Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Buran: Russia starts ambitious super-heavy space rocket project

On the 25th anniversary of the historic flight of the Soviet space shuttle Buran, Russia's Roscosmos space agency has formed a working group to prepare "within weeks" a roadmap for the revival of the Energia super-heavy booster rocket.

The group led by Oleg Ostapenko, the new head of Roscosmos Federal Space Agency, is set to draw up proposals on the design of a super-heavy launch vehicle capable of delivering up to 100 tonnes of payload to the baseline orbit, former Soviet minister of general machine building, Oleg Baklanov, said on Friday.

"You have assumed the responsibility and dared to head the group, which is supposed to find an answer to the question how we can regain the position we demonstrated to the world with the launch of a 100-tonne spacecraft [Buran in 1988] within a few weeks," the ex-minister told Ostapenko at the event dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the flight of the Buran shuttle spacecraft.

The new carrier rocket Angara is set to become the base for the ambitious project that could bring Russia back to its heyday of space exploration. It could be launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome which is now being constructed in Russia's Far East, and will replace Kazakhstan's Baikonur as Russia's main launchpad.

The 1988 launch of the Energia super-heavy rocket carrying the Buran space shuttle proved the rocket was capable of delivering 100 tonnes into orbit.

That was five times more than the Proton-M rocket with a 20-tonne payload, thus making it the most powerful Soviet/Russian booster rocket ever developed.

As the International Space Station is scheduled to be taken out of service around 2020, ex-minister Baklanov explained that such a powerful rocket would allow the construction of a new orbital station "larger in its weight and dimensions."

Also, a booster similar to the Soviet Energia would be indispensable for "exploring outer space in a wise manner, working in shifts on Mars, the Moon and so on," he added.

At the same media conference, president of the Energia Rocket and Space Corporation Vitaly Lopota announced that Russia will soon need super-heavy rockets to create a shield against possible future space weapons - which means deploying into orbit massive communications satellites and electronic warfare platforms.

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