Russia Rising: Angara A5 Lifts Off On Maiden Flight

Russia successfully launches the Angara booster on its first orbital flight.

From the Russian news agency TASS:

MOSCOW, December 23. /TASS/. A new Russian heavy rocket was successfully test-launched from the Plesetsk space center on Tuesday as planned at 08:57am Moscow time.

The head unit has separated from the third stage of the Angara rocket, the Russian Defense Ministry press service confirmed. Twelve minutes after the liftoff, the orbital unit separated from the third stage, the press service said. The Briz-M upper stage will carry the orbital unit to the planned geostationary orbit.

“Indeed, this is a great and very important event for our rocket-and-space sphere, and for Russia in general,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

Russia places serious hopes on the Angara. After tests, Russia plans to launch space vehicles of all types from its territory and ensure independent guaranteed access to space. It is one of priority projects of the Russian space industry.

Various Angara rockets are developed from light to heavy class, capable to carry from 1.5 to 25 tons.

The light-class model was tested last summer. The rocket successfully reached the designated area within the Kura range on Kamchatka, 5,700 km from the launch site.

Angara-A5 is capable of carrying 3-24.5 tons and can replace the Proton carrier. The heavy Angara is not designed for manned flights.”

Note: The successful launch of the Angara A5 marks a turning point for Russia, one foreshadowed by the equally successful suborbital flight of the single core version of Angara on July 9 of this year. It will be some time however, until we see more of this booster. According to most news reports, there are no launches scheduled for 2015 or 2016, and once flights resume, the testing program will continue until 2020.

On a related note, each Angara core is powered by a single RD-191 main engine, a close relative of the two chamber RD-180 engine which powers the Atlas V, and dual engine configuration RD-181 engine for which Orbital Sciences just signed a 20 unit order, with possibly 40 more to come. All are built by NPO Energomash, the Russian engine manufacturer at the center of a recent Reuters special report which examined close ties between the company, Vladimir Putin and two individuals sanctioned by the Obama Administration over the invasion of Ukraine; Dmitry Rogozin and Yuri Kovalchuck.

The always expressive Rogozin, who happened to be returning from Havana to Moscow weighed in with congratulations to all. A question arises. While the inner workings of the Russian oligarchy are difficult to trace, the benefits from supplying a steady stream of orders to a factory, any factory, are clear. So, does Rogozin’s thanks include a shout out to Lockheed Martin, ULA and the American taxpayer for supporting the RD engine family for the last 15 years?  And to Orbital Sciences for the next decade or so? It should.

Posted in: Russian Space

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