Russian Rockets

Great post by Tony Goodson who unearthed this story about Russian rocket builders From Russia With 1 Million Pounds of Thrust .

it’s easy to distinguish the Russian engines from the ones built in the US. The American models are sleek and shiny packed with custom fittings and curvilinear piping. There’s not a seam showing or a rivet out of place. The Russian engines inspire less confidence. Insulating foam spills like whipped cream from joints weld lines scar brawny pipes, and some parts seem to be held together by baling wire……”The Russians don’t worry about cosmetics or workmanship,” says plant manager Steve Blake. “They build the thing and test the shit out of it. This engine cost $10 million and produces almost 1 million pounds of thrust. You can’t do that with an American-made engine.”……Not only is the RD-180 more powerful than any of its American-made counterparts, but unlike US engines, it can be throttled up and down during flight, making for a much smoother and more efficient ride……..

The Russians devised a number of other simple but ingenious strategies to increase reliability and keep costs down. They applied special coatings to internal machine parts to protect them from extreme heat, and routed kerosene around hot rocket nozzles to cool them down. More important, they emphasized what’s known as “producibility,” handing off designs early in the process to the engineers who were actually going to be building the stuff. “It’s a European design philosophy,” Ford explains. “Over there, engineers are trained to produce things that work.

A good story to remember if you – or somone you know – are prone to analysis paralysis or perfectionism.


2 thoughts on “Russian Rockets

  1. Chris Pearse

    Reminds me of my first flight in a Tupolev. Always a nervous flyer, stories about Russian engineering had put me in a spin – the antique finish of the craft, plus missing seats, didn’t help. An exceptionally quiet and smooth takeoff settled me down a little, but the landing was the best I have ever experienced, before or since, in any plane.

  2. Nick Vassiliou

    Fascinating story smells of myth. The Russians have only recently started to use cryogenic propellants and as far as thrust is concerned, aside from that Greek Adonis, can you go past the cryogenic boosters of the Saturn V second and third stages.


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