New Soyuz carrier rocket to be tested

The essentially new third stage engine of the Soyuz 2-1B carrier rocket, will increase its carrying capacity by more than a metric ton, Valery Abrashkin, the deputy chief of the Samara branch (Volga region) of the Progress Central Specialized Design Bureau, said on Thursday in an interview with RIA Novosti.

"Use of the essentially new engine for the rocket will make it possible to increase its carrying capacity by 1.2 metric tons in comparison with the Soyuz which is currently being used," he said. "This will be achieved because of the high specific thrust of the new engine which runs on non-polluting fuel components - kerosene and oxygen."

The first assistant to the general designer of the design bureau, Alexander Chechin, said that a test launch of the Soyuz 2-1B with the new third stage engine had been scheduled for 2006.

Mr. Abrashkin also told the interviewer that currently, the Voronezh Design Bureau of Chemical Automatics (the Central Federal District) was test igniting the new engine. "Our task is to make it work three times as long without malfunctioning, that is, for 900 seconds, instead of 300, to confirm its reliability," he said.

Before the Soyuz 2-1B can be launched, the first version of the rocket, the Soyuz 2-1A, needs to achieve positive flying statistics. The first launch of this carrier, equipped with a digital control system and modern first and second stage engines, has been scheduled for October 15, 2004 at the Plisetsk space center (North Western Federal District).

During the first test launch, the Soyuz 2-1A will put the Oblik, a Russian satellite, into orbit. "As a matter of fact, this satellite, which was built many years ago and was not launched due to financial difficulties, is only a mock-up of the payload, because its guaranteed service life has already expired," Mr. Abrashkin specified.

However, according to him, the Oblik will contain all the necessary testing equipment. "This satellite has modern vibration and temperature sensors which will monitor how the modern first and second stage engines function," he noted.

"During the first commercial launch of the new carrier in 2005, it will carry the French satellite Metop," said Mr. Abrashkin.

New STK Soyuz carrier rockets will be launched from a complex at the Kourou space center in French Guiana that Russian specialists will build, he said.

Since 1959, the Progress State Research and Industrial Rocket Space Center has designed and put into operation eight modifications of rocket carriers. These rockets have put 1,750 spacecraft into orbit.

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