Russia & China to Increase Space Cooperation

Tass reports that Russia and China plan to sign a cooperative agreement in the fall outlining increased cooperation across a range of space areas. Russia and China are also working to deepen cooperation with the BRICS nations, which include Brazil, India and South Africa.

As Glavkosmos explained, cooperation with Chinese partners envisages the following areas: the exploration of the Moon and outer space, space vehicles and ground infrastructure, hardware components and materials, the Earth’s remote sensing data.

Glavkosmos is also working with Chinese commercial partners on the issue of holding experiments aboard the International Space Station and providing the data of the Earth’s remote sensing from Russian satellites, the company said….

Specifically, Glavkosmos is holding preparations in Brazil for a tender for the delivery of space images to that country.

It was reported earlier that China was interested in buying the world’s most powerful Russian-made RD rocket engines produced by Energomash while Russian Space Systems showed interest in Chinese electronic components.

Russia and China are also working on making their GLONASS and BeiDou navigation satellite systems mutually complement each other and on installing adjusting ground-based stations on the territory of each other.

Read the full story.

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Khrunichev’s Proton Woes Continue

Proton on launch pad (Credit: ILS)

Khrunichev’s Proton rocket, which has been grounded since an in-flight anomaly last June, continues to experience serious problems with quality control, Russian media reported last week.

An investigation into quality control issues in the Russian space industry has discovered that nearly every engine currently stockpiled for use in Proton rockets is defective, the RIA Novosti news agency reported March 30, citing Igor Arbuzov, head of state rocket engine manufacturer Energomash.

71 engines, mostly used to power the second and third stages of the Proton rocket, require complete overhauls to remove defects. Arbuzov did not specify what was wrong with the engines….

“Most of the work will be done in 2017, but we understand that some portion will inevitably slip into 2018,” Arbuzov said. “Our main goal is to avoid disrupting the government space program’s launch schedule, or the schedules of the Defense Ministry and commercial customers.”

In January, Russian officials said they were investigating quality control problems at the Voronezh Mechanical Plant where engines for the Proton and Soyuz boosters are manufactured. Specifically, they believed a less heat resistant metal had been used in second- and third-stage engines.

Officials ordered the recall of all second- and third-stage engines built for the Proton launch vehicles. Third-stage engines for the Soyuz-U and Soyuz-FG boosters were also replaced.

Russian media reported last week that Progress Space Rocket Center, which manufacturers Soyuz boosters, had received four tested third-stage engines from the Voronezh Mechanical Factory.

Last June, a Proton rocket suffered a second-stage anomaly while launching the Intelsat 31 communications satellite. The third stage compensated for the under performance of the second stage, delivering the spacecraft to its intended orbit.

In December, a Progress freighter bound for the International Space Station was lost after a Soyuz rocket malfunctioned.

Proton and Soyuz are the mainstays of the Russian booster fleet. Due to the on-going problems, Russia has only launched only twice during the first quarter of a year during which officials have promised to launch at least 30 times.

Last year, Russia conducted 18 successful launches in 19 attempts. It was the country’s lowest launch figure in years, leaving the nation in third place behind the United States and China.

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SpaceX Threatens Roscosmos, Russian Dominance in Launch Market

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over plans for Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)
Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over plans for Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)

The Moscow Times looks at how SpaceX and changes in U.S. policy are threatening Roscosmos and Russia’s 40 percent share of the global launch market.

SpaceX hopes to begin reusing its rockets 10 to 20 times, and Musk has on various occasions claimed that reusability can reduce costs for launching things into space by a factor of 100.
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Russian Space Program Looks to Mass Recruitment, Consolidating Engine Manufacturers

 

Dmitry Medvedev meets with Igor Komarov. (Credit: Government of Russian Federation)
Dmitry Medvedev meets with Igor Komarov. (Credit: Government of Russian Federation)

A couple of updates from Russia.

Recruitment Drive: Russia’s crumbling, accident prone space program needs to recruit more than 110,000 university graduates over the next 10 years to work in jobs that currently average 44,500 rubles ($820) per month. But not to worry, the Russian government has pledge to double that average wage to $1,640 per month by 2025.

