Russian to Spend Decade, $25 Billion on Super Heavy Launch Vehicle

Ergonomic testing has been conducted for the new Federation spacecraft. (Credit: RSC Energia)

Russia is moving ahead with a decade-long, $25 billion (1.6 trillion ruble) program to create new super-heavy launch vehicles capable of lifting up to 100 metric tons into low Earth orbit (LEO), Tass reports.

The new boosters, known as Energia-3 and Energia-5, will incorporate technologies and elements of the Soyuz-5 medium-class rocket, which is now under development.

Soyuz-5 is designed to launch Russia’s new crewed spacecraft, Federatsiya (Federation), into Earth orbit. The Energia rockets will be used for lunar missions.

RSC Energia, which is developing the boosters, plans to test the Soyuz-5 rocket from 2022-25. The super-heavy booster would then be tested from 2028-2035 from the Vostochny Cosmodrome.

The initial tests will involve the Energia-3 rocket, which will be capable of lifting about 70 metric tons into LEO. The Energia-5 will be capable of launching 100 metric tons into Earth orbit and 20.5 metric tons into lunar orbit.

Between 2028-32, Roscosmos plans to launch crewed spacecraft, lunar landers and other payloads on flights to the moon to test out the technologies required for establishing a base on the lunar surface. During the 2032-35 period, Roscosmos would establish a crewed base on the moon.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been insistent that Roscosmos adhere to the planned timelines.

“It is important to timely implement some large-scale and significant projects, including the creation of the super-heavy rocket system,” Putin said. “Let me stress that all the time limits that were set earlier must be complied with and the flight tests should begin in 2028 as planned.”


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  • Vladislaw

    maybe .. MAYBE .. they are getting serious now ..

  • Paul451

    But at $25b, they are still going in the wrong direction.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Don’t forget the local “taxes” on projects like this one πŸ™‚

    Russian space executive, 2 others charged with fraud

    By The Associated PressMOSCOW β€” Aug 19, 2018, 7:42 AM ET

    “The Investigative Committee said Sunday’s that Alexei Beloborodov, a
    deputy director general of the state-controlled RKK Energiya company,
    has been detained along with his two associates. It said they face
    charges of attempted fraud but did not elaborate.”

    Guess to forgot to pass a percentage up the food chain as required πŸ™‚

  • Zed_WEASEL

    The Soyuz 5 launcher concept looks like a Russianized version of the Zenith launcher with partial Proton tooling.

    It might work. But I don’t see it getting much of the International market share. Especially if it is suppose to be introduce around 2024 after the Ariane 6, New Glenn and the behemoth from Hawthorne.

    The Russians have to chose which future launch system to developed soon. Either the Angara family or the Soyuz-5/Energia-3/Energia-5 family. They don’t have the budget to fully implement either one now.

    Presuming that the Energia-3 and Energia-5 are tri-core and quint-core versions of the Soyuz-5.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I guess now it’s Russia’s turn to spend a few decades “lost in space” just as the Americans did, and would have were it not for the rise of the billionaires out to save humanity from itself. πŸ™‚ Whatever your opinion of them is at least Musk and Besoz are providing some good leadership compared to what we had. The Russians looked wise because they had a functional system they could not throw away in exchange for the next development cycle. A malfunction we Americans fell into over a 50 year period. With the Russian’s losing the commercial sector, they have to do something, or nothing. They chose to do something, but like the US are having a hard time setting a direction with real purpose. The players can’t seem to escape their own immediate self interests and think long term. They can’t even apply what I assume is a deep understanding of how Space X put them out of business having been on the receiving end of SX’s systems. The Russians understand the satellite launch market and the people in control of the commanding heights far better than we do. What an amazing malfunction of leadership that they can’t come to a decision that makes sense.

    I think there’s a parallel in the airliner industry. After the fall of the USSR the Russians held onto their Soviet airliners for close to half a decade before Boeing’s and Airbus’ started to come into the fleet. Now almost all the Soviet types are gone, and locally, only the Sukhoi-Superjet remains in service as a locally made airliner. The Russian fleets are all Boeing and Airbus. Maybe the MC-21 will become something. But I believe between now and 2028 will come a realization and over a 3 to 5 year period Russian rocket after Russian rocket program will be shut down and they’ll be flying with the EU, Japanese, Chinese, and Americans. The best path for Russia is their past path. Use their intelligence agencies to steal as many secrets, industrial processes, and lessons learned from SpaceX, and copy the Falcon 9. Doing so with the B-29 gave them a strategic bombing force a decade early, and they need that kind of leap right now.

