Rus-M launch vehicle

Rus-M family

The Rus-M family of rockets, employing the RD-180 engine on the first stage and the RD-0146 engine on the second stage, as of April 2009. Variant 1 would use three inseparable boosters on the first stage. Variant 2 would use five boosters, with the four strap-on boosters separating earlier in flight, while the central core booster would burn longer by thrusting less than its full capability during the initial phase of the flight and throttling up to full thrust upon separation of the four strap-on boosters. Variant 3 would employ a stretched first stage for a larger propellant load. A fourth variation of the vehicle, with a single first stage booster and an upper stage borrowed from the Soyuz 2 rocket, would also be possible (not shown). It could deliver six tons to low-Earth orbit. All four variations would use the same launch facility in Vostochny. Copyright © 2009 Anatoly Zak

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One of the challenges Russian designers faced in developing a next-generation manned spacecraft in the first decade of the 21st century was the need for a new rocket to launch it. Since the future ship replacing Soyuz would have to carry six instead of three crew members and weigh from 12 to 23 tons, it would need a much larger launch vehicle than the existing Soyuz rocket capable of carrying just seven tons to the low-Earth orbit. Developers had few options to consider among existing rockets:

  • Although several ways of upgrading the Soyuz rocket had been evaluated in the middle of decade within the Soyuz-2-3 and Soyuz-3 programs, Russian space agency ultimately came to realize that the overall architecture of the Soyuz rocket was too obsolete for the new tasks of the 21st century;

  • Any idea of using the existing Proton rocket, which did have the required lifting capacity, would be out of the question, since the vehicle used toxic propellants and the agency's policy was to phase out the rocket as soon as the replacement Angara family became available;

    The Proton replacement -- the Angara rocket -- had been in development since the beginning of the 1990s and with considerable investments already committed to the project it was expected to fly its first mission in 2011. However the vehicle was primarily intended for delivering military and commercial satellites from its newly built launch pad in Plesetsk. Giving the role of manned launcher to Angara would essentially leave the entire Russian rocket fleet in the hands of a single contractor -- Khrunichev enterprise, a clearly to be avoided "all eggs in one basket" strategy. In the meantime, the existing "alternative" developer of the Soyuz rocket -- TsSKB Progress in Samara -- could be out of the job.

    The Zenit rocket could carry the minimal mass considered for the next-generation spacecraft and it also provided a newer design than that of Soyuz and Proton. It could potentially be upgraded for higher payloads. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the production of the vehicle ended up outside Russia, in Ukraine, making it politically unacceptable for the nation's goal of maintaining independent access to space. Organizing production of the Zenit in Russia could be considered, however it would require sizable investments, perhaps approaching the potential cost of developing a whole new rocket.

    Pro and cons of various launch vehicle solutions for the next-generation spacecraft:

    Soyuz Available, man-rated, good reliability record; Low payload, obsolete architecture and systems;
    Proton High payload capability; Toxic propellants, to be replaced in 2010s by Angara;
    Zenit Newer design, higher payload; Manufactured outside Russia; marginal payload capacity for lunar missions;
    Angara Newest design, close to reaching first flight; Needs to be man-rated; use in manned space flight would leave all Russian rocketry in the hands of a single contractor;
    New vehicle (Rus-M) Can be custom-built for manned space flight goals with the newest available technologies; Can provide employment and capabilities backup to Angara; Requires to be man-rated, requires a whole new launch infrastructure; long development period;

    New launch site, transportation issues

    By 2008, the development of a whole new family of rockets for manned space flight had become attractive to the Russian government, especially in light of the decision in the previous year to build the new Vostochny launch site.

    The strategic decision to place the space center in the Russian Far East brought up the issue of transporting the vehicles from industrial centers in western Russia. The size of rocket stages would either have to be limited by the capabilities of railway transport, or the Russian government would have to commit to the development of a compatible air transportation system. Finally, the third alternative would be the development of a whole new manufacturing base right there in the Far East. Despite being probably the most expensive and economically difficult proposition, it would match the political goal of the Russian government to industrialize this isolated and sparsely populated region.

