Tuesday, December 23, 2014

New Russian Heavy Rocket Angara-A5 Successfully Launches from Plesetsk

Angara-A5 rocket launches from Plesetsk cosmodrome on Dec. 23, 2014. Credit: Russian Ministry of Defence

Russia’s newest heavy launch vehicle, the environmentally friendly Angara-A5 has taken off from the Plesetsk Space Complex in the country’s northwest at 8:57 a.m. Moscow time. Twelve minutes after the liftoff, the orbital unit separated from the third stage, the press service said. The Breeze-M upper stage of the rocket has brought a dummy satellite with a test payload into medium earth orbit - over 35,000 kilometers from the Equator. The success was reported by Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu to President Vladimir Putin, who was monitoring the launch form Moscow via a video link and thanked those involved in the project. "Indeed, this is a great and very important event for our rocket-and-space sphere, and for Russia in general,” Putin said. Launching right into geostationary orbit has never been practiced before by any heavy booster prototype – usually trials are performed to a low orbit with altitudes of up to 2,000km before moving on to higher altitudes.

The Angara family of space-launch vehicles is designed to lift between 2,000 and 40,500 kilograms (4,400 — 89,300 pounds) into low Earth orbit. The Angara program is expected to complement Russia's Soyuz rocket, currently the only vehicle in the world capable of taking astronauts to the International Space Station. The heavy Angara is not designed for manned flights. Angara-A5 is the largest rocket ever launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, it weighs 773 tons.

The first stage of the Angara-A5 rocket is powered by RD-191, arguably the world’s best “clean” engine that uses kerosene and oxygen as fuel.

“This engine could be put to use up to 10 times – and even more,” the first deputy director at the Khrunichev Center, Aleksandr Medvedev, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta two days before the launch.

Roscosmos said that the new Angara rocket would give Russia independent access to space, and the possibility to advance to a new level of technological development. The Angara will have the ability to put satellites and other equipment into geostationary orbit. All of the parts which are used in the rocket's development have been produced in Russia, minimizing the country's reliance on partnerships with other space agencies. Additionally, environmentally-friendly fuel will be used in the rocket, including oxygen and kerosene.

“This rocket is intended to put payloads measuring up to 24.5 metric tons to low-earth circular orbits,” Putin said during an extended meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

“Naturally, the rocket will be used for both economic needs and, naturally, for strengthening Russia’s defenses and, consequently, of all CSTO member-states,” he said.

Putin believes that the new rocket would be good for “the system of early warning of missile attacks, reconnaissance, navigation, communication and re-transmission of signals for defense purposes.”

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that today's launch is a proper response to the Western sanctions and confirmation of Russia’s ability to make new achievements. “The heavy Angara A5 blasted off today. It will allow our country to firmly fix our position, it is clear for everybody, as a high-technological country, able to make new achievements in such a difficult and dangerous area as space exploration,” Rogozin told a meeting on Tuesday, commenting on the successful launch of a new Russian rocket.

Angara-A5 rocket launches from Plesetsk cosmodrome on Dec. 23, 2014. Credit: Russian Ministry of Defence
Angara-A5 rocket launches from Plesetsk cosmodrome on Dec. 23, 2014. Credit: Russian Ministry of Defence

"A very important page is turned in the development of technologies. A new rocket is developed under new conditions," he said, adding: “It is great joy for all of us. In the difficult time it will be our best response to sanctions and to unprecedented external financial, economic and political pressure on our country,” he said.

"We respond this way, and it means we respect ourselves and our country,” he added.

Russian rocket and space industry expert, Andrey Ionin said that the Angara-A5 is designed to replace the Proton rocket in the future, because by its capacity for the placement of payloads into a geostationary orbit it fully replaces this booster. “Sooner or later we will have to abandon the Proton. This is a good rocket, but with a major shortcoming — it is environmentally unfriendly, and the Angara is an environmentally friendly rocket,” he said.

The Angara rocket program has been in development since 1995. The light-class model was tested last summer. The rocket successfully reached the designated area within the Kura range on Kamchatka, 5,700 km from the launch site.

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