On October 7, the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos announced on Wednesday its plan to develop a new type of reusable rocket “Amur”, which was praised by SpaceX founder Elon Musk for moving towards A step in the right direction.
In the latest design, the booster of the Amur rocket will be powered by a new (undeveloped) rocket engine that burns methane. In addition, Russia seeks for the first time to build the first stage of a reusable rocket. Roscosmos’ goal is to reduce the launch cost of the Amur rocket to $22 million, but it can deliver 10.5 tons of payload to low earth orbit.
Alexander Bloshenko, Executive Director of Roscosmos Advanced Planning and Science, said: “We want our rockets to be as reliable as Kalashnikov submachine guns.” However, the most surprising aspect of the Amur rocket design is that It is very similar to the smaller version of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, but the latter can put about twice the payload into orbit.
The fairing of the Amur rocket is wider than the rocket itself, about 55 meters high and about 4.1 meters in diameter, while the diameter of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket fairing is 5.2 meters. Both rockets are equipped with a grid tail at the top of the first stage and landing legs at the bottom. The Amur rocket booster will use five RD-169 engines, and the Falcon 9 rocket will use nine engines.
The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket is designed to either return to the launch site or land on the unmanned recovery vessel, while the Amur rocket booster will be launched from the Vostokny launch site in eastern Russia and will move along the launch direction. Landed near the coast of Okhotsk. At present, Russia does not plan to land the booster at sea because the conditions in the Sea of Okhotsk are very harsh.
According to Roscosmos, the development cost of the booster will not exceed US$900 million, and the first stage of each rocket can perform 10 missions during the initial test phase. This may sound familiar, because SpaceX aims to achieve 10 launches of the Falcon 9 rocket booster in 2021.
However, even according to Roscosmos’s most optimistic schedule, the Amur rocket will not be ready for flight until 2026. For the rocket development plan, this is a long time, and it is difficult to say which markets the booster will enter. For example, if SpaceX can achieve its fully reusable interstellar spacecraft launch system plan, then the launch vehicle can be launched at 1/10 the cost of an Amur rocket. This means that it may be difficult for the Amur booster to increase Russia’s share of the commercial satellite launch market.
However, SpaceX founder Musk commented on the Amur rocket on Twitter: “This is a step in the right direction. They really should be committed to achieving full reusability by 2026. Larger rockets will also To generate literal economies of scale, the goal should be to minimize the cost per ton of payload into orbit, otherwise it can only serve niche markets at best.” A previous tweet pointed out that Russia’s efforts still lag SpaceX about 15 years .