International Space Company (ISC) Kosmotras (a Joint Stock Company) was established in 1997 under the Russian law. The company's head office is located in Moscow, Russia. The primary area of ISC Kosmotras business operations is linked to implementation of the Russian Program for Elimination of the SS-18 Inter-continental Ballistic Missiles (ICMBs) that are being withdrawn from service and used in the Dnepr Space Launch System (SLS) for commercial orbital launches of payloads. ISC Kosmotras shareholders are a team of leading scientific research and manufacturing entities of Russia and Ukraine that built the Dnepr SLS and today exercise the follow-on oversight of its operation.
Once part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine became an independent country after the breakup of the Union in 1989. It is now the third largest country in Europe. Its capital is Kiev, a city of 3 million on the Dnepr [Dnieper / Dneiper] River.
During 1992-2003 timeframe, a team of Russian and Ukrainian companies together with the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) were involved in developing a commercial space launch system based on the technology of the SS-18 ICBMs being withdrawn from service. In mid-1999 the Kosmotras International Space Company (ISC) started to develop the Dnepr-M booster, which is a modification version of the Dnepr-1 conversion booster, developed from the RS-20 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM, NATO designation SS-18 Satan).
The first launch of the Dnepr-1 rocket took place on 21 April 1999, when a British satellite of the SSTL Company was taken to orbit. Kosmotras is planning to use more than 150 SS-18 Satan missiles converted into Dnepr-1 carrier rockets. The launches will be made from the launch-sites in Baikonur, where all requisite infrastructure is in place for these rockets.
Two AprizeStar (also known by its ITU registration as LatinSat) satellites weighing 10 kilograms (22 pounds) each were launched as secondary satellites on a Russian Dnepr rocket in 2002, and two more were launched as seconardaries on another Dnepr in June 2004.
GENESIS 1, an American entrepreneur's inflatable satellite, was launched by a Dnepr rocket (a converted ICBM, known as SS-18 Satan) at 12:53 UT on 12 July 2006 from the southern Ural mountain. The 1,300 kg craft was successfully inflated about two hours after launch to its normal cylindrical size of 2.4 m x 4.5 m. It is made of a tough sheet fabricated from a composite Kevlar that is often used in bullet-proof vests. The goal of the entrepreneur is to launch a few more of them, string them together like a sausage link and then promote "space tourism". The initial orbital parameters were period 95.8 min, apogee 561 km, perigee 556 km, and inclination 64.5 deg.
Launches of Dnepr rockets from Baikonur were suspended following a crash shortly after liftoff on July 26, 2006, due to a first stage engine shutdown. The Dnepr's wreckage was discovered 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the space center on a steppe, far from any residential buildings. Kazakh officials said there were no casualties or environmental damage. The booster rocket, a civilian version of the heavy R-36M2 Voyevoda (SS-18 Satan) inter-continental ballistic missile, was carrying 18 Russian and foreign-made micro-satellites. Russia has agreed to pay Kazakhstan more than $1 million in compensation for the July crash.
On 17 April 2007 Russia successfully launched a Dnepr carrier rocket, the first since the failure in late July 2006, and put 16 foreign satellites into orbit. "The launch has been conducted successfully," the Federal Space Agency said. "The separation of all foreign spacecraft from the carrier rocket occurred at 11.02 Moscow time (7.02 GMT)." The rocket delivered an Egyptian EgyptSat spacecraft, six Saudi satellites (SaudiSat-3 and five SaudiComSat), and additional P-Pod and CubeSat micro-satellites into orbit.
Russia's Strategic Missile Forces are preparing two test launches of heavy R-36M2 Voyevoda (SS-18 Satan) intercontinental ballistic missiles, the forces' commander said 12 June 2007. "Preparation of these launches from the Baikonur space center is proceeding according to plan, and I think these launches will be successfully made in due time," Colonel-General Nikolai Solovtsov told journalists.
A Dnepr mission put Germany's TerraSAR-X Earth remote sensing satellite in orbit on 15 June 2007. The Dnepr launch vehicle, based on the RS-20 (SS-18 Satan) ballistic missile, lifted off from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan at about 6.14 a.m. Moscow time (2.14 a.m. GMT). "The launch has been conducted successfully," the Federal Space Agency said. "The separation of the foreign satellite from the carrier rocket occurred on schedule, and control over the spacecraft has been passed to the client." TerraSAR-X is a new-generation, high resolution Earth remote-sensing satellite, operating in the X-band at 9.65 GHz. It will provide a continuous stream of Earth observation data for at least 5 years.
