Author Topic: Why Didn't Zenit ever become the Russian's Single Mainstay Launcher?  (Read 4973 times)

Offline Lobo

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Pondering about the fate of Energia and Buran over on this thread:

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=31376.30

So, if the Soviets hadn't been maintaining Soyuz and Proton, and just maintained Energia and Zenit, could the Soviets have continued to operate the Energia core and Zenit booster?  And used Zenit as it's own launcher to replace Soyuz (which I believe was the plan when Zenit was designed, as well as being Energia's booster). 
They already built and flew on Buran orbiter, so that was done and they didn't have to build any more.  (They could have just operated the one Orbiter)  Energia with Zenit was a pretty capable side mount HLV.  And Zenit could cover Soyuz's capabilities.  A Zenit with another Zenit outboard, could cover Proton.  A tri-core "heavy" would be even more capable that that.

But even if the fall of the Soviet Union meant there just wasn't enough money to maintain the one Buran orbiter and Energia core, why didn't the Soviets, and later the Russians, just stick with Zenit and streamline on just the one core in various configurations?
It was already designed to be a strap on booster, so it should have been able to strap on to a central Zenit core. 
And they could have strapped on even more cores if they'd wanted to for heavier lift (with no Energia).  Basically, a larger version of Angara which they are going to now.  But couldn't they have done that after Buran and Energia were cancelled?  And just cancelled Soyuz and Proton too?

Wikipedia said Zenit was intended to replace Soyuz, and then said that never happened because of the fall of the Soviet Union.  But that doesn't make much sense.  Seems like it would have been cheaper to go ahead and do that, and replace Proton as well, rather than maintaining all three, Zenit, Soyuz, and Proton.

Seems like if there was money to operate all 3, then if they'd cancelled Soyuz and Proton, they could have kept the Energia core, and maybe the one Buran orbiter??

Maybe I just don't understand the history of the Russian space program and why they did what they did enough.  But it seems like Zenit could have been their single mainstay launcher all through these past few decades.

Offline Galactic Penguin SST

This was the Soviet plan (IIRC a new spaceship named Zarya was to replace the Soyuz), and they also was construction a second launch site for it at Plesetsk for high-inclination launches (it is now the site of the first launches of Angara). Unfortunately when the Soviet Union broke up the manufacturers for the Zenit rocket (along with almost everything from the design bureau of Mikhail Yangel) went into Ukrainian hands and territory, and the Russians really don't wish to use a "foreign launcher". That is the main answer for your question.

IIRC RSC Energia has proposals building a "Russian Zenit" - search "Energia-K" for details.
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Offline Phillip Clark

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I would also add that the decline in the overall launch rate following the demise of the Soviet Union meant that the Zenit was not used as much as planned as proposed payloads got cancelled.   Flying launch vehicles was the Soviet way of getting the bugs out of the system, and Zenit flew so infrequently that there was never the opportunity to continue with this approach.
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Offline Lobo

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This was the Soviet plan (IIRC a new spaceship named Zarya was to replace the Soyuz), and they also was construction a second launch site for it at Plesetsk for high-inclination launches (it is now the site of the first launches of Angara). Unfortunately when the Soviet Union broke up the manufacturers for the Zenit rocket (along with almost everything from the design bureau of Mikhail Yangel) went into Ukrainian hands and territory, and the Russians really don't wish to use a "foreign launcher". That is the main answer for your question.

IIRC RSC Energia has proposals building a "Russian Zenit" - search "Energia-K" for details.

Ahhh....ok, I didn't quite understand that dynamic.

Did Russia itself have the plans or the capabilities to build Zenit themselves?  Seems like they would have had the plans and intellectual property for it  while they were the Soviet Union.  But maybe that was all physically in Ukraine and they didn't have access to it after the breakup.
Where the RD-171 engines built in Ukraine too, or Russia?  If built in Russian, you'd think they'd have been able to make their own Zenit.  But I suppose that might have been more costly than just keeping their two existing launchers and production lines in Soyuz and Proton.


Offline Lobo

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ahhh....well apparently others are thinking the same thing.  heheheh

http://www.russianspaceweb.com/sodruzhestvo.html

Shows the tri-core heavy, as well as a 5-core "heavier" version.  Even shows the central core with one outboard booster, just as I mentioned.  Really no reason that configuration wouldn't work  It's more symetrical than the STS stack or side mount Energia were. 

Seems like a pretty good system.  Pretty much checks all the boxes I'd have in my sort of personal "ideal" expendable launch system.  I think something like this would have been by far a better launcher to have been evaluated by ESAS.  NASA did actaully evalute Atlas Phase 3a which is similar (except no two core version, but there could have been).  They seemed to reject it based on four boosters separations and they seemed to want no more than two.  And that it would not be able to launch from KSC apparently? (there was something about there being no current pad to launch it?  With the boosters at 90 degrees to each other, maybe it was too wide for the KSC trench?  But the boosters could have been mounted in two pairs instead, like Energia's Zenit boosters were).
Like this:

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-tjy0HmOtgQU/UDaIxp_NSQI/AAAAAAAAuyA/VK3jJwviIDo/s1600/0373c36d50e1c6f566bdbc246e2caf16551aa5122962830.jpeg

Each could have used a single F-1B maybe for NASA, although the RD-180's probably make more sense as they are already in production and there'd be cost sharing with USAF.
But, if NASA was dead-set against 4 boosters (which seems a bit over-cautious) They could have looked at an upgraed Atlas Phase 2 or 3a, more like Falcon X, could have been used.  In a single stick about the size of the Dynetics boosters using two F-1's, or 4 RD-180's.  Then a 2-core version (like the Energia-K picture), and tri-core which could put up around 125mt or so.  Add a single stick for a 1.5 launch system, and what a nice CxP that would have been.  Or even a nice SLS.  The biggest version only has two boosters, so it would have satisfied NASA's issue there.  And it would have been only like 17-18m across depending on the width of the CCB, so it could launch fine from KSC.  A single stick booster with about 50mt capacity, two with 100mt, and the tri-core at about 150mt.  It would have allowed for a pretty capable Orion which could be reusable and land on the ground.

