Roscosmos is moving ahead with plans to build Russia’s first reusable rocket. Glancing at the design, it appears the Russian space agency doesn’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel, given the vehicle’s uncanny resemblance to the SpaceX Falcon 9.
Roscosmos signed a contract with the Progress Rocket Space Centre to sketch out a preliminary design for the Amur-SPG reusable rocket, reports Russian news agency TASS. The inaugural launch is planned for 2026, when the methane-powered rocket will take off from the Vostochny spaceport in eastern Russia. Roscomos is hoping for individual launch costs no greater than $22 million, with the total cost of developing the system at around $880 million.
As Ars Technica space reporter Eric Berger rightly pointed out in a recent tweet, the new design seems uncomfortably recognizable.
“Russia has clearly decided that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em with its new design for a reusable booster,” he wrote. “Alas, no flights until at least 2026 means it will be at least 15 years behind the Falcon 9. Russia is lucky SpaceX doesn’t innovate, hah.”
This design, even if preliminary, is clearly inspired by the first and only reusable rocket currently in existence, the SpaceX Falcon 9. In addition to borrowing SpaceX’s overarching design strategy, the reusable rocket will feature landing legs, a faring, and grid fins similar to those seen on the Falcon 9. The reusable second stage will land at predetermined landing pads in eastern Russia and be carried back to the cosmodrome, either by a heavy Mi26 transport helicopter or by rail, according to Roscosmos.
Alerted by Berger’s tweet, Elon Musk responded with words of support, but he also offered some unsolicited advice.