Rocket "Soyuz": description, history, launch and interesting facts

Soyuz is a series of Soviet three-stage launch vehicles that for several decades remained the best vehicles for launching spacecraft of various types and purposes into Earth's orbit. Successful developments in the field of rocket production have allowed us to create a launch vehicle with good energy performance and a great modernization potential.

rocket union


Soyuz is a medium-class launch vehicle designed for launching Progress and Soyuz spacecraft into low Earth orbit, as well as research and development (Resource, Foton) and socio-economic spacecraft with automatic management. The three-stage launch vehicle (LV) Soyuz is based on the R-7 rocket, and therefore belongs to the family of these missiles with the addition of the 3rd stage.

It was developed and produced in OKB-1 (now TsSKB-Progress). The project leaders were Korolev S. P. and Kozlov D.I.Operation of a series of launch vehicles began in 1963, and by analogy with the model on which the new carrier was based, they were still called “Sunrise”. Since 1966, the name "Union" has officially come into use. In the next few decades, until the 2000s, the Soyuz rocket was subjected to several modifications.

History of creation

The history of creation began long before the first launch. The beginning was the decision of the Central Committee of the CPSU on the need to develop a new intercontinental ballistic missile that can deliver a thermonuclear charge over a considerable distance in the thousands of kilometers. After several years of development, the task was completed. The intercontinental two-stage rocket of the new type of ICBM R-7A entered service with a specially created unit of the rocket forces. The first launch took place in 1959. In various versions, the R-7 has been in service for only 10 years, but thanks to its high modernization potential and successful design, it became the basis for a whole family of space launch vehicles.

rocket carrier union

Already after the first manned space flight, as part of a longer flight program, the development of a new rocket based on the R-7 began.The problem was that all the rockets of the Soviet Union at that time, including Voskhod, were not suitable for operation within the framework specified by the project. In addition to increasing the duration of the flight, the new rocket should have implemented an emergency crew rescue system in case of an emergency that was not provided for on the Rising.

The basis for the design of the new middle-class rocket of the R-7 family is the already operated Voskhod and R-7A carriers. The new RN was named "Union" and the index 11A511. This three-stage launch vehicle was used to launch the Soyuz and Progress ships. For the first time the launch of the Soyuz rocket was carried out in 1966.


The length of the Soyuz rocket launcher depends on the type of spacecraft delivered into space, but does not exceed 50.67 m. The cross section is 10.3 m, and the transverse dimensions are the distance between the ends of air rudders. The total mass of the Soyuz launch vehicle in the loaded state (starting) is 308 tons. The maximum fuel mass is 274 tons. The maximum, so-called dry total weight of the Soyuz launch vehicle is 34 tons and also depends on the type of apparatus.Total thrust developed by PH: 413 ton-force at sea level and over 500 ton-force in a vacuum. The Soyuz 11A511 missile is capable of putting 7 tons of payloads into Earth orbit. The flight time of the launch vehicle is about 9 minutes.

full mass of carrier rocket union

Design features 11А511

The Soyuz 11A511 rocket consists of three stages with accelerators on the first “B”, “C”, “G” and “D”, two blocks “A” and “I” (second and third stages), a head fairing, an adapter useful cargo and emergency rescue systems (SAS) crew. The design used the upgraded engines of the two-stage rocket MBR R-7A and the three-stage launch vehicle "Voskhod". Initially, the modernization of the third stage unit was carried out, which made it possible to improve the energy indicators of the LV, later other stages were further developed. Their appearance has not changed, but the content and possibilities have become new:

  • A new telemetry system has been installed on block “A”.
  • Onboard cable management network replaced by a lighter.
  • The inclination of the ship’s orbit relative to the equatorial plane is reduced by more than 10about.
  • Reduced the length and weight of the cable network unit "And".
  • Replaced the engines of the block "A".
  • Strengthened the strength of some elements of the first stage.

In general, outwardly, the Soyuz carrier rocket differs from the previous launch vehicles — first of all, with a head fairing with four stabilizers and a conical shape of first-stage units, as well as the presence of an alarm system on top.

the total mass of the carrier rocket union is

Steps RN "Union"

The two stages of the launch vehicle are similar to the Vostok launch vehicle, but with a number of improvements. The first stage of the rocket consists of 4 lateral conical accelerator blocks. Autonomous engines are installed on each accelerator. The separation of the accelerator units during launch occurs at about 118 seconds of a rocket flight. The mass of the side unit without fuel is not more than 3.75 tons, the weight of the fuel is 155-160 tons.

The second stage includes the central unit "A" with fuel and payload. The mass without fuel is not more than 6 tons, the fuel is 90-95 tons. The second stage is separated from the launch vehicle for about 278 seconds of flight.

The third, modified stage is the upgraded “I” block of the Voskhod 11A57 with a total length of 6.7 m and a diameter of 2.66 m. Equipped with a 4-chamber rocket engine on liquid fuel with one turbopump assembly. Total weight 25 tons

Rocket "Soyuz" - fuel and propulsion systems

The fuel used for engines of all stages was identical - kerosene T-1. Liquid oxygen was used as an oxidizing agent.It is a highly explosive substance, but not toxic. A small amount of liquid nitrogen and hydrogen peroxide were used for the operation of auxiliary systems.

For the first stage, four 4-chamber LRE (liquid rocket engines) RD-107 8D728 were used as the propulsion system (RC). Each engine of the Soyuz rocket of the first stage had 4 main fixed combustion chambers and 2 tilt-steering articulated hinges. Gross engine weight was 1300 kg.