    Ultimately, the Russian space agency made the pragmatic decision to keep the development of the rocket at the existing manufacturing base in the European part of Russia and to use traditional rail transport to deliver fully assembled stages of the vehicle to Vostochny. Exotic ideas, like using dirigibles to transport oversized stages, were quickly rejected. As a result, the diameter of rocket stages was limited to 3.8 meters and length to around 25 meters, to ensure their unimpeded transport by rail via the narrow tunnels and sharp turns of the Far-Eastern railway lines.

    Choosing the developer

    Upon committing to the development of a new vehicle, the Russian space agency had to decide about the design of the future rocket and choose its manufacturer. During 2008, all major rocket "firms" competed for the role of building a future manned launcher. In the third quarter of 2008, the "system evaluation" of the rocket's possible architecture was completed and several proposals were apparently submitted to Roskosmos by Sept. 1, 2008.

    Although Roskosmos made no formal announcement on the matter at the time, unofficial postings on the forum of the Novosti Kosmonavtiki magazine indicated that the agency favored a two-stage launch vehicle, which would be developed by the conglomerate of TsSKB Progress in Samara, KB Mashinostroenia in Miass and RKK Energia in Podlipki (Korolev). TsSKB Progress would bear overall responsibility for the launch vehicle and its second stage. KB Mashinostroenia would develop the first stage. Finally, RKK Energia was expected to oversee the manned transport system. Thus, all key players in the industry would retain their traditional responsibilities and preserve their overall workforce.

    In an interview with the BBC in March 2009, Aleksandr Chulkov, the head of the launch vehicle and infrastructure directorate at Roskosmos, said that the key factor determining the winner in the government tender would be the price tag. He confirmed previous reports that the launch vehicle would have to be able to carry at least 20 tons and a maximum 23 tons to low-Earth orbit. Within the Russian nomenclature, the new rocket would be classified as a "medium-lifting-class vehicle with increased payload capacity," or "RN SK PG," while vehicles classified as heavy lifters would carry from 35 to 50 tons into low-Earth orbit. Chulkov said that requirements for heavy-lifting capabilities within the manned space program would be met by the Angara family of rockets. Still, it was reported around the time that the new rocket, equipped with five standard boosters on the first stage instead of three, would be able to deliver 35 tons to the low Earth orbit, while another variation, including four standard boosters on the first stage and one on the second stage, could carry 50 tons. Thus, as a family, the new rockets would overlap the capabilities of Angara rockets.

    Even more ironically, Roskosmos apparently favored the architecture of the rocket, which closely resembled RKK Energia's failed bid to develop the Angara family of vehicles in the 1990s. Known as Angara-2, the proposal featured three standard boosters on the first stage, equipped with an RD-180 engine each. At the time, the Angara-2 concept was rejected in favor of the architecture proposed by Khrunichev enterprise.

    Since Roskosmos reportedly called for the construction of as many as 15 launchers per year, the program could require the production of as many as 45 RD-180 engines annually. (Official documentation later called for 15-20 launches per year!) Even with a "low" rate of four launches a year, 12 RD-180 engines would be required annually. Due to such high numbers being compounded by the need to produce the same powerplants for the American Atlas rocket, it looked possible that an additional manufacturer based in the city of Perm would be brought into the project. The same company was responsible for mass production of the RD-191 engine for the Angara rocket.

    Design requirements

    By February 2009, Russian space agency, quietly published a set of official requirements for the future rocket, dubbed Rus-M. Although on paper, prospective developers had to compete in a federal tender to meet these specifications, it was a mere formality. The published description of the rocket, including its name, was skewed heavily toward proposals made by the TsSKB Progress/RKK Energia team.

    As expected, the first stage of the medium-lifting rocket had to consist of three standard boosters, each equipped with a singe two-chamber RD-180 engine. In 2010, a special version of this engine, designated RD-180V, was identified for use in Rus-M rocket. It apparently differed from the base model by the addition of an extensive network of diagnostics sensors which could help trigger the crew escape rocket at the first sign of catastrophic problems with the engine.

    The entire cluster of three boosters would remain inseparable during the flight.

