Russian, Indonesian leaders to ink Air Launch deal
The Russian and Indonesian presidents are expected to sign an agreement this summer on implementing a $122 million aerospace project, a Russian space official said Tuesday.
Anatoly Karpov, president of the Air Launch corporation said: "An intergovernmental agreement on the Air Launch project to launch light carrier rockets from the hatch of the Ruslan heavy transit aircraft during a flight over equatorial territories is planned to be signed in June-July 2006 at the presidents` meeting."
Talks on the Ruslan (An-124-100) aircraft`s take off from the Indonesian island of Biak have been ongoing since 2003.
"We have looked round the island`s aerodrome and studied Indonesia`s industrial capacity for the production of fuel components for the carrier rocket: hydrogen and liquid oxygen," Karpov said.
The governor of Biak allowed Russia to buy 2.7 hectares of land on the island for the construction of the necessary infrastructure.
The official said that the agreement would guarantee the protection of the Russian technology.
The Air Launch project is more efficient and cheaper than launches from the earth. A carrier rocket fired from the Ruslan at the altitude of 10 kilometers (about 6,2 miles) will make it possible to put a larger payload into orbit.
According to experts, launching the Polyot carrier rocket from the Ruslan will cost an estimated $23 million, or 50% less than launching the traditional Soyuz-2 from the earth.
Four Ruslan aircraft are intended to be involved in the project.
"If the launch of the carrier rocket appears impossible, liquid oxygen will be drained from its tanks immediately, which will only enrich the atmosphere, and approximately 25 metric tons of kerosene will be pumped into the plane`s tanks," Robert Ivanov, deputy president of the corporation, said.