Oh, good luck with that. I’m sure people will be rushing to take jobs where they can be prosecuted and jailed for screwing up and wonder whether their pay is being stolen by their bosses.

Industry Consolidation Continues:  Russia’s rocket production companies will be consolidated under one roof, Roscosmos head Igor Komarov said on Wednesday.

“Industry reform means the elimination of redundancies and the strengthening of enterprises’ horizontal connections. And today we have taken the first step toward this,” Komarov told the Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper. The consolidation will include NPO Energomash, which makes the RD-180 rocket engine used in United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket.

Any sort of large consolidation is by nature a very messy process that causes a lot of confusion and layoffs while tanking morale until things settle down again. One wonders if this will cause more problems with reliability in the short and even long term.

Orbital to Replace Old Russian Engines With New Russian Engines on Antares

An Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket is seen as it launches from Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Thursday, January 9, 2014, Wallops Island, VA. Antares is carrying the Cygnus spacecraft on a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The Orbital-1 mission is Orbital Sciences' first contracted cargo delivery flight to the space station for NASA. Cygnus is carrying science experiments, crew provisions, spare parts and other hardware to the space station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
An Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket is seen as it launches from Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Thursday, January 9, 2014, Wallops Island, VA. Antares is carrying the Cygnus spacecraft on a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The Orbital-1 mission is Orbital Sciences’ first contracted cargo delivery flight to the space station for NASA. Cygnus is carrying science experiments, crew provisions, spare parts and other hardware to the space station. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

I guess Orbital Sciences Corporation can kiss any defense launches goodbye for its Antares launch vehicle. The company plans to replace the rocket’s Russian surplus AJ-26 engines with new Russian engines they hope won’t blow up during flight or be banned from export at some point in the future.

Designated the RD-181, the new engine will be used on Antares in shipsets of two to accommodate as closely as possible the two-engine configuration built around the AJ-26 engines supplied by Aerojet Rocketdyne, Orbital Sciences managers said Dec. 16.

A descendant of the RD-171 that powers the Ukrainian-built Zenit launch vehicle, the RD-181 will be manufactured in the same Khimki factory that builds the RD-180 used on the United Launch Alliance Atlas V. It closely resembles the RD-191 on Russia’s new Angara launcher and the RD-151 that powers South Korea’s Naro-1 launch vehicle.

In testing at Energomash, “the RD-181s have seen more than two times the Antares flight duration to date, and if you take a look at some of the heritage of this engine, the RD-151 and the RD-191 combined have over 10 hr. of test time for their configuration testing,” said Mark Pieczynski, Orbital’s vice president for space launch strategic development.

Like the AJ-26, the single-thrust-chamber, single-nozzle RD-181 uses liquid oxygen and refined petroleum (RP) as propellants, generating a sea-level performance in the two-engine configuration of 864,000 lb. thrust with a specific impulse of 311.9 sec. That is equivalent to the twin-nozzle RD-180, but the two engines are a better fit with the Antares main stage, built for Orbital by Ukraine’s Yuzhmash.

Congress has just voted to prohibit ULA from using Russian RD-180 engines in its Atlas V booster due to deteriorating relations with that country. That would seem to limit Orbital’s ability to bid for defense launch contracts unless there is a change in policy.

Read the full story.

Court Rejects ULA Motion to Dismiss Orbital Lawsuit Over Rocket Engines

RD-180 test firing. (Credit: NASA)
RD-180 test firing. (Credit: NASA)

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema has rejected motions from ULA and engine supplier RD-Amross to dismiss an anti-trust lawsuit brought against them by Orbital Sciences Corporation, Space News reports.

Orbital wants Russian RD-180 engines to replace the AJ-26 engines the company uses in its new Antares launch vehicle. However, ULA has exclusive use of the RD-180 engines for its Atlas V rocket through a supplier agreement with RD-Amross, which is a joint venture between United Technologies Corp. and NPO Energomash of Russia.

ULA and RD-Amross asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that Orbital has viable alternatives to the AJ-26 engines and that RD-180s cannot be sold to foreign parties without the approval of the Russian government. Thus, Orbital could not prove the $500 to $1.5 million in damages it is seeking over ULA’s monopoly.

