Russian new medium rocket is still in budget planned for 2016 in spite of fact reducing amounts for Federal Space Program.
Soyuz rocket is legend of Russian Space Program. Designed as ICBM missile (R7) in 1957 by Sergey Korolev became through years of service one of most utilized and most reliable space launch vehicles. Modernized during years of service up to Soyuz-2 version in 2006, is still going strong. Roscosmos announced on April 2015 that new rocket called Fenix, will developed starting 2016. On next two years it was planned to prepare general technical specification of next medium carrier, but first tests were planned on 2018. Budget for following two years was set at $600 million. Rocket will be designed to replace both Soyuz and Zenit rockets and serve as backup carrier for small and medium payloads when Angara rocket in light version will become operational. Responsible for development of the project will be Progress State Research and Production Rocket Space Center. Fenix will be able to lift up to 9000 kg to LEO; it is also planned to combine Fenix with upper stage for GTO missions. As far as the propulsion is concerned two propositions were stated. Conventional liquid oxygen combined with kerosene or liquefied natural gas (just like in planned SpaceX heavy rocket). Program of developing Fenix rocket remain in announced on 22 December 2015 draft of Federal Space Program for years 2016-2025. Due the necessary savings in projecting budget for Federal Space Program, funds for Fenix were reduced to $430 million – but not because the Fenix became less important part of program – savings covered whole budget for FSP was reduced from $2.004 billion to 1.4 billion.
Involvement of RCC Progress in Fenix project is quite interesting. In spite of fact that RCC Progress is experienced during years of modifying Soyuz rockets and is probably main contractor for Fenix, Company confirmed in August 2015 that is going to develop, with no government participation, new Soyuz-5.1 rocket. Following general director Alexander Kirilin:
“In creating this missile we go ahead, this year we will be ready to draft project,”
Alexander Kirilin also confirmed that new Soyuz will be designed from scratch due the necessity of remain comparative in future rocket will be utilizing liquid methane as fuel; Proposed engines are RD-0164 for cores and RD-0169 for upper stage. Utilizing methane has main three advantages: it is 30% less expensive than kerosene, it generates stronger specific impulse and is better cooling factor for combustion chambers. If methane will be used as fuel no additional changes in infrastructure of launch site are required. In spite of modern propulsion, rocket is planned in three versions as conventional two stage, medium sized launch vehicle. First version, Soyuz-5.1 will be able to lift up to 9000 kg in LEO missions (just like Fenix) with start weight at 270000 kg. Soyuz-5.2 will be planned to be heavier version for manned missions. It will consist central core with identical side modules as boosters. Planned payload mass for this version is at 16000 kg for Low Earth Orbit. Third version, Soyuz-5.3, will be supported by three side boosters and will lift up to 26000 kg to LEO.
It seems that following years will bring us adequate successors for Zenit and Soyuz. As showed, Soyuz-5 is fulfilling most requirements by Roscosmos for Fenix rocket. Maybe RCC Progress will try to interest Roscosmos with their Soyuz-5 and put it into Fenix project. Soyuz-5 could be also potential competitor of Angara rocket by KBKhA Khrunichev, with even bigger payload mass for LEO missions – Angara offers in heaviest variant 24500 kg comparing to 26000 kg for Soyuz-5. Advantage of Soyuz-5 is also modern propulsion which will improve profitability; Angara propulsion is conventional with utilization of RP-1 and liquid oxygen. Angara is more advanced project after two successful test flights in 2014 and adopting as future launch vehicle for ILS (You can read here more), but still remains more conventional rocket with less number of modern and not proven technologies. Competition seems to becoming quite interesting…