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Previous chapter: Origin of the Soyuz-1 project
As of mid-2008, TsSKB was preparing to defend the preliminary design of the vehicle in September 2008. According to Ravil Akhmetov, a top official at TsSKB Progress, Soyuz-1 could fly three-four years after the beginning of funding. TsSKB officials hoped that the new rocket's entrance into the market would be supported by an increased demand for the delivery of light-weight payloads into the low-Earth orbit, however initial investments for the development of Soyuz-1 were hard to come by.
The funding breakthrough for the Soyuz-1 and follow-on rockets equipped with NK-33 finally came after a successful demo firing of the veteran engine on June 2, 2008. The miraculous revival of a decades-old NK-33 propulsion system was attended by a number of high-ranking government and military officials, including then commander of the Russian space forces General Popovkin. Russian military apparently had potential payloads for Soyuz-1 and wanted to have a backup for Rockot boosters, which were plagued by delays in the production of their upper stage engines. The successful test of NK-33 paved the way to a government decree on the Soyuz-1 signed by Russian Prime-Minister Vladimir Putin, thus bringing the project to the new level of federal support.
In 2013, the head of TsSKB Progress Aleksandr Kirilin said that the entire project was estimated at 2.5 billion rubles. According to an agreement between the company and the Ministry of Defense, TsSKB Progress would invest 1 billion rubles from its internal funds and 1.5 billion would come from the military budget. TsSKB would finance the development of the Volga upper stage on its own.
The challenging development schedule demanded to minimize innovations within the Soyuz-1 project. Particularly, TsSKB Progress rejected a proposal by NPO Avtomatika, (responsible for flight control system development), to install a more advanced Malakhit-7 computer instead of the older Malakhit-3 machine. Still, a brand-new gimbal mechanism developed by KB Arsenal in St. Petersburg was required to control the NK-33 engine in flight. (358)
As of 2009, the accelerated development schedule initially called for the first launch of the Soyuz-1 rocket as early as 2010, but at the time of an August 2009 meeting between representatives of TsSKB Progress and NPO Avtomatiki (flight control system developer), the mission slipped to the first quarter of 2011. Still, TsSKB Progress officials apparently felt that it was critical to have a maiden launch of the Soyuz-1 ahead of a long-anticipated debut of the light-weight Angara rocket, also scheduled for 2011. Soyuz-1 reportedly promised considerable cost advantages in comparison to the light-weight Angara which offered similar payload capabilities.
In June 2010, the head of TsSKB Progress Aleksandr Kirilin told official Russian media that the first launch of the Soyuz-1 rocket (then re-named Soyuz-2-1v) would take place at the end of 2011. According to Kirilin, all contracts for sub-systems supply, including the NK-33 engine, flight control and telemetry systems, had been in place. The additions to the preliminary design of the launch vehicle were scheduled to go for a formal review and approval on June 17-18, 2010, Kirilin said. Review teams also evaluated the necessary upgrades at launch pads No. 3 and No. 4 in Plesetsk to accommodate Soyuz-2 and Soyuz-1 launchers, Kirilin added.
In the middle of 2010, TsSKB Progress representatives said that the manufacturing of the test version of the Soyuz-1's core stage was underway. At the time, its "cold" and live firings were planned as early as the end of that year.
In February 2011, Lt. General Oleg Ostapenko, a commander of the Russian space forces, told Russian media that the first launch of Soyuz-2-1v (as Soyuz-1 became known) could not take place during 2011, due to a lack of payloads. At the time, Ostapenko planned a visit to Samara within a month for a discussion with TsSKB Progress of the further development schedule. However just a month later, a spokesman for the Russian space forces, Aleksei Zolotukhin, reconfirmed that Soyuz-1 would fly in 2011. Unofficial reports at the time said that during its first test launch, scheduled at the end of the year, the vehicle would carry the Aist satellite developed at TsSKB Progress. By mid-May 2011, the launch was promised at the beginning of 2012. During Paris Air and Space Show in Le Bourget in June 2011, the mission was promised in April 2012. At the time, the shipment of the first flight vehicle to Plesetsk was promised for Dec. 15, 2011. The rocket's payloads in the first mission were confirmed as Mikhailo Lomonosov and Aist satellites.
The test flight program of the Soyuz-1 rocket, involving five launches, was to be completed in 2014.
In August 2011, the head of TsSKB Progress, Aleksandr Kirilin, told Russian media that all design documentation for the Soyuz-1 rocket had been completed and the production and testing of its components had been underway.
In March 2010, Roskosmos announced that the RD-0110R (14D24) engine developed by KBKhA design bureau in Voronezh would steer the Soyuz-1 (Soyuz-2-1v) rocket during the first stage of the flight.
