Over the past few decades, the main launch vehicles of the middle class used by our country are the systems of the Soyuz family. Despite the solid age of the family as a whole, the equipment is undergoing regular upgrades, and in addition, completely new versions of missiles are being created, which are very different from previous ones. Nevertheless, by now there is a need to create a completely new missile that can replace the "Unions" of all existing versions.
The reasons for this are quite simple. The rockets of the existing lineup are distinguished by sufficiently high characteristics and great potential, but the modernization of even the best samples cannot continue indefinitely for objective reasons. Thus, it is necessary to begin the development of a completely new rocket, initially using modern technologies and the element base, as well as meeting the current and future requirements. Taking into account such features of the development of rocket technology, several years ago, space industry experts suggested starting development of a promising carrier.
Booster "Zenith-2". Photo Bastion-karpenko.ru
About new plans for the development of rocket technology became known a little more than two years ago. In April 2015, the domestic media published information from unnamed sources in the rocket and space industry. Later reports of the new project received official confirmation from the leaders of key industrial enterprises. Then the name of the project - “Phoenix” became known. Subsequently, the initially published data was repeatedly refined and corrected, probably due to the current development of the project.
According to the first two-year-old reports, in the very near future the leading enterprises of the rocket and space industry were to determine the main features of the future project, as well as to form a technical task. Roscosmos was to be responsible for carrying out this stage of work. Formation of the requirements was planned to spend about two years, 2016 and 2017 years. Only with 2018, development work had to be carried out. It was planned to spend several more years to develop the project and the subsequent stages of the program.
In accordance with the preliminary plans of the 2015 of the year, the main phase of the project was to continue from 2018 to 2025 years. Also, sources who reported on the launch of the Phoenix project revealed some details of a financial nature. For seven years, starting with 2018, it was supposed to spend at least 30 billion rubles to develop a project and new type of missiles.
At the same time, it was reported that the Progress Rocket and Space Center (Samara) became the initiator of the development of the promising Phoenix project. For obvious reasons, two years ago the exact shape of the launch vehicle was not yet formed, but even then certain assumptions were made on this matter. According to the information of that time, the rocket had to be built in a monoblock scheme and put into a low near-earth orbit a load of more than 9 tons. The possibility of using a power plant operating on different fuel pairs was considered. Depending on the customer’s decision, it was possible to use engines that use liquefied natural gas or kerosene and liquefied hydrogen.
In this form and with such characteristics, the Phoenix launch vehicle could occupy an intermediate position between the existing Soyuz and Zenit complexes. In addition, the possibility of using a promising missile as a module for the construction of carriers of heavier classes with increased payload was not ruled out. In the proposed form, according to statements by unnamed representatives of the industry, the Phoenix rocket was supposed to be an addition to the carriers of the Angara family. It was indicated that in the event of any problems with the latter, forcing the operation of all carriers of the family to cease operation, the presence of Phoenix will allow the continuation of small and medium payloads into orbit.
For some time, no new progress reports were made under the Phoenix program. Some details of the existing plans were announced only at the end of March 2016. The head of "Roskosmos" Igor Komarov spoke about the conduct of several research projects needed to shape the appearance of a number of promising carrier rockets of different classes. In the case of the Phoenix project, it is planned to speed up the work. According to the available schedule, the design should have been completed in 2025 year. Nevertheless, it was planned to once again analyze the existing opportunities and find a way to accelerate the development of the rocket with the completion of the project until the middle of the next decade. As the head of the state corporation noted, the market and life demand the acceleration of work.
I. Komarov also confirmed the possibility of using the Phoenix rocket not only as an independent carrier. The main objective of the project was still the creation of a middle-class rocket, but it did not exclude the use of the Phoenix as the first stage of a promising super-heavy carrier. Any details of a technical nature related to the use of such a rocket were not disclosed.
New reports on the progress of work on the Phoenix project and information about the technical appearance of the rocket had to wait for more than a year. Only at the end of April 2017, new interesting features of the project were revealed. Vladimir Solntsev, General Director of Rocket and Space Corporation Energia, said that, at least in the early stages, the Phoenix rocket will be disposable. However, he clarified that the issue of multiple use of rocket stages is subject to additional justification. To solve the problem of returning the spent stage to the ground, it is necessary to use special control systems, new equipment and additional fuel. As a result, savings on returning the stage are either absent or it turns out to be minimal. At the same time, a convenient way to save on launches is a reduction in the size of the area of falling steps.
V. Solntsev also spoke about plans for maximum automation of work with a new type of rocket. On board the Phoenix and as part of the launch complex will be a large number of automatic systems responsible for carrying out prelaunch. Thanks to this, all the preparations for the launch will be performed by the technician independently, without human intervention. The assembly of launch vehicles of a new type is currently supposed to be set up at the production facilities of RCC Progress in Samara.
22 May TASS news agency published new information on the progress of work under the Phoenix program. This time the information was received from the press service of the Central Scientific Research Institute of Mechanical Engineering, which is one of the main organizations of the domestic rocket and space industry. Representatives of TsNIImash reported that the creation of a promising rocket will begin with a preliminary design. In accordance with the indication of "Roskosmos", this phase of work will be completed before the end of this year. Accelerate the work will be due to some features of the existing regulatory framework. It permits the omission of certain stages of the program if there is sufficient justification for this.