On 28 June 2007 Russia conducted a launch of an RS-20 Voyevoda (SS-18 Satan) intercontinental ballistic missile from a silo in the Urals to launch a U.S. civilian satellite into orbit. "The launch with the RS-20B was successful," Col. Alexander Vovk, a spokesman for the Strategic Missile Forces said. "Genesis-2 has been placed into orbit at an altitude of 566 kilometers (352 miles). This is a civilian satellite." The launch of the satellite was conducted with the help of a modified version of the NATO-codenamed Satan missile, also known as the Dnepr carrier rocket, which is equipped with a third stage carrying a spacecraft instead of a warhead.
In June 2007 Ukraine announced plans to launch a Sich-2 Earth remote sensing satellite into orbit in 2008. The Sich-2 project is being developed by Ukraine's Yuzhnoye design bureau with an estimated cost of $20 million. The spacecraft will be launched on board a Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr carrier rocket from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. The launch services will be provided by Kosmotras, a Russian-Ukrainian joint venture, which converts RS-20 (SS-18 Satan) intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), scrapped by Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, into Dnepr launch vehicles.
Russia launched the Genesis II inflatable spacecraft in June 2007 under a contract with the U.S.-based company Bigelow Aerospace.
Russia had launched over 30 commercial satellites under the Dnepr commercial program in line with contracts concluded with a number of government agencies and private companies from Russia, Belarus, France, Japan, the U.K., Saudi Arabia, the U.S., Germany, Italy and Malaysia. Apart from the Long March, Atlas/Delta and space shuttle programs, the launch rates for all other space launch vehicles during the past few years had either remained relatively flat or declined. The once exception would be ISC Kosmotras' Dnepr rocket, which gradually increased its launch missions from one in 2005 to two in 2006 and three in 2007.
The launch of a converted RS-20 Voyevoda intercontinental ballistic missile to put a Thai earth observation satellite in orbit was postponed. It was delayed by many months due to dispute with Kazakhstan which was unwilling to allow Dnepr rocket launches from its Baikonur soil. The launch, from a silo in the southern Urals, had been scheduled for 06 August 2008 under a contract with Kosmotras, a Russian-Ukrainian joint venture that acquires RS-20 (SS-18 Satan) intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) scrapped by Russia's Strategic Missile Forces and converts them into Dnepr launch vehicles. "The launch scheduled for today has been postponed to an alternated time," the Kosmotras spokesman said, without specifying a new liftoff date. The THEOS satellite was designed and manufactured by French company EADS Astrium under a 2004 contract with the Thai Ministry of Science and Technology. Its launch had been previously delayed twice due to Russia's failure to agree with Uzbekistan on where to let spent rocket stages fall. THEOS will provide Thailand with worldwide geo-referenced image products and image-processing capabilities for applications in cartography, land use, agricultural monitoring, forestry management, coastal zone monitoring and flood risk management.
The Thai satellite was the third to be launched by Russia's Strategic Missile Forces and Kosmotras from the Yasny launch site. THEOS, Thailand's remote sensing craft, was launched by a Russian Dnepr rocket from the Yasney space base in southern Russia at 06:37 UT on 1 October 2008. The 750 kg satellite carries a panchromatic imager with a resolution of 2 m and a multispectral (four bands in 450-900 nm range) imager with a resolution of 15 meters to monitor the topography and vegetation. The initial orbital parameters were period 101.4 min,apogee 826 km, perigee 825 km, and inclination 98.78 deg.
RapidEye-A, RapidEye-B, RapidEye-C, RapidEye-D, and RapidEye-E, are the first five mini-satellites of the German RapidEye AG corporation that were launched by a Dnepr rocket from Baikonur at 07:16 UT on 29 August 2008. The identical 150 kg satellites are triaxially-stabilized, using magnetorquers for attitude changes. Each will capture multi-wavelength images in five bands covering 400-850 nm. The 6.5 m resolution images will be sold to agricultural, forestry and town-planning enterprises. (The names we have adopted for the five are tentative. The corporation is soliciting from the public the final name for each satellite which can be suggested for a fee of $10 per name.) The initial orbital parameters of all five were similar: period 97 min, apogee 609 km, perigee 585 km, and inclination 98.0°.
