The world is increasingly talking about the "missile revolution": this due to both the rapid growth in the number of launches of the reusable Falcon 9, and the advent of light cheap rockets like Electron, which, we recall, should also be reusable. In perspective. In any case, the number of various rocket and space programs is constantly growing. Russia was not an exception here. However, in this case, this can hardly be called a plus (everything is financed not by private owners, but by the state). Recall that soon the country wants to fully commission not only the long-suffering heavy Angara A5 and its development in the face of the Angara A5M, but also a fundamentally new Irtysh, which should replace the Soyuz family missiles. Do not forget about the light Angara-1.2, as well as plans to create your own “reusable media”, and in the future have superheavy Don and Yenisei.
But that is not all. As RIA recently reportedNews"With reference to its source, the Khrunichev center resumes the production of Rokot light conversion rockets, built on the basis of ballistic UR-100N UTTX removed from combat duty. According to RIA, the corresponding contract between the Ministry of Defense and the Khrunichev Center has already been signed. “After coordination with the military department, the new missile was called“ Rokot-M, ”the agency’s interlocutor said.
The project "Rokot" has a rather long and very typical for modern post-Soviet realities history. This three-stage lightweight carrier rocket was designed in the center of Khrunichev: taking into account the first launch in 1990, it completed 35 launches. The last of them was produced on December 27, 2019.
The rocket is far from being as cheap as you might think. According to the Avia.pro portal, the cost of one launch was $ 44 million. For comparison: the launch price of the Soyuz rocket is about 40 million. And launching the aforementioned American Electron costs about six million US dollars, although the carrying capacity of this rocket is significantly lower: 250 kilograms when putting the load into a low reference orbit against more than 2000 kilograms from the Rokot.
New old life
The main problem of the carrier was not the price, but the Ukrainian components, which, after the well-known events, Russia could no longer purchase. Earlier it became known that the missile control system manufactured in Kharkov was decided to be replaced by a Russian one. The project received the designation "Rokot-2." All this, of course, costs a lot of money. As it turned out from the materials of the Khrunichev center, the cost of work under the Rokot-2 should be 3,4 billion rubles, and specifically the creation of a Russian management system will require 690 million.
There is one more difficulty that the head of the Institute for Space Policy Ivan Moiseev rightly drew attention to.
“All questions to the Angara.” Why does everyone push it aside, spending 20 years and a lot of money? From the national point of view, it is not clear why a new light rocket is needed if there is a Soyuz-2.1v and a light Angara. In the West, private traders are engaged in this and take all risks upon themselves. It would be better if they gave this money to the same Khrunichev center for the production of the Angara, especially since the Rokot is a poisonous rocket, ”
- An expert said earlier to RIA Novosti news agency.
Each of these issues is serious and requires a separate consideration. "Rumble" is really poisonous. For the first, second and third stages, dangerous asymmetric dimethylhydrazine or heptyl is used. The one because of which Proton-M was so actively criticized (and continues to criticize) at one time. The fact is that heptyl is a highly toxic carcinogen that can, due to inhalation of vapors or penetration through the skin, lead to pulmonary edema, loss of consciousness, convulsions and death. In addition, the spent steps pollute the soil, so launches may require expensive cleaning measures, otherwise it could seriously contaminate nearby territories.
It turns out that Russia preferred the unsafe “Proton” more environmentally neutral “Angara”, and then decided to propose the production of another carrier using asymmetric dimethylhydrazine.
However, now there is almost no doubt that the heavy A5 Angara will be used: recently it became known about the purchase by the Russian Ministry of Defense of four such carriers. But the light "Angara-1.2" seems to be waiting for hard times. And the matter is not only in “Rokot”. Recall that last year it became known that Roscosmos terminated the contract for the production of the rocket, choosing not her, but Soyuz-2 as the launch tool for the Gonets series. In the same 2019, Interfax reported one more unpleasant news: according to it, the construction price of Angara-1.2 will be one and a half times higher than the cost of creating the Soyuz rocket. In general, this could be expected at the stage of launching the rocket into the series, however, plans for the “Rokot” do not exactly add the chances for the success of the light Angara.
It is worth noting another significant important detail that directly relates to the new program. The Khrunichev center, developing and manufacturing the Angara and working on the updated Rokot, is rightly considered the most problematic enterprise of the space department. Among the difficulties is a difficult financial situation. As Lenta.ru recently noted, the center’s debts exceed 80 billion rubles (according to other sources, the amount is 100 billion rubles), which is comparable to the annual budget of Roscosmos.
This is partly due to the difficulties of the transition period. Recall that in 2019 it became known that a huge business center will be built on the site of part of the territory of the Khrunichev center in Moscow, and the “Proton” and “Angara” missiles will be assembled in Omsk. Previously, we could see one of the sketches of the main building of the National Space Center, which in its shape resembles a giant launch vehicle.
In general, the prospects for the updated Rokot, as well as Angara-1.2, are very ambiguous. In this regard, the question is: can Russia even count on getting an inexpensive and safe light / ultralight carrier in the future? There are such hopes. A few days ago, the private company Cosmocourse introduced a rocket project with which it will take part in the Aeronet contest. It is assumed that a two-stage carrier will be able to put about 260 kilograms of cargo into a sun-synchronous orbit. The capabilities of the rocket should be enough to launch nano- and microsatellites. By the way, there is an unfounded opinion that the number of such devices in the general “basket” of launches will constantly grow.
On the other hand, we have repeatedly witnessed how private initiative in Russian realities ended in nothing. It is enough to recall the story of the “Sea Launch”, which now has every chance to go to scrap. But what far-reaching plans did S7 Space have, which claimed to become a “Russian SpaceX” ...