  • savuporo

    Why though ? If you want a base on the moon, build a base on the moon. You’ve got Angara sitting and collecting dust right now.
    How’s that Luna-glob coming along anyway ?

  • 76 er

    Maybe, too these reports are just hot air. Tass, RT, and Sputnik not only print what they are allowed, but also what they are ordered. Don’t attach a lot of credibility to them.

  • passinglurker

    Because 7 angara stages taped together roughly equals 3 soyuz-5 stages taped together. It’s small it was designed to be transported by rail without disrupting traffic like proton does.

    Now why would they need something that big in the first place is anyone’s guess.

  • Carlton Stephenson

    SpaceX put them out of commercial business but maybe they still consider their *real* competition as NASA, and NASA is getting a nice new billion-dollar clunker, so…

  • Paul_Scutts

    Good one, Carlton. Love the “clunker” descriptor, very apt. Regards, Paul.

  • Jeff2Space

    Russia has said many things over the last several decades. Very little of it ever comes to fruition due to lack of money. Time will tell how much of this is wishful thinking and how much of it is real.

  • envy

    Russians are good at automated orbital docking and storable prop refueling, so they could launch three Angara 5 and have more than 70 tonnes in LEO. Or a mix of Angara 5 and Soyuz 5.

    “Why” is pretty clear: national pride, beat the Chinese and Americans. But there is no way that is worth the money they would need to put into it to get it done, and the cutbacks they would have to place on other areas of government spending. Russia’s economy is just too small to do this.

  • envy

    Wishful thinking: 99.9%
    Real: 0.1% (mostly just the powerpoints).

  • Panice

    Much like NASA launcher projects since the Shuttle began flying.

  • Michael Halpern

    The way I see it, they are still suffering the same problems that lead to the Kursk disaster, having the mindset of a super power, without the economic resources needed to be a super power.

  • Michael Halpern

    They seem to be the only ones who haven’t learned the real lesson from the Kursk disaster, which is a true tragedy. It’s better to downsize your strategic infrastructure if you can’t support it then let it fall into disrepair.

  • envy

    Not far off…

    NASA does have a lot more money to work with, and built a lot of hardware. But none of it has flown beyond a couple suborbital tests.

  • Bulldog

    So, they plan to begin test flying in 2028. That would have it flying just about the time BFR Ver. 10.3 is introduced? πŸ˜‰

  • Vladislaw

    in 2016 they had a budget revenue of about 200 billion and budget spending was around 233 billion they are running 20+ billion deficits while the U.S. should reach trillion dollar deficits under trump. If they spend about 3.5 billion per year until 2025 it would be about 1.4% of their budget .. about 3 times what our percentage is but lower than the 4.5% we spent for apollo.;

  • Vladislaw

    Obviously Congress refuses to fund a lunar lander. or a base.

  • redneck

    A lesson we in the US could take to heart as well. Super special weapons systems with super special costs may not be the best military procurement decisions. How many of your favorite unfundeds for one (1) F35?

    It is far easier for me to point out the failings of others than to see my own so I can work on them. I think the same applies to international viewpoints.

  • Michael Halpern

    They are trying to, how much of F-35 is dictated by congress

  • Paul451

    With the Russian’s losing the commercial sector, they have to do something, or nothing. They chose to do something[…]
    The best path for Russia is […] copy the Falcon 9.

    Why is “building a rival launcher” or “nothing” the only options?

    Why can’t they accept that low-cost launch is available elsewhere and turn to another part of the problem? (As they did to spacestations when they lost the moon-race. “Race? What race? We are over here doing actual science.”) Use SpaceX’s low cost access to space to allow them to do things that no other nation does.

    I know the answer, of course. Political ego. But just because it exists, doesn’t mean that we should speak as if it’s a logical idea. We shouldn’t accept someone else’s pathology as “the best path”.

  • AdmBenson

    We should wish the Russians luck with this. America’s national pride demands being #1 in manned spaceflight. In practice, this means nothing much happens until #2 is nipping at our heels.

  • AdmBenson
  • duheagle

    What we do or no not “accept” is irrelevant. Russia will do what Russia will do and in the time-honored Russian fashion. Pathology and Russia are pretty much conjoined twins.