    The unmanned version of the rocket would have to deliver 23.8 tons to a 200-kilometer orbit with an inclination of 51.7 degrees after launch from Vostochny. The rocket modules of the first stage had to be adaptable to serve as the first stage of a heavy-lifting rocket with a payload of no less than 50 tons and a super-heavy lifter with a payload above 100 tons.

    Emergency mode requirements

    Perhaps the most controversial set of requirements formulated by Roskosmos included Rus-M's emergency capabilities, which seemed extremely conservative. From the moment of liftoff, the rocket had to have the capability to clear the launch facility in the event of a complete failure of a single engine. There were also reports that, during manned launches, the rocket had to make it far and high enough on two remaining engines to enable the crew vehicle to make a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. Thus, the manned spacecraft would avoid landing in the difficult terrain of the Far Eastern taiga, downrange from Vostochny.

    Later in flight, the manned rocket would have to be capable of delivering a 18.8-20.3-ton spacecraft to a minimum 135 by 440-kilometer orbit in case of the failure of a single engine on the first or second stage. Such a single-orbit trajectory would apparently enable the descent module to return for an emergency landing just north of Vostochny, while subjecting the crew to no more than 12 g. (The difference between the mass of a standard 12-ton PPTS spacecraft and the available payload of 18.8 ton would likely be used by the emergency supply of propellant needed to provide thrust during a single-orbit flight.)

    Second stage

    According to unofficial reports in 2008, Roskosmos considered using either kerosene or hydrogen on the second stage of the vehicle. However at the beginning of 2009, the head of Roskosmos, Anatoly Perminov, told the Russian press that hydrogen would be used on the second stage. The official technical assignment called for a monoblock second stage powered by four RD-0146 engines. The emergency abort mode would allow a 20.7-ton payload to make a single orbit around the Earth after the failure of one of four main engines on the second stage. Roskosmos also required the developer to provision a controlled deorbiting of the second stage.

    Back in July 2008, KBKhA design bureau in Voronezh first announced that it had proposed a concept of new-generation engines for the prospective launch vehicles, which would fly from Vostochny. According to KBKhA, the new series would burn a mix of liquid oxygen and carbon-based fuel and would feature high mass and performance characteristics, high reliability and low development and production cost. KBKhA documents showed that during 2007, the RD-0146 engine was test-fired eight times, burning hydrogen and six times burning methane fuel. An original assignment to develop RD-0146 came from Khrunichev enterprise. Ultimately, the hydrogen-propelled version of the engine was chosen for the Rus-M project. RD-0146 engine was reported to produce a thrust of 10 tons and deliver the specific impulse of 463 seconds.

    Following its debut onboard Angara A5 rocket, RD-0146 was expected to go through a new series of ground firings during 2014-2015 at NITs RKP center as part of the full-scale testing of Rus-M's second stage.

    Follow-on rockets (50-60 tons payload)

    Borrowing a concept first developed for the Energia rocket, TsSKB Progress decided to use a special platform which would serve as the interface between the launch vehicle and its launch pad. Known as Block Ya, the structure would feature five receptacles and would be compatible with the three- and five-booster configurations of the rocket. As a result, the future launch facility could host all but one rocket from the Rus family with payloads ranging from 3 tons to 40 tons, according to TsSKB documents circa 2008. In April 2009, the head of TsSKB Progress quoted 40-ton and 60-ton versions of the vehicle, which could use the same launch facility.

    As it transpired in the spring of 2009, the Rus-M project had a "built-in" capability for an upgrade to reach a payload capacity of 60 tons to low-Earth orbit to support lunar expeditions. To achieve this capability, the developers apparently hoped to use a five-booster combination on the first stage. All five boosters of the first stage would also have to be streched to accomodate larger propellant load. (341) With the use of variable thrust, the strap-on boosters of the first stage would separate prior to the core stage burnout.

    Instead of four RD-0146 engines on the original Rus-M, the second stage would likely sport a much larger single engine burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Presumably, it could be based on the RD-0120 engine which powered the core stage of the Energia rocket. However any thought of increasing the diameter of the second stage beyond the accepted 3.8 meters would exclude the possibility of transporting the vehicle by rail. As of 2009, exceeding the parameters of rail transportation was not acceptable for the Russian government.

