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Russia to develop new super heavy-lift rocket for lunar missions

Plesetsk, Russia: Angara A5 maiden launch – 2014-12-23

A Russian heavy-lift rocket, the Angara A5, lifts off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia on Dec. 23, 2014. Angara A5 is currently Russia’s most powerful launcher; however, that could change if the country develops its new super heavy-lift booster. Photo Credit: Russian Ministry of Defense. Photo Credit: Russian Ministry of Defense.

Russia intends to expand its rocket fleet by developing a super heavy-lift booster that could one day become the country’s workhorse launcher for future lunar missions. Implementation of this new project was announced on Nov. 28 by the Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.

Rogozin was addressing a crowd at RKK Energia. The company is a manufacturer of Russian rockets and spacecraft.

“On instructions from the president, which is being finalized technically, we are launching a super-heavy space rocket project with quite different payload capabilities,” Rogozin said. “It will pave the way for implementing the idea of a research station on the Moon, visitable and inhabitable.”

The project itself was approved in late 2014; however, work on a new rocket had to be postponed in the spring of 2015.

Furthermore, the project has not been taken into consideration as a part of Russia’s federal space program for 2016–2025. Therefore, the statement made on Monday by Rogozin may signal the country’s ambitions to build a super heavy-lift launcher.

“The costs of creating a super-heavy rocket in combination with the launch pad are estimated at 1.5 trillion rubles ($23 billion),” said Aleksandr Ivanov, the first deputy CEO of Roscosmos.

Little is known about the technical specifications of the new heavy-lift rocket Russia wants to develop. According to the Tass news agency, the launcher’s first stage could be based on the future medium-class Feniks (Phoenix) rocket, which will be around 150 feet (46 meters) tall and will have a minimum mass of approximately 270 metric tons. The Angara rocket’s hydrogen-fueled stage could serve as the third stage, while the design of the second stage is yet to be decided.

While the new launcher would allow the country to secure launches for the development of a research station on the Moon, Russia is continuing with tests of its new-generation Federation spacecraft designed for crewed lunar missions. Both the new spacecraft and the rocket would be essential to send cosmonauts to the Moon in the future.

 

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Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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