Encyclopedia Astronautica
RLA



rla120.jpg
RLA-120
Credit: © Mark Wade
The RLA (Rocket Flight Apparatus) family of modular, lox/kerosene powered vehicles were designed by Glushko in 1974 to meet the Soviet military's third-generation space launch requirements. The approach was rejected by 1976 in favor of the Zenit/Energia family using both lox/kerosene amd lox/hydrogen stages.

Glushko, new head of NPO Energia, briefed his new launch vehicle family to the VPK Military Industrial Commission on 13 August 1974. These met the requirements of the Ministry of Defense as described in 1973 in Plan Poisk and would replace the failed N1 and all existing launch vehicles. As required by the Ministry of Defense, they used only non-toxic, inexpensive Lox/Kerosene propellants; the various launch vehicles were modular, and used common engines and rocket bodies. The basic engine would be a four-chamber design with a vacuum thrust of 1,200,000 kgf. The modules had a gross mass of about 800 metric tons each, were six meters in diameter and about thirty meters long.

The new design family was called RLA - Rocket Flight Apparatus.

The RLA-120 was the smallest member, with a gross lift-off mass of 980 metric tons, using a single module with a 150 metric ton upper stage, payload 30 metric tons. First flight was to be in 1979, with POS modules to be assembled in orbit in the 1980-1981 period.

The RLA cluster method would allow the modules to be built in the factory and thoroughly tested individually without risking the entire launch vehicle. Total cost of the development program was put at 12.5 billion rubles.

The members of the VPK met the proposal with considerable skepticism. The final decision was that the plan had to be reworked. Brezhnev, Keldysh, and Ustinov would insist in the reformulation that the Lox/LH2 technology and capabilities of the US space shuttle had to be duplicated. The end result would be smaller Zenit and Energia launch vehicles and Buran space shuttle, with which neither the military or the Soviet engineering community was happy.

More... - Chronology...


Associated Launch Vehicles
  • RLA Russian heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. The RLA (Rocket Flight Apparatus) family of modular, lox/kerosene powered vehicles were designed by Glushko in 1974 to meet the Soviet military's third-generation space launch requirements. The approach was rejected by 1976 in favor of the Zenit/Energia family using both lox/kerosene amd lox/hydrogen stages. More...
  • RLA-150 Russian heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Super-booster concept with a payload to low earth orbit of 250 metric tons using six modules as the first stage and the RLA-120 core. Glushko proposed that the booster could launch a Soviet manned Mars landing by 1983. The government rejected the RLA concept, but it did lead to the Energia booster of the 1980's. More...
  • RLA-120 Russian heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Medium booster concept with a payload to low earth orbit of 30 metric tons using the RLA-120 core and a 150 metric ton upper stage. Glushko proposed that the RLA-120 would boost reconnaissance satellites and modules of his POS Permanent Orbital Station into a sun synchronous orbit beginning in 1979. The government rejected the RLA concept, but this design led directly to the successful Zenit-2 booster. More...
  • RLA-135 Russian heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. Heavyweight booster concept with a payload to low earth orbit of 100 metric tons using two modules as the first stage and the RLA-120 core. Glushko proposed that the booster could launch a Soviet manned lunar landing by 1981. The government rejected the RLA concept, but it did lead to the Zenit-2 and Energia boosters of the 1980's. More...

RLA Chronology


1974 August 1 - . LV Family: Energia; RLA.
  • New heavy-lift vehicle - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Mishin; Glushko; Ustinov; Keldysh; Brezhnev. Spacecraft: Buran. Glushko's first action was to implement a decision of the leadership to develop a completely new heavy-lift launch vehicle. This work started in 1974, with a planned first flight in 1984, at a total estimated cost of 5 to 6 billion roubles. One factor in the decision was the fact that Keldysh was greatly disturbed by the manoeuvrability of the space shuttle. He talked the matter up until he managed to get Ustinov and Brezhnev worked as well. He told them a US shuttle could manoeuvre around Soviet PVO and PKO anti-missile and satellite defences and deliver a 25 tonne nuclear bomb of greater than 25 megatons force directly on Moscow.

    Keldysh was convinced that the US planned to use the shuttle for a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Russia. Therefore the USSR needed an analogous capability to maintain the strategic balance. While this discussion was going on, the energies of TsKBEM were completely absorbed in the Apollo-Soyuz program, on which the prestige of the Soviet Union depended. Additional Details: here....


1974 August 13 - . LV Family: RLA. Launch Vehicle: RLA.
  • Glushko briefed his new RLA launch vehicle family to the VPK Military Industrial Commission - . Nation: USSR. These RLA - Rocket Flight Apparatus - met the requirements of the Ministry of Defence as described in 1973 in Plan Poisk and would replace the failed N1 and all existing launch vehicles. As required by the Ministry of Defence, they used only Lox/Kerosene propellants; the various launch vehicles were modular, and used common engines and rocket bodies. The members of the VPK met the proposal with considerable scepticism. The final decision was that the plan had to be reworked. Additional Details: here....

1974 August 31 - . LV Family: Energia; RLA.
  • Competitive bidding for new vehicle - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Glushko. Summary: Glushko proposed obtaining competitive bids for the launch complexes and booster subsystems for new boosters developed by OKB-1, dropping the traditional OKB-1 subcontractors..

1975 January 1 - . LV Family: N1; RLA.
  • Vulkan Lunar Base - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Mishin; Barmin; Glushko; Bushuyev. Program: Lunar L3. Spacecraft: LZhM; LZM; Lunokhod LEK; LEK. Mishin and Barmin, using budget provided by the Ministry of Defence, had designed a lunar base for launch by the N1 in 1969-1974. After the cancellation of the N1, Glushko pleaded with the Military-Industrial Commission for the work to be taken from Barmin and be given to NPO Energia. Glushko's alternative, Vulkan-launched base was elaborated within his bureau. Bushuyev developed spacecraft for the base. Prudnikova developed a modular lunar city, with living modules, factory modules, a nuclear reactor power module, and a lunar crawler with a 200 km radius of action. The project work was only finally cancelled after the Apollo-Soyuz flights.

1975 January 1 - . LV Family: Energia; RLA.
  • Vulkan Mars Expedition - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Glushko. Glushko proposed a Mars expedition launched by the Vulkan heavy-lift launch vehicle. The concept was treated like a bad allergy by the VPK. He later scaled it down and proposed it for launch by Energia (using 100 tonne modules instead of 230 tonne modules).

1978 January 1 - . LV Family: Energia; RLA.
  • Vulkan Lunar Base rejected - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Keldysh; Glushko. Spacecraft: LZhM; LZM; Lunokhod LEK; LEK. An expert commission led by Keldysh examines the plan for a lunar base launched by the Vulkan booster. The plan is completely rejected. NPO Energia was told to quit dreaming and devote itself only to projects with national economic importance, like Buran. This put a definitive end to Glushko's lunar base projects studied in 1976-1978. But he just waited and started design work again on a lunar base using the Energia launch vehicle after the first Buran launch in 1988.

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