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With the disintegration of the USSR in 1991, developers of the Soyuz rocket, along with the rest of the nation's space industry, wanted to consolidate its subcontractor network inside the Russian Federation. To accomplish the goal, TsSKB Progress in the city of Samara, developed a new version of its workhorse Soyuz launcher, under research and development plan dubbed Rus. In addition to a fully domestic production, the project envisioned a number of technical improvements to the rocket which became known as Soyuz-2. The future three-stage, 313-ton base vehicle could be used in combination with Ikar and Fregat upper stages.
According to the original plan, the Soyuz-2 (military designation - 14A14, industrial designation - 131KS), also known as Soyuz-2K and Soyuz-M) would sport a brand-new RD-0124 (14D23) closed-cycle engine on its third stage and all-digital flight control system with terminal guidance system. The first and second stage would be equipped with 14D21 and 14D22 engines with improved injection system.
All the upgrades combined would increase the payload of the vehicle by 1,200 kilogram in comparison with the base launcher.
If launched from Baikonur, the Soyuz-2 would be capable of delivering 8,500 kilograms into the low-Earth orbit and 2,350 kilograms toward the Moon. The Soyuz-2 could also fly from slightly upgraded launch pad in Plesetsk and from newly developed launch complex in Kourou, French Guiana. Launches from French Guiana could deliver as much as 9,000-9,200 kilograms to the low orbit.
The Soyuz-2 could be employed to launch a variety of traditional payloads of the Soyuz family, including reconnaissance satellites. Before the rocket could be "man-rated," it was considered as a carrier of the enlarged version of the Progress M1 cargo ships equipped with the assembly and protective block SZB (11S517A2), with the total mass of 8,350 kilograms and maximum diameter of 3,000 millimeters.
The Soyuz-2 could also launch prospective modules for the Russian segment of the International Space Station, ISS, with the total mass of 8,100 kilograms, maximum diameter of 3,700 millimeters and the length of 14,100 millimeters.
To enable launches of the Soyuz-2 rocket toward the ISS, plans were made to upgrade processing facilities at Site 2 in Baikonur by the year 2000. However, collapsing funding of the Russian space industry during 1999 and 2000 forced Russian space officials to freeze the plans to launch Soyuz-2 from Baikonur as well as the development of its space station payloads. (164)
Financial problems of the industry also pushed the rest of the Rus program nearly a decade behind schedule, forcing developers to introduce upgrades in several phases. Since the development of the new RD-0124 engine was the most expensive and time-consuming part of the upgrade, it was deferred to a later time. At the time of the first Soyuz-2-1a launch in November 2004, Russian space officials said that the next upgrade -- Soyuz-2-1b launch vehicle with the RD-0124 engine -- could fly in 2006.
The initial version of the upgraded vehicle, known as Soyuz-2-1a, featured a four-meter payload fairing. It was capable of carrying 300 kilograms more payload thanks to the replacement of an old analog flight control system with a digital computer and the use of a more flexible launch trajectory. In 2012, KBKhA design bureau promised to develop the 11D55 steering engine specifically for the Soyuz-2-1a rocket.
New flight control system
The work on the digital flight control system for the Soyuz-2 rocket started at NPO Avtomatika of Yekaterinburg as early as 1993. The system included three independent processing units and two gyroscopes, which drastically improved the reliability of the flight control system.
In 2006, Lef Belskiy, Deputy Director of NPO Avtomatika for rocket and space systems told ITAR-TASS news agency that the work on the flight control system for the Soyuz-2 became a lifesaver for his organization. At the time, 400 employees of NPO Avtomatika have been involved in this development. Modest federal funding for the project started coming during 1994-1995 and the money flow increased substantially at the beginning of the following decade.
On January 4, 2005, Arianespace announced that the Soyuz-2-1b vehicle with the new RD-0124 engine would fly its first test mission from Site 31 at Baikonur, launching a 630-kilogram Corot astronomy satellite in a 850-kilometer polar orbit. In January 2006, the launch was expected in September 2006, given successful tests of the RD-0124 engine then planned for March and April 2006. The first test firing did take place on April 5, 2006, at the IS-102 facility of NIIKhimMash center in Sergiev Posad. Another test took place on October 20, 2006, at 17:20 Moscow Time.
