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NPO Energia Boosters
NPO Energia Boosters
NPO Energia launch vehicles

Credit: © Mark Wade. 11,830 bytes. 633 x 381 pixels.

In May 1974 the N1 moon rocket program was cancelled. Mishin was removed as head of Korolev's OKB-1 design bueau. A new organisation, NPO Energia, headed by Korolev's old nemesis, Glushko, combined both Glushko and Korolev's bureaux. A total of 2.4 billion roubles was spent on the N1 program. Those on the project felt that they were within months of finally providing the Soviet Union with a heavy-lift booster. Instead the work was discarded, and Glushko together with the Yangel OKB began design of the Vulkan launch vehicle with an entirely new configuration and engines. This huge booster was to launch the components of the elaborate moon base LEK (lunar expeditionary complex). The new launch vehicle was itself revised on 17 February 1976 when Glushko was directed to modify Vulkan to the Energia configuration to accommodate the Buran space plane (based on US Space Shuttle). This entailed moving the upper stages from the usual in-line top-mounted position to the side-mounted position used by the space shuttle. Thirteen years and another 14.5 billion roubles later, the Energia and Buran flew, only to be cancelled with the breakup of the Soviet Union. The Zenit launch vehicle, produced in the Ukraine, was eventually purchased by Boeing's Sea Launch consortium for launches from the Pacific Ocean. The engines developed for the Energia are to be used in the new Angara launch vehicle.


Launch Vehicle: RLA-120.

Glushko, new head of NPO Energia, briefed his new launch vehicle family to the VPK Military Industrial Commission on 13 August 1974. These met the requirements of the Ministry of Defence as described in 1973 in Plan Poisk and would replace the failed N1 and all existing launch vehicles. As required by the Ministry of Defence, they used only non-toxic, inexpensive Lox/Kerosene propellants; the various launch vehicles were modular, and used common engines and rocket bodies. The basic engine would be a four-chamber design with a vacuum thrust of 1,200,000 kgf. The modules had a gross mass of about 800 tonnes kgf each, were six metres in diameter and about thirty metres long.

The new design family was called RLA - Rocket Flight Apparatus.

The RLA-120 was the smallest member, with a gross lift-off mass 980 tonnes, single module with a 150 tonne kg upper stage, payload 30 tonnes. Designed to boost reconnaissance satellites and modules of the POS Permanent Orbital Station into a sun synchronous orbit. First flight was to be in 1979, with POS modules to be assembled in orbit in the 1980-1981 period.

The RLA cluster method would allow the modules to be built in the factory and thoroughly tested individually without risking the entire launch vehicle. Total cost of the development program was put at 12.5 billion roubles.

The members of the VPK met the proposal with considerable scepticism. The final decision was that the plan had to be reworked. Brezhnev, Keldysh, and Ustinov would insist in the reformulation that the Lox/LH2 technology and capabilities of the US space shuttle had to be duplicated. The end result would be smaller Zenit and Energia launch vehicles and Buran space shuttle, with which neither the military or the Soviet engineering community was happy.


Launch Vehicle: RLA-135.

Glushko, new head of NPO Energia, briefed his new launch vehicle family to the VPK Military Industrial Commission on 13 August 1974. These met the requirements of the Ministry of Defence as described in 1973 in Plan Poisk and would replace the failed N1 and all existing launch vehicles. As required by the Ministry of Defence, they used only non-toxic, inexpensive Lox/Kerosene propellants; the various launch vehicles were modular, and used common engines and rocket bodies. The basic engine would be a four-chamber design with a vacuum thrust of 1,200,000 kgf. The modules had a gross mass of about 800 tonnes kgf each, were six metres in diameter and about thirty metres long.


Energia LV FamilyEnergia LV Family

Credit: Mark Wade. 26,571 bytes. 640 x 367 pixels.


The new design family was called RLA - Rocket Flight Apparatus.

The RLA-135 had a payload to low earth orbit 100 tonnes using two modules as the first stage and the RLA-120 core. This would begin flight trials in 1980 and allow a lunar expedition to be launched in 1981. It would also be used to launch the MKTS spaceplane.

Glushko insisted that a permanent lunar base and Mars expeditions in the 1980's were achievable. What was needed was a reliable heavy lift launch vehicle, and the RLA approach would achieve this. To base these plans on the N1 design would invite catastrophe. The RLA cluster method would allow the modules to be built in the factory and thoroughly tested individually without risking the entire launch vehicle. Total cost of the development program was put at 12.5 billion roubles.