But I digress.  I like this Energia-K concept (Sodruzhestvo).  It's basically the Atlas Phase 2/3a system, but with thinner, taller CCB's. 

But....sounds like this was pass for Angara, which will basicallly be a smaller version of it?  Seems like it would have been better to go with these larger cores and RD-171 engines to me.  It has more potential at the top end if ever needed.
« Last Edit: 03/30/2013 10:29 PM by Lobo »

Offline Lars_J

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The main reason appears to be the "Not Invented Here" syndrome - Zenit was mostly Ukranian, not Russian. But it also makes sense that Russia would concentrate an all-domestic capability for national security & prestige.
« Last Edit: 03/30/2013 11:29 PM by Lars_J »

Offline Lobo

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The main reason appears to be the "Not Invented Here" syndrome - Zenit was mostly Ukranian, not Russian. But it also makes sense that Russia would concentrate an all-domestic capability for national security & prestige.

Yea, well I was under the mistaken assumption that the Russians were maintaining Zenit along with Proton and Soyuz and it seemed like some redundant capacity.  Almost like something the US would do, but usually the Russians are a little more pragmatic than that. 
But, since Russia wasn't maintaining Zenit, just Soyuz and Proton, that makes more sense.  And the Ukranians were selling Zenit to Space Launch to support that I suppose?

Offline a_langwich

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The main reason appears to be the "Not Invented Here" syndrome - Zenit was mostly Ukranian, not Russian. But it also makes sense that Russia would concentrate an all-domestic capability for national security & prestige.

I agree it's because of Ukrainian origin, but I'm not sure NIH carries the exact flavor of concern.  Not Invented Here usually means designers/engineers "Here" do not respect or trust the work of designers/engineers "There."  I don't think that was exactly the case. 

Instead, Ukrainian and Russian political concerns trumped any engineering consideration.  Ukrainian politics had pro-Western political parties which ruled for a while and talked about joining NATO, there were/are very public differences (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russia%E2%80%93Ukraine_gas_disputes, suspicions of Russian involvement in the poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko and the Orange Revolution elections), etc.

In particular, if you look at the natural gas disputes, if the Russians were playing hardball in negotiations, and they certainly were, and the Ukrainians were using rocket assets and other shared production items in response, and I believe they were, then it would be unwise for the Russians to increase their reliance on Ukrainian products. 


Offline Lars_J

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Since the Zenit engines are Russian, I'm surprised they didn't just decided to make Russian tanks and then make an all-Russian LV with very similar specs to Zenit.

I can only assume there was strong institutional defense against that from the makers of Soyuz and Proton. (& Angara) 

Offline fregate

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To Lobo - please note that Energia-K and Sodruzhestvo Are 2 different LVs (even they share similar components). Just try to compare payload mass.
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Offline Lobo

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To Lobo - please note that Energia-K and Sodruzhestvo Are 2 different LVs (even they share similar components). Just try to compare payload mass.

HmmmÖI guess I got the idea from this article that they were basically the same.  ďIn 2012, the Sodruzhestvo project probably emerged from previous proposals for the Energia-K rocket.Ē

Design
In 2012, the Sodruzhestvo project probably emerged from previous proposals for the Energia-K rocket. Energia-K would also use hardware derived from Zenit, but built entirely inside Russia. At the time, all indications were that Russia's own space budget would not be able to afford a project of such a scale.
The Sodruzhestvo rocket would be built by clustering four first-stage boosters of the Zenit rocket around a single core stage, also derived from Zenit's first stage. The Zenit would also provide its second stage to serve as a third stage of the new rocket, but carrying as much as 93 tons of propellant. The vehicle could deliver up to 64 tons to an altitude of 200 kilometers and an inclination 51.6 degrees, after its payload would use its own engine to complete the orbital insertion.
An intermediate version of the rocket that would use only two strap-on boosters on the first stage and reduced propellant load on the third stage to 88 tons could deliver estimated 36 tons of payload to the low Earth orbit.
As of August 2012, it was unclear whether the Sodruzhestvo proposal had any backing from the Russian government, let alone among leaders of Kazakhstan and Ukraine. RKK Energia's previous efforts to get federal funding for the Energia-K project had gotten nowhere so far. However given financial realities of the day, it seemed to be the only financially realistic proposal to build a heavy lifter anywhere in the former USSR.

So, it looks like a tri-core heavy version of Sodruzhestvo would get 36mt to LEO.  I canít really find much performance about Energia-K specifically, just that itís an all-Russian version of Zenit. So Iím assuming itís performance is similar?
Guess I get the impression that Sodruzhestvo uses the Energia-K CCBís as itís basis.  But you are saying thatís incorrect?
« Last Edit: 04/02/2013 05:20 PM by Lobo »

Offline Hyperion5

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To Lobo - please note that Energia-K and Sodruzhestvo Are 2 different LVs (even they share similar components). Just try to compare payload mass.

Sodruzhestvo features standard Zenit CCBs all around.  The Energia-K does not, so I hope that's cleared up. 

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