    If ever built, two Rus-M-derived rockets with 60-ton payload could support Russia's contemporary plans for its first expeditions to the Moon, involving rendezvous in lunar orbit. Under such a scenario, one launcher would carry a light-weight unmanned lunar lander and another a manned transport ship. Both spacecraft would be equipped with Earth escape stages, which would enable them to reach lunar orbit, where they would dock for crew transfer and subsequent landing. A heavier lunar lander, which would be needed for long-term exploration of the Moon, would require a third 60-ton rocket carrying a separate Earth-escape stage.

    Super-heavy launcher (100-150 tons payload)

    Although, with the launch of the Rus-M preliminary design in April 2009, the basic architecture of the rocket was essentially "set in stone," Roskosmos still formally required the developer to evaluate alternative configurations of the rocket. The agency specifically asked the industry to consider monoblock version of the rocket, as well as the possible use of the RD-0163 engine and of hydrogen propellant (on all stages). During 2009, TsSKB Progress also continued studying the possibility of using three-component propellant for the future reincarnations of Rus-M and other upgrades, which would potentially enable to develop a booster with a 100-ton payload capacity within the limits of 3.8-meter diameter. (354)

    During an International Astronautical Congress in October 2009, the head of Roskosmos, Anatoly Perminov, said that building "blocks" of the Rus-M vehicle would enable the low-cost development of a heavy vehicle with a payload of 50-60 tons, while the "components" of the same launcher would pave the way to a super-heavy rocket, capable of carrying 130-150 tons to low Earth orbit. Perminov also said that the Rus-M could serve as a testbed for the components and technologies of future reusable launch vehicles. In June 2010, as the preliminary design of the Rus-M was approaching the conclusion, the head of TsSKB Progress, Aleksandr Kirilin, told the semi-official Interfax AVN news agency that a 100-ton class booster was still in the upgrade plans of the Rus-M program.

    Preliminary design tender

    An industry-wide tender for the development of a manned launch vehicle was officially started on Feb. 14, 2009, when all participants were suppose to submit their proposals to Roskosmos. Only two main projects were actually competing -- one from the Khrunichev enterprise, and one from TsSKB Progress. Since government requirements closely matched TsSKB's proposals and left practically no room for an alternative architecture, Khrunichev had no choice but to draft a proposal identical to that of Samara. Still, the company apparently left on the table a proposal for a man-rated Angara-5P rocket, as an alternative.

    According to unofficial reports, the formal opening of envelopes with industry proposals on the new rocket would take place on March 16, 2009. The commission was then expected to make a decision on March 19, 2009. Chulkov told BBC that Roskosmos would have 10 days to complete the formal review of all proposals and the agency would pick a winner by March 25, 2009. The key consideration would be the cost-effectiveness of the proposal, Chulkov said. The decision would be followed by the preliminary design, which was expected to last around one year.

    Ironically, both TsSKB Progress and GRTs Makeev (KB Mashinostroenia) chose April 1, 2009, to declare themselves winners of the government tender, as industry insiders had predicted. According to Makeev center's press-release, the tender commission made a formal choice on March 18, 2009. (According to most sources, the selection took place on March 19.)


    In an interview with RIA Samara in April 2009, the head of TsSKB Progress, Aleksandr Kirilin, said that his company had to be ready to defend the preliminary design of the rocket, comprising more than 100 volumes of documentation, by September 2010 at a price tag of 145 million rubles. (The official documentation placed a price tag for the preliminary design at 375 thousand rubles.) The successful completion of the preliminary design would pave the way to the full-scale experimental development of the rocket, culminating with "cold" and "hot" testing of the vehicle at NIIKhimmash facilities in Sergiev Posad.

    Although Kirilin's interview ran only days after TsSKB had "won" the tender, the head of the company revealed that one of the former Energia-Buran facilities had already been cleaned up for the upcoming project. The building would now be used for the manufacturing of propellant tanks for the new rocket. (329) In June 2009, during the Paris Air and Space Show in Le Bourget, Kirilin told the editor of this web site that the building had previously been used for the application of thermal protection layers on Energia. In the meantime, the special chambers used for the thermal protection work had been preserved and could eventually accommodate Rus-M, which, like Energia, employs cryogenic propellants.