According to the deputy head of Roskosmos Viktor Ramishevskiy, quoted by RIA Novosti, it was the last test firing of the RD-0124 engine, thus clearing the way for the first launch of the Soyuz-2-1b rocket, then scheduled for December 21, 2006.
In 2012, KBKhA design bureau promised to develop the 14D23 steering engine specifically for the Soyuz-2-1b rocket.launch complex at the European launch site in French Guiana. It featured a number of upgrades, including additional avionics supplied by European contractors. On June 22, 2006, French company Alcatel Alenia Space announced that it would provide subsystems for the complete safeguard chain of Soyuz-Fregat rockets to be launched from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou.
The contract included the development and manufacturing of the BCA ("Boîtier de Commutation et d'Alimentation", the switching & power feeder unit), as well as electronic ground equipment for tests and the reception of the safeguard subsystem onboard Soyuz-2 rockets. In case of a botched launch, the BCA will ensure the emergency engine shutdown, leaving the vehicle on a ballistic trajectory.
According to postings on the Novosti Kosmonavtiki forum, receivers on all stages were upgraded for S-band functionality. Four boosters of the first stage were upgraded with an additional system designed to breach their sealed compartments in order to prevent floating of the stages, after their splashdown in the Atlantic. It would achieved by a pyrotechnical device opening a pneumatic valve on the fuel tank. The oxidizer tank would be unsealed in any case, by opening a nozzle used to break the booster during the separation from the core stage. The second and third stage required no upgrades, since it was proven that they would loose integrity as they hit the ocean surface.
To certify the rocket for operation in the tropical climate of French Guiana, developers evaluated all unsealed interior volumes onboard the vehicle and certified that all holes and cavities in its structure were adequately protected from insects and small rodents. The rocket's ability to withstand dust and humidity was also reconfirmed.
Some upgrades included a special covering on the core stage and booster stages to reduce icing, as well as modified systems, which enabled the integration of the third stage and its payload module in vertical position.
Unlike the standard Soyuz-2 rocket, chemical ignition was not expected to be used onboard Soyuz-ST, until the accumulation of reliable statistics on its performance with the "Russian" version of the rocket.
On February 14, 2006, Jean-Yves Le Gall, Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace, and Anatoly Perminov, Director General of Roskosmos, signed the supply contract for the first four Soyuz launch vehicles to be launched from Kourou. A signing ceremony in Moscow was attended by the French and Russian prime ministers. At the time the first launch of the Soyuz from Kourou was expected in November 2008. On Sept. 20, 2008, in Sochi, Russia, Roskosmos and Arianespace signed another agreement for the supply of additional 10 Soyuz-ST launch vehicles with the reported price tag of between $300-400 million. The Soyuz-ST vehicles ordered within first two contracts would be based on both Soyuz-2-1a and 2.1b versions, and they were unofficially designated as Soyuz-STA and Soyuz-STB respectively. At the time of the second contract, the first launch from Kourou was promised in September 2009.
In 2010, a total of 24 Soyuz-ST missions from Kourou were reported as ordered and in 2012, the head of Roskosmos said that 23 such launches had been planned until 2019. The shipment of two additional Soyuz-ST rockets to Kourou was scheduled during the summer of 2012.
On Sept. 9, 2013, Arianespace announced that 11 Soyuz rockets had been under contract for near-term missions and the company was "in contact" with its Russian partners for (production) of between 7 and 10 additional launchers to be used from 2016. Probably hinting at some potential production conflict with Russia's internal needs, Arianespace said that it has been still enough time "to work out details in the production flow for Arianespace’s own requirements."
Soyuz-2-1b in Plesetsk
On March 19, 2008, at 07:00 in the morning, the Soyuz-2-1b rocket was rolled out to the launch pad No. 4 in Plesetsk for dry tests of all launch operations except fueling. The rocket was expected to remain at the site for four days, before rolling back to the processing building.
After a one-day delay by technical problems, a Soyuz-2-1b rocket flew its first mission from Plesetsk with a Persona new-generation military satellite. According to the official Russian press, the launch vehicle blasted on July 26, 2008, at 22:31 Moscow Time, carrying a military satellite designed to work for seven years.
A Russian rocket successfully delivered six satellites for a low-orbit communications network. The Soyuz 2-1a launch vehicle carrying the initial cluster of six Globalstar second-generation satellites lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome's Pad 6 at Site 31 in Kazakhstan on October 19, 2010, at 21:10:59 Moscow Time.
