Russia to Launch New Soyuz Rocket Variant Next Year

Russian Soyuz-1 booster. Credit: Pavel Kolotilov

Russia plans to launch the inaugural flight of the new Soyuz-1 booster from Plesetsk next April, ITAR-TASS reports. The vehicle will launch a pair of university satellites into low Earth orbit.

The Soyuz-1 is a stripped down version of the Soyuz-2.1b rocket with its booster rockets removed and its first stage refitted with NK-33 engines originally built for the Soviet lunar program. The second stage remains the same as the Soyuz-2.1b.

The new medium-class rocket will be capable of lifting payloads of 2,800 kilograms (6,160 lbs) to low Earth orbit from Plesetsk and 2,850 kilograms (6,270 lbs) to LEO from Baikonur. Russia will also launch the rocket from the new Vostochny Cosmodrome once it becomes operational later in this decade.

The Soyuz-1 is similar in capacity to Orbital Sciences Corporation’s new Taurus II booster, which is set to make its inaugural flight later this year. The Taurus II uses the AJ-26 engine, which is an overhauled version of the NK-33 engine that Soyuz-1 will use in its first stage.