The control of the second stage of the Soyuz rocket is an LRE RD-108 engine consisting of 4 fixed and 4 turning cameras with a deviation of 350, which were the executive organs of the rocket control and used to control the position of the rocket in space. This is an open cycle engine with pressurization and gas generation systems weighing 1195 kg.

For the third stage - highly reliable LRE RD-0110 11D55. This is an open cycle engine with a turbocharged fuel supply, created in the OKB-154 under the command of S. A. Kosberg also had 4 main and 4 rotary combustion chambers. The limiting time of continuous work is 250 seconds.

rocket launch union

Emergency rescue system

When developing the Soyuz carrier rocket, one of the key tasks facing the designers was to create a system to rescue the crew in case of an emergency.As a result, an emergency rescue system (SAS) was developed and implemented, which was activated prior to the launch of the rocket and, if necessary, provided for the rescue of the crew at the start or on any part of the flight.

The system provides for withdrawal from the rocket of the head unit with the crew to a safe place along with the fairing, the descent and instrument-aggregate apparatus. For this purpose, split rocket engines were installed on the head fairing, working on solid fuel in combination with four small control engines. At the very top of the head fairing there was a small engine, the task of which was to divert the entire module to the side after the operation of the separation propulsion system. Such a system has become typical for all the "Unions".


PH 11A511 subsequently had 3 modifications:

  • "Soyuz-L"- intended for launches of the lunar complex H1-LZ. The external difference of this launch vehicle is the unusual shape of the head fairing. There were 3 launches of this launch vehicle with spacecraft of the “Cosmos” series 379, 398 and 434.
  • "Soyuz-M" -development of the Kuibyshev branch of TsKBEM for launching special purpose reconnaissance vehicles of the Zenit series (4M, 4MT, Orion) and the Soyuz 7K-VI military research ships into Earth orbit.Eight launches of this modification were made from the Plesetsk cosmodrome.
  • "Soyuz-U" -The last modification is based on PH 11A511. When developing this carrier, the developments already used in the Soyuz-L and Soyuz-M modifications were also taken into account. This rocket was designed in the 70s and was primarily intended for launching manned and unmanned transport spacecraft Progress. With the help of this rocket, many of the domestic and foreign spacecraft of such series as Cosmos, Foton, Resource-F, and Bion were launched into space. The main difference between Soyuz-U is the improved energy characteristics of the remote control of stages 1 and 2. This variation of the launch vehicle was considered one of the most successful, and for a long time was the most popular. Its launch was carried out 771 times.

By upgrading Soyuz-U in TsSKB-Progress, the Soyuz-2 rocket carrier was created, which was notable for its increased carrying capacity and was able to put 9,200 kg of payload into Earth orbit. Subsequently, a whole family of Soyuz-ST launch vehicles was made on the Soyuz-2 base, which were distinguished by a modified control system.The newest modification of the Soyuz-U rocket launcher is the Soyuz-FG rocket created in 2001.

Soviet Union missiles


The Soyuz launch vehicle began successfully launching artificial earth satellites into space in 1966. Initially, these were spacecraft devices, and later on piloted spacecraft. During the first 10 years of operation of the launch vehicle 11A511, 32 launches were conducted from the Baikonur cosmodrome, 30 were successful.

Subsequently, several modifications were created on the basis of the Soyuz rocket launcher to perform various tasks, mainly for launching domestic and foreign spacecraft for various purposes. For launching the Soyuz launch vehicle, 7 launch pads were created:

  • Baikonur - 2 sites.
  • Plesetsk - 3.
  • Guiana Space Center (French Guiana) - 1.
  • The Vostochny space center - 1.

The total number of all “Soyuz” launches was 1020. At the end of 2016, a total of 44 launches of the Soyuz 2.1a and Soyuz 2.1b launch vehicles were completed.

Facts and Incidents

One of the missions of the Soyuz 11A511 was the ability to put manned ships with a crew into the Moon’s orbit. To this end, it was planned to create a whole complex of a manned ship, a tanker tanker and a booster block in near-earth orbit.All elements were put into orbit with the help of Soyuz.

rocket union fuel

There were only two incidents in the launch of the Soyuz launch vehicle. In December 1966, during the pre-launch preparation, pyrozapal did not work, and the automatic system canceled the launch. The staff began the procedure of fuel discharge, but after 27 minutes SAS worked, which remained active all the time. The cause of the operation was the rotation of the Earth, as a result of which the sensors registered the angular deviation of the ship’s position and activated the alarm system. As a result, after disconnecting the head from the pipelines, the coolant spilled out and caught fire, followed by a series of explosions. One person was killed by suffocation, and two were killed by injuries and equipment was damaged.

In 1975, when the ship was launched into orbit at an altitude of 150 km, the failure of automation caused the ship to separate from the launch vehicle. The vehicle with the crew descended on a mountain slope in Altai and rolled down. The astronauts were saved by a parachute, which they did not shoot, caught on a tree. None of the crew was hurt.

Soyuz rocket now

A total of 10 modifications of the Soyuz launch vehicle were developed. Today, with the help of Soyuz-U carrier, cargo ships are being launched. At the end of 2016, the Progress MS-04 TGC apparatus was launched with the Soyuz-U launch vehicle.The greatest attention of the modern domestic aerospace industry is paid to the development of the Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle. Work on the modernization of this carrier rocket started in the 1990s. New engines were developed and installed, a new telemetry system was introduced, a test and pre-launch preparation process was automated. As a result, the general characteristics of the apparatus and the accuracy of launching into orbit were improved.

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