The new medium-class carrier rocket is planned to replace the Soyuz rocket family
Russia’s space agency (Roscosmos) plans to begin in 2018 the development of a medium-class carrier rocket to replace the Soyuz rocket family the creation of which had started during the USSR times when Sergey Korolev was the country’s chief rocket engineer, a rocket and space industry source told TASS on Monday.
"Roscosmos is to prepare the technical design specification for the medium-class carrier rocket during 2016-2017. In 2018, it is planned to begin the experimental development work on this rocket named Fenix," he said.
According to the source, in the period from 2015 to 2018 Roscosmos plans to spend more than 30 billion rubles (almost $600 million) on the project.
Another source in the industry told TASS that the initiative of the new rocket development belongs to the Samara-based Progress rocket space center. According to preliminary data, it will be a one-piece carrier rocket with the capacity of carrying at least 9 tons of payload to a low-Earth orbit, that is, it will take a niche between the existing Soyuz and Zenit rockets. The Samara enterprise proposes to use liquefied natural gas as fuel, but also considers the standard kerosene and hydrogen option. In the future, Fenix is planned to be used as a module for creating carrier rockets of larger capacity. The groundwork of the Frigate upper stage manufactured by the NPO Lavochkin Research and Production Association may be used for the new rocket’s booster.
According to the source, the creation of a new medium capacity rocket was necessitated by the fact that in the future the national space program will use the Angara modular rocket. However, if a contingency occurs during the launch of a light-class version of Angara, the launches of the entire family of the carrier rockets will have to be suspended until the investigation is over, the source said. It is necessary to develop a new rocket as a reserve to ensure orbiting of small and medium payloads, he added.
Roscosmos chief Igor Komarov said previously that a new draft of the Federal Space Programme for 2016-2025 included the works for the creation of a new-generation medium-class carrier rocket.
The new Russian Angara A5 heavy-load rocket was successfully test-launched on December 23, 2014.