If you look at space-related articles of Russian media dated anytime during last two weeks, you may consider that all Russian space industry currently turns around Angara family of launch vehicles. Let’s try to puzzle out all those pieces of news about Angara that have recently appeared.
It all started with the speech of Andrey Kalinovskiy, acting General Director of Khrunichev Space Center, at Satellite 2014 Conference and Exhibition in Washington on Tuesday, March 17. Mr. Kalinovskiy told that the next launch of new Russian Angara-A5 heavy rocket was scheduled to take place in 2016 and it is likely that real spacecraft, presumably military one, would be orbited. Next launch of small-class Angara-1.2 with a satellite currently scheduled for 2017.
It is to remind that the maiden flight of small-class Angara-1.2pp under suborbital trajectory was conducted in July 2014. The first orbital mission of heavy Angara-A5 with dummy spacecraft took place in December 2014. Overall, Angara family of launch vehicles has been developed by Khrunichev Space Center in modular configuration with capacity to orbit various types of satellites with mass of 3 to 25 tons from Plesetsk and Vostochny spaceports.
First stage of Angara rockets is expected to consist of one Universal Rocket Module 1 (URM-1) for small-class Angara-1.2, three URM-1 cores for medium-class Angara-A3, and 5 URM-1 cores for heavy Angara-A5. Second stage of Angara rocket is designed in the form of URM-2, and the third stage (to be used for missions to geosynchronous orbit only) is Briz-M upper stage, well-known for its utilization in all Proton-M missions to GEO.
Andrey Kalinovskiy, who actually became General Director of Khrunichev (without prefix 'acting') on March 23, also explained that flight test program for the vehicle would be completed by 2021; the very same year Angara launch complex at Vostochny spaceport scheduled to be ready. By 2025 it shall gradually replace Baikonur-resided Proton-M, which uses toxic propellant components, the fact that irritates Kazakhstan authorities.
Furthermore, according to Phil Slack, President of International Launch Services (ILS), Virginia-based company that holds marketing of Khrunichev's rockets and operates commercial Proton-M launches, marketing campaign for Angara vehicles (by now, for small and medium versions) has already been started.
Later Yuri Koptev, Chairman of Science and Technical Council of the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), told Russian media that Angara program is being developed under 3 directions. The first one is to finalize current versions of Angara and put them into exploitation. “It is still a lot remained to be done with it,” he said. The second direction is adaptation of Angara for missions from Vostochny spaceport.
One of a sequence of the second direction is to have a two-staged Angara that could be used for launches of new Russian crewed spaceships. And the third direction is putting into operation a super-heavy Angara-A5V, which is scheduled for early 2020s.
Angara-A5V presumably will have lift capacity of up to 35 tons and use liquid oxygen + hydrogen upper stage, instead of liquid oxygen + kerosene stages used at Angara-A5. Yuri Koptev estimated such Angara modification cost at around 40 billion rubles ($700 million).
Recently Roskosmos assigned Khrunichev and RSC Energia to develop a concept of Angara-A5V rocket adapted to new-generation manned and cargo spaceships that might be used for lunar missions, including Moon landing one. Koptev even supposed that crewed Moon mission, though, may be performed under so-called 'dual-launch' scheme, when cosmonauts are to be orbited into low-Earth orbit using one launch vehicle, and their lunar spaceship with a landing module using another one.
Koptev added that existing range of Russian launch vehicles does not fit the requirements of Russian Ministry of Defense to orbit heavy geostationary military spacecraft. Therefore Angara-A5V might be used in military missions as well, since it will have LOx+LH third stage capable of delivering more than 12 tons of payload into geostationary transfer orbit.
Andrey Kalinovskiy told also at Satellite 2015 that Khrunichev may receive tens of billions of rubles investment from the Federal space budget. Earlier it was reported that 56 billion rubles (almost $1 billion) was assigned for such purpose in the Federal space program for 2016-2025. “It [the amount of investment] will depend on actual tasks," he said.
Mr. Kalinovskiy also noted commercial usage of Angara. According to him, Khrunichev “is interested in launching Angara from everywhere it is possible," suggesting the rocket may replace Ukrainian-made Zenit-3SL in Sea Launch program. In this case it is expected to use medium-class Angara-A3 that is, launching from near-equatorial regions, have the same payload capacity with Zenit.
Taking into account that Sea Launch program in its existing configuration hardly could hope for commercial future, provided obvious avoidance of Russian and Ukrainian space industry companies to cooperate, 'Angara scenario' for Sea Launch seems like possible one. Anyway, RSC Energia, owner of Sea Launch, has already prepared three 'possible futures' for the project that are to be submitted for consideration to Roskosmos.
The first possible 'future' is reported by TASS (in Russian) to be selling of Sea Launch to an investor or a country (UAE rumoured). The second one is buying it by Roskosmos with following re-dislocation from the US to another country (Russia's far east and Brazil rumoured) and replacement of Zenit-3SL to Angara-A3. In the worst case, the bankruptcy is not excluded and regarded as the third scenario.
P.S. Later it was reported that the next launch of heavy Angara-A5, very likely with military spacecraft, will take place in the end of 2016.