Russia’s Central Aerohydrodynamics Institute (TsAGI) has completed the first stage of feasibility research into a reusable, hypersonic-capable winged rocket-carrier spaceplane.

The vehicle, known by its Russian acronym MRKN – multiuse rocket carrier – is designed to put payloads of 20-60t into orbit without a disposable first-stage launcher falling back to Earth. The craft features a rear-mounted swept wing with canted twin fins on the rear fuselage, and small up-tilted canards on the upper forward fuselage.

TsAGI craft


TsAGI's tests, carried out by its aerothermodynamics and hypersonic research division, studied subsonic and hypersonic flight problems in its windtunnels, including airframe heating effects. Also studied were the aerodynamics of various potential powerplant solutions for the three turbofan engines of the craft’s reusable section. This included inlet and exhaust configurations and their characteristics at subsonic speeds. They also provided configuration options for the craft’s rocket boosters.

The testing also provided useful data about MRKN’s potential behaviour on approach to landing, TsAGI says. The development “represents a qualitatively new step in Russian rocket development”, it adds.

“We plan to continue test and construction work in this direction as soon as 2016,” says Andrei Pustov, head of TsAGI’s strategic planning and research systems division.

The Zhukovsky-based laboratory worked on the concept in co-operation with rocket manufacturer Khrunichev and more than 20 other institutes.