There have been rumors that Russia’s space program has been close to collapsing since last year and constant talk of how SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk managed to beat the once-promising organization. Now, it seems the federation is determined to fight back.
Russian Foundation for Advanced Studies (FPI) announced Monday it would be developing a reusable rocket capable of flying back down to Earth like an airplane. A press release from FPI, a research agency based on the American Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), included a description of the rocket’s design.
Flights test for 2022
“The first stage of the rocket will separate at an altitude of 59-66 kilometers and return to the launch area by landing on a usual runway,” said project manager Boris Satovsky in the statement. The release added that flight tests are scheduled for 2022.
This is not an entirely new project for Russia. Back in 2001, Russia was already working on a proposed reusable flyback booster called Baikal which was eventually dropped.
Then in 2017, news agency Interfax reported Russia was again looking into reusable rocket components. "We are running pilot projects in the sphere of retrievable components,” had said Roscosmos space agency chief Igor Komarov.
“Speaking of components, we have engines which can work a multiple number of times, for example Engine 191 and the engine for Angara [rocket]. We will also be using the potential of retrievable rocket components," he had added.
It seems the space agency's plans may now be well underway as FPI stated their rocket was being developed in cooperation with Roscosmos as well as Russian aerospace and defense corporation United Aircraft Corporation. Meanwhile, Russian media agency Sputnik reported Satovsky said the project had already been completed by the FPI and its partners.
Sources have also told Sputnik that Russia may be developing a new rocket production holding. “There are plans to create a holding on the basis of Roscosmos state corporation, which will include a number of other directions related to rocket production, such as Concern VKO Almaz-Antei and Tactical Missiles Corporation,” the source reportedly said.
Roscosmos' press service refused to comment and the news remains unconfirmed. However, these are not the only rocket-related rumors to come out of the Russian space agency.
This February 2018, reports surfaced that Rocosomos posted a small announcement stating Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on the go-ahead for developing a “supertyazh,” translated to English as a "really big rocket." The announcement said the rocket would be in the super-heavy class and be based at the nation’s Vostochny Spaceport.
As FPI's rocket stands in the lightweight category, carrying a payload of maximum 600 kilograms, it is unlikely the announcements were related. One thing remains clear though, the nation seems determined to return to its glory space days of the 1950s.