Tsyklon (Cyclone) launch vehicle family

Overview of the Tsyklon rocket family:

Manufacturing index
Base rocket
US DOD designation

Sheldon designation

US-A, -P, -PM
Tsyklon-3 (Tsyklon-M)
11K68 (8K67S5M)
Meteor, Okean Tselina D


Specifications of the Tsyklon-2 and -3 rockets:

Number of stages
Length of the vehicle
35.5 - 39.7 meters

39.27 meters

3 meters
3 meters
Weight (fueled)
182 tons
186 - 190 tons
Empty weight 11.6 tons 12.1 tons
Oxidizer Nitrogen tetroxide Nitrogen tetroxide
First launch Oct. 27, 1967 June 24, 1977 (Kosmos-921)
Last launch Dec. 26, 1999 Dec. 28, 2000
Launch sites Baikonur (Tyuratam) (two pads: Site 90) Plesetsk (two pads: Site 32)
Stage 1    
Stage 1 weight 122.3 tons

121.7 tons

Stage 1 dry weight 6.3 tons

6.3 tons

Stage 1 length 18.9 meters

18.9 meters

Stage 1 diameter 3 meters 3 meters
Stage 1 burn time 120 seconds from launch 120 seconds from launch
1st stage propulsion
  • 3 two-chamber RD-250 engines
  • 1 four-nozzle RD-68M steering engine
  • 3 two-chamber RD-261 engines
  • 1 four-nozzle RD-68M steering engine
Stage 2    
Stage 2 weight (fueled) 49.3 tons

49.8 tons

Stage 2 dry weight 3.7 tons

4.36 tons

Stage 2 length

9.4 meters

9.4 meters

Stage 2 diameter 3 meters 3 meters
Stage 2 burn time 160 seconds 160 seconds
2nd stage propulsion
  • 1 two-chamber RD-252 engine
  • 1 four-nozzle RD-69M engine
  • 1 two-chamber RD-262 engine
  • 1 four-nozzle RD-69M engine
Stage 3 (S5M)    
Stage 3 weight (fueled) - 4.6 tons
Stage 3 dry weight - 1.407 tons
Stage 3 length - 2.58 meters
Stage 3 diameter - 2.25 meters (under payload fairing)
Stage 3 burn time - up to 125 seconds
Stage 3 propulsion   RD-861
  • 3.2 tons to 200-km 65-degree circular orbit
  • 2.7 tons to 200-km 90-degree orbit
  • 3.6 tons to 200-km near-polar orbit
  • 2.5 tons to 1,000-km orbit


R-16 development cooperation:

Element Developer Chief-designer Location
Overall design
M. Yangel
Plant No. 586
Propulsion units (both stages)
V. Glushko


Tsyklon-4 project

During the post-soviet period, Ukrainian space agency embarked on the project of developing a three-stage Tsyklon-4 rocket for commercial missions. An agreement with Brazil called for the construction of the near-equatorial launch site in Alcantara, which would maximize the vehicle's payload. The rocket could deliver 5.5 tons to the geostationary transfer orbit and 1.5 tons to geostationary orbit. However the venture was delayed for years by political and financial problems in both countries. As of August 2011, the first launch of Tsyklon-4 was expected at the end of 2012 or beginning of 2013. The Ukrainian government promised to foot a bill for around 295 million grivnas. In addition to KB Yuzhnoe in Dnepropetrovsk, supplying the rocket, OAO Azovmash was awarded contracts for nine articles of ground-support hardware to be installed in Brazil. ChAO AzovElektroStal and Bubnov wagon plant GSKB were building propellant storage tanks and a neutralization facility.

Industrial investigation of the Tsyklon-3 failure concludes

2001 Jan. 9, updated Jan. 11: The commission of KB Yuzhnoe, Ukraine, investigating the latest failure of the Tsyklon-3 rocket concluded its work this week. Although the report by the commission has not been made public, the industry representatives said the control system in the third stage of the vehicle most likely caused the failure. Kiev Radio Plant in Ukraine manufactured the control system onboard Tsyklon-3, however, some elements of the system are supplied by a Russian manufacturer based in the city of Saratov. A source close to investigation said that this subcontractor might be blamed for the failure. At the same time, the representative of Rosaviacosmos said that telemetry received during the launch showed that steering mechanism controlling the engine of the third stage stuck during the flight. It was not immediately clear if the control system could be responsible for this anomaly.

The official conclusion about the cause of the accident will be made by an interagency commission, which includes representatives from KB Yuzhnoe, Rosaviakosmos, National Space Agency of Ukraine (NKAU) and Plesetsk launch range. The interagency commission expects to release its findings on February 15, 2001.

Tsyklon-3 booster blasted off from Russian northern launch site in Plesetsk at 21:56 Moscow Time on Dec. 27, 2000. The vehicle was carrying three Strela (Arrow) satellites for military communications and three "civilian" versions of the the same spacecraft, known as Gonets D1 (Messenger). The failure took place during the third stage operation, causing the premature shutdown of its RD-861 engine. According to Rosaviacosmos, the launcher and its payload crashed in the frozen Eastern-Siberian Sea, 58 kilometers southeast of Wrangel Island.

In June 1998, the third stage of the Tsyklon-3 rocket also failed during the launch, leaving the cluster of Strela and Gonets satellites stranded in the incorrect orbit.

2001 July 31, 12:00 Moscow Time: The Tsyklon-3 rocket successfully returned to flight after December 2000 failure, delivering Koronas-F spacecraft into nearly 500-kilometer orbit with the inclination 82.5 degrees. The launch took place from Site 32 in Plesetsk. According to KB Yuzhnoe, it was 119th launch of the Tsyklon-3 rocket, of which 114 were successful.

