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Angara rocket family to replace Proton launchers NET 2024

Angara A5 maiden launch

A Russian heavy-lift rocket, the Angara A5, lifts off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia on Dec. 23, 2014. Photo Credit: Russian Ministry of Defense

Angara rockets could fully replace Russia’s long-serving Soviet-era Proton launch vehicles as early as 2024. This is according to an industry official, who made the remark at an aerospace conference in the city of Kazan.

Proton rockets have been in service since 1965. In recent years Russia and International Launch Services (ILS) have utilized the rocket in its 190-foot (58-meter) tall “M” variant to send military and commercial satellites to orbit. About three to eight Proton-M launches are typically conducted annually from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan these days.

The number of launches of Proton-M rockets is decreasing every year as the production of this rocket is drawing to a close and no new launch contracts are likely to be signed in the near future.

According to remarks made by Yuri Koptev, Chairman of the Science and Engineering Board of the state-run Rostec corporation, Proton rockets will apparently still be in service for at least another six years as the number of constructed Angara launchers apparently is not enough to meet requirements.

“As at today the decision is to build up a certain reserve of such rockets in stock and to expect the advent of operational Angara at around 2024. After that Proton will cease to exist as such,” Koptev said.

The Angara family of launchers is being developed as a substitute for the Proton-M and Rokot boosters. These two lines include different classes of rockets, from light to heavy, varying much in their size and mass.

To date, only two Angara launches have been carried out – the light, 136-foot (41.5-meter) tall Angara-1.2PP flew in July 2014 and the heavy, 182-foot (55.4-meter) tall Angara-A5 blasted off in December 2014. Next mission is currently targeted for 2019 when Angara-A1.2 is expected to orbit a trio of Gonets-M communications satellites.

Koptev revealed that one of the important advantages of the Angara family of rockets is that they use environmentally clean propellant components. He noted that Kazakhstan has repeatedly criticized Proton launchers for not being ecologically friendly.

Referring to the current high price of the development of Angara rockets, Koptev concluded that the new boosters are far more costly than Proton launch vehicles. However, he added that “…it will not be so forever.” This apparently is a reference to the costs that the rocket’s manufacturer helps will go down in the long term in result of technology improvements.

 

 

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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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