Angara to move to Vostochny
After the cancellation of the Rus-M project in 2011, Russian space agency hatched plans to bring the Angara launch vehicle to Vostochny instead. The launch facility could be built at the same site that was originally eyed for the Rus-M's dual pad.
The Angara-5 launch pad in Vostochny at a glance:
Origin of the plan
Initial provisional plans to launch Angara from Svobodny Cosmodrome were made at the beginning of the 1990s but they have never materialized due to lack of funding. But after the cancellation of the Rus-M project in 2011, Roskosmos returned to the idea of bringing Angara (with similar payload capabilities to Rus-M) to what became Vostochny as a replacement. In turn, deploying Angara in Vostochny would make the Baiterek pad in Baikonur unnecessary. At the time, the construction of the Angara pad in Vostochny was considered as the second phase of development of the new launch center, which was promised to be completed around 2018. (In January 2013, the Russian Vice-Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that the light version of Angara would fly from Vostochny by 2015, but nobody mentioned that idea again.)
As of beginning of 2012, the unmanned version of Angara was reported to be able of carrying up to 24 tons to the low Earth orbit from Vostochny, comparing to just 18 tons possible for delivery to the same orbit from its pad in Plesetsk. The same rocket could also place from 3.5 to 3.6 tons to a geostationary orbit from Vostochny, according to the head of Roskosmos.
The Amur OKR development plan
Under Roskosmos' tender announced in July 2012 and code-named Amur (after a great Siberian river), the Angara-5 rocket would be customized to fly from Vostochny, carrying a 20-ton new-generation PTK NP spacecraft. The first phase in the development of the Amur project would run until the end of May 2013, Roskosmos said.
In addition to its role in the manned space program, the Angara's launch complex in Vostochny would complement or even replace the original Angara facility in Plesetsk for launches into the geostationary orbit. Thanks to a much better geographical location of Vostochny for launches to the equatorial orbit, Angara-5 could carry a larger payload when compared to the same vehicle based in Plesetsk. For missions to the geostationary orbit from Vostochny, Angara-5 would be equipped with the cryogenic KVTK upper stage when carrying its largest payloads and with the Block-DM stage for smaller satellites.
Given extremely remote location of the Vostochny launch site in the Russian Far East and limitations of region's rail lines for non-standard cargo, Roskosmos hoped to break with the tradition of shipping rocket stages to the launch site by train. Instead, the agency considered a possibility of taking advantage of Russia's An-124-100 Ruslan transport aircraft for the delivery of Angara's rocket stages.
The development timeframe
In April 2013, the head of Roskosmos, Vladimir Popovkin said that the agency would request government funding for the construction of the Angara pad in Vostochny beginning in 2015 to avoid disbanding the workforce after the completion of the Soyuz pad in the Far East. The plan would require the government funding for the project to start a year earlier than originally planned.
At least some preliminary construction work at the site was promised to begin as early as 2013, and satellite imagery did show apparent clearing activities in the first half of that year. At the time, the first manned launch from the site was officially promised as early as 2018, but more likely it could take place around or after 2020.
On Oct. 23, 2013, Roskosmos announced a tender for the development of the launch complex 371SK32 for the Angara rocket in Vostochny. The agency allocated 813 million rubles for the work on the project code-named SK-Vostok-A (which stood for Launch Complex-Vostochny-Angara) until Nov. 25, 2014. This phase of the project was characterized as Opytno-Konstruktorskie Raboty, OKR, which can be translated as research and development work. In the Russian industrial terminology it usually refers to a second phase of development following the preliminary design.
As it was expected, Roskosmos essentially ordered to replicate in Vostochny the launch facility for the Angara-A5 that had been previously developed for Russia's northern launch site in Plesetsk. The agency's paperwork called for a two-pad launch facility to be developed into two phases. The first pad would be built to support three-stage Angara-A5 rockets with DM and KVTK upper stages. The pad would have to be modifiable for a three-stage Angara-A5 rocket carrying manned PTK NP spacecraft, the tender documentation said. The second pad could accommodate both manned and unmanned versions of the rocket.
At the time, Russian space officials still promised the first manned launch from Vostochny in 2018. However in February 2014, Roskosmos quoted its head Oleg Ostapenko as saying that the development of the Angara complex in Vostochny had been subdivided in two phases: first -- the construction of the PU-1 launch pad (where PU stands for puskavaya ustanovka or "launch pad") for an unmanned version of the rocket and, only later -- the development of the PU-2 pad for the manned version of Angara. The announcement stressed that in order to complete the first (unmanned) pad in 2018, the construction would have to start in 2015. The statement essentially confirmed that the launch date of the first manned mission from Vostochny in 2018, which had often been quoted by the official media, had not actually been possible.
