Kosmos-3 rocket series

The launch vehicles known today as Kosmos-1, 3, 3M and 3MU can be considered siblings, since they all derived from the R-14 intermediate-range ballistic missile.

According to the official history of the KB Yuzhnoe, (the vehicle's original developer), the preliminary design of a two-stage 65S3 launch vehicle was completed in April 1961. The R-14 ballistic missile served as the first stage of the future launcher. The S3 upper stage was developed from scratch.

On October 31, 1961, the government officially approved the work on the 65S3 vehicle as the launcher for Meteor, Strela and Pchela satellites.

In November 1962, before completing the development of the 65S3 vehicle, OKB-586 passed the serial production of the rocket to OKB-10 in Krasnoyarsk-26 (Eastern Siberia), now known as Zheleznogorsk. The first 14 rockets of this type were manufactured at Site 2 of Krasmashzavod in Krasnoyarsk-26 and around 40 follow-on vehicles were built at the main campus of the same plant. Around 1970, the serial production of the Kosmos-3M vehicle and all its further modifications were transferred to PO Polyot in Eastern-Siberian town of Omsk. A total of 750 Kosmos-3M rockets and its derivatives would ultimately be manufactured during its 45-year service life. (555)


Kosmos-3 family overview:

Manufacturer index
Base missile
US DOD designation

Sheldon designation

OKB-586, OKB-10
11K65 (8K65S3)
11K65M (8K65S5)
Vzlet (Kosmos-3MU)
PO Polyot


Known technical specifications of the Kosmos-3 rocket:

Number of stages
Length of the vehicle

31.5 - 32.4 meters

2.4 meters
Weight (fueled)
109 tons
First launch 1964
Launch sites Baikonur (Site 41, PU-15), Plesetsk (Site 132), Kapustin Yar (Site 107, PU-1)
Stage 1  
Oxidizer Nitrogen tetroxide
Stage 1 burn time ~170 seconds from takeoff
1st stage propulsion

2 (two) two-chamber RD-216 (8D513) engines (combined make 8D514 four chamber engine with two turbo-pumps)

Stage 2  
Oxidizer Nitrogen tetroxide
Stage 2 burn time around 27 minutes (including around 20-minute period of very low thrust)
2nd stage propulsion


Payload from Plesetsk, inclination 66, 74 and 83 degrees
  • 1,400 kilograms to 250-kilometer near-polar orbit
  • 950 kilograms to 1,000-kilometer circular orbit
  • 500 kilograms to 1,700-kliometer circular orbit


The Kosmos-3 development team:

Developer Chief-designer Location
Original design
Mikhail Yangel
Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine
Branch 2, OKB-1 (OKB-10)
M. F. Reshetnev
Krasnoyarsk-26 (Zheleznogorsk, Eastern Siberia)
Initial production
Zavod No. 1001
A. E. Mitrofanov
Krasnoyarsk-26 (Zheleznogorsk, Eastern Siberia)
Serial production and upgrades
PO Polyot
Omsk (Eastern Siberia)
Propulsion systems
Valentin Glushko


Test launches: Kosmos-1 (65S3), Kosmos-3 (11K65)

The initial test launches of the 65S3 vehicle were planned at the NIIP-5 test range near Tyuratam (later Baikonur) in today's Kazakhstan.

The 2nd Test Directorate, which was normally responsible for testing rockets designed at OKB-586 in Dnepropetrovsk, was assigned to conduct the test launch program. The launch pad No. 15 (PU-15), previously used for the R-16 tests at Site 41 of NIIP-5 was refurbished for the new vehicle.

On August 18, 1964, the first 65S3 vehicle blasted off from Baikonur, successfully delivering three dummy satellites, representing Strela communications spacecraft. They were officially identified as Kosmos-38-40. Until 1968, total 14 launches were conducted from Baikonur. Retrospectively, the 65S3 vehicle was referred as Kosmos-1 in the official Russian sources. A modified version, whose launches started in Baikonur in 1966, had a totally new designation: 11K65. This version was later identified as Kosmos-3. (76)

Operational history: Kosmos-3M (11K65M)

On May 15, 1967, yet another version of the Kosmos-3 launcher blasted off from Plesetsk for the first time, carrying Kosmos-158 onboard. The rocket featured an upgraded second stage and it was designated 11K65M. The major modification of the upper stage included its capability to reduce thrust of the main engine dramatically and later throttle it back. During the low-thrust burn, the gas-generators onboard the stage would direct its exhaust through the special nozzles, providing low level thrust to the vehicle. The feature was used during the release of multiple payloads from the second stage.

