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Soyuz Launch Vehicle

The most active Russian launch vehicle during 1993-1994 was the Soyuz-U2 (including the Soyuz U2 variant). Deri, Korolev's original R-7 ICBM (ISS-6) and the subsequent Sputnik, Luna, Vostok, and Voskhod launch vehicles, the first in 1966 and has since been flown approximately 750 times in various configurations with a reliability of more than 97%. The two-and-one-half-stage launch vehicle burns simple liquid oxygen and a form of kerosene. The first stage consists of a core vehicle powered by a 11D512 (RD-108) main engine and four strap-on boosters with 11D511(RD-107) main engines. The second stage carries a single, 4-nozzle 11D55 (RD-0110) main engine. The Soyuz- U/U2 launcher currently has a LEO payload capacity of approximately 7,300 kg for 52 degree inclination orbits. The Soyuz-U2 upgrade was introduced in 1986 to support the Soyuz-TM spacecraft and has also been used for Progress-M spacecraft and the sixth generation photographic reconnaissance satellites.

Two Soyuz-U launch pads are operational at the Baikonur Cosmodrome (Complexes 1 and 31) and three are available at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome (Complexes 16 and 43 left and right). All Soyuz-U/U2 launch vehicles are produced by the Samara Central Specialized Design Bureau and Progress Plant with engines designed by the Energomash Scientific Production Association. Of the 32 missions flown during 1993-1994 only one failed. A malfunction in the second stage of the 27 April 1993 flight led to the loss of its photographic reconnaissance payload (References 245-246).

In 1991 work began on a major Soyuz improvement program. Now known as Rus, the modernized launch vehicle will have an increased payload capacity (up to 8,000 kg for a 52 degree orbit) with a new flight control system, enlarged payload fairings, and modified main engines. Operations are expected to begin at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in 1997. Test firings of a new Rus main engine were already underway in 1994 (References 247-253).


Copyright © Charles P. Vick
Background Information
First Launch:
November 1963
Flight Rate:
45 per year (maximum recorded launch rate)
Launch Site:
Plesetsk, Russia; Baikonur, Kazakhstan
15,400 lb to LEO


  • Developed from the Vostok Launch Vehicle originally derived from the SS-6 ICBM
  • Incorporates upgraded second stage and avionics
  • Used to launch every former Soviet Union piloted spacecraft since 1964
  • Also used to launch photo reconnaissance satellites, earth resource satellites, and progress resupply missions to the Mir space station


  • Two-stage liquid fueled vehicle
  • Stage 1 core has one RD-108 booster engine (one turbopump with four separate combustion chambers) burning LO2/kerosene fed from stage 1 tanks, generating 167,000 lb of thrust
  • Stage 1 strap-ons each have one RD-107 engine (one turbopump with four separate combustion chambers) burning LO2/kerosene fed from stage 1 tank, generating a total of 740,000 lb of thrust
  • Stage 2 has one RD-461 engine burning LO2/kerosene, generating 67,000 lb of thrust


162 ft
Launch Weight:
639,000 lb
8.9 ft
Liftoff Thrust:
907,000 lb
Payload Fairing:
29.5 ft x 9.4 ft


Sources and Resources

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