21 June at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum was the awarding of the winners of the Global Energy Prize. The authoritative commission of industry experts from different countries selected three applications from the submitted 639 and named the laureates of the 2012 award of the year, which is already customarily called the “Nobel for power engineers”. As a result, 33 million premium rubles this year were shared by the famous inventor from the UK, Professor Rodney John Allam and two of our outstanding scientists - RAS Academicians Boris Katorgin and Valery Kostyuk.
All three have to do with the creation of cryogenic technology, the study of the properties of cryogenic products and their use in various power plants. Academician Boris Katorgin was awarded "for the development of high-performance liquid-propellant rocket engines on cryogenic fuels, which, with high energy parameters, ensure the reliable operation of space systems for the peaceful use of space." With the direct participation of Katorgina, who had devoted more than fifty years to the OKB-456 enterprise, now known as NPO Energomash, liquid rocket engines (LRE) were created, whose performance is now considered the best in the world. Katorgin himself was engaged in the development of schemes for the organization of the working process in engines, the mixing of fuel components and the elimination of pulsations in the combustion chamber. Also known for his fundamental work on nuclear rocket engines (YARD) with high specific impulses and developments in the field of creating high-power continuous chemical lasers.
In the most difficult times for Russian science-intensive organizations, from 1991 to 2009, Boris Katorgin headed NPO Energomash, combining the positions of general director and general designer, and managed not only to retain the company, but also to create a number of new engines. The lack of internal order for engines forced Katorgin to search for a customer in the external market. One of the new engines was the RD-180, developed in 1995 year specifically for the tender organized by Lockheed Martin, an American corporation, which chose the liquid propellant rocket engine for the Atlas launch vehicle that was being modernized. As a result, Energomash signed an agreement to supply the 101 engine and by the beginning of the 2012 of the year had already supplied more than 60 LREs to the US, of which 35 had successfully worked on the Atlas systems for various satellites.
Before the presentation of the Expert prize, he talked with Academician Boris Katorgin about the state and prospects of development of liquid rocket engines and found out why the engines based on the development of 40 years ago are still considered innovative, and the RD-180 could not be recreated at American factories.
- Boris Ivanovich, what exactly is your merit in creating domestic liquid jet engines, and which are now considered the best in the world?
- To explain this to a non-specialist, you probably need a special skill. For LRE I developed combustion chambers, gas generators; in general, he led the creation of the engines themselves for the peaceful exploration of outer space. (In the combustion chambers, the fuel and the oxidizer are mixed and burning, and a volume of hot gases is formed, which, then ejected through the nozzles, create the jet propulsion itself; into the same combustion chamber. - “Expert.”)
- You are talking about the peaceful conquest of space, although it is obvious that all engines from a few dozen to 800 tons, which were created in NPO "Energomash", were intended primarily for military purposes.
- We didn’t have to drop a single atomic bomb, we didn’t deliver a single nuclear charge to the target on our missiles, and thank God. All military developments went into a peaceful space. We can be proud of the huge contribution of our rocket and space technology to the development of human civilization. Thanks to cosmonautics, whole technological clusters were born: space navigation, telecommunications, satellite television, sensing systems.
- The engine for the intercontinental ballistic missile P-9, on which you worked, then formed the basis of almost all of our manned program.
- At the end of 1950-x, I carried out computational and experimental work to improve the mixing in the combustion chambers of the RD-111 engine, which was intended for that same rocket. The results of the work are still used in modified RD-107 and RD-108 engines for the same Soyuz rocket; about two thousand space flights, including all manned programs, were performed on them.
- Two years ago I interviewed your colleague, the winner of Global Energy, Academician Alexander Leontyev. In a conversation about closed to the general public specialists, whom Leontyev himself once was, he mentioned Vitaly Ievlev, who also did a lot for our space industry.