Continuing an ever increasing pace of its space program, Russia made a third attempt to orbit its newest generation satellite for military communications.
A Soyuz-2-1a rocket with the Fregat upper stage lifted off from Pad No. 4 at Site 43 in Plesetsk on Nov. 2, 2010, at 03:59 Moscow Time. Two minutes later, Russia's ground control network started tracking the vehicle, which successfully reached its initial orbit, official military sources said. According the Ministry of Defense spokesman, the separation of the payload from the upper stage was scheduled for 06:13 Moscow Time, as vehicles would be orbiting the Earth within communication range of the ground control network.
In the post-launch interview with Zvezda channel, Aleksandr Kirilin, the head of TsSKB Progress said that the mission concluded the test flight program of the Soyuz-2-1a launch vehicle, clearing the way to the formal acceptance of the rocket into the armaments of the Russian military.
A Soyuz-2-1b rocket with a Fregat upper stage carrying the GLONASS-K1 satellite lifted off on Feb. 26, 2011, at 06:07:15 Moscow Decree Time, from Pad 4 at Site 43 the Plesetsk launch site. This was the first time a satellite for the GLONASS constellation flew onboard the Soyuz-2 rocket from Russia's northern launch site. All previous missions in the program originated from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and were carried by Proton rockets.
Arianespace successfully orbited a second batch of six spacecraft for Globalstar's second-generation satellite network on a mission performed with the medium-lift Soyuz launcher from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Arianespace said. The flight was carried out on Arianespace's behalf by its Starsem affiliate, lifting off on July 13, 2011, at 06:27:04 Moscow Summer Time from Site 31. Soyuz' Fregat upper stage then performed two successive firings, followed by the orbital injection of the six satellites one hour and 38 minutes after liftoff.
Soyuz-2-1b orbits GLONASS-M navsat
A Soyuz-2-1b rocket with a Fregat upper stage lifted off from Launch Pad No. 4 at Site 43 in Plesetsk Cosmodrome on Oct. 3, 2011, at 00:15 Moscow Time. It carried the Uragan-M satellite for the GLONASS-M constellation of navigation satellites.
Soyuz flies its first mission from French Guiana
A Soyuz-ST-B rocket with a pair of European navigation satellites lifted off on Oct. 21, 2011, at 10:30:26 GMT (06:30 EST, 14:30 Moscow Time), opening a new era in its operations from its brand-new launch pad in Kourou, French Guiana. The rocket carried a first pair of four In-Orbit-Validation (IOV) satellites for the European Galileo navigation network.
Soyuz-2 flies its second GLONASS mission
Soyuz-ST flies its second mission from Kourou
Arianespace confirmed Soyuz’ mission flexibility in operations from the space center in Kourou with a successful launch of a Soyuz-ST-A/Fregat rocket that placed six satellites into Sun-synchronous orbit. Departing precisely at the planned liftoff time on Dec. 17, 2011, at 11:03:08 p.m. in French Guiana, the Soyuz-ST-A/Fregat performed a 3-hour, 26-minute flight to deploy its payload of the French Pléiades 1 and Chilean SSOT satellites for civilian and defense image gathering, along with four French ELISA micro-satellite demonstrators for defense-related electronic intelligence gathering (ELINT).
A Soyuz-2-1b rocket with the Fregat upper stage lifted off from Pad 4 at Site 43 in Plesetsk on Dec. 23, 2011, at 16:08 Moscow Time. The launch vehicle carried a Meridian No. 5 communications satellite for the Russian military. The Titov Test Space Center started tracking the mission at 16:11 Moscow Time, a representative of Air and Space Defense Forces, VKO, told the official Russian media. According to the flight program, the satellite was expected to establish contact with Russian ground stations at 18:28 Moscow Time. However during the firing of the launch vehicle's third stage, 421 seconds after the liftoff, an emergency command shut down the engine, a VKO representative said.
