Tsar Engine: is the RD-171MV the most powerful in the world?

Tsar Engine is exactly what a number of media call the promising Russian liquid-propellant rocket engine, a video about which was recently presented at Roscosmos. The analogy with “Tsar Cannon” and “Tsar Tank” is rather strange, considering that neither one nor the other showed himself in any way for its intended purpose. That is, in battle. And any rocket engine after all is a purely utilitarian product that is unlikely to become a monument to the human mind or, conversely, stupidity (although figuratively speaking, it is possible both of these).




By the way, the space department chose a rather strange musical series, so it’s not so easy to watch the video to the end. But if you remove the annoying melody, then by the standards of Roscosmos - a completely high-quality media product. Here is a good animation, and a demonstration of production processes, and comments by designers. Alas, this is not enough for a real revolution in the field of engine building.

Project Details

Let's start with the most important. RD-171MV should be at the forefront of the concept of the promising Irtysh rocket, which was previously known under the somewhat strange name Soyuz-5. Why weird? The fact is that the new missile will not be directly related to the Soviet "Union". Rather, it is the modern reincarnation of Zenith, where some technical solutions of the previously closed Rus project will also be embodied. Irtysh itself is, without exaggeration, the main hope of the Russian space industry. And potentially the main Russian carrier rocket of the future, for at least another 50 years. This, of course, provided that it is created.

It is already known that in addition to using the Irtysh in the first stage, the RD-171MV engine also intends to use the first stage of the promising Russian Yenisei rocket, which is seen as an instrument of conquering the Moon in the future. In Russia. In America, landing on the moon will be carried out with the help of other carriers: so far, the States are not eager to include Russia in a new lunar orbital project.

Roughly speaking, the RD-171MV is the basis of the entire Russian cosmonautics of the future. Unfortunately, there is nothing revolutionary in the broad sense of the word. We will analyze in order. Perhaps the first thing to talk about is “heredity”. The RD-171MV engine is the next version of the Soviet RD-170, which began working on it in 1976. It was created for the Energy rocket, which was to become part of the Energy-Buran complex. Quite simply, the engine was supposed to launch a Soviet shuttle in space - an analogue of the American shuttle. The collapse of the USSR was buried by the ship itself and a huge rocket. But the engine not only survived them, but also spawned a whole family of different products, one of which, RD-180, is still used by Americans at the first stage of their Atlas V rocket, although they no longer plan to purchase Russian products in the future (as it will actually be - time will tell).

RD-171MV itself, like its distant ancestor, is a closed-cycle liquid rocket engine. It has four combustion chambers, and uses a pair of oxygen-kerosene. As of 2019, this is not a “tragedy”, but in the near future there will be new engines that focus on the potentially more successful in almost every sense fuel pair liquefied natural gas / liquid oxygen. The brightest representative is the promising Spacetor Raptor. One can also recall the BE-4 from Blue Origin, which they want to install immediately on two promising American reusable missiles: Vulcan and New Glenn.


Compare?

Let us return to the thesis that the RD-171MV series in Roscosmos is the most powerful among the existing rocket engines. Is it so? On the official channel of the department, they directly state: “the most powerful in the world - 246 thousand horsepower. With a mass of 10 tons, engine thrust will exceed 800 tons. ” And further: "a turbopump unit develops a capacity of 180 thousand kilowatts, which corresponds to the capacity of three nuclear power plants of the largest icebreakers." “The RD-171MV engine will indeed be the most powerful in the world,” said Igor Arbuzov, Director General of NPO Energomash.

Dry characteristics look like this:

- Weight: 10 kg;
- Height: 4 150 mm;
- Diameter: 3 mm.

Is it a lot or a little? It depends on what you compare it to. The Merlin 1D + rocket engine for Falcon 9 FT and Falcon Heavy missiles has a draft at sea level of 845 kilonewtons or 94.981778 ton-forces. It would seem that the superiority is huge. But do not forget that the "Merlin" has a mass of less than 500 kilograms. That is, he is in a completely different weight category. The low mass allows the installation of 27 “Merlin” on the Falcon Heavy, so the “collective engine” of this rocket is much more powerful than the one that will be on the Soyuz-5. Now, recall, Falcon Heavy is generally the most powerful of all existing launch vehicles.

