Khrunichev DG: Inaugural Angara Launches on Schedule for 2013*

The Angara rocket family. (Credit: Allocer)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Russia’s new Angara rocket family, which began development after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, will finally fly next year after two decades of effort. Providing, of course, that work is completed in time on the rocket’s launch facility and other ground infrastructure at Plesetsk.

That’s the word from Vladimir Nesterov, the Director General of the Khrunichev company that is building Angara. He discussed the status of the new rocket in a recent interview with the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

Angara is a new modular family of environmentally friendly boosters designed to replace a number of existing rockets, some of which are built outside of Russia. There are four Angara variants ranging from small to heavy lift.

Below is an excerpt from the Nesterov interview. Following that is some additional information about the Angara rocket family.

How is the project to create launcher “Angara”? When will the first launch of this rocket?

Everything has been progressing in line with the master schedule without any engineering problems. The maiden flights of the Angara 1.2 ПП [PP in English] light-lift launcher and the Angara 5 heavy-lift booster are scheduled for 2013. The light-lift launch vehicle is due to be available for shipment to the Plesetsk launch base in December this year. Angara 5 is to be about 60 percent ready before the end of this year and should be delivered to Plesetsk in the early second quarter of 2013 so that we can launch it in the fourth quarter.

The light-lift Angara will be the first to fly in order to ensure a successful launch of the heavy-lift Angara and in particular to verify the performance of Stages 1 and 2 of Angara 5. For the first of the two launches we made a special booster. After the launch of the heavy-lift Angara, light-lift Angaras will resume their flights though in a slightly modified configuration. More specifically, the Stage 2 diameter will be different.

Component-level tests of the launch vehicle components (i.e., the propellant tanks, the dry compartments, the main engines, the guidance and navigation system, and the telemetry system) have virtually been completed. These components are 99 percent ready. The tests of the RD 191 main engine to be installed on the URM 1 common core module have been completed, so this engine is available for serial production.

As far as the availability of the hardware required to support launches goes we believe that we will meet the due dates specified in the Presidential Edict.

However, since recently we have been feeling seriously concerned about a timely construction readiness of the ground structures. There appear signs of slips (compared to the existing schedule) in the commissioning of the ground infrastructure facilities, especially of the multipurpose launch complex.

The first stage of Angara has already flown twice in a modified form. The Angara common core module outfitted with a less powerful version of the RD-191 engine forms the first stage of South Korea’s Naro-1 launch vehicle. That rocket flew — and failed — twice. On the maiden flight, the first stage performed as planned but the payload fairing failed to separate. The second vehicle failed earlier in flight, and Korean and Russian investigators were not able to agree on whether the Angara-derived first stage or the South Korean-supplied second stage was at fault.

The length of time required to develop the Angara seems to result from several factors. One is the economic chaos of the 1990’s, when funding for the space program dried up. The other aspect is that Angara is supposed to replace several existing launch vehicles, some of which are built in former Soviet republics.  However, the existing rockets are already proven and working well, so there hasn’t been any real rush to replace them. And there doesn’t seem to be a lot of concern over Russia having its supply of boosters suddenly being cut off.

Another problem could relate to the notoriously inefficient and corrupt defense and space sectors. Russian officials estimate that 1 in 5 rubles spent on defense is lost through fraud and theft. Last year, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appointed Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin to clean up the problems in defense and space. The move came after an embarrassing series of launch failures by Roscosmos.

The ground infrastructure seems to have been a major problem for the Angara project. This has been true for the launch facilities at both Plesetsk and Baikonur, the latter having been the subject of much wrangling between the Russian and Kazakh governments. Officials from Roscosmos and Kazkosmos have been discussing how to move ahead with the launch complex and appear to have made some progress recently. But, it’s not clear whether they have reached a formal agreement.

Angara Overview

Below are the stats for the four variants of the Angara rocket with additional information below the table. All of the material below is taken from the Khrunichev website. The table mentions the Angara A7, which I do not believe is currently in active development.

Angara Family Performance Data


Angara 1.2


Angara 3


Angara А5


Angara А7


Lift-off mass,t





Payload mass (kg)
 – Parking orbit ( H circ = 200 km, i  = 63 ° )





 – Geotransfer ( i  = 25 ° ,  H p  = 5500 km), Breeze M/KVSK (commercial SC)

3.6 (w/KVSK)

2.4 (w/Breeze M)

7.5 (w/KVTK)

5.4 (w/Breeze M)

12.5 (w/KVTK-A7)

 – GSO ( H circ  = 35,786 km, i  = 0°), Breeze M/KVTK(federal SC)

2.0 (w/KVSK)

1.0 (w/Breeze M)

4.6 (w/KVTK)

3.0 (w/Breeze M)

7.6 (w/KVTK-A7)

Launch basePlesetsk

As part of the Angara program, Khrunichev is implementing a strategy of expeditious development of a common core booster powered by LOX/kerosene engines to serve as the basis for a number of advanced environment-friendly launchers of small-, medium- and heavy-lift classes.

Underpinning the Angara project is the idea to secure Russia’s assured access to space from the Russian launch base at Plesetsk and guarantee that Russia will be able to engage in space activities regardless of any trends in military-political and economic relations with other countries.

The LOX/kerosene common core booster (CCB) is a wholesome structure that includes an oxidizer tank, a fuel tank (both tanks being coupled by a spacer) and a pr opulsion bay.

Each CCB is fit with one RD 191 high-power liquid engine.

This engine is being developed on the basis of (1) the four-chamber engine used earlier by the Energia launch vehicle and (2) the RD 170/171 engine still in operation on the Zenith LV.

One CCB is used by both the Angara 1.1 and the Angara 1.2 lightweight launch vehicles while five CCBs are integrated in 5A, a heavy launch vehicle.

Angara 1.2 will use Breeze-KM as its upper stage. (This upper stage has been successfully tested in combination with Rockot, a conversion- pr ogram launcher.).

Angara A5 will use Breeze-M or KVTK as its upper stage.