Soyuz-2-1a delivers third batch of six Globalstar-2 satellites
Soyuz-2-1a launches Metop-B
Soyuz ST-B returns to flight during VS03 mission
The European launch services consortium Arianespace launched the fourth mission to build the continent's satellite navigation system with the help of a Russian-built launch vehicle. The Soyuz ST-B/Fregat-MT rocket lifted off from its recently completed equatorial launch pad in French Guiana on Oct. 12, 2012, at 15:15:01 local time (18:15 GMT, 22:15 Moscow Time). It is carrying a second pair of In-Orbit Validation satellites (FM3 and FM4) for Europe's Galileo navigation satellite constellation. The VS03 mission marked the return to flight mission for the RD-0124 engine following the December 2011 launch failure. The engine for this mission was modified to comply with interagency failure board's recommendations and increase its reliability. Following the modification process, the engine for this mission successfully completed two full duration test firings for verification tests before the engine (including stage three) was flown back to Guiana for final processing.
During the first decade of the 21st century, Soyuz-2 had remained a semi-experimental vehicle, with most payloads within a similar mass range carried aloft by a previous-generation Soyuz rockets. As a result, the manufacturing cost of the upgraded rocket remained much higher then that of its predecessors. According to sources within the Russian manned space program in 2009, a switch from Soyuz-FG to Soyuz-2-1a would cost 1.5 times more per launch, while Soyuz-2-1b would be 1.8 times more expensive than the FG version.
By the beginning of the new decade, TsSKB Progress' production plant in the city of Samara could produce up to 10 upgraded rockets annually, while 20-22 vehicles of this class would be required each year, the head of the organization, Aleksandr Kirilin said. (486) At the time, Russian space agency, Roskosmos, planned to phase out older Soyuz rockets in 2014, with a gradual increase in production of Soyuz-2 rockets up to a total of 20-24 vehicles annually.
Russia launches sixth Meridian satellite
Military personnel at Russia's northern launch site launched the latest-generation communications satellite Wednesday. The launch of the Soyuz-2-1a rocket with a Fregat upper stage took place on November 14, 2012, at 15:42:46 Moscow Summer Time from Pad No. 4 at Site 43 in Plesetsk Cosmodrome. The rocket was carrying the Meridian No. 6 satellite intended for military communications.
Soyuz-ST-A launches Pléiades-1B
After a 24-hour delay due to technical problem, the Soyuz-ST-A/Fregat rocket successfully launched the Pléiades-1B satellite on Dec. 1, 2012.
Soyuz flies a commercial mission from Baikonur
More than two years after starting the deployment of the Globalstar-2 satellite constellation, a Russian Soyuz-2 rocket lifted off on its fourth and final mission to deliver a six-satellite cluster. The launch will conclude more than two decades of commercial operations of the Soyuz rocket in Baikonur, yielding to a new launch facility in Kourou, French Guiana.
The liftoff of the Soyuz-2-1a/Fregat rocket took place as scheduled on Feb. 6, 2013, at 20:04:24 Moscow Time (16:04 GMT, 11:04 a.m. EST) from Pad 6 at Site 31 in Baikonur. The vehicle was carrying six 700-kilogram Globalstar-2 satellites (Flight Models No. 19-24) completing the 24-satellite mobile-phone communications constellation.
The separation of the first pair of satellites from the Fregat upper stage was scheduled for 21:43 Moscow Time (12:43 EST), followed by four remaining spacecraft a minute later. Around 21:50 Moscow Time (12:50 EST), Roskosmos confirmed that the payloads had been released marking the success of the mission.
Soyuz-2-1a launches first Bion-M satellite
The Soyuz-2.1a rocket carrying the Bion-M No. 1 satellite lifted off on April 19, 2013, at 14:00 Moscow Time (6 a.m. EDT) from Baikonur Cosmodrome's Site 31. The spacecraft was expected to be inserted into a 290 by 575-kilometer elliptical orbit, with an inclination 64.9 degrees toward the Equator. The same mission would also release into orbit a cluster of "hitchhiker" payloads, including small satellites from Russia, Germany, the United States and South Korea. According to Roskosmos, secondary payloads would be released from the main satellite in the initial phase of the flight from 4th to 35th orbit around the Earth.
After a 17-month break, Russia successfully launched the 48th mission to replenish its global positioning satellite constellation. The liftoff of the Soyuz-2-1b rocket with a Fregat upper stage from Pad 4 at Site 43 in Plesetsk took place as scheduled on April 26, 2013, at 09:23:41 Moscow Summer Time. The vehicle carried a single GLONASS-M No. 47 satellite. Titov Chief Test Space Center of the Russian space forces started tracking the launch at 09:26 Moscow Time and established control over the satellite at 12:55 Moscow Time.