EU-763 prototype first stage testing
On December 13, 2011, an operational prototype of the first stage of the Soyuz-2-1v rocket, designated EU-763 (where EU stood for experimentalnaya ustanovka -- experimental article), arrived to NITs RKP test center in Peresvet, north of Moscow in preparation for critical testing of its propulsion system. As usual for the R-7 family of rockets, during the transportation, the oversized core booster was split into two components: 2A, comprised of a propulsion section and a kerosene tank and 1A - an oxygen tank. Following the assembly of the stage, NITs RKP planned to conduct two "cold" tests, KhSI, and one "hot" static firing of a flight ready booster, OSI, inside a special test stand during 2012. The live firing test would be the last major development milestone, clearing the vehicle for the first flight. On Jan. 6, 2012, after its checkout at the processing building, a fully assembled stage was rolled out to the test stand IS-102.
On March 21, 2012, the Soyuz-1/Volga development team held a meeting of Chief Designer Council in Samara. Around that time, the first full-scale test firing of the vehicle's first stage was promised at the beginning of summer. In preparation for this crucial milestone, the stage underwent the "cold" test, known as KhSI-1, on April 19, 2012, during which cryogenic liquid oxygen oxidizer and kerosene fuel was loaded onboard for the first time. Another similar test was expected before the actual firing of the onboard engine.
The second KhSI test (KhSI-2) did take place at NITs RKP during June 20-22, 2012, and reportedly rehearsed all processing and fueling procedures with the rocket all the way up to a liftoff command. The trial involved loading of 33.8 tons of kerosene fuel and 85.2 tons of liquid oxygen oxidizer onboard the first stage of the Soyuz-1 vehicle. The second cold test cleared the way to the test firing of the rocket's propulsion system, which at the time was preliminary scheduled for August.
The 200-second firing of the first stage of the Soyuz-2-1v rocket was set for Thursday, August 16, 2012, around 20:00 Moscow Summer Time at NITs RKP facility in Peresvet, north of Moscow. Although, official Russian media made no statements on the matter at the time, sources in the industry said that the test had failed after only few seconds of firing and resulted in the damage to the propulsion section of the rocket, but no injuries. According to unofficial sources, an erroneous shutdown command had been issued based on data from the RD-0110R steering engine which indicated that the engine's turbopump exceed an allowable rotation speed. The turbine of RD-0110R was destroyed, even though all input parameters for its operation seemed to be normal.
On August 17, the Interfax new agency quoting unnamed sources reported that both the engine and the test facility had been damaged in the botched test. As it transpired by August 19, the erroneous shutdown command turned off only the steering engine, leaving the main propulsion system firing for some five seconds using the propellant still remaining in the supply line. As soon as the oxidizer was expended, rotating turbopump was destroyed leading to most of the damage. The programming of the test stand was blamed for the failure.
Ten days after the failed test, industry sources reported that a new test schedule signed in the wake of the accident had called for the second attempt to test the core stage of the Soyuz-2-1v rocket in February 2013. Observers considered such a timeline too optimistic and predicted that no key organization involved in the project would sign a permission to proceed with the maiden flight of the rocket before a successful static firing of its core stage.
Following a botched firing in Peresvet in August, technicians struggled to remove the severely damaged EU-763 article from its test stand. The badly mangled tail section made normal handling operations impossible. TsSKB Progress engineers had to remove tail section first and then to develop a process for transportation of the remaining propellant tank, which was also damaged.
In the middle of September 2012, the EU-763 article was finally returned to Samara from NITs RKP. In October, TsSKB Progress Aleksandr Kirilin said that the test article had had to be restored and shipped back to NITs RKP no later than December 2012 to allow another attempt at live test firing at the beginning of 2013.
In November, TsSKB Progress reported that the company had completed repairs of salvageable components of the rocket. Thermal insulation on the oxidizer tank was restored and elements of the pneumatic and hydraulic system, PGS, that had survived the explosion intact were re-tested. The company was also finishing the manufacturing of replacement parts for the severely damaged tail section. It was also necessary to "cannibalize" a fuel tank from the second copy of the operational Soyuz-1 rocket and adapt for the EU-763 in order to meet a three-month deadline set for a new test. Some internal pipelines and related hardware had to be replaced.
TsSKB Progress also manufactured new stringers to attach the rocket stage to the test stand, redesigned a pipeline for dumping propellant in emergency and upgraded a fire suppression system. Subcontractors also supplied most critical components of the stage, including a new RD-0110RS steering engine and NK-33AS main engine.
At the time, the new attempt for the critical live firing of the EU-763 test article was scheduled for the end of February 2013.
At the beginning of 2012, the first launch of the Soyuz-2-1v rocket was promised in the second quarter of that year (540), however by mid-April, the mission was re-scheduled for September. By that time, the primary payload of the launch -- the Aist satellite -- was complemented with a cluster of spheres, which were apparently intended for calibration of ground radars.
