Unsurprisingly the Yankee Chickenhawks at the space sites I frequent are crowing about this without troubling themselves with details and context. This is simply how negotiations are conducted over operations at Baikonur. Russia operates on the principle of 'possession is 9/10th of the law' while Kazakhstan pushes back on the remaining 1/10 with its legal system. These periodic disputes are unlikely to affect the course of Russian-Kazhak space cooperation, especially as President Tokayev remembers who saved Kazakhstan from a Western colour revolution!
The Russian/Kazakh 'Baiterek' project is finally coming to fruition, phasing out the Proton rocket with its toxic propellants (a longstanding demand of the Kazakhs) and replacing it with a new kerosene/oxygen rocket based on the Soviet Zenit, whose manufacturer ended up marooned in Ukraine who unsurprisingly ran it into the ground. The new rocket will use refurbished Zenit pads at Baikonur (Kazakhstan's contribution) and be built using the tooling left over from Proton, allowing an increase in diameter from 3.9 to 4.1m and a greater fuel load.
The 1st stage will use a new version of Zenit's RD-171 engine, at 800 tons the most powerful liquid rocket engine ever flown. The RD-180 that still launches most of the US' most valuable space assets is simply a RD-170 cut in half to deliver ~400 tons thrust. The 2nd stage uses 2 RD-0124 engines from the latest Soyuz 2-1b, while the 3rd stage is the newest derivative of the venerable 'Block D' stage developed for the Soviet lunar program. The new rocket, alternately known as Soyuz 5, Sunkar and Irtysh during its development should be ready for its first launch by the end of 2023. From Baikonur it can lift a 5 ton satellite to geostationary transfer orbit, or 16 tons to low earth orbit (perfect for Russia's new 'Federation' crewed spacecraft). Kazakhstan is unlikely to let the opportunity to participate go to waste over some minor contract dispute,
In other space news, China has given us a sneak peak at their new moon lander (scroll down to the comments for photos and a whole lot of American snark). Like the Soviet lander it uses a 'lunar crasher' stage like the Blok D to brake the lander into lunar orbit that then fires again to bring the lander to just above the surface, where the stage is cast off to crash into the moon while the lander's own engines lower it to a soft landing. If a few liters of jet fuel can make a mess of a US drone, imagine what one of these could do to a US moonbase! Heads!
Posted by: S.P. Korolev | Mar 17 2023 1:58 utc | 65