    In addition, extensive test facilities at TsSKB Progress in Samara went through active upgrades during 2008 and 2009. A vibration and strength test stand was renovated in 2009 and some critical test hardware was reportedly replaced for the purpose of the Rus-M and Soyuz-1 projects. (354)

    At Le Bourget 2009, Kirilin also said that the immediate goal of the Rus-M program, would be the formation of a chief designer council. A long-time tradition for the Russian space industry, the group would include leaders of key organizations involved in the project. "In the nearest future, we have to form our industrial development team, or at least the core of it, assemble the council of chief designers and conduct the first meeting of this council," Kirilin said. At the time, the event was expected in the third quarter of 2009. According to Kirilin, the council would include representatives of the Makeev center, RKK Energia, TsENKI and NPO Avtomatiki. To accelerate the work on the project, TsSKB planned to conduct preliminary design in parallel with the preparation of the production documentation, Kirilin said, "The project will be developed entirely by means of electronic media."

    In the meantime, during the same show, representatives of the Khrunichev enterprise said that they planned to re-submit their proposals for the PPTS launch vehicle before the end of 2009. The company would argue that the development of a man-rated launcher derived from the Angara family would be cheaper than that of the currently approved design. The Angara-5P vehicle was apparently considered as a stop-gap measure to launch the 12-13-ton version of the PTK spacecraft on missions to the ISS or a future Russian station. The rocket would reportedly enable the spacecraft to reach the station after just five or six orbits around the Earth.

    On July 9-10, 2009, the first Scientific and Technical Council, NTS, was held on the Rus-M project at TsSKB Progress in Samara, and it finalized the preliminary design development schedule. The Chief Designer Council and working groups on various aspects of the project were also formed.

    By the end of 2009, NITs RKP test center (former NIIKhIMMash) in Peresvet (near Sergiev Posad) announced that it was starting preparations for a test program to support the development of launch vehicles based in Vostochny. It would be similar to activities conducted during the development of the Angara family of rockets.

    By June 2010, official statements indicated that the preliminary design of the Rus-M rocket had entered final stages as planned. As is traditional for the Russian space industry, this phase of development was concluded with a meeting of the agency's Scientific and Technical Council on Aug. 25, 2010, during which developers "defended" the project and Roskosmos formulated its assessment of the completed work. The meeting was to be followed by the delivery of the design materials for an independent expertise. According to Aleksandr Kirilin, the head of TsSKB Progress, approval of the preliminary design would clear the way for the setup of a construction schedule for the Vostochny launch facilities.

    Technical project

    A new phase in the development of the Rus-M launch vehicle started on Oct. 22, 2010, with the Russian government's announcement of a federal tender for the work on the so-called "Technical Project." The Technical Project is the Russian equivalent of what is known in the West as Phase B or a detailed design -- which is essentially a second phase in the research and development of the vehicle or system, following the preliminary design.

    The Russian space agency, Roskosmos, earmarked 1.63 billion rubles ($53.5 million) for the year-long work within on the Technical Project. The formal review of bids by the industry and the awarding of the contract for the Technical Project was originally scheduled for Nov. 22-23, 2010.

    The work on the Technical Project would include the development of technical assignments, TZ, for all elements of the Rus-M complex, consisting of:

    • the rocket itself;
    • its optional upper stages;
    • launch and processing facilities;
    • automated control system for preparation and launch, ASU PP;
    • measurement and data processing system, KSISO;
    • training facilities and means of transportation for the rocket and its components.

    Also, the Technical Project would include calculations and experimental work aimed at validating the chosen version of the rocket.