- Many academics working for the defense industry were classified - this is a fact. Now much is declassified - this is also a fact. I know Alexander Ivanovich very well: he worked on the creation of calculation methods and methods for cooling the combustion chambers of various rocket engines. It was not easy to solve this technological problem, especially when we began to squeeze the chemical energy of the fuel mixture as much as possible to obtain the maximum specific impulse, increasing among other measures the pressure in the combustion chambers to 250 atmospheres. Take our most powerful engine - RD-170. Fuel consumption with an oxidizer - kerosene with liquid oxygen passing through the engine - 2,5 tons per second. Heat flows in it reach 50 megawatts per square meter - this is huge energy. The temperature in the combustion chamber - 3,5 thousands of degrees Celsius. It was necessary to come up with a special cooling for the combustion chamber, so that it could work out calculatedly and withstand the thermal pressure. Alexander Ivanovich did just that, and, I must say, he worked on glory. Vitaly Mikhailovich Ievlev - Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Technical Sciences, Professor, unfortunately, died quite early, - was a scientist of the widest profile, possessed encyclopedic erudition. Like Leontyev, he worked a lot on the method of calculating high-stressed thermal structures. Their work intersected somewhere, integrated somewhere, and as a result, an excellent technique was obtained by which one can calculate the heat density of any combustion chambers; Now, perhaps using it, any student can do it. In addition, Vitaly Mikhailovich took an active part in the development of nuclear, plasma rocket engines. Here our interests intersected in those years when Energomash was doing the same.
- In our conversation with Leontyev, we touched on the topic of selling energy mash engines RD-180 in the USA, and Alexander Ivanovich said that in many ways this engine is the result of developments that were made just during the creation of RD-170, and in a sense half. Is this really the result of reverse scaling?
- Any engine in a new dimension is, of course, a new device. RD-180 with a 400 ton load is really two times smaller than a 170 RD with 800 ton weight. In the RD-191, designed for our new Angara missile, the thrust is 200 tons. What do these engines have in common? All of them have one turbopump each, but the RD-170 has four combustion chambers, the “American” RD-180 has two chambers, and the RD-191 has one. Each engine needs its own turbopump unit - because if a four-chamber RD-170 consumes about 2,5 tons of fuel per second, for which a 180 turbine pump of thousands of kilowatts was developed, for example, more than twice the capacity of the reactor of the Arktika atomic icebreaker, the two-chamber RD-180 is only half, 1,2 tons. I participated directly in the development of turbo-pumps for X-Rum-180 and RD-191, and at the same time led the development of these engines as a whole.
- The combustion chamber means that all these engines are the same, only their number is different?
- Yes, and this is our main achievement. In one such chamber with a diameter of just 380 millimeters, a little more than 0,6 burns tons of fuel per second. Without exaggeration, this camera is a unique high-temperature equipment with special protection belts from powerful heat flows. Protection is carried out not only due to external cooling of the chamber walls, but also due to the ingenious method of “lining” a film of fuel on them, which evaporates and cools the wall. On the basis of this outstanding camera, which is not equal in the world, we manufacture our best engines: RD-170 and RD-171 for Energia and Zenit, RD-180 for the American Atlas and RD-191 for the new Russian rocket "Angara".
- "Angara" was supposed to replace the "Proton-M" a few years ago, but the creators of the rocket faced serious problems, the first flight tests were repeatedly postponed, and the project seems to continue to slip.
- There really were problems. A decision has now been made to launch the rocket in 2013. The peculiarity of “Angara” is that, based on its universal rocket modules, you can create a whole family of launch vehicles with a payload from 2,5 to 25 tons to bring cargo to a low near-earth orbit based on the RD-191 universal oxygen-kerosene engine. The Angara-1 has one engine, the Angara-3 has three tons with a total load of 600, the Angara-5 has 1000 tons of thrust, which means it can put more cargo into orbit than the Proton. In addition, instead of a very toxic heptyl, which is burned in Proton engines, we use environmentally friendly fuel, after combustion of which only water and carbon dioxide remain.
- How did the same RD-170, which was created in the middle of 1970-s, still remain, in fact, an innovative product, and its technologies are used as the base for new LRE?
