Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Russia's First Angara 5 rocket blasts off

The Angara 5 rocket on the launch pad before Tuesday’s liftoff. Credit: Spetsstroy.ru

A new Russian rocket designed as a successor to the workhorse Proton booster lifted off Tuesday on a maiden test flight that could signify Russia’s shift away from launching satellites at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The 180-foot-tall Angara 5 rocket ignited five kerosene-fueled RD-191 booster engines and lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, a military-run spaceport 500 miles north of Moscow, at 0557 GMT (12:57 a.m. EST) Tuesday, according to the Russian Federal Space Agency.

The RIA Novosti news agency reported the Angara 5 rocket’s lower stages, comprising the new technologies to be tested on Tuesday’s flight, performed as designed and released a Breeze M upper stage to begin a series of engine firings to put a dummy satellite into geostationary orbit 22,300 miles over the equator.

The Russian Ministry of Defence confirmed the Angara booster worked as expected before deploying the Breeze M stage 12 minutes after liftoff.

Russian President Vladimir Putin watched the launch via video conference, RIA Novosti reported. The launch was not broadcast live to the public.

Weighing 773 metric tons (852 tons) when filled with kerosene, liquid oxygen and hypergolic propellants, the Angara 5 is the biggest Russian launcher to debut since the Energia rocket for the Soviet Union’s Buran space shuttle flew in the late 1980s.

The rocket’s kerosene-fueled RD-191 engines, made by NPO Energomash of Khimki, Russia, generated roughly 2 million pounds of thrust at maximum throttle to drive the launcher into the sky. Engineers derived the single-chamber RD-191 engine from the four-nozzle RD-171 and dual-chamber RD-180 engines flying on the Zenit and Atlas 5 launchers.

Russia tested a smaller version of the Angara rocket in July on a suborbital flight powered by a single RD-191 engine. Engineers designed the Angara 5 booster to use five RD-191 engine cores bolted together to put Russia’s heaviest satellites into orbit.

The five engines were supposed to fire in unison for more than three minutes, when four of the outboard boosters were expected to shut down and fall away from the launcher.

The core RD-191 engine, operated at a partial thrust throttle setting in the first phase of the flight, was programmed to ramp up to full power and continue burning until it consumed all of its kerosene and liquid oxygen propellant supply.

A second stage RD-0124A engine and a Breeze M upper stage, borrowed from Russia’s Soyuz 2-1b and Proton rockets, were to finish the job.

The Angara 5’s five-meter (16-foot) diameter payload shroud was also armed to jettison once the rocket flew out of the dense lower layers of the atmosphere.

The flight’s Breeze M main engine was expected to ignite four times over several hours to reach the mission’s targeted orbit.

Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency reported the test launch was aiming for a geostationary orbit 22,300 miles over the equator with a dummy satellite weighing about two tons.

The end of the test flight was scheduled for 1457 GMT (9:57 a.m. EST) with a simulated separation of the mock-up payload, according to RIA Novosti.

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