The company also wants to buy "documentation, equipment, technical reserve - everything that has remained on this topic from the Soviet program." S7 Space intends to build its plant of rocket engines in Samara. Naturally, the engines will undergo modernization, because they were created about 40-50 years ago, Sopov points out. The main task is to make the engine for multiple launches.
The project will cost $ 300 million, Sopov says, but does not disclose the source of funds.
S7 Group - the largest private and second after Aeroflot air carrier in Russia. This spring S7 bought the floating launch site "Sea Launch" from the space center "Energia" that is part of Roskosmos. The first launch from it is planned in December 2019. First, Ukrainian Zenit rockets will be used (S7 ordered 12 units to the Yuzhmash plant), in 5-6 years they will be replaced by the Russian medium-class Soyuz-5 carrier rocket, which is now develops "Energy". S7 has already invested $ 160 million of its own funds in the space project, including $ 24 million for advancing missiles to Ukrainian Yuzhmash, Sopov said.
The NK-33 and NK-43 engines, according to Sopov, need S7 for use in Soyuz-5 and will allow the first stage of the rocket to be reusable due to landing on a jet stream. The first such technology was realized by SpaceX Ilona Mask, says Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics Andrei Ionin. Its 30 tonne first stage of the Falcon 9 missile returns due to multiple (up to five times) engagement of engines and seats on the jet engine of the central engine of the nine available. For such a landing, engines of low power, simple and cheap, are needed, Ionin points out. NC-33 meets these requirements, but it is necessary to confirm the possibility of its multiple inclusion.
"Soyuz-5" does not imply reusability, this carrier rocket is being developed to solve state problems - to put the Federation ship into orbit and subsequently become the first stage of a superheavy rocket, Sopov said. At its first stage it is intended to use the RD-171 engine with a total thrust (near the ground) of more than 740 tons - it is impossible to plant a stage in it by the Mask method. Therefore, Energia agreed to do another commercial "Soyuz-5SL" (Sea Launch), which assumes a multiple first stage, weight reduction, use of other engines - to reduce costs and increase competitive advantages. The launch of Zenit will cost the customer $ 62-72 million (as well as SpaceX now), Sopov continues, launching Soyuz-5SL with a re-usable first stage - from $ 40 million.
NASA very much helped SpaceX at the initial stage of development, says Ionin. First of all, the agency provided technology: rocket engines. The Merlin mask is a slightly modernized development of the 1960s, says Ionin: "In fact, our state S7 asks for the same thing."
"We are really discussing with S7 the question of creating a carrier rocket adapted to launch from the Sea Launch complex," Vladimir Solntsev, the general director of Energia, said through the representative. The question is still under discussion. But for "Energia" this project is certainly of interest, Solntsev said. According to Sopov, S7 is ready to order 50 Soyuz-5SL missiles with an option for another 35.
The project of the engine plant, according to Sopov, is submitted to the government, negotiations are also underway with the United Engine-Building Corporation (UDK, part of Rostekh). The latter owns the Kuznetsov plant, where the NK-33 and NK-43 engines were manufactured. Representatives of S7 and UDK discussed the possibility of using NK-33 engines as power units of a medium-sized launch vehicle, says a representative of the UDK. The government press service did not respond to Vedomosti's request.