Soyuz-2-1b launches second Persona satellite
According to a representative of the Russian Ministry of Defense, quoted by RIA Novosti news agency, the Soyuz-2.1b launch vehicle lifted off from Site 43 at Russia's northern cosmodrome in Plesetsk on June 7, 2013, at 22:37 Moscow Time. Russian tracking network was expected to start controlling the satellite within the range of the nation's ground stations at 00:13 Moscow Time, the agency quoted Colonel Dmitry Zenin from the press-service directorate of the Air and Space Defense Forces. Zenin also confirmed a successful separation of the spacecraft from the third stage of the launch vehicle and its insertion into the Earth orbit. According to unofficial reports, the liftoff took place on June 7, 2013, at 22:37:59 Moscow Time, with Persona No. 2 satellite onboard.
In a rare coincidence, two Russia's legendary Soyuz rockets blasted off from different continents within two hours from each other.
The Russian space agency, Roskosmos, successfully launched a Soyuz-2-1b rocket (No. 15000-013) delivering the Resurs-P1 flagship remote-sensing satellite from Baikonur in Kazakhstan at 21:28:48 Moscow Summer Time (1:28 p.m. EDT) on June 25, while Europe's Arianespace consortium fired a very similar rocket from the ELS launch facility in Kourou, French Guiana, with a cluster of O3b communications satellites on the same day.
Soyuz rocket successfully launches Gaia satellite
A Russian-built Soyuz-2 rocket sent a European spacecraft 1.5 million kilometers from Earth Thursday on a ground-breaking mission to map the Milky Way. Besides its launch vehicle, the Gaia mission has little-known Russian roots.
The launch of the Soyuz-ST-B (Soyuz-2) rocket with a Fregat upper stage took place as scheduled on Dec. 19, 2013, at 13:12:19 Moscow Time (04:12 a.m. EST, 06:12 local, 09:12 GMT) from the Soyuz launch facility in Kourou, French Guiana. The rocket boosted the 2,034-kilogram Gaia astronomy satellite toward the second Lagrange point located 1.5 million kilometers from our planet where gravitational forces of the Sun and Earth reach a shaky equilibrium. There, Gaia will start a five-year mission to catalog up to one billion stars as faint as the 20th magnitude within our galaxy.
It was the 29th mission of the Soyuz-2 rocket and the 77th orbital launch attempt around the world in 2013.
Soyuz-2 development team:
Soyuz-2 payload delivery capabilities (in kilograms):
A complete list of Soyuz-2 missions:
This page is maintained by Anatoly Zak; last update: December 19, 2013
Fregat upper stages at NPO Lavochkin's testing and checkout station, KIS. The development and test version is on the foreground, a demonstration copy is on the background. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak
A full-scale mockup of an eight-chamber hydrogen engine proposed for future upper stages compatible with Soyuz-2-1b vehicle. Copyright © 2009 Anatoly Zak
The Soyuz-2 launcher on the refurbished launch pad in Plesetsk in 2004. Credit: Arianespace
The Soyuz-2 rocket, apparently with the Persona military satellite, during pre-launch processing in Plesetsk in 2008. Credit: Vesti
The rollout of the Soyuz-2-1a rocket with the third Meridian satellite in the fall of 2010. Credit: Zvezda TV channel
The Soyuz-2-1b rocket with the first GLONASS-K satellite on the launch pad in Plesetsk in February 2011. Credit: Roskosmos
The Soyuz-2-1a rocket with the fourth Meridian satellite lifts off from Plesetsk on May 4, 2011. Credit: Vesti TV channel
Soyuz-2-1a with MetOp-B on the launch pad in September 2012. Credit: TsENKI
Soyuz-2-1a with MetOp-B lifts off on Sept. 17, 2012. Credit: TsENKI
Soyuz lifts off with two Galileo satellites on Oct. 12, 2012. Credit: Arianespace
Soyuz-2 lifts off on Feb. 6, 2013, with fourth and final six Globalstar-2 satellites in a last commercial mission from Baikonur. Credit: TsENKI
A payload fairing for the launch of the Bion-M No. 1 spacecraft in April 2013. Credit: TsENKI
A Soyuz-2.1a rocket lifts off on April 19, with Bion-M No. 1. Credit: Roskosmos
The Soyuz-2-1b rocket launches GLONASS-M No. 47 satellite on April 26, 2013. Credit: Zvezda TV channel