Why “Angara” will never win Falcon 9
We explain on the fingers with Forbes.ru, why the Russian “Angara” is not capable of competing commercially with the American Falcon 9 rocket. And not a word about reusability.
On a superficial glance, the Angar A5 and the Falcon 9 are very similar. Both have oxygen-kerosene fuel. Both missiles belong to the class of heavy, "Angara A5" can even more raise to low near-earth orbit: 25.8 tons against American 22.8 tons. Salaries in the Khrunichev Center, where the Angar is produced, are five times lower, and Nothing prevents Russian rocket builders from taking the American "charlatan" and "PR man".
Now about the difference:
The number of workers
Center Khrunichev -40 thousand
SpaceX -8 thousand
“Angara A5” -about $ 100 million
Falcon 9 -about $ 70 million(one-time option)
Number of rocket stages
“Angara A5” -4 steps
Falcon 9 -2 steps
The number of basic structural elements
“Angara A5” -8
Falcon 9 -3
Number of rocket engines
“Angara A5” -7 pieces
Falcon 9 -10 pieces
The total mass of rocket engines
“Angara A5” -11600 kg
Falcon 9 -4700 kg
“Angara A5” -759 t
Falcon 9 -550 t
“Angara A5” -43.7 t
Falcon 9 -about 30 tons
Midship area (affects drag coefficient)
“Angara A5” -about 35 sq m
Falcon 9 -about 22 sq m
The number of types of rocket engines
“Angara A5” -3 typesrocket engines from different manufacturers: 1-2 stage RD-191 (Khimki), 3rd stage RD-0124 (Voronezh), upper stage C5.98M (Voronezh) or 11D58M (Korolev).
Falcon 9 -1engine type: Merlin: the differences between the 1st and 2nd stages only in the form of a nozzle.
Distance between rocket and rocket engine manufacturers
“Angara A5” -500 km(by production in Moscow),2700 km(by production in Omsk).
Falcon 9 - less1 km(all parts are manufactured in Hawthorne).
The distance between the production of the rocket and the spaceport
“Angara A5” -780 km(Moscow-Plesetsk),5500 km(Moscow-East),3500 km(Omsk-East),2000 km(Omsk-Plesetsk).
Falcon 9 -3600 km(Hawthorne-Canaveral),210 km(Hawthorne-Vandenberg).
The above data shows that “Angara” wins only in the power of rocket engines, but this advantage is leveled by the difference in the initial mass. Our rocket is more powerful, but at the same time heavier and a half times and the drag is higher.A large number of structural elements complicates maintenance - the rocket pack must be assembled before launch and refilled, and this is the time and the number of employed workers. Costs add complex, and therefore more expensive construction of launch facilities. The package scheme of several modules purely geometrically loses to the monoblock scheme, which is why SpaceX immediately took up the development of the super heavy monoblock BFR, even before the successful launch of the Falcon Heavy, assembled according to the package scheme.
The simplicity of its production has a serious impact on the final price of the rocket, and here “Angara”, which is produced in four cities, unconditionally loses Falcon 9, which is created practically in one workshop. The problem is not only in transport costs. Several factories engaged in the production of one product increase the risk of delayed periods, since there is a maritime rule: “the speed of a squadron is determined by the speed of the slowest ship”.
Falcon 9 is simpler in design, lighter in weight, easier to manufacture and maintain — this is what determines its low market value. There is no magic or mythical dumping here, just a competent approach to production problems.
In such a comparison, the projected Soyuz-5 looks much more advantageous. It repeats the Zenith monoblock design and, perhaps, borrows something from Falcon 9. Although it will still have difficulties with the production of various structural elements in different cities. We will have to bear the transport costs of logistics between Khimki, Voronezh and Samara.
It was reported that with the optimization of production and high demand for “Angara” starts, the cost of a heavy version can be reduced by one and a half to two times. But since 2014 there has never been a need for it. With the high price and the absence of flight practice in the commercial market, there is no demand for the Angara, so the only way to increase its production is domestic government orders, but even here the new rocket cannot offer anything while the old ones are flying. In fact, the “Angara” demand will rise only in one case - if Russia refuses all other missiles.
The above arguments involuntarily make one wonder: how could our engineers at once make so many gross economic mistakes? But here we must bear in mind that they actually worked in the Soviet paradigm, when it was necessary to use all the existing cooperation.That is, Angara performed social tasks, providing work for Khimki, Korolev and Voronezh, and now Omsk. Ilona Mask was easier, he immediately began solving the problem from the cost of production and from “empty place”.
The future of "Angara" is now possible only as a political safety net in case of the threat of losing Baikonur. The rocket did its job - it retained rocket-building personnel in a difficult transition period, allowed to grow a new generation of designers, who now need to set urgent tasks with market potential. The real cosmic affairs of today, that the state, that commercial, will be decided by cheaper "Soyuz" and "Protons", and then "Soyuz-5".
The real Russian competitor for the Falcon 9 is the “Proton Middle”, a lightweight modification of the previously popular Proton-M on the world market. Roskosmos outlined a complete rejection of “Protons” in 2025, until that time you can create “Soyuz-5” and bring its characteristics to comparable with “Angara A5” and competitive with Falcon 9. Then you can forget about “Angara”, as they once forgot about “Buran” - an excellent engineering project that has not found any practical application.
Prepared for Forbes.ru.
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