Russia Moves to Rival Elon Musk’s SpaceX with Own Reusable Rocket

Russia’s advanced technology fund is creating a reusable space rocket in an effort to maintain up with the likes of Elon Musk and his SpaceX program, RIA news agency reported.

The head of the project group of the Foundation for Advanced Studies (FPI) Boris Satovsky told the news agency the first tests of the reusable rocket are planned for 2022.

The system is designed to output a payload of up to 600 kilograms to orbit and, according to preliminary calculations, its launch cost will be one and a half to two times lower than that of conventional rockets of this class. Each controllable unit is designed for 50 flights without replacing marching engines operating on cryogenic fuel.

Though Russia’s new reusable rocket has not yet been named, a description of the design was included in a press release from the FPI, Russia’s version of the American DARPA research agency.

The Russian space agency’s approach to reusable rockets that fly back to earth differs greatly from techniques demonstrated in recent years by Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. Both firms design rockets to land vertically with their engines.

FPI’s rocket is being developed in partnership with the Roscosmos space agency and one of Russia’s largest defense contractors, the United Aircraft Corporation.

Russia was working on reusable rockets in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But by the end of the decade project Baikal was scrapped when the government decided not to fund it.