Last week, Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin laid out his plan to shift the focus of Russia’s space program away from human spaceflight toward a more balanced effort that also emphasized Earth observation, communications and planetary exploration. The moves also included tightening state control over a key Russian rocket builder.
The most dramatic move is the cancellation of Russia’s large Rus-M rocket, which Energia was building to replace the venerable Soyuz booster. Rus-M was intended to carry the nation’s new six-person crew vehicle from the Vostochny spaceport. However, the effort was widely rumored to be running badly behind schedule and unlikely to meet deadlines of an initial test flight in 2015 and human flights in 2018.
Roscosmos has canceled its planned Rus-M rocket and will launch its new six-person Soyuz replacement spacecraft on an upgraded Soyuz-2 rocket instead, according to space agency officials.
“We have come to the conclusion that we do not need a new rocket, we can continue using those we already have,” Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin told Russian media.
The two-stage rocket was designed to replace the venerable Soyuz booster. Built by Energia, Rus-M was schedule to begin test flights from the new Vostochny spaceport in the Far East beginning around 2015. Human missions would have followed three years later.
The above table has data on the most powerful boosters in the world at present along with information about rockets that are currently under development. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is the largest rocket on the list, followed by Russia’s Angara booster. It should be noted that SpaceX and Russia have plans for uprated versions of Falcon Heavy, Angara and Rus-M. China also has plans for follow-ups for its Long March 5 rocket.
I took data for rockets now in service from an FAA report. The data for rockets under development were gleaned from companies, space agencies, and Wikipedia pages. I was not able to find GTO figures for Falcon Heavy, Rus-M and Angara.
Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov told the media that Russia will spend $6 billion through 2015 to build its new Vostochny spaceport and to develop replacements for the Soyuz rocket and spacecraft, Interfax reports.
“The total cost of building a promising manned transport system, a new space rocket complex, Rus-M, the ground processing facility will be about 180 billion rubles by 2015,” he said.
Perminov said that the new Rus-M rocket being developed by TsSKB Progress will be capable of launching up to 24 metric tons into orbit. The new rocket will be tested in 2015, with human launches of a new six-person spacecraft being built by RSC Energia planned to begin in 2018. Designs for the new rocket and spacecraft were drawn up last year.
Russia’s Chemical Automatics Design Bureau (KBKhA) “have almost completed validation and verification of the RD-0124 engine to be used on Soyuz-2-1b carrier,” according to a story on the Roscosmos website. “Governmental acceptance of the engine is the next step.”
The new RD-0124 upper-stage engine increases the Soyuz rocket’s capacity by 1 metric ton. It will be used on Soyuz commercial launches out of French Guiana that are set to begin next year.
A variant of the engine, the RD-0124Ð, will be used on the new family of Angara rocket that is being designed by the Khrunichev Space Center. “The validation of this engines is also coming close to a significant stage â€“ the first stage firing tests are to be carried out soon,” the report states.
The Angara, which is set to be a mainstay for Russian military launches, has been repeatedly postponed due to funding issues. The first test launch is now scheduled for 2013.
On August 25, a meeting of Roscosmos Scientific and Engineering Board held a meeting at the premises of the Federal Space Agency. The agenda covered the issues linked with draft design of the mid-class rocket space system [Rus-M rocket] of new generation with high lifting capacity for Vostochny space port.