Russia wants to build its own reusable rocket, Roscosmos chief says

SpaceX has revolutionized the space industry by perfecting its rockets with reusable first stages, making space launches potentially more affordable and more sustainable. Europe has already announced its intentions to jump on the reusable rocket bandwagon with plans to make its own reusable rocket engine, and now Russia has announced its intention to create a reusable rocket as well.

As reported by AFP via phys.org, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, recently shared plans about the agency’s future plans for rockets. “We are making a methane rocket to replace the Soyuz-2,” he said in an interview. The agency intends for the first stage of the new rocket to be reusable for at least 100 launches.

“Of course we are looking at what our American colleagues are doing,” Rogozin said. “But our engineers are trying to take a shortcut — not to repeat what our SpaceX colleagues are doing but surpass them.”

Soyuz MS-16 lifts off
A Russian Soyuz MS-16 lifts off from Site 31 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Thursday, April 9, 2020, sending Expedition 63 crewmembers Chris Cassidy of NASA and Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos into orbit for a six-hour flight to the International Space Station and the start of a six-and-a-half month mission. NASA/GCTC/Andrey Shelepin

Prior to the recent successful crewed test flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, NASA had been reliant on Russian Soyuz rockets to carry its astronauts into space for stays at the International Space Station. Each launch was a considerable cost to NASA of $80 million per seat on the rocket. With the Crew Dragon, NASA now has a U.S.-based option for launching astronauts, and Russia is therefore trying to keep up with new developments in rockets.

Rogozin suggested that the landing of the SpaceX Crew Dragon could be improved, as it has to land in water rather than on land. A Russian-designed reusable rocket may attempt to one-up SpaceX by allowing a ground landing.

He also announced that he wishes Roscosmos to perform a return mission to Venus, following in the footsteps on the Venera probes which were launched into orbit or fly by the planet between the 1960s and the 1980s, including some which succeeded in landing on the planet’s surface. Given the planet’s similarities to Earth, it could provide a valuable model for understanding climate change. “I believe that Venus is more interesting than Mars,” Rogozin said.

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