The Russian space industry is finally having its budget boosted. Its heritage, increasing opportunism and low costs could usher in a new period of growth

When the Russian government approved a 30% increase in the country’s space budget last month, it represented a huge hike in its spending on the final frontier. With a Rb305 billion ($10.7 billion) budget between 2006 to 2015, Russia will still spend less on space than the USA, Europe, Japan and even China, but after years of decline the space industry can finally look forward to a growing government budget.

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The budget increase was a victory for the Federal Space Agency (FSA), and for Anatoly Perminov, former head of Russia’s space forces, who in May was reappointed as FSA chief for a five-year term. Russia’s space industry is overseen by the FSA, and the challenge now is for companies is to take advantage of increased domestic spending while expanding their international market share.

The new Russian space programme will see a broadening beyond manned spaceflight. Around Rb200 billion will be spent on research and development and Rb20 billion on improving the launch complexes at Baikonour in Kazakhstan and Plesetsk in northern Russia. A further Rb18.3 billion will be spent on supporting ground infrastructure, probably satellite receiving stations. Finally, Rb67 billion is earmarked for “acquisitions”, which could be linked to the FSA’s restructuring plans for the industry.


The industry that will share the extra funding is largely made up of 112 organisations that are linked to the FSA, often by share ownership. Many of these were once state-owned companies, and the FSA still owns substantial stock in many of them. The major players include Proton and Rockot launch-vehicle builder Khrunichev Space Centre, and Lavochkin, maker of planetary probes and upper stages, both based in Moscow.

Manned spaceflight specialist Energia is based in Korolev, just outside Moscow, while south-east of the Russian capital there is Omsk-based Polyot, the Cosmos booster producer. Soyuz and Molniya launcher manufacturer Samara Space Centre is based in Samara. The major non-Russian rocket manufacturer is Ukrainian company Yuzhnoe, which makes the Dnepr, Tsyklon and Zenit launchers.

Supporting these companies are the propulsion system suppliers, including rocket motor developers Energomash in Moscow and Khimmash in Korolev; engine manufacturers Baranov Motorbuilding Enterprise in Omsk and Krasniy Oktaybr Machine-building Enterprise in St Petersburg; as well as electric propulsion developer Fakel in Kaliningrad; and liquid-fuel engine developer NIIMash in the Sverdlovsk region. There is also a wide range of subcontractors and subsystem suppliers, largely based in Moscow and St Petersburg, as well as Chelyabinsk and Solnechniy in the Tver Region.

Although many of these companies underwent semi-privatisations during the 1990s, the 2006-15 space programme sets out a plan for more restructuring. Called the Integrated Company Plan, its intent is to rationalise the industrial base because the industry’s structure and ways of working have changed little since the Soviet era. The changes began earlier this year with a Kremlin-backed change of chief executive at Energia.

Not everyone welcomes the plan. “When they start merging some companies, it’s been suggested they sell their stock to the government. But we think the creation of [the new larger companies] is against Russian anti-trust law. We are a freedom-loving company,” says Oleg Kazantsev, director of Moscow-based Micro Satellite, who is suspicious of the reasons behind the FSA’s restructuring plans.

Whatever the outcome, Perminov said in April he wanted Russian industry to gain a share of space services market and not simply dominate the launch business. A March study by Russia’s Space Research Institute gave Russia a 42.6% share of launches in 2004, followed by the USA with 29.6% and China with 14.8%. Despite this success, the FSA admits that the whole launch business is only 5-10% of the total space market.

The new space programme will give Russian companies a greater opportunity to become service providers, with the urgent need to renew the country’s satellite fleets. Of Russia’s 99 orbiting satellites only 39 are working. Under the FSA programme, 20 Earth observation and 15 communications and television and radio broadcast satellites will be launched by 2015.

Around 70% of those satellites still operating were made by NPO PM, based near the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. Today it builds the Express-AM communications satellite, which uses electronics supplied by Alenia Spazio in co-operation with Alcatel Space. NPO PM will be a strong candidate when the Russian government comes to place its orders.

The observation satellites will serve a growing market in Russia. Moscow-based Scanex Research and Development Center is among companies providing Earth observation data to an increasingly wide range of users. “Every six months we add another data satellite. The data market is growing, with more data becoming available,” says Alexander Shumilin, head of Scanex’s receiving centre.

In the communications and broadcasting sector, the main operator – with 80% of the Russian market – is state-owned Kosmicheskaya Svyaz. It is leading the effort to expand into the space services market, with discussions under way with China on expanding co-operation, and is planning for one to two satellites to be launched a year in Russia, starting in 2006. “This will allow us to protect Russia’s orbital frequency resources,” says acting director general Yuri Izmailov.

Neglected systems

Securing orbital frequencies is also important for Russia’s neglected navigation satellite system Glonass. Russia needs to replenish its global positioning system after years of failing satellites, and plans 18 launches to ensure global coverage by 2007. But one departure for the Russian government is its interest in using India’s launchers (Flight International, 12-19 July).

This is an unusual move given Russia’s long and successful history of rocket development and commercial launches. Today the country’s operational commercial launchers are the Cosmos-3M, Proton, the Soyuz family and Tsyklon, together with the converted missiles Dnepr, Rockot, Shtil, Start and Strela. Russian companies also use the Ukrainian-made Zenit, while the military uses the Molniya rocket to launch its payloads.