  • duheagle

    The Russians do indeed need some way to skip at least a decade of old-school development time but they aren’t going to get it. They got the Tu-4 because they had a few interned B-29’s to disassemble and reverse engineer. The Russians have no Falcon 9’s, though, and – short of some covert Glomar Explorer-style operation in the Atlantic – they won’t be able to lay hands on even now-obsolete versions of Falcon 9 hardware.

    If either the Russians or the Chinese had managed to penetrate SpaceX’s network(s), we would presumably have seen, long since, either or both a Falcon 9-ski or a Long March F9. We haven’t.

    I infer from this that SpaceX has been, and continues to be, successful at repelling the attempted exploits of the allegedly near-magical hacking teams of both Russia and China. But hackery, of course, is not, in fact, any form of magic and has decided limitations. SpaceX relies on secrecy and cutting-edge countermeasures to keep its IP safe from prying eyes, foreign and domestic. But then SpaceX is an organization both very motivated to do so and very skilled in applying its core competencies.

    The U.S. government could do likewise were it both motivated and competent, but it is neither – most especially during the now-mercifully-ended Obama administration. Anyone in government service who was actually interested in, and capable of, protecting U.S. secrets was systematically shown the door and replaced with affirmative action political hacks with predictably grim consequences for national security. Rather than admit its own galloping malfeasance and idiocy, of course, the Obama administration elected to feed the legend of Merlin-like wizardry on the part of Russian and Chinese hackers.

  • MorB

    You can’t compare both economies like that. The purchasing power is much more with $1 billion in Russia than in Texas. If I recall correctly you can buy ten times more with the same amount of dollars in Russia. The reason american astronauts go to the ISS with russian rockets and not Texas ones…

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Having spent about 4 years of the Bush II recession as a net admin the biggest vulnerability of any computer network is it’s users. A will scripted authoritative demand for a password would get about 2 replies a year out of repeated attempts against 100 odd senior management and professor level marks. There is a compulsion to respond to authority in humanity and in some people you cannot turn it off no matter how much intellectual conditioning you do. My bet is SX’s engineering net has no ties to the outside world and work flow has probably engineered so that accidental placement of data onto a gridded network does not occur unless it deliberate.

    The Russian are good. They have a long history of even remote copying. Their first atomic bomb is a great example. The An-124 is another example. The Russians were always able to find a John Walker, or an Ames. The Chinese have a different MO, they have turned the entire us business sector into willing agents, and legal too. They don’t have steal American secrets, they can buy them legally, and have American technology transfer experts helping them along every step.

    As for your assessment of the past administration vs the current administration, perhaps you should post that on that’s more the caliber of ‘historical analysis’ for that crowd and I’m sure you’ll find the critical feedback you’re looking for.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Well they could develop a alternative to the Falcon 9. They’re more than capable of doing so. Considering Falcon 9 borrows conceptual heritage from Zenit, it’s not like a lot of the ideas are strange to them. It’s just that the Russians are stuck in the same rut the rest of the American aerospace sector is stuck in even after seeing the path to a reusable flyback booster laid out for them over the past decade. Everyone stuck in it except Blue and Space X. What’s now called Soyuz 5 could become a Russian Falcon if they went to smaller engines that would allow for a smaller minimum control bit when it comes to throttle settings at landing. But from what we see, they’re not going there.Throw away Zenit’s make nose sense in this era. It seems they’re doing less than ULA and Arianespace with their weak concepts of engine reuse.

  • duheagle

    I, too, would be entirely unsurprised if the SpaceX engineering network is air-gapped anent the Internet. One of the easiest ways to implement network security is to un-network things that shouldn’t be networked. Do that and the predilection of people to respond to phishing exploits becomes irrelevant.

    I presume that by “remote copying” you mean Russia has proven adept at building various things that are rough copies of prior Western developments even absent hands-on availability of the original items or engineering specs of same. That list would include the Tu-144 and the Buran too. The original Soviet A-bomb, though, was cribbed directly from the Manhattan Project which had numerous Soviet agents-in-place on its payroll.

    As for the “Bush II recession,” it was a depression, not a recession and had nothing to do with Bush. He made a few ineffectual efforts to avert the thing and got jackrolled by the Democrat-controlled Congress for his trouble. Its origin was Democrat-passed housing policy dating back to the Clinton administration. Obama wasn’t responsible for initiating the thing, either, but – like FDR in his day – he extended its effects for years by constantly screwing with the economy in major ways.

