Angara flew twice in 2014, in both the single- and five- core configurations. However, it's been six years and it's only scheduled to fly a third time much later this year (2020). How could it have been flight-ready all the way back in 2014 yet still need six more years of development to enter production?
Here is one russian speaking source that discusses this issue.
I have run it through Google Translate for you, but can't guarantee the translation quality.
The quoted text is rather lengthy. Several key paragraphs at the start have been manually checked and updated.
The title is paraphrasing the slang expression "down the drain", which in Russian, literally translated word-by-word, is "under a cat's tail"
Roscosmos: 160 billion rubles goes "under "Angara"'s tail"
The industry has set out to cross out 20 years of work on one of the most ambitious projects
It is more expensive to use the Angara launch vehicle for launching the Federation spacecraft than performing the same task with the promising Soyuz-5 rocket. This was recently announced by the deputy general director of RSC Energia Alexander Derechin.
“The combination of Federation spacecraft and the Soyuz-5 rocket is competitive in the international market of manned rocket flights, but this is not the case [being competitive] for the Angara,” he said, noting that the Angara is a rather complex and expensive rocket. A preliminary design of Soyuz-5 is under development"
This statement of the representative of the leading enterprise sounded like a sentence to the Angara rocket, which has been in developing stage for a long time. The Russian space and rocket industry has been torturing it out for more than twenty years, spent a huge amount of money, but in the end the Angara flew just a few times. However, now it is compared with the Soyuz-5 rocket (R&D project "Phoenix"), which, in fact, exists only "on paper".
In 2015, according to media reports, the new rocket launcher that is being planned within "Phoenix" project, and is being capable of placing at least 9 tons of payload into low Earth orbit, can serve as a block for creating a heavy or superheavy rocket in the future and also can be used as a backup vehicle in case of anomalies with the Angara family rockets. However, it seems that the "Angara" is already destined to play a secondary role now.
And all this is despite the fact that the "Angara" is a modular rocket, which can be light, medium or heavy. That is, on the basis of this scheme, using the same blocks, it is possible to assemble a launch vehicle of any class with a corresponding payload. The carrying capacity of the rocket is in the range of 1.5 [metric] tons (Angara 1.1) up to 35 [metric] tons (Angara-A7). The Angara-1.2 (the first launch was carried out on July 9, 2014) includes two universal modules, Angara-A3 (has not yet flown at all) - four modules, Angara-A5 (launched on December 23, 2014) - six modules, "Angara-A7" - seven modules. But the main thing is that whilst in the past it was necessary to build a rather expensive launch pad for every rocket class, with the Angara, the “start” is one size fits all (except for Angara-A7).
Note that this year the construction of the launch pad for the Angara launch vehicle should begin at Vostochny Cosmodrome, which, according to the head of the design institute, should be completed by 2023. The cost of construction is estimated at 58 billion rubles. At the same time, the media has already announced the refusal of Roscosmos from manned launches at Angara-A5P.
Now, therefore, it was decided to give up all this. Almost 30 billion rubles are tentatively allocated to create a new Soyuz-5 carrier. To speed up flight tests - use the Zenit rocket launch complex available at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which will be upgraded with this new Russian missile as part of a project with Kazakhstan Baiterek. It is also planned to use the Sea Launch complex for launching the carrier. According to representatives of Roscosmos, the first launch of Soyuz-5 from Baikonur is planned for 2022.
What is happening with Angara, the creation of which in total has already been spent, according to media reports, more than 160 billion rubles?
Recently, representatives of the rocket-comic industry have made so many conflicting statements that few people understand this information leapfrog. One can only guess, says the scientific director of the Space Policy Institute, Ivan Moiseev:
- In general, if you rely on documents, then according to the Federal Space Program (FKP) for 2016–2025, the Angara rocket should slowly unfold over the next ten years. And during this time period, it seems like it is planned to make more than ten launches. Accordingly, under the same program, it is planned to build a launch for the manned version of the Angara. But since March of this year, the idea came up to create an extra-heavy rocket that can change everything.
In fact, attempts are being made to revise the program. And this despite the fact that I can say with confidence: superheavy media in Russia will not be created even in the long term.
To understand this, it’s enough to recall our past experience in creating the “lunar” N-1 rocket, all of whose launches ended in failure. Or Energia (the carrier of the Buran spacecraft), which pulled huge money out of the entire space region so that there was no money left to make a payload for it.
