In the meantime:
(Historical background for the events described in this section)
2004 January: US President George W. Bush ordered NASA to prepare plans for the return of US astronauts to the Moon.
In March 2005, Khrunichev enterprise, Russia's leading developer of rocket technology and spacecraft, unveiled ambitious plans for the country's participation in the US-led exploration of the Moon. Moscow-based company proposed a super heavy-lift rocket booster, along with a new generation of partially reusable spacecraft, which could support manned expeditions to the Moon and, eventually to Mars.
Known technical specifications for the Angara-100 rocket:
A new launch-vehicle proposed by Khrunichev in 2005 was designated Angara-100, denoting its ability to deliver a 100-ton payload into the low Earth orbit. Such capability would place the booster in the same class with US Saturn-V and the Soviet N1 "moon rockets" from the 1960s, as well as more recent Energia. If ever built, the Angara-100 would be a "high-end" addition to the Angara family of rockets, which has been under development since the early 1990s. Before Angara-100, the plans included vehicles with payloads ranging from 1 to 27 tons.
In addition to the heavy-lift launch-vehicle, Khrunichev concurrently proposed a new manned spacecraft, loosely based on the company's long-lasting TKS family of space tugs and modules. A partially reusable vehicle could carry up to 6 people -- not coincidentally a full crew of the International Space Station -- but also clearly featured capabilities for deep-space missions. The spacecraft, would put Khrunichev on a collision course with its old-time rival -- RKK Energia -- which earlier proposed Kliper spacecraft with similar capabilities.
Initial assessment of the program
Khrunichev's proposals for the rocket of such monumental size as Angara-100 were spurred by the US plans to return astronauts to the Moon and eventually send manned expedition to Mars announced by President George W. Bush at the beginning of 2004. Known as Vision for Space Exploration, an ambitious but financially constrained plan brought many challenges to the aerospace community, including key questions about optimal size of the launch vehicles needed for the program. Critics pointed out that relying on smaller and cheaper rockets could complicate the lunar exploration and eventually undermine its economic validity in the long run.
Khrunichev's apparently unsolicited bid to develop a super-heavy lifter for the US lunar program might be attractive to NASA from the financial stand point. Despite NASA's bitter experience with severe Russian delays in the International Space Station program, Khrunichev developed a reputation of a reliable partner in a number of large-scale space ventures with Boeing and Lockheed Martin. When paid regularly, Russian contractors tended to deliver on time and on budget. However, any decision to outsource the development of the heavy rocket or its significant portion to a Russian company is guaranteed to generate a great deal of political controversy. In the meantime, back in Russia, Khrunichev is yet to to complete the development of the first light version of the Angara booster supposedly funded by the Russian government.
During 2007, a visitor to the online forum of the Novosti Kosmonavtiki magazine revealed that at a technical conference Khrunichev enterprise presented a preliminary concept for a family of heavy and super-heavy launch vehicles evaluated by a department of prospective development. The rockets were reportedly designed to support lunar and martian expeditions and consisted of enlarged modules from the original Angara family, but burning methane propellant. Each standard module would be equipped with a pair of two-chamber engines with a thrust of 400 tons.
Three modules would form the RN-45 rocket capable of delivering 45 tons into the low Earth orbit. Larger, RN-75 and RN-150 vehicle could launch 75 and 150 tons of payload respectively. Six modules would be required to form the 3,500-ton RN-150 rocket. The second (core) stage of RN-150 would be equipped with a single engine, borrowed from the first stage, and the third stage would carry a smaller single engine capable of 200 tons of thrust.
Next chapter: Yenisei-5 rocket
Written and illustrated by Anatoly Zak; last update: January 8, 2013
To purchase high-resolution versions of these images or order other renderings contact Anatoly Zak
Artist rendering of the Angara-100 booster during launch. Click to enlarge: 388 x 450 pixels / 20K Copyright © 2005 Anatoly Zak
Artist rendering of the Angara-100 rocket. Click to enlarge: 172 by 400 pixels / 12K Copyright © 2005 Anatoly Zak