45 years ago, Soviet scientists made a bold attempt to create a super-heavy rocket for a flight to the moon. This attempt was unsuccessful and we lost the "moon race" to the Americans. But now those same Americans are standing in line for rocket engines created in our country for the Soviet lunar rocket
The middle of the last century was a time of gambling competition between the USSR and the USA in the development of near-Earth space. The main "prize" was the moon. Therefore, the designers of both countries, sparing no effort and budget money, raced to create extra-heavy rockets that could take a man to the surface of the moon and bring him back. In the USSR, H1-L1 became such a rocket, which was developed in the OKB-1 first by Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, and after his death by Vasily Pavlovich Mishin. In the United States, Saturn-5, which was created by the equally legendary German designer Werner von Braun (they began to call him the “father” of the entire American space program during his lifetime).
History does not tolerate the subjunctive mood. Americans won the race. SA-510 with the Apollo-4 on board went on the first test flight of 9 November 1967 of the year, and a year and a half later in July 1969, the first manned rocket of the United States already sat on the Moon. The Soviet Union 21 February, 1969, just started test launches of its "lunar" rocket. And, soon after the end of the American launches on the moon (the last flight of the Apollo program took place on 7 on December 1972 of the year), the Soviet lunar program was curtailed.
However, the scientific and technical groundwork created during the work on the Н1-Л1 rocket did not disappear. The rocket engines designed and built for this rocket by the famous Soviet designer Nikolai Kuznetsov turned out to be so successful that both Russia and the USA are required now.
Battle of the "great old men"
The generation of the greatest Soviet military designers, the peak of creative thought that fell on the 40-80 years of the last century, is often called the “generation of great old men”. It was their mind that created the “defense shield” of our Motherland, and it was their development, in fact, that still underlies the development of military technical thought in modern Russia. In this pleiad are the names of two great Soviet engine builders, Nikolai Dmitrievich Kuznetsov and Valentin Petrovich Glushko. On the gas turbine engines of the first designer, strategic bombers are still flying and pumping the “blue gold” of Gazprom’s gas pumping units. On the rocket engines of the second designer, in fact, all Soviet and Russian cosmonautics rose to the sky. It would seem that they worked in different fields. However, there was a moment in history when the paths of two Soviet academicians intersected with each other.
This happened in 1959, when Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, the chief Soviet designer of space vehicles and vehicles, began to create a new Soviet rocket designed to fly to the moon. Shortly before that, Glushko was just awarded the title Hero of Socialist Labor for work on liquid rocket engines (LRE) for a R-5M ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead. But the task of creating a rocket engine for all four stages of the Soviet “lunar” rocket Korolev unexpectedly poses not to Glushko, but to Nikolai Kuznetsov, the head and general designer of Experimental Plant No. 276 (the city of Kuibyshev), which then specialized exclusively in the design and manufacture of turboprop and turbojet engines for aviation. It is not known for certain what caused this “horse change” - a difficult personal relationship between Korolev and Glushko, or that the rocket designer needed oxygen-kerosene engines, and the engine designer insisted on heptyl-amyl ... But the fact remains - at the time of the first test Nikolay Kuznetsov created and successfully conducted bench tests of the flight of the superheavy "lunar" American Saturn-5 rocket at the Kuibyshev Motor Plant, which was then part of the USSR Ministry of Aviation Industry Four new types of rocket engines for each of the steps of the Soviet N1 moon rocket-L1. By 1971, during the flight tests of this rocket (it started four times), they were finalized and received the codes NK-33, NK-43, NK-39 and NK-31. But these engines never went into the series.
The chief ideologist of the Soviet lunar program, Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, died in January 1966. Three years later, it becomes known that the first astronauts of the United States reached the moon. In 1974, on the basis of the OKB Glushko and the Design Bureau, which was led by the “successor” Korolyov Vasily Mishin, NPO Energia is created. Valentin Glushko heads him as director and general designer. And after this, work on the H1-L1 rocket in the Soviet Union was finally closed, and Energia began developing the idea of the reusable space system Energia-Buran. In the same year, 1974, the USSR Defense Council ordered the Kuybyshevsky OKB-276 to stop further work on rocket engines, completely immersed in the design of gas turbine engines for strategic aviation and ground-based drives for gas pumping units, which would soon chase Soviet gas from Western Siberia into capitalist Europe. About hundreds of NK-33 and NK-43 engines, already manufactured in Kuibyshev for the N1-L1 rocket, have been ordered to be destroyed.
The obstinate general
However, as it turned out, Nikolai Kuznetsov fulfilled only half the order of the party and government. He really created the engines, which are still flying and will continue to fly all the strategic aviation of our country. A third of the power of gas pumping units of Gazprom is still provided by Kuznetsovsk gas turbine engines. Moreover, under the leadership of Kuznetsov, the enterprises of the Kuibyshev engine-housings bush in the middle of the 70s of the last century established mass production of Glushkov's engines for the first and second stages of various modifications of Soyuz medium-class launch vehicles - RD-107A / RD-108A. And over time, more than 9 thousand liquid jet engines were built in Kuibyshev and then in Samara.
