I think many space enthusiasts who are actively interested in history and the current state of affairs in the field of space exploration and exploration have already recognized the rocket imprinted on the title picture.
This rocket, or rather, the rocket booster - the largest solid-fuel rocket ever created by mankind.
Well, now become and more.
This is the side accelerator of the Space Shuttle system, which has now become even more, having received, in addition to the standard four sections, with which it launched together with the space shuttle, an additional fifth section, which will allow it to become a rocket accelerator of the new super-heavy space launch system, called SLS (Space Launch System).
This system, according to NASA's idea, should return the United States of America palm in all aspects of space exploration, simultaneously giving all mankind the opportunity to return to the space frontier, breaking finally the vicious circle of low near-earth orbit and putting the issue of lunar exploration back on the agenda and ... even Mars.
How realistic and how realistic is this ambitious program? Let's try to figure it out.
Comparative sizes of historical, modern and developed American launch systems.
Backfill question: why is the Delta IV more than the Falcon 9?
The current state of the American cosmonautics after leaving the arena of the Space Shuttle system is quite pitiable: the heaviest launch vehicle at the disposal of the United States today is Delta IV Heavy, which can put 28,4 tons into low earth orbit (NOO) .
The Delta IV family, despite a lot of Boeing’s design, engineering and commercial efforts to build and promote its offspring to the market, turned out to be “not at the right time and in an unnecessary place”: amid the low cost of launches of the Russian Proton rocket and Ukrainian "Zenit-3SL" the cost of launching the payload with the help of "Delta IV" was completely unaffordable.
A single launch of Delta IV cost 140-170 million dollars, while the cost of the Proton payload similar to it was about 100 million dollars, and the cost of launching a smaller, but competitive one with Delta IV Ukrainian Zenit-3SL was even lower - only 60 million dollars.
Such a high cost of launching Delta IV made Boeing look for exclusively government orders for it and, as a result, all Delta launches, except for one thing, turned out to be paid for by the State Department by the US budget.
The launch of the Delta IV launch vehicle in the Heavy version. The starting weight is about 733 tons.
In the end, in the middle of the 2000-ies, Delta IV finally dropped out of the commercial segment of space launches - and could not go back there until the present time, when the guys from the private store SpaceX, whose Falcon rocket began to step on its heels 9 also came close to the Delta IV market niche, and the modification of the same rocket called the Falcon 2015 Heavy planned for launch in 9, even surpassed it.
At the start of the Falcon 9 Heavy, 27 Merlin engines will be switched on immediately using 66 tons of kerosene and oxygen.
This brainchild of Ilona Mask should put SpaceX's “private” space program to an unattainable height: for the one-off launch vehicle version, the mass of the output load at the NOU will be up to 53 tons, per GPO - 21,2 tons and on the trajectory to Mars - 13,2 tons. When returning the side accelerators and the central unit, the payload will not exceed 32 tons per LEO - the reusable launch vehicle has to be paid with additional fuel consumption and, as a result, with a decrease in the payload.
Among the technical innovations in the development of Falcon 9 Heavy, the developer has declared a unique opportunity for fuel and oxidizer to overflow during flight from side accelerators to the first stage of the launch vehicle, which will allow full fuel tanks of the central section at the time of separation of the side accelerators and improve payloads put into orbit .
Assembling the corps of the first stages of rockets Falcon 9. Now 8 engines are already installed in a circle, with one central. In crowded but not mad.
The “trajectory to Mars” mentioned in the last paragraph is not an abstraction. With a starting mass of 1 462, tons, twice as large as the mass of Delta IV, a record so far, the heavy Falcon is already the necessary step that allows you to seriously think about flights to the Moon and Mars. Albeit in the configuration, more similar to the Soviet experiments with the devices of the probe series, rather than to the colossal American program Saturn-Apollo.
However, in the future, the paths to the top of the “Delta IV” and Falcon 9 concepts with side accelerators, which are “clones” of their first stages, begin to slip as expected.
The thing is that the starting “sides” that increase the masses of the load output to the LEO is not multiplied to infinity - two or four side blocks can still be hooked to the central one, but then the complexity of assembling and managing such a multi-component construction growing just the same exponentially.
