Launch Vehicle Trends
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) maintained a large space transportation programme, totally state-controlled, solely oriented towards the home market and mainly for military purposes. For around 25 years in a row, the USSR led the world in the numbers of launches performed.
When the USSR was dissolved in December 1991 the number of defence orders decreased significantly, resulting in a corresponding drop in funding for the Russian space industry. The redefinition of state borders also caused space assets to be dispersed mostly in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. That led to Baikonur, the USSR's largest spaceport, falling within the borders of Kazakhstan. In addition, the Russian space industry was now dependent upon launcher components made in other countries. For example the Yuzhnoye company, that makes ballistic missiles and launch vehicles, was inherited by the Ukraine.
During 1993-1994 the Russian Federation, the principal heir to the vast Soviet space program, conducted 97 space launches (down from 116 space launches during 1991-1992) with only three failures. By contrast, the rest of Eurasia undertook only 27 missions during this 2-year period and suffered three launch failures. Although one of the two operational CIS cosmodromes is in Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation was responsible not only for launching all 1993-1994 launch vehicles but also for their payloads. Two new launch vehicle types were added to the Russian arsenal in 1993-1994, which then consisted of five basic families with seven major variants.
Initially, the Design Bureau of Transport Machinery (KBTM) suggested the solution for launching the advanced light Neva, medium Yenisei and heavy Angara launch vehicles developed in the early 1990s on orders from the Russian Defense Ministry. Since 1992 KBTM had been engaged in R&D on a multi-purpose SLC for LV of different classes on the basis of pad 35 under construction in Plesetsk for Zenit-2 LV. The main arguments in favor of this option were as follows: the high construction readiness of the facility, the possibility of rebuilding (building) a second SLC for future rockets, the chance of using the technological and launch equipment of LV Zenit-2 complexes already delivered to the site.
In 1997 the Angara project was fundamentally changed. The Khrunichev Center decided to develop a whole family of light, medium and heavy launch vehicles on the basis of a universal rocket module (URM) with the RD-191M engine propelled by kerosene and liquid oxygen. Launch vehicles capable of carrying a payload of 1.8 to 30 tonnes to a low orbit were supposed to be assembled as of building bricks from URM, three types of second stages and two types of boosters. Five LV modifications were adopted as basic ones.
The initial phase (1981-1995) of international co-operation in the sphere of space exploration is based on intergovernmental agreements. Then there were launched a French Rosot satellite (together with a Soviet spacecraft), a Bulgarian Bulgaria-1300 satellite and three Indian remote sensing satellites. In the 90s the mutually advantageous co-operation on commercial basis became the new aim. The first success was in 1999 with the launch of 24 American Globalstar communications satellites by means of six Soyuz-U launch vehicles with Ikar upper stage specially developed by TsSKB-Progress in short time (1.5 year).
Many Russian launchers in use today were originally made for military purposes. As the primary goal of rockets for military use was simplicity and reliability, a hands-on approach with a lot of testing and improvement of existing hardware was applied. Because of the previous military needs for missile accuracy, the injection accuracy of the current Russian launchers is high.
Most Russian launchers in use today were originally made for military purposes. As the primary goal of rockets for military use was simplicity and reliability, a hands-on approach with a lot of testing and improvement of existing hardware was applied. Because of the previous military needs for missile accuracy, the injection accuracy of the current Russian launchers is high.
The end of the cold war left Russia with several classes of ballistic missile that have now been converted to commercial lift vehicles. These include the Start-1, Rokot, Strela, Volna and Shtil. These rockets, that come under the light-class launcher sector, are not expensive and have a long history of successful flights.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|