In the meantime, the rocket intended for the first launch was coming off production line. Following series of checks at TsSKB Progress' Test and Checkout Facility, KIS, in Samara, it was to be ready for shipment to Plesetsk launch site by the end of April. Around a month later, it would be followed by the Volga upper stage, which was also in final stages of production by April 2012. At the time, the launch complex was promised to be ready for the mission by June 15. Preparations of the rocket were plagued by problems with the steering mechanism of the propulsion system on the first stage. It had to be removed from the rocket, returned to the manufacturer for repairs and re-tested for the second time.
According to the plans by the end of July 2012, the new rocket would be shipped to the northern cosmodrome in the second week of August and rolled out to the launch pad No. 4 of the 17P32-4 launch complex at Site 43 on August 23 for testing, including loading of liquid oxygen and gases onboard the vehicle. On August 9, 2012, the official Russian media did confirm that all components for the Soyuz-2-1v's first mission, including the Volga upper stage, an adapter and a payload, had arrived to Plesetsk. At the time, a test rollout of the rocket to the pad was planned for August 25, followed by the first launch in the fourth quarter of 2012. However by August 29, the rollout was planned for September 4. By that time, only "dry" tests on the pad were expected without loading of propellant onboard. As expected, the rollout of the vehicle started at 07:00 Moscow Time on September 4. According to an official statement of the Russian space agency, the rocket was installed into vertical position for a four-day rehearsal of all pre-launch operations but fueling.
Speaking at the expanded meeting of the company' management on November 16, 2012, the head of TsSKB Progress Aleksandr Kirilin said that the first launch of the Soyuz-2-1v had been scheduled for April 2013. However by March of that year the mission was delayed until the second half of the year.
At the beginning of April 2013, TsSKB Progress announced that the firing test of the first stage would take place before the end of the month, with the actual launch planned at the end of summer 2013. After additional technical problems, the critical firing test of the first stage was finally scheduled for May 30, 2013. No official statements on the results of the test had appeared, however unconfirmed reports on the web said that the firing on May 31 had again been interrupted by an emergency cutoff command 50 seconds before the nominal completion of the engine burn, possibly due to a temperature readings from one of the sensors. A test facility in Peresvet remained intact, however the status of the rocket stage, which suffered a serious damage during the first firing attempt previous August, was still unclear as of June 3, 2013.
On June 4, OAO Kuznetsov announced that the first stage of the Soyuz rocket successfully went through a firing test. According to the company's statement disseminated by the official Russian media, the NK-33A engine "functioned according to a nominal sequence and the operational logic of all systems of the rocket stage, confirming its high reliability." The statement provided no information on the duration of the test or other details. A poster on the Novosti Kosmonavtiki web forum explained that the test has been qualified as a success despite the stage fired for 150 out of planned 202 seconds. The firing was cut short after a leak had been detected in one of the propellant supply lines leading to the RD-0110R steering engine. The main NK-33A engine functioned as planned. The culprit was found to be related to the non-standard interfaces in the propellant line of the experimental unit. In particular, they were fastened, rather than welded together. Since such interfaces would not be used on the actual rocket, the test was certified as successful. Later that month, the head of TsSKB Progress Aleksandr Kirilin told journalists at the Paris Air and Space Show in Le Bourget that Soyuz-2-1v had been scheduled to fly two missions in September and October.
Soyuz-2-1v No. 2
In parallel with preparations for the first launch of Soyuz-2-1v, TsSKB Progress promised to select a payload for the second test launch of the Soyuz-2-1v rocket, which was then planned for 2013. By May 2012, the company disclosed that the Mikhailo Lomonosov satellite (a.k.a. TUS) would be launched in the second mission of Soyuz-2-1v. As of November 2012, the delivery of the Mikhailo Lomonosov satellite to the launch site was promised in September 2013.
As of October 2012, the shipment of the Soyuz-2-1v rocket, its Volga upper stage and an adapter to Plesetsk was scheduled no later than November 2013. Some of the parts from the second vehicle were cannibalized for the repairs of the EU-763 test article damaged in a botched firing test in August. As of October 2012, the second vehicle and its upper stage were scheduled to be ready for launch in September 2013.
By June 2013, the mission was expected in the fourth quarter of 2013, or as early as October. By that time, the rocket and its upper stage were still waiting for the delivery of several components during June and July at their prime manufacturing plant in Samara in order to meet the deadline for the shipment to Plesetsk in September of 2013.
However around the same time, it was also reported that the primary payload for the mission -- the Mikhailo Lomonosov (TUS) satellite -- could have been delivered late, requiring an alternative cargo for the launch.