On Feb. 23, 1970, the 11K65M later identified as Kosmos-3M, had been officially declared operational along with its military payload. (555) Since April 1970, this vehicle, regularly delivered groups of eight satellites from Plesetsk in a single launch.

On January 26, 1973, the first Kosmos-3M launcher blasted off from Kapustin Yar.

Among payloads, the Cosmos 3M was delivering into orbit were Tselina-O spacecraft for electronic intelligence; Strela 1M, 2M and Tsyklon for military navigation and communications; Taifun-1 and 2 for calibration of defense radars; targets for anti-satellite weapon tests; Tsikada navigation satellites.

On July 26, 1973, a fully fueled Kosmos-3M rocket exploded on the launch pad 133 in Plesetsk killing nine people from the launch team.

As of January 1, 1996, 389 Kosmos-3 vehicles were launched, 366 of them successfully.

On November 21, 2000, Kosmos-3M booster failed to deliver QuickBird satellite into orbit after launch from Plesetsk. According to the radar data, the second stage of the launcher failed to form the final orbit. The commission led by Lt. General Kovalenko, chief of Cosmodrome Plesetsk, started investigating the matter, but quit few days later.

Rosaviacosmos and Russian Strategic Missile Forces formed the new commission to investigate the accident. The original investigation team, after reviewing 1,521 seconds of the launch sequence, failed to find the problem with the vehicle. However, the data received by the Russian ground control station have a 400-second blackout period, which could not be analyzed. Lt. General Valeriy Grin, the Deputy Chief Commander of the Strategic Missile Forces, led the new commission.

Vzlet (Kosmos-3MU)

PO Polyot considered the new version of the Kosmos-3M booster, known as Vzlet. Another designation, which appeared in press was Kosmos-3MU. The new digital control system would replace the old one. It would allow more precise fueling of the rocket for each individual mission and more complete consumption of the propellant in flight. In combination with bigger propellant tanks, these improvements could increase the payload by some 25 percent.

The liftoff mass of the rocket was expected to be 111 tons and length would be 33.1 meters. The rocket would be able to deliver 1,500 kilograms to a 200-kilometer circular polar orbit.

In total, eight different versions of the Kosmos launch vehicles had been developed, according to the official statistics. (502)

In the 21st century: End of an era

In 2006, there were persistent reports that the production of the Kosmos-3M rocket in Omsk would cease with the merger of its manufacturer, PO Polyot, with Khrunichev enterprise, and the former organization's switch to the work on the Angara booster stages. However the official statement from Roskosmos released on Aug. 28, 2006, said that the agreement between Khrunichev and PO Polyot reached on August 25 would ensure that both elements of Angara boosters would be built at the facility alongside the Kosmos-3M vehicle, whose production would be resumed. At the same time, further upgrades of the Kosmos-3M rocket would be conducted, Roskosmos said. However, Russian military opposed any Kosmos-3M missions beyond expending already produced stockpile of rockets. Speaking at a conference of the rocket industry in 2006, Deputy Chief of Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Aleksandr Ivanov, said that around 10 remaining Kosmos-3M vehicles would be expended by 2012, discontinuing their use. By 2015, the entire fleet of launchers operating from Plesetsk would use "clean" propellants, Ivanov added.

In 2007, Vladimir Popovkin, the commander of the Russian Space Forces, KVR, echoed that position, telling the official ITAR-TASS news agency that toxic propellant employed in the Kosmos-3M rocket had prompted the Russian military to drop any plans of using it beyond already built vehicles. Popovkin added that the Rockot boosters, (also burning toxic propellant) would be used to fill the gap between the last launch of the Kosmos-3M and the introduction of the Angara family of rockets. "We do not share (the position) of the federal space agency to attempt to upgrade the Kosmos-3M launch vehicles," Popovkin added. Since Russian military operated the Kosmos-3M launch facilities in Plesetsk and the rocket carried primarily military payloads, there was little doubt, whose position would ultimately prevail.

