Big future for small launch vehicles

August 31, 2015

Developers of Taymyr microsat launch vehicle will be awarded a 5 mln grant.

The Space Technologies and Telecommunications Cluster of the Skolkovo Foundation has approved a 5 mln grant to Lin Industrial. The same amount is invested in the company by coinvestor Sergey Burkatovskiy.

Lin Industrial is developing the Taymyr family of microsat launch vehicles, capable to lift satellites up to 180 kg to LEO.

The Taymyr family of launch vehicles with various payload capabilities: Taymyr-1A launch vehicle, capable to lift 11 kg payload into LEO; Taymyr-1B (16 kg), Taymyr-5 (100 kg), Taymyr-7 (up to 180 kg).

“Worldwide demand for launching small satellites is growing, but they have to be launched by traditional launch vehicles, as a secondary payload together with a larger primary satellite. Launch deadlines and orbit are chosen for the needs of primary customer, being undesirable for many customers”, — says the company CEO Alexey Kaltushkin.

Taymyr launch vehicle will make the space affordable almost for everyone, launching into space small spacecraft at the price of an SUV — within $60,000 / kg. The lead time is up to 3 months. As the founders estimate, even with a modest market share of 1%, available to Lin Industrial (four launches per year), the company becomes break even 2,5 years after the first space launch, planned for Q1 2020. Investments, necessary to reach this point, are estimated at $8,5 mln.

“The launch vehicle is initially designed to minimize the cost of launching payload into orbit, rather than to achieve technical perfection, as it is common in state-owned enterprises since the days of the Space Race between the USSR and the USA. As a result, Taymyr will make affordable rapid launches of small satellites a reality”, — says the company CTO Alexander Ilin.

Key features of the Taymyr launch vehicle family, according to Ilin, are environmentally safe non-cryogenic propellants (HTP and kerosene), simple and cheap pressure-fed design instead of turbopumps, and innovative control system using MEMS gyroscopes, which provides required orbital insertion accuracy for a satellite, and at a cost of an order of magnitude lower than traditional control systems. All this reduces operational costs for a small satellite launch vehicle.

Sergey Burkatovskiy (VP of Game Design at Wargaming), invested in Lin Industrial in partnership with Skolkovo, under the terms of co-investment. He says he was keen on space since childhood. “After it became known that I funded the rocket development, other employees of the company have decided to join me”, — says Burkatovskiy. Before him, initial investment in Lin Industrial was made by another Wargaming employee, VP Vyacheslav Makarov. “I'm sure one can and should earn on space, because without economic basis a systematic advancement into space is impossible”, — says Burkatovskiy. — “small satellite launch market niche is empty yet. Most of the nanosats are launched either as secondary payloads, or from the ISS. At the same time, waiting period can be up to two years. It is rapidness of small satellite launches what we want to offer to the market.”

Currently, in cooperation with Department 202 of the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI), a liquid rocket engine with thrust of 100 kgf is being developed and prepared for testing. The engine is manufactured by ArtMech engineering center. The first version of the preliminary design of launch vehicle has been created, and its refinement is in progress. We have signed contracts with Russian satellite manufacturers SPUTNIX and Quazar Space, who expressed their interest in using Taymyr for launching their spacecraft. In July and August Lin Industrial have successfully accomplished two flights of a technology-demonstrator launch vehicle for testing the prototype of Taymyr flight control system.

Static tests are planned for 2015. In August 25th-30th, the project was exhibited at MAKS 2015.

The market for small satellites is growing very rapidly, tasks and satellites themselves are being changed quickly, whereas orbital lifetime is usually short. It's pretty obvious that such tasks require an adequate launch solution, both for price and deadlines. Looks like the guys have found an appropriate market niche, and while it's a big question whether they will succeed in implementing the idea, because the task is very challenging both technically and regarding approvals to be obtained, the taken route is correct”, — says Ilya Goldt, Project Manager at the Space Technologies and Telecommunications Cluster of the Skolkovo Foundation.

“Modern rocket science is bound by traditional approaches and technocratic views. The former leads to improving chances to be implemented in later projects for technical solutions, refined through numerous tests and failures — all this reduces the time for refining, but freezes the development. Within the latter approach the development is seen as a process of complication (hence becoming more expensive) for technical solutions, thus being interesting for designers and scientists, but not for customers (satellite operators in this case). Largely the rejection of traditions and “rigid” orientation on commercial launch market, where the primary measure is the price, became the basis of success for Elon Musk and his SpaceX. In my view, Lin Industrial wishes to take the same route. They want to make a rocket not in general, but a rocket, whose technical solutions are specialized to meet the demand of specific market — market of small satellite launches, having price as a key factor of success, rather than energy-mass perfection, for instance. The primary difficulty for Lin Industrial team is to meet the requirement of minimizing the costs at every stage of development and manufacturing. We wish them good luck in this difficult path!”, — says Andrey Ionin, Chief Analyst at NP GLONASS.