The joint Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr rocket program may be a victim of the crisis in Ukraine. On 09 October 2014, a high-ranking source in Russia’s rocket industry said that Russia's economic, political and military interests are incompatible with the continuation of launches within the Dnepr Program. Until recently, Ukrainian enterprises had carried out technical service of the launching complexes. However, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has ordered the end of all military cooperation between Ukraine and Russia, and it was unclear to what extent the ban will affect the Dnepr program, which is not military, but is based on military technology. Sergei Boita, general director of Ukraine’s Yuzhnoye Design Bureau said that for the moment the project can continue, with modifications, "There is a taboo on servicing military ballistic missiles… We are now working in peaceful space, with difficulty, but working," Boita said, according to Russian media. He estimated the annual losses for Yuzhnoye as a result of the changes at around $200 million.
Russia’s space agency is not particularly concerned about the loss of its Ukrainian partners. Russian industry experts say that Russian firms have also been taking part in the routine maintenance of the ICBMs and that the state-owned Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau can create new conversion launchers. "We have already examined the resources needed and the documentation," said Deputy Director of the Russian Federal Space Agency Sergei Ponomarev. "Our enterprise is also a developer and if there is a refusal, we annul the contracts with Ukraine and transfer all the work to the Russian side."
The political situation may provide a good excuse for Russia to look for more environmentally friendly alternatives to the Dnepr. The Dnepr, along with the Cosmos, Cyclone and Rokot rockets, use toxic fuel components. The Russian Ministry of Defense has made it clear that in the future, it intends to use only ecologically clean rockets to launch light satellites. These new rockets will be built on the basis of the Soyuz-2.1b, developed by the Progress Space-Missile Center in Samarskoye, and the Angara-1.2, developed by the Khrunichev State Research and Production Center.
Since the 1970s, the R-36 ICBM and its derivatives have served as the backbone of Russia's missile forces. With the end of the Cold War, stocks of the missile have been gradually reduced in accordance with arms treaties. In the coming years, Moscow plans to phase out the R-36 entirely in favor of a new missile - the RS-28 Sarmat.
Russia's stocks of R-36M2 Voyevoda (NATO designation SS-18 Satan) could be converted for civilian use, Roscosmos director general Dmitry Rogozin announced. "There is a method of salvaging known as 'salvage by launch'…We could easily adapt [the R-36] for projects involving the launch of small spacecraft into civilian orbits," Rogozin said, speaking about the missile's fate during a visit to the Krasnoyarsk Machine Building Plant defence enterprise on 06 July 2019. "The issue is under discussion. This method specifically should be spread to the disposal of all missiles which are removed from combat duty," Rogozin added.
According to the Roscosmos chief, the concept for a technological life cycle which incorporates post-retirement use should be deliberately introduced into the latest Russian missile systems, including the Sarmat, a new strategic missile expected to replace the R-36 and enter into service with the Missile Forces two years from now.
Rogozin's comments weren't the first time officials have proposed this unique 'recycling' method for the rocket. Earlier, Russian missile engineers proposed converting the missile for use against asteroids posing an imminent threat to Earth, saying the missiles' standard hydrazine-based fuel made them perfectly suited for fighting small space objects with little advance warning. In 2018, a source in the Russian space agency said that the retired weapons could be used to launch satellites and other small spacecraft into orbit, with Topol ICBMs also considered for this purpose.
Russia and Ukraine had already enjoyed success with converting the R-36 with the Dnepr rocket system, capable of launching satellites weighing up to 4,500 kg into low earth orbit, and payloads weighing up to 3,200 kg to the ISS. Between 1999 and 2015, the system was launched a total of 22 times, with 21 launches successful, with over 140 spacecraft from 20 countries sent into orbit. In March 2015, amid the collapse of Russian-Ukrainian relations following the February 2014 coup d'état, launches, which took place at the Baikonur cosmondrome in Kazakhstan, were stopped. The Dnepr programme had a total of 150 missiles at its disposal, with well over 100 remaining unused after the programme's cancellation.
Description and main specifications
Dnepr launch vehicle (LV) is based on the SS-18 liquid-fuelled ICBM and has a three-stage plus Space Head Module (SHM) in-line configuration.
The LV 1st and 2nd stages are original SS-18 stages and used without any modification.
Dnepr 3rd stage is an original SS-18 3rd stage with upgraded control system that enables implementation of the required flight program of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd stages, forming and issuing commands to payload and Space Head Module separation devices and getting the 3rd stage and remaining SHM elements off the injection orbit after the separation of all the payloads.
Main specifications of the Dnepr LV are given below:
Launch type – steam ejection from Transport and Launch Canister (TLC)
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