- Similar история It happened with the plane created after the Second World Vladimir Mjasishchev (long-range strategic bomber of the M series, developed by the Moscow OKB-23 1950-s. - Expert). In many ways, the aircraft was thirty years ahead of its time, and then other aircraft manufacturers borrowed elements of its design. So here: in RD-170 there are a lot of new elements, materials, design solutions. According to my estimates, they will not become obsolete for several more decades. This is primarily the merit of the founder of NPO Energomash and his general designer Valentin Petrovich Glushko and member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vitaly Petrovich Radovsky, who headed the company after Glushko’s death. (Note that the best in the world energy and performance characteristics of RD-170 are largely ensured by solving Korgin’s problem of suppressing high-frequency combustion instability due to the development of antipulsation partitions in the same combustion chamber. - “Expert.”) And the RD-253 engine of the first stage for rocket carrier "Proton"? Adopted as early as 1965, it is so perfect that so far no one has surpassed it. That is how Glushko taught to design - at the limit of the possible and necessarily above the world average. It is important to remember something else: the country has invested in its technological future. How was it in the Soviet Union? The Ministry of General Engineering, in charge of space and rockets, in particular, spent 22 on a percentage of its huge budget on R & D in all areas, including propulsion. Today, the amount of research funding is much smaller, and that says a lot.
- Does it mean that these LREs achieve certain perfect qualities, and it happened half a century ago that a rocket engine with a chemical source of energy in a certain sense becomes obsolete: the main discoveries were made in new generations of LRE, now we are talking more about the so-called supporting innovations ?
- Certainly not. Liquid rocket engines are in demand and will be in demand for a very long time, because no other technology is able to reliably and economically lift cargo from the Earth and bring it into near-Earth orbit. They are safe from the point of view of ecology, especially those that work on liquid oxygen and kerosene. But for flights to the stars and other galaxies LRE, of course, completely unsuitable. The mass of the entire metagalaxy is 10 to 56 grams degree. In order to accelerate the LRE at least up to a quarter of the speed of light, you need an absolutely incredible amount of fuel - 10 to 3200 grams, so even thinking about it is stupid. The LRE has its own niche - marching engines. On liquid engines, you can accelerate the carrier to the second cosmic velocity, fly to Mars, and that's it.
- The next stage - nuclear rocket engines?
- Of course. Whether we will live to any stages is unknown, and much has been done to develop the NRE already in Soviet times. Now under the leadership of the Keldysh Center, headed by Academician Anatoly Sazonovich Koroteyev, the so-called transport and energy module is being developed. The designers came to the conclusion that it is possible to create a gas-cooled nuclear reactor that is less stressful than it was in the USSR, which will work both as a power station and as an energy source for plasma engines when traveling in space. Such a reactor is currently being designed at NIKIET named after N. A. Dollezhal under the guidance of Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Yuri Grigorievich Dragunov. The project also involves the Kaliningrad design bureau Fakel, where electric propulsion engines are created. As in Soviet times, it will not do without the Voronezh design bureau of chemical automation, where gas turbines and compressors will be manufactured, in order to drive the coolant through a closed circuit - a gas mixture.
- In the meantime, we fly to the rocket engine?
- Of course, and we clearly see the prospects for the further development of these engines. There are tactical tasks, long-term, there is no limit: the introduction of new, more heat-resistant coatings, new composite materials, reducing the mass of engines, increasing their reliability, simplifying the control scheme. It is possible to introduce a number of elements for more thorough control over the wear of parts and other processes occurring in the engine. There are strategic tasks: for example, the development of liquefied methane and acetylene as a fuel with ammonia or a three-component fuel. NPO "Energomash" is developing a three-component engine. Such a rocket engine could be used as an engine and the first and second stages. At the first stage, it uses well-developed components: oxygen, liquid kerosene, and if you add about five percent of hydrogen, the specific impulse will increase significantly - one of the main energy characteristics of the engine, which means that you can send more payload into space. In the first stage, all kerosene is produced with the addition of hydrogen, and in the second stage the same engine switches from working on three-component fuel to a two-component one — hydrogen and oxygen.
