Want a Soyuz strap-on booster? (Slightly used.)

Russia does something that America doesn’t do — it launches its orbital rockets from deep within its territory, overflying land and dropping its boosters and core stage on land.  This is still true even now they’ve moved east to Vostochny; the boosters from the recent inaugural Vostochny flight have been recovered.

Traditionally, an unofficial “rocket mafia” gets to recover boosters that drop on Kazakhstan, allowing Russian authorities to remove any valuable bits before the “mafia” cuts the rest up for some very valuable scrap (it’s mostly titanium), but it seems Russia is not quite as willing to surrender those dropped on Russia.  So far, search teams in Russia’s extreme east have found only the strap-on boosters; they’re still looking for the core and the carbon-fiber composite payload fairing.  Russia will reuse the rockets, but only in the broadest sense — some electrical components may be salvaged, but the rest will all be cut up for scrap metal, possibly to become new rocket components.

That Russia is spending the money to recover this material suggests the same thing Vostochny’s existence does: that finally the Kremlin is spending some real money on their space program.  Previously, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, they haven’t been able to afford it (hence the “rocket mafia” under-the-table arrangements).

But hey!  It means we get to see what the spent boosters look like after their flight:

soyuz-used1 soyuz-used2 soyuz-used3

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