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Aerojet President: NK-33 Engines Can Be Put Back into Production

AJ26 test firing. (Credit: Aerojet)
AJ26 test firing. (Credit: Aerojet)

Space News is quoting Aerojet Rocketdyne President Warren Boley as saying the engine that powers Orbital Sciences Corporation’s new Antares rocket can be put back into production at a reasonable cost, adding an interesting wrinkle to an on-going anti-trust investigation of rival United Launch Alliance.

Antares uses two Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ-26 engines to power its first stage. The AJ-26s are refurbished Soviet-era NK-33 engines built for that nation’s long abandoned manned lunar program. The NK-33 engines are in limited supply because they haven’t been in production for 40 years.

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Energia Says “Nyet” to Consolidated Rocket Holding Company Proposal

Soyuz_launchThe Russian government’s proposal to consolidate the nation’s rocket industry to deal with serious quality control problems in its space industry is getting a decidedly chilly reception:

Russian space rocket corporation Energia head Vitaly Lopota on Wednesday rejected as a “non-market” measure the idea of establishing an engine holding company in the domestic space industry.

“This proposal would completely eliminate the competitive environment in the country,” Lopota said….

Russian Space Agency Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin had previously said Russia planned to create a single holding company for booster rocket production to integrate the country’s leading space vehicle producers Khrunichev and TsSKB Progress, and also an engine-building sub-holding company to include engine makers Energomash, the Khimavtomatiki design bureau, the Voronezh mechanical works, Proton PM and other firms.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered the government in summer to work out a plan to improve Russia’s space industry organizations, after a string of mishaps that he said have compromised Russia’s image as a leading space power.

Read the full story.

Energomash Reports Progress on New Rocket Fuel

MOSCOW (Energomash/Roscosmos PR) — Experts at Energomash and RSC Applied Chemistry who are working on a specially designed experimental setup have obtained the first experimental batch of the latest high-performance rocket fuel, acetyl.

The results confirmed the previously conducted theoretical studies, and showed the effectiveness of the technology for production of the new fuel.

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Energomash Turns a Profit

MOSCOW (Energomash PR) — “We’re in the black, and we have really progressed!”

The Executive Director of NPO Energomash, V.L. Solntsev, said this at a general meeting at which a summary report on the results of two years of work. He thanked the staff for the work and for their faith in the success of the company initiated change.

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Energomash Test Fires New RD-193 Engine

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.

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Skolkovo Fund, Roscosmos to Cooperate on Space Tech

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Roscosmos and the Skolkovo Fund will work together on developing advanced space and telecommunications technologies as part of the space agency’s long-range development plan that extends out to 2030 and beyond, Russian media report.

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Energomash, Skolkovo Working on New Rocket Fuel

ENERGOMASH PR: On March 7, 2012, it was decided to allocate IC “Skolkovo” the first grant for the development of new highly combustible “Acetyl”. This project is implemented within the framework of the Energomash Centre of Innovation.

The “acetyl” is aimed at significantly improving the energy characteristics of Russian and foreign launch vehicles. Thermophysical properties and performance allow a number of advantages compared to the hydrogen-oxygen boosters that were considered until recently to limit energy capabilities of rocket engines to chemical energy:

Extraordinary Photos From Inside Russia’s Energomash Rocket Plant

Exterior view of Energomash engine test facility. (Credit: Lana Sator)

Russian blogger Lana Sator has posted an album of extraordinary photos  taken inside of the Energomash rocket plant in Moscow — shots she took during five secret, nocturnal visits to the facility with her friends over several months. She says that they sneaked in through a gap in the fence and encountered not a single security guard as they wandered through the plant at will.

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Energomash Gets New CEO Appointed by RSC Energia

Some news from via the Roscosmos website concerning a leadership change that liquid fuel engine builder Energomash:

Meeting of the stock holders of Oct. 4 in Glushko Energomash research and development company decided to withdraw authorities of its director, and to choose a managing company – RSC-Energia.  Energia appointed new CEO in Energomash. The position is occupied by Vladimir Solntsev, former vice-president of VTB-Bank, Energomash PAO informs.

Energomash builds the RD-180 engine that is used for the Atlas V rocket as well as engines for Proton and Soyuz boosters. It is also developing the RD-191 engine that will be used on the first stage of Russia’s new Angara rocket family.