Russia Develops Rocket Based on 1980’s Project

After 30 years, a failed Soviet rocket project from the end of the 1980s might see new life, as Russia is planning a new super-heavy rocket based on the Energia from 1988, Popular Mechanics reports.

According to the report, although a high-profile expensive project would invigorate the troubled industry, its successful completion is far from certain, even with Russia’s extensive experience in going to space.

Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian space engineers have dreamed of rebuilding the mighty Energia—or designing an even better rocket. They came close to restarting the project in early 2014, when, in the warm afterglow of the Sochi Winter Olympics, an ambitious lunar exploration program was expected to become a new big national goal. A few weeks later, the conflict began in eastern Ukraine, which, combined with a falling ruble and Western sanctions, put the rocket dream on hold.

Russia’s state space agency Roscosmos recently began a year-long study that will consider three designs, one of them resembling the ill-fated Energia. If this new super-heavy rocket becomes reality, it would join the largest class of heavier-than-air flying machines known to humanity, on par with the famous Saturn V rocket, Roscosmos said.

The agency plans to first develop a medium-class launcher known as Soyuz-5 by 2022 using off-the-shelf engines. The next step is putting multiple booster stages from Soyuz-5 together to form a basis of the huge rocket. If everything goes as planned, the big rocket would blast off around 2028, the space agency added.

The resulting giant rocket would be able to haul 90 tons of cargo to the Earth’s orbit and send at least 20 tons into a lunar orbit. By comparison, NASA’s SLS will reportedly have a capacity of 70 tons with future upgrades planned to bump up that number to 130 tons.