Swiss Space Systems Forms Partnership With Russian Rocket Companies

SOAR spaceplane atop an A-300. (Credit: S3)
SOAR spaceplane atop an A-300. (Credit: S3)

SOCHI, Russia, February 19, 2014 (S3 PR) — Swiss Space Systems (S3), the aerospace company, announced today the signature of new partnerships with Russian companies specializing in space propulsion systems.  This constitutes a key milestone towards the realization of S3’s project.  JSC Kuznetsov will provide the rocket engine used for the suborbital shuttle developed by S3, while RKK Energia will study the conception of the upper stage destined to place satellites in low earth orbit. This is the first time that a European company collaborates with Russian companies specializing in the development and manufacturing of propulsion systems. This agreement with the creators of the world’s best rocket engines constitutes a decisive milestone achieved by the Swiss aerospace company.

Swiss Space Systems (S3) is progressing rapidly in the development of its satellite launch system based on an Airbus aircraft and a reusable suborbital shuttle, the SOAR, with first commercial missions beginning in 2018. To successfully conduct this innovative project at the cutting-edge of aviation and space, the Swiss company has been able to assemble a high-quality international network of partners, industries, research centers and universities. Pascal Jaussi, Founder and CEO of S3 outlines: « Our international community of partners is formed by well-recognized specialists in aeronautics and aerospace. Their support allows us to attain concrete results with considerably shorter timeframes and smaller required budgets compared to other similar programs. »

S3 will collaborate with two of the Russian space industry jewels

Energia_logoFaithful in its aim to engage the greatest aerospace specialists, Swiss Space Systems signed an agreement with the prestigious Bauman University in Moskow during last September. Only a few months later, two new Russian companies at the technological forefront will be able to join the network of S3 partners: JSC Kuznetsov and RKK Energia.

he reputation of rocket engines produced by JSC Kuznetsov is indisputable. These reliable engines have been successfully used, notably on the new Soyuz 2-1V launcher and also on the American Antares rocket. The engine built by JSC Kuznetsov consumes standard fuels, a mix of kerosene and liquid oxygen (LOX), which will permit the SOAR shuttle to attain speeds in excess of 2km/s.

Kuznetsov_logoThe last section of the trajectory from 80km altitude to low earth orbit, where the satellites will be launched, will be enabled by an upper stage requiring a high-performance engine, utilizing the same fuels as the SOAR shuttle. The conception of such an upper stage will be studied by the RKK Energia company. As outlined by RKK Energia, the motor to be used in S3’s upper stage will be characterized by its reliability and efficiency. As with the SOAR propulsion system, it will function on kerosene and liquid oxygen. RKK Energia posesses a unique heritage in the development and manufacturing of upper stages of various sizes. The « DM » family of upper stages created by this company are successfully used in several space programs.

A successful propulsion partnership essential to S3’s development

A collaboration with the Russian manufacturers of propulsion systems constitutes a key milestone for S3, which continues growing, with a staff of 60 employees in Switzerland. Presently, S3 engineers are putting final steps on their Preliminary Design Review (PDR), the preceeding research and development step to its Critical Design Review (CDR). Following this, the construction, assembly, integration and testing phases will take place during 2016 and 2017.

There is still much work to be accomplished, but Nicolas Bideau, Swiss Ambassador and Switzerland Presence Chief is particularly pleased to see this unique collaboration: « Through the double partnership with these reputed Russian aerospace companies, S3 is an example of a Switzerland which innovates, dares and federates. This is one more step in the long history of successful collaboration between our two countries, which are celebrating 200 years of diplomatic relationships this year. We are happy to have been able to host them at the Swiss House here in Sochi.

  • windbourne

    Interesting.
    Basically, they are following the same approach that Scaled came up with, EXCEPT, that they are working with known equipment.
    In particular, Scaled has the ability to launch a small sat from SS2.
    Of course, they have to make it up to 100 kms up first.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Er, um. Don’t you mean Virgin is proposing to air launch Launcher One from White Knight Two?. I don’t see that SS2 could launch a satellite to orbit – am I mistaken?.

    It’s not clear from S3’s info exactly how fast the SOAR shuttle will reach and thus it’s re-entry requirements. Also, if as implied, all that it’s doing is “going up”, then the expendable upper stage will need to make all the orbital speed, with the jet and the SOAR contributing less than 10% of the to orbit work.

    No doubt they’ve done the numbers, but what will the payload to orbit be?. And what will the price per kg to orbit be to qualify as “substantial cost savings”?.

  • eclectic_student

    Kuznetsov, eh? Are they buying more old NK-33s? Are there any of those still uncommitted and in decent shape? Last I heard Kuznetsov still hadn’t gotten a “launch” customer to commit paying for production restart for new NK-33s. Soyuz declined and will switch to an Energia engine after a few flights. Orbital seems more interested in RD-180s now. A shame, really.

    Does Kuznetsov make any other rocket engines? I thought they did turbines these days. Looking at the aircraft, it seems small for an NK-33 plus tanks, so maybe they are planning a smaller engine.

  • windbourne