The Soyuz-U, launched from Baikonur and Plesetsk, and the Baikonour-only Soyuz-FG are used for International Space Station crew and supply launches. The upgraded Soyuz-2-1a had its maiden flight in November 2004 and the -1b, with a more powerful upper stage, should fly in June 2006. Both will be able to fly from Baikonur and Plesetsk.

There is also the Soyuz-ST, a Soyuz-2-1b with a larger fairing that is being developed for launch from the European Space Agency’s spaceport in French Guiana. This should begin commercial launches in 2008. The FSA’s increased research and development funding will help with these and other new developments, including the Angara and Onega future launchers.

Angara is a new launcher family from Proton manufacturer Khrunichev, and is based on a common booster, like the US Boeing Delta IV and Lockheed Martin Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles. Angara 1 will replace the Rokot launch vehicle which is based on the SS-19 ICBM, and will provide a 2.2t to low-Earth orbit (LEO) capability from Plesetsk beginning in late 2006 or early 2007. It uses an 200t-thrust Energomash RD-191 single-chamber liquid-oxygen/kerosene engine. This is derived from the larger RD-171 and RD-180 engines used on the Ukrainian Zenit and US Atlas launch vehicles, respectively.

The Angara 3 has a core booster with two boosters attached for a 4t to LEO capability. Its maiden flight is planned for 2008. The Angara 5 has a core booster and four side boosters, and can loft 26t to LEO. It is expected to replace the Proton and enter service in 2010.

Energia’s Onega, meanwhile, is to be launched from Plesetsk. This has the same basic Soyuz configuration, but with an increased-diameter core and third stages to carry more fuel. The core uses the RD-191 engine, while its third stage employs the new RD-140E liquid-oxygen/liquid-hydrogen engine developed by Khimavtomatiki, based in Voronezh. The Onega’s strap-on rockets will use liquid oxygen/kerosene RD-120.10F engines, modified versions of the Zenit’s second-stage engine.

While these new launchers remain in development, commercial joint ventures are offering launches using the existing boosters. Proton launches are marketed by International Launch Services (ILS), a joint venture between Krunichev and Lockheed Martin, while Soyuz launches are offered by Starsem, a joint venture between Arianespace, EADS, FSA and Samara. ILS offers the Proton, with Breeze-M upper stage, alongside Lockheed’s Atlas family, and plans to expand its range by adding the Angara.

Another joint venture is Sea Launch, formed in April 1995 by Boeing, Energia, Ukraine’s Yuzhmash and Yuzhnoye companies and Norwegian shipbuilder Kvaerner. Sea Launch uses a converted North Sea oil rig as an equatorial launch pad for the three-stage Yuzhnoye-made Zenit-3SL. This is being followed up by Land Launch, using the Zenit launch infrastructure at Baikonur.

Land Launch’s Zenit-3SLB vehicle will carry payloads up to 3.5t to geosynchronous transfer orbit. Its first launch is scheduled for 2007.

Space Kliper

Russia is also increasingly engaged in inter-government co-operation. A major focus of these efforts is Energia’s proposed Kliper six-crew reusable space vehicle, which could stay in orbit for 15 days. It could also remain attached to the ISS as an escape vehicle for a year. There are two versions, one with wings and one without, but there has been no decision yet on which will be developed. The target date for an unmanned maiden flight is 2011 and 2012 for a manned flight.

Now that Kliper is an official part of the space programme, the European Space Agency is expected to agree to join Russia in an initial two-year study project (Flight International, 28 June–4 July). Kliper could even launch from ESA’s French Guiana spaceport. If ESA decides to go ahead, Perminov has said the Paris-based agency’s industrial partners could provide control systems and cabin, while Russia’s industry produces engines and airframe, with the wing possibly coming from Sukhoi.

But Kliper would only be one part of the co-operation between the FSA and ESA, which have signed wide-ranging exploration and framework agreements. The European Union and the Russian government have also signed a major co-operation agreement on space including technology development, use of the ISS and future transportation systems. Interoperability between Galileo and Glonass is also expected.

Since the end of the Soviet Union, Russia has also had to deal with Kazakhstan through normal diplomatic channels. On 25 May the Russian parliament ratified an agreement with the country for the continued use of Baikonur, and construction of the Baiterek launch complex for the new Angara launch vehicle.

Other countries Russia has space deals with include Brazil, China, Egypt, Iran, Malayasia and Saudi Arabia, but perhaps the most profitable co-operation the Russians could have is with the USA. NASA’s continuing problems with the Space Shuttle mean that Russia is the only country that can reliably provide supplies and crew to the ISS (Flight International, 2-8 August).

Space tourism is another potential revenue stream: the world’s third space tourist, US businessman Greg Olsen, will fly to the ISS in October on a 10-day trip. Such services will help Russia’s plans beyond the space station. But it is not clear whether Russia has the resources to do everything it wants to.

Russian pride

Whatever the choices made, there is a great deal of pride within Russia regarding the achievements of its space programme. With a low cost base, a well-educated and well-trained workforce and proven technology, the Russian industry is poised to make substantial gains.

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Source: Flight International