During 2011, Russian space officials said that the two remaining Kosmos-3M rockets would fly in 2012, concluding the production and use of this family of rockets by 2013. (502)

Missions of the Kosmos-3M launch vehicle in the 21st century

2001 June 8: The Kosmos-3M launcher returned to flight on June 8, with the successful launch of a military satellite. The two-stage rocket blasted off from Russia's Northern Cosmodrome in Plesetsk at 19:12 Moscow Time (11:12 p.m. EDT) on June 8.

According to the Russian Space Forces, the spacecraft, announced as Kosmos-2378, successfully reached the orbit. The parameters of its orbit (1,023 by 981 kilometers, inclination 82.9 degrees toward the Equator) suggest that the satellite belongs to the Tsyklon-B navigation and communications network, comprised of the Parus ("Sail") spacecraft.

The Kosmos-3M was grounded since November 2000, when the rocket failed to deliver a US QuickBird imaging satellite, due to the second stage failure. The latest launch was 402nd for the Kosmos-3M, since the rocket entered service in 1967.

The June 8 launch was delayed since April 27 by problems with the steering control system in the engines of the second stage comprising the Kosmos-3M launcher.

2002 May 28: The Kosmos-3M booster delivered a navigation satellite after the launch from Russia's northern cosmodrome in Plesetsk. The payload, officially identified as Kosmos-2389, apparently belongs to the Tsikada series of navigation satellites.

2002 July 8: The Kosmos-3M booster delivered two classified satellites after a successful launch from Russia's northern cosmodrome in Plesetsk. The launch took place at 10:36 Moscow Time.

The payload was officially identified only as Kosmos-2390 and Kosmos-2391, however the Russian press reported that the spacecraft belong to the series of the Strela communications network, providing secret communications for the Russian authorities.

2002 Sept. 26: The Kosmos-3M booster delivered a Nadezhda-M ("Hope") navigation satellite on September 26, 2002, after the launch from Russia's northern cosmodrome in Plesetsk.

The blastoff took place at 19:30 Moscow Time, the Russian Space Forces announced. The Nadezhda-M satellite entered a 987.4 by 1,022.1-kilometer orbit with the inclination 83 degrees toward the Equator.

The Nadezhda-M carries COSPAS-SARSAT equipment designed to relay distress signals from the ships around the world.

According to official statistics it was the 405th launch of the Kosmos-3M-type booster and the 1934th space launch from Plesetsk.

2002 Nov. 28: The Kosmos-3M booster delivered Algerian and Russian satellites into a sun-synchronous orbit, after the launch from Russia's northern cosmodrome in Plesetsk.

A two-stage vehicle blasted off at 09:07 Moscow Time on Nov. 28, 2002, carrying AlSat-1 remote-sensing satellite for the Algerian government and the Mozhaets experimental satellite, designed for the training of the Russian military academy students.

The AlSat spacecraft, is a part of the Disaster Monitoring Constellation, DMS, network, developed by SSTL company of England.

According to the Russian Space Forces, both satellites successfully reached a 701 x 680-kilometer orbit.

2003 June 4: The Russian military launched a classified payload from country's northern cosmodrome in Plesetsk on June 4, 2003. The Kosmos-3 booster blasted off at 23:23 Moscow Time and the spacecraft was expected to reach its final orbit at 00:27 Moscow Time on June 5, 2003.

The payload was officially identified as Kosmos-2398. Although no information on the purpose of the spacecraft had been released, it is known that the Kosmos-3 booster is routinely used to deliver low-orbital navigation and communication satellites for the Russian military.

2003 Aug. 19: The Kosmos-3M rocket launched a pair of military satellites from Russia's northern cosmodrome.

The launch vehicle blasted off from Plesetsk Cosmodrome at 14:50 Moscow Time, carrying two spacecraft, most likely navigation satellites. After reaching the low Earth orbit, payloads were officially designated as Kosmos-2400 and Kosmos-2401.

This mission was originally planned for the last decade of August 2003, but was, apparently, advanced by a day or two.

2003 Sept. 27: After a 24-hour delay due to technical problems, Kosmos-3M rocket successful launched a cluster of six payloads from Russia's northern cosmodrome in Plesetsk.

The launch vehicle blasted off at 10:12 Moscow Time on Sept. 27, carrying South-Korean KAISTSAT-4 spacecraft equipped with Spectroscopy of Plasma Evolution from Astrophysical Radiation, ultraviolet instrument, SPEAR; Turkish BILSAT-1; Nigerian NIGERIASAT-1, Turkish BILSAT-1 and UK-DMC from the UK-built Disaster Monitoring Constellation, DMC; and two Russian experimental military satellites Mozhaets-4 and Larets.