But ND Kuznetsov, the general, designer and full member of the USSR Academy of Sciences of the USSR, did not eliminate his own missile “offspring” - NK-33 and NK-43 — despite the direct order of the party and the government. He conserved them in a special way and hid them away from prying eyes. And in the subsequent 20 years, not a single person involved in this operation has let anyone know that about a hundred unique items are waiting for their time in the secluded area around Samara.
This hour has come in 1992 year. Three years before, the main opponent of the Kuznetsovsky rocket engines, Valentin Pavlovich Glushko, died. He still managed to see the flight of his grandiose creation - the extra-heavy rocket “Energy” with the MTC “Buran”. But the Soviet Union was falling apart before our eyes and its political leadership, in fact, it was no longer up to the cosmos. By this time, the old system of relations between the design bureaus, engine-building enterprises, rocket-builders, ministries, departments and industries was cracking at the seams. Previously “closed” enterprises, for example, were allowed to enter the international arena themselves with their products. And Nikolai Kuznetsov took advantage of this. He pulled out his rocket engines from the “vaults” and presented them to the general public at the first international Aviadvigatel exhibition in 1992 Moscow. These products produced the effect of a bombshell on the world community. “The uniqueness of this engine is that it was created not by a rocket, but by an aviation design bureau. And this specificity is manifested in everything. Most rocket engines, for example, are entangled in dozens and hundreds of pipelines. And in our engine there are practically none. Part of the design of the NK-33 is, in fact, a turbojet engine, which was previously created by Kuznetsov, for example, the NK-12 ... When the Americans saw this design scheme, they clutched their heads and said: "We have been around this scheme for decades and not knew how to implement it. Because its development required a colossal amount of money! ”- Valery Danilchenko, chief designer of Kuznetsov rocket engines, shared his impressions of the first meeting with the Americans with Expert Online.
Moreover, Kuznetsovskiye engines showed the greatest reliability, since they did not spare money either on improving their design and materials. According to the designers, at this stage, about 100 engines were “burned” (that is, worked out) - this is an order of magnitude more than what Russian and foreign rocket engine developers can afford to burn now in the process of testing. But at the same time, Professor Kuznetsov ensured that one of the NK-33 engines, designed to work at the first stage of a “lunar” rocket, worked for a total of more than four (!) Hours without being removed from the stand. For comparison, the estimated operating time of the first stage of the American Antares rocket, on which the upgraded NK-33 now stands, is 230 seconds. During this time, two such engines throw a rocket to a height of 107 km. Such parameters of reliability, reusable use and the ratio of thrust to mass still do not have any one rocket engine in the world.
The mention of the United States is not accidental. Americans at that moment just needed a new commercial booster (PH), working on the border of the light and middle classes. Therefore, already in the summer of 1993, an agreement on cooperation in the use of NK-33 as part of the Taurus-2 PH (Antares) propulsion system was concluded between the Samara engine manufacturers and the American company Aerojet. To do this, Americans bought 47 engines NK-33 and NK-43 from those stocks that are preserved in Samara, at a price of 1 million dollars per item. This decision of the great designer to sell the most likely adversary of unique products to the country causes an ambiguous reaction then and now. You can’t ask Nikolai Dmitrievich himself anymore - he died in the 1995 year. But according to reviews of people who knew him, the main motive for selling to the Americans half of the stocks of NK-33 engines was not money. He just really wanted the engine to finally fly ...
And the Americans, indeed, raised it into space, albeit in a modernized form. In particular, the seals were replaced, the control system was updated, the engine was adapted to the American kerosene and equipped with a cardan joint for controlling the thrust vectoring. And in this form, the brainchild of Soviet designers was certified in the USA and received the name NK-33 / AJ-26. This work was carried out by Aerojet specialists together with the designers of the Samara Scientific and Technical Complex named after Kuznetsova (SNTK them. Kuznetsov), and later, when SNTK them. Kuznetsova was again connected to the serial factory "Motorostroitel" - together with specialists from the integrated engine company Kuznetsov. The bulk of this engine upgrade work was done during the 2008-2012 period. “The very activity of entering the NK-33 into flight tests lasted about 5-6 years, but it worked with the engine from the 95 of the year, confirming its technical characteristics, showing its capabilities. And in the framework of domestic and in the framework of the American projects with the NK-33 was carried out a huge development work. As part of the modernization of the engine were implemented additional design solutions that raised the level of its technical characteristics to a new level. As for the American option, we forced it to 108 percent of thrust, the American experts complemented the engine with thrust vector control. According to the Russian project, the engine has a modification, it has been adapted to the new flight conditions, ”said Nikolay Yakushin, Executive Director of the Kuznetsov Association, under Expert Online.
The first Antares flight with three small NASA PhoneSat satellites and one commercial nanosatellite was made on the night from 21 to 22 on April 2013 of the year from the spaceport on Wallops Island on the east coast of the United States. This RN is designed to launch payloads weighing up to 5,5 tons into a low reference orbit, and its developer, a private company Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC), has already been contracted under a contract with NASA for 3,5 billion to make eight rocket space trucks Cygnus with cargo for the International Space Station. In 2013, the 3 successful Antares commercial flight took place.
