French, Russians to Collaborate on Reusable Rockets

RIA Novosti has a report on yet another Russian rocket development program:

Russia and France will pool their efforts to build cutting-edge reusable space rockets, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Friday.

“Russian and French engineers are already working in this direction under Project Ural,” Putin told a news conference after a meeting of the Russian-French cooperation commission….

The 15-year Ural program to build advanced reusable carrier rockets was adopted in 2005….

The project is still at the conceptual stage as the type of rocket engine – hydrogen, kerosene or methane fueled – has yet to be determined.

Six years in and the effort is still at the conceptual stage? Huh. That probably explains why I’ve never heard of it, and why no results show up on Google. It does sounds similar to an Air Force effort to develop reusable rockets over roughly the same time frame.

In any event, Project Ural is already well behind the curve: numerous companies in the United States — including SpaceX, Blue Origin, Armadillo, Masten and XCOR — are testing and developing reusable engines, rockets and spacecraft. I’m guessing these companies get there a lot faster and cheaper.

The Russians have a couple of other rocket development programs in the works. The Angara family of rockets is set to debut in the second half of 2013. The nation is developing light and heavy versions of the venerable Soyuz rocket. And Roscosmos recently canceled the Rus-M rocket, which was designed to lift the nation’s new six-person crew vehicle set to begin testing the middle of the decade.