The separation of the payloads from the second stage of the launch vehicle into solar synchronous orbit was expected to start at 10:46 Moscow Time on Sept. 27, 2003.

2004 July 22: Russian military orbited a classified payload from the nation's northern launch facility.

The Kosmos-3M rocket blasted off from Site 132 in Plesetsk on July 22, 2004 at 21:46:28 Moscow Time, press service of the Russian Space Troops, VKS, said. A classified military payload was successfully inserted into its orbit at 22:49:30 Moscow Time.

Kosmos-3M rockets are routinely used to deliver navigation and low-orbit communications satellites for the Russian military.

2004 Sept. 23, at 19:07 Moscow Time: the Kosmos-3M rocket launched two military payloads from Plesetsk.

According to the Russian Space Forces, KVR, a pair of satellites successfully reached its orbits at 20:01 Moscow Time. They were officially designated as Kosmos-2408 and Kosmos-2409.

The mission was previously planned for September 21, 2004, however it was delayed for 24 hours by technical problems and then by strong winds at the launch site.

2005 Jan. 20: For the second time in a month, a Russian rocket apparently delivered its payload into a lower-than-planned orbit. The Kosmos-3M launcher blasted off from Russia's northern cosmodrome in Plesetsk at 06:00 Moscow Time on Jan. 20, 2005, carrying the Parus navigation satellite for the Russian military along with a "piggyback" Universitetsky-Tatyana spacecraft for the Moscow State University, MGU.

The Kosmos-3M launcher used in the mission also carried an enlarged payload fairing designed to accommodate the three-meter wide parabolic antenna of the SAR-Lupe reconnaissance satellites, developed for the German military and slated for launch on a future mission of the Kosmos-3M rocket in 2005. At the time of the launch, OHB-System AG in Bremen was integrating the SAR-Lupe satellites. The first of five flight satellites has already been fitted with the synthetic aperture radar supplied by Alcatel Space, Toulouse, and Tesat Spacecom, Backnang, for capturing image data.

The SAR-Lupe radar-image-based reconnaissance system being built for the German Federal Armed Forces comprises five satellites and a ground station for controlling the satellites and evaluating the downloaded data. Located in Gelsdorf, the ground station has now very largely been completed.

According to official Russian sources, both satellites successfully reached orbit and separated from the upper stage of the launch vehicle at 07:02 Moscow Time on Jan. 20, 2005. However, ground observations found the Parus spacecraft, officially identified as Kosmos-2414, in a 909.5 by 966.7-kilometer orbit with the inclination of 82.9 degrees toward the Equator. In the past, satellites of this type would be inserted into orbits with an apogee of around 1,000 kilometers above the Earth surface. Lower altitude could be caused by a premature shutdown or the lack of thrust in the propulsion system of the launch vehicle.

However, official Russian sources later claimed that both satellites were successfully delivered. The Tatyana satellite failed unexpectedly in March 2007, possibly as a result of a collision with a piece of space junk.

2005 Oct. 27: A Russian rocket successfully orbited a cluster of eight international payloads, however some run into trouble soon after launch.

The Kosmos-3M No. 104 launcher blasted off from Site 132 of Russia's northern cosmodrome in Plesetsk on October 27, 2005 at 10:52:36 Moscow Time. It carried eight payloads for several countries intended for a sun-synchronous orbit with the altitude of 690 kilometers and the inclination of 98.2 degrees toward the Equator:

Mass, kg Size, mm Developer Operator
Mozhaets-5 90 1,011x1,019x920 PO Polyot, Russia Mozhaisky Academy, Russia Experimental, flight control training
Sinah 1 160 800x1,300x1,600 PO Polyot, Russia Applied Research Institute, Iran Remote sensing, Reconnaissance
China-DMC 150 900x770x912 SSTL, UK Beijing Landview Mapping Information Technology, China Remote sensing
TopSat 115 865x781x1,495 SSTL, UK QinetiQ, UK Remote sensing
SSETI Express 62 (77) 1,030x600x580 ESA ESA Education
Ncube-2 1 100x100x100 Universities of Norway Andoya Rocket Range, Norway Education
UWE-1 1 100x100x100 University of Würzburg, Germany University of Würzburg, Germany Education
XI-V 1 100x100x100 University of Tokyo in Japan University of Tokyo in Japan Education

Upon reaching the orbit, the payload separation sequence was scheduled to take place between 11:27:18 and 11:27:24.

