Buran shuttle and Energia rocket.

Russia Plays Follow the Leader on Heavy-Lift Vehicles

Posted by Doug Messier on January 14, 2013, at 5:30 am

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

With America (or, at least its esteemed Congress, gentlemen engineers all) determined to build the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) regardless of the cost to the national treasury or the damage done to far more pressing priorities (like getting our astronauts back into orbit on U.S. vehicles), the Russians have begun dusting off old proposals for super boosters of their own.

In this case, the Russian need to emulate the Americans is somewhat less blatant than the follow-the-leader cloning process that resulted Soviet Union’s ill-fated, single flight Buran space shuttle of the 1980?s. However, it does involves much of the same launch vehicle hardware, which should set off plenty of alarm bells right there.

Yes, the Soviet Empire may have died and, with it, the mighty space program that had once sent shudders of fear through the West. But, the individual initiatives of that era continue to live on, although in somewhat altered states and, unfortunately, possessing many of the same problems.

The two launch vehicle concepts under consideration, being promoted by Khrunichev and rival RSC Energia, are called Yenisei-5 and Sodruzhestvo, respectively. The vehicles are designed to send Russia’s six-person Soyuz spacecraft, the awkwardly named Prospective Piloted Transport System (PPTS), and other payloads on missions to the moon, Mars and deep space. PPTS is, in fact, a response to America’s Orion spacecraft and deep-space exploration plans.

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