Russia is moving steadily toward a planned September launch of the stripped Soyuz 2-1v rocket designed to launch small satellites into orbit. Two tests last month verified key elements of the new rocket, Russian officials say.
On April 19, engineers successfully completed the first cold flow test of the first stage using liquid oxygen and kerosene. The test was done in preparation for the first first-scale test firing of the rocket set for later this year.
The following day, engineers at the United Engine Corporation completed the forth and final test firing of the first stage’s NK-33A engine at the Vintay facility. The company announced that the engine has fired without any problems for 157.5 seconds. The total firing time for the four tests is 600 seconds.
The NK-33A engine is derived from the NK-33 motor developed for the Soviet Union’s manned lunar program 40 years ago. A modified version of engine, known as the AJ26, has been developed by Aerojet for use in Orbital Sciences Corporation’s new Antares rocket, which is scheduled to make its inaugural flight in August.
The NK-33 engine has not been in production for decades, so there is a limited supply available. However, Russian officials are expecting the Interagency Commission to make a decision soon on whether to begin mass production of the new NK-33A for both domestic use and international sale.
The Soyuz-2-1v rocket is a stripped down version of the venerable Soyuz that has been in use since the 1960′s. In addition to using the more powerful NK-33A engine, the new rocket dispenses with the traditional strap-on boosters. It is designed to loft a payload weighing 2,800 kilograms (6,200 pounds) into low Earth orbit from Plesetsk and one weighing 2,850 kilograms (6,300 pounds) from Baikonur.
Soyuz-2-1v’s first launch is scheduled for September. The payload will be the AIST satellite, a microsat developed by students and scientists at Samara Aerospace University in collaboration with TsSKB Progress. AIST will measure the Earth’s geomagnetic field and test out a new satellite bus.