The Mozhaets-5 spacecraft was expected to establish contact with the Russian military ground control network, GITsIU KS, at 12:27:21 Moscow Time.

Although all spacecraft successfully reached the orbit, on October 28, Russian space forces said that "interruption in the separation algorithm" between the spacecraft and the launch vehicle adapter took place "affecting" the establishment of the communications with the satellite. Attempts were reportedly under way to restore control over the spacecraft.

Later reports clarified that the Mozhaets-5 spacecraft has never separated from the upper stage of the launch vehicle and tumbled in orbit along with it.

In the meantime, on October 27 at 10:29 CEST, the ground control center at the University in Aalborg (DK) received the first signals from the SSETI Express satellite.

As its was planned, 64 minutes after the launch, Ncube, XI-V and UWE-V pico-satellites were successfully deployed from SSETI Express and as of October 28, 2005, signals from XI-V and UWE-1 have been successfully received at their respective ground stations, however owners of the Ncube-2 heard nothing at the time.

However at 22:20 CEST, the spacecraft went into a safe mode due to an undervoltage caused by battery charging problems, the European Space Agency, ESA said. According to the ESA's official statement, the operations team was working actively to resume nominal operations of the satellite and was receiving tremendous help in the process from the amateur radio community. At the time of the anomaly, many mission milestones had already successfully been met.

Before the mission experienced several delays primarily by problems with payloads. Their delivery to the launch site was scheduled around July 22, 2005. (Delayed from Aug. 25, Sept. 27, Sept. 30, 2005. (Delayed by technical problems onboard Iranian Sina-1 satellite built by NPO Polyot.)

2005 Dec. 21: Russian space forces launched a dual payload from the nation's northern cosmodrome in Plesetsk. The Kosmos-3M (No. 232) rocket blasted off from Pad 1 at Site 132 at 22: 34 Moscow Time on December 21, 2005, carrying the Gonets-1M ("messenger") low-orbit communications satellite for the Russian government agencies and a classified military payload, which was not given any designation in the official statements immediately following the launch. Satellites were later identified as belonging to a brand-new Rodnik series.

The representative of the Russian space forces said that the launch went flawlessly and the spacecraft were expected to separate from the rocket at 23:28 Moscow Time, however the event could not be confirmed until the payloads entered the communications range with ground control stations at 00:28 Moscow Time on December 22, 2005, or almost two hours after the launch.

The mission was previously scheduled for Dec. 15, 2005 and Dec. 20, 2005.

2006 April 22: Russian Strategic Missile Forces, RVSN, tested a new platform for nuclear warheads, which reportedly increases the chances of the weapon to penetrate enemy missile defenses.

The K65M-R booster rocket, commonly known as Kosmos-3M launch vehicle, blasted off from the Kapustin Yar test range in the evening of April 22, 2006 and flew in the direction of the Sary Shagan antimissile test site. The rocket lifted a test version of the upper stage, designed to carry multiple warheads onboard the latest generation of the Russian strategic weapons -- the Topol-M ICBM and the Bulava submarine-based missile.

According to Russian military officials, the new upper stage is capable of maneuvering in flight, carries fake warheads designed to confuse missile defense radar, and is less detectable than its predecessors.

A well-informed Kommersant newspaper, reported that the first test of the upper stage was conducted on November 1, 2005, when the previous-generation Topol missile was launched from the mobile launcher deployed in Kapustin Yar. That launch had also fulfilled the goal of certifying old Topol missiles for the extended service. However, since only a single Topol is available for certification launches each year, the next test of the upper stage was carried onboard the K65M-R booster. Based on the Kosmos-3M space launcher, the vehicle was specifically modified for suborbital missions and as many as 300 were launched toward the Sary Shagan antimissile site.

Russia launches a German spy satellite

Published: 2006 Dec. 19; updated Dec 21
A military space mission unimaginable during the Cold War took off from Russia's northern cosmodrome.

The Kosmos-3M rocket lifted off from the Plesetsk launch site at 15:00:19 Central European Time (17:00:19 Moscow Time) on December 19, 2006, carrying the SAR-Lupe-1 reconnaissance satellite for the German military. The payload successfully reached its orbit an hour later, according to its developer, OHB-System AG of Bremen, Germany. The first contact between the control center and the satellite was established at 16:04 Central European Time on Dec. 19, 2006, the company said.

