NPO Energiya Volga Branch/Progress

The bulk of the design work on the core stage was performed by a branch of NPO Energiya situated in the city of Kuybyshev (renamed Samara in 1991). Situated on the banks of the Volga river almost 1,000 km east of Moscow, this city is home to some of the most important Russian space-related enterprises. The most famous of these is a design bureau that originated as Branch nr. 3 of Sergey Korolyov’s OKB-1 in 1959. It oversaw the further development of R-7 based rockets and later also designed the lower stages of the N-1 rocket as well as the nation’s photoreconnaissance, biological, and materials-processing satellites. The bureau’s chief Dmitriy Kozlov was asked to design the core stage of NPO Energiya’s new heavy-lift rockets, but turned down the offer, electing instead to focus on ongoing projects.

As a result, Branch nr. 3 became independent as the Central Specialized Design Bureau (TsSKB) on 30 July 1974, with NPO Energiya setting up a new “Volga Branch’’ in Kuybyshev to work on the core stage. Actually, the branch was set up at a time when the Energiya rocket as such did not yet exist and NPO Energiya was still working on its early RLA concepts. Receiving basic parameters from NPO Energiya’s central design bureau in Moscow, a 1,000-man strong team under the leadership of Boris G. Penzin put out all the necessary blueprints for the construction of the core stage. According to one veteran this was so much that “not even two Energiya rockets could lift it off the ground’’. The Volga Branch was also responsible

for designing the Blok-Ya launch table adapter. Penzin retired in 1987 and was replaced by Stanislav A. Petrenko.

Assembly of core stage elements took place at the Progress factory, also situated in Kuybyshev, although that was primarily aligned with Kozlov’s design bureau. The construction of the giant core stage required the construction of several new halls as well as several other facilities, such as chambers for cryogenic tests of the propellant tanks using liquid nitrogen. The Energiya core stage was flown to Baykonur in two separate sections. A branch of the Progress factory was responsible for final core stage assembly and Energiya integration at the Energiya assembly building at Baykonur. The director of Progress for most of the Buran years was Anatoliy A. Chizhov (1980-1997) [6].