MOSCOW, January 28 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s Roscosmos space agency is to seek government approval to build the world’s largest rocket, its head said Tuesday.
“I think that in the near future, within a month, we will make our suggestions to the Military-Industrial Commission,” Oleg Ostapenko said at an annual space conference in Moscow.
Ostapenko, who was appointed head of the agency in October, said the planned launcher would be able to lift 80 metric tons into low Earth orbit.
It could also be upgraded to launch as much as 160 tons, which would be the heaviest payload every lifted by a single rocket into space.
The current record holder, NASA’s Saturn V rocket that was used to launch Apollo astronauts on their journey to the moon, had a maximum capability of 120 metric tons.
Roscosmos formed a working group last year to evaluate proposals for a heavy-lift rocket, including the revival of the Energia launcher, the highest payload rocket ever built in the country.
The Energia, developed in the Soviet Union and launched twice, was cancelled during the economic crisis twenty years ago.
Experts consider such large rockets to be necessary for manned Mars or deep space missions, although they are likely to be uneconomical for commercial payloads that can be launched on existing rockets.
NASA is currently building a new super-heavy rocket, the Space Launch System, that will also come in two variants capable of lifting 70 and 130 tons into orbit. The first test flight of the smaller version is scheduled for 2017.
Russia’s largest existing rocket, the Proton, can launch payloads of up to 20 tons. The modular Angara rocket is also under development and comes in several versions, the largest of which is planned to send up to 40 tons into orbit.
China is reportedly considering construction of its own super-heavy rocket, the Long March 9, for a manned lunar mission.