A preliminary review of all main functions showed that the satellite could enter normal operations. At the beginning of the mission, the control over the satellite was managed by the German Space Agency, DLR, in Oberpfaffenhofen. The ground station of the German Armed Forces in Gelsdorf was tracking the satellite at the same time and was expected to assume operative responsibility for it in mid January 2007, at which point in time it would start collecting SAR radar images.

The 770-kilogram, 4 by 3 by 2-meter spacecraft became the first of a five-bird constellation, designed to provide German Federal Armed Forces with radar imagery for surveillance purposes. The German Ministry of Defense (BMVg) and the Federal Office of Defense Technology and Procurement, referred to as BWB (Bundesamt für Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung), funded the project.

All five identical SAR-Lupe satellites sport the synthetic aperture radar, SAR, with a three-meter-long antenna and a folding probe. It is capable of delivering photos with the resolution of less than one meter in any weather, day or night. Operating in the 500-kilometer orbit passing over Earth poles in three different orbital planes, satellites would be able to photograph practically any location on the planet from 80 degrees North latitude to 80 degrees South latitude, on a 36-hour notice. The system would be able to generate more than 30 images per day, each covering five square kilometer area.
SAR-Lupe satellites were designed to transmit telemetry and data via an X-band transmitter in encrypted S-band radio waves. The spacecraft can communicate directly with ground control stations or via inter-satellite network.

OHB has established a ground station in Gelsdorf near Bonn for controlling the satellite and evaluating image data. The facility was declared operational on July 28, 2004. Before the first launch, the site was to be used for training of future users of the satellite.

The SAR-Lupe system was conceived at OHB-System AG around 1998. On December 17, 2001, BWB signed a 300-million Euro contract with the company to develop the system. For the project, OHB-System formed a consortium including a number of European aerospace firms, among them Alcatel Space of Toulouse, France; Carlo Gavazzi Space of Milan, Italy, and Saab Ericsson of Goteborg, Sweden.

On 30 July 2002, Germany and France signed a treaty, envisioning SAR-Lupe satellites and the French Helios optical reconnaissance satellite operating jointly to form a common reconnaissance system for the European Union.

The SAR-Lupe-1 satellite is one of few Western military payloads carried by Russian rockets. In 1995, Russian Molniya rocket delivered a small US satellite for military experiments in space. Also, Russia launched Israeli and Iranian Earth-watching satellites, with potential military roles; ironically, on the opposing sides of the Middle East conflict.

The launch of SAR-Lupe-1 was originally expected in 2005, but technical problems in the development of the satellite pushed the mission to April 2006, and Dec. 5, 2006. The project managers considered Rockot and Dnepr launchers for the mission, but ultimately decided in favor of Kosmos-3M.

To accommodate a large radar antenna onboard the satellite, a standard payload fairing of the Kosmos-3M launch vehicle was modified for the mission. The modified fairing was tested in flight in the January 2005 launch of the Kosmos-3M booster.

Future SAR-Lupe launches were expected to follow roughly every six months. The completed network was scheduled to operate for at least 10 years.

Russia launches a satellite for the German military

Published: 2007 July 3

Russian rocket lifted a second satellite for the network of all-weather eyes in the sky operated by the German military.

The Kosmos-3M rocket blasted off from Pad 1 at Site 132 in Plesetsk on July 2, 2007 at 23:38:41 Moscow Time, carrying the second SAR-Lupe satellite.

According to the press-service of the Russian space forces, Titov Main Testing and Control Center started tracking the vehicle at 23:40:00 Moscow Time and the launch went smoothly. The payload was expected to reach the final orbit at 00:07:01 Moscow Time on July 3, 2007, while outside the range of the Russian ground control stations.

The launch was conducted under the supervision of the Commander of the space forces Col. General Vladimir Popovkin. The mission was originally scheduled for July 1, 2007 at 23:38:16, however high winds at the altitude of 13 kilometers exceeded allowable limits, forcing a 24-hour delay.

On July 3, 2007, the manufacturer of the satellite OHB-System AG said that the first signals from the satellite were picked up by the ground station Kerguelen in the Southern Indian Ocean at 22:41 hours (CEST), with direct contact established between the control center and the satellite as planned 92 minutes after launch. Preliminary testing have indicated that SAR-Lupe-2 was working perfectly in its orbit. The activation of the satellite started on the night of July 2. Preliminary data showed that the antenna boom onboard the satellite was deployed.

