Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Russia to Build New Eco-Friendly Soyuz-5 Rocket by 2022

The Soyuz-5 rocket family scale models on display at the Paris Air and Space Show in Le Bourget, France in June 2013. Photo Credit: Nicolas Pillet

The new Russian medium-class Soyuz-5 carrier rocket that will use ecology-friendly fuel could be built by 2022, according to Aleksandr Kirilin, the general director of the TSKB-Progress Space Center in Samara, Russia. The draft design of the rocket is expected to be ready by the end of this year. “The Soyuz-5 is a medium-class carrier rocket with a launch weight of about 270 tons,” Kirilin said in an interview with RIA Novosti. “It could replace the Soyuz-2 carrier rockets in the future.”

The Soyuz-5 launch vehicle will be capable of delivering 9 tons to a low circular orbit (124 miles), three times as much as the latest Soyuz-2.1b can do now. The rocket will have two stages and will be capable of delivering a payload to any designed orbit.

“In principle, the scheme allows to add more rocket blocks and make the booster a heavy one, but so far we are concentrating on a 9-ton capacity,” Kirilin said.

The Soyuz-5 rocket could cut costs of space transportation thanks to its reliance on new engines burning environmentally safe and widely available propellant made out of cryogenically cooled natural gas, instead of traditional kerosene. The rocket’s both engines, RD-0164 for the first stage and the RD-0169 for the second, will burn liquefied natural gas (methane) and liquefied oxygen for fuel. Liquid methane is estimated to cost up to 30 percent less than kerosene.

“LNG engines are to be engineered from a scratch,” Kirilin noted. “If we talk about advantages of this kind of fuel, LNG is the purest fuel available on the planet – but for hydrogen.”

The upper stage of the Soyuz-5 rocket could be equipped with an upgrade of the existing RD-0124 engine (RD-0124M), modified to burn methane. All of the rocket’s engines are being either developed or proposed by Chemical Automatics Design Bureau (KBKhA) based in the city of Voronezh, Russia.

TSKB promises to design the Soyuz-5 rocket with 50 percent less details and units than the modern Soyuz-2 launch vehicle to reduce the costs of its development.

“We do expect the price of Soyuz-5.1 to be less than Soyuz-2,” Kirilin said.

The company will be capable of producing up to 20 Soyuz-5 boosters every year, but that will depend on the number of orders, and whether the new rocket replaces currently produced rockets: Soyuz-U, Soyuz-FG, Soyuz-2 and Soyuz-ST.

TSKB announced the existence of the Soyuz-5 concept in March 2013. In June 2013, the company unveiled a scale model of the rocket at the Paris Air and Space Show in Le Bourget, France.

The first mock-up model of the Soyuz-5 will be presented at the MAKS-2015 International Aviation and Space Show in Moscow at the end of August.

The Soyuz-5 booster would use modified launch facilities of the Soyuz rocket family.

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