Russian Scientists And a New Generation of Rocket Engines

The days of the Cold War and the top secret ploys and machinations among Russia’s top rocket engine manufacturers to win the space race against the Americans have finally ended or at least changed drastically. This does not emanate from any love for America, but rather from the realization that the world is not what it once was and cooperation under the aegis of the enterprise known as Energomash is helping to keep the space program alive.

Energomash is a joint-stock company controlled by the Russian government, with 80 percent of its shares held by the Russian Space Agency, and 20 percent by RD Invest, a private firm that manages the shares.

The deputy general director of Energomash, Vladimir Chvanov, recently told visiting journalists:

“Our orders come mainly from the Americans. We receive good revenue from these contracts, money that Energomash is able to put back into research and development. It ensures that we don’t lose our scientific potential.”

Powerhouses in the American rocket and space industry such as Lockheed Martin and Pratt and Whitney make up the bulk of their contracts and with internal orders accounting for only 3 percent of operations, foreign deals, with their steady influx of millions of dollars annually, have proven to be the most profitable way to go.

The income is also used for Russian research projects, such as development of the Angara rocket engine. A booster rocket of a new generation, Angara is based on the universal rocket module outfitted with an oxygen-kerosene engine. It is planned as a space-launch vehicle, designed to place heavy payloads (an aircraft’s net carrying capacity) into orbits. The first launch of an Angara rocket is expected to take place in 2010 or 2011.

The rocket engine is currently under development at the Moscow-based Khrunichev State Space Scientific Production Center and is expected to launch from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. It will provide a similar lifting capability to the Proton rocket. Each module will use liquid oxygen and RP-1 instead of hypergolic fuels, eliminating the need for Russia to clean up crash sites and at the same time apply current technologies that have been used on all Soviet/Russian launchers since the 1950s.

The world awaits Angara’s launch on tippy-toe and with bated breath.