According to OHB-System AG, the control over the satellite was in the hands of the German Space Agency DLR in Oberpfaffenhofen. The ground station of the German Armed Forces in Gelsdorf was tracking the satellite at the same time and was expected to assume operative responsibility for it at the end of July 2007, at when the spacecraft would start collecting radar images.

In the meantime, the German Armed Forces were already able to use the system. With the second launch, the system could be operational by autumn of 2007.
The first SAR-Lupe satellite has been in orbit since December 2006. It was supplying superb high-resolution images and was operating successfully, OHB-System AG said.

At the time, the remaining three satellites were expected to fly in intervals of around four months, with the entire system to be completed in 2008.

Russia launches a military navigation satellite

Published: 2007 Sept. 11

Russian military launched a classified payload, believed to be a navigation satellite. The Kosmos-3M rocket lifted off from Russia's northern cosmodrome in Plesetsk on Sept. 11, 2007, at 17:05 Moscow Time. According to the representative of the Russian space forces, KVR, quoted by the Interfax AVN agency, the launch vehicle carried a military payload for the Ministry of Defense.

The payload reached its operational orbit at 18:08 Moscow Time, as expected, and some one hour later, as the satellite entered within range of ground control stations, it established normal contact with the ground, officials said. The Kosmos-3M rocket routinely launches military satellites from the Parus (Sail) series.

Russia orbits a German military satellite

Published: 2007 Nov. 1

A Russian Cosmos 3M rocket lifted off on schedule from the Russian cosmodrome Plesetsk, in the early hours on November 1, 2007, at 03:51 Moscow Time. The rocket was carrying the third SAR-Lupe radar satellite, which it successfully released into its intended orbit around half an hour later, the satellite manufacturer OHB System AG announced. Preliminary signs of life from the satellite were picked up by the Kerguelen ground station in the southern Indian Ocean. As planned, direct contacts were established between the control center and the satellite 92 minutes into the mission. Preliminary tests have confirmed that the third SAR-Lupe satellite is also working properly. Accordingly, work commenced on putting it into operation last night.

Satellite control is currently in the hands of the German Space Agency DLR in Oberpfaffenhofen. The ground station of the German Armed Forces in Gelsdorf was tracking the satellite at the same time and was to assume operational responsibility for it in around four weeks. Around the same time, the radar was expected to start collecting SAR radar images.

This launch was originally scheduled for the third quarter of 2007.

In orbit since December 2006 and July 2007, respectively, the first two SAR-Lupe satellites are supplying outstanding high-resolution images and operating very successfully and reliably.
The remaining two satellites will be launched in intervals of four or five months, with the entire system to be fully operational in 2008.

The Kosmos-3M also carried an Automatic Identification System (AIS) for ships on board. OHB and LuxSpace Sarl, a company owned by OHB Technology AG, are working on the validation of this and following systems. OHB is building seven new ORBCOMM satellites in which the AIS will be implemented for the US Coast Guard for global monitoring of shipping traffic.

Russia orbits a German military satellite

Published: 2008 March 27

After a two-day delay by bad weather, Russian Cosmos 3M rocket lifted off from the Russian cosmodrome Plesetsk on March 27, 2008, at 20:15 Moscow Time. The rocket was carrying the fourth SAR-Lupe radar satellite, which it successfully released into its intended orbit 28-minutes later, the official Russian media said.

The mission was originally scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2007. It was then delayed for 24 hours due to high winds at the 13-kilometer altitude on March 25 and March 26, 2008.

Russia launches multiple satellites

Published: 2008 June 19

Russia's original ballistic missile test site served as a spaceport for a rare orbital launch attempt. The Kosmos-3M rocket blasted off from the Kapustin Yar military range on June 19, 2008, at 10:36:45 Moscow Time, Russian space agency announced. The rocket carried a cluster of six 115-kilogram satellites for the US-based Orbcomm commercial communications network, including five operational spacecraft, known as Quick Launch and one experimental Coast Guard Concept Demonstration satellite. The total mass of the payload section was announced at 1,070 kilograms. The satellites were expected to provide global communications and navigation data for 10 years.

The rocket was expected to deliver its payload into a 670-kilometer circular orbit with the inclination 48.4 degrees toward the Equator, some 33 minutes after liftoff. The mission was originally expected in the fourth quarter of 2007, and later slipped to the first quarter of 2008, May 22 and May 30, 2008. This was the first orbital launch attempt conducted in Kapustin Yar since 1999.