Even Americans have a huge amount of problems in this area. The superheavy carrier program is extremely expensive and risky. If in the accident of the same "Proton" there is nothing to worry about, since these missiles are on the stream, then one accident with a "heavyweight" is a huge loss that our country simply cannot afford.
In general, plans for superheavy media can be voiced from high seats in the current state of the industry only in the absence of historical memory and technical considerations.
"Q by Journalist": - But, apparently, Roscosmos is forced to obey the requirements from above ...
- Apparently. You cannot make an ultra-heavy rocket capable of putting 100 tons into orbit from the Angara. Therefore, they decided on the basis of the existing Russian-Ukrainian Zenit rocket (the operation of which, for obvious reasons, was discontinued, but which at one time, in fact, was the first stage of the superheavy Energia launch vehicle) to design a new one and build a package for superheavy carrier.
On paper, it looks quite satisfactory. But, I repeat, taking into account our past experience, huge problems will arise during the transition to the design. And all efforts will end in nothing.
On the other hand, the Soyuz-5 rocket itself is the Zenith variant (it is also the rocket of the Phoenix or Sunkar rocket launcher - for launches under the Baiterek Russian-Kazakh project). It can be useful for Sea Launch if it survives for its implementation. And for a ground launch at Baikonur. But in this case, it turns out that we abandon our old dream: to carry out independent launches only from our territory. Because the platform for such a carrier is only on Baikonur. If you build it at the Vostochny spaceport, it will take another ten years.
“Q by Journalist” - Why do they want to abandon the manned Angara-A5P, if the Angara-A5 has already flown?
- Because it contradicts the accelerated development of Soyuz-5. If OCD "Phoenix" were not dictated by the desire to create a "heavyweight", then Soyuz-5 could well exist.
"Q by Journalist": - That is, the Soyuz-5 rocket itself has the right to exist in parallel with the "Angara"?
“She may well find her niche if she does it slowly and does not try to scale it to super heavy.” According to the adopted program, Soyuz-5 should only be prepared for flight tests by 2025.
But according to current conversations, it turns out that they are trying to promote technically unreasonable solutions. And, having a finished Angara, they are trying to take on a new one, writing off almost all the costs that they have made over two decades. But, I think, when they start to count money and try to approve funding at the government level, they can again shift the angle towards the Angara. At least there is hope for this.
"Q by Journalist": - And why there was talk that the Soyuz-5 rocket should launch the Federation ship?
If you decide to build a superheavy rocket on the basis of Soyuz-5, then this change will automatically lead others.
In general, the "Federation" was supposed to fly on the "Hangar" in
In a manned version - after two or three unmanned launches. Everything was calculated and financially provided in the framework of FKP-2025. We are talking about a manned version of the Angara-A5P, made on the basis of the flying Angara-A5, but equipped with a system for rescuing astronauts.
Also, work was carried out on the "Angara-A5V" - hydrogen, with increased carrying capacity. According to numerous media reports, these are precisely the options that they want to abandon in favor of Soyuz-5.
In this case, the tests of the Federation ship are made dependent on the appearance of a new rocket. Moreover, I repeat, for “Soyuz-5” such strict terms are set (as yet verbally) that we have not shown since the space age. And to speed up, large financial injections are needed, because shouting at the workers will not achieve anything. If they don’t do it in four years, then all the deadlines will break with the “Federation”. That is, if you start breaking the federal program once, then the consequences will go like circles on the water. As far as I understand, the lobbyism of certain groups still seems to be working here, because one “heavyweight” is clearly not enough for such radical changes.
"Q by Journalist": - The heavy "Angara-A7" requires its launch pad, but it can not replace the superheavy carrier at all?
The question is that the superheavy carrier, in theory, should launch a load of 100 tons into space. But now they are only talking about 70 tons. At the same time, attempts to simplify one's task still do not solve it.
In addition, we talk about superheavy rocket as an end in itself. But with the current development of technology, existing missiles can gain the required load with several joints.
Not to mention that there are no commercial and military orders for such large masses of cargo yet. Therefore, I hope that FKP-2025 will not be reviewed, Angara will continue to be used, and, in the end, they will abandon the accelerated creation of Soyuz-5 as a base for an extra-heavy carrier.