    In its requirements for the development of the Technical Project, Roskosmos, specified a number of additional features for the future rocket. For example, beginning with the loading of propellant into the rocket, all manual operations on the pad would have to be excluded from the pre-launch processing. The only exception would be the boarding of the spacecraft crew and its evacuation in case of emergency, or a launch scrub. The Rus-M complex would have to be capable of 20 missions per year with the preparation cycle (launch campaign) not exceeding 30 days. To support this launch rate, the ground processing building would have two assembly facilities for the parallel preparation of two rockets. A special transporter powered by a pneumatic system would be used to carry the rocket from the processing area to the launch pad.

    Given the use of liquid hydrogen onboard Rus-M, Roskosmos asked developers to evaluate whether the construction of a hydrogen production plant in Vostochny would be more economical than the delivery of this cryogenic propellant from another site.

    The formal opening of envelopes with proposals for the Technical Project apparently took place on Nov. 29, 2010. As expected, Roskosmos favored the architecture of the Rus-M rocket drafted by TsSKB Progress over the alternative proposals from the Khrunichev enterprise, industry sources said.

    Upper stages

    Roskosmos' requirements for the Technical Project specified a number of details on two variations of the upper (third) stage, (sometimes referred to as a space tug) for the Rus-M rocket. The primary job of these vehicles would be boosting unmanned satellites from initial parking orbits into higher orbits around the Earth or into deep space. The development project code-named Dvina, after a Russian river, envisioned a rocket stage designated 11S861-03 (a version of Block D upper stage) and a KVRB stage employing liquid hydrogen propellant. Separate projects, designated TK-Vostok and Dvina KVSK funded the development of support facilities for the 11S861 and KVRB stages respectively.

    With the use of these upper stages, Rus-M was expected to deliver no less than 4.5 tons of payload to the sought-after geostationary orbit, in addition to its primary task as a carrier of a new-generation manned spacecraft and other 20-ton payloads to low Earth orbits with inclinations 51.7 degrees and 63 degrees toward the Equator.

    Rus-M cancelled

    On October 7, 2011, the new head of the Russian space agency, Vladimir Popovkin, told the Russian Duma (parliament) that the agency had decided to abandon the development of the Rus-M rocket. Popovkin said that the program had been consuming 37 percent of the agency's budget, however these funds would not be enough to have the vehicle ready anywhere near the projected date of the first launch in 2015. Popovkin added that the agency would not need the new launcher and would be able to use already available rockets, apparently referring to the Angara rocket. In development since the beginning of the 1990s, the Angara family of space launchers would have similar capabilities to Rus-M, however the introduction of the new rocket had been years behind schedule.

    Popovkin went on to say that after Angara starts flying from Plesetsk, the agency might make a decision to build another launch pad for this new rocket in Vostochny as well.

    The cancellation of the Rus-M program had been rumored for quite some time and the plans to introduce the vehicle in 2015 had never been considered realistic by observers. Recently, the agency looked at the plans to bring the Angara rocket to the prospective launch site in Vostochny, which was originally expected to host Rus-M missions. However, the construction of Vostochny itself was continuously delayed and with more realistic prospects of launching Angara from Plesetsk and Baikonur, the yet-to-be built spaceport could be seen as another costly duplication.

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    Known specifications of the Rus-M launch vehicle:

