Soyuz Light to Debut, Angara Reaches Pad & RD-0146D Testing Advances

Modle of the Soyuz-21.v launch vehicle. (Credit: Pavel Kolotilov)
Modle of the Soyuz-21.v launch vehicle. (Credit: Pavel Kolotilov)

There is some good news to report out of Russia about two delayed launch vehicle development programs.

The Soyuz 2-1v light launch vehicle has been scheduled for its first test flight on Dec. 23. Meanwhile, the first prototype of the Angara rocket has made it to the launch pad at Plesetsk more than 18 years after the Russian government approved the program.

In related news, engineers have conducted nearly 70 test firings of the cryogenic RD-0146 upper stage engine, which is intended to fly on later versions of the Angara launch vehicle as well as the Proton rocket.

Spaceflight Now reports that the Soyuz 2-1v rocket will launch the student-built AIST microsatellite and SKRL 756 calibration spheres on its inaugural mission scheduled for two days before Christmas.

The Soyuz 2-1v is a light version of the venerable rocket. Four booster strap-on booster rockets have been removed, and the first-stage engine has been replaced with NK-33 engines left over from the Soviet manned lunar program.

The vehicle is designed to lift between 2,800 kg (6,200 lb) and 2,850 kg (6,280 lb) into low Earth orbit (LEO), depending upon its launch site and the orbital inclination of the payload. Soyuz 2-1v can operate from Plesetsk, Baikonur and the new spaceport under development at Vostochny.

The Angara rocket family. (Credit: Allocer)
The Angara rocket family. (Credit: Allocer)

In other news, the first Angara rocket is finally on the launch pad at Plesetsk, according to Anatoly Zak at The Angara 1.2 PP rocket had been shipped to Plesetsk by rail from its Khrunichev production facility at the end of May.

Angara is a modular family of launch vehicles designed to lift between 2 to 40.5 metric tons of payload to LEO. The lighter versions of the rocket is in the same range as the Soyuz 2-1v.

Zak reports that the first Angara test launch is currently scheduled for May 2014. This will be followed by a test launch of the larger Angara 5, which as a payload capacity of 24.5 metric tons to LEO.

Meanwhile, engineers at Russia’s Chemical Automatics Design Bureau (KBKhA) are continuing with a series of tests on the RD-0146D cryogenic upper stage engine, which will eventually be used on the Angara 5 launch vehicle.

RD-0146engineThe RD-0146D is similar to the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne’s RL-10 engine, which is used in the upper stage Centaur stage for the American Atlas V and Delta IV rockets. Development of the RD-0146D engine, which began in 1999, has been partly funded by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, which holds exclusive international marketing rights.

The engine does not have a gas generator, but it does feature an extendable nozzle without a cooling system.  It is designed for multiple firings in flight and thrust control in two planes.

According to KBKhA, variants of the engine have undergone 69 hot fires through late November for a total operating time of 3,600 seconds. That total includes 42 tests of the RD-0146D variant with more than 1,900 seconds of firing time. The engine is powered by LOX and liquid hydrogen; however, six tests have used liquid methane.

On Nov. 20, KBKhA engineers conducted the first firing of the engine on a new test bench that simulated conditions it would experience in a high-altitude firing. The company developed the gas dynamic wind tunnel with the assistance of experts from other Russian companies.