But these are all conventions. Another thing is more important. If we talk about the dry power of one product, as such, then the leader here is the Solid Rocket Booster engine, which was used for shuttles, and now will be used for the new American super-heavy rocket Space Launch System. One such accelerator has a starting thrust (at sea level) of about 12,45 meganewtons or, in other words, 12450 kN.


In other words, Rogozin’s department was mistaken in calling the RD-171MV the most powerful. RD-170 and its modifications are still very efficient rocket engines and are deservedly among the best. However, due to age, it is objectively difficult for them to claim any world-wide records. Purely conditionally, the RD-171MV can be called the “most powerful liquid-propellant rocket engine,” but for some reason Roscosmos did not begin to make such clarifications. Probably, it didn’t look so beautiful from the outside.


On a new engine - into a "fabulous" future

In conclusion, I would like to note that the best option for Russia would be to study new areas of engine building. Instead of mega-projects such as Don and Yenisei missiles, one could focus on the development of a fundamentally new methane engine, especially since one of such developments is already being carried out in the country. “The engine is called RD-169. This is actually a new engine, created on the basis of the knowledge that we have formed since the beginning of the 2000s, ”said Igor Arbuzov, mentioned above, last year. Moreover, according to him, other countries have already shown interest in the development. “Our Chinese colleagues are very interested in the joint development of a methane engine. We are considering such an option as the possibility of attracting additional investment in the creation of a methane engine, followed by, as an option, a license agreement for its production in China, ”the specialist added.

But work in new directions does not always imply loud slogans. But it’s very nice to say “we already have the most powerful engine in the world”, instead of saying something like “we will try to catch up with Blue Origin and SpaceX”. To pay for such shortsightedness with the prestige of the country will have in the future.
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  • Photos used: https://www.idnes.cz
9 comments
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  1. Locksmith Offline Locksmith
    Locksmith (Sergei) 31 March 2019 11: 07
    +2
    The author likes to juggle without argument. negative This engine has an AI almost at the limit, unlike the same Merlin, and a very high mass perfection, you should not forget about this. Methane engines have only slightly better PI, but their complexity is not inferior to hydrogen engines. So is it worth surrounding the car for this? laughing Especially because of the environmental contribution, “kerosene” and methane are the same.
    And the complexity of the tanks for methane, compared with kerosene ??!
  2. schura.kilka Offline schura.kilka
    schura.kilka (Alexander Rybakov) 31 March 2019 12: 42
    0
    We all learned a little, something and somehow.

    Pushkin
  3. mister-red Offline mister-red
    mister-red 31 March 2019 12: 59
    0
    A couple of points that the author should have worked through.
    1. Solid Rocket Booster - even in the name it is indicated that this is an accelerator and it is somehow not entirely correct to compare it with conventional engines.
    2. Merlin 1D + has a traction at sea level of 85 tons, totaling 9 pieces together - 760 tons. More than RD-171, but less than RD-171MB
    Where did the traction come from 95tf not in the know, maybe the author will give a link. Perhaps he confused with the version of Merlin 1D Vacuum +, but this is the engine for the second stage.
    3. The thrust-to-weight ratio of the engine (the ratio of thrust to mass) causes euphoria in some people (I used to have it), but serious experts point out that this is not entirely true. It is enough to compare with the starting mass of the rocket as a whole.
    4. Methane engines have no particular advantage, but are more expensive and more complicated. The topic arose most quickly with reusability, because methane does not fade and after use the engine does not need to be cleaned of soot.
    And by the way, one of the engines being developed in the USA is now working on kerosene.
    5. The only thing true in this article is that the RD-171MB is not a new engine, but the modernization of the Soviet still in the 70s. So the design is very successful, and the best is always the enemy of the good.
    Well, with the last paragraph, I completely agree.
    1. Locksmith Offline Locksmith
      Locksmith (Sergei) 31 March 2019 16: 54
      0
      Quote: mister-red
      Merlin 1D + has a traction at sea level of 85 tons, totaling 9 pcs together - 760 tons. More than RD-171, but less than RD-171MB

      I would like to add: in addition to the weight, 9 engines must be added, 9 fastening farms and 18 bellows supplying fuel + valves on each, sensors, etc. Obviously the weight will not be so ceremonial laughing
    2. Legate Offline Legate
      Legate (Ilya) April 1 2019 19: 44
      +1
      SW mister-red is wrong in a number of ways. Parse in order.