    Number of stages 2
    Total launch mass 672-688 tons; 673 tons (352); 665-680 tons; (372)
    Total length including the payload fairing (unmanned version) 61.1 meters (352)
    Total length including PTK NP spacecraft (manned version) 58.2 meters (476)
    Maximum diameter 11.6 meters
    Diameter of individual booster stages 3.8 meters
    Payload fairing diameter (unmanned version) 4.35 meters
    Payload fairing length (unmanned version) 19.0 meters
    Payload capabilities
    Unmanned payload to a 200-kilometer, 51.7-degree circular orbit 23.8 tons* (352); 23.2 tons (476)
    Manned PTK NP spacecraft (to a 135 by 440/480-kilometer, 51.6-degree orbit) 17.9-19.9 tons {12-14 tons}**** (372); 18.8 tons***
    Geostationary transfer orbit (including upper stage) 7.0 tons** (352)
    Geostationary orbit (including upper stage) 4.0 tons
    Mass to LEO with a DM-type stage (1,000 by 200-km, 51.6/7-degree orbit) 27.87 - 28.02 tons {26 tons}**** (372)
    Mass to LEO with a Yastreb KVRB stage (1,000 by 200, 51.7-degree orbit) 27.9 - 28.05 tons {25.8}****
    Mass to LEO with Standartized Protective Assembly Block, USZB (200-km, 51.7-degree orbit 15.0-29.0 tons {12-26}****
    Stage I
    Stage I propulsion Three RD-180V engines
    Stage I fuel Kerosene (naftil) RG-1 (352)
    Stage I oxidizer Liquid oxygen
    Stage I propellant mass Three boosters with 180 tons each (353)
    Stage I thrust on the ground at nominal thrust (80 percent from maximum) 916.5 tons (352); 305.5 tons each engine (353)
    Stage I thrust in vacuum (80 percent from maximum) 1,016.1 tons (352); 338.7 tons each engine (353)
    Specific impulse on the ground 304.3 seconds
    Specific impulse in vacuum 337.3 seconds
    Stage II
    Stage II propulsion Four RD-0146 engines
    Stage II fuel Liquid hydrogen
    Stage II oxidizer Liquid oxygen
    Stage II propellant mass 46.5 tons (353)
    Stage II thrust 40.0 tons (10 tons each of four engines)
    Stage II specific impulse 463 seconds (353)

    *No less than 20 tons according to the technical assignment; 23.8-ton payload will apparently require an additional engine firing at apogee to enter orbit.

    **A payload would have to gain an additional 1,500 meters per second in velocity (Delta V) with its own propulsion unit in order to reach a geostationary orbit.

    ***Preliminary estimates circa 2008 (22 tons including the mass of Stage II?)

    ****{capability according to the technical requirements of the Russian space agency}

    Rus-M development team:

    Organization Location Responsibility
    TsSKB Progress Samara System integration, second stage development and production
    Makeev KB Mash Miass First stage development and production
    RKK Energia Korolev Man-rated version of the launch vehicle
    NPO Energomash Moscow RD-180 engine for the first stage
    KBKhA Voronezh RD-0146 engine for the second stage
    NPO Avtomatiki Yekaterinburg Flight control system
    TsENKI Moscow Launch facilities
    Ipromashprom Moscow Processing facilities
    TsAGI Zhukovsky Aerodynamic testing and design validation
    NITs RKP Peresvet Propulsion system testing
    4th TsNII Ministry of Defense - -
    NPO Tekhnomash - -
    Keldysh research center - -
    TsKB TM - -
    Agat organization - -
    OKB Spektr - -
    OAO Plastik - -
    OAO RKS - -
    TsNIIMash - -

    Chronology of the Rus-M launch vehicle development for the PPTS (PTK-NP) spacecraft:

    2009 Feb. 14-16: The Federal space agency, Roskosmos, accepts bids from the industry for the preliminary development of the PPTS launch vehicle.

    2009 March 16: Roskosmos representatives unseal bids for the development of the PPTS (Rus-M) launch vehicle.

    2009 March 19: Roskosmos formally names TsSKB Progress the winner of the tender for the development of the launch vehicle for the next-generation spacecraft.

    2009 April 10: Roskosmos signs a contract with TsSKB Progress for the preliminary design phase, EP, of the development of the launch vehicle complex, RKK, for the Vostochny cosmodrome.

    2009 July 8-10: The key participants in the Rus-M project hold a Scientific Technical Council, NTS, at TsSKB Progress in Samara, which finalizes the preliminary design development schedule.

    2009 Sept. 22: The Council of Chief Designers for the Rus-M project holds its first meeting in Samara.

    2010 January: The Council of Chief Designers for the Rus-M project meets in Samara.

    2010 May 16: TsAGI research institute and TsSKB Progress bureau sign an agreement on cooperation in the development of Rus-M project. TsAGI engineers join working groups studying the aerodynamics and strength aspects of the project, according to TsAGI press service.

    2010 Aug. 25: Roskosmos conducts a formal review of the Rus-M preliminary design.

    2010 September: A preliminary design of the launch vehicle for the PPTS system to be completed (as of the 2009 schedule).

