Russians Doubt Reusable Boosters, Look to Phase Out Rockot Launches

Falcon 9 launch and landing. (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon 9 launch and landing. (Credit: SpaceX)

Russia doesn’t seem overly impressed by the recent progress by SpaceX and Blue Origin in developing reusable launch vehicles. At according to TsNIIMash, which is the company’s main research institute.

“The economic feasibility of reusable launch systems is not obvious. First and foremost it will depend on how often launches will be made. At the moment it is hard to forecast which way the market of launch services will go when reusable space rockets become available. The designers are still to demonstrate the real costs of production and of making reusable stages for re-launching,” a TsNIIMash spokesman said.

According to the research institute’s estimates, Falcon 9 with a reusable first stage may lay claim to part of the commercial launches currently being made with the medium-class vehicle Soyuz if the costs of making the first stage of the US rocket for another use will not exceed 5%-8% of the manufacturing costs.

Meanwhile, Russia has slashed the price of launches aboard its Proton-M rocket from $100 million to $70 million to better compete with SpaceX’s Falcon 9, which costs about $61 million.

In related news, TASS reports the Russian government’s long-range space plan calls for phasing out the use of Rockot launchers. The government plans only two more satellite launches of the converted SS-19 ballistic missile from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in 2016 and 2018.

Russia plans to shift satellites to two new small-satellite boosters, Angara-1.2 and Soyuz-2.1v. The Angara-1.2 rocket is part of a modular family of boosters designed to replace the Rockot, Zenit and Proton launchers. Soyuz-2.1v is a stripped down version of the venerable Soyuz launch vehicle.

Rockot launches are managed by Eurockot Launch Services, which markets the booster on a commercial basis. It’s not clear from the TASS report what impact the government’s decision to stop using the Rockot will have on commercial operations.

A Rockot is set to launch Europe’s Sentinel 3A satellite later this month from Plesetsk. The spacecraft is part of the European Union’s Copernicus Earth observation program, whose space segment is being run by ESA. At least two more Sentinel launches are planned in the future.

Since 1990, Rockot has launched 27 times, with 24 successes, two failures and one partial failure.

  • TomDPerkins

    I have never said there was a surplus in any particular year.

    Please pay actual attention. If you are spending more than you take in, that is a deficit. If you take in more than you spend, that is a surplus. If you have had a deficit, you have a debt. Balances happen so infrequently as to be meaningless to the conversation.

    In the Bush years, changes to the tax laws resulted in a deficit which was steadily declining because the better tax policies were resulting in improved growth.

  • TimAndrews868

    “What part of that do you have any disagreement with?”

    The whole thing.

    If you have a deficit in year one, you may have a deficit in year two the same size, larger or smaller – but it’s not the same deficit.

    Nothing you can do in year two will change the deficit from year one. The deficit you make in year two – or don’t make if you balance or have surplus will change the debt, but it is separate from year 1’s deficit and cannot change it.

  • TomDPerkins

    “If you have a deficit in year one, you may have a deficit in year two the same size, larger or smaller – but it’s not the same deficit.”

    What do you claim has any significance to it being “the same” or “not the same deficit”? The words, “the same” have no meaning as if we were speaking of objects. We are instead speaking of year over year accounting tallies.

    That said, if the budget, the tax laws, and the economy change did not from a year to the next, the two years deficits could fairly be said to be the same deficit–the numbers would be identical under that drastically unlikely circumstance. The debt would have increased by 2X that deficit.

    “Nothing you can … cannot change it.” –> Please point out where I said anything to the contrary?

    “A lower deficit … debt obligation worse.” –> Again, please point out where I said anything to the contrary.

    “It’s misrepresenting a deficit that’s smaller one year than the previous a a good thing”

    If the reason the deficit is smaller is that better policies have been enacted which result in a trend of the economy growing faster than the government does–such as tax laws that become more straightforward, less loophole ridden, and flatter–then insofar as you have no reason to think the trend will not continue to the point the lines of graphed revenue and expenditure cross into surplus…then it is no misrepresentation at all.

    Raising the tax take rate to 35% might in a bad year in and of itself eliminate a year’s deficit. So might solely cutting the budget, say welfare checks and the military each by 26%. Each such move in lesser degrees in combination might also eliminate the deficit. None of that is wise policy.

    It is better to have as steady a budget as possible with tax laws which are neither progressive nor retrogressive, insofar as both can be avoided, and use a surplus to cover a shortfall.

    What you are failing to see is the the Bush years and the policies he introduced (with the Democrat founded, Fed fed real estate bubble being a confounding factor) had no enduring structural deficit. Surplus was impending.

    In contrast, Obama’s expenditures and policies caused structural deficits–with no sunsetting of tax abatements having any particular bearing on it. He simply wanted to spend more than the Congress was willing to tax to pay for, and he refused to compromise his spending targets–insisting the he would veto any budget which he didn’t fully approve of. He would accept only continuing resolutions and the debt ceiling increases they required. He claimed and a great many idiots went along with the proposition (much of the GOP leadership as it happened) that anything else was the Republicans alone being stubborn and “shutting down the government”.

    Inasmuch as it is the constitutional task of the Executive to carry out the spending the Legislature provides for, the reverse is true.

  • ReSpaceAge

    Just cancel the debt and start over.

    Stiff them.

    It will happen sooner or later.

    Better sooner.

    Hey China guess what,
    Not paying

  • TimAndrews868

    Despite the popular belief, China doesn’t finance most of our debt. They are the largest foreign investor (they are neck and neck with Japan for that title), but all foreign investors together only hold 34% of the debt.

  • ReSpaceAge


  • Vladislaw

    but in this case it would have led to more revenue as most every economist said at the time.

  • TomDPerkins
  • JC

    This is correct, deficit refers to shortfall in the annual budget. Government Debt is the accumulation of deficits + accumulated off budget revenue.

    The terminology of accounts differs when referring to budgets so deficit is annual budget shortfall, while debt is represented in the overall accounts.

  • JC

    The bigger problem is we are terrible at monitoring automation, and we treat our politics as such. Furthermore the system of democracy has become conflated with capitalism and even captured by capitalistic interests leading to a perversion of government policies..

    Where governments have expended relentlessly in size, tax burdens for the citizen has become excessive while for corporate interests they have dropped substantially. Even in many cases corporate welfare is dished out by our representatives.

    List goes on and on.