Russian NK-33/AJ26 engine carries the American Antares rocket into its planned orbit

This past night saw the first experimental flight of the American medium-class Antares rocket, intended to deliver freight to the International Space Station. The rocket is equipped with NK-33/AJ26 engines, developed and manufactured by the Samara Company Kuznetsov, part of Rostech subsidiary United Engine Corporation (UEC).

On the night of April 21-22, 2013, at 01:00 Moscow time, the Antares rocket’s first experimental flight reached orbit, in 600 seconds carrying a simulated cargo to a height of 250×300 km with an angle of travel of 51.6 degrees. The rocket launched from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia, USA.

The rocket’s first stage, which uses NK-33/AJ26 engines, detached as planned at a height of 113 km, having worked for 235 seconds.

The NK-33/AJ26 is a modified version of the legendary Russian NK-33 engine, which was developed more than 40 years ago for the Soviet lunar program. Work to modernise the NK-33/AJ26 has been going since the mid-1990s, at the American company Aerojet. Technical support for the adaptation of the engine for the Anatres rocket is being provided by UEC specialists.

“Today the modified version of the Russian NK-33 has found a client in the United States of America. In the near future it will also be installed on light-weight Russian rockets. Undoubtedly, the Soviet designers made a colossal contribution to technical science, which allows us, forty years later, to apply these machines to modern rockets,” said UEC General Director Vladislav Masalov. “However we strive not just to use the engines we have, but to bring production up to new levels. I am confident that our designers and engineers currently working on this subject will be able to fulfil this task.”

This launch is very significant for the American space program. In the summer of 2011 the USA folded its space shuttle program, which had been used to deliver freight and astronauts to the International Space Station. According to NASA’s plans, private corporations will take over responsibility for shuttling to the International Space Station. One of the suppliers will be Orbital Sciences, which developed the medium-class Antares rocket.

“The first launch of the Antares rocket can be considered a historical achievement in building strong international cooperation in space. We are fully prepared for further productive cooperation on the Antares rocket project, and hope that our partnership will also continue in new areas of the American space program,” said Vladislav Masalov.

In the nearest future another Antares launch is planned, this time with a real cargo. The date and time are to be announced.

Rostech is a Russian corporation founded in 2007 to facilitate the development, production, and export of high-tech industrial products for civil and military applications. Altogether, Russian Technologies encompasses 663 organizations. The corporation includes 8 holdings in the military-industrial complex, and five in civilian industry. The corporation works in 60 constituent entities of the Russian Federation and supplies products to more than 70 countries around the world. Its 2011 net profit was 45.6 billion rubles, and it paid a total of 100 billion rubles in taxes at all levels.

United Engine Corporation is a wholly-owned subsidiary of OBORONPROM. More than 85 % of the leading companies specializing in development, mass production, and aftersales servicing of gas turbine technology are integrated into UEC, as well as key companies in other selected fields. One of UEC’s priority directions is implementing comprehensive programs for developing companies by implementing new technologies that meet international standards

OBORONPROM is a multi-faceted machine-building group of companies established in 2002. It is part of the Russian Technologies group of companies. Its primary activities include helicopter building (Russian Helicopters), engine-building (UEC), and other assets.