Russia Gears Up for Angara 5 Test, Eyes Ending Use of Rockot

Rockot launch vehicle
Rockot launch vehicle

Following a successful suborbital flight of the Angara 1 booster in July, Russian space officials are gearing up to test the larger Angara 5 launch vehicle by the end of the year.

The Khrunichev-built Angara is a modular family of rockets on which additional boosters are added to the first-stage core.  Angara 5 is designed to place 24.5 metric tons of cargo into low Earth orbit (LEO). The smaller Angara 1 can loft 3.8 metric tons to LEO.

Aerospace Defense Forces commander Lt. Gen. Alexander Golovko said this week that Russia plans to end its reliance on the Rockot light launch vehicle by switching over to Angara 1 and Soyuz-2.1v, the latter having first flown successfully at the end of last year.

“Today the launches of the Rokot rocket carriers are used in the interests of the Defense Ministry within the framework of the space program and international cooperation programs.

In the interests of the Defense Ministry there will be four launches, three in 2015 and one in 2016. Afterwards, the Defense Ministry may complete its tasks using the Soyuz-2 and Angara light rocket carriers,” Golovko told Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Shoigu said that the change would mean that Russia “would no longer depend on [parts] imports for light-class rocket carriers.”

Russian has been under Western sanctions since its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula earlier this year. It’s not clear precisely where parts are imported from for the Rockot launch vehicle.

Rockot is an converted Soviet-era SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missile that can lift up to 1.95 metric tons to LEO. It is operated by Eurockot Launch Services, a joint venture of Russian-based Khrunichev (49 percent share) and Astrium GmbH of Germany (51 percent).

In addition to Angara 1, Russia also plans to launch small satellites on Soyuz-2.1v, which is a light version of the medium-lift Soyuz booster. Built by TsSKB-Progress, Soyuz-2.1v can lift up to 2.85 metric tons to LEO.