Angara A5 Russian heavy-lift rocket

IPM- 2 | Angara A5/Briz-M

Launch Window/Lift Off Time
(Subject to change)
December 14th, 2020 05:50 UTC
Mission Name
IPM-2 (dummy payload / mass simulator)
Launch Provider
(What rocket company is launching it?)
Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, Mirny, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia
(Who’s paying for this?)
Russian Space Forces (VKS)
Angara A5/Briz-M
Launch Location
LC-35/1, Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia
Payload mass
~2,040 kg (~4,500 lbs)
Where is the satellite going?
Near Geostationary Earth orbit (GEO), based on previous similar launches
Will they be attempting to recover the first stage?
No, this is not a capability for the Angara rocket.
Where will the first stage land?
It will crash into the Kara / Barents Sea, north of Russia
Will they be attempting to recover the fairings?
No, this is not a capability for the Angara rocket.
Are these fairings new?
How’s the weather looking?
This will be the:
– 103rd launch of a Briz (M) upper stage, ever
– 2nd launch of a Briz (M) upper stage on an Angara rocket
– 3rd launch of an Angara rocket regardless of upper stage

– 2nd launch of the Angara V rocket, ever
– 15th launch from Russia in 2020
Where to watch
Official livestream (if available)

What does all this mean?

A Russian Angara rocket will launch the evaluation payload IPM-2 (possibly a “boiler plate”) to geostationary orbit. This will be only the 2nd flight of an Angara A5 rocket! Angara is set to replace several older rocket families such as Proton.

IPM-2 – The Payload

The payload on this flight is referred to by a code name, IPM-2. This is a mass simulator for a geostationary satellite. Its sole purpose is to help test the Briz-M upper stage.

The previous Angara A5/Briz-M flew a similar payload, then called IPM.

Mass simulators may be simple blocks of concrete, steel, or water where the shape is not important. Alternatively, they may be so-called “boilerplate” test articles that match the general shape of the eventual spacecraft. This can be done to test aerodynamic behaviour, for example.

Example of boilerplate (Gemini capsule)
Boilerplate version of Gemini spacecraft on display at Air Force Space and Missile Museum, Cape Canaveral Florida. (Public domain image)

Angara A5

The Angara rocket family was created in 1992 and is an entirely Russian launch vehicle. Previous Russian launch vehicles have used parts or equipment from other former Soviet Union countries. It is designed to replace the venerable Proton vehicle.

In particular, the Soyuz rocket has mainly launched from Kazakhstan, which is now a separate sovereign country. (We are used to hearing about launches from Baikonur, but we perhaps forget that Baikonur is not in Russia.) The automatic docking module, KURS, used for Soyuz and Progress was developed by Ukraine.

Angara A5 is a heavy lift launch vehicle with a 3.6 meter central stage. It has a payload capacity of ~25 metric tons to 200 km Low Earth Orbit. Using the Briz-M third stage, it can deliver 5.4 tons to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO). If using the KVTK future upper stage, it could deliver up to 7.5 tons to GTO.

Previous Angara A5 launch
The Russian Angara A5 rocket could eventually replace the Russian workhorse, the Proton, due to a higher reliability and the use of more environmentally friendly fuel. (Credit: Russian Ministry of Defense)

Angara Side boosters

The rocket is initially aided by four URM-1 strap-on boosters. URM stands for “Universal Rocket Module.” Each of these has one RD-191 engine. This engine has only one combustion chamber and exhaust nozzle, unlike several other engines operated by Russia.

Although developed for the Angara rocket, the RD-191 will also be used in the future with Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket. It is an upgrade from the pre-existing RD-181. It has also been modified under the name RD-151 for use on South Korea’s KSLV-1 rocket.

The side boosters are powered by kerosene fuel and liquid oxygen. The kerosene is in the lower tank, with the liquid oxygen in the upper tank.

The RD-191’s specific impulse (ISP) is 311 seconds. Its burn time on the side boosters is 214 seconds.

Second (center) stage (ignited at time of launch)

The second stage consists of one URM-1 core. It naturally has a single RD-191 engine as with the side boosters. This is throttled down to only 30% of full thrust after lift-off.

Again, the propellant is kerosene and liquid oxygen. The engine of course has the same efficiency (ISP) of 311 seconds. Due to different propellant tank size, however, the burn time is increased to 325 seconds.

Mock-up of Angara rocket
A mock-up of the Angara carrier rocket at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. Credit: Mikhail Japaridze/TASS.)

Third stage

The third stage is known as URM-2 (again for Universal Rocket Module) and is 3.6 m wide and 6.9 m long. It has a single RD-0124A engine to propel it. This engine has four combustion chambers and exhaust nozzles, but only one power-pack.

RD-0124 motor at Salon-du-Bourget 2013. Credit: Pline

The propellants are again kerosene and liquid oxygen. The engine’s ISP is an impressive 359 seconds. It fires for 424 seconds on this stage.

Angara rocket - exploded view
Various components of the Angara A5 (Credit: Russian Space Web)

Angara Fourth stage (optional)

The fourth stage is one from either the Briz-M or the KVTK, as explained below:

Briz-M (used on this mission)

The Briz-M is a “space tug” that was designed to be the fourth stage of the Russian Proton rocket. Proton has been a steady workhorse for Russian satellite launches for many years. Previous incarnations of Briz also flew on the “Rockot” launcher.

The stage features a single pump-fed S5.98M engine. This engine may have to operate in harsh thermal conditions for prolonged times. It has a thermal cover that can protect its exhaust nozzle.

This engine, unlike the others on the rocket, uses hypergolic propellants. (That is, propellant that does not require an ignition source. They combust spontaneously on interaction with each other.) The fuel is Unsymmetrical Di-Methyl Hydrazine (UDMH). The oxidiser is Nitrogen Tetroxide (N2O4).

The efficiency, or specific impulse, of this engine is 326 seconds. The burn time is an incredible 3,000 seconds.

KVTK (still in development)

For now, the KVTK stage has not flown yet. Its design is for “Big Things” however. Russian engineers designed this module with the aim of reaching the Moon eventually!

As of the current time, the stage features a single RD-0146D engine. But going forward, an upgraded KVTK may feature two RD-0146D engines. Such an upgraded stage may work on crewed vehicles, and to send lunar landers out to the Moon.

The RD-0146D engine uses liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOx). This gives it an incredible efficiency of 463 seconds. Its burn time can be up to 1,350 seconds.

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