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New Impulse To Russian Rockets

In the near future, Russia is likely to have a variety of Angara carrier rockets fitted with RD-191 engines, capable of deploying payloads of between 1.5 and 30 tons in low earth orbit.
by Andrei Kislyakov
RIA Novosti political commentator
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Sep 15, 2008
Russian space launch vehicles are winning even more popularity with potential customers, as domestic engine developers have managed to create a versatile re-useable liquid-propellant engine, bringing to life an old dream of the world's rocket engineers.

The Energomash Science and Production Association has developed the new RD-191 rocket engine, meant to equip Angara advanced carrier rockets, ready for mass production.

Why is this development unique? The high cost of putting a payload into space has always been a headache for launch customers. Huge and expensive multistage rockets are burnt up in just one launch.

For decades Russian and Western engine building specialists have been wrestling with the problem of developing a re-useable rocket engine which could be brought back to Earth for further use after having worked its portion of flight.

The oxygen-kerosene RD-191 is a further development of the RD-170-180 family. RD-180s are exported to the United States, where they are widely used to equip American-made Atlas carrier rockets.

The RD-191 is a highly versatile engine, capable of working in two modes, both as first-stage and second-stage engine. Russian engineers added a limited amount of hydrogen to the oxygen-kerosene fuel, and managed to achieve simultaneous and stable combustion of all the three components.

The new engine was originally developed as a re-useable one. When other engines are used, the burnt-out stages fall down to Earth, posing a serious threat both to the ecology of the impact areas and people's lives. The RD-191's recoverability and repeated use will cut payload deployment costs several times over.

To be fair, it should be said that the Americans were the first to demonstrate the feasibility of a re-useable liquid-fuel rocket engine. In the mid 1990's, a small Delta Clipper single-stage rocket lifted off the launch pad and successfully returned.

However, the Americans decided to exploit their success, joining forces with Russia. Between 1994 and 1995, Energomash specialists worked on a joint program to develop a re-useable rocket engine. Soon, however, the U.S. waived Russian services, and classified all work in the field.

Boeing was working on a multi-billion dollar Space Launch Initiative (SLI) program to develop an advanced re-usable launch vehicle. Simultaneously, NASA tendered development of a next generation re-useable carrier rocket. The European Space Agency also tried to develop re-usable engines. However, neither NASA nor the ESA seem to have obtained any significant results.

In the near future, Russia is likely to have a variety of Angara carrier rockets fitted with RD-191 engines, capable of deploying payloads of between 1.5 and 30 tons in low earth orbit.

Therefore, the global launch services market can count on Russia for the next few decades.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

Source: RIA Novosti

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