Boosters based ICBMs profitable run, not cut

  • Strategic missile R-36M2 "Governor." Source:

August 2 missile base clear (Orenburg region) hosted another launch rocket "Dnepr". The aim was to introduce launch into orbit a South Korean satellite KompSat-5. This spacecraft will perform remote sensing of the Earth and to gather the information necessary to science. However, the launch was useful not only for the South Korean scientists, but also for the Russian Strategic Missile Forces and the industry.

The fact is that the carrier rocket "Dnepr" is a slightly modifed an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) of the family of P-36M. These munitions are also known as RS-20 (used in several international treaties on strategic arms) and the SS-18 Satan (NATO code name). The R-36M can be considered the most powerful component of the Russian strategic nuclear forces. Each of the fifty existing armed missiles capable of delivering to targets ten warheads with a capacity of 800 kilotons. Through this ICBM R-36M can effectively carry out the tasks of nuclear deterrence.

With all the advantages of the family of missiles R-36M, their use has several ambiguous features. The production of these missiles stopped after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The division of the country put an end to mass collaboration businesses scattered throughout the territory. Because of this, the Russian Strategic Missile Forces had to operate only those missiles that were produced before the collapse of the Soviet Union. In addition, over time, manifested yet another serious problem. The warranty period missiles made a few years ago, began to wane. Using a series of works and launch control have progressively increased the warranty period ICBM family of P-36M. To date, this parameter is increased to 31 years.

  • Output circuit of the R-36M missile silo. Source: Russian Weapons

Given the timing of production of missiles of a model family P-36M, it is easy to calculate that they will be removed from combat duty in the early twenties. Thus, the order of the day there is the issue of utilization removed from duty ammunition. Before the close butchering of metal required to drain and shred aggressive fuel and oxidizer, and indeed cutting missile is a complex technological problem. As a result, removal of missiles from duty turns into a mass of additional costs. Our country is faced with similar problems, fulfilling the conditions of a number of international treaties.

Back in the early nineties, there was no proposal to cut Phase-missile weapons, but use them for peaceful purposes. The result of this proposal has been the emergence of the international space company "Kosmotras", organized by the space agencies of Russia and Ukraine. Later they were joined by Kazakhstan. Space industry experts of the three countries have created a project finalization of intercontinental ballistic missiles in launch vehicles. The project was called "Dnepr". In the future, the project was updated to improve performance booster. This project was named "Dnepr-M".

The first launch of a converted ICBM R-36M satellite instead of warheads held on April 21, 1999 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. After that the company "Kosmotras" spent another 17 runs, only one of which (26 July 2006) was a failure. An interesting feature of the carrier rocket "Dnepr" is the possibility of so-called cluster starts. This means that the missile has several relatively small spacecraft. For example, during a single emergency starting missile had a payload in the form of 18 satellites for various purposes. During the successful launch rocket "Dnepr" twice to place in orbit for eight vehicles (June 29, 2004 and August 17, 2011).

The cost of launching a rocket "Dnepr" is in the range of 30-32 million U.S. dollars. In this case, payload, including the installation of the system into orbit vehicles, equal to 3700 kilograms. Thus, the output value of kilograms of cargo is much lower than that of other existing launch vehicles. This fact attracts customers, but a relatively small payload impose appropriate restrictions. "Dnepr", or P-36M-off weight of about 210 tons are heavy only from the point of view of the classification of ballistic missiles. Boosters with such characteristics fall into the category of light.

It is worth mentioning the idea to use intercontinental ballistic missiles to launch the spacecraft was not new even in the early nineties. Prerequisites for such a use of strategic weapons appeared in the late sixties, when project-based R-36orb was created rocket "Cyclone". In 1975, the first model rocket "Cyclone" was put into service. Updated versions of "Cyclone" is still used to launch a variety of spacecraft.

  • Booster "rumble." Photo: RIA Novosti

In the late eighties based ICBM UR-100N UTTH created a new rocket "rumble". -Off weight less than 110 tonnes of the missile, using the upper stage "Breeze-KS", can output to a low parking orbit up to 2300 pounds of payload. From 1990 to 2013, made 19 starts "Rokot", only one of which ended with an accident (8 October 2005).

In March 1993, from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome was the first rocket launched the "Start", created on the basis of an ICBM complex "Topol". This solid-fuel booster to unify the strategic ammunition, and not only on the components and systems. Starting the "Start" is made from a mobile ground launcher, also borrowed from the set of "Topol". "Start" is the most modest weight parameters. If you own launch weight less than 48-50 tonnes this booster outputs a low parking orbit less than 400-420 kg payload.

In 2003, a trial was held to launch a new carrier rocket "Arrow", the basis for which was again ICBM UR-100N UTTH. Characteristics of the "Arrows" are markedly different from opportunities "roar" of. With slightly smaller (about 105 tons) off weight new carrier has a payload up to 1.7 tons. Perhaps it is because of such low performance rocket "Arrow" is run only twice, in 2003 and 2013.

Of all the launch vehicles, established on the basis of ICBMs, currently the most actively used is "Dnepr". However, with all the benefits available, these missiles in the near future will be used sparingly. The reason for this is the relatively small number of existing ICBM family of R-36M and appropriate to the end of their service life. Thus, over the next 8-10 years may be made no more than two or three dozen launches from the use of missiles, "Dnepr". As for alternatives to use intercontinental ballistic missiles to launch satellites, it is currently the most promising is the carrier "rumble". In parts of the missile is still quite a large number of UR-100N UTTH ending with guarantee periods. Other projects, such as "Start", while irrelevant in view of the remaining service life of basic missile "Topol".

Regardless of the number of remaining ICBMs of a particular model and the stock chosen way of life "d
isposal" looks interesting and promising. Conversion of a ballistic missile launcher can save a considerable amount on disposal of fuel and cutting of the munition. In addition, the commercial approach to launching spacecraft leads to full cost of the project and even some benefits. Thus, it was possible to find the most profitable way to dispose of missiles, and better in the future to reduce the rate of cutting missiles for scrap, using old ammunition as a delivery vehicle to orbit spacecraft.

Kirill Ryabov

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