Brazilian-Ukainian joint venture Alcantara Cyclone Space (ACS) continues preparations for the 2015 debut of a new variant of the Cyclone rocket from a 30-year-old launch facility on Brazil's north-Atlantic coast.
At 2.3 deg. N. Lat., Alcantara is even closer to the Equator than Europe's Guiana Space Center in Kourou, where commercial launch services consortium Arianespace manages missions of Europe's heavy-lift Ariane 5, Russia's medium-class Soyuz and Italy's Vega light launcher. From Alcantara, ACS's three-stage Cyclone 4 rocket—equipped with a restartable upper stage engine and 4-m payload fairing—is designed to put 5,685 kg. (12,500 lb.) into a circular low Earth orbit at 200 km (124 mi.), and a 3,910-kg spacecraft to a 400-km sun-synchronous orbit.
For geostationary missions, Cyclone 4 will initially deliver a 1,600 kg into geostationary transfer orbit. The goal, however, is to gradually boost performance to 2,200 kg with per-launch costs ranging from $50-$55 million.
“Originally, we were planning to focus on LEO only. But now, as we're witnessing the growth of electric propulsion satellites, we're working to increase payload capability,” says ACS Chief Commercial Officer Sergiy Guchenkov.
Manufactured in Ukraine by the Yuzhnoye State Design Office, Cyclone 4 will use first and second stages similar to the Soviet-era Cyclone 2 and Cyclone 3 rockets. Guchenkov notes that the first and second stages of the Cyclone 2 and Cyclone 3 rockets have launched 228 times with just one failure, which he says was due to a first-stage propellant leak.
An all-new third stage based on Ukrainian Zenit and Dnepr technology will carry up to 9 tons of propellant and allow Cyclone 4 to execute up to five burns.
Since breaking ground on the ACS launch pad in 2010, the government-backed venture has spent close to $300 million developing the site, which is now 48% complete. The project is running almost three years behind schedule, however, as funding delays and legal wrangling with local tribes has stalled development of the launch center. In May, Guchenkov says the governments of Ukraine and Brazil jointly approved an increase in total ACS spending for the site, from around $487 million to $918 million.
He says ACS is planning to complete construction of the launch pad at Alcantara next year, with Cyclone 4 hardware delivery and testing at the site to begin in early 2015. He says the launch vehicle is 76% complete and has undergone 73% of its scheduled test regime, including completion of ground tests.
Guchenkov says ACS expects to conduct a qualificaiton mission of Cyclone 4 in late 2015, launching multiple small payloads to low Earth orbit, including a Japanese satellite.