is the next step.”

The new RD-0124 upper-stage engine increases the Soyuz rocket’s capacity by 1 metric ton. It will be used on Soyuz commercial launches out of French Guiana that are set to begin next year.

A variant of the engine, the RD-0124А, will be used on the new family of Angara rocket that is being designed by the Khrunichev Space Center. “The validation of this engines is also coming close to a significant stage – the first stage firing tests are to be carried out soon,” the report states.

The Angara, which is set to be a mainstay for Russian military launches, has been repeatedly postponed due to funding issues. The first test launch is now scheduled for 2013.

KBKhA also has two other key engine projects: the hydrogen burning RD-0146 engine, which will be used on an advanced Rus-M rocket that will launched from the new Russian spaceport at Vostochny spaceport; and a nuclear rocket engine that will have multiple uses.

The Rus-M booster, which is being built by TsSKB-Progress, is designed as a replacement for the Soyuz rocket variant that is used to launch crews to the International Space Station. Roskosmos has launched a new program, the Prospective Piloted Transport System, to build a human-rated vehicle for orbital and lunar missions that will replace the Soyuz transport:

The Earth-orbiting version of the ship would have a mass of 12 tonnes and carry a crew of six, along with no less than 500 kg of cargo. It would be able to fly 30-day-long autonomous missions, or a year-long mission, while docked to the ISS in the orbit, with the inclination 51.6 degrees, and to the future Russian space station launched from Vostochny into a 51.8-degree orbit.

The lunar version would weigh 16.5 tonnes, have four seats, and be capable of delivering and bringing back 100 kg of cargo. It would be able to fly 14-day missions to orbit around the Moon, or stay docked to the lunar orbital station, LOS, for up to 200 days.

The unmanned cargo version of the vehicle would be required to carry no less than 2,000 kg to Earth orbit, and return at least 500 kg back to the planet’s surface.

Russia is also looking toward Mars with a new nuclear engine that KBKhA is working on. In prepared remarks at the International Astronautical Conference in Prague, Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov said:

“With respect to advanced projects, we started reviewing designs of heavy-lift and super-heavy-lift launchers, on the available technological grounds, and development of advanced technologies for the prospective rocket carriers.

“However we can’t stack on this stage, as the existing rocket engines are not capable of supporting fast interplanetary missions. Thus, we have initiated experimental and design activities to develop a new propulsion with nuclear energy source. The system can be used for interplanetary flights, missions to remote planets, or as an inter-orbital tug.”