    The so-called “Q Movement” is irrelevant to my own analyses of history, politics and pretty much everything else. Aside from the idiocy of paying any serious attention to some anonymous Internet troll, one hardly has to assume Pres. Trump to be a secret genius to credit him for the dramatic turnaround of the American economy since his ascension to office. Obama was an arrogant, ideologically-blinkered moron who spent his entire time in office beating the American economy over the head with a 2 x 4. Trump didn’t need to be any sort of genius to do hugely better than Obama. All he had to do was burn the Presidential 2 x 4 and let nature take its course.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Kurchatov and his institute were not given complete plans and insight into the atomic bomb. Don’t forget it’s not just the bomb, its all the tooling, the dies, and the industrial processes. They did not have it all. They did not know what ratios of isotopes to have in the pit, and they did not use the same methods the Americans did to compute the cross sections. There was a lot of filling in the blanks.

    … Your historical analysis is fascinating. 8 years into the Bush administration and the economy is still Bill Clinton’s fault, but a year and a half into Trump’s administration and it’s all his effect. πŸ™‚ Your analysis is not 1:1. I’ll grant you it’s very hard to determine when a particular economic phase is owned by one admin or another, but for you to so blithely say that after 7 years of the Bush II admin, that they don’t own much of that failure, just takes away any credibility from your statement. Now what I have learned from Trump is a lot of the economy is psychological, the business sector responds to a strongman with as much enthusiasm as the Q crowd.

  • Paul451

    They could. But why is that their “best” option?

    Spend a decade copying F9, during which time SpaceX is developing BFR?

    No. If someone else has bottomed the market, why compete with them? If you can see a failure in the market, as Musk did, then sure, go for it. But if someone else has solved that failure, and is working to push further, and they have potential rivals nipping at their heels to keep them from fattening their margins at your expense, then there’s no advantage jumping into that market.

    Instead you use that sudden opportunity (low launch prices) to move into another market, one with fewer or weaker players.

    Russia had a natural advantage in space stations, they’ve lost much of that, but they clearly have a political desire to split from the ISS and built Mir 2. In doing so, they could also jump ahead of NASA’s lunar plans. (Especially if ESA is onboard with NASA’s plan, and China has its own lunar agenda. It lease Russia the odd man out.)

    And it’s worth noting that [i]no-one[/i] has yet gotten their heads around cheap-mass to orbit: building heavy to build cheap. People still engineer for every gram-saved, at great expense. Classic Russian engineering is to build heavy, so unleash the beast, take advantage of cheap launch and especially of cheap heavy-lift to own the market for low cost satellites, probes, landers, and manned mission hardware.

    There’s an engineering rule of thumb that for each doubling of the mass (or thickness) of a part, you increase its lifespan ten-fold. Cheap mass might also mean more robust and adaptable systems.

    IMO, a much better solution for Russia. Builds on prior experience. It’s not yet a low-cost, bottomed out market. And the targets still have national-pride/political-ego appeal.

  • duheagle

    I didn’t say it was Bill Clinton’s fault. I said the legislation that opened the door to the 2007 recession – that Obama turned into a depression – was passed on Clinton’s watch. During the Bush administration, Democrats in Congress decided it would be neat if they could hand out houses to members of favored minority groups. They couldn’t do this outright, of course, so they took the indirect approach by getting these people into high-risk mortgages via Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac when they ware manifestly not qualified to support any sort of mortgage. Then the shot-callers coerced the rating agencies to treat these Confederate dollar bills as if they were real money. That made America’s problem everybody’s problem as mortgage-backed securities have an international market. In essence, the Democrats in Congress and a few quasi-gov’t. agencies did to the mortgage-backed securities market what a different set of Democrats – the Flint, MI city fathers – did to that unfortunate city’s water supply.

    Even so, the damage could have been cleaned up far faster and less expensively than it was. But Obama and the same Democrats responsible for this man-caused disaster in the first place took the opportunity (“Never let a crisis go to waste”) to beat the economy in general over the head with various lengths of 2 x 4 they cut to size in various Congressional committees or via patently unlawful exercises of regulatory overreach by EPA, etc.

    As noted, Trump didn’t require being a genius to start fixing these idiocies almost immediately. All he had to do was make a bonfire of the 2 x 4’s as a pretty good opening gambit.