Putin already has the instrument to build a new Russia-only space station

The large, heavy modules of the future ROSS orbital complex will travel into space on top of the heavy launcher Angara A5
De la misma altura que la Torre de Pisa, el Angara A5 en posición horizontal para su traslado hasta la rampa de despegue - PHOTO/Roscosmos
From the same height as the Tower of Pisa, the Angara A5 in a horizontal position for its transfer to the launch ramp - PHOTO/Roscosmos

Russia and its space agency, Roscosmos, have just passed a momentous milestone in the international sphere of space transportation systems, reinforcing Moscow's potential for independent access to outer space. 

 The launch of the Angara-A5 heavy rocket, the sixth Russian launcher launch of 2024, took place on Thursday 11 April at 11:00 in the English peninsula - 12:00 in Moscow - but not just any other. 

Khunichev-Roscosmos - El despegue del cohete pesado Angara-A5, sexto disparo ruso de 2024, se ha producido el 11 de abril desde  el cosmódromo de Vostochny - PHOTO/Natalia Berezhnaya-
The liftoff of the Angara-A5 heavy rocket, the sixth Russian launch of 2024, took place on 11 April from the Vostochny Cosmodrome. - PHOTO/Natalia Berezhnaya-Khunichev-Roscosmos

This is the first time that the Angara A5 has taken off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Russian Far East, in the Amur region of Siberia, an area of Germany 8,000 kilometres from Moscow and bordering China. 

This is the first validation flight of Angara A5 from the Vostochny Cosmodrome, which has served to certify its launch, storage and assembly infrastructures linked to the new launcher, work on which began in 2019. The organisation specialising in its construction is the state-owned TsENKI, whose CEO has been Ruslan Mukhamedzhanov since December 2020.

Angara A5 has previously launched three times from the Plesetsk military cosmodrome operated by the Space Forces north of Moscow.

Diseño final de la estación espacial ROSS, cuyos pesados y más grandes módulos llevará al espacio el Angara A5, instrumento clave para su construcción a partir de 2027 - PHOTO/Roscosmos
Final design of the ROSS space station, whose heavier and larger modules will be carried into space by the Angara A5, a key instrument for its construction from 2027 onwards - PHOTO/Roscosmos

It will be launched from Plesetsk and Vostochny

A 773-tonne heavy launcher, capable of placing up to 27 tonnes in low Earth orbits, the Angara A5 is set to be the key instrument for building the new manned orbital complex ROSS from 2027. 

It is President Putin's re-elected bid to demonstrate that, despite the serious erosion of its war in Ukraine, the Kremlin wants to remain a major player in outer space when the International Space Station (ISS) ends its life at the end of this decade. 

Ruslan Mukhamedzhanov, en imagen, es desde diciembre de 2020 el director general de la organización estatal TsENKI, especializada en la construcción de las infraestructuras espaciales en tierra - PHOTO/TsENKI-Roscosmos
Ruslan Mukhamedzhanov, pictured here, has been Director General of the state organisation TsENKI, which specialises in the construction of ground-based space infrastructure, since December 2020 - PHOTO/TsENKI-Roscosmos

The general director of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre, Alexei Varochko, confirmed that "the production line of the Angara A5 is located in Omsk", some 2,300 kilometres east of Moscow, and is run by the Polyot Production Association, a subsidiary of Khrunichev.

The Angara A5 is the most powerful of the so-called Angara space transportation system, a family of new-generation space launchers comprising light, medium and heavy rockets.  A super-heavy version still under development, Angara A5V, is intended to have reusable first and second propulsion stages and can accommodate payloads of up to 35-40 tonnes.

El Angara A5 en el cosmódromo de Vostochny, en la región de Amur, Siberia, situado a 8.000 kilómetros de Moscú y con frontera con China - PHOTO/TsENKI-Roscosmos
The Angara A5 at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur region of Siberia, 8,000 kilometres from Moscow and bordering China - PHOTO/TsENKI-Roscosmos

Relay for the veteran Proton, approaching its 60th birthday

Roscosmos says Angara-A5 is "environmentally friendly and does not use toxic fuel components", unlike the Proton-M, the heavy launcher also produced by Khrunichev that the new rocket "will completely replace in the near future", the Russian space agency says. The Proton-M production line was closed in 2020 and there are still around ten or so examples left to be used.

The Proton family, whose first flight dates back to July 1965, has a total of 430 flights, 382 of which were successful and 44 unsuccessful, giving it a reliability rate of 88.8%. However, the M version, in service since April 2001, has 115 flights, of which only nine have been unsuccessful, raising its success rate to 92 percent. 

El director general de Roscosmos, el general Yuri Borisov, satisfecho del éxito de Angara A5, el cohete más poderoso del nuevo sistema de transporte espacial de Rusia - PHOTO/Roscosmos
Roscosmos Director General Yuri Borisov is pleased with the success of the Angara A5, the most powerful rocket in Russia's new space transportation system - PHOTO/Roscosmos

Because of its high power and payload capacity in terms of size and weight, Proton was responsible for placing in orbit the Russian modules that made it possible to configure the Russian orbital complexes Salyut 6, Salyut 7 and Mir from the mid-1970s onwards. 

 Also the large and heavy ones of the International Space Station. From the first, the 19-tonne, 12-metre-long, four-metre-wide Zarya power and propulsion module, sent into space on 20 November 1988, to the last, the 20-tonne Nauka science laboratory, on 21 July 2021. The origin of the Proton is the UR-500 intercontinental ballistic missile, designed to deploy An602 Tsar thermonuclear bombs.  

Angara A5 releva al lanzador Protón-M, cuyo primer vuelo se remonta a julio de 1965. En imagen, su traslado en ferrocarril interior hasta su rampa de despegue en el cosmódromo de Baikonur - PHOTO/Roscosmos
Angara A5 takes over from the Proton-M launcher, whose first flight dates back to July 1965. In the picture, its transfer by indoor rail to its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome - PHOTO/Roscosmos

The Angara A5 mission has been followed from space by the Luch relay network, which since February 2016 has been providing support to Russian space systems that are positioned or flying in orbits up to 2,000 kilometres high. 

 According to Pavel Cherenkov, general director of the Gonets communications space architecture, "the Luch-5A and Luch-5B satellites have ensured high-speed communications and data exchange between the Orion upper stage of Angara 5A, the Russian segment of the International Space Station and the mission control centre in Moscow".