Russia reveals long-term plans for its Angara launch vehicle
The Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, a Moscow-based rocket manufacturer, has revealed its long-term plans for the newest Russian Angara launch vehicle. According to the company’s announcement, the rocket’s busy launch manifest includes 10 test launches in the next few years and a possible participation in the Sea Launch project. The plan also envisions developing reusable stages for the Angara around 2025.
Khrunichev plans to complete test launches of the Angara heavy carrier rocket from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome by 2020 when the serial production of the booster commences.
“The first Angara launch from the Vostochny Cosmodrome is set for 2021. In general, around ten test launches of Angara heavy rockets and four test launches of [Angara] light rockets are planned,” said Alexander Medvedev, the chief designer of the Khrunichev Space Center.
During the test launches, the rocket will carry spacecraft. The first manned spaceship is planned to be launched by Angara-5, the heavy version of the rocket, in 2021. Weighing 759–773 metric tons at lift-off, Angara-5 has a payload capacity of 24.5 metric tons.
“Angara-5 is set to carry the first manned spacecraft in 2021,” Medvedev revealed. “The first rockets will be launched with no people on board as it is necessary check the launch vehicle’s reliability in real conditions.”
The development of the Angara-5 for manned missions will cost at least $166 million.
Angara-5’s second test flight, scheduled for 2016, will carry a special passenger – AngoSat 1, the first Angolan satellite. The AngoSat Project Contract was signed by the Russian and Angolan Parties in 2009. The satellite was initially contracted for a joint launch with the Energia 100 satellite on the Zenit-3SL rocket in 2016. However, due to the Ukraine crisis, the availability of the Russian-Ukrainian Zenit launch vehicle has become questionable. As an alternative, a launch on the second flight of the Angara-5 was selected.
Another version of the rocket, the Angara-A3 medium-class launch vehicle is considered as a replacement for Zenit rocket in the Sea Launch project. This version can deliver payloads of up to 14.6 metric tons into a Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Medvedev noted that at least two options are being discussed to adapt the floating Sea Launch platform and the Angara carrier rocket.
“For example, we keep the Angara-3 [rocket] unchanged but we adjust and change the equipment earlier installed on the platform. According to the other option, we keep the equipment unchanged but, in this case, it will be necessary to change the Angara-3 configuration considerably. We’re not forcing the events and are simply considering both options concurrently,” he said.
Earlier, there were reports of plans for relocating to Brazil the Sea Launch project, which, over a period of several years, was used to launch Zenit rockets from a floating launch pad. Sea Launch suspended launches in 2014 and Russia is currently in talks with Brazil on creating a launch pad for Angara space rockets at the Alcantara space site, located on Brazil’s northern Atlantic coast.
Medvedev also acknowledged that Khrunichev plans to develop reusable stages for the Angara in the future. He would like it to happen around 2025.
“We have serious intentions in the future to make the universal modules reusable, recoverable. This will make it possible to cut the specific payload launch cost by one-third or even two times,” Medvedev said.
Angara, named after a river in Eastern Siberia, is a family of space-launch vehicles being developed to ensure Russia’s independent access to space, as the rockets can be launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome as well as the upcoming Vostochny Cosmodrome, instead of having to rely on the Baikonur launch pad, which is located on the territory of Kazakhstan. The first test launches of the Angara heavy and light rockets were held in 2014 with simulated payloads.
Khrunichev, the developer of the Angara, Proton, and Rokot launchers, has more than 30 percent of the current market share of the global space launch market.
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.
What type of manned spaceship are the Russians considering for Angara-5? Earth orbit? Lunar? Other?
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