We have already created an experimental engine, however, of a small dimension and only about 7 tons, conducted 44 tests, made full-scale mixing elements in the nozzles, in the gas generator, in the combustion chamber and found that you can first work on three components, and then smoothly switch to two. Everything turns out, a high degree of combustion is achieved, but to go further, a larger sample is needed, you need to refine the stands in order to launch into the combustion chamber the components that we are going to use in a real engine: liquid hydrogen and oxygen, as well as kerosene. I think this is a very promising direction and a big step forward. And I hope to do something in life.
- Why Americans, having received the right to play RD-180, can not do it for many years?
- Americans are very pragmatic. In 1990-x, at the very beginning of work with us, they realized that in the energy field we were far ahead of them and we need to adopt these technologies. For example, our RD-170 engine in one launch due to a larger specific impulse could take out payload two tons more than their most powerful F-1, which at that time meant 20 had millions of dollars won. They announced a competition for the engine 400 tons for their "Atlas", which won our RD-180. Then the Americans thought that they would start working with us, and in four years they would take our technologies and reproduce them themselves. I immediately told them: you will spend more than a billion dollars and ten years. Four years have passed, and they say: yes, it takes six years. Years passed, they say: no, we need another eight years. Seventeen years have passed, and they have not reproduced a single engine. They are now only on the stand equipment for this need billions of dollars. We at Energomash have stands where the same RD-170 engine can be tested in the pressure chamber, the jet power of which reaches 27 million kilowatts.
- I heard right - 27 gigawatt? This is more than the installed capacity of all Rosatom NPPs.
“Twenty-seven gigawatts is the power of a jet that develops relatively quickly. When tested on a bench, the jet energy is first extinguished in a special pool, then in a dispersion pipe with a diameter of 16 meters and a height of 100 meters. To build a similar stand, which houses the engine that creates such power, you need to invest a lot of money. Americans now abandoned this and take the finished product. As a result, we are not selling raw materials, but a product with a huge added value, in which highly intellectual work is invested. Unfortunately, in Russia this is a rare example of high-tech sales abroad in such a large volume. But this proves that if we ask the right question, we are capable of much.
- Boris Ivanovich, what should be done in order not to lose the odds gained by the Soviet rocket engine building? Probably, apart from the lack of funding for R & D, another problem is a very painful one - personnel problem?
- In order to stay on the world market, we must go forward all the time, create new products. Apparently, while we are not completely pressed and thunder did not strike. But the state needs to realize that without new developments it will be on the outskirts of the world market, and today, in this transitional period, while we have not yet reached normal capitalism, it must first invest in the new - the state. Then you can transfer the development for the release of a series of private companies on terms favorable to both the state and business. I do not believe that it is impossible to come up with reasonable methods for creating a new thing, without them it’s useless to talk about development and innovation.
There are frames. I lead the department at the Moscow Aviation Institute, where we prepare both engines and lazerschik. The guys are clever, they want to do the work they are learning, but we need to give them a normal initial impulse so that they do not leave, as many now do, to write programs for the distribution of goods in stores. To do this, you need to create an appropriate laboratory environment, give a decent salary. Build the right structure of interaction between science and the Ministry of Education. The same Academy of Sciences solves many issues related to personnel training. Indeed, among the current members of the Academy, corresponding members there are many specialists who manage high-tech enterprises and research institutes, powerful design bureaus. They are directly interested in having the necessary specialists in the field of engineering, physics, and chemistry get assigned to their departments so that they immediately receive not just a specialized university graduate, but a ready-made specialist with some life and scientific and technical experience. It has always been this way: the best specialists were born in institutes and enterprises where educational departments existed. At Energomash and NPO Lavochkin, we have departments of the branch of the MAI Kometa, which I manage. There are old shots that can convey experience to the young. But there is very little time left, and the losses will be irretrievable: in order to just return to the level that exists now, you will have to spend much more energy than you need to maintain it today.