Russia Cuts Space Spending Forecast, Dumps Super Heavy Booster

Inaugural Angara A5 launch (Credit: Khrunichev)
Inaugural Angara A5 launch (Credit: Khrunichev)

With Russia facing a severe economic downturn, Roscosmos’ 10-year spending plan for 2016-2025 will be cut by 10 percent to 3.4 trillion rubles ($58.6 billion). A major casualty is a $12 billion plan to develop a super-heavy booster capable of lifting 70 metric tons into low Earth orbit (LEO).

“The project, which is being prepared for 2016-2025, looks completely different today,” Yury Koptev, head of Roscosmos internal planning body the Scientific and Technical Council, was quoted as saying.

The program was initially drafted late last year, but a 40-percent fall in the value of the ruble against the U.S. dollar since last summer and a massive space industry reform project have forced space officials to completely rewrite the document….

Koptev was quoted as saying that one proposal that was booted to the next federal program, which will cover the decade beyond 2025, was the creation of a new Russian super-heavy rocket — a project he estimated would cost 700 billion rubles ($12 billion).

Russia will not build such a vehicle until at least 2028, he said. In the meantime Russia will continue to focus on healing its scientific and industrial base to ensure it has the capacity to build the rocket down the line.

In a March 12 meeting, the Scientific and Technical Council instructed Khrunichev and RSC Energia to begin preliminary design work on an Angara-A5V capable of lifting 35 metric tons of cargo to LEO.

Russian media reports did not specify precisely what upgrades would be required to the existing Angara-A5 to allow it to lift 35 tons. The Angara-A5 is capable of lifting 24.5 metric tons to LEO.

However, the changes would probably involve an advanced upper stage engine. The Khrunichev website lists an Angara-A7 variant capable of lifting 35 metric tons that would include a KVTK-A7 upper stage consisting of a single RD-0146D powered by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

Angara is a modular family of rockets consisting of a single first stage core around which additional cores are clustered. Smaller versions include the Angara-A1.2 (3.8 metric tons to LEO) and the Angara-A3 (14.6 tons to LEO).

The launch vehicle made its inaugural flights last year with a suborbital flight by an Angara-A1.2 and an orbital test of an Angara-A5.