General, Research, Technology

What does the Russian reusable Amur rocket look like and how it differs from the Falcon 9

On October 5, 2020, Roscosmos announced the start of the development of a new missiles "Amur", which should become the first Russian reusable missile - yes, almost like Falcon 9 from Space X. The difference is that the Russian rocket will run on methane (and oxygen), while Elon Musk uses kerosene as a fuel and liquid oxygen as an oxidizer in his reusable rocket. Moreover, each launch of the Amur rocket will cost only $ 22 million, which is very small by modern standards. Will Russia soon push out a private American company and begin to conduct even more profitable space launches?

The first stage of the Amur rocket will be able to return to Earth for landing on land


  • 1 Features of the Amur rocket
  • 2 Which is better - methane or kerosene?
  • 3 Comparison of the Amur rocket and the Space X Falcon 9
  • 4 The cost of launching the Amur rocket and Space X Falcon 9
  • 5 When will the Amur rocket fly?

Features of the Amur rocket

The main difference between the Russian missile and the American one is the type of fuel used. According to representatives of Roscosmos, methane cheap fuel, which also affectsstartup cost, and also allows you to use ready-made infrastructure solutions. For example, Gazprom's proven storage facilities will be used to store methane near the Amur launch sites.

The Amur rocket will have at least two times less details than in a series of Soyuz-2 missiles of a similar class - 2,000 pieces against 4,500 parts. In this case, the fuel tank will be one for two different fuel components, it will be divided by a partition. This is due to the fact that the temperature of liquefaction of methane and oxygen is approximately the same. All this will make it possible to reduce the cost of rocket production and make the launch more affordable.

At the first stage of the rocket, it is planned to place five RD-0169A methane-oxygen engines, which will be developed at the Voronezh Chemical Automatics Design Bureau.

Amur rocket concept

Which is better - methane or kerosene?

Methane is indeed one of the besttypes of fuel for the rocket. When burned, unlike kerosene, this liquefied gas produces very little soot. And in the future, the engine elements will not have to be cleaned of unburned fuel residues. And due to its cooling capabilities, methane will reduce engine heating. So Elon Musk, for example, also wants to launch Starship, SpaceX's first interplanetary spacecraft, using a methane-powered Raptor engine. Another BE-4 methane engine is being developed by another private US company, Blue Origin.

Lack of methane in its low density, due towhich the fuel tank has to do more. This makes the rocket heavier. But according to the executive director of Roskosmos for promising programs and science, Alexander Bloshenko, the Amur rocket will use ordinary tanks.

These claims are not true - when cooled to ultra-low temperatures, the liquefied gas is compacted enough to use standard tanks.

Until no one has a chance to checkis it really so, but on the other hand, if methane was problematic as a fuel for rockets, private American space companies would not want to use it. However, the same SpaceX had to work hard before the "methane" Starship stopped exploding during testing.

Comparison of the main characteristics of the Amur rocket and the Falcon 9

Both missiles imply engine shutdown andseparation of the second stage, after which the first stage begins to fall back into the atmosphere and brake with the engine. Before landing, the first stage of both Amur and Falcon 9 releases the landing rods, and then lands on the platform. Then the first stage is transported for technical inspection.

This raises several questions that concernsafety of this type of landing. Yet even Musk took several tries before the first stage of the Falcon 9 crashed into the ocean after landing and exploded. The unit will be transported back to the cosmodrome in two possible ways - on the external sling of a heavy Mi-26 transport helicopter or on a cargo platform along a railway line.

Plan for the return of the first stage of "Cupid" to Earth

Creation of a marine landing platform for the Amuris not yet considered, since the weather conditions of the Sea of ​​Okhotsk greatly complicate the stable operation of such a floating platform. However, we do not rule out landing at sea with the subsequent pick-up of the stage, including by special ships, and will consider it within the framework of a draft design, - said in Roscosmos.

First, Roskosmos plans to develop the first stage, which will be able to perform up to 10 launches, in the future they want to increase the resource of the stage up to 300 starts... The corporation calls it "trouble-free, asKalashnikov assault rifle ". SpaceX has returned the first stage of its Falcon 9 more than 50 times, with only 5 re-launches so far. So this is a pretty bold statement.

Cost of launching Amur rocket and Space X Falcon 9

According to representatives of Roscosmos, the cost of launching the Amur rocket will be $ 22 million.

Each launch of a new Falcon 9 rocket costs about $ 62 million, with a used stage - $ 50 million... That is, the launch of the Amur will be more than two times cheaper.

Savings are said to come fromseveral factors: the use of methane, which makes it possible to reduce the cost of launch and preparation for it due to existing solutions; full automation of the launch, which will save on labor costs; the most lightweight launch complex, without an underground city with storage facilities in case of military threats, its design will be simplified, including in terms of the launch pad requirements for potential loads.

When will the Amur rocket fly?

On paper, it all looks very cool, and ifRoscosmos will be able to reduce the cost of the launch to at least $ 30 million, which will already be a serious progress. Ground tests of the Amur engines are planned to be completed by 2024, and the first launch of the rocket with a payload is scheduled to take place in 2026. By then, Elon Musk plans to launch Starship to Mars - let's see who keeps promises.

Together with the new rocket "Roskosmos" alsodevelops a reusable spacecraft. It was named "Argo" and will be launched into Earth's orbit on a launch vehicle. The spacecraft will be able to deliver a payload weighing up to 2 tons to the ISS, and it will be able to return 1 ton of cargo to Earth.

What does Elon Musk, the head of SpaceX, think about this? He reacted positively to the plans of Roskosmos, stating that this is the right goal, and most importantly, to make the launch price of the rocket as low as possible.

It's a step in the right direction, but theyshould really aim for full reusability by 2026. Larger rocket would also make sense for literal economies of scale. Goal should be to minimize cost per useful ton to orbit or it will at best serve a niche market.

- Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 6, 2020

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The goal should be to minimize the price per tonne when placing the payload into orbit, otherwise, at best, the rocket will occupy a niche market.

So the creator of the first reusable rocket has already given his "blessing", it's up to the Russian engineers. Do you think it will "fly"? Let's discuss in the comments and in our Telegram chat.