In Russia, the first launch of a carrier rocket with the NK-33 engine took place in December of the year 2013. It was the Soyuz-2-1 B PH on 3 tons of payload, based on the propulsion system of which is the upgraded NK-33 engine under the letter NK-33A. The developer and manufacturer of the rocket is TsSKB-Progress (Samara). Especially for the new lightweight “Soyuz” in this engine, almost 30 positions were replaced and refined: wiring, drives, ignition system, and so on. The launch site is the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. In addition, TsSKB-Progress is currently working on the Soyuz-2-3 PH with a payload of 11 – 12 tons, in which four Glushkovsky RD-107A engines are combined with one NK-33-1. There is in Russia a project and a heavy duty PH class with a payload of 20 tons with five engines NK-33 (plus controlled thrust vectoring).
The current motivation of both Americans and Russians regarding the NK-33 engine is understandable. There are now quite a few proposals on the world market for “hauling” on light launch vehicles, since space exploration in its time began with light rocket launchers, spacecraft of up to 5 tonnes, which bring to low earth orbit. In the USA, these are the Pegasus, Taurus, Minotaur, Delta 11 (7320 and 7420 models), Falcon, in India - PH PSLV in various configurations, in Israel - PH Shavit. Europeans have high hopes for Vega. Brazil, together with Ukraine, was put on Cosmos-4. Light RNs are created in Iran, North Korea, South Korea, and Japan. Actively works on the subject of lung PH China.
However, for Americans, the issue of using the NK-33 Russian engines in their PH is important, first of all, in terms of the optimal combination of cost, reliability and efficiency of these engines. The NK-33 engines are not only among the most reliable rocket engines in the world and the leaders in terms of thrust to mass ratio. The price of the mass produced “modernized” under modern requirements NK-33 is half the cost of similar rocket engines of other designers and manufacturers. And in the case of the organization of large-scale production of this engine on the association of “Kuznetsov”, its price, according to preliminary estimates, may fall by another 30 – 40 million rubles. Therefore, Aerojet stated that it still needs at least 50 NK-33 engines from Russia.
Our country has a slightly different motivation. Russia, in principle, needs a new light rocket now. Historically, our light rocket launchers are intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), where instead of the warhead there is a payload. Such is “Dnepr” based on PC-20, “Strela” and “Rokot” based on PC-18, “Cyclone-3” based on P-36. They have one plus - the relative cheapness, especially when it comes to the alteration of the ICBMs taken from combat duty. However, the stock of such missiles is not infinite (“Cyclone-3”, for example, has already flown its two years ago), and most of them, again historically, were produced in Ukraine. And what is happening there now, I don’t need to explain. Therefore, in Russia, work is underway to create at once two light RNs - the 2-1В Union and the 1.2 Angaras. “Light missiles made at the time based on ballistic missiles, such as, for example, Rokot or Dnepr, will leave the scene tomorrow or the day after. And it will free up the niche of light launch vehicles in the Russian Federation. Therefore, the appearance in Russia of two new lightweight carriers at once - the Angara 1.2 and Soyuz-2-1В — is not painful from the point of view of competition. This is positive. They will not interfere with each other, either in the line of fulfilling the operational tasks of the Russian Ministry of Defense, or in the area of commercial space in the global launch vehicle market, ”said Expert Online, Executive Director of the Kuznetsov Association Nikolay Yakushin.
Therefore, "TsSKB-Progress" has already created a light "Union" on the "Kuznetsovsky" engine, and the State Space Research and Production Center. Khrunicheva creates a family of Angara launch vehicles on the RD-191 main engines developed by NPO Energomash im. Glushko. The first car has already flown, the second - not yet. And whether “Angara”, the decision to create which was made more than 20 years ago, will go into general production is still a big question. As a purely military product - it is quite possible. As a means of removing commercial loads, it is doubtful, since the lightweight “Soyuz” is almost 1,5 times ahead of the lightweight “Angar” in terms of payload removal efficiency.
Therefore, United Engine Corporation (UEC), which now includes OAO Kuznetsov, which has combined several of the most significant assets of the Samara engine-building complex in recent years, intends to fully restore the production of NK-2017 engines in Samara by 33. “Taking into account the demand for the product, we are currently resolving the issue of engine reproduction. This is a joint task that is being implemented within the framework of the "JDC". This is a common program. At present, the issue is being worked out with American experts regarding the formation of long-term relations for the supply of rocket engines under the Antares program, and work continues on a domestic project. We have formed a specific production recovery schedule. For the purposes of the American side, given the timing, we are talking about the beginning of the supply of engines from the 2018 of the year to the level of the 6-8 engines per year. For the domestic project, the approximate start date of deliveries is 2017 year ”- Nikolay Yakushin emphasized to“ Expert ”. In order to fulfill the plan, in Samara, at the Kuznetsov association, within the framework of the Federal Target Program “Development of the Military-Industrial Complex to 2020 of the Year”, construction of a new production building for the production of rocket engines has begun. In addition to the traditional RD-107A / RD-108A, they will annually make a few dozen NK rocket engines using the new technologies and modern equipment.