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Kosmos Launch Vehicle

Until 1993 the smallest Russian launch vehicle in use was the Kosmos-3M booster, derived from the R-14 (NATO designator SS-5) medium range ballistic missile. Originally designed by the Yangel Design Bureau in Ukraine (now the Yuzhnoye [Southern] Design Bureau) and the Prikladnoi Mekhaniki (Applied Mechanics) Scientific Production Association in Russia, the Kosmos-3M has been manufactured by the Polet (Flight) Design Bureau for nearly 30 years. Eleven Kosmos-3M launches were conducted during 1993-1994, and all were successful.

The two-stage booster burns UDMH as a fuel and either nitric acid or N204 as the oxidizer. The first stage employs two 11 D614 (RD216) main engines, while the second stage relies on a single, restartable 11D49 main engine. The second stage also carries an independent propulsion system for coast and spacecraft deployment operations. Used only for LEO missions, the Kosmos-3M has a demonstrated payload capacity of 1,500 kg to a low altitude, 51 degree-inclination parking orbit. However, since 1988 all Kosmos-3M missions have originated from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome (Complexes 132 left and right and 133) with inclinations of 66 degrees or more. The first commercial use of Kosmos-3M was scheduled for early 1995 when small American and Swedish spacecraft were to accompany a Russian navigation satellite into orbit. An improved model of the launch vehicle, the Kosmos-3MU (aka Vzlet), may begin operations by 1998 with a LEO payload capacity of 1.8 metric tons (References 202-205).


Background Information
First Launch:
Flight Rate:
28 per year (maximum recorded launch rate)
Launch Site:
Plesetsk and *Kapustin Yar, Russia; *Baikonur, Kazakhstan
3,000 lb to LEO


  • Originated in 1950s as the SS-5 ballistic missile
  • Developed into a launch vehicle by NPO Yuzhnoye (Ukraine)
  • First used in 1964 for multiple launch of small satellites
  • Production transferred to NPO Polyot in Omsk, Russia
  • More than 430 produced since 1964


  • Two-stage liquid-fueled vehicle
  • Stage 1 has two RD-216 booster engines burning N2O4/UDMH propellant fed from stage 1 tanks, generating a total of 387,500 lb of thrust
  • Stage 2 has restart capability for orbit circularization


105 ft
Launch Weight:
264,000 lb
7.9 ft
Liftoff Thrust:
387,500 lb
Payload Fairing:
15.5 ft x 7.2 ft


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