The next generation of rockets is almost here, with the United States and Russia preparing to test their first stages for a mission to the moon, and a second one for Mars.
The Russian space agency Roscosmos is already working on its own prototype rocket engine, but a new company, Semyonov Engineering, is aiming to build the first engine for the next generation.
Semyonos engine, which is known as S-400, could have a liftoff mass of about 4,000kg, and could also deliver about 15 tonnes of payload, according to Roscosmo’s website.
The rocket is also expected to be able to launch satellites weighing more than 3,000 tonnes.
But despite the excitement surrounding the rocket engine’s potential, there are plenty of hurdles to overcome before it could ever be built.
The first test flights of the S-500 rocket engine have been postponed by a year.
Roscosmos said the delay is because of safety concerns over the engine’s safety record.
Roskosmos said it was working on the safety record of the engine and had requested the US and European governments to give their permission for S-200 engines to be built for the Russian market.
In a statement, the Russian government said the country had requested a delay in the first S-300 engine test flights to ensure safety of the launch vehicle.
“We expect to reach an agreement with the US-European Space Agency [ESA] on S-600 and S-700 engines and to start construction of S-800 engine in 2019,” the Russian defence ministry said.
It said the first flight of SSS-200 would be in 2019, the same year as the Russian-made SSS rocket will be launched from Plesetsk Cosmodrome.
The SSS rockets, which can carry payloads of up to 200 tonnes, are still being developed.
However, it is expected that SSS engines will be more powerful than S-100 engines, which were developed for the US Space Shuttle programme.
The Russian defence department also said SSS is more likely to be used for heavy and medium-lift missions.
“In the medium and heavy-lift class of heavy and heavy orbital vehicles, the SSS engine is already a serious competitor to SSS,” the statement said.
“This is the main reason why SSS has been delayed by a month.”
The rocket engine is expected to use a composite-crystal structure, which means it is more powerful and lighter than other composite-engine designs.
Rososmos said its engine is currently undergoing tests at the company’s headquarters in Krasnoyarsk, about 120km (75 miles) north-west of Moscow.
It added that the first stage would be equipped with a new solid rocket booster (SRB) that will provide a boost for the rocket during the ascent.
The booster would be made of aluminium and composite materials and is designed to burn for more than 20 seconds, according the Russian space ministry.
Roscoms development of the new rocket comes after it completed tests on the SRS-10 engine, a booster that is expected in 2018, and has also demonstrated the ability to lift heavier payloads.
The test flights were conducted last year by the Semyons Rocket Company, a joint venture between Roscosmos and Roskosmos.
Rosmos said in a statement the SSP-10 was built for a new class of launch vehicles, called “small” launch vehicles (SLVs).
The new engine will use a new cryogenic upper stage that will deliver two solid rocket boosters, the first of which will be called “T-1000” and the second “T+1000”, according to the Russian ministry.
The new rocket will also be capable of carrying multiple payloads into orbit.
Russia’s rocket program has faced delays and setbacks since it was founded in 1999.
The country’s first launch of a new engine was delayed by two years in 2012 after a fire at the launch pad at Plesetsk, Russia’s second-largest city, resulted in a fire on a launch pad in Kazakhstan that damaged three launch vehicles.