Russia Will Test New Launcher At Baikonur

Oct 1, 2010 By Frank Morring, Jr., Michael A. Taverna, AVIATIONWEEK.COM

PRAGUE — Russia will use the leased facilities at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to test the proposed Rus M launch vehicle that is expected to replace the venerable Soyuz rocket, and although the Rus M will eventually be launched from a new facility on Russian soil, Russia has no plans to abandon Baikonur before the lease expires in 2050.

Anatoly Perminov, head of Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos, says the new cosmodrome in the early stages of development at Vostochny, in Amur Oblast, ultimately will be used to launch humans to orbit on the Rus M and the planned Soyuz capsule replacement now in the early stages of development.

Situated on an old missile base in the far eastern part of Russia at 52 deg. N. Long., the new facility will allow Russia to launch from its own territory all of the new vehicles it plans to develop. The remote location will permit launches to equatorial and polar orbits without posing risk to downrange populations, according to a presentation at the 61st International Astronautical Congress here by Perminov’s deputy, Sergey Saveliev.

The Soyuz launcher currently flies from Baikonur and will soon be launched from the European space center near Kourou, French Guiana. The Rus M is planned to replace it and in turn be the basis for a “superheavy” launcher able to lift as much as 150 metric tons to low Earth orbit, says Perminov. “We plan to develop it in several phases,” Perminov says. “The first phase is the development of the Rus M launch vehicle, which will be able to put into orbit unmanned cargo vehicles and piloted spacecraft.”

The first flight of the Rus M should come after 2015, he says, and the new vehicle is scheduled to fly both cargo and crew missions by 2020. After that, he says it will be upgraded to be able to orbit 50-60 metric tons and, beginning in 2030, Russia intends to begin developing the superheavy version.

That will track with the follow-on Soyuz crew vehicle RSC Energia is developing, the first flight of which is scheduled for 2018, Perminov says. Those flights likely will be launched from Baikonur, Perminov says, along with continued launches of existing vehicles.

“Currently, we are renting the launch site to 2050,” he tells Aviation Week. “Personally, I am sure that the Russians will use Baikonur for some time using Soyuz launch vehicles with some modifications, Zenit launch vehicles and Protons.”

Photo Credit: Arianespace

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