Roscosmos decided about developing Angara-A5V rocket as future launch vehicle designated for Moon mission. Program still keeps the schedule even if final date is moving forward in time.
Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center have just finished first phase (preliminary stage) of designing Angara-A5v rocket. Project was developed in cooperation with RKK Energia, one of the most experienced rocket design offices in Russia. It will be submitted to consideration and approval of “inter departmental commission” as reported RIA Novosti news agency. It is second important information about preparing Russian space industry for challenges associated with the start of production of new rocket this year. On 22 March 2016 chief of Roscosmos Igor Komarov stated that Corporation is still planning to create launch facility for Angara on Vostochny cosmodrome. First stage of development of new launch site and launch facility (where rocket will be assembled with payload, services and prepared to flight) is planned for summer 2016. It is worth pointing that Roscosmos will be about half as much to consider when it comes to choice of place for new launch facility; in this year Tass news agency unveiled about reducing number of launch sites for Angara in Vostochny from two to one. Angara-A5V first in flight tests are still planned not earlier than in 2026 and first manned Moon mission after 2035, mainly due the delays with Angara. Before manned mission Roscosmos should finish tests of “Federation” spacecraft (known previously as Prospective Piloted Transport System – PPTS) and perform tests flights. If we remind ourselves that “Federation” moon variant exists only on blueprints in very early phase (with choosing name as possibly well-known milestone of the program) it is possible that first Russian will put his feet on the Moon not earlier than in the end of first half of this century.
Angara-A5V is heavy variant of Angara-A5 with planned payload capacity for LEO at 35 t. It was possible due the upgrades announced in 2015 like extended cryogenic third stage fueled with hydrogen instead RP-1 called URM-2V and redesigning thrust control of RD-191 engines in first two stages (all four URM-1 boosters are first stage and central URM-1 booster is threated as second stage). It is planned to equip rocket with upper stage for inserting Moon spacecraft into orbit; it will be based on Blok-DM.
Most curious fact was given by Yuri Koptev Chairman of the Scientific and Technical Council of Rostec Corporation (non-profit state company which main task is promotion of new technologies):
“Development of Angara-A5V launch vehicle assures keeping the Russia’s positions at the global market in this segment,”
It should be put under discussion what are the plans for Angara-A5V. It could be sign of plans of Russia to create first commercially available rocket which could be used for Moon mission. Such rocket would be interesting solution for countries interested establishing own Moon exploration program but without technical capabilities to create own launch vehicle or just interested in cost cutting – Russian rockets are less expensive than comparable solutions offered by western space industry with comparable capabilities. This is still one of the most important advantage of Russian rockets over American launch vehicles; it is worth to remind that continuous progress in developing reusable technology, modular construction and progress in cost-cutting technologies like 3D printing helped SpaceX to significantly reduce prices. First sign of starting competition by Roscosmos with SpaceX, could be spotted already in 2016. It was partially also associated with Angara – Roscosmos announced in January 2016 that new spacecraft “Federation” will offer 3.5 times less cost ($/kg ratio) of launch than Dragon offered by SpaceX. It will become operational with first flight to International Space Station in 2024 with Angara as designated launch vehicle in future. Cost of launch would be even lower with Angara due its modular construction and more cost effective technology of manufacturing.
It seems that Angara will become new Russian commercial launch vehicle with potential to be used for Moon mission commercially. It will be ready about ten years before Roscosmos will develop spacecraft able to be used for manned mission to the Moon. It would be ironic, but it is possible that it will be used in some kind of commercial Moon mission before Roscosmos manage to create moon version of the “Federation”
On picture above You can see visualization of one of Angara variants.