Russia completes a German military constellation

Published: 2008 July 22

Russian government launched the fifth and last satellite for the network of German reconnaissance satellites. The Kosmos-3M rocket lifted off from the Russian cosmodrome Plesetsk on July 22, 2008, at 06:40:09 Moscow Summer Time. The rocket was carrying the SAR-Lupe 5 radar satellite. According to the satellite manufacturer, OHB System, the payload entered its low-altitude orbit with the altitude of around 500 kilometers above the Earth's surface roughly half an hour later.

The first contact between the control center at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Oberpfaffenhofen and the satellite was established at 05:43:13 Central European Time, CEST. A preliminary check of all vital functions showed that the satellite was operating perfectly and work on putting the satellite into operation has commenced, the company announced.

Kosmos-3M launches a pair of satellites

Published: 2009 July 21

Russia launched a pair of satellites from its northern cosmodrome. The Kosmos-3M rocket lifted off on July 21, 2009, from Plesetsk, carrying two payloads, believed to be a Parus military navigation satellite (later named Kosmos-2454) and the Sterkh emergency rescue signal spacecraft. The mission was previously expected to take place in 2008.

Kosmos-192 releases debris

Published: 2009 Oct. 9

A US radar detected as many as 20 debris from the Soviet Kosmos-192 satellite, a part of the Tsyklon navigation network. The satellite was launched on Nov. 23, 1967, and spewed its debris after almost 42 years in orbit, on Aug. 30, 2009, NASA's Orbital Debris Quarterly News reported. Known today as Tsyklon series of satellites, Kosmos-192 was circling Earth in a 710 by 715-kilometer orbit with the inclination 74 degrees toward the Equator, when an event of unknown origin caused the debris. The satellite originally entered a 745 by 760-kilometer orbit, which was slowly decaying over four decades. According to NASA, the incident could be caused by a collision with an unknown object, or by a breach of the satellite's pressurized compartment, as a result of fatigue under extreme conditions in space.

A military navsat launched

Published: 2010 April 27

A Russian rocket launched a classified payload from Russia's northern cosmodrome. A Kosmos-3M rocket lifted off from Pad 1 at Site 132 in Plesetsk on April 27, 2010, at 05:05 Moscow Summer Time. The spacecraft was expected to separate from the upper stage of the launch vehicle at 06:08 Moscow Time, while out of range of the Russian ground control stations. According to the Russian space forces, Titov test and control center successfully established contact with the satellite at 06:41 Moscow Time on April 27. The payload was officially identified only as Kosmos-2463, but it is believed to be a Parus spacecraft for military navigation and communications.

According to this month's statement by the commander of the Russian space forces Oleg Ostapenko, the current mission would one of three last launches of the veteran Kosmos-3M launch vehicle. Russian military planned to use all remaining rockets in its storage, with no additional production scheduled.

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Last update: June 18, 2022



The launch of the R-14 (8K65) ballistic missile, a base for Kosmos-1, 3, 3M and 3MU launchers.


A Kosmos-3 rocket on the launch pad in Tyuratam. Credit: PO Polyot

The Kosmos-3 rocket in flight over Plesetsk. Credit: PO Polyot


The Kosmos-3 rocket blasts off from Site 132 in Plesetsk. Credit: PO Polyot

The Kosmos-3 rocket is being erected into the vertical position on the launch pad. Credit: PO Polyot

Kosmos-3 in being prepared for the installation on the launch pad in Plesetsk. Credit: PO Polyot

Kosmos-3 rockets during assembly at PO Polyot in the city of Omsk. Credit: PO Polyot

An enlarged payload fairing for the Kosmos-3M rocket (with the Parus navsat on the background) tested in January 2005 for the upcoming mission of the German SAR-Lupe satellite. Credit: OHB-System AG


A launch vehicle, carrying the SAR-Lupe-1, featured an enlarged payload fairing to accommodate satellite's large radar antenna. Credit: Channel I of the Russian TV


The Kosmos-3M rocket with the SAR-Lupe-1 satellite is being erected on the launch pad in Plesetsk in December 2006. Credit: Channel I of the Russian TV


Kosmos-3M launches the second SAR-Lupe satellite on July 2, 2007. Credit: OHB-System AG