At the same time, Roskosmos announced that in December 2013, the survey work had been completed at the Angara site in Vostochny and the location of its facilities around the center had been determined. In addition, a cargo simulator of the Angara rocket had completed a dry run from the production factory at GKNPTs Khrunichev in Moscow to Vostochny, Roskosmos said on February 24, 2014. During the introduction ceremony of the new Director General of GKNPTs Khrunichev on August 7, 2014, Vice Prime-Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the work at the construction site of the Angara rocket would start at the beginning of autumn, the Interfax news agency reported.
During President Vladimir Putin's visit to Vostochny at the beginning of September 2014, Ostapenko publicly proposed to cut the money originally allocated for Angara's backup launch pads in Plesetsk and in Vostochny, in order to pay for the super-heavy launcher program. Still, at least a single pad for Angara was scheduled for the construction in Vostochny from 2016 to 2020.
In 2014, the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, officially postponed the first launch of the Angara rocket from the nation's new launch site in Vostochny from 2018 to 2021. Previously quoted in various unofficial reports, the 2021 launch date then appeared in the formal technical assignment to the industry for the development of the Angara launch facility in Vostochny. The delay also meant that Russia's new-generation piloted spacecraft would not reach the launch pad until at least 2021 for its first unmanned test mission.
On November 13, 2014, Roskosmos issued a new tender for the development of the Amur complex (a.k.a. 371KK64), which included the three-stage Angara-A5 rocket adapted for missions from Vostochny and its launch facilities at Russia's Far Eastern launch site. The final contract worth 12.6 billion rubles (approximately $267.2 million) was to cover the development work until November 2023.
The documents of the tender specified Angara's key capabilities at its future launch pad and requirements for its future missions. According to the technical assignment in the tender, Angara-A5 would be able to deliver 24.5 tons to the low Earth orbit, when launched from Vostochny. The document said that separate technical assignments would be issued to adapt the rocket for various payloads including unmanned version of the next-generation manned spacecraft and for military satellites.
Specifically for the Vostochny-based Angara, Roskosmos planned to start the Orion project in 2016, which would adapt Proton's current DM upper stage burning kerosene fuel for Angara-A5. In parallel, the Dvina-KVTK project would aim to build the hydrogen-powered KVTK upper stage for a more powerful version of the same rocket.
The requirements for the tender also confirmed that the first Angara pad in Vostochny, designated PU1, would be used to launch satellites and an unmanned version of the PTK NP spacecraft during its initial flight testing. A separate technical assignment would be issued for the second launch pad, the documents said without providing details.
Angara missions originating from Vostochny could enter orbit with an inclination 51.7 and 64.8 degrees toward the Equator. When entering the 51.7-degree orbit, the second stage of the rocket was expected to crash in the Sea of Okhotsk, 1,350 kilometers from the launch pad.
According to the schedule for the OKR Amur development project, Angara-A5 rockets for a series of test flights would have to be delivered during a period from 2021 to 2025, however the exact number of flight tests would be determined by the flight test program, the document said.
Developments in 2015
On May 25, 2015, the Angara pad in Vostochny was a subject of discussion in the Kremlin between Vladimir Putin and the head of Roskosmos Igor Komarov. On June 4, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced that the construction of the dual launch complex for the Angara rocket would begin in January 2016, immediately after the introduction of the Soyuz pad. The Angara complex would be able to accomodate Angara-5, Angara-5V and a light-weight Angara, Rogozin said. Indeed, at the time, workers were already seen clearing trees at the future facility. The first unmanned launch of the Angara-5 rocket was then officially scheduled at the end of 2021, while the first manned launch from the site slipped to 2023.
In anticipation of the effort to bring Angara to Vostochny, GKNPTs Khrunichev, the developer of the launcher, began forming a division responsible for the task, industry sources said.
In addition to the a dual launch pad, the new vehicle assembly building for Angara rockets would be built at the Vostochny's main processing complex, along with a new preparation facility for the PTK NP spacecraft, officials said in November.
On January 20, 2016, Roskosmos officials admitted that budget cuts at the end of 2015 had required to drop plans to build one of the two launch pads for Angara rockets in Vostochny. (The 100-billion-ruble budget for the construction of the second Angara pad in Vostochny was apparently cut as early as November 2015.) Previously, the Russian space officials claimed that a dual launch complex for the Angara was absolutely necessary to support the four-launch scenario of the lunar expeditions relying on the Angara-5V rocket.
The beginning of the construction of the remaining single pad was now delayed from 2016 to 2017. The facility could still be designed to accomodate multiple members of the Angara family, including Angara-5 and Angara-5V and, eventually, their man-rated versions.