      1. Solid Rocket Booster is really an accelerator. By functional purpose. In mechanics, this is a common turbojet engine.

      "Solid-fuel rocket boosters (SRBs) are large solid propellant motors" (c) Encyclopedia.

      2. I did not cite Falcon 9 as an example, but the Falcon Heavy collective engine, where there are more than 20 Merlins, which, of course, are more powerful than the RD-171MV.

      3. You write: "Where did the traction come from 95tf." The Merlin 1D has a thrust of 845 kilonewtons or 94.981778 kW Everything seems to be right with me. About the "Vacuum" I did not say.

      4. Your personal opinion. You have the right.
      1. Skazka Offline Skazka
        Skazka (Marina) 18 May 2020 15: 37
        +1
        Quote: Legate
        SW mister-red is wrong in a number of ways. Parse in order.
        2. I did not cite Falcon 9 as an example, but the Falcon Heavy collective engine, where there are more than 20 Merlins, which, of course, are more powerful than the RD-171MV.
        4. Your personal opinion. You have the right.

        RD-171M has a mass of 10300 kg, a thrust of 7904 kN, is in operation, Merlin 1C, which is in operation, has a mass of 500 kg, a thrust of 354 kN (Falcon 1, since Falcon Heavy is not in operation), we get 20 with a thrust of 354 kN, this is 7080 kN, it turns out the RD-171M is more powerful. The Merlin 1D + engine with a thrust of 934 kN is only a project and is not used (Falcon Heavy project).
  4. Pacifist Offline Pacifist
    Pacifist (Victor) April 1 2019 08: 08
    0
    Solid Rocket Booster is a variant of powder bombs from China of the era of emperors. It is technically incorrect to compare it with products that are at the limit of technological excellence. It is not possible to control the operation parameters of the booster. In addition, when creating the RD-170MV engine, it was a question of the possibility of its reusable use, with a booster this is basically impossible, so the author’s argument is more than doubtful.
    In addition, a comparison of Falcon Heavy with 27 Merlin and Soyuz-5, in general a masterpiece of journalistic distortion.
  5. Sergey Latyshev Offline Sergey Latyshev
    Sergey Latyshev (Serge) April 1 2019 10: 01
    0
    Alas, everything that they tried to call themselves "KING -...." proved to be bad.
    Tsar tank, Tsar bell, cannon, bomb, plane, ....

    History teaches nothing to woeful bouncers on salaries ...
    1. Galar Offline Galar
      Galar (Timur) April 1 2019 21: 48
      +1
      Quote: Sergey Latyshev
      Alas, everything that they tried to call themselves "KING -...." proved to be bad.
      Tsar tank, Tsar bell, cannon, bomb, plane, ....

      History teaches nothing to woeful bouncers on salaries ...

      Drive the snowstorm. RD-170 is already 40 years in operation and always works reliably. This is a typical example of how stereotypes do not allow you to think correctly.
  6. Sergey Latyshev Offline Sergey Latyshev
    Sergey Latyshev (Serge) April 2 2019 10: 31
    0
    Quote: Galar
    Quote: Sergey Latyshev
    Alas, everything that they tried to call themselves "KING -...." proved to be bad.
    Tsar tank, Tsar bell, cannon, bomb, plane, ....

    History teaches nothing to woeful bouncers on salaries ...

    Drive the snowstorm. RD-170 is already 40 years in operation and always works reliably. This is a typical example of how stereotypes do not allow you to think correctly.

    So let it work ... You just need to hang the label "KING of something ..." ...
  7. Skazka Offline Skazka
    Skazka (Marina) 18 May 2020 15: 04
    +1
    Rogozin calculated everything correctly. Solid Rocket Booster dry weight 91000 kg thrust 12450 kN. RD 171M dry weight 10300 kg thrust 7904 kN. If, by analogy with the author, 27 Raptors are more powerful than one RD 171M, then there are 8 engines (corresponding to the mass of Solid Rocket Booster), respectively, RD 171M will produce 63232 kN, which is 5 times more powerful than Solid Rocket Booster. Since the Raptor engine is only a project, and the Solid Rocket Booster is weaker, the RD 171M is the best!