It was on this, in general, that the royal moon rocket H-1 “fell asleep”, in which 30 NK-33 rocket engines were at the first stage, which, together with the five-stage scheme of the rocket itself, did not allow all questions of its trouble-free launch.
The current configuration of Falcon 9, starting right away with 27 engines, is already close to the limit of complexity and further, most likely, Ilona Mask will have to increase the mass and dimensions of a single rocket unit, which immediately increases the requirements for the entire chain of production, transportation and rocket launch.
The Russian advanced Angara rocket family will most likely face similar problems. The small relative size of a single unit already leads to the fact that the Angara-A5 rocket with a launch mass of 733 tons immediately has to put four accelerating “boilers” (with a load capacity of NOU in 24,5 tons).
Angara-A5 before the launch of December 23 2014. At the start, there are five RD-191 engines, each with a load of 196 tons.
A further increase in the Angara load capacity rests on the fact that six rocket boosters need not be hooked to the base section of the second stage, which, perhaps, is already a kind of construction and engineering limit for scaling package systems, as the limit for the Falcon 9 concept is Merlin-27D 1 engines on three starting blocks.
The resulting Angara-A7 project will, according to calculations, with its own starting weight in 1370 tons, bring to the NOU a payload in 50 tons (in the case of using hydrogen fuel for the second stage), which will most likely be the maximum scaling of the rocket concept family "Angara".
Comparison of the A5 Hangars and the A7 Hangars concepts with kerosene and hydrogen fuel. At the same time here is the answer - why the “Delta IV” is big, and the Falcon 9 is small.
In general, no matter how cool concepts are based on the 200 class rocket unit or even 400 tons - it still turns out that the construction and engineering Karachun limit for such “package” rockets occurs on the launch weight in the 1300-1500 area, which corresponds to the mass output in 45-55 tons per NOU.
But further it is necessary to increase the thrust of a single engine, and the size of the rocket stage or accelerator.
And this is exactly the way the SLS project is going today.
First, taking into account the negative experience of “Delta IV”, the SLS developers have tried to make the most of past experiences. Everything and everything went into effect: the Space Shuttle rocket boosters, which were strengthened for the purpose of creating a heavy rocket, and the old hydrogen-oxygen engines RS-25 of the shuttle itself, which were installed at the second stage, and .... (supporters of the theory " conspiracy "- get ready!) long-forgotten hydrogen-oxygen engines J-2X, which are derived from the engines of the second and third stages of the moon rocket" Saturn V "and which are proposed to use in the projected upper stages of the SLS!
Moreover, long-term plans for improving SLS accelerating accelerators imply two competing projects using LREs instead of solid propellant rocket motors: the Aerojet project, which presented its own closed-cycle AJ1E6 kerosene-oxygen engine for the future “heavy” carrier. 33 of the royal H-1 rocket - and the project of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdine, which offer ... (and again, surprise, lunoskeptics!) To restore in the USA the production of F-1 engines, which At one time, the famous Saturn V rocket was lifted from Earth.
It is possible that life will return to these test benches again. Test of the first stage of the “Saturn V” LV - “Saturn 1С” in August 1968 of the year on the cyclopean stand В-2. Note that the stage is transported by barge.
Participating in the development of a future promising start-up accelerator and the current manufacturer of solid-fuel boosters, which stand on the initial assembly of the SLS launch vehicle, Block I - ATK (Alliant Techsystems), which proposed further integrating the existing Space Shuttle accelerator, increasing its length and diameter . The ATK’s advanced accelerator project is called the Dark Knight.
Well, as a cherry on a cake - one of the future configurations of the SLS system, Block Ib, suggests using a hydrogen-oxygen block as the third stage, borrowed from ... the Delta IV rocket!
Here you are, you know, the “hellish LEGO” in which NASA tried to evaluate, connect and use all the existing developments in the field of heavy missiles.
What is the SLS carrier family? After all, as we already remember, following the example of “Delta IV”, “Hangars” and Falcon 9 - overall dimensions are deceptive.