More payloads for Soyuz-2-1v
Also, in the middle of 2012, the head of the Russian space agency Vladimir Popovkin named British satellite manufacturer SSTL and South Korea among commercial users of the launch vehicle.
In October 2012, the Director General of the Gonets communications network Dmitry Bakanov told RIA Novosti news agency that new-generation Gonets-M1 satellites would be adapted for launch on the Soyuz-2-1v rocket, instead of Rockot. The same month, a federal contract for the Obzor-O remote-sensing satellite indicated the first satellite in the series would be launched on Soyuz-2-1v in 2015.
Chronology of the Soyuz-2-1v (Soyuz-1) rocket development:
2008 June 8: A successful demo firing of the veteran NK-33 engine on June 2, 2008, is followed by the approval of funding for the development of the Soyuz-1 rocket.
2010 March: Roskosmos announces that the RD-0110R (14D24) engine developed by KBKhA design bureau in Voronezh would steer the Soyuz-1 (Soyuz-2-1v) rocket during the first stage of the flight.
2010 middle of the year: TsSKB Progress representatives say that the manufacturing of the test version of the Soyuz-1's first stage is underway.
2011 August: Head of TsSKB Progress, Aleksandr Kirilin, tells Russian media that all design documentation for the Soyuz-1 rocket is completed and the production and testing of its components is underway.
2011 Dec. 13: The first stage of the Soyuz-2-1v rocket arrives at NITs RKP test center in Peresvet, north of Moscow in preparation for critical testing of its propulsion system.
2012 Jan. 6: A fully assembled first stage of the Soyuz-2-1v rocket rolls out to the IS-102 test stand at NITs RKP.
2012 March 21: the Soyuz-1/Volga development team holds a meeting of Chief Designer Council in Samara.
2012 April 19: The core stage undergoes the "cold" test, known as KhSI-1, at NITs RKP test center in Peresvet.
2012 June 15: In Voronezh, the KBKhA design bureau conducts a 280-second firing of the RD-0110R engine testing its steering system developed at TsSKB Progress. The steering engine previously went through testing at TsSKB Progress to prove its resistance to vibration from the accompanying NK-33A propulsion system.
2012 June 20-22: NITs RKP center conducts second "cold" test of the Soyuz-2-1v's first stage represented by the EU-763 test article.
2012 Aug. 3: The first Soyuz-2-1v rocket is rolled out from Facility 2212 of TsSKB Progress in Samara for a shipment to Plesetsk.
2012 Aug. 9: KBKhA design bureau conducts a final tune-up test, ZDI, of the 14D24 steering engine, lasting 280 seconds.
2012 Aug. 9: The first Soyuz-2-1v rocket arrives to Plesetsk.
2012 Sept. 4: The first Soyuz-2-1v rocket is rolled out to the launch pad in Plesetsk for four days of tests.
2012 mid-September: The EU-763 experimental article representing the first stage of the Soyuz-2-1v rocket returns to TsSKB Progress factory in Samara for repairs after a botched test at NITs RKP in Peresvet.
2012 Nov. 22: A live firing in Voronezh completes experimental testing of the RD-0110R (14D24) engine.
2013 May 30-31: A live firing of the Soyuz-2-1v rocket stage in Peresvet is interrupted by an emergency command 50 seconds before the completion of the engine firing.
Evolution of the Soyuz-1 payload capabilities:
*With the Volga upper stage;
The Soyuz-1 development team:
*Would not be needed with the use of RD-0110R steering engine.
Next chapter: Volga upper stage
Page author: Anatoly Zak; last update: July 4, 2013
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Two areas of modifications required in interfaces of the Soyuz launch pad with the Soyuz-1 rocket. Click to enlarge.
A tail section of the Soyuz-1 rocket. Credit: Roskosmos
A photo released by KBKhA design bureau in Voronezh in April 2012 apparently shows test firing of the RD-0110R (14D24) steering engine for the Soyuz-1 rocket.
The core stage of Soyuz-1 rocket arrives to NITs RKP center for testing in December 2011. Credit: Roskosmos
The first stage of the Soyuz-1 (2-1v) rocket is being rolled out to the test stand at NITs RKT center on Jan. 6, 2012, in preparation for live firing of its engine. Credit: Roskosmos
The first stage of the Soyuz-2-1v (Soyuz-1) rocket towers inside the IS-102 facility in Peresvet shortly before its second "cold" test, KhSI-2, on June 20, 2012. Credit: NITs RKP
The first Soyuz-2-1v rocket during assembly at Facility 2212 in Samara circa August 2012. Credit: TsSKB Progress
The Aist satellite (shown in real size) was expected to be Soyuz-1's payload during the first test launch. Copyright © 2009 Anatoly Zak
The Soyuz-2-1v rocket on the launch pad in Plesetsk. Credit: TsSKB Progress