NPO Energomash says it completed the fifth live firing of its new RD-193 experimental rocket engine last week, completing the first phase of a project that could have impacts on the launch industry in Russia and the United States.
The new 200-ton thrust, liquid oxygen-kerosene engine is an upgraded version of the RD-191 engine that incorporates a number of new welds and other improvements. It is 300 kilograms (661 pounds) lighter and 760 millimeters (30 inches) shorter than the RD-191 engine, which will be used in the Angara family of rockets set to fly next year. The RD-193 can be attached to gimbals or fixed to the body of the rocket.
During the five test firings, the engine successfully ran for 678 seconds (11 minutes, 18 seconds). After the final test on Oct. 16, engineers planned to disassemble the engine to check for defects and damage before continuing with the test program. The evaluation will be used to determine whether any design or manufacturing changes are required.
Energomash, which is building the RD-193 with its own funds, sees the engine as eventually powering the Soyuz-2.1v rocket, a stripped down version of the traditional launch vehicle designed for light payloads. That rocket, which is set to make its inaugural flight next year, will be initially powered by NK-33 engines left over from the canceled Soviet manned lunar program of the 1970’s. The RD-193 could replace those engines if officials decided not to restart production of the NK-33 engine. It could also be used for other variants of the Soyuz.
The experimental RD-193 propulsion system could serve as the basis of a new RD-181 engine for the first stage of “foreign launch vehicles.” The company has not been specific about which foreign vehicles. However, Anatoly Zak of RussianSpaceWeb.com says this statement could be a reference to United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket, which is powered by Energomash’s RD-180 engine.
The RD-193 program is also designed to test propulsion modes for Russia’s Reusable Space Rocket System. Energomash is coordinating this work with the Keldysh Research Center, which is responsible for advanced rocket propulsion development.