To save money, the Amur project, which aimed to bring the Angara family to Vostochny, was subdivided into two phases. Only the first phase, which funded the deployment of the Angara-5/KVTK and Angara-5P rockets at the site, would reach flight tests in 2021, during the Federal Space Program extending from 2016 to 2025. The completion of the second phase, which would see the first unmanned launch of the Angara-5V rocket from Vostochny, was now postponed from 2024 to beyond 2025.
On September 3, Roskosmos announced that the design of the Angara complex had been underway and the contractor selection for the project would take place during a federal tender in 2017. "The construction (of the Angara pad in Vostochny) would begin, I think, in a year or a year and a half," Roskosmos head Igor Komarov was quoted as saying by the official TASS news agency. Komarov's statement essentially confirmed the 1.5-year delay in the project and raised doubts about previous plans to retain workforce at the site, which had been assembled for the construction of the Soyuz launch pad. The only silver lining in the situation would be an extra time allowing to fully complete the paper phase of the project and avoid the production of technical documentation in parallel with construction, as it had happened during the first phase of development in Vostochny.
The approved budget for the development of the Amur project, (as of Dec. 23, 2015):
Still no movement in 2017
In 2017, there were still no signs of construction at the Angara facility in Vostochny. During the summer, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin made a series of statements on the status of the project and promised to begin the development of the launch complex in 2018. According to Rogozin, the design of the launch infrastructure for the Angara had already been completed and the project had passed a necessary review. However the TsENKI center of Roskosmos responsible for launch infrastructure was not expected to select the prime contractor for the actual work until the fall of 2017. That issue was more complicated than usual because the Spetsstroi military construction agency previously leading this type of projects was now out of the picture.
Still, Rogozin promised to complete the construction of the facility by the end of 2020 and launch the first Angara-5M rocket from the new pad in 2021. Later, the complex would be upgraded to receive the Angara-5V rocket. This timeline was apparently approved by the Collegium of the Military Industrial Commission and Roskosmos at their joint meeting on June 3, 2017.
Payload capabilities of the Angara-5 rocket launching from Vostochny:
Key events in the development of the Angara pad in Vostochny:
2011 October: The Rus-M project is cancelled.
2012 July 16: Sections No. 1 and No. 5 of Roskosmos conduct a joint meeting of the Scientific and Technical Council and issue a Decision No. VP-756-r to bring Angara to Vostochny.
2012 July: Roskosmos announces a tender for the Amur development project, OKR, aimed to bring the Angara-5 rocket to Vostochny.
2013 April: Roskosmos promises to request funding for an Angara pad in Vostochny beginning in 2015.
2013 May 31: A deadline for the completion of work on the first phase of the Amur project.
2013 June 29: Roskosmos issues a technical assignment No. 8003/12 for the versatile pre-launch processing infrastructure (Technical Complex) to support Angara-5-type rockets within the TK-Vostok development project or OKR.
2013 Oct. 7: Roskosmos issues an addendum to a technical assignment No. 1 for the versatile pre-launch processing infrastructure (Technical Complex) to support Angara-5-type rockets within the TK-Vostok development project or OKR. On the same day, the agency issues a technical assignment No. 8405/13 for the development project SK-Vostok-A aiming to develop a launch pad in Vostochny for the Angara-5-type boosters.
2013 December: The survey work was completed at the Angara site in Vostochny and the location of its facilities around the center had been determined.
2014 May 13: Roskosmos issues a decision No. ON-107-r to prepare basic specifications for the beginning of construction activities at the Angara launch complex in Vostochny.
2015 Dec. 26: Roskosmos signs a contract with GKNPTs Khrunichev to develop the Angara-A5P rocket within the Amur project.
2017 December: The Russian government selects PSO Kazan company as the general contractor for the development of the Angara pad in Vostochny.
2018 Sept. 7: Head of Roskosmos Dmitry Rogozin declares the beginning of construction at the Angara launch pad in Vostochny.
Key contractors in the Angara launch facility in Vostochny:
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A scale model of the launch complex originally intended for the Rus-M rocket.
A special transporter, powered by a pneumatic system was to be employed to move Rus-M from the assembly building to the launch pad and to install the vehicle onto the pad. Credit: Roskosmos
A movable service tower could be used to install the payload section onto the Rus-M rocket on the launch pad. Credit: Roskosmos
Depiction of the Rus-M pad in Vostochny circa 2011. Notable is a white slide tunnel for the crew escape in case of emergency on the launch pad. Credit: Roskosmos
Official rendering of the Angara launch facility in Vostochny circa 2014. Credit: Roskosmos
A circa 2016 concept of the crew access tower for the launch pad in Vostochny designed to accomodate both -- Angara-5P and Angara-5V rockets for human missions. Credit: Barmin design bureau