Also by 1998 three new, small space launch vehicle systems could be in operation in Ukraine. The most powerful and the most imminent is the SS-18K, based on Yuzhnoye's large RS-20 (NATO designator SS-18) ICBM. Under the terms of the START accord, more than 150 RS-20 missiles must be removed from strategic service. Consequently, the designers and manufacturers of the 2-stage, liquid propellant (UDMH and N204) rocket have conceived of a space launch variant with a lift capacity of more than four metric tons into a LEO 65 degree inclination. Originally set for launch in 1993, the SS-18K had not risen from its Baikonur launch facility by the end of 1994.
In its basic configuration for orbits below 500 km, the SS-18K would employ a third stage based on the Lavochkin Fregat stage. For payloads requiring orbital altitudes between 500 and 1,500 km, the Tsyklon C5M third stage could be carried in place of the Fregat stage. A third option would be to use a stage from Yuzhnoye's RS-22 (NATO designator SS-24) ballistic missile for payloads of 800 kg in orbits kg of 1,600 km and 90 degree inclinations. Mating a US solid-propellant upper stage with the SS-18K has also been proposed for missions to Mars. The SS-18K has been recommended for conducting microgravity research in either orbital or ballistic regimes and for an emergency rescue service named VITA (References 472-477).
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472. The Formidable SS-18s Being Scrapped., Air & Cosmos, 2 September 1994.
473. Y. Smetanin and O. Drobakhin, "SS-18K Launcher Derived from Combat Missile (Main Characteristics)" Proceedings of the European Forum on Space Transportation Systems, ESA SP-362, March 1994, pp. 67-69.
474. Y.A. Smetanin, "Rocket Space Transportation Systems, Produced by 'Yuzhnoye' Rocket-Space Association", Paper IAF-92-0862, 43rd Congress of the International Astronautical Federation, 28 August-2 September 1992.
475. Technical brochure distributed by Yuzhnoye NPO, circa 1992.
476. L. David, "SS-18 Missiles Eyed For Mars Exploration Missionsn, Space News, 12-18 June 1995, p. 26.
477. A. Podnek, Delovoy Mir, 9 May 1992, p. 5.