In addition, the most important prerequisite to reduce development time will be to use the existing groundwork. The project "Phoenix" proposed to apply the developments on the project of the launch vehicle "Zenit", created and operated previously in cooperation with Ukraine. The final assembly of Zenit missiles was carried out abroad, but about 85% of all components were manufactured in Russia. The proposal to use the existing reserve was taken into account when creating a technical task. The latter also took into account the possibility of reducing experimental development associated with the borrowing of finished elements.
In the future, it is also planned to save time on flight tests. It is proposed to conduct them at the Baikonur cosmodrome. To conduct inspections of Phoenix, it is proposed to modernize the existing launch of Zenit launch vehicles in the framework of the joint Baiterek project. The modification of the Phoenix rocket, modified for launches from Baikonur, received its own name “Sunkar” (kaz. “Falcon”). It is also possible to create a unified "sea" missile, which will be used together with the existing launch complex "Sea Launch". Naturally, a launch complex at the Vostochny cosmodrome will be built by a certain date.
According to the current plans of Roscosmos, the modification of the Phoenix for the Sea Launch will be tested in 2020 year. Next year, the Sunkar rocket will fly from Baikonur for the first time in 2021. The first launch from East is scheduled for 2034 year.
The emergence of the Phoenix project and the receipt of certain results made it possible to revise some of the existing plans for the further development of the rocket and space program. In the foreseeable future, it is planned to send the first manned ship “Federation”, currently under development, into orbit. Earlier it was claimed that the first flight of the "Federation" will take place in 2021 year and will be performed with the help of the Angara launch vehicle, launched from Vostochny cosmodrome. According to recent reports, in the new project, the role of the carrier of a manned spacecraft will be transferred to Phoenix.
27 May TASS, citing unnamed representatives of the space industry announced the postponement of the first launch of the "Federation" and the replacement of the launch vehicle. Due to some peculiarities of current projects and existing opportunities, it was decided to postpone the launch to 2022 year, execute it at Baikonur and use a new type of launch vehicle. The launch of the rocket with the manned spacecraft will be carried out within the framework of the “Baiterek” project. A TASS source noted that such a change in plans would allow it to dispense with major modifications to the launch complex, the missile, or the Federation ship.
Also a few days ago it became known that the construction of a new infrastructure necessary for the operation of manned spacecraft at the Vostochny space center would be postponed for some time. These works will be carried out only after the start of the development of a super-heavy launch vehicle for flights to the Moon. Thus, part of the new facilities on the East will be built only in the second half of the next decade. At the same time, the change in the existing plans will in no way affect the preparation for the operation of the Angara family of missiles carrying unmanned payloads.
According to available data, at present, the domestic rocket and space industry is developing a draft design of the Phoenix launch vehicle. As a result, the exact technical shape of the rocket is not yet fully formed, but there is already some information about the features of its design. For obvious reasons, the current estimates regarding the architecture and design of the rocket may not correspond to the outcome of the project due to the continuation of its development and the introduction of certain changes.
According to existing estimates, the Phoenix rocket will be built on a two-stage scheme and will be able to carry the upper stage. Despite the use of certain developments of the Zenit project, the prospective carrier will be larger and heavier, and will also be able to show higher performance. Thus, the length of the first stage can be increased to 37 m, the second - to 10 m with an increase in the maximum diameter to 4,1 m. The starting weight can reach 520 t.
Assumptions about the possible composition of the power plant. So, the first stage can receive RD-171М, RD-170М or RD-180 liquid engines. In the first two cases, the stage will receive one engine, while the RD-180 should be used in pairs. The second stage can be equipped with two engines RD-0124. It is assumed the use of different overclocking blocks of domestic production.
Earlier it was reported that the proposed technical appearance will significantly improve the basic characteristics in comparison with the originally named. So, it will be possible to output up to low Earth orbit up to 17 and payload. When using the corresponding upper stage and flight path over the territory of China, it will be possible to deliver to the geostationary orbit up to 2,5 tons of cargo.
Since 2015, when the first sufficiently detailed information about the promising project appeared, the Phoenix launch vehicle has been positioned as a replacement or, at least, as an add-on for some systems of the Soyuz family. Nevertheless, in fact, these missiles will become a substitute for Zenit, the operation of which is seriously hampered due to the well-known events in the neighboring state. The emergence of a new carrier with similar capabilities, apparently, will allow to finally abandon the existing international cooperation.
At the same time, Phoenix / Sunkar will indeed be able to complement the existing Unions. First of all, this will allow for the launches of the new manned “Federation” ships, which, according to the latest data, will be used precisely with the “Phoenix”, and not with the “Angara”, as planned earlier. In addition, the simultaneous use of several launch vehicles with similar capabilities may provide some operational advantages.
In the context of the creation and commissioning of the Phoenix rocket, questions arise about the future of certain projects of the Angara family. As part of the latter, construction of different types of missiles with different configuration and various characteristics is proposed. Some rockets of such a modular architecture (first of all, the Angara-3) are, by their capabilities, a direct analogue of the Phoenix. When creating a heavy or super heavy carrier on the basis of the Phoenix, a new competition problem will arise. How these issues will be solved - time will tell.
According to reports in recent months, the program to create a promising middle-class launch vehicle "Phoenix" has moved into the stage of preliminary design. This stage should be completed before the end of this year, after which new work will begin, as a result of which, by the middle of the next decade, the first rocket of the new type will be sent to the cosmodrome. Successful implementation of the Phoenix / Sunkar project will lead to an expansion of the range of available media with corresponding positive operational and economic consequences. At the same time, the project may face technical or other problems. In addition, specialists will have to resolve certain issues directly related to the simultaneous creation of several missiles with similar characteristics.
On the materials of the sites: