New breakthrough: Russia will catch up with the Soviet "Buran"

In Russia, they seriously expect to compete in the near future with Ilona Mask and his private space company Space X on the market of cheap space launches. Roskosmos and the United Aircraft Building Corporation (UAC) will press the American competitors by implementing a national program to create a reusable ultra-light class rocket and space system. According to Boris Satovsky, who is the head of the FPI project team - the Advanced Research Foundation, an advance design of the rocket block being returned to earth is ready. Tests of the first reusable Russian-made space rocket are scheduled for 2022 year.

Satovsky notes that it is planned to launch new returning missiles from mobile complexes. The scheme of the planned system involves the separation of the first stage of the launch vehicle at an altitude of approximately 59-66 kilometers and its subsequent return to the launch area with a landing on an ordinary runway, RIA reports News. In the basic design of the return unit, it is planned to use a pivoting rectangular wing of large span, as well as the classic tail. According to the scientist, during the return flight to the launch site, it is planned to use serial turbojet engines that have undergone a corresponding modification. According to Boris Satovsky, such a system is designed for outputting a payload of up to 600 kilograms to a sun-synchronous orbit. According to the preliminary calculations already made, the output price should be less in 1,5-2 than ordinary rockets of the same class. In this case, each of the returned controlled blocks is designed to perform 50 flights without carrying out the replacement of the main engines.

Landing the first stage of the Falcon-9 rocket

For the first time that Russia intends to resume work on the creation of a reusable launch vehicle became known in January 2018. At the same time, RBC notes that our country will be able to earn on it no earlier than ten years from now. On January 9, Alexey Varachko, the general director of the Khrunichev Center, announced that the center, in cooperation with the Myasishchev Design Bureau and Roscosmos, has resumed work on the Angara-1.2 reusable launch vehicle project. It is planned that this carrier rocket will receive folding wings, which will be opened after the cargo is put into orbit, after which it will be able to land at the airfield. At the same time, the option is also being studied of the first stage of a rocket returned by means of its own engines, as it is now implemented in the Falcon-9 rocket produced by the American company SpaceX, and the option of landing the first stage on a parachute is also considered.

Representatives of "Roskosmos" said then that the plans of the designers of the Khrunichev Center to develop on the basis of the existing scientific and technical reserve of the Russian reusable launch vehicle - this is a logical step in the development of the industry, stressing that this experience exists in our country. Indeed, for the Khrunichev Center this is the third attempt to develop a reusable rocket. But this time, the Center decided to start designing a reusable stage for lightweight rockets. It is worth noting that even in 2000-ies the Khrunichev Center, which worked in collaboration with the NPO Molniya, was engaged in the creation of the reusable Baikal accelerator for the first stage of the Angara heavy rocket. Then it was planned that the first stage of the rocket, initially equipped with a swivel wing, after separation would return back to the airfield. The layout of “Baikal” was even demonstrated at the French air show in Le Bourget in 2001, however, this promising project has not been developed. In the future, work on the creation of a winged unit for the Angara rocket was carried out in 2011-13 in the framework of the implementation of the MRKS project - a reusable space-rocket system. However, at that time, the scientific and technical council of Roscosmos came to the conclusion that the cost of launching a kilogram of cargo using IDGC into Earth’s orbit would be higher than with a standard one-time flight of an ordinary rocket.

At the same time, experts say that the success of the SpaceX company Ilona Mask is the impetus for the resumption of work in this area. His company successfully operates the Falcon-9 rocket's first-stage return technology (the most expensive part of it). So in 2017, a private American company performed 17 launches of the Falcon-9 booster rocket: in 13 cases, the first stage of the rocket was successfully planted using its own engine, in three cases due to the characteristics of the space mission (for example, the need to deliver heavy satellite to the geostationary orbit of the Earth) the return of the first stage of the rocket back to Earth was not planned. In another case, the rocket planned villages in the ocean. Usually, the returning first stage lands on a sea platform or on Cape Canaveral.