So, here is a simple scheme for understanding what was intended:
On the left side of the scheme - the heavy launch vehicles that existed until now in the USA. The lunar Saturn V, which could launch a payload of 118 tons and a Space Shuttle, which seemed to launch the reusable shuttle itself, weighing from 120 to 130 tons, but could deliver only a very modest one with it. payload - only 24 tons of payload.
The concept of SLS will be implemented in two principal versions: manned (crew) and unmanned (cargo).
In addition, the unavailability of three promising missile accelerator projects from Aerojet, Rocketdine and ATK forces NASA to use those “parts of the rocket LEGO” that are available - namely, those five Space Shuttle improved accelerators.
A transitional “ersatz carrier” (officially called SLS Block I), constructed in this way, nevertheless, according to all calculations, will already have a much more serious carrying capacity than the operated Delta IV or the Falcon 9 Heavy ready for launch. The SLS Block I booster will be able to raise the payload of 70 tons to the NOU.
Compared to the SLS concept, NASA’s stopped development programs for the Constellation program are presented - the Ares (Mars) rocket carrier that was not fully developed until the end, which made only one test flight in the 2009 year, in the “Ares 1X” design, consisting of the same modified four-section Accelerator Space Shuttle, to which was attached the fifth load segment and the design load of the second stage. The purpose of that test flight was to test the operation of the solid first stage in the “single stick” layout, but something probably happened during the tests, when 1 and 2 were separated, an unauthorized leap forward of the 1 stage caused by , apparently, by burning out fragments of fuel in it cut off by a jerk. The solid-fuel accelerator eventually caught up with the layout of the 2-th stage and rammed it.
After this, a rather unsuccessful attempt to assemble the “new LEGO” from old parts was turned down at NASA, the Ares project and the Constellation itself were stuck far away on the shelf of unsuccessful concepts, and from the developed backlog within the “Constellation” they left only a fairly successful orbital manned spacecraft “ Orion ”, which was built according to the usual for disposable ships scheme of the returned capsule, which finally put an end to the reusable glider“ Space Shuttle ”.
The Orion spacecraft before its first launch on the Delta IV rocket. December 2014 of the year.
The diameter of the ship "Orion" - 5,3 meters, the mass of the ship - about 25 tons. The internal volume of the Orion will be 2,5 times larger than the internal volume of the Apollo. The volume of the cabin of the ship is about 9 m³. Thanks to such an imposing mass for the orbital ship and the free internal volume, Orion during near-earth missions in low orbits (for example, on an expedition to the ISS) can provide life support for the cosmonauts 6.
However, as mentioned at the beginning, the main task for Orion and to put it into orbit further than the low basic SLS launch system is the US return to the tasks of developing near-Earth space and, first of all, the Moon and Mars.
It was on the flight to the Moon and, possibly, to Mars, that the main efforts of the USA and Russia in the matter of improving their spacecraft and launch vehicles were calculated.
Here, in principle, the distinctive American “Orion” from the Russian PTS system is dismantled in a convenient tabular form.
For the name PPS PTS, of course, you need to beat someone right away, but oh well. And in general, unfortunately, everything is very difficult with the PPTS project.
Therefore, in connection with the PPTS, we have so far only funny pictures from the exhibition. But in reality, while it is done to the insulting little ...
There is only a layout - between the past and the future. There is only a layout - for him and hold on ...
In addition to problems with financing, lack of understanding of the concept and the mass of issues of the design and engineering plan, the future of the PCA is uncertain and due to the lack of an adequate launch vehicle for some of its planned tasks. As I have already said, “in metal” so far Russia has only Angara-A5, which can bring no more 24,5 tons to NOU, which is quite enough for near-earth missions, but already categorically not enough for further assault on the Moon or Mars.
In addition, the concept of the PCV was based on the creation of an alternative Angara missile of the Rus-M family, the work on which, too, has so far been halted.
Projects of the “Rus” family of missiles in comparison with the family of only “Soyuz” and “Angara”.
