Russia Makes Progress on New Rockets, Human Spacecraft

Inside a mockup of a proposed Russian deep space spacecraft. (Credit: Energia)
Inside a mockup of a proposed Russian deep space spacecraft. (Credit: Energia)

Despite all the energies focused on a shakeup at the top of the Russian space industry and the impending consolidation of many companies, Roscosmos has been quietly progress on a series of initiatives designed to upgrade the space agency’s capabilities and facilities.

Anatoly Zak at reports that Roscosmos released two tenders on Oct. 23, one involving a new human spacecraft and the other for a launch complex at the nation’s newest spaceport. Officials are also moving forward on the development of a new super heavy launch vehicle.

The government released a 9.54 billion ruble ($298 million) tender for the development of a four-person Soyuz replacement designed to fly four cosmonauts on month-long missions to the moon and other deep space destinations. Zak reports that although companies are open to bid on developing the PTK NP, the contract will almost certainly go to Energia.

The other tender involved an 813 million ruble ($25.4 million) contract for research and development work on an Angara launch facility at the new Vostochny spaceport in the Far East.  The launch pad will be similar to one that has been built for Angara at the Plesetsk cosmodrome.

Angara is a modular family of rockets ranging from light to heavy lift that has been in development since 1995. The light variant of the rocket is set to make its inaugural flight from Plesetsk sometime next year.

Meanwhile, Roscosmos is weighing various options for the development of a new super-heavy booster that would facilitate deep space missions by their new human spacecraft. A number of proposals have been floated.

Energia has proposed a new booster based on the Energia launch vehicle that was designed for the Soviet space shuttle program. That rocket flew twice in the 1980’s before being retired. Rival Khrunichev has floated a design based on an upgraded version of the Angara rocket.

Ukraine’s KB Yuzhnoe bureau has proposed that Russia fund its planned Mayak family of launch vehicles. The Mayak 33-4T rocket would be capable of delivering up to 70 metric tons to low Earth orbit.

Zak has more about these programs here,  herehere and here,