"Angara": the birth of the rocket

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"Angara": the birth of the rocket
"Angara": the birth of the rocket

Angara is a new family of launch vehicles being developed in Russia. Its first representative made its first flight on July 9, 2014. Well, we get acquainted with the “personal data” of the whole family - with the background of their appearance and with relatives abroad.


Russia, as you know, is not very lucky with geography. This is felt even in space: the most northern space power in the world is forced to make the lion's share of its launches from the territory of another state. And the point is not even that Baikonur, which went to Kazakhstan, was the most developed on the territory of the USSR: it is simply located to the south.

In fact, if the launch vehicle is launched towards the east, it will be assisted by the very rotation of the Earth. The additional momentum it creates helps to bring more payload into orbit for the same fuel consumption. And the closer to the equator - the more noticeable this help. It is not for nothing that all countries of the world strive to locate their space platforms as far south as possible. The Europeans went farthest here, and ESA conducts all large-scale launches from the Kourou cosmodrome, located in South America, in French Guiana - but only 500 km from the equator.

The value of this additional speed at the equator is 465 m / s, at the latitude of the Baikonur cosmodrome - 315 m / s, but for the Plesetsk cosmodrome, located in the Arkhangelsk region - only 211 m / s. It is simply impossible to send spacecraft from here to a distant geostationary orbit. Heavy "Protons" can only be launched from Baikonur, and Russian cosmonautics remains largely tied to the Kazakh cosmodrome.

Cosmodrome Vostochny

The former Soviet Far Eastern cosmodrome Svobodny is moving and expanding: the new Russian Vostochny cosmodrome will become much larger than its predecessor, which was located nearby. Since 2007, when Svobodny was disbanded, and since 2011, active construction has been going on in the vicinity of the village of Uglegorsk in the Amur Region.

The Far East was not chosen by chance as the location of the new cosmodrome. On the one hand, the area already has a fairly well-developed system of railways and highways. On the other hand, the initial sections of missile flight, the most dangerous from the point of view of accidents and inevitably associated with the fall of spent parts of the launch vehicles, will pass over sparsely populated regions of the country.

It is planned that already at the first stage, Vostochny will have two launchers for light and medium-class launch vehicles, plants for the production of liquid oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen, an airfield, facilities for pre-flight training of cosmonauts and pre-launch tests of spacecraft - and this is not counting infrastructure, residential and other sites.


So the desire to learn how to completely manage the forces available within the country has become one of the key reasons for the development of new launch vehicles for space purposes. The launches should be carried out from large cosmodromes on the territory of Russia - both existing, first of all, Plesetsk, and future ones - we are, of course, talking about the Vostochny cosmodrome in the Amur region.

However, this aspiration is not limited to the launch pad: another task was the creation of a rocket complex that would be 100% designed and manufactured by Russian enterprises, which would ensure the independence and safety of the country's space industry.


Nikolay Moiseev: “There were no such projects in the world (…) so that the entire range of loads and the entire range of projects of light, medium and heavy classes were launched from one launcher - this is not the case, this is implemented in the Angara project.This makes the project less expensive in the sense that there is no need to build three separate launching tables."

But what should this medium be like? First of all, we can take into account two key problems, which, alas, suffer from the carriers at the disposal of Roscosmos. The first of them is ecological: toxic heptyl is used both in Protons and in other heavy carriers designed in the USSR. The engines of the new rocket should use "environmentally friendly" fuel, for example, based on kerosene (with liquid oxygen as an oxidizer).

The second problem is the problem of unification. Soviet designers could afford to be “scattered”, and so far the Russian cosmonautics uses a whole range of launch vehicles, the elements of which are incompatible with each other, and each requires a “special approach”, a separate technological chain and production. "Protons" and "Soyuz", "Zenith" and "Rokoty", "Dnepr" and "Cosmos" - one rocket should replace all this.


Just as thousands of rivers and streams flow into Baikal, and only one deep Angara flows out - so the large Angara family should replace a number of good old, designed in the USSR carrier rockets.

A universal one, capable of launching a small satellite into low-earth orbit at a low cost, and sending a cargo ship to the ISS, and - sooner or later you will have to think about it - manned expeditions to the Moon and Mars. How to achieve both the unification of components and the versatility of operation? Quite simply: the rocket must be modular. It should be assembled, like a constructor, from separate pre-made parts, depending on the specific task. From light single-stage to heavy, several times larger and more powerful than it - it should become a whole family of carriers, which are made from universal rocket modules.

Maternity hospital named after Khrunichev

These tasks were outlined 20 years ago, and already in 1995, Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree "On the development of the Angara space rocket complex." Initially, the first tests were planned to be carried out as early as 2005, and different blocks of the system were transferred to the management of different enterprises, although the head organization was the Khrunichev Center, the main Russian manufacturer of space rockets.

However, already in 1997 it became clear that the future system should have a different look. It is interesting that soon the then first deputy of the Khrunichev Center, Alexander Medvedev, defended his doctoral dissertation on the methodology of creating unified launch vehicles. Two years later, he was appointed head of the company: tasks were defined, performers were selected, work began.