The main purpose of the Rus family missiles was to provide manned flights, which is why the rocket, all other parameters being equal, has a smaller payload on LEO than Angara family missiles. This is due to the fact that during manned flights one of the requirements is the ability of the launch vehicle to leave the launch even if one of the engines fails and the requirement to ensure the continuation of the flight in case of a subsequent failure of one of the engines - with the continuation of the launch of the spacecraft into a lower orbit and safe landing.
These requirements, including the special launch trajectory, which should provide an overload on the crew of no more than 12 g for any emergencies and the availability of an emergency rescue system (CAC), lead to a significant decrease in the Rus-carrying capacity in the manned version.
In addition, the design diameter of the base unit "Rus" in the 3,8 meter was selected based on the traditional for the USSR and Russia transportation of parts of launch vehicles by rail.
In the USA, consciously, starting with the Saturn-Apollo program, the first stages of launch vehicles were made on the basis of a reasonable size, taking into account the possibility of transporting them by water (coastal-sea and river) transport, which greatly simplified the requirements for the dimensions of a separate rocket unit .
Transportation of the first stage of the Saturn V launch vehicle on the Pearl river barge (“Pearl”).
Today, work on the SLS and on Orion, even after the collapse of the Constellation, is in full swing.
After completing work on SLS Block I, which will be almost entirely based on the existing Space Shuttle, NASA plans to move to the next, much more ambitious stage - SLS Block II, with intermediate stops in the form of SLS Block Ia and SLS Block Ib.
LEGO assembly option, if rocket boosters are ready before. Block I, Block Ia, and then - Block II.
LEGO assembly option, if previously a modified third stage will be ready. Block I, Block Ib, and then - Block II.
The SLS Block Ia launch vehicle should already receive some of the promising launch rocket boosters: either from Aerojet on a kerosene-oxygen AJ1E6 closed cycle, or from Rocketdine on a modified F-1 open cycle from Saturn V, or the same on the new solid "Black Knight" from ATK.
Any of these options will be able to provide the Block Ia design with a lifting capacity at the NOU in the 105 tonnes area, which is already comparable to the carrying capacity of the Saturn V and the Space Shuttle (if you count it together with the shuttle).
The same tasks will be solved by the creation of the third cryogenic stage, which is large-scale and adapted to the size of the entire starting system, which can complement the two-stage Block I system (starting accelerators and the central stage on the Space Shuttle engines) by the third stage, which for the Block Ia variant will be like I already mentioned it, borrowed from the Delta IV rocket and will also provide SLS with the output of up to 105 tons of payload for DOE.
Finally, the final version of the Block II system should already receive a full-size, third-stage engine designed specifically for the SLS mass, which, like the second Saturn V stage, will use 5 advanced J-2X engines and will output tons of payload to XOUMX.
But even despite all these tricks, such a “space LEGO” will cost about 500 million dollars per launch, which, of course, is less than the cost of launching the Space Shuttle (1,3 billion dollars), but still it’s quite sensitive for the NASA budget.
What tasks should be solved by SLS and why NASA does not take into account the Falcon 9 Heavy variant, which seems to be able to provide the cost of 135 million US dollars for a one-time system with fuel overflow and for 53 tons of payload for LEO?
The thing is that NASA still aimed at the moon, Mars, and even asteroids and satellites of Jupiter! And the Falcon 9 Heavy turns out to be too small a rocket for such tasks ...
Nuclear rocket - to Mars!
But this is, of course, a topic for a good separate article ....
Ps. After reading my article again, I inform you.
If I criticize modern Russian approaches to space exploration and praise Americans, then there are good reasons for this.
Back in 2010, the state of the American space exploration program was deplorable: the Space Shuttle program had already been closed, the launches of Ares showed a complete failure of the Constellation ideas, all American newspapers and magazines wrote about "space Russian slavery" for the United States.
But, over the past 5 years, the US space industry has regrouped, received the necessary funding - and learned to live in new, more stringent conditions.
Will Russian cosmonautics be able to boast of this in 5 years, especially given the fact that this year brings us sad news about the closure of the RN Rus-M and PTS programs, postponing the launch of the Vostochny cosmodrome and the total reduction in funding of Roscosmos?
Wait and see. I hold our fingers for the cross.