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Above: A light-weight Soyuz-1 launcher could serve as an intermediate step between the Soyuz-2-1b rocket and the more powerful Soyuz-2-3 launch vehicle.


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A 1 to 20 scale model of the Soyuz-1 launch vehicle at the ILA-2008 show in Berlin. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2008 Anatoly Zak


A scale model showing integration of the NK-33-1 engine into the core stage of the Soyuz-2-3 rocket. The Soyuz-1 would use a similar arrangement, minus strap-on boosters. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2008 Anatoly Zak


Two areas of modifications required in interfaces of the Soyuz launch pad with the Soyuz-1 rocket. Click to enlarge.

Previous chapter: Soyuz-3 rocket

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A Soyuz-1 concept

During the first decade of the 21st century, TsSKB Progress in Samara, the developer of the Soyuz series of rockets, continued efforts to upgrade this legendary family of launchers. Around 2007, following its strategy of modest improvements with limited funds, TsSKB Progress proposed yet another intermediate step on the road to integrating NK-33 engines inherited from the N1 rocket into the Soyuz family.

Designated Soyuz-1, the new light-weight vehicle would use a core stage fitted with a single NK-33-1 engine, but without strap-on boosters typical for the Soyuz family. Also the diameter of the lower section of the core stage would be increased from 2,050 to 2,660 millimeters. Soyuz-1 would use the same ground facilities and hardware already available for the Soyuz-2-1b rocket in Plesetsk with relatively minor modifications. A standard payload fairing of the Soyuz rocket adopted for Soyuz-1 would have a diameter of three meters. The flight control system would also be borrowed from Soyuz-2, but its software and configuration would have to be modified for the new flight profile and the new engine.

According to the information released at the ILA-2008 show in Berlin, a two-stage, 136-ton Soyuz-1 rocket was designed to deliver payloads ranging from 1.5 to 2.4 tons from Plesetsk into the low-Earth orbit with an inclination 62.5 degrees toward the Equator. By 2009, the launch mass of the vehicle grew to 158.5 tons. In 2010, TsSKB Progress quoted 157-160 tons as the launch mass. The rocket would be 44 meters tall.

If developed, the Soyuz-1 rocket would mark the first practical use of the NK-33 engine in Russia since its predecessors' failure to carry giant N1 rocket toward the Moon and several schemes to employ the technology in the West. Simultaneously, a US firm Aerojet worked on integrating NK-33 into the Taurus-2 launch vehicle. Soyuz-1 could also provide a critical engineering bridge from the operational Soyuz-2 rocket to Soyuz-2-3, possibly the most powerful version in the historic family of rockets.

Modifications to Soyuz rocket

A main design feature differing Soyuz-1 from other rockets in the Soyuz family would be the bottom section on the first (core) stage of the vehicle, accommodating the NK-33-1 engine. Sporting larger diameter than in previous rockets, the section could then migrate to the Soyuz-2-3 vehicle, if it was ever developed. Additionally, Soyuz-1 would need four new attachments around the "waist" of its first stage, which would be normally located at the tips of strap-on boosters. These devices would interface with the tulip-like supports of the launch pad, holding the rocket in place until the moment of a liftoff. Finally, in its tail section, Soyuz-1 would need four connectors for guiding devices (UN) extending from the launch pad, which would normally hold strap-on boosters. Respectively, on the ground, below the launch pad, a downward looking cable umbilical and guiding devices would have to be extended to reach much slimmer base of the Soyuz-1 rocket. (353)

Volga upper stage

Within the Soyuz-1 development project, TsSKB also proposed a Volga upper stage, identified in official documentation as "block vyvedeniya" (insertion stage). The company would develop the stage with its internal funds.


Next chapter: Development of the Soyuz-1 rocket

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Page author: Anatoly Zak; last update: July 4, 2013

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