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posted by janrinok on Wednesday January 19, @08:21AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

After six decades, Russia will build its final Proton rocket this year:

Russia's main space corporation, Roscosmos, said it is in the process of building four more Proton rockets before it shuts down production of the venerable booster.

In a news release, Roscosmos said the four rockets are on an assembly line at the Khrunichev State Space Research and Design Center's factory in Moscow's Fili district. After their production is complete, these four rockets will be added to its present inventory of 10 flight-ready Proton-M rockets. (The news release was translated for Ars by Rob Mitchell.)

Russia said it plans to launch these remaining 14 Proton rockets over the next four or five years. During this time frame Russia plans to transition payloads, such as military communications satellites, that would have launched on the Proton booster to the new Angara-A5 rocket.

The final flight of the Proton rocket will bring an end to a long-running era. The first Proton rocket launched in 1965, nearly 57 years ago, amid the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States. Variants of the Proton rocket have launched 426 times, with about a 10 percent failure rate.

Notably, the Proton rocket has launched elements of four separate space stations—Salyut 6, Salyut 7, Mir, and the International Space Station. But the rocket, with a lift capacity of 23.7 metric tons to low Earth orbit, had come under increasing competition for commercial launches. As a result, whereas the Proton booster once launched 10 or 12 times a year, the flight rate has fallen to three or fewer missions a year since 2015.

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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, @01:28PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, @01:28PM (#1213830)

    Proton is the oldest rocket currently in service. Even the vintage Long March 2 is newer.

  • (Score: 2) by crafoo on Wednesday January 19, @01:35PM (3 children)

    by crafoo (6639) on Wednesday January 19, @01:35PM (#1213833)

    It's a good time to give thanks to the German and Russian people for giving the gift of spaceflight to the world.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, @02:47PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, @02:47PM (#1213846)

      The Russians jumpstarted their rocket program using German scientists seized from the same working groups as the Americans.

      So let us thank the REAL source of the rocketry innovators: Nazi Germany.
      The world thanks Adolph Hitler for his gift of bringing spaceflight to the world. Without his focused ballistic missile -- ahem, rocketry -- program, we would not be where were are today.


      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday January 19, @03:12PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 19, @03:12PM (#1213853) Journal
        Let us not forget the slave laborers [], I read that most were Soviet and Polish with a bit of other nationalities like Hungarian, German, and French.

        three hundred skilled Hungarian Jewish SS prisoners were transferred from the Volkswagen company, which ultimately lost the V-1 lead contractor role to Mittelwerk GmbH in October. Earlier in the summer, Dora got one thousand other Hungarian Jews from Auschwitz via Buchenwald, but these Jews were employed primarily in the worst construction jobs in Dora, Harzungen, and Ellrich.

        On November 1, the SS counted 32,471 prisoners in the system, of which 13,738 were in the main camp still informally known as Dora; over half were Soviet and Polish.

        The camp population in these months was all-male and non-Jewish; the predominant prisoner groups in order of size were Soviet, Polish, French, German, Belgian, and Italian.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, @06:00PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, @06:00PM (#1213889)

      Or, to quote von Braun, "Why are you asking me? You've got Goddard," to which the Americans replied, "Who?"

  • (Score: 2) by Rich on Wednesday January 19, @10:29PM (3 children)

    by Rich (945) on Wednesday January 19, @10:29PM (#1213971) Journal

    Proton is the last large rocket in common use that uses N2O4/UDMH fuels. That's neat if you want to keep your fueled rockets on standby. For example, because you're not sure when to launch that warhead on top of it. Otherwise it's rather nasty stuff, and you don't want to deal with it, or deal with upset people downrange who don't want to deal with it. It's also likely way more expensive than the diesel fuel and oxygen that most other rockets use today. Good riddance.

    I'm somewhat astonished that the Russians kept that in service for so long. Maybe they couldn't get an alternative as heavy launcher. The Energia rocket might have been too heavy (100t LEO vs Proton 23t) to be economical, or there was in-fighting between OKB-23 (Khrunichev) and OKB-1 (Korolev Energia) and/or the latter were hindered in coming up with something decent and modern.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, @10:36PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, @10:36PM (#1213973)

      Rocket fuel is not diesel. It is kerosene. []

      • (Score: 2) by Rich on Thursday January 20, @11:20AM

        by Rich (945) on Thursday January 20, @11:20AM (#1214120) Journal

        The Russians would use T-1/RG-1, but all that stuff (also including Jet A1) is centered around C12 alkanes, like diesel. The Me 262 went into battle on diesel fuel. It's just that the rocket grade fuels are refined to a narrower band of contents to keep things tidy. A diesel car would run well on RP-1 and even end up with cleaner engine internals. It's essentially the same refinery process, just with a bit more effort for the higher grades - as opposed to the expensive full chemical factory fabrication needs of hydrazine-variants. The Russians also have a fully synthetic high-energy hydrocarbon fuel (Syntin), but that again is much more expensive that just cooking off crude oil.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @06:36PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @06:36PM (#1214263)

      Long March 2, 3, and 4 series rockets use the same toxic fuel. Of the 48 Long March launches last year, 39 were of those types and only 9 were the newer kerosene rockets.