Thursday, August 16, 2018

Angara Rocket Family to Replace Proton Launchers NET 2024

A Russian heavy-lift rocket, the Angara A5, lifts off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia on Dec. 23, 2014. Photo Credit: Russian Ministry of Defense.

Angara rockets could fully replace Russia’s long-serving Soviet-era Proton launch vehicles no earlier than 2024, according to an industry official, who made the remark on the sidelines of a an aerospace conference in the city of Kazan.

Proton rockets are in service since 1965. Lately, Russia and International Launch Services (ILS) uses the booster in its 190-foot (58-meter) tall “M” variant to orbit military and commercial satellites. In recent years about three to eight Proton-M launches were being conducted annually from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

However, the number of launches of Proton-M is decreasing every year as the production of this rocket is ceasing and no new launch contracts are likely to be signed in the near future.

According to latest remarks made by Yuri Koptev, Chairman of the Science and Engineering Board of the state-run Rostec corporation, Proton rockets will apparently be still in service for at least six years as the number of built Angara launchers is currently unsatisfactory.

"As at today the decision is to build up a certain reserve of such rockets in stock and to expect the advent of operational Angara at around 2024. After that Proton will cease to exist as such," Koptev said.

The Angara family of launchers is being developed as a substitute for Proton-M and Rokot boosters. It includes different classes of rockets, from light to heavy, varying much in size and mass.

To date, only two Angara launches have been carried out - the light, 136-foot (41.5-meter) tall Angara-1.2PP flew in July 2014 and the heavy, 182-foot (55.4-meter) tall Angara-A5 blasted off in December 2014. Next mission is currently targeted for 2019 when Angara-A1.2 is expected to orbit a trio of Gonets-M communications satellites.

Koptev revealed that one of the important advantages of the Angara rockets is that they use environmentally clean propellant components. He noted that Kazakhstan has repeatedly criticized Proton launchers for not being ecologically friendly.

Referring to the currently high price of the development of Angara rockets, Koptev concluded that the new boosters are far more costly than Proton launch vehicles. However, he added that “it will not be so forever” as the costs are expected to go down in the long term in result of technology improvements.

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