Nikolai Moiseev, a member of the Military-Industrial Commission under the Government of the Russian Federation, told the media: “This does not mean that we refuse to further use the Baikonur cosmodrome, it is still in demand, it is still used for civilian purposes. But I must say that by now there are no servicemen left in Baikonur, it has completely passed under civilian jurisdiction, Roscosmos is the main thing there, and the military quite rightly set the task of the country's leadership to be able at any time, based on those decisions, which are accepted by the country's leadership, its military leadership, to launch any satellite from Russian territory. In this case, the question was about the Plesetsk cosmodrome”.


In 2008-2009, tests of universal missile modules URM-1, both "cold" and "firing", were carried out, with the launch of the RD-0124A-I jet engine, the operation of which imitated the cyclogram of a real flight. By 2011, ground tests of the RD-191 engine, which will become "native" for the "Angara", were completed, and the URMs were tested with it as well. At the same time, the units for the transportation and installation of the "Angara" were developed and tested at the start. According to some estimates, the total cost of the work, including the construction of ground sites, will be about 100 billion rubles.

“The problem was not technical,” says Nikolai Moiseev. - Of course, this task, in conditions when we had chronic underfunding in the 1990s, was postponed until later … from the required amount. Funding has actually started in 2006, so there is no need to be surprised here."


The long-awaited first launch took place on July 9, 2014, the two-stage "Angara - 1.2PP" was launched from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in the Arkhangelsk region. After 21, 5 minutes, she successfully delivered her cargo - weighing 1430 kg overall mass model of the payload - to the Kura test site, located in Kamchatka.

"Angara" in its family

As we already know, the Angara launch vehicles will be modular - for this purpose, two types of universal rocket modules are being developed, URM-1 and URM-2. The light "Angara-1.2" will consist of only one URM, and the heaviest "Angara-A7" will already consist of seven. “This has not happened in the world cosmonautics yet,” Nikolai Moiseev said. - One technical complex, one launcher allows to launch all three types of "Angara". This is absolute know-how."


Moreover, each module is equipped with a single-chamber oxygen-kerosene liquid jet engine RD-191, created on the basis of the four-chamber RD-171, which was used on the heavy Soviet rocket "Energia". The RD-191 has not only been tested, it has "experience" and real flights: such an engine is used in the South Korean KSLV-1 rocket, more precisely, in its first stage. Despite the fact that its launches in 2009 and 2010 ended abnormally, the first stage in both cases worked normally.


Only the heavy version of "Angara" will have its own special module - URM-2, which will take a central position in the complex and, possibly, will require its own separate engine (or modernization of RD-191). Only this modification will require the construction of a special launch pad for itself.

Relatives abroad

The closest foreign analogues of the Angara are the French Ariane-5 launch vehicle, the Chinese CZ-11 and, of course, the American Falcon, whose design also implements the modular principle, although not so widely.

The Falcon launch vehicle is developed by the well-known private company SpaceX, owned by the founder of the PayPal payment system, billionaire Elon Musk. Unlike the Angara, the Falcons are already making real flights - albeit in the Falcon version. However, the lightest, similar to "Angara 1.1" modification is not provided for it. In terms of characteristics, the working two-stage version of Falcon 9 most of all resembles the future medium-sized "Angara A5": with a launch mass of more than 500 tons, it allows you to put up to 4.8 tons of payload into a geo-transfer orbit.


To date, Falcon 9 has completed 30 launches, most of which were completely successful, and two - in October 2012 and September 2016 - ended with a loss of associated load.

This option will be able to launch into the same geo-transfer orbit up to 21, 2 tons, to a low - up to 53, 0 tons. This is noticeably more even than the future "Angara A7". According to Elon Musk's promise, Falcon Heavy will become the most powerful rocket on Earth and will be second only to the famous Saturn V cyclops, which were once used by the United States to fly to the moon.

The Chinese rocket CZ-11, as is customary for Chinese products, is not quite a competitor to Angara - it uses heptyl fuel, the drawbacks of which we already know. However, Falcon will not be the only foreign competitor to our new missiles: Europe is already using medium-sized Ariane-5 carriers. And although the European launch vehicle uses a propulsion engine running on oxygen-hydrogen fuel, and even has a pair of solid-fuel boosters, which noticeably distinguishes it from the Angara, they are functionally similar.

It is incapable of delivering cargo to high geostationary orbits. But this 777-ton carrier, ready to send up to 10 tons of payload to the geotransfer orbit, has an impressive track record.Since 1996, Ariane-5 has already made 90 starts, of which 87 have ended in complete success - it will take more than one year for Angara to gain such statistics.

However, while "Angara" is just beginning its life - and we hope it will be long. Only time and experience will show how the new Russian rocket will feel in operation and how it will look against the background of its “foreign relatives”. In any case, there is every chance that we can be proud of the newborn.

The article was published in Naked Science magazine # 15.

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