2001 Dec. 21: After a two-day delay, a Ukrainian-built Tsyklon-2 booster successfully delivered a Russian electronic intelligence spacecraft on Friday.

A 182-ton two-stage rocket blasted off from Site 90 in Baikonur at 07:00 Moscow Time on December 21. The rocket was carrying a US-PU satellite built by the KB Arsenal development center in St. Petersburg and designed to provide electronic intelligence and missile guidance information to the Russian Navy. The rocket successfully inserted the spacecraft into a transfer orbit with an apogee of 400 kilometers. The satellite, officially designated Kosmos-2383, was then expected to use its own propulsion system to reach a final orbit around 07:48 Moscow Time on December 21.

This was the first launch of the US-type spacecraft since December 1999 and the 104th launch of the Tsyklon-2 booster.

2001 Dec. 27 (EST): In the last space launch of 2001, a Ukrainian-built rocket delivered a sextet of communications satellites into orbit after an early-morning blastoff from Russia’s northern cosmodrome in Plesetsk.

The three-stage Tsyklon-3 booster took off from Launch Complex 32 in Plesetsk at 06:24 Moscow Time on December 28. The rocket was carrying six satellites, including three Gonets D1 (“Messenger”) spacecraft intended to replenish a low-orbital communications network. Remaining three satellites onboard the rocket belonged to the Russian Ministry of Defense and in an accordance with the standard practice for the military spacecraft were identified as Kosmos-2384, -2385 and -2386.

The third stage of the Tsyklon-3 rocket normally inserts the entire cluster of six spacecraft into circular orbits with an altitude of about 1,400 kilometers and an inclination of 82.6 degrees toward the Equator. A previous attempt to launch a Gonest/Strela cluster ended in a failure a year ago. (The latest launch was previously planned for December 22 and December 26, 2001).

2004 May 28: Russia launched a classified military payload to monitor foreign Navy activities. According to the Russian Space Forces, KVR, a Tsyklon-2 rocket carrying a Kosmos-series satellite blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome at 10:00 Moscow Time. Four minutes later, the spacecraft separated from the upper stage of the launch vehicle. The payload was identified as Kosmos-2405.

Tsyklon-2 routinely delivers US-PM electronic intelligence, ELINT, spacecraft designed to detect sea vessels by intercepting their radio signals. The information from the satellites reportedly can be used to navigate Russian cruise missiles toward their targets. This mission was originally expected at the end of 2002. A previous spacecraft of this type was launched in December 2001.

2004 Dec. 24: A Tsyklon-3 rocket carrying the Sich-1M spacecraft along with the KS5MF2 micro-satellite was launched from Site 32 in Plesetsk at 14:20 Moscow Time on December 24, 2004.

The remote-sensing Sich-1M spacecraft was supposed to be delivered into a 681 by 640-kilometer orbit with an inclination of 82.5 degrees toward the Equator, however initial radar observations by NORAD found the third stage of the launch vehicle and both payloads in the 281 by 639-kilometer orbit. It could be an indication that the second burn of the Tsyklon-3's third stage failed, leaving the spacecraft in a useless and unstable orbit. The second ignition of the third stage engine to circularize the orbit was expected to take place 39 minutes after the launch.

In the meantime, the official press release from KB Yuzhnoe in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, which built both the launcher and the payload, stated that the mission successfully reached its intended orbit. Only 48 hours after the launch, Russian sources confirmed that the payload had not reached its intended orbit due to abnormal performance of the third stage and the orbital life span of both satellites will be cut short as a result. Sich-1M might work only one year instead of three, while KS5MF2 could reenter after six months. Unofficial reports from Ukraine also indicated that after separation from the third stage, both satellites tumbled in space, thus greatly reducing power supply from solar panels.

Russian mission control supported this launch, however Ukranian ground control station took over the responsibility for both payloads after they reached orbit.

The mission was delayed from December 2003, middle of 2004 and the end of November 2004.

2006 June 25: A Tsyklon-2 rocket, blasted off from Site 90 in Baikonur Cosmodrome on June 25, 2006, at 08:00 Moscow Time.

The official statement of the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, said only that the launch vehicle carried a payload for the Ministry of Defense and the flight proceeded nominally. It is known that launches of this type carry electronic intelligence satellites from the US-P/US-PU family. The previous spacecraft of this type was deorbited on April 28, 2006.

This launch was previously expected on June 22, 2006.

2009 Jan. 30, at 16:30 Moscow Time: The Tsyklon-3 rocket lifted off from Site 32 in Russia’s northern cosmodrome in Plesetsk, carrying the 1,900-kilogram Koronas-Foton satellite. According to Russian space officials, the spacecraft separated from the third stage of the launch vehicle at 17:14 Moscow Time, as planned. The first radio-measurement of the satellite's orbit was expected at 18:02 Moscow Time.

This page is maintained by Anatoly Zak

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Last update: February 27, 2020

A scale model of the Tsyklon-2 launcher. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak

Scale models of rockets developed by Yuzhnoe design bureau. Form left to right: R-16; two versions of R-36 ICBM, which became a base for Tsyklon-2 and 3 launchers; Tsyklon-2 launcher, R36M ICBM and MR-UR-100 ICBM. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak

The RD-861 engine, which powered the third stage of the Tsyklon rocket. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak


A production line of Tsyklon rockets at the Yuzmash production plant in Ukraine.


Tsyklon-3 rocket launches the SM-KF (Koronas-F) spacecraft on July 31, 2001. Credit: KB Yuzhnoe


The third stage of the Tsyklon rocket. Credit: KB Yuzhnoe

Monument to the Tsyklon-3M vehicle. Copyright © 2017 Anatoly Zak