The members of the VPK met the proposal with considerable scepticism. The final decision was that the plan had to be reworked. Brezhnev, Keldysh, and Ustinov would insist in the reformulation that the Lox/LH2 technology and capabilities of the US space shuttle had to be duplicated. The end result would be the Energia launch vehicle and Buran space shuttle, with which neither the military or the Soviet engineering community was happy.


Launch Vehicle: RLA-150.

Glushko, new head of NPO Energia, briefed his new launch vehicle family to the VPK Military Industrial Commission on 13 August 1974. These met the requirements of the Ministry of Defence as described in 1973 in Plan Poisk and would replace the failed N1 and all existing launch vehicles. As required by the Ministry of Defence, they used only non-toxic, inexpensive Lox/Kerosene propellants; the various launch vehicles were modular, and used common engines and rocket bodies. The basic engine would be a four-chamber design with a vacuum thrust of 1,200,000 kgf. The modules had a gross mass of about 800 tonnes kgf each, were six metres in diameter and about thirty metres long.

The new design family was called RLA - Rocket Flight Apparatus.

The RLA-150 had a gross lift-off mass 6,000 tonnes, payload to low earth orbit 250 tonnes with six modules as the first stage, and the RLA-120 core. This would begin trials in 1982 and allow a manned Mars expedition to be launched in 1983.

Glushko insisted that a permanent lunar base and Mars expeditions in the 1980's were achievable. What was needed was a reliable heavy lift launch vehicle, and the RLA approach would achieve this. To base these plans on the N1 design would invite catastrophe. The RLA cluster method would allow the modules to be built in the factory and thoroughly tested individually without risking the entire launch vehicle. Total cost of the development program was put at 12.5 billion roubles.

The members of the VPK met the proposal with considerable scepticism. The final decision was that the plan had to be reworked. Brezhnev, Keldysh, and Ustinov would insist in the reformulation that the Lox/LH2 technology and capabilities of the US space shuttle had to be duplicated. The end result would be the Energia launch vehicle and Buran space shuttle, with which neither the military or the Soviet engineering community was happy.


Launch Vehicle: Vulkan. Original version of Energia with in-line upper stages and payloads. Developed 1974-1976; cancelled when Energia / Buran development begun. Yangel-buillt strap-ons ultimately derived from R-56 of 1961.

Launch Vehicle: Energia.

The Energia-Buran Reusable Space System (MKS) was developed as a system that would duplicate the capabilities of the US shuttle system. This decision was taken on 12 February 1976 by the Soviet leadership (Brezhnev, Ustinov, Keldysh) following the loss of the moon race to America. This had pointed to serious deficiencies in the technology base of the Soviet Union. The time-honoured Soviet method of rectifying such situations was to copy the foreign technology. The Buran decision was contrary to the opinions of the Soviet Chief Designers, who favoured smaller reusable ballistic capsules or spaceplanes, and the Soviet military, which preferred a new family of modular, lower-tech, expendable launch vehicles.

Following extended development, Buran made a remarkably successful first unmanned flight on 15 November 1988, four years late to schedule. But the it would never fly again. The Soviet Union was crumbling, and the ambitious plans to build an orbiting defence shield, to renew the ozone layer, dispose of nuclear waste, illuminate polar cities, colonise the moon and Mars, were not to be. Funding dried up and the Buran program completely disappeared from the government's budget after 1993.


Launch Vehicle: Energia M. Launch vehicle using surplus Energia components to put medium size payloads in orbit. Abandoned (no customers, boosters built in Ukraine).

Launch Vehicle: Angara 1.1.

The Angara is a new all-Russian heavy launch vehicle to replace the Zenit (built by a Ukrainian company) and Proton (only launch pads on Kazakh territory). The booster is sized for rail transport of modular manufactured components to cosmodromes at Plesetsk and Svobodniy. The design features a single modular core that could be clustered for large payloads or used as a first stage with a variety of existing upper stages. The cold flow test article was exhibited at the Paris Air Show in the summer of 1999. By that time a total of 19 possible variants of the launch vehicle had been studied. All plans for the Angara were dependent on financing and subject to constant change.


Launch Vehicle: Angara 1.2. First planned upgrade of Angara, the 1.2 version would use a new Block I lox/kerosene upper stage.

Launch Vehicle: Angara 3A. The Angara 3A is a proposed variant of the modular launch vehicle that would use two universal rocket modules (URM's) as boosters flanking one URM in the core, with a Lox/Kerosene upper stage.

Launch Vehicle: Angara 5A. The Angara 5A is a proposed variant of the modular launch vehicle that would use four universal rocket modules (URM's) as boosters surrounding one URM in the core, with a Lox/LH2 upper stage.

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Last update 3 May 2001.
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© Mark Wade, 2001 .