Roskosmos has announced plans to create a new launch vehicle, which will be named “Amur”. It will use a still undeveloped methane engine. But what is especially remarkable is that it will be the first Russian rocket with a reusable stage. According to Roscosmos, Amur will be able to lift up to 10.5 tons of cargo into low orbit, and one launch will cost only $ 22 million.
The first impression that Cupid’s sketches make is an amazing resemblance to a scaled-down version of SpaceX Falcon 9, which has twice the payload. A special similarity is given by the fairing in the upper part of the rocket, which is wider than its central segment. The Falcon 9 has a diameter of 5.2 m, while the Amur has 4.1 m. Both missiles have lattice stabilizers at the top of the first stage and landing struts at the base. Instead of nine main engines, like the Falcon 9, Amur will use five well-proven RD-169 engines.
The first stage of the Falcon 9 is designed to return to the launch pad or land on an offshore drone platform. Amur will be launched from the Vostochny cosmodrome and will most likely land on a special platform that will be built in the Okhotsk Sea region. At the moment, Roskosmos does not plan to launch a rocket on the water due to extremely unstable weather conditions in this region. According to the space agency, the cost of developing the Amur should not exceed $ 900 million. The first stage of the rocket will be designed for 10 launches in the initial test phase. By comparison, SpaceX plans to send the reusable first stage of the Falcon 9 on its tenth flight in 2021.
Even according to the optimistic forecasts of Roscosmos, Amur will be ready for flights no earlier than 2026. This is a long time frame for the rocket industry, and it is now very difficult to say what the market for orbital launches will look like by then. If the project of the SLS launch system from the same SpaceX is crowned with success, then by 2026 it will have a finished rocket that is capable of lifting 10 times more cargo into orbit than Amur, for the same, or even less price.