    2010 Oct. 22: The Russian government announces a tender for the development of Technical Project of the Rus-M vehicle.

    2010 Nov. 29: Roskosmos reviews proposals for the Technical Project of the Rus-M launch vehicle.

    2011 Feb. 18: The Chief Designers Council on the Rus-M project meets in Samara to discuss basic characteristics of the ground infrastructure of the future launch vehicle.

    2011 June 2: The Chief Designers Council on the Rus-M project meets in Samara to discuss the status of the work on the vehicle, its systems and launch facilities, as well as plans for testing of the rocket's components.

    2011 Sept. 16: The Scientific and Technical Council on the Medium-class booster for Vostochny launch site holds a meeting at TsSKB Progress in Samara to discuss the state of readiness for the defense of the booster's Technical Project. The event featured presentations from all major industrial participants in the project.

    2011 Oct. 7: The new head of the Russian space agency, Vladimir Popovkin, told the Russian Duma (parliament) that the agency had decided to abandon the development of the Rus-M rocket.


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    Writing, illustrations and photography by Anatoly Zak; last update: December 19, 2019

    Page editor: Alain Chabot; Edits: March 23, 2009; March 28, 2011

    All rights reserved

    Launch vehicles

    During 2008, developers proposed several competing configurations of a rocket launcher for the next-generation spacecraft. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2008 Anatoly Zak


    In the summer of 2008, RKK Energia floated a proposal for a 575-ton launch vehicle equipped with three RD-0163 engines on the first stage and one RD-0120 engine on the second stage. The rocket would be able to carry 20 tons to low Earth orbit, however Roskosmos apparently considered the use of the yet-to-be-developed RD-0163 engines too risky and/or costly. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2009 Anatoly Zak


    During 2008, TsSKB Progress in Samara proposed the Rus series of rockets, including what was identified as "medium-lift launchers with increased payload capability." All featured RD-0163 engine on the first stage. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2009 Anatoly Zak


    In 2008, Khrunichev enterprise demonstrated a "man-rated" Angara-5P (piloted) rocket as a potential carrier of the future manned spacecraft. With a liftoff mass of 712 tons, the two-stage vehicle could send 17.5 tons on Earth-escape trajectories. However the company's proposals were considered unlikely to win the government tender. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2008 Anatoly Zak


    These scale models represent a family of rocket engines developed by the Moscow-based NPO Energomash. A four-chamber RD-170 engine like those powering the first stage of the Zenit rocket is on the right. This power plant was "split in half" to create a two-chamber RD-180 engine (center) for the latest version of the US Atlas rocket. The "half" of the latter engine became RD-190/191 -- a one-chamber power plant developed for the modular stages of the Angara family, including the Baikal stage. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2001 Claude Mourier


    Scale model of RD-180 engine. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2013 Anatoly Zak

    Vostochny downrange

    Any new rocket developed within the PPTS project was expected to fly from a future launch center in the Russian Far East. Copyright © 2007 Anatoly Zak

    Block Ya

    The Block Ya platform would serve as standard interface with the launch pad for all versions of the rocket. The concept was used in the Energia rocket (above). Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak


    Leaders of two companies, which competed in the Rus-M tender: Aleksandr Kirilin of TsSKB Progress (center) and Vladimir Nesterov of the Khrunichev enterprise (right) during the opening of the Paris Air and Space Show on June 15, 2009. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2009 Anatoly Zak


    Key figures behind the Rus-M program: Anatoly Perminov, head of Roskosmos (left) and Aleksandr Kirilin, director of TsSKB Progress in Samara. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2009 Anatoly Zak


    The Rus-M rocket was first presented as a scale model at the Moscow Air and Space Show in August 2009. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2009 Anatoly Zak

    Stage I

    In the first version of the Rus-M rocket, all three boosters of the first stage would remain connected during the entire flight. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2009 Anatoly Zak

    PTK launch

    Artist rendering of the Rus-M launch with the PTK NP spacecraft, as it was envisioned by developers during 2009. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2009 Anatoly Zak


    The Technical Project initiated in 2010 was to focus on manned and unmanned version of the Rus-M launch vehicle designated RN SKPG. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2010 Anatoly Zak