The returned first stage is necessary for Russia first of all on economic indicators. The calculations show that using reusable rockets can reduce the cost of space launches. According to Alexander Zheleznyakov, a member of the Tsiolkovsky Russian Academy of Cosmonautics, reducing the launch price will allow Russia to “tear off part of the pie” from the market for commercial space launches or at least not to fly out of this market. Therefore, the decision to develop a reusable launch vehicle in Russia is absolutely justified, while the Khrunichev Center already has some groundwork in this area, Alexander Zheleznyakov stressed.

The fact that Russian reusable rockets should land on an airplane, in April 2018, said Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Government Dmitry Rogozin. “We are not able, like Ilon Mask, to return the Russian rocket - they start from the Canaveral cosmodrome and push the sea platform to the point where the first stage of the rocket should land. The steering wheels are at the top, and she sits on the engine, ”said a senior Russian official. “Where should we plant it in Yakutia?” This is physically impossible due to the geographical features available. If we expect to switch to the use of returnable steps, then it should go from horizontal flight to horizontal and on the engine and wings, which should open up, return to the nearest airfield, like an airplane, and here the project is combined with aviation, ”said Dmitry Rogozin. Most likely, the personal opinion of this person who, after the completion of the formation of the new cabinet of ministers, was appointed head of Roskosmos, will now be even more important for the project to create a Russian reusable rocket.

In fact, while working on a reusable rocket, Russia may be catching up with the Soviet Buran return space shuttle and its more modern and simple reincarnation - the reusable Baikal rocket accelerator, which appeared at several exhibitions at the beginning of the 2000-s. These returned ships, like the famous American shuttles, were the fruit of the hard work of representatives of the space industry and the aviation industry. Becoming a full-fledged returnable spacecraft, which was due to their huge cost.

At the same time, returnable launch vehicles did not develop on Earth for a long time, as it was thought to be economically inexpedient. And there was no such expediency due to the absence of a large cargo flow into space. In the 21st century, everything is changing, this freight traffic has appeared and can grow dramatically over time, Andrei Ionin, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics, said in an interview with the Free Press. According to Ionin, the emergence of large volumes of cargo traffic will be directly related to the deployment of an Internet distribution system in space. It is about the OneWeb project and the Mask-Starlink project similar to it. The planned constellation of satellites is estimated at a thousand units. Given that at the present time, all of humanity uses only about 1,3 thousands of operating satellites. That is, the implementation of only such projects could lead to a doubling of the space group.

Andrei Ionin believes that such projects with the deployment of the global space Internet will necessarily be implemented, because without such a system, the implementation of numerous projects of the "digital economy" on Earth is not possible. According to him, the time has come, these systems will indeed be created and will provide the necessary cargo traffic, which is why Ilon Musk took up the development of reusable rockets, having succeeded in this matter. Here you can draw a rather illustrative analogy with smartphones that have conquered the world. If Steven Jobs had introduced his first “iPhone” not in 2007 year, but two years earlier, he probably would have been needed by very few people, because at that time there were simply no 3G networks that could provide a good level of communication in the internet. Technology is needed not by itself in isolation from everything, but only when it is in demand. In this regard, it can be noted that the time of reusable rockets really has come.

The fact that the time for such launch vehicles has come is evidenced by the fact that the first privately owned space company, S7 Space, appeared in the Russian Federation, which at one time bought the Sea Launch project. They are working on replacing the old and rather expensive Zenith rocket and, as requirements for Roskosmos for the new rocket, they have designated the first stage being returned, notes Andrei Ionin.

In an interview with the Vedomosti newspaper, the general director of the first private space company in our country, Sergei Sopov, said that S7 Space has ambitious plans, including not only the re-launch of the Sea Launch project, but also much more ambitious tasks. The company also expects to launch ground-based launches, build and launch its own rocket engine manufacturing plant in order to create a reusable modification of the promising domestic launch vehicle Soyuz-5, and also proposes that the Russian government should not drown its ISS segment after 2024, and creating the first orbital spaceport.

Obviously, space launches will be required more and more with time, and reusable rockets will be able to help with their implementation. Ilon Mask has already solved this problem, paving the way. Now it is the turn of Russia and our companies and research centers to engage in competition in